Fall in love with this season’s local foods
Fall is the season of harvest; a time to pull inward, store up on food and fuel and get ready for the cold winter months. During Indiana’s fall months, leaves and fruit fall, seeds dry, and tree sap begins to move inward. Autumn is a time of drying out and slowing down. Most local farmers are trying to wrap up the growing season, and are looking forward to a little down time during the winter months. Being married to a farmer, I know I can’t wait to have my husband around a little more often.
Some may not perceive fall as being abundant in local produce, but there are plenty of local farmers still out in the fields cultivating crops and planting seeds in greenhouses. Seasonal produce items that are plentiful during fall include winter squashes, such as acorn, butternut, delicata, pumpkins, spaghetti and hubbard; hearty greens, such as kale, collards and chard; lettuces and more tender greens, like spinach, mustard and Asian greens; mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, sweet potatoes, onions, beets, radishes, turnips, carrots and potatoes.
Of course, there are other ways to eat local besides produce. There are many local farmers who sell grass-fed beef, lamb and dairy; pasture-raised pork, poultry and eggs; maple syrup and honey; milled grains and flour products; and an abundance of local artisans make an assortment of shelf-stable, frozen and fresh products.
Cooking techniques, in general, also start to change as the cooler weather comes our way. Braising, stewing and roasting become more common during the fall and winter. These types of cooking techniques help internalize our focus and slow us down.
- Braising is a method of cooking that starts with sautéing vegetables or pan searing meat, adding liquid and finishing with simmering. The temperature range is low (140-210°), and it is one of the slowest methods of cooking. Braising winter squash and root vegetables enhances their deep flavors. Large cuts of meat that are high in connective tissue are perfect for braising.
- Stewing is very similar to braising, but the meat is cut into bite-size chunks and sometimes dusted with flour. Stewing tends to use more liquid than braising and some kind of starch is added to thicken the liquid.
- Roasting is a method used in the oven that is perfect for relatively tender cuts of meat, all poultry, root and starch vegetables, eggs and fruit. Roasting vegetables evaporates much of their water, concentrating their natural sugars and yielding a rich, sweet taste and meaty texture. Roasting also gives root vegetables a crisp, golden skin that contrasts to their soft, moist interior. Roasting meat can be a hard trick to master, and if you have ever tried, I am sure you have over-cooked at least one roast. Practice makes perfect. The result should be a well-browned, flavorful and evenly cooked piece of meat.
The brisk air, changing leaves and football aren’t the only things to look forward to during the fall. There are so many wonderful foods to consume and cooking techniques to try that will leave your taste buds longing for more. Here are a few of my favorite recipes using these cooking methods:
Braising recipe: Braised greens
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1/2 pound braising mix
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 teaspoons tamari
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan or wok. Add the braising mix; stir quickly and frequently until the greens begin to wilt. Add the vinegar; allow the vinegar to steam the greens until they are completely wilted and a darker shade of green. Turn off heat and add the tamari. Serve warm.
Stewing recipe: Beef stew
- 2 pounds grass-fed chuck roast
- Salt and pepper
- 4 cups beer (ale, lager, porter or stout) or water
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 or 6 large Yukon gold potatoes, diced
- 4 ribs celery, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 4 medium carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Season both sides of the chuck roast with salt, pepper and flour. Heat a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Pan sear both sides of the chuck roast, add the beer, cover and braise in the oven for 4 hours. Remove stew from oven and turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Add the onions, celery and carrots. Cover and return to the oven for an additional hour. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.
Roasting recipe: Roasted turnips with green onions
- 1 bunch of baby white turnips, leaves removed but saved
- 1 bunch green onions, greens removed
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Couple sprigs of thyme, oregano or savory
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash turnips and turnip greens. Trim the tail off the turnips but leave 1-2 inches of stems attached at the top. Cut turnips in half or quarters (if large). Remove root hairs from green onions and cut in half lengthwise. In a roasting dish, add the turnips, green onions, oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and roast for 30 minutes. Heat the butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Roughly chop the turnip greens and add to the pan. Add a pinch of salt and the sprigs of herbs. Sauté for a couple of minutes or until the greens are wilted and bright green in color. Remove from heat and add to a mixing bowl. When the turnips and onions are done roasting, add to the turnip greens in the mixing bowl. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Written by Elizabeth Blessing, MSN, co-founder and chief nutritionist of Green BEAN Delivery.
Photo by Bert_m_b. Creative Commons License.