Tag Archives: fall

Serendipity is unpronounceable in German.

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Serendipity occurred Saturday night in a German restaurant. Dipping a bite of weisswurst in mustard, I immediately recognized the same sharp, bitter taste I had battled working with turnips, two nights earlier. Cookbook after cookbook, recommended heavy cream or rich caramelization to balance the flavor. Our test kitchen feedback on Facebook suggested everything from beer-braising to brown sugar.

Wanting something lighter and stove top-friendly, and noting turnips’ starchy similarity to potatoes, we settled on hash browns.

Last fall I failed miserably at hash browns, undercooked centers, burned and blackened exteriors. Squeezing the water out of both potatoes and turnips was step one. Next came that bitter, sharp mustardy taste. Seasoning and sugar didn’t help, we needed fat. We tried cooking them in rendered pancetta fat to no avail. Parmesan helped but they were still off balance. An egg, lightly beaten, finally did the trick.

Back to serendipity. Not just happy coincidence, serendipity is an ah-ha moment that occurs when happenstance is observed with knowledge. The perfect pairing of sausage and mustard brought the realization that these hash browns, served alongside a thick slab of rich, sweet roast pork, would achieve dinner plate nirvana. I know what we’re serving for Sunday supper.

Turnip Hash Browns

*This dish doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes great! Two visitors to my Saturday demo at DC’s Eastern Market last weekend mentioned making turnip latkes for Hanukah. The sour cream and apple sauce they serve along side provided the same balance of sweetness and fat that a thick slice of pork would. Great suggestion, prettier presentation and I can’t wait to try it with some fresh homemade applesauce. Thanks!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs brandy
  • 2 medium potatoes, grated
  • 2-3 small turnips, grated
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Nutmeg
  • Cayenne
  • 2 tbs butter

Directions:

  • In a large skillet, over medium heat, sauté onions with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar until caramelized, 15-20 minutes. Deglaze pan with brandy, scraping up the brown bits and cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Meanwhile, wrap potatoes in a tea towel and squeeze the water out. Repeat with the turnip.
  • Mix potato, turnip, cheese and egg with the caramelized onions.
  • Season mixture with salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Fry a small patty to check seasoning. Adjust to taste as needed.
  • In a clean skillet, Cook over medium heat in a thin layer. Flip when golden and cook until done.
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It’s still more fun than work.

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There’s a picture of my parents at a cider pressing party in the early 70’s. They look impossibly hip, my Dad in his thick rimmed glasses and thick, curly hair, my Mom in a fabulous sweater, her hair nearly white-blonde. It’s New England in the fall, the press is a large wooden barrel and they could be in any fashion editorial today.

I grew up in New England where the scent of apples defined fall as much as the shuffling of crisp leaves was its soundtrack. We ate crisp McIntosh apples daily. Less frequently we enjoyed cider donuts, apple crisp, baked apples and fresh cider. Apple sauce was homemade, pink from the skins and warm from the stove. It was always made with a food mill, with children doing most of the work.

What sounds downright pastoral today was just life, growing up. I wish I had treasured it a bit more, but I’m grateful for having been blessed with the opportunity to take it for granted. It makes the fresh sauce I cook at home that much more special. And using the food mill is still more fun than work.

Homemade applesauce

The mix of apples you use will determine the sweetness or tartness of the sauce. I prefer about 1/3 tart to 2/3 sweet. Try different mixes to find what you like. Ask your local farmer for advice.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Honeycrisp apples
  • 3 tart apples, like Pound
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • Nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon
  • Lemon juice
  • Honey

*Do yourself a favor and buy a food mill just for this! It keeps the skins behind and you don’t have to peel any apples. Plus your sauce will be beautifully pink!

Directions:

  • Core apples. Don’t bother peeling them. Cut them into 8 pieces each.
  • Place apples and cider in a 4 qt saucepan, cover and simmer over medium heat for 10-15 min until really soft.
  • Run apples through a food mill.
  • Return sauce to saucepan and season with 1/8 tsp each of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.
  • Cook over low heat for five more minutes to develop flavors.
  • Add honey or lemon juice as needed.

