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Posts Tagged ‘Harvest’

P&P and Greg & I are now on our fourth straight year of celebrating annual squash fests! These fests are a celebration of all things fall and is easily one of our favorite autumnal traditions. They started the year that we began dating our now-husbands — that first year involved transporting an assortment of colorful varieties from the farmers’ market in Morningside Heights across state borders to our long-distance boyfriends in Connecticut. The second year involved a novice attempt at spaghetti squash; the third year was a bit forgettable but we think it was in Willington; and now, the fourth year.

This fourth year of squash celebration has been truly spectacular. Now that I’m done with school and life has calmed down a bit, we’ve prioritized seeing P&P every fortnight or so, and every gathering has yielded a thrilling outdoor activity and some exciting inclusion of squash. Today we saluted the last of the apples at Lyman’s and finished the evening off with some roasted barley-stuffed pumpkins.

I imagine these pumpkins can be stuffed with just about anything and can be made savory or sweet. For a savory version, we used barley, which can easily be replaced with rice or wheat berries or millet or any other variety of grain. Instead of red swiss chard, one could substitute in cooked beans or zucchini or other cooked vegetables. For a sweet version, some coconut flakes and cubed apples could be a delicious alternative.

Roasted Barley-Stuffed Pumpkins

2 sugar pumpkins
1 c pearled barley, pre-cooked
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch of leafy greens
1 can diced tomatoes
8 oz cheddar, cubed
Cayenne pepper, cinnamon, crushed red pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice off the top 1 1/2 inches of the pumpkins and discard. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp.

Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is slightly tender and translucent. Stir in the greens and salt and cook, stirring until the greens are slightly tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cooked barley, about 2 minutes. Add cheese. Put the pumpkins in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and fill evenly with the barley mixture.

Add 1 inch of boiling water to the baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake until the pumpkins are tender, about 1 hour, 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then serve.

Original recipe here.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Two Ways

Pumpkin seeds and olive oil

Cayenne pepper
Habanero salt
Oregano
Cracked black pepper

Cardamom, freshly ground
Holiday black tea leaves, crushed
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 F. Rinse pumpkin seeds and combine in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and desired seasonings. Mix well. Spread in one flat surface on a baking sheet. Roast for 10-12 minutes, stirring at least once. All seasonings are to taste.  Careful not to burn!

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A few weekends ago, Greg and I took a little journey up to Lyman’s Orchards just a hop, skip, and jump away from my alma mater, Wesleyan University. Lyman’s becomes an oasis of plenty in the summer– trees and shrubs weighted down by the sheer volume of carefully cultivated fruit begging to be picked and consumed and taken home. When we went most recently in mid-April, none of the fruit was quite ready to be picked, and instead we were greeted with beautiful floral blossoms canopying the hundreds of acres of Lyman’s.

After tonight’s torrential storm, I suspect none of these flowers have survived, but if you are interested in visiting with us in a few weeks, Greg and I plan to participate in the annual Strawberry Fest held on June 11. (Last year’s Peach Fest was certainly a treat, with the both of us participating heartily — though not victoriously — in a peach pie eating contest.)

That’s it for tonight. We have a very exciting post featuring a very successful wedding cake to come, but no more until then!

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A burst of summer fun!

Snow day yet again today and tomorrow. New Haven called another snow emergency. My weather.com homepage is flashing with bright orange storm warnings. This is supposed to be a historic storm, one that covers over a third of the U.S. all at once, deluging the country with snow, sleet, and ice. Power lines are supposed to go down, flights have been canceled, roofs are caving in from the weight of slush accumulation.

Thankfully, six months ago, in the abundance of summertime we had enough foresight to prepare for such a day as today by freezing two or three pounds of freshly picked very ripened peaches! Yes, shortly after waking up this morning and scowling at the New England gray, we sat our freezer bags of peaches by our heater and waited for them to defrost. We now have a giant pan of peach shortbread crumb bars baking perkily away in our oven as we finish off our too-treacherous-to-travel-working-from-home day.

These are going to be awesome, I suspect.

Peach Shortbread Crumb Bars (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 c brown sugar
1 t baking powder
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t freshly ground cardamom
2 sticks cold, salted butter
1 egg
2 lb thawed frozen peaches*

*Fresh peaches are obviously ideal. With fresh peaches, I would slice these thinly, layering them on top of the bottom crust. We pureed half of the peaches, spread this on the bottom of the crust, then layered the remaining cubes on top of the puree.

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 9×13 in pan or cover with parchment paper. In a food processor, mix together sugar, baking powder, flour, and spices. Adding in the egg and cold butter, process until the flour mixture is crumbly.

Press 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, flattening with a rubber spatula. Spoon peach puree over the bottom layer. (Note: do not shake the pan in order to smooth out the puree — the crumbs will shake out of their firmly pressed places and scatter themselves over the puree. ) Top with cubes of peaches. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over peaches, pressing down to flatten.

