apple salad with hazelnuts, pancetta, shallots, and roasted parsnips

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Now that it’s October in the Northeast, we are deep into pumpkin spice season (even though maple is the new pumpkin spice, and I will keep saying it until everyone listens).  But neither pumpkin nor maple are the only fabulous flavor of this perfectly crisp couple months. We should be embracing the full bounty that fall affords us.

For example, if you haven’t tried every varietal of apple at your local farmers’ market yet, you’re doing fall wrong.  From Spencers (my personal favorite) to Honey Crisps to Macouns, each one has its own je ne sais quoi. Some are meant for pies, others for snacking; but no matter how you eat it the apple is one of the most defining tastes of autumn.  Throw them into any salad and their crunch and unique sweetness will transport you to an orchard on a cold day in soft flannel–and there are no crowds. And it’s sunny. Can you imagine.

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This salad may seem a bit busy…it has more than a handful of ingredients, but each one brings that extra something that gives it the capacity to be a stand alone meal.  Sweet apples, crunchy hazelnuts, salty pancetta, earthy parsnips, and a good bite from the raw shallots.  What’s so wrong with a salad chock full of tasty bits anyway? Nothing, because then you don’t have to force yourself to eat it.  You will want to eat it.

Time to get on the apple train. Sorry pumpkins (and maples).

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apple salad with hazelnuts, pancetta, shallots, and roasted parsnips
serves 6-8

2 large apples (of your favorite variety)
2 medium sized parsnips, cubed
1/2 pound of pancetta, cooked
1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 medium sized shallot, sliced thin
shaved ricotta salata cheese to taste (cheddar or chevre would be equally tasty)

Suggested dressing
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon agave or honey
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Peel the parsnips and cut them into bite size cubes, then toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and soft. Let cool and set aside.
  2.  Fry the pancetta until crispy.  Place on paper towels to absorb the grease and to cool.  Once cooled, crumble and combine with parsnips.
  3. Chop up your hazelnuts.
  4.  Slice shallot and apple thinly. Add to big bowl of mixed greens.  Throw in hazelnuts, pancetta, and parsnips.  Add salad dressing and combine until everything is well coated.  Shave cheese of choice atop the salad and serve immediately.

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apple salad with hazelnuts, pancetta, shallots, and roasted parsnips

mini dutch babies

We threw a harVEST party. Vests were required for entry.

There was some food, but this was the only dessert treat. Perfectly poppable and subtly sweet, these little guys are great for using up all those apples you picked but didn’t manage to eat. Because it’s a law of nature that no one can possibly eat all the apples they pick.

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These are a play on a dutch pancake, which texturally and tastily is an intersection between a crepe, a pancake, a soufflé, and clafouti; and the apple and pumpkin pie spice give them that autumnal edge.

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Ideally these should be enjoyed with a cup of tea or other warm beverage. They can be breakfast, dessert, or just a snack. As we are careening at a terrifying speed towards New England winter, these might help you hold on to fall just a little bit longer.

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This recipe makes about 24 mini dutch babes if you use mini muffin tins (which you should, because that makes them adorable).

2 small apples, peeled and diced
1 tbs cup fresh lemon juice
½ tsp of pumpkin pie spice
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus extra for pans
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

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  1. set oven at 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 mini muffin tins.
  1. peel and dice the apple into small cubes. Immediately coat with lemon juice to avoid browning. Toss with pumpkin pie spice and add a pinch of salt, make sure apples are well covered.
  1. whisk eggs until frothy. Add in flour, then sugar, vanilla, and milk. Throw in an extra pinch of cinnamon if you’re feeling dangerous.
  1. give each muffin space 5 or 6 apple cubes, and cover each with batter so they are ¾ full. Bake for 40 minutes.
  1. Let cool ten minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve
mini dutch babies

spaghetti squash and pepperoni sauce

Yes, I did in fact say pepperoni sauce.

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it’s decorative gourd season! I for one could not be more excited about it. In this little corner of America, the leaves are once again mimicking the shades of a brilliant sunset…making driving on highways pleasurable and reminding us all to stock up on cider.

The farmers’ markets are also shifting out of their summer ware as zucchini and pattypans are being replaced by delicatas and butternuts. Squash is a quintessential piece of the autumnal diet.  And while each is great in its own right, spaghetti squash holds a special place in this carb lovers heart.

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It is an exceptionally deceiving substitute for pasta, mimicking it in color and hearty texture.  This dish is ridiculously easy, and comes together quickly for a veggie-centric weeknight dinner.  Salami or sopressata can sub in for pepperoni.   In a pinch you can use a favorite jarred tomato sauce.  And there are greens thrown in just for good measure so you remember to pat yourself on the back for eating so many vegetables.

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Let’s celebrate decorative gourd season the right way.

Spaghetti Squash with Pepperoni Sauce

the base of the sauce is adapted (barely) from the incomparable Deb Perelman of smitten kitchen. I trust her on almost everything because unlike me she is utterly meticulous in her testing and retesting. I take a more…devil may care approach.

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THE SAUCE
2 cups swiss chard or spinach leaves, sliced in strips
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup red wine
hunk of pepperoni (this is to taste really, but get it thick off the log from the butcher), cubed

THE REST
olive oil & butter for cooking
1 large (or 2 small) spaghetti squashes
parmesan cheese for garnishing

1. Set the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and place flesh side down on the baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for half an hour, or until fork tender.

2. Remove the squash and let it cool enough to handle.  Using a fork, scrape the flesh out of the skin.  It will come out in strands and look like spaghetti.  Put in a large bowl and set aside.

3. In a large pot over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of butter, and add onion. Let cook 5 minutes or until just translucent.  Add in the garlic and greens, then cook an additional minute.  Add in the rest of the sauce ingredients and cook together over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until flavors meld and the greens are well wilted (this takes a bit longer if you are using chard as it is tougher than spinach).

4. Pour the sauce over the squash and mix together to coat the strands.  Top with parmesan cheese for a truly pasta-esque experience.

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this is real life.
spaghetti squash and pepperoni sauce

maple spiced oats

Oatmeal is having a renaissance. I am not talking about those square little packages that you just add water to–not to hate on instant oatmeal, it serves a purpose in a pinch–but I am talking about serious oats.

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Cooking oats on the stove top takes only a few more minutes than the instant stuff, yet it creates a completely different product. It gets kind of fluffy, and toothsome. Yeah, toothsome.

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My oats air on the side of creamy.  It’s a bit like a porridge a la Oliver Twist, only way tastier.  The best part is with the right accoutrements this can be a perfectly seasonal breakfast.  Add a dash of cinnamon during the cooking for a little spice, and stir in some maple syrup at the end for the ultimate autumnal bowl of goodness.  Because maple spice is the new taste of fall…later pumpkin.

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Maple Spiced Oats
2 servings

1 cup oats
2 cups water1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Maple syrup to taste
pinch of sea salt (it highlights all the other flavors)

1. Bring the water to a bowl. Add oats, lower to medium heat.  Stir oats with a wooden spoon about 2 minutes as oats thicken.
2. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 2-3 minutes.  Uncover and add milk and cinnamon. Stir continuously as oatmeal continues to thicken. Remove when it reaches your desired thickness.
3. Add maple syrup to taste and a pinch of sea salt and stir to combine.

Definitely feel free to add nuts, diced apples, dried fruit…heck get crazy and throw in a pinch of nutmeg to get real spicy. Oatmeal is a blank canvas just begging to be painted delicious.

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maple spiced oats