Fall Grain Salad with butternut, shitake, leek, sage and brown butter

fall grain saladI love hearty winter wheat berries , the little brown grains have such a wonderful spring-back after cooking, and hold-up to heavier additions in a fall or winter salad. Last evening I was looking for a recipe that could incorporate my fall ingredients – leeks, butternut squash, sage, and some dried shitake mushrooms, but nothing seemed quite right. So I just made one up. This is a perfect comforting, hearty lunch if you’re stuck in an office with a microwave. And if I had a log of goat cheese, I might have put some in, but it’s delicious without.

Fall Grain Salad with butternut, shitake, leek, sage and brown butter

2 cups cooked hard winter wheat berries (you can actually cook these in your rice cooker!)

2 cups roasted butternut squash cubes (about 1/2 of a medium squash)

1 large leek

butter

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/8 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped

1/4 c. dried shitake mushrooms

white wine

salt and pepper

While the winter wheat is cooking is the squash is roasting, thinly slice the leek, up to the leaves, and saute on medium-low heat in butter (or oil) until it softens. Add the chopped garlic and sage,  and saute until the garlic softens. In a separate saucepan, melt 1 Tbs. butter (if you are using oil, skip this step). Allow the butter to cook, periodically scraping the saucepan, until it becomes brown and toasty. Stir-in the dried mushroom, and then add 1 cup of white wine. Allow to simmer until the sauce reduces to about 1/2 cup. Combine the winter wheat, squash, leeks, and mushrooms with sauce together. Salt and pepper to taste.

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What to do with green tomatoes?

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My tomatoes went wild this year, and let’s just say, I maintained a fairly “hands off” approach to the garden. As sad as I was to see those wild vines go, I had to rip them out this weekend or miss my fall crops entirely. While I love pickled green tomatoes, I don’t actually drink enough bloody mary’s to justify pickling the whole crop, so I did some research for nontraditional options. I did pickle a few, but went with an interesting, spicy szechuan version I found here:

 

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A few keys to pickling tomatoes: Only go with the very firm, unblemished tomatoes, and use a pickling additive, or you just won’t get those crisp pickles you’re looking forward to. Also, remember that while you can change the spice in pickles, you can’t change the acidity.And let them sit at least three weeks before you give them a try! 

Last weekend I had some amazing pimento cheese spread at Strangelove’s, and so I jumped on this recipe from NPR for green tomato and pimento cheese biscuits. Of course, I had change the recipe up a little bit, so I substituted pickled red cherry tomatoes for pimentos.

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I thought about salsa verde, another common use for green tomatoes, but the breezy fall day pushed me towards a green tomato chili. I made a green tomato puree, added kidney beans, and then decided to also ad some TVP (texturized vegetable protein). It’s not an ingredient I use very often, but I noticed that many green chili recipes make use of chicken or pork, and I thought that that TVP might give a similar texture. A dab of yogurt, some chili and a lemon zest, a squeeze of lime – delicious.

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Commonwealth Ciders – local, dry ciders have arrived

commonwealthIt’s Fall in Philadelphia! The air has finally begun to crisp, the leaves to turn, and I’m digging my cardigans out from storage. Fall means, apples, and apples mean, among other things, delicious cider. I love a cup of hot spiced cider when the weather cools, but the rest of the year, cider, especially the bottled, alcoholic kind, doesn’t make my “must have” list. I have nothing against fermented apples, in general, I just haven’t enjoyed the overly-sugared, cider-pops that I find on grocery shelves and neighborhood bar “anti-gluten” lists. It’s not the apples’ fault!

Recently, at a happy hour fundraiser for one of my favorite Urban Farms, Greensgrow, I had the pleasure to taste (and by taste I mean drink) a new local “dry” cider made by local brew heroes, Philadelphia Brewing Company. Rolling out under the name Commonwealth Ciders, these deliciously dry, apple-based beverages have NO ADDED sugar. What does that mean? For starters, drinking a Commonwealth Cider, vs. a Woodchuck or other standard sugared brand, is the difference between sipping a sparkling dry cava, and popping open a bottle of fizzy Moscato. Now, you might love a sweet fermented drink, but they’re just not for me, which is why I’m so excited to discover this new local option.

Even better? They come in a variety of flavors purely derived from the source – with no artificial flavors or sugars. The “Gregarious Ginger” blew my ginger-loving mind, and the Raspberry promised exactly what it delivered – a clean, dry, hot off the bush raspberry flavor. Of course, you can stick with the “Original Dry,” too, now appearing on tap across Philadelphia. And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the gorgeous, boudoir-worthy brand concept.

