Md. Farmers Team Up with Food Bank to Feed 80,000 Families

Twenty-three Eastern Shore farmers donated 423,000 pounds of produce to the Maryland Food Bank’s newly launched Farm to Food Bank program between mid-June and mid-September. That amount equates to 325,385 meals — or 81,346 meals for a family of four, according to the Maryland Food Bank.

“Our farmers continue to show that agriculture is not just an industry, but a way of life – one in which there is a strong concern for their neighbors, their land and the future of our state and its citizens,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “With a strong agricultural industry, we not only keep land open and productive and people employed, we provide a local food supply for our most vulnerable citizens.”

In a process called gleaning, farmers open their fields after harvest and allow others to take what is left for charitable purposes. Produce gleaned from the Eastern Shore so far includes watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, squash, sweet corn, peaches, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli, carrots, and green peppers. Inmates from the Maryland Division of Correction (DOC) have contributed to the effort for several weeks this summer by doing the gleaning for six Eastern Shore farms through an initiative called Public Safety Works.

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Sunday Cooking — Fall is Soup Time

If you already know why you should know how to make soup stock, you can skip this first paragraph and go on to the soup rhapsodizing beneath it.

OK, now that I’ve culled the cognoscenti, let me make a quick case for one of the best ways to save money, make good use of every last bit of food you’ve paid for, and make great soup. AND make the house smell like you imagined your grandmother’s home should have smelled and didn’t. Stock. Yes, you can buy it in boxes these days, but buying it should be a choice based on time and energy constraints, not because you don’t know how to make your own.  Soup stock in the freezer is like money in the bank. Chicken, meat – what remains of a ham bone, beef roast or shank, lamb shoulder, chicken or turkey or duck carcass, whatever — fish, and vegetable stock all make use of the last stalk of celery, a single carrot, half an onion, a few seasonings, and water. Leftovers that might be thrown out (or composted, which could bring me to another mini-rant, but won’t).   Freeze stock in pint containers (be sure to label them) and you can come home, pull out one or two, put it into a pot set on low to defrost while you pull a few things out of the frig to add – a potato and some cheese, peppers and leftover rice, a can of beans and some garlic and parsley and a squeeze of lemon. In no time flat, you have a real meal that costs, depending on ingredients, as little as a buck or two for a couple of people. (We’re not including in either the ‘people’ category or the financial equation growing teenage boys, who are voracious and need food that upholsters their insides for more than an hour.). OK, think it over. There’s a link below that will give you something of a soup stock tutorial.

Now, for the soups. Soup not only makes terrific use of leftovers and stretches your dollar, but is virtuous too since it can help to edit the waistline as it fills you up without being heavily caloric. Additionally, it usually offers about half of your daily recommended veggie requirement in one go.

Fall (once we’re through our current Amazon Forest Period) is soup time. It’s the homey, turn-of-the-season, days-closing-in warmth we’ve been longing for in our imaginations since the dog days and those 100-degree temps. And right now there’s still a variety of fresh local ingredients available at the farmers’ market and coming out of unruly season’s-end gardens.

Mulligatawny with an apple and the last of the tomatoes, which never taste quite right after August. Oxtail, gumbo, boullabaisse, split pea, albondigas with pork and beef meatballs, stracciatella, an Italian egg drop soup that you can make in about 10 minutes and throw in some kale or spinach for greenery, harvest corn chowder with bacon, Scotch broth with barley, oyster stew with thyme and sautéed onions, clam chowder, salmon and potato chowder, duck and tortilla soup, green bean and bacon with orzo and herbs, minestrone, Thai shrimp and noodles, old-fashioned chicken noodle.

For the vegetarians: Roasted sweet potato soup with poblanos, peasant lentil vegetable, leek and potato, Ghanian peanut soup, vegetarian minestrone, Swiss cheese and onion, Hungarian mushroom (you can use tamari sauce to add the kind of umami flavor that a beef stock imparts), vegetable chowder, cauliflower with mushrooms and stilton, creamy roasted parsnip, carrot and turnip with aged Edam, Gumbo Z-Herbes, eggplant and mushroom with sautéed sweet pepper, Tuscan bean with tomatoes and kale, roasted tomato-and-onion – the fresh tomatoes may not taste like much this time of year, but roast them on a cookie sheet for about an hour at low heat along with an onion and you have something sweet and magical. It’s great pureed for pasta sauce, and is a lovely coulis with broiled salmon slathered in curried mustard.

