It’s not quite fall, but you can sense the change—cool air in the morning, a tinge of red on the leaves, a deeper blue in the sky and a quickening sunset. Sigh. Appetite changes, too. We remain creatures of the seasons, even if we have all but lost that tenuous connection. I start craving butternut squash soup, cinnamon tea and pear or apple cobbler. But it is rather bittersweet for me.
It isn’t that I don’t like fall. I try to appreciate the turning of the seasons and the magical qualities of each day. But truth be told, I’m a summer gal at heart. Saying goodbye to summer seems to get harder each year, so I like to create “transitions” that help ease me through. For instance, over the weekend I gave a dinner for friends that began in “summer” and ended in “fall.” Well, sort of.
We started off with my previously posted Cold Cucumber Soup…. SO summer. Then we moved on to marinated and grilled vegetable kabobs. Everything on the skewers is at the peak of flavor right now. Aren’t they pretty?
If you’d like to make them, you can find the recipe at Delicious Living Magazine’s website. These easy-to-make, impressive kabobs are a summer favorite at our house. My only variation for Saturday night’s dinner was a swap—eggplant for mushrooms—because that’s what was in the frig. Either will work beautifully in this recipe; just replace a couple sliced slender Japanese eggplants for the cremini mushrooms. Some grilled shrimp with a squirt of lime and we were good to go.
I decided it would be my dessert that would lead us into fall, and one of my favorite fall sweets is apple pie or cobbler. The problem was, there were no organic apples at the market—it’s a little early for them around here. Sure I could have gone to a grocery store to pick up a bag grown elsewhere, but I wanted to stay as local and fresh as I could. Rosi Biver of Biver Farms saved the day with her incredible Mock Apple Cobbler recipe, the main ingredient of which is… zucchini! You know, those big, baseball-bat size squash that no one really knows what to do with?
Before you click away thinking that zucchini is no replacement for apples, I urge you to read on. No one could tell at the dinner Saturday night that they weren’t really eating apple cobbler a la mode. The flavor is all apple. And so, with Rosi’s permission, I’m sharing it with you so those last overgrown squash won’t have to go to waste.
- Three pounds peeled, seeded and chopped zucchini (You’ll need about eight cups total. I chopped mine smallish to resemble chopped apples, and they do!)
- Two-thirds cup lemon juice (from about two large lemons)
- One cup sugar (I used organic evaporated cane syrup, which is usually as close to conventional white sugar as I’m willing to go.)
- One teaspoon cinnamon
- One-half teaspoon nutmeg
- Four cups flour (I used organic whole wheat pastry flour, and it worked just fine.)
- Two cups sugar
- One and one-half cups butter (That’s three sticks—so a bit of a splurge here. It is best to have your butter cut into tiny cubes and waiting in the frig before you begin this recipe. It will stay cold and your crust will be flakier.)
- One teaspoon cinnamon
- One-half teaspoon salt (omit if you are using salted butter.)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine zucchini and lemon juice in a large sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in one cup of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer one minute more.
- Combine the flour, salt (if using unsalted butter) and two cups of sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Stir one-half cup of the crust mixture into the zucchini mixture to create a thick filling that will look just like apple pie filling.
- Press half the remaining crust mixture into the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 glass baking dish. Spread the zucchini mixture evenly across the top of the crust. Carefully spread the remaining crust mixture, making sure it covers the top of the filling. Sprinkle with the teaspoon of cinnamon.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Some of the filling should start bubbling through the top and the top crust should begin to reach a golden brown.
You can serve it warm with ice cream or let it cool a bit for easier cutting.
Flea Bags by Marie Georges
Marie and I have known each other for several years. She is an amazing chef, creative entrepreneur and expert flea bag designer. Her flea bags are made from remnants that would otherwise have hit the landfills when furniture companies and interior design studios finish with them. They get a second life with Marie, as she turns them into beach bags, purses, shopping bags, wine bags and totes. She also makes pillows with them! Each is one-of-a-kind, reasonably priced and utterly charming. Your only dilemma will be which ones to choose. Fill them with wine, food gifts, beach towels—whatever that special someone will love. Best of all, they are their own wrapping paper. Smile.
African Vision of Hope
My favorite-to-give-gifts are those that keep on giving. African Vision of Hope (AVOH), a nonprofit organization committed to bringing immediate and lasting solutions to children and families living in extreme poverty, is a super example. This organization sells beautiful textiles, jewelry and other items that are created by African women working their way out of poverty. With the money it earns, AVOH provides educational opportunities, creates access to medical care, builds sound infrastructure and helps communities strengthen their own financial wellbeing. You won’t give another gift with such power to change the world. You might even take it a step further and give a donation. Then during your holiday meal, perhaps you can take a moment to be thankful not only for what you have but also for your ability to give to others who have less. Makes a great tradition.
While it’s not quite holiday shopping season, it might still be a great time to transition away from the commercial side of Christmas and embrace a softer, greener, more meaningful way of giving. You have about seven weeks left to turn a stressful shopping experience into a handful of magical moment—it’s as easy as making apple cobbler out of zucchini!
Next week I’ll share more information on my market vendors who can help transform your ideas of gift giving and celebration. Many have websites and online ordering. What are you buying at your market for the holidays? Jams and jellies? Homemade soaps? Artisan apparel? Let’s hear about it!