For many people, the idea of eating seasonally is a brilliant idea. That is until the colder months roll along. After all, there’s a spectacular amount of produce available to be played with from early spring to mid autumn, but once Halloween passes, the culinary palette seems to be comprised of a few scant offerings. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Root vegetables, brassicas, winter greens, and hard-fleshed fruit can be fabulous when paired the right way. Below are a few ideas for using seasonal produce to its greatest potential.
Cabbage and Ramen Noodle Salad
This salad may sound a bit weird, but the flavors all combine gorgeously into a fun, crunchy autumn/winter dish.
- 1 head of napa cabbage, shredded finely
- 1 bunch of green onions, sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1 package of ramen noodles, broken up into small pieces
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
Blend the cabbage and green onions in a large bowl, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
In a large skillet, melt the butter or margarine on medium-high heat, and toss in the ramen noodles and almonds. Use a spatula to turn this mixture often, and remove your pan from the heat once the majority of it has been browned. Set aside.
For the dressing, heat the vinegar, oil, sugar, and soy sauce in a small pot on medium-high heat. Allow it to boil for about a minute, then set aside to allow it to cool for a bit. Combine the cabbage and ramen-nut mixture with a set of salad tongs, and mix the dressing into it just before serving so it doesn’t get soggy.
Root Veggie Chips
Take a quick jaunt over to Amy’s Cooking Adventures for an incredible tutorial on how to make perfect root vegetable chips. These are great alternatives to chips for scooping up your favorite dips, and if you use veggies like watermelon radish, heirloom carrots, and a bunch of different beets, you’ll have a veritable rainbow of snacks to nibble. I like to spice mine up with cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and onion salt, but they’re delightful plain as well.
Stems and Roots Slaw
You can use whatever root vegetables you have in the house for this, and adapt it to your own tastes. I like to add in grated apple on occasion, or switch out the lemon juice with orange instead. Sometimes I’ll even throw in toasted nuts and dried cranberries. Be creative!
- 2 carrots (different colors, if available), julienned
- 1 bulb fennel, shredded
- 2 radishes (if you can get 2 different colors, all the better), grated or julienned
- 1 golden beet, grated
- 2 broccoli stems, peeled and julienned
- 1/2 small celeriac root, peeled and julienned
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 cup plain yogurt (dairy or soy)
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
Combine all the shredded vegetables into a large bowl.
Blend the yogurt , lemon juice, and mustard together and pour over the vegetables, tossing the lot to combine it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Now, this isn’t so much a recipe as a basic idea that you can add to with whatever suits your own whims. I usually use one sweet potato per person eating, and fill with a variety of different bits, depending on what I have in the house. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Poke a few holes in your sweet potatoes, and bake for 1 hour or until soft and tender. You can also cook your potatoes in the microwave for 10 to 15 minutes or until soft, but since I haven’t had a microwave in over a decade, I can’t vouch for this method. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, slice a piece off the top lengthwise, and scoop out the flesh so you have a nice big bowl to fill up.
At this point, I generally use a bit of what I’ve scooped out as part of the filling that’ll go back in (the rest goes into soups and such). I like to create a spicy, smoky black bean veggie chili, into which I pop some of the sweet potato and a bit of cooked quinoa. That gets ladled into the potato shells, topped with cubed avocado, corn salsa, and a dollop of plain yogurt.
Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup
This is a great warming dish for a chilly day, and it’s packed with iron and protein.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
- 4 cups vegetable or onion broth/stock
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped finely
- 4 cups chopped kale
- 1 large can Italian-style diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Salt, pepper
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 large can of white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (use white kidney beans if cannellinis aren’t available)
Sautee the onion in the olive oil until it softens, and then add in the garlic. Cook for an additional minute or so, but don’t allow the garlic to brown. All all remaining ingredients except the beans, cover with a lid, and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Add in the beans, stir thoroughly, and season with the salt and pepper to taste.
I generally deglaze the onions with a bit of wine before adding in the veggies, and I tend to add a kick of spice with some cayenne pepper and smoked paprika, but do what you like to make this soup your own.
