The harvest is coming to and end … culminating in the Thanksgiving feast. As the weather turns colder, we instinctively turn to comfort foods. And the seasonal fruits and vegetables seem instinctively to know this.
Broccoli, mushrooms, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash.
Cranberries, oranges, pears, pomegranate, tangerines.
If salads are your thing, look no further than Mark Bittman’s Roasted Sweet Potato Salad or 101 Cookbooks’ Bulgur, Celery and Pomegranate Salad. For a main course, you can try Spinach, Pesto, and Fontina Lasagna or Artic Char with Chinese Broccoli and Sweet Potato Puree, both from Epicurious.com. And this month, we’ll turn to Smitten Kitchen for dessert: Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart – sounds divine.
As for mushrooms, which I love, I have two suggestions. The first is mushroom crostini (like bruschetta but with mushrooms). With the holidays coming, it’s always good to have a few go-to appetizers that you know your guests will love. Martha Stewart offers up Wild Mushroom Crostini. The second recipe is Mushroom Risotto. The official version of my favorite locked away in a storage unit in one of the outer boroughs, I discovered a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis and modified it slightly to match the memory of the one I love. I made it yesterday and, I have to say, it was delicious. The recipe, along with my changes, are included below.
As always, enjoy the season and eat well!
Giada De Laurentiis, “Everyday Italian“
- 8 cups canned low salt Chicken Broth
- ½ oz dried porcini mushroom
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 cups finely chopped Onions
- 10 oz white Mushrooms finely chopped (I used cremini mushrooms)
- 2 Cloves Garlic minced
- 1½ cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice
- 2/3 cup Dry White Wine
- ¾ cup frozen pea thawed (I omitted the peas)
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
- salt and freshly ground black pepper optional
- Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
- Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms and garlic. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth). Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Note: If you’re short on broth, as I was last night, instead of reconstituting the porcini mushrooms in the chicken broth, do it 2-3 cups of boiling water (for about 20 minutes). Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and follow the directions above. You’ll be left with the “porcini broth” which you can run through a strainer, adding it to your chicken broth. You’ll have more than enough to cook the arborio rice and the flavors are all there.
October is such a good month. It makes me think of pumpkins and leaves turning and long walks and Halloween. In terms of what you’ll find at the local farmers’ market, think vegetables and fruits resulting in hearty, richly flavorful recipes.
Broccoli, pumpkins, spinach lettuce, sweet potatoes, and winter sqaush.
Apples, cranberries, grapes, and pomegranate.
I covered a fantastic pumpkin recipe, from the Today Show, in my last post, “Pumpkin Risotto – The Perfect Fall Dish.” If you like pumpkin and like risotto, this is for you.
Sweet potatoes are covered by Epicurious.com, with a Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Sage and Shaved Chestnuts recipe that looks amazing, and they’ve got one for Pomegranate, Beet, and Blood Orange Salad that I am going to give a try. (Don’t forget, if you buy a bunch of beets, keep and saute the beet greens.)
And, lastly, there’s an unbelievably flavorful recipe in which you can put that winter squash to use. What exactly is meant by “winter squash“? About.com has the answer, including photos, so you can identify them at the market or grocery store. In the case of the recipe below, Moroccan Chicken with Rice, winter squash means butternut squash. Give this one a try. Your taste buds will thank you.
Moroccan Chicken and Rice
This one-pot chicken and rice jumble gets an autumnal boost from butternut squash and is laced with the fragrant perfume of a variety of mixed dried spices. It’s not a spicy dish but is wonderful served with Harissa, a North African spicy pepper paste.
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp (10 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 skinless, boneless free-range chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each ground cinnamon, cumin seeds, garlic powder, ginger, turmeric, and sea salt
2 cups (500 mL) chicken broth
2 cups (500 mL) butternut squash, chopped*
1 cup (250 mL) basmati rice (can use wild rice and/or quinoa)
1/4 cup (50 mL) raisins (can use dried cranberries or cherries)
In a large, wide saucepan or Dutch oven (or deep skillet), saute onion in oil until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add chicken and sprinkle with seasonings. Stir-fry until spices are fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour in a little chicken broth. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up and stir in brown bits from pan bottom.
Add remaining stock and stir in squash, rice, and raisins. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring halfway through, until rice is tender and chicken is cooked, 18 to 20 minutes. Garnish with sliced green onion.
* Speedy Squash Tip: When chopping butternut squash, with its characteristically tough skin, the going can be slow. But here’s a trick: microwave the whole squash, on high, for 2 minutes. This creates steam inside which softens the skin, making it easier to peel.
If you did not get to the 1st Annual Back to Basis Good Food Festival, you missed a deliciously good time. The weather was beautiful (80 degrees and sunny), everyone was out and in a fantastic mood, and there was food, lots of fresh, local food prepared by some of the best restaurants and farms in the area.
I purchased four tasting tickets which I used to indulge in:
* A refreshing beet and cheese salad from Dirty Bird to-go
* Flavorful fluke ceviche from The Farm On Adderley
* To-die-for crispy, thin-crusted pizza with tomato, sopressata and mozzarella from Collichio & Sons
* An insanely rich Salted Crack Caramel ice cream cone from Ample Hills Creamery.
And there were so many other fantastic vendors serving mouth-watering dishes. Every person I spoke with commented on what an absolutely great idea this was, and that they should do it again. I, for one, couldn’t agree more.
Because we all, most definitely, ate well.
The harvest is kicking into high gear. I was at the Union Square Greenmarket here in New York on Saturday, and it was literally bursting with fruits, vegetables, and flowers (not to mention artisinal jams and cheeses). There are so many good things. The tomatoes are fantastic, so sweet they’re almost like eating candy. Here’s what’s delicious at the moment.
Eggplant, Lettuce, Pumpkin, Spinach, Tomatoes
Grapes, Pears, Pomegranite
First, I’ve got to try Smitten Kitchen’s Eggplant Salad Toasts (think bruschetta with eggplant, feta, onion, and garlic).
Then, the next time I’m craving a burger, I’m going to try this super simple, healthy version courtesy of Joy Bauer, Spinach Turkey Burgers. This recipe calls for frozen spinach, but I think it’s a good habit to get into. For the fresh-from-the-farmer’s-market variety, I love to saute it with extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.
And this month, I’m reaching north of the border, to the LCBO Food & Drink website, for the last two suggestions. The first is Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce – not as difficult as it sounds, as the recipe calls for pre-made dumpling or wonton wrappers, and, if you’ve ever had this dish at a restaurant, you’ll know it’s well worth the effort. The second is Poached Pears in Rosemary Lemon Syrup. It serves two. Think of it as the perfect date night dessert. I’ve include it below.
If you want to a detailed list of what’s specifically in season in your part of the country, check out the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map.
When you feel like having a lighter dessert but still want something sweet, these pears fit the bill.
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
3 sprigs rosemary, about 3-inches (8-cm) each
3 wide strips lemon peel
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
½ vanilla bean
2 whole ripe but firm pears
Crème Fraîche or whipped cream (optional) (recipe follows)
1. Fill a medium saucepan with 1½ cups (375 mL) water. Add sugar, rosemary sprigs, lemon peel and juice. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into saucepan along with bean. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.
2. Meanwhile, peel pears, leaving them whole and stem intact. Using a melon baller or small spoon, from base of pear, scoop out core. Place pears in saucepan. Bring mixture back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, turning pears occasionally, until fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from saucepan using a slotted spoon.
3. Boil syrup uncovered until reduced and thickened (it will thicken more upon cooling), 7 to 9 minutes. Cool. If it’s not thick enough, boil about 1 more minute. Place each pear on a plate. Drizzle with a spoonful or so of syrup. Sweeten crème fraîche or whipped cream with syrup to taste. Place a dollop beside pear.
¼ cup (50 mL) buttermilk
2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
1. Whisk together buttermilk and whipping cream in a glass measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on counter for 24 to 48 hours or until thickened. Refrigerate. The mixture keeps for 2 weeks.
If you live in New York and you love food, then mark your calendar, because there is an upcoming event you won’t want to miss.
