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Archive for October, 2010

Too many Pumpkins…

For most people the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving. Here the “holidays” as they are collectively known, begin in (very) early October. I don’t know why the color orange and October make me so happy, but I am a sucker for all things autumn and Halloween, probably because Halloween is about fun, not office parties. Instead, it’s about apples and pumpkin picking, and laughing at the hysterical decorations and costumes so many people come up with.

More lawns than ever are populated with monsters and graveyards and not-so-scary whimsy, like this monster and mermaid I found in Essex, CT.

 

 

Our house is always the most over the top in the neighborhood, but we’ve even outdone ourselves this year with a witch that projects on to our house. It’s pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself.

We are so into the season that my youngest daughter isn’t allowed to wear anything that isn’t orange and black or doesn’t have a witch or ghost on it. I’m really not kidding. Thank goodness she’s only five and thinks it’s a blast.

A little odd, perhaps, but I did the same thing with Gabrielle and Isabella and they turned out pretty normal.

But of course, this is a food blog, and no post about October would make any sense without talking about all the spectacular cozy foods of autumn. We love teaching light and fresh meals at the Fig Cooking School in the summer – a chilled borsht made with organic beets on a sticky day is superb – but nothing beats hearty stews, rich pies and crisps made with apples or pears, or really anything made with the vast array of squashes and pumpkins now in season.

The best pumpkin has to have the best stem...

Of all the fall foods and decorations I go especially crazy for pumpkins. I can’t get enough of them. Francesca has a fantastic book called Too Many Pumpkins in which Rebecca Estelle thinks she hates those beautiful bulky balls of orange until a truck spills dozens of splattered pumpkins in her yard. The next year there are hundreds of pumpkins and so she has to make dozens of pumpkin pies, cookies, muffins and breads for the townspeople so they don’t go to waste. In the end, the pumpkins bring her happiness and community… totally my kind of story.

If you ask Mark and the girls they’ll tell how they have to pull me away from the pumpkin patch. It’s an addiction, really.

And I like gourds and weird pumpkins too!

 

 

 

So obviously, some of my favorite foods are made with pumpkins. This gorgeous vegetable makes the most wonderful soups, muffins and pies and, when roasted whole, a beautiful, edible bowl for your favorite autumn stew.

 

 

Since it is such a busy time of year, I try to keep it simple and create recipes that are hearty and delicious, so we have more time to be outside apple picking or taking scenic drives. I’ve created a delicious but simple pumpkin-butternut squash soup using canned organic squash and pumpkin. It’s so easy you will never be tempted to by commercial soup again. I promise.

Hopefully it will become part of your regular dinner plans. When you make it, be sure to let us know!

Pumpkin-Butternut Squash Soup with Pears

2 cups of leeks, chopped
1/3 cup shallots, chopped
1 Bartlett pear, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 can organic butternut squash puree
1 can organic pumpkin puree (unprocessed)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sour cream
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/3 pound pancetta, sliced thin (optional)

1. Sautee shallots and leeks until they are wilted, but not yet brown, about 5 minutes
2. Add squash and pumpkin and stir
3. Add one teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
4. Add the broth, pears, sugar and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil
5. Let simmer for about 12 minutes, or until pears are soft
6. Add both the pumpkin and squash and cook for another 7 minutes on a low flame
7. Puree in a food processor, or with an immersion blender (you may also use a blender, but be sure to let the soup cool to lukewarm first)
8. Add sour cream and mix well
9. Fry pancetta in a small pan over medium-high heat, until crisp, and pat between two towels to absorb grease
10. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle chopped chives and crumbled pancetta on top

Life at the Annex

I love everything about college, but I’ve spent a lot of time missing home. And it’s probably horrible to admit, but I miss my kitchen almost as much as my family. I miss the tiny white hexagonal tiles on the floor, and the shelves stuffed with cookbooks, from Giada to Thomas Keller . I miss the overflowing glass jars of cooking equipment for when mom teaches, and the pots and pans hanging from the farm table-turned-island in the middle. My kitchen has ambient lighting and a sturdy, old kitchenaid mixer. It has plates, silverware and an oven. I have been truly spoiled for the past few years. I have none of those things here. I have no glass backsplash, no chalkboard to write the day’s menu on, and no fancy pepper grinders. I do have tile countertops, a dingy, two-burner electric stove, and a microwave. The end. But despite all this, in recent days I’ve come to love my 5th floor substitute.

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Seriously.

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It all started the day I first realized the dining hall was killing me, in body and in spirit. I was so distracted by classes and awkward social encounters that I didn’t notice it for a few weeks. The warning came, rather suddenly, when I stepped on the scale, for the first time in a month. To my shock and horror, I was losing my Freshman 15.

“You’re crazy, Gabrielle,” you are undoubtedly saying. “Isn’t that a good thing?”

Yes. It is. But it turned me on to a much more serious problem: dining hall food is disgusting. Like, the other day, they were serving a tofu meatloaf… and it was orange. Bright orange..

It was the color of this pumpkin. But it was tofuloaf.

I tried to estimate the number of cucumbers I had eaten instead of dinner over the preceding weeks, and when I’d finished calculating (about a bazillion), I realized I had take matters into my own hands. Fortunately, the shelves on my desk are furnished with almost as many sauté pans as books. So I grabbed my cooking friends, put my eaters on standby, and ran like a madwoman towards the kitchen.

