Autumn's harvest demands more of us than summer's. It's still easy to make a salad -- grated daikon, with grilled shrimp and an ume dressing, or a cabbage slaw -- even celeriac can be delicious grated with apples and radishes over arugula, with a vinegar-and-shallot dressing. Kale, sliced thin and massaged with a little salt, or tossed with lemon juice, can also be the basis for a delicious salad with nuts, fruit, or cheese. Wilted escarole and crisp fennel are delicious in a salad with delicate French lentils (often accompanied by grilled cheese and tomato soup in our house). And lately, I have been taking the advice of our shareholders and putting a leaf or two of chard, collard or kale in our breakfast smoothies (my eight year old has not noticed yet).
More often, especially the past week or so as the temperatures have dipped, fall veggies want to be roasted or made into soups, casseroles, or rich purees. At the cafe at the Blue Hill Coop in Maine last week, our family shared a delicious quesadilla made with a wide variety of roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, and winter squash were all in there), cheese, salsa and sour cream. Inspired, we tried the same thing with tacos when we got home, and they were also outstanding. This week, our dinner menus include roasted sweet potatoes and red peppers with sausage and quinoa with a side of greens in cashew curry sauce; red bean, arugula and potato soup; pizza with escarole (sauteed with garlic, then lightly sprinkled with balsamic vinegar before it's put on a white pizza); whole wheat pasta with kale, delicata squash and carbonara sauce (thanks to Naomi for this idea); a Moroccan meatball, chard, and butternut squash soup (thanks to Kim for the lamb for the meatballs) with mashed potatoes and celeriac on the side; and roast chicken with rice and mustard greens with chipotle and bacon. Lentil soup with root veggies and greens is also on the horizon, as is the simplified version of feijoada that is our favorite thing to do with collards -- sliced thin as noodles, lightly steamed and served with spicy black beans, brown rice, orange slices and optional hot sauce.
All of these meals are comfort food, but they're out of my usual dinner comfort zone. They take a little effort to imagine and bring into being, but in practice they're quick and simple, which is very important in our house. Does the eight year old eat everything? Not even close. And the toddler makes every meal an adventure, whether she's 'helping' or hindering its progress. But the rewards of an autumnal feast, whether it's a traditional root veggie puree, a light and spicy stir-fry, or a crunchy salad, are worth making the effort for for a few weeks of the year.
Enjoy the harvest,
Amanda, for Andy, Dan, Erinn, Larisa and Lauren