Home Cooking: Our first taste of autumn (column)
Is it my imagination or are the golden Aspen trees about three weeks ahead of schedule this year? I want to hold back the autumn colors that spread more widely across the hillside each day. The sky is gray today, the cool nights are now bleeding into cooler days.
This morning as my walking group moved along Dickey trail toward the reservoir, I took pictures of rich purple lupines, deep blue juniper berries and the slate gray water of the lake reflecting the overcast sky as my friends and I discussed our sudden craving for soups.
And while I know fall in our mountain community lasts weeks,
rather than months as it does elsewhere, I also know that my meals will be filled with the warm colors and spices of autumn from now until Thanksgiving.
So, as I gaze out the window as I type, my computer appropriately sitting on my dining room table next to a small planted pot of burnished mums as deep as the golden willows in the wetlands next door, I offer you my first autumn meal.
I hope you’ll make all three dishes, if not at once, then one at a time, as you also enjoy our shortest and most colorful season.
Roasted Kohlrabi and Leek Soup with Balsamic Onions
The weekly bounty from our CSA is winding down, but still offering new and interesting vegetables to try, such as kohlrabi. Although most recipes feature it in salads, I like pairing it with leeks to create our first autumn soup.
4 kohlrabi bulbs, green leaves removed, rough outer skin peeled, then cut the kohlrabi into quarters
2 leeks cut into large chunks then cut in half lengthwise, rinse well to remove any dirt
2 medium russet potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
Freshly grated nutmeg, salt, pepper to taste
Splash of heavy cream, optional
Preheat oven to 425F. Place kohlrabi and leeks on a baking sheet (you can place them on the same baking sheet as the chicken breasts, if you’re making both dishes at the same time) Sprinkle all with a little bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper, roast in oven for 20 minutes.
While the kohlrabi and leeks are roasting, peel two russet potatoes, cut them into chunks and add them into a pot with the chicken or vegetable stock and cook until the potatoes are soft.
At the 20-minute mark
remove the leeks from the oven and put them into the pot with the potatoes and stock. Allow the kohlrabi another 10 to 15 minutes to roast, you want them to get nice and tender. If they’re cooking on the same sheet pan as the chicken, you can keep an eye on both. Remove the kohlrabi from the oven and transfer to the pot with the other potatoes and leeks. Season with a healthy splash of apple cider vinegar (this brightens the soup’s flavor), salt, pepper and a vigorous scraping of fresh nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasonings. Using an immersion blender (or food processor) process the vegetables until smooth. If you want to add a splash of heavy cream, pour a ladle of soup into a measuring cup, mix in the cream to temper it, then pour the soup/cream back into the pot. For the balsamic onion garnish, sauté thin rings of onion in a splash of balsamic vinegar and ½ tablespoon butter, reduce until syrupy. Add onions as a topping to the soup once it’s in the bowl.
Chicken with Walnut Sauce
The neutral palate of chicken presents the perfect backdrop for experimenting with rich sauces, such as this savory delight combining walnuts, garlic and paprika, giving us the colors of fall and the memory of roasting nuts in front of a fire.
4 split chicken breasts, skin on, bone in (you can also use chicken thighs or other chicken pieces)
1 ½ cups walnuts
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Generous scraping of nutmeg
1 bunch parsley
2 cloves garlic
Zest of one lemon
4 teaspoons paprika
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion diced
2 tablespoons of butter
Preheat oven to 425F. Add chicken breast to a baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes until cooked through and the skin is crisp.
While the chicken is roasting, add the chopped walnuts, cloves of garlic, chicken stock, lemon zest, cinnamon, paprika, red pepper flakes, a nice scraping of nutmeg and the tops of one bunch of parsley to the bowl of a food processor. Process this mixture until it becomes a paste and then leave it in the food processor. Take a nice big frying pan or cassoulet dish, melt about a tablespoon or two of butter, then the diced onion and cook until the onion is softened. Don’t let the butter brown. Add the remaining cup of chicken stock, then the walnut paste, stir to combine, then add in your pieces of chicken. Allow to cook for 20 minutes on medium heat on the stove. Taste and adjust your seasonings.
Sweet Potatoes with Maple and Walnuts
Sweet potatoes and maple go together like peanut butter and jelly. When presented in a simple mashed form and topped with walnuts, well who needs to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy some of our favorite flavors?
2-3 large sweet potatoes
½ cup heavy cream
2/3 stick (6 tablespoons) butter
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Peel and chop sweet potatoes into big chunks and put them in a stock pot filled with water and salt and bring them to a boil. Let the potatoes cook until they’re soft, then drain and return to the stockpot, add butter, cream, a flourish of maple syrup and mash away until they reach the soft consistency you love. Top with walnut pieces and an additional dollop of maple syrup.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of “Comfort Me Cookbook,” available at the Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco.
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