the autumn inquisition.

I’ve almost forgotten that it is cold and rainy outside as I write, because I have been looking at the beautiful photos from the market this week.  Grant Park was alive with color

and personality on Sunday.

And I was in an extra good mood, because it was our first wedding anniversary weekend!  Adam and I had tons of fun reminiscing about our special day and all of the folks who shared it with us.  We even had a little picnic lunch by the lake where we got married- complete with flowers, champagne,

and lunch from Sawicki’s, the awesome little shop that catered our wedding.  I’ve never had a wedding anniversary before- but this one was very festive and lovely.  I would do it all over again- the wedding and the anniversary!

While we sat by the lake reflecting, I realized that Georgia is not quite as far along this year as it was last year.  This yellow tree

hasn’t even begun to change colors yet.  Maybe that’s why there are still so many tomatoes hanging around these days, which is great for me.  I’ll take ‘em as long as I can get ‘em!

New to the market this week was a huge apple stand.

They had several different kinds of apples

plus their own apple cider,

which is delicious.  And if you know my husband, you know he’s a sucker for a fried pie.  So we had to try one STAT.

A little pocket of perfection,

filled with fresh local apples, was gone in a matter of seconds.

Once again, I was eyeballing H & F’s bagels.

They put paprika on their Everything bagels.  I did ask if they had cream cheese, but, no such luck.  Instead, I opted for a loaf of their tasty Asiago cheese bread.

I wonder how early they begin baking each day, because the sheer volume of their offerings is unreal.

Next, my eyes wandered over to the Oakleaf Mennonite Farm’s table.

Beautiful mixed greens,

colorful peppers, and Chinese spinach were on display along with some fabulous flat leaf parsley that I had to make my own.

And who could resist this Thai basil?

Not this girl.  I even put some in my anniversary bouquet!

Next, we found ourselves seriously ogling the produce at the Hooping Guys Farm stand for the third week in a row.

The farmer shared with us that he and his girlfriend, who grows as well, spent some time out in California learning from the farmers about the best ways to showcase freshly harvested foods.  I can tell you from personal experience, that their methodology is working!  I pocketed some potatoes and onions, which made their way into a slow-cooked pot roast, as well as my third bunch of heirloom green onions.

Their corn

and baby bok choy also tempted me.

Their arugula, flanked by root vegetables, looks delightful too.

On the other side of their booth, colors popped

and the okra was bountiful.  And check out the size of these pods!!

That’s some sort of super okra, I think.

And they even had pretty flowers to boot.

I’m gonna have to take out a small loan before going to the market next week- and maybe get a bigger family to eat it all!!!!!!!!!

Next, we had a run-in with the hilarious honey girl from Hidden Springs- who requested specifically not to be photographed in her awesome airbrushed sweatshirt- and I found out she’s a Jersey native too!

After tasting all of her interesting varieties of honey again, and exchanging some laughs,

we decided on the tulip poplar.  It is spicy and sweet, and I’ve secretly been hoping to run out of honey for weeks now, so I could try it.  Finally, it happened!

As promised last week, I stopped my Nazifa’s bakery stand and bought some of her naan with my last two dollars.

The woman was very friendly and cheerful, and shared stories of other market-goers utilizing her naan for pizza dough and enjoying it.  Naan pizza is coming soon to my kitchen too.

Out of cash, and short on time, I drooled as I walked by The Little Tart’s stand.

Heirloom tomato tart…mmmmm….

And we found Nate manning Turtle Bend’s table. I was very pleased to see this Red Russian kale, because I had a grand idea about a new way to appreciate its broad green leaves.

They also had dinosaur kale, otherwise know as Lacinato or Tuscan kale.

I’ve been using that in salads and soups a lot lately.  I just remove the ribs, cut the kale into big ribbons, and blanch it in boiling salted water for a few minutes.  Then I stop the cooking by dunking the leaves in an icebath, before squeezing out the water and chopping it finely.  This week, I incorporated kale this way into an Italian inspired black quinoa salad, an Asian couscous salad, and a quick- cooking Miso soup.  Apparently, I have turned into a kale fanatic.  Love it.  Any way you slice it.

Also on Turtle Bend’s table…

Bok Choi- of which I am a huge fan,

broccoli- so much more flavorful than the store-bought variety,

Tropicana lettuce- crisp and gigantic,

and crunchy red radishes, which have also been making appearances in all manners of soups and salads over the last few weeks.

An abundance of fresh, local, food grown with love and care.  Reasonably priced and beautifully displayed with a serious feeling of community and happiness.  Fifteen minutes from my house.  It’s like candy for my eyes and my belly and my soul.  I am thankful.

Back at home, we couldn’t even fit all of our bounty into one photo.

So we had to take two.

It’s not a bad problem to have. But I couldn’t use it all in one sitting, so I had to focus.

