Roasted Grapes Make Delectable Fall Appetizers

Roasted Grape and Goat Cheese Toasts 2 2736x3648Last week I wrote about the delicious overnight oats we enjoyed at our hotel on Nantucket, but that wasn’t the only culinary inspiration the island sparked. I was also taken with some unusual appetizers prepared with baguette slices spread with cream cheese and topped with roasted red grapes and sunflower seeds.

At home I couldn’t wait to make these little treats in my own kitchen. I tried several cheeses, and settled on some snowy white chèvre to replace the cream cheese in the original version. And, toasted walnuts were just as good as sunflower seeds.

Roasting the grapes was a breeze. You coat them with olive oil, pop them in the oven for Continue reading

A Delicious Breakfast on Nantucket

Overnght Oats with Fruit and Nuts 1  3648x2736Earlier this month we spent a long weekend on Nantucket. We were there for the wedding of friends, and stayed in a small hotel called 76 Main near the center of town. The hotel offered breakfast to its guests, so the first morning we headed to the breakfast room expecting platters of scrambled eggs, ham, and bacon plus baskets of toasts, bagels, and muffins. Instead we gazed upon a beautiful buffet of light, colorful small plates featuring fruits, vegetables, and grains as well as both savory and sweet baked goods.

There were small bowls of crispy fried kale leaves served with red and yellow cherry tomatoes, wedges of cheese garnished with walnuts and glistening jam, and plates of melon and mint. Onion and cheddar scones caught my eye too. But, the small Mason jars filled with delicious overnight oats topped with dried fruits and nuts were my favorite.

Turns out that these oats are 76 Main’s signature dish, so the hotel happily shared the Continue reading

An All-In-One Dish for Early Fall

Cornmeal Coated Chicken_sundaycasseroles_ 5

Photo by Susie Cushner

Each year when late spring rolls around, I pack up my heavy winter clothes, and replace them with warm weather gear.The same type of seasonal exchange happens in my kitchen. The minute the thermometer starts to climb, I put away recipes for robust dishes and turn to lighter fare.

After a short heat wave, this week began with cooler days, and made me start thinking of heartier cooking. I knew right where to look for inspiration and pulled out my Sunday Casseroles, a book (published last fall) of warming, all-in-one dishes. Within minutes I spotted a perfect main course for early fall — Cornmeal-Coated Chicken with Ancho Chiles, Beans, and Corn. Continue reading

Hot Fall Weather Brings Delicious Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes in Fennel Seed Vinaigrette 1 2956x2369Although summer unofficially ended after Labor Day, the calendar says we have until the 21st before this season comes to a close. For those of us here in New England (and for plenty of others around the country) enduring scorching temperatures this week, summer seems far from gone. The upside of this warm weather has been that our farmers’ markets are still bursting with gorgeous produce, including corn, beans, okra, peaches, plums, and my favorite–countless varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

I am a sucker for buying these brilliantly hued tomatoes. I pick up reds like Cherokee Purple, yellows called Nebraska Wedding, orange strains labeled Jaune Flame, and greens such as Green Zebras. I also mix up the sizes, purchasing large orbs, slender oblong ones, and petite cherry tomato heirlooms.

You can use any of these varieties or your personal favorites in the following heirloom Continue reading

Three Favorite Recipes for Labor Day Weekend

A few days ago I started thinking about what recipe I might post for Labor Day weekend cooks! Should I create a new glaze for ribs, try an unusual salsa for grilled fish, or invent a special dessert? True confession: between traveling to NY and Boston for short visits, and testing dishes for my new soup book, time ran out on me. So I decided to pick three of my best recipes from past postings to share instead. Each is one of my favorites and each is perfect for this long, end-of-summer holiday.

If you haven’t planned your Labor Day menus either, you can definitely rely on these trusted recipes!

Hamburgers with Mahon Cheese, Avocados, and Chipotle Mayo

The chili-scented burgers topped with avocados and Mahon cheese are served on buns slathered with quickly made chipotle mayo. I posted them for Fathers’ Day originally, but my husband would welcome them any day of the year!

Grilled Salmon with a Spicy Apricot Lime Glaze

The apricot and lime glazed salmon fillets which get a shot of heat from some Sriraccha are just as tempting. They are simple to assemble and need only a few minutes on the grill. Slightly charred on the outside with tender and moist flesh, they are a definite winner.

Blueberry Pan Cake with Lemon Crème Fraîche

And for dessert, the first thing that came to mind was a scrumptious blueberry cake served with lemon crème fraîche. Blueberries seem to float suspended in this exceptionally tender cake which serves 12 easily! A friend, shared the recipe, saying that was always a hit with her family, Now it’s one with mine too.




Fabulous Warm Peach Dessert in 45 minutes!