For  Rosh Hashanah, which begins today: artichoke potato, beef and barley, chicken with matzo balls, creamy sweet potato, Hungarian vegetable and more.

Sometimes, it’s just a help to meander through cookbooks or the internet with the ingredients you have on hand looking for new combinations to try.

Here are some options.


Mexican Squash Soup

2 tblsp butter or olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

¼ cup chopped celery

¼ cup sweet pepper, chopped

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 dried red Mexican chili or 1 fresh Serrano or other hot pepper to taste, whole or omit.

1 ½ cups peeled, diced winter squash (acorn, hubbard, butternut, etc)

1 cup frozen or fresh corn

Melt butter or heat oil in saucepan. Sauté vegetables until soft, about 5 minutes. Add stock and bring to boil. Add squash and simmer until tender.


Roasted Sweet Potato and Poblano

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 tblsp smoked paprika

1 tblsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 tblsp olive oil

1 shallot minced

1 med poblano, chopped

1 tblsp olive oil

4 cups chicken stock or 4 cups water and a large chicken bullion cube

3 tblsp fresh cilantro

Toss cubed potatoes with spices and olive oil. Roast on a cookie sheet at 325 for about 3o minutes or until semi-tender.  Sauté shallot (or onion) and pepper in olive oil until onion is translucent and some of the peppers have some browned edges.  Put all into a soup pot with stock or water and bullion and simmer for about 15 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or cool a bit before putting it into the blender.  To serve, top with chopped fresh cilantro.



½ lb meaty bacon

3 tblsp olive oil

2 carrots, chopped

1 turnip, chopped

2 onions, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 large tomatoes or 1 15-oz tin chopped tomatoes with juice

1 cup green beans, chopped

½  cup sweet pepper. diced

3 tblsp fresh oregano, minced

3 tblsp fresh parsley, minced

1 15-oz. can cannellini beans or 2 cups of dried beans that have been plumped and simmered until al dente

1 cup elbow macaroni

7-8 cups beef stock

salt and pepper to taste

Use a large heavy pot for this – enameled iron works well. Heat olive oil in pot while you slice bacon into inch-long pieces. Sauté in hot olive oil until crisp-ish. If there is too much fat in the pan, spoon some out. (You can also substitute ham if you don’t want bacon.). Meanwhile, cube/dice the carrots turnip, onions, celery and add to the hot fat/oil.  Sauté for about 10 minutes until starting to brown slightly on edges. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Then add tomatoes, sweet pepper, green beans, herbs and stock. If using plumped dried beans, add them now.  Simmer for about 40 minutes. Add canned beans and macaroni. Cook, stirring to keep things from sticking on the bottom for about 15 minutes or until pasta is done. You may need to add liquid by this point; this soup is thick.  Serve with crusty garlic bread and robust red wine.*

Kosher soups:

*This is my last Sunday Cooking column for the ChestertownSpy and TalbotSpy.  But I’m sure it won’t be the last word from either Spies about food. Thanks to you all.


Listeria-Linked Deaths Reach 16; 72 Affected

Health officials say as many as 16 people have died from possible listeria illnesses traced to Colorado cantaloupes, the deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that 72 illnesses, including 13 deaths, are linked to the tainted fruit. State and local officials say they are investigating three additional deaths that may be connected.

The death toll released by the CDC Tuesday — including newly confirmed deaths in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas — surpassed the number of deaths linked to an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts almost three years ago. Nine people died in that outbreak.

The CDC said Tuesday that they have confirmed two deaths in Texas and one death each in in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Last week the CDC reported two deaths in Colorado, four deaths in New Mexico, one in Oklahoma and one in Maryland.

Read more:

Ed. According to the news on channel 13 Baltimore this morning:

listeria has an incubation of up to 4 weeks.

Listeria is most dangerous for pregnant women and people with chronic diseases.

1 out of 6 Americans is affected with food-born illness each year, and we know that partly because tracking is getting better all the time.

The link below is to the Center for Disease Control with listeria facts.


Classic Cars, Classic Food and Specialty Cocktails at CBMM This Sunday

Visitors inspect rare classic cars

Join other classic car aficionados this Sunday, September 25 at Concours d’Elegance at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Rare grand classic American and European automobiles from 1900-1942 take the field at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for a day of casual elegance, fashion, style and most of all, enjoyment. Featuring cars from as far away as the West Coast and other never-before-shown classics, this is truly a memorable experience for all Concours enthusiasts.

