Last-chance gazpacho

last-chance gazpacho // sweetsonian

last-chance gazpacho // sweetsonian

I’ve had these photos in store, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and put together a decent set of words.

There’s probably just a handful of days left in DC for grabbing summer tomatoes — run! do so quickly! — so I figured I needed to post this recipe ASAP.

It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks, filled with freelancing and negotiating photo rights, but I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend filled with yoga, sleep, and reading. I’m putting a do-not-disturb sign on my life. Have a great fall weekend! Xo.

last-chance gazpacho // sweetsonian

last-chance gazpacho // sweetsonian

last-chance gazpacho // sweetsonian

last-chance gazpacho // sweetsonian

last-chance gazpacho // sweetsonian

Last chance gazpacho, as inspired and dictated by Rebecca Matulka  Continue reading “Last-chance gazpacho”

Easy as Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

The last time I was in New York, it was frigid. We spent our Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn — I spent more money than necessary on handmade jewelry at Artists and Fleas (quite possibly my favorite place on the earth), and after wandering to the waterfront for pretty photos of Manhattan and strolling around Brooklyn in the Nordic-temperature shade, we stumbled into a little cash-only joint named Juniper.

It smelled delicious, and had a space heater at the door. And right as we walked in, we eyed a giant bowl of mac and cheese that had just arrived at a nearby table. We salivated. So, we stayed.

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

For being a restaurant with maaaaybe 6 tables, it took an unnecessarily long time to get our diet cokes and later, the check, but the comfort food was pretty amazing. I had the chicken pot pie, which I instagrammed and later dreamed of. After a few bites, I looked up at Shaeda and said, “We have to make this.”

She agreed.

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

It seemed to be no coincidence that both Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart Living featured chicken pot pie recipes. It’s like their editors knew that we’d all be facing a brutal winter this year. In the past two months, I’ve seen more snow than I’ve seen in the three years it’s been since Snowmageddon. It’s lovely, but I do find myself checking flight prices to Miami every other day.

So today, I was determined to make this. I found the adorable mini saucepans at the TJ Maxx downtown (score! Similar ones here) and came up with a simple, but comforting recipe for chicken pot pie. Most recipes called for potatoes, and some for cream, but y’all know about my attempts to stay on track with some form of a healthy diet. I was surprised to realize that chicken pot pies don’t actually need much, other than chicken, vegetables, butter and puff pastry. It’s high in flavor, low in guilt. I’m okay with that.

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup carrots, sliced into coins
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • About 3/4 lbs. chicken, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 or 3 cups fresh spinach
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a skillet, melt the butter and saute the shallot and onions. Once the onions start to brown (maybe after 3-4 minutes), add the carrots, celery, and chicken. When the chicken starts to brown and burnt bits start to collect at the bottom of the pan, stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour.
  3. Add the chicken broth, and a pinch or two each of salt and pepper. Also add the spinach and stir, letting the stew simmer and thicken.
  4. Transfer your stew to two oven-safe bowls, dividing evenly. When I made this, I placed my puff pastry directly on top of the bowls. The puff pastry didn’t rise as high as it normally would, which I believe had something to do with the dough touching the stew directly — so on my next batch, I cooked the puff pastry on a baking sheet separately, and then placed the cooked puff pastry on the stew afterwards.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, until the puff pastry has risen and turns a golden brown. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

2014 is my jam.

lemon, leek & cannellini stew // sweetsonian

lemon, leek & cannellini stew // sweetsonian

2013 was a long year. Not a particularly bad one, for me, but a long one.

Last January, my boss at the Energy Department asked me if 2013 was the year Sweetsonian would take off. I hadn’t thought about it until that moment, but I did decide right then. Yes, yes it would. 2013 would be the year Sweetsonian takes off.

So, I got to work. I’ve learned so much about blogging in the past year alone. I’m happy to be here, even though I’ve fallen off the boat in the past couple of months — I’ve told you all about my issues with exhaustion. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I worked hard to write regularly, not just for you, but for me. Because writing here helps me sort out my own priorities, and it helps me decide what’s worth talking about and what isn’t.

