Welcoming September

autumn forest near calm clear pond
Photo by Mat Reding on Pexels.com

After an interminable string of hot, humid days, the weather gently cracked Monday night. Off and on showers and light silvery storms popped up yesterday to open the first day of meteorological autumn.

Astronomical autumn doesn’t start until the 21st or 22nd. That’s fine. My head and heart have already switched into fall mode way ahead of the curve. The transition starts when the very first faint tinges of gold and scarlet rim the edges of the leaves and the acorns begin to drop. Then a bare handful of leaves in full fall colors drift to the ground on the soft wind. Next come the geese honking their way into flocks, just a couple here and there, gradually  increasing in numbers as they find their places in the V-shaped formation gliding across the sky.

And then noticing that the lights need to go on earlier, and a little earlier the next night, and stay on a little later the next morning.

As the days grow shorter, this not-so-young woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of comfort food. Two recipes I want to try this fall are risotto–I’ve never made it but have wanted to do so–and  two new soups. One is Finnish salmon soup which kind of resembles chowder; the other is plokkfisker, a potato and fish dish from Iceland that looks like chowder on steroids. I will report on the results.

Books are a necessity any time of year, but more so in the months where a person needs to gather by the hearth. I started rereading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley over the weekend. Ms. Bradley retold the Arthurian legends from the point of view of the female characters.  It weighs in at over 700 pages and a couple of pounds, but worth the time and (physical) effort. In addition, I have a couple of cookbooks requested for my birthday next month, Mimi Thorrisson’s newest, Old World Italian, and The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson. I’ll review them after I play with them.

In the mean time, there are preparations to be made. Blankets? Check. Go through the pantry and freezer to inventory what we have and what we need? Check. Get outside and enjoy it while we can before the really cold weather sets in? Check.

Bring it. I’m ready.

 

 

The Humble Yet Exalted Lentil

Courtesy Wikimedia

It’s practicing for fall out there today. We started the morning with a thunderstorm at 5:45. It poured for a couple of hours, then settled into sprinkles long enough so Oakley and I could do about a 20 minute walk.

If the weather chooses to practice for fall, then I will practice cooking for it. I decided to try a new lentil curry recipe in the slow cooker for dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Among the legumes, lentils are arguably the easiest to cook. No need to soak them; just put them in a pot with water or stock and seasonings as suggested by a recipe or your culinary intuition and you have the beginnings of a meal in less than an hour. The red lentils cook in less than thirty minutes, so be aware of that if you choose them.  Check the liquid levels frequently, though, since they absorb like little sponges.

For a basic soup, sauté an onion and garlic to taste in olive oil in a good sized pot. Add the lentils and stock or water in a 2:1 ratio (i.e. 2 cups liquid to 1 cup lentils). I put in salt at the beginning. Some wait until the end due to concerns about toughness, but I’ve never had that happen.  When the lentils are done, correct for salt if needed, and add in some lemon juice and chopped spinach. The heat from the lentils will cook the spinach quickly.

Some cooks use a ham bone or bacon (precooked) to add flavor. Not my personal jam, but you do you.

Oh, you’re not in the mood for soup? If you soak and grind the lentils, you can make the crepe’s Indian cousin the dosa. Any good Indian website will have a recipe. I’ve not tried making them myself, but the restaurant we go to has them on the lunch buffet fairly frequently, so I will tell you they’re quite yummy.

Thanks to their ease in preparation and versatility, lentils have graced tables since 11,000 BCE. Native to central and western, Asia, they spread via trade routes across Europe and into India.  They can be grown in tough conditions and can return nitrogen to the soil after depletion by two or three seasons of cereal crops such as corn or wheat. They don’t need a lot of water, either, in order to thrive.

Nutritionally, they are quite the little powerhouses. According to the USDA, 100 grams of cooked lentils provide 116 calories, 10 grams of fiber, and lots of B vitamins. The type of fiber may be beneficial in balancing blood sugar levels for people living with diabetes. And they have quite a bit of protein, too.

All that nutrition, versatility, easy to grow, available in almost any grocery store? There is nothing to dislike about lentils.