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A voice in your ear

Above, the Caramel Apple Pie. Below, A relish so versatile that I might make it year -round; Cranberry Chutney from Clean Food.

It's just after lunch on a chilly Sunday and I feel like this is the first moment I've had to collect my thoughts in a good, long while. I hope to coast my way through the rest of the afternoon, with time to stare at the leaves that have caught fire outside my window. Last week there were only sparks of colour flickering amongst branches of green. Now the scene is almost fully aflame.

Whenever the world gets the better of me, I find I rely heavier on the recipes of others. Do you do that too? It's the culinary equivalent of handing over the wheel, and when my mind is taken with the business of other things there's that certain feeling of relief in the ability to relinquish responsibility and to say "here, you drive."

On Thanksgiving there was a Caramel Apple Pie with a boozy applejack and almond crust inspired by Andrea. Believe you me, that pastry was a stunner. Then the other day I tried Nikole's Walnut Oats, which were exactly the thing one should make for breakfast on a grey morning, preferably with your woolen socks on and a broad-bowled spoon at the ready. Later this week I'm making Ashley's Chocolate Chip Cookies and I have a feeling they're going to be tremendous*.

Using their recipes feels like there is a friend with me in the kitchen. I like that.

Even if it is my hands that are doing the heavy lifting, their guidance is there - a voice in your ear through words on a page - and it is a comfort. It is almost as good as having someone there to cook for you. Yes, only almost, but not quite. But it is something.

In case of the circumstance that you too might need similar inspiration, I thought I would tell you about a few the new-to-me books and the recipes that have been filling our table and keeping us fed.

Happy reading. And eating.

* Psst. I made the cookies last night, and tremendous does not even begin to describe how good they are. They are deserving of every superlative imaginable.

Earth to Table (by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann, Random House, 2009)
This book is as much of a treatise on seasonal, local cooking as it is a cookbook alone. And let me tell you, I will solemnly swear my allegiance the succulent perfection of their Braised Short Ribs; they are a lusty, gutsy affair with the braising liquid reduced to lacquer that coats the ribs in thick gloss. The robust combination of wine, port and balsamic vinegar is elevated by the firecracker brightness of Gremolata and the sweet subtlety of Apple and Parsnip Purée.

My adopted Irish roots grew proudly at a taste of Colacannon Potatoes, a shameless combination of potatoes, butter, wine, and bacon folded through with tendrils of Brussels sprout. The Heirloom Beet Salad with Feta and Pumpkin Seeds lives up to the quote from Tom Robbins on the facing page; these roasted beets beets are "the most intense of vegetables, ... deadly serious."

Recipes from Earth to Table
• A selection of recipes, including Roasted Autumn Fruits with Torched Sabayon and Mulled Cider and Cranberry, can be found here.

Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home (by Martha Stewart, Clarkson Potter, 2009)

It takes a lot for me to introduce a completely new, untested recipe to our holiday table. But leave it to Martha to charm her way into a seat at our Thanksgiving spread with her Gratinéed Baked Squash Halves. An acorn squash is cleaved in half and then anointed with sage and garlic infused cream. It's then baked in a shallow water bath, so that the steam turns the thick flesh tender but the dry heat causes the cut edges to curl and brown. Once soft, gruyère is grated over and back into the oven until its all golden and bubbling. Brilliant. It was so delicious that I made some more two days after the festivities for a particularly-sumptuous lunch. (Just so you don't worry about my health I should say that there was a salad of bitter greens as well, but the squash was the main attraction.)

After those days of excess, the Tofu and Scallions in Mushroom Broth was a welcome change. Simple and straightforward, dried shititakes bring character to the broth. Even though The Warm Swiss Chard and Bacon Dip is suggested as a part of a larger menu, it does make a fine, fine addition to a lazy Sunday afternoon of watching movies. An icy beer as its partner isn't a bad thing either. Not that I'd know anything about that.


