What is left in the garden? Lots!
Fall is here, leaves are blowing off the trees, and Whiteface Mountain had a dusting of snow. Tender crops — tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini — have been harvested. Summer sweet corn is brown. But gardens and farmstands still have lots to offer.
Fall is vibrant flavors: sweet squash, tart apples, pungent greens. Autumn is the season we bring back warm comfort foods designed to keep away the chill. Soups, stews, pastas and risottos incorporate fall foods like apples, winter squash, root crops and hardy greens. Cool temps mean heavier, heartier dishes replace light, cool summer salads.
Root crops are at their peak: Carrots, beets, turnips, kohlrabi, celeriac, leek, winter radish like Daikon and Watermelon, potatoes. Sweet, delicious and versatile, they can be roasted, fried into chips, mashed or sliced and baked into a cheesy gratin. Carrots, leeks, winter radish and kohlrabi make delicious autumn salads. Sweet roasted beets, arugula and goat cheese make a quick salad.
Greens that wilt in the summer heat thrive during cool fall weather, and are abundant this time of year. These include long-season fall greens like kale and collards, which are at their best after frost hits them; all the cabbages – green, red, and savoy; fast growing Oriental varieties like the choys (Bok Choy, Pak Choi and Choy Sum) and Napa; and tender, quick-growing greens like spinach, arugula or lettuce which enjoy multiple harvests even in our short growing season. They are delicious in salads, quiches, frittatas, gratins and skillets.
Winter squash and pumpkins are plentiful. It pairs well with tart or sharp flavors, like citrus, pungent greens or hot peppers. Roast them to use in casseroles or top salad greens along with pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
Fall is apple season. At local orchards, apple picking with the kids is synonymous with fall. If you don’t have the time to make a pie, just bake the apples and season with cinnamon, sugar or maple syrup, and your favorite toppings, like nuts, raisins, granola.
Fresh cider and donuts are other seasonal treats. Hot and spiced or cold straight out of the jug, cider is a totally different flavor than apple juice. On warm days, freeze some into a sorbet or slush, or blend with yogurt and oats for a cool smoothie. Add chopped apples and pears into a salad of arugula, bok choy, walnuts and goat cheese.
Fall is time for soup. Use fresh vegetables like golden squashes, colorful root vegetables and tough winter greens to create autumn soups and stews bursting with fall colors and fine flavors. There’s nothing like a hot, comforting bowl of soup to take the chill off. They are great fare for both family suppers and fall festivities such as a pumpkin-carving bash, a football tailgating party, or any autumn gathering of friends.
Fall is crockpot comfort. A slow cooker filled with comfort food is a great way to warm up on autumn’s chilly, damp days. Slow cookers need little attention and use little energy. Use them to make anything from soup or chili to Sunday roasts and hearty stews for days you come home from work tired and hungry. For a warm breakfast on a chilly morning, use them to cook oatmeal overnight.
Fall is time for baking. Casseroles, pies, quiches, gratins all turn on the oven, taking the chill out of the kitchen and off your bones. Muffins, quick breads, apple pies, custards made with fall fruit add a sweet touch.
With cooler temps, fall is a great time to turn on the oven or cook up steamy stovetop delights.
Roasted Roots Side Dish
2 pounds assorted root vegetables
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or paprika
2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
Peel and scrub the root vegetables. Cut them into chunks.
Peel and mince the garlic.
Toss the roots with the olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper.
Place in single layer in buttered, shallow baking dish.
Roast root vegetables in a 425 degrees oven until soft, 40 to 60 minutes. Test for doneness with a fork. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, and serve. Serves six to eight.
For an impressive presentation, roast a variety of roots together (not just one or two).
If you’re roasting beets, roast them in a separate pan if you don’t want to turn everything pink.
Basil Veggie Chicken
A little oil for the pan
1 chicken breast
Salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 cups broccoli florets
1 to 2 cups cauliflower florets
1 to 2 cups carrot chunks
1/2 to 1 cup broth or water
2 cloves garlic
1 to 2 Tablespoons frozen basil (or fresh, or dried)
1/2 cup shredded cheese, like Parmesan or Cheddar or combination, optional
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breast; sprinkle with salt & pepper; cook two to four minutes on each side. Remove and set aside. When cool enough to handle, chop coarsely and check for doneness. (Or, use leftover diced cooked chicken or turkey and add at the end).
Peel and dice the onion; cook over low heat in same skillet five minutes or longer, to soften.
Add veggies and half a cup of broth. Cook, covered, stirring every five minutes or so, until tender. Add more broth if needed, and add reserved chicken towards the end to finish cooking.
Peel and mince the garlic. Stir into the skillet, along with basil.
When vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness, add reserved chicken, sprinkle with cheese and cook until cheese melts.
You can serve this over pasta, with a grain like quinoa or millet, or with potatoes; either side should be done in the same amount of time, or less. Or serve with crusty whole-grain bread or a French baguette.
Serves two to three.
Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.