Pumpkin Time

We returned to a splendid and sunny October. Leaves turned gold and red and orange as they drifted on the wind, skittered along sidewalks and roads, and came to rest in crunchy heaps. Days shorten, but orange twinkle lights and illuminated pumpkin lanterns glow in dark of evening.

Real pumpkins appear everywhere! They decorate front porches and steps and perch on fenceposts. Hundreds of pumpkins, destined to be jack-o’-lanterns, created an enormous tilted mountain (diminished daily), outside the grocery store – every possible size and shape of orange pumpkin and also an oddball, Halloween-y variety, gnarly with dark green lumps. At Bloedel Reserve, a whole host of elaborately shaped squashes and gourds sit on tree branches and cluster at tree bases.

And at our house – a bounty of pumpkins and squash from those few little plants! After waiting for the stems to turn brown and leaves to collapse, I harvested, and now sugar snap pumpkins (to stretch the pie season) and delicata squash (for the Thanksgiving table) line up on a slatted bench in our unheated garage.

I exchanged squash for tart apples, from the tree of a gardener I met on my walk, left some on friends’ doorsteps and car hoods, and gave pumpkins to my neighbors who also make pie.

And best of all – I sent pumpkins north and pumpkins south to three little people excited about the season! (I’ve heard we have in the family a fairy with glittery pink wings, Batman, and, this one I can’t wait to see, a drivable piece of heavy equipment.)

Enjoy the visiting goblins and superheroes tomorrow – and maybe some pumpkin pie!

Dinner with the Sweet Baby

At Downtown Abbey, Mr. Carson suggested he make Jamie Oliver’s “Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes, and I said, “Oh I love sloppy Joes.” I admit the ground beef version is not my usual fare, but deep-seated fond memories stir. Our younger son replied the same way when I proposed them at his house. They are deliciously sloppy and nurturing.

By my second visit (after a week away) Sweet Baby had gained 10 ounces and grown an inch! She begins to fill out – with a hint of the double chin and chub to come.

Most days, after my treasured early mornings with her, I’d walk in the California hot sun up the nearby hill in Eagle Rock – a well-worn knob above Occidental College. From the top it provides a 360° view of Los Angeles: downtown, the Hollywood hills and Griffith Observatory, the San Gabriel Mountains behind Pasadena, freeways – and Sweet Baby’s house a speck in the distance.

She is so tiny to live in such a huge city! But her small world comforts and protects her. She spends time on her parents in a Solly Baby wrap – pale pink with polka dots. She peeks up at their faces, and you can see the outline of her little form within the wrap. During “tummy time,” she turns her head from side to side, staring at the black and white and red books favored by the very young.

In a very happy event, the Sweet Bride’s mom and a cousin are coming for a month from Thailand to meet the Sweet Baby. Perhaps they will try this all-American fare:

Sauté a small, diced onion, diced red or yellow pepper, and two sticks of celery (also diced) in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until soft. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of ground cumin and one of chili powder.

Add a cup of French lentils, three cups of water, a 28-ounce can of tomatoes (sauce or crushed), three tablespoons of tomato paste, and one of Sriracha sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until the lentils are soft (a while – at least half an hour). When tender, add a teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.

Serve the lentils in sloppy Joe fashion, over or in a buttered and toasted whole-wheat bun. Add toppings – big scoops of avocado for sure. (Oliver suggests homemade zucchini relish, but that’s for another time.)

What used to be happy hour in Eagle Rock with chips and beer on the veranda now coincides with the ill-famed “witching hour,” when babies need most to move and be comforted by contact. I loved watching the Sweet Baby in the front wrap on her dad, as he paced his garden and shushed her gently.

Sloppy Joes can wait, ready when you are.



Blistered Tomato and Lentil Salad

Fresh tomatoes and squash sit side by side on the kitchen counter this time of year – bounty that encourages cooking after a summer of flagging interest.

Our CSA arrived with beautiful tomatoes and a recipe for using them. And tomatoes padded in my carry-on, I headed north to Anchorage earlier this month.

