Let's EatSeasonal Recipes
I love to think that as I age, I get wiser. I love to think that, but whether it is true or not, is another story, I imagine. Still, I do think that years of preparing for holiday madness have taught me a few things…like skip the madness and just enjoy your friends and family with simple wholesome meals. No cooking until midnight, no extravagant buffets, and no exotic, out-of-season, carbon emission-heavy recipes, either.
So here is a bit of wisdom about planning ahead, using what you have in season and still spreading love through good food at the holidays…and it comes in the form of a simple (well…mostly simple) love muffin.
I am one of those people who tend to dip a bit emotionally when the nights get longer and the days shorter. I used to be quite depressed by October, but I have come to embrace sadness rather than resist it and found that the more I did—the more I just sat with being sad—the less power it had over me. I now find that Fall has become a rather quiet, contemplative and rich season for me. But, like most of us, I can still use a little help….and this year I found a tiny but effective lift in a pretty blue bottle.
Can there be any more colorful season than high summer? The flowers, the vegetables, the sunrises and sunsets. The world is golden and the Earth buzzes with busy bees as they travel from flower to flower, home to hive, and then back out to continue foraging. It is a sweet time indeed.
My my love affair with a particular coffee cake—I make it ALL the time—was my nearly blank canvass for this delicious berry masterpiece. I say nearly because the original recipe isn’t mine; it is the creation of Greg Patent, an amazing bakery chef and food historian. Clipped from a decades-old Cooking Light Magazine, his “Spanish Buns” is a yeasted, no-knead cake with a beautiful texture and mellow, delicate flavor of nutmeg and vanilla.
The last pumpkin of 2022 proved to be the inspiration for my number one favorite pumpkin cake ever. I will admit that all my tinkering to come up with something new led to a rather complex recipe, but a lot of my ingredients were holiday purchases. I just cleaned out the cupboards and, as often happens, I ended up creating a happy accident.
Among the sweet myths and traditions in Celtic lore is the giving of Soul Cakes. Some speculate that Soul Cakes are the precursor to trick or treat: children and the poor were given soul cakes to exchange for coins from wealthier folks. Purchasing a Soul Cake bestowed blessings on the purchaser, and eating a Soul Cake, in some religions, released a loved one’s soul from purgatory.
I find the greatest pleasure I get from cooking is giving someone I love a special dish, honoring their place in my life with a meal that is both nutritious and delicious and something unexpected. The gift I gave my husband this holiday season is a Very Special Shepherd’s Pie. Got somebody special in your life who needs to be reminded how much you love them?
This is Ben. He is one of my favorite people at the Goshen Community Market. Ben runs Rumblin’ Ernie’s Farm, and he grows the biggest, sweetest carrots this side of the Mississippi. Not kidding. When Ben first showed up at my market with that steady supply of carrots, it was a game changer for my menus. I have been using his carrots all summer and into this fall. How could I not showcase them on the blog?
In my beloved original Moosewood Cookbook (now held together in loose page segments by tape and paperclips) I landed on one of my favorite Mollie Katzan signature recipes: Brazilian Black Bean Soup. I had everything I needed, except for one big orange. It sounded SOOOOOOO good, except….it was nearly 100 degrees outside and soup is…hot…. I turned the page and kept going.
But an hour later I was still thinking about the rich tangy-sweet flavors of this vegan soup. So I decided to turn back and turn this favorite recipe on its head a bit.
We eat a lot of oatmeal in our house. All winter long it is only McCann’s Irish Steel Cut Oats, cooked slow overnight in my cute Crockette. But in summer, I need a different approach to getting my oats—something cool and creamy and fast. So, from June to September, I switch to overnight oats, taking full advantage of summer fruits. In this case, in honor of the June Strawberry Moon, I created a play on traditional banana splits to whip up a nutritious, easy to prepare breakfast that’s loaded with market strawberries.
Berry season is near perfection in the month of June in farm country. One berry arrives and as it is making its exit another appears…like magic, of course. It is the season of iced tea on the front porch, picnics and patio dinners. What better way to celebrate summer than with a sweet buttery muffin filled with freshly made market jam…or your own jam, if you are of a mind.
One of the many benefits of making this change is how delicious and nutritious things become—not just for the pollinators we hope to attract but for us, too. I thought a couple of recipes using what grows without any help in the backyard was worth its own post. Featured on our buffet today are stinging nettles, sweet violets and dandelions.
Every spring, as the first fresh produce comes to market, I start planning for the winter months ahead. Some vegetables lend themselves better to freezing than others, of course. My new potatoes, spring onions, carrots, leeks and asparagus usually just get enjoyed fresh (though I have frozen asparagus with success for winter pureed soups). The spring broccoli and cauliflower are good freezer candidates—if you can contain your appetite not to eat all that goodness right up. And a winter staple after the last of my stored garlic is gone has always been garlic scapes—good to freeze and great garlic flavor for soups, stews, sautés. And this year, one stuffed bag of scapes remained. What to do?
In the snowy depths of wintery February, I like to think that Valentine’s Day comes along to warm our hearts with homemade cards, paper mâché roses and sweet treats of rich chocolate, creamy caramel and crunchy toasted nuts. Actually, I do more than think about it; I bake!
With stores of hard sweet carrots from my crisper, a sturdy vermillion squash called Potimarron from the pantry shelf and rusty shallots snatched from my basement storage cart, orange becomes the new green! Steaming bowls of antioxidant power and beneficial beta keratin will warm us up and keep us healthy on cold winter afternoons and evenings.
One of my favorite winter greens are those cute little cabbages know as Brussel sprouts. They are easy to fix in a million ways and bring a real freshness to wintertime meals. They are a family favorite with us now, but that used to not be the case. Years ago when I was much, much less experienced in the kitchen I tried boiling them, steaming them—all to everyone’s disappointment. Then I found recipes for shredding them and sautéing them. That changed everything.
Long ago, when my daughter was in grade school and my grandma lived with us out in the country, I used to make this rice pudding dish. The original version came from a way-back issue of Cooking Light Magazine and involved a lot of low-fat ingredients that I would not be using today. But we loved it—all of us—even Grandma, who was not a rice fancier. This dish was meant as a dessert, rather a decadent one, even by Cooking Light standards, but the enticement of warm rice pudding on a cold December day made this a special weekend breakfast treat in our house. Even if I added the optional amaretto liquor!
I cannot think of a more autumn vegetable than squash—any kind from pumpkins, to butternuts, to Acorn. Squash is comfort food that can be served at breakfast—maybe in a hash or just roasted with maple syrup—enjoyed at lunch—as in little squash bowls filled with hearty grains—or for dinner, which is where we are landing today. A Squash and Potato Casserole that can be a weekend meal with plenty of leftovers or the star attraction for that Thanksgiving buffet.