To Everything, There Is A Season.

According to my calendar it is officially Fall. But according to the thermometer, leveling at a tranquil 90 degrees today (or, it was when I started writing this), it is still very much Summer. Most people don’t think LA really has seasons, but we do. The changes are subtle and nuanced for the most part: June Gloom and the ocean layer, the smell of Night Blooming Jasmine, a shift in the quality of light, the Santa Ana winds (and the wildfires fires that follow), and perhaps most obviously, the produce at the markets. The Halloween (and some Thanksgiving) decorations are in the stores and all my magazines are showing up in my mailbox with pumpkins, fall leaves and all manner of oranges and browns on their covers. Except Vogue.  You can always tell it’s the beginning of Fall when you get the tome that is the Fall Fashion issue of Vogue. Tolstoy, step aside.

This is my favorite time of year. I never liked back to school (except the movie), but I always loved back to school shopping. Trapper Keepers, pens, notebooks, rulers, I coveted them all. Argyle, wool, jaunty hats, layers, scarves - who doesn’t get excited for all that? And, though we don’t exactly get vibrant yellow, orange, and red leaves falling from trees here in LA, we do have little pockets, stretches of streets that give us but a glimpse of that. Most of Halloween was filmed less than a mile from my house. And that’s certainly all Fall-y looking. But I can’t lie, I miss the East Coast this time of year. I would love to feel that clean, crisp bite of cool air on the tip of my nose as I walk down the street on my way to meet friends for a welcoming glass of red wine and perhaps a cheese plate. Wearing some cute, little layered number. With my Trapper Keeper.

This always seemed like it would be the best time of year to fall in love. Actually, I suppose it was this time last year that I did just that.

This year, ushering in Fall, has been a bit wonky. Which is why, perhaps, I have been seriously absent here in my blogland. Beso, my dog, my baby boy, my mascot, and my constant companion for the past twelve years, is sick. Again. He has had the worst luck in the huge-things-that-can-go-wrong-in-the-health department. And he is one tough nut. This sick is a bad one and one that will always be with us from here on out. Poor little guy just has too big of a heart. Literally. Anyway, he’s standing strong and getting even more mountains of love than usual, so we won’t dwell on that anymore here.

As an adult, the thing that I geek out about the most with that which is Fall is that it lends itself perfectly to my kind of cooking. I like to cook big. And not just quantity, I like to cook big, comfortable, classy, confident and strong food. I’ve said it before, food that loves. Food that hugs. And even though the past week has been hotter than the devil’s oven, I just couldn’t help myself - I made lasagne and then I slow roasted a chicken for five hours. Additionally, I’ve got all the fixins to make another lasagne with butternut squash and rapini. In the lineup this week I will also be making a chili and the most exciting thing, a Lima bean and ham hock pot, with a real, Southern Smithfield ham. I see lots and lots of brown butter and sage on my horizon. And pasta. And red, red wine. And snuggling with my Autumn love, Fred, my spunky, firecracker of a pup, Eduardo, and my sweet, little Beso - who, I suppose is in the Autumn of his years. And sort of looks like a Lima bean. 

Ham Hock & Lima Beans

Serves 8-10 (12?)

1 large, meaty ham hock
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 pounds dried large Lima beans
3-4 stalks celery, cut into pieces
4-5 carrots, cut into pieces
2 bay leaves
Celery salt to taste
Kosher salt & fresh , black pepper to taste

Clean and soak Limas. Drain and rinse beans.

Cover beans and ham hock with water, add onion, bay leaves and garlic and simmer until tender (about 2 hours). Add celery, celery salt and carrots for last hour of cooking. When ham is done, and falling off the bone, remove from pot and cool. Remove skin and bone and cut into bite-size pieces. Return to pot and continue cooking until beans are done.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a crust of bread and a big glass of big, red wine. Or a hearty stout. Enjoy!