Fall means roasted veggies and hearty comfort food

A roasted vegetable medley with red quinoa and brown rice.
Photo by Kaylea Moore

A roasted vegetable medley with red quinoa and brown rice.

The days are getting shorter and the weather cooler, and there is nothing better than coming home after a long day to a warm, home-cooked meal. I’m a big fan of cooking dinner every night, but with a busy schedule, I haven’t had a lot of time to shop or cook. Recently, I started cooking once a week, spending a couple hours to stock my fridge and freezer with dinners for the days ahead. The thought of having a freezer full of home-cooked meals makes my week look a lot less intimidating.

Fall flavors waft through the crisp autumn air. Pumpkin and apple are all the rage right now, but don’t forget about the other crops that are at their peak, ready for the fall harvest. Take advantage of an afternoon to create hearty dishes for the week ahead.

From eggplants to onions and apples, roasting brings out a rustic richness. Roasted vegetables are easy to prepare and can be incorporated into an array of dishes. Try tossing into a salad, using as a pizza topping, or purée into a soup. Roast a combination of vegetables at a high heat, cut similar in size, drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Squash is one of my favorite vegetables to roast. There are so many varieties to choose, from butternut and delicata to acorn and spaghetti. When roasting, there is no need to peel, just cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. The flesh will become tender.

Try roasting peeled carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes in one pan and deglaze with a splash of orange juice. Or roast cauliflower and Brussels sprouts together. Although many swear by bacon, or buffalo sauce, Brussels sprouts are delicious on their own. Try to find them still attached to their stocks. I like to roast the smaller variety, sweet and tender on the inside surrounded by crisped salty leaves. Slice in half and roast on high heat until browned. Roasted cauliflower is great on its own or tossed with pasta.

Mushrooms are a craveable fall food. I love their meaty and earthy qualities. Not too long ago I bought Shiitake mushrooms from North Tabor Farm that I sautéed with olive oil and fresh thyme. I couldn’t help plucking the glistening mushrooms from the sizzling pan and popping them into my mouth. They were addictive.

Look in your backyard for edible mushrooms such as Hen of the Woods. Be sure to ask someone who can identify wild mushrooms since many varieties are poisonous. I like to serve cooked mushrooms with rice, tossed with pasta, or incorporated into an omelet or quiche.

I have a weakness for cheese. There is something about the ooey-gooeyness of melted cheese that is comforting to me. Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite foods. I bake macaroni and cheese in muffin tins so that I have individual servings that can be easily defrosted for a quick meal at any time.

Try experimenting with grains and legumes. They are a great accompaniment to any meal and have various tastes and textures. Farro is a favorite of mine, with a nutty flavor and a firm texture that cooks just like pasta. I’m not a big fan of quinoa on its own, but I enjoy it mixed with rice. Cook red quinoa and brown rice separately and combine for a protein-packed side dish, great with sautéed mushrooms. Don’t forget about lentils and beans. Dust off your bean pot and try your hand at baked beans the old-fashioned way.

I love this macaroni and cheese recipe because there is no need to measure the macaroni, butter, milk, or cheese, thus less mess to clean up. I encourage you to shred your own cheese instead of using pre-shredded.

Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

1 lb. of macaroni, elbows, penne, cavatappi

1 stick of butter

1/2 cup flour

1 quart of milk, warmed

12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (1 and 1/2 8 oz. blocks), shredded

Dash of fresh nutmeg, grated (optional)

1 cup bread crumbs, season with salt

1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta in salted water for designated time. Melt butter over medium heat, add flour and whisk for about three minutes. Slowly add warm milk, continuing to whisk until mixture comes to a simmer and thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add nutmeg and cheese. Stir until incorporated. Check for seasoning; add salt and pepper. Combine pasta with sauce and mix well.

In a small dish, melt butter or combine olive oil with bread crumbs. Spoon macaroni into muffin tins and top with breadcrumbs. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese bubbles. Turn broiler on and cook until breadcrumbs are browned.

Noteworthy:

Local produce at Whippoorwill

Whippoorwill Farm recently announced a sale in the form of a bag of fresh, local produce, at its farm stand on Old County Road in West Tisbury this Saturday, Oct. 19, at $25 per bag. Customers will receive at least 12 pounds of produce, with more than 12 varieties of vegetables including salad greens, lettuce, broccoli, kale, onions, peppers, carrots, potatoes, peppers, cabbage, and winter squash. Also available for purchase at the farm is locally raised, pastured chickens for $5.50/lb.

A Celebration of the Oysters

Since Katama Bay has re-opened and the oysters are available again after being shut down on September 9 because of a bacterium issue, Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard is putting on a party at The Port Hunter on Tuesday, Oct. 22, in celebration. The dinner and a movie night begins at 6:30 pm with a showing of “Shell Shocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves,” a 40-minute film. Discussion follows, along with hors d’oeuvres and dinner. Admission is $40; $32 for Slow Food members. The Port Hunter is located on Main Street in Edgartown. For tickets, visit slowfoodmarthasvineyard.org.