I love summer more than anything. To me it spells fun and it means deliciously fresh, light, healthy food. It means lots of pink bubbly, heirloom tomatoes, bing cherries, soft shell crabs, watermelon shooters, ripe avocados and Napa wines. But when the breeze turns a little crisp and the leaves begin to dry out and turn the vibrant red and gold colors of a striking sunset, I can’t help but get a little bit giddy.
The fresh fruits and vegetables of autumn are some of my favorites of the entire year. Here are some of my go-to choices of the season:
Apples: I love apple crisp, apple pie, baked apples, candied apples and apple toast. Wait, apple toast, you say? Yes. I love apple toast. One of my favorite things to make for breakfast in autumn is apple toast. I make it with a live grain bread (usually from Food for Life) or locally made , toasted with farm fresh butter and then topped with slices of locally grown red apples and sharp cheddar cheese. Just toast the bread, top it with apples and cheese and throw it in the toaster oven. Delicious, hearty and full of autumn deliciousness!
Blackberries: I love blackberries almost as much as strawberries. If I’m using jam, it’s always blackberry and if I making a cobbler, it is going to be a blackberry one! In fact, I learned the easiest and most delicious cobber recipe from my ex boyfriend’s grandmother and 7 year old cousin. They taught me around Thanksgiving after we spent the afternoon picking the blackberries ourselves from their backyard in Southside Richmond. I picked so many blackberries that day, my boyfriend’s grandfather collecting them in a large basket he carried with his back hunched over. Alas, I am no longer dating said boyfriend and his sweet grandfather has since passed, but those kinds of memories are what the love of food is all about, aren’t they?
Fresh figs: One of my favorite foods of all time is the fresh fig. I was born in Southern California and one of my first childhood memories surrounds our fig tree in our backyard. We didn’t live in the greatest area of Los Angeles at the time, but we had a fenced in backyard and I had a white-painted circular iron bench that was surrounding a large fig tree. I sat out there day after day, picking figs of the branches and sitting under my tree, biting through the green exterior and into the crimson center to taste a brilliantly sweet gift from earth. One after the other, I would sit there for long periods of time just eating these precious fresh figs. After my family moved us to the East Coast, these mainstays of my childhood diet became odd rarities to be cherished when found. Recently, at the South of the James Farmer’s Market, I bought a fig tree. Yes, I live in an apartment in Carytown, in the city of Richmond, with nowhere to plant such a tree. But it lives, leaves growing proudly and soaking up the rain, in a pot on my back stoop. Every time I pass it on the way out the door, I can’t help but smile as I become nostalgic for the times of many, many autumns ago.
Brussels Sprouts: The one vegetable about 99% of us hated as children has grown a bit of a cult following in this town. I love “sprouts” with a passion, as do many of my friends, and there is oft debate on Twitter about which Richmond restaurants make the best sprouts. (Obviously, the answer is Avalon, but I digress.) Grill them, roast them, braise them, broil them. It’s hard to go wrong with good sprouts. I’ll be trying many different recipes as soon as my favorite farmer, Farmer Russell, grows his so I can buy them in bulk. I plan on being his best customer so I hope he’s ready.
Mushrooms and Onions: They are good on everything. Yep. ’Nuff said.
Beets: I like to buy them from the farmer’s market and make them myself, but some people aren’t up to the hassle and I can’t blame them. It’s a lot of work. However, if you are, throw them in a salad with either chevre or gorganzola, some mache, toasted pecans and a light honey dijon vinaigrette. Heaven.