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Learn to Embrace the Harvest That Autumn Brings
The summer surplus of corn and tomatoes may be gone, but I love cooking at this time of year with the bounty that only autumn brings: hardy squashes and gourds, rustic root vegetables and a panoply of potatoes.
And now that the temperature has dropped a bit, I can turn off the grill and seek warmth in the kitchen with long-cooked braises and stews. Nothing says comfort more than a pot of simmering broth and meat literally falling off the bone.
Cold weather means hearty appetites, and this menu really satisfies. Short ribs are big on taste, but not on price. Braising is the perfect way to tenderize this tough cut, and using a combination of red wine and stock infuses them with a great depth of flavor. Serve the short ribs with their gravy over traditional egg noodles or whole-grain rice.
To make the most of your fall harvest, serve a medley of roasted vegetables along with the ribs. Use this recipe as a guide for whatever veggies strike your fancy at the market. Roasting is also a great way to use those unfamiliar vegetables in the bottom of your CSA (community-supported agriculture) box.
Glazed carrot cupcakes are a sweet finale and, while they're baking, they'll fill your home with the rich aroma of seasonal spices. The carrots add a touch of moisture to the cake, while the blend of cinnamon and nutmeg provide both balance and complexity.
So instead of bemoaning the last of the peaches, plums and fresh herbs from your garden, embrace the new crop of goods. Check out the farmers' markets and stands that remain open well into November, and get that colorful produce into your house -- and your meals -- while you can. The final fare will warm you from the inside out.
Braised Short Ribs
4 and 1/2 to 5 lbs. short ribs (about 12 ribs)
salt and pepper
4 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 750-ml. bottle full-bodied red wine
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped or smashed
1 bunch parsley stems plus 2 Tbsps. finely chopped parsley
3 sprigs thyme
4 cups chicken or beef stock
Generously season the short ribs with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the ribs on all sides until browned; you will probably need to do this in two batches. Set ribs aside.
Drain the fat from the skillet and return to heat.
Pour bottle of wine into skillet and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the skillet to remove the flavorful bits that remain. Remove from heat.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-high heat.
Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until veggies are browned at edges and start to soften.
Add the parsley stems, thyme and stock, and bring to a boil.
Add the short ribs and wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 2 and 1/2 hours, or until short ribs are very tender. Transfer the ribs to a plate and set aside.
Strain the cooking liquid into a medium pot, discarding the solids. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 40 minutes, or until liquid is reduced to about 21/2 cups.
Remove from heat and let liquid sit about 10 minutes so that the fat rises to the top. Skim off and discard most of the fat.
Add the short ribs to the pot and bring to a boil.
Add the chopped parsley.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Roasted Root Vegetables With Thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh minced thyme, stems reserved
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 medium beets, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and then each piece cut in half again
2 medium parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise, and then each piece cut in half again
6 boiling onions or 2 small onions, peeled and cut into quarters
2 medium white purple- top turnips, cut into 6 wedges (they do not need to be peeled)
2 medium potatoes, cut into 6 wedges (they do not need to be peeled)
Preheat oven to 400°.
In a small skillet, combine the olive oil, thyme stems and garlic. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Combine the beets, 1 teaspoon of the oil mixture, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Arrange in an even layer on a baking sheet; put in oven.
After 15 minutes, use the same bowl to combine the carrots, parsnips, onions, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons thyme, and salt and pepper. Arrange on a second baking sheet.
After 10 minutes, combine the turnips, potatoes, 2 teaspoons oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, and salt and pepper. Arrange on a third baking sheet.
Continue to cook all the vegetables 20 minutes longer, turning the vegetables once.
Remove from the oven and combine all of the vegetables on a serving platter.
Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil (you'll have a small amount left over). Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Glazed Carrot Cupcakes
1 lb. carrots, peeled
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsps. baking soda
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
1 and 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 Tbsps. water
Preheat oven to 350°.
Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper cups. Cut off carrot tops and discard. Cut carrots into 1-inch pieces.
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots to the size of coarse cornmeal. Place in a small bowl and set aside. Rinse the food processor bowl (you'll need it again).
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, spices and baking soda. Blend thoroughly.
In the bowl of a food processor (still fitted with a steel blade), mix the eggs and sugars. With food processor running, slowly add the oils in a steady stream until combined. Turn off processor as soon as the oil is incorporated.
Pour in the sugar/oil mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine. Add the carrots and stir to combine.
Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature before removing from pan; cool completely before frosting.
To make the glaze, mix the ingredients together and drizzle over the cupcakes.
Keri Fisher is a food writer and the co-author of One Cake, One Hundred Desserts.E-mail her at: [email protected].