October days at Boomerang Creek begin with chilly dawn walks and end with fiery orange sunsets that set the woods ablaze. In the woods, there is a deep moan as wind soughs through thick foliage, like the soft moan of a gentle surf. Sough, pronounced in American English like soft; in British English as in sou’wester. Or is that the sound of cows still snoozing in our neighbor’s pasture?
Back at the house, our walking poles are returned to their rack on the porch. Glad to have walked, we are soon cozy in our Adirondack chairs, blankets covering our laps, and hands around cups of hot coffee. It is 48 degrees when, as if by magic, morning’s brilliant light illuminates the pumpkins that decorate the porch steps, turning them into Halloween Jack-o’-lanterns.
We talk about the day forthcoming. Kit is working on a short story. I’ve got threads in my head for a column about my October kitchen. “What are you cooking up?” Kit asks. “A soup the color of this morning’s sunrise,” I answer, “made with an audacious combination of seasonal vegetables and fruit.”
Before heading inside for a bowl of oatmeal with chopped apples, and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, our daughter Heidi texts about the pumpkin muffins I baked for a recent Osher Saturday Morning Book Talk. “I love October,” she declares, “and anything made with pumpkins. Pumpkin bagels, pumpkin pie, and Starbuck’s pumpkin Frappuccino, but even better, their pumpkin latte.”
Now, back to that soup. In 1983, I bought a copy of “Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook” cookbook—seasonal recipes that can be easily prepared by busy American women juggling a career and family. There are 52 menus (beautifully photographed), one for every week of the year, that can be prepared in an hour or less. One of my favorite seasonal meals begins with Red Pepper Soup, perfect because it combines red peppers, carrots, and a pear—all of which I now have in abundance in my October kitchen.
To prepare Martha’s Red Pepper Soup, thinly slice 6 red peppers, 3 carrots, 3 shallots, 1 clove of garlic, and 1 pear (peeled and quartered.) Heat 1 T olive oil and 4 T (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter and sauté the above for 8-10 minutes over medium-low heat. Add a quart of chicken stock. 1 tsp. crushed dried red pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes. Cool and then purée the soup in a food processor, adding one additional roasted red pepper and reheat before serving with a tarragon garnish and French bread.
While Stewart paired the soup with Shrimp Tortillas, I served it with small corn Street Tacos filled with strips of rotisserie chicken, slivered red onion, fresh cilantro, chopped tomato, and thin slices of avocado. For Kit, the tacos are spiced up with Pace picante salsa. Finally, to cool the palette, home-grown Bartlett pears are sautéed in butter, honey and ginger, and topped with a scoop of locally made Giofre Honey Vanilla ice cream.
“What are you going to do with the rest of the pear harvest cooling in the downstairs refrigerator?” Kit asks. “I’ll keep looking for ways to cook with them and share them when I visit friends. And one day soon, I’ll get out Dad’s cast iron skillet and make my favorite purloined fall pear dessert.” Sliced Bartlett pears are sautéed in honey, sprigs of thyme, fresh lavender and butter. Finally a light batter is poured over the pears and topped with toasted almonds before baking. It is divine with fresh whipped cream or Honey Vanilla ice cream. Reader, if you want the recipe, just ask.
“October gave a party; The leaves by hundreds came—The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples, And leaves of every name. The Sunshine spread a carpet, and everything was grand, Miss Weather led the dancing, Professor Wind the band.” ~ George Cooper