It’s officially autumn, as you’re surely aware. I don’t know quite what that means here in the Bay Area. I’ve asked around, and some have told me nothing happens! But perhaps this is because they, too, are from the Midwest, where our fall days bring blazing colors to the trees and crisp winds that absolutely demand scarves and tights and your warmest sweaters. I have always loved autumn and what it brings: apple picking, lumpy squash on display at the market, a reason to be cozy, mugs of warm apple cider, a hot air balloon festival in my hometown, cold nights, whispers of the upcoming holiday season. It’s a bit disorienting to be well into October without the usual signs.
But I’m working hard to pay attention, closing my eyes to assess the character of the air and the smells of the streets, and something, something, is happening. Though perhaps not so striking in color, leaves are falling, collecting in small piles on the ground. The market is brimming with pears, apples, walnuts in their tough shells, Brussels sprouts, bumpy heads of cauliflower, delicata squash, round pumpkins. The air feels different, crisper, I think, and it seems our recent Indian summer has ended. In the very early morning, the chill bites, however gently.
This isn’t necessarily the autumn I know, but it’s something like it. I think that’s sufficient.
And anyway, while I really do miss the fiery red of Michigan’s trees and the need for extra blankets, other differences are so lovely. For the first time in my life, I’m finding pomegranates and persimmons on my Saturday market excursions, for example, and in this new-to-me climate, my sweaters may well be appropriate every day of the year. The clouds here are tremendous; I never know what they’re going to do, where they’re going to go next. And as for life in general, I’ve discovered an excellent coffee shop less than a mile from home, I love this region’s public transit and having a husband is splendid.
In the kitchen, I’m chasing as many fall flavors as possible to be sure I’m sufficiently in the proper spirit for this season. In the last ten days, I have made pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin bread with brown butter and bourbon, apple pie (and vanilla ice cream to go alongside it), roasted cauliflower, cauliflower soup (with mustardy croutons!), several salads topped with sweet potato and this pumpkin granola.
The recipe for this granola comes from The Sprouted Kitchen, a lovely cookbook I’ve commented on already. I made this batch for two of my dearest friends on the occasion of their baby’s birth. The now-three of them are way back in Michigan, and I’ll be honest: this was, by leaps and bounds, the hardest thing to miss thus far. For a week, I cried every time I saw a new picture of the little lady, in part because she was so lovely and my friends BROUGHT HER INTO THE WORLD, in part because I can’t hold her myself nor care for my friends with pounds of baked goods as I’d like to, in part because that darling newborn represents all I’m missing. But though things aren’t the same as they were a few months ago, I can do something. And so I made granola, which ships wonderfully.
Moving across the country is quite a change. As is having a baby. But life is a series of changes and transitions, after all, and even in the most drastically different of places and times, we do find familiarity. And if that’s not comfort enough, I suggest you make this granola. With a hint of pumpkin, subtle holiday spices and the welcome addition of dried fruits, it is just perfectly autumnal and plenty heartening for the weary (in case you are, by chance, among them). It has a nice, mild crunch and a bit of saltiness, and it isn’t overly sweet. Over yogurt or oatmeal and paired with something warm to sip, this is an ideal addition to your cool October mornings, however unfamiliar, or familiar, they may be.
Adapted from Sara and Hugh Forte‘s The Sprouted Kitchen
If you can bake a pumpkin to make puree, I suggest you do so! It’s cheap, simple and you end up with the freshest of pumpkin and seeds for roasting to boot. Instructions can be found all across the Internet.
I altered Sara’s recipe slightly, doubling it, using my own combination of spices rather than pumpkin pie spice and adding coconut flakes. Use your favorite nuts and fruit (I used walnuts, raisins and cranberries this time), and be assured that slight additions or omissions of dry ingredients you do or don’t like should work out just fine.
I must admit that the recipe that I posted in March remains my favorite standard granola recipe. In fact, I made three double batches this summer (the sweeter variation described in the post’s headnote) that we packaged up as our wedding favors. Now THAT was a lot of granola…
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
dash of cardamom
2/3 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons sesame seeds
3/4 cup coconut flakes / chips, optional
1 cup dried fruits, chopped if large
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, spices, maple syrup and pumpkin puree. Whisk to combine. Add the oats, nuts, sesame seeds and coconut flakes, if using. Stir until all of the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread the granola mixture in an even layer on the baking sheets, leaving some clusters of oats and nuts intact so that the finished granola will be somewhat chunky. Bake the granola, stirring occasionally, until dry and golden brown in color, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the pans from the oven and allow the granola to cool for a few minutes. Add the dried fruits and toss to mix. Add another pinch or two of salt if needed.
Cool the granola completely before storing. It will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: about 7 cups