Eating in Season in the Fall and Winter

You’ve heard it before: Eat in season. That’s all fine and dandy in the spring and summer, with a bounty of beautiful easy to prepare vegetables, but when fall and winter roll around it’s a whole different story and challenge.

Even for me, with a degree in nutrition and years of cooking experience, fall and winter produce require me to plan and get creative. Sometimes I need a little inspiration. This last weekend, my family and I took a trip to Seattle and hit up our favorite natural food store and farmers market. I browsed the deli case, full of beautiful seasonal vegetable salads, for ideas and inspiration. At the farmers market, I filled my bags with lovely beets, turnips, celery root, baby bok choy, Lacinto kale, and chard, along with a big bag of organic carrots, a giant leek, and a few parsnips. I plan to nourish my family the next few weeks, with an abundance of interesting and delicious vegetable salads and dishes.

With my background and experience, I sometimes forget that not everyone has the same knowledge as I. The other day, while cleaning up from a kid’s cooking class at the YMCA, an employee came in to chat. She asked me about the fresh pumpkin muffins I had made the week earlier, commenting that she had never used anything except canned pumpkin. It was an awakening for me. People are interested in learning new things when it comes to food, but they just need exposure and guidance. She left the kitchen with a recipe on how to bake a pumpkin, and I left with inspiration for this article.

There’s no need for folks to make a trek to Seattle for lovely fall vegetables, as our local markets stock most everything one needs. In season now: root vegetables such as turnips, beets, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, and celery root, assorted leafy greens, such as kale, chard, arugula, and mustard greens, assorted winter squash, leeks, and various brassicas, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, and cauliflower.

Root vegetables are delicious in an variety of different ways. Roasting brings out their natural sweetness and individual unique flavors. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, bake at 350 until fork-tender and caramelized around the edges. I especially like a combination of carrots, parsnips, and beets, with fresh rosemary. Root veggies also make a beautiful nourishing addition to stews and soups. Recently I added turnips to split pea soup, following the recipe, even though I thought I didn’t like them. Turns out the flavors meld together and soften the strong taste. Celery root and rutabaga, often over looked and underappreciated, make lovely additions to mashed potatoes. To lighten up all the heavy foods of this season, blanch any of these root vegetables until just tender and chop into a small dice with some fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or chives, add a squeeze of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Greens make you beautiful!”Cynthia Lair of Cookus Interruptus.com likes to say. And there is truth to that statement. Greens are rich in anti-oxidants, macro and micro-nutrients, and contribute to a healthy diet, in turn making you radiate from the inside out. Greens have gotten a bad rap, with many people’s first exposure being over-cooked-beyond-recognition versions. I prefer Lacinto kale or chard over curly kale or collards, but all of them are delicous sauteed with a little onion, garlic, and olive oil until wilted. A light drizzle of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar adds a nice finishing touch. Sliced in thin ribbons(or chiffonade), leafy greens make a tasty addition to soups or sauteed vegetable medleys. Other greens in season right now are arugula and mustard greens, both of which have interesting spicy notes. They both go beautiful in salad mixes, on your favorite sandwich, or tossed with hot pasta until just wilted.

Winter squash, rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and potassium, make a beautiful healthy addition to dinnertime. With a multitude of varieties and cooking techniques, mixing it up will keep things interesting through the long cold season. Try acorn squash cut in small wedges, tossed with oil, salt and pepper, and baked until soft; there is no need to peel them, as the skin softens with baking. Butternut squash, peeled and cut into small dice saute up nicely with a variety of other vegetables and make a lovely side dish. Or boil with your favorite broth and blend with spices for a nourishing smooth soup. Bake a sugar pie pumpkin for use in quick breads or other baked goods. Cut in half, scoop out guts and bake cut-side down with a little water until soft to the touch. Scoop, mash, and use.

Leeks can be used like one would use an onion, sauteed with oil to deepen the flavor of any vegetable dish. Famously joined, leeks and potatoes work wonderfully together, for soup, baked or sauteed with a little broth or oil. For those adventurous folks, try baking trimmed leeks, cut lengthwise, cut-side down, with a glug of olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of grated cheese.

Though it may not be a common term in most households, I like to use the word “brassica” to describe the family that encompasses the cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower are nice steamed until just tender and tossed with olive oil, fresh herbs, and lemon zest. Cauliflower roastes beautifully with a variety of spices, such as curry, oregano, or smoked paprika. Or do as the Italians do, and roast with bread crumbs, olive oil and parmesan cheese for califlower pangretto. Kohlrabi is a bulb-shaped, mild-flavored vegetable that adds a nice crunch to chopped salads. After peeling, I like to either grate or finely dice and combine with cabbage, carrots, parsley, and lemon for a fresh snack or side salad. Brussel sprouts are lovely roasted with bacon or shaved and sauteed with olive oil, shallots, and lemon zest. Of course, cabbage makes a beautiful coleslaw, but it also makes a delicious hot dish, braised with onion, a little broth, and slow cooked until tender.

I challenge you to keep cooking fresh seasonal produce through the fall and winter. Though it may take a little more effort and planning, I hope these ideas help to make your season delicious and nutritious. And way more interesting than thawed frozen vegetables.

If you’re the kind of cook who needs more detailed recipes than the above offers, check out one of these websites, borrow a vegetable cookbook from the library, or contact me directly for more descriptive details.

www.simplyrecipes.com

www.justvegetablerecipes.com

Recipes:

Roasted Califlower with Gremolata

  • 1 small head of califlower
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon

Cut cauliflower into bite-sized chunks and toss with olive oil, about 2 Tablespoons. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, spread out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until fork-tender and starting to brown on the edges.

While the califlower roasts, finely chop the parsley and place in small bowl. Zest the lemon with a microplane or the smallest grate on a box grater. Add zest to parsley and stir to combine. When cauliflower comes out of the oven, sprinkle this “gremolata” over, toss together and serve.

*Options:

Other topping choices could be pangretto, and Italian breadcrumb mixture. Toss together ½ cup breadcrumbs, ¼ cup parmesan or asiago,and a little salt and pepper. Place olive oil-tossed cauliflower in a baking pan and sprinkle with seasoned cheesy breadcrumbs(pangretto). Bake at 350 for about 15-20 or until fork-tender.

Or go International, with a curry califlower. Add 1 Tablespoon curry powder to the olive oil before tossing with cauliflower, and bake as directed above, skipping the gremolata or pangretto.

Braised Leafy Greens with Bacon

  • 1 pound greens(kale, chard, collard, or beet greens)

  • 1 strip of thick cut bacon, chopped

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

  • 1/4 cup of water

  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water. Drain greens and wash a second time. Drain greens and cut away any heavy stems. Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

In a large skillet or 3-qt saucepan, cook bacon until lightly browned on medium heat. Add onions, cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occassionally, until onions soften and start to brown. Stir in garlic. Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Bring mixture to a boil.

Add the beet greens, gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-15 minutes until the greens are tender. Stir in vinegar. (For kale or collard greens continue cooking additional 10-15 minutes or until desired tenderness.)

*For vegetarians, simply omit bacon and saute onion in your favorite oil.

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Categories: around walla walla

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One Comment on “Eating in Season in the Fall and Winter”

  1. steve
    December 21, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    Your recipes make my mouth water! We miss many of those colder climate leafy vegetables where we live though we just found a source for delicious brussel sprouts.

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