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Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 12:01 am

Fall harvest feasts

Step away from the box


School is back in session and pumpkin spice has started to infiltrate our subconscious, but our local farmers are still out in the fields weeding, watering, harvesting and even planting new crops for fall. The harvest season is in full swing, and every year at this time I revel in the bounty of the peak season produce that’s available.

Unfortunately, business at farmers markets always sees a drop-off after Labor Day. It’s unfortunate for farmers and consumers alike. Local farmers lose out on revenue, and consumers don’t get to experience some of the produce at its very best. Folks make a mad dash when the tomatoes and peaches initially come on, so excited are they for the quintessential tastes of summer. Early season tomatoes are fine, but the flavor of those first fruits just doesn’t compete with their late-summer counterparts.

To be a cook at the market in late September is like being a kid in a candy store. Peaches are beginning to make way for the arrival of apples, plums and pears. Tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant will still be available for another month or so, and veggies like bok choy, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts will be coming on soon and will be available till the close of the farmers market at the end of October. Cooler temperatures will bring the return of several spring crops, such as spinach, lettuce, radishes, green onions and even peas.

Even after the last market day of the season, local growers like Suttils Garden (2201 Groth St., Springfield), Jefferies Orchard (1016 Jefferies Rd., Springfield) and the Apple Barn (2290 E Walnut St., Chatham) will be open through Thanksgiving.  

I’ve included two of my favorite quick meals that take full advantage of our local produce, perfect to prepare ahead or throw together on a weeknight.

Grateful Harvest Bowl

  • 1 cup rainbow rice or regular brown rice
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds sweet potatoes (this could also be made with winter squash or carrots)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon each cumin and paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large head broccoli
  • ½ red cabbage
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 tablespoons each chopped parsley, mint and cilantro

For the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons each tahini (sesame paste), honey, cider vinegar and lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon each soy sauce and sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger

Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil and add rainbow rice. Cover, reduce heat and continue to boil for 25 minutes, then add quinoa. Boil for 10 minutes more, then drain a through a fine colander. Return to pot, cover and let rest until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (use the convection setting if you have it) and line 2 rimmed sheet trays with parchment or foil. If sweet potatoes are fresh and locally raised, I usually forgo peeling and just give them a good scrub. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks and toss in a mixing bowl along with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the chickpeas, cumin, paprika and about ½ teaspoon salt.  

Divide between the two sheet trays put into the preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the broccoli florets into 1 ½-inch pieces and add to the mixing bowl. Peel the broccoli stems if they look tough, then cut them into ½-inch-sized pieces and add to the bowl. Slice the cabbage and onion into ½-inch-wide segments and add to the bowl also. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and toss to coat.

When the sweet potatoes and chickpeas have roasted for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and stir, then divide the veggies in the mixing bowl between the two trays. Spread out in an even layer and return to the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the broccoli is charred and the cabbage and onions are crisp tender.

While the veggies are roasting, combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Serve the roasted veggies over the quinoa and rice, top with chopped herbs and drizzle with the tahini dressing. If planning to make this ahead, wait to dress until just before serving.

Pumpkin Curry

  • 1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 2-3-inch stick of lemongrass (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (or more to taste)
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 1 ½ pounds pumpkin or winter squash (such as kabocha, red kuri, delicata or butternut) peeled if necessary, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 10 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Thai basil leaves and lime wedges to serve
  • Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until just softened, then add the ginger, garlic, lemongrass and curry paste. Sauté for about 2 minutes more, then add coconut milk, fish sauce and pumpkin. Bring to a simmer (you may need to add a little water), cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from sticking. After 15 minutes, add the pepper and green beans, stir and cook 10 minutes more. Season to taste with additional fish sauce as needed. Serve over steamed rice and garnish with Thai basil and lime wedges.

Contact Ashley Meyer at Ashley@realcuisine.net.

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