This past week alone, I woke up to an array of drastically different fall lights passing through my windows and brightening up my world one room at a time.
This is what’s fascinating about this season. The light.
Warm, colorful and soft. Remnants of summer.
A bitter goodbye and farewell to the sun taking some well-deserved rest until next year.
Blue, metallic and crisp.
Summer clothes and vacations safely packed away.
A cold steel-like wake up call that the bleak colorless winter is approaching.
Pale, airy and bright.
When the white sky acts as a light diffuser prompting squinting on a brisk walk through the market.
Sadly, the last days of the open air market.
Dark, shaded and brooding.
A rainy sullen atmosphere perfect for staying in and cherishing those unforeseen moments when stuck at home.
Fall plays with the natural light, turning daylight into highlights of darkness while blending colors and moods.
And this is all I need to inspire me a combination of ingredients and flavors to create perfect fall dishes with a day-trip to Nantasket and Hull, MA as a backdrop.
The Nantasket Peninsula and Hull Bay are only 40 minutes away from where I live. It’s a small area surrounded by the ocean and tucked away from the big city.
The beach, the ocean smells, the small seaside towns, the wind and empty tourist spots reminded me of Brittany during the fall after the summer crowds are long gone.
Some children are still playing on the beach. Warmly dressed of course even though the bright sun is still beating down and shinning.
Some cars stopped to take pictures of the Nantasket Beach completely empty today. It’s the quietness that strike people the most. Or maybe the illusion that the beach is endless.
The merry-go-round is still working but these are the last rides of the season.
The seasonal restaurants where friends and neighbors used to meet throughout the summer to share a meal and some laughs are now brightly empty without anyone around the tables to order lobster rolls or fried calamaris.
Yet, the calming aura of this season allows for a relaxing rediscovery of the area – recapturing the mood and exhilaration of spending a day at the beach with no one in sight.
Still unsure how it happened, 5 types of squash ended up in the car back to Boston and on my kitchen counter. Butternut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, buttercup squash and red kuri squash.
Pour les Français: la courge doubeurre, la courge spaghetti, le courgeron, le potiron et le potimarron.
And when the afternoon calls for being creative and mixing spices and scents with flavors and tastes just like the weather plays with lights, fresh herbs from the garden naturally blended with the idea of a roasted red kuri squash soup with apples.
Red kuri squash, apples, sage and mint. A thick velouté soup with nutty and soft squash flavors yet undoubtedly refreshing and spicy with mint and cayenne pepper but still reminiscing of the fall with apples and sage.
And speaking of apples.
My recent admittance for suffering from AAD – a strong case of Anticipation for Apple Desserts - made me realize that I forgot how creative one can be when thinking about making a compote.
Here, apples are mixed with dried cranberries gorged with spiced apple cider and ground ginger while the pecans provide some last minute crunch.
A treat to eat irresponsibly and comfortably in a reading nook with a hot tea and some honey.
But fall wouldn’t be fall if it wasn’t for the smell of earthy roasted chestnuts in the kitchen.
And with the chestnut flour bag I just received from Corsica, what better way than to celebrate with a chestnut flour cake.
Unlike the chestnut flour recipe I posted before, my mind was lingering on the concept of a Sachertorte where the cake is divided in half horizontally so as to spread an apricot filling in the middle before a chocolate glaze smoothly wraps the entire cake.
And I love making Sachertorte!
The thin chestnut cake is divided in half and the mandarin/brandy filling makes a perfect not-too-bitter middle layer with a chocolate silky and crunchy finish on top.
Sadly, the soup, the compote and the cake did not last as long as I thought they would in my fridge.
There’s always next weekend to make it all again and combine new flavors.
Roasted Red Kuri Squash and Apple Velouté Soup with Mint and Sage:
This recipe makes a thick velouté. Thin it with water at the end if you like it lighter and more soup-like.
