There are still spots of color in our somber mid-November landscape, shiny red rose hips in the hedgerows, dull orange leaves on the willows, brighter yellow grape leaves on the arbor. And at the edge of our lawn, three crabapples covered with their tiny fruit and autumn leaves combine red, orange and yellow into a gorgeous display above the still green grass. I love these bursts of color and find myself wanting to reproduce them at the table. Luckily, the kitchen garden offers a fruit and vegetable palette to play with, red-skinned apples, purple/red beets, yellow beets, orange carrots and many shades of greens. The results give as much pleasure to look at as to eat.
For lunch the other day I made a carrot spread from roasted carrots, roasted garlic, white runner beans, ground coriander seeds and a little olive oil. I’d noticed the recipe in the November Saveur magazine and had to try it, both for taste and for color. I modified it a bit by using white runner beans instead of cannellini and by adding a little fresh sage and olive oil. Unlike other carrot-spread recipes I’ve made, this one recommends roasted carrots, a great idea for bringing out rich carrot flavor. And of course there is the rich carrot color, perfect next to red apples. With arugula and whole wheat bread, it made a delicious sandwich.
Salads offer endless ways to bring in color. For a salad the other night, I used some of the roasted carrots left over from the spread, added roasted red and yellow beets and arranged them on a bed of spicy, golden frills mustard a tasty green new to me that I planted in August from seeds my sister Sarah gave me. Red wine vinaigrette perfectly blended the flavors of spicy greens and sweet, colorful roots.
And soups! At a lunch for girlfriends last week, my friend Allison made us a delicious creamy orange winter squash soup and, artist that she is, garnished our bowls with softened and slightly sweetened dried cranberries and crumbled sage leaves. I’m inspired to try orange soups too, either carrot or squash, and experiment with toppings like chopped beets or roasted red peppers and parsley or mint. Even a little diced apple would be pretty and good.
As fall advances, the landscape colors will fade into browns and grays but thanks to the kitchen garden bright colors will continue at the table.