Wet leaves slap the windshield, leaving teardrops in their wake, smearing across the glass before spreading their wings and fluttering away. Driving through a light autumnal drizzle is strikingly more depressing than a gentle summer rain. Fog obscures the road, blurring signs and stoplights into hazy, shapeless colors. I feel like my whole head is full of damp cotton balls by the time I finally shift gears to park.
Fall is not my favorite season, but by no fault of its own. Signaling the end of summer, it’s merely the messenger, doomed to be shot every year. I shiver as I watch temperatures slowly fall, regardless of how warm it really feels. I storm angrily through piles of leaves, even if there’s only one small mound pushed together on an entire block. The truth is, there’s still a lot to love about fall, and almost all of if it is food.
Do you welcome the arrival of the autumnal equinox with open arms, or reluctant acceptance? One thing we can all appreciate is a return of cozy comfort foods with all their warming spices, hearty starches, and nostalgic aromas. There’s a handful of recipes that always set me in the right mood and remind me, in spite of my irrepressible pessimism: Hey, it turns out that autumn isn’t all bad.
Crusty bread supports a creamy, rich schmear of cream cheese, contrasted by the tender, sweet, and slightly tart bite of pomegranate-infused pears. Sturdy enough to withstand advanced prep and a full evening at ambient temperature, these understated yet spectacular little morsels are your ideal party guests.
Generous spices amp up this ordinary offering, lending a warmth that temperature can’t deliver alone. Incredibly comforting when the seasons begin to shift. Moroccan flavors were the inspiration, but only in a very loose interpretation did they emerge in the final dish. Adjust to taste, make it your own, and enjoy the invigorating armona as the soup bubbles along on the stove.
Black and orange to match the “traditional” colors of Halloween, this dish is a touch spicy too, enhanced with a slightly devilish addition of paprika and red pepper flakes. Toothsome wild rice makes it a stellar sort of pilaf, but it can also be an easy, no-muss main dish as well, thanks to the protein-packed black beans.
Contrary to my usual approach of going heavy on the vegetables, this wicked red brew is a real meat-lover’s delight, made with vegan sensibilities of course. It also happens to be the easiest, quickest chili I’ve ever slapped together, thanks to the convenience of ready-to-eat spicy Andouille-style “sausages.” Not even beans are invited to this party this time, creating a rich, ultra-meaty chili that I’d like to think would make a pure-bred Texan proud. Packing in the heat with every fiery bite, it’s impossible to feel one degree of winter chill with this fortifying stew on your side.
Devilishly spicy but not unbearably so, these crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds are dosed in tongue-tingling sriracha. Lightly salted and easy to munch, they were intended to be an ideal Halloween party snack, but instead are also perfectly suited to become emergency rations.
Gnudi, best described as naked ravioli, also share similarities with gnocchi but are made with ricotta instead of potato. Simple in concept yet spectacular in execution, they're like little cheesy pillows that practically melt in your mouth. n this case, tofu ricotta easily replaces the dairy foundation, transforming this savory dish into a light, dreamy, and yet impossibly rich indulgence.
Adding both their signature tart flavor and incredible thickening powers, cranberries pull this whole dish together, without overwhelming the palate. The combination of both beans and bulgur are sure to satisfy.
Infused with an aromatic blend of cumin, mustard seeds, and jalapeno, this entree is guaranteed to spice up the traditional feast. Complimenting that distinctive piquancy is a creamy cashew-based raita, replete with cooling mint leaves and crisp diced cucumber.
Warm, creamy, and comforting, bread pudding is the perfect dessert to ward off those autumn chills while celebrating the season's bounty. It's a snap to customize depending on your preference; consider the spices as a mere suggestion, and a handful of nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit never hurt anything.