Late summer and early fall in Sonoma County: What a great time to cook. We still have delicious summer tomatoes, all manner of peppers and chiles, crisp cucumbers and beans, extraordinary melons and fresh wild Pacific King Salmon but, as nights turn chilly and there's a morning blanket of fog, fall crops intersect with summer's bounty.
A few days ago, I asked friends and colleagues what they were enjoying right now, during the last few days of fluctuating temperatures when highs inched into three digits and then suddenly dropped enough that we were reaching for sweaters and hoodies. Answers ranged from all manner of salads fresh from the garden, BLTs, gazpacho, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, watermelon and chilled yogurt-cucumber soup to sliced apples with cheese, baked beans, chard with bacon and garlic, grilled lobster and corn, chili, fiery Italian beef sandwiches, polenta, tarte tatin and cold grapes with chardonnay.
My two favorites came from local photographer George Rose, who is enjoying salty potato chips with sparkling wine, and Angelo Ibleto, who is entertaining himself with commercial chocolate chip cookies topped with a spoonful of his marinara sauce. Neither, of course, involve actual cooking but both evoke a smile.
These simple recipes will evoke smiles, too. If we have another heat wave, do most of the cooking in the morning, when it's cool, and then assemble things at the last minute. Leftovers keep well; just be sure to warm to room temperature before serving.
If you do not eat pasta, you can replace it with barley, farro, quinoa, a small bean such as flageolet or lentils and still have a delicious fall dish.
<strong>Fall Pasta with Rosamarina Pasta, Corn, Haricots Verts & Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette</strong>
<em> Makes 4 to 6 servings</em>
— Kosher salt
6 ounces (about 1 cup) rosamarina, orzo or other small seed-shaped pasta or grain
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar, medium acidity
3 ears white corn, shucked
4 ounces haricots verts
Juice of 1 lemon
3 cups small cherry tomatoes, preferably orange, yellow and red, quartered
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Fill a medium saucepan half full with water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir until the water returns to a boil and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain, rinse in cool water, drain thoroughly and transfer to wide shallow serving bowl.
Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the pasta, toss and set aside.
Meanwhile, put the shallots and garlic in a medium bowl, add the vinegar and set aside.
Put the corn in a pot and add enough water to cover it by one inch. Set over high heat and when the water boils, use tongs to transfer the corn to a work surface to cool. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water, add the haricots verts and cook for 90 seconds. Drain, rinse quickly in cool water and drain thoroughly. Set aside with the corn.
Stir the lemon juice into the shallot mixture, season with salt and several turns of black pepper and stir in the remaining olive oil. Add the cherry tomatoes and the chives and toss together quickly. Taste and correct for salt, pepper and acid blance.