Looking at pictures of glorious fall foliage from northern Spain or New England, I get a little nostalgic for the colorful change of seasons. Here in southern Spain there are few deciduous trees, so no display of flaming reds, yellows and russets. Here, the fig trees, grape vines and a neighbor's persimmon tree briefly change color before dropping their leaves when the first cold wind blows through.
|Seasonal color on the table.|
As if to make up for the lack of autumn foliage, the markets are bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables--pomegranates with their ruby-red seeds, persimmons in yellow and orange, glowing citrus fruits, golden pumpkins and squashes, crimson beets, deep orange sweet potatoes. What an inspiration for the holiday table!
Here are some of the dishes I created with fruits and vegetables of the season. They could be the starters, salads and sides framing a Thanksgiving turkey or flesh-out a vegetarian feast.
Orange and Pomegranate Salad
Ensalada de Naranjas con Granadas
|Oranges, onions and pomegranates make a festive salad.|
This was inspired by Málaga salad (called remojón or salmorejo) of sliced oranges, onions, olives and salt cod. Pomegranate seeds add bursts of color. To easily dislodge the seeds from the fruit, cut it in half and use a wooden spoon to whack it on the outer skin, letting the seeds drop into a bowl.
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
Salad leaves, such as mesclun
2 navel oranges
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Salt flakes, such as Maldon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Black olives (optional)
Place the sliced onion in a small bowl. Combine the water, salt and vinegar and pour over the onions. Allow to stand 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Line a serving dish or individual salad plates with salad leaves. Remove peel and white pith from oranges with a knife. (Place orange on cutting board and slice downwards, removing peel and membrane.) Cut the oranges in crosswise slices and cut the slices in half. Arrange the oranges on top of the salad leaves.
Drain the onions and place on top of the oranges. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top. Sprinkle with salt flakes and drizzle oil over the salad. Garnish with olives, if desired.
Rainbow Chard with Apricots and Pine Nuts
Acelga Roja con Orejones y Piñones
|Red, pink and yellow chard plus beet greens and stems.|
Gorgeous red and golden chard in my garden inspired me to make a few changes on a classic Spanish vegetable dish-chard or spinach with raisins and pine nuts. My version uses the colorful chard, beet greens and stems with orejones, dried apricots (the word actually means "little ears"), and pine nuts. For a vegetarian meal, omit the bacon in this recipe.
|Rainbow chard with apricots and pine nuts.|
Serves 4 to 6 as a side.
1 pound rainbow chard and/or beet greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 ounces bacon, diced (optional)
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup water
1 ounce dried apricots, diced
Chop the chard and beet stems. Shred the leaves.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the pine nuts and fry them until lightly golden. Skim the pine nuts out and set aside. Add the diced bacon to the pan and fry 1 minute. Add the sliced garlic and fry until golden. Tip the pan and skim out the bacon and garlic and reserve.
Add the chopped stems to the oil in the pan and sauté 4 minutes. Add the shredded greens and sauté 1 minute. Add the salt, pepper, water and apricots. Cover and cook until stems are tender and leaves are wilted and tender, about 5 minutes.
Lift the chard out with a slotted spoon and place in a serving dish. Top with the bacon bits and pine nuts.
Waldorf Salad with Beets
This is a colorful interpretation of that old favorite, Waldorf salad. There are two ways to go with this salad--either keep the beets separate from the apple and celery mix, then layer the salad, or go ahead and mix everything together, letting the red beets turn the apples pink.
|Keep the beets and apples separate, or|
|mix them all together!|
Beets can be cooked by oven-roasting or cooking in boiling water. Boiling is faster.
The salad can be prepared a day in advance and kept, refrigerated, until serving time.
Serves 6 as a side.
For the salad:
1 pound beets (about 4 medium beets)
Salt and pepper
2 cups diced apple (about 3 small apples)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 stalks celery, very thinly sliced
Lettuce leaves or beet greens (optional)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup red grapes, halved
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
Cook the unpeeled beets in boiling water to cover until they can be easily pierced with a knife. Drain and allow to cool. Slip off the skins and cut the beets into 3/4 -inch dice. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place the diced apple in another bowl and mix with lemon juice to prevent the apples from darkening. Add the sliced celery.
Prepare the dressing by whisking the mayonnaise and oil, then stirring in the yogurt and grapefruit juice. Season with salt and a pinch of crushed tarragon.
If you're keeping the beets and apples separate, stir half the dressing into the beets and half into the apples. Otherwise, combine the beets and apples and stir in the dressing.
Place lettuce on a serving platter or individual salad plates. Layer beets and apples or spoon the combined salad on top. Sprinkle with walnuts and top with grape halves.
Salad of Sweet Potatoes, Fennel and Clementines
Ensalada de Batatas, Hinojo y Clementinas
|Sweet potatoes, crunchy fennel and juicy clementines. The recipe for this dish appears here|
I was gifted with an enormous pumpkin from the garden of a friend. Once cut open, it needs to be used up pretty quickly, so I am casting around for recipe ideas. This one is a winner, and a colorful addition to the menu as well.
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups diced pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 clove chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup seedless raisins
Fresh cilantro (coriander) or parsley, chopped
Put the cous cous grains in a bowl. Add the boiling water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon oil. Cover and let the cous cous steam 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff the grains with a fork. Add the lemon juice and toss.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Add the diced pumpkin, bell pepper, garlic, cumin and ginger. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes, if using. Sauté until pumpkin is crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the raisins. Use a slotted spoon to lift the pumpkin mixture out of the pan. Combine with the cous cous. Place in serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro.