Epicurean group
A Colorful – and Healthful – Harvest Menu
Fall means harvest-time. Acres of ripe crops are ready to be brought in and shipped to market for consumption, or canned to preserve the harvest for the coming winter months. On Saturday, a visit to the farmers market reveals a colorful bounty of fruit and vegetables overflowing from the wood bins at farmers’ stalls – orange winter squash and pumpkins, purple figs, green lettuces and herbs, red pomegranates and blue-black eggplants.

For my fall recipes, I shine the spotlight on the season’s glorious produce. This all-vegetable menu is healthy, too – low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. The recipes showcase a variety of vegetables and fruit, and provide protein through barley, nuts and cheese.

Head out for a brisk walk through the crisp twilight air, then enjoy this healthful feast with your family and friends. Savor this invigorating season and all its tasty delights!
—Chef Rey Hernandez,
Co-Founder and VP, Epicurean Group

Serves 8

Creamy Fitz Farm Mushroom Stew

Happy Boy Farms Arugula and Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Ginger Dressing

Fried Capay Organics Eggplant “Sandwich” with Sautéed Spinach, Grilled Tomato and Bellweather Farms Ricotta served with Sautéed Red Cabbage and Barley Broccoli Risotto

San Joaquin Valley Black Mission Fig Empanadas
Creamy Fitz Farm Mushroom Stew
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms, brushed*, trimmed and left whole
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, brushed*, trimmed and cut in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms brushed trimmed and cut in 1/4-inch slices
1 large white onion, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade*
Fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed and coarsely chopped

*Epicurean Tip: A Quick Trick for Mushroom Cleanup
Mushrooms absorb water like a sponge. Also, if you decide to wash them and then leave them wet too long they will start to break down and get slimy. Better to brush them with a thick pastry brush. I prefer round as opposed to flat brushes; the round ones seem to get in the nooks and crannies better.

*Epicurean Tip: A Hot (Vegetable) Stock Tip!
Nothing beats flavorful, homemade stock. It’s easy to make your own and, if you do, all your recipes will be vastly improved. Here is my own recipe for a savory vegetable stock.

Vegetable Stock
4 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered
6 stalks celery, diced large
1 celery root, peeled and diced large
2 carrots, peeled and pencil cut
2 red bell peppers, stem removed, seeded, membrane removed, diced large
1 rutabaga, peeled and diced large
2 parsnips, peeled and pencil cut
2 bulbs fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme, left whole

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with water, 2 inches above the top of the vegetables. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Strain the stock and leave the cooked vegetables in the strainer over a bowl so that you catch all the liquid remaining in the vegetables.
Return the stock to the pot and simmer for 1 more hour. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

Place a heavy-duty, non-reactive soup pot over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until it starts to shimmer.* Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned and tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked mushrooms from the pot and set aside.

Keep the pot on medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Heat until it shimmers and add onion, garlic, thyme. Cook while stirring until onions are translucent. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the reserved cooked mushrooms and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and fresh pepper to taste.

Turn off the heat and, leaving half of the mushrooms in the pot, ladle 3 cups of the soup into a blender. Puree until smooth and add back to the soup pot. Add the cream and simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

To serve:
Ladle into 8 warm soup bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

*Epicurean Tip: A Frying Temperature Trick
When heating oil for frying, place a slice of raw white or yellow onion in the oil after you turn on the burner. When the onion starts to brown, the oil is at frying temperature. The minute you add something to the oil, the temperature drops so you may want to turn the heat up a bit to maintain a steady 375. Of course, a fry-oil thermometer works best, but the vessel you are using for frying may not be deep enough to allow you to use it.

Happy Boy Farms Arugula and Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Ginger Dressing
4 cups arugula, washed and dried
4 cups kale, washed, dried, ribs removed and cut chiffonade*
1 cup pure pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest from 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 shallot, peeled and minced fine
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt
3 pears, washed and stems removed
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
1 cup shelled pistachios

*Epicurean Tip: Chiffonade
A chiffonade cut increases flavor and produces a beautiful cloud of green. To chiffonade kale or other leaves, make a stack of the leaves and roll them lengthwise into a cigar shape. Using a chef’s knife, carefully cut the roll into even 1/8” (or smaller) strips. Fluff the greens with your hand to create individual pieces.

Place arugula and kale in a salad bowl and season with salt and ground pepper. Set aside. Place the pomegranate juice, lemon juice, zest, ginger and shallot in a non-reactive bowl. Slowly drizzle the oil in while whisking to emulsify until all is incorporated. Use a mandoline to cut the pears into matchstick size pieces. Add the pears to the dressing and toss to coat.

To serve:
Drain the pears from the dressing and set aside. Pour dressing over the arugula and kale and toss to coat. Distribute the salad onto 8 chilled salad plates. Garnish with the marinated pears, pomegranate seeds and pistachios. Serve immediately.