The representative I spoke with promised cases at distributors by Fall — have you seen any yet?

Pumpkin-Sage Savory Waffles

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I’m the very lucky owner of an industrial waffle-maker that I believe was once stolen from a waffle house, and many years and owners later, gifted to me. It’s gigantic, unwieldy and makes incredible waffles. Unfortunately, I always prefer savory breakfasts (and lunches, and dinners) and so I like to play with savory waffle recipes. My friends still talk about the cheddar habanero waffles I made one Easter (wowsa!).

My super-handy and wonderful father was in town last weekend, and gave me some much-needed help with difficult home projects. Before he jumped in has car and headed away, I wanted to make him a special brunch, so I got out the waffle maker.

It’s still pumpkin season to me, so I used the Bittman “How to Cook Everything” waffle recipe, pumpkin variation, which adds 1 cup of pumpkin puree to your recipe (and I ALWAYS whip the egg whites separately). To mix I also added the last of my fresh sage, chopped, about 6 Tbs. And what do you top a savory pumpkin sage waffle with?

– Sherried baby Portabella mushrooms (butter, garlic, mushrooms, sherry, touch of cream)

– an over easy egg – blue cheese cream

– crumbled blue cheese

– more fresh sage , course sea salt

Of course, I buttered the waffle, too, and dad added maple syrup to his for a touch of sweetness. Feeling a bit guilty about richness of the meal, we had carrot-orange juice on the side, and my version of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s kale salad from The Pump Room.

While I can’t share all of the recipes with you, I can share the Blue Cheese Cream, because I made it up on a whim. 

Blue Cheese Cream

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

half-and-half

Heat is a small saucepan, stirring often, until the blue cheese melts. Cool in a metal bowl in the freezer, until the cream mixture is COLD. Begin whipping with an electric mixer on the highest setting, slowly adding half-and-half until the cream reaches the consistency you desire (about 1/4 cup for the thick cream pictured above). The cream will begin to melt on contact with your hot waffler (or anything else). Delicious.

Roasted Cauliflower

roasted cauliflower

I have to admit that there are few ways that I like to eat cauliflower. Ever since childhood, “trees” (cauliflower and broccoli) don’t much appeal to me. But it turns out that Iove it roasted! There are many different ways to flavor roasted cauliflower, but this is the basic:

Thinly slice one head of cauliflower and place on an oiled cookie sheet. Brush to slices with olive oil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower becomes slightly browned and crispy on the edges. Salt, and sprinkle herbs (such as herbs de provence) over the slices. Enjoy!

cauliflower of cookie sheet

Another Local Fall Dinner Party

local fall dinner partyWhy a dinner party? Because the Phillies were playing, and because my CSA was bursting out baskets. Pre-game we all sat down for dinner and wine and cheer, which helped us later, when we lost the game terribley.

I love spaghetti squash, and served it with a homemade heirloom tomatoe and roasted garlic sauce that I made in the summer and froze. Yellow and orange sweet potatoe were roasted with a touch of butter and fresh sage from the garden. Slightly bitter dandelion greans were tossed with an olive and truffle oil dressing and sprinkled with roasted squash seeds. Metropolitan made the bread, and an unpictured apple crisp lay in wait for later, when we ate it the hot cider and whiskey. B ad game, delicious dinner.

Fall at Linvilla Orchards

Gourds

I finally made it out to Linvilla Orchard last weekend and had a great time enjoying their Fall bounty. I had hoped to pick apples, but I just missed the season. Luckily for me, Linvilla still has thousands of apples to purchase at their market, along with goards galore and a huge crates of varied pumpkins.

Indian Corn

I was seriously tempted by the selection of Indian corn, especially the deep red colors. At the last minute, I remembered that I had some stored above my kitchen cabinets, in case I really got excited about Thanksgiving decorating.

MumsInitially I thought that I was going to buy some deep red mums, and got very excited about the selection at the Orchard. Though I passed a lot of mums a at garden stores along the way, I was glad I waited, as these looked much better!

Ornamental CabbageAnd then I saw the beautiful ornamental cabbage and changed my mind. I’ve wanted some of these in the pots on my front porch for years, but always have trouble finding them in city. If I ever have time to plant them, they’ll be colorful long into the cold season. And really, don’t even get me started on the apples. I have a house full of pies.