Benefiting The 30 Project and Just Food, and featuring local farmers and chefs (think The Amazing Real Live Food Company, Dashing Star Farm, Padgett Far, Gramercy Tavern, Colicchio and Sons, Rouge Tomate, and Minetta Tavern, to name a few), the event is called the Back to Basis Good Food Festival. The goal is to get all of us to consider what we’re eating, where it comes from (no doubt this week’s massive egg recall helped with that), and how we can choose to “eat locally,” supporting small, regional farms in the process. From the event website:
ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2010, FROM 11AM TO 4PM IN GANSEVOORT PLAZA, Basis and The Feed Foundation will co-host the first annual BACK TO BASIS™ GOOD FOOD FESTIVAL in celebration of the season’s harvest. By day, the festival will feature traditional, localized, 100% traceable food from 30 family farmers and local top chefs. In the evening, farmers, chefs and a select group of ticket holders will come together for a seasonal, farm-to-table dinner to celebrate good food.
I’ve been following The 30 Project, since coming across a TEDTalk given by Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of The FEED Foundation and FEED Projects, at the TEDxEast conference in May of the year. In the talk, she explains her shockingly simple, common-sense equation for global malnutrition: “Obesity + Hunger = 1 Global Food Issue.” The reality is that, worldwide, 1 billion people are hungry and 1 billion people are overweight. She contends that this issue is the direct result of the changes in the food system over the past 30 years, and it will take the next 30 years to get it back on track, starting now.
If you’ve not already seen the video of Ellen’s talk, I’ve included it below. It takes ten minutes to watch. Trust me, it’s worth the time. And, if you’ll be in New York City on September 19th, buy your tickets and head to the Meatpacking District for what is sure to be a delicious time.
Eat well and do good.
The Huffington Post has a great piece in their Living section, written by Mark Hyman M.D., “Why Quick, Cheap Food Is Actually More Expensive.” He makes so much sense – as do Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Michelle Obama – I am beginning to think that we’re at a tipping point when it comes what and how we eat.
In the article, Dr. Hyman explains how we’ve ended up with highly-processed food that is so much less expensive than fresh, whole food, namely, massive government subsidies for corn and soy crops. An abundance of both corn and soy makes the cost of food containing high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fats) cheap when compared to the price paid for fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, and nuts. The uses for these crops don’t stop there. “Corn and soy are also used to feed cattle for the production of meat and dairy.”
In addition to the food we choose to eat, how and where we choose to eat it, makes a difference. We don’t cook nearly as many meals at home as we used to – over 50% of our meals today are eaten out – further exacerbating the problem.
However, what Dr. Hyman argues is that that the price paid at the grocery store is not the real cost to the consumer. There are hidden costs that, when factored in, make the bag of spinach look like a bargain. Costs that are associated with the harm we are doing to our bodies (the statistics are alarming) and our planet, not to mention our society, just by the way we eat. He writes:
This is what you need to remember:
1. The true cost of unhealthy food isn’t just the price tag–in fact, the real costs are hidden.
2. Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more.
Read it. You might believe it too.
We’re getting into the heart of it, the time of the year when farmers markets are bursting with produce and just about everything is in season.
Corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, summer squash, tomatoes.
Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
Summer Squash – I came across a recipe for Sauteed Zucchini on 101 Cookbooks. I’ve yet to try it, but love that it can be served as a side dish, or with some hearty pasta, like faro, or even as the topping of a frittata.
Corn, Tomatoes – Meanwhile, Smitten Kitchen has posted a fabulous Summer Succotash recipe.
Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries – And the Today Show has a healthy, delicious, minimal-cooking-required dessert, courtesy of Joy Adams, James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Boston’s Rialto Restaurant and Bar. Her Greek yogurt with berries, blueberry honey sauce and pistachios is my idea of the perfect summer dessert. I have included it below.
Greek yogurt with berries, blueberry honey sauce and pistachios
Jody Adams, from her Rialto Restaurant and Bar
- 1 cup thick Greek-style yogurt
- 1/2 pint blueberries
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rum
- Juice of one lime
- Zest of 1/2 lime
- 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 quart assorted berries, including raspberries, strawberries (halved, quartered, or sliced depending on the size) and blueberries.
