Autumn Meals

Autumn in Napa Valley
Image via Wikipedia

Days are becoming cooler and shorter. The leaves are turning gorgeous colors of gold, orange and red, eventually floating to the ground. Animals are rushing around preparing for the winter. We are starting to head inside more with children in school, and the need to nest. Halloween is approaching as well, and Thanksgiving. Families start getting together to share the cooler season. Soups and stews take the forefront, as do more seasonal fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, butternut and acorn squashes, plums, apples, pumpkins, nectarines, pears, nuts and much more.

Try some of my family favorites as you settle in to a cooler, darker season.

Rustic Autumn Fruit Tart
by Jennifer A. Wickes
© 2005

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pear, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 c. orange juice
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. apricot jam

Rub the butter and cream cheese into the flour. The mixture will be able to form a ball. Shape as such and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll pastry onto a lightly floured surface to a 10-inch circle. Place into an 8-inch pie pan, an 8-inch tart pan or just place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Set aside.

Toss the fruit with the spices, sugar, cornstarch and orange juice. Arrange decoratively in the center of the crust. If using a cookie sheet (not the pie pan or tart pan) leave a 2-inch rim. Fold this over.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread apricot jam over the top.

Yields: 8 servings

Harvest Beef Stew
by Jennifer A. Wickes
© 2005

1/4 cup bacon fat
2 1/2 pounds stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1 pound celery, sliced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced 1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 pound baby red potatoes
4 cups beef broth
2 bottles Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
3/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 bay leaves

Heat the bacon fat in a large pot. Season flour with salt and pepper. Coat beef cubes. Brown meat in the bacon fat until nicely browned. Remove onto a paper towel, and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in the same pot. Cook the onions, garlic, carrots and celery over low heat. Add the vinegar and sugar. Deglaze the pan by scraping off the food stuck on the bottom of the pot. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Then, add the meat, beer, the vegetables, and herbs. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread.

Yields: 6 servings

Cafe Especiale
by Jennifer A. Wickes
© 2005

4 tsp. chocolate syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 c. coffee

Combine chocolate, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Whip.

Combine with hot coffee.

Yields: 4 servings

Chai Tea Spiced Scones
by Jennifer A. Wickes
© 2005

1 cup water
1/4 large cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoons cardamom
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 whole clove
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
1 black tea bags
3/4 cups heavy cream

Mix the water and spices together and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and add the tea bags.

Allow to steep until desired strength is achieved.

Add milk and bring to a simmer. Reduce to ½ cup.

Allow to chill before using.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg — beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chai tea

1 large egg — beaten
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C) with rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with a non-stick vegetable oil. To make the glaze, mix together the beaten egg with the cream. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, two knives, or fingertips. This mixture should look like coarse crumbs. In a small measuring cup, combine the chai tea, beaten egg and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquid, stirring with a wooden spoon until the batter forms moist clumps. The batter will be sticky. Do not over mix.
Gather dough together with your hands and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead for about 10 seconds until dough forms a ball and is smooth. Pat dough into a 7-inch (17.5 cm) circle that is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Using a sharp knife, cut circle into 8 triangular sections. With a pastry brush, brush off excess flour from scones, and place scones on prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops of scones with the glaze and sprinkle lightly with sugar (if desired).

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until lightly browned, or a toothpick inserted in the middle of the scone comes out clean. Remove from oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Yields: 8 servings


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