What I haven’t cooked yet.

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Two weeks ago, Dave and Valerie from Sunnyside Farm gave me a Cinderella pumpkin, saying, “We bet you haven’t cooked this yet.” They were right. I’ve cooked Blue Hubbards, warty Peanut pumpkins and dark-green, lumpy, Italian Marina de Chioggia. But I had never cooked a Cinderella pumpkin.

The first thing I wanted to know was how it tasted. Grey and oblong, Blue Hubbards are sweet and rich. If you want classic pumpkin, for pie or soup, Hubbard is the squash for you. Peanut pumpkins, also know by their French name, Galeux d’Eysines, is mild and sugary. The “peanuts” are the result of sugars building up under the skin. Chioggia, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, is known for its candy-striped beets and it’s namesake pumpkin. Sweet, rich, drier and dense, it is the pumpkin of choice for gnocchi.

The Cinderella pumpkin, red and flat, is a French heirloom also known as Rouge vif D’Etampes. It is likely the pumpkin the Pilgrims and Wampanoags served at the first Thanksgiving. It is mild and not particularly sugary. It cooks down into a beautiful bright orange purée. Tasting more like dinner than dessert, I began to think of Asian flavors and dumplings.

Light Tamari soy, sweet palm sugar and rich, toasted sesame oil delivered the asian flavor profile. Purchased gyoza skins were a valuable shortcut for wrapping the dumplings. Riffing on sweet chile sauce (thanks Renee!), we combines Merken Chile Oil, Tropical Spice Vinegar, Lancaster County honey for sweetness and red miso paste for depth. The satiny texture and rich color of the sauce paired beautifully with the cooked dumplings.

And now I’ve cooked a Cinderella pumpkin.

Cinderella Pumpkin Dumplings

Makes 15-18 full dumplings or 25-30 half dumplings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Cinderella pumpkin purée*
  • 1 tbs palm sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Serrano Chili-Honey Vinegar**
  • 1 package round gyoza skins, thawed or 1 package of square wonton skins, cut round with a biscuit cutter.

For sauce:

  • 1 tbs Merken Chile Oil**
  • 1 tbs Tropical Spice Vinegar**
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp red miso paste

*To cook your pumpkin, scroll to the bottom of the directions.

**I’ve been shopping at Sapore again. Substitute Sherry vinegar for the Serrano-Chile Honey. Use a chile infused olive oil for the Merken and add white wine vinegar with a pinch of sugar in place of the Tropical Spice.

Directions:

  • Combine pumpkin purée with palm sugar, soy, sesame oil, ginger and Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar. Season to taste with a pinch of salt.
  • Wet the edges of two gyoza skins or wonton wrappers. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of one wrapper.
  • Cover with second wrapper with wet sides faceing. Press together pushing out air. Cut around the filling with a biscuit cutter leaving 1/4” of wrapper outside the filling. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • OR place a scant teaspoon of filling in the middle of a gyoza skin, wet the edges and fold in half, pressing out the air and making sure the dough seals all the way around without filling squeezing through. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • Boil dumplings for 3-4 minutes, about 1 minute after they float to the surface.
  • Whisk together sauce ingredients and serve over cooked dumplings.

Cooking your pumpkin:

Method #1: Roasting

  • Cut your pumpkin in quarters.
  • Scoop out the seeds.
  • Rub inside with olive or vegetable oil and roast at 400F until the flesh can be easily pierced, through to the skin, with a fork.
  • Remove from oven, let cool, and scrape pumpkin flesh from the skin.

Method #2: Stove top

  • Quarter your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds.
  • Peel the skin with a vegetable peeler or knife.
  • Cut into a 1/2″ dice.
  • Warm 2 tbs olive oil in a large pan or 6qt soup pot, Cook until pieces begin to brown on edges, add 1/4 water at a time until pumpkin cooks down into a smooth puree, mashing as it softens.

I’m still wearing white shoes.

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*Sincere thanks to Jenny Lehman for this beautiful photo of the soup she made at home from this recipe.

