There is a closely guarded secret in northern New England. It’s not like one of those deep, dark family secrets. You know the type – maybe your uncle is ex-KGB or your grandparents were illegal aliens. Heck, maybe you haven’t paid taxes in a couple of decades or have an email server in your basement. Whatever it is, you’re probably okay as long as you don’t run for office.
New Hampshire’s secret is the foliage. Not the fact that we have it and it’s glorious. No, our secret is all about timing. All those people who crowded our highways and byways over the long weekend; they missed it. The peak, at least in my neighborhood, is rarely if ever on the second weekend of October. As long as Hurricane Matthew doesn’t take a turn and strip all the leaves from the trees, the colors should be at their most glorious this coming weekend.
Now that you know the truth, what are you going to do about it? How will you celebrate our bright and brilliant countryside? The peak comes and goes in what seems like instant so you don’t have a lot of time to ponder. Before you know it, the golden days of October will disappear. Is there any debate that New Hampshire is at its worst in November?
First and foremost, get out and about. Take a walk through the woods for an up close and personal foliage tour. Nervous about ticks? Take a walk through town, any town. Is there anything more New England than an old white church framed in scarlet and gold again a bright blue sky? The lake is magic this time of year. When the water is still, it is like glass. A canoe or kayak paddle is definitely in order. Maybe you’d prefer to hop on your bike and cover more ground. Or get in the car and go further still. However you travel, bring a festive picnic or plan to stop at your favorite bistro.
In addition to that bistro, you might want to wander through some of your favorite shops. Admire some antiques, find the perfect pumpkin and splurge on the latest novel by your favorite author. It’s probably due to all those years of back- to- school shopping but there’s something about fall. It makes us want to buy a new sweater, a pair of boots or new pillows for the sofa. Maybe even a new sofa?
While you are wandering around the farmstand looking for pumpkins, don’t forget to stock up on cider, apples, squash and a basket of gnarly gourds. It’s time to bake your first apple pie of the season. I guess anything apple will do – a cake, muffins – you choose! As for that lovely squash or sugar pumpkin, you’ll want to get cozy after a day outside with soup, risotto or chili.
And what about those gnarly gourds? They are for decorating. After Christmas, fall is the most decorated season. Create a festive display of mums, pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks on your front porch. Perhaps you’d like to use some of those pumpkins to build fanciful scarecrows. Whether you go elegant or whimsical, there’s still a bit of time left for outdoor living. Be sure to invite a few friends over to enjoy a cup of afternoon tea or an early evening cocktail surrounded by your creativity.
Enjoy the peak and bon appétit!
Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Make this delicious chili in advance for an easy feast after an adventure-filled day. Enjoy!
1 pound dried black beans
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2-2 large onions, chopped
1 (or more to taste) chipotle pepper(s) in adobo, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds ground turkey
2-3 cups homemade (or canned) pumpkin puree
2-3 cups chicken or turkey stock or broth
1 1/2 cups beer, preferably dark beer
3/4 cup sour cream
Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chopped cilantro
Rinse the beans, put them in a bowl, add water to cover by about 4 inches and soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans and 1 bay leaf in large pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
While the beans are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a large casserole and heat over medium. Add the carrots, onions, chipotle, spices and herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the pan and reserve.
Add a little more olive oil to the casserole, add the turkey, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Return the vegetables to the pot and stir to combine.
Stir in the pumpkin puree, 1-2 cups stock, the beer and remaining bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Simmer on very low until the beans are ready to add to the chili.
After the beans have been cooking for about 45 minutes, drain and add them to the chili. Cover and transfer the chili to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Stirring a few times and adding more chicken stock if necessary, cook for about 1 hour.
Put the sour cream in a bowl. A little at a time, whisk 2 cups of chili into the sour cream. Stir the sour cream mixture into the chili, add more chicken stock if necessary and return the chili to the oven for about 1 hour.
Serve the chili in shallow bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.
Best if made ahead, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated for serval hours or overnight. To reheat: bring to a simmer over low heat on the stovetop or in a 350-degree oven.
Homemade Pumpkin Puree
1 or more sugar pumpkin(s)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the pumpkin(s) in half and scoop and scrape out the seeds. Quarter each of the halves and place the pieces on a baking sheet.
Roast the pumpkin at 350 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and put it in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse and process until the pumpkin is smooth.
Put the puree in a sieve lined with coffee filters or cheesecloth and drain for several hours or overnight.
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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup
Three Years Ago – Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Four Years Ago – Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Five Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Six Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Seven Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
What’s your secret? Feel free to share.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016