At the end of September, we enter into my favorite season of the year, Autumn. I love the cool air, the beautiful colors as the trees get ready to sleep through the winter and the wonderful aromas of the foods of Autumn cooking, i.e., apples and butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and yams, cauliflower and broccoli. Autumn fruits come along just in time to replace the juicy stone fruits of summer. Apples (so many delicious varieties now), pears, deep dark Italian plums, figs, pomegranates and quinces are all coming into their season and will be at their peak of sweetness. Did you ever notice that the produce (veggies and fruits) of Autumn reflect the colors of Autumn? Think about it: reds, oranges, yellows, greens, deep purples, and browns. We change our way of cooking from grilling outdoors and on top of the stove to more use of the oven for braising, roasting and broiling as we cook more stews and roasts.
We are ready to celebrate the harvest. The summer growing season is over and we harvest the food to store for the colder months to come. Many countries have rites and festivals during the autumn. We have State Fairs to display the harvest and the fattening of livestock. Then there is Halloween, a time when people decorate pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, and make displays of cornhusks and hay bales, also celebrating the harvest time of year. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot and the Chinese Moon Festival are celebrated to show appreciation for the good food of the season. And eventually there is Thanksgiving
, an important holiday to celebrate the harvest and to be thankful for all the season has brought.
Animals gather food in preparation for the winter and many begin growing thicker coats for the colder weather. Birds migrate toward the Equator. It’s a time of transition.
While I love the autumn foods that are traditionally American, I also get a craving for the foods of other ethnic origins when the weather gets cooler. South Asian cuisines, Chinese cuisine, Latin cuisines all feature big, bold flavors that I love to eat in the fall and winter months. They seem to warm the heart as well as the soul.
The recipes which I’m including for you in this blog post are: Cauliflower Soup
, Chicken Cacciatora and Chicken with Garlic & Black Pepper. These healthy recipes are guaranteed to fill your kitchen with great aromas to tempt young appetites on chilly Autumn days.
Notes about the Recipes:
Cauliflower Soup: This is one of the first soups I served when I started at the Calhoun School, and I think of it as the recipe that lets us know we were on the right track. When the kids tried it (even those who don’t love vegetables), they were seduced by its delicate flavors. Parents were shocked (and even thrilled) when their kids started asking for the recipe so Mom could make it at home. This soup is very creamy, not from any dairy products, but by pureeing the cauliflower which thickens the soup and deceives you into thinking there is cream in it.
Chicken with Garlic & Black Pepper: Garlicky, tangy, salty, spicy and definitely exotic, high-spirited flavors rule in this Thai-influenced chicken dish. The good news is that many of the flavors are already in your pantry. We also use this recipe a lot at school for preparing fish – any fish that has a mild flavor like Cod, Salmon, Tilapia or even Shrimp! Serve it with some rice and a vegetable and you have quite a tasty meal.
Chicken Cacciatora: Think of this as Italian comfort food. A sublime dish that looks as beautiful as it tastes, it’s even better heated up the day after you cook it. Two hints: cut the chicken into 10 manageable pieces (or use boneless thighs) and be sure to cut the peppers in diamond shape chunks, not sliced. This is great served with pasta.
I hope you are all able to get out and forage the markets and take advantage of this year’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Spoons with the Chef
by Robert “Chef Bobo” Surles, Executive Chef at The Calhoun School