MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

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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

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!  

 

 

Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

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A drive over the mountain recently displayed no leaves left on the trees. Winter is coming. But sometimes we are treated to breathtaking sunrises, which brings beauty to the day.

Put me in the camp with former president George H. W. Bush–I don’t like broccoli. But I usually put some in my grocery cart each week. It’s dark, green, is filled with vitamins and nutrients, and everyone says you should eat it because it’s good for you. The only time I ever like it is late July and early August when I buy it at the farmer’s market; it was picked that morning and it so fresh it’s sweet. Steamed with a little bit of butter, salt, pepper, and a squirt or two of lemon, I could eat a huge bowl of the stuff. But any other time of the year, I’m less than enthused. So one day I said to myself if I should eat this, I’m going to eat it MY way!

It’s been a while since I’ve brought you a soup recipe, and in fact a while since I’ve even made a soup. But with the weather turning colder, I wanted something to warm me mid-day and decided to create a blended soup using the broccoli and  cheddar cheese I had in the fridge. This made just slightly over two cups, and was enough for two lunches; I am the type of eater who gets tired of eating the same thing every day and two days is about my max, so it was perfect for the week’s end of lunches.

I know how I’m eating my broccoli from now on!

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Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup
For a vegetarian version, you can easily substitute water or vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. And be careful with the cayenne; don’t just dump some in like I did! Add it 1/8 teaspoon at a time to taste. 

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
½ onion or about ½ cup, finely diced
About 5 cups of chopped broccoli
2 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth or water, more if needed later
¾-1 cup grated cheese
Cayenne pepper, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Add the olive oil to your soup pot and gently warm over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and sauté slowly until soft, about 5 minutes
  3. Stir in the broccoli, and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat for the broccoli to simmer until very soft, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Lower heat and with a soup ladle, puree the soup in a blender or food processor in batches until all the soup is very smooth and creamy.
  5. Stir in the cheese, cayenne, if using, and the salt and pepper. Add more liquid if needed, and serve!

Some Exciting News for My Vermont Kitchen!
Starting this week, My Vermont Kitchen is now a member of Cooking Light magazine’s “Bloggers’ Connection.” My Vermont Kitchen joins just a handful of food blogs from across the country that partner with the magazine. Since I’ve been a reader since the 1990s and really learned how to cook from the recipes in the magazine, I think this is a perfect collaboration. And don’t worry that things will change here; you’ll still receive a recipe every Wednesday morning, you just might get a few more each month! So it is a win-win situation for all!

Roasted Roots

The farmer’s market has been relegated to indoors and their crops of lettuce, tomatoes, corn, and basil have been made way for the roots: carrots, turnips, rutabaga, potatoes (white and sweet), Brussels sprouts, parsnips, beets, and leeks. From October to March, you can find me roasting some combination of root vegetables at least once a week, the variety based on whatever is on sale or what looks good in the bins. Even cauliflower and eggplant take on a different flavor when roasted. With a little bit of olive oil, a dash of Kosher salt, a grind of pepper, and perhaps a small sprinkle of thyme or another herb, the veggies turn out to be crunchy, sweet, and melt in your mouth.

I once heard a tip to roast your vegetables before making a soup instead of sauteing in the pot. Last weekend, I thawed out some homemade chicken broth and chicken I had stored in the freezer, put some cut up carrots, leeks, and celery on a cookie sheet with a little bit of oil and roasted them until they were dark and flavorful. Maybe it was the homemade broth, or maybe I was just lucky that afternoon, but it turned out to be one of the best pots of soup I had made in a long time. I will definitely roast veggies for soup from now on!

The following aren’t so much recipes, but an outline on how I roast my veggies, but you can select from what you like or desire. These are baseline basic, how I like them, but there is a cookbook by Vermont author, Andrea Chesman, called Recipes from the Root Cellar. This is a great book to use when I’m looking for something a bit beyond the basic!

This was Sunday's roasted roots!

Roasted Roots
This is a rough sketch of what I roast each weekend. Adding the onion or shallots and garlic definitely adds additional zip and flavor.

• Carrots
• Parsnips
• Fresh garlic, cloves cut in half
• Shallots or a small onion, cut into pieces
• Olive oil
• Salt (I prefer Kosher)
• Freshly ground pepper
• Dried thyme or another herb, if desired

Cut vegetables into large pieces and add to a baking dish. Add a little bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven. Cook until veggies are soft, yet brown, and serve.

Brussels Sprout “Hash”
This is so easy and delicious and can made for a dinner for one or ten. Crispy leeks with crispy Brussels sprouts, it’s the best! You can do the proportions to your taste.

Brussels sprouts
• Leeks
• Olive oil
• Salt (I prefer Kosher)
• Pepper

Gently slice the Brussels sprouts thinly and add them to a non-stick baking pan. Add leeks, a little bit of olive oil, mix, and top with salt and pepper. Cook at 375 degrees, stirring occasionally, until everything is brown and crispy.

Sweet Potato Fries
These are the best! Crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, these go with everything, from meatloaf to fish and everything in between.

Take two washed sweet potatoes (leave the skins on), cut in half lengthwise, and cut into wedges. Place on a cookie sheet and add a little bit of olive oil and toss. Bake at 375 degrees and stir on occasion. Cook until they are dark. Add a little bit of salt before serving.

Roasted Pickled Beets
If my hands are pink, you know I’ve been cooking beets! I make this in the summer and winter. Again, not so much as a recipe as an outline.