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
- 4 mint sprigs for garnish
If you do not have thick Greek-style yogurt, start with 2 cups of regular yogurt; put the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl and drain for two hours in the refrigerator. The volume should have reduced to 1 cup, resulting in nice, thick yogurt. Refrigerate. Discard the liquid.
Combine 1/2 pint blueberries and 1/4 cup honey with the rum in a small saucepan and cook eight minutes over medium-low heat, to cook the berries. Puree with the lime juice. Strain to remove skin and seeds. Chill.
Mix the yogurt with 2 tablespoons honey and the lime zest. Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Fold the cream into the yogurt. Chill.
Toss the berries with the sugar. Mix the berries with the mint.
Put a spoonful of the yogurt cream in each of 4 bowls. Drizzle with blueberry sauce, top with berries and sprinkle with pistachios.
Makes six servings
I am currently staying with friends in New Jersey. It’s been a few weeks. They’re nice enough to keep me around. I’m lucky enough to have the added bonus of fresh, homegrown New Jersey tomatoes. The husband tends his patch daily. Seriously.
Think of what constitutes a tomato in the dead of winter: pale, not really red, virtually tasteless, forget any scent. Then, think of the opposite: deep red inside and out, full of flavor, which you can smell in advance as soon as you cut into them. There really is no comparison.
What has this done for me? I am quite literally feasting on tomatoes daily. Take yesterday’s lunch, for example. One very large, ripe tomato sliced, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, accompanied by cannellini beans (with olive oil and a bit of salt), a couple of pieces of fresh parmigiano reggiano, and some whole wheat pita bread … perfection.
The other night we were having some precisely grilled medium-rare filet (another bonus of my stay, the husband knows how to grill … steak, salmon, you name it). My contribution was to use the off-the-vine tomatoes to prepare Insalata Caprese to pair with the steak. There are a few variations, but here’s how I do it:
The freshest bufala mozzarella you can find
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Slice the tomatoes and place in a single layer on a serving platter. Slice the mozzarella to the desired thickness and place one piece on each tomato slice. Rinse and dry the basil. Tear into thin strips and sprinkle on top of the mozzarella. Drizzle with the olive oil and the vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Eat with the steak, a fabulous, hearty red wine, and much gusto.
Pardon the pun, but we’re really getting into the meat of the season. Here’s the roster of heart-loving fruits and vegetables for the month of July.
Corn, cucumber, green beans, lettuce, summer squash, tomatoes.
Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
Here’s a sampling of the fantastic recipes that put these seasonal ingredients to work. So many delicious fruits and vegetables, so little time!
Kiwi Lime Tart - from the Today Show
Blueberry Pancakes – from Smitten Kitchen (includes several “Pancake 101″ tips)
Summer Green Bean Salad - from 101 Cookbooks
Corn Salad - from the Svelte Gourmand
Jimmy Bradley and Bill McDaniel (The Red Cat in New York City)
8 cups grilled corn, cut off the cob
2 cups julienned sugar snap peas
1 cup small-dice red onion
1 cup small-dice red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (making this at home, I’d probably experiment and cut this down some)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and let sit for at least 1 hour. Recheck seasoning and serve. (Serves many)
Here is the June update for what’s in season.
Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, peaches, strawberries, watermelon.
When it comes to recipes to prepare using this month’s s selection, check out Rachel Ray’s Black Bean and Corn Salad. I ate this one last weekend. It is simple to prepare, healthy, and refreshing – the perfect side dish for a backyard barbeque (of course, I never have a problem with the perfect standby, corn-on-the-cob). Another great salad idea I came across combines lettuce, in this case peppery arugula, and watermelon, along with feta cheese olives, and red onions. And if you want know what to do with fresh apricots, Peter Wolfe, of Wolfe Ranch in Brentwood, CA, has published a varied list of recipes on his website, including Apricot Stuffed BBQ Chicken, Apricot Sunshine Breakfast Cake, and Fresh Apricot Dessert Topping, which I can’t wait to make:
2 cups sliced fresh apricots
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. apricot nectar or orange juice
Muscat dessert wine
Mix everything together. Use as a topping for pound cake, ice cream, frozen yogurt, etc.
As always, you can refer to the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map for more detailed, state-by-state information.