Colorful Cooking From The Garden
I love fall, when the air turns crisp and the wind smells like adventure and far traveling. I don’t actually want to go anywhere at this point in my life, since I love where I am. However, that hint of intriguingly wandering ways always makes me feel as if something wonderful was about to happen. One wonderful thing that often does happen is the coloring of the leaves on trees and shrubs and even some perennials. Spireas and barberries can rival maples in fall, and certain hydrangeas (notably Preziosa) develop burgundy and purple tints that glow in slanting late season sun.
Having grown up in New England, where fall color is legendary, I find the understated autumn foliage display here in the maritime Northwest to be less than overwhelming. However, the soft golds and bronzes of the treeline that surrounds my home are lovely. Most native foliage here is subtle rather than showy, serving as an excellent foil for the more dramatic bursts of color from exotics like sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), and Japanese maples.
Bringing Home The Color
The kitchen garden is also bright with color from tomatoes and peppers, ripening squash and pumpkins, red and golden beets, and the last of the bee-luring nasturtiums. Even the leafy greens boast tinges of pink and red and purple that make fall salads glow. A big bowl of Indigo children tomatoes looks gorgeous, the reds and oranges and gold undersides vivid beneath purple-black shoulders.
It is an enormous pleasure to bring all these colors and flavors to the table, changing up the seasoning as fancy takes me. Indian or Italian, Mexican or Turkish, Asian or American….
Gilding The Pasta
This is fast becoming one of my favorite ways to enjoy winter squash. When you cook one, you nearly always have extra squash left over, so why not puree the extra and freeze it? You can flavor it later with orange zest and hot peppers, or sesame oil and fresh ginger, or try rosemary and anchovies, as I do here.
The miso version is vegan (if you don’t use cheese), and it tastes amazingly rich and mysterious. I got the squash-miso idea from Joe Yonan’s book, Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes For The Single Cook. His recipes usually serve one, which I found helpful when I was widowed and suddenly cooking for myself alone.
Pasta With Golden Sauce
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon stemmed and chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 anchovy fillets, flaked
OR 2 tablespoons miso
2 cups pureed (cooked) winter squash
8 ounces rigatoni or penne pasta
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/4 cup Asiago or peccorino cheese, coarsely grated (optional)
Heat a large pot of salted water for the pasta. In a wide, shallow pan, cook oil with onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper over medium high heat to the fragrance point (1-2 minutes). Mash in the anchovies or miso and stir in the winter squash puree. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer until pasta is cooked. Cook apsta according to package directions, drain (DO NOT rinse in cold water, please) and divide between 4 pasta plates. Top with sauce and garnish with pumpkin seeds and cheese for those who want it. Serves four.
When I want quick, hearty and satisfying comfort food, I often make some version of enchiladas. They freeze beautifully, so you can package extras up in smaller servings and tuck them away for a rainy night. You can use whatever combination of vegetables seems most appealing, though I always include onions, garlic, and peppers. I prefer yellow corn tortillas, even though they aren’t as easily wrapped, but here again, you can please yourself! If you don’t like green tomatillo salsa, use your own favorite, and add cheese if you like….
Green Garden Enchiladas
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 ancho chiles (or your favorite), chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup small sweet-spicy peppers (Peppadew), chopped
4 cups kale or chard, in thin ribbons
1 medium zucchini, chopped
3-4 cups tomatillo salsa verde (green sauce)
12 (or more) 6-inch corn tortillas
1 cup cilantro, stemmed
1 cup crumbled tofu
OR 1 cup grated jack cheese
2-3 limes, cut in wedges
In a wide shallow pan, cook oil, half the onion, the garlic, the anchos,and the sea salt over medium high heat to the fragrance point (1-2 minutes). Add the celery and half the small sweet peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened (5-6 minutes). Add the zucchini and chard, stir to coat, cover pan, reduce heat to low and cook until kale is slightly wilted (3-5 minutes). Pour 1 cup green salsa into a 9 x 13 baking dish (or assorted baking dish sizes), then pour the rest into a wide, shallow bowl. In a dry iron frying pan, warm tortillas over medium high heat, then dip in green sauce and stack on a plate. Fill each tortillas with about 1/4 cup vegetable mixture, adding some cilantro and tofu or jack cheese. Roll each one up and place it folded side down in the baking dish(es). Cover with the green sauce left in the bowl and bake at 350 degrees F. until hot through (about 30 minutes). Serve with lime wedges. Serves 4-6.