A recipe booklet just for you

The leaves are gone and I’ve already lost my favorite pair of gloves.

Self-diagnosis: I think I have S.A.D.

Or you could say I just plain don’t LIKE it when the dark gathers in at five o’clock and the temperature drops. We’re in it for the long haul now, so maybe this year I’ll try to take it with a little more grace, buy another great pair of gloves and some SmartWool socks. Buck up. Embrace it. See the beauty in the darkness. 

The holidays, if you don’t let them oppress you, can help you over the hump. Then it’s already January and you get five more minutes of light every day. At least that’s what Mom always said. But if she could, she would escape somewhere south for a few weeks. Wise woman, that mother of mine.

No escapes planned yet, but I have been planning a little something just for you. It’s a little book(let) of recipes that you can use right now. Actually, it is more of an impulsive, not-so-very-planned grab bag of recipes than a focused holiday roundup. I was inspired by Sarah of

TheYellow House

blog, whose booklet of tomato recipes is quite lovely. I’m basically tech-averse, but I decided it’s high time to get over that. I’m pre-empting a New Year’s resolution here. Meet the brand new, less tech-averse me, going forward fearlessly into the future. So far, so good.

So have a look, and enjoy.

Don't be shy, open it!  In addition to the stew recipe posted here, you will find these recipes:

Cornmeal blueberry pancakes

Homemade muesli with apples

Whole grain buttermilk crackers

Cranberry chutney

Butternut squash stew and soup

Spiced Pita crisps

Tuscan roasted peppers with olives and capers

Kale with cranberries

Roasted butternut squash with ginger and miso

Hot cocoa for the cook

Butternut squash and chickpea stew

Serves 8 

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 piece (3 inches) fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cinnamon sticks

Salt and black pepper, to taste

3 large peeled butternut squash halves, cut into 1-inch chunks (8 cups)

1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas

1 can (15 ounces) light coconut milk

3 cups vegetable stock

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, for garnish

2 limes, quartered, for garnish

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and celery and

cook, stirring often, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until soft. Add the ginger, coriander,

cayenne, cinnamon sticks, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

2. Add the squash, bell pepper, tomatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, and stock to the pot.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are

tender.

3. Stir in the lime juice and honey. Remove the cinnamon sticks and taste for seasoning.

Add more salt and pepper, if you like. Serve in bowls over jasmine rice

Posted on November 16, 2013 and filed under Fall recipes, E-booklet.

Apple snack cake

It’s been a slow, warm slide into fall this year, with no hard frost yet. It feels almost strange, but I’ll take it. The honeymoon can’t last forever though. On what I knew portended to the last balmy day of Indian summer, I drove out to a nearby apple orchard. The bubble over my head pictured pies, cakes, and applesauce, and sure enough with a newly acquired mother lode of apples, I’ve been hard at it making those apple dreams come true.

One of the benefits of picking your own apples is that you can taste a lot of varieties. Wow. I had forgotten how fresh and crisp an apple right off the tree tastes. As you amble through the orchard you have the opportunity to taste and compare a bunch of varieties, though after three of four samples, I confess I began to confuse them. The most common Massachusetts grown apple varieties are Cortland, McIntosh, Macoun, Empire, and Honeycrisp, though there are many more. You can’t beat the Honeycrisp for eating—it is exactly as it sounds: sweet, refreshing, and with a satisfying crunch—and it’s good for baking, too. Check out this

GUIDE

for descriptions of apple varieties and their uses. 

Amy Traverso, author of a definitive treatise and guide to apples,

The Apple Lover’s Cookbook

,  also has a helpful

VIDEO

to show you a very efficient way to peel apples.

I guess great minds think alike because I’ve been peeling apples this way for decades. The method is nothing fancy, but if you’ve made more than 500 apple pies in your lifetime (and I’m sure I have as a pastry chef) you will definitely come up with a method that works.

