I have to admit, as the weather cools down, I’m starting to miss some of my favorite foods of summer- the best tomatoes, fresh lettuce, cucumbers, and peppers which are the usual salad ingredients. But, I’m making a few seasonal adjustments with late harvest vegetables and fruits. When we eat food shipped from far away places, they often come with a corresponding loss of flavor and nutrition and an increase in wax coatings, chemical ripening agents, and other preservatives. Who needs that? Interestingly enough, locally-grown seasonal foods often harmonize with our nutritional needs. For example, the beta carotene in the orange pigment of pumpkins and other squash will help bolster your immune system just in time to help ward off winter colds. And the oils of nuts—fats in their purest form—will provide nutrient-rich calories that help keep you warm as the temperature drops. Look for the food we harvest locally like apples, kale, chard, arugula, squash, beets and onions which are all great ingredients for fall salads. Use cooked grains like faro, wheat berries, and quinoa, which is both a protein and carbohydrate, to really round out your meal. Go to this website to learn more:
The beet and goat cheese recipe is here. Remember that vegetables with protein will keep you satiated longer and be a more complete meal. See http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/roasted-beet-and-goat-cheese-salad-360349
One of my favorite foods is squash. There are many different varieties, and they’re so versatile. Delicata squash is great all by itself, and you can eat the skin. Kabocha squash is more dense, and is a delicious complement to any protein like fish, meat or chicken. Acorn, butternut, and pumpkin are among the most popular fall choices. Two simple ways to prepare most squash are: Option 1: Peel, cube and steam the flesh until tender. Option 2: Halve and bake face-down (with skin intact) in a 425-degree oven until the skin can be easily pierced with a fork (about 45 minutes to an hour). Once cooked, season with butter, salt and pepper for a savory flavor; or butter, cinnamon and maple syrup for something sweet. Spaghetti squash is a great go-to substitute for pasta if you want to enjoy a tomato sauce without the high carbs. One cup of this kind of squash has 10 carbs, as opposed to one cup of pasta at 43 carbs. Here are some great recipes for spaghetti squash – you won’t miss the pasta!
Other great seasonal foods follow and their preparation are:
- Cauliflower. Cut into bite-size pieces, and roast with a little olive oil (about 20 minutes at 425) or steam until fork-tender (about 5 minutes) and top with a bit of parmesan.
- Celeriac. Soups and salads both benefit from the addition of celeriac, a root vegetable that has a celery-like flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
- Mushrooms. Take advantage of the ephemeral wild mushroom season by stocking up when you can. The best place to find a variety of mushrooms is at a local farmer’s market. Mushrooms are delicious in stir fries or tossed into an omelette or veggie wrap. They’re also high in B vitamins and essential minerals like potassium and selenium. Stay tuned for some other important nutritional facts about mushrooms.
- Parsnips. These earthy flavored root vegetables can be used like carrots, are great roasted with some olive oil, and are a must in any fall stew or soup.
- Sweet potatoes. This is one of my favorite snacks – they’re rich, sweet, and need nothing to enhance their flavor. I like them roasted like regular potatoes, or you can peel, cube or steam this vitamin-rich vegetable until tender.
- Swiss chard and leafy greens like kale, spinach, bok choy and collard greens. Rich in calcium, these dark leafy greens are mild in flavor and easy to prepare. Thoroughly wash and chop or chiffonade (make small ribbons) with leaves, removing the stems, and steam for about five minutes. Then toss in a skillet with olive oil and garlic until wilted, just a few minutes more. Drizzle with hot pepper vinegar or soy sauce for a delicious side.
- Seasonal fruits. Apples, grapes, figs and pears make great additions to any salads or are delicious on their own.
- Spices. Garlic also has many varieties. One booth at the Needham Farmer’s Market on Sundays features a myriad of garlic types. Ginger is also in season is great for digestion and for your immune system, as is garlic.
Remember that eating seasonally is not only good for you, it’s good for the planet. Bon appetit!