MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

sabattical
After much thought in the past few months about where my food writing is going and what I would like to do with it in the future, I’ve decided to take a pause from writing for a few months. At first I thought I only had an either/or, just two decisions, either keep writing or stop completely. But on a long walk last week I realized I can make my own rules and stop writing temporarily. Five years are a very long time to keep my creative juices flowing week after week and I’ve started to feel like I’ve been uncreative in both my cooking and writing. I know whenever I start to feel this way about anything, I know I need to take a step back and reassess.  

That said, I’ll miss writing about my favorite season and holiday, but I have collected some of my favorite autumn recipes to get you through the next few months, plus tips for Thanksgiving Day! And on Sunday, I will be toasting my favorite city in the world with a Perfect Manhattan.

May your autumn be happy, peaceful, and full of the bounty of this glorious season!

Love,
Chris

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Soups and Stews
Check out the farmer’s market and pick up some vegetables for my Late Summer Vegetable Soup.
Whenever I need some comfort, I make a pot of my Hungarian Mushroom Soup.
A delicious vegan meal, Autumn Red Curry Stew.

Main Dishes
This is one of my favorite chicken recipes, Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits.
And another favorite chicken recipe, Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives.
This recipe for macaroni and cheese is healthy and one pan!

Side Dishes
Although I love summer cooking, I admit I’m excited about root vegetables. Here are some of my favorite roasted roots recipes.
Fall means apples. Make some homemade applesauce!
I make this recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash all winter long!
Instead of the usual lettuce for salads, try my recipe for Autumn Kale Salad instead.

Sweets
My mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread.
Make these popular miniature Halloween cookies!
My go-to gingerbread recipe, courtesy of Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”

Since I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years, I’ve collected several tips each year to make the day a bit easier. And here are two recipes for the best rolls in the world that I’ve made for the holiday!
Astor House Rolls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

Just in Time for the Holiday Weekend: Spiedies!

field

You know it’s late August when goldenrod blankets the front meadow!

 

What pray tell are spiedies you ask? (Pronounced “speedies.”) They are the best marinated meat you are ever going to make!

I have lived my entire life eating spiedies at least one each summer and usually more. Originating with Italian immigrants, it is a flavorful marinade made for chicken, pork, and (the traditional) lamb kabobs that you place on skewers, grill, and then wrap squishy Italian bread around them. They are a popular sandwich in Binghamton, New York, and its surrounding areas, where my family is from, and originated with the Italian immigrants in the areas. A trip always means someone is going to go out and get some spiedies to eat—and sometimes more than once!

You can buy spiedie sauce on the market (Salamida’s is the best) which works in a pinch, but there is something when there is fresh garlic and mint from the garden that makes me want to whip up a batch. I based my recipe on one that I found years ago by Patrick Kennedy, the winner of the Spiedie Fest cook off in Endicott, New York (my birthplace) one year. After many attempts, I tweaked it so it is the way I like it. Marinade the meat for up to three days, so if you’re going away this weekend, make a batch before you go so you can have your own spiedie fest on Labor Day!

spiedies

I couldn’t decide, so I recently made chicken and pork spiedies!

Spiedie Sauce
While it’s sacrilegious, I love to serve it on top of greens for a flavorful salad!

¾ cup oil (safflower, canola, or another neutral flavored oil)
1 ¼ cups cider vinegar
½ Tablespoon dried thyme
½ Tablespoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons (or more) fresh, chopped mint
The juice from one whole lemon
¼ cup finely chopped fresh garlic

Mix all the ingredients in bowl and add to a heavy plastic bag. Add your chopped meat and marinade for up to three days (I find two days is perfect.). Grill until done and wrap a piece of Italian bread around it and enjoy!

proteinMVK’s Like of the Week: Meatless High Protein Foods
While I love meat (as evidenced above), I do eat vegetarian most of the week. And with that, I’m always looking to vegetarian sources to get my protein. While the list is not vegan, it does give you ten great non-meat ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! You can check out the list here.

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It was a picture perfect morning for an early kayak ride!

It was a beautiful morning for an early kayak ride!

‘Tis the season of temperatures in the 80s and the sunset being around 8:30 p.m. Which means I want to take advantage of every second I can when I get out of work to be outdoors. And which also means dinners are late. Very late. While exercising, I create recipes in my head with items I have in the fridge and the cupboards so I can make a quick meal because I’ll be famished when I walk in the door. (This is how I get through a hike–thinking of food!) This salad is one such creation; I wanted something healthy, of course tasty, but one that I call a “dump it” salad, throw everything in a big bowl, toss and serve.