I feel like I’ve opened up way more than I ever have in the past year. Like that time I wrote a very heartfelt confession of the best and worst lovespell of my life (which happened to be my first post picked up by Refinery 29, naturally). I’ve written a lot about him. And my mother, or hints to the lack thereof.

I was talking to one of my friends about goals — I, for one, have always been a very goal-oriented woman. Her mother encourages visualizing. That is, taking a few minutes every day to close your eyes and visualize your goals — who you want to be in the future, where you want to live, what you’d like to be doing with your life. I fell in love with this concept, partially because I’m a desperate victim to even the slightest distraction. Distractions from the day job projects or the freelance ones. Distractions because the internet is a volatile place. Distractions from reality because I might have mild ADD. As a child of the internet, don’t we all?

lemon, leek & cannellini stew // sweetsonian

lemon, leek & cannellini stew // sweetsonian

Anyway, by taking a few minutes out of each day to clear your mind and just visualize the things that you want in life, you allow yourself to keep your goals in check. It’s a lot like yoga, which I’ve been practicing diligently for the past couple of months. Yoga is that one place where I actually can clear my mind of the noise. It’s a nice sanctuary at the beginning or end of a long day.

For the past couple of weeks, I let myself visualize when I feel myself getting frustrated or stressed. It’s nice to just take a deep breath, close my eyes, and picture a nice house in Brooklyn with a kitchen filled with light and a pretty office, with one desk for my computer and another for my typewriter. Doesn’t that sound nice? Just typing up that imagery brought a smile to my face. Because my three goals this year are to get hella fit, move to New York, and fall in love. Ambitious, but nice to visualize.

I’m thinking, realistically, that 2 out of 3 would be great. Expecting 3 of 3 might lead to disappointment (men of DC, I’m talking about you), but as Lauren told me in a text last night, 2 out of 3 is a pretty good goal for most things in life. I definitely agree.

For now, it’s a bit chilly in Washington. I have the day off, so I did a little bit of cooking — this stew is derived from a dear friend, and is a go-to dish when I have people over in the fall and winter. Serve it by itself, or with a generous helping of fried or broiled salmon, bacon crumbles and fresh parsley.

lemon, leek & cannellini stew // sweetsonian

Lemon, Leek & Cannellini Stew, derived from The Spinning Plate

Ingredients

  • 3 cans canellini beans (any white bean is O.K.)
  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 2 large leeks, rinsed thoroughly and chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 heaping handful jullienned sundried tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cups white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Several sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Rinse and drain your cannellini beans, and set aside.
  2. In a cast iron Dutch oven (or any large pot), heat the bacon grease, and add in a drizzle of olive oil. Sautee the chopped leeks for a few minutes, until they soften and start to brown on the edges. Then, add in your sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, beans, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Add in the chicken (or vegetable) broth, with a pinch of salt and maybe a few pinches of pepper. Stir, cover, and let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, letting the beans soak in the flavors from the broth.
  4. Then, stir in a cup of wine, and squeeze the juice from the lemon into the stew. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so, and serve.

Roasted Veggie Gazpacho

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Whenever I visit my family in California, I try to take advantage of the outdoor grill they have. It’s always entertaining to think of the days before my dad learned to cook — a couple of the stories came up over breakfast this morning. The sloppy joe fiasco, the hilarious lunches he made for Sean and me, and the items that his bachelor fridge was filled with: Trader Joe’s taquitos, Hoffy hot dogs, individual packages of lunch meat, and string cheese.

That was our diet when we visited Dad.

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These days, he is quite the chef. His outdoor grill was a pretty good investment. At the moment, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Ridgecrest, California — Dad’s truck had car trouble at the Indian Wells Brewing Company (Dad’s favorite brewery), so Sean and I have been carting the family around in the second car. Thankfully, we decided to take two cars!

While I’d much rather be somewhere in the high Sierras already, taking a moment to edit photos and schedule some blogs is relatively therapeutic.

Anyway, I made this gazpacho before we left for our Eastern Sierra road trip. It should make a good lunch on a lake, while in a canoe. I’m hoping I get to meet some puppies. Or cowboys. That would be nice, too.

