Flavors of Fall
While the weather here in Chicago while gloomy and wet is mostly fall like, unlike my friend Ethan in the Bershires, we are also rapidly approaching the end of farmer's markets here in Chicago. So this past weekend and week we have been cooking fall flavors as a celebration of the season before Chicago as it is want to do switches to the long winter.
Over the weekend I went a bit wild at the Green City Market, a local organic farmer's market. I then spent all day Saturday cooking and invited friends over to taste.
Starting with a bag of apple seconds (bird bites etc) which I purchased for $2.00, Julia peeled and cored them, we then slowly cooked them on the stove in an inch of water with three cinnamon sticks.
As this reduced I started the first of many dishes which required our oven (wishing yet again that we had double ovens - a feature we'll look for in any new abode). First in was some pinwheel beets, so named because when prepared correctly they retain a pinwheel pattern on their insides when cut in rounds. They also have the great feature of not bleeding and of being somewhat sweeter than many other beets, in short a perfect beet for salads.
To prepare these I cut off the green portions just above the bulb (but left the tails) and washed them. I then put them in a Pyrex baking pan with a half-inch of water and covered the whole pan with aluminum foil. I preheated the over to 350 degrees and put them in for about 30-40 minutes (until a knife stuck in them went in easily without resistance). When I took them out I then washed them in cold water (alterntating between two glass bowls until the water was cool) and peeled the skins. I then set these aside and moved on to the next dish.
Next I cut in half two acorn squash. I cut these across the middle and scooped out the seeds. I then placed them on a lightly oiled baking pan and placed brown sugar, then a scoop of butter (about a teaspoon) and then a bit more brown sugar as well as salt, pepper and a sprinkling of maple sugar candy crumbs. I lightly oiled the edges of the squash with extra virgin olive oil. These I cooked at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.
When I took the squash out I placed them in individual bowls and covered each with aluminum foil to retain the heat.
The next dish was a pork steak. This was an organic pork steak I had purchased at the farmer's market from the farmer who raised the pig. It was frozen so I had let it defrost all day while my other dishes were cooking. I spiced the pork steak with salt and pepper (french sea salt and very good black peppercorns freshly ground) and a maple spice rub I purchased that morning from the Spice House. I broiled this for about 10 minutes on a side.
While the pork cooked I prepared the beet salad.
This was a bed of fresh baby organic lettuce, drizzled with organic extra virgin olive oil (from Trader Joes) and 7 year aged balasmic and sea salt and black pepper. I then added the beets in slices (with a few smaller beets cubed for variety). Then I julianned a golden russet apple (This is possibly the best apple I have ever gotten from a local farmer's market and amongst the best I've ever had - not pretty to look at but unbelievably tasty and very firm - ideal for salads). I added these very small strips of apple which soaked up the balsamic. Then I topped the salad with a great stilton which I had purchased that morning from a wheel the cheese stop up the street from me had opened for me to taste - just the right flavor and texture for this salad.
With dinner I drank fresh apple cider to complete the perfect sampling of fall flavors.
Julia and I ate together, then two friends of ours stopped by, for each friend I prepared a salad and a sampling of the other dishes - homemade apple sauce, pork steak, baked acorn squash and beet & apple salad. They each enjoyed their tastes.
That was Saturday. On Sunday while we were out shopping for other items we stopped at Whole Foods and purchased some pork chops and some pasta. I prepared the pork chops with the same maple rub - extremely good. I also purchased some other beets and made the same salad but with different beets (still good but not quite as good as the pinwheel beets which were sweeter and softer in texture).
The pasta we purchased was pumpkin filled pasta, I prepared that for dinner last night with a light alfreddo sauce which I prepared while the pasta cooked (butter, milk, cheese, small amount of garlic powder.
We've also been making other dishes this week - an angel food cake (from mix) which we have been eating as dessert along with some of the apple sauce (and vanilla ice cream). For lunch the other day I sliced some hard boiled eggs with a julianned golden russet apple to this I added some of the 7 year old balsamic and some sea salt and ground pepper - very very tasty and fast.
In short this week has been a celebration of fall colors and flavors - pumkin, squash, apples, beets, pork. Later this week I plan on making homemade butternut squash soup and continue our celebration of the fall.
Hi Shannon! It's Maisha (you remember from OPRF?) dropping for my twice a year comment on your blog. Anyway, your cooking sounds lovely. Living in Hawaii really makes one miss fall and the change of seasons.