I’m a big advocate for canned beans, especially this time of year. Even though I prefer to cook my own dried beans, it’s definitely less expensive but more time-consuming, I find I don’t spend as much time in the kitchen as I do in the winter; having a few cans on hand for quick meals like this are a life saver. I measured out two cups of frozen corn to defrost for a couple of hours. When I got home, I took my big mixing bowl and started to add what I had in the fridge and cupboard. I didn’t have enough lime for a quarter cup, so I added some lemon juice. If you don’t have both herbs, you can use just one. And of course, there are substitutes galore: red pepper in place of the tomatoes, scallions in place of the red onion, cucumber in place of zucchini. Or add some protein; I was thinking cooked chicken or grilled shrimp would be good, or even some quinoa or another grain. I served it with grilled chicken sausages and it was fantastic. And of course, if your palate isn’t one for spicy foods, omit the cayenne entirely; just a tiny bit goes a really long way!

This dish makes close to four cups, which I thought was plenty enough for dinner for two and at least lunch the next day. Until I heard the Eater of the House, who went for seconds (or was it thirds?) ask if he could have the rest of the salad! “I wouldn’t eat so much if your food wasn’t so good!” I guess that’s a rousing endorsement for this recipe!

black bean sal 

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad
This recipe can easily be doubled for a summertime potluck!

2 cups, defrosted corn
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoon diced red onion or shallots
1 small zucchini, diced
Chopped fresh basil and cilantro (2 Tablespoons each)
½ avocado, diced
¼ cup fresh lime juice or lime and lemon juice
A dash of cayenne or a bit of chopped jalapeno (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In advance of cooking, defrost the corn until thawed (at least two hours). Add to large mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients (through lime juice). Add cayenne, if using, and salt and pepper.

coloring bookkMVK’s *Like* of the Week: A Coloring Book for People Who Like Food
The biggest things these days in bookshops aren’t the books themselves, it is coloring books for adults! While I myself haven’t gotten into this craze (I like to read too much to spend time coloring), this one did spark my interest, a book for people who like food! Edible Paradise is just that, pictures of lots of fruits and vegetables that you color! I don’t know if this will make me put my book down and pick up a coloring pencil or pen, but it might! You can read more about it here.

The Lazy, Shorter Days of Summer: Late Season Pesto Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Summertime and the living is easy!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy!

Vermont in August is one of my favorite times of the year. While the light has quickly diminished in both the morning and evening, the fields are now a bright yellow with goldenrod, a little bit quieter, and the gardens have reached their peaks. While the days can still be quite warm, nighttime is usually perfectly cool sleeping weather. Weekends are spent at the lake, soaking in the sun and making memories that (hopefully) will keep us warm in the winter.

Speaking of gardens, you’ll never see me turn down an offer of free vegetables or fruit from someone’s garden. Which was the reason I was cutting up cups and cups of late season rhubarb for pies a couple of weeks ago, and why I found myself in a friend’s garden one recent evening, pulling all of the basil that she didn’t want. While it was almost past its time, it was still salvageable and all I could see was green, and knew I could make mounds and mounds of pesto.

I can grow tired very quickly if I eat the same thing all the time–leftovers are a two-meal minimum for me–but I think I could eat pesto every day and be completely happy! There is something about the mixture of basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil that is heaven on a plate. During the summer I make it just about every Monday night for dinner. Even during my detox I talked about a few weeks ago, I created a dairy-free pesto that was almost as good as the real thing, served over quinoa pasta! For my friend who graciously gave me the basil, I made a nut-free and dairy free version for her.

The word pesto comes from the Italian, pestare, which means “to pound or crush,” and I have certainly made it many times the authentic way with a mortar and pestle, but my blender is a lot quicker when making lots. For nuts, I’ve used almonds, walnuts, or the traditional pine nuts. Or I’ve left them out if I don’t have any on hand. Making batches ahead of time will be a way to bring some summer into the darkness of the cold, winter months!

It's a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

It’s a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

Late Season Pesto

I don’t measure when I make this. Ever. So these are my approximations of measurements. I go by taste, so as you’re mixing, keep tasting to see if it suits your palate. When freezing, I put a little piece of plastic wrap on the top of the pesto to keep it from drying out.

