Spiced Orange Pumpkin Cookies

Spiced Orange Pumpkin Cookies

Tender, plump, spicy pumpkin cookies with a double whammy of orange. Perfect for Halloween festivities.

The Best Super Chewy Snickerdoodles Ever

Stack of Super Chewy Snickerdoodles

There’s something about fall–the brisk mornings, heavenly colors, and burning leaves—that make me want to run to the OtherWorldly Kitchen and whip up a batch of fragrant, spicy, crinkle-topped, chewy Snickerdoodles. You know, the super chewy Snickerdoodles of my dreams.

Decidedly Different Cranberry, Walnut & Currant Tart

Decidedly Different Cranberry, Walnut & Currant Tart

Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.

Savory Pumpkin Honey Dinner Rolls

Savory Pumpkin Honey Dinner Rolls with Maple Pumpkin Spice Butter

I knew these rolls were going to be a hit, but I didn’t anticipate the mania that ensued as I took them from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, pulled them apart, and piled them on a platter to serve. I mean, should you stop someone from eating six rolls, back-to-back, without coming up for air? Or just pass them more butter?

Sweet Corn & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Sweet Corn & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Spiced Caramel Apple Sauce & Gingersnap Crumble

Never heard of sweet corn ice cream? Well then, you’re in for an ice cream flavor revelation. As my collection of American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks grew over the years, I occasionally encountered this “oddity” in one or another of the dessert chapters. Finally, I searched the web and lo and behold, the word is out.

Spiced Caramel Apple Sauce

Spiced Caramel Apple Sauce

You know the flavor contrast you get when you bite into a perfect caramel apple—first rich, creamy, sweet caramel, and then bracingly tart, juicy apple? Add half a dozen spices and that’s what this caramel sauce tastes like. At first, you think, “Oh yeah, luxuriously rich, wonderfully spiced caramel,” and then POW, the acidity of the reduced apple cider kicks in and your mouth goes, “Hey, whoa, what’s happening here?” I love this double-punch effect.

Blackberry Lime Syrup with Star Anise

Blackberry Lime Syrup with Star Anise Over Lemon Sorbet

This sweet-tart sauce is the essence of late summer. It transports me back to the country roads and beaches of Vashon Island, where I spent so many Septembers foraging for blackberries, baking for hours in the wilting sun, trying to get enough ripe berries for JUST ONE PIE.

Roasted Green Chile Soup with Mexican Crema, Frizzled Tortillas & Charred Sweet Corn

Roasted Green Chile Soup with Mexican Crèma, Frizzled Tortillas & Charred Sweet Corn

Every fall, I look forward to the arrival of a huge variety of chile peppers at Northwest farmers markets—Poblano, Anaheim, Hatch, Cubanelle, Mesilla, Padron, New Mex Joe, Jalapeno, Crimson Lee, Serrano, Sweet Banana, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Hot Mexican to name a few–along with the gas-fired drum roaster that makes quick work of roasting them.

Spicy Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignets

Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignets

This concept should have been a cinch. After all, I developed White Chocolate, Cardamom & Coconut Beignet and they’re wonderful—ethereally light, tender, moist, and beautifully flavored.

But I made a classic mistake at the onset. I tried to pattern the new beignets after the earlier success. And that, my friends, was a disaster. I threw batch after batch of beignets in the trash after just one taste.

Something different went wrong with each batch: too dry, too wet, not sweet enough, not pumpkin enough, not spicy enough, and finally, just okay but nothing special. I almost gave up. Where was I going wrong?

Pumpkin Recipe Roundup

Pumpkin Spice & White Chocolate Cheesecake

Northwest pumpkin season is in full swing, and I have new recipes ready to roll out in the weeks ahead. Get ready for Spiced Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignet, Pumpkin Chocolate Torte, and Caribbean Shrimp & Pumpkin Chowder. And while I get those ready for you, here are my pumpkin FAVORITES from past seasons.

