As I write this, it is firmly fall, the first week in November, and if that isn’t fall I don’t know what is. Except.. except I live in Miami. And Miami doesn’t do fall. We do rainy season and dry season, warm and tropical hot, but not fall. And certainly not winter. The only respite our trees get from using their energy to produce vibrant green foliage is the month or two in deep winter it gets too chilly to grow. It might even frost, but even that is rare. Right now it’s a bright sunny 83 degrees*, with not a cloud in the sky. And it’s November. This is not to gloat; I know many of you out there are rolling your eyes, because I live in the sub-tropics and have no idea how hard it is struggling through piles and piles of snow every year and bitter cold. I get it, I do (I’m looking at you, there, in the tundra). I remember shoveling snow, which is partially why I live where I live, we all make choices in life. I chose love over fall. While I don’t regret that choice for a moment, I still miss the crisp air and crunchy fire-hued walks down sidewalks covered in leaves.
I stick by my habitation location choice for the time being, but my body still thinks fall exists. When October rolls around, I start craving pumpkin, cabbage, potatoes, polksa keilbasa, and any other carb-loaded and sausage-laden dish my Eastern European ancestry and midwestern heritage cries out for. I have a deep need for potatoes, down to my toes. I need them. Need cabbage. Need pumpkin. Just like in the summer, when I need my pulled pork (Eastern NC-style, of course) fix. I tell the seasons by my body’s internal food calendar, not necessarily by the weather outside. A benefit(?) of having lived in now three separate U.S. regions.
I know fall must continue to exist; I see it on the Internet every day. Food bloggers everywhere are posting their best squash and pumpkin recipes, gearing up for winter’s deep freeze. Vibrant oranges and deep greens are everywhere. Everything out there looks so hearty; so satisfying. Starbucks has released the one latte flavor I wait impatiently all year for – the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The rest of the year, I couldn’t care less about Starbucks; hell, I feel guilty for even stepping in the joint on a normal day and generally take pains to avoid it. But come fall? I need my pumpkin spice fix, dammit. Even if it costs $5, is full of sugar and fat, and is served by a mega-huge corporation. At least they have healthy whole foods on offer now, right? Downtempo chill music? That means they’re evil-light, right? (o.m.f.g. hipster).
Meanwhile, here in Miami we are just starting our high growing season and my local CSA is getting into the swing of the season. Fresh green things are pushing their way out of the soil without having to worry about being baked on the spot by that oppressive ball of gas in the sky. Other things are slowly ripening on vines, taking their time about it sans the worry of torrential downpours daily making the ground soggy and prone to mold.
There is something… off about that.
Since my body sees the calendar and feels like it needs a snuggle, I’ve been craving warm gooeyness; cheesiness even. Preferably in casserole form. What can I say, I’m from the Midwest/ South; I know what I want when the mercury drops. Dead summer? Not so much, other than a nice tall glass of iced tea with a side of pulled pork and tons of peppery vinegar. Maybe a nice German potato salad and fresh corn on the cob. Mmmm…. real tomatoes. Not that crap you get in the grocery store nowadays, real tomatoes that have been given time to mature in due time. Tomatoes that taste of sun and time and love.
I’m posting two recipes this week in link form, because I made both with little to no tinkering. I generally tinker away and post the result, but with these two dishes I just wasn’t up for adventure. I wanted comfort. Ease. The carrot recipe I made straight with no deviation, and it was luscious. Sinfully luscious, and came very close to tasting like a big bowl full of gooey cheese. Granted, the recipe does have Parmesan and Mascarpone in it, but I’d like to think that with all the carrots, the dish is at least a little healthier than straight up mac & cheese.
This recipe won the best carrot dish prize on Food 52, and for good reason. It is great. A little on the time consuming side but deeply satisfying, even for my macaroni and cheese-aholic hubby. And that’s saying something. The man needs mac & cheese perhaps more than he needs bacon. Or mashed potatoes.
In the second dish I only swapped out the Gruyere for Fontina, because that is what my market had for under a million dollars. The price of some cheeses has really skyrocketed lately, and I’m not a fan of that.
This recipe is from Heidi Swanson of 101Cookbooks.com. Heidi is a genius. Her cooking style is very close to my own, and her site (and cookbooks) have become my go-to inspiration source for weeknight vegetarian grain-based meals for years. She is always the first place I turn when the real or imagined hint of fall is in the air.
Risotto with Carrots Four Ways from Food 52
Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese from 101Cookbooks
* And the next morning, I woke up to Miamis version of fall: beautiful 60 degree weather in the morning, warming up to the low 80s by noon.
Hopefully back to more healthy, less comfort for comforts sake food next week (and then a vacation in NYC, where real fall lives!)