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Queens Chronicle

FALL GUIDE Pumpkins, squash and apples, oh my!

Make the most of your meal by creating new dishes with old favorites

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Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 3:48 pm, Thu Aug 28, 2014.

Fall isn’t always a season people look forward to. Kids go back to school and the days get cooler and shorter.

But if there is one thing to be excited over, it’s the delicious comfort food that comes along with the browning leaves and long sweaters.

In the summer, herbs and most vegetables and fruit are all the rage. Most greens are in season during the hotter months which makes for great salads and refreshing cold dishes such as gazpacho.

Starting in September, however, it’s all about squash, pumpkin and apples.

One squash that grows in abundance during the fall months is acorn squash.

As the name suggests, its shape is that of an acorn and it is considered a hearty addition to any meal. Conveniently, acorn squash can be saved throughout winter if kept in a cool and dry location, such as a cellar. The squash is usually baked, though it can also be sauteed or steamed. If toasted, the seeds can make for a delicious snack.

Like most squash, acorn squash is incredibly versatile and complements tart and tangy flavors.

Pomegranate-glazed acorn squash

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

• 1 acorn squash

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 1 cup pomegranate juice

• 1/4 cup sugar

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 2 tablespoons butter

Directions: Halve and seed the acorn squash, then slice into thin wedges. Toss slices in olive oil and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pomegranate juice down with sugar and salt in a skillet for about 5 minutes or until thick. Add the roasted squash, butter and glaze into a bowl and toss until each wedge is coated. For extra flavor, top with fresh mint.

***

Acorn squash’s more popular cousin, butternut squash, is another deliciously versatile food to cook with and can make a tasty fry and an even better soup.

Butternut squash soup

Prep: 20 to 30 minutes

Cook: 90 minutes

Ingredients:

• 4 pounds whole butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded.

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 1 Granny Smith apple

• 1/2 yellow onion

• 8 fresh sage leaves

• 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

• 2 1/2 cups water

• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

• 1/4 teaspoon pepper

• 1/3 cup heavy cream

• 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place squash, cut-side up, on top. Melt half of butter and brush over the tops and insides of the squash and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until tender for 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel, core and cut apple and onion into medium dice. Melt remaining butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the apple, onion and sage and cook until softened. Remove pan from heat. When squash is ready, set baking sheet aside until cool enough to handle.

Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan and discard the skins. Add the broth, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil over medium-high stove. Reduce heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in cream. Using a blender, puree soup in batches until smooth.

***

One of the most common foods used during the fall is the apple. Living in New York, residents are lucky to have their choice of fresh, organic bushels for baking or eating raw.

Any seasoned baker knows the best apples to cook with are not always the tastiest. If preparing a pie or apple-glazed dish, always use Granny Smith apples or Macintosh. The more tart the apple, the better it will taste when cooked.

The reason is, sweet apples often become mushy or fall apart when heated. Tart apples take to heat better and provide a nice, smooth yet crunchy texture.

Caramel apple pork chops

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

• 4, 3/4-inch-thick pork chops

• 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

• 2 tablespoons brown sugar

• salt and pepper

• 1/8 teaspoon grounded cinnamon

• 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

• 3 tablespoons pecans

Directions: Preheat oven to 175 degrees and place a medium-sized dish in the oven to warm. Heat a large skillet over a medium-high heat and brush chops lightly with oil and place in hot pan.

Cook for five to six minutes, turning occasionally or until done. Transfer meat to warm dish and keep warm in oven. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt and pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add butter to skillet and stir in dry ingredient mixture and apples. Cover and cook until apples are slightly tender.

Remove apples with spoon and place on top of chops. Continue cooking sauce uncovered in skillet until thickened. Spoon sauce over apples and chops. Sprinkle pecans on top.

***

A true American fall favorite is pumpkin. The gourd is put in everything, from bread loaves to Starbucks lattes. When it comes to fall food, pumpkins are always No. 1.

What better to pair pumpkin with than a New York City delicacy, cheesecake?

Pumpkin cheesecake

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

• 2 packages of cream cheese (eight ounces) softened

• 1/2 cup white sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 eggs

• 1 9-inch prepared graham cracker crust

• 1/2 cup pumpkin puree

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 pinch ground cloves

• 1 pinch ground nutmeg

• 1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla, beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time.

Remove one cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Spread over batter in the crust. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is almost set.

Allow to cool and refrigerate for three hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping just before serving.

***

The fall is an amazing time for food, and even better when you live in a state like New York, where squash, apples and pumpkins are plentiful.

Bon appetite!

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