Surely you've noticed by now: Fall has arrived.

It came last week, in a single moment, as it always does. When I drove my grandson Lucas to school that morning, the light and scents of summer bathed us.

But when I walked outside later that afternoon, everything had changed. There was that familiar chill at the heart of the day's heat and a golden glow tinted the chestnut orchard that descends toward Atascadero Creek west of my little cottage.

The chestnuts themselves glimmered in the light and their halo of green leaves shimmered with a luminosity I never see in, say, June, July or even early August.

The singular beauty of this moment tugged at my heart as it does each year; feelings of loss, regret and melancholy flooded my veins and tears tickled my cheeks.

Hello, old friend, I said out loud. As always, you've come too soon. I'm not ready.

And so it is, year after year. Fall descends before we are ready to let go of the long leisurely days of summer, triggering a cascade of atavistic responses, gifts from our ancestors who struggled to survive the cold, lean months of winter and early spring.

Life is easier for us: A simple switch gives us light, a turn of a knob gives us heat, a trip to the market fills our pantry and quells our hunger.

But what heals our hearts? We haven't been defended against the seasons long enough for our emotional responses to have evolved and so we greet fall with more complicated feelings than any other season.

What's to be done? Nothing, really. I recommend simply taking time to appreciate the seasonal transformation and the fragile beauty of nature sinking down into herself for rest and rebirth.

And then curl up by the year's first fire, sip something rich and warm, read a good book, savor the last of summer's harvest. Before long, it will all begin again.


This is one of my favorite combination of flavors, and it is essential to marinate the cooked potatoes in lemon juice for a bit; don't omit this step.

The dish is a tad messy to eat so provide large napkins, along with a bowl for the shrimp shells. You can, of course, shell the shrimp before cooking them but they won't be as tender or as flavorful, so I recommend digging in with your fingers.

<strong>Gulf Shrimp with Chorizo, Potatoes & Lemon</strong>

<em> Makes 3 to 4 servings</em>

1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed

— Kosher salt

1 teaspoon Spanish paprika of choice

— Juice of 2 lemons

8 ounces Spanish-style chorizo, preferably One World Sausage brand, cut into 3/8-inch thick rounds

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

12 large Gulf shrimp, heads removed and deveined, shells on

— Black pepper in a mill

1 tablespoons snipped chives, chopped Italian parsley or chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon cr?e fraiche or sour cream

Cut the potatoes into small wedges about ?-inch thick.

Put them into a medium saute pan, cover with water and season generously with salt. Set over high heat, and when the water boils, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 7 to 12 minutes, depending on their exact size. Drain thoroughly, transfer to a bowl, add the juice of 1 lemon and half the paprika, toss and set aside.

Return the pan to the heat, add the chorizo and saute, turning now and then, until cooked through, about 7 minutes.

Push the chorizo to the side of the pan, add the butter or olive oil, heat through and add the shrimp. Cook for 90 seconds, season with salt, turn, add the remaining paprika and the lemon juice, cover the pan and cook for 90 seconds more. Uncover, add the potatoes, toss and cook for about 2 minutes.

Carefully taste and correct for salt and divide among individual plates. Sprinkle with herbs, top with a dollop of cr?e fraiche or sour cream and serve immediately.


I was recently asked to name 10 cookbooks that I consider essential for any home library. "Unplugged Kitchen" by Viana La Place (Morrow, 1996) is always at the top of any such list for me. I simply adore this cookbook, as much for its delicate sensibilities as for its delightfully minimalist recipes.

The book is out of print but not difficult to find. This recipe is from the book and I've made just a couple of changes, one to offer the options of using local chipotle powder or ground serrano instead of cayenne and of adding some chopped herbs if you like.

For a late summer/early fall feast, serve sliced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil first and conclude with a simple salad of tiny arugula leaves in a light vinaigrette. As far as raw eggs go, there is nothing to worry about here. They are fully cooked by the time the dish is ready, although if you prepare it properly, they remain creamy, as they do in spaghetti carbonara. Keep the heat low enough that the eggs do not coagulate.

<strong>Rich Lemon Rice Inspired By Viana La Place</strong>

<em> Makes 3 to 4 servings</em>

1 1/2 cups Vialone Nano rice

— Kosher salt

3 egg yolks from pastured chickens, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder, ground serrano or ground cayenne

3 ounces (3/4 cup) grated Vella Dry Jack or Estero Gold cheese

2 tablespoons local butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs of choice, optional

— Lemon wedges

Boil the rice in a generous amount of salted water. When the rice is almost completely cooked — al dente — reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid, drain the rice and transfer it to a large saute pan.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved liquid to the rice and stir well. Stir the egg yolks into the remaining 1/2 cup of cooking liquid, add the lemon juice and chipotle, serrano or cayenne and pour over the rice. Add the cheese and butter and stir gently at low heat until the liquid thickens slightly; do not overcook.

Taste and correct for salt. Spoon into shallow soup plates or pasta bowls, garnish with herbs, if using, and a lemon wedge or two. Serve immediately.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>