Fall Dawn

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Is there anything more lovely and gratifying than a weekend away with old friends?  As I’m learning from friendship expert Shasta Nelson this week, “friendships don’t just happen,” they need time, attention and nurturing, and it’s not just a luxury to take time out to connect with each other.  It’s essential to our health, cathartic, reaffirming and it also creates time to reassess how things are going and lean on some shoulders if you need to.   Also for me it’s a great time to relax into the things that make me purely happy, which turn out to include adventuring in nature, having a long overdue belly laugh (when did I get so serious?), and of course cooking up a storm.

Also I love Healdsburg in the Fall.  The grapes and the olives are picked, the vines are a sea of vibrant yellow and orange, the days are gloriously sunny and bright with Fall sunshine, and the nights are crisp enough for a fire.  Wedding season is over, weekenders are ensconced in city affairs, even the bikers have thinned out.  It’s all peace and quiet and cozy all over the place.

So here are a couple of culinary mementos from my girlfriends weekend in the wine country.

Seasonal grilled cheese from the Jimtown Store (www.jimtown.com), whoopie pie from Moustache Baked Goods (moustachebakedgoods.com), spicy chai from Flying Goat Coffee (www.flyinggoatcoffee.com), fresh baked pastry and a fizzy strawberry “Shrub” from SHED (healdsburgshed.com) – (p.s. I am SO doing a whole post sometime about SHED – I am in love with this place).

Warm Lentils with Verjus

  • Black beluga lentils – simmered in water/broth al dente (not mushy!)
  • Small multicolored beets – roasted to tender, peeled and sliced into segments
  • Olive oil
  • Parsley, mint, other leafy herbs
  • Verjus *
  • Salt/pepper

* Verjus (“green juice”) is the unfermented pressed juice of unripened grapes and is sort of an alternative to vinegar.   We bought some at Medlock Ames winery in Alexander Valley, and I am thinking up more ways to use it.   It’s a little sweet, a little acidic, and sort of earthy at the same time.   I think it would be good with duck.  What else?

Padron peppers

  • Wash and dry
  • Saute in olive oil until blistered all over, puffed up but not burned
  • Toss with a squeeze of lime and fleur de sel

Fried olives – I plowed through three bowls of these at a long gone restaurant in North Beach years ago and still can’t get over them.

  • Tin of anchovy stuffed olives – drained (ok yes you can get green olives, pit them, create an anchovy/garlic/herb paste and painstakingly stuff them yourself, but come on people who has time – these still are delicious)
  • Toss in all purpose flour – you can use rice flour as a gluten free substitute, but I don’t think it comes out as well.
  • Fry in 1” of hot olive oil until crust is brown and crispy – eat as fast as you can – these puppies do not stick around!
  • This method creates a thin crispy crust.  If you want a thicker crust then do the flour/egg/breadcrumb method.  But I kind of like the thin version.

Happy Fall y’all!

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