And very glad I was to see Lady Baby! We did all our usual things – playgrounds and much, much reading – she knows many books by heart, but is quick to point to text and request “say these words” when she doesn’t.

I attended her music class, and observed with her and her mom at a preschool. We met the bunnies, Lefty and Righty (named for their cage alignment), watched children raking patterns in fallen leaves, sliding, running, digging potatoes, and pulling carrots and washing them to make soup (feeding the tops to the bunnies). It looked like great fun for next fall.

Before I arrived, Mr. Carson had cooked lentils, and a batch of Deborah Madison’s “White Bean Soup with Pasta.” (The soup provided dinner, warming lunch many days, and a reminder that soup matters in autumn. The trick to that soup is to cook for a long time.)

If you haven’t lentils already prepared, the recipe for “Blistered Tomato and Lentil Salad,” adapted from honestcooking.com, says to soak half a cup of rinsed brown lentils in three cups of water (for at least three hours to shorten cooking time), then rinse and cook with dash of salt and three cups of water for about 15 minutes.

Blister a cup of halved or roughly chopped tomatoes by cooking on high heat with a garlic clove, tablespoon of olive oil, and salt in a sauté pan (about five to seven minutes).

Combine the cooked and drained lentils with the tomato mixture in a large bowl. Add a cup of thinly sliced kale (I’ve used all kinds in this) and quarter cup of chopped red onion.

Dressing puts the zing in the lentils and kale. Combine one tablespoon each of Dijon mustard and white rice vinegar, half tablespoon of tahini, two tablespoons of olive oil, and half teaspoon of cumin powder. Whisk. Dress the salad and serve right away or refrigerate.

I got almost this far, salad ready to dress, Hassleback potatoes in the oven, when Mrs. Hughes came home and took over while I read more books with Lady Baby. (Such a treat to have help with cooking from the other staff at Downtown Abbey.)

Mrs. Hughes sautéed zucchini (a Lady Baby favorite), roasted cut-up purple carrots with olive oil and salt, and in the perfect finishing touch to the lentil salad – fried an egg to top each serving.

Hearty autumn meal (and great leftovers the next day). I’m inspired to cook again!

Fried egg - paper

Fried Rice With Vegetables

When the sweet bride made fried rice with kale, it was delicious! “Oh sure, I will send you my recipe,” she said. Sounded simple.

Sauté minced garlic with olive oil in a pre-heated wok or skillet on medium high heat. After the garlic is golden brown, add diced carrots, and stir for five to six minutes until the carrots are soft. Add one or two diced tomatoes. Stir. Cook for a few minutes more, then add cooked rice and combine.

Make a hole by pushing the mixture to the sides of the pan, add two or three eggs, let them stand for a few minutes and stir as you would scrambled eggs. Then finish by mixing the eggs into the rice. (Add the kale at this point.)

There are pitfalls for the inexperienced: the threat of gooey rice, the risk of eggs not mixing in well. One voice of caution suggested that in the hands of a non-expert, things might get mushy.

Some cooks suggest beginning with cold (even frozen leftover rice). And Frugal Feeding recently posted (here) about cooking the eggs separately as a little omelette, then rolling it up and cutting it into pieces before adding. Foolproof he says, and the bites of egg stay separate and taste great.

I also happened on Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe for “Brussels Sprout Fried Rice” (here). She cooks the sprouts (trimmed and quartered) with the carrots (and outlines some other possibilities).

I asked the sweet bride if she thought that would work – “Of course,” she said, “that would be delicious!”


Yotam Ottolenghi Dresses My Fridge

The great strength of our London flat was location. From a bus stop at the top of our street, we could ride for five minutes, hop off at Notting Hill Gate Tube station, and be transported to royal London, business London, theatre London.

And just a short walk from our flat, making it easy to bring home boxes of delicious food, we found the famous chef Yotem Ottolenghi’s Notting Hill establishment, on Ledbury Aveue. It’s a tiny skinny place with just one big communal table at the back for eating there, but in the front space, which can’t be more than 10 feet across, huge platters of salads and meats are on offer each day. In a display window on the street, delicious desserts vie for attention.

