When it comes to food seasons, summer and spring get all the glory. You know, the first asparagus of May, the tomatoes-eggplant-corn surplus of August. But fall is when I get most energized in the kitchen. The eggplant and peppers are still around, but the heartier winter squash starts coming into farmers markets, too.
In other words, this is the true bounty, when I have more options than ever. Just as fall brings jackets and light sweaters and breathable scarves, it’s also when I’m compelled to layer lighter and heavier ingredients in my cooking.
Take cinnamon. Perhaps it’s my Middle Eastern heritage, but although I shy away from sweets that depend on the spice too heavily, I adore using it in savory cooking, and now’s when that strategy seems to fit the calendar best.
So when I recently started making an off-the-cuff pasta dish the way I usually do (sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil), I also sprinkled in some cinnamon (along with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes) for warmth. I let the spices bloom, then cooked thinly sliced red peppers and cubed acorn squash with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes just until the vegetables softened, and tossed it all with a pound of bow-tie pasta. Somehow cheese didn’t seem to belong, but walnuts did.
Besides that deep cinnamon, which ingredients were the light ones and which the heavy? Honestly, it’s hard to say. The lines blurred, the way they do every fall.