It's all too easy to get lost in the supermarket aisles or dive deep into Pinterest recipes and end up cooking something that's off-season. The bountiful availability of food in industrialized countries has all but eradicated the notion of seasonality in food and cooking, but lately, a few conscious eaters and chefs are giving seasons a revival in cooking. Karen Mordechai is one of those seasonal cooking evangelists. The photographer, founder of Sunday Suppers, and cookbook author knows the value of a meal cooked entirely out of fresh local produce: "As fall and winter approach, we seek nourishing foods to balance the weather and support our immunity," she writes in her latest book, Simple Fare.
While she has devoted her journey in food, both in her studio and at home, to cooking seasonally, she also understands the difficulties that it poses in everyday life and addresses them in a twofold manner in her book. First, each recipe features a selection of market variations—that is, recipe tweaks you can easily make if a certain ingredient is not available at your local market. Secondly, she kicks off the book with a selection of pantry essentials that you can easily prepare and throw into a multitude of recipes from the book: garlic confit, pickled vegetables, roasted beef broth… making these ingredients not only elevate your everyday cooking, but it also makes preparation that much easier. Ready to approach your seasonal cooking in a new way? Here are four simple fall recipes we loved from Mordechai's latest cookbook.
Rose Grain Porridge
"A bowl of comforting porridge is the quintessential cold-weather breakfast," says Mordechai. "It is warm and nurturing and starts off the day with a little extra support. If you keep a pot of grains in your refrigerator or have leftovers from the prior evening's dinner, this meal comes together in minutes. You may also mix different grains for this. If you are making this from scratch, we encourage you to make a bigger batch and reheat as needed. The toppings can be playful and interchanged to your liking."
2 cups cooked farro
2 13.5-ounce cans unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk, plus more if needed
4 tsp. pine syrup
4 tsp. coarsely chopped pistachios
4 tsp. dried rose petals (or other edible petals)
Peruvian pink salt
In a medium saucepan, combine the cooked faro, coconut milk, and 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the faro is soft and the mixtures thickened like oatmeal, about one hour. If you wish to thin your porridge, add more coconut milk or water until you reach the desired consistency.
To serve, ladle the porridge into bowls, and top with 1 teaspoon each of the pine syrup, pistachios, and petals, and finish with a pinch of pink salt.
Roasted Beef Bowl
"This rich and deeply satisfying bowl nurtures us on a cold fall day," says Mordechai. "The nutritional benefits of the bone broth help us build our immunity. We like to keep some beef broth frozen and use it as a base for this. Make it for your loved ones when they are under the weather."
8 oz. potatoes, peeled if desired
8 baby turnips, peeled
1 quart boasted beef broth
Reserved short ribs from roasted beef broth
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup red shiso leaves, torn
1 cup purple basil leaves, torn
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the potatoes and turnips, and simmer until they are tender when pierced with a knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
In a wide, shallow skillet, add the beef broth and reserved short ribs, bring to a simmer, and cook until the broth is slightly thickened (about 30 minutes). Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter to finish. Add the potatoes and turnips, and toss to coat.
To serve, spoon some thickened sauce and short rib meat into each bowl. Top each with a few potatoes and turnips, and garnish with the shiso and basil. Serve immediately.
Daal With Basmati, Yogurt, and Wild Mint
"This bright dish is stewed goodness," says Mordechai. "It has a depth and uniqueness that feels like it is simmered for hours, but the reality is this comes together quite quickly. The ingredients are humble, and the flavors are balanced well with a simple rice, a cooling yogurt, and a fresh herb. Toasting the spices is a traditional process to enhance their flavor and add dimension. Add some heat with Harissa or any other chili flake if you desire."
1 cup yellow pigeon peas (toor daal), rinsed, soaked for 30 minutes, and drained
1 quart chicken stock or water
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 small Thai chiles
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. curry powder
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk
2 cups cooked white basmati rice
1 cup good-quality store-bought or homemade plain yogurt
Juice of 2 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup fresh wild mint leaves, torn
2 Garlic Confit cloves
2 tbsp. Garlic Confit oil, plus more for serving
6 tbsp. ice water
In a stockpot, combine the pigeon peas, chicken stock or water, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Add the turmeric, ginger, tomatoes, and chiles, and simmer uncovered until the pigeon peas are tender (50 to 55 minutes).
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the cumin, curry powder, and garlic, and cook until fragrant, one to two minutes. Remove from heat.
Once the pigeon peas have finished cooking, stir in the spice mixture and coconut milk.
To serve, spoon some basmati rice into four bowls, and top with a few ladles of pigeon peas. Garnish each with a dollop of yogurt, a squeeze of lemon, wild mint leaves, and pickled vegetables.
Simple Roast Chicken
"Roast chicken can be dry and mundane—or perfect and delectable," says Mordechai. "Here, we take a classic approach, embellished with a beautiful array of flavors and colors to enlighten an often-misunderstood dish. The chicken is simple enough for a Monday night, but jazzy enough for a holiday. Serve with well-buttered bread to a small or large crowd."
Servings: 4 to 6
4 tbsp. unsalted, butter, at room temperature
2 slices fermented lemon (or store-bought preserved lemons), finely chopped
3 black garlic cloves, mashed into a paste
1 (4-pound) whole chicken, backbone removed and quartered
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, quartered
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 cup oil-cured olives
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 green basil leaves
3 purple basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
For the fermented lemon-black garlic butter: In a small bowl, mix together the butter, fermented lemon, and black garlic paste until well combined.
Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Rub the lemon-garlic butter all over each piece, making sure to coat it under the skin as well as over the surface, and generously season with salt and black pepper.
Place a large (at least 12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and place the chicken pieces, skin side down, in one even layer in the skillet. (Your skillet should be large enough that the chicken pieces are not overcrowded. Alternatively, you can do this step in batches to ensure the chicken gets a golden, crisp skin.) Sear the chicken, without disturbing, until the skin is lightly golden brown, three to five minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional one to two minutes. Remove the chicken pieces, and transfer to a plate; set aside. Drain and discard any rendered fat and accumulated brown bits from the skillet.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the hot skillet. Add the red onion, lemon slices, olives, and a pinch of salt, and stir to coat with the olive oil. Pour in the white wine and chicken stock, and remove from the heat. Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, on top of onions and lemons, and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until a thermometer reads 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and the broth has reduced slightly, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven, and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Pour the broth into a large rimmed platter. Cut each piece of chicken in half, and place on top. Scatter the onions, lemons, and olives around the chicken. Garnish with the basil leaves, and serve immediately.
And now, this is what a food editor serves at a dinner party.