Making a menu that’s favorable for fall

Merry Graham with her Blackberry, Ginger, Speculaas Danish Wreath that she has created in her kitchen to compete in the National Festival of Breads, America's Bread Baking Competition. Dan Watson/The Signal

By Caleb Lunetta

Signal Senior Staff Writer

The leaves are changing, the air is getting chillier and the light colors around your home decor are becoming slightly cozier.

Fall is here, and with it comes the sometimes general need to begin preparing dishes appropriate for the season: Lighter menus with salads and burgers are being slightly transitioned to heartier foods, such as chili, stews and cinnamon desserts.

“I think there’s probably two reasons, that we always go into seasonal cooking and that is: One, food memory is very strong. Whatever we grew up with in seasonal food is what we’re going to rely on and be comforted by,” said Merry Graham, a local baking and cooking expert in Newhall. “The other thing is the craving of lightness and light foods in the summer and then comforting, homey or warm cooking foods of winter and fall.”

Graham believes that the tradition of changing the falls with seasons, and the subsequent association that we make with certain foods dates back generations and when we lived off the land to utilize whatever produce was on the land that season.

“So, I can’t find pomegranates in June usually, so I’m not going to have pomegranates,” said Graham. “But by golly, by the end of October, I’m going to start using pomegranates.”

The availability of food then created a desire for people to continually eat those foods during certain times of the year, and so a generational desire for seasonal diets was created.

But what are the seasonal foods of fall and what are the best ways to cook/find them?

Possible courses

While salads and barbecue shrimp and salads may be some of the more popular dishes during summer, Graham said dishes like butternut squash soup and creamy bisques, potato-loaded chowder and other hearty meals are associated with the fall.

“They used to have to use the potatoes, because they would run out of the fresh ingredients from summer and have to use the root vegetables during fall,” said Graham. “But then also fall in Southern California still means we can grill.”

Graham said just last week she grilled with what she described as “warm spices,” such as cinnamon and Chinese Five Spice, to mix together with some pork tenderloin. She added that she grