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Kitchen Shrink: Fall in Love with Fun Autumn Foods

While October’s not an A-lister month for humdinger holidays like December, it’s still packed with fun-filled festivals and events. We celebrate the bounty of the harvest across the land, fall head over heels for beer (Oktoberfest), and go batty for the Pagan tradition of All Hallows’ Eve. Boo! Here are some playful, seasonal suggestions for getting the best out of Toby.

Catharine Kaufman
(Courtesy)

Let’s Play Squash

Produce bins are spilling over with quirky-shaped, vibrant-hued winter squashes to delight the eyes and palates. Whatever variety you choose, this low-cal botanical fruit packs a rich store of immune-boosting antioxidants, and slew of vitamins and minerals. The popular palm-sized Acorn, so named for its resemblance to the oval nut of the oak tree has sweet golden flesh that bursts with nutty nuances. The Acorn is ideal for stuffing with a confetti of Moroccan couscous, dried fruits, pomegranate seeds, and warm spices for an elegant side or appetizer. The decadently sweet, silky orange pulp of the Butternut lends well to purees and soups enlivened with autumn spices like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. For an interesting texture try Spaghetti squash with creamy flesh that blossoms into a mound of noodle-like strands when cooked. It’s frequently served like its namesake pasta topped with marinara and Parmesan for a low-carb change-up. Then the mild-mannered Delicata reminiscent of sweet potatoes can be sliced shoestring and baked or fried. There’s more. While the bold Hubbard similar in flavor to a sugar pumpkin stands up well in soups, stews, quick breads, and pies, the mellow Kabocha with a nice nutty kick multitasks for both sweets and savories. Finally, the vibrant orange Turban squash, which brings to mind a flamboyant version of the headdress makes a striking centerpiece.

Board Games

Charcuterie boards are a whimsical way of showing off seasonal goodies, while pleasing taste buds of all manners. On a slab of wood or stone display a mash-up of cured meats (prosciutto, salami, sausages, and vegan options), along with soft, hard, firm, and aged cheeses like a disk of mold-ripened Humboldt Fog, a log of creamy goat chevre rolled in fresh herbs, a ball of velvety burrata, and a wedge of Parmesan Reggiano, asiago, Colby, or pungent gorgonzola. Creatively intersperse Mediterranean olives, pickled vegetables (see below), purple grapes, sliced fresh figs, a mound of dried cranberries or dates, roasted hazelnuts or Marcona almonds, and a variety of artisan crackers. A block of raw honeycomb, or colorful cornhusks will provide a wow factor. For an interesting presentation bake a giant geometric flatbread for a tasty edible board.

Pickleball

With the bounty of garden goodies it’s time to pick a peck of pickled peppers, and other assorted vegetables to enliven everything from burgers and brats to lobster rolls, and chicken dishes. The fermenting process not only creates sassy munchies, but probiotic powerhouses for a healthy gut. To get started clean and trim the vegetables, and pack in large sealable glass jars. Whether you’re pickling cucumbers, carrots, pearl onions, cauliflower florets, asparagus spears, baby beets, or fennel bulbs you need an acidic base like apple cider, or distilled white vinegar, and spring water. Add a bunch of herbs and spices, including fresh dill, garlic cloves, allspice, bay leaves, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cardamom, juniper berries, and crushed chilies, along with pickling salt. Then boil the briny solution, and pour over the vegetables to spur the chemical magic.

Bobbing for Apples

Once a forbidden fruit, this versatile rockstar of the autumn harvest can be pressed into juice and mulled into a warm spicy cider, or mixed into a refreshing spirited cocktail, pureed into sauce, dried as a portable snack, baked whole, or incorporated into rustic tarts, strudels, quick breads, and pancakes. Look for sassy varieties that pop up at farmer’s markets every season like the delightfully sweet and firm Honeycrisp, the zippy Jazz that’s a Braeburn and Royal Gala hybrid with a sweet pear essence, the aromatic Smitten that hails from New Zealand, the golden Opal with tropical nuances of coconut and banana, the rose-tinted Pink Lady with floral notes, and the ubiquitous Envy blushing with yellow-specked rosy skin, and bursting with sweet, juicy firmness. The Envy has some added boons, including low-acidity, oxidizing (turning brown) at a glacial pace, and year-round availability.

Candy Land

If you’re hosting a Halloween soiree, or want to dole out healthier delights to trick or treaters, try some seasonal goodies like pumpkin and honey granola bars, apple oatmeal cookies, or roasted pepitas in sealed bags. For fun party ideas whip up avocado toast with monster faces using sliced vegetables, pigs in a blanket that resemble mini mummies, and for an adult treat serve this intoxicating mousse that’s really Acorn squash disguised in costume.

Tipsy Acorn

Tipsy Acorn Chocolate Mousse
Tipsy Acorn Chocolate Mousse
(Catharine Kaufman

)

Chocolate Mousse

1 large acorn squash (halved, seeded)

1/2-cup dark chocolate syrup

1/3-cup dried cherries soaked in 3 tablespoons dark rum or cognac

Orange blossom honey (to taste)

1-cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons Confectioner’s sugar

In electric mixing bowl, whip cream and sugar until peaks form. Chill.

In medium pot bring water to a boil, and simmer squash until tender. Scoop out flesh, and puree in food processor.

In mixing bowl, combine squash, syrup, honey, cherries, liquor. Gently fold in cream. Chill. Serve in martini glasses. Garnish with chocolate shavings.


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