Fall

Image What cooking method can be more primal than roasting? When humans discovered fire, it was by roasting over an open pit. Today we simulate this method of indirect cooking in the oven, achieving the best taste by concentrating flavors, retaining interior moisture, and creating a beautiful brown exterior. In gastronomy-speak, this caramelization is known as the Maillard reaction, which is the basic chemical reaction all food undergoes when cooked. But the cavepeople didn't care how sugars reacted with amino acids, all they knew was that fire made things taste good.

I often roast almost anything during the autumn months. Once October comes, roasting is my favorite activity. Meats are of course among the favorite items to roast. Just think of a luscious roast chicken or roast beef. But many seem to forget that pork and vegetables also make wonderful roasts.

Read more ...

From the Huffington Post

maplecoctailWhile summer cocktails conjure up a specific image -- usually of tiny umbrellas and slices of watermelon -- autumn brings about libations that are, shall we say, less photogenic. The dearth of the fresh ingredients that make summer drinks such colorful beachside accompaniments force harvest season cocktails into a comparatively substandard role. But this seems wrong considering the other pleasures we gleefully anticipate with first nip in the air. People salivate on line at Starbucks eagerly awaiting their pumpkin spice lattes and delight in slipping on lightweight jackets to compliment the blushing foliage. Why too shouldn't lifting the year's first glass of Apple Brandy be part of the tradition?

The beauty of it is, cocktails that evoke the changing of the seasons don't have to be entirely new drinks. They can follow the same basic template classics cocktails do, just with seasonal substitutions. Here are a few suggestions.

The best place to start is swapping out the sweetener in a drink, it's the simplest and most effective way alter a cocktail. Take for instance a whiskey sour which we know is generally two parts whiskey -- bourbon, rye, Tennessee, your choice -- one part simple syrup, and one part fresh lemon juice depending on taste. Instead of simple syrup make it with maple syrup and bam(!), the autumn whiskey sour.

Read more...

roastedsquashNever mind the name, these sweet, nutty squash are harvested in the fall. They are called "winter" because their hard shells allow them to be stored for extended periods, and in the days before refrigeration, that was a quality more worth honoring than mere harvest seasonality. The earliest winter squash are just beginning to trickle into the market -- kabocha, butternut and acorn, mostly.

When they’re first picked, they can be a little short on flavor. But after a week or two that changes, particularly for squash such as butternut and kabocha. These benefit from a couple of weeks of "curing" after being harvested, which allows time for enzymes to convert some of their starch into sugar.  Acorns are from another family and do not require curing. They're better bets this early in the season.

How to choose: Look for squash with deep, saturated colors and no soft spots or cracks. The stem should be hard and corky too.

How to store: Keep winter squash in a cool, dark place. You don't need to refrigerate them.

How to prepare: Here's a recipe for happiness during the coming rainy season: Hack off a chunk of winter squash and remove the seeds; place it cut-side down in a pan with just a little water, and roast it at 400 degrees until the whole thing collapses into a sweet, fragrant, slightly caramelized puree.

Get recipes...

 

plumsaladI love plums. Love them. They are so versatile, good both savory and sweet. I also love a good salad and am always willing to try something new in this arena as well.

The key to a decent dressing is good olive oil. There is no question it elevates the salad to new heights. It can also mercilessly drag it down when not up to par. A good extra-virgin olive oil is key to this Grilled Plum Salad with Brandy-Mint Vinaigrette. The ingredients are few, so quality matters.

When I made the dressing, I sort of felt like it needed something else, another flavor. But then I stepped back and looked at the other ingredients going into this salad; bacon, grilled plums, goat cheese, toasted pecans and peppery arugula. I decided to hold off adding anything and I’m glad I did.

This salad exploded with flavor. A bite with plum, cheese, arugula, nut and vinaigrette….yum. However, it’s definitely a grown up salad with the brandy addition. The perfect starter for a special dinner.

Try it for yourself when you have some time. 

Read more ...

Creamy-Red-Pepper-Coconut-soup-serve-with-crunchy-breadIt was one of those days, dreary and cold, and it was my turn to make lunch (I’ve told y’all how much I dislike making lunch). Mostly I was dreading it because I knew the fridge was devoid of leftovers I could just heat up and call good. 

I strolled into the kitchen and opened the vegetable drawer. There it was, two red bell peppers, celery that needed a purpose and half an onion from the last soup I had thrown together. Luckily, inspiration hit and within 30 minutes, this soup and lunch was served. It was delicious and is now in the fall/winter soup rotation over here.

The coconut adds the Asian flare I was looking for and the Thai-style sweet chili sauce balances it all out. This soup is so easy to make and the flavor is bold. You will love it.

Read more ...