If we hadn’t eaten all the cake right after I made it, it would be the perfect snack to litter my keyboard with crumbs right now. Alas, I will have to make it again soon, as I hope you will. For after school, for breakfast, for a coffee break, for afternoon tea, for when you feel good, for when you feel bad, this apple cake hits the mark. On the surface it looks as plain as can be, but cut into it and discover deep apple goodness.

Apple snack cake

Makes one 9- by 13-inch cake

APPLES

2 tablespoons butter

3 cooking apples (I used Honeycrisp), peeled and cut into 1-inch dice, to make about 4 cups

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

A pinch of salt

1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples, and cook until they start to take on a some color. Add the brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring, for a couple of more minutes, or until apples are slightly softened but still hold their shape. Cool apples in the pan.

CAKE

Butter and flour for the cake pan

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into slices

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 9 by 13-inch baking pan, tapping out the excess flour.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed after each addition. Add the vanilla and milk, and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

5. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour. Mix until incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and mix for 15 seconds, or until smooth.

6. In the baking pan, spread half the batter, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Spread the apples on top, and sprinkle them with the cinnamon. Dollop the remaining batter in large spoonfuls over the apples, and carefully spread batter over the apples with the back of a spoon.

7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the pan. Cut into squares.

More apple recipes to try

Vegan apple tart with oliveoil crust 

Grandmother’s apple cake 

French apple tart 

Gingerbread apple upside-down cake

Late harvest cake with apples, pears and grapes 

Easy homemade applesauce (no peeling, no kidding) 

Apples baked in cider

Posted on October 30, 2013 and filed under Sweets, Cakes, Fruit desserts.

Herb salt

Some things are mysterious and unexpected. For example, how can I explain the gargantuan rosemary plant now in my garden? The Mediterranean climate is confined to the stuff of dream vacations here in the Northeast, so how did this happen in my little semi-urban herb patch? Just so you know, I am a neglectful gardener. I plant and clean in the spring, and then try to remember to weed and water throughout the summer. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. Mostly I don’t.

A couple of years ago, I planted three 3-inch pots of rosemary. They grew together to make a pretty substantial (but not unusually large) plant. Normally I would dig it up, shove it in a big pot, and bring it inside to pick sprigs until late winter when the plant would expire. But I did not do that. I procrastinated, and decided to deal with it in the spring. Along came an unseasonably mild winter. By spring, the plant looked dead, but with more procrastination on my part, it began to show signs of life. Okay! More benign neglect and the plant thrived.

Repeat the following year, with no expectations that my good luck would hold. As you can see from the photo above, taken in June, it did. This summer I luxuriated in a profusion of rosemary.

Other mysterious and unexpected events have transpired lately. We sold our house and got ready to move. I made peace with parting with my garden by promising myself to make lots of lots of this herb salt to take with me as a token, and laid plans for a new garden somewhere, as yet unknown. After readying our house to sell, packing, and finding a new house, suddenly, our house wasn’t sold after all. All bets are off now. We are riding a roller coaster and I’m hanging on and hanging in. It’s not comfortable. I am trying to enjoy the ride, but like most people, I’m not so good at open-ended uncertainty.

But who knows, perhaps the mysterious and unexpected will show up at my door any minute now. Perhaps by next summer I will have a new herb patch. Or perhaps not. In the meantime, while my life shifts and turns, I plan on using this salt to season all the comforting cool weather foods: roast chickens, roasted potatoes and squash and onions, pan roasted pork chops, vegetable tians, and whatever else I might imagine (

Fougasse

? Crackers? Thick, buttery shortbread rounds with a touch of salt?) Mmmm.