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Hoping you had a lovely July Fourth holiday!

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Roasted Veggie Gazpacho, adapted from Food & Wine

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 large tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
1 medium cucumber (the weird cucumber in my photo is a Syrian cucumber from my dad’s garden)
2 green bell pepper
1 medium sweet onion, unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup cold water
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Wrap your garlic cloves in a piece of aluminum or tin foil. Heat a grill on high, and grill the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onion, and garlic, turning so that the skin of each piece is completely charred — it should take about 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t have access to a grill, just use the broiler in your oven, and keep an eye on the vegetable skin. You want them charred.

Set the vegetables in a bowl, and cover with saran wrap to let them steam and cool.

Once you can touch them, peel away and discard the charred skins, and slice the vegetables into chunks that fit into your food processor. Go ahead and pulse grind them until you have a vegetable puree with a consistency that you desire — I wanted a finer ground salsa consistency. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until cool. Serve with salt and pepper, and a good piece of toast.

French Onion Grilled Cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese

In the past few months, I’ve found myself in a few situations where I’m surrounded by kids.

The first instance was back in January, when Kristen asked me to give a presentation at her students’ career day. That was an absolute blast — I was unbelievably nervous, but I brought a ton of freebies from the Department of Energy (lunch bags, bookmarks, the whole shebang) and I even attended the 8th graders’ English class with them. They’re reading Lord of the Flies. Does that bring back memories?

French Onion Grilled Cheese

There have been a few instances in my own office building that have called for a last-minute chat with kids about career options. Today, I got to chat with two groups of high school students from a technical high school in DC about working in STEM — and how you don’t have to be a scientist or an engineer to work in STEM. I make art. High-functioning, scientific and useful art.

Design is a lovely thing.

French Onion Grilled Cheese

And tomorrow, I’m starting a mentorship program with a high school student. Tomorrow, well, tomorrow is my birthday. I can’t think of a better way to spend it.

Thanks for letting me share these moments with you. And to accompany the flashbacks all this talk of teenagers might have spurred, enjoy this grown-up grilled cheese sandwich (also on the cheeseboard sent to me by Rochelle from yesterday’s post).

Hope your humpday is moving along quickly.

French Onion Grilled Cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese, inspired by the adorable Joy the Baker

Four slices of a good, firm sourdough bread (I keep softer sourdough in the freezer, which also works)
2 or 3 medium-sized yellow onions, sliced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded or sliced gruyere cheese
A few sage leaves, sliced
Butter. Mmm… buddah.
Salt & pepper to taste

Well, grilled cheese, we meet again. Let’s take it up a notch.

I can’t go through sourdough bread fast enough (thanks for nothing, diet), so if I have it in the house, I keep it in the freezer. I recommend that tactic, because I actually like grilled cheese sandwiches made from frozen bread better. Something about the temperature and the way the cheese melts into it.

ANYWAY. Heat a skillet on high until the pan is hot — so hot that you can only hold your hand over it for about 4 or 5 seconds before recoiling. Then, turn the heat down to medium. Add your sliced onions, and drizzle with a bit of butter. Stir constantly. After the onions turn translucent, the edges will start to brown — this should take about 5 to 7 minutes. When burnt bits start to collect at the bottom, pour in your 1/4 cup of heavy cream (yes, we are caramelizing onions in heavy cream). Season with salt, pepper and sage. Keep stirring, and cook over medium-high heat until the onions actually turn to a caramel color. This should take another 15 minutes or so. Longer if you want them really caramelized.

Scrape the bottom of the skillet, and transfer the onions to a bowl. Reduce your heat to low. Butter both sides of each slice of bread, and shred or slice your gruyere. Place one slice of bread on the skillet, then layer it with cheese, then pile on the caramelized onions, and then top with another slice of bread. Make sure your heat is on low — you want a slow cook.

I gave them about 7 minutes per side, which gave the sandwich just the right color and melted the cheese into the holes of the sourdough bread.

It’s a favorite of mine.

