Although many of fall’s most bountiful ingredients are available year-round at the grocery store, fruits and vegetables like apples, mushrooms, and beets, are actually in season now. Instead of picking up this type of produce at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, hit up a local farmers market to experience new varieties of squash, heirloom carrots, and just-picked persimmons. Then head home and put together one of the following 11 dishes; Each recipe highlights a different fall fruit or vegetable. Enjoy!
There are hundreds of apple varieties out there, and this recipe for a pink applesauce tart calls for small red-skinned apples like McIntosh or Empire. When selecting apples from the market, choose ones that are unbruised and that feel heavy in your hand. Richly colored smooth skin is best. A homemade applesauce serves as the base of the tart and provides a wildly delicious apple flavor.
Celery root or celeriac is a knob root vegetable with a mild celery flavor. When shopping for celery root, choose vegetables that are about four to five inches in diameter and have fresh green leaves. Celery root can be eaten raw or cooked and makes a lovely ingredient in creamy purees and soups. Here it’s prepared like a steak and topped with tomatillo salsa verde. The celery root steaks make a wonderful detox from the rich foods of the holiday season.
Foraging for mushrooms is all the rage these days and in many places throughout the US like Northern California, upstate New York, and Oregon, one can walk the woods in search of freshly sprouted mushrooms with a professional forager. It’s important to go with an experienced guide—no one wants to become sick from eating poisonous mushrooms. When you’ve got a brown paper bag fill of mushrooms toss them in a hot pan with butter and cream to make an incredibly decadent pasta dish. Serve with mixed greens tossed in lemon vinaigrette and sparkling wine, and you’ve got an impressive, yet easy fall meal.
Choose firm sweet potatoes that are free of bruises and store in a cool dark pantry or basement. When kept at the proper temperature—in the mid-50s, which is warmer than the fridge, but cooler than room temp—they can last up to six months. Serve roasted sweet potato French fries with garlic and herbs along side beef tenderloin, roast chicken, fish sticks, or turkey burgers. The key to making them crispy is to cook at a high heat in a single layer on a baking sheet. Check about every 10 minutes and give the potatoes a turn.
One culinary task I hope to master this winter is homemade ravioli. With the help of frozen wonton wrappers, it should be simple to put together. As for the filling? You can’t go wrong with a cheesy butternut squash purée. Butternut squash is the king of fall vegetables. Look for squash that feels heavy and has a uniform light orange color. Squash with a fat neck and small seed cavity will have the most meat. To make butternut squash ravioli filling, peel squash and chop into small cubes then roast or boil until it’s mashable.
Walk down the refrigerator section of any grocery store and you’ll come across a wide variety of flavored hummus. Why not try and make the trend at home with this recipe for carrot hummus? Shop for firm plump carrots that have a deep color and, if the leafy tops are attached, bright un-wilted greens. No need to peel the carrots to make the hummus—the skin is filled with nutrients. Simply scrub then chop and prepare according to the recipe’s instructions.
December is National Pear Month, so that’s a good indicator when this cool weather fruit is in season. When shopping for pears, tenderly feel around the neck near the stem. The pear should be slightly pliable. If it’s too hard it’s not ripe and if it’s squishy, the pear is overripe. Pears and blue cheese are a wonderful combination as proven by this easy assembled appetizer. Simply spread lightly toasted rustic country bread with room temperature blue cheese. Top with sliced pear, sprinkle with fresh thyme, drizzle with honey, and devour!
In the past ten years are so, Brussels sprouts have become a much-loved vegetable. The smaller the sprout, the sweeter the taste. Choose sprouts that are 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter and get as many of them as you can, so they will cook evenly. Look for firm and compact heads with bright green color. There is no need to make a complicated recipe that requires deep-frying and homemade aioli. Instead, toss with garlic and roast. When they come out of the oven squeeze lemon juice and freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top of the Brussels sprouts.
Figs have a short growing season, so if you see them at the super market don’t hesitate to purchase them. Smell the figs, you want one that has a good aroma, avoid any that have the odor of fermentation. A soft texture means the fig is ready to be consumed immediately. Figs can be used in a variety of sweet or savory preparations and are a welcome addition to a green salad filled with mint, walnuts, and goat cheese.
There are two common varieties of persimmons in the United States: fuyus, which have a flat bottom and squat shape, and hachiyas, which have an elongated acorn shape. Fuyus are better eaten raw, while hachiyas make an excellent baking ingredient. Buy firm persimmons and look for smooth blemish free skin. Thinly slice fresh-picked persimmons to make carpaccio and serve with a generous dollop of creamy burrata and heavy sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, hazelnuts, and sea salt.
Red and golden beets are a root vegetable that can be stored for months. Buy hearty beets that aren’t mushy. If they have greens on them, you’ll know they are super fresh because the greens wilt long before the root does. Note that preparing beets from scratch requires a little work. You have to roast them whole in the oven for an hour until they become tender and sweet, then use them according to a recipe. This one is for a vegan Israeli couscous salad that’s filled with arugula, sunflower seeds, butternut squash, and pomegranate.
What’s your favorite produce to cook with this time of year?