I spent a good deal of time in the car this summer, and often listened to

The Splendid Table

through Stitcher Radio and my phone—a boon for long drives. The recipe here is adapted from Sally Schneider’s description on that program. I made three versions, which I noted below. One is simply rosemary and salt, another is with rosemary, sage, and lavender (lavender is very bossy, so go easy) and another is rosemary, sage, and lemon. You could chop some garlic along with the salt, but I refrained, preferring to add the garlic later. You can chop by hand or in the food processer. Lazy bones (me) prefers the processor, but be careful not to overdo it and make a mush of it. The formula is basically 1/2 cup coarse sea salt (salt grains the size of kosher salt) to 2 cups loosely packed herb leaves. Mix and match as you please, then spread on a baking sheet to dry for a couple of days. While the salt draws out the moisture from the herbs it also absorbs a ton of flavor.

Herb salt recipe (adapted from Sally Schneider)

Makes 1 cup herb salt

#1

1/2 cup coarse sea salt

2 cups loosely packed rosemary leaves

#2

1/2 cup coarse sea salt

1 cup loosely packed rosemary leaves

1 cup loosely packed sage leaves

5 or 6 lavender buds

#3

Any of the above, plus

Finely chopped zest of 1 lemon

Method:

1. In a food processor, pulse the herbs with 1/4 cup salt repeatedly until the herbs are chopped but not annihilated. Add the remaining salt and pulse once or twice to mix.

2. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and leave to air dry for 2 or 3 days, or until completely dry. Store in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid.

Posted on October 20, 2013 and filed under Condiments and Jams.

Cold brewed iced coffee: a cure for the 3 o'clock slump

Cold brewed coffee, where have you been all my life? I know, there’s been quite a buzz, ha ha, about the cold infusion method of brewing coffee of late, but it went right over my head. I swear it was the stultifying consequence of humidity. A few weeks ago, such was the extent of my body’s lethargy that I seriously considered making a doctor’s appointment. Furthermore, everything above the neck was cotton-infused, an effect I also ascribe to the three H’s. But now, thanks to you, iced coffee, I think I am cured.

To backtrack, for full disclosure, I should tell you that I experimented with what I call the Decaffeination Project. Not too long ago, in a period of high stress, I wondered if my daily morning caffeine habit (a homemade latte) was in some way exacerbating the high anxiety of the dramas that whooshed in every time I opened the door a crack. Wary of headaches, I came up with a gradual withdrawal plan: drink the usual cup of coffee every other day for a few weeks and substitute a very pleasant herbal tea on off days. Taper off until coffee was history.

Time passed. Aside from making a beeline to my beloved espresso machine every morning before I remembered that, duh, I don’t do that anymore, nothing really happened. I didn’t feel less anxious; the Universe in all its wisdom was making sure of that. My energy level felt a teensy bit smoother, and I patted myself on the back for being able to do without something I thought I could not. But really? What is the point if I feel the same? I could find no rationale to support giving up coffee. I am not one to go all Puritanical about food. That’s just dumb. And so I decided that I would drink it now and then, when I felt like it.

After the third day of unproductive sloth last week, I resolved it was time to medicate with coffee. I made a cup of espresso and diluted it with milk and ice. It definitely worked its magic. I was back! Thank you, caffeine. The only problem was that I didn’t like it. After all those months of cossetting my palate, the coffee was as jarring and brash as a boom box on a beautiful beach.

Enter the chilly brew.

Radio surfing on a long summer drive, I stumbled upon a description of the cold infusion method of making coffee. At home, I let my fingers do the googling. I found several methods, all pretty much the same.

The New York Times gives dead simple advice: stir coarsely ground medium-roast coffee with some water in a jar, wait 12 hours, strain, dilute and drink. Dan Souza from

America’s Test Kitchen has more precise, if not slightly more complicated, instructions.

I went the simple route, using Tanzanian coffee. I had visited Gibb’s Farm twice with my friends Judi and Rick from Thomson Safaris  (before and after they bought it and made it even more beautiful) and every once in a while they bring me some coffee. It is, in my opinion, the perfect candidate for the cold infusion method.

Iced coffee made this way is everything it is cracked up to be: the toasty flavors are round and smooth and go down as soothingly as the sound of gentle waves on a beautiful beach. So long boom box, hello cold-brewed iced coffee.

