The first full moon before the autumnal equinox on Sept 22nd is called the harvest moon, and this year it was also a perigean full moon or supermoon. When I told A. and N. of the harvest moon, they jokingly asked if it was anything like their old computer game. Unlike in the game with its four thirty-day seasons and the farmer’s day that ends at 6 pm, a real-life farmer appreciates the additional moonlight to harvest the crops. Harvest festivals, around the world, acknowledge the end of a rhythmic food cycle with gratitude and celebrations. This year, I decided to start a new celebratory food tradition and honor an old one.
In America, November’s Thanksgiving holiday marks the first harvest. Turkey with accompaniments of squash, potatoes, and vegetables is one of my favorite meals. However, I wanted to commemorate the end of a summer cycle of feasting as a locavore on one of my favorite foods, summer berries. A summer fruit pie would have been ideal. Unfortunately after an earlier botched attempt with pastry, I knew that a fail-proof crumble (also called crisp) recipe would be more forgiving. How hard could it be to mix together butter, brown sugar, and flour and sprinkle the crumble randomly over the fruits? It turned out to be one of the quickest and tastiest desserts that I have ever made – an easy new tradition to continue.
The end of summer also reminded me of a beloved tradition. When I was growing up, the harvest festival comprised a bountiful nine-course vegetarian meal (onasadhya). The vegetarian food, served on plantain leaf plates, covers a gamut of flavors and textures – impressing even a confirmed carnivore! Crisp banana chips and pappadum (lentil wafers) provide the crunch, and a spoonful of spicy pickles contributes a bitter and spicy hot element. A bevy of fresh beans, plantain, cabbage, carrots, summer squash, and lentils, lightly dressed with spices, are served alongside rice. Creamy rice and lentil puddings round out the meal. I have included one of the dishes, Green Beans with Coconut, since fresh green beans are plentiful today. The dish translates well as a side salad, and can be easily incorporated into any other thanksgiving meals.
Mixed berries (blackcurrant, raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry) – 2 1/2 cups
Cinnamon stick – 1 (optional)
Flour – 6 tbsp
Dark brown sugar – 4 tbsp
Butter (room temperature) –1 stick
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Arrange the berries in a single layer in an ovenproof dish. (I did not add additional sugar, but you may want to if the berries are tart.)
- Place the whole cinnamon stick among the berries.
- In a bowl, cut the softened butter in to the flour and sugar mixture. Combine lightly using your fingers until it has a breadcrumb-like texture.
- Spread the mixture over the berries.
- Bake at 400°F, for 30-40 minutes, or until the crumble top is golden.
- Eat immediately. Depending on the tartness of the fruits, you might want to serve the crumble with ice cream.
Green Beans with Coconut
Green Beans – 12 oz
Grated Coconut – 4 tbsp
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Shallots – 5, chopped finely
Green chilies – 4, chopped
Garlic cloves – 4, peeled and chopped
Vegetable oil – 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds – ¾ tsp
Cumin seeds – ¼ tsp
Curry leaves – 4 (optional)
Salt –1 tsp
- Boil the beans in a pan with 1-2 tbsp of water, turmeric and 1tbsp. of grated coconut. Keep aside. This can be done in advance and frozen.
- Heat the oil in a wok over high heat.
- Add the mustard seeds to the hot oil.
- When the seeds start to pop, add the cumin seeds, shallots and curry leaves.
- Sauté until they shallots become translucent.
- Add the green chilies, garlic and the remaining coconut. Sauté until the coconut turns golden brown.
- Add the beans and sauté for a minute.
- Cover the wok, reduce heat to low, and cook for another five minutes.
- Season with salt