Thursday, September 15, 2011


So, I'm still wearing shorts and short sleeves, but I was making plans for well into October and November, and then it struck me that autumn is one week away. The tomatoes in my garden are way past their prime. While it's not cool by any means, it's certainly not 100+ degrees anymore.


I believe it has something to do with the orbit of the earth.

The seasons march on, bringing us cooler weather, a whole different palette of flavors and vegetables, and wonderful holidays centered around eating.

So while I have a few autumn recipes built up already, I'm always looking for more. What are your favorite recipes to make in cooler temperatures? Put a link or a recipe in the comments.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

 Sorry, no photo on this one guys. I know, it's sad. I'm sad, too. The kicker is, it was really, really pretty and would have made a great photo, with the juxtaposition of the white cream and the rich orange soup. Just make it for yourself and then you can look at the absolutely beautiful, autumnal (I know it's still 90 degrees outside, but ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you I've always been rather obsessively punctual) bowl of gently spiced, just-a-little-sweet goodness.

The whipped cream topping gives it kind of a fun presentation, I thought, but take a word of advice from someone who's done this before; put it in at the last possible second, because it melts quickly in the hot soup. However, even after it's melted, the white swirls with the cinnamon are beautiful.

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, diced to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large Macintosh apple, diced to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large sweet, yellow onion, diced to 1 inch cubes
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 0.5 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup whipping cream, divided
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 0.25 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the squash, apples, and onions in a roasting pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, and cover with salt and pepper. Stir them all to evenly coat the vegetables. Place in the oven for 45 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, bring the chicken stock to a boil (reserve about 2/3 a cup to deglaze the roasting pan), then reduce to simmer. Once the vegetables are done roasting, add them to the simmering chicken stock. If there are browned bits of veggies stuck to the pan, add the reserved chicken stock and stir to remove them, then add them back to soup on the stove.

Using a hand blender, or in a blender or food processor in batches, puree the soup to a very smooth consistency. Add the apple cider, 0.5 cup of the cream, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the nutmeg to the soup, and puree (or stir) until smooth and incorporated. The the soup just barely simmer for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, whip the remaining 0.5 cup of cream and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Serve the soup with a dollop of the cinnamon cream.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

I had never touched a real beat in my life, I don't think, until last summer.  I had seen canned beets, but the consistency and shape left me unsure of what the actual vegetable in it's natural form was really like.  You know, in the wild.

Then all of the sudden they show up everywhere.  I am helping my sister apartment shop in a big city, and we stop in this tiny little restaurant with 8 tables and even few things on the menu, and I look down and see a "Roasted Beet Salad."  I was intrigued, and the intrigue was rewarded with a warm, delicately flavored salad with the most beautiful color I had ever seen in my life.  Then next, in a quick trip back to see the family, I try a new restaurant and HOLD THE PHONE they have a roasted beet salad too, with goat cheese.  Let me tell you, my mind was going places, here. Finally, on a trip to the farmers market where the most beautifully red beets you have ever seen stared back at me from the small little stand and actually screamed at me (I really think I heard them) "You must take me home and cook me right now!", so I did.

I learned a few things. First, your hands will be red for the rest of the day, so just go ahead and accept that. Second, they're really good (I actually knew that already, but I was reminded of it). Third, beats tend to be a little polarizing. I made this for a large group of young women, and many of them didn't venture out far enough to try them, which was a shame.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

  • 4-5 red or golden beets, peeled
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • goat cheese, sliced into approximately 0.25 inch slices
  • Spring mix, or your favorite salad greens
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the beets into wedges (approximately 6-8 per beet).  Place the wedges, some olive oil, salt, and pepper in the mixing bowl, and stir until evenly coated. Pour the wedges out onto a large sheet of aluminum foil in a single layer--have enough aluminum foil that you can fold over half of the foil over the beets and cinch off the edges, creating a large envelope, and keeping the beets in a single layer.

Place the beets wrapped in foil in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a slight crisp edge forms and the centers are tender when pierced. Be careful when opening the foil--retain as much of the oil and juice from the roasting as you can, because you'll add it to the dressing.

While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a dry frying pan on the stove on medium heat. Keep them stirring and moving so they don't burn. After a few minutes, add the butter and brown sugar, and stir to coat. You want to form a beautiful candied layer on the nuts. Stir for 3 minutes or so, until slightly carmelized.

To make the dressing, add the olive oil, lemon juice, honey the roasting juices, and some salt and pepper, and whisk until mixed. Toss the dressing with the lettuce, and arrange on plates. Top with cheese, beats, and the nuts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Simplicity: Raspberries & Cream

So some recipes are complex (e.g. "steep the lavender in the cream until fragrant" is still perhaps the most ridiculous, unjustified step I have ever taken in the pursuit of dessert), but some are beautifully simple.

That's an important life lesson. Ponder the thought for a while.
 I saw a quote once by Alice Waters (I have no idea who that is, and I'm not going to search Wikipedia to find out before I post this, so maybe one of y'all out there can fill me in) hanging on the wall in one of my favorite restaurants in Utah. The simplicity and truth of the statement has stayed with me for a while. "When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is."

In some cases, you just want the food to taste "like what it is," because what it is is amazingly good and amazingly fresh. That's why I love the summertime, when my garden is in full bloom (or at the moment, a little sad looking from the heat, but there's still good stuff in there), and I can just grab a red pepper or a handful of basil off the plant and taste it in it's full glory. It's when dessert needs to be nothing more than ridiculously sweet, tart raspberries fresh from someone who grew them with love, a spoonful of sugar, and  some cream that came from a cow who lives down the road.