GUEST POST: Curried Red Lentil Soup with Dried Cherries and Cilantro

Curry Soup

I sincerely hope that this is the last time I will be cooking soup this winter. Don’t get me wrong, I love soup and I have made countless different batches since the cold weather first hit NYC last fall. My soup making obsession rose to new levels when my dear dad gave me the ultimate Christmas gift: a Cuisinart food processor. (Clearly the way to my heart is through cookware.)

The truth is there is nothing like a hot bowl of soup when it’s cold and dreary outside, and I often find that it is the only thing that will warm me up on a frigid day no matter how many sweaters I pile on.  So while the icy wind was howling outside my window, I flipped through my new favorite cookbook, Meatless by Martha Stewart, and was instantly drawn to this recipe. The balance of spicy curry powder with creamy coconut milk and sweet dried cherries is amazing. Top it off with some fresh cilantro and you have a soup that is complex in flavor and just plain beautiful to look at. Here’s hoping this batch lasts me until the weather gets warm enough to start making my favorite springtime recipes again.

Lentils

Cause wait a second, today is the first day of spring. Oh, that lovely word and all that it conjures. Brooklyn in the spring is a pretty magical place and I highly recommend visiting if you don’t have the pleasure of living here. Before I moved to Brooklyn last summer, I lived in Soho, which — don’t get me wrong — is a charming neighborhood. However, as soon as the temperature rises and people venture outside to catch a glimpse of the sun, the streets get packed with tourists, the sidewalk cafes fill up, and riding your bike comes with the risk being hit by a cab or colliding with a pedestrian.

Brooklyn is a different story. I live in Williamsburg and while it’s true that there are luxury condos going up all around me, there is still some peace here and it’s a perfect place to enjoy the change of seasons. In a couple of weeks, the Brooklyn Flea will open by the waterfront where you can peruse antiques, young designers’ latest wares, and a plethora of delicious artisanal food made by local vendors. Also, unlike the city proper, practically every restaurant has outdoor seating and waiting for a table is rare. I love going to Hotel Delmano to sip on an exquisitely crafted cocktail, or wandering over to the rooftop bar at Berry Park to check out the amazing view of Manhattan, beer in hand.

Chopped Veggies

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The best part of living is Brooklyn is ease of biking wherever you want to go. It’s true that the subways are more spread out in Brooklyn, but if you are lucky enough to own a bike, you have the pleasure of being able ride from Williamsburg to Red Hook for crabs and corn hole at Brooklyn Crab in a mere 30 minutes with little traffic to worry about. If craft beer and homemade ice cream sandwiches are more your thing, there is nothing like biking over to Bierkraft where they always have about 20 tasty brews on tap. You can even take one of their awesome subs (and maybe even a growler) to go and enjoy it while soaking up some rays just a few blocks away in Prospect Park.

My friends all know I have an ongoing love affair with Brooklyn and they are probably sick of hearing about it, but I guess the thought of springtime flowers just brings out the romantic side in me. Until then, I will be enjoying this tasty soup and anxiously awaiting sixty-degree weather.

–Kaeli

Soup

Curried Red Lentil Soup with Dried Cherries and Cilantro (adapted from Meatless by Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons of canola oil
1 piece (about 2 inches) of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 teaspoons of curry powder
course salt
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
4 cups water
1 cup dried red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/3 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves

 

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, shallot and carrots, and cook, stirring often until softened, about 7 minutes. Add curry powder, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 1/2 cup coconut milk, the water, and lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils and carrots are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Reserving some cherries for garnish, stir cherries and chopped cilantro into soup and ladle into 4 bowls. Dividing evenly, swirl in remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk, and garnish with cherries and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

 

Grown-up Ramen

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It’s no secret that I’ve been mildly obsessed with DC’s best ramen shop, Toki Underground. The decor comes straight out of my inner hipster’s dream treehouse, the music is consistently on-point, and every single item on their menu is heaven to my taste buds.

Especially when they serve Bulleit bourbon with a slice of pork belly.

Be still my beating heart.

The one tragic downside is that Toki Underground is no DC secret. With barely enough seating for your immediate family, combined with it’s beyond limited hours of operation, there’s almost always a line out the door, and you’re lucky if you’re quoted less than two hours for a wait.