Recipes from Martha Stewart's Dinners at Home
• A slideshow of menus and recipes from
Watercress-Cauliflower Soup
Chicken Paillards with Walnut Sauce
Gratineed Baked Squash Halves


Clean Food (by Terry Walters, Sterling Epicure, 2009)

This is the book I wanted to cook from when summer began to wane. Full of healthful recipes and an emphasis on whole foods, it offered the substance sought as the cold sets in, but still with a produce-centric perspective that celebrated fall's harvest. The Refried Pinto Beans with Chiles were a quick dinner alongside the Skillet Cornbread and some chopped tomato and avocado. In the beans, the unmistakable tang of lime brought dimension, the classic match to the grassy notes of cumin. As for the cornbread, the texture was light and bouncy, with only a slight sweetness from a modest pour of maple syrup. Leftovers made a merry weekend brunch, with a fried egg perched upon the beans with fresh pico de gallo, and the cornbread toasted with butter alongside.


The Wild Rice, Barley and Arame Salad is what I'll be eating until the winter comes I think, the hearty combination of grains and nuts is somehow soothing and restorative at the same time. Finally, Walters' mother's Cranberry Chutney was the second untried recipe to make its debut on Thanksgiving Day; full of autumnal flavours of maple and ginger and spice, the addition of apple and celery brings a freshness and subtly that allows its easy pairing with the other dishes of a holiday meal.

Recipes from Clean Food
• A selection of recipes are available on Walters' own site.

Cranberry Chutney

As a child, I insisted on store-bought cranberry sauce – no chunks, just that smooth roll, complete with indentations from the can. When I finally tasted my mother’s homemade chutney, I was converted. I now make it in huge batches, give it as gifts around the holidays and even freeze it to have throughout the year. It goes great on a turkey sandwich with avocado and honey mustard or with vegetable pot pie. Once you taste it, you’ll understand why I’m addicted. - Terry Walters


I chose to dice all the ingredients so that the chutney cooked into a softly-textured relish. - Tara


2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup raisins
½ cup sucanat
½ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup water
1 small onion, chopped
3 medium apples, cored and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Combine cranberries, raisins, sucanat, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and water in Dutch oven. Place over medium heat and cook 15 minutes. Stir in onion, apples and celery and cook 15 minutes more. Remove from heat, fold in lemon peel, and serve.

Chutney can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the freezer.

Makes 4 cups


Note: Coincidentally, all three books are organized by season; I have only been cooking from the Fall chapters of each. Author biographies and further information about the books can be found through the links provided. Cover art and recipe reprinted with permission from the respective publishers.


Reader Comments (28)

I love your photographs. The colour of the leaves make everything else pop.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Woman

Oh, that first photo is just stunning!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

You went with the lattice crust!! yes! That was the one I voted for. Everything looks delicious, as usual :)

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

The deep colors of your photos are perfect for fall- just gorgeous! My mother-in-law recently gave me Clean Food and I love how informative it is. There are a lot of recipes to try, but this chutney looks delicious!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfresh365

That pie is stunning!

I love the idea of tofu and scallion in mushroom broth- where can I find a recipe for that?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertanvi @ now craving

The chocolate chip cookie recipe looks divine. Can't wait to make them.
The lattice crust is perfect- thicker than usual- I am a crust fanatic.
And thanks for you cookbook reviews- they will go on my Christmas wish list!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Oh my goodness those photos are beautiful! The pie, the leaves, wow! I love the lattice crust!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCoco

I've been meaning to buy the Earth to Table cookbook - it sounds amazing!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChocolate Shavings

yum, what a bold sounding relish recipe, i love it. AND I am quite interested in these perfect chocolate chip cookies, your pic on twitter was gorgeous!

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSprouted Kitchen

That pie photo looks gorgeous not to mention delicious!

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSomething's Dishy

I love making cranberry chutney and I didn't get to make any this year for thanksgiving. But that's not going to stop me since it's so great with cheese sandwiches! Oh and those cookies, so totally bookmarking.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkickpleat

Your pictures are amazing! I wish I had skills like that:) That chutney sounds great too...yum!

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNutmeg Nanny

tara, i just adore your blog. every post is just perfect.

thanks for sharing your cookbook recommendations - perfect timing as Christmas is right around the corner (eek!)

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermarisa

looks so yummy I can;t wait to try it.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervaxcel

The Woman, thank you. The leaves were scooped from our yard.

