After a fierce and sweaty Austin summer, I excitedly look forward to fall. Not just for the relief from the heat for me, but for my garden and my electric bill too! Other perks of the season include perfect biking weather and being able to cook in my kitchen again. It’s true, I have spent some time in my kitchen this summer – mostly assembling tacos, sandwiches and salads from garden veggies and blending frozen fruit smoothies. What autumn brings is the call of pumpkin pie, hot apple cider and home-cooked meals shared with friends and family.
I love entertaining, but with the busy life of a small business owner, I can often feel rushed and frantic when preparing meals. Here’s one of my favorite fall meals for entertaining and things I do to help set myself up for dinner success:
These crostinis are amazingly tasty and well worth the serious chopping they require, but if your knives are sharp, this recipe can be a breeze:
Clean and Sharp
Nobody can deny that the best tools to have in any kitchen are a set of clean hands and sharp knives. Together, this pair can take on just about anything! Hand washing goes for both too, and not just for sanitary purposes — washing cooking knives in the dishwasher may dull and warp them.
This simple, delicious recipe can be easily doubled for a crowd, but requires some basics in place to make it a snap to prepare:
First Thing’s First
Having multiple tasks going on at once in the kitchen will help you get meals ready faster, so start the things that take the longest, first. The recipe calls for al dente cooked pasta, so start a pot of boiling water before you start following the recipe. Then, while you’re prepping the other ingredients, you’ll be ready to cook your pasta and have it done in time to start this recipe.
Hold the Garlic
When sautéing with minced garlic, add vegetables and onions first and add garlic close to the end of cooking. That way you cook the garlic enough to tame its sharp raw flavor but still taste it — this helps to avoid burning the garlic also. If a recipe does call for adding garlic at the beginning of cooking, make sure your remaining ingredients are prepped and ready to add quickly.
Sometimes in the rush of getting everything to the table, we can forget the importance of taking a moment to breathe and enjoy the moment. Your food likes that too.
Give it a Rest
Food continues to cook after you take it off the heat, which is especially important to rememberwhen it comes to eggs, meat and fish, since overcooking can really change texture. For example, after cooking meat, remove it from the heat, cover it and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes (or longer for large pieces of meat such as roasts, whole chickens and turkeys) so the juices redistribute.
So there you have it; a few of my favorite fall recipes and some tips if you’re feeling a little rusty after a summer away from the stove.
What is your best piece of kitchen advice for cooks returning to the kitchen or for folks diving in to fall entertaining?