Recipes and tips for seasonal cooking

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Though the temperature is still in the 90s, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks so, clearly, autumn has begun. September and October also mark the start of a plentiful new produce season geared toward warm, fall flavors. I can see the red and orange leaves just thinking about it. Well, “imagine” I guess would be a more fitting term seeing as we have rather dull fall colors here in Austin. Nevertheless, here are some guidelines for grocery shopping in early autumn and how to make use of in-season produce:

September Shopping List:
Eggplants
Pumpkins
Tomatoes
Spinach
Lettuce
Grapes
Pomegranates

October Shopping List:
Pumpkins
Winter squash
Broccoli
Sweet potatoes
Mushrooms
Spinach
Cranberries
Oranges
Tangerines
Pears
Pomegranates

For all those vegetarians out there, eggplant is a terrific meat substitute with its dense and chewy texture. Here is an insanely simple recipe for 5-Minute Stovetop Eggplant Parmesan that is perfect for a quick, comforting evening meal at home.

Ingredients:
2 medium-large eggplants
Kosher salt, for purging
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
4 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup cream
4 tablespoons basil, thinly shredded
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Peel each eggplant leaving 1-inch of skin at the top and bottom unpeeled. Slice the eggplant thinly lengthwise, about 1/4-inch thick. Evenly coat each slice with the salt and purge on a sheet pan fitted with a rack for 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water and roll in paper towels to dry. Slice the pieces into thin strips to resemble pasta.

In a large sautee pan heat the oil. Add the garlic and chili flakes and toast. Add the eggplant “pasta” and toss to coat. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cream and increase heat to thicken sauce. Finally add the basil and Parmesan and toss to combine. Season with pepper, no salt needed as the eggplant will have residual salt from the purge. Serve immediately.


If you’re looking for an easy but fancy date night dessert, try this recipe for poached pears in pomegranate syrup.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large pears
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Directions:

Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan. Peel, halve and core the pears, and drop them into the pomegranate juice mixture. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice, cover the pan, and cook the pears gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they are tender.

Strain the syrup, discarding the cinnamon and cloves. Let pears cool in the liquid, then transfer pears to a bowl. Boil the liquid until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Pour the syrup over the pears and chill.

To serve, drizzle a serving platter or individual plates with the syrup, place a pear half on each plate, drizzle with more syrup. Add a dollop of whip cream or a scoop of ice cream and serve right away.


One last tip- pumpkins and squash may be delicious and in-season but that doesn’t mean they are any less difficult to tackle on a daily basis, especially in a tiny college apartment. You may think to turn to canned, mashed squash products but those are usually pre-seasoned and/or poor quality. Stick to frozen, cubed, squash and pumpkins and roast them in the oven for the easiest and most delicious application.

Happy Fall and get cookin’.