AUTUMN REFLECTIONS By Marybeth Gregg The calendar says it's October, but it's is still warm , which is really confusing because not only has the Halloween 'stuff' been in the stores, but the Christmas decorations are being displayed already. My confusion also extends to cooking - I am ready for those hearty one-pot dinners, and the oven being on but my geraniums and dahlias are in full bloom. No matter - I have been busy with lots of new recipes and cooking programs and moving on to the wonderful vegetables and fruits of the fall.
I have developed a smooth and totally comforting soup - Butternut Squash and Apple Soup- which you can find below. Autumn does seem to be a time of reflection - of warm summer days past, and somewhat nostalgic feelings as the wind starts to blow and the leaves start to fall. So I try to look ahead and not back, and think about all that is bountiful this season.
So when you think of fall foods, what comes to mind? Apples, pumpkins, and grapes, of course. Think of using these fruits not just in desserts, but as part of salads, and main courses also. I offer two great recipes below that bring out the best of this seasons harvest.
Let yourself enjoy this season- after raking the leaves, jump in the piles like you did when you were little! Look up at the trees instead of down at the pavement. Discover an autumn sunset- these small delights give up great joy if we allow it. APPLES AND PUMPKINS AND GOURDS, OH MY There are so many great-looking gourds and pumpkins and no two are alike. Grab handfuls of them and toss them into a basket and fill with silk leaves.
It makes a beautiful centerpiece that will last through the season. If you are having a party, get some lovely red apples - making sure that they sit flat on the table. Scoop out a small hole on top and fit one of those small votive lights in it.
They look and smell wonderful on your autumn table. You can do the same with mini-pumpkins, or mix the two. Use 6 or more of these and your dinner will be beautiful! Or take a footed cake plate and scatter the mini-pumpkins on top of it with a few candles intermingled on the plate. The cake plate stands at a nice height so that the centerpiece is not too high or tall for good conversation over the table. Take a handful of those small bunches of wheat, tie them with a ribbon in an autumn color and place the bundle in a small crystal glass or other short container. You can even put one of these at each place setting, or place the bundle on each napkin.
OCTOBER RECIPES: A hearty salad is wonderfully delicious in the fall. This is one of my favorites- I've added capers and lemon zest to this classic dish. Serve with a good soup and a light red wine, and you have a quick, easy and satisfying dinner. Whenever I make this, everyone wants more. TUSCAN BREAD SALAD 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar 2 shallots, minced 1 garlic clove, minced Zest and Juice of 1 lemon 3 tablespoons fresh minced Italian parsley, oregano, or basil or a combination Kosher salt Lots of freshly-ground black pepper 3- 4 cups day-old Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes 4 cups grape tomatoes, halved (or use regular tomatoes, diced) 2 tablespoons of small capers, drained 1/2 cup black oil-cured olives, pitted and sliced ½ cup fresh basil - shredded into large pieces 1.
Place vinegar, shallots, and garlic in a medium bowl. Stir in olive oil, zest, lemon juice, and herbs. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
2. In a large bowl, toss together the bread and mozzarella. Pour two-thirds of the dressing over, and toss again. Add the tomatoes, olives, basil, and remaining dressing, and toss thoroughly. Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve immediately. _________________________________________________________________ ____ BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH A TOUCH OF APPLES This soup is so deliciously smooth and satisfying.
The squash and the cider make an incredible flavor. Can be made ahead several days in advance, and it also improves over night as the flavors blend together. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 cup Vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped (1 medium) 1 large butternut squash) 1- 2 sweet apples, such as McIntosh 1 teaspoons kosher salt Freshly round black pepper 2 cans good quality chicken broth 1-2 cups water, optional if needed 1/2 cup fresh apple cider 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves Garnish 1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream, mixed with a tablespoon of fresh lime juice and a teaspoon of lime zest.
Heat the butter in a large stockpot, and add onions. Cook for about 5 minutes on low heat until they are translucent but not browned. Do not burn them. Carefully cut the squash in half. Take care when doing this since the rind is tough.
Remove the seeds-I find that a melon peeler works well. Cut the squash into chunks. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Cut into chunks.
Add the squash and apples to the onions. Sauté for medium heat for about 10 minutes- until some of the squash starts to become golden. Keep stirring.
Then add chicken broth, cider salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Add additional water if too thick.
Use an immersion blender to puree - take pot off the heat if you are using this, or puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. Taste for salt and pepper. Reheat the soup, add fresh thyme leaves and serve hot. Garnish with the crème fraiche and lime. It will be smooth and slightly thick. Serve with a simple green salad and crusty whole wheat bread, with extra virgin olive oil for dipping.
YUM! Enjoy the season and visit me at www.girlfriendsinthekitchen.com for more great food and party ideas. .
By: Marybeth Gregg