Relishing Fall and Early Winter Foods

By Meggin Thwing Eastman
Photos by Carloe Topalian

 

Living in the East Bay, we are so lucky to have luscious heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs, eggplant, and other summer goodies available well into the fall. But as the winter rains start falling and temperatures drop, the new season offers up its own bounty. The fall and winter crops appearing in our farmers markets, grocery stores, and CSA boxes offer a welcome opportunity to come back to favorite dishes we haven’t had since last winter. Squash soup, pumpkin pies, and roasted potatoes beckon, along with crisp green salads, fresh spinach, and other greens. Here are two recipes highlighting winter squash and cool-weather greens, two of the season’s biggest stars.

 

Curried Winter Squash Soup

This soup is a thick, golden puree seasoned with a blend of Indian spices. Optional silken tofu adds a smooth creamy texture and a good dose of protein, but no one will ever know it’s there. If your spice tolerance is limited or you would prefer a stronger squash flavor, reduce the spices by a quarter to a half. This soup freezes beautifully. Note: This recipe requires a food processor or blender.

Serves 4–6

1 large butternut squash
1–2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6–8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½–1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cayenne
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 14-ounce package silken tofu (optional)
2–4 cups water
1 cup plain yogurt, plus more for topping if desired
1–2 teaspoons garam masala for topping (optional)

Cut the squash in half the long way and remove the seeds and strings. You can roast it, steam it, or pressure cook it. To roast, place the squash halves face down in a roasting pan with about half an inch of water in the bottom. Cook for 45–60 minutes at 425°, until tender. To steam, cut into chunks, then steam in a large pot for about 30 minutes, until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Or, pressure cook for about 15 minutes on high pressure. Allow the squash to cool.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 6–7 minutes. Add the ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, cayenne, black pepper, and salt, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2–3 minutes to roast the spices.
When the squash is cooked and has cooled enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the skin and place it in bowl with the tofu (if using) and the garlic and onion mixture. Use a food processor to blend these until smooth, adding water to thin the mixture. If you steamed or pressure-cooked the squash, you can use the water from the pot for this purpose. You may need to process the soup in batches.

Return the blended soup to the pot and add more water if necessary to reach the desired consistency. It should be fairly thick.

Return the pot to the stove and heat the soup through. Remove from the heat and fold in the yogurt, mixing thoroughly (it is important to add the yogurt right at the end to avoid curdling). Note: if you plan to freeze the soup, leave the yogurt out at this point and add it upon reheating.

Serve hot. If desired, top with an additional dollop of yogurt or a sprinkling of garam masala.

 

A sampling of fall and early winter crops
Lettuce • kale • spinach • Swiss chard • arugula • bok choy • butternut squash • kabocha squash • pumpkin • delicata squash • acorn squash • beets • turnips • parsnips • daikon • celery root • garlic • onions • leeks • potatoes • walnuts • olives • pears • apples • citrus

Ginger-Sage Lentils and Barley with Kale

Kale is incredibly nutritious, but many people don’t know what to do it. Here it is tossed with a barley and lentil pilaf that is strongly seasoned with ginger, garlic, and sage. Though unusual, the ginger-sage flavor combination is irresistible. If you don’t have kale, substitute another fresh green such as Swiss chard or spinach.

Serves 4–5

1 cup dried pearl barley
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
8–10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 1-inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled
3–4 cups coarsely chopped kale
1 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons dried sage
1 cup dried red lentils
2 tablespoons salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Place the barley with 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the water is all absorbed and the barley is tender, about 20 minutes.
While the barley is cooking, slice the garlic and ginger into thin matchsticks.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until the butter begins to turn just slightly brown. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the lentils, 1 cup of water, and the sage to the skillet and stir. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Simmer until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. It may be necessary to add more water.

When the lentils are cooked, stir in the kale. Cover the pan to steam for a few minutes until the kale is tender. Stir in the salt and pepper.

When everything is cooked, combine the kale and lentil mixture with the barley in a large bowl. Serve hot.

Megan Thwing Eastman has lived in the East Bay for five years after relocating from New England. She is currently writing a cookbook called Fabulously Vegetarian, a collection of adventurous but prcatical recipes for everyday cooking. In her other life, she is a social investing research analyst.

Widely recognized for her work as a professional photographer and creative director, Carole Topalian, is also co-founder of Edible Communities, Inc., where she shares her considerable talents with members nationwide. When she’s not behind her tripod, she can be found riding America’s bike trails. You can view her work online at:
www.topalianphoto.com.