transitioning to fall cooking

Labor Day has passed and the smell of fall is in the air. The leaves are starting to turn color and collect on our apartment front porch, and apples and cider donuts are calling my name. I love the fall season in New England. As much as I adore a good Boston summer, I truly love the months of September thru November, when you see squash, apples, and root vegetables at the market, football on TV, and holiday decorations in the stores. My guilty pleasure is cooking with holiday music, which I must admit I start doing many weeks before Thanksgiving...

As the seasons change, I find that my cooking style does too. During the summer, I am focused on fresh produce from our farm share and meat on the grill. With the onset of cooler weather, I prefer roasts, stews, and noodle soups featuring more hearty ingredients, flavors, and textures.

Two of the more common ingredients found during the fall are squash and apples. Squash can be chopped and roasted with olive oil and spices, roasted whole and stuffed with flavorful fillings, or diced and pan-sauteed for salads. Spaghetti squash is a unique squash variety in that it can be pulled out of its shell after cooking to form a sort of stringy squash "pasta." Cooked spaghetti squash can be tossed with butter, herbs, and cheese for a delicious and luscious side dish. The recipe featured here showcases savory and tangy sun-dried tomatoes, scallions, shredded cheese, and pan-fried chicken along with the squash.

For me, apples conjure childhood memories of apple picking, cider donuts, and my mother's apple pie. They are prevalent throughout the year, but receive special treatment and attention during their peak fall season. Incredibly versatile as an ingredient, apples can be added raw to a salad, cooked in a dessert, or roasted with meats and herbs to provide tartness and sweetness to a main dish. The key is texture. Granny Smith apples are incredibly sharp and tart, and retain their shape and flavor when baked (same with McIntosh). Honey Crisp and Fuji apples are sweet, juicy, and perfectly crunchy, and therefore taste best when left raw and chopped in a salad. Braeburn, Cortland, and Gala (other common varieties) are all great for baking into pies or applesauce. I tested here a Gala apple muffin recipe, which can be served as dessert or breakfast!

I hope you too enjoy the turning of the seasons and some of these tips and ideas for using the best of fall ingredients.