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.
Yes, I know, you hear the word “risotto” and you immediately think “endless stirring” or “too difficult” or “not worth the effort.” I am here to be you to tell you that none of these things is true.
You can believe me, because I used to feel exactly the same way. That was until I was living in South London and had a flatmate who thought nothing of using whatever happened to be in the cupboard or refrigerator to cook up a pot of the tasty stuff, usually while coming and going from the kitchen, and generally doing other things. Of course, my competitive side emerged; if she can do it, so can I. And I discovered, I could. And you can too.
While I have a couple of favorites (shrimp with fennel, and mushroom), there was a cooking segment on this morning’s Today Show which got me on the risotto theme, so I’ll stick with their suggestion for today. It sounds amazing, it’s healthy, and it’s seasonal to boot: Pumpkin Risotto, courtesy of Beau MacMillan, executive chef of Sanctuary on Arizona’s Camelback Mountain. The recipe is included below.
The one piece of advice I will give – picked up while watching a video of Mario Batali preparing risotto – is, as you add the stock (the liquid) to the arborio rice, do not let it absorb all the way before adding more; leave a little excess liquid when you add the next ladle. I don’t know why it works, but it does. Your risotto will be al dente (as it should be).
Recipe: Pumpkin risotto
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups hot chicken stock
- 2 cups fresh pumpkin juice
- 1 each medium pumpkin, peeled, roasted and pureed (reserve one cup)
- 1 cup diced pumpkin
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup mascarpone
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 ounces fried sage
- 2 ounces sage pesto
In a medium-size heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onion and bay leaf and saute, stirring continuously, just until softened, which takes about three to four minutes.
Add the rice and continue to stir, using a wooden spoon, to coat the rice with the oil.
Add the white wine and continue cooking, stirring often, until it has been absorbed by the rice.
Add the diced pumpkin and pour in small amount chicken stock and pumpkin juice and stir.
Cook and allow rice to absorb. Repeat until all the liquid has been used.
Stir in the pumpkin puree and the diced pumpkin and reduce the heat to very low so that the risotto doesn’t simmer anymore.
Stir in the parmesan, mascarpone and butter to give the risotto a nice, creamy finish. Spoon it immediately into heated shallow serving bowls.
Garnish with fried sage and a dollop of sage pesto.
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
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.
Welcome to May. The weather is warming up. The trees are in full-bloom. The unofficial start to summer is just a few weeks away. And here’s what’s in season this month:
Artichokes, Asparagus, Broccoli, Lettuce, Okra, Rhubarb, Spring Peas
Apricots, Cherries, Pineapples
This month I offer two delicious dessert recipes. Both are from recently discovered, and now favorite, food blogs. These food writers/photographers (one east coast and one west) present their recipes with stories, which I like … a lot, because I like stories … a lot. You may already have them bookmarked, but if not, you’ll likely do so after perusing their sites.
One of the ways to eat healthier without spending a ton of money is to eat in season. With the plethora of options available at the neighborhood mega-grocery store, we’ve moved so far away from that way of thinking and, therefore, eating, that we don’t even know which foods should actually be available in any given month. There are clues, two of which are pretty easy to spot: first there is country of origin - hint produce from Chile in January generally indicates that it’s not in season in North America – and the second is price – if you’re paying $6 for a pint of strawberries, it’s not their time.
This is the first in what will be a series of monthly posts. The intent is to help us all eat “in season.” I’ll do my best to include links to appealing recipes incorporating these ingredients. So, for April…
Artichokes, Asparagus, Broccoli, Lettuce, Rhubarb, Spring Peas, Zucchini
And now for the recipes:
When it comes to asparagus, there are an array of recipes on cookstr.com. Here’s what I love, especially with the really thin asparagus that’s available right now: put the oven on broil, lay some foil on a cookie sheet, place the asparagus on the foil, drizzle with olive, and season with salt and pepper. Place under the broiler for about 2 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven, turn the asparagus, and place back under the broiler for another 2 minutes. The asparagus should be tender and slightly browned. Cook longer for thicker stalks. When it’s done, it’s like eating candy.
Then there’s Curtis Stone’s Pineapple and Tequila Cocktail (what can I say, the fruit’s in there), and Giada De Laurentiis’s Mangoes and Raspberries in Prosecco Syrup. Lastly, Charles Mattocks, author of “Eat Cheap But Eat Well,” has a great Fish Taco recipe, to which he likes to add mango for extra flavor.
Eat well and enjoy!