Our series “What I Love About Fall” explores all the reasons people are passionate for the arrival of autumn, from pumpkin patches and falling leaves to anticipation for the holiday season. Food editor Kemp Minifie shares her favorite fall foods, from beets to squash to stews.
Whether you call it fall or autumn, the slide out of summer and into the next season brings plenty of pluses (sorry, kids…we know, school). In fact, autumn is a favorite for many.
Pumpkin spice everything gets the press, but there are a slew of delicious autumn foods, from vegetables to fruit to tasty breads and slow-cooked soups and stews.
“I try to eat with the seasons,” says Kemp Minifie, food editor/writer/recipe developer and former executive food editor of Gourmet magazine, “and by the time summer produce is waning, my taste buds are ready for something new.
“What’s particularly special about the fall is that late-season summer produce overlaps with that of early autumn,” Minifie says. “It’s the height of the harvest. The cold or room-temperature dishes I focused on in the summer give way to more slow-cooked braises and stews.”
Minifie doesn’t have to rack her brain to come up with favorite fall dishes. “I’m crazy for roasted winter squash, especially the new varieties, Honeynut and Koginut, both of which came about through a collaboration between Dan Barber [chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York] and plant breeders.”
Not familiar with Honeynuts? “They look like miniature butternut squashes, making them a boon to caterers, food stylists, and of course those of us who love to cook at home, because a half squash makes a delightful single serving,” Minifie explains. “I also like to roast cauliflower either as florets or as steaks, cut vertically in slices through the whole cauliflower. They make a great vegan main or a delightful side dish to meat, poultry, or fish.”
Another fall favorite in the Minifie house is roasted beets topped with yogurt and ground toasted cumin seeds and a drizzle of balsamic syrup, served with the cooked beet greens.
“I serve them with a side of quinoa, because it’s a complete protein,” she adds. “Kale and collards are at their best in the fall, especially after the first frost, which sweetens and deepens their flavor. My family adores pasta cooked with tons of chopped kale, which I top with a generous amount of finely chopped or thinly sliced garlic that I cook slowly in enough olive oil for it ‘to swim’ until the garlic is golden and crisp. Pour the garlic, oil and all, over the pasta and toss. Add some grated Parmigiano and some toasted breadcrumbs for a simple, very satisfying supper.”
If you’re looking for a new fall dish, Minifie suggests ciambotta. “You’ll want to play with this easy recipe,” she says. “It’s a wonderful vegetable stew from Italy that can be adjusted to whatever autumn produce speaks to you in the market.”
And markets speak to Minifie: “I am devoted to farmers’ markets wherever I go, and I will go out of my way to support them. My top two reasons: the incredible flavor of fresh, locally grown produce and the chance to support local farmers. A trip to a farmers’ market for me is as much about talking with farmers and learning about the issues they face in their business as it is about restocking my fridge. The market is also a chance to visit with friends and neighbors and meet new people — it’s the new town common.”
A final fall tip from Minifie: “Save your squash seeds! Rinse them well in a sieve, spread them out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and let them dry, then toast them at 350° F until golden, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the seeds.”