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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.

Add the corn and haricots verts to the cooked pasta, pour the cherry tomato vinaigrette over and toss together gently. Taste, correct for salt, add the Italian parsley and serve within 30 minutes.

Variation: Dice 3 ounces of pancetta, fry it in a little olive oil and add it to the salad after tossing with the vinaigrette.


A chopped salad is a great way to use the garden's bounty and you should feel free to vary this depending on what is available. You can use lettuce instead of arugula, add cucumbers and green beans, replace the pear with melon or apple, the salmon with chicken or pork and omit the meats if you are a vegetarian. Just be certain to prepare each individual ingredient so that it tastes delicious on its own before you build the salad.

<strong>Early Fall Chopped Salad</strong>

<em> Makes 6 to 8 servings</em>

— Lemon Citronette (recipe follows)

3 or 4 large handfuls of small-leaf arugula

— Kosher salt

1 small red onion, peeled and cut into small dice

3 or 4 medium-small beets, roasted, peeled and cut into 3/8-inch dice

6 ounces cheese (see Note below), torn, crumbled or cubed

3 or 4 smallish heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into ? inch dice

2 or 3 medium peppers (bell peppers, poblanos, etc.), roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into medium julienne

1 cup cooked or smoked wild Pacific King salmon, torn into small pieces

2 firm ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into ? inch dice

3/4 cup lightly toasted walnut pieces

— Black pepper in a mill

6 bacon slices, fried until crisp, drained and chopped

3 hard-cooked eggs from pastured hens, peeled and sieved or grated

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

First, make the citronette and set it aside.

Put the arugula on a large serving platter, sprinkle salt on top and toss lightly. Spread it evenly over the platter.

Scatter the onion over the arugula.

Arrange the beets, cheese, peppers, tomatoes, salmon (or chicken or pork), pear and walnuts in separate rows on top of the arugula and onions. Season lightly with salt and grind black pepper over everything.

Drizzle the lemon vinaigrette on top, followed by the bacon.

Working quickly, put the sieved or grated eggs and the parsley into a bowl, season with salt and pepper, toss lightly and scatter over the salad.

Set the platter on the table so that guests can enjoy its appearance.

When it is time to serve it, use two forks or salad servers to toss gently and transfer to individual plates or bowls.

Note: Blue cheese is traditional in chopped salad and it is definitely a good choice for this recipe.

However, you may also use Bellwether Carmody, Weirauch Farm Saint Rose or Carabiner, Joe Matos St. George, mozzarella fresca, feta or any other cheese you really like.


This recipe is from my book, "Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings: 60 Sensational Recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Kind of Salad" (Harvard Common Press, 2013).

<strong>Lemon Citronette</strong>

<em> Makes about 3/4 cup</em>

1 small shallot

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

— Kosher salt

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

— Black pepper in a mill

Put the shallot, garlic and lemon zest in a mixing bowl or small wide-mouthed Mason jar, add the lemon juice and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Season generously with salt, add the olive oil and either mix with a fork or small whisk or seal the jar and shake it vigorously.

Add the chives, season generously with black pepper, taste and correct for salt as needed. The dressing is best served immediately but may be refrigerated for up to two days.

<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>

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