These are the golden days of fall. Clear skies, fluttering leaves, red dogwood berries, and cooler temperatures. I’m happily rummaging through my sweater drawer, eager for a wardrobe change. Food-wise we are ready for some novelty, too. Summer salads were all well and good, but I’m thinking of heartier fare – I’ll be bidding adieu to estival cucumber salads, and hello to the many permutations of the fortifying squash.
Summer squash – namely zucchini – has worn out its welcome. Winter squash is a blessing. I have been reading recipes for raw, roasted, baked, mashed, grilled, stewed, steamed and souped-up squash. And there are oodles more for the myriad varieties of squash: acorn squash, Delicata squash, butternut squash, Sweet Dumpling squash, Turban squash, Kabocha squash, spaghetti squash, buttercup squash, and lest we forget the obvious – pumpkin squash.
I rely on Food52 for its robust ideas. How brilliant is this? Raw butternut squash: https://food52.com/blog/25641-why-you-should-eat-butternut-squash-raw
For the chilly vegetarians in your COVID pod, this is a way to warm them up with the more delicate taste of roasted acorn squash and apples: https://www.makingthymeforhealth.com/roasted-acorn-squash-and-apple-soup/
Are you trying to cut back on your carbs? Spaghetti squash might be the answer. Of course, adding cheese and bacon, and a side of garlic bread won’t really benefit your lofty dietary goals, but it is delicious: https://www.thespruceeats.com/spaghetti-squash-carbonara-4693656
There are subtle differences among squash varieties. The kabocha (which means pumpkin in Japanese) squash and the buttercup squash look very similar – they are round and squat and green, after all. But the kabocha is rounder, and has a tree-like stem. The buttercup flesh is wetter, while the kabocha is more dense and easier to handle, and more desirable. Seek out the kabocha, accept no substitutes. https://heathereatsalmondbutter.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/gettin-krazy-with-kabocha/
The Delicata squash is cream-colored with orange or green stripes, and it has a delicate, edible rind. Pair it with apples for an aromatic side dish for pork chops: https://www.loveandlemons.com/roasted-delicata-squash/
I love a good, hearty stuffed squash. Many squash are perfectly suited for stuffing and you can stuff with abandon: https://www.splendidtable.org/story/2015/11/06/stuffed-winter-squash
Breads! Bake pumpkin bread often during the fall. Homemade pumpkin spices floating around the house will cheer you up and make you smile during these anxious COVID days, which drag on and on. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment, too. Right now, mindfulness and deep breathing are to be encouraged. Plus with a slice of pumpkin bread and a cup of tea, you can take a little afternoon break as you work from home. This is extra special pumpkin bread – it has chocolate! It will give you something to look forward to: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-bread/
Here is a handy overview of winter squashes: https://www.allrecipes.com/article/winter-squash-types/
“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”
― Alexander McCall Smith
The University of Maryland Extension (UME) is offering a webinar series to provide education on land care practices for small-scale natural area management.
The webinar series, which will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. over four Thursdays beginning on October 22 through November 12, will focus on natural area management services including wildlife habitat enhancement, forestry practices, invasive plant control, tree planting, tree management, trail development, and more.
This project is funded by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro Ecology and part of The Woods In Your Backyard partnership, composed of UME, Penn State Extension, Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Dept. of Forestry, and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
“This project began as one that focused on Maryland and Virginia but has since expanded to partners in Pennsylvania. This is a testament to the importance of incorporating forestry practices in areas of small tract woodlands and natural areas previously not maintained,” said Dr. Kate Everts, director of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and the Wye Research and Education Center.
“This series was developed with green industry professionals in mind, and those looking to expand services to offer natural area enhancement, but it is also appropriate for landowners and anyone with an interest in environmentally-sustainable management practices,” said Jonathan Kays, Forestry Specialist with UME.
“Whether you are a landowner looking to create recreational opportunities on your wooded property, or a landscaper looking to incorporate forestry practices into your suite of services, a wide audience can benefit from this upcoming webinar series,” said Everts.
The course series includes four online classes, with a complementary resource manual and specialized checklist tool to help green industry professionals determine which enhancement practices are suitable for a given property or site depending on the landowner’s goals. The four class topics include:
Oct. 22 – Expanding Your Business: Land Care Practices on Small Acreage Properties
Oct. 29 – Land Care Practices for Woodland Health
Nov. 5 – Land Care Practices for Woodland Health
Nov. 12 – Introduction to Woodland Health Assessment and Incorporating Woodland Health Practices
The cost for the series is $35 and includes the Woodland Health Practices Handbook, the Woodland Health Assessment Checklist and Management Actions, and two Woody Plant Identification Guides. For an additional $20, participants can also receive a copy of the original “Woods In Your Backyard” book (normally $29 plus shipping).