Fried Capay Organics Eggplant “Sandwich” with Sautéed Spinach, Grilled Tomato and Bellweather Farms Ricotta served with Sautéed Red Cabbage and Barley Broccoli Risotto
2 or 3 medium globe eggplants*, cut in 3/4-inch slices, for a total of 16 slices
Kosher salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
6 large eggs, beaten lightly
4 cups Panko bread crumbs
Rice bran oil for frying, enough to fill a heavy skillet 1/2 inch up the side

*Epicurean Tip: Eggplant Prep 101
To prevent eggplant from oxidizing once you have cut it and to leach out the bitter tasting solanine, there are several techniques utilizing salt. One way is the salt-water method described in this recipe. Another way is to pour salt over the cut eggplant, place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, cover the eggplant with another piece of parchment, top with a second sheet pan and add weight such as canned goods or bags of dry beans. Place the pan in the refrigerator at least one hour or as long as overnight. Be sure to wipe the liquid and salt off before using in your preparation. It does not have to be dredged in salt, but you can be liberal with your application as you will be taking most of the salt off when you wipe it with a paper towel.

Fill a large non-reactive mixing bowl halfway with cold water. Add kosher salt until you can just taste it in the water. Place all the eggplant slices in the water. Weigh the eggplant down with a smaller bowl filled with water to submerge the slices in the salt water. Soak for at least 1/2 hour, then drain the eggplant and squeeze out/wipe off the moisture before proceeding.

Mix the flour and cornstarch together and dredge the eggplant until well coated, pat to remove the excess and dip into the beaten egg mixture. Drop eggplant slices into the Panko and press to coat well. Set the breaded eggplant on a rack covered with paper towels until all slices are breaded.

Fill a skillet with the rice bran oil and heat to 375 degrees. Once you reach temperature, carefully lay slices of eggplant in the oil to brown. Carefully remove the eggplant from the oil and place on a rack with dry paper towels to drain. Repeat until all eggplant is fried. Hold at room temperature for assembly.

For the Spinach and Tomatoes:
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed and drained
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt
8 ounces ricotta cheese
2 to 4 large heirloom tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch slices, for a total of 8 slices

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan, add the spinach leaves and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the skillet. Place in a bowl and hold for assembly.

Place pepper, salt, ricotta cheese into a non-reactive bowl and toss together until well incorporated. Set aside.

Wipe the sauté pan dry and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper and place on the pan. Brown for 1 minute on each side and remove to a platter. Hold for assembly.

To serve:
Place 8 slices of eggplant on a platter. Top each slice with one slice of tomato. Divide the spinach over each. Top the spinach with 1 ounce of ricotta. Place the second slice of eggplant over each to top the “sandwich”. Serve immediately.

For the Sautéed Red Cabbage:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut julienne
1 head red cabbage, core removed and cut julienne
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cabbage and sauté until it is well wilted. Add the vinegar and stir together. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

For the Barley and Broccoli Risotto:
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
1 small white onion, peeled and diced finely
3 cups barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade*
3 cups broccoli, florets separated, stems peeled and diced small
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Add oil to a non-reactive skillet over medium high heat. Heat until shimmering, add garlic and onion and cook until translucent. Add the barley and cook while stirring for 5 minutes. Add the wine and 6 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broccoli and the rest of the stock, if needed. Stir together and cover. Leave on simmer for 10 more minutes. Take off the heat, remove cover and add salt and pepper to taste.

Keep warm until ready to serve.

San Joaquin Valley Black Mission Fig Empanadas
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1 teaspoon iodized salt
1 3/4 cups cold, unsalted butter, chilled
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup water, ice cold
20 to 24 ripe Black Mission figs
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons orange zest
Powdered sugar for garnish

Heat oven to 375 degrees

For the dough:
Place 3 cups flour, cane juice and salt in a mixing bowl with a paddle. Add the cold butter and mix on low speed until it looks like large crumbs. Add the remaining cup of flour, the egg and water. Mix until the dough gathers into a ball. Remove from the bowl. Wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Wash the figs and remove the stems. Cut each fig in 8 wedges and place in a bowl, add orange juice and zest and toss together well. Set aside and hold at room temperature.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, divide into 24 equal portions and roll into balls. Place the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and use a tortilla press or a rolling pin to roll the dough balls into 2- to 3-inch circles. Use a slotted spoon to remove the figs from the bowl then divide the figs evenly into each circle. Fold each empanada into a half circle. Use a fork to crimp the edges of the dough together. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until browned. Cool on a wire rack.

To serve:
Arrange empanadas on a platter and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

We believe fresh, good food not only feeds the body, but the mind and spirit as well.”
Reynaldo Hernandez,
Co-Founder and VP, Epicurean Group