Post Thanksgiving Lighter Cooking

fall-salad-of-roasted-cauliflower-grapes-and-red-onionThis year I didn’t get to make rich turkey stock or use the leftover bird in my After- Thanksgiving Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Bacon Chowder (from my new Soup Nights). If you follow me on Facebook, you know that our family’s wonderful shelter dog, Oxford, decided to treat himself to a midnight snack of surplus turkey that was unwisely set out on the kitchen counter!

So, instead of turkey sandwiches and soups, I’ve turned to other post-holiday fare this week. One dish in particular—a salad prepared with roasted cauliflower florets, red grapes, and red onions tossed in an unusual curry vinaigrette— turned out to be a real winner. Continue reading

So What to Cook When Entertaining Food Pros!

Last weekend I invited four food professionals for wine and appetizers at our house. It was family weekend at Amherst College and I was to be a moderator for a session called “Rewarding Careers in the Food World.” Ted Lee, part of that celebrated duo, The Lee Brothers of Southern cooking fame, Jenny Rosenstrach author of the just released How To Celebrate Everything, Joy Howard, a talented food stylist, and Caitlin Leffel, my terrific food editor at Rizzoli for Soup Nights were the panelists.

So what to serve them? I wanted the nibbles to be simple, seasonal, and reflect our local food scene. Roasted Grape and Goat Cheese Toasts, French radishes (from my farmers’ market) served with sweet butter and sea salt, and a platter of New England cheeses including two Grafton cheddars from Vermont and an artisanal blue, were on the menu. The most popular appetizers of the evening, though, were the savory palmiers with white cheddar, pears, and cumin. Continue reading

Hamburgers with Red Pepper and Shallot Relish

hamburgers-with-red-pepper-and-shallot-relishMy son, Mike, is a passionate sports fan. Ask him about any national team—football, basketball, baseball—and in seconds he can reel off their top players and the teams’ rankings. A talented cook, he is just as zealous about food and wine. Often he combines these two obsessions when he and his wife invite friends over for supper and a game. He keeps track of all the important match ups, and this week’s Ohio State –Oklahoma duel is his top priority! (Truth be told he’s a huge Buckeye fan!)

I mentioned to him the hamburgers with red pepper and shallot relish that I recently created as they are the type of dish he likes to serve for football Saturdays! The relish, prepared with sautéed red bell peppers and shallots, is scented with red pepper flakes and a hint of smoked paprika. A splash of red wine vinegar and a few spoonfuls of tomato paste round out the simple seasonings. No sugar is called for here, since he sautéed Continue reading

Great Burgers for Quick Fall Suppers

Fall burgers with mushrooms and aged cheddar 2 3648x2736Because I have been doing copy edits for my new book, Soup Nights, for the past few weeks, I’ve spent more time in front of my computer than in the kitchen. As a result we’ve ordered take-out tacos and pizzas, and become familiar with far too many rotisserie chickens. On those nights when I have cooked, I’ve looked to recipes that take no more than 30 minutes to prepare, like fall burgers with sautéed mushrooms and aged cheddar. These burgers proved so popular with my husband that I’ve made them three times this month alone.

I believe that the secret to good burgers is using good ingredients, so I bought 85 % grass fed beef for mine, but any high quality ground beef will work. I also opted for tender, soft potato buns, and picked an aged Vermont white cheddar that melts beautifully. For the mushrooms I used fresh shiitakes and Baby Bellas. Continue reading

Delicious Chicken Soup for Cool Fall Nights

Creamy Chicken Soup with Autumn Vegetables 1 3648x2736Dear Readers,
No, I have not forgotten about you! I have been writing, re-writing, testing and re-testing recipes for my new book, Soup Nights! The first half of the manuscript was due last Thursday at 5 PM. I hit the “send” button at 4:45! I have a breather now until the next half is due on November 15th, so I wanted to share with all of you a favorite recipe from the batch I just sent off. It’s for delicious Creamy Chicken Soup with Autumn Vegetables.

This is comfort food at its best, perfect to serve as the cool days of fall arrive. Like most cream of chicken soups, it is thickened with a little flour, but the similarities end there. An unexpected addition of fresh autumn produce, including diced butternut squash, sliced Brussels sprouts, and Baby Bella mushrooms enhance this special version, while some half and half enriches it.

For the 2 cups of diced chicken called for, you can use leftover roast chicken. Since I am always in a rush, I rely on a good quality purchased rotisserie bird, a big time saver. If you have extra roast turkey, it would be equally good in this soup. Continue reading

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

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

Pumpkin Panna Cotta for Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Pecan Brittle 1 2425x2634A few weeks ago my long-time assistant, Emily Bell, suggested that I offer readers a chance to end their Thanksgiving feasts with silky smooth pumpkin panna cotta in place of the traditional pumpkin pie. She had a favorite recipe for this Italian specialty–typically a mixture of cream, milk, and sugar bound with gelatin–and quickly convinced me that we could rework it, adding pumpkin puree and spices. My mouth was watering just thinking of this confection, so I wasted no time heading into the kitchen.

It took several tries before the flavors were balanced and the texture perfectly creamy, but finally we had a winner. I proposed that we add as garnishes dollops of softly whipped cream and crushed pecan brittle. The snowy white cap of cream contrasted nicely with the dusty orange hue of the “cooked creams,” while the glistening pecan brittle with its crunch was a great foil for the smoothness of this dessert. Continue reading

A Rustic Fall Stew of Chicken and Chanterelles

Fall Ragu of Chicken and Chanterelles 1  3648x2736After a spell of unseasonably warm weather, it’s turned cold, damp, and overcast in western New England. But rather than bemoan the change outdoors, I use it as an impetus to spend time in my kitchen cooking warming, comforting dishes, like a rustic ragù of chicken with chanterelle mushrooms.

Here is a stew that will take about 45 minutes to prep, but then needs only to simmer Skillet photo Fall Ragu of Chicken and Chanterelles  1824x1368 gently on the stove top about an hour. For this hearty dish, I season chicken thighs with herbes de Provence, coarse salt, and freshly ground pepper before browning them. Onions, carrots, and brown mushrooms are sautéed next and combined with garlic, bay leaves, and tomatoes. Then the chicken and the vegetables are simmered in stock and wine until the poultry is fork tender.

What really gives this dish its star power, though, is some dried chanterelle mushrooms. After being soaked in hot water until reconstituted, the mushrooms (along with their flavorful soaking liquid) are added to the stew, providing a meaty, autumn taste to the humble chicken and vegetable mélange. Continue reading