When my computer crashed last week, I sought the advice of Jason Roe, a 17-year-old senior at Central High who lives in South Philly with his mother, Sue, and older brother, Michael, a sophomore at Temple. I called him around dinnertime and, to my delight, he was busy in the kitchen.
"I’m making minestrone soup," he said. "I’m following a recipe from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook."
Sue told me a while ago that Jason really enjoys cooking. This is a good thing. Teenagers should learn to cook simple yet delicious meals, especially if their parents work outside the home. What a nice surprise to arrive home from work and be greeted with mouth-watering aromas wafting from the kitchen.
Jason has a copy of The Joy of Cooking, once known as the bible of the cooking world. Still, I thought about the kinds of cookbooks teenagers would like, especially those that feature international fare.
My home library is filled with books on nearly every culinary subject. There are about a dozen volumes Jason would like, but I searched out three and decided to feature fall recipes for dishes that teenagers would find easy to prepare.
When it was first published in 1989, The New Basics by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins was hailed as The Joy of Cooking for the new century. The dishes of many nations are represented in this 849-page tome, along with advice on how to toss a successful party to what to look for when buying fish. There are many recipes for the microwave as well.
I also recommend Sheila Lukins’ USA Cookbook because it is brimming with American foods from coast to coast. Lukins, who is the food editor of Parade magazine, traveled all over the country seeking recipes from big cities and small rural towns. The book is a delight to read and includes cooking tips.
How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman is just that. The recipes are simple and the book won the James Beard Foundation Award and the Julia Child Cookbook Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
So for Jason and all the teenagers reading this column, here are recipes for delicious autumn dishes.
Creamy Pumpkin Soup
From How to Cook Everything
by Mark Bittman
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound pumpkin or winter squash such as butternut, peeled, seeded and cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes
1 pound crisp tart apples such as Granny Smith or McIntosh, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 cup heavy or light cream
Minced fresh parsley or snipped chives for garnish
Place the butter in a large deep saucepan and turn the heat to medium. When it melts, add the pumpkin or squash, apples and onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, five to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the stock or water, wine and tarragon. Turn heart to medium-high and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, partially cover and cook for about 30 minutes, until the pumpkin or squash is very soft. Cool slightly and puree the soup in a blender or food processor.
Return the soup to the pan and cook gently over medium-low heat until heated through. Do not boil. Add the cream and cook, stirring, until hot, about one minute. Garnish and serve.
Note from Phyllis: You can make this soup up to two days ahead of time. Add the cream when you wish to serve it.
Barbecued Chicken Quesadillas
From USA Cookbook by Sheila Lukins
4 flour tortillas, 7 inches in diameter
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 scallions, 3 inches green left on, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
6-8 fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
2 ounces Wisconsin cheddar, grated, about 1/2 cup
Place two tortillas on a work surface and sprinkle them evenly with the Monterey Jack. Combine the chicken with the barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Scatter the mixture evenly over the cheese on each tortilla, along with the scallions and chopped cilantro.
Lay the spinach leaves flat over both surfaces to cover all the ingredients. Sprinkle with the cheddar. Place a second tortilla over each, creating a sandwich, and press down with the palm of your hand.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat until it is very hot. Using a large spatula, place a quesadilla in the skillet and cook, pressing down with the spatula and turning it once, until the cheese melts and the tortillas brown slightly, three to four minutes per side. Transfer the quesadilla to a low oven (250 degrees) to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining quesadilla.
Cut each quesadilla into quarters and serve hot with your favorite salsa.
Winter Green Salad
Adapted from The New Basics
by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
1 (8-ounce) bag baby arugula leaves
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed
1 small head red-leaf lettuce, torn
2 hearts romaine, torn
1 small head radicchio, cut into julienne
3 Belgian endives, cut into julienne
Rinse all the salad greens well and spin or pat them dry. Combine the greens in a large bowl and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Toss the greens with very garlicky vinaigrette (recipe follows) and serve on chilled plates.
Very Garlicky Vinaigrette
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine the garlic, mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk well. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly until the dressing is quite thick. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes 1-1/2 cups.