When there's a chill in the air and leaves begin to fall, celebrate all the produce the season has to offer.
We gathered at the dinner table recently, longtime friends and colleagues who collectively cooked for each other for occasional meals. On this night we were celebrating the abundance of the farmers market, and each of us had dipped into our files for a new or a favorite vegetable recipe to contribute.
As the meal progressed, it struck me that by serendipity we had landed on a perfect fall menu, not only for its flavors, but for the sheer simplicity and elegance of the individual dishes that made up the whole of the meal. Perfection may be elusive, but it is attainable, at least at the table. It may have been that we found ideal recipes -- and sure enough, these were terrific, nothing too complicated, no ingredients too obscure. But I like to think that the level of perfection in the meal had as much to do with the companions gathered at the table -- dining alone would have been an entirely different experience -- as well as the produce itself.
And not only the individual tastes but the alchemy of so many vegetables presented so well together at the height of their ripeness: tomatoes bursting with deep tomatoey flavor; beets, greens and goat cheese with plenty of bite; cabbage, chile pepper, fresh cilantro and mint that popped with zest; sweet apples with a hint of cinnamon that tasted of the upcoming season. And cheeses from the market -- oh, the cheeses! -- that we nibbled and cooed over. All of this served up at a table with friends. Perfection.
Follow Lee Svitak Dean on Twitter: @StribTaste.