Thanks to Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, you can do it all at home with your own fresh, seasonal ingredients. I have his book “Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi,” and, most cherished in a recipe book, it’s full of inspiration. (The links here are from his Guardian newspaper recipe column.) Ottolenghi’s meal-making salads combine unexpected ingredients and dressings. The wordsmith recently made “Sweet Winter Slaw”( http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/jan/12/recipe.foodanddrink) using green cabbage and substituting kale for savoy cabbage – so good!

I read his recipe “Roasted parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Caper Vinaigrette” (http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2008/jan/19/weekend7.weekend4) before tackling the motley, approaching antique, vegetables I found in my fridge when we got home. An investigation of the crisper drawer revealed parsnips, turnips, some of which turned out to be very large radishes, and some mature beets. I also had a big sweet potato, several shallots, a garlic bulb, sprigs of rosemary from the garden and thyme from a pot on the porch. Ottolenghi magic transformed this bunch into an amazing winter meal!

His hints about the order and time for roasting make this work. To begin he mixes olive oil, parsnips, red onions in a bowl (I used the shallots and the other vegetables I had). He roasts these (at 350°) for about 20 minutes. Then adds the sweet potato, chopped into wedges to the mixture, and stirs to coat.

After another 40 or 50 minutes, he adds halved cherry tomatoes. (I didn’t have those.)

I had to make substitutions in the dressing – I didn’t have the called for lemon, so squeezed a little tangerine juice into two tablespoons of olive oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, capers, and salt. Ottolenghi also calls for roasted sesame seeds.

Lately watching “Downton Abbey,” I think how we certainly don’t dress for dinner. But we should dress the vegetables, giving then a new life out of the drawer, a dressier life. Delicious.

Parsnips with Hats - cropped

Pumpkin Muffins – Prescribed

At my annual checkup, my doctor suggested I try the muffins she makes for her family’s breakfast, and scribbled the recipe on her prescription pad. The muffins are delicious and satisfying – no added sugar – just real food in the fun form of a muffin. Tasty, nurturing, and nutritious.

I took the last of a batch to Downtown Abbey, planning to eat a muffin with my oatmeal while Lady Baby ate toast with her oatmeal. No. Lady Baby pointed at the muffin. I said, “Well maybe try a little bit?” That piece gone, she pointed again and again, saying politely each time, “More pease!” A hit.

To make the muffins you combine two cups of almond flour with one-half teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of baking powder in a large bowl. Set aside. (At this point I add powdered ginger, cinnamon, and a little grated nutmeg.)

Blend in the food processor a half-can of pumpkin, two or more whisked eggs, two ripe bananas (approximately a cup), and a half-cup of olive or coconut oil. (I’ve only used olive oil but suspect coconut would be good.)

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk. Fold in blueberries, and nuts if you like. (Pecans add a good crunch.)

This single batch of batter fills a tray of 12 muffins. (I often double the recipe and freeze the muffins in foil-wrapped packets of three, then warm them up in the toaster oven before eating.)

To allow the muffins to come out of the pan more easily, I’ve learned to cut a little parchment paper circle for the bottom of each oiled muffin compartment. (Cupcake papers leave too much muffin on the paper for me.)

Bake at 400° for approximately 22 minutes (my oven takes a little longer). Let cool before gently removing the muffins.

If any bits break off in the process, eat immediately, and gladly – after all, doctor’s orders!

Pumpkin cropped

Vedge – A Vegetable Restaurant

On the visit back East, we stayed in Center City – what Philadelphians call the heart of their city – full of historic sites, shopping, a broad thoroughfare with world-class museum offerings – and restaurants!

And I discovered maybe my favorite-ever restaurant! Located in an elegant townhouse on Locust Street, Vedge has a lively atmosphere, an attentive, enthusiastic wait staff, good lighting, and comfy seats. To eat in such a beautiful, “hip” restaurant and be able to eat everything was such a treat for me.