In partnership with:
It is finally starting to cool down, at night at least. I have placed a couple of cheerful pumpkins on the front porch and have replanted the window boxes with chrysanthemums and some pansies. My neighbor keeps rearranging her seasonal troupe of plastic skeletons and ghosts. It is beginning to look a lot like the seasons are going to change. Finally.
Living in the slower-paced smaller COVID world we can spend a day learning how to ferment pickle the slow, traditional way. Or we can quick pickle and get ready to binge Borgen on Netflix. Pickles might be the new COVID sour dough DIY project. Quick pickles can give us a little sunshine on the dinner table when fall’s cooler temperatures and darker nights make us long for summer’s warm sunshine.
My mother favored a tiny one-man butcher shop just around the corner from our house. It was the kind of place that stocked bread and Saltines and penny candy, as well as the hanging slabs of meat kept cold in an old-fashioned wooden refrigerator at the back of the store. While we waited for our pound of cubed steak or a half pound of sliced American cheese, we were sometimes allowed to choose a pickle out of the large barrel located near the front door. They were huge, manatee-sized pickles, which we ate sitting on the step of the shop, with juice running down our arms and onto the sidewalk. (In retrospect I wonder how my mother decided they would be a treat for us, because she didn’t like pickles. Every Thanksgiving she would put out a tiny WASPy bowl of sweet gherkins for a relish dish , but I never saw her eat any.)
I enjoy a cool cucumber salad, with slices of sweet Vidalia onion, and a scattering of Maldon salt is the perfect summer meal. Quick pickles are almost as good as an Indian Summer salad, or sitting on Benny’s Butcher Shop front step, chowing down on a big, honking pickle, watching the neighborhood parade by.
Cheater’s Pickles – From the New York Times
2 English cucumbers
2 tablespoons sugar
Handful of ice cubes
¼ cup rice vinegar, Champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
Several pinches of flaky salt, such as Maldon
Several grinds of black pepper, optional
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill, mint or chives, or a mixture, optional
½ Vidalia onion, sliced into thin half-moons, optional
1.Cut off the ends of the cucumbers and use the tines of a fork to draw long stripes down their lengths. Slice the cucumbers like bread-and-butter pickles, about 1/8-inch thick, and pile them into a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the cucumbers and stir in well. Scatter the ice cubes over the slices and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Chill in the freezer for 1/2 hour.
2.Drain the cucumbers in a colander and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Put the cucumbers back in the bowl, sprinkle the vinegar over them evenly, and stir well. Add the salt and pepper, if using, and stir well to combine. Toss in the herbs and the onions, if using. Refrigerate until ready to serve. They will still be good the next day, though not quite as crisp.
Vivian Howard knows busy. Here is her recipe for quick pickles from PBS’s A Chef’s Life:
Of course, our friends at Food52 have the answer for quick pickles, too: https://food52.com/recipes/18162-spicy-dill-quick-pickles
And here is a super quick recipe from Alice Waters for a medley of cucumbers, radishes and watermelon meant to be consumed immediately. Hurry up! Get cracking! We haven’t got anywhere to go!
“Each day the sun shone, the birds lingered, though the trees were turning, purely out of habit, and their rose and yellow and rust looked strange and beautiful above the brilliant green grass.”
― Elizabeth Enright
I’ve been waiting for October to start before I buy any chrysanthemum plants. September just seems too early, and then it got warm again, and did not feel autumnal. As the leaves reluctantly change color I have been out in the backyard, cutting the last bedraggled hydrangea blossoms and bringing them inside. I want a little cheerful color in the kitchen before resorting to grocery store flowers. And it’s still just too early to buy pumpkins.
Which is why I have filled a bowl with an assortment of colorful pears. They have saturated autumnal colors, and are a tasty treat along about three o’clock when I would love to take a nap. There is nothing like getting a little sugar rush from a sweet pear, as the juice runs down your chin, when you snatch a ten minute break from the COVID-19 solitary confinement to read a book standing at the kitchen counter. (I’m reading Laura Lippman’s new book of essays, My Life as a Villainess, in case you need a timely distraction.)
Pears are another fruit that I feel sure is perfect on its own, eaten raw and not baked, stewed, poached or quivering in extra sugar. But they are many folks who enjoy a nice pear tart, or a pear cake. And as pears are easily bruised, it is always prudent to have a smoothie recipe as a back up plan. Remember our mantra: waste not, want not.