To pair with these elegant cars that evoke an era most of us know only from Masterpiece Theater and movies like Casablanca, David Hayes, executive chef of St Michaels Harbour Lights is doing food and specialty cocktails.

“Oysters will have a big presence,”  says Rachel Feldman, banquet manager for St Michaels Harbor Inn.  “On the half-shell, shooters and David Hayes’s oyster stew, which won at the Maritime Museum’s Oyster Fest last year. He’ll also offer to-go containers of the stew.”

For those not into oysters, there will be pulled-pork sandwiches, crab salad sandwiches, grilled sausage with peppers and onions, and cookies and cupcakes. There will also be a full bar as well as iced tea and lemonade.

Chef David Hayes puts the finishing touches on a dish


Sunday Cooking – Slow-Cooked Real-Food Suppers

Originally they were called crockpots, but now they’re most often called slow-cookers.  And what a boon they are! They came into vogue about 30-odd years ago when women were leaving the house to work all day, and yet were still expected (as most still are) to come up with a wholesome, nourishing, delicious meal when the rest of the clan crashes through the door. (Yeah, well. If it were easy, anyone could do it.).

A crockpot is a big help on that score. The beauty of a crockpot, especially the most recent incarnations, is they do everything but throw the ingredients into the pot for you. One advertises that you can set the cook time to anything from 30 minutes to 20 hours, so you could stuff a pot roast into the thing while the dog is doing his last round of the bushes, go to bed and arrive home the next evening after work to dinner. Some are programmable so they turn themselves down or off and let you know how long they’ve been set that way. (I have crockpot envy; mine is ancient and manual.). Either way, you end up with a real meal — not a microwaved plastic tray, not a bag of chips and dip (however tempting that may be sometimes), not another pizza or bag full of cholesterol and carbs, but supper. Real food. AND the removable stoneware interior goes into the dishwasher, so cleanup is easy, too.

Since school has started, along with the attendant after-school sports, extra-curricular stuff, evening PTA meetings, et. al., it’s even more important to eat well and get enough sleep.  Pizza three times a week alternating with fast food is not eating well. A crockpot full of rib-sticking soup or a stew with vegetables is.

Crockpots and slow cookers hark back centuries to the iron stew pot hanging on the trammel arm over the fire all day. The wife/cook/tallest kid would give it a stir now an again, maybe add some water or cider or small beer – often homemade — and by the time everyone came in from the fields or the barn drooping from hunger, there was something satisfying to enjoy together and sustain the fam through the next day’s onslaught. Some clever women even made breads in it, or added drop biscuits to the stew toward the end so you really did have a one-pot meal.

I’ve heard of people using the crockpot for anything from cakes to dips to lasagna, which is possible I’m sure, though it sounds like you’d end up with gummy pasta, and since I’ve not tried it, I won’t recommend it here. However, it’s great for roasts, stews, soups and chili with whatever meat you have available –the sort of things you’d have put into the iron pot over the trammel arm. Just the kind of food autumn calls for — butternut squash soup with chicken broth, apples, and onions that you stick on low in the morning before you leave and come home to in the evening. Minestrone with fully cooked sausage (you can add the pasta when you get home), the slow cooker equivalent of baked beans, coq au vin. Visigoths in your life want red meat?  Cassoulet with beef or lamb shanks — economical, delicious and filling. Or stuff in a roast, a tin of tomatoes, an onion, garlic, red wine, beef broth, maybe a few herbs – honestly, this takes all of 10 minutes – set it and go.  There are links to a variety of things below, but one of my favorites is Sarah Bowers’s pulled pork.  Sarah, who works at the family’s cafe, barVino in New York, often makes it for parties and we all battle for the tongs until someone scrapes out the last bit with a crust of bread.


Sarah’s Easy-as-Pie Crockpot Pork


1 large boneless pork loin, though pork shoulder works very well too.

