doing s’more grilling

Happy Memorial Day! Happy start to all things summery finally popping up around here! I nearly shed tears of joy when I found myself breaking a sweat while laying outside and needing to run into the shade to protect my bare feet from scorching on my friend’s sun-soaked balcony, which is where I found myself this afternoon for a lovely BYO cookout hosted by my grillmastering friend Sarah.


We were encouraged to BYO-anything that would be made more delicious by a stint atop her grill. Naturally, my sugarcured mind went the dessert route, inspired by this decadent recipe for Grilled Banana S’mores that I came across over the weekend. Nothing screams summer and cookouts more than s’mores, but stuffing graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate into an ooey gooey banana shell… now that just screamed “Joanna, you must make me now!”


The process was incredibly easy: take back a thin strip of peel, scoop out about 1/3 of the banana (freeze the extra for smoothies!), and pile the banana shell with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and bits of graham cracker. Wrap the masterpiece in foil, throw it on the grill for a few minutes, and open it up to find yourself a soft, melty, and decadent dessert. Although unnecessary, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream sent these Grilled Banana S’mores to even greater heights.


This technique is endlessly adaptable to different fillings: chocolate+hazelnuts, peanut butter+marshmallow, brown sugar+cinnamon+walnuts. I can envision laying out a bunch of toppings and hosting an interactive make-your-own-grilled-stuffed-banana party, and I’d venture to guess this would be a real hit with kids too! Thankfully, we have a whole summer ahead of us to make these visions come to life…


Grilled Banana S’mores (from Neighbor Food blog)

Recipe for 1 banana. Depending on how hungry your guests are, plan on 1/2 to 1 banana per person.

1 banana

1 tbsp marshmallows

1/2 tbsp chocolate chips

1 graham cracker, broken into small bits

Other topping ideas: peanut butter, hazelnuts, jam, chocolate candy bars, toffee bits, butterscotch, dulce de leche, cinnamon, brown sugar… go wild!

Heat grill.* Peel back a thin strip of the banana peel without removing it completely. Scoop out about 1/3 of the banana and set aside to save for a later day. Fill the cavity you’ve created with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and graham cracker bits. Place strip of peel back over banana. Wrap the entire banana tightly in foil. Place on the hot grill for 12 minutes, turning occasionally, until marshmallows and chocolate are melty. Unwrap and enjoy on it’s own or a la mode!

*Although I haven’t tried this yet, if it wasn’t grilling weather, this could easily be done over a gas stove or roasted in the oven at 350 for 12-15 minutes!


fit for a golden weekend

In just a few short weeks of third year, a whole lot of medical jargon has been added to my repertoire. One of my favorite phrases to date is “golden weekend.” Definition: getting both Saturday and Sunday off. As med students, we’re generally guaranteed one weekend day free, but every now and then, we’re gifted a precious two full days of leisure.

This weekend was a golden one for me, and I lived it out to its fullest, catching up with friends, taking walks in the surprisingly cool weather, and of course, cooking, eating, and enjoying great food.


The farmers market was once again teeming with the sweet stone fruits of summer. I had to use every bit of restraint and a self-imposed $10 limit to not buy every last cherry and berry and on display. After great internal debate and a healthy amount of sampling, I came away with a carton of tender and succulent apricots, delicate, fragrant, and at their peak of ripeness. I hesitated to adulterate these precious orange gems in any way other than eating them solo. But after I had done that with a couple immediately upon arriving home, a salad sprung to mind that I was confident would showcase their natural beauty and flavor.


Juicy slices of apricot were combined with spicy arugula, tangy goat cheese, rich pistachios, and sweet fennel and tossed in a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Perhaps it was that I was enjoying it smack dab in the middle of a golden weekend, or that it was made with fancier ingredients that I don’t buy on a regular basis, or that it was enjoyed alongside two of Kate’s specialties, bruschetta and baba ganoush, but there was something about eating this salad that was utterly luxurious and special.


By the next time I’m free to make it back to the market, apricots may have fallen out of season, and the prospects of recreating this very salad may be slim. However, if there’s something I’ve realized so far during third year, it’s not to lament limited free time, but rather to savor these precious spent moments spent enjoying friends, food, and the city around us.

