First Signs of Autumn

Sunday seems so long ago -- I barely recall what has happened between now and then. Time flies when you're having fun, or maybe I'm just getting old. But I do remember that last weekend I went to the local greenmarket, enjoyed the warm weather and tried to manage both Annabella and armloads of produce with only moderate success. And then we drove upstate with our neighbor in his convertible, with the top down. I came home with as much of a tan as I can hope to get and quickly threw dinner together.

In just a few days, fall seems to have arrived. The mercury today has not passed 60 degrees, and I wore a scarf and jacket to work. Despite the change, I would still be happy to eat this meal. The earthy bitterness of the chard and just a hint of brightness from the oranges don't seem too summery for the weather. I'm not quite ready to eat cabbage and butternut squash, but maybe next week...

Chard Stuffed With Risotto and Mozzarella
Adapted from Mark Bittman in The New York Times

3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup arborio rice
pinch of saffron
1 orange, zested and juiced
lump of butter
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
salt and pepper
6 chard leaves
6 1/2 inch chunks of soft pecorino cheese
1/2 cup white wine

Cook rice in vegetable broth, starting with one cup; add broth in stages, using about 3 cups total, until rice is barely tender. Dissolve saffron in juice of the orange. Add to rice, along with butter, hard cheese, orange zest, salt and pepper to taste. Allow rice to cool a bit.

Poach chard leaves in about 2 cups water just until pliable -- about 30 seconds. Drain and cut out the hardest part of central stem.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Form 6 balls of rice 2 to 3 inches across. Dig a hole in ball and insert a piece of soft cheese. Wrap each ball in a chard leaf.

Put balls in a close-fitting oven dish and add wine. Bake 15 minutes. Serve balls topped with cooking juices, more zest, hard cheese and olive oil.

Yield: 6 servings.

Saffron Carrots
Adapted from David Tanis in The New York Times

lump butter
pinch of saffron, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, grated
zest from one orange
bunch carrots, sliced into thin coins
salt and pepper

In a large skillet fitted with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. When hot, add the saffron, garlic, lemon zest and carrots. Seasons with salt and pepper. Toss the carrots in the butter to coat. Add 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until the carrots are tender -- about 5 minutes.

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