Five dinner ideas to get you in the mood for autumn

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September has arrived, and with it, autumn home cooking. I know, you’re probably still eating tomatoes. I am too. I like this shoulder season, when you’re maybe still eating giant, lively salads for dinner, but they’re a little heftier and not born of humid desperation to just cool off. But as I peeled apples this week for a Rosh Hashanah galette, and put a roast chicken in the oven with carrots and potatoes, my mind went to crisp, sunny afternoons and cool evenings – sweater weather – and all the tastes I associate with them.

Chopped salad with jalapeño-ranch dressing

This chopped salad is fresh, festive and excessive in a celebratory way. While most salads opt for the lightest layer of dressing to optimise the produce’s flavours, this one calls for the dressing to generously coat the crisp ingredients. Inspired by Caesar salad, ranch dressing and the dinner-worthy salads popularised at chain restaurants, this salad is punchy and satisfying, thanks to rich ingredients like avocado, feta and a mayonnaise-thickened dressing, plus those with bite, like radishes, corn kernels and tortilla chips. Pair the salad with grilled tofu, chicken, prawns or burgers – or nothing at all. This salad eschews subtlety, and hits all the right notes.

By: Alexa Weibel

Serves: 4 to 6

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

For the dressing:

120ml buttermilk

120g mayonnaise

3 large spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped

6g finely chopped fresh coriander

2 tbsp finely chopped jalapeño with its seeds (or to taste)

1 lime, zested

½ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp garlic powder

Salt and black pepper

For the salad:

3 romaine lettuce hearts (about 450g), trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces

3 fresh ears of corn, shucked, kernels removed from cobs

8 radishes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons

2 large, ripe avocados, pitted and diced

5 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced at an angle

75g crumbled feta (or grated parmesan)

16g chopped coriander, leaves and tender stems

50g crumbled tortilla crisps (preferably lime flavoured; optional)

Method:

1. Prepare the dressing: in a large measuring cup, whisk all the dressing ingredients together to combine. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper (makes approx 300ml. It will taste quite salty at this point, and that is intentional. You want it to hold up when tossed with a big pile of vegetables.)

2. In a large shallow bowl or platter, toss the romaine with half of the following ingredients: corn, radishes, avocado, sliced spring onions, feta and coriander. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 1120ml dressing and toss to coat. Season again with salt and pepper.

3. Top with the remaining corn, radishes, avocado, spring onions, feta and coriander, scattering the garnishes on top or arranging them in stripes or piles. Sprinkle some crumbled tortilla crisps on top, if using. Drizzle the salad with an additional 60ml dressing, and serve immediately, serving any remaining dressing and additional tortilla crisps alongside.

Baking tray chicken with courgette and basil

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This is a summery meal that’s fresh, full of flavour and an absolute snap to make

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In this simple weeknight recipe, chicken thighs and drumsticks are seasoned with garlic, herbs and red-pepper flakes, and roasted alongside tender chunks of courgette that caramelise in the oven’s heat. Torn basil leaves and a squeeze of lemon give the dish sharp and tangy notes just before serving, while the optional coriander seeds tossed into the pan lend depth. This recipe comfortably serves two to three, but if you’re feeding more people, feel free to double the ingredients. Divide the ingredients between two baking trays, and bear in mind that you might need to add a few minutes to the cooking time. Add some crusty bread or rice to soak up the savory juices, and you’ve got a summery meal that’s fresh, full of flavor and an absolute snap to make.

By: Melissa Clark

Serves: 2 to 3

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

800g bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

560g courgette, sliced into 2.5cm chunks

2 fat garlic cloves, finely grated, passed through a press or minced

2 tsp dried mint or oregano

1 tsp coriander seeds, cracked with a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a chef’s knife (optional)

¼ tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

Lemon wedges, for serving

25g torn fresh basil leaves, for serving

Method:

1. Heat oven to 220C. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, and season all over with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Place courgette on a rimmed baking tray, and season with a little more salt and pepper.

2. In a small bowl, combine garlic, mint or oregano, coriander (if using) and red-pepper flakes. Whisk in oil. Add chicken to the pan with the courgette pieces and pour garlic mixture over all, tossing until well coated. Spread chicken and courgette in a single layer, and roast until chicken is cooked through and courgette is browned and caramelised, 30 to 40 minutes. You don’t need to turn anything.

3. Once the pan is out of the oven, squeeze a lemon wedge over everything. Garnish with basil and serve with more lemon wedges and red-pepper flakes on the side.

Blackened fish with quick grits

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Blackening is a technique that develops distinctive flavour

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Blackening is a technique that develops distinctive flavour

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Blackening is a cooking technique that uses high heat and lots of seasoning to develop distinctive flavour by nearly charring the food in a cast-iron pan. It’s particularly good for firm, lean white fish, such as catfish, snapper, trout or redfish. The fish is traditionally dipped in melted butter, then cooked in a dry frying pan, but that can create billows of smoke. This smokeless method cooks seasoned fillets in oil to create a lovely texture. The cheese grits cook in just under 5 minutes, but are extra flavourful from cooking in chicken stock and still creamy as a result of added milk and butter.

