A New Year in September

To ring in a sweet new year last weekend, I decided to invite a few old friends over for dinner and conversation. I learned nearly at the last minute that one is a vegan, but luck was with me because I’d planned to make an (almost) vegan dinner, anyway, full of fresh vegetables and the previously fawned-over matzo ball soup. I spent much of the day letting my challah rest, and rise, and then rise again, but the hours spent hanging around waiting for it to reach golden perfection were well worth it in the end. I also resurrected an old standby of mine that I used to make years ago: the tarte tatin, which was all the more delicious for the 1/2-pound of butter in the pastry. I used organic (by default) Gravenstein apples from the tree in the field, and it was quite lovely.

I started us with the challah and the matzo ball soup. Then we moved on the main course of roasted red and sweet potatoes, salad, roasted asparagus with balsamic vinegar, and a chickpea/tomato/chard stirfry [saute one yellow onion and some sliced garlic until soft; add 2 heirloom tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can organic crushed tomatoes; add one can (or 1 cup+ dried, cooked) chickpeas and let cook for about 3 minutes; add chopped chard and herbs if desired; stir and cover to wilt, cooking about 5 minutes). I quickly made her a simple vegan blackberry/apple crumble with the last of the season’s blackberries (not too many left on the bushes), and the rest of us enjoyed our tarte tatin avec creme, of course.

I’ve been reading a bit of M.F.K. Fisher’s letters lately, as well as part of the recent biography “Poet of the Appetites,” by Joan Reardon. I think she appeals to me not just because she wrote about cooking and travelling, but because she details them in such such spare, forthright yet somehow tender prose that makes her experiences come alive. Even in her letters it is apparent that she is a great writer — thoughtful, honest, and clear, which is something to remember.

Roasted Red and Sweet Potatoes

10 small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
3-4 baby sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
olive oil
herbs du provence
salt and pepper

Preheat over to 400 F. Spread the potatoes in a baking dish and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil; turn to coat. Season with salt + pepper, and sprinkle with the herbs. Roast for about an hour, or until the potatoes are crisp and the sweet potatoes release their juices and begin to carmelize.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:


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