(BPT) - With the return of cool autumn weather, our thoughts turn to warm, comforting foods. But cold-weather cooking needn’t be dull. This year, take your menu cues from restaurant and cooking trends to create fun fall foods your entire family will enjoy.
Here are some popular restaurant ingredients and cooking methods to inspire your home-cooked meals this season:
Look for locally sourced meats. Locally sourced meats and seafood were cited as the No. 1 trend in restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) annual survey of professional chefs. Visit your neighborhood butcher or the locally grown section at your grocer for the freshest cuts and catches for meals with the fullest flavor, from slow-roasted beef to hearty stews and creamy seafood chowders.
Be adventurous with veggies. Everyday green vegetables are popping up on menus in new ways, putting a fresh twist on old standbys. Brussels sprouts, once thought to be needlessly bland, are the latest “it” vegetable, taking on a new personality when sauteed or seared to bring out a nutty flavor. Also enjoying a new place in the sun is kale - stir-fried, steamed, sauteed, baked or even added to a soup or stew for crunch - kale can add tasty, unexpected texture and flavor to a meal. Tools such as Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Cookware make these veggies a snap to prepare, thanks to a multi-layer non-stick cooking surface and hard-anodized construction that ensures lasting, easy release, even heat distribution and new dishwasher-safe cleanup. The line includes everything from saute pans to stock pots so simmering, pan-searing, poaching, frying or stewing your favorite fall comfort foods is easier than ever.
Hit the fall farmers market. The popularity of farmers markets continues to grow as more Americans seek out fresh fruits and vegetables - so much so that the number of farmers markets has grown by 150 percent in the last 10 years, according to the National Farmers Market Coalition. Farmers markets are no longer just a summertime tradition either. Even in cooler climates, local farmers markets extend into November. Stroll through your local market to pick up in-season produce. In addition to brussels sprouts and kale, look for fresh-picked acorn and butternut squash, pumpkins, cranberries, artichokes and mushrooms.
Preserve nature’s bounty. Americans’ hunger for preserving seasonal freshness is a contributing factor in the returning popularity of home pickling and canning. In fact, pickling is among the top five food preparation methods cited by the NRA chef survey. Pickled products are also showing up in artisan specialty shops and grocery stores, with varieties extending beyond the standard to include pickled cauliflower, cucumbers, carrots and more. Home canning is also seeing an uptick as the desire for homemade freshness continues. For tips on food preservation, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Crunch into the newest apple varieties. It seems every year that new varieties of apples are popping up, ready to be added to your favorite recipes. SnapDragon and Ruby Frost are just two of the new varieties this fall, while heirloom apples are also enjoying the limelight. Whether your family loves apple cobbler and pie, or just can’t get through the season without a homemade caramel apple, follow your whims and try out-of-the-ordinary apple varieties in your own recipes.
Serve soups with twist. What would autumn be without a savory soup simmering on the stove? This season, rev up your soup repertoire and try something new. Bring interesting flavors home by combining autumn’s produce with a bit of spice. Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup makes the most of in-season squash and apples with the added kick of fresh ginger, curry powder, ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Top with a dollop of thick, creamy yogurt.
So go ahead - experiment this season with new ingredients and techniques - and help your family “fall into” a flavorful fall. For more cooking ideas and recipes, visit calphalon.com.
Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Servings: Serves 4
Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
Cook time: Less than 60 minutes
1/2 cup butter
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon port wine (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plain yogurt (optional)
Pinch each of ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper
Heat butter in a Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 8-qt Stock Pot or 5-qt Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook for 1 minute while constantly stirring.
Add squash, vegetable broth and apple to the stock pot. Cover and cook until the squash is soft, about 20-25 minutes. Add the port and turn the heat off.
Cool soup slightly; carefully puree soup with an immersion blender or in batches using a blender or food processor. Reheat the soup in the stock pot and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish each bowl with a dollop (or swirl) of yogurt and a pinch of cinnamon and/or cayenne pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.