Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall Foods

So it’s clear that we are in early fall from the colors bursting forth on our hillsides.  The mornings are crisper and wood smoke is in the air.  The apple and winter squash crops are filling the farmers’ markets.  Last year I wrote about Craig Putnam’s Echo Hill Farm which was selling a large Italian squash known as Marina di Chioggia and what great squash gnocchi they make.  While I picked up one of these squashes this weekend from Craig, the market abounded with a large variety of unusual winter squash, beyond the traditional buttercup, butternut, acorn, Hubbard and delicata.

I saw Banana squash, Musque de Provence, Spaghetti squash, Pie Pumpkins, Muscat de Provence, Galeau d’Eysines, Red Kuri, Jarrahdale, Sunshine, Valencia, Amish Pie Squash and others whose names I can’t remember.  I was delighted with the abundance of varieties produced right here in the Upper Valley. 

If you look back to September and October of 2008 you will find columns on winter squash, so I won’t repeat that information here.

All the root vegetables are now also showing up in the markets including turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, carrots, red and golden beets, celeriac, red, yellow and sweet onions, shallots and potatoes.  These are the basics for some heart warming, stick to your ribs, comfort food, which warm not only our kitchens, but also our souls.  Casseroles, shepherd’s pie, pot roast, short ribs and similar dishes abound during this time of year.  The churches are having chicken pie and ham dinners with lots of fruit pies for dessert. 

Chicken pot pie is a favorite with many people. This time of the year, and before the frost kills off our gardens, you can still include green beans, spinach or Swiss chard, as well as roasted butternut squash or potato with the chicken and gravy that simmer while the crust cooks to a golden brown.  We also like chicken with dumplings, in which I include parsley and thyme from the garden to make the dumplings more flavorful.

This is the beef stew season and the number of recipes for this universal dish abound.  I’m inspired to make Boeuf Bourguignon, the classic French stew made with red wine after seeing Julie and Julia, the movie about Julia Child’s life and a young lady who blogs about cooking every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a single year. 

A classic Italian dish appropriate for this time of year is braciole in which thin slices of beef top or bottom round are stuffed with pork stuffing with cheese before being browned and braised in wine or stock. 

This is also the cabbage season, whether its green cabbage, Savoy cabbage or red cabbage.  Cole slaw with carrots and raisins is a classic, but we like our cabbage braised or steamed as a fall vegetable.  Stuffed cabbage leaves cooked in tomato sauce is heart warming on a cold evening.  Cabbage is also great in soups or as an addition to stews, and, of course, this is the time to make some sauerkraut, where the cabbage is fermented in its own juices created by salting the shredded vegetable.

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