But seriously. I tried to beat the crowd by getting there on a Tuesday night before they opened, and there was a line before the place even opened. By the time they opened their doors and the host could make his way through the line, we still had to wait 90 minutes for two seats.

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There are days. Days when I’m horribly hung over or getting over a cold — days when the only remedy to misery is Toki’s hakata classic. On those rare days, I’ll brave the cold and wait 2+ hours for a cherished bar seat with the tiniest future lawyer in the world, and a chat with cocktail extraordinaire @DCVince.

But most days, I really don’t have time for such shenanigans. Perhaps, if a better coffee shop opened up nearby, I could just sit and get my work done while I wait for a table.

In the meantime, I’ve embarked on my quest towards real-life ramen. This tastes nothing like the Toki version, but it did help relieve some residual cold symptoms at the end of last week. And, learning how to master Toki’s six-minute egg was something that I’ve always wanted to do.

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Recipe after the break. Continue reading “Grown-up Ramen”

Five Things I Love About D.C.

Inspired by 17 and Baking.

1. Small city, big town.

In cities like Los Angeles and New York, it’s easy to lose yourself. Be it a good “lose yourself” or a troublesome one — it doesn’t matter. In cities like DC, it’s easy to keep your life in perspective. The buildings aren’t too big, the streets are definitely not too wide, and the exposed brick just keeps you in check. When I’m in DC, nothing really reminds me of anything else. Yet when I leave, I find myself searching for things that remind me of DC: town houses, brick walls, and stars that cover rebar between buildings.

In cities where you don’t lose yourself, you find yourself. I guess it could also work the other way around, but that’s not what happened to me.

2. Neighborhoods

Yes, they exist in every other city. But beyond demographic boundaries, there is character — and each neighborhood has its own distinct personality. I live in the H Street neighborhood: quirky, detached, yet still modest from its sketchy upbringing. It’s still young enough that the trees don’t quite reach out over the roads, so the houses get a lot of light, and even more sky. But the more refined and historic residential parts of Capitol Hill are an easy ten-minute walk away.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter what neighborhood you live in when you’re in DC — but everyone seems to be really, really into their community. That’s something you feel wherever you go, and it’s lovely.

3. Scenery.

Running is cool. Especially in DC. And what better way to get to know your city than by running it?

Even a few years ago, when we got our huge snowstorm, I’d be able to take a step outside and see at least a few people, all bundled up, powering through a pretty run. In fact, the powdery runs are my favorite. There really isn’t anything better than taking a lunchtime jog past the White House, down the National Mall, and around the Lincoln Memorial. DC is one of the prettiest things alive when it’s lightly dusted with snow.

4. Proximity to things that aren’t DC.

This city is small. Sometimes, it feels really small. For example: a girl I went to college with randomly met a friend that I went sailing with a couple of times. And then they met up with my sailing friend’s brother, who is best friends with my gay’s roommate.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. Long story short, if you live here long enough, you pretty much know everyone.

So sometimes, you have to get out (or just trick yourself into feeling like you’ve gotten out). Annapolis, Alexandria, the baytch, West Virginia, New York. It’s so easy to travel to and fro on this coast, and it’s all right there. And if you can’t get out, you can just go kayaking on the Potomac or picnicking in Rock Creek Park. You might just forget where you are.

5. The people.

My friends are the coolest, craziest, most interesting people in the world. There isn’t really another way to say it.

It’s eighty degrees today, but soup weather will come back at some point.

Tomato Basil Soup

Ingredients:
A drizzle of olive oil
12 oz. tomato paste (canned is fine)
28 oz. tomatoes, diced (canned is fine here, too)
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste

Instructions:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil, and heat. We’re going to caramelize your tomato paste, which will add a nice flavor depth to your soup.

Stirring frequently, cook your tomato paste in the olive oil for about ten minutes, until the color changes to a deep crimson. At this point, use a spatula to push the tomato paste over to one side of the pan, and then add your minced garlic where the pan is clear. Saute the garlic — just a bit, to release some flavor. After that starts to get some color, add your 28 ounces of diced tomatoes. Stir until even, and let simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

In a separate pot or saucepan, combine your heavy cream, milk, basil, garlic, and pepper. I added a pinch of salt — but be careful, as your canned tomatoes are probably already heavily salted. Bring your cream mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.