There are nights when I think I will just scream if I have to make another green salad. Apples and pears pair very nicely. Apple Pear Fruit Salad: https://www.stemilt.com/recipes/apple-pear-fruit-salad/
Try pears, Brie and prosciutto for your next Zoom cocktail party – your friends from college will be impressed that you have finally moved away from Nacho Cheese Doritos. Pear, Prosciutto and Brie Panini: https://www.stemilt.com/recipes/pear-prosciutto-and-brie-panini/ The Room Rater will now gauge your kitchen skills as you flip hot panini while drinking wine and bantering about your misspent youth.
Or you can flaunt your middle-aged sophistication by pivoting away from the cheap white wine of your past, and progress to a pear martini. Just one per Zoom cocktail hour, please. Your college friends who never forget any of your foolishness are just looking for fresh fodder: https://www.thespruceeats.com/french-pear-martini-recipe-761054
Our friends at Food52 always have excellent ideas. I love it when they do the heavy lifting, and I just follow along, garnering Mr. Friday’s admiration. This is simple and it is a dessert he loves, even if it isn’t chocolate. (I always try to keep some vanilla ice cream on hand, for dressing up humble desserts.) Simple Pear Tart: https://food52.com/blog/23294-simple-pear-tarte-tatin-recipe-comfort-baking
This cake does have chocolate, but I still like to add a little whipped cream or ice cream. Spiced Chocolate Pear pie: https://food52.com/recipes/14339-spiced-chocolate-pear-cake
If you are going to mask up and go out to run off these desserts, you can try this healthy smoothie: https://www.runningtothekitchen.com/pear-banana-cinnamon-smoothie/. This must be extremely healthy, because they mention “collagen peptides”. Not in my kitchen!
Have you started to think about Thanksgiving? This could be a tasty alternative to apple pie: https://everydayannie.com/2012/11/16/pear-crumble-pie/
And here is a clever way to use up that leftover Thanksgiving turkey: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/radicchio-salad-turkey-pear-pomegranate
Pears will ease us into autumn. They are vivid before the leaves change color and fall. They are the colorful cynosure of our Zoom-y kitchen, while we wait for frosts, pumpkins, and dinner. And old friends to lead us to laughter.
“It is, in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption.”
– Edward Bunyard
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded funding in the amount of $49,984 to Adkins Arboretum to expand the depth of information and streamline the management of its Living Collections Database. These funds were awarded through IMLS’s Inspire! Grants for Small Museums, a federal funding source that will cover 100% of the project costs. The Arboretum is considered a living museum due to its living plant and land preservation exhibits and its educational mission.
The Arboretum’s Living Collections Database is a robust database, geographic information system and web mapping platform designed to allow broader public access and to improve monitoring and management of the Arboretum’s living collections. The end result is a database that may be accessed online by all who are interested in learning more about the Arboretum’s flora. The Arboretum will expand the depth of information available about its living collections, specifically animal (insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians) interactions with the plants. Planned content additions will allow staff and volunteers to develop program content and serve as a greater resource to the public. The Arboretum will also improve its collection management procedures.
Adkins staff completing the project over the next two years include Executive Director Ginna Tiernan, Land Steward Kathy Thornton, Facilities Coordinator Michael Micriotti, local contractors Sylvan Kaufman of Sylvan Green Earth Consulting and Leslie Hunter Cario of Chesapeake Horticultural Services, and Arboretum volunteers.
Founded in 1980 as Maryland’s state arboretum, Adkins Arboretum has operated as a nonprofit since 1992. The Arboretum serves as a model for land management that strives to engage all people in the conversation, appreciation and enjoyment of the Chesapeake region’s native landscapes through education, recreation, art and community events. Located adjacent to Tuckahoe State Park, it operates and maintains a visitor’s center (currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns), 400 acres of meadows, woods, wetlands and five miles of trails under a 50-year lease with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The Arboretum’s diverse collection includes more than 600 species of trees, plants, grasses and wildflowers native to the Eastern Shore and the Mid-Atlantic coastal plain. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. IMLS advances, supports and empowers America’s museums, libraries and related organizations through grantmaking, research and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.
Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.
Originally I thought I would write a timely piece about tacos to cleverly coincide with National Taco Day, which is October 4. I am a week early, which should give you plenty of time to experiment and try every variation and permutation before the big day actually arrives. It is funny how the calendar keeps playing tricks on me this year. 2020 has been a weird one, to say the least.
