Here in Los Angeles, it's still warm and balmy. I wore a sundress to have dim sum at the newly reopened Empress Pavilion in Chinatown with my sweetheart, and while walking down Chung King Road to Hill Street, I bought a parasol to protect my face and bare skin from the sun's strong rays. You just might think it was summer. On the one day I took off, we shared many pots of tea and lingered over dim sum. Slow eating. This makes me so happy. To add to my dining pleasure, the new owner of Empress Pavilion explained the updated menu of "more vegetarian dishes" and "healthier" dim sum.
(If your curiosity is percolating at the mere mention of dim sum, read my darling's article on Empress Pavilion: Eight Things You Can Expect at the New Empress Pavilion via Eddie Lin for Los Angeles Magazine.)
I love the change from summer into fall, even though the weather here in perpetually sunny California does not change as other parts of the country do, with leaves turning red and gold, brisk winds blowing, the peaty scent of damp earth and the warming scent of fireplaces burning wood. I've missed my usual farmers' market shopping on Sundays as I have not had enough time to truly cook the slow way I like. This being busy thing has to slow down. It has caused me to take shortcuts in preparing family meals, using frozen waffles for quick breakfasts--- though they are pumpkin waffles drizzled with maple syrup and freshly cut banana slices. I can't help myself even when in a hurry, as I grate fresh cinnamon on top and pour on a little more maple syrup. One day I got creative and made banana waffle sandwiches for my kids using Trader Joe's Pumpkin Waffles, served with homemade almond hazelnut milk as a tea latte.
I know I'm creatively bursting when frozen waffle sandwiches are all I have time to make.
Kitchen sink full of dishes, cups of tea, scattered utensils. Quick, an egg on toast. Quick, an avocado toast. Quick, almond butter and honey toast. Out the door! But slow weekend mornings involve pumpkin pancakes. Or banana waffle sandwiches again, just because those were amazing.
Yet what I crave is a long leisurely day with a crisp breeze blowing the fall leaves around outside, a cozy mug of hot tea inside, and more piping hot pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon and real maple syrup. Then comes soup making. Long hours of simmering, roasting veggies, caramelizing onions, making more stock.
The fall season inspires my recipes--- I love making soups of all kinds, especially butternut squash, or a tomato-rich Tuscan white bean, kale and carrot soup, which evolve in the pot with other vegetable additions as I rummage through my fridge looking for limp basil leaves, kale, spinach. I toast hazelnuts and what's left of the pine nuts. French lentils marry well with tomatoes and chiles, Indian spices like cardamom, roasted cumin in olive oil, coriander seeds.
Soup is slow and requires plenty of time. I close the refrigerator door with an avocado toast bundled up in a napkin and rush out to the car. I've had soup making on my mind.
The best soups I've made took a few days. Building the base with caramelized onions, shallots, leeks, then adding the veggies, layering the flavors until the pot sings with aromas of herbs, spices, roots, greens. It's better to let the pot settle for a day, deepening the ingredients with mirepoix, sherry, and olive oil, a pinch of turmeric, grated ginger, a squeeze of lemon.
Thai soups like Tom Kha, vegan tortilla soup with big slices of avocado, so many wonderful ways to make soup.
I've made lentil stews late at night when my body is aching for rest, and hearty pots of vegetable and bean soups with kale for dinner to serve something nourishing to my family. My morning usuals aren't very inspirational before seven in the morning. Toasted bread with mashed avocado, a sprinkling of olive oil, a pinch of cayenne, a squirt of lemon, served with the grapes that get rinsed each morning until they've been eaten. I don't pretend that I live a leisurely life of recipe conjuring while enjoying a peaceful, uninterrupted day. I'm rushing around, eating in the car, hurrying from dropping off kids at school to work, avoiding traffic with my cab driver skills. Rushing.
Sometimes I am able to plan ahead, putting to-go meals in mason jars, blending fresh almond milk up for smoothies or almond milk lattes, making homemade salad dressing, and other ways to eat well when the day is full and I'm out and about. There have been afternoon trysts with burritos full of gooey cheese, tomatillo salsa, rice and beans. I'm no angel. I wipe my lips of the evidence but I have no regrets.
While I'm away from my cutting board, refrigerator, pots, pans and spices, I think of seasonal recipes and leaf through some of my favorite cookbooks. Just as we are all busy, we seek a meditative moment where time slows down. My happy place is in the kitchen and I can't wait to share my holiday recipes with you. Meanwhile, here are a few seasonal soup recipes I'm eager to try myself. Enjoy. Have a cup of tea with me while we dream of cooking and eating. By the way, that last link for the pureed parsnip and cardamom soup with caramelized shallots? It's first on my list of soups to make.