Three Fall Dinners

I love roasted vegetables. Love, love, love them. It’s not quite cool enough for that yet (although we did have a delightfully fall-like First Day of Fall). With temperatures in the 90s this week, I think I’d rather hold off.

But I do have a few fall dinner dishes that are easy to cook and don’t make me feel like I’ve heated up the entire house. Some of them are soups. There’s very little measuring in these recipes.

One of my standbys is black bean soup. I once had a co-worker who ate black bean soup every day. I’m not at that point, but I do like to have the ingredients for this one around: diced onion, diced carrots, a can of black beans, vegetable broth, and a variety of spices. I saute the onions and the carrots in olive oil, rinse and drain the black beans, saute them with the onion-carrot mixture, add the broth and some water, season, and simmer for at least an hour. Then I blend it with the immersion blender.

It’s not very photogenic, so there’s no photo. It is delicious, though.

A new introduction is corn chowder. This may sound like it should be a standby, but I haven’t made it regularly in the past. This month, though, I came up with a recipe that I love and can easily make after I get home from work. Saute onions and then carrots in olive oil, dice a couple of small potatoes and mix them in, add vegetable broth and water, simmer until the potatoes are done, lower the heat a bit and add frozen corn and some half-and-half, and continue cooking until those ingredients are heated through. Somehow this winds up tasting buttery. I don’t know exactly why, but it does, and I’m happy about it.

Blue bowl with corn chowder

This next one I cook year-round. It makes me think of fall in the fall, but it is also a great summer recipe, so whatever. There is no sauce easier than Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce. If you haven’t made it, you may be skeptical about it: A can of whole, peeled tomatoes; half a stick of butter; an onion sliced in half; a bit of salt. Remove the onion and blend the remainder. That’s it. You think it needs basil and oregano and pepper and more. It doesn’t. You just put this on top of pasta and eat. I’m not saying you’re going to replace your regular recipe with this one–but, actually, I did.
Oh, and one more thing. Read labels and buy the low-sodium version of everything. You can add your own salt.

Bowl of rotini with Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce and parmesan

Beyond these? I’ve got a whole Pinterest board of recipes I hope to actually try, whether or not it’s fall. Maybe someday.

My Favorite Sandwich

In a sitcom, this reveal would come in the series finale. And it would probably be a disappointment to many viewers, because of course the earlier episodes would have featured increasingly complex concoctions with discordant and occasionally obscure ingredients.

When I started second grade, my mother said, “What do you want for lunch tomorrow?” I paused–because it had never before occurred to me that I might have a say in the matter–and replied, “I don’t care, as long as it’s not bologna.”

Every morning in high school, my mother would say, “What do you want for lunch?” And every morning I would give her the same answer, which finally led me to say, “Peanut butter and jelly, and I’ll let you know when I’m tired of it.” (Yes, my mother made my lunch in high school. I think she felt guilty because I was up in the morning before she was, and her vision of the “perfect mother” was someone who was up early and made her kids’ lunches, even if they were old enough to manage that themselves. Hopefully we can all get past this shocking revelation.)

PB&J and “not bologna” are still very high on my list. But my real favorite sandwich can be traced back to a trip to the UK that we made when I was 10. In the course of traveling through England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, we had a few high teas. At one of those teas, I discovered a wonder: the tomato sandwich.

This is a delightfully simple sandwich: sliced tomato between two slices of bread that have been brushed with mayonnaise. (Do not tell me that mayonnaise is “gross.” I’m telling you what I like, not making you eat it.) I’m sure that at the long-ago teas, the sandwiches were made with white bread. We don’t have white bread, so I make mine on Roman Meal. To a lot of people I know, that’s practically white bread. For the mayonnaise, I used Best (Hellman’s to you East Coast readers). For the tomatoes?

Ah, that’s where the magic comes in. The tomatoes are from our garden, which was dug, planted, and harvested by Mr. Sandwich. Last year the raccoons got all of the tomatoes (or, at least, part of each tomato), but this year he’s actually been able to find some that are both ripe and untouched by vermin hands.

So last night I sliced up the tomato, put it on the mayonnaise-y bread, sprinkled just a little salt on it, and ate. Delicious.

Birthday Extravaganzas

We worked hard to avoid one. My contention? A one-year-old doesn’t know it’s her birthday. She doesn’t know what birthdays are. So the party isn’t really for her.

That’s why we went with a party we wanted–cookout and cake, served to family. Mr. Sandwich wood-grilled steaks and sausages, and I grilled salmon and asparagus on the gas grill. I also made a tomato-rice-parmesan salad that I saw in Real Simple and couldn’t stop thinking about. And then there was cake (with a cupcake for Baguette) frosted in an unintentionally poi-like shade of purple.

As for the basic premise, I was totally on target. She had no idea why all those people were there, and passed out on her grandpa’s shoulder for most of the party. But I can’t blame her. Turning one is hard work.

A Wonderful Weekend

Saturday morning I ran a bunch of errands. On my way home, I passed Mr. Sandwich on his way out for a long ride. I continued home and lounged around on the bed reading magazines (normally I lounge around on the couch to read magazines, but the carpet was still drying, and the couch had some extra stacks of things to be sorted, with nowhere else for them to go). Mr. Sandwich came back, and we headed up to Santa Clarita for dinner with friends. They grilled steaks and tater tots, and I made a tomato-avocado salad and roasted asparagus. After dinner we played board games and stayed up much too late talking.

On Sunday, we went to the real estate office and signed still more papers to raise our offer. After looking at (and eliminating) a few more houses, Mr. Sandwich and I decided that we couldn’t waste such an unusually clear summer day. We went on a long drive through Malibu, and then across town and along the spine of Mullholland Drive. The views into the valley were stunning (see earlier post for shaky video). And it was the perfect end to the weekend.