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Archive for the ‘seasonal’ Category

I’ve been on a fall recipe kick lately – squash, pumpkin, apples, beets. I made the switch so fast from summer tomatoes and corn, it caught me by surprise. When I recently found myself with some extra butternut squash and no inkling (nor freezer space) to make soup, I thought about a sandwich. Specifically, it was a sandwich I had last spring at Bad Hunter, a Chicago restaurant. Their menu is interesting – mostly vegetarian but with a bit of meat here and there for flavor, creative dishes that are quite beautiful and with spectacular desserts. One menu item really struck a chord with me: a crispy squash sandwich.

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Try as I might to resist, I’m getting twitchy for pumpkin. The amount of pumpkin/pumpkin spice products in the grocery stores is obnoxious and some things just have no business living in the pumpkin spice realm – check this list out. While I roll my eyes at the vast majority, there are a few things that I do love. The original, OG pumpkin spice donuts from my youth (still working on recreating those). My pumpkin bundt cake. A slice of a good pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. They’re delicious and invoke feelings of nostalgia in a way that pumpkin spice Cheerios or Oreos do not. Inevitably, as I pass the cans of pumpkin puree on the grocery display, one will go in my cart. Maybe two. Which is exactly what happened last week.

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This time of the year, I’m all about a cider donut. Much to my delight, they start popping up in shops, grocery stores and farmers markets for the next few weeks. Sometimes, when particularly motivated, I’ll make my own but I generally prefer to leave the frying to outside sources. This past weekend my friend Pete had his annual Harvest Party at his Michigan orchard and I did a little apple picking. It didn’t seem like a lot of apples at the time but … it was a lot of apples. Shocker. I came home and started combing my files for apple recipes. When I got to donuts, I knew I was onto something because while I love cider donuts I might love apple fritters more. It was apple fritter time.

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So I’ve just returned from France, particularly the Southwest region, where I spent the better part of this summer and I’ve come back energized and filled with all kinds of ideas. My weeks were filled with cooking, a lot of eating, a lot of cold rosé, good friends and twice weekly market visits. One day I walked into my friend Kate’s kitchen to the most delightful smells. In the oven were pans of the beloved Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes, slowly roasting in a little bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Later, she slipped the skins off, packed them into jars and water processed them for longer storage. Just a normal everyday occurrence for her but a light bulb went off in my head. The woman is a genius.

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It’s spring. While I may be laying here nursing a cold, I can see out my windows that the trees are budding. It’s all rainy days and smooth sailing from here on out and like most of Chicago, I’m anxiously awaiting the first outdoor farmers market in a few weeks. In anticipation I bought some asparagus the other day, before I caught this nasty cold, and thought it would go well with a plate of gnocchi and a little brown butter.

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Thank god for 2017. What a universally shit year for us all (with the exception of the Chicago Cubs because really now, how amazing was that?!), and while there’s a lot to deal with on the horizon I feel better knowing that the dumpster fire of 2016 is done. But now you’re probably looking at the contents of your refrigerator and wondering what the hell happened. The holidays, that’s what. That intersection of Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years and a little leftover Thanksgiving that creates chaos for us all. Chances are also good that, like many of us, you’ve probably decided to try to go on a health kick of some sort to right the eating wrongs of the past 6 weeks. We all do it. The constant influx of butter, cheese, cream, meat, alcohol and chocolate come to a head on January 1 where the guilt kicks into overdrive. I’ve circled it a few years but I think this is the year I try the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse (from last year, or the year prior or the year before that or there’s a book too). Not a diet per se, god forbid, but recipes mostly devoid of the things I’ve overindulged in the last few weeks. And they sound really good too. So why not? My system could use a little cleansing.

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A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a New York Times article on cheese balls titled “To Find Out Who You Are, Peer Into the Cheese Ball”. I was delighted. One sentence in particular resonated with me, “December is the Olympics for cheese ball fans.” Truer words have never been spoken. Oh how I love a cheese ball, a cheese log or those wonderful tubs of crock cheese anytime really but especially around the holidays. On a cracker, or better yet a Triscuit, there are few better snacks. While I certainly favor some flavors over others, I’ve yet to meet a cheese ball I don’t like. That pink “port wine” crock cheese? One of my favorites. A cheese ball makes a party, my friends. True story.

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