Paul: Dig into these fall recipes |

Paul: Dig into these fall recipes

For most people, October heralds vibrant colors and fireside chats. For me, it also portends creaky knees and chipped manicures.

Last week when my dog and I walked to the mailbox, I was excited to find an orange “Sorry We Missed You,” post office card. What could it be? The grand prize of the contest I entered months ago? An unexpected Halloween present? I didn’t have my reading glasses, so I sprinted home to inspect the fine print.

I rummaged through a bowl of Halloween candy before putting on my 2.50s. The M&Ms were yummy, but the news hard to stomach. The Flowers-R-Us name in the sender’s corner, reminded me of the 500 bulbs I ordered last spring. Once again I’d succumbed to a 40 percent off invitation, which actually means, “Buy now, fret later.”

How would I find time to plant Dutch Iris, Grape Hyacinths, and the striped magenta thing I couldn’t even pronounce? I was excited imagining next year’s pink and purple possibilities, but needed first to carve a pumpkin, can my apple chutney, and write a column.

I mulled over my options for a while, and what did I choose? Planting, of course. As I pitchforked through granite soil bruising my hands and chipping my fingernails, I fantasized about gobbling all the Halloween candy now, and dropping daffodil bulbs into the trick-or-treat bags.

I hope this dinner idea is a “Treat.”

Eggplant-Feta Spread

1 cup

Nibble this on crackers while waiting for the costumed pirates and princesses to arrive.

1/2 pound eggplant (I prefer the long Japanese variety)

2 ounces feta cheese

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup minced red onion

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Salt and pepper

Slice the eggplant lengthwise, and place it face down on a greased tray. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until soft and wrinkled.

Scoop out the eggplant pulp, and puree it with the feta, garlic and lemon juice until smooth.

Chop the red onion and parsley by hand, and stir it, along with the salt and pepper, into the pureed mix.

Chill well before serving.

Parmesan Tomatoes

A 4-6 servings side dish

A fond farewell to this year’s luscious garden tomatoes.

4 medium tomatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds (I’ve also used 2 big heirlooms to make 4 servings, and just re-adjusted the division of the topping.)

1 teaspoon olive oil

4 teaspoons pesto

1 tablespoon Parmesan

1 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs

Salt and pepper

Grease an 8 by 8-inch glass pan with the olive oil. Cut the tomatoes in half and place them cut-side up in the pan. Spread 1/2 teaspoon pesto on each.

Mix together the Parmesan, bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and divide and sprinkle it over the eight halves.

Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

This goes perfectly with the following casserole.

Baked Cauliflower

4-6 servings

Along with changing colors comes a different variety of seasonal veggies.

1 large head cauliflower, broken in bite-size florets.

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 packed cup grated sharp cheese

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Steam the cauliflower until tender, rinse under cold water, and set aside. (A cold water rinse stops further cooking of a veggie.)

To make the sauce, heat the milk slowly over a low flame. When it’s warm, spoon a little into the cornstarch and stir until absolutely smooth. Pour this mixture back into the heating milk and continue stirring.

Add the Dijon and stir for about three minutes until it thickens.

Turn off the flame. Add the cheese, and salt and pepper, and stir until smooth. Combine this with the cauliflower, and spread in an oiled 7 by 11-inch glass pan. Mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and sprinkle on top.

Bake the casserole uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until the cheese bubbles and the top browns.

Apple Pudding

A generous 6 servings

And now for dessert …

2 tablespoons butter

3 cups sliced slightly sweet apples, cut medium thin and halved.

1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds


1/2 cup softened butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons softened butter

2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds

Heat the butter in a pan. Add the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon and sauté for about 15 minutes until the apples are just tender.

I use a hand mixer for the custard. Cream together the butter and sugar until blended, then stir in the eggs until well-incorporated. Add the milk and extracts and mix until smooth. No need to stew if the custard looks a bit lumpy.

To make the topping, crumble all the topping ingredients together until it resembles coarse meal. (Think kid-fun and do this with your fingers.)

Now the layering begins. Butter an 8X8-inch glass pan, and spoon the sautéed apple mixture over the bottom. Sprinkle on the slivered almonds.

Pour on the custard and spread it evenly. Finally, crumble the topping over everything, and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. It should look golden and softly set.

Hot, warm, or cold: I’m always delighted to gobble this.

Ronnie Paul is a freelance writer in Nevada City.

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