The best thing about the weather cooling down, after one of Minnesota’s hot and humid summers, is all of the changes. Changes in clothing, from T-shirts to sweatshirts, the changing color of the leaves on trees across the state and the change in cooking and eating. Gazpacho becomes chili, ice cream becomes a topping on warm pie and lighter dishes become hearty meals. Soul-hugging baked goods and the plethora of autumn vegetables make for some of the finest dishes made all year. Helping us out with a few ideas of what to make this fall is a longtime Minnesota chef and seasonal cooking aficionado, Graham Messenger.
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Graham knows a thing or two about cooking for Minnesotans. The passion started at a young age; Graham recalls, at age 11, cooking dinner every night for his family. He then started working as a dishwasher at Broadway Pizza, and it became clear that the kitchen was where he was meant to be. After studying culinary arts briefly at the Art Institute in Minneapolis, Graham discovered that more learning can be done in the kitchen. Since then he has been honing his skills in the finest Twin Cities’ kitchens, from from W. A. Frost to Il Gatto, Sea Change and Union. Here, he shares with us a few of his favorite recipes for autumn.
Stuffed Squash Blossoms
- 12-16 squash blossoms
- 1 cup of ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup of chives
- 1/4 cup of parsley, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Mix the ricotta cheese with the chives, parsley and garlic together in a bowl.
- Make sure to pick out the pistil of the blossoms (they are quite bitter), using your fingers if you can, or a tweezers.
- Insert 2-3 full teaspoons of your ricotta cheese mix into the blossom. Twist the end of the blossom to close.
These blossoms are best cooked in a pan with tomato sauce, and served with Bagna Cauda (recipe below).
- 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Cook your garlic in the oil over medium heat until brown.
- Add tomatoes, water, sugar and salt and simmer, with the cover off, for 15-20 minutes as it starts to get thick.
- Stir occasionally as the sauce is cooking.
Meaning “hot bath” in Italian, this classic sauce is the perfect complement to your squash blossoms.
- 1 quart of milk
- 3 heads of garlic
- 1/2 pound of anchovies
- 3 cups of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and white pepper (to taste)
- Blanche the garlic cloves, then put them in a pan with the milk and let simmer until liquid is reduced by half.
- Allow to cool, then, along with the anchovy filets, add to a blender and blend while drizzling in EVOO until it emulsifies into an aioli, or mayonnaise, consistency.
- Season with salt and white pepper.
- Serve on the side with your stuffed squash blossoms.
- 1 quart of water
- 2 1/2 pounds of ground beef
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes
- 1 can of kidney beans, with juice
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup of chili powder
- 1/4 cup of coriander
- 1/4 cup of cumin
- 1/8 cup of cinnamon
- 1/8 cup of allspice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Boil your water.
- While the water is boiling, brown the meat thoroughly. The trick to delicious chili is getting the meat nice and browned, which brings out the rich flavors.
- While the meat is browning, get the vegetables really caramelized, another key to great chili.
- Deglaze the pan by taking it off the heat (the juice will naturally deglaze the pan) after the meat is done browning, and use the pan flavors in your chili.
- Add meat, vegetables and spices to your pot, turn down to a nice medium heat and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.
That little extra from the cinnamon and allspice will make a chili that is irresistible.
Graham’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 1/4 cups of flour
- 2 sticks of butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of soda
- 1 teaspoon (plus extra pinch) of salt
- 1/2 cup of cocoa
- 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup of white sugar
- 1 cup of chopped almonds
- 1 teaspoon (plus an extra dash) of vanilla
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Sift your dry ingredients, the flour, cocoa and salt together.
- In a bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar and the white sugar. Add eggs and soda.
- Beat the mixture until it is fluffy, then add your vanilla.
- Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and add chocolate chunks and toasted walnuts.
- Place by rounded tablespoon onto a cookie sheet.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 11 minutes.
While the weather is still warm enough to go outside (and autumn is the last hoorah before the cold of winter), get family, friends, neighbors and even strangers together for a good old-fashioned Booyah. Originating in Belgium, Booyah has found its way into the hearts of Midwesterners everywhere, and has become a staple of big groups and block parties. It’s ultimately an enormous pot of stew, made with meats and vegetables, and all of the TLC of the community, but it’s also a social activity, bringing Minnesotans together to enjoy the season together. Here is how to get it started:
Find the biggest pot in the neighborhood (typical Booyah kettles can be up to 50 gallons). Bring onions, celery, corn and as many root vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and rutabaga (have everyone participating bring something different), as well as meats, typically beef, chicken and pork. Seasonings are welcome as well, traditionally lowered into the stew in cheese cloth. It doesn’t necessarily have to be done that way, but a little salt, basil, thyme, etc. are great additions. Make a stock from the bones of the meat and water, and add your vegetables and seasonings, and let it boil into a stew.
This meal was meant to serve hundreds of people originally. Today, it’s a great way to get the whole neighborhood together for a big meal and say farewell to summer.
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.