The Tastes of Autumn
Autumn is the perfect time for purchasing gorgeous fresh picked produce at your local farmers market. I love the various varieties of seasonal squash, abundant leafy greens, and colorful, crisp apples that grace the stands. It’s this abundance that inspired me to devote an entire episode of the new season of Jazzy Vegetarian, my public television show, to celebrating fall’s seasonal fresh fare.
The star of my fabulous autumnal meal is stuffed butternut squash, one of my favorite fall foods. My recipe fills hearty squash quarters to the brim with nutty tasting rice, sweet apples, and tangy dried cranberries. The butternut squash assures a velvety and buttery base topped with the delectable and satisfying stuffing.
As an appetizing starter course, a chowder of cauliflower, sweet potato, and celery bursts with fresh ingredients inspired by the harvest. It also adds warmth to this seasonal lineup as the weather turns chilly. On the side, kale with a creamy walnut sauce adds a beautiful pop of green. The smooth and rich tasting dairy-free sauce rivals any real cream sauce, making this greens dish so tasty it will be easy to convince your entire family to love kale!
Makes 4 servings
In the northeast, fall at the farmers market brings many enticing varieties of squash. Butternut is one of my favorite varieties of squash to cook. Stuffed with a savory and sweet blend of rice, spinach, apples, walnuts and cranberries, this seasonal dish makes an appealing entrée.
1 very large (or 2 medium/small) butternut squash, peeled and seeded
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice
1½ cups finely chopped spinach 1 medium/large apple, peeled, cored, and diced
¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a casserole dish or rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
Cut about three inches off the top of the squash and set aside. Cut the squash lengthwise into four pieces (if using smaller squash, cut each squash in half lengthwise). Slice a small sliver off the bottom of each squash piece making a flat surface so the squash will stand upright.
Put the rice, spinach, apple, cranberries, optional walnuts, seasoning, sea salt, and ground cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Divide the mixture evenly into the hollowed center in each of the four squash pieces (see Chef’s Note).
Tent with foil and bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until the squash is very soft. For a crisp topping, remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes and serve.
Chef’s Note: If you end up with extra stuffing, put it in a small, covered casserole and bake alongside the squash like a holiday stuffing. Makes a great side dish for another meal!
Steamed Kale with Walnut “Cream” Sauce
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 large bunch kale, washed and very thinly sliced
½ cup chopped walnuts ½ cup water, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon Italian-style seasoning
1 teaspoon tamari
1 clove garlic, halved
Depending on the thickness of the leaf, steam the kale for eight to 12 minutes, until wilted and quite soft but still bright green. Transfer the kale to a medium bowl.
Put the walnuts, water, Italian seasoning, tamari, and garlic into a blender and process until creamy in texture — add more water if needed, two tablespoons at a time, to achieve desired consistency.
Pour the sauce over the steamed kale and toss until the leaves are evenly coated. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 small bunch celery, with some leaves, chopped
½ medium head cauliflower, cut into bite size florets
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 carrots, chopped
1 can (15 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
10 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper Put the celery, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsley, and beans (if desired) into a large soup pot. Add the broth to equal the same level as the vegetable (use more if needed). Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Transfer four cups of the chowder to a blender and process until smooth. Pour the blended chowder back into the pot and cook for five to 10 minutes, until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve piping hot.
Have a happy, healthy autumn!
By Laura Theodore
Laura Theodore is a TASTE Award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, award-winning jazz singer and actor, and author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Season four of the Jazzy Vegetarian show is currently airing nationwide. www.jazzyvegetarian.com