Posts tagged: fall recipes
November 17, 2011

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Ground Lamb, and Kasseri

We have not been cooking much lately. In the new age of Choose Two, a home-cooked dinner seems to be getting the short end of the stick. And, as always, I have my plans about how I will overcome: saved online shopping lists, visual inspiration of quick weeknight meals. I’m still feeling my way. But a benefit of the Choose Two era is that I’m learning to let go of any associated guilt.

So with minimal cooking going on, coming back to the same recipe twice in two weeks feels all the more meaningful. This dinner was an out-of-the park triumph.

It’s a recipe that’s familiar in its bolognese-like construction, but with unique ingredient substitutes: lamb for ground beef, kasseri (a Greek sheep’s milk cheese) for Parmesan, cilantro for parsley. (And then there’s cumin and cinnamon, oh my!) The result is heaven: an unexpected, utterly surprising explosion of flavor. On a weeknight!

Is there a weeknight recipe you’ve stumbled upon lately that’s knocked your socks off? I need additions to my inspiration file!

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October 12, 2011

Sweet Suprises and Apple Pie

There is much to be said for what discomforts a change of scenery can ease. And because I have been nursing a cold with a sore throat that only tom yum soup, apple cider, and hot tea could make feel better, we went apple picking.

It was 80 degrees, and the pumpkins and hay bales looked completely out of place in the hot sun. Sebastian and I piled into a wagon filled with children and their parents and rode into an orchard where rows and rows of Piñata apples were––literally!––ripe for the picking. It was so pretty there, with tiny apple blossoms and lush, glossy leaves on the trees, dark green grass below our feet and a big blue sky above. We wandered between trees to the Empires, then the Golden Delicious, and finally the Suncrisps. Later, with our modest five-pound haul, we walked back to the orchard entrance and bought some cider donuts, still hot in their white paper bag. We shared a cold bottle of cider and sat in a shady spot in the grass. I wondered what had taken me so long to do what has long been on my fall fun list.

Colds lead to thick, murky thoughts and minutes lost to staring off into the distance. And so Sebastian had to figure out what to make with all those apples. Wouldn’t you know that the rookie would come out of the gates with a grand slam? My mom makes the simplest of apple pies: just peeled wedges, sugar, cinnamon, and dots of butter. What Sebastian baked was ultra-rich, and bubbled over with a caramel-like sauce. It might have been the best slice of apple pie I’ve ever had. We shared a single slice hot from the oven late last night and pronounced it a victory. (But I’m still partial to tarte tatin.)

I didn’t intend for this post to be about Sebastian’s triumph in the kitchen or to tell you about the killer apple pie recipe he found. Both were just serendipity! I set out just to recount this kind of magic moment in the weekend where even with an aching throat there was something so sweet about wandering, foggy-headed, through an orchard in the sunshine. Why did something so simple feel so utterly divine?

We play this game in our house from time to time, “what was your favorite moment?” And the surprising thing is that it’s never the fancy dinners or big to-dos we planned for, spent money on. It’s always something unassuming and random, like a nice walk, or seeing some hilarious dog, or reaching up into an apple tree, grabbing a piece of ripe fruit, and biting right into it.

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February 23, 2011

Ginger Molasses Cookies

At my yoga studio we are greeted with hot tea and dark, dense bite-sized cookies after class. They are crunchy––my friend says she tastes caramel––with hints of ginger and molasses. They put me in a state.

What I mean to say is that I don’t even think much of molasses cookies ordinarily. I know my dad likes them, and that my mom used to buy the soft-baked kind at Stop & Shop, dusted with fine grains of sugar. There are memories there, but not the kind I’m desperate to revisit; I’m more of a chocolate chip kind of woman.

Those yoga studio cookies changed everything. And while this recipe doesn’t approximate what those cookies are all about, it succeeds at something else: soft, yielding cookies with just the right mix of sugar and spice. They are the most wholesome cookie you could imagine; they ask you to please pour a cup of milk and eat them in your pajamas.

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January 14, 2011

French Friday: Fennel and Apple Meatloaf

If it seems like a stretch to call a meatloaf French, I hope you’ll permit the reach. Fennel and apple seem like a dignified way to class up this ’50s housewife favorite, and did I mention the gruyère? That practically makes it bona fide.

I’ve had two meatloaf recipes in life that were worth repeating. This one, and one that seemed a little Continental with its inclusion of prunes. (Am I saying that a recipe is “French” if it’s got that savory-with-fruit thing going on? Who knows.) I was introduced to that recipe where I get a lot of my good food ideas: book club.

Which brings me, tangentially, to the pleasures of belonging to a social club. Are you guys in book clubs? Are there women you meet for tea and knitting, to talk about wine, to practice yoga together, or to swap mixtapes? It doesn’t really matter what the impetus is that brings you together (though a shared interest certainly leads to sustained enthusiasm when the meeting falls on a cold, rainy night in February). What matters is the idea incubator and mutual support that happens when you’re together. We talk about the book or cast on our stitches and then the real meeting comes to order: someone needs to talk about job hunting, getting over a broken heart, how to redo the kitchen, or just inexplicably having a bad case of the blues. Not to get all red tent, ’70s consciousness-raising on you, but something powerful happens when women come together like this.

My college experience had an idea-incubator quality to it among my female friends that made me hunger for the same experience in the real world. It turns out, though, that grown-up life isn’t naturally set up to foster this kind of togetherness. We all live separately, cordoned off in our own snug little homes, working away in our individual cubicle corrals, sweating silently side-by-side on the treadmills at the gym. Yet that sense of connecting, of being understood, of belonging to a group that likes each other and spends time together because they elect to––not because they’re receiving a paycheck at week’s end or share the same DNA––that experience can bring so much meaning to the day-in, day-out experience of waking up, punching in, and slogging through. A sense of community can sustain us through so much.

I spent the days leading up to New Year’s Eve in a white farmhouse in Wisconsin. There were eight of us, and three people cooked side by side in the kitchen, passing behind each other, crossing arms to reach pots on the stove, compromising on oven temperatures. Then we would sit down at the long table, folded paper towels under our knives, wine in Anchor Hocking teacups, and eat. I realized then, just clear as day, that one of my greatest pleasures in life is sitting down to a meal at a table filled with people.

“This is just what it would feel like to be in a really big family,” someone––maybe me––said. “Yeah,” came the expected quip, “except we would all hate each other.”

This is all to say: I hope you find a spot of community this weekend, whether elected or familial, and share a meal together. Maybe even this meatloaf.

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