Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn Inspiration

Life has been quite the ride since the beginning of July!  We honeymooned for a month, then we crashed from the honeymoon for another month... or so.  We ate some AMAZINGly tasty things on our month-long trek cross-country, from lamb at Mustards Grill in the Napa Valley to Bubba's barbecue in Northern Georgia to dueling tasting menus at Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, NJ.  In between (and often during) meals, we got together with friends and family that have been a continent away for far too long.  While our repeated efforts to get them all to move to Washington were unsuccessful, we still had great fun seeing everyone.

Now we are back in our favorite place on earth--home.  Home is where my kitties, my kitchen, and my beautiful view nourish my existence.  Home is where my husband and I relax, where we shirk our responsibilities, and where we share food with each other and good friends.  I think fall is my favorite season because there are so many wonderful opportunities to get together with loved ones and celebrate my favorite thing... EATING!  We celebrate the new year, the harvest, the change of the season, the dead, and then we feast in gratitude for our abundance.  And we celebrate it all with food.

So it's no wonder that I get excited about cooking at this time of year, no matter the occasion.  This fall has been particularly exciting as I try to keep up with the wealth of local produce that is coming to our house through the produce delivery every week.  I also have my first substantial harvest to boast about...


Some may scoff at these beauties--clearly tomatoes should be red, they say!  Well, here in the Pacific Northwest, when life gives you green tomatoes, you "make do."  I was thrilled to find many different sources of inspiration for what to do with the product of our early fall/no summer to speak of.  The first recipe I chose to make was a green tomato & apple chutney from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  This selection was made purely out of convenience--I needed to use apples and green tomatoes.  Now I'll be specifically looking forward to this chutney next year when I am no doubt swimming in green tomatoes and apples once more.

The chutney turned out much chunkier than I imagined a chutney to be, but allowing the components to get friendly in the fridge for a couple of days made it divine. Serve with quesadillas (or really as a cold salsa for most anything), apple pancakes, eggs, or whatever strikes your fancy as you are enjoying this delicious condiment straight out of the container.

Green Tomato-Apple Chutney
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

2 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp garam masala
6 whole cloves
3 dried Thai or other hot red chiles
1 large red onion
1 cored green apple (I used a Ginger Gold)
1 green tomato

Put the butter/ghee, mustard seeds, cloves, and dried chiles in a large cast iron skillet* over medium heat.    Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant.  Add the garam masala and cook for another thirty seconds or so to allow the flavors to infuse.  Be careful not to burn the spices!  If you see that they are cooking a bit quickly, just chuck the onion in!  Mise en place is useful.

These spices need some onion!!!
Add the onion and a large pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften.  Add the apple and tomato and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is slightly thickened--about 5 minutes.  

(This is where I started to wonder if my green tomato needed some more liquid to truly achieve a divine chutney state.  In a panic, I added some water--but that was silly, I think.  In the end, it was delicious, and that's all that matters.  I encourage you to tweak to your liking).  

Chunk-ney :)
Cool to room temperature and serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days (if it lasts that long).  I suggest removing the cloves before serving--biting into one was enough to ward off my own personal laziness next time.

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