Fab Fall Foods
Good friends, good food, great fun — they seem to go together naturally. And one of the best ways to be sure you have good food is to cook with seasonal ingredients. So many autumn foods make the “best comfort foods” list, too, so serve these recipes to your good friends to capture that great fun.
Evoke crisp days and cool nights with a simple pear appetizer. Slice Bosc or Anjou pears — peeled or not — and spread bleu cheese on the slices. Drizzle them with a bit of honey. Serve with your signature fall cocktail, and your friends might not even care if you have dinner ready or not.
Add a touch of autumnal sweetness to your traditional cheese plate with some glazed figs. In a saucepan, mix 2 strips lemon zest, 2 tablespoons red wine, 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Toss in 2 cups of fresh figs, cut in half, and simmer them for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the figs are tender. Pair them with a variety cheese, mixing textures and milk types, like a Garrotxa goat-milk cheese, Manchego sheep-milk variety, and Stilton cow’s milk bleu. Other choices might include Camembert, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Brebsrousse or Comte.
Autumn Pasta Comfort
Turn an old standby, lasagna, into a new fall fave when you serve butternut squash lasagna. Start by seeding 3 pounds of butternut squash and slicing it into 1/4-inch slices. Spread it on a baking sheet, drizzle it with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Roast the squash at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until it is tender.
While the squash cools slightly, add 1/4 cup butter and 6 minced cloves of garlic to a saucepan. Heat until the butter melts, and then simmer it for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir well to combine and cook until the mixture is a light golden brown. Gradually add 4 cups milk and continue stirring until the sauce is thick. Add 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary and the squash.
Now you’re ready to layer your lasagna. You’ll need nine no-boil lasagna noodles and 1 1/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese, along with a 13-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch baking dish. Start by spreading 1 cup of the sauce-squash mixture in the bottom, then add three noodles. Next, add one-third of the remaining squash mixture and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Repeat the noodles, sauce and cheese layers two more times. Top the dish with 1 cup whipping cream and the last 1/3 cup Parmesan.
Cover the dish with foil and bake it at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover it and bake it for 10 minutes more. Let your dinner stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Autumnal Vegetarian Option
Marry fall squash, cranberries and whole grains in this entrée salad. Start by roasting 2 pounds of butternut or acorn squash, cut into 3/4-inch chunks, with 3 tablespoons oil, 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. While the squash roasts, cook 1 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa in 4 cups vegetable broth or water for about 9 minutes or until tender. Drain the grain and toss is with 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 1/4 cup roasted pistachios and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
When the squash is tender, toss it with 3 cups baby spinach, then add the quinoa mixture and toss everything again. Serve this dish warm or at room temperature.
Planning to stick with a tried-and-true main, but looking for great fall side dishes? Try these yummy accompaniments.
Sweet Potato Mash
Microwave 4 scrubbed sweet potatoes for 8 minutes or until tender. (You can also bake them in the oven, at 400 degrees, until they are tender, as well.) Scoop the flesh from the skins and mash it. Heat 3 tablespoons butter until it begins to brown, and then add 8 sage leaves and cook them until they are crisp. Remove the sage and toss 4 chopped scallions into the butter. Cook them until they are slightly soft, then drizzle the infused butter and scallions over the mashed sweet potatoes. Top the dish with the crispy sage leaves.
Gingered Pears and Parsnips
Quarter two Bosc pears and slice three parsnips. Cook them in a skillet with 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup chicken broth, 2 tablespoons butter, the juice of one lemon, several slices of fresh ginger (to your personal taste), 1 bay leaf and a pinch each of salt and red pepper flakes. Cook for 20 minutes or until everything is tender.
“Adulted” Childhood Sweet Treats
Remember those fall festivals with candied and caramel apples? Take them to new heights with these variations. Instead of serving whole apples on a stick, slice the apples to make rings and dip them in the coating for neater eating.
White Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Apple
Bring 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup light corn syrup and 1/4 cup water to a boil; stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 9 minutes without stirring until the mixture reaches 260 degrees (light golden). Stir in 1 cup half-and-half, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Simmer to bring the mixture to 235 degrees, and stir in 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Pour the caramel into a bowl and place the bowl in a hot water bath.
Put 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs in a bowl.
Melt 1 1/2 ounces white chocolate chips and 1/2 teaspoon oil in the microwave, stirring it every 20 seconds.
Dip apple slices in the caramel, then in the crumbs. Drizzle the chocolate over them.
Pistachio-Orange Caramel Apples
Bring 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup light corn syrup and 1/4 cup water to a boil; stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 9 minutes without stirring until the mixture reaches 260 degrees (light golden). Stir in 1 cup half-and-half, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Simmer to bring the mixture to 235 degrees, and stir in 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Pour the caramel into a bowl and place the bowl in a hot water bath.
Mix 1/2 cup roasted chopped pistachios and 1/3 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips in a bowl.
Dip apple slices in the caramel and then in the nut-chocolate mixture. So, you’re ready to celebrate the cooler days and crisp evenings of fall with friends and family with satisfying, updated comfort foods. Bring on the fire, football and great food!