These weeks that mark the end of summer and beginning of Fall have long been some of my favorites. Though I'm firmly a summer girl, I appreciate the fresh feeling of a new season and the opportunities it brings along with it.
I also love the lushness of this season as far as produce is concerned--we've still got plenty of summer bounty (ripe stone fruit, sweet corn, figs, even a few berries are still hanging around), but we also have the beginning of crisp Fall favorites like apples and pears. It's a perfect time for experimenting in the kitchen, and these are a few of my favorites that are perfect for the season:
1. Cinnamon Blueberry Pecan Coffee Cake
This easy coffee cake is studded with fresh blueberries and topped with handfuls of crunchy pecans. A generous dose of cinnamon in the batter makes it warm and perfect for the season.
2. Baked Apple Cider Donuts
My favorite thing at the farmer's market has always been apple cider donuts. This homemade recipe is baked (making it easier than the classic fried version). While I admit it's not as good as the market ones, it comes pretty darn close.
3. Apple Cider Mojitos
Speaking of apple cider...these Apple Cider Mojitos are like summer and fall got together and had a baby. A boozy boozy baby.
4. Chocolate Chip Fig Cake with Saffron
Talk about gorgeous heady flavors! This fragrant cake gets gorgeous color and flavor from saffron threads in the batter. Generous handfuls of chocolate chips and fresh figs (a wonderful match!) make it even richer. This is a perfect one for dinner parties or entertaining guests (you don't have to tell them how easy it is to make!).
5. Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs
Prefer something a little bit more savory? Give these roasted figs a try. They're stuffed with a bit of salty cheese, wrapped with thin slices of prosciutto, then roasted until crisp on the outside and meltingly soft and lush inside. A perfect party appetizer, or add a couple to a salad.
6. Sheet Pan Roasted Tomato Soup
Nothing like a bowl of tomato soup as the days get chillier. This easy version is made on a single sheet pan--just roast all the ingredients, puree, and serve!
7. Warm Cannellini Bean Salad with Roasted Vegetables
Roast those summer vegetables--tomatoes, fennel, onions--and toss with creamy white beans. It's and easy protein-packed meal that works as a meatless main or a gorgeous side.
A couple years ago, I picked up a copy of what quickly became one of my all-time favorite books: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. I bought it because the name sounded delightful, and (just as I'd suspected!) the story itself lived up to the name. I devoured the book in about a day, then proceeded to recommend it to everyone from ex-boyfriends to random strangers.
The minute I finished the book (or possibly even with a few pages still left), I jumped on Amazon to see if the writer (Robin Sloane) had written anything else. I was really, really, really hoping to find a half-dozen books to order immediately, but unfortunately (at least for me) this was his debut novel.
I soothed myself with the note in his bio that said he was working on something else (fingers crossed!) and set about looking for something else that was equally delicious to read.
A few months ago, I found out that the promised second book was nearly out! I pre-ordered it and it arrived just a couple days ago.
Once-again, I'm smitten. His writing is just so good and sets everything in my brain firing. It's even more exciting this time because the book has a serious food element to it (baking!).
Anyway, I'm a seriously happy girl. I recommend giving the book a try. Get it here. (That's an Amazon affiliate link, FYI, so I'll get a few cents if you order it, but it won't affect your price. Thanks!)
In a dinner rut? Here are 7 of my favorite easy ideas for delicious from-scratch dinners you can get on the table with just a few minutes in the kitchen--no complicated recipes or ingredients necessary!
1. Quick Pan-Seared Fish:
Fish is basically nature's fast food. It cooks in minutes with very little fuss. Rinse fish fillets of your choice (either fresh or frozen & thawed) in cold water and then pat with paper towels until very dry. Season generously with kosher salt and black pepper, and cook in hot skillet brushed with olive oil, about 2 minutes per side for skinny fillets, 4 minutes per side for fat ones. Serve with a pile of dressed salad greens, steamed veggies, or rice, and a few lemon wedges. Try this with tilapia, striped bass, cod, halibut, or salmon.
2. Crunchy Baked Chicken Tenders:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dip raw chicken tenders in buttermilk that has been seasoned generously with salt, pepper, and paprika. Coat them in panko breadcrumbs and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip and bake 10 more minutes. Serve with dipping sauces or use to make crunchy chicken sandwiches.
3. Cold Spicy Shrimp and Soba Noodle Salad:
Prepare soba (buckwheat) noodles according to package, then rinse with cold water and set aside. Add thawed cooked shrimp. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons sesame or olive oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sriracha or hot sauce, 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 minced garlic clove, and pour dressing over shrimp and noodles. Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with chopped scallions or sesame seeds, if desired.
4. Pesto Bean Salad:
Rinse and drain 2 cans of low sodium black beans, then empty into a large bowl (or use equivalent homecooked black beans). Add a handful of dried cranberries. In a blender, blitz together 1 bunch fresh basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup pine nuts or almonds, and 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Toss the pesto with the beans and cranberries. Serve on a bed of fresh baby arugula.
5. Roasted Root Veggie Jumble:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop a few each of: carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, and a large red onion. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread out on baking sheet and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Serve topped with crumbled feta or goat cheese.
6. Bangers and Smash:
Boil 2 pounds of small new potatoes until tender, then drain. While potatoes cook, combine 1 pound of sausage links (I prefer hot Italian sausage, but choose your fave) with 1 cup chicken broth in a shallow, covered skillet. Let simmer on low about 12 minutes, until cooked through and broth has reduced into a glaze. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and use the back of a fork to smash, season with olive oil, lemon juice, a teaspoon of mustard, chopped parsley, and salt and black pepper. Serve topped with sausage links.
7. Creamy Vegetable Soup:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottom pot. Saute one diced onion, one diced pepper, and three smashed garlic cloves until soft and fragrant. Add chopped broccoli and asparagus, and top with 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer until veggies are tender. Puree in batches until smooth, then season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne (optional) to taste.