I was particularly happy with that pie, Danielle, I am glad you like it too.
Oh, that first photo is just stunning!

Amanda, I tried to keep both sides happy and went with a thicker-than-usual lattice crust. I felt it was the happy marriage of the best qualities of both. Thanks so much for weighing in with your opinion.

fresh365, Clean Food is a truly-inspiring read. The thing I loved most was that I've lent it to others who didn't realize it was mostly vegan. They only commented on how delicious everything sounded. That says something.

tanvi @ now craving, thank you! I do not have the clearance to publish that recipe, but I will see if I can track it down from you from another source. It is truly as simple as it sounds, though - dried mushrooms reconstituted into a broth, with tofu and scallions and some soy and rice vinegar for seasoning.

I cannot recommend those cookies heartily enough, Barbara. They've been deemed the "best ever" by multiple sources around here.

Thank you so much, Coco.

You can also browse the Earth to Table cookbook on the Random House site, Chocolate Shavings, it offers a sneak peek into the pages.

Thank you, Kristin! The recipes reflect I few good weeks' worth of cooking. Whenever I find myself mentally strapped, I tend to plan my cooking from books. It is somehow reassuring to know that dinner is taken care of, and that your pantry is stocked and ready.

You're very welcome lisa!

The relish is bold, Sprouted Kitchen, but the layered sweetness tempers the spice beautifully. I found it really did go well with the other flavours on the table.

Something's Dishy, thank you so much!

I am the only true cranberry chutney lover in our house, kickpleat! So I shall hang on to your companionship and eat cheese and chutney sandwiches for days. One extended family members uses it as a relish atop roasted squash, so that might be something to try.

Aww, Nutmeg Nanny you're too kind.

marisa, thank you for the sweet compliment. It is lovely to have you here. Can you believe I got a holiday catalogue the other day? Already?

vaxcel, please report back if you do!

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertara

Oh, the baked squash sounds delicious, Gruyere is my favorite! I started laughing when I read you eating the cranberry "log" out of the can. It seems so wrong, but it's so yummy.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSara's Test Kitchen

I do the opposite... when the world gets the better of me, I resort to my tried and true recipes. It's only when I have the time to explore that I turn to the recipes of others. Either way, both of these look amazing, though I have to admit that pie is calling to me!

October 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteremiglia

Really beautiful styling in the first two photos.

October 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterliz {zested}

I'm intrigued by all of those cookbooks - not a good thing for a cookbook addict!

October 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana

I had a flick through Earth to Table in Chapters when I was home for a visit and I was impressed. My parents are taking my grandmother to the Ancaster Old Mill this weekend for her birthday - they're excited about it!

October 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHilary

lovely photos - this looks really good

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlavienouveau

Mmm, the photos are great and definitely put me in the mood for apple pie. All the books you chose to read are great.

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey B.

I miss the fall leaves - and how quickly they turn. So pretty.

I'm with you about turning to books when things get busy. I do the same. It's sometimes just makes things that much easier - for a while!

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulia @ Mélanger

i feel the same way. it's like it takes the pressure off from baking when you just let others guide you. beautiful!

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAran

Sara's Test Kitchen, we've did that acorn squash again on Sunday, it looks like it will be part of the regular rotation this fall/winter. It's wonderfully comforting.

emiglia, I'll admit that it sometimes depends on what's on my mind. If I'm looking for comfort, I'll return to my tried-and-true repertoire (or hit up my Mum for recipes). But when I'm busy, I often go to other sources as it makes me feel prepared and confident to have a plan of attack for the week. Whatever works!

liz, as a fan of your photography, that means a lot.

Dana, I can see Clean Food being an especially good fit for you - the recipes are healthy but with enough interest to keep all different appetites sated.

The book is a lovely one, isn't it Hilary? How was their visit?

Thank you, lavienouveau.

Kelsey B., thanks so much. Speaking of pie, I keep getting not-so-subtle hints that it is time for me to make another.

Julia @ Mélanger, come on by, we're raking daily - we've still got lots of leaves to share.

Aran, it is such a joy to let others do the thinking sometimes, isn't it? I hope you're felling better.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertara

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