Autumn officially arrived two days ago and already I am looking forward to one of my favorite pastimes, the Sunday afternoon cook-a-thon. While Edward is watching the Eagles win (I am a positive person — they are going all the way this year), I am in the kitchen listening to the Beatles or some jazz while cooking up hearty fare.
Like many people, I am a fall and winter cook. My favorite dishes are stews, roasts, soups and pasta. I spotted the first small pumpkins of the season last week in the Reading Terminal Market. Acorn and butternut squash will soon be bountiful. Root vegetables are plentiful and so are rich, healthy winter greens such as cabbage, kale, escarole and watercress.
I like to cook a roast, a soup and a stew or pasta on Sunday afternoon. The leftovers are rewarding and they turn up in all sorts of dishes. All you have to do is vary the salads and side dishes and weeknight dinners can be served in a snap.
Recently, I have been thinking of cooking with cabbage, specifically a cabbage soup. I would likely add white beans, root vegetables and tomatoes, which would simmer for about 45 minutes. I always have cans of northern white beans and cannelini beans in my pantry. Cans of diced tomatoes, in their juice, are in the pantry as well.
Nearly 20 years ago, as I was preparing spinach lasagna, it occurred to me that instead of making layers in a rectangular pan, I could make roll-ups. I did just that and topped them with good-quality jarred spaghetti sauce. Sometimes I make a white sauce or use jarred Alfredo.
A boneless pork loin is the home cook’s good friend. It is inexpensive, cooks in a high oven for one hour or so and marries well with any number of vegetables and side dishes. Leftovers turn up in an Asian stir-fry, sandwich or salad.
Here are recipes to welcome autumn.
White Bean and Cabbage Soup
1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 leek, white part only, thoroughly rinsed and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 (32-ounce) package chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 cups of water
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juice
2 (15-ounce) cans northern or cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
Small handful fresh basil leaves, snipped with scissors
1 small head green or Savoy cabbage, shredded
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a 4-quart soup pot. Add the onion, leek, celery and carrots and saut� for about five minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the stock, water and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the beans. Simmer the soup for about 45 minutes. Add the basil and cabbage and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Serve the soup with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Serves four to six.
Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups
1 (1-pound) package lasagna noodles
2 (8-ounce) bags fresh baby spinach leaves
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 (16-ounce) bag shredded mozzarella
1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Pinch of nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (26-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce or Alfredo
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the lasagna noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain in a colander. Lay each noodle flat on a paper towel. Cover with a paper towel and pat dry.
Place the spinach in a bowl and pour hot water over the leaves to wilt them. Squeeze out the water with your hands. Place the spinach in a large bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, the beaten egg, a handful of the shredded mozzarella and approximately 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Blend well. Add the nutmeg and the black pepper and blend well.
Pour a little bit of the spaghetti sauce or Alfredo sauce in the bottom of a standard-size glass or metal lasagna pan. This should be just a light coating.
Lay a lasagna noodle in front of you. Dip a soup spoon into water and place a heaping spoonful of the cheese mixture in the center of the noodle. Wet your fingers and spread the cheese mixture evenly over the noodle, stopping about 1 inch from the edge. Roll up the lasagna noodle like a jelly roll. Repeat until all the noodles are filled and rolled up.
Place the lasagna roll-ups in the prepared pan. Sprinkle on the remainder of both cheeses and top with remaining sauce. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the aluminum foil. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is hot and bubbly.
Serves four to six.
Note from Phyllis: This recipe can be easily doubled. Spinach lasagna roll-ups freeze beautifully, so while the soup simmers on top of the stove you can prepare a double batch of roll-ups. You can freeze each roll-up individually or in packages of two. They are great to have in the freezer for a weekday dinner or for unexpected guests.
Roasted Pork Loin
1 (3-pound) pork loin
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
White wine for deglazing the pan
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Place the pork loin in a small roasting pan. Pour the olive oil into your hands and rub it all over the pork loin. Sprinkle the pork loin with kosher salt and black pepper. Scatter the rosemary leaves all over the pork loin.
Roast the pork loin for one hour to 75 minutes. You don’t want to overcook the pork. Remove the pork loin from the oven and place on a warm platter. Remove the strings from the pork loin, as most pork loins are sold rolled and tied. Cover the pork loin with a sheet of aluminum foil. Place the roasting pan over high heat and add the wine. Using a wooden spoon, whisk vigorously to loosen the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Pour the sauce into a sauceboat. Slice the pork loin and serve.
Serves four to six.
Note from Phyllis: Some people like to add a tablespoon or two of butter to the deglazing liquid because it thickens the sauce. This roast is excellent with buttered noodles and any green vegetable.