I’m in love with Fall harvest cooking. Being a Midwesterner for most of my life has given me the great joy of cooking with the most delicious produce harvested at the end of summer and beginning of the majestic Autumn weather. This year, we didn’t have much of a chance to experience all the beauty of it- the changing leaves, the crisp & dry air, the smell of freshly harvested apples. It’s all a great reminder of my childhood when the season, the weather and everything that came with it was expected like clock work.
Today, things are different. The climate is changing. The weather is unpredictable, aggressive and extreme. This year, for example, in and around Chicago we had about less than a week of purely Autumn weather until everything turned to a cold, wet mess.
That’s when I turn inward. I cozy up to my kitchen, the warmest place in the house. After my run to the farmers market (we have indoors markets in the winter, too), I am comforted by the creative process of what can be done with the squash, gourds, greens and root vegetables that grew of the earth during this time.
It’s also one of my favorite times of year to invite guests for dinner to enjoy all of this delicious produce, albeit in the style of my favorite type of cooking that simply agrees with my DNA- the Mediterranean diet (minus the alcohol or pork, of course).
While people might think that Mediterranean food is warm-weather food, that isn’t entirely the case. The Mediterranean experiences a variety of climates and terrain: coastal communities along the Sea as well as high desert climes of the mountainous interiors, just to name a couple. Squash and gourds are a significant part of the Fall harvest Mediterranean diet and are often turned into soups or added to stews, which not only impart robust flavor into meals, but also many essential vitamins and minerals.
Fermented foods are also part of the healthy diet & lifestyle (i.e. olives, yogurt, pickled produce), contributing to what is now referred to as the longevity of the people Blue Zones, two of which are in the Mediterranean (Ikaria, Greece and Sardinia, Italy).
What is interesting about these diets is that although meat and dairy consumption is limited among the centenarians of the Mediterranean Blue Zones, yogurt (a probiotic) is still a regular part of their diet, and usually it’s made from goat or sheep’s milk.
The process of fermentation of the milk is key in how it helps our bodies to digest it, whether it is from goat, sheep or cow- as well as the quality of the lifestyle of the animal which I believe is hugely important. Most people who are lactose-intolerant can usually tolerate yogurt because of this fermentation process (not the alcohol kind of fermentation found in making beers, wines and spirits).
That said, I’ve decided to incorporate yogurt into a couple of recipes in my Mediterranean Dinner Spread for Autumn or for Thanksgiving. In addition to Sweet Potato Soup..,
Sauteed Swiss Chard (made with just a little garlic, sea salt and olive oil)
Sauteed Kale (made the same way as the Swiss chard)…
Warm Potato Salad (made similarly to this one except I added red onions and used fresh herbs instead of dried ones).
Mediterranean Mezze Plate with Artichokes, Kalamata & Spanish Olives, Cucumbers & Sliced Lemons…
…and Roasted & Sliced Turkey Breast (to add your own homemade gravy, go here)…
I’ve included two recipes with yogurt I think you’ll love and want to include on your dinner table:
Yogurt Spread with Pomegranates, Chopped Pistachios and Hazelnuts, Lemon Zest and Olive Oil. I recommend eating this with real sourdough bread made from the finest, unprocessed grains. Get the recipe for the yogurt spread made with Mountain High Yoghurt here...
and this Pumpkin Parfait with Mountain High Yoghurt, Honey, Chopped Nuts & Pumpkin Seeds that’s soo good you can enjoy it as a dessert.
Get the recipe here.
Enjoy this menu to feed 2-4 people and with soup you can stretch it to 6-8 by simply adding more liquid to them. There’ll be plenty of leftovers for everyone to take home if it’s a small crowd.
This post was sponsored by Mountain High Yoghurt. All opinions, recipes and photos are generated by the author.