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Savoring autumn

A bountiful harvest of carrots, onions and Brussels sprouts (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

The last ear of summer corn … the last zucchini … the last beautiful red pepper… the last summer cucumber … the last tomato…

Through modern transportation, we have these veggies year-round, shipped from farms in California. But they don’t taste the same. They’re not picked fresh off the vine.

Like it or not, summer is over. The farmers market in the park is now the Farmers’ Park-It. Yes, local farm products are still available — but now you must order ahead, and volunteers load your purchases into your car.

Winter is around the corner, with the anticipation of holidays to come: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanza. Our northern neighbors just celebrated Thanksgiving — with medical experts advocating staying apart to avoid the spread of infection. This year, with the worldwide pandemic, we may need to forgo large holiday gatherings with friends and family. We feel cut off, isolated, afraid.

Soon, hunters will be driving the deer into the village streets. Rabbits and squirrels are preparing their winter storehouses. Many are busy freezing and canning for winter, too.

Autumn Veggie Skillet (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

Between summer and winter are glorious autumn days — with beautiful fall foliage and lots of vibrant fall flavors. Autumn is more than colorful leaves, shorter days and cooling temperatures. It also brings tantalizing flavors: apples, sweet squash, pungent winter greens like kale, collards and Brussels sprouts whose flavor is enhanced by cold and frost. It brings kohlrabi, cauliflower and broccoli. Root veggies like carrots, potatoes and beets are sweet, delicious and versatile. They can be roasted, fried into chips, mashed or sliced and baked into a cheesy gratin. Chunks of roasted beets, squash or pumpkin can top fresh greens for an autumn salad.

Fall is when we’re no longer afraid to turn on the oven — we do it gladly! Fall is for pie, cobbler, crisp and sweet bread. Apple crisp and pumpkin pie are among the quintessential flavors of fall. In addition to apples and pumpkin, squash and rutabagas can also be turned into luscious desserts.

In fall, we bring back warm comfort foods designed to keep away the chill. A slow cooker needs little attention and uses little energy. Use it to make anything from soup or chili to Sunday roasts and hearty stews for days you come home from work tired and hungry. Soups, stews, casseroles, risottos, skillets and pasta dishes incorporate lots of seasonal autumn veggies.

 

Autumn Veggie Skillet

Ingredients:

1/4 pound breakfast sausage

1 onion

2 cups cubed kohlrabi

2 cups cubed butternut squash

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup or more liquid — broth, apple cider, apple juice or water (to moisten; use more or less as needed)

2 apples

1/2 to 1 cup arugula

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Directions:

In large skillet, brown sausage to release fat. Remove and set aside.

Add onion to skillet, and cook 3 to 5 minutes.

Peel and dice kohlrabi; add. Sprinkle with seasonings. Cook 5 minutes. If beginning to stick, add liquid.

Seed and cube the butternut squash; add to skillet. Cook 5 minutes.

Core and dice the apples (peeling optional). Add. Cook 5 minutes.

Test veggies for doneness. Return browned sausage to skillet. Stir in 1/2 to 1 cup chopped arugula. Cook until wilted and everything is tender.

Serves 2 as a main dish with a side of potatoes or pasta.

Option: Saute the veggies in olive oil, omit the sausage, and add diced ham at the end when you toss in the arugula. Also garnish with a little shredded sharp cheese.

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Autumn Pasta

Ingredients:

2 cups egg noodles

1tablespoon olive oil

1 chicken breast (boneless, skinless)

1 cup sliced carrots (1 medium carrot)

1/2 cup chopped onion (1 small)

1teaspoon salt, divided

A little black pepper

2 cups cauliflower florets

2 cups broccoli florets

1 clove garlic, minced fine

A couple tablespoons broth or water

2 to 3 teaspoons fresh basil

Grated feta, parmesan, or cheddar cheese (optional)

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Directions:

Place large pot of water with 1 teaspoon salt on stove, bring to a boil. When ready, add noodles; cook according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, add oil to skillet. Add chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute 4 to 6 minutes on each side, or until cooked. Remove and set aside.

Add onions and carrots to the same skillet, sprinkle with a little salt, cover, and cook 5 minutes over low heat. Stir in garlic, broccoli and cauliflower and cook 5 to 7 minutes longer, or until desired tenderness. You may need to add a little broth or water (a couple of tablespoons) if vegetables begin to stick.

While vegetables cook, cut up the chicken. Return to skillet, along with the basil, and cook just until heated through.

Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

 

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 yvonawrites@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Words are my World.

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