While Vedge’s chef/owners, husband and wife team Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, use no animal products in their kitchen, they choose to call Vedge “a vegetable restaurant.” The title reflects the stars of the show, “vegetables at the forefront,” not an after thought or side dish. Vegetables dominate the menu – the starters, the hot dishes and, of course, “The Dirt List.” Seasonal and local goes without saying.

On our night The Dirt List included Brussels sprouts, broccolini, beets, green beans, zucchini, mushrooms, and fingerling fries. The plates are small, a little like tapas, providing multiple opportunities for taste adventures. From the saffron cauliflower soup to the über chunk chocolate dessert – it was all beautifully presented and so flavorful!

Two nights later we returned to Vedge with an old friend who lives nearby (I love repeating a known pleasure on a trip, and it’s fun to become a little bit of a “regular”). It was Restaurant Week in Philadelphia and no reservations available, but we were invited to show up in hopes of nabbing one of the unreserved tables overlooking the open kitchen.

No luck – but – the creative seater at the front desk found us a little velvet couch in a corner with three stools – one for sitting and two for plates of food – a cozy spot on a rain-splattered night to catch up with our old friend and explore more Vedge dishes!

On the plane back to the West Coast I read all of the chefs’ newly published cookbook: “Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking.” I heartily recommend this book – a great treat for the cook at your house (that would probably be you!). The chefs travel the world seeking ways to adapt traditional flavors to their vegetable-centric menu.

The book is inspiring. The second night home I made their Portobello frites (an adaptation of Steak frites you’d find in a French bistro) featuring “a juicy red wine reduction that sings with tarragon and a touch of Dijon” – terrific! (And quicker and easier than it sounds.)

I’ll be revisiting Vedge’s cookbook in the blog – and dreaming of revisiting Vedge!

Brussels sprouts

Summer Meals

Mark Bittman, in his new cookbook, “VB6: Eat Vegan Before Six to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health,” writes about his successful weight loss – achieved by eating vegan on a part-time basis. Bittman increased his eating of fruits and vegetables and eliminated processed and animal foods during the day, but could be indulgent and eat whatever he wanted after 6 p.m.

The recipes in the book are mainly vegan, and his ratatouille has become my go-to dish for this time of year. The CSA and farmers’ markets provide green goodness by the armful, and this recipe wants to include all that zucchini and broccoli, all those green beans.

Summer cooking should be easy, and this good dish has such easy prep! At Downtown Abbey we made a version of the ratatouille by roasting the vegetables first – delicious! But at home I cooked the vegetables on the top of the stove – a little quicker this way:

Combine onions and one or more of the green vegetables above (what you have on hand) with a goodly amount of olive oil, also peppers or eggplant if you want. Cook gently for a while. Add a can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and canned tomatoes (I used two cans of diced tomatoes, but fresh would be great). Bittman suggests including thyme or marjoram for herbs. Rice is nice along side.

Another summer meal comes from the wordsmith, and I’m going to share her email, because this dish sounds so unusual, so easy and delicious (and a good way to use the broccoli bounty!):

“Yesterday I made a chilled broccoli soup with the CSA produce. Chopped up the broccoli and braised it (without stirring) for 5 minutes in olive oil. Removed it from the pot and then sautéed an onion. Put the broccoli back in the pot with the onion and added 2 cups of water, simmered for half an hour until the broccoli was fork-tender, then used an immersion blender to moosh it all. Added 1/4 cup of fresh, chopped dill and the juice of a lemon, some sea salt. Put it in the fridge till it was cold. No dairy, no stock. Wow was it ever good, and so filling!”

Thanks wordsmith – I’m trying this!

green beans

Saag Aloo

The Website “Frugal Feeding” recently wrote about the spinach and potato dish called saag aloo. (Saag aloo sounds a little like a line from one of Lady Baby’s songs, “saag a-loo my darlin’.” But not.) So, because I had new potatoes, some spinach, and much kale raab from the CSA, I tried a variation.

