Gone is the fun and flavor of the outside grill. Let's face it -- it's November, and the cooler weather is here. All of which means we can get back into the kitchen for some serious cooking with burners and ovens going full blast. The Jewish holidays are well past us, so we can say goodbye to brisket and matzah balls for a while.
Autumn is my favorite time of year for entertaining, and the markets seem to cooperate by offering a rich bounty of harvest delights. Apples, pears, winter squashes, wild mushrooms and multicolored peppers make the creative cooks palette rich with color, taste and texture. Masses of dahlias, chrysanthemums and gourds naturally and easily make a festive centerpiece for any occasion.
The foods of this season are on the heartier side and appear in gratins, curries and casseroles. Even desserts take on a homier complexion, which means comfort food for the diner while being comforting for the cook.
Sweet Potato and Hot Pepper Soup
3 Tbsps. oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
6 cups chicken stock
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup corn kernels
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
Cook the onion and peppers until soft.
Add the stock and sweet potatoes, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Purée in a food processor until smooth.
Return to the saucepan; add the corn.
Taste for salt and pepper; heat through.
Lamb Curry With Butternut Squash
4 Tbsps. oil
3 lbs. boneless lamb, cut into 11/2-inch cubes
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef stock
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
salt and pepper
chopped fresh coriander
In a large oven-proof casserole, heat the oil. Brown lamb on all sides. Remove and reserve.
Add the onions, garlic, curry, red pepper, coriander, cinnamon, flour and tomatoes to same pan. Cook about 3 minutes.
Add the stock and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil and return browned lamb to casserole.
Cover and place in preheated 350° oven. Bake for 1 hour and then stir in squash.
Cook another 40 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, and sprinkle with fresh coriander.
Serve with noodles or rice.
Autumn Salad of Mixed Mushrooms
8 Tbsps. olive oil
1 Tbsp. chopped shallot
1/2 lb. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 lb. chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb. cultivated mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsps. fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
3 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
3 cups mixed greens
In large skillet, heat half the oil.
Add the shallot and mushrooms, and cook over high heat about 3 minutes.
Remove to a bowl. Toss with the tarragon and walnuts.
Combine lemon juice and remaining oil; toss again. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve on a bed of greens.
Chocolate-Raspberry Brownie Cupcakes
2/3 cup margarine
3 squares (1 oz. each) semisweet chocolate
11/4 cup sugar
1/3 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the margarine and chocolate. Cool for 10 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. Add the vanilla and chocolate mixture; stir in the flour and pecans.
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Top each cupcake with 3 raspberries.
Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes, or until brownies test done with a wooden pick.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org .