Mostaccioli with Sweet Rainbow Peppers

Mostaccioli with Sweet Rainbow Peppers

Every Saturday morning, from April through December, whether in Seattle or Portland, I head to one of the many world-class Northwest farmers markets. You might think I would become jaded after awhile, but it hasn’t happened.

Every week, I’m blown away by the gorgeous, tantalizing offerings, and every week I buy way more than I can cook over the weekend. I do this even though there is this strange man following me around, intermittently interjecting, “Enough already! You can’t cook all that.” I pretend to have no idea who he is, but of course it’s none other than MauiJim.

Roasting Peppers Step-By-Step

Pepper Skins Removed After Roasting

When Columbus first set foot on the Caribbean island that is now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, he was hoping to find black pepper, the world’s most costly spice. Instead he found the genus Capsicum which the native inhabitants called aji. Probably a little frantic that his expedition was going unexpectedly awry, he quickly renamed the spicy vegetable, pepper, and while he was at it, the Arawak natives, Indians, to support the idea that he had indeed found a western trade route to India.

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad with Warm Goat Cheese & Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad with Warm Goat Cheese & Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

We are in love with full-meal salads in the OtherWorldly Kitchen, and I scramble every week to come up with a couple of new and memorable offerings. However, it’s challenging to make a salad an entire meal if seafood, poultry, or meat is not included.

Enter the indispensible log of mild goat cheese. It’s always on hand in my kitchen, because it lends itself to so many dishes. I wouldn’t want to be without it.

Green Chile Chowder with Yellow Finn Potatoes & Italian Kale

Green Chile Chowder with Yellow Finn Potatoes and Italian Kale

We settled into our Portland city digs for a few weeks, and one of the first things we did was hike over to the Portland Farmers Market. To tell you that the market was glorious yesterday morning is to be guilty of careless understatement. It was over-the-top magnificent! Peppers, peppers everywhere, in every color and every shape imaginable, freshly dug potatoes, heaps of various types of kale, a colorful abundance of winter squash, dozens of varieties of apples and pears, wild mushrooms, and the last of 3 varieties of fresh corn. My mind was reeling with the possibilities. But what should I cook?

Pumpkin Spice Hot White Chocolate

Pumpkin Spice Hot White Chocolate

There must be a hundred posts on the web on the topic of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. Amazing! Would you believe I have NEVER had a Pumpkin Spice Latte? I’m not quite sure how that happened. However, in perusing all of the copycat recipes, it appears that there is little if any actual pumpkin in this wildly popular autumnal concoction; just a teaspoon of Pumpkin Spice Syrup. Hmmm…

Caramelized Pear Salad with Gorgonzola, Candied Spiced Walnuts & Spicy Orange Vinaigrette

Carmelized Pear Salad with Gorgonzola and Candied Spiced Walnuts

Pears have a flavor affinity with creamy blue cheeses, such as Cambozola, Gorgonzola, Stilton, and Roquefort, as well as with balsamic vinegar, red wine, oranges, toasted walnuts, and the caramelization technique. I’m exploring these marvelous affinities this fall as new-season local pears fill the farmers markets.

If you are interested likewise in exploring the wide range of possible flavor affinities with pears as the star, I highly recommend The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. I use the lists in this book constantly to push myself into new directions.

Candied Spiced Walnuts or Pecans

Candied Spiced Walnuts

I drove through the Cascade foothills today and was delighted that the leaves are beginning their yearly show. It’s not the full show yet. That will take another week or two. But the few trees that are turning now are the most glorious shades of crimson, burgundy, orange and gold. Surreal! I also passed several large pumpkin fields and corn mazes. I rolled down the car window to hear the hordes of squealing, laughing kids in the fields. I even thought I smelled apple cider, but it’s still too early for fresh pressed, unpasteurized cider.