2 large yellow onions, quartered

2 bottles of dark beer, brown ale, porter or stout

salt and pepper

Barbeque sauce – homemade or store-bought

Choose a pork cut based on the capacity of your crockpot.  The pork should pretty much pack in with room for liquid and onions. Salt and pepper the pork and cover with 1 ½ -2 bottles of quality dark beer, brown ale, porter or stout. Stuff in the onion quarters. Make sure the liquid more than covers the meat and veg. Slow cook on low for about 7 or 8 hours (Sarah usually starts at night because she’s something of a night owl, and takes it off in the morning), or cook it on medium-high for around 4 hours, which is great for a Sunday evening meal. If you leave it all day on low, use both bottles of beer. “I check on the pork and make sure liquid is covering it,” she says. “Sometimes I flip it over if the top looks dry.” If you use a pork shoulder, there will be more fat than with a loin. Sarah leaves it on and skims excess after it’s cooked.

The pork is done when you can take a fork and shred it without much effort.  Remove pork and place on large cutting board. With two large forks shred the meat.  Drain the remaining liquid into a glass bowl or saucepan.  Put the shredded meat back into the crockpot.  Mix equal parts of your favorite barbeque sauce (Sarah makes her own – kind of sweet, spicy, but not smoky) and the drained roasting liquid. Serve on yeasty small rolls with some diced white onion and cole slaw on the side.,2212,154178-232202,00.html–wild-mushroom-beef-stew-t/



Resistance Training For Your ‘Willpower’ Muscles

Look at that cupcake. Doesn’t it look delicious? Don’t you want to eat it? Well, don’t.

The power to resist temptation — to pass up dessert, to endure an unpleasant experience, to defer satisfaction — is our “greatest human strength,” argue psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney in their new book, Willpower. The book delves into the science of our age-old struggle with self-control.

“The Victorians talked about this vague idea of it being some form of mental energy,” Tierney tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. “In the last 15 years we’ve discovered that it really is a form of energy in the brain. It’s like a muscle that can be strengthened with use, but it also gets fatigued with use.”

Read more:


Brains of Obese May Crave High-Calorie Foods More: Study

A new study links low blood sugar in obese people to a greater desire within the brain for high-calorie foods, a finding that offers insight into why people who become overweight tend to stay that way.

“Their brains may be driving them to eat more and desire these foods more, and that may promote overeating,” explained study author Kathleen A. Page. “We don’t know if that’s a consequence of obesity or contributes to the obese state. Are their brains wired differently from the start? Or does that happen after they become obese?”

Whatever the case, the research points to the importance of keeping blood sugar levels stable, said Page, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Southern California.

Read more:


Grasses: The Hair of the Earth

Miscanthus sinensus 'Morning Light'

Even though the tomato plants have toppled their supports and the cuke and melon vines are yellowing and sprawled like frat boys following an all-night bash, I love this time of year in the garden.  Because while everything else is collapsing, the Fountain Grass (Miscanthus sinensis condensatus) is coming into its own. It stands near the entry like a bulky sentinel, whispering in every breeze.  Soon, it will send up magnificent inflorescences (plumy seed heads) that glow bronze and gold in the setting sun.  In December when the trees are bare, the glorious 8-foot tall plumes wave exuberantly despite the desiccation around them.

“They add to the design of any garden for winter interest,” says David Arnold, horticulturist at Garden Treasures in Easton. But it isn’t just color they add to a landscape.  “They also have a nice rustling sound, which adds to the whole effect.”

“Grasses are wonderful because they bloom late in the season and remain very attractive in winter,” says landscape architect, Wolfgang Oehme, partner in Oehme, Van Sweden and Associates in Baltimore and DC. Oehme has landscaped highways, public buildings and private estates, including Oprah Winfrey’s Chicago-area home. “In fact, some people like the wintertime look better than summer because they stand out more.”

“They’re also nice for hiding things,” says Larry Hemming, an owner of Eastern Shore Nurseries in Easton. “They’re nice for shoreline control and for weed control since they spread and choke out weeds. And they provide habitat for animals.”

Ornamental grasses include over 10,000 named species of true grass, sedges (carex and bamboo) and rushes like cattails.  The distinction between categories has to do in part with moisture requirements. Grasses need little moisture.  Sedges, which have triangular stems, (‘sedges have edges’ is the helpful mantra) need more, while rushes are usually happiest with slightly wet feet. It’s a matter of right plant, right place.

Salt Meadow Hay (Spartina patens)

“Salt Meadow Hay (Spartina patens) is good just above the high tide line,” says Leslie Hunter-Cario, nursery manager at Environmental Concern in St Michaels.  “It’s salt tolerant,  has a really nice network of roots, and spreads by rhizomes, so it’s good for stabilizing shoreline. And it has a really pretty texture.”