1 large garlic clove
2 large handfuls of basil leaves
A few parsley stalks (preferably flat-leafed parsley), about 2-3 tablespoons
About 3 tablespoons grated parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons whole almonds (or substitute walnuts or pine nuts)
Extra virgin olive oil, roughly ¼ cup (you can also use some hot water as a substitute for some of the oil)

With a blender, add the ingredients one at a time, ending with enough olive oil to make a paste. Serve over pasta, veggies, fish, or toasted bread.

movie posterMVK’s *Like of the Week: “That Sugar Film”
Are you like me and think the food you find in a health food store is good for you? Think again. Australian filmmaker, Damon Gameau, has a movie out, based on the movie “Super Size Me,” where he eats only “health foods,” but which are actually filled with added sugar. For two months, he gave up his normal diet of fresh foods for one that contains 40 teaspoons of sugar daily. But he wasn’t eating the obvious sugary foods like ice cream, candy, and soda. He instead focused on those foods perceived as healthy, but which contain added sugars: juices, low-fat yogurt, healthy bars, cereals. The effect of the diet is shocking.

While I think the movie is a bit gimmicky to get his point across, maybe this will be added to the American dialogue we are having about food and how it can help, or in this case hurt, your body. You can read more about the film and watch a trailer by clicking here.

Homemade Salsa

apple orchard

The apple orchards are in full bloom!

I came to the conclusion recently that after writing this blog for four-plus years, I really need a recipe index for everything I’ve written and cooked. Because after searching, I discovered I’ve never passed along my favorite recipe for salsa! Guacamole, artichoke dip, hummus yes, but never salsa. After recently making a big batch, I figured I would right that wrong!

I know I’ve told you about the now defunct Horn of the Moon, a vegetarian restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont. As a teenager, I would take my babysitting money to enjoy pizza night on Tuesdays and sometimes would stop in for a sweet and hot carob (note, not hot chocolate!) after school. A definitive ’70s Vermont restaurant, there were spider plants hanging (in macramé plant holders) in the large windows that overlooked the Winooski River. Questionable décor, but the food was delicious. I even spent a day cooking in the kitchen in the hopes of landing a summer job. I can’t remember if they decided it wasn’t a good fit or if I did, but no matter, owner Ginny Callan has a beloved cookbook that I frequently turn to when l am looking to cook Vermont produce: rhubarb, fiddleheads, asparagus, and zucchini.

This recipe fits winter or summer; winter use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, summertime six medium-sized. I like it really spicy, so I’m liberal with the cayenne and sometimes I’ll add a jalapeno with the green pepper. A lot of chopping and measuring, but in the end you’ll know it was worth the effort. And it makes 3 cups, so there will be lots!

salsaSalsa
This recipe is from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, Harper & Row, 1987.

One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato juice (In season, 6 finely diced medium-sized fresh garden tomatoes are a wonderful option!)
1 TBS. minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 tsp. sunflower oil (MVK’s Note: I use canola or another light oil)
2 tsp, lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ cup very finely chopped onion (1 onion)
¾ cup very finely chopped green pepper (1 large pepper)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 or 2 fresh hot chili peppers, minced (optional)

Crush tomatoes; chip or run lightly through food processor. Combine with rest of ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 3 cups.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Food, Wine, and Books!

nh22Last weekend I attended the second “Food, Wine, and Books” fundraiser for the New Haven Community Library. Held at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, we had drank wine and ate samples of recipes cooked from a variety of books in support of this local library. The evening brought together my three favorite things: books, wine, and food!

nh21It was picture-perfect, the temperature was just right and no bugs yet. We sat on the porch with friends we hadn’t seen in months (we are all coming out of our winter hibernation!), and chatted about books and politics while sipping the delicious wine and food. A cucumber dip from the book, Life from Scratch (a food memoir that is on my radar, but I haven’t read yet), was so good, there was a pasta/salmon salad out of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I think my favorite was the chicken paté from my idol Ruth Reichl’s wonderful memoir, Tender at the Bone. (I’m always a sucker for paté.) It was a wonderful way to enjoy the springtime weather, support a good cause, and try out some new dishes!  

 

 

Simple Caesar Dressing

 

 

Spring has finally sprung in Vermont!

Spring has finally sprung in Vermont!

