November is upon us. The days are cooler (not to mention wetter), the sun is long gone by the time we step foot in our homes at the end of the day, and the holiday commercials are already in full swing. Luckily I’m still finding myself in the “oh this is so cozy and nice” mindset most of the time. I’m baking up pumpkiny treats on a biweekly basis, making good use of my Nexflix account, and enjoying listening to the pitter patter of rain outside my window.
Besides all the classically cozy aspects of fall, there is a whole bounty of delightful new Northwest produce that, if you don’t already have in your kitchen, you absolutely should. Here are six peak-season picks worth trying:
1. Asian Pears
Asian pears are those beautiful light golden, faintly dotted fruits that begin to show up in markets in the late summer months. They have the shape and crunch of an apple paired with the grainy texture and delicate sweetness of a pear. I love eating them all on their own, or sliced and paired with a little almond butter or a nice pungent cheese. They also make a wonderful addition to salads and slaws thanks to their firm texture. Finally, Asian pears work beautifully in many apple- and pear-friendly baked dishes, and tend to release even more sweet liquid than these neighboring fruits. Besides its awesome flavor and versatility, my favorite part about this fruit is its shelf life! Asian pears will happily sit in your crisper drawer for up to four weeks, or on your countertop for up to two weeks.
Not only do beets add a gorgeous pop of color to any dish, but they offer a delightfully nutty, mildly sweet flavor that pairs beautifully with other fall flavors. Plus they’re loaded with health benefits! This superfood is high in vitamins and minerals, plus it’s detoxifying, energy-boosting, and can even help your mental health. Try tossing peeled, cubed beets with a little olive oil and salt, then roasting until tender. Serve with a generous sprinkle of goat cheese, a handful of spicy greens, and some chopped hazelnuts. Perfection. Beets can also be enjoyed raw (grated into salads or sliced thin and sprinkled with sea salt) as well as boiled, steamed, pickled, or even puréed and used in baked goods.
Cranberries are another uber-healthy fall food that is packed with antioxidants and nutrients. The trick with this one is to not get carried away with the sugar that is so often needed to counteract the berry’s intense tartness. Dried cranberries make wonderful additions to baked goods (cakes, breads, muffins), salads (I’m obsessed with the cranberry / pumpkin seed / roasted squash combo), cereals and oatmeals. Fresh cranberries can be candied, turned into delicious juices and syrups, roasted and served alongside roast pork, turkey, or chicken, or simmered into sauces and jellies. Cranberries can also be used to make some fabulous cocktails (freeze a few extra and use as festive ice cubes in said cocktail to up your game even further).
Most of us have experience with the more commonplace mushroom types (button, portobello, crimini), but this time of year you’re likely to encounter all kinds of strange and beautiful varieties, each of which lends itself to different cooking methods. Portobellos, for example, are thick and hearty; they make excellent meat substitutes and are great for grilling. Hen of the wood mushrooms, on the other hand, are delicate and feathery, and will benefit from just a light sauté with butter, shallots, and thyme. Which reminds me, if you haven’t tried sautéed mushrooms over buttered toast, you must go try this immediately. You can also enjoy mushrooms raw, roasted, stir fried, stuffed, or even breaded and fried. The sky’s the limit.
Radishes are those crisp, peppery, bright pink bulbs that you have probably seen at the farmers market, or found thinly sliced atop salads or tacos. These gorgeous little root vegetables make great snacks, and are perfect for dipping in creamy hummus or fresh ricotta drizzled with a little olive oil. They’re also great in salads (both green and mayo-based), on sandwiches (try pairing with goat cheese, mashed avocado, and crisp sugar snap peas!), or atop appetizers (crostini with pesto and thinly sliced radishes = heaven). But what most people don’t realize is you can actually make delicious cooked radishes, too. Simply roasting them with butter makes for a divine side dish, while grilling them or baking them into crispy chips are both equally tasty methods.
Although often confused with turnips, rutabaga is actually a direct cross between turnips and cabbage, and has a sweet, starchy, just mildly bitter flesh. While it can be enjoyed raw (sliced thin and used as crudités or grated into salads), it really shines when it’s cooked. Roasting, sautéing, or baking the root veggie yields a nutty, sweet-savory flavor that pairs beautifully with other warm, smokey, earthy flavors (think chipotle, nutmeg, kale, Italian sausage…). You can also use rutabaga pretty much anywhere you would use potatoes: mashed, in gratins, for french fries, or added to soups and stews.
Alright my friends, you should now be equipped to prepare some truly fabulous fall dishes. Enjoy!!
Sources: http://www.finecooking.com/item/5044/asian-pears, https://www.jamesbeard.org/sites/default/files/blog/additional/AsianPear.jpg, http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/1-food-5-ways-beets/, http://www.fullcircle.com/goodfoodlife/2012/05/10/6-health-benefits-of-eating-beets/, http://www.thekitchn.com/all-about-beets-97160, http://firstdescents.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/beets1.jpg, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269142.php, http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/article/10-things-to-do-with-fresh-cranberries, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Cranberries20101210.jpg, http://www.vegkitchen.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Mushroom-varieties.jpg, http://www.myrecipes.com/how-to/7-ways-with/ways-to-cook-with-mushroom, http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-mushrooms-on-the-stove-top-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-63191, http://www.wikihow.com/Cook-with-Mushrooms, http://www.redonline.co.uk/food/recipes/gordon-ramsay-s-baked-courgette-wild-mushroom-risotto, http://medicaltreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Rutabaga.jpg, http://foodfacts.mercola.com/rutabaga.html, http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/radish-recipes/radishes-creamy-ricotta, https://thelocalharvest.ca/product-category/vegetables/