January 1st may be the start of the new calendar year but for so long my life has revolved around schools that in my mind the year starts in September! In the life of a Bed & Breakfast owner in Asheville a more accurate end to one year and beginning to the next would be November, after the Autumn rush. Here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast we are hard at work putting away the lazy days of summer and getting ready for the busy and beautiful months to come.
In the garden, Amy and I have been cutting down daisy and black-eyed Susan stalks, trimming back the herb garden and planting bulbs. This year was so cold and wet that between the weather and our groundhog there is not a lot to harvest although I did manage to put up a couple of pints of candied jalapenos (safe from groundhog and bird!) The other thing I have a lot of is Sage. In the past, Sage was not something I used often but lately I have become kind of obsessed by it. It makes a wonderful brown butter sauce for pasta and last night I sauteed it along with some onions as the base for a stew. It has an almost smoky taste that goes well with Fall flavors of squash, apple and pumpkin.
In the house, James is debating the right week to take out the air-conditioners while at the same time battling a rising tide of Kudzu bugs (more popularly know as “stink bugs”). If these little critters haven’t reached your area yet, count yourself lucky. They don’t
actually do anything bad but they are unattractive beetle-like bugs who emit a pungent smell when threatened. In the summer they live and thrive in the Kudzu and other greens but in the autumn they look for somewhere warm to winter over. We check the windows, curtains and blinds in every room every day and still find them climbing on the walls and screens. Thank goodness most of our guests are understanding about them!
And for me? My mind turns to the foods, smells and colors of October. I look forward to bringing out the seasonal foods I put away so gladly last Spring while sadly bidding good-bye to the treats of Summer. A trip to the Farmer’s Market this week netted both a wonderfully redolent half-bushel of late South Carolina peaches along with the first of the Honey Crisp apples. And back at home, I set about creating a new breakfast dish to celebrate the coming Fall.
Pumpkin Pudding on Spiced Apple and Pear Compote with Fried Sage
This recipe has been a while in the making. I love winter squashes of all types and pumpkin is the penultimate of them all. But it is so rich I have had a hard time finding the right way to balance it. This recipe contains almost no added sugar but manages to be sweet and decadent without being overwhelming. I will serve it with some crispy sausage.
For the Pumpkin Pudding:
7 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of Ginger
1/4 cup pumpkin butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
16 fresh Sage leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
Prepare the night before:
1) Grease a 9X13 baking dish
2) Cut enough crusty bread into cubes to fill the the baking dish quite full. You will want some of the bread to remain visible and recognizable.
3) Whisk together eggs, milk, pumpkin butter, vanilla and spices until well combined. Pour this mixture over the bread, pushing the bread down until it is soaked. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
4) Prepared fried sage leaves. Heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Fry sages leaves in oil for about 2 minutes until sizzling stops. They will firm up when cool. Remove and dust with salt. Store on a paper paper towel in a plastic air-tight container for up to three days.
Spiced Pear and Apple Compote
6 Pears, peeled and cut into one inch chunks
6 Apples, peeled and cut into one inch chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp round cardamom
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
Stir together all ingredients except the butter and thyme leaves in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the fruit is soft (about 15 minutes). Mash fruit a bit then continue cooking uncovered to desired consistency, about 10 minutes more. Stir in butter and thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in refrigerator.
In the morning:
1) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle brown sugar and nuts over pumpkin pudding and bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes until puffed and golden.
2) While Pudding is baking, heat compote over low heat.
3) Cut Pudding into 16 squares and serve over warm compote topped with a fried sage leaf.