Apricot & Arugula Salad

Serves 2 salad-loving folk, and 4 normal people

3-4 apricots, sliced

3-4 large handfuls of arugula

1 bulb fennel, sliced very thinly (best if you can use a mandoline)

2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

2 tbsp pistachios

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp dijon mustard

3 tbsp olive oil

crack of black pepper

pinch of salt

Assemble salad ingredients in a large bowl. Use a fork or whisk to stir all the dressing ingredients vigorously until well combined. Toss salad in dressing just before serving. Enjoy!

market day

Greetings from my first Saturday off since third year began! It’s a beautiful, hot, and sunshiney summer day here—one that lent itself perfectly to spending the morning at the 61st Street Farmers Market.

This wonderful farmers market is a short walk from home and boasts a bounty of ripe fruits and vegetables from Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as delectable homemade pastries, breads, jams, and more. I hadn’t been able to go the market since the beginning of June, and it was just incredible to see how the slim pickings of early summer have given way to a plethora of berries, zucchini, peaches, apricots, and cherries.


Today, I came to the market as more than an eager shopper. I had the great opportunity to be the chef behind the market’s weekly cooking demo. In May, while working on my project about healthy cooking in the community, I learned about the chef demos at the farmers market and thought it would be a neat way to build further connections with community members through cooking. I was unsure whether they’d allow an amateur chef like myself to lead a demo, but I was always taught that it never hurts to ask, and lo and behold, they gave me a slot.

IMG_2014I thought long and hard about what the ideal recipe for the demo would be. I anticipated that by mid-July the weather would be sweltering, people (including myself) would want as little to do with a hot stove or oven as possible, and most importantly, that peaches would just be beginning to ripen. With that in mind, I settled on making Peach and Black Bean Salsa, a take on my family’s beloved mango salsa recipe that embraces the sweet peaches that grace the Midwest in the summer.

photo (2)I had an absolute blast cooking for an audience of people, young and old, expert cooks and cooking novices, who each brought great conversation, energy, and most importantly, willing palates to the demo tent. After spending my last few weekends in the hospital, it was a refreshing change of pace to be out in the community, cooking for people and with people, and celebrating health and wellness in a delicious way.

photo (1)

Peach and Black Bean Salsa

4 peaches, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

½ medium red onion, finely diced

2 scallions, finely sliced (green parts only)

1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup cilantro, chopped

Juice of 4 limes

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp ground cumin

Salt to taste (about 1-2 tsp)

Mix all ingredients together. Allow salsa to sit covered in the fridge for at least an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld.

It’s great served alongside grilled chicken or fish, or scooped up with vegetable sticks or chips.

parting gift

Growing season is quite different in Florida than it is in many parts of the country. Sweltering summers suffocate most budding things, while mild, breezy winters and springs foster a bounty of juicy strawberries, ruby red tomatoes, and sweet onions. I was lucky to be home for part of the Florida harvest season to enjoy my parents’ ever-thriving backyard garden, taking full advantage of the herbs, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes that sprung up each day and marveling at the beauty of the flowering trees that jutted up amongst the palms.


But there are some things that actually thrive in the Miami summer sun. Tropical crops, mostly. Carambola, avocado, and the king of all tropical fruits: the Mango.

Daily, while walking my dog, hundreds of green mangoes hung from the trees that dot my neighborhood, taunting me with their unquestionable unripeness. On more than one occasion I thought about plucking one from a branch or giving a tree a gentle shake, but after many a summer of mango picking and eating experience, I know that to force a mango to fall from a tree before its prime time would be somewhat of a sin. So I dashed my hopes of savoring a mango during my stay in Miami, comforted by promises of a mango-filled care package come June.


And then, a miracle occurred. On the last day I was home, taking one last walk with Chase and my mom up our street, we passed an especially abundant tree in a neighbor’s front yard. “Let’s check the ground,” my mom said. (This neighbor had confessed to my mom years ago that, despite his bountiful tree, he actually hated mangoes, and gave us carte blanche to salvage them from the ground whenever we wanted). Skeptically, I walked toward the tree, doubtful that any mango would have fallen in early May. But lo and behold, right before our eyes was a perfect, unmarred mango. A parting gift.

It was hard as a rock, but given patience, a home in a brown paper bag, a 1,400 mile cross-country road trip in my toasty trunk, and another week and a half long rest on my kitchen counter, it transformed into a soft fruit, flecked with dots signalling ripeness and emanating a honey-sweet aroma that fragrance makers can only dream of bottling.


