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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Warm Spiced Pear Tart--Just In Time For Fall!

Years ago, when I was beginning my career as a food writer and teacher, I loved to prepare Julia Child’s baked pear gratin with a macaroon crust from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I. The recipe was simplicity itself. Pears were sliced, placed in a baking dish, tossed with apricot jam and white wine, and then baked with a topping of crushed cookies and bits of butter.           

Last week, as I was contemplating different fillings for an autumn tart, I remembered that dish and knew that those pears would be delectable baked in a pastry crust. I added seasonings of  cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves to the fruit, and to keep things really easy, used purchased puff pastry for the tart shell. When done, this dessert boasts a golden, flakey crust and a filling of tender, juicy pears infused with aromatic spices.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hearty Soup and Fall Weather--Definitely A Winning Combination

After one of the hottest summers I can remember, autumn has at last arrived in New England.  Temperatures have started to drop, there’s a crispness in the air, and days are getting shorter.  I’ve even noticed that my fellow New Englanders--typically reserved and quiet--have broad smiles on their faces and are uncharacteristically chatty, initiating conversations with “Fall is here!”

So, along with taking out my sweaters and jackets, and setting the thermostat to warm instead of cool, I’ve pulled out my recipes for robust dishes. Among them is a Tuscan-style white bean soup topped with crusty croutons. A breeze to make, this hearty Italian “zuppa,” assembled with cannellini beans, carrots, onions, celery, and kale plus a hint of bacon, is perfect for the new season. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Comté Cheese Makes a Fall Salad Even Better

A few weeks ago while admiring the bountiful display at the cheese counter of my local Whole Foods, I spotted one of my favorite French fromages!  There, in full view, was a wheel of Comté, a hard, ivory-hued cow’s milk cheese with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor from the  east of France. I was even more surprised later that month when I discovered that two local supermarket chains were selling Comté as well.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out how to use my purchase. Since fall weather was arriving, I decided to include it in an autumn salad.  I combined beautiful deep wine- and green-hued leaf lettuce with Belgian endive for the base, then added thinly sliced pears, toasted nuts,

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Doughnut Muffins—Different, Easy, and Delicious

Photo by Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Leafing through the pages of Diane Worthington’s beautiful new book, Seriously Simple Parties, I found plenty of recipes that made me want to rush into the kitchen and start cooking. In this collection, just as in the author’s successful prequels, Seriously Simple, and Seriously Simple Holidays, the philosophy is the same. “Keep it fresh and keep it simple!”

From tempting drinks and appetizers, to seasonal soups and salads, to a cornucopia of mains and sides, plus plenty of desserts, Diane has streamlined her recipes without sacrificing flavor.

Doughnut Muffins is a good example. The name alone was intriguing. Who would have imagined that the delicious goodness of doughnut batter could be baked as muffins instead of fried in fat as rings? The muffins, prepared either in mini-or standard-sized pans, come out golden and tender. Then they are finished with a coating of melted butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.