Individual Peach Clafoutis 1 3648x2736-001The peaches this year in New England have been exceptional! I can’t remember a recent summer when this fruit has been more bountiful or had such juicy, flavorful flesh. Farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and grocery stores in our small town have all proudly displayed bins—of both yellow and white—ripe enough for eating on the spot. As a result, I have been bringing home bagfuls of the fuzzy orbs and using them in various ways.

One of my favorite creations has been a recipe for individual peach clafoutis (pronounced CLA FU TEA), a specialty of the Limousin, an area in south central France. It is one of the simplest yet most delicious French desserts a home cook can prepare. Traditionally, it is made with cherries that are covered with a rich pancake-style batter, then baked. My version, however, calls for fresh sliced peaches scented with hints of cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. When baked the batter rises just slightly above the sides of the pan and then falls like a soufflé as it rests. Continue reading

Fresh Corn Stars in a Delicious Summer Risotto

Corn Risotto with Sauteed Mushrooms 1 3616x2577Earlier this month on a picture-perfect summer evening, my husband and I and a good friend ate outside on the terrace of Amherst’s Lord Jeffrey Inn. Our group of three looked at the interesting menu, and surprisingly all ordered the corn risotto as our main course. (If you knew what a carnivore my spouse, Ron, is, you’d be as stunned as I that he by-passed the handsome steak offering for this vegetable main course.). The waitress assured us that we wouldn’t be disappointed, and she was right.

The chef had made a delicious risotto by cooking arborio rice (the classic short, starchy grain used for this Northern Italian specialty) in simmering stock along with fresh corn kernels. As garnishes he had topped each serving with a spoonful of pickled piquillo peppers and some sautéed hen mushrooms. One bite and we were all smitten.

At home, I couldn’t get the dish out of my mind, and set out to create my own version. I sautéed chopped shallots in butter, along with corn and rice. Then for the next 20 minutes I slowly added ladlefuls of simmering broth to the pot, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed before ladling in more. Continue reading

Shooting Soup Nights

For the past few weeks I have been obsessed with readying my house for a photo shoot for my newest book, Soup Nights (Rizzoli, fall of 2016). Back in the spring my editor, Caitlin Leffel, and I discussed using the country-like setting of my home as the backdrop for many of the photos in the book, and set a date for the first week in August.

From then on my number of to-do lists multiplied to infinity! I was responsible for assembling a team of cooks to prepare 40 recipes so they were picture perfect, and had to locate countless props (bowls, plates, linens, marble slabs, pieces of slate, honed wood, and more). Barb Pitoniak and Diana Tindall prepared countless recipes for the shoot, while my long-time assistant, Emily Bell, drove a van filled with props from Ohio to Massachusetts to help out.

I also needed to find a professional food stylist in the area and lucked upon Joy Howard. From the New York end, my editor and a talented photographer, Harry Zernike, would be arriving with shooting scripts and lots of exotic photographic equipment.

Lemon Rosemary Cookies on baking rack 1 3648x2736

Although I was prepared for chaos and calamities, the shoot went off without a hitch. The results were beautiful photos–Cucumber Vichyssoise; Mussel Soup with Tomato Saffron Crème; Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Cream; Fennel and Carrot Brodo with Red Quinoa. And others of sides and desserts–Oak Leaf and Apple Salad with Honey Cider Dressing; Lobster BLTs; Ham and Cheese Panini with Apple Slaw; and, Lemon Rosemary Shortbreads.

Those Lemon Rosemary Shortbreads were everyone’s favorite so I’m happy to share the recipe here! Continue reading

Don’t Miss This Summer Bargain!

EyeCandy_July_backyardcooking-3One of my favorite times of year has come around again! Like last year, My Big Book of Backyard Cooking will be featured across a variety of e-book retailers for $.99 (and up) for this month. This is a special event by Chronicle Books called “Chronicle Eye Candy”—a great opportunity for cookbook lovers!

Want to read more about these summer steals? Click here to read my last post (and to find more about My Big Book of Backyard Cooking.)


Reinventing the Classic Tuna Sandwich

Tuna, Hummus, Kalamatas on Multi-Grain 1 3648x2736For the past few months, I’ve spent hours in the kitchen with my talented assistants working on a new soup book. Not only have we tested countless brodos, bisques, gazpachos, and potages, we’ve been creating sandwiches to serve alongside them.

One special creation—a tuna salad combo prepared with hummus, kalamatas, and cucumbers—got high marks from the book’s testers. For the dressing, I replaced much of the mayonnaise in the usual versions with hummus, and seasoned the salad with lemon, cumin, and a touch of mint. Other additions included the classic duo of chopped onions and celery.

This new tuna mixture is delicious on toasted multi-grain slices, but you could serve it just Continue reading