It's harvest time across the country, and there's no better way to celebrate than by eating local, seasonal foods. Of course you can stop by your farmers' market to pick up fresh items to prepare at home, but a growing number of restaurants are also offering seasonal fare. "Fall is really the simplest cooking time," says Alton Brown, host of Iron Chef America, Next Iron Chef (season four debuts October 30!) and Good Eats. "You don't have to do much to the produce at this time of year because it's when both nutrients and flavor are at their highest levels."
To make it easier to enjoy the fall flavors he loves so much, Brown teamed up with Welch's and Zagat for their "Taste the Harvest Guide." (To download a free copy, click here.) It lists and reviews 196 farm-to-table restaurants in 16 cities across the U.S., and also includes a few healthy recipes, profiles of farmers and tips from dietitians, including Welch's own health and nutrition manager Casey Lewis, R.D. "The Guide is designed to help people get excited about eating produce. A diet full of colorful produce is also rich in healthy vitamins, minerals and nutrients," Lewis says. But one can't live on restaurant food alone.
When you decide to hit your local market and buy items for meals at home, consider grabbing Brown's current picks: chard, pumpkin and squash. He says that since they taste so great right now, a simple treatment like roasting works best. But what to serve with alongside all of this delicious produce? Brown says that his chickpea falafel is one recipe everyone should know since it's simple to make at home. Bonus: You can control the baking method and reduce the fat from a traditional falafel recipe by baking instead of frying!
For Brown's essential falafel recipe, straight from his new cookbook Good Eats 3: The Later Years,
Chickpea Falafel Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, 2011 From Good Eats 3: The Later Years
- 1 pound dry chickpeas, sorted and rinsed
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 4 small scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
- Place the chickpeas in a medium bowl and cover by 2-inches with cold water. Soak overnight.
- Place the cumin and coriander seeds in an 8-inch cast iron skillet and set over medium high heat. Cook, shaking pan frequently, until the seeds give off an aroma and just begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer toasted spices to a spice grinder and process until finely ground. Set aside.
- Drain the chickpeas. Combine the soaked chickpeas, ground cumin and coriander, garlic and scallions, salt, black pepper, baking powder, cayenne pepper and parsley leaves in a medium mixing bowl.
- Pass this mixture through a meat grinder or stand mixer grinder attachment fitted with the smallest die. Alternatively, you can divide the mixture in half and process one half at a time in a food processor, pulsing 10 to 20 times.
- Scoop the mixture into 1 1/2 to 2 ounce portions using a 2-inch diameter disher. Place on a half sheet pan lined with parchment. (Can be held at room temperature for up to 2 hours or covered in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.)
- Bake the falafel on a sheet pan sprayed with nonstick spray at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Flip the falafel using a thin spatula and continue baking an additional 15 minutes or until browned and crisped. Serve on a warm pita.