It’s also relatively short — between one and three feet tall — so it won’t obscure a view. Slightly farther up the shoreline, where the roots and feet get washed occasionally, Switchgrass (Panicum) is a good choice.

“Switch grass has some salt tolerance,” says Hunter-Cario.  “Panicum amarum is really nice because it’s a blue-green in the fall. Most switchgrass gets a reddish cast.”

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is good above the high-water mark as well as in virtually any garden soil, and it grows only 2-3 feet tall, again preserving the view.

“It’s a nice texture and is a pretty blue-green-purple in fall,” says Hunter-Cario.

For fresh-water creek edges or ponds, she likes Soft Rush (Juncus effuses), which forms big clumps or hummocks of bright green stems with a red sheath at the base of the stem.

“They can take saturated ground,” says Hunter-Cario,  “and they have abundant delicate-textured flowers.”

Ornamental grasses were a favorite of German nurseryman, plant breeder, and writer, Karl Foerster, who introduced them to Europe in the 1930’s. He called grasses ‘the hair of the earth,’ a description that conjures images of Beethoven-wild clumps of bronzy leather grass, and vast rumpled stretches of streaked spartina.  One particular standout is Feather Reed Grass ‘Karl Foerster’ (Calamagrostis x. acutiflora ‘Karl Foertser’).  Three feet tall with bright green leaves, it sends up pale pink inflorescences in June that turn gold in autumn and light up the landscape all winter.  Its tight growth habit makes it ideal for pots and small gardens as well as for larger vistas, which makes it a growing favorite for green-leaning fast food places here. While it was Foertser who discovered this grass (which he called Calamagrostis epigejos ‘Hortorum’ from the Greek words for ‘reed’ and ’grass’), it was Wolfgang Oehme who brought it to the US.

“I first saw it in 1963 in Hamburg,” Oehme remembers.  Oehme brought a plant back to Kurt Bluemel, who propagated it in his Baltimore nursery.  ‘All the pieces in the country today come from this one plant,” Oehme insists.

Demand exploded after Oehme used it to landscape the Federal Reserve Building in Washington DC in 1977.

“Bluemel’s nursery couldn’t keep up with the demand,” remembers Oehme.   “So I went around to private gardens I had planted it in and begged pieces to help propagate to fill orders.”

Like tresses, grasses are wonderfully versatile and can be used to make a variety of statements from bold or funky, to iconoclastic, demure and elegant.  Short, tufty blue fescues reminiscent of Dr. Seuss characters can add long-lived color to a border or poke out of pots. Towering Pampas Grass (Cortaderias) or their dwarf cousins with their gorgeous fall plumes can punctuate a corner or create a screen that shushes in every breeze, while a thatch of zebra grass ( Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’) can beautifully shield a chain-link fence.



Ornamental grasses generally prefer full sun, though some like Oriental Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale) and Carex trifida tolerate shade.

“They’re very easy,” says Arnold.  “Most are very drought-tolerant.”

When planting, consider the plant’s mature size or you’ll end up with an overgrown thatch that takes over. One rule of thumb is to space plants a distance apart equal to their mature height. For example, if the plant’s leaves reach 4-foot tall, they need to be 4 feet from their neighbors.

Unlike hair, grasses are almost maintenance free. Many benefit from being cut to within six inches of the ground in early spring before green growth starts.

“Miscanthus need to be cut down each year since dead stalks can choke out new growth,” explains Paulette Roan of Limerock Ornamental Grasses, which grows 180 grass varieties.  “But some of the carex you can leave.”

Large, mature grasses may need periodic spring division (which is also how they are best propagated), especially if the center of the plant is dead.  A sharp ax or spade helps slice through the dense root system though even with good tools it can be a backbreaking job.  Dig up the whole plant, slice it into two or more clumps then replant. Except in sandy soil and extreme drought, established ornamental grasses rarely need fertilization or irrigation. Unless otherwise specified, most will thrive as perennials here in Maryland, but be sure to ask if hardiness zone isn’t specified.


Environmental Concern, Inc.

