Ok, now that the heat wave is behind us, we can get back into the spirit of fall cooking. Get out the slow cookers and fire up your ovens, it's time for soup and comfort foods made with hearty fall goodness.
Pumpkins, squash, eggplants and peppers are all at their finest right now, and especially fresh and delicious if you buy them from the Watsonville Farmers Market on Friday.
Here are a few recipe ideas using the best of what's in season. Have other ideas? Please share in the comments!
1. Potato Leek Soup
The key ingredients you will need from the market are leeks and potatoes (the less waxy ones are the best for creating a creamy texture in your soup. Try the Yellow Fin variety.)
This recipe makes eight cups, serving four generously.
1. The white and pale green part of four large leeks, split lengthwise, washed well, and chopped finely. If you use baby leeks, you'll need about 20. Make sure you rinse them well, since dirt gets way into their crannies.
2. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3. 3 cups chicken broth
4. 2 pounds potatoes (the recipe calls for skinned potatoes, but leaving the skin on all or some of the potatoes won't ruin your soup, it's actually pretty good that way).
5. 4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
6. 4 tablespoons chives minced
7. Salt and pepper to taste
8. 1-2 cups milk or cream (optional)
In a large heavy saucepan cook the leeks in the butter with salt and pepper to taste, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, for eight to ten minutes, or until they are softened but not browned.
Add the water, the broth, and the potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
In a blender purée two cups of the soup, (here is where we added the milk) stir the purée into the remaining soup with the parsley and chives, and season the soup with salt and pepper.
Serving Suggestion: It may sound wierd but adding a dollop of plain yogurt to the bowl is pretty delicious, and makes for an impressive presentation. Garnish with sprinkle of chives.
2. Roasted Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Poblano, lipstick or corno de toro peppers are the best varieties for stuffing. Then you'll just need something to stuff them with. The following recipe calls for goat cheese, shredded carrots, and jalapenos, but you can use any kind of cheese or even some sort of meat. Enjoy!
- Boiling the peppers whole until they are pliable makes for an easier stuffing process, and cuts down on the roasting time.
- Use a sharp knife to cut around the top, then fill with goat cheese, shredded carrots, diced jalapeños and whatever else you may desire, including a tiny bit of lemon zest for a kick. We recommend pre-mixing the cheese and other stuffing ingredients to get the best consistency, and to make things easier on yourself. You can also add a little cream cheese for a richer filling, or a stringy cheese like queso Oaxaca or mozzarella.
- Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 450 degrees, until the skin of the peppers starts to get bubbly and brown.
While the peppers bake, make the balsamic reduction:
- Heat equal parts balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar in a small sauce pan, whisking constantly.
- Add a little bit of the water you used to boil the peppers in for an extra flavor kick. Keep whisking until reduction reaches desired thickness. Drizzle over roasted peppers and a bed of greens. Mmmm.
3. Winter Squash or Pumpkin Soup
For this recipe, the squash or pumpkin takes the main stage. Try the orange hokkaidos for maximum flavor. This recipe was inspired by a butternut squash recipe by local chef Santos Bautista of Bittersweet Bistro in Aptos:
- Roast chunks of butternut* squash in a pan of water in a 400 degree oven.
- As the squash gets softer, sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
- Sautee one whole onion and garlic in some butter or olive oil as the squash cooks.
- When the squash is soft enough to scoop out, do so and add onions, garlic, a little bit of cream and chicken broth and continue to roast.
- By now the squash will be very aromatic and should be roasted until it is mushy.
- Put in blender and purree. Add chicken stock or broth and cream or half and half until you get the desired texture. And salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with sliced scallions.
*We used orange Hokkaido squash in addition to Butternut. We also added added plenty of cayenne for some forehead heat. Bautista suggests adding steamed celery for a lighter consistency and taste. This soup tastes great the next day!
For this classic late summer dish, you'll need to catch the last of the summer's bounty. You'll need a few good sized tomatoes, a couple zucchinis and eggplants, which are luckily everywhere!
Here is a really simple and easy recipe for Ratatouille courtesy of Caroline Phelps at the Huffington Post.
5. Swiss Chard and Cream of Mushroom Soup
Another warming comfort food, with a dash of serious nutrition in the form of dark green Swiss chard, which is all over the market right now. This one is one of the more time consuming dishes, so it is great for a cold weekend. It's definitely worth the time though, this soup is delicious!
1 large yellow onion
5 stalks of celery
3 large carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms plus the stems
2 sprigs of sage finely chopped
Directions: Chop all veggies and sautée with one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil. Add five cups of water and let simmer for at least one hour. Then let the base cool.
2 cups chopped crimini mushrooms
2 portabella caps
2 large chanterelle mushrooms
1 cup half and half
1 cup whole milk
4 sprigs of sage finely chopped
Directions: Blend base together to make a thick cream-you can use a blender or food processor if you have one. Sautée mushrooms with sage and one tablespoon of olive oil, and add to the cooled base. Add the half and half and milk. (The base will curdle the milk if it isn't cool.) Let the soup warm but never boil until desired heat. Top the soup with sautéed swiss chard grown by a local farmer. Enjoy!
The Watsonville Certified Farmers Market is held 3-7:30 p.m. every Friday on the corner of Peck and Main streets. The market is open rain or shine.