Sunday, October 14, 2012

fall favorites

Even though I haven't been blogging that much, I have been cooking a ton. If summer is about doing as little as possible to fresh ingredients, fall is about baking, and braising, and struggling to cut butternut squash. (Pro tip for the lazy: buy it pre-cut.)

Whether or not it feels like fall where you are, you can fake that wonderful chill-in-the-air feeling with food. Here's a roundup of some really good fall recipes I've been making lately:

Dan's parents were in town for a long weekend, so I hosted dinner one night. Being that they were up from Florida, I wanted to make a meal that really felt like October in New York. Which is exactly what this pumpkin pilaf tastes like. I'm sure you're skeptical already. A pilaf, with pumpkin in it? It is wonderful, and it can be made all in one pot. Let me break it down for you: tender rice, savory onions, Indian-inspired spices (tumeric, cumin, cinnamon), sweet chunks of squash, plump raisins and grassy parsley. I substituted butternut squash for the pumpkin and also added a handful of almonds. 
While you can eat the pilaf as-is as a vegetarian main course, I topped it with roasted chicken thighs dusted in cayenne and paprika and served an autumnal salad of arugula, apples and ricotta salata. And my go-to, never-fail chocolate-pear cake. Dan's father, who is notorious for not cleaning his plate, ate every last bite of the pilaf. Small victories.

Pumpkin bread is my thing in the fall. I make a lot of it, and only in the last three months of the year. But I came into several pounds of apples -- and by "came into," I mean "greedily picked" -- and needed to do something with them. I made a big batch of applesauce, which tasted pretty meh on its own, so I decided to turn it into applesauce muffins, which were so moist and incredible-smelling, I have already made a second batch and it's now mid-October and I have not made one loaf of pumpkin bread yet. hey might not look like much, but they make up for it in flavor and aroma.

Two tips for these muffins: add 1/2 teaspoon extra baking powder to help them rise, 1/2 cup of raisins and reduce the butter by 3 tablespoons. Also: make them now. Right now.
 Texans love their pecans, so it was no surprise that the Homesick Texan's cinnamon-chipotle pecans were really, really good. Unlike a candied pecan, they are just slightly sweet, not overly so. And a little bit of cumin adds an unexpected earthy note. I served them as an appetizer along with the usual array of meats and cheeses, and also crumbled them up and tossed them into a kale salad like this one.

The recipe I followed, below, is from her cookbook, but she has a similar recipe on her site, paired with a chipotle sweet potato soup that just screams fall to me. If fall, you know, screamed.

Chipotle-cinnamon spiced pecans
From the Homesick Texan Cookbook
(Makes 4 cups)

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cups raw pecan halves
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground chipotle powder (or cayenne pepper)
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Salt to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.

In a skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the pecans and stir until they are coated Add the sugar and spices, and toss to coat.

Spread the pecans in one layer on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until darker in color and fragrant. Add salt to taste.


Anonymous said...

Nice link to the Times!

judy said...

Yes. It certainly passed the Larry Likes It Test.

Daniel said...

Could all this fall cooking have something to do with no longer being stuck in a cramped, busted, lopsided galley kitchen?


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