I peeled the soft skin and cut the bright orange flesh into neat cubes, then abandoned all tools and used the ones nature gave me to ungracefully clean the last bits of clinging fruit off the pit—the most indulgent part of mango eating. When you have something so pure and so delectable in front of you, there’s little want to alter it with other ingredients. I enjoyed it simply, in a bowl of yogurt and topped with a sprinkling of homemade granola, for a breakfast that I never thought I would have the chance to savor in Chicago in mid-May.


It is my hope that you are able to fully and simply savor the fruits and vegetables that grow around you this season.

Vanilla Almond Granola

Best when accompanied by fresh fruit and yogurt

3 cups oats

1 cup flaked coconut (I use sweetened)

1 cup slivered almonds

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp salt

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Combine oats, coconut, almonds, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine (I find that using your hands actually works best to really get all of the wet and dry ingredients incorporated). Spread mixture evenly onto a large baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until lightly toasted. (The granola will continue to cook a bit and will dry out as it cools, so be careful to not overcook). Remove from the oven and place baking sheet on a rack. Allow granola to cool fully before storing in an airtight container. Keeps for a couple of weeks at room temperature, and for a couple of months in the freezer.

vacation inspiration

At last, we stuck to the prescribed ingredient this week: Passion Fruit. This fruit has a yellow jelly-like pulp and big edible seeds. It’s very tangy—almost not sweet at all–which allows it to pair well with ingredients both sweet and savory. My introduction to passion fruit was at one of Miami’s gems, El Palacio De Los Jugos. As it’s name suggests, this open air Cuban fruit and food market is literally a “juice palace” where you can mix up myriad combinations of tropical juices. From more exotic flavors like mamey and guanabana, to more conventional mixers like pineapple and coconut, the possibilities are endless. A few years ago, I tried a combo of mango and maracuyá (<– passion fruit en español). Instantly, I was hooked. The tang of the passion fruit cut right through the sweetness of the mango in a way that worked so deliciously well. I’ve never ordered a different juice there since.


Passion fruit certainly shines in sweet and refreshing drink form, but for this challenge, I wanted to embrace it’s warm and savory side. I was inspired by a dish I had in Aguas Calientes, Peru, the small tourist-teeming town at the foot of Machu Picchu. This September, I had the great privilege to travel there with my dad and friends from school. The night before we trekked around the ruins we had a dinner that I’ll never forget, for the great food, but moreover, for the wonderful company. After spending many months planning for our trip to Machu Picchu and many years prior to that pining for the chance to go there, it was surreal and special to be there at last, surrounded by family and friends.


That night I dined on trout with a passion fruit sauce. The passion fruit served the zesty role that a squeeze of lemon or lime would traditionally do, but the sauce had a bit of sweetness that a sugar-lover like me adored. I created my own version of this sauce, utilizing the convenience of frozen passion fruit pulp instead of the whole fruit itself, and livening it up with ginger, curry, lime, sriracha, and fresh mint. We ate it atop salmon with a quinoa and avocado salad, an homage to our dinner in Peru, and it certainly brought some gourmet flair to an otherwise ordinary weeknight. We proceeded to eat the leftover sauce throughout the week with shrimp and as a salad dressing, so if fish isn’t your thing, this sauce can still find a place alongside whatever strikes your fancy. Now, if only this dinner could transport me back…


Passion Fruit Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1 package (14 oz) frozen passion fruit pulp

generous squirt of sriracha

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp honey

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Saute chopped onion for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add ginger, garlic, curry powder, cumin, and salt and cook another minute. Add frozen fruit pulp and cook, stirring often, until it defrosts. Add sriracha, sugar, honey, and lime. Taste for extra seasoning. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree until smooth. Add mint. Serve atop fish, vegetables, tofu, salad—whatever you’d like! Keeps well covered in the fridge for up to one week.

school is sweet

I tend to have an optimistic outlook on life. Which is why, even after today’s 12-hour lecture/lab/review session marathon, I can honestly say that there are some really great things about spending so much time in class as a second year medical student. For one, these long days of study provide protection from the frigid temperatures outside. When most of my activities are housed in one building or in the hospital, which is a short underground tunnel walk away, I can almost forget that it’s zero degrees outside! From a nerdier standpoint, it’s pretty rewarding to walk away from day of class knowing that I’ve accumulated a great deal of knowledge, which I’ll be putting to use to take care of people scarily soon. But perhaps the biggest advantage of being in class so much these days is that I am constantly surrounded by my wonderful, intelligent, and most importantly, dessert-loving classmates.


