Celebrate the harvest with fall comfort foods


In today’s food culture, many of us are not dependent on what is “in season” for our menu choices.

If we feel like apples in March, we eat apples in March. When it strikes our fancy to eat mushrooms we simply go shopping at our local grocery store for whatever variety the recipe calls for. Eating with the seasons usually means, “I eat chili in the winter and pasta salad in the summer.” 

As my family has worked to eat more food we can raise or harvest ourselves, I have found a new appreciation for seasonal recipes. I don’t mean Christmas cookies and BBQ food, but food that is genuinely in season and that I might not get to eat again until the next year when it is grown in our garden. 

This also means that, as we move into fall and our garden is in full harvest mode, some amazing dishes with high quality ingredients at the peak of their season create opportunities for my family to eat highly nutritional, local, and yummy food. These recipes exemplify local food that is easy to prepare and showcase the flavors of the season.

Stuffed roasted pumpkin

For many people, their only experience with pumpkins are in pie or carving them for jack-o-lanterns at Halloween. But this extremely nutritious and tasty member of the squash family is an easy “one pot meal” base when looking for seasonal comfort food.

Two 2-3 pound sugar pumpkins or one 5 pound pumpkin (culinary type)

1 small loaf of sourdough bread (day old is fine) torn into 1/2 inch chunks (this doesn’t have to be super precise)

1 medium to large green Granny Smith apple, diced

1 pound Italian sausage, crumbled and browned

1/2 pound of Portobello or Baby Bello mushrooms, sliced

1/2 large red onion, diced

8 ounces of Gruyere, Emmental, Sharp Cheddar or Gouda (or a combination) cubed into 1/2 pieces

2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried

1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine bread apple, sausage, mushrooms, onion, cheese and rosemary in a large bowl. Combine with hands or a large spoon and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the top off the pumpkin at a 45 Degree angle so the top can be replaced and scrape out seeds and “stringy” flesh from the interior of the pumpkin. Remove all loose flesh and rub salt and pepper on the interior of the pumpkin. 

Stuff with filling until just below the top of the pumpkin, pressing mixture into pumpkin. Slowly pour cream and nutmeg over filling until it appears to be moderately saturated by the cream and then top with another spoonful of filling. 

Place the top of the pumpkin back on the pumpkin. Roast in an oven or Traeger grill at 375 degrees for 1.5-2 hours depending on the size of the pumpkin. Take the lid off the pumpkin for the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking time. Roast until a fork easily pierces the side of the pumpkin and it is soft. 

Carefully transfer the pumpkin(s) to a serving platter and slice into 4-6 pieces and serve. You can modify or tailor this recipe to your family’s tastes or what you have in your pantry. You can omit the mushrooms or sausage. Swap out the bread for brown or wild rice.

 

Garden Smorgasbord Skillet

This recipe is a family favorite. We make it entirely from vegetables from our garden, harvested wild game and locally raised pork. 

1 medium head of cabbage, chopped

3 medium leeks, white and bright green sections sliced and well washed

1 large yellow onion, diced

4-6 medium red potatoes

1 large green apple

1 pound of ground elk (can swap out deer or beef)

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

salt and pepper to taste

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 pound of bacon diced

Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dice potatoes into 1 inch pieces and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally and roasting until outsides are brown and crisp and insides are soft. 

While potatoes roast, fry bacon in a deep cast iron pan or dutch oven. Once browned remove from the pan. Leave bacon drippings and saute onions and cook ground meat in bacon grease, seasoning with paprika. If you are using ground beef or high fat-added ground wild meat, then adjust the amount of bacon drippings you use accordingly.

Add in garlic and stir and cook for 30 seconds. Add in leeks and cabbage, cooking and stirring. Cabbage, leeks and onions should all soften and begin to show translucent. Once vegetables are softened and volume has decreased but color is still moderately bright, stir in butter and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat after another 3-4 minutes. Add bacon back in and fold into the rest of the dish. Serve with roasted potatoes and a crusty bread.

Zucchini Crumble Squares

What would a harvest recipe lineup be without zucchini? This vegetable seems to be rather polarizing and people either love it or hate it. Many will tolerate it in zucchini bread but that is about it. This dessert however will up both your zucchini game and consumption. If you have large zucchini, this is the way to get rid of it and share the bounty. Challenge people to see if they can tell if it is zucchini or apples!

Crust:

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup of quick oats

1.5 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1.5 cups cold butter

Filling: 

10 cups zucchini peeled, seeded and cubed

2/3 cups lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine dry crust ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 3 cups. Pat remaining mixture into a greased 13x9-inch pan. Bake for 12 minutes.

For filling, place zucchini and lemon juice in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover and cook 6-8 minutes until zucchini is tender-crisp. Stir in sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Mixture will be thin. Spoon over crust and then sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes until golden brown. 

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cooled and cut into bars. 

Enjoy these harvest recipes and be sure to eat local whenever possible.

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