Bringing Autumn's Freshest Flavors into Vegetarian Cooking
Some of the Best Comfort-Food Veggies Hit Produce Stands Just in Time for Cold Fall Evenings
Seasonal fall vegetables include pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash, all of which can make delicious roasted dinners as well as excellent soups and breads. Some of the most flavorful greens, including kale and Swiss chard , are best during fall and winter, and root vegetables like turnips come into season in autumn.When the weather turns chilly, some of the heartiest vegetables rise to the challenge of keeping vegetarian cooking tasty and healthy.
Though carrots, mushrooms, potatoes and onions are available year-round, autumn harvests bring out their most robust flavors. Check local farmers markets for the best fresh selection, and look for local rather than imported varieties at grocery stores to best take advantage of the season.
Tips and Techniques
There's nothing more soothing than enjoying a warm, thick bowl of soup on a drisly fall day. Vegetarian soups and chilis are relatively simple to make, and a big pot can feed the whole family or last several days in the fridge (and much longer in the freezer) for multiple meals. Not only do soups pack a strong nutritional punch into even the smallest servings, but they also taste delicious, especially when made with fresh autumn vegetables like squash and mushrooms. For the best soups, pick fresh ingredients rather than canned, and don't be afraid to experiment with a wide variety of veggies, herbs and spices. If you start with base flavors that you're familiar with, it's hard to go wrong as you add vegetables.
One of the easiest techiniques for preparing vegetables also happens to be one of the best suited to fall's offerings. Roast your fall vegetables with just olive oil and season them with just salt or pepper to highlight their natural flavors. Roasted butternut squash can make a hearty main course or an easy side dish on its own, and it's also good when stuffed with beans, greens and root veggies and/or served with creamy cheeses. Roasted carrots taste great with thyme, and their bright orange adds flare to the presentation of your fall meals. Try roasting small pieces of sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, squash, turnips and/or parsnips together for a nutritious and colorful side dish.
Autumn mushroom varieties, including chanterelle, shiitake and truffle, can be incorporated into excellent risottos, as can other fall vegetables like cauliflower and pumpkin. Experiment with a variety of cheeses to find your favorite creamy flavor combination, and enjoy warm risottos as a main dish or as a side.
Mature cold-weather greens like kale and Swiss chard can make delicious side dishes when cooked properly. These greens' bad rap for bitterness has scared away many a chef, but some simple cooking techniques can win most people back over. While both kale and chard are bitter when eaten raw, and steaming can intensify the bitterness, you can get great flavor and high nutrition by quick-boiling them, simmering them briefly in one inch of liquid or sauteing them alone or with other vegetables. Greens are tasty in soups, mixed into stir fries, used as a bed for omelets or tofu scrambles or as simple side dishes. Pick from an array of seasonings that complement the taste of mature greens, including garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, hot sauces, sesame oil and Worcestershire sauce.
A fall chill in the air is no reason to abandon the simple tastiness of raw vegetables. Fresh salads can serve as refreshing accompaniments to warm soups or stuffed squash. Try using shredded carrots in favorite salads for some crunchiness and color, and try radishes for a spicy edge. Chopped apples and pears offer complexity to your green salads, especially when paired with sharp blue cheese crumbles or creamy goat cheeses.
Autumn's Sweeter Side:
Take advantage of opportunities for sweet seasonal treats alongside your savory soups and roasted vegetables. Some great pear varieties hit their peak in fall, and you can also find some of the year's best apples, making for delicious baked desserts. Fall vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potatoes can make for sweet treats, too, in the form of breads, pies and cookies. Even your main courses can get a touch of autumn sweetness if you serve your squash stuffed with apples and cinnamon or your salad with pear slices or pomegranate seeds.
For a festive and flavorful dinner, start with Carrot and Ginger Soup (you can sub veggie broth for the chicken broth) along with Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Walnuts. Enjoy Roasted Root Vegetables on the side of unique Stuffed Acorn Squash, incorporating both sweet and savory fall produce highlights. For dessert, try the French Apple Pie or Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies.
This fall, greet the weather change with some recipes in your back pocket. Invite friends over on rainy evenings to cook and enjoy hearty vegetarian meals near a hot stove or in front of a cozy fireplace. Explore a range of fall produce to find new favorite flavors and develop your own new recipes.