The falling leaves and brisk outside air mean swapping summer’s plump strawberries, fresh sweet corn and juicy watermelon for fall’s bag of Brussel Sprouts, winter squashes and fresh apples to name a few. To inspire you, Executive Sous Chef Randal Jacobs gives his picks and tips for working with four of his favorite fall ingredients.
From slow roasted to thinly shaved in a raw salad, Brussel sprouts are the candy to the cabbage family. “Brussel sprouts are always a go-to fall menu item whether in a salad or simply roasted. We love their bold flavors.” Their peak growing season is September to February and they are best when the leaves are compact and the sprout is hard.
Kitchen Tip: Chef Jacobs recommends pairing them with bold flavors like smoked bacon or Bleu cheese.
Like cilantro, mushrooms often find themselves in the camp of those who love them or those who hate them. Earthy and distinctive, they add savory and umami notes to a dish or can replace the protein, making them perfect substitutions for vegetarian options. “Some of my favorite fungus like Matsutake, Porcini and Chanterelles are regularly available in the fall, when temperatures are lower,” says Jacobs. “Any kind of mushroom you find can be easily made into a flavorful Mushroom Conserva.”
Kitchen Tip: When cleaning mushrooms, you should always clean off any dirt that remains on the mushroom says Jacobs. When cleaning a Matsutake or Porcini mushroom, take a dry or slightly damp paper towel, rather than rinsing them like you would a chanterelle.
Although never as popular as the grand apple, the pear is a trusty sidekick and great fall ingredient to add to salads or pair with proteins. “I think pears are enormously underrated as an everyday ingredient. Pears can be roasted, grilled and even dehydrated.” Pears vary in color depending on the variety, from green-yellow Comice and pink-blushed Bartletts to pebbly copper-brown Boscs.
Kitchen Tip: Choose pears that are firm with no soft spots or blemishes. Chef Jacobs likes to pick pears when they are a little hard and let them ripen on the counter till they are sugary sweet.
If we say squash and you think of silky Butternut Squash soup, we can easily be kitchen friends. For chef Jacobs, his preferred and easy preparation is oven roasted. “Once the squash is cooked and tender, it can be used for many different applications. The cooked squash can be cut up and put into salads, or pureed and turned into a sauce or soup.” One application that is unique and fun says Jacobs is using squash on S’mores — “the nuttiness and savory aspect work well with marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers.”
Kitchen Tip: To protect yourself when cutting one, Jacobs recommends shaving a flat surface on the bottom so the squash doesn’t wobble. Alternatively, for thinner skinned squash, he suggests using a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.
What fall ingredients are you cooking with? Share your #InTheKitchen inspirations with us on Instagram at @blueplatechicago.