I am always a little sad when summer starts to draw to an end and the air gets that noticeable chill that makes you realize it’s time to get the sweaters back down from the attic and put the breezy summer dresses away. While I do like the fall, I am not really very particular about the winter. Cold weather and I just aren’t a good match. But before that real chill starts to set in, there are a lot of things to look forward to as the season starts to change.
The harvest and all it brings is definitely one of them. This is such a bountiful time of year. There are plums of all shapes and sizes, aubergines, the last of the summer tomatoes, the first squash, corn, mushrooms, figs and so much more. It’s the season of spicy pumpkin stews, luscious open fruit tarts served with cinnamon ice cream, and risotto with chanterelles.
Slowly but surely, my lunch salads start to make way for more substantial foods. This year I wasn’t very lucky with growing my own courgettes, though a few years ago a pretty decent supply straight from my garden inspired a lovely, velvety soup with mascarpone and pesto. It is a recipe I often used when I gave cooking lessons at my house and one that frequently makes its appearance not only as lunch but also as a starter. I think it’s the white wine that gives it that little extra something.
Courgette Soup with Mascarpone and Pesto
- 2 tbsps mild olive oil
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 3 courgettes (or 6 small garden courgettes), cubed
- 450ml vegetable bouillon
- 125ml dry white wine
- 3 tbsps mascarpone
- 2 tbsps pesto
- salt (preferably fleur de sel) and freshly-cracked pepper
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and gently cook the onions and the garlic for about five minutes. Increase the heat and add your courgettes. Allow the courgettes to cook, tossing them as you go, for about 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and let it bubble for about a minute. Add the water, bouillon, and salt and pepper to taste. Let everything come to the boil and immediately reduce the heat. Cover the pan and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mascarpone and the pesto until well incorporated. Puree the soup in a blender or with a hand-held mixer, taste, adjust the seasoning and serve.
Though I am not really much of a bread eater, sometimes during the weekends my husband buys a fresh loaf of rustic, country bread for breakfast. He cuts a few thick slices and tops them with crisp bacon and a fried egg. It’s such an indulgence when he cooks us this breakfast, or anything for that matter. I am very lucky. He’s a great cook.
With the rest of the bread, I like to make open sandwiches. One of my favorites is thin slices of roast beef topped with creamy tuna salad, capers and arugula. At this time of year, grilled aubergines and tomatoes combined with store-brought pesto and mozzarella are also a pretty good option.
Open Sandwich with Grilled Vegetables
- 1 thick slice of good bread
- 1 tsp basil pesto (store-bought is fine)
- thinly sliced mozzarella
- mild olive oil
- thinly sliced aubergine and tomato
- freshly-cracked pepper, good olive oil and cress leaves, to serve
Grill the bread, spread with the pesto and layer with the mozzarella. Heat a little olive oil in a pan a and quickly fry the aubergine slices on both sides. Season with a little salt. Put the slices on top of the mozzarella. Add another tiny bit of oil to the pan and quickly fry the tomatoes. You’re not actually frying the vegetables, more like searing them. Layer the tomatoes on top of the aubergine. Season with some freshly-cracked pepper, a drizzle of good olive oil and a scattering of cress leaves. In case you may want to spoil yourself even more, serve with a chilled rosé wine.
Fall also means giving the house a little makeover. I finally had the chance to put away the ‘summery’ decor, harvest lavender from my garden and add little seasonal touches to my house.
The yellow candles on my mantelpiece were replaced with reddish brown ones, and I added a few pretty tea lights to brighten the whole thing up. I decorated my dining room table with a brown runner and put out little pumpkins. Doing these things feels absolutely wonderful. Every season has its beauty (even the winter, I think). Be grateful and enjoy the months ahead.