Now that fall has officially rolled around, Jennifer from our Kitchen Council is sharing her tips on getting the most out of the season’s bounty when baking or cooking at home.
Every year, bakers and cooking enthusiasts eagerly anticipate fall and the return of all its glorious flavors. Autumn brings a treasure trove of delights, including some of the richer, cozier options that people shy away from during the summer: soups, pies, cobblers, casseroles, and cakes are what fall is all about. Stemilt apples and pears work beautifully in so many of these recipes, and understanding how to combine flavors will elevate your kitchen game in so many ways.
Laying The Groundwork
Let’s back up a bit and start by examining some popular fall flavors. Winter squash is the first thing that often comes to mind: pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and acorn squash are all wonderful varieties with similar but slightly unique flavor profiles. They are sweet, rich and slightly nutty tasting. Winter squash can be pureed to a creamy consistency or roasted to enhance and caramelize the flavors. It can also be grilled for a bit of smoky charring.
When it comes to spices, think apple pie spice blends and beyond: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cardamom, and ginger are all common spices that can be mixed and matched to achieve greatness. Fresh orange zest often plays a role in fall recipes. Pure vanilla extract should always be close by for sweet recipes.
Other flavors and ingredients you will commonly see in sweet and/or savory fall recipes include (in no particular order): maple syrup, chocolate, pecans, walnuts, chestnuts, cheeses (especially blue and cheddar), cider, liqueurs, caramel, dairy, sage, rosemary, and cranberries.
Combining The Ingredients
Have you heard of the four tastes? They are sweet, salty, sour, and bitter (there’s also technically a fifth taste called umami, but we’ll save that for another conversation). Pairing ingredients is ultimately about finding a proper balance of these four tastes, and then also incorporating some texture variance.
Let’s create a fall-inspired butternut squash apple tart. Butternut squash is sweet and soft. You would want to pair it with one of Stemilt’s tart apples that is more on the crisp side, such as a Granny Smith. Another way to go would be the SweeTango®, which is very crisp but more sweet than tart. If using a sweet apple with sweet butternut squash, you’d probably want to incorporate a sour element such as lemon juice or maybe cranberries to balance the flavors. A mild goat cheese would add some lovely creaminess to the tart. Some salted, caramelized pecans would add a bitter, salty element as well as texture.
How about a fall salad? Peppery baby arugula makes a wonderful (and bitter) base. Stemilt’s Rushing RiversTM Pears add a juicy, gentle sweetness. Top that with some crumbled, good quality blue cheese for a salty element, grilled or roasted acorn squash, and walnuts. For dressing, keep things simple with a good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice.
These same ideas can be applied to any recipe and, truthfully, any season. Once you start to understand the way flavors and textures work together, you’ve unlocked the keys to the cooking kingdom! Stemilt’s wide range of fruit varieties offers so many building blocks for beautiful, flavorful recipes.