As Oklahoma City transitions into the cooler weather, what’s available to eat locally — and what we crave — changes. We want heartier, spicier, more substantial fare.
While modern refrigeration and technology make it easier to eat whatever you desire year-round, there are benefits to eating in tune with nature’s design. It’s more affordable, for one. Even if all of your produce comes from the corner big-box grocer, you will see a seasonal reflection in price due to costs associated with shipping and growing out-of-season items.
Also, eating seasonally means eating produce at its peak freshness. It both tastes better and is better for you. Peak freshness means peak nutrient levels.
This fall, get ready for warm, hearty dishes that reflect tasty, locally available produce.
Oklahoma Gazette talked with local chefs who are showcasing the transition to fall in their menus.
Packard’s New American Kitchen
201 NW 10th St.
AT WORK, Chris McKenna, executive chef at Packard’s New American Kitchen, treats this season’s palate with menu items including duck breast with a hard cider demi-glace and butternut squash puree.
New menu items also include fried Brussels sprouts, ancho-coffee crusted ribeye and apple cake with a maple-bourbon crème Anglaise.
“We’ll also be running plenty of delicious braised meat features on the board this month,” he said.
AT HOME, McKenna likes to spice things up, too.
“My favorite thing about fall cooking is roasting fall vegetables. Roasting gives veggies like cauliflower and autumn squash a rich, buttery flavor,” he said.
When McKenna cooks at home, which he admits is not as often as he would like, this time of year, he always craves stick-to-your-ribs chili.
“I like to play around with different meats such as turkey and venison,” he said.
He doesn’t have a particular recipe, but his advice is to make certain you brown the meat well, with the onions in the pan.
“The caramelizing of the meat makes the chili have a greater depth of flavor,” he said.
He also recommends a book, Chili Nation, by Jane and Michael Stern. In the book, each state is represented by a different take on the hearty classic. Oklahoma’s representative is “16-Times World Champion Sirloin Chili,” by bull rider Jim Shoulders. Find it above.
16-Times World Champion Sirloin Chili
1 lb ground round
1/2 lb beef sirloin cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 lb link sausage, cut up
1 medium onion, diced
1 med. green pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 chili peppers
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tbsp. salt
1 (29 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
1 (12 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (12 oz.) can tomato sauce
Brown meat in a large pot with the onions. Then add green pepper, celery, garlic, chili peppers, bay leaf, chili powder and salt.
Cook over medium heat until veggies are tender. Discard fat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and sauce. Cover just to top of pot with water, and cook over medium heat for 1 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaf before serving. Suggested toppings include grated sharp cheddar cheese and diced onions or chives.
Kam’s Kookery and Guilford Garden
2834 Guilford Lane
AT WORK, Kamala Gamble has a slightly different perspective on seasonal fare, as she’s a chef and a producer.
She works alongside chef Barbara Mock, and they share an intimate relationship with Oklahoma’s strange growing seasons. Gamble described the growing year in detail. The highlight? It was, as always, a funky year.
“We’re having one of the driest Augusts on record, which is atypical — every season [here] is atypical,” she said.
She’s now harvesting the last of her summer vegetable crop, including okra, tomatoes and peppers, and because she grows organically, there are concerns she has that don’t always impact larger, commercial farmers.
For Gamble, insect activity is a major concern — squash vine borers wiped out her crop. Insects also got her pumpkins, but she has accepted it as part of the cost of growing locally.
Even so, she also has a lot of success.
“We’ve probably got about 12-15 types of greens, and it was another great year for cucumbers. Armenian cucumbers, I have great luck with them, and they never get bitter,” she said.
AT HOME, Gamble and Mock enjoy this time of year and work with all the produce that’s available.
They pair the flavors that linger in the late summer with some of the hearty greens to make unique salads and soups.
They suggested a salad and soup combo with interesting flavors. It’s light, yet filling enough to be perfect for cooler months.
Butternut squash soup
4 lbs butternut squash halved and seeds removed
olive oil for brushing
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup ginger
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. maple syrup
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Brush squash with olive oil and roast at 350 for about an hour, until soft. When done, let cool enough to handle it.
While cooking squash, shred ginger with a food processor or grater.
Place ginger and water in pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and cover.
Strain ginger and discard chunks. Keep remaining liquid.
In a blender, combine 1/3 of the ginger water, 1/3 of the chicken stock and 1/3 of the squash flesh and blend until smooth.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a soup pot.
Repeat process until all squash, ginger water and chicken stock are in pot.
Heat on medium heat, whisk in maple syrup, cream, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.
Fall farro salad
1 1/2 cups farro
1 butternut squash
1 bunch beets (about 4 single beets)
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing:
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
Cook farro according to package directions, and when tender, drain.
Peel squash and cut into medium chunks.
Drizzle squash with olive oil, salt and pepper on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Roast squash at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until tender.
While cooking squash, cut greens off beets and simmer in water over medium heat until fork tender, let drain and cool.
When beets are cool, peel and cut to a medium dice.
Whisk mustard, garlic, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper together. Slowly drizzle olive oil in while whisking. Taste for correct seasoning.
Mix dressing with farro, then add squash, beets and parsley, lightly folding together. Serve or refrigerate for up to a day.
Scratch Kitchen and Cocktails
132 W. Main Street, Norman
AT WORK, Scratch Kitchen & Cocktails owner Brady Sexton is giddy for fall.
“The feeling of being in a restaurant, warm and being waited on, when it is cold outside makes dining out so much fun,” Sexton said.
Plans for his Scratch menu include shifting the sauce on the hand-made gnocchi to a brown butter and sage sauce to make it a “transition dish.”
“Our kitchen is also perfecting a coconut curry & butternut squash soup that will be vegetarian,” he said.
Since everything at Scratch is made on the premises from premium ingredients, things can change on a dime dependent on whim or availability. Make sure you check back often, as during this time of year, there’s plenty to keep things interesting.
AT HOME, Sexton has ideas for seasonal home cooking, too. Sexton, much many busy chefs, doesn’t get to spend as much time at home as he would like.
“The trees changing and the cooler weather make it so much fun to be outside and grill out. This fall I will play with a lot of mushroom steaks, marinated in something just spicy enough that the kids can handle it,” he said.
Sexton said he experiments a lot with wilted salads, and since greens are aplenty right now, he generously shared his recipe for a hearty meal, rich in protein and leafy greens. Plus, it’s easy to create.
Late Summer Wilted Green Salad
Toss fresh kale, Swiss chard, halved cherry tomatoes, carrot slices and red bell pepper slices in a large bowl with the following dressing:
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
4 teaspoons grainy mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Set aside while you prepare the bison to top your salad.
1.5 lbs ground bison*
1 jar Maya Kaimal Madras Curry simmering sauce*
2 crowns fresh broccoli
Sauté bison on medium high until it is just browned.
Add curry sauce, once sauce is hot, add broccoli crowns and sauté until softened, but not without crunch.
While the meat is still very hot, top salad with bison and broccoli mixture, serve family style in one large bowl.
* For local bison meat and simmer sauce, head to Native Roots Market, 131 NE Second St. You can also pick up local bison at Homeland, 9225 N. May Ave.
Fall game hunting
Duck: September, November-March
Source: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
Print headline: Season’s eating, Cooler temperatures signal changes to local produce and what we — and area chefs — crave as we slide into the new season.