There are two ways I roast beets depending on my mood:

1. Take a few beets (don’t peel), scrub clean, and place in a shallow pie pan with a little bit of water and cover with foil. Cook at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or so, or a knife test in the middle shows they are done. When cool, peel and dice the beets.

2. Wash and peel a few beets and place on a pan with a little bit of oil. Cook at 375 degrees until soft.

In a bowl, add the diced beets, a few dashes of vinegar (I like sherry), and a little bit of thinly sliced red onion, if desired.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Grownup Cheese Points

In less than a month, I’ll be taking out my favorite pot to start making soups instead of boiling water for corn on the cob, but the other night I had a hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. I had all the fixings, and since it wasn’t too humid, I thought Saturday night was perfect to make my favorite summertime soup. (Full disclosure, this is loosely based on a Cooking Light recipe of many years ago.)

Now, I love this time of year for the tomatoes, but I have a really hard time taking heirloom tomatoes that I pay $4 a pound and making anything other than a delicious side salad, sandwich, or something that shows off its glorious flavor. So of course, you can use fresh tomatoes if you are incredibly lucky and your garden is overflowing; I chose canned. I had one 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes and a 14 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes. I dumped the can of whole tomatoes in the Dutch oven, took a pair of kitchen scissors, and snipped them into small pieces. I then took my potato masher and went around the pan smashing all the tomatoes until they were somewhat smooth. I added the can of diced tomatoes to add some body, and took one clove of fresh garlic and put it through the garlic press. I almost never use my garlic press, but sometimes it’s really handy; I wanted infused garlic flavor, not pieces that we would be chewing. Using the press was perfect. I put the burner on the lowest heat to warm for about 20 minutes or so and I talked to my dad while it was simmering and losing some of its liquid.

Following this, it’s easy as pie. I added ¾ cup of milk, I used 1 percent, but you can use what you have on hand. I then added about two tablespoons of cream cheese (you can use low-fat if desired), and whisked it into the soup until it was creamy. I then added about ¼ cup of torn basil leaves and stirred. I took it off the burner while I started on my cheese points.

One of my favorite breads is the seeded baguette from Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex, Vermont. When I buy this, I usually cut it half and slip one half in the freezer for later use. I took out two pieces and after they thawed, cut them horizontally. I topped one with Cabot cheddar cheese, the other had my favorite dill weed cheese and placed them on a cookie sheet under the broiler and cooked them until the cheese was bubbly. Earlier, I had sliced half a red onion and soaked the rings in apple cider vinegar. I placed a few slices on top of the cheese, a couple of slices of tomato, and happily munched away. Heaven in a bowl and on a plate that evening.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

(Note: Fresh tomatoes can be used in place of the canned tomatoes. I would estimate using 4-6 large.)
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes plus its juice
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, petite cut preferred
1 garlic clove, pressed
¾ cup milk (I use 1 percent)
2 Tablespoons cream cheese
¼ cup torn basil leaves, or to taste

In a Dutch oven, add the can of whole tomatoes, and snip the tomatoes with a pair of kitchen scissors or a potato masher. Add the diced tomatoes and garlic and simmer at the lowest heat for about 20 minutes or so. Add milk, and whisk in the cream cheese. Before serving, add basil, stir, and take off heat. Serves four.

Grownup Cheese Points
Take your favorite baguette and slice horizontally. Place your favorite cheese on top and place under the broiler until they become bubbly. Top with some vinegar marinated onions, sliced tomatoes, or as is. Any how you eat it and with whatever topping, it will be delicious. I promise!

Szechuan Cucumbers

I love this time of year as it means cucumbers–and lots of them! I make soups, salads, pickles (recipes to come!) almost on a daily basis. I always have a large stash in the fridge. One of my favorite side dishes is Szechuan Cucumbers, based on an old Eating Well recipe that I’ve changed so many times it’s become my own. It is reminiscent of a wonderful Thai restaurant that is no longer in business; at dim sum they offered a small plate of crunchy, spicy cucumbers with just the right amount of acid. It was heaven and I would have been happy just eating plate after plate of cucumbers if I could. And now that I have a recipe, I can!

I made this the other evening while waiting for the fish to finish cooking for dinner; it’s fast, easy, and delicious with almost no calories! (Note, that evening I didn’t follow my on instructions to leave in the fridge or an hour or so!) I have made substitutions through the years: yellow onions instead of red, peeled cucumbers, no ginger, no peanuts, eaten right away, and while it is still tasty, it’s not perfect. This is one instance where it is best for the recipe to be followed, in my opinion!

Szechuan Cucumbers
• 2 cucumbers, sliced horizontally, seeded, and cut into half-moon slices
• 1 jalapeno, minced
• ½ small red onion, thinly sliced (or more, depending on the size of your cucumbers, if they’re large, use more onion)
• Minced ginger, about a tablespoon or more to taste

• ½ cup rice vinegar
• 4 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
• *1 Tablespoon sugar (*Note: The original recipe called for sugar, but I usually leave it out. Feel free to use if you want to balance out the vinegar and soy sauce.)

• ¼ cup chopped peanuts

In a bowl, add the cucumber, onion, pepper, and ginger and mix. Measure out the liquid, mix together,  add to the bowl, and mix again. Place in refrigerator for an hour or two before serving. Right before serving, give it one last stir, add the chopped peanuts,  and enjoy!