Spring and fall in Washington easily compensate for summer’s most humid days and the city’s damp, insipid attempt at winter. One of the great joys of these seasons is their length. In New England, where I grew up, spring announces itself with a six-week flurry of daffodils, Forsythia and Rhododendron that fade as quickly as they arrive. DC’s season’s last months, lingering over spring flowers and the long change to autumn, marked by crisp leaves, bright mums and jaunty scarves and caps.

Why force it then? I’m puzzled by the appearance of pants and sweaters on the first 75 degree day in September while I’m still enjoying the end of summer in shorts and a tee. I feel the same way about food. Hearty soups are inappropriate on a warm, humid day no matter what date the calendar marks.

Presented with the year’s first Delicata squash, I wanted to serve up a soup that was light and celebrated this cultivar’s sweet, floral notes*, saving rich, sugary Hubbards and Kabocha’s for colder weather. A double stock, flavored with anise-y fennel, the season’s last tomatoes and earthy Shitakes bring out the lighter notes in Delicata. Using the seed mass beefs up the squash taste. This soup delivers so many layers of flavor, for so little work, the first bite caught me by surprise. Farm-fresh butter adds welcome richness. In a rare decision, we left out vinegar. Even rich balsamic dulled Delicata’s delicate sugars.

*”Seriously, floral notes and light sweetness? Next you’ll be telling me about lingonberry accents in my Pinot.” My parents and I actually conducted a squash tasting at home one night. That’s just how we roll.

Delicata Squash Fennel Soup

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-1.5 cups fennel stems and fronds
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 4-6 Shitake mushrooms, stems and caps
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 6 parsley stems, about 3″ each
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cut in 1” cubes. Seed mass reserved.
  • 1-2 tbs butter

Directions:

  • While you chop the squash and onions, simmer the vegetable stock with fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs and bay leaves for 20-30 minutes.
  • Warm oil in a 4qt soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and cook one minute until fragrant.
  • Add squash and sauté 5-7 minutes.
  • Strain the stock into the vegetables and cook until squash is easily pierced through with a fork or tip of a knife.
  • Purée soup in a food mill or with an immersion blender. I prefer a food mill for this soup because of the smoother purée it produces.
  • Season to taste with butter, salt and pepper.

Top honors.

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With all due respect to the many great chefs in DC, you can keep your Rammy’s and your James Beard Awards (but keep me in mind for the future). This past weekend, I earned top honors from a mom. She had stopped by my Eastern Market cooking demos with her young son for weeks, but this day was special. I was cooking Brussels Sprouts.

Blanching them, actually. Then slicing them thinly and tossing them in a pancetta, mustard and sherry vinaigrette.

Even among the most adventurous of the under-five-year-old dining set, these small, cabbage-y tasting treasures are rarely tolerated, mush less beloved. Saturday morning, however, this young man reached for seconds. If that wasn’t enough, his mom said, “he eats every vegetable you cook. You can’t seem to go wrong. And you can share that.”

So I am. I’m glowing with pride. And to prove that I have a heart, I’ll be serving him pumpkin pancakes next Saturday. He’s earned it.

Brussels Sprout Slaw

Ingredients:
• 1 pound Brussels sprouts
• 1/8 pound pancetta, diced
• 1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
• 1 tbs whole grain mustard

*1 pound of Brussels Sprouts is about 4 cups, I usually go for about a handfull per serving.

Directions:
• Blanch Brussels sprouts in salted boiling water until bright green but still crisp. Shock in ice water and dry.
• Thinly slice sprouts lengthwise (from tip to base)
• Sauté pancetta over medium low heat to render fat, remove pancetta to paper towels to drain.
• Deglaze pan with vinegar.
• Add mustard and season to taste with pepper and salt as needed.
• Toss brussels sprouts with dressing.
• Serve with reserved pancetta.

Everything is better with pancetta. Even chocolate. It’s super-salty, fatty, Italian, un-smoked bacon. Life is better when you always keep some in your fridge.

Midnight blood sacrifice.

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My husband, Jason, first met my extended family at my sister’s wedding. My mom is one of seven, all married with children.My dad is one of three. In total, there were more than 50 family members present. I love Jason’s retelling of this first meeting.

