The bountiful month of September is nearing an end, and though many summer favorites have turned in for the winter, this is an excellent time to try out produce that peaks in cooler temperatures. While concord grapes are at their finest right now, and every sort of pepper imaginable is available, you might be surprised to find out that certain fishes also prove tastiest as the water cools. Pick up mackerel, swordfish, striped bass and clams, the perfect protein to pair with the recipe for roasted cauliflower that New York chef Shane Lyons of Distilled shares with us below.
Concord grapes: Concord grapes start making the market scene about a month before wine grapes reach their climax. Though, unlike the fruit that makes our vino, these little purple or white beads of joy prove sweet and refreshing, without the tannins that makes wine so good. In a nutshell, they taste exactly like Welsh’s grape juice, a beverage that’s actually made with 100-percent real juice — just ask Alton Brown, he is a big fan. As far as what to do with the grapes, well, they work great in a pie, made into jam, or pressed into juice. However, the hardest part about working with this fruit is de-seeding the grapes, a task best done with two bowls, while watching your favorite television show.
Spanish mackerel: Stephanie Villani of Blue Moon Fish loves convincing shoppers to try this blue fish with yellow spots — after all, it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, doesn’t have scales (so works great on the grill), and the flavor is much milder than other fish. She suggests that if you opt out of grilling, serve it as crudo with a little vinegar, or broil it with olive oil, Dijon mustard and fresh herbs from the market. But get it now: it’s one fish that won’t be around for long.
Chili peppers: Though you may think you see peppers all year round, the real season for them is right now, from September through October. Revel in a rainbow of capsicum, from green to orange to red to purple, and enjoy just as many heat levels as colors. You may see the plump yellow Red Caribbean, dark green anchos, an array of bell peppers, tiny Chile Piquins and spicy habaneros in brown, orange, red and green. Also, if you are lucky enough to be in the Southwest, look out for the annual crop of roasted Hatch chilies.
Cauliflower: Right now you can find white, purple and green cauliflower filling market stalls all across the nation, and, since this vegetable runs the gambit of sweet, crunchy and vegetal, and easily caramelizes in the pan or oven, it’s a great produce to pick up. “Cauliflower is at its best in late summer and early-late fall, which is when you get its richest, heartiest texture,” says Chef Lyons. “When roasted at its peak, it has real depth in terms of flavor.” For his dish, Lyons adds snap peas, basil, shiro miso and garlic to help create a harmony of flavors, and then he rounds it out with pumpkin seeds, another seasonal ingredient you can find right now, and adds a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Roasted Cauliflower Recipe
Courtesy of chef Shane Lyons of Distilled
I am a big fan of this dish because it moves cauliflower into the center of the plate instead of on the side, where it's commonly found.
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, lightly seasoned with butter
10 Thai basil leaves
20 snap peas
Shiro Miso sauce (recipe below)
Shiro Miso Sauce
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 cup garlic confit*
1/2 cup shiro miso
1/4 cup confit oil
*You can make garlic confit by cooking whole cloves in olive oil until soft.
For the cauliflower:
- In a large skillet over medium heat, roast the bite size cauliflower florets in canola oil until they are brown and begin to get tender. Once the cauliflower is almost cooked through, add 1/3 cup of the miso sauce, or more if you prefer, and some vegetable stock to deglaze the pan. Be sure to use as little vegetable stock as possible so that the cauliflower becomes glazed with the miso and not stock.
- Once you glaze the cauliflower, add the snap peas and cook them until they become bright green, keeping them firm. Turn off the heat and toss in the basil and pumpkin seeds. Garnish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some more basil leaves.
For the Shiro Miso sauce:
- Purée ingredients until smooth.
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