Autumn is a transitional season in Chicago; the weather bounces constantly between the 60s and the 30s, summertime tans fade into the Reg’s pale shadows, and fresh fruits and vegetables—warm-weather diet staples—suddenly become luxury items. Luckily for Chicagoans, there is a wide variety of fresh produce available throughout fall in the upper Midwest. This list includes apples, brussel sprouts, carrots, garlic, greens, mushrooms, pears, potatoes, and squash, among other items. In celebration of the flavors of the season, here are a few of my favorite fall recipes—great on their own, and even better served together.
Kale Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing
This salad features kale, a leafy vegetable that is available year-round but most tender when harvested during cooler months. When carrots, roasted corn, and roasted pumpkin seeds are added, the dish becomes a seasonal treat.
1 bag frozen whole kernel corn, thawed and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 head kale, de-stemmed and finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots, shredded or finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tahini paste
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
sugar, salt, and pepper to taste
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons olive oil
pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss pumpkin seeds in a bowl with olive oil and salt. Spread on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Heat medium skillet, then add oil and corn. Cook until kernels are slightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. Make dressing by whisking together all ingredients until smooth. Add water if consistency is too thick. Add sugar, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.
4. Combine kale, carrots, and corn in serving bowl. Pour dressing on top and use hands to toss salad, massaging dressing into the kale leaves. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds before serving.
Quinoa and Sausage–Stuffed Acorn Squash
The nutty flavor of quinoa pairs well with pepper and sausage to make a great filling for sweet winter squash. When baked, the flavors from the filling and glaze are infused into the squash, resulting in a beautiful, and delicious, main dish.
2 medium acorn squash
1/3 cup quinoa
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (casing removed)
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash in half from top to bottom and de-seed. Brush inside of squash with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on baking sheet with cut side down until caramelized and tender (approximately 35–40 minutes).
2. Prepare quinoa by bringing the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan with lid. Stir in quinoa, cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir well to absorb extra liquid, turn off heat, and cover.
3. Heat one teaspoon of olive oil in medium skillet. Add sausage and sauté, using a spatula to cut sausage into smaller pieces. After five minutes, add garlic, bell pepper, salt, cinnamon, and thyme. Cook for an additional three minutes. Add quinoa, stirring well; turn off heat.
4. In a small saucepan, heat balsamic vinegar and three tablespoons of water. Simmer until sauce is reduced by half, then remove from heat and add honey, lemon juice, and cold butter cubes. Stir until butter melts.
5. Transfer squash halves to a baking pan and fill each with an even amount of the quinoa and sausage mixture. Glaze the top of each squash half with a drizzle of the balsamic reduction. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for an additional 15 minutes.