Squash and Winter Greens Salad
I don’t have a recipe for this per se, as it depends on many variables, so feel free to adapt it however you like. To make this, I grab an acorn or delicata squash, slice it into half-moons, remove the peel, drizzle it with olive oil and salt, and roast it at 425 F for about 20 minutes, or until it’s browning and fork-tender. Set that aside to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together whichever winter greens you like best (I like spinach, sliced endives, and arugula that I’ve grown on my windowsill, but massaged kale works well too), nuts of your choice (try sunflower seeds or walnut pieces), and any other produce you think would work well in here. I’m fond of adding sliced of pears, but if you prefer a salad that’s less sweet, you can use halved cooked fingerling potatoes, shredded beets, etc.
For the dressing, whisk together a simple vinaigrette with a couple of tablespoons each of lemon juice and vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup. Toss the greens together and top with the squash. If you’re not vegan, feel free to add some crumbled feta or chèvre on top for a lovely, creamy note.
Roasted Purple Potato and Beet Tarte Tatin
This gorgeous, gluten-free dish is as delicious as it is colorful. It’s perfect for a special occasion brunch, or even a light supper with a side salad and bowl of soup. The recipe can be found on the Canelle etVanille website, and is absolutely worth trying out as soon as you can.
Sweet and Sour Cauliflower
Say that out loud a couple of times and just try to stop yourself from smiling. This is fabulous with rice, or even on its own as an appetizer or light lunch.
- 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup corn starch
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon oil
- Oil for frying
Mix all of the ingredients together and let sit for a few minutes to form a batter. Its consistency should be that of a thick pancake batter, but if you feel that it’s too gummy, add a bit more water. Heat approximately 1/2 a cup of oil in a large skillet until it spits when a water droplet is flicked at it. Dip each cauliflower floret into to batter, and then fry in the oil until browned and crispy. Drain on some paper towels or newspaper.
For the sauce:
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 or 6 green onions, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons white or rice vinegar
- The zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
Saute garlic in a bit of oil for a minute or so, then add the green onions, and both the orange zest and juice. Cook for another minute or so, and then add in the rest of the ingredients. Whisk this together as it comes to a boil, and then remove it from the heat. Toss your cauliflower nuggets into this sauce, ensure that they’re coated well, and then serve immediately.
Perfect Brussels Sprouts
Most people cringe at the thought of eating these mini brassicas, but they’re one of my all-time favourite veggies. The key is to roast them in order to bring out their natural sweetness.
- 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Use a sharp knife to cut the stem ends off the Brussels sprouts, and be sure to remove any loose or yellowed outer leaves. Cut the larger sprouts in half lengthwise, and then toss the lot in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Pour these into a shallow baking dish or baking pan and roast for about 40 minutes, until the outsides are crunchy and the insides are slurpy-soft. Sprinkle with a bit more salt (if desired) and serve hot.
Pear, Fig, and Goat Cheese Pizza
A vegan version of this can be created by using a sour cashew “cheese” in lieu of chèvre.
- 1 lb pizza dough
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup fig jam
- 1 large bosc pear, sliced thinly
- 1/3 cup goat cheese (soft chevre), or soft cashew cheese
- Additional cheese (dairy or vegan) of your choice. (I like to dot this pizza with bits of gorgonzola, but it’s also lovely with fontina, gruyere, or even mozzarella Daiya shreds)
- Slices of prosciutto (if you eat meat and happen to like it)
Preheat oven to 450 F. Oil a round cookie sheet, and then place a couple of pieces of parchment onto it. Oil that too. Soften the fig jam by placing the jar in warm water for 5-10 minutes, and then spread the jam over the crust, leaving a 1-inch border, since it’ll ooze as it warms up. Top with pear slices, and crumble the goat cheese around fairly evenly. If you’re using prosciutto, now’s the time to lay it on, and then sprinkle with any remaining cheese, if desired.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges of the crust are brown, and the cheese is bubbly. Shake the pizza free from the sheet onto a wire cooling rack, let it sit until it’s less likely to burn your face off from the inside, then place upon a large cutting board, slice up, and serve.
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