201 Boundary Lane

St Michaels, MD



Garden Treasures

29350 Matthewstown Rd.

Easton, MD 21601

(410) 822-1604


Eastern Shore Nurseries, Inc

30104 Dover Rd.

Easton, MD 21601




Homegrown Lunch Week in Talbot County

EASTON – Mid-Shore public school students sampled some of the Eastern Shore’s best locally grown produce last week as part of Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week.

The program began a week ago and is part of the national and state Farms to Schools program where schools serve fresh produce with lunches from local farms.

Caroline County Public Schools Food Services Coordinator Beth Brewster said the program benefits students through nutrition and education.

“The week highlights the local agriculture and how students can eat healthier while helping local farms,” Brewster said. “We are a county of agriculture. We get a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Preston and Ridgely areas. The children seem to enjoy the variety because they have choices each day.”

Sunday Cooking — Apples and Plums and Pears, Oh MY!

Goodbye strawberries and melons. Hello fall fruits – plums, apples, pears.  Fall is nearly upon us, and with it we turn the corner on how we cook if we’re doing the seasonal/local thing. Fall fruits – plums, pears and apples in particular — lend themselves to cobblers and tarts, crumbles, steamed puddings (very British), quick breads and betties (a fruity variation on bread pudding for the uninitiated). All spend a fair amount of time in the oven, a welcome thing when the weather turns cool.

Apples and pears keep longer than summer fruits. Apples, of course, store, which makes them good fresh fruits for winter, and pears can be picked unripe and will ripen in time off the tree, so they are pretty long-lasting in the frig, too. Plums, though, are best picked when ripe or nearly ripe and used fairly quickly, which is not hard when you can add them to salads, stick lots into plum bread pudding*  and shove them fresh into a roasting pan around a chicken along with onions and sage and some white wine. Stew some for a quick, nourishing and delicious breakfast with yogurt, an after-school snack topped with granola, or dessert drizzled with cream or enrobed — a favorite food marketing term of years gone by — in custard sauce.

Most of us can easily tick off their favorite fall fruit dessert – Fredrika Teute’s apple cake, plum almond cake, and poached pears with custard sauce in my case — but these three fall fruits are also wonderful additions to meat and fish dishes, a sweet-savory combo with a long history. One of the more well-known historical meat and fruit dishes is plum pudding, which in the 15th century mixed minced meat, suet and dried fruit – but no plums — in a lumpy, gruel-like mushy mix. (Sounds irresistible, doesn’t it?). The ‘plum’ part was the fruit. Historians tell us they called prunes ‘plums’ in those days, a term that eventually encompassed all dried fruit. I’ll buy that, though I wasn’t there despite what my children may think, since the British now refer to all dessert as ‘pudding.’ (The British are fond of speaking in code.).

Apples sauteed with pork chops, hot homemade applesauce with fried chicken, and apples, sauerkraut, onion, and various bits of pork and sausage slow-baked into something akin to a choucroute garni. Pears are great sauteed until caramelized and used as a sauce with brandy and cream over chicken with sauteed mushrooms.  For those looking for vegetarian options, there’s always chard stuffed with couscous, garlic and apples, or Rachel Ray’s pumpkin soup with apple relish (link below). And when all else fails, you can put out a plate of fall fruits with cheese (gorgonzola, sharp cheddar, a camembert-type) with a fruit knife a fork and a good port.

* Take a good baguette sliced thick (1 1/2 inches or so) and  soaked in good custard – 3 eggs, 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup plum wine, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla –for  a couple of hours in a bowl in the frig. In a buttered gratin dish, half-stand these soaked slices on their sides, filling the dish. Stuff plenty of fresh sliced plums into every crevice, pour whatever remains of the custard overtop, then drizzle with melted butter and bake in a 325F oven for about 50 minutes or until golden on top.

Ruby Venison Ragout

4 pounds venison (or beef)

1 cup red wine vinegar

2 cups red Bordeaux

1 tblsp whole black peppercorns

6 juniper berries, crushed

8 cups water

4 cups pearl onions (frozen is easiest)

4 slices bacon

1 stick sweet (unsalted) butter

2 tblsp potato starch or corn starch

1 ½ pounds fresh ripe purple plums, pitted

1 cup beef broth

2 tblsp brown sugar

1 cup dried figs or fresh cut into pieces

2 tblsp red currant jelly (or seedless raspberry in a pinch)

