What to Cook in the Fall: Zelda’s To-Do List

There’s a chill in the air and a bluster to the wind these days. You can catch hints of autumn on the breeze (even though the thermostat seems to have jumped right over “delightfully crisp” to “the air is assaulting my face why”). It’s the cozy season, the homey season — my favorite of all the year. And these colder temperatures and darker days have me hankering to get in the kitchen.

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Fall is a season of plenty, between the harvest and Thanksgiving and all of those Instagrammable activities that involve picking your own produce. We’re just starting to settle in for a winter of hibernation, and there’s nothing I love better to ward off the gloom and the chill than to gather my friends for a meal. My father always says that cooking in our family is an expression of love, and that extends to chosen families, too. So as the days grow shorter, here are the things I want to make with and for my people — preferably with some Sidney Bechet on the record player and a glass of red wine in my hand.

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1. Roast Chicken. I want to conjure up a bird that would make Julia Child proud, with crispy skin on the outside and juicy meat on the inside. My fellow cooking buddies tell me this one is not nearly as intimidating as it seems. It just requires patience, and a willingness to spend a few hours at home waiting for the oven to work its magic. Perfect for a fall evening. Also, as a bonus, the word “spatchcock” is really fun to say. [Here’s a recipe.]

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2. Bake Bread. I am an avid baker (a retired professional, as a matter of fact). But while I can confidently say I know my way around a cake, a scone, and especially a pie, bread is not an arena into which I’ve often stepped. Maybe it’s all the Great British Bake Off I’ve been watching, but I find myself seized with an urge to knead. I’m dreaming of great crusts, well-structured interiors, and zero soggy bottoms. [Here’s a recipe.]

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3. Make Jam. What better accompaniment for my newly baked bread than some homemade jam. Now really this is a job for summer fruits, but the idea of standing over my stove for hours during the sweltering height of berry season makes me want to climb on an iceberg and float away. Off-season raspberries will just have to do. [Here’s a recipe.]

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4. Pesto. I love a hearty bowl of pasta on a cold night, especially when you’re serving a large group. Nobody can be mad at a heaping pile of hot, noodly goodness. One of my favorite things to swirl my spaghetti about in is pesto, and yet, somehow, I have never made my own. I am lucky enough to be in possession of a food processor (thanks, Mom!), so I think this should be whiz — once I go homemade, I may never be able to go back. [Here’s a recipe.]

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5. Brunch. Now I have hosted many a fine brunch in my day, but this season I want to up my game on both the savory and sweet ends. For savory, I’m thinking a rich shakshuka with feta, courtesy of one of my favorite food bloggers, Molly Yeh. As for the sweet, I love me a cinnamon roll in a can, but something tells me the homemade version would be even better — and a good way to spend a grey day. (Here’s a recipe for shakshuka, and one for cinnamon rolls.]

What’s on your cooking to-do list? Are you craving anything in this season of transition? Let me know in the comments below!

IMAGES VIA: Z&S, THE NEW YORK TIMES, LIFE AS A STRAWBERRY, BON APPETIT, THE SALTY MARSHMALLOW, FOOD NETWORK

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