Spring was lovely – it didn’t feel like a burden to stay safely at home and watch the daffodils emerge from corners of the garden. The tulips bloomed late and then disappeared in a week. The daffodils hung on for weeks. There were buckets of warm spring rain, which suited the hydrangeas. And the burgeoning mosquitoes. Summer was long and hot. The minute fall arrived (this past Tuesday at 9:30 AM, EDT) it cooled down and I reached for a sweater, which I have since tossed onto the back of a kitchen chair because it has gotten summer-warm again. Just because the calendar says it’s fall doesn’t guarantee that the weather will cooperate.
I used to love running out to the grocery store whenever the whim or the obscure recipes demanded it. Those were the days. Carefree. Mask-free. The wind blowing through my artfully coiffed locks. That was back when I could get haircuts. (I was taller and blonder and thinner in that Katmandu state of mind, too.) Covid-19 has required that we plan ahead, shop less frequently, stay home more, mask up and be mindful of others.
I like to think that I am a frugal New Englander; that I remember to “Use it up, wear it out, made it do, do without.” Somehow I always picture that phrase as coming to me from repeatedly reading Little Women. Surely Beth embroidered it as a lovely cross-stitched sampler that hung over her piano. Or Laura Ingalls Wilder muttered under her breath as she grimly churned butter in a sod-house in Minnesota. But no, it turns out that it was a phrase used in World War II, encouraging us to cheerfully make do with rationing. I guess I need to re-read Little Women.
We have been watching lots of videos, as have you. We fell into Netflix’s Chef’s Table recently. After watching an hour of grim pandemic news it is a relief to see images of people with passions and skills, living happy, pre-pandemic lives, puttering around their well-appointed kitchens making wonderfully bizarre foods. https://philly.eater.com/2019/4/15/18282518/south-philly-barbacoa-cristina-martinez-mexican-restaurant-philadelphia
I used to think narrowly about tacos. I have been amazed to find that tacos are not just browned ground beef, flavored by Old El Paso seasoning mix, served in fried, hard corn tortilla shells, topped with orange cheese. Now I know that tacos will save us during the pandemic, because they make ordinary leftovers exotic. Tacos are magic. I give to you some taco legerdemain:Nights when I have trouble sleeping, instead of worrying about the state of the world, over which I have no control, I try to think about what grooviness I can serve for dinner without going to the grocery store. What is lurking in the fridge or is tucked away in the pantry that can stretch the time until I need to mask up and tear through the grocery store.
Leftovers are our friends, and leftovers as tacos are friends with beer and chips. Tacos are better than casseroles. Consequently I have learned to keep a stash of corn tortillas in the fridge, which are the basis for tacos. (Sometimes I have flour tortillas, too. In a pinch we can make quesadillas, which make an easy, cheesy side dish.)
Most all of the time we have these items, too. Although I have to ask the Family Nose to test the sour cream container for viability:
Meat – leftover roast beef, steak, chicken, salmon, pork, lamb
Refried beans – try to get the vegetarian kind to avoid lard
Rice – we always make too much, so there is always a stash in the freezer
Corn or flour shell tortillas
Shredded lettuce or cabbage
Chopped Vidalia onion, green onion, red onion
Radishes (some may lurk in the way back)
Cilantro (it is amazing how much fresh cilantro will add to a store-bought salsa)
Guacamole (I never have avocados, but you might)
Sour cream (from a couple of weeks ago, usually)
Shredded cheese – we mix mozzarella with cheddar
Jalapeños – we always have a jar of pickled jalapeños, but fresh pack a better kick, and will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks
Lime juice for a refreshing citrus jolt – bottled will do in a pinch
I used to fry the tortillas to death, thinking that the packaged hard shells we found in the grocery store were authentic. Such foolishness! Now I either lightly fry the shells in a skillet or griddle and warm both sides of each tortilla until they are warm and soft. Or, to keep the stove top from getting splattered, I drape the shells over the wire oven racks in a 350°F oven for about 5-7 minutes. Some recipes say spray with oil, but really, spray? Aren’t we trying to save the planet? I say leave the shells in the oven until you have found the degree of crispiness you enjoy the most. Low cal, and ozone friendly
Good luck with your National Taco Day celebration. You can never rehearse too much, or too often. Just remember to keep some tortillas (and beer) in the fridge, and some extra chips in the pantry. Make yourself happy puttering in the kitchen.
“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”
Salt Fat Acid Heat guru Samin Nosrat’s brilliant take: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/29/slow-roasted-pork-taco-recipe-salted-caramel-cookies-samin-nosrat
Here is a vegetarian take on tacos, too: https://shaneandsimple.com/crunchy-baked-taco-shells/