Autumn creeps up on us like a cool breeze on a hot afternoon, prodding us to slip on a sweater and hunker down by the stove with a warm bowl of soup.
The soup leads to a slow-cooked braise, the braise leads to rib-sticking stew, and next thing you know, you are whisked off into the cozy whirlwind of the winter kitchen.
Unlike the quick meals of summer, fall dishes require the cook to slow down and proceed with patience as the kitchen fills with the aromas of cider and spice, smoke and wine.
As an homage to the season, local chefs and home cooks shared ideas about what dishes they like to serve to their families and friends in the slanting light of late autumn.
At The Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa, Executive Chef Liza Hinman serves comfort foods that she has been cooking at home for the past few years, since she started a family. One of her favorites is the Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder, served with celery root mash and fennel, that she recently added to the menu.
"It uses apple cider and some fresh apples," she said. "It's a Sunday dish. Just set it up, put it in the oven, and it's ready in the evening."
Richard Whipple, executive chef of the Brasserie in Santa Rosa, likes to bake Brown Butter Apple Galettes as a simple fall dessert.
"Galettes are just a free-form pie, so you don't have to worry about making a shell," he said. "I use puff pastry for the crust."
It would not be autumn without a bite of Whipple's Mushroom and Leek Tart, made with product from Gourmet Mushrooms of Sebastopol.
"For me, fall is always mushrooms," he said. "Any kind of mushrooms work, but I prefer using a mix."
As a light supper, home cook Marna Hill of Santa Rosa warms up her kitchen with a Roasted Vegetable "Minestra" soup topped with a seasonal pesto.
"I get a little overzealous at the farm market and need to put the produce to work," she explained. "As the weather cools, roasting the vegetables (and warming the kitchen) in the fall is a prelude to winter roasting menus."
To make the soup, she cuts onions, leeks, carrots and summer squash and coats them with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then roasts them in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring once.
Then she throws it all in a food processor with hot water. Finally, she makes a pesto from basil, parsley, garlic, arugula and olive oil, to serve on top with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Colleen McGlynn of DaVero in Healdsburg has been roasting whole cippollini onions this autumn as a tasty side dish.
To roast, peel the onions, then add a film of olive oil and some water to a skillet. Place the onions in the pan, then put a slightly smaller skillet on top of onions so it serves like a lid. Place the skillet over a medium flame.
After 10 minutes, when the onions are bubbling and steaming, turn them and put the lid back on, then cook until soft and browned. To finish, sprinkle a few drops of balsamic vinegar and some Maldon salt.
As a savory fall entree, professional chef Todd Muir of Healdsburg braises pork chops with caramelized onions, tomatoes and red wine.