Among our class, there is a strong culture of baked-goods-passing during lecture. I couldn’t help but laugh when a few weeks ago, as we were being schooled on the detrimental effects of diabetes and the rampant pace at which it is growing in the U.S. as our diets continue to deteriorate, a box chock-full of chocolate cake and cookies was making its way around the room.   While as med students, we know the importance of eating healthily, we also know that desserts, in moderation, definitely boost our moods and make all the learning we do just that much more enjoyable. Because of this, I am never at a loss for people with whom to share my late night baking experiments, and I am a regular provider of in-class sweets.


My most recent contribution was cranberry orange bread with dark chocolate chunks. I had a stash of cranberries in my freezer that needed to be put to a noble use. Kate had been telling me about a great recipe she had for cranberry orange bread, and while I usually consult far too many books and websites before settling on a recipe to make, I trusted Kate’s judgment on this one and I’m so glad I did. This bread was dense, but extremely moist. The dark chocolate chunks were optional, but I’d highly encourage adding them. They added depth to the bread and helped cut through the acidity of the fresh cranberries and orange. Like many baked goods I’ve shared here recently, this would be great to serve at any occasion, but from my experience, it is especially suited to serve as a mid-lecture pick-me-up.


Cranberry Orange Bread with Dark Chocolate Chunks

Adapted from The Shared Table

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup butter, softened

¾ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1 egg, room temperature and beaten

1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

One large (9×5) or two small (7½ x 3½) loaf tins, greased or Teflon. If glass, reduce oven heat to 325

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

In small bowl combine orange juice and grated rind with the beaten egg. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix just enough to dampen. Don’t beat. Carefully fold in the nuts and cranberries.

Butter pan well, line the long sides and bottom with one length of wax paper, butter paper in place, for easy removal of the loaf. The mixture will be stiff and must be pushed into the corners of the pan with a spoon or spatula. Form it slightly higher on the sides to compensate for the rising crown.

While oven preheats to 350°, allow the filled pan to rest.

Bake in the the oven until the loaf tests done when pierced in the center with a metal skewer or toothpick, about 50-60 minutes. If it comes out clean and dry, the loaf is baked. If moist particles cling to the pin, return the loaf to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Test again.

Remove bread from the oven . Carefully turn from the pan, peel the wax paper away and cool on a metal rack. An easy way to remove the loaf is to turn the pan on its side, tug gently at the leading edges of the wax paper to work the loaf loose. Allow the loaf to age overnight before slicing.

food as fragrance

Last weekend I decided to tackle a chore I had been putting off for a while: giving my coffee pot a proper cleaning. The sources I consulted instructed me to run cycles of diluted vinegar and baking soda through the machine at least two times. I did so diligently, semi-aware of the rancid smell that was overtaking my apartment, but more intent on getting my machine squeaky clean. I figured I’d just let the acrid stench dissipate naturally, forgetting that I had a friend staying on my couch (which sits 5 feet from my kitchen) that very night.
I needed a fragrant fix. And I needed it fast.
Luckily, I had all the ingredients for one of my favorite fall staples on hand: ginger orange cranberry sauce. Once fresh cranberries hit the produce shelves, I buy a bag a week, throw them into a pot with orange zest, ginger, and sugar, add a dash of cinnamon and vanilla for extra warmth, and voila—I’m left with a vat of ruby-red, sweet, tart sauce that I pile on everything from oatmeal at breakfast, to yogurt at lunch, to what you now may know as my go-to dinner food, sweet potatoes. Perhaps the best part of making cranberry sauce—and the most important aspect this time around—are the incredible smells that emanate from the pot as the berries bubble and burst in a ginger-orange bath. The aromas give me the comfort of knowing that Thanksgiving is around the corner and that soon, I’ll get to make this cranberry sauce with my mom and eat it surrounded by family. And in case you were wondering, this cranberry sauce does an excellent job at making vinegary odors dissipate into an autumnal abyss.
Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce

1 bag fresh cranberries

Zest of 1 orange
2-3 inches ginger root, finely grated
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Place cranberries, orange zest, ginger, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow mixture to boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the cranberries have popped (you can tell the cranberries have popped when they have a slit in them). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and cinnamon if using. Allow mixture to come to room temperature in pot. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. Enjoy warm on the spot, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

me and julia

I promise that I am not writing to profess my undying love for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You guys have already seen that movie and so have I. A few times. And besides, Julia’s opus is not in heavy rotation on my cookbook shelf- the bulk of the dishes aren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of a meat-eschewing, atherosclerosis-fearing, crunched-for-time girl like myself.

But while I might pass on the famous boeuf bourguignon, if someone could distill and bottle Julia’s culinary fearlessness, I would buy it by the case. I find myself turning to her recipes often when I crave culinary adventure. I’m not talking about adventurous flavors or ingredients per se, I’m talking about flipping over red-hot cast iron skillet and holding your breath to see if you’ll end up with a nice apple tart or a useless pile of goo. Who needs sky diving or bungee jumping when there are adrenaline rushes like that in your very own kitchen?

This was my first attempt at tarte tatin, and I was fully prepared to serve it as a crumbly mess rather than the lovely, molded creation of apples, caramel, and pastry that might have graced Julia’s kitchen. The big flip- turning over the skillet while hot out of the oven to unmold the tart- must be executed with at least two oven mitts and with breakneck speed and with the makings for a stiff drink on hand in case you screw the whole thing up and need to mourn the loss of your beautiful French dessert.

Sorry, that’s my flare for the dramatic getting the best of me. I’m happy to report that my tarte come out far from perfect but more-or-less in one piece. And I’m feeling pretty inspired to pursue some Julia-inspired kitchen adventures in the future, so stay tuned. In my opinion, it’s always the crumbly, gooey messes that taste the best anyway.

Tarte Tatin

(A note about equipment: you’ll need a heavy, oven-proof skillet since the tart goes straight from stovetop to oven. I used a cast iron that is about 9″x2″)

For the crust:

1 c flour

1/2 t salt

1 T sugar

6 T butter, chilled and cut into 1/2″ dice

1/8 c vegetable shortening.

1/4 c cold water

Mix the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and shortening and cut it in with a pastry cutter or two forks until well combined and the butter pieces are the size of peas or oatmeal flakes. Drizzle the water over the mixture and use one hand to just combine all the ingredients. Knead a few times in the bowl so it all holds together, then turn out onto a well floured surface. Use the heel of your hand to press the dough forward bit by bit in a 6″ smear to combine the fat and flour. Give it one final knead, form into a disc, and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for 1 hour or in the fridge for a few hours until it is firm but not solid. You’ll roll it out after you make the filling.

For the filling

5-6 apples (whatever kind you like to bake with)

Juice of  1 lemon

1 1/2 c sugar

6 T butter

Peel, quarter, and core the apples and slice the quarters in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with the lemon juice and 1/2 c sugar and let sit for 20 minutes so they will exude their juices. Drain.

Set the skillet over medium high heat and melt the butter. Add the sugar and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, until the syrup is bubbly and golden brown. Don’t burn it, and don’t worry if it’s a little lumpy. It will smooth out once you add the apples.

Remove from heat and add the apples to the pan, arranging as many as will fit into the bottom later. Heap the rest of the apples on top, not worrying to much about making them neat. They will shrink down as you cook. Return to medium heat and cook for several minutes. Press the apples down with a wooden spoon and use a baster to draw up the caramel and baste the apples. This seems like a tedious step but it helps the apples to cook uniformly and soak up the caramel. When the apples begin to soften, cover and cook another 10-15 minutes, until the juices are thick and syrupy. Continue to check and baste often. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly while you roll out the crust.

Flour your countertop well and roll out the crust into a 10″ diameter circle with a rolling pin. Fold it in half to transfer it to the pan.

Top the apples with the crust, tucking it in on the sides around the apples. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until the pastry has browned slightly.

Now for the fun part: flip it over! Turn the serving dish upside down over the pan and flip to unmold the tarte. If some of the apples stick to the pan, just press them back down and rearrange them as necessary. Serve hot, warm, or cool. Bon apetite!

sunday potluck

Late one night last August, my roommate Noura and I found ourselves in a rut. It was only the second week of medical school, but we were already feeling the drain of the go-to-school-then-go-home-and-study-then-go-to-bed-and-do-it-all-over-again routine. No one said med school would be a walk in the park, but we found ourselves craving something more than lecture and lab to look forward to each week. We decided we needed to institute something that would bring our classmates together and away from the books on a regular basis. Although we had only known each other for mere days, it was apparent that a love for good food was a common bond that tied much of our class together. Hence, Sunday Potluck was born.

 Nearly every Sunday night throughout the school year, we gathered in classmates’ apartments to enjoy what was unfailingly my best meal of the week. We’d load our plates with fresh salads, hearty stews, and homemade breads, each dish teaching us a little more about its cook’s personality, culture, and family. Although Sunday night usually marks the ominous transition to the busy week ahead, it quickly became my favorite time of the week.

With the start of a new school year comes a new year of potlucks. This Sunday, Noura and I hosted a fall-themed dinner, and our classmates delivered warm soups, thick bean stews, and glistening tarts to our home. I made a mountain of balsamic roasted vegetables, a recipe that was passed on to me by my Aunt Karen. It was the perfect dish to tackle on a Sunday, when spending nearly an hour chopping vegetables served as a great time to catch up with friends on the phone, and when having a container full of leftover caramelized butternut squash, apples, carrots, and parsnips provides the perfect slow-cooked base for quickly made weeknight dinners.
As potlucks continue this year, I look forward to sharing my weekly creations not only with my classmates, but also with all my wonderful family and friends here on sugarcured.
Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables
Courtesy of my Aunt Karen
Note: This recipe makes a lot of vegetables (serves 15-20), so scale up or down accordingly. You can also use any root vegetables that strike your fancy. I’ve swapped sweet potatoes for butternut squash before, and it was still great!Vegetables:
1 large butternut squash
3 large carrots
3 large parsnips
2 large red onions
6 Granny Smith apples

3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp each thyme and rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp light brown sugar
Salt and ground pepperPreheat oven to 500. In a large bowl, combine all of the vegetables. In a small separate bowl, combine marinade ingredients, except salt and pepper. Mix marinade into vegetables and let sit for up to 2 hours. Arrange vegetables on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35-40 minutes, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

last hurrah

After three blissful months, summer has come to an end.

It’s been a good run. One that’s taken me from the shores of Lake Michigan to the warm waters of Miami, from the sea-level streets of home to the peaks of the Andes, and from the smorgasbord that is the Iowa State Fair to the gastronomic glory of Peru’s famed food festival, Mistura.

I’ve tried to make the most of this summer, aware that it’s one of the last of its luxuriously long kind I may get for a while. And now in mid-September, I can honestly say that I am ready for a new school year to begin, ready to swap humid air for a crisper variety, and ready to begin stockpiling canned pumpkin and warm spices.

But I would be remiss to let the summer pass by without baking up a nectarine and blueberry crisp. I made up this recipe one summer night years ago when I had some blueberries on hand and a hankering for something warm and gooey. What started as an experiment in a small ramekin became one of my most beloved summer recipes. On my last night at home before heading back to Chicago, my family had a wonderful dinner off the grill and this crisp for dessert. A sweet ending to a beautiful and bountiful season.

Nectarine & Blueberry Crisp

Makes 15 servings
For the fruit: 
10 nectarines, ripe but not too soft
2 pints blueberries
¼ cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 lemon juiced and zested
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

Cut the nectarines into ½ inch thick slices (you can leave the skins on or off¬—I personally like the color they add). Toss the nectarines with the blueberries and the remaining ingredients. Allow fruit to sit for about 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.

For the crisp topping: 
1 ½ cups old fashioned oats
1 cup flour
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

Combine oats, flour, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and using a fork or your fingers (I prefer the latter method) thoroughly combine the dry ingredients with the butter. The topping can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Be sure to remove it from the fridge at least 20 minutes before you assemble to crisp so that it is easy to work with.

To assemble crisp:
Pour fruit mixture into a glass or porcelain dish that is at least 2 inches deep and no more than 10 inches wide. Break apart the crisp dough into small pieces and scatter them over the fruit to create an even layer. Bake the crisp at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Let crisp stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow juices to settle. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.