Just before serving, combine the cream mixture with your tomato soup, and stir until even. If you like your soup smooth, then use an immersion blender (or a food processor) to grind out all the bumps. If you like your soup chunky, well, then you’re just all set.

Braised White Beans and Leeks

Oh hey, fall. I’m so happy you’re here.

This might be jumping the gun, but I’m so excited for fall to get here – so much so that I am sitting in a bathrobe with spiced candles lit, after having just made this bean stew.

It was the perfect fall and winter dish, and I can guarantee that it’s going to happen at least a few times in my house this fall and winter.

Those of you who have known me for the past few years probably already know my feelings about summer in Washington — I pretty much just let myself waste away between June and September. Even though this summer was pretty mild, the two weeks in July of 105-degree-plus weather still make me feel a little heat struck.

But since it’s September (yayyyy!) we can start talking about the many reasons why fall is wonderful. Seasonal flavors easily make my top three — deeper palettes, heartier dishes, and earthier produce, combined with slower cooking, make for a perfect night in with a big glass of red wine and someone you enjoy spending time with — be it the love of your life, or Alexander Skarsgard (if you’re me, they’re one in the same thing).

A staple in my kitchen for winter cooking is my cast iron dutch oven.

I was first introduced to it by my dad, who purchased a cast iron dutch oven for camping trips — he was really excited about it, which was beyond my perception as a twelve-year old, but he did fashion some exquisite flavors with the dutch oven. His version sat on top of a bed of coals, and the lid itself was built so you could rest more coals on top of it, completely surrounding your meal in heat.

A bit different from the bright enameled versions that I’m obsessed with today. However, the same concept of slow cooking in cast iron exists.

The most popular luxury versions are Staub and Le Creuset, and with brands like these, it’s just too easy to spend a few hundred dollars on a gorgeous slab of iron. I’ve had my oven for about a year now, and I had every intention of splurging on a Le Creuset, but right next to the Le Creuset was a French-made cast iron oven by the name of Fontignac, in a bright blue enamel, for almost $200 less. So I bought the $99 dollar oven, and spent what I would have purchased a Le Creuset with these.

Here are two of my favorite items — someday, when I’m rich and famous, I’ll probably want to buy the entire set of this cream-colored Le Creuset oven. But if you’re a humble government worker or hill staffer, chances are, Le Creuset is a bit out of your price range. The Lodge option sans enamel is just as effective, and it’s actually more like the rustic version of dutch oven cooking.

Like anything that you pull out of the oven, you’ll need some cute oven mitts. Here are some of my picks:

Prime Cut kitchen towel / Prime Cut potholder / basic oven mitt / turkey oven mitt

Do any of you use a Dutch oven or cast iron in cooking? What are your favorites?

 

Braised White Beans and Leeks, adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients
2 cans cannellini beans
3 large leeks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks of celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons herves de Provence (or your own mixture of herbs)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.

Trim your leeks, removing the green tops and the rooted ends. Slice them in half vertically, then chop them as thin as you like — I prefer larger chunks, so I kept the pieces about a half-inch to an inch in width. Rinse your leeks by putting the chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl and then filling the bowl with water. I like to dive my hands in and clean the slices myself, making sure to rub any dirt away. Strain and let drip dry.

Slice the celery, and mince your garlic.  Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, and cook the leeks, celery, and garlic until softened — about five minutes.

Add the beans, herbs, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Stir in the vegetable broth, and bring the mixture to an easy boil. With the lid on, put the entire Dutch oven in your regular oven, and let slow cook for three hours.

At that point, remove the Dutch oven from heat, and turn your oven up to 500 degrees. Evenly spread the mozzarella and Parmesan over the top of the soup, and let cook uncovered in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese bubbles.

The soup reminded me of French onion soup, so I recommend slicing sourdough or French bread to float in the soup before you add the cheeses. Either way, the bubbling and slightly burnt cheese adds a nice touch to the dish.