Autumn bucket list

And so we begin fall.  The midwest weather is cooperating so far, with a brisk 48 degrees this morning.  The rest of the week should be warmer, but still, there's a nip in the air and I've taken a stack of sweaters out of the bottom drawer. Autumn is my favorite season, and I don't want to miss a minute.  Thus, I've created a must-do list of simple pleasures to help me enjoy the best of the season. Janine's Autumn Bucket List Walk through crunchy leaves. Jump in a pile. Get pumpkins and chrysanthemums for a festive touch on the terrace. Make pear upside down cake. Go apple picking at Crane's Orchards.  Stop for doughnuts at Crane's Pie Pantry. Maybe make a twirl of my other Southwest Michigan food favorites. Enjoy the sugar Read more...

Pear love: open-faced sandwiches with blue cheese

Ralph Waldo Emerson said "there are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat. " I understand Mr. Emerson's sentiment. Pears are picked unripe, and they ripen from the inside out.  Which keeps them from getting smushed on the way to the farmers' market, but then they'll need several days to ripen on the counter. Forget on-the-counter pears at your peril. Once you have a soft, pliable pear, you are likely to discover a mealy mush inside.  When pears are abundant, I eat them with a vengeance: over granola and yogurt, in pies, out of hand. And savory too, like on pizza (don't judge until you've tried it). This sandwich couldn't be simpler. It's a matter of assembling flavors that go together: fresh pear, bitter Read more...

Fresh-juiced bloody mary with cilantro oil = brunch splendidness

When I was traveling to research Farmers' Markets of the Heartland, I fell in love with tomatoes all over again.  As a child, late summer meant toasted mayo-smeared tomato sandwiches on Spatz Bread, the Saginaw, Michigan bakery that is still around, and still so local that it doesn't have a website.  I never forgot that backyard tomato flavor, but my tasting tour opened my eyes to a new portfolio of tomato experiences. On my road trip, I inhaled the flavors and aromas of so many varieties, and delighted at the presentation of creative farmers, like Abra and Jess of Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport, Michigan, who assembled the charming display (in the photo below) at a market outside the stone train depot with a breathtaking view of the Read more...

Peanut butter granola with pepitas for summer house guests

August marks the home stretch of summer and, for me, a headlong rush to squeeze in every flip-flop wearing, campfire s'mores roasting, U-pick berry farm visiting that I can pack in before Labor Day. Because even though the calendar says that summer lasts until late September, August is the month to make summer happen. And that means a fast, easy, delicious start to the day when I have visitors at Pinecone Meadow Farm. Enter my peanut butter granola. Simple and flavorful, the recipe lends itself to all sorts of variations.  Here I embellish with roasted peanuts and pepitas, those little shelled pumpkin seeds. You can easily swap in chocolate chunks, cashews or sunflower seeds. Whatever strikes your fancy or is in the cupboard. When I have Read more...

Dorie’s Cherry Crumb Tart

My friend Dorie Greenspan is a wonder.  She writes these big, comprehensive, fun, delicious cookbooks, collaborates with the likes of Pierre Hermes and Daniel Bouloud and knows how to tie a scarf so she is right at home in Paris. Yes, Paris.  Dorie was smart enough to figure out how to split her time between Paris, New York and Connecticut, and we are the lucky recipients of her French food wisdom. In a few short months Dorie's next book will launch, and it's already my new favorite.  My review copy is already dog-eared, and now it's cherry stained too. Because cherries are at the height of the season here, and because a number of us are celebrating Paris in July, this is the time to make Dorie's Cherry Crumb Tart, just a small delightful Read more...

A cheese course to relax over: for Paris in July

I was invited to participate in Paris in July. Actually, I may have invited myself, because who doesn't want to fantasize about Paris? In July! Or any time really. First I spotted it spotted it on Nichole's blog, then I met Tamara of Thyme for Tea.  And more kindred spirits who will get to Paris any way we can, even it it's virtual. How to contribute to this lovely gathering of Paris lovers?  I'm going with a cheese course. I'm a big fan of cheese courses.  I wrote about them when Kirsten came to town with her new book.  And have crushed on Wisconsin cheeses at tastings and field trips. And because the French are so devoted to their own cheese makers, I decided to opt for cheeses from my beloved Midwest to end my latest dinner Read more...

Tomato white bean salad: what goes with the grill

When I taught cooking, one of my most popular classes was What Goes With the Grill. It seems that people feel pretty confident about cooking over an open flame, but are a little flummoxed about what to serve alongside. I still remember blushing at the compliments for my Grilled Peach and Fennel Salad. It remains a favorite during peach season. So delight ensued when a six pack of tomatoes arrived from the good people at Red Gold, a company based right here in the Midwest, which sent me straight to the kitchen to come up with some great sides for my own weekend grilling. For my first version of this Tomato and White Bean Salad, I used Petite Diced Tomatoes with Lime Juice and Cilantro. I stood at the stove, sautéing onions and adding some Read more...

Strawberry fest: recipes for a luscious summer

Strawberries are in! I wait all year for this time. I remember as a second grader and visiting my friend Michelle. Her family had rows and rows of strawberries in the backyard. On sunny summer afternoons, we'd pick them, then dab them in brown sugar while we sat at the picnic table. In Farmers' Markets of the Heartland, I wrote about Lloyd Nichols, whose array of strawberry varieties made me woozy with memory. And in recent years my friend Peter of Seedling Fruit inspired all sorts of ways to serve up the luscious strawberry, which you may know is the only fruit with the seeds on the outside. It's important to stay up on your berry trivia. But trivia aside, I invite you to join me in a few indulgence strawberry recipes from Read more...

A sweet and bitter salad: arugula with honey and salty cheese

My visit with the good people of the National Honey Board reminded me that there are so many ways to enjoy honey, beyond using it to sweeten things up.  Like drizzling it on yogurt. Or making Honey Ginger Ice Cream. Or my Homemade Honey Granola. It makes a perfect complement for sharp and salty flavors.  Think honey mustard vinaigrette. Or even something simpler. A friend returned from Italy with a story about a delightfully simple salad of arugula, olive oil, honey and big curls of Parmesan cheese. The honey cut the bitter of the green and sharpness of the cheese for a surprising flavor combination. For this salad you'll want to get out the vegetable peeler to shave the cheese rather than grate it. For this version, I chose Read more...

A taste of honey: how sweet it is

Some days it's great to be a food writer. A case in point:  the National Honey Board invited me to a luscious event, where I tasted the sweetness of life and learned about one of my favorite topics. Team Honey pulled out all the stops, bringing a beekeeper, a packer and the lovely Marie Simmons, author of A Taste of Honey, which was a gift for the attendees. My friend Kim Essex of Ketchum Public Relations moderated a panel, where I learned a thing or two about honey. I tasted fabulous ways to enjoy honey, like flatbread with melted manchego, roscmary and honey, and goat cheese spread with lemon and honey, which I'm sharing with you here. But first a few sweet facts The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that Read more...