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!

homemade Italian herb salt | writes4food.com

End-of-the-garden herbed salt.

The basil is browning at the edges. The summer savory’s long-gone, and the oregano has struggled as we’ve gone from excessive moisture to very dry conditions. The herbs in my garden are on their last legs. Most of them, anyway: The chives, tarragon and thyme are happy and lush.

If your garden is in the same shape, then you might use this recipe for herb-infused salt as a way to preserve the flavors for months to come. This recipe is inspired by an Italian herbed salt blend that my brother hooked me on years ago. The method is pretty simple: just finely chop fresh herbs and mix with fine sea salt; garlic and bay leaves infuse the mixture for just a few days before they’re discarded. Salt is a natural preservative, so the herbs retain their bright flavor (without worry of molding). Keep a jar of this herb-infused salt near your stove. I find myself reaching for a pinch of it nearly every time I cook.

herb infused sea salt recipe

1 cup fine sea salt
1 Tbsp. each of the following fresh herbs, finely chopped: thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage
2–3 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 large clove garlic, peeled

Skewer the bay leaves and garlic on a toothpick. Mix the salt and herbs well in a glass jar with a lid; embed the skewer in the salt. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for a week, shaking the jar well every day. After a week, discard the garlic-bay skewer. Salt keeps in a cool place for 3–4 months; the flavor will deepen over time.

how to make a classic chopped salad

Perfect chop salad.

We’re in a season of transition, local produce-wise: still a few cherry tomatoes available, some late-season green beans, a bit of corn, potatoes. The lettuce in my garden is not yet producing (though I’ve seen it at farmers’ markets) — so my favorite salad option in these days that waver between summer and fall is to make an amazing chop salad with whatever ingredients I have on hand.

Generally, I’ll skip the lettuce and instead make my chop salad out of, literally, chopped vegetables. Last week, it was red bell peppers, canned chickpeas, diced avocado, fresh corn off the cob, halved cherry tomatoes and some fresh herbs from the garden.

The thing with creating a great chop salad is to incorporate a variety of textures, but to keep the ingredients fairly similar in size. The chop salad recipe below is more of a suggestion. Include whatever fresh veggies you love, season them well before dressing, and toss them with a simple vinaigrette. Make a meal out of the chop salad by adding diced cooked chicken, slices of leftover grilled steak or cooked shrimp. A loaf of good bread, homemade butter and a nice light red wine make a perfect early-fall supper.

No matter how you toss the chopped salad, you can’t go wrong.

Really Good Chop Salad recipe

For the salad, use any of these ingredients (per serving) or come up with your own additions:

1/4 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 ear fresh corn, kernels cut off
1/2 carrot, shredded
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cucumber, diced
1/4 can chickpeas or white beans, drained
1/2 cup chopped iceberg lettuce or baby arugula
1/2 avocado, diced
1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut into pieces and lightly steamed
1–2 new potatoes, diced and lightly steamed
1 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts or salted sunflower seeds
cheese of your choice, crumbled: Feta, blue, goat
fresh herbs of your choice, chopped: basil, chives, tarragon, parsley

1 recipe easy lemon vinaigrette

Combine the vegetables in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the nuts and cheese. Drizzle the lemon vinaigrette into the bowl and toss gently to coat the vegetables lightly with dressing. Serve immediately.

spaghetti squash with meatballs and fresh tomato sauce recipe | writes4food.com

Spaghetti squash and meatballs with quick tomato sauce.

I’m not ready to give up on summer tomatoes and corn. Yet the acorn and spaghetti squashes, sweet potatoes and broccoli I’m seeing at the farmers’ market look so appealing. So I’m finding dishes like this recipe for spaghetti squash with fresh tomato sauce and meatballs that sort of straddle the seasons. We get the best of both worlds, no?

So, let’s start with the meatballs. Over the weekend, I made a batch of Giada de Laurentiis’s orzo-and-ricotta meatballs from a recent issue of Food & Wine. You could use your own favorite meatball recipe, or pick up some prepared meatballs from the butcher shop. I refrigerated a half-dozen meatballs for this dish, and tucked the rest into a zip-top bag in the freezer.

I couldn’t resist the gorgeous spaghetti squash I spotted at Findlay Market last weekend, so that became the foundation of this recipe in lieu of traditional pasta. I’ve found that the easiest way to cook spaghetti squash is to boil it in a big pot — it’s quick and foolproof, resulting in perfectly al dente strands of sunny squashy goodness.

Finally, I made up a quick fresh tomato sauce using grated tomatoes. I spotted the grating technique for tomatoes in a magazine recently, and decided to give it a try. Grating the tomatoes on the large holes of a box grater results in a fresh tomato pulp that cooks into sauce quite quickly. The prep and cooking time for the sauce total about 25 minutes, so this recipe makes an easy weeknight dinner (especially if you prep the meatballs ahead). Flavor the sauce with sprigs of whatever fresh herb you happen to have on hand.

Quick fresh tomato sauce recipe

(makes about 4 cups)

Cut 4 large tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Grate the tomatoes on a box or Microplane grater with large holes into a large bowl — watch those knuckles! (You'll have about 4 cups of pulp.) Grate 1/2 a medium red onion (about 1/3 cup); press 2 large garlic cloves through a garlic press. In a large saucepan, warm a glug of olive oil over medium heat. Reduce heat and add the onion; cook, stirring frequently, until it softens, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add a pinch of salt. Add the tomato pulp and 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh herb (I used basil, thyme and tarragon). Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend, about 20 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs, season well with salt and pepper (for a kick of smoky heat, add a generous pinch of Aleppo pepper or pimenton).

To serve the spaghetti squash with meatballs and fresh tomato sauce

serves 4

Prepare the tomato sauce; while it's cooking, put a big pot of water on to boil for the squash. Boil the squash, covered, for 20–30 minutes, or until the tip of a small paring knife easily pierces the flesh. See this post for more details on the best way to cook spaghetti squash. When you remove the squash to cool before cutting it open and removing the delicious, spaghetti-like strands, add the meatballs to the sauce to warm them through. Toss the squash with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a pile of spaghetti squash on each plate, then top with the meatballs and sauce; finish with a big sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

FindlayMarketCookbook Cover

Sneak peek: The Findlay Market Cookbook.

I just saw the cover design for my forthcoming cookbook, and I’m so excited to share it with you! “The Findlay Market Cookbook” will be available in late October at any of your favorite Findlay Market vendors. Beginning in January, the book will be available in local Cincinnati bookstores.

Take a look at a few of the recipes from the cookbook here.