Harvest swoon: Fall into these savory flavors of the season

·8 min read

Sep. 19—Melle Mouch was raised Jewish, but didn't really connect with the faith. She now calls herself a "bagel and lox" Jew: someone with appreciation for the heritage and the culture, but who doesn't practice anymore.

Instead she was "looking for something more nature-based," and at 25, in 1995, found herself attracted to Wicca. "That's kind of where I found the most connection," she said, while "studying many religions to see what clicked with me."

As a Wiccan, Ms. Mouch and her family — wife Cat, daughter Kendra, 13, and 11-year old son Liam — will be celebrating one of the religion's eight Sabbats on Tuesday: Mabon, which honors the autumnal equinox.

"I love the meanings behind all of the holidays," she said, which are based on the seasons and the yearly cycle. "But the autumn-y ones are my favorites."

Mabon is "kind of like an earlier Thanksgiving" with a bit of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) mixed in, all combined with a touch of hygge — the Scandinavian notion of coziness.

Ms. Mouch, a certified herbalist who calls herself "a kitchen witch, because you can do so much healing with food," explained that menus for this eight-day event are a mix of late summer and early fall fare.

"Anything that comes to harvest right about now is really ideal," she said. And comfort foods, as the weather gets chillier, are also welcome.

So a meal might include "beets, pumpkins, oranges," she elaborated. "And then you've got your herbs," such as sage, and "elderberries, blackberries." Squash, corn, pomegranates, pears, nuts, wheat, cranberries, and spices are often featured, too.

While she only celebrates one night during Mabon, Ms. Mouch sets a festive table filled with bounty.

"There is a pumpkin beef stew that I absolutely love," she said enthusiastically. Or she might serve a cider-basted roast chicken with root vegetables. That could be accompanied by "a sweet potato dish I love," which has fried sage and crumbled goat cheese (honey chèvre from Wauseon's Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery) whipped into it.

Ms. Mouch might also bake "a very versatile artisanal bread," which she learned to make in a class at the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg.

To drink, one might offer "a mulled wine or mulled cider," she said, featuring fall fruits. "Basically make a sachet with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc., and simmer until the flavor is infused to your liking." This can be served either warm or chilled.

A favorite holiday dessert is a Clementine-Fig Spice Cake. And Ms. Mouch intends to even use figs from her own tree, a Chicago Hardy variety.

"This thing took off over the summer — it's like four-and-a-half feet tall," she exclaimed. "I named the fig Arabella," she said happily.

When planning your celebratory meals, don't forget that apples are "such a big part of Mabon," Ms. Mouch said.

They're "a symbol of the fruit harvest, and a symbol for life and immortality, renewal, regeneration, and wholeness."

While the food associated with Mabon is wonderful, it's not necessarily the most important aspect of the Sabbat.

"You can have your feasts," Ms. Mouch said. "But you're also setting your intentions for the next year."

At this time, "the balance of days and nights are pretty much equal, so you want to try and balance out your life," she continued. "You clean your house, you bake a lot."

You settle in and create warmth in anticipation of the coming cold, and create an environment in which you can be nurtured and thrive.

Mabon is "a time to give thanks for the foods that have grown through the summer," Ms. Mouch said.

"It's basically the end of the harvest season."

Autumn Squash Soup

1 pound butternut squash cubes

2 tablespoons oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and chopped fine

2 cups whole milk, or more if needed

Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the squash with the oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet, then roast for 30 minutes until tender. Mix it with the syrup and spices; mash well.

Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat; add the flour and cook until golden brown, whisking constantly. Whisk in the broth.

Stir in the squash mixture, applesauce, and chopped apple. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the apples are tender, stirring often. Let cool, then refrigerate overnight for the flavors to blend.

Purée the soup and the 2 cups milk in a blender or with an immersion blender, then place it into a medium saucepan. Add more milk, if desired for a thinner soup, then heat until warmed through.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: Adapted from autumnearthsong.com

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup grated peeled apples

1 cup grated peeled carrots

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line it with paper liners.

With an electric mixer, blend the eggs, sugar, and oil in a medium mixing bowl until well combined and lightened. Stir in the grated apples and carrots.

In a separate bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Blend the dry ingredients with the apple mixture until just combined. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Yield: Makes 12

Source: Adapted from wicca.com

Image Description Orange Goat Cheese Whipped Sweet Potatoes are flecked with tidbits of fried sage.THE BLADE/KURT STEISS

3 large sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons grass-fed butter (or bacon fat, lard, coconut oil, etc.)

10 to 12 fresh sage leaves, stems removed

Juice of 2 oranges

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled (see note)

Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.

Poke holes in sweet potatoes with a fork. Wrap in foil. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until soft.

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, warm a small pan over medium heat and add the butter. Once melted, add sage leaves and cook until they are crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain, then crumble.

Peel the cooked sweet potatoes and place in a deep bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer, whip until smooth. Add orange juice, maple syrup, goat cheese, salt, and the crumbled sage leaves. Whip together until smooth.

Place into a serving dish and serve immediately.

Note: "I use the honey chèvre from Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery" in Wauseon, Melle Mouch said.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Source: Adapted from paleomg.com

Image Description Clementine-Fig Spice Cake is topped with candied fruit and glazed with a citrus syrup. THE BLADE/KURT STEISS

6 clementines

3 cups sugar, divided

1 cup dried figs, stemmed and finely chopped (golden and/or Mission)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons apple pie spice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter, melted

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Image Description Clementine-Fig Spice Cake gets drizzled with extra citrus syrup.THE BLADE/KURT STEISS

In a medium saucepan stir together 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and 1/2 cup water. Cook until just boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add clementine slices to syrup. Return to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove clementine slices and set aside to cool on a sheet of parchment-lined baking sheet, reserving syrup. Set aside until the cake is finished.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round springform pan, line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper and grease the paper.

Place figs in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Add 1/2 cup water. Cover with waxed paper and cook on high for 3 minutes. Carefully remove bowl and set aside (do not drain).

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, spice, salt, and baking soda. Add butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Add fig mixture; stir to combine. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a large plate, then remove the bottom of the pan; invert onto a serving platter, then let cool to room temperature.

Brush the top of the cake with some of the reserved syrup, arrange the candied clementine slices over the cake in a decorative fashion, then brush the top of the cake again with syrup.

When serving, offer the rest of the reserved syrup to drizzle over slices of cake.

Yield: 10 servings

Source: Adapted from bhg.com

First Published September 19, 2021, 12:00pm

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