Bake for 30 minutes, until top is browned and peach juices begin to ooze from the edges. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

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Taste the rainbow

Wow, talk about commercials that stick. These days whenever I go out running through the great wilderness of Edgewood Park and see something natural and brightly colored like a tree, I have visions of leprechauns skipping through the forest to the pot of Skittles at the end of the rainbow. Late fall is hitting full force these days with remnants of foliage scattered on and trampled over the sidewalks and overnight freeze warnings daily, but in between now and winter, we have a Thanksgiving trip to Miami planned and a bit more color to enjoy.

This is the bread recipe we’ve come to know and love. For the hike up Sleeping Giant we did this weekend, we made a simple version, with just some dried rosemary and black pepper sprinkled in. However, this recipe is endlessly adaptable. Usually we use a 2 to 1.5 ratio of whole-wheat to all-purpose flour, but we’ve sometimes substituted some portion of quinoa flour or oat flour (quinoa or oats ground in a Magic Bullet or food processor), straight-up oats, or spelt flour. This bread is also incredible with some very thinly sliced caramelized onions or chopped pitted olives thrown in, or any variety of spices and herbs (cinnamon and brown sugar, thyme, oregano and basil and black pepper). I also like nutty-seedy breads and so will use sunflower seeds, chopped hazelnuts or walnuts, currants or raisins or dried cranberries. The key is to make sure that all of these add-ins are properly kneaded into the dough.

Also, here’s the pep talk: Homemade bread is super easy, significantly cheaper, and far healthier than store-bought varieties! I challenge you to find store-bought bread that combines all three of these characteristics. As far as I can tell, there is no reason to ever buy bread again. Don’t be alarmed by the length of this recipe as I will go a bit overboard with interesting information. The actual recipe portion is simple: combine ingredients, wait, shape, wait, bake, eat.

Go-To Yeast Bread

2 T active dry yeast
1 pinch of sugar
1 1/2 c warm water (~70F)
3 1/2 c flour
1 T salt

Stir active dry yeast into 1/4 c water with a pinch of sugar. Active yeast feeds on sugar and produces carbon dioxide in the process, so a pinch of sugar intially helps to activate it. (During the rising process, the yeast eats the sugars in the flour and leaves behind stretchy, spider-webby holes in the dough.) Set aside until creamy and foamy. This process is called proofing.

(I’ve heard proofing is not really necessary. In fact, if you use instant yeast, it is definitely unnecessary. Historically proofing was used to test whether the yeast is still alive, but yeast today is far more reliable so this step can be skipped. However, I’ve also noticed that when the yeast is actively foaming away before being added to the flour, the dough seems to rise faster.)

Combine flours and salt in KitchenAid stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour the proofed yeast with 1/4 cup of water into the mixing bowl and begin to mix on low-speed (2 or4). Slowly add more water while mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a shiny ball around the hook.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm draft-free place. The dough should rise for at least two hours, but the longer the rising time, up to 24 hours, the more work the yeast can do, leading to a chewier crumb (the non-crust part of the bread).

After rising, remove dough from bowl, turn out onto a floured surface, punch down, and shape. If the dough is too wet to shape, add flour one tablespoon at a time. (We usually shape this into a boule, but for sandwiches this week,  we shaped this into an oblong loaf.) Once shaped, cover with plastic wrap or a cotton towel and let rise again for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 425F with a pizza stone or cast iron Dutch oven in the oven. Alternatively, you can bake the bread on a cookie sheet, which does not yield as crisp of a crust as either a pizza stone or Dutch oven. The Dutch oven is our preferred method because it resembles the steam-injected ovens used in professional bread baking. In a pre-heated, moist, enclosed contraption like this, the crust can develop with plenty of steam. Once uncovered, a half-hour later, the crust has time to harden and brown.

When the oven is preheated, carefully remove the pizza stone or Dutch oven from the hot oven. If using a pizza stone, slide the dough onto the pizza stone, being careful to maintain its shape. Slash the top of the dough with a few diagonal slashes. This helps the steam in the bread to escape. If using a Dutch oven, regardless of how the dough falls into the pot, it will eventually straighten itself out into a ruggedly attractive artisan loaf. (If using a Dutch oven, be sure to remove the lid a half hour later.)

Bake for 25 minutes at 425F. Then reduce the temperature to 375F and continue baking for another 15 or 20 minutes until the bread is hollow when tapped.

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As Greg alluded to, we had quite a feast Sunday evening. In lieu of candy corn and cheap chocolate this Halloween (though we had plenty of both at the Silvas’ Halloween party on Saturday!), we made oven-roasted ribs (see post below), cranberry barbecue sauce, garlicky-green mashed ptatoes, and a cranberry-apple shortbread pie for dinner Sunday night. It wasn’t quite a celebration for Halloween, but more a celebration of Thanksgiving feasts to come, the season of fall, and cancelled classes this Saturday. Maybe also a celebration of marriage and of life, as both have been wonderfully delightful lately.

This was quite an undertaking involving 4+ hours of cooking, so you should only embark on this adventure if you’re truly prepared. But if you are prepared with an uninterrupted block of time stretching ahead of you, definitely do give these recipes a try, as the results are truly phenomenal.

Cranberry Barbecue Glaze

The key to getting this right is salting heavily. Without sufficient salt, this will taste quite like a standard cranberry sauce, which is fine, but our vison (actualized) was more for a tangy, savory, spicy barbecue sauce.

1 T canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 c fresh cranberries
1/4 c orange juice
2 T lemon juice (can be substituted with distilled white vinegar)
2 1/4 c water
2 chopped dried Guajillo chiles, stems removed (can be substituted with other dried chiles)

Sautee onions and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly charred. Stir in cranberries, juices, water, and chiles. Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat until sauce reduced by half. Stir often. The cranberries will begin to pop lightly. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Cranberry-Apple Shortbread Pie

Remember the shortbread cookies with caramelized pumpkin glaze I made the other day? Well, you may have deduced that I did in fact freeze half of the shortbread cookie dough in my freezer, without much of a vision until the Costco sized bag of fresh cranberries arrived the other day. Inspiration beckoned, and a lovely, holiday-rrific cranberry apple shortbread pie was born. (If you’re without a leftover log of dough, other pie crusts are also acceptable, and I’d also be interested in seeing this made with a two-crust pie.)

1 shortbread pie crust (or half of the shortbread cookie recipe)
2 T flour
1 c brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/2 T ground ginger
4 Ginger Gold apples, cored and diced
1 1/2 c fresh cranberries
2 T lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 300F. Bring the plastic-wrapped shortbread dough to room temperature or until malleable. (I defrosted it on the oven while the ribs were cooking.) Turn out into a 9″ pie pan. Press dough into pie pan until bottom and sides are covered. Bake at 300F for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Combine flour, sugar, spices, apples, cranberries, and lemon juice. Pile high into cooled shortbread pie crust. Bake for 45 minutes until apples are softened but still retain their shape. The sugar will have caramelized into a light crisp on the apples.

Serve at room temperature (with spoons).

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Can you tell that the subject line above is actually a song? It’s catchy, I promise. I may have sang it all day on Sunday and only modified recently to state “We went to the fai-air! Yipee! Hooray!”

Now here’s the back story: I first heard of the Durham Fair on my way to Windcrest Farms (Hebron, CT) for equestrian training my sophomore year of college. Since then, I’ve been coveting the opportunity to go each fall, but for a whole host of reasons (a new one each year), it has eluded me. This year, I resolved early on that I wouldn’t let this slide by me yet again, and though my high-brow kill-joy husband (just kidding!) vehemently protested, we were off to Durham, CT come Sunday. Vulgar comestibles, philistine entertainment, here we come!

The Durham Fair is one of New England’s largest agricultural fairs that lasts for four full days and was first held in 1916. It’s incredible — people submit their best livestock, pumpkins, baked goods, for all sorts of ogling glory. We made it to a paired-horse pull which was very impressive but missed the paddling piggy race. I’m confident we’ll make it to more events next year.

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery before we were able to take pictures of the food, but you’ll be glad to know there was one unifying theme — deep fry. Deep fried Oreos, deep fried pizza, deep fried dough, deep fried blooming onions. It was incredible! Though in honesty (which may reveal more about our culinary exposure than perhaps we intend to) deep fried pizza was really the only one I hadn’t encountered before. We managed to negotiate for a free deep fried Oreo and decided the one we had last year for San Gennaro in Little Italy was far superior. We also managed to sample (some cajoling required) kettle corn, mulled cranberry cider, three types of biscotti, seven different types of hot sauce, samples of various sour-cream based dips, samples of various cool-whip based cheesecakes, wine slushies, olives and olive oil, and goat’s lotion (not for eating!). We did also purchase a lobster roll and a pulled-pork sandwich, and even though there were 12 flavors of frozen lemonade, we decided to call it quits and head home.

Let us know if you’re interested in joining us next year!

Honorable mention to C Weiss for the following link on deep-fried beer:
http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2010/09/texas-chef-successfully-deep-friesbeer

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Apple-Carrot Bread

Based loosely on a favorite sister-in-law’s legendary zucchini bread, this apple carrot bread is incredibly moist, barely sweetened, and vibrant in flavor. (Bonus: this recipe uses our two favorite kitchen appliances we’ve received from the wedding. It can certainly be made without either of these, but they certainly are terrifically handy.)

Speaking of favorite kitchen appliances, this rhapsody is worth a read: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/dining/15mini.html?ref=dining

Apple Carrot Bread

4 cups shredded apples (using food processor)
4 cups shredded carrots (using food processor)
2 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 c oil
6 eggs
1 1/2 T cinnamon
4 c flour (> 1/2 whole-wheat, of course)
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/3 c toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt. Set aside. Whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil at high speed. Fold in apples and carrots. Fold in dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Stir in toasted walnuts.

Bake for one hour.

Makes two large loaves and six muffins.

And of course the original:

M. Phelan’s Zucchini Bread

6 c grated zucchini
4 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 c oil
6 eggs
1 1/2 T cinnamon
4 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 c dried cranberries

Sift flour, baking soda,cinnamon, salt. Set aside. Beat eggs, add sugar, vanilla, half of the oil. Add zucchini. (The mixture will bubble a little.) Slowly add dry ingredients. Mix remaining oil. Fold in dried cranberries.

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