There's no ornamentation needed. No crazy steps. No laborious slaving away. Just the acquisition and presentation of inherently good things that taste "like what they are." So dig in.

Raspberries and Cream
  • Fresh raspberries
  • White sugar
  • Heavy cream
Gently but thoroughly wash the raspberries and let them dry thoroughly. Check carefully for any bad berries (they go bad so quickly, it's a shame), leaves, twigs, etc. Place a few berries in a serving bowls or cups, and sprinkle generously with white sugar (use more or less as you like). Pour a little cream over them, again as much as you like. My first instinct was to stir them to coat evenly, but I'm pretty sure you'd break them apart completely.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It's been exactly one year . . . I know, don't tell me

Seriously, don't even tell me. I know it's been a year. One whole year (to the day) since last time I blogged about anything. I actually was going to blog about something last week, but then noticed it's been almost a full year, and wanted to get exactly to the day, because I thought that would be more poetic.

It's not that I forgot about you. It's more that I've been primarily eating spoonfuls of extra-crunchy peanut butter (thank you, Costco, for having mercy on us poor graduate students). And while I know there are plenty of things you can do with peanut butter, I haven't been doing anything that requires a recipe that I can give you. I've just been eating it straight from the jar. 

I have also been just a little busy: writing a dissertation; updating my house one agonizingly slow piece at a time; trying to be a good son / brother / uncle / cousin / grandson to my very large family; form meaningful and lasting relationships; running a stupid marathon, two half-marathons, and subsequently giving up distance running forever (I'll probably come back eventually, but we're taking a little break from one another right now); serving in my church responsibilities; planning for the future (this grad school thing has to end eventually, right?); traveling; developing my faith; and doing lots of other things with my life. 

So don't get me wrong, I love to cook. I love having dinner parties for a few friends. I love cooking-themed dates. I love getting in a big kitchen and presiding over a 4-course dinner for 55 (4th year in a row, coming up). However, the vast majority of my life is spent doing things of great or not-so-great importance away from my stove. While I love experimenting on and developing new recipes, it's just something I haven't spent a lot of time doing lately.

So here's the deal. I'm gonna' keep writing on this thing, sharing the good that I have found. Some of it may be newly developed recipes. Some posts may just be good recipes found elsewhere passed right along to you. Some may be commentary on life from the food's perspective (I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds kind of cool). So look forward to a new little twist on this blog, and hopefully some good eats in the future.

Here is just a little glimpse of some things that happened in the last year. I'm not even going to try to catch up, so this is all you get.

This wasn't that good, and now that I look at it more closely, it doesn't look that good, either. What a waste of perfectly good pine nuts. Sad.

Special thanks to AP for this amazingly fresh (straight from the CSA box), amazingly good little summer number. Go grab some fresh mozzarella and make this a part of your life.
I tend to buy spinach by the bushel, so I tend to try different things to do with it. Sometimes it's pretty good. Sometimes it's not.

I have been told that I have an uncanny talent for ruining perfectly good, traditional, Southern recipes. As I've said before, I care much less about tradition and much more about awesome, but not all southerners agree.

In all honesty, I don't even remember what's under that shell. Maybe chicken pot pie? And what on earth was I thinking with that design?
Warning: if you're going to start making Indian food, you need to own about 17 different spices that you've never heard of before. However, once you have them, you can make awesome things.
Why yes, there is a skull and crossbones made of puff pastry in this picture, thanks for asking. There's a story behind it, too, but I'm not going to tell you about it. I'm trying to let the mystery build.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

White Peach and Raspberry Cobbler

Peaches and raspberries are some of my favorite reasons to have summer (notwithstanding the big ticket items like beach, warm, and happiness).  This is a relatively simple dessert with unadorned flavors, but the freshness of the fruit and a big old dollop of [real] whipped cream really delivers a tasty, seasonal punch.

Makes 4 individual cobblers.  Double the recipe and use a casserole dish if you want to make a larger batch to serve family style.  You'll probably need to up the cooking time by a bit, also.  Watch it very carefully, because to burn it would be a tragic loss.

White Peach and Raspberry Cobbler
for the cobbler

  • 2 large white peaches
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
for the crust
  • 1 heaping cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375.

Slice the peaches into comfortably bite-sized pieces, and place in a bowl with as much of the peach juice as possible.  Add the berries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice.  Gently stir to coat the fruit evenly.

In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients for the topping.  Slowly pour in the melted butter while stirring, and work into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Grease 4 ramekins.  Evenly distribute the fruit among the 4, and top the ramekins with a layer of the flour mixture.  Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet or pan (to catch the drips) and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the fruit is bubbling and the topping golden brown.  Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Summer Farmers Market Salad

In the height of the summer when vegetables are fresh (as in, were alive on the plant that day or the day before), you don't really have to do fancy things to make them taste better, because they just taste good the way they are.  You don't have to cover up boring tastes or anything.  This is a great example of how to make a delicious, unadorned salad out of summer produce at its freshest.  I'm sure you could do something similar with just about any vegetable from the market this time of year.

Summer Farmers Market Salad

  • baby arugula
  • sliced heirloom tomatoes
  • sliced lemon cucumber
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Layer the tomato slices and cucumber on top of a bed of arugula (peel the cucumber with a vegetable peeler, if necessary).  Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.