As we move into fall, truly my favorite time of year, our body clocks, appetites, and taste buds all need to readjust to shorter, cooler days, heartier foods, and earthier, bolder flavors. I recently met an acquaintance who was beaming about her spring trip to India, where she trained as an Ayurvedic healer and had collected some insightful tips on nutrition and herbs. I asked her to share some gems with me and she simply said to listen to her body and embrace the seasons. Well, this season delivers an abundance of exciting fruits, roots, seeds, gourds and vegetables that inspire us all to become our own Ayurvedic healers to achieve balance and well-being. Here’s how.
Add an autumnal zest to salads by incorporating antioxidant-rich, brain-boosting dark leafy greens into the mix. Start with kale, the king of leafy greens and a super methyl donor packed with essential anti-cancer nutrients, whether curly, lacinato or dino varieties with strong stems, stiff leaves and a strong, earthy flavor. For a peppery zip, do baby arugula, some sweet and nutty nuances, try tender mache, a hint of bitter, choose frisée, or for a crunch and a rich supply of vitamins A and K, then hail, Caesar with romaine leaves . Or add some interesting texture and color along with some good jaw training with a handful of shredded savoy cabbage, napa, red cabbage or Brussels sprouts charred with a cheeky balsamic glaze. We’re just getting started.
Mix a variety of raw or roasted seeds or nuts into your salad bowl, from pepitas and sunflower seeds to Marcona almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans for a nice crunch, a dose of protein, and a heart- and brain-boosting punch. there is more Sprinkle some dried cranberries on green salads, tabboules, or pilafs for bold flavor, pops of color, and hearty chewy. This petite powerhouse has a mainstay of vitamins A, B and C, along with anti-adhesion properties that make this tart little fall favorite the urinary tract’s best friend. To top it all off with an autumnal flair, reheat the dressing or vinaigrette, especially oil and citrus-based ones, for a comforting, warm, wilted salad on chilly nights.
As we phase out the summer stone fruit, an abundance of crisp, juicy apples from crunchy Granny Smith’s to delicious Honeycrisps fill produce shelves and farmers markets. These multitasking fall favorites are just as (or even more delicious) in warm compotes, flaky strudel and mulled wine as they are eaten raw in your hand. Delicately sweet, elegant pears, particularly Bosc, Bartlett, Comice, Anjou and Asian varieties, ring in the season on charcuterie boards, poached in brandy or sliced into salads.
How about a date night cozying up with an oriental treat? Dates are a sweet fall treat, whether it’s soft, amber deglet noors, creamy, delicious honey dates, moist and meaty medjools, or little barhis with a smoky, sweet essence. These nutrient-dense, waxy wonders add moisture, chewy and caramel notes to a variety of side dishes, salads, fillings, quick breads, cookies or snacks drenched in protein-packed, creamy tahini.
Let’s get to the bottom of fall’s iconic technicolors, specifically garnet yams or Okinawan purple yams, turnips, parsnips, multi-hued carrots, swedes, along with ruby red and golden turnips to bring a sweet dessert-like flavor to dishes Quality to lend all manners. These hearty roots also provide oodles of antioxidants ranging from beta-carotene to anthocyanins to detoxify, sharpen, repair and defend various parts of the body.
Now let’s play squash. The cornucopia of kitschy-shaped, colorful autumn squashes delights the eyes and palates of even the carnivores among us. All the winners in my cookbook, whether the tender, golden acorn squash with rich, nutty nuances; the decadently sweet, silky orange butternut that’s at its most divine with a sprinkling of autumnal ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves; the funky spaghetti squash, which blossoms into a pile of pasta-like strands as it cooks; the gentle Delicata, reminiscent of sweet potatoes; Japanese kabocha with a fluffy flesh, similar to chestnuts, with a spicy, earthy kick; or the bold, giant Hubbard with sweet, dark orange flesh reminiscent of a sugar squash.
Whichever variety you choose, this low-calorie, botanical fruit packs a rich supply of immune-boosting antioxidants, as well as plenty of vitamins and minerals to improve heart and eye health, and soothe aching joints with a supply of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids alleviate and reduce signs of skin aging. Their hulls can be hollowed out and stuffed, or used as an edible tureen for chilled or hot autumn soups. Bake, grill, roast, steam, sauté or puree. Swap pasta for a butternut lasagna, mix spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs and marinara sauce, or a pesto with kale and pistachios for a lighter, carb-friendly casserole.
Sadly my wonderful father-in-law passed away this month at the glorious age of 94. We have reflected and celebrated a full, rich, and healthy life that we can attribute to a philosophy of gratitude, love of family, and moderation in food, drink, and exercise. And while a pharmacist by trade, Dad believed in the teachings of Hippocrates “to make food thy medicine.” Whenever he visited us from New York, I’d whip up this elegant dessert of acorn squash and other goodies for a tipsy, indulgent, yet healthy treat. Here’s the memory of Burt Kaufman being really happy with just one scoop of vanilla ice cream!
Tipsy Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse
—1 large acorn squash (halved, seeds removed)
– 2/3 cup dark chocolate syrup or melted plain chocolate
—1/3 cup dried cranberries soaked in 3 tablespoons dark rum or fine cognac
—Orange blossom honey (to taste)
—1 cup heavy whipping cream (or non-dairy whipping cream)
—Beat the cream until peaks form. Put aside.
—In a saucepan half-filled with water, bring the squash to a boil and simmer until tender. Scoop out the meat and puree in the food processor.
—In a mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, syrup, honey, cranberries, and liqueur. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Serve in martini glasses and garnish with chocolate shavings.