Fall is here and proving to be much needed and even more appreciated than past years. Although the weather could be about 12 degrees cooler (spoken like a true Minnesotan) and the colors could be a deeper hue of reds and oranges, I still feel Autumn’s presence and welcome it with open arms.

Perhaps it’s my first start-to-the-school-year as a new teacher along with the building anticipation among my students over costumes, candy and pumpkins. It could also be the two cakes baked in new tradition to celebrate my favorite Fall birthdays. Or perhaps it’s my recent jaunt up to the Catskills with John that pushed me over the edge (apparently altitude provides fall foliage, cool breezes and envied country-style living) but the new air feels crisp and full of excitement.

I absolutely adore this time of year between Summer and Winter.

During our brief stint in Phoenicia, we made a stop at our favorite vegetarian haven: Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, where mistreated farm animals are rescued and saved from being slaughtered. I don’t really like to get too heavy with the animal preaching, but I think we can all agree that what’s going on with factory farming is cruel and disturbing and frankly we all can agree that animals shouldn’t suffer. (right?!?) These are all animals that were saved from such negligence. They are the lucky ones. Worth the stop if you’re open to it.

Sarah and Dylan the cow

Now for a whole slew of Fall recipes that I have sadly been neglecting to post. Some are obviously out of season, but good to file away for future recipe reference

Tomato Salad with Crushed Croutons

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Crushed croutons:

4 slices crusty bread
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Tomato salad:

1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, mixed colors if you can find them
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Pinch of sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

Handful basil leaves, slivered.

Prepare the crushed croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear bread into chunks and pule them in a food processor until coarsely ground (largest chunks can be lima bean sized). Don’t feel like dirtying the food processor? Keep tearing the bread up until it is in ragged, mixed sized crumbs. Spread crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and parmesan until croutons are evenly coated with oil. Bake until golden brown and dry, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Assemble salad: Halve each tomato lengthwise and arrange cut side up on a platter. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, salt, sugar and a few grinds of pepper in a small dish. Drizzle over tomatoes. Sprinkle tomatoes with crushed croutons. Garnish with slivers of basil.

The completed tomato salad

Next up: Macaroni Salad (A new staple in our house!)

Scallions ready to go for macaroni salad (see below for recipe)

Scallion Macaroni Salad

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 pound elbow macaroni

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced green onions (3-4 bunches)
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
fine grain sea salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
zest and juice of one lemon
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

4 big handfuls arugula
1 large apple, diced

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of well-salted water per package instructions. Set aside at least 1/2 cup pasta water. Then drain pasta and set aside.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Add most of the green onions, all of the garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions soften, and the garlic begins to take on some color, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple minutes.

Use a hand blender or food processor to puree the green onion mixture along with 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, zest of the lemon, half the lemon juice, and the reserved pasta water. Puree and taste. The green onion flavor should be intense. Stir in the Parmesan.

Combine the macaroni with the green onion sauce in a large bowl. Toss well. Add the arugula and most of the apple and toss again. Taste, and add more pepper, salt, or lemon juice if needed. Serve topped with the remaining apple and green onion.

Not enough for you? Here’s some more! (and this one is actually still in season)

Winter Pasta Recipe (recipe below)

Winter Pasta Recipe

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

4 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 small shallots, peeled
1 small bunch of kale (roughly 1/2 lb) stalks removed, washed well
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (or 2 oz) goat cheese, plus more for topping
2 tablespoons + hot pasta water
fine grain sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh lemon juice – optional
12 oz  dried penne pasta
fresh thyme

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water generously, and add the garlic and shallots. Boil for 2-3 minutes, stir in the kale and cook for another ten seconds. Don’t overcook. Working quickly, use a slotted spoon or strainer to fish the greens, garlic, and shallots from the water. Use a food processor to puree the ingredients along with the olive oil and goat cheese. Add a couple tablespoons of hot pasta water if needed to thin things out if needed. Then season with a touch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Taste. Depending on your goat cheese, you might need a little extra acidic oomph if your sauce is a bit flat. If so, add fresh lemon juice a bit at a time until you’re happy with it the sauce. Set aside.

Reheat the pot of water and boil the pasta per package instructions. Drain and toss immediately with the green sauce. Serve topped with a few pinches of fresh thyme, and more crumbled goat cheese.

Serves 4-6.

Before blended up...

And I swears this is the last one, but probably my favorite (I’ve only made it about 3 times in the last month)

Golden zucchini sandwiches (recipe below!)

Golden Zucchini Sandwiches (omg soooo good!)

adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen

2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, 1 minced, 1 made into paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large zucchini, grated ( used 2 small)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped basil, tarragon, or other fresh herb (optional– I used none because I had none)
2 tbsp mayonnaise
4 slices good sourdough bread, lightly toasted
1 cup freshly grated white cheddar (from about 4 ounces cheese)

In a small frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is just barely golden, about 1 minute. Add the grated zucchini and a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is cooked down and all the moisture is evaporated, about 15 minutes. It should be an almost jam-like consistency. Add the fresh herbs if using, then taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic paste with the mayonnaise in a small bowl and mix to combine. Spread one side of each slice with the garlic mayo. Top the un-mayo’ed sides with a quarter of the cheese, each, pressing down so it doesn’t slide around.

Distribute the zucchini mixture on top of the cheese on two of the slices, then top with the remaining two. The mayo should be facing out on all sides.

If your frying pan is large enough to hold two sandwiches, rinse it out. Otherwise, find a pan that is and heat it for about 2 minutes over medium heat. (You can also of course make the sandwiches one at a time.) Place the sandwich(es) on the pan and cook 4 minutes on the first side side, until golden on the outside and gooey on the outside, then flip carefully and cook 3-4 minutes on the second side. Remove from the pan, cut in half if you wish, and eat immediately.

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