Easy Thanksgiving salads and sides.

So, we’re a week away from Thanksgiving … if you’re much of an advance planner, you probably have the table set and the serving dishes labeled with little notes to indicate their contents. Or, perhaps you haven’t given any thought at all to your Turkey Day menu.

I’m in the advance planning camp. So I combed back through the writes4food archives to find a few fresh-tasting salad and side dish recipes to bring a little unconventional home-cooked love to your holiday table. If you’re planning a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner, then the broccoli-brown rice bake would be fantastic. (It remains one of the most popular vegetarian recipes around here.) The apple-fennel slaw recipe I shared last week would be terrific for Thanksgiving: super seasonal and very bright-tasting, a nice contrast to the heavier holiday foods. I’ve also included a couple of easy homemade bread recipes.

apple fennel slaw

Apple-fennel slaw with pecans.

Recently I met my friend and fellow Edible Ohio Valley collaborator Karen Gibson for lunch at the delightful LaSoupe in Newtown. (You’ll want to bookmark Karen’s amazing recipe blog SoupAddict.com for future and frequent reference.) Karen recently wrote about LaSoupe, its founder Suzy DeYoung and its mission to repurpose discarded produce and feed hungry neighbors. Suzy is not only a generous soul, but she makes damn good soup. A bowl of soup, some salad and conversation with Karen made for a fantastic lunch.

While the soup filled my belly in the most delicious of ways on that crisp fall day, the salad really made me extra happy. It was so simple: thin matchsticks of apple and fennel and a few toasted pecans in a bright vinaigrette. I just loved it.

I had all the ingredients in my refrigerator and pantry — including homemade mayonnaise, which I highly recommend for this recipe — so I got out my handy mandoline and started slicing.

If you don’t have a mandoline, you could cut the fennel and apple into wedges and then into very thin slices. But I’d advocate for acquiring a mandoline — it’s a highly effective, multipurpose kitchen tool that I use for everything from slicing potatoes paper-thin to make oven chips to shredding vegetables into matchsticks. Mine is a Swissmar model that set me back all of 40 bucks, a worthy investment.

This salad is packed with fall flavors — both apple and fennel are in season locally right now. It would make a fantastic addition to your Thanksgiving table, and can be made a day ahead.

Thanks to LaSoupe for the inspiration!

apple-fennel slaw with pecans recipe

makes 4 servings

1 large apple
1 fennel bulb
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced fennel fronds
Salt to taste

Quarter the apple and remove the seedy core. Cut the fennel bulb in half and remove the core. Use a mandoline to slice the apple and fennel into matchsticks; transfer to a bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the homemade mayonnaise and vinegar. Drizzle the dressing over the apple and fennel, tossing to coat well. Add the toasted pecans, herbs and salt to taste. Serve immediately, or let sit for an hour or so.

FindlayMarketCookbook Cover

It’s here: The Findlay Market Cookbook.

Finally, about almost a year, it’s here: The Findlay Market Cookbook. I’m just overwhelmed and proud of the project.

It’s everything I hoped it would be: A celebration of this wonderful place where Rob and I spend practically every Saturday morning. A compelling argument for embracing local food. A love letter to the farmers, vendors and producers who bring us those delicious products. A snapshot of Cincinnati’s current food scene, with recipes from some of our finest chefs and mixologists. You’ll find it exclusively at Findlay Market through early 2015, and then at bookstores in our area. Most important: Proceeds support the nonprofit Corporation for Findlay Market, which manages and sustains this cultural icon. Catch a sneak preview of a few recipes from the cookbook here.

[And yes, it would make a lovely Christmas gift for your family and friends.]

Rather than blather on about it, I thought I’d share a few pages that I love:

Dean's

Gibbs

Market Wines

Pho Lang Thang

recipe for old-fashioned cut-out sugar cookies | writes4food.com

The Clara Project: Sugar cookies.

Two things: 1) It’s gorgeous outside, with lavish autumn leaves against an impossibly blue sky. 2) It’s baking weather.

Time for fall cutout sugar cookies, am I right?

This old-fashioned sugar cookie recipe comes from Clara Shenefelt’s recipe collection (see more about The Clara Project and other vintage recipes). I tinkered with the recipe a bit by adding almond extract, which I think takes an ordinary sugar cookie into the next stratosphere. These cookies bake up light and crispy.