Begin by toasting spices in a large pan (half teaspoon turmeric, one teaspoon garam masala, and a teaspoon of black onion seeds – called for but I couldn’t find). This smells terrific as it warms. Then add oil, and begin to cook a finely chopped onion.

Continue cooking the onions until translucent, then add three cloves of garlic mashed, one or two chopped chili peppers, seven or eight cherry tomatoes cut in half, and 300 grams or 10 ounces of potatoes cut into one-inch chunks.

Frugal Feeding is a Brit, so his recipes always call for a little interpretation by Yank readers – his grams to our ounces. He says to add a “splash” of water after a few minutes – but he quantifies his splash as 50 to 60 milliliters – around a quarter-cup by my trusty Pyrex measuring cup.

With the lid on, continue to simmer until the potatoes are tender.

The original recipe calls for 160 grams of fresh spinach (about five ounces of spinach or in this case leaves and flowers of raab) blanched in hot water, then blended in a food processor until paste-like.

Stir the greens into the pan once the potatoes are cooked and serve with rice or chapitis. I remembered to mold the rice using a cup (as the sweet bride taught me), and the saag aloo looked colorful around the rice.

How did it taste? Both bland and spicy – maybe it needed more salt than I added – maybe I shouldn’t have added another splash of water (to prevent too much sticking). The potatoes tasted great, but maybe the black onion seeds were crucial. And I substituted the raab, so not really a fair test, though it made a very green paste. It was warming and used up the raab, and leftovers the next day tasted way better.

Maybe saag aloo another time!

Cherry tomato pattern

Potatoes, Rebaked, Deviled, and Pied*

*Pied – liked baked in a pie – not multi-colored like the Pied Piper’s cape, but that is off subject. Potatoes are the subject.

Going through past posts on “Her spirits rose…” (for a new project – more about that soon), I came on the recipe for a quiche with a potato crust. I noticed because potatoes have been on my mind.

Have you read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows? A dear book, it’s about the solace and comfort of reading and about a young author’s serendipitous discovery of her next book (a tale for readers but also for writers), sad and awful in its historical truths, but loving and wonderful in its characters and their relationships to each other and to reading. The book peels back in on itself – nicely.

The novel’s structure, character development, plot, and setting unfold in epistolary style. The epistles being letters written in 1946 England between the young writer, Juliet Ashton, and some residents of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands off the south coast of England.

Guernsey was occupied by the Germans during the war, and left by Britain to fend for itself. The Guernsey residents who become Juliet’s friends write their wartime stories to her. She becomes involved in their lives and, inevitably, travels to Guernsey. (See if you can read this and not want to journey to Guernsey yourself!)

The author, Mary Ann Shaffer (the book was finished by her niece Annie Barrows) does a masterful job with the characters. She reveals them completely through their letters, as they tell stories of wartime hardship and the unlikely way a literary society (of all things) helped counter fear and hunger. A potato peel pie appears (but is not recommended by the author.)

But back to recommended potatoes. I noticed these: Devilish Potatoes  and Angel Potatoes . Devil or angel – whichever you would like to call them – a zillion versions are found on the Web, which means using whatever flavors you associate with deviled eggs (spicy mustard, celery seed, paprika, or not).

New potatoes, an egg-like size, are coming soon. I used small red potatoes and made them simply with a little mayo, mustard, turmeric for color, and paprika.

Because they can be made ahead and served at room temperature, they’d be a great offering for a picnic, a potluck, or even – should you belong to one – the meeting of a literary society!

Beautiful Squash and Kale

It’s so easy this time of year to grab a fresh and sturdy, rubber-banded bouquet of kale at the grocery store (actually in Washington that’s true any time of year), so I almost always do. Usually the kale goes into soup (any soup here seems to accept kale), but these winter months I’ve often made Louise Langsner’s “Slow-Sauté of Squash with Greens.”

The Langsner home must be a tasty place to eat – lately she’s focused on spices and available winter vegetables. (Have a look at her site – she’s a masterful gardener and cook: http://louiselangsner.wordpress.com/ . I’m about to try “Squash and White Bean Soup with Sage” or maybe “Thai Coconut Curry Soup.”)

