We’re in the thick of fall and, for some, this season equates to pumpkin spice everything. Yet, to limit autumn to the typical notions of pumpkin spice and all things root vegetables would be doing a disservice to the season. Fall is harvest season and, thus, there is an abundance of wonderful flavors and textures if you know where to look.
Seasonality is a fundamental part of menu building, as ingredients that are in-season are at their freshest and, often, at their cheapest. Today’s consumers value foods that are locally sourced and, fortunately, using seasonal ingredients is a great way to support your regional suppliers while also creating a menu that fits in with the weather and time of year.
Photo courtesy Kaysha Weiner Photography
Nobody wants a cold gazpacho in the dead of winter, just as thick chilis and stews are not the dish of choice in summer. Thus, it makes a lot of sense to embrace your local seasonal provisions—both for your customers and for your bottom line.
While your local options will vary based on your location, here are a few key ingredients that are both fall-friendly and cost-effective.
There’s a lot of love for fall veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots, but there are so many other choices out there to mix up your menu and create some new flavor profiles. For example, cabbage is always a budget-friendly base that is both filling and nutritious, as are brussels sprouts. Other great choices include eggplants, artichokes, endives, kohlrabi, parsnips, and rutabagas. With so many options during harvest season, it’s a shame to stick to the same old favorites!
Photo courtesy Stephanie Yonce Photography
Believe it or not, there are other fall fruits besides pumpkins and apples! In fact, autumn is peak season for pears, persimmons, figs, cranberries, pomegranates, tangerines, and quinces. Consider substituting one of these fruits in your go-to recipes or try your hand at something entirely new. You may find a wonderful alternative that tastes delicious and sets your menu apart from those of your competitors.
It’s easy to fall back on traditional proteins like chicken, beef, and fish—after all, these industry staples are always in-season. However, autumn is a wonderful time to experiment with some of the richer meats, like rabbit, goat, and duck. It’s also a good opportunity to make use of more plant-based proteins, like lentils, tofu, and tempeh, which are typically more cost-effective than animal-based proteins.
Photo courtesy Amy Kolo
Embracing new and unique fall ingredients is a great method to develop creative menus that wow your clients, while also making the food purchasing experience more interesting. As caterers, we should always strive to continue learning ways to enrich our services—what better way to do so than to get our hands dirty with some fun, uncommon ingredients?