Fall

carrotgingersoup.jpgOn cold days nothing gives me more comfort than hot soup. The flavor combination that I find most comforting in soups is sweet and savory. It's an ideal pairing in many foods that have come to represent autumn. Certain vegetables like sweet potatoes and squashes are all made more flavorful with a touch of sweet, be it from sugar or other sweeteners such as honey or molasses.

Carrots also benefit from being paired with sweetness and even spiciness. But I add no sweeteners to this carrot soup. Its sweetness is all made possible naturally from a specific blend of ingredients. The soup is made all the more potent and aromatic with the addition of fresh ginger and a distinctive blend of Middle-Eastern spices that carry warm and nutty profiles. It's the perfect combination to elevate the humble carrot to new flavor heights.

 

Read more ...

ImageLast year I discovered that I actually enjoyed apples. I realize they are one of the most basic things on the planet and I won’t even pretend to touch on their historical or metaphorical influence, but let’s just say that the apple never made its way into my list of food cravings or desires.  I never bothered picking any up at the market, I never found them particularly sexy or exciting and I figured as long as I worked on Mac computers I was surrounded enough by them. Then a little thing happened where I tried a new crop Vasquez apple and realized what all the fuss was about. Apart from being nutritional gems, I was pleasantly surprised that an apple could be crisp, non-mealy, pleasant, and provide a happy balance between tart and sweet, or even not so sweet and just overall refreshing. Ok ok, I know what you’re thinking: um, could Matt come to this apple party any later in life? It’s ok, I completely agree. In fact I had never really shared my blasé attitude about them until it was replaced by my love affair with apples.

Now it seems I have random apples wherever I go. They are the perfect snack for me because they are portable, durable, fit in my computer bag and allow me to save those annoying little stickers with the PLU on them and put them on my fingernails and point at things until people notice. Plus they signal the arrival of fall and all the good stuff that is to come. It’s that new-crop versus cold-storage thing, not that I don’t eat the latter. And on rare occasions the apple allows me to observe mother nature’s miraculous break down of plant matter when a stray apple rolls out of my bag and under the passenger seat of my car, scenting my ride with the happy smell of Pink Lady* before giving way to the odor of rotting flesh, its origin alluding me until I take my vehicle to the car wash. And here I thought it was just the smell of Carson, California.

Read more ...

 

matsutake-001.jpgMatsutake Mushrooms

In rough times like these with the economy falling down around our knees and election weeks away, we all need to find some silver linings to revitalize our souls – at least temporarily.  For me that means going to the Portland Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings and making a beeline for Roger the Mushroom Man. Living in the Pacific Northwest, America’s mushroom breadbasket affords me a wide (and wild) variety of shrooms.

But none are better – or more expensive – than the matsutake – tricholoma magnivelar for you science-heads. This meaty, spicy cinnamon, earthly flavored delight is harvested in the Cascade Mountains. Most of them are shipped off to Japan where the best ones – those with a tight cap – go for over a grand a pound. Roger sells them for $36 dollars a pound; but being an über-honest dude, sells the ones which have been invaded by worms for $12. While I am not offended by the taste of worms – in fact I have had a few that were quite pleasing to my palate – I do not like digging them out of my matsutakes.

 

Read more ...

pumpkincakePumpkin is one of my favorite ingredients, especially during the fall months. This is a great cake for friends with October/November birthdays (like me!)

It’s also a nice alternative to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.

Feel free to substitute whole wheat or white wheat flour for the all-purpose.

Pumpkin Cake:

3/4 cup (6 oz.) unsalted butter; more for the pans
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups (9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Read more ...

celeraicsoupOft unknown and underutilized, celeriac or celery root is a vegetable with white flesh and knobby light-brown skin. Its texture is not far from parsnips. Its flavor is like celery: fresh, bright, and almost citrusy. In fact they are related. The celery root grows green stems and leaves above the soil surface that look much like celery and can be used just like celery. The greens have a more pronounced celery flavor but the stems are woody and hollow like bamboo. The herb lovage, another celery cousin, is like this too. The stems can be used as straws in mixed drinks like the Bloody Mary or my take on the Tom Collins.

One of the most common recipes for celeriac, especially in French cuisine is céleri rémoulade, which is a slaw of mandolined or julienned celeriac dressed in rémoulade, a mayonnaise-type sauce. You will also find celeriac prepared as creamy soups or puréed side dishes that resemble mashed potatoes. Though I love céleri rémoulade, since it is now fall, I chose to prepare a classic rendition of cream of celeriac soup. The accompanying recipe for herbed crostini makes a nice complement. Serve the soup as a start to an elegant holiday dinner. The celery flavor awakens the palate in preparation for more food to come.

Read more ...