In Defense of Fall

The flavors of fall can atone for summer's farewell

This time of year you tend to hear the same sad refrain...“But I'm not ready for summer to end!” I admit to feeling this way just as you probably do, what with the sun setting earlier each evening, the early morning and nighttime chill in the air and the start of pre-season football. But in defense of fall, this is Santa Fe's most beautiful season, if you ask me.The aspen leaves soon will change their colors to brilliant gold and the mountain peaks will be frosted with snow. The scent of roasting green chile fills the air all across town, reminding us to pick up a bushel (or two) now to freeze so we can savor them until next year's harvest.

This is the best time of year to shop the Santa Fe Farmers' Market as it's bursting with the bounty of harvest season, including NewMexico's fabled green chile. I like to peel and chop the freshly roasted chile and use it in a roux-like sauce made with flour, butter, vegetable broth and sauteed onions that I then serve with roast chicken or pork tenderloin. Or I just toss the chopped chile on top of a grilled ribeye or in scrambled eggs and omelets. I even add green chile to apple pies for a wicked combo of sweet and tart that's heightened with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

September is also apple-picking time, as evidenced by the market piles of Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Roma, Winesap and other varietals from northern New Mexico farmers. You'll find the best kind of fruit for making apple pies, tarts,butter, dumplings, jelly, cider and more. You can even air- or oven-dry the fruit and make dried apple slices. I love slicing up fresh apples to add to my tuna salad, which I make with Dijon mustard instead of mayo and curry. I place a heaping tablespoon or two of the salad on an English muffin, top with grated cheddar cheese and broil in the oven just until the cheese is bubbling and the muffin slightly browned on the edges.

Early fall is also a great time of year to get corn, squash, pumpkins, potatoes and other seasonal delights to take home and turn into delicious meals. Don't forget to load up on garlic, onions and shallots as they will last for months and still be fresher than store-bought versions. And if you're a fan of pesto, purchase fresh basil along with that garlic and combine it with olive oil, Parmesan, pinon (or walnuts, depending on your preference) in a blender and whip up a few batches of this versatile Italian sauce.

If you'd rather eat out than give your kitchen a work-out, you'll find plenty of restaurants serving the flavors of fall, including Hotel Santa Fe's Amaya, where the hearty Picuris Pueblo Seared Elk Tenderloin is paired with pinon-infused mashed potatoes, juniper demi and, in a tribute to the end of summer, sweet corn purée. Or, feast on the IPA Pan-Seared Free Range Chicken Breast with curry butter-roasted fingerling potatoes, fried Brussels sprouts and IPA pan sauce.

Autumn is mushroom season for many varietals and Joe's Dining has a wonderful dish, Fettuccine Trifolati, made with sautéed shitake, portobello and oyster mushrooms , garlic and parsley in a cream sauce topped with shaved Reggiano. Autumnal comfort food, indeed, as is the Roast Duck with red cabbage and spätzle, perfect to warm up with on a chilly fall night. Or try Wednesday's Blue plate Special, Joe’s Meatloaf with Mashed Potato and Vegetable, just as good as Mom used to make.

Out at Buffalo Thunder's Red Sage, you can celebrate fall with an order of American slow-braised bison short ribs served alongside creamy mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a red chile demi or a Cowboy Cut Ribeye with a dry chile rub paired with roasted fingerling potato,roasted zucchini and Bearnaise sauce. Somehow meat and potatoes make an autumnal pairing, hearty and comforting as fall sets in. Order a side of mac'n'cheese or a loaded baked potato, piled high with sour cream, bacon, cheese and chives, and you've got comfort oozing off the plate.

For a real seasonal treat, 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar is offering latkes made with new potatoes and yellow onions purchased at the farmer's market and served with apple compote, housemade crème fraiche, pickled onions and braised red cabbage. Another autumnal dish on the menu is beef tenderloin with Yorkshire pudding (that alone makes me year for the holidays), served with zebra-striped figs, Saskatchewan chanterelles, fava beans and blue cheese compound butter. Top that off with an apple tart tatin and I'd say you might just flip for fall and happily bid summer goodbye. But, if you're still clinging to summer, 315 is offering its legendary Squash Blossom Beignets for one final week, and this is it...

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