Fall Fare

The best season in Santa Fe...recipes included...

Fall is my favorite season in Santa Fe, maybe because of the fragrant scent of roasting green chile and the aromatic pinon wood fires that fill the air. Or it could be because the aspen leaves turn a gorgeous shade of gold, shimmering all around us.

Perhaps it's the chill in the morning air and the crisply cool evenings that require sweaters, but not yet coats, scarves and gloves. It might also have something to do with the absence of summer crowds, so you no longer have to wait an hour to get a table at your favorite restaurant.

Most likely it's all of these things and more. As I was walking downtown the other day, a warmish wind blew through, sweeping colorful leaves in my path, reminding me of days long ago, when summer was fading to fall, and Halloween was just around the corner, along with the promise of coming snows. It made me think of crisp apples and apple crisp, roasted butternut squash and pumpkin pie and I realized just how ready I am to trade in summer salads, grilled burgers and ice cream for the flavors of fall.

In Santa Fe, the autumn harvest is rich, with chile, squash, pumpkins, apples and other fresh foods you can buy at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market. The feast of local flavors includes artisanal cheese, fresh, crusty bread, jams and jellies made with fruit preserved from summer and so much more. It's enough to turn a food-lover's thoughts to Thanksgiving, and the annual meal to be made with the foods of this seaon's bounty so as to give thanks to the land that produced it and the farmers and growers who raised it.

But that meal is more than a month away, when the season will, once again, turn to winter. For now, let's celebrate this gorgeous season of fall! Here are a few recipes to inspire you!

La Casa Sena’s Potato Green Chile Soup (Serves 10-12)
3 pounds baking potatoes , peeled and cut in half
2 cups roasted green chiles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup white onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 cup white wine
2 cups heavy cream
4 cups water
Salt and pepper , to taste

Boil a pot of water then simmer potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat, add onions and cook until tender, 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add white wine, scraping any bits from the pan bottom. Stir in cream, water and potatoes, bring to a low simmer and remove from heat. Purée the soup in batches using a blender.

Stir in chiles and season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Gourmeet Girl's Baby Spinach with Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon (Serves 4)
This is one of my favorite fall dishes, hands down. The sweetness of the squash pairs perfectly with the salty bacon. The healthy spinach leaves make up for the lack of bacon's nutrition, so feast away!
1 pound baby spinach, washed and drained
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
4-5 pieces of bacon
Quality olive oil, to taste
Rice wine vinegar, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put squash on baking sheet and roast for about ½ hour, until soft and lightly browned.

Cook the bacon and drain.

Place the spinach leaves in a bowl and crumble bacon on top. Add the warm squash and mix gently. Toss with oil and rice vinegar, salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with a fresh baguette and artisan cheeses such as Manchego, Morbier and Gouda.

These next two recipes come from La Boca/Taberna's James Campbell Caruso's cookbook, “Espana: Exploring the Flavors of Spain"

Escalivada (Roasted vegetables) (Serves 6-8)
2 red bell peppers
1 green chile
1 medium eggplant, sliced
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 small red onions, sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, halved
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and then transfer to a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are well cooked and tender. Allow to cool.

Peel eggplant and peppers and remove stems and seeds. Cut all cooked vegetables into 2-inch strips and place on a platter. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve at room temperature.

Pate de Hongos, or Mushroom pate with Roasted Garlic and Sherry (Serves 10-12)
1/2 cup olive oil
15 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon sage, chopped
1/4 cup sherry
4 green onions, chopped

Heat oil in a small skillet on medium heat. Add garlic cloves and cook for 8 minutes, until light golden brown and cooked through; set pan aside to cool. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon.

Transfer garlic-flavored oil to a larger saute pan. Turn up heat to high and saute onion until soft, about 4 minutes. Add all mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add mustard, parsley, sage, fried garlic and sherry and cook for 10 minutes more. Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool. Puree well in food processor and cool in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, garnish with a small amount of chopped green onion and a crusty baguette.