1 medium red kuri squash
2 medium onions
4 garlic cloves
3 medium apples
2 celery stalks
2 Tbsp (30 g) of butter
4 cups (950 ml) of water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
20 sage leaves
10 mint sprigs
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
Peel and chop the red kuri squash and remove the seeds. Peel and slice the onions. Cut and quarter the apples without peeling them. Slice the garlic in medium chunks.
In a large bowl, toss the squash, onions, apples and garlic chunks with drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them evenly on a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 40 minutes.
Peel the carrot and chop it in small cubes. Chop the celery as well.
In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the carrot and celery and sauté for 5-8 min.
Add 4 cups of water and the bouillon cubes to the pot. Let the cubes dissolve in the water.
Add all of the spices to the pot (cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 20-25 min.
When the roasted vegetables and apples are done, remove from the oven and spoon them into the pot.
Using a hand blender, purée the vegetables directly in the pot. If you do not have a hand blender, a regular blender will work as well.
Taste for salt and pepper. Add the sage and mint leaves to the soup. Purée some more until all leaves and vegetables chunks are gone.
Thin the velouté with water if needed. Serve hot or warm with chopped sage leaves as garnish.
Apple Cranberry Compote with Pecans and Ginger:
2.5 lb (1 kg) of apples – I like to mix my apples
8 pecan halves
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2.5 Tbsp (30 g) of lemon sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 Tbsp of ground ginger
1 Tbsp of lemon juice
1/2 cup of apple cider
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup (25-50 g) of dried cranberries
1 Tbsp (15 g) of butter (optional)
Pour the apple cider in a medium saucepan with the lemon sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, ground ginger and cinnamon sticks. Whisk.
Add the cranberries and let them soak for at least 20-30 min.
Peel all apples and cut them in uneven chunks and slices. I like for my compote to be chunky. If you prefer to have a more even compote, chop all apples in small pieces.
Add the apples to the saucepan and cook over medium to low heat for 10 minutes.
Pour the compote in a medium bowl and let it cool. Optional: stir in a Tbsp of butter when still hot because it’s sinfully delicious.
Chop the pecan halves in small pieces. Add them to the compote and mix.
Leave the cinnamon sticks until ready to serve warm or cold.
Chocolate Glazed Chestnut Flour Cake with Mandarin Filling:
I need to warn that this cake tastes strongly of chestnuts. If you do not enjoy roasted, smoked and nutty flavors, this might not be for you.
I used mandarin preserve for the filling. Any jelly or jam could do here. If you enjoy the taste of chestnuts and can find it in your area, the traditional cake is filled with chestnut jam.
I prefer to use mandarin because it’s not as bitter as orange and complements very well the strong smoked chestnut flavors.
This recipe makes for a very thin cake. If you prefer thicker cakes, I would make a double batch.
0.5 cup (50 g) of white flour
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup (20 cl) of milk
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 Tbsp of vegetable oil
4 Tbsp (50 g) of white sugar
1 Tbsp of vanilla sugar
1/2 cup to 1 cup (150 g to 300 g) of mandarin preserve
1 shot of brandy (pear, prune or chestnut eau-de-vie for example)
100 g of semisweet baking chocolate
3.5 Tbsp (50 g) of butter
4 teaspoons (20 g) of water
Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
In a big bowl, mix the eggs, white sugar, vanilla sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Slowly add the milk and then the vegetable oil. Whisk well.
Sift both flours over the bowl and slowly incorporate the flours to the mix.
Butter a round 9.5 inches (24 cm) baking pan. Add parchment paper at the bottom. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
Let the cake cool. Thin down the preserve with the brandy in a small bowl. Leave aside.
In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate with the water and butter. Whisk until smooth and leave aside to rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, slice and open the cake in half horizontally. It is tricky because the cake is thin. Use a long, thin, sharp knife.
Open the cake in half. Spread and brush the preserve all around the bottom half. Place the other cake layer back on top. Slide the cake on a rack placed over a roasting pan.
Pour the chocolate glaze on top of the cake and brush the top and sides to make the chocolate is spread all over.
Use some of the glaze dripping on the roasting pan to patch some spots without chocolate.
Slide the cake on a plate and place in the fridge until ready to serve.