Fall produce offers options to many dishes.

Fall produce – butternut, acorn, pumpkin and other winter squashes. Kale, brussel sprouts and other greens. Apples, pears and cranberries.

Need new ideas for cooking these wonderful old crops? Read on…

Apples and butternut squash cooked together make a delicious soup, with thyme, sage, or warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. A little blue cheese adds a unique flavor. Roasted squashes are sweet on their own, or pureed into a dip with garam masala and a little tahini. Add cubed roasted squash to a lasagna with a bechamel sauce and asiago cheese for a fall inspired dish.

Acorn squash is great baked with maple syrup, or stuffed with quinoa, feta, sunflower seeds and cranberries. Apples, sausage, currants and cornbread make a hearty filling too. Steam squash halves over boiling water or microwave whole (pierce well to avoid exploding gourds) for a tender option to baking. Cube squashes into your favorite stew recipes for color and antioxidants.

Spaghetti squash is a low carb alternative to pasta, and roasted pumpkin seeds are just a tasty benefit of the orange globe. Pumpkins are edible in savory or sweet recipes, adding vitamin A to your dishes. Think cake, bread, stews and risotto. A hollowed out pumpkin provides a festive serving bowl – just skip the Jack-o-Lantern cutouts.

Kale, collards and other greens can be bitter, pairing nicely with sweet raisins, apricots or roasted garlic. A touch of balsamic adds extra depth and a little tang. Add greens to soups, stews and even baked pasta dishes for an extra kick of calcium. If the bitter flavor turns you off, drop your greens in a boiling water bath for 1-2 mins, drain and saute to cut down the bitterness.

Apples or pears and cranberries are a natural pairing for applesauce, pie fillings, chutneys or strudels. Pears and pork are wonderful, cooked slowly with honey, broth and herbes de Provence. If you prefer, use thyme, cream and shallots.

Braise chicken or pork in apple cider or use to poach salmon. It is wonderful for basting your turkey, adding a sweet flavor to your Thanksgiving gravy.

Heat cider with cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel for a warming drink and homey room freshener.

Poach pears in simple syrup infused with lemon, orange or vanilla beans. Use red wine for a more dramatic presentation, adding orange peel, sugar, cinnamon stick and cardamom for more flavor. Bake apples filled with nuts and honey, orange zest, or an oatmeal raisin and brown sugar filling.

Sliced apple with a little peanut or almond butter is a quick energy snack, or chop an apple into cottage cheese with cinnamon and raisins for a great breakfast. Slice pears in a salad with blue cheese and pecans. Dip pear slices in chocolate for a decadent dessert or add moisture to a favorite spice cake recipe with chopped apples or pears.

Enjoy fall produce, eat local, and be creative! Good eating and happy holidays.

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cookbooks and recipes

October 30, 2011

What are your favorite Cookbooks, I was asked recently. Well, that was a very tough question for me to answer. I love my Bobby Flay collection for his layered flavors and Soutwestern flair. My William Sonoma Savoring India has proven delicious and helpful as I explore vegetarian dishes. The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions book I recently purchased has also been great fun to work through.

For baking I love In The Sweet Kitchen and at Thanksgiving I always reach for my tattered Fannie Farmer to check how long to cook the turkey. Daily Soup comes out in winter, Weber’s Art of the Grill in Summer…..and all the others when I need a new idea. Grazing by Julie Van Rosendaal has proven helpful when I need a little something to bring to a talk or meeting. So I ask you – what are your favorite cookbooks?

Amazon has listed their top choices – check them out http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=as_li_ac-books?ie=UTF8&docId=1000719071&tag=homeplatadva-20.” target=”_blank”>here:

I did not fall off the turnip truck last week – we were in Philadelphia visiting my mom and jail. Seriously – the Eastern State Penitentiary – very interesting museum. But I want to share that in doing so, we did not get our beloved produce. This week, we were treated to wax beans, beets, carrots, basil, spring onions, potatoes, mini cucumbers (look like gherkins to be) small leafed kale, and several zucchini and yellow squash.

Meal one – we had grilled onions with pink peppercorns next to our pasta tossed with white beans, sage pesto (homemade with fresh sage, orange zest and juice, hazelnut and olive oils, walnuts) and kale. Very Tuscany meets Paris. I forgot how much I love the sweet, delicate peppery flavor of pink peppercorns. Worth a try on leeks, onions of braised fennel, or any white fish if you never had them. It had been a long day of yard work, so I apologize for not taking any photos. (i.e. starved and woofed down this meal before I had a chance to stop and think)
Meal Two – potato salad with peas, yogurt, buttermilk and herbs. I did not have parsley, but opted to use the top of the carrots as a green splash. They actually have a little carrot flavor, and I now know I need to revisit this to use elsewhere. Grilled chicken and sliced tomatoes round out this hot evening dinner on the patio.

Meal Three The delicate little carrots were cooked, then sprinkled with fennel thyme salt (Didi Davis) and served next to leftover chicken from last night and corn on the cob. How seet and tender theys were and delicious with the thyme salt.

Meal four This morning started the beets that will go into Ina Garten’s summer borscht, made with sour cream, yogurt, dill and chicken stock – perfect for the heat that’s coming our way. I picked up our fish (cod today) we get from Cape Ann fish shares and baked the fish with lemon juice, pink salt and a little comet tail pepper, which gave the fish a nice coriander peppery sweetness. I improvised a salad I saw in Food and Wine to use the wax beans, mixing them with tomatoes, chick peas and sliced red pepper tossed with a fresh tarragon mint vinaigrette made with lemon juice, shallot, dijon, mild olive oil and champagne vinegar. Heavenly! A side of lemon thyme biscuits fit perfectly.

Wax beans, tomatoes and chicke peas waiting for dressing

Last meal, grilled zucchini with grated cheese may be in order, next to grilled chicken sausage and poblanos. And perhaps another biscuit! Stay cool, enjoy a salad and grilled veggies to help beat the heat, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids….the adult root beer float in this month’s Food Network magazine is perfect for dessert…..