Combine the venison, vinegar, 1 cup of wine, the peppercorns and juniper berries in a large non-reactive bowl. Marinate covered in the refrigerator for 5 hours or more. Drain venison, reserving marinade, and pat dry. Fry bacon in a large heavy casserole to render fat. Remove bacon pieces and reserve. Add 2 tblsp of butter to the fat and heat over high to medium high heat. Add the venison pieces a few at a time and brown, removing the browned pieces to a plate or bowl until all are done. Pour reserved marinade into the casserole and boil for five minutes, scraping up the browned bits [aka the fond] on the bottom. Sprinkle the potato starch on the venison and toss to coat. (If using the corn starch, leave this thickening step until the last few minutes of cooking.). Return venison to casserole. Add remaining 1 cup wine, plums, broth, brown sugar, figs and bacon. Simmer, covered, over low heat stirring occasionally, about 1 ½ hours. Remove cover and stir in the onions and jelly. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, scoop out the solids and put into a bowl for a moment. Here’s the time you add the corn starch; dissolve it in 2 tblsps of sherry and whisk it into the boiling sauce until the sauce color returns to the luscious ruby-brown of before. Return solids to the casserole.  Serve with lots of hot noodles.


Apple-Cheese Muffins

4 tblsp (1/2 stick) sweet butter, softened

½ cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 ½ cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

¾ cup rolled oats

1 large tart apple

2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

¾ cup milk

1 or 2 large tart apples

4 tblsp butter, melted

2 tblsp sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

Cream 4 tblsp butter and ½ cup sugar together. Add eggs and beat well. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir into butter-sugar mixture. Stir in oats. Chop tart apple into 1/8-inch dice and add along with cheese and nuts. Gradually stir in milk, mixing lightly. (Rule of thumb when mixing muffins is 50 strokes tops, less is better and a little un-mixed is OK). Fill well-buttered muffin tins 2/3 full. Cut remaining whole apples into 12 thin slices same diameter as the muffin tins; brush slices with melted butter and coat with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top batter in each muffin tin with 1 apple slice. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon-sugar evenly over muffins. Bake for about 25 minutes.


Poached Pears

Bosc pears work well for this, though you can use Barletts or comice or other firm pear. Just don’t let them be too ripe.

5  fresh pears

1 orange, navel is good since it’s juicy and its skin is zest-filled

1 lemon

1/2 vanilla bean

4 cups water

2/3 cups brown sugar

1 cup apple cider or other fruit juice (or wine if you prefer)

Peel the pears leaving stem intact. You can slice off the bottoms and scoop out the interior if you like, but I don’t since they sometimes get away from me on the stove and collapse more easily without the core. Easy enough to eat them with knife and fork and take out seeds later. Bring water and sugar to a very low simmer until sugar is dissolved. While doing so, add the juice and zest of the orange, ditto the lemon, the cider and the vanilla bean, which has been split and its seeds scraped out into the water. When water is barely simmering, add pears gently, one at a time. Poaching is done very gently, virtually no movement in the water. Poach for 15 or so minutes, or until you can slide a fork into the pears with a little resistance remaining. Gently scoop out the pears and cool. They store well in their liquid, once it’s been cooled, for a week or more. You can usually use the liquid more than once, bringing to a boil each time, and it makes a nice basis — simple syrup — for a cocktail with a little champagne, some Poire Williams or pear brandy, and a dash of angostura bitters.


Bluefish Baked with Apples and Mustard

4 tart apples

4 bluefish or rockfish fillets  (about 2 ½ pounds)

3 tblsp sweet butter

1 cup coarse mild mustard

1 cup fish stock or chicken stock (or bullion)

2 cups medium-dry white wine

1 tblsp minced shallots or onion or garlic

Slice apples thin and sauté them in butter until lightly browned. Reserve. Lay fish filets in a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Smear mustard evenly over the filets, spread apples over and around fish. Pour stock and enough wine in to come halfway up the sides of their thickness, about a half cup. Put into t 350F oven and bake for 8 minutes. While fish is baking, combine remaining white wine and shallots in a small skillet and reduce to almost nothing. When fish is almost but not quite done, remove from oven. Drain liquid from fish into the wine-shallot reduction and turn heat on full. Cover fish and apples with foil and keep warm while finishing sauce. When liquid is reduced by half, whisk in a couple of tablespoons of cold sweet butter. When butter is incorporated, divide filets onto four plates, spoon apples around them and spoon sauce over  top. Serve immediately.