I’m back! Did you miss your Wednesday dose of Vermont recipes? In the last two weeks I’ve traveled to two states with my best friends and let someone else do the cooking for a change. It was a treat to not have to think about what was for dinner and having to do clean-up duty, but I admit it is nice to be back home in the comfort of my kitchen. The first night back, guess what was on the menu? My comfort standby, roast chicken, my favorite melted green beans, and Caesar salad.

I admit I am a Caesar salad snob. If it is on a menu in a restaurant, I will almost always try it—and am almost always disappointed. For me, Caesar salad dressing needs to be a perfect combination of lemon, fish, and cheese and I find most are not that way. But now I’ve found a perfect recipe that I can make at home that fits my criteria!

Remember around the end of March when I gave you this recipe for Brussels sprouts that used a little bit of fish sauce? If you bought a bottle at that time and wonder what else you can make with it, don’t worry, you’ll be making this recipe once a week from now on! I admit it is a bit more tedious than I like in the kitchen with all the measuring, but in the end it is well worth it! I’ve used it as dressing for other salads and it’s just a good!

I’m not one for croutons on my salad, although I do love the crunch. I’ve been known to add some radishes, but just some fresh romaine lettuce, dressing, topped with a little bit more black pepper and grated cheese, and I’m in heaven!

caesar dressing
Simple Caesar Dressing

This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light.

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 ½ teaspoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 crushed garlic clove
1 large pasteurized egg yolk

1. Combine the ingredients in a mini food processor; pulse until combined.

2. With the processor running, slowly pour 3 Tablespoons canola oil, 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and 2 Tablespoons water into egg yolk mixture. Process until just blended and smooth.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Inedible Food Jewelry!

pancakesAren’t these the cutest earrings ever? I friend pointed me in the direction of an Etsy site, where you can buy earrings and necklaces with all things food! Doughnuts, pizza, cookies, pies, pickles, olives, fruits and veggies, it’s all here! Even an everything bagel and a Chicago hot dog! It will take me forever to choose, they are all wonderful!

You can check all the offerings by clicking here.

Maple Syrup: It’s Not Just for Pancakes!

This is the sugarhouse of my friends, Don and Jodi Gale, Twin Maple Farm in Lincoln, Vermont. (Photo © Earle Ray)

My friends, Don and Jodi Gale’s sugarhouse, Twin Maple Sugarworks, in Lincoln, Vermont. These recipes were made with their syrup! (Photo © Earle Ray)

Springtime in Vermont means a few things: March Madness, mud season, and maple sugaring. “Cold nights and warm days” is the mantra for Vermont sugarmakers for the best conditions to get the sap running. We are fortunate to live in a place where we can go and just pick up some of this “liquid gold” nearby, but I am always looking for ways to use it aside from the usual pancakes, French toast, and warm biscuits and syrup (mmmmmm).

On a walk the other day, I pondered this thought and created two recipes in my head. And both were delicious! Rarely do I cook with carrots, other than sticking them in stirfrys and soups, but I was excited about some colorful carrots I had picked up from Trader Joe’s, so I thought about roasted carrots glazed with maple syrup. I already was thawing a pork tenderloin from the freezer and wondered how I was going to cook it. How about a Dijon-maple sauce to accompany it?

Both of these “recipes,” a word I use lightly since there is hardly any effort, were delicious with a hint of maple. I hear the sap might stop running this week after the string of really warm days we’ve had (finally!). So it will be another year before I will see the smoke in the sky with the promise of a new crop of syrup. But in the meantime, I have enough to keep us happy for the next 12 months!

carrotsMaple Glazed Carrots

5 carrots, peeled and sliced into long match sticks
1 small shallot, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons maple syrup

In a baking dish, add the sliced carrots, shallot, and a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Add some salt and pepper and toss to cover. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about an hour or until the carrots look brown. About 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the maple syrup and stir to coat, turn off the oven, and have them sit there until you’re ready to serve.

pork2Tenderloin with Dijon-Maple Sauce
1 pork tenderloin, 1- 1.25 pounds
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Roast the pork tenderloin in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until done. In a small bowl, mix the ingredients. Warm slowly in a saucepan and top the meat, or serve on the side.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Take Time to Smell the Roses (Or, Time For Someone Else to do the Cooking!)

As I do each April, I will be taking a couple of weeks off to enjoy my birthday month with some rest and relaxation with my girlfriends. I’ll be back and raring to go in May with all new springtime recipes! Let’s hope the weather will say SUMMER!