This is a no-fuss method. You could play around with proportions of coffee to water, and with the fineness of the coffee grounds. The grounds will sink to the bottom of the jar, so pour the coffee off the top carefully when you strain it the first time and leave the grounds behind in the jar. For the second straining, I use a tea strainer lined with a piece of paper towel—there are not too many grounds left to filter at this point.

This method results in a concentrated brew, which needs to be diluted to taste. I like to add quite a bit whole milk and a little sugar, even though I never drink hot coffee with sugar. It’s a treat. And though I’m kind of a purist, the recipe invites improvisation: how about adding some cinnamon sticks or chai spices? You could also make Vietnamese style coffee by adding sweetened condensed milk, being sure to leave the coffee fairly strong.

You just can’t go wrong!

Cold brewed iced coffee recipe
Makes 1 cup, or enough for 4 servings of iced coffee

1/2 cup coarsely ground medium-roast coffee
1 1/2 cups cool water

1. Stir coffee and water together in a jar. Let stand for 12 hours at room temperature, or longer (up to 24 hours.)

2. Pour coffee through a fine-mesh strainer into a measuring cup, leaving the grounds behind. Discard the grounds and rinse out the jar.

3. Set a tea strainer over the jar and line with a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel. Strain the coffee again into the jar. Refrigerate until ready to use. It should keep for several days in the refrigerator.

For iced coffee, fill a glass with ice. Add 1/4 cup of brewed coffee and dilute with water or milk to taste. Add sugar and a pinch of salt (Dan Souza’s suggestion), if you like.

Posted on August 6, 2013 and filed under Drinks.

Summer: lobster chowder

Barbara's garden

Maine. I need my summer fix. And lucky me, I have friends in nice places. Who invite me to stay. I arrived after a long hot spell at home in Boston, but it was more of the same. A thick and sultry afternoon. So I went straight down to the dock. At low tide, it took a while to wade out far enough to dunk in the five-gasp take-away-your-breath chill of Maine water. But it is obligatory. Important. Bracing. Cleansing. Transforming.

I’m glad I did. Because even my wonderful, thoughtful hosts have no authority over fickle New England weather.

Same time next year, dear friends. And thank you.

On my way home I stopped at the local lobster pound and picked up some cooked lobsters to pack in my cooler. I made a promise to extend my trip and treat the folks back home to lobster chowder.

My mother always said the Fourth of July is the beginning of the end. Thanks for the cheery thought, Mom. But now it really does seem that summer is going by too fast.

Sweet lobster meat, sweet corn, potatoes, cream and smoky bacon are the classic foundations of any New England chowder. For a truly exceptional soup, make the flavorful broth from the lobster shells. Many fish markets sell cooked lobsters in the shell if you give them about an hour’s notice. You won’t need to add much salt—there is plenty in the briny shells.

Lobster chowder

Serves 6

3 cooked 1 1/2-pound lobsters, in the shells

1 large leek, (white and green part separated), sliced

1 cup white wine

9 cups water

4 slices (6 ounces) thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice

2 stalks celery, cut into small dice

Black pepper to taste

3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob

1 cup heavy cream

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Set a colander over a bowl. Hold the lobsters over the colander, and using lobster crackers or a nutcracker and a small fork, remove the meat, allowing the juices to dribble into the bowl. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces and transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate.

2. In a large soup pot, combine the shells and bodies, their accumulated juices, the sliced green part of the leek, the wine, and the water. Over high heat, bring the liquid to a boil. Decrease the heat to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes. Strain the broth into a bowl. Discard the shells and leeks.

3. Rinse and wipe out the pot. Add the bacon, and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until it renders its fat and begins to crisp. Add the white part of the leek, the celery, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and lobster stock, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

4. Add the corn to the pot and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the lobster and cream, and simmer for about 3 minutes more, or until the chowder is hot all the way through. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Add more pepper and lemon juice if you like.

Fairy mansion

Fairy house

Posted on July 30, 2013 and filed under Soups, Main dish, Seafood.