Fall

pickledbeets_003.jpgDo you remember how a peanut butter sandwich always tasted better when your mom made it? Just a couple of slices of bread sandwiching peanut butter. I’d make my own sandwich and it just never tasted as good as the one mom made for me.

Well, that’s what happened with the beets I pickled yesterday. They taste fine, but just not the same as the beets my mom or my mother-in-law used to make. Since I didn’t have a recipe from my mother-in-law, I looked in my mom’s recipe file and found the one she must have used. Although she cheated just a bit and used beets in a can from the grocery store, I used the recipe for the brine she made.

The beets I cooked, peeled and heated in a brine were fresh from the farmers’ market. Just as I remembered from the time my mother-in-law showed me how to make pickled beets, my hands were stained a pretty shade of red by the time I was finished peeling the beets.

Read more ...

peartart.jpgAutumn begins this week, a season that is celebrated for the bounties of late summer and of the harvest. And for many the season is best represented by baking. Bread, pies, and tarts have become synonymous with the season of change. Baking with fall fruit such as apples, pears, plums, and quinces are a perfect way to celebrate. For me the fruit that best represents fall is the pear. Even though most pear varieties are picked unripe during the summer, the fruit can last in cold storage all throughout autumn and winter. If picked ripe, the pear is mushy, but when allowed to ripen on the counter or in a paper bag, a pear can be the most flavorful fruit. Some criticize it for its grainy texture, but I appreciate it for that uniqueness. The perfume of a ripening pear is like no other fruit. With pears in mind, I decided to put together one of my favorite tarts.

A French confection with the utmost elegance, this pear and almond cream tart is great for entertaining this season. Pears and almonds are a true match for one another. Their flavors and textures work harmoniously in this recipe. The almond cream base is traditionally called a frangipane and can be used as a base in a variety of desserts, but its most common companion is the pear.

Read more ...

appletarteThere are plenty of reasons to enjoy apples this season. For me it's because they make the best desserts. With apples so plentiful at farmers' markets and supermarkets this time of year, I love to make tarts. There's just something special about an apple tart particularly apple tarte Tatin, one of the most classic of the French tarts. It's a dessert that can be called both comforting and elegant. Supposedly, as the story goes, the Tatin sisters invented the dessert by accident while attempting to make an apple tart to serve their hotel guests. The dish became so popular that its fame spread throughout the Sologne region. It's now known throughout the world. It seems that the best things are almost always invented accidentally.

Traditionally tarte Tatin starts out by melting butter in a skillet and adding sugar to make a caramel. Then apple quarters are added and cooked until tender. A round of pastry dough tops the apples and the whole skillet is placed in the oven. In my adaptation, I use brown sugar for its fullness of flavor, and add a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of brandy for that extra bit of goodness. Instead of cooking the apples in the caramel, which either tends to overcook them or burn the caramel, I just place the apples in the pan, cover with pastry, and bake. Serve a slice warm with a dollop of crème fraîche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it's the perfect dessert after a cozy dinner or any time when the caving hits.

Read more ...

icecream pumpkinPumpkins are EVERYWHERE! It is just starting to cool down in L.A. and the flavors of fall are creeping into my home. Meals like Shepherds Pie, Claire’s Brisket, Butternut Squash Soup, Lasagna, and Chili are cooking in my kitchen. Making pumpkin soup is a weekly request. With left over pumpkin puree I am always finding ways of using up the left over puree.

The usual suspects; pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin doughnuts, and now pumpkin ice cream. Having a few egg yolks in the fridge always ingnites my desire to make ice cream. I have to admit, I have become a little bored with our old favorites (butterscotch pecan, coffee cookie dough, sweet cream). Don’t get me wrong, they are good, better than good. But I wanted a new flavor and with this being fall, all I can think about is pumpkin. So glad I did. While the custard was cooking on the stove, it smelled just like fall. The smells of cinnamon and nutmeg infused my house.

It was so overwhelming that I couldnt help myself, I did stick my finger in the warm custard, before putting it into the ice cream machine. I was tempted to drink it. Really tempted. But didn’t.

Read more ...

roastpearsI am an impatient person. I hate to wait. While some of the pears my mother gave me from her trees are ripe, others are not. Is there something you can do with not quite ripe pears? Yes! I discovered you can roast them.

Pears are sometimes added to savory dishes to add juice and moisture, or to make a sauce. My idea with this recipe was to make a side dish, something that could be served with pork chops, roast chicken, pork tenderloin, sausages, tossed with salad greens, on top of a pizza or maybe even used in a sandwich. Most recipes for roast pears call for pear halves or quarters, but dicing them just means they cook faster. You could also include pears with potatoes, parsnips, onions, beets or other similar vegetables that are good for roasting.

I really love the silky texture of cooked pears. The flavor intensifies too, which is why pears are so good in cakes and tarts. But you can get the same texture and flavor by roasting pears without baking them in a batter or crust. Necessity is the mother of invention and my mother's prolific pear trees accounts for the plethora of pear recipes I've created. Currently I'm really enjoying maple roasted pears with oatmeal or yogurt, but as the season progresses I'm sure I'll find even more ways to use them.

Read more ...