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Fall Is a Great Time for Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Did you know New York is one of the top agricultural states in the nation? It is! About 20 percent of the state’s land area—more than seven million acres—is farmland, with some 36,000 crop and dairy farms. New York is the second-largest producer of apples, snap beans and maple syrup; third in cabbage, grapes and dairy; and fourth in pears. Overall, agriculture in our state is a $42 billion industry.
As you might imagine, fall is one of the best times for seasonal produce around these parts. The air gets crisper, the leaves turn shades of gloriousness, and the harvest is bountiful: apples, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, escarole, fennel, leeks, pumpkins, squash and so much more.
So many delicious fruits and veggies, and so many ways to eat them: stews, salads, side dishes or just slice and munch.
When we’re in need of ideas of what to prepare and how to prepare it, we turn to a favorite chef, Carmine Mortellaro. Carmine is the sous chef for Syracuse University Food Services. He studied culinary arts at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and worked in numerous high-volume hotels before coming to the University last April.
We asked Carmine for a couple, easy-to-cook fall vegetable recipes. But before getting to the good stuff, we wanted to ask Carmine for his thoughts on a few fun fall food topics.
Okay, Chef, putting you on the spot: what’s your fave fall vegetable and why?
My favorite vegetable harvested in the fall is butternut squash. It is a very versatile vegetable. It has a sweet and nutty flavor. It can make a great addition to many sweet and savory recipes. Butternut squash is also packed with a bunch of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Butternut squash can be roasted or boiled. I would stay away from sautéing due to the fact the squash will not cook fully if you sauté. It can be used in soups and stews, roasted as a side for the main dish, cut into French fries and fried, shaved thinly for slaws and salads. There are many ways to use a butternut squash.
Now let’s talk fruit. What does it for you?
Apples. Why apples? New York produces 25 million bushels of apples annually. Apples can be used in a variety of ways: to make pies, cider, doughnuts, wine and juice to name a few. There are many different varieties of apples grown here in New York state: McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Rome, Idared, Crispin, Paula Red, Gala, Jonagold, Jonamac, Fuji, Macoun and Braeburn, among others.
How about fruit filling for pies?
There are many different pies that can be made in the fall. The three most common pies are apple, pumpkin and rhubarb. There is also cherry pie, sweet potato pie and pecan pie. Pies are always a common dessert in the fall due to holidays like Thanksgiving and family gatherings.
We’re on the hunt for the freshest produce. Roadside stand? Farmers market? Grocery store?
The best place to get the freshest produce in New York is a farm stand or farmers market. If you can’t find what you are looking for there, you could always run to the Central New York staple grocery store—Wegmans!
Now that our recyclable shopping bags are stuffed full of goodness, let’s pull out the veggies. We understand preparation depends on what we’re making, but, in general, is there a best way to cook vegetables so they retain their flavor and texture and nutrients: Steam? Sauté? Grill? Bake? Boil? Sun and magnifying glass?
Certain vegetables can be cooked in different ways. When you boil/steam vegetables, you lose a lot of nutrients. The best ways to cook vegetables so they keep their nutritional value are roasting, grilling and sautéing. For butternut squash, you can roast or boil and then puree to turn into a soup. Brussels sprouts are best blanched and then sautéed or roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. Beets are good for roasting whole and then letting cool and peel and cut.
While you’re here, we have to ask about kale. What’s the deal? Some people love it, others hate it. Where do you stand on the kale debate? And for those who are new to kale, what’s a low-bar way to give it a try? (Don’t say smoothie. Please, don’t say smoothie.)
Kale has been a trending vegetable for quite some time now. It is packed with minerals and fiber. There are different types of kale such as green kale, red kale, Tuscan kale and ornamental kale. Kale can be used as a salad green, braised, sautéed and fried for kale chips. I am a fan of kale because of its flavor profile. It has a bitter taste if it is plain by itself; but if you cook it, I would sauté it with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
And now for the recipes:
Butternut Squash Soup
5 pounds of butternut squash, peeled and diced
10 ounces of celery, diced
10 ounces of white onion, diced
1.5 pounds of New York apples, peeled and diced
2 quarts of vegetable stock
1 quart of heavy cream
8 ounces of brown sugar
1 pint of maple syrup
Gather the ingredients.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot.
Add the butternut squash, celery and onions. Cook until the celery and onions are softened and the onions become translucent.
Add the apples and vegetable stock. Simmer until the squash is tender.
Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Add the heavy cream, brown sugar and maple syrup.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1.5 pounds of Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves.
Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly.