Bright yellows, all tones of gold and crimson mixed with a rich, pine green formed the backdrop as my friend Rob, emerged from his car to greet me along with his wife, M. With a warm hug, he said, “You didn't tell me you had died and moved to heaven."
This was Rob’s first trip to New England in autumn.
Rob and I have known each other more years than I can count. Still, I hadn't seen him in at least ten. I hadn't had the chance to get to know his wife, whom he met and married soon after I left Chicago some seventeen years ago. This was the first time he visited me in Etna. It was the first time he’d been in the home that my husband and I have built on the edge of the Appalachian Trail. And it was the first time he met my 12 year-old daughter, Isabel. Still, with only intermittent communications, we knew about all the highs and lows of each other’s lives since the time we lived in the same city. Although we have very different backgrounds―he's a Midwesterner of Armenian descent while I grew up in a Sephardic household on the east coast―we see life through a similar lens. We each treasure our families and connections with friends above all else. We each wear our hearts on our sleeves when it comes to talking openly about the joys and sorrows inevitable in life's journey. It was fitting that he visited during the fall foliage season in New England. The ongoing change of colors in the leaves―sometimes from moment to moment depending on the time of day and number of clouds filtering the light―brings on a heightened sense of awareness to even the most mundane day-to-day situations. Change can be frightening, but this sort of dramatic change in the natural world paradoxically beckons us to look inside at what is going on in our hearts. As the leaves shimmer and sway, even the most hardened New Englander can't help but be stirred by the season. Friends, who hadn’t seen each other for what seemed like ages, could get reaquainted and find familiarity in the new people in each other’s lives, quickly, without pressure, touching each other like the leaves stirring outside.
The changing leaves are marvelous in any light. Many people love them on a bright, sunny day, but my favorite time is in the early morning when there is a rich mist in air. I snapped these photos shortly after sunrise―what a way to start the day.
This dish of Roasted Acorn Squash with Harvest Grains and Pomegranate is a perfect reflection of the tastes and colors of the season. Acorn squash is split, seeded and roasted in the oven with a bit of pure maple syrup. Filled with a pilaf of assorted grains―Israeli couscous, quinoa and garbanzo beans―then garnished with pomegranate seeds and greens, this dish can be the basis of any autumn meal. Serve it with some chilled beer or wine, a wedge of your favorite cheese and Apple Cider Mini-Yeast Cakes for dessert.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
ROASTED ACORN SQUASH WITH HARVEST GRAINS
Yield: 4 Servings
- 2 small acorn squash, split and seeded
- 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups cooked Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Mix*―or―2 cups prepared kitchari—or—2 cups cooked brown or white rice
- 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- 1 cup greens (spinach, kale or lettuce), rinsed, trimmed and cut into slivers
- Olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place the split acorn squash on a baking pan or half sheet pan. Drizzle with maple syrup and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in the oven and roast until tender, about 45 minutes.
- While the squash is roasting in the oven, reheat the prepared grains mix or rice. Place in a mixing bowl.
- Remove the squash from the oven. Carefully spoon the warmed maple syrup, that has accumulated in the squash, over the prepared grains mix, kitchari or rice. Toss to combine.
- Place the one squash half on each of 4 dinner plates. Spoon the seasoned grains mix or rice into the cavities of the squash, dividing evenly between plates. Top with pomegranate seeds and slivered greens. Sprinkle with a bit of olive oil.
- Serve and enjoy.
I don’t usually cook with mixes but I couldn’t resist this Harvest Grains Mix available at Trader Joe’s. The mix includes Israelis couscous, orzo, garbanzo beans and red quinoa plus spices. If it is not available to you, kitchari is a great substitution. Or, substitute an equal amount of cooked brown or white rice. Season to taste.