Linguine with Balsamic Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Linguine with Balsamic Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

As often happens in the OtherWorldly Kitchen, I see a picture of an interesting dish in a culinary magazine and then can’t locate it when I actually want to try the dish. I can’t bear to discard a great magazine, so there are stacks everywhere. That’s how this quick and easy midweek supper dish came to be: a vague memory of a picture in a magazine, several heirloom tomatoes on the counter begging to be used, and raging hunger.

As often happens in the OtherWorldly Kitchen, I see a picture of an interesting dish in a culinary magazine and then can’t locate it when I actually want to try the dish. I can’t bear to discard a great magazine, so there are stacks everywhere. That’s how this quick and easy midweek supper dish came to be: a vague memory of a picture in a magazine, several heirloom tomatoes on the counter begging to be used, and raging hunger.

I was intrigued by the idea of intensifying the flavor of the tomatoes by roasting them with herbs and aromatics and then simply laying them on top of cooked pasta. I confess that I did not expect the resulting dish to taste this divine. I merely wanted to throw together a quick meal after a demanding day at work. Isn’t it great when results EXCEED expectations?

Spicy Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Polentaandsauce.jpg

This hearty, almost meaty, sauce is one of the first dishes I make each fall in the Northwest. In September, farmers markets are overflowing with eggplant, bell peppers, and ripe heirloom tomatoes. The colors and flavors are amazing together.

Indian Summer Tomato, Orange & Sweet Onion Salad

Indian Summer Tomato, Orange & Sweet Onion Salad

September is perhaps the most rewarding and enticing month of the year for Northwest cooks. Much of summer’s fruit and produce is still available, while the first of the apples, pears, and winter squash are arriving at farmers markets. Days are still delectably warm, but evenings have begun to cool. I am rustling through leaves on my evening walks through the lovely neighborhoods of Northwest Portland.

Luscious Candied Lemon Sage Tea Cake

Luscious Candied Lemon Sage Tea Cake

Sometimes I get lucky. I have been working on the quintessential lemon cake for years, and although I have encountered a couple of formulas that are quite lovely in their own right, they are not exactly what I have in mind.

Cranberry Orange Yogurt Pecan Bread

cranberry-bread-lead-shot

This cranberry bread is especially tender because of the softening effect the yogurt has on the gluten in the flour, and it has an appealing acid tang as well. This loaf is as appropriate for breakfast as for afternoon tea, especially during the holiday season.

Hazelnut Honey Toffee Tart with Cranberry Variation

Hazelnut Honey Toffee Tart

Every year when fresh cranberries hit the markets, I immediately stock up, and then almost as immediately, make this delectable tart. OK, to tell the truth, I am in the markets a few weeks early, whining to whoever will listen, or muttering to myself even, about the absence of cranberries. “Shouldn’t they be in by […]

Curried Sweetpotato, Ginger, & Coconut Bisque

Curried Sweetpotato, Ginger & Coconut Bisque

Today, sweetpotatoes have a respected place in the LunaCafe kitchen. I have learned to use their inherent sweetness, creaminess, richness, and gorgeous color as a foil for numerous complimentary ingredients, particularly bold, spicy, and acidic counterparts. When a savory sweetpotato dish fails, it is usually because of blandness and sweetness that are not balanced with sufficient acid. I rarely buy a bag of sweetpotatoes without also thowing in a couple of juicy limes or a bottle of fresh, acidic apple cider — both are perfect sweetness balancers, and add interesting and complementary flavors as well.

Fresh Corn Soup with Prawn, Avocado, & Lime Escabeche

Corn and Chipotle Soup

For this early Fall soup, I decided to keep the focus on the corn. It’s all too easy to overwhelm the sweet, subtle flavor of corn with other more assertive ingredients. By keeping the more assertive flavors separate, as in the accompanying escabeche, the contrasting flavors do a little jig on the palate, taking turns on center stage–rather than melding together in an incomprehensible mash.