In the spirit of fall, I made caramelized apples. In the spirit of needing somewhere to put the apples, I made crepes. And in the spirit of crepes, I made a Nutella cream sauce. Because one of life’s little known secrets is that there is nothing better than caramelized apples and chocolate. And, as everyone knows, there is nothing better than Nutella with anything.

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This recipe is simple, but spectacular, and is best made with lots and lots of friends. As people came and went, Chelsea, Theresa and I flipped the crepes, Gaby and Soyeon assembled the fillings, Hila entertained us, and we all took turns eating our creations as they came off the stove. We had no fancy equipment, but it was just like being back in the Test Kitchen.

 

So grab some apples and nutella, and enjoy! This recipe can be made without a blender or even mixing bowl, and eaten without forks, knives and plates. It makes 15-20 crepes, so invite lots of people. It’s simple, cheap, vegetarian, kosher, and delicious. They, whoever they are, say the best ideas are born out of necessity. So when you make these fall treats and love them more than anything you’ve ever tasted… don’t thank me, thank my college and its terrible dining hall.

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Note- we had a lot of extra heavy cream (and so will you) so we made homemade butter. By hand! It’s a classic fall activity. We most certainly did it on purpose. We were not trying to make whipped cream.

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Apple Crepes with Nutella Cream

For Crepes (adapted from epicurious)

1.5 cups plus 3 tablespoons whole milk
3 eggs
1.5 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus extra for greasing pan

 

1. Whisk ingredients together in a mixing bowl (or, if you’re me, 2 large tupperwares) until smooth and lump-free
2. Cover, and allow to sit at room temperature while you make apples and nutella sauce
3. When apples and nutella are made, heat an 8-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat (depending on your stove) and melt just enough butter to lightly grease bottom
4. Pour 1/4 cup of batter and tilt to evenly coat bottom of pan. Your first crepe will be a disaster, so don’t despair over it. It has nothing to do with your crepe making abilities. Just discard it (preferably in your tummy).
5. Cook for 1.5-2 minutes, until bottom begins to lightly brown, and flip. Feel free to do this with a spatula or chopsticks or whatever moves you, but I recommend you try doing in the air. It’s not hard, and you’ll feel much more accomplished if you do it the fun way.
6. Cook for 30 seconds-1 minute, until second side begins to brown, and glide onto plate. Repeat process with remaining batter. Eat immediately.

 

 

For Nutella Cream

3-4 tbsp heavy cream
3-4 tbsp nutella

 

1. In small saucepan, heat cream and nutella over low heat until blended and heated.

 

 

For Caramelized Apples (adapted from epicurious)

2 lbs apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 tbsp butter
1/3 cup sugar

 

1. Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat (depending on your stove)
2. Add sugar and stir until melted
3. Add apples and stir to cover with sugar and butter. Sautée for approximately 10 more minutes, until apples are tender, and cooked through.
4. Remove from heat.

 

Assembly

Fill crepes with apples, drizzle with sauce, and roll up. Alternatively, if you have plates and forks (which we did not), you can drizzle the sauce on the outside of the crepe. Enjoy!

To Market To Market

As I started thinking about Cityseed’s fabulous farmer’s market in New Haven’s Wooster Square and as I looked through the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken in recent weeks, I was struck not only by the vibrant colors, the luscious fruits and vegetables, but the remarkably diverse and colorful people who come to this special place Saturday mornings.

We’ve met so many wonderful people at our booth who genuinely care about food and are meticulous about the quality of ingredients they use in their everyday lives. My hats off to them. For those of us who live in or near New Haven, we owe a lot to market manager Rachel Berg, and her tireless staff for running this market so perfectly week after week and making these local and organic foods accessible.

I will be posting a photo essay on the market seasonally since it is such an integral part any foodie’s life; here are some moments of this past glorious summer and just a hint of autumn.

One of the things I just love about the market is that it is one-stop-shopping; you can and should pick your menus for the week based on what the local Connecticut farmers are harvesting that week.

I fell in love with beets this summer since they were so plentiful and were offered in so many colors; orange, white and of course that beautiful dark purple that turns a gorgeous pinkish lavender color when pureed with a bit of cream. We ate them in chilled borschts, we caramelized them for salads with avocado and goat cheese, and sometimes we just ate them roasted with a just a sprinkle of sea salt and coarse pepper.

There is also no better place to buy so many other herbs, vegetables and fruits as well.

Or ingredients for a refreshing salad of arugula, lettuce, tomatoes and red onions.

You can also pick up gorgeous wild flowers, sunflowers and the most spectacular dahlias to decorate your table with too. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to pick up some of the finest baked goods in Connecticut at the Sono Bakery.

One of the reasons to go to the market, of course, is the people watching. It’s some of the best in New Haven.  The shopkeepers and the customers have a lot of pizzaz and personality.

People find many ways of transporting their goods home too; most, of course, are environmentally friendly; You see re-usable bags  and wheels of every kind.

Of course, pampered pets enjoy the morning at the market too. And why not?

I hope I’ve whet your appetite to visit the market, or one nearest your home. But I’m warning you; they’re addictive. Supermarket produce will never look the same again.

If you live nearby and plan to visit the Wooster market, please be sure to come by and say “Hi” to us next time you’re there. We’d love to see you. If you live far away, find your local market and get to know your local growers. They are wonderful people who care about the land and the food we eat.

For now, enjoy these last pictures of autumn’s beginning; I love all things apples and pumpkins, and I promise to have some recipes for you in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, get out there and pick some apples or pumpkins. It’s good for you.

I’m going back into the test kitchen right now so I can come up with some great pumpkin recipes. I’ll be back soon!

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