Oh summer…. We love you, but you don’t last nearly as long as we’d like. With it, you bring your bounty of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, green beans, and lots and lots of basil. But fall is almost here and with it comes an entire new line of ingredients that we adore just as much. Italians love to enjoy products at their peak of season, and why not, that is when they are the healthiest, tastiest and most readily available. Adopting the Italian mentality of eating in season, below you will find a list of seasonal ingredients often enjoyed in Italian dishes, that are perfect for this time of year. Enjoy them liberally for they all carry lots of vitamins and minerals.
Swiss Chard and Spinach
Swiss chard and spinach are autumn vegetables that are also excellent antioxidants. They also have the advantage of cooking very quickly. Which makes them even that much more appealing. Great in salads, in pasta dishes or simply sautéed as a side dish, these leafy greens are a must in my kitchen.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, cabbage is also great for your health. It also contains vitamin A and vitamin C and has an intense and characteristic flavor. I enjoy it in soups, with lots of carrots, onions, parsley and diced potatoes.
Be it fresh, dry or frozen, mushrooms are the ideal fall ingredient. Their growth is facilitated by the autumn rains, and they are considered a good source of mineral salts such as potassium, phosphorus, copper and selenium. Did you know that mushrooms are famous for their power to strengthen the immune system? I love mushrooms in risottos or in chicken and turkey recipes.
Another typical autumn vegetable is the artichoke. Considered to be the protector of the liver, the artichoke with its characteristic bitter-sweet taste has a low-calorie content and is rich in minerals. After cleaning them out, I steam baby artichokes, then sauté them with lots of garlic and herbs, then top them with fresh breadcrumbs and grated Parmigiano cheese.
Often added to salads, or roasted in the oven as a side dish to chicken or seafood, fennel is rich in water, low in calories, and known for its aromatic and digestive properties. Its liquorish flavor is refreshing and light.
Rich in complex carbohydrates, potatoes are a vegetable that gives life to many recipes in the kitchen and has many beneficial properties. I love potatoes any which way they’re cooked, but one of my favorites method is diced small, seasoned with lots of great olive oil and fresh herbs, than placed in one layer on a baking sheet. After that, I top them with a healthy dusting of fresh breadcrumbs and roast them for 25 – 30 minutes. They’re the perfect side dish to roasted chicken.
Apples and Pears
Typical fruits of the autumn season are apples, pears. There are several varieties and all have a unique flavor. They are great in fall salads, enjoyed with chicken or pork and eaten as dessert. I also love baking with apples and pears as they are a great addition to coffee cakes or bundts.
Typically harvested in September or October for wine production, grapes are a great way of ending your meal. With their sweet flavor, they are deceptively addictive!
There are countless varieties of chestnuts, a very nutritious food that can be used for many dishes in the kitchen. In addition, chestnuts are rich in vitamins and minerals. I enjoy them simply roasted in the oven. Be sure to score them with an X or they will burst in the oven!
Oranges and Mandarins
Sweet citrus fruits rich in vitamin C, oranges and mandarins are highly hydrating fruits, that contain few calories and many vitamins. They’re in peak season in the late fall, all the way into winter.
Add these or any other seasonal ingredient to your fall menu, and not only will you be eating like an Italian, you’ll be eating healthy too!
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