“I was waiting for a blood sacrifice at midnight,” he says. “They were all so friendly. Every single one of them. I thought it was a cult.”

So, it shouldn’t surprise you then, that when my happy family gets together, conducting a squash tasting seems perfectly normal. This is exactly what Mom, Dad and I did last fall after visiting the local farmers market. We took four squashes – Buttercup, Ambercup, Delicata and Sweet Dumpling – roasted them with thyme and olive oil and compared. Delicata was the clear favorite: sweet, mild, firm and smooth textured*. It is also the perfect squash for this recipe.

Easy to peel, Delicata is perfect for breaking down to a 1/2″ dice. It’s light, sweetness balances beautifully with the cider glaze, mellow herbs and brightened with a splash of Sherry vinegar. It is tender enough to cook in just about 15-20 minutes.

How good is this recipe? I made it last week for dinner guests. Our friend Gerry pulled me aside before dinner and said, “Don’t be offended if I skip the squash. You really don’t want me to eat it unless you want to see me throw it back up. I hate squash.” After dinner, with a glint in his eye, he said, “I admit it. I tried a bite. It was delicious!” I was glad. Throwing up at the table would have really killed the mood.

*Buttercup was our second favorite. Richer, but still mild and sweet. Ambercup could be easily mistaken for sweet potatoes. Sweet Dumpling was similar to Delicata. It’s a reasonable substitute in a pinch, but grab Delicata if you can find it.

Cider Glazed Delicata Squash

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs chopped sage
  • 2 tbs chopped thyme
  • 4 cups Delicata squash, in 1/2 cubes. 1 large or 2 small
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • Sherry vinegar
Directions:
  • Heat a 12” sauté pan over medium heat. Melt butter in pan.
  • Add herbs and sauté without browning, 1-2 minutes
  • Add squash, and sauté 3-5 minutes, browning the squash lightly.
  • Add cider, bring to a simmer and reduce heat and cook uncovered.
  • As the squash cooks, the cider will reduce to a glaze. Add additional water, 1/4 cup at a time, if squash needs more cooking time.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of Sherry vinegar.

It was the kind of morning when you could not fail.

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Today was the perfect day for this stew. Despite my earnest promise of a crisp, clear fall day, we woke to gusty rain. Jason and I set off to Eastern Market and started cooking. I offer my sincere thanks to those of you who stood out in the rain, huddled under umbrellas, waiting 45 minutes from the first wafts of rich, beefy goodness until bowls of streaming stew were served up hot!

When I came across the inspiration for this stew, I was excited, but it disappointed. The squash was flat and grassy. The beef? Barely there. Roasting the squash and a homemade beef stock would solve the problem. While well worth the effort, I’m sure, the average weeknight doesn’t afford me the twelve hours a good beef stock takes. How to speed this up?

Carrots added with the squash brought out butternut’s sweetness and a splash of cider vinegar brightened it up. Brandy, and miso gave the beef flavor depth, while butter – good, rich, creamy, grassy, Amish butter – gave the soup the richness it needed.

Beef and Pumpkin Stew

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs lean stew beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash, cut in 1/2inch cubes
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 6-8 cups stock
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Cider vinegar
  •  Brandy
  • 1-2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs red miso, mashed with a tbs water into a thin paste

Directions:

  • Heat a 6-8 qt heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven over med-high heat. Add oil and heat until smoking. Cook beef in batches, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Sear until brown. Remove beef to a bowl and reserve. The beef juices will brown on the bottom of your pot. Don’t worry, this is pure flavor!
  • Add onion to pot, cook until soft. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute until fragrant.
  • Add 1 cup stock and deglaze pot, scraping up the rich brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
  • Add squash, carrot, thyme, bay, reserved beef and remaining stock. Simmer until squash is soft. 30-45 minutes.
  • Remove half the squash and carrot, and mash or run through a food mill.
  • Return the mashed squash to the pot. Season to taste with a splash of vinegar and brandy, butter, miso paste, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes to thicken.