Friday, November 27, 2009

Bring something extra special to your autumn table

By Helen Klein

The autumn harvest offers creative cooks a wide array of flavor options that can be contrasted and combined in innumerable variations, flirtatiously teasing the palate as they charm the eye.

Such sweet vegetables as winter squash have their dulcet tones enhanced by caramelized onion and garlic, which deepen the richness of the orange-fleshed squash, cooked till it’s soft. At the same time, bitter greens such as kale add another grace note, the tartness of the cooked leaves framing the honeyed taste of the slowly cooked squash and alliums.

That the flavors work well together is a boon, given the reality that such vegetables all hit the produce stands virtually simultaneously.

Also blending well with autumn produce are the last bright vegetables of summer -- the lean stalks of pearly corn and the toothsome sweetness of colored peppers that have matured on the vine.A marriage of such ingredients will have, in Shakespearean verbiage, few impediments.

Sautéed together, they make a stellar accompaniment to simple grilled meat. Enriched by a dollop or two of extra virgin olive oil, they also are a terrific topping for pasta, for a quick side dish or light main course. And, they can form the base for a hearty soup, as well as for a quiche or frittata.

Fall Vegetable Saute

2-3 tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, slivered
4 cups cubed and peeled winter squash (such as acorn or butternut)
2 ears of corn, husked
1-2 tbl. sugar4 cups coarsely chopped raw kale leaves (discard the coarse spines at the leaves’ center)
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tbl. chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet. When oil is hot, add sliced onion and salt to taste, and cook, over medium heat, until translucent and golden, adding a couple of tablespoons of water, if the oil is absorbed and the liquid rendered as the onions cook has largely evaporated.

While onion is cooking, boil water for corn. Once water is boiling, add 1-2 Tbl. sugar and corn, cooking for 2-3 minutes before removing. Shuck corn from ears when it’s cool enough to handle, and set aside.

Add sliced pepper to the skillet, and continue to cook, adding a little water as necessary. When pepper is crisp-tender, add garlic, cooking rapidly until it has softened and lost its bitterness.

Add squash to skillet, and continue to sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, and adding small amounts of water as necessary.

When squash has begun to soften, add the kale and vegetable stock, and cook, over medium-low heat, till kale is wilted and stock has largely evaporated.

Add corn kernel s to skillet and stir to mix.

Once flavors have combined, add basil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.


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