Yesterday’s view from my desk window was composed of a blustery palate of slate blues and ochre. It’s nice to see the sun today after four grey days, and due to rain and wind, a lot of the trees are suddenly bare this morning. It may even frost tonight- early for this area. I still have a lot of frost hardy things growing in the garden: shelling peas, beets, chard, several types of lettuce, radiccio, two kinds of kale, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, broccoli raab, turnips, rutabagas, mustard greens, arugula, radishes, tatsoi, carrots, cress, cilantro, parsley. The silly gigantic marigolds are still blooming for the bees, alongside resilient cosmos and workhorse zinnias. Next year at this time, I hope to have grown sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, leeks and parsnips. Turns out, I didn’t plant the parsnips and Brussels early enough for them to mature in time for winter. I couldn’t find a really comprehensive planting schedule guide and I made some mistakes this year. I longed for more gardeners to ask, but folks were busy and I relied heavily on books. To compensate for lack of knowledge, I kept planting and planting all throughout the summer and early fall, so there has always been plenty to eat. Given my novice, full time job, and plot size, I think I can say did ok for myself. The learning curve was steep and I grew more varieties of plants than ever before, plus the bugs and drought made it a tough season for us growers.
After four months of many hours logged in the vegetable plot, it’s disorienting not to need to be in there as much. I miss my straw hat, hot sun and the engrossing all-encompassing job of it. On the flip side, I have time to get back to my music, play my guitar, write songs, write other stuff, go for runs, think and cook without feeling quite so daunted every day. The battle against weeds, mosquitoes and sunburn has receded now that it’s cool and temperate and nestled in the earth like presents are carrots, beets, turnips and greens. Many of my favorite foods prefer cool temperatures.
Years ago I decided it would feel better to see the beauty and charm in all types of weather rather than railing bitterly against its extremes. This epitomizes the Buddhist practice of accepting impermanence. I began deliberately, consciously embracing seasonal flux during college, located as we were in the snow belt of central New York. My thrift store wardrobe was more interesting than practical given my habit of traversing campus in cowboy boots, leggings and a handmade wool Nepali coat through sleet, snow and frequent soaking rain. I had to put chains on the tires and cement blocks in the trunk for any semblance of traction from the rear-wheel drive two-door 1980 Mustang my grandmother sold to me for $1 . Could there have existed a more ill-suited car for Ithaca winters? Now, I have practical clothing, an all-wheel car and actual rain boots. I appreciate both the weather and being prepared for it, and what says comfort more than hunkering down with a bowl of warm soup on a cold windy Fall day? I grew some acorn squash quite accidentally this year. Rogue squash seeds from the compost yielded exactly four acorn squashes. Two were baked last week for a simple impromptu soup. Apples and squash abound this time of year and this soup is filling and simple enough to showcase its ingredients.
Simple Squash Apple Soup
Two large acorn or butternut squash cut in half and baked open side down (optional turn them over for the last 15 min) with a little water in baking dish at 400º until tender (30-40 min)
1 large or two small apples, any variety, cored, de-seeded and roughly chopped (skin kept on)
4 cups (homemade preferable) chicken, beef or vegetable broth
2 sweet onions, sauteed till browned and deglazed with some kind of sweetish wine
2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsp fresh or dry thyme leaves
Salt/pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
Simmer apples in 1 cup of water or apple cider until tender.
Saute onions in olive oil and once browned, add 1/4 cup of wine to deglaze and pick up brown bits from pan bottom.
Heat broth and add scooped-out flesh from baked squash, apples and their fluid and half of the onions.
Blend with a hand blender or in batches in a blender until semi-smooth.
Add the rest of the onions and spices and simmer briefly to incorporate flavors.
Adjust broth, cider and/or water to your taste and desired consistency.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt or grated parmesan.