In spite of “slow” in the title, her squash and kale recipe is quick and really delicious. I’ve made it with both acorn and butternut squash – and once with sweet potatoes. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the quantities, just balanced the orange and green – in truth just using the kale and squash on hand.

To begin, cut an onion into half and slice thinly. While the onion cooks over a medium heat in two tablespoons of olive oil, peel, seed, and cut four-and-a-half to five cups of winter squash and chop into half-inch cubes.

In four or five minutes, when the onions are soft, add a sliced garlic clove and one-quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes or a small hot chile, minced.

Put the cubes of squash in the pan, stirring “to coat well with oil.” Langsner increases the heat to medium-high at this point, and cooks “stirring occasionally” for four or five minutes.

In between all this, pull the leaves from the kale’s mid-rib and slice. After adding the greens, sprinkle a half-teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of water (when I make this in non-non-stick pans, it does get a little crusty – but the water loosens things up).

Continue to cook until the squash and kale are tender – Langsner says four or five minutes, but my stove takes a little longer.

She recommends using this as a “filling for tacos or wraps, or a topping for pasta, pilaf, or polenta.” For the first meal for us, rice along side works well, and the leftovers taste great in great black bean tacos a day or so later.

The sweet bride recently sent me a photo of the variation she prepared – adding black beans and using chard rather than kale. Our younger son looks most pleased in the photo, with his colorful plate of chard and squash nestled beside a shapely mound of brown rice!

Chile Peppers

Carrots, Chocolate, and Red Pepper Flakes

Just before New Year’s Eve, I made a huge pot of white bean and rosemary soup, and wish I’d thrown in a handful of black-eyed peas for New Year luck. Along with the lucky number 13, I’m hoping that putting them in the header will suffice!

Cooking cooking – lots of cooking over the holidays – and new cookbooks! Our younger son and his sweet bride were here over Christmas, and cooking seemed simple because I had her wonderful, companionable help. More to come about the cookbooks, but for now I wanted to pass along two recipes we made with much pleasure – both from the same blog: http://frugalfeeding.com/.

The site is full of interesting recipes and photos by a young man who writes about “making good food on a relatively small budget.” He writes from the UK with a lively good humor. Sometimes ingredient conversions are necessary – Google does for you quickly.

For a Christmas Eve gathering, we made his “Carrot and Coriander Hummus”: Roast 300 grams of chopped carrots (that’s about 10 ounces) with three unpeeled cloves of garlic in olive oil, salt, and pepper, until tender, just turning brown. Toast coriander seeds (I did this in the toaster oven). You need two teaspoons after “bashing” the seeds up a bit.

Put the carrots, the garlic squeezed out of its skin, two teaspoons of peanut butter (the mystery ingredient, nobody guessed peanut butter), a small handful of fresh coriander (didn’t have this), one teaspoon of chilli flakes (that’s a British-ism, I used red pepper flakes, pretty hot ones), and the juice of one lemon into a food processor. Then add one tablespoon of olive oil at a time (recipe says four) until the consistency is right for dip or spread.

FrugalFeeder says to serve with pita bread, but we substituted crackers. And, because we doubled the recipe, we were able to spread this on bread for several days after the party – really tasty.

Those same red pepper flakes (a sweet bride favorite) appear in another FrugalFeeding recipe “Chilli and Nutmeg Dark Chocolate Bark,” which is easy and looks festive. Start with good chocolate for this – we used 80% – three bars come close to the 300 grams called for.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. (I don’t have one, so we used a bowl inside a steamer basket.) Begin by breaking the chocolate and melting three-quarters of it. Remove the bowl from heat and add the rest of the chocolate and let it soften. Then put the chocolate back over the water until it reaches pouring consistency.

The sweet bride carefully poured the melted mixture onto a piece of parchment paper atop a baking tray – making a thin chocolate puddle. She’d earlier grated a nutmeg with a microplane grater (a new activity to us but perfect for a Christmas task, and I put the leftovers in Christmas pudding the next day), added a quarter teaspoon of the grated nutmeg to one teaspoon of pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt (coarse sea salt if you have it). She sprinkled this mixture over the still soft chocolate.

