In Spite of the Weather: Bringing Late Fall into the Kitchen

Cattail sky

November Sky

Apart from the five inches of snow that fell the day before Thanksgiving and the very few nights of 20ºF frostiness we’ve had this fall, the weather has been, well, ridiculous. Yes, ridiculous. Okay, there’s some good in this consistent warmth: I am still picking greens and herbs–the ones the deer do not like, that is. In the DIY tunnel, fennel grows plump next to the artichokes not yet hunkering down for the winter. Nasturtiums continue to blossom in there; hot peppers hang on as do tomatillos. We’re eating well.And from the looks of them, the animals are eating well, too.

But the next few days promise more of the same and I’m wondering what havoc is being wreaked in the gardens and orchard:

According to

After all, it’s November, not September 28, and truth be told, I’m finding it unsettling.  I’m off-kilter. The light has me hankering for fall soups and thick stews, ready for winter, but the temperatures tell me to get on my bike, weed the garden, plant stuff. It just doesn’t seem right to light a fire in the fireplace, or to fill the house with the scents of pork tinga or duck stew simmering on the stove. I haven’t even put away my summer-weight gardening clothes.  Winter coats are still in the back of the closet.  Boots, too.  Crazy.


Winter's kiss

But there’s more to my unease than a bit of disequilibrium.  How are the flora and fauna handling this prolonged warmth?  Are they thrown by it?  What will happen if we are hit suddenly and ferociously with winter?  What if we’re not?  Are we becoming a Zone 5? Or something worse–a Zone 2/Zone 5 depending on the month/week/day? What impact do the little weather events–this warmth–have on what grows and lives here?

If I had known the fall would not altogether be the fall, I would have planted next year’s garlic now instead of two weeks ago–shoots have appeared above the unfrozen ground. Not a good sign. At least I have extra and will try again–surely the cold will come.

If I had known, I would have planted more mesclun, radicchio, frisee and lettuce out in the open garden and kept the deer fences in place a month longer. They’ve eaten through the greens, the carrot tops, the brassicas. Last night I could hear them snorting out in the favas.

If I had known, I would have planted a full raised bed of fennel under a light tunnel, more broccoli and cauliflower. I might have experimented with tomatoes beneath the tunnels.

But I behaved as though this were any other fall gradually shedding its warmth, its leaves, and gathering its protective skin around itself in the form of thick coats and deep burrows. I planted and harvested and prepared and settled it as though winter was coming.  And so it is.  Sometime.  Eventually.  I think. And since the kitchen is filled with fall vegetables, I’m heading in to weave them together in the hopes that the scent of squash and kale, walnuts and cranberries will knock some sense into the atmosphere and the garlic will curl back under the soil and the temperatures will start falling, the chipmunks will hibernate and the robins fly south.  It has to happen sometime, right?
frosty kale

Winter Squash-Kale Medley

Absolutely delicious–I eat it as my main course but you can throw a little protein next to it if you’re feeling deep-winter dramatic.


        One large winter squash, preferably kabucha, buttercup or red kuri (I really have little fondness for the other, more watery sort)
      • One bunch of kale, cut into thin threads–about a packed cup or more (I use an assortment of lacinato, Russian and curly, but you can use any you like. )
      • 1/4 cup fresh walnut meats
      • Olive oil
      • 1/4 cup fresh cranberries
      • 1 tsp Urfa chile (if you have it–otherwise use 1/2 tsp smoked paprika)
        1 tsp za’atar (or 1 tsp of the following mixture:  mix 1 TB white sesame seeds that you toast, 1 TB sumac, 3/4 tsp dried oregano–Mexican if possible.  This is Mourad Lahlou’s mix)
        Sea salt
        Pecorino freshly grated to taste


      1.  Cut the squash in half, rub with olive oil and place on a cookie sheet in a 375 degree oven.  Bake for 45 minutes or until it is tender.  Cool it slightly and scoop out and discard the seeds.  Scoop out the flesh and put into a bowl.

      2.  Put 1 TB olive oil into a sauté pan and heat over medium. Add the walnuts and cranberries, the pepper and za’atar , a bit of salt to taste and stir over the heat for five minutes.  Add the squash and the kale and stir over the heat until warm through and the kale wilts.  Grind some pecorino over the top and serve and dream of winter!

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Categories: Environment, kitchen, recipes, Seasons

3 Comments on “In Spite of the Weather: Bringing Late Fall into the Kitchen”

  1. November 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    This recipe sounds delicious. We’re totally on the same wavelength — I just finished a dinner of quinoa with roasted squash, kale and walnuts! Unfortunately we can’t get fresh cranberries here. Yum.

  2. November 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    I love it! Of course, you get great squash–and I bet, great walnuts–without having to go searching for them, yes? I wonder what you could use in place of the cranberries–how about pomegranate seeds?


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