Ah, fall. Nature’s little reminder that reality does indeed exist and that life is not just one endless summer. Temperatures drop, school starts, and the nights get longer. Fall is the most contemplative of the seasons, as Michael Scott from The Office once said. But don’t get too bummed out. Fall has its benefits too, including trees getting all psychedelic with their leaves and the return of American football. And if that’s not enough to get you excited, how about some delicious and nutritious seasonal fall produce that will be coming to stores near you? And just because you’re living gluten-free doesn’t mean you need to miss out on any of this scrumptious seasonal produce because it’s all naturally gluten-free.
Let’s start with the humble apple. Apples, like other fruits and vegetables we’ll discuss, are available year-round but their natural harvest season is in the fall. Apples are of course at home in dessert and pastry applications, but have many savory uses as well. They can add a few sweet notes to salads and pair great with rich cheeses like blue cheese and feta. And if you happen to be cooking pork, know that apples and pig usually play very nice together. And even though Western religion would point to the apple as the catalyst for human kind’s downfall, they are very nutritious as they do contain healthy fiber and antioxidants.
Another tasty and quintessentially fall fruit is the cranberry. Definitely a nutritional powerhouse and perhaps even a superfood, cranberries are loaded with antioxidants that keep the body’s cells healthy and help to fight against cancer and heart disease. Cranberries also contain good amounts of fiber, vitamin C, and manganese. Naturally both sour and bitter, cranberries pair great with sweetness and richness. Cranberries are most commonly found in fruit juices, either sweetened with sugar (bad) or with other fruit juices (good). They also have a reputation for reducing urinary tract infections, probably due to their high content of antioxidants. Evidence is conflicting on whether or not this is true, but no matter what, cranberries are extremely healthy and beneficial.
Apart from great fruit, fall also offers many delicious vegetables, some of which are famous (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). But there are some lesser known fall vegetables that are both delicious and nutritious as well. Take, for instance, the Belgian Endive. A part of the chicory family of vegetables, the endive is both highly nutritious and a good word to have a meaningless argument about how to pronounce it (ON-DEEVE or EN-DIVE. Also, see: APE-RICOT or APP-RICOT). A crunchy, bitter vegetable, the endive pairs great with rich and creamy ingredients and because of its shape is a great vessel to fill with other ingredients. Think of it like nature’s taco shell. Nutritionally, the endive really shines as it contains almost no calories while still being a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
Another great fall vegetable is the very trendy and in vogue fennel. Similar to an onion and celery, the underground bulb of the fennel plant is most commonly used. It can be cooked or eaten raw, and provides a nice crunchy texture, and a crisp taste with hints of anise and black licorice. A good source of fiber and a vegetable that adds a nice layer of texture and a mild, herbaceous flavor, fennel can be used in many savory and sweet applications. Go to any high end seasonal restaurant and you’ll be sure to find fennel in many of the menu items. In fact, it’s so trendy and cool right now, you might as well just call it the Miles Davis of herbaceous root vegetables.
One final lesser known seasonal fall vegetable that has been waiting for its, *ahem*, moment in the sun is the sunchoke (also known as a Jerusalem artichoke). The sunchoke is actually a species of sunflower, but what you’re after is its tuber that grows below ground. The tuber itself a knobby brown oddly shaped thing that belies its delicious taste. It somewhat resembles a ginger root visually in its raw form. A sunchoke can be used like any other root vegetable and provides a nice earthy, starchy, robust, and slightly sweet taste. It goes great in seasoned purees and can also be substituted for potatoes in things like mashed potatoes. And, like any tuber worth its weight, it is right at home in a deep fryer. Thinly sliced and deep fried, sunchoke chips are a fun and delectable treat.
So yeah, summer is over and reality is setting in. Colder temperatures, less free time, and anxiety are sure to come our way. As we move into fall and contemplate everything from the meaning of life to the presidential election, we can at least be somewhat comforted by the tasty and dizzying array of seasonal fall produce that will soon be available in its peak form. Much of this seasonal produce you are no doubt familiar with, but fall is a great time to try a few new fruits and vegetables and expand your culinary horizons while still eating highly nutritious and delicious food.
Article Courtesy: Andrew Steingrube
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