an autumn menu ...
Autumn is the time we begin feeling the need to batten down the hatches for winter--to make soups and stews and breads and apple pie. I don't know if it's coming home after a month away, or something genetic, but I feel the need for those fall foods. It's not the weather as it's still in the 90's here in Florida. I do love to cook and I especially enjoy trying new recipes. Above is a collection of some of the favorite additions to my old cookbook favorites, beginning of course with Irma Rombauer's Joy of Cooking, not pictured here because of its deplorable condition after many years of exposure to sticky fingers and kitchen steam, a true sign of the love and use it's received. So, let me tell you a bit about new things I've learned from the above stack of books.
The Pat Conroy Cookbook (2004) by Pat Conroy and Susan Williamson Pollak. I mentioned this book in one of my earlier newsletters about books focusing on beach life. This is a beautiful book, filled with recipes from Pat's travels around the world and his life in the south. It's a fascinating read, written in his engaging style and while I haven't used his recipe, I'm sure my favorite would be Spaghetti Carbonara--always one of my Italian favorites and a very simple recipe.
The China Study Cookbook (2018) by LeAnne Campbell. For those who may not be familiar with this study, it was first published in 2006, based on significant research identifying the importance of nutrition--specifically a whole food, plant-based diet--and health. My favorite recipe here (of many): Green Banana Cassava Soup. I had never tried cassava--also called yuca--and it's very much like a potato, which I have used in the recipe when unable to get cassava. It's delicious!
Fresh India (2018) by Meera Sodha. I saw this chef on CBS Saturday Morning's The Dish and was sparked to try something other than the curry I had learned to make years ago while living in Ireland and working with an MD from India. My favorite in this book: Spinach, Tomato + Chickpea Curry. This contains everything I love and is very simple to make, delicious and comforting, even though I have not always followed the recipe exactly.
Korean American (2022) by Eric Kim. Here was another chef I saw on CBS Saturday Morning. Having a friend whose family is from Korea, and whose mother would cook these great foods when she visited, I decided to check this out. I also love kimchi--a fermented cabbage/vegetable dish, high in antioxidants. I'm reluctant to pay what they ask for in most stores and wanted to try my hand at making this. There are several kimchi recipes here and the most difficult aspect of making it is finding the ingredients; it helps to have a well-stocked Asian market near you.
The basic recipe for kimchi calls for Napa cabbage, but there is a second one where one can use green cabbage; that's what I had on hand. Recommendations: 1) If you use green cabbage, chop it finely; and 2) skip the saeujeot (salted fermented shrimp) and maesil cheong (green plum syrup) unless you can find the exact ingredients. My first kimchi was delicious, but my second one will be even better.
Something else surprising: a kimchi sandwich; it's very good. His recipe is just white bread, mayonnaise and kimchi!
Milk Street: The New Rules (2019) by Christopher Kimball. When I have trouble going back to sleep at night, I often turn on PBS and look for one of their cooking shows. They're all good, so when I was exploring options for a Barnes and Noble gift certificate I had, this one jumped out at me. It's a beautiful book, full of colorful photos and lots of explanations. My favorite new experience here: Crispy Chicken Under a Brick. Why? It calls for spatchcocking a chicken (laying it entirely flat)--something I had never done. It was excellent and not difficult! I will say I needed 2 bricks which I already had on hand for cubanos (--a Cuban sandwich made with roast pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, sour pickles, mustard and mayo, flattened with those bricks and grilled...mmm). If you've never used a brick in cooking: wash well and wrap in several layers of aluminum foil. Remember to use mitts when moving them around on the frying pan. Also: you may want to try making a cubano!
* * * * * *
And, finally, here is another comfort food: a favorite family recipe from my mother:
Country Cherry Pudding
If you are lucky enough to have a cherry tree and have been freezing them, you might want to use them, instead of the canned cherries. If so, I would suggest pre-cooking the cherries with equal amounts of sugar and water and then saving the liquid for the sauce.
1 can dark, sweet, pitted cherries packed in heavy syrup (1# 1 oz)
1/3 cup butter 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sifted flour 1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsps double-acting baking powder 1 cup sugar
1 cup milk 1/2 tsp almond extract
Drain cherries and reserve syrup for sauce. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in 1.5 quart baking dish in oven. Remove when melted.
Sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and sugar into mixing bowl. Gradually stir in milk and almond extract. Do not beat. Turn into the hot baking dish with the melted butter. Butter will come to the top. Spoon drained cherries into center. Bake in pre-heated oven 40-50 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Make sure batter is set. Allow to stand about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm. Makes 6-8 servings.
Gradually stir in 1 cup reserved cherry syrup into 1 Tbsp cornstarch + dash of salt, until smooth. Cook and stir constantly over moderate heat until thickened and clear. Stir in 1 Tbsp butter and 1+ Tbsp dark rum or cognac. Pour over warm pudding.
Enjoy your autumn!
If you have a favorite cookbook and a favorite recipe from it, I'd love to hear about them. You can comment here, email me, or post on Facebook. Thanks!