Autumn Cooking

You’d think that summer would be the favorite time for cooking; everything is fresh from the garden, the flavors are bright and refreshing and the actual effort it takes to cook most meals is minimal. There’s a bounty of fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs and things ripened in the sun. But for whatever reason, autumn has always been my favorite time of year to camp out in the kitchen.

Perhaps it’s the cooler weather, the way that life seems to slow to a halt, or the heartier ingredients which tend to require more time to release their flavors. Regardless of the why, every year I find myself feeling super inspired as the end of September nears and I heartily look forward to evenings spent hovering over a hot stove. As far as fall cooking goes, I have three favorite types of dishes: soups and stews, dishes that center around root vegetables, and warm, comforting baked goods, usually incorporating the fruits that are in season.

There has been more than one year when after weeks of soup-centric meal plans, my sweet husband says timidly, “Soup? Again?” Soups are one of my favorite things to make in the whole wide world. Mostly because they usually only require one big pot, you spend most of your time chopping and then just get to throw it all in, and I love standing over the stove, building layers of flavor and stirring a hot, boiling pot.

As summer transitions to fall, and fresh corn is still available, I love to make this Spicy Corn Chowder in large batches. It’s creamy, has a nice heat and is a perfect meal on indian summer days that turn in to cool autumn evenings. Speaking of cool autumn evenings, we eat a lot of chili in general around here on those sorts of nights, and this White Bean Chili is a fun variation on our usual red chili combo. It sneaks in some greens (kale, chard or spinach) and I love the lighter, yet still really warming flavors. It’s just about perfection served up with a dish of Trader Joe’s cornbread mix, a small can of green chiles stirred in for a little extra kick. And finally, I never thought I’d like a soup that had cauliflower in it, having only ever been repulsed by steamed cauliflower, but this Cauliflower Chowder is fantastic! Paired with a hunk of crusty bread, it’s a perfect healthy, hearty soup.

Root Veggies:
Just because it’s fall, doesn’t mean your beloved salad has to go away in it’s entirety. But did you know you can make salads with cooked vegetables!? You probably did, but I remember a time when this idea blew my mind a little. This Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad was one of the first recipes I tried, and it’s been a favorite ever since. Taylor would just as soon eat a plate full of roasted carrots as a slice of pie, so this is up there on his list as well.

Stuffed Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato + Celery Root Gratin are two of my favorite recipes to make for guests. The Acorn squash are easy as can be, but look so beautiful presented on individual plates, whereas the gratin is a perfect side dish to bring to Friendsgiving or even your family Thanksgiving. I make the gratin every single year, and it is often requested by family and friends. It’s also super easy to make gluten-free which seems to be a pretty valuable quality in a holiday dish these days. There’s one in every crowd.

Finally, one of my favorite dishes to show off those root veggies is Sophie Dahl’s Cottage Pie. I love this dish so much. I’ve made it for catering events, dinner parties and simply on a rainy Wednesday evening at home, but it’s the most comforty-comfort food you can ask for and I’m so glad it found it’s way into my life. Do not delay, make it today. I’m serious.

Baked Goods:
There are countless recipes for delicious, heart-warming and stomach filling baked goods out there, but this one is fun and different so I thought I’d share it with you. These Smoked Caramel Pear Cakes are not the easiest dessert, with many steps and lots of layers, but they are really special and the unique taste and flavors are definitely worth the time. Plus, is there anything better than an excuse to spend Sunday afternoon in the kitchen baking insanely good desserts? I think not.

Well, I hope these recipes find you feeling inspired to put on your coziest pair of socks, light a pumpkin candle and retreat to your kitchen to spend a few hours slaving over a hot stove. And then I hope you curl up somewhere cushy, perhaps with a good book, to relax and enjoy the fruits (or soups or cakes) of your labor. Happy fall cooking everyone!

Find the Spring Cooking recipe collection here.

The recipe in the first photo is from Sugar House: Volume 2.

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