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Volume 37 Issue 22, - Sept 27-Nov 18, 2007 now in our 37th season

Sweet Rhythms of Autumn

by Maryjane Mojer

Every place and time has a sense of rhythm. Nantucket certainly has one and it becomes clear and more defined with the change of each season.  When I think in terms of musical rhythm, winter can fluctuate between a bleak dirge and a chorus of bells. Spring always brings Vivaldi (I know, I’m predictable), and summer anything from Mozart to frenzied static.

Ah, but autumn. I’m sure you have your own soundtrack for the seasons, but for me autumn is classic rock; old, familiar songs that you know all of the words to.  Those familiar feelings flood back when you hear the first chords. With the end of the season, I have a sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of survival.  I’ve not actually lived anywhere else for any length of time, but I’m told that in some places the pace is the same all year long. Where’s the fun in that? Fall feels like a gift that we’ve earned. Every cool night, walk through town or nap on the beach is unhurried and extravagant. There’s almost a feeling of decadence to the pace. Each quiet, dawdling moment after Labor Day is the interest on our investment of time spent in the summer.

While we still have busy weekends with day trippers and visitors who know and appreciate the tempo, now is the time to enjoy what we’ve been working for others to enjoy all summer. Fall has some of the islands best events.

The Nantucket Arts Council is sponsoring a wonderful event which highlights the eclectic and thriving artist community on island. So many aspects and artistic media are celebrated throughout this week, that there’s certainly something for everyone.

The Chowder Festival is one of the many food highlights of the fall. For a mere five bucks a head, you can be the judge of some of the finest chowder on the east coast. The event takes place in the Grand Union Parking lot under the big top. Get there early to avoid waiting in line!

The Cranberry Festival is another fun fall event. This event is a hit on so many levels. The bucolic setting, the colors and scent and the treats prepared and sold throughout the day are inspirational. Just makes you want to get out the mixing bowl!

The event that I’m most looking forward to is Restaurant Week. The events begin with an opening gala with proceeds to benefit the Nantucket High School Culinary Arts Prostart Program. This culinary program is a two year course of studies taught by Chef Bob Buccino who was the only culinary arts teacher in the state to be named “Teacher of Excellence” by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. The first class six years ago, which I had the pleasure of co-teaching with Bob, had an enrollment of four students. One of those first students, Taryn Daub, went on to attend the New England Culinary Institute and is still working as a chef.  This year, the enrollment is thirty seven. Fifteen or more graduates of the program have continued their education at the Culinary Institute of America, New England Culinary Institute, and Johnson and Wales, then brought their skills back to the island, filling out the ranks of some of the top kitchens. (Though in my opinion, all restaurant kitchens on island are top.) The Nantucket High School Culinary Class is planning a trip to Paris in April of 2008.  Keep an eye out for their fund raisers!

The joy of Nantucket Restaurant Week is in the chance to sit, savor and enjoy the experience of dining at many of the restaurants that are full all summer long.   The island, unquestionably boasts some of the finest chefs around. Their doors are still open, and in addition to treating yourself and a friend or two to a fabulous meal, you can support the restaurant and their staff during the slower, sweeter times.  Go to www.nantucketrestaurantweek.com for complete details and a listing of the participating restaurants.

In the meantime, the cooler weather certainly lends itself to cooking at home. No need to wait for holidays to share your kitchen talents!

Cranberry Relish

I don’t have many kitchen gadgets, but a food processor is pretty handy.

There are cooked cranberry sauces and raw cranberry relishes.  The cooked sauces are more jam like, and have a higher sugar content. They certainly have their place. I love this recipe, which is not cooked. It couldn’t be simpler and is only as sweet as you’d like to make it.

In your food processor, pulse three cups of cleaned cranberries. Scoop into a bowl. Add about a half cup of sugar. Into the processor, pulse one whole, unpeeled orange until completely and totally pulverized. Blend into the cranberry and sugar mixture. Let sit overnight to blend flavors. This does freeze, but will have a much different texture when thawed.

Cranberry Bread

There are millions of quick bread recipes out there, most very similar.  Quick breads freeze very well, thaw quickly and make great French toast.  A slice of this lightly grilled with a sharp cheddar cheese is a true fall treat.

In a bowl, mix together:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup cranberries

Make a well in the center, and pour in:

2 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablepoon melted butter
1 tablespoon orange zest

Mix all ingredients well. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remember, 1 Tbl of melted butter means that you melt the butter first, then measure it out. One Tbl of butter, melted means you measure out the butter first, then melt it.

When the temperatures start to dip a bit, and the days get shorter, old family recipes come out and the soup pot makes its appearance after being tucked away for the warmer months. I find myself torn between loving the cool nights and hoping we get a few extra frost-free days. 

I love to make soup. I have and do follow some recipes for soup when I’m looking for something in particular. However, my family favorite is Refrigerator Soup. It’s a weekly event in itself during the cooler days. It is what it sounds like; made from the bits and pieces that collect during the week.  It’s a great way to use up leftovers and feed stragglers. I always start the same way.

In a heavy bottomed soup pot sauté the following:

3 medium onions, chopped
4 (give or take) stocks of celery, chopped
4 (give or take) carrots
3 or 4 cloves of garlic (or not)

I like to sauté until they have a bit of color. Color is flavor, and a slight carmelization will add a depth of flavor to the finished soup.  Now the fun begins. This week, I had about a half cup of string beans, two leftover turkey burgers which I chopped up, a half of a roasted delicate squash, a cup of cooked rice, and a half cup of smashed potatoes. In it all goes.

I stir to coat with all the sautéd goodness, then cover with some broth. There are so many good quality store-bought stocks available. Choose your favorite.

Bring it all to a boil and reduce to a simmer. If I want to stretch it or make it heartier, I’ll add in a can of beans.  (For the record, I always rinse my canned beans. I know people who don’t and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t judge a cook by their bean rinsing.) I often find myself with a half a head of cabbage. I’ll chop it up and stir it in. Every so often I’ll have a tablespoon of hummus or pesto left in a container. Toss it right in. It’s all good and all the bits and pieces just make it that much better. Soup is so nutritious and so filling. It makes your home smell, well, like home and makes anyone feel welcome.

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