Fall has been one of my favorite seasons for as long as I can remember. Sure, I love summer, with its relaxed pace and warm, sunny days, but it’s the crisp, quiet mornings and the changing leaves that I love about autumn. This is the most sensual of the seasons, with the damp, earthy smell of fallen leaves mingling with the scent of warm spices and simmering stews. This is when I see how many things I can do with an apple, from simmering it in butter and sugar until it develops the caramel-like glaze just right for tarte Tatin, to poaching salmon fillets in a sauce of cider and cream. The hydrating beverages sipped during hot summer days make way for steaming cups of tea cradled between hands while I find a cozy spot for reading a novel.
My sister-in-law and I were talking before dinner on Friday night, while a simple pasta came together on the stove, about how the Scandinavians do cold-weather food right. They have to, she pointed out, with the long dark days that develop this time of year. She flipped through my copy of Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking, a lovely cookbook by Signe Johansen, and kept pointing out recipes that caught her eye—a Nordic porridge for fall and winter, a barley porridge, macaroni and cheese made with an assortment of Scandinavian cheeses. A hot, creamy, fruit-and-spice laden breakfast makes me look forward to the darker, damper mornings of autumn. Followed by a lighter lunch of simple brunost or salmon smørrebrød, with an earthy stew of root potatoes and braised meat for dinner? Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Spiced Prune Compote
Served with plain yogurt, this compote–adapted from Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking—is the perfect way to begin a fall day.
250 grams prunes
100 grams dried apricots
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
2 star anise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Put prunes, apricots, orange juice and zest, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Put the cardamom pods, star anise, and cloves in a tea infuser and add to the saucepan. Cook at a gentle simmer until the fruit has softened and the compote has begun to thicken, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.