To make the fall leaf cookies, mix together two different colored sugar blends: red, orange and yellow; and yellow and green. Sprinkle the decorative sugars liberally over the cookies before you bake them.

This cutout cookie recipe will serve you well again in December, when you’ll be decorating Santas and Christmas trees and snowflakes.

best old-fashioned sugar cookies

1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon water for finishing
granulated or decorative sugar for finishing

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl and using a hand mixer), cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the beaten egg and mix to combine; add the milk and extracts and stir to combine thoroughly. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the mixing bowl; stir to combine well. Transfer the cookie dough to a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap, cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and roll out one half to about 1/8-inch thick (keep the other refrigerated until ready to use). Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter dipped in flour; transfer cookies to the baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Brush the cookies lightly with egg white and sprinkle generously with granulated or decorative sugars. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until edges are very lightly brown. Remove baking sheet from the oven and let it sit for 1 minute before transferring cookies to a baking rack to cool.

easy low-calorie roasted carrot-bell pepper soup recipe | writes4food.com

Roasted red pepper and carrot soup.

This easy recipe for healthful vegetable soup was prompted by opportunity: an abundance (still!) of red bell peppers in my garden, and a bunch of freshly dug carrots I found at Findlay Market. I tossed the vegetables with some olive oil and North African-inspired spices, roasted them in the oven, and then pureed them with some vegetable stock to create a beautiful, low-fat red pepper and carrot soup.

There’s no easier way to create soup than to roast some veggies, transfer them to a pot with stock, and whirl them together with an immersion blender. The whole process takes maybe 45 minutes, most of it unattended. And roasted vegetable soup is just what you want on a cold night (perhaps with a slab of homemade bread). Too, it makes a satisfying lunch a day or two later, and it’s low in calories and fat.

You can create your own roasted vegetable soup out of whatever you happen to find at the market or grocery: broccoli-leek, sweet potato-bell pepper, butternut squash. You’ll want 3 or 4 cups of roasted vegetables and 4 cups of vegetable stock. Want a bit of cream? Sure. Drizzle the soup with some good olive oil before serving, or top with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Make this recipe your own.

Moroccan-inspired roasted carrot and red pepper soup recipe

serves 4

4 large carrots, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1/3-inch coins
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 leek, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3 cups vegetable broth
kosher salt and ground white pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
fresh herbs for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, toss together the carrots, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the cumin and kosher salt. Transfer the carrots to a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the bell pepper and leek in the same bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and kosher salt. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, move the carrots to one side and add the bell pepper and leek to the pan. Roast for another 25–30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender; add 2 cups of vegetable broth and puree for 2–3 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender, until the soup is smooth. Transfer the soup to a large bowl and stir in the remaining 1 cup of vegetable broth and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Top with a drizzle of excellent olive oil or a dollop of Greek yogurt and some snipped chives.

 

fall soup with potatoes, leeks and greens | writes4food.com

Potato, leek and winter greens soup.

After a summer diet heavy on tomatoes, corn and zucchini, I’m finally embracing the change of seasons and a shift to cooler-weather veggies like potatoes, winter squash and onions. I suppose the chore of pulling the dessicated tomato vines out of the garden on a cool, cloudy day recently has shifted my mindset.

It’s the beauty of eating seasonally: Just when you’re so. sick. and. tired. of zucchini, the farmers’ markets start showing acorn squash and sweet potatoes. And our tastes change, right? The other day, I had a very serious craving for a ginormous baked potato loaded with butter and salt. As A.A. Milne observed, “What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”

Indeed.

So here’s a perfectly seasonal recipe for potato-leek soup with winter greens that’s based on a recipe from Alice Waters’s “The Art of Simple Food.” Hers features onions and kale; I swapped leeks and Swiss chard, which continues to thrive in my meager vegetable garden. As with most soups, this one gains character and flavor with time, so make it a day or two ahead of when you plan to serve it. This soup is  low in fat and calories, as well, and it’s a terrific option for both lunch and dinner.

potato leek and greens soup recipe

serves 4 to 6

1 large bunch kale or Swiss chard, washed, thick stems removed and chopped
1 cup chopped leek
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat; add the leek and stir to coat with oil. Cook the leek until it's very soft and translucent (but not browned), about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the potatoes and greens and cook about 5 minutes; season well with a generous pinch of kosher salt. Add the vegetable stock; bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a drizzle of very good olive oil over the top.

black pepper skillet biscuits | writes4food.com

The Clara Project: Salt and pepper skillet biscuits.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe from the vintage recipe collection that inspired The Clara Project. (Read on for the backstory on Clara Shenefelt and The Clara Project, and see all the old-fashioned recipes in the collection.) Primarily, that’s because so much of my cooking during the warm months is recipe-less: I tend to shop the farmers’ markets to see what looks good, and then freestyle our meals.

