Autumn Comes Early, With Steamed Veggies and Hazelnut Mustard Pesto


Yesterday morning, we all sloshed into the community room for breakfast under grey skies that reached right down to the ground in sheets of rain. Nybou declared, “Well, the Dordogne’s eight months of winter begin.” I may have paled a little. It’s not even autumn yet, and the weather here resembles deepest winter in Santa Barbara. Okay, so I kid a little. I’m well aware that there’s no such thing as winter in Santa Barbara, by general weather standards. And I’ve lived through proper winters in New York and Massachusetts.


This will be a new kind of winter though. It’s in the woods for one thing, and it’s sort of…medium cold. As our dear Nybou elaborated, ever encouraging, “Don’t think you’re going to have a beautiful white winter. Oh no. On occasion, you’ll get two days of snow. Ohlala! And then four days of ice. Followed by ten days of mud. I’ve been doing this for twelve years, and every September, I think, ‘wait, really?’ Don’t worry, you won’t get used to it.”


Ha. Perhaps I won’t get used to it. But after years of ever-temperate winters and sunny Decembers, I welcome a change. I always wanted an excuse to hunker in the winter. To hole up with innumerable cups of tea and chapters of books and crocheted hats. To become soft and quiet and reflective. To build a slow cache of ideas and energy and ponderings in preparation for the bursting open and flowering of spring and summer.

IMG_1893And to nourish. Cold, wet, gray winter is a time to eat warm, rich foods. To crowd around tables bathed in yellow light, steam up windows with familial warmth, and revel in the goodness of food and friends as the ground grows chilled.

Recipe follows…

This recipe is for two, as I was cooking for Lama and me, but it could easily be doubled or more for a group. I’m not sure this technically counts as a pesto, since there is no basil, but it’s of a similar texture and works the same way in a dish, so I’m calling it that. The pesto and veggies together are full of flavor, and just hearty enough on account of the nuts, without becoming heavy. A good transitional meal as the weather changes.

Steamed Veggies and Hazelnut Mustard Pesto

For the veggies:

1 carrot

1 leek

1 zucchini

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the pesto:

2 tablespoons oil (whatever you prefer)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon (20 grams) finely chopped hazelnuts

1 teaspoon (5 grams) fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon (18 grams) whole grain mustard

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

Chop the carrot and leek into quarter-inch slices. Chop the zucchini into half-inch slices. Fill a pot with one-inch of water and the salt. Place a steamer basket or pan inside. Bring to a boil. Add veggies and cook for seven to ten minutes or until tender. While the veggies are cooking, prepare the pesto.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and hazelnuts and brown on medium-low heat. Once brown, add the remaining ingredients and continue cooking on low heat for three minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Drain the cooked veggies. Toss with pesto, and serve hot on a cool day!


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