Hello fellow Lorain County foodies! Fall is upon us and with that brings vibrant beautiful colors not just in the changing leaves but with the changing seasonal produce. When I think of fall I think of the smell of crisp morning air and cool nights, which in turn causes me to think about comfort foods like soups, casseroles, braised meats, warm cobblers and apple crisps.
While considering this column I could not help but envision all the wonderful local farms and produce stands that are abundant all across Lorain County. So, I decided to do a county-wide shopping trip and let that determine the direction of the recipes chosen for today’s menu.
I spent a wonderful Saturday out and about, gathering all of my Mise En Place (The term “Mise En Place” is used by chefs to signify the gathering of all the necessary ingredients and equipment needed to prepare a given dish) at local farm markets and roadside stands. Some small produce stands are winding down for the season but for many this is the just the beginning.
Taking my wife along under the guise of planning to cook her a nice anniversary dinner, we started with a hearty breakfast at the Carlisle Café in Elyria and then filled our coffee mugs and hit the road with an empty cooler in the trunk.
Everywhere we went; in all shapes, sizes and colors was one of the most versatile vegetables that I know of, “squash”.
Before you say “I have read enough I hate squash” I beg of you to read on and let me convince you otherwise. You can bake, boil, braise, stew, or deep fry most varieties of squash. It also stores great provided that it has not been cut, it is fairly inexpensive, and it is really easy to cook. Other items in abundance were peppers, leeks, beets, and of course apples. Even though beets are one of my favorites we will stay away from those for now, as I know I need to build the trust of your palate.
One of the best ways to get to know the product is by asking the people selling it. So, at almost every stand I asked “how do you recommend cooking this?”Or “do you have a favorite way of preparing this?” Just about everyone loves to share their favorite way of preparing a dish. So I listened and pondered the possibilities offered from each of the vendors and gathered some essential items for my anniversary menu – our own fall food festival.
At our first stop, in a parking lot on Route 20, we met a friendly farmer named Ed Morgan and his son of the same name. There we bought butternut squash, carnival squash, corn and red banana peppers, which were surprisingly sweeter than bell peppers. To prove his claim, Ed ripped one open on the spot and had us taste it. Ed also talked about cookies made with butternut squash, which I haven’t made yet but would guess they are made like pumpkin cookies.
Next was the Oberlin Farm Market where we bought delicata squash from Weaver’s Truck Patch, celery and flat leaf parsley from George Jones Farm, and some spicy chorizo sausage from Hickory Acres Meats. Then we went to Grobe Fruit Farm, which was really busy, and picked up several different kinds of apples, spaghetti squash, and a large mum for my in-laws’ anniversary next week. After a dash to the 4ever Acres stand for some onions, we went to Thome Farms for more butternut squash; a buttercup squash, which we were told is sweeter than an acorn squash, and one juicy tomato from the last picking of the summer season.
In reviewing my purchases of the day, I chose to make butternut squash soup with a spicy Chorizo sausage and an easy apple crisp for dinner, though we cooked a number of other squashes just to try and compare them. Follow along with the recipes below and enjoy your own adventure of cooking with fresh fall vegetables and local market foods. Bon appétit!
Creamy Butternut and Sausage Soup
This recipe serves about 6 hearty portions
Small dice celery 1cup
Small dice onion 1cup
Bulk Sausage (I chose Chorizo) 1lb)
Large dice of butternut squash 3 med. squash, peeled & cleaned
Chicken Broth 28 oz
Heavy whipping cream 2 cups Chopped parsley 1 TBL
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream for garnish
Slowly melt the butter in a large (8 qt) stock pot and sauté the onions, celery and sausage. After sausage has browned, drain off excess fat and keep the pot on the stove, heat off, until step 4.
Cook squash in just enough water to cover it, add some salt and simmer until fork tender.
After the squash is cooked, drain off the excess water and process in a food processor until smooth, or mash as you would potatoes. You may need to add some of the chicken stock to help with the pureeing of the squash.
Place the pureed squash in the pot with the onions, celery, and sausage and add chicken stock.
Bring to a simmer, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Temper in the heavy cream.(tempering is the process of gradually equalizing the temperature to prevent curdling)
Add chopped parsley and serve.
You may garnish with a dollop of sour cream if you like, but this soup already has a rich buttery flavor. If you choose a spicy sausage like chorizo, the sour cream is a nice cool balance,
Easy Apple Crisp
Pound cake mix - 1 box
Instant maple brown sugar oatmeal - 2 pouches
Butter 1 stick (1/4 lb.)
Jonathan Apples, 4 each
McIntosh apples, 4 each
Cinnamon 1 Tbl
Peel and core apples, then slice thin. ( I used my food processor with the slicer attachment)
Toss sliced apples with the oatmeal and 1/3 of the pound cake mix, and 2 tsp of cinnamon. Dot with ½ of the butter.
Place the apple mixture in a 9x13 baking dish that has been greased.
Take 1/2 remaining pound cake mix, butter, and cinnamon and work it together to make a crumb topping.
Sprinkle the topping on the apple mixture and bake at 350 for approximately 1.5 hours or until the apples are tender and the topping is slightly brown.
Let rest for ten minutes then serve. It is also nice with a side of ice cream and caramel sauce.
Kristian Smith is one of the culinary arts instructors at The Lorain County JVS. He is a Certified Exexcutive Chef and is an Approved Culinary Evaluator. Kristian loves teaching, cooking and restoring cars. He lives in Elyria with his wife, Cate.