By: Vallery Lomas

Serves: 4

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

For the fish:

1 tbsp plus 1½ tsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

2¼ tsp dried thyme

2¼ tsp dried oregano

1½ tsp garlic powder

1½ tsp salt

½ to 1 tsp ground cayenne, depending on heat preference

4 (140-170g) skinless white fish fillets, such as snapper, catfish, trout or tilapia

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter

Sliced spring onions, for garnish

Lemon wedges, for serving

For the cheese grits:

830ml low-sodium chicken stock or water

1 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1 cup quick-cooking grits (or polenta, if you can’t find grits)

120ml whole milk

2 tbsp unsalted butter

170g grated cheddar, plus more for garnish

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Prepare the fish: in a small bowl, whisk together the sweet paprika, black pepper, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, salt and cayenne. Pat the fish fillets dry, then sprinkle enough seasoning over both sides of the fillets to completely coat. Reserve remaining seasoning for another use. Allow the fish to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.

2. While the fish sits, make the cheese grits: bring the chicken stock and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high. Add the grits while whisking and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Allow the grits to thicken, about 5 minutes or so, then stir in the milk, butter and cheese. Season with black pepper and more salt to taste. Keep over the lowest heat possible until ready to serve.

3. Meanwhile, cook the fish: heat a large cast-iron frying pan with the olive oil and butter over medium-high. Add the fish fillets, and cook until the spices are darkened and aromatic, and the fish flakes easily with a fork, 2 to 4 minutes per side.

4. Divide the grits among serving dishes and nestle the fish on top. Garnish the grits with more shredded cheese and the whole dish with the spring onions. Serve immediately with lemon wedges for squeezing over the fish.

One-pot orzo with tomatoes, corn and courgette

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A pasta inspired by the tail end of summer

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A pasta inspired by the tail end of summer

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This recipe is inspired by the tail end of summer, when fresh produce and herbs abound but the heat waves are finally starting to relent. And while this dish makes a wonderful stage for the season’s produce at its peak, it can also turn sad-looking February vegetables into a sauce that makes it feel like summer. The trick is to sauté the tomatoes slowly, until they’ve collapsed and become deeply sweet and fragrant. The orzo cooks right in the sauce, which cuts down on the dishes and allows the pasta to absorb the flavor as it cooks. If you prefer a larger pasta shape, stick to the traditional method of boiling pasta for best results, and save some pasta water to help loosen the sauce.

By: Lidey Heuck

Serves: 4 to 6

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1½ tsp salt, plus more for seasoning

Black pepper, to taste

1 medium courgette (about 225g), halved lengthwise, seeded and 1.5cm diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

550g cherry tomatoes, halved

6g torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving

¼ tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp tomato paste

220g orzo

Kernels from one ear of corn

1 cup torn or medium-diced fresh mozzarella (about 140g)

85g grated parmesan

Method:

1. Heat olive oil in a large (30cm) frying pan, for which you have a lid, set over medium. And the onions, lightly season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the courgette and garlic, and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring often.

2. Add the tomatoes, basil, red-pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have completely collapsed, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and tomato paste and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add 600ml water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the orzo, corn, and ½ teaspoon salt, mix well, and turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan 3 or 4 times, until the pasta is cooked. The pasta should look “saucy” as it cooks; if at any point it looks dry, add another 60ml water.

4. Off the heat, add the mozzarella and parmesan and stir gently until just combined. Top with fresh basil and more red-pepper flakes if desired, and serve hot.

Mushroom chicharrón tacos

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Another veggie taco recipe to add to your repertoire

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Another veggie taco recipe to add to your repertoire

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This simple recipe calls for pan-searing meaty oyster mushrooms so they become as perfectly crispy and golden as chicharrón. Paired with fresh pico de gallo, these mushrooms feel satisfying with their natural umami savouriness. This quick dish tastes like juicy carniceria tacos that balance the richness of fried meat with the acidic punch of salsa.

By: Jocelyn Ramirez

Makes: 4

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the pico de gallo:

1 large beefsteak tomato, cored and cut into 0.5cm dice

1 large ripe Hass avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into 0.5cm dice

2 jalapeños, stemmed and finely chopped (seeded if desired)

8g coriander leaves, finely chopped

3 tbsp fresh lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)

Coarse salt

For the mushroom tacos:

510g oyster mushrooms (from 2 to 3 medium clusters)

80ml neutral oil, such as canola

¼ tsp ground cumin

1½ tsp coarse salt

Black pepper

12 corn tortillas

Method:

1. Make the pico de gallo: combine the tomato, avocado, jalapeños, coriander and lime juice in a bowl and season with salt. Gently fold together. Set aside to allow flavours to marry while the mushrooms cook.

2. Make the tacos: tear the oyster mushrooms into bite-size pieces, leaving some mushroom tops whole. To make sure the mushrooms become crisp, cook in two batches: heat a large cast iron or other heavy frying pan over medium-high and coat with half of the oil. Once the oil is hot, add half of the mushrooms in a single layer without crowding the pan. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until deep golden brown and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate, then repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms. Return the first batch to the pan, and add the cumin and salt, and season with pepper. Stir well, then remove from the heat.

3. While the mushrooms are cooking, warm the tortillas on a comal or heavy frying pan over medium-high heat until soft and pliable. Wrap them in a dish towel to keep them warm until ready to serve. Divide the mushrooms and pico de gallo among the warm tortillas. Serve immediately

© The New York Times


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