We went on to make red beans and rice and ginger cookies while the chocolate set up – then packed the broken bark into little bags – a quick, easy present! A recipient called the chocolate “not sweet and bitey hot!”

Carrots, chocolate, nutmeg, coriander, pepper flakes, family and friends – was a great holiday!

Paper palette carrot

Pumpkin Orange

On the day after Thanksgiving, my clever friend is giving a shower for the sweet bride. She’s asked guests to bring a little gift, a “favorite thing that makes regular life happier when you are seriously cooking, puttering in the kitchen or setting the table,” a picture of you on your wedding day (if appropriate), and a favorite recipe.

It sounds like fun for sure – a treat to honor the bride with this American tradition, a gathering of women who care about her. It will also be a chance to see a variety of wedding dresses – all very different from her pale-pink silk dress for next January’s wedding in Thailand!

I wrote out a version of Molly Bartlett’s “Cranberry Pumpkin Squash” for my recipe. We’ve had it once made with tiny pumpkins and once with acorn squash. It’s cheerful, seasonal, and tasty – and the sweet bride loves squash.

The recipe calls for two small pumpkins or acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise, with seeds removed. Place the halves in an ovenproof dish with a lid.

In a saucepan, combine one-half cup of fresh cranberries, one small flavorful apple (cored and chopped into pieces), a quarter cup of currants, one-half cup orange juice, a tablespoon and half of honey or maple syrup, a tablespoon of melted butter, and a pinch of salt. Heat until the berries and apple are just tender.

Fill the squashes with the berry and apple mixture, (I added chopped pecans), cover the dish, and bake till the squash is tender, about 35-40 minutes. Pumpkin orange and cranberry red – festive and delicious.

And the wedding dress picture: our wedding was late September 1969, and a judge flew his small plane to a lake cabin in Alaska to marry us. Those facts surely explain my homemade, pumpkin-orange wool dress!

“Market Vegetarian”

Good friends came to stay at the Buffalo this summer, and they left lovely gifts including Ross Dobson’s “Market Vegetarian: Easy Organic Recipes for Every Occasion.” I wanted to tell you about it in case you need a menu pick-me-up, just in time for autumn vegetables.

The book is beautiful, its design simple and elegant with gorgeous full-page pictures of prepared recipes. The photograph of hard-boiled eggs cut open in halves, glistening green beans, basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, and olives over rice completely inspired me, and I left the book open to “Nicoise-style Brown Rice Salad with Fresh Herbs” for days.

I’m not sure I ever made Dobson’s exact recipe – but I made all sorts of variations (the sign of a great cookbook for me) – using what we had on hand and including our neighbor’s fresh eggs. (Chickens so close we can hear the rooster in the morning). Sometimes I just piled the ingredients on a thick layer of spinach leaves and included the hardboiled eggs – a trick from Italy taught me by the mother of my young friend – a meal from a salad.

Dobson divides the book into sections reflecting the way he (and most of us) eat – ideas for “sharing plates” (fritters, baked mushrooms, potato and parsnip croquettes), midweek meals, soups and stews and Saturday night dinners that are a little more complicated. Also he includes a section on savory baking.

In the short introduction Dobson makes it clear he’s talking about vegetables from the farmers’ market or your garden – fresh vegetables. Including the ones that will store, available this time of year – lots of ingredients for “Roasted Early Autumn Vegetables with Chickpeas” or “Tagliatelle with Pan-fried Pumpkin and Red Pepper Oil” – and more and more. Now I’ve read through the whole book, enjoying the little narratives before each recipe, and am excited to make pretty much everything.

Dobson’s “Roasted Vegetable Stock” is going to be my first project. I’ve known for a while that using the skins from roasted sweet potatoes or squash really improves a stock, so I know he’s right when he says, “roasted vegetables are more flavorsome.”

Five stars and I’m hungry!