A slow fall into autumn cooking: Recipes that make the transition a tasteful and simple one

News-DemocratSeptember 9, 2013 

Head to any fashion retailer right now and you'll inevitably hear about how to transition your wardrobe from summer to fall. Somebody needs to use the same phrase while in the kitchen. Just replace "wardrobe" with "menu."

It's still too warm for stews and breadmaking, but maybe we can drift just a bit in the direction of autumn. Use some of the colors of fall and late-summer vegetable from our gardens with a lighter hand. Move away from tropical and citrus to the earthiness of a bit of cinnamon or honey.

Make use of eggplant and zucchini in casseroles, for example, then pair them with a great tossed salad to brighten and lighten the meal. Build an amazing vegetarian sandwich using roasted slices of sweet potato.

For a traveling dessert, think blondies laced with maple syrup and pecans. Or, combine apples and peaches, stew them, then serve over pound cake with ice cream.

Then again, peaches are divine fall fruit all by themselves as standouts in amazing Peach Cobbler Cupcakes.

Lasagna Stuffed Zucchini

4 medium zucchinis (or 6 to 8 small)

1 bunch fresh spinach

12 ounces part-skim ricotta

3/4 cup mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, shredded

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1 egg

Kosher salt

Ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1/2 tablespoon dried, though fresh is best if you have it)

1/2 cup almonds (chopped)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Olive oil

1 jar marinara sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Wash the zucchini; cut them in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon.

3. Chop the spinach. Place the spinach on a baking tray and place it in the oven for a few minutes to wilt it down (or, place it in a dry skillet and cook down for a few minutes until wilted).

4. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, half-cup mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, oregano, chopped nuts and red pepper flakes, if desired. Stir well.

5. Place the zucchini halves in a baking dish and lightly drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.

Fill each half with spinach, then cheese mixture, then top with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with rest of mozzarella and extra Parmesan.

6. Cover with foil, and bake 15 minutes covered, then 5 minutes uncovered (depending on the size of the zucchini; it may need only another 2 minutes or so). Let stand a few minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Couple Cooks

The tiny drizzle of honey is the secret to making this sandwich outstanding.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese & Arugula Sandwiches

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes (3/4 to 1 pound total), scrubbed clean

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil or water, drained, packed

3 ounces goat cheese

8 slices hearty whole-grain artisan sandwich bread

1-2 teaspoons honey

2 ounces arugula (4 good handfuls)

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the lower-middle of the oven. Brush a baking sheet with some of the olive oil and set aside.

2. Slice the sweet potatoes into rounds 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Brush the tops with more olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the rounds are browned, tender, and look toasted on the undersides, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool

3. Meanwhile, if your sun-dried tomatoes were packed in oil, place them in a strainer and rinse them under water. Pat dry. Mince the tomatoes into small pieces, and then mash them into the goat cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.

(At this point, all the ingredients can be refrigerated for up to a week and individual sandwiches can be assembled as needed.)

4. To assemble, lay two pieces of bread on your work surface. Spread each slice with a tablespoon of the tomato-goat cheese mixture.

Add a layer of sweet potato rounds to one of the slices, overlapping them slightly.

Drizzle a little honey over the sweet potatoes. Top with a handful of arugula and the second slice of bread.

Repeat as needed to make more sandwiches. Eat immediately, or wrap the sandwiches and eat within 4 hours.

The prepared sandwiches can be refrigerated, but the bread will go stale quickly if left in the fridge for longer than a few hours. Makes 4 sandwiches.


Greek Moussaka

3 large eggplants, thinly sliced

1 cup ricotta cheese

Meat Sauce:

1 pound ground meat

5 shallots, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1/ 4 teaspoon cinnamon

14 ounes canned tomatoes

White Sauce:

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/ 4 cups plain Greek yogurt

Pinch of grated nutmeg


1/ 4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Fresh basil and oregano, to garnish

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Warm up a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, dry-fry the eggplant slices on both sides until browned. Set aside. (Can spray with nonstick cooking spray.)

Add the ground meat to the skillet and cook until browned. Drain, if necessary.

Add the shallots and garlic and cook 5 minutes, or until browned and translucent.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, parsley and cinnamon, then simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange a layer of eggplant slices in an ovenproof dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Ladle on a thin layer of the meat sauce, then add another layer of the eggplant slices and meat.

Use the ricotta cheese for one of the final layers. Repeat until the eggplants and meat sauce are used up.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and the yogurt and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Pour the mixture over the eggplants and sprinkle grated cheese on top.

Bake 45 minutes, or until golden brown.


Stewed Peaches and Apples

3 peaches, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch thick slices

1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced in 1/4-inch thick slices

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

3/4 teaspoon Saigon or regular cinnamon

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 teaspoons cornstarch

6 tablespoons water

1. Combine fruits, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon and sugars in a medium bowl.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter.

Add the fruit mixture and turn the heat down to medium, stirring every couple of minutes for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit becomes tender.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water. Add the cornstarch mixture to the fruit and stir to combine until the liquid thickens. Serve over pound cake, or with a small scoop of frozen yogurt or ice cream. Serves about 6.


Peach Cobbler Cupcakes

Crumble topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled not room temperature


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 medium sized peaches, skins removed, chopped


1 cup butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 to 2 pounds powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

Crumble topping: Place all dry ingredients into a small bowl; stir to combine.

Cut the butter into pieces and work them into the dry ingredients with your fingers, until coarse clumps have formed. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins and set aside.

Cupcakes: In a large bowl, mix together the first 6 ingredients (through cardamom).

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and both sugars until they are light and fluffy looking, this should take about 1 minute.

Beat in the eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Fold the peaches into the batter gently.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake tins, leaving them only half full.

Top each with 1 tablespoon or so of the crumble mixture, so that the cupcake tins are now about 3/4 full.

Bake 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. They will be surprisingly soft on the bottoms because of the moistness of the peaches, don't be alarmed. If the toothpick is coming out clean, they should be cooked through. Once they cool they will be slightly sturdier.

Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the sugar in small batches, mixing continuously. Use more or less sugar, depending on desired sweetness.

Add milk gradually, mixing until combined and desired consistency. Pipe into pastry bag and decorate tops of cupcakes. Or, simply layer on with a spatula. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a stewed peach from recipe above. Makes about 16 cupcakes.


Maple-Pecan Blondies

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 ounces maple sugar candy, chopped

Maple Butter Glaze:

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup light brown sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper so that the ends fall over the long sides of the pan. Grease very lightly with butter or baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, chopped pecans, brown sugar, salt and baking soda.

In a separate bowl or large measuring pitcher, whisk together the melted butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla extract.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, and fold together quickly and firmly until completely combined.

Fold in the chopped maple sugar candy.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. It will be quite thick and sticky. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until the center is just barely cooked and set. The blondies should be very soft still.

While the blondies are baking, make the maple butter glaze: Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then stir in the maple syrup and brown sugar.

Bring to a boil over medium heat (watch out that it doesn't boil over) and cook at a full boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Drizzle the warm glaze over the blondies. Reserve any leftover glaze and refrigerate, well covered. It will last for at least a week in the refrigerator, and can be used for serving the blondies, or drizzled over ice cream.

Set the blondies aside to cool for at least a full hour. Lift out of the pan using the parchment to lift them straight up. Cut into small squares to serve. Makes 30 servings.


Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service