Autumnal Gifts - and favorite pumpkin recipes

Fresh eggs from hens Fiona, Molly and Mona, on Cape Cod.
Catherine, with eggs from hens Fiona, Molly and Mona.

My Best Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes

From the archives, with a dash of autumnal pumpkin love... The bittersweet, textured beauty of Autumn has always gripped my heartstrings, pulling me in deeper, connecting with some invisible part of me, so much more so than Spring. Much more so than summer's flirtatious pleasures. And Winter, well. She is a dark and icy mistress. That relationship has always been complicated. So unlike my truly, madly deeply love of Fall.

And here am I. In L.A... Where Fall is just a pumpkin spice latte.

Los Angeles is without an Autumn. I know apologists who claim there is seasonal change (deciduous leaves do transform here- from dry green to crispy brown, sometime before Thanksgiving). But there is no Yankee eruption of brilliance- no reds, golds and coppery oranges. There is no softened, morning skyline heavy with balsam scented mist. Ardent Angelenos do not seem to bristle with three digit heat in October (it was 106ºF yesterday). They do not seem to crave L.L. Bean flannel shirts and cotton turtlenecks, like I do. Flip flops and tank tops are year round fashion choices. Along with hair dye, tanning lotions and injectables that promise eternal Spring. Los Angeles is a town of perpetual 21. In platform heels.

There are weeks (months?) on end I do not see a single woman sporting natural gray hair like mine. Never mind a natural neck- or- well. You know. That's another story. You get the picture. Not only do I feel invisible in sexualized So-Cal culture, I feel irrelevant, and bored. Restless. And unconnected. Year-round summer feels shockingly dull. Artificial. And uninspiring.

So I took my husband on a trip.

We spent a week on Cape Cod (my old stomping grounds, for decades). And I ate up every minute with a spoon. I spent entire days outside, wandering, hiking, drinking in the sea air, the peace and solitude, the creativity of the community (artists and writers, gardeners, crafters, gentlewomen farmers and furniture makers). Strong, independent women with silver streaked hair, and natural beauty that had never known a dermatologist's needle. Women not focused on a mirror. But focused on their curiosity. On creating something with their hands. Their spirit. It was grounding. And enlightening.

And it felt like home.

New Englander Ralph Waldo Emerson said, What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Not to wax too geo-pious, but New England does infuse your blood by birth. It roots you to its culture, its distinct sensibility. Its Yankee eye for simple elegance. An appreciation for patina. For thoughtfulness.

For me, my rural New England beginning fostered a life-long love of books. Music. Antiques. Landscape painting. Simple nourishing food. Walking in the woods. Quiet rather than noise.

Show rather than tell.

Karina's Roasted Hatch Chile Stew with Sweet Potato, Corn + Lime

Scrumptious slow cooker stew with roasted chiles, sweet potato and lime 

Karina's Santa Fe Inspired Stew

If you are lucky enough to live in enchanted New Mexico (as we were- a few years back), chances are you worship at the Sacred Temple of the Holy Chile Pepper. During the all-too-short chile harvest season you can smell the intoxicating smoky-sweet scent of roasting chiles everywhere you go. 

Teasing. Tantalizing. Infusing your daydreams with green chile fantasies.

In Santa Fe, roasters abound. Even in the Walmart parking lot. For a few precious weeks, they are rock stars, fueled by propane, turning blackened barrels over a fire, locals and visitors patient, in queues, waiting for their holy batch. 

The devotion to roasted chile runs deep in these parts and yes, it's with an e never with an i; if you call chile chili in these parts you may as well kiss your white bread tuchas good-bye, pendajo, because you'll be laughed out of the state. Shunned. Scorned. These folks get very serious about their autumn roasted chile. Don't mess with 'em.

It's harvest time.

Where inside every grocery store stacks of crated fresh chiles dominate the floor space like so many Stanley Kubrick obelisks (cue 2001 music). Where gallon size freezer bags are out of stock in every market. Chile lovers around here freeze enough roasted chiles to last a year (they buy an extra freezer just for chile) though I overheard one woman complaining that her chile stash never lasts more than nine months.  

Yeah, nodded her comadre. We always run out in June, she said. And then it's so hard to wait.

Yes. It is.

If you're up to roasting your own chiles, you can do it on the grill or even over an open flame like Elise does at Simply Recipes; here's her How to Roast Chile Peppers Over a Gas Flame. After roasting, cool and peel; then stem, seed and chop.