Knowing that Turtle Bend’s CSA members would have more kale this week plus acorn squash, I planned to showcase both with this meal:  Agave chipotle glazed grilled salmon with Manchego dusted roasted acorn squash and kale wrapped Spanish rice.

Let’s begin with the rice because it takes the longest to prepare.

I chose to use long grain brown basmati rice, but you could easily employ white or yellow rice in this recipe.

First, I diced my onions and minced my peppers and garlic

so I could get the onions into my medium sized pot.

I used a healthy amount of olive oil here, because I needed to have ample oil to toast up my rice.  A good coating along the bottom of your pot will work fine.

Once the onions were soft, I stirred in my peppers and garlic.

After another minute, I slid the veggies over to one side and added my rice.

You want to basically fry your rice in the oil for about a minute or two.  You will smell it getting toasty.

Then, I stirred it all together,

added a tablespoon of cumin and about half a tablespoon of chipotle powder.

I seasoned with salt and pepper, and stirred well to combine the flavors.

Next, it was time to add 1 and  3/4 Cups homemade chicken broth and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the pot.

Then, just as you would cook any other rice dish, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer.  It took about 40 minutes for the liquid to be absorbed.  And then I let it sit another 10 minutes covered.

Meanwhile…we had lots of other little jobs to do.

I am a lover of all things squash, and I’m always open to new ideas.  So when I saw a recipe in Real Simple magazine for sliced and roasted acorn squash, I was excited about adapting my own.

We cut the squash in half lengthwise,

scooped out the seeds, and then placed it on the cutting board, flat side down.  Then, I cut slices about 3/4 inch thick.

They don’t have to be perfect, but I did use a paring knife to cut out some of the stringy middles that remained.

Next, we tossed the squash with a good sprinkling of salt, pepper, cumin, chipotle powder, and finely grated Manchego cheese.

I lined them up on my pan,

Adam grated a little extra cheese over the tops, and we roasted them for about 18 minutes at 400 degrees.

On to the fish!

We made a simple glaze using agave nectar, the juice of half a lime, and chipotle powder, granulated garlic, salt and pepper.

A quick flavor booster for our Alaskan salmon.

The salmon only takes a few minutes to cook, so we heated up the grill, and finished up in the kitchen.

With the rice steaming on the back burner, I needed to turn my attention to my kale.

I removed the ribs and washed the leaves in cool water, being careful to keep them all in tact.

Next, I cooked them in a big pot of boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes.

I was sure to lay the leaves flat, and I used a spoon to gently push them into the water now and again, since they kept rising to the top.

Then, I pulled out the leaves and let them dry on paper towels.

Ready to wrap, I laid out one leaf of kale and transferred my rice into a bowl (after tasting it and adjusting the seasoning, of course).

I used a tablespoon to scoop some rice onto my kale,

and then I wrapped it up like a burrito or a spring roll.  I repeated that process until I had all of my kale leaves encasing a bit of spicy, tangy rice.

I love how green they are!  Little green presents.

While Adam grilled our glazed salmon on a well-oiled grill,

I whipped up a yogurt sauce to act as a cool component for the dish.

Just a few ingredients.

All I had to do was chop the cilantro and add it to Greek yogurt, lime juice, and a squeeze of agave nectar with salt and pepper.

I mixed up, tasted and adjusted the seasoning to my liking,

and we were ready to plate!

A delicious fall and Spanish inspired meal.  The acorn squash was totally delightful!  The flesh was tender and tasty, and the rind was a crispy treat.  The Spanish cheese added a mildly salty edge to the spices.  The kale-wrapped rice gifts were just that- I heart them, really.  The tangy, spicy rice was almost creamy inside of the tender, green, very slightly bitter kale, adding something subtle and special to the rice.  I was glad to have the yogurt to cool my mouth down in between bites.  The salmon was soft and supple in the middle, which I love.  And I feel super healthy eating salmon, because I know it’s extra good for my body!  Next time I make it, I will be a bit more aggressive with the spices to make it even more flavorful.  Honestly, I think the words, “I could be a vegetarian,” came out of my mouth because I was so enjoying the kale and rice and squash.  But, that was a fleeting moment!  Bacon, you know I would never leave you.

Overall, I am very pleased with the way this meal transformed from an idea bubble in my head, to a creative conversation with Adam, to a market shopping experience, to a cooking whirlwind, to an actual Spanish/autumn extravaganza dancing on my taste buds.  Makes me wonder what else I can wrap up inside of kale.  And how can I spice up acorn squash differently?  A good meal always leaves me wanting more…wheels turning inside of my head.

I hope you’ll be inspired to try something new this week with your fall veggies.  If you see an idea you like, think about how you can tweak it to make it your very own.  Most importantly, embrace the wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables available to us now…while they last!

Happy cooking and eating to you!


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