But now that the weather’s turned cooler, I’ve returned to Clara’s 1930s recipes for inspiration. And this recipe for homemade biscuits seemed so right for a brisk day. I started with her very basic biscuit recipe and updated it with a kick of black pepper. Too, I decided to bake these beauties in a heavy iron skillet, just ’cause.

biscuit recipe

This biscuit recipe is pretty much foolproof: the ample amount of baking powder (be sure to use very fresh baking powder for best results) and the light acidity of the buttermilk means the biscuits rise nicely. You can certainly omit the black pepper, but I love that salty-peppery flavor.

These black pepper biscuits would be awesome on the Thanksgiving dinner table … if you happen to be gathering menu ideas now.

salt and pepper skillet biscuit recipe

makes 1 dozen biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus 1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup cold buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°. Butter a cast iron or heavy ovenproof skillet. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl; stir in the pepper. Use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients, until you have pea-sized pieces of butter and loose flour. Stir in the buttermilk a bit at a time (you may not need all of it), then use your hands to lightly work the dough into a soft ball with no loose flour remaining. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut rounds with a 2-inch cutter; place in the skillet closely together. Reroll and cut scraps. Bake for 12–15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the skillet from the oven; brush the biscuits with melted butter and top with more cracked pepper.

healthy lunchtime salad recipe with barley and roasted vegetables | writes4food.com

Barley salad with roasted fall vegetables.

I’ve been on a PB&J kick for lunch for the past 2 weeks or so. (While we were on vacation, a quick PB&J really satisfied, right before we headed to the beach or the golf course.)  Don’t get me wrong: My love of the PB&J knows no bounds, especially since I make it with good whole-grain bread, natural peanut butter and homemade jam. But the PB&J and I need a little break, lunch-wise.

I was craving a hearty, grain-based lunchtime salad, something I could put together easily with ingredients I had on hand. Hence, this recipe for barley salad with roasted fall vegetables. I started with pearled barley, cooked in vegetable broth in about 15 minutes. I roasted up some fall veggies I had on hand: green beans (roasted green beans: seriously!!!), red bell pepper and potatoes. While everything was still warm, I tossed the salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette — my go-to salad dressing recipe.

This barley salad recipe came together in about 40 minutes, most of it unattended time. It yields 4 servings, enough to enjoy for lunch all week.

If you’re in a lunchtime rut, and looking for healthy, packable lunch recipes, give this a try.

healthful lunchtime barley and vegetable salad recipe

makes 4 lunch servings

1 cup pearled barley
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups roasted vegetables of your choice (I used bell pepper, green beans and potatoes), cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Easy lemon vinaigrette dressing
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2–3 ounces Feta or fresh goat cheese, crumbled

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable broth, salt and olive oil to a boil; add the barley, reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is al dente, about 15 minutes; let the barley sit for 5 minutes, then drain off any excess liquid. In a large bowl, combine the barley and roasted vegetables; add the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle the barley and vegetables while they're still warm with the dressing and toss to combine. When the salad cools a bit, add the cheese crumbles.

Note: To roast the vegetables, preheat oven to 450°. On a rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold the vegetables without crowding, toss 3–4 cups of vegetables, cut into bit-sized pieces, with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Season well with kosher salt. Roast, turning once or twice, until the vegetables are charred and crisp-tender, about 30–40 minutes. (Potatoes and carrots may take longer.)

Findlay Market cooking demo

Cookbook update: Preorders now available.

At long last, “The Findlay Market Cookbook” heads to the printer tomorrow. I couldn’t be more proud of what I’ve seen thus far in proofs, and can’t wait to hold the printed thing in my hands.

The cookbook will be published at the end of October. If you’re as antsy as I am, you can now preorder The Findlay Market Cookbook through the Findlay Market website. You can also preview a few of the recipes from the book.

On Sunday, I shared two recipes — for the Bacon Apple Kale Sandwich and Market Basket Mixed Grill — at the Findlay Market Fall Food Festival. On November 5, we’ll be hosting a launch party. Stay tuned for more scoop on cooking demonstrations, availability and fun events!