Fall is the time when the temperature drops down and little bit, and we can get excited to get back into our kitchens and start cooking again without melting. I love making long-simmered stews and soups, and the smell from baking, which I avoid during the hot Texas summer.
Luckily, the cooler temperatures bring a completely new crop of seasonal goodies to add to our cooking, from crisp apples to hearty greens, sweet root vegetables and sturdy winter squash.
Grocery stores and farmers markets are full of fall fruits and vegetables offering a range of intense flavors and substantial textures.
Pumpkins seem to get all of the seasonal glory, but here are a few of my favorite fall produce:
There is a ton of variety of apples. They range from sweet to tart and tender to crisp; you can find a variety of apple for every cooking method. Apples are available year-round, but their peak season is September to November.
Some popular winter squash varieties are acorn (my personal squash favorite), butternut and spaghetti, which can be substituted for pasta noodles. To select, the tastiest winter squashes will be solid and heavy with stems that are full, firm, and have a corky feel. The skin of the squash should have deep color with a matte finish. Avoid squash with cracks, moldy areas and soft spots.
Brussels sprouts, a member of the cabbage family, are my new favorite. I cannot get enough of them. Look for small, firm sprouts with compact, bright-green heads—the smaller the head, the sweeter the taste.
Pears are sweet, and although a pear is generally considered a fruit to be eaten in its natural state, it is actually as versatile as the apple, especially during its peak season. To select, test for ripeness by applying light thumb pressure near the pear's stem. If it is ripe, there will be a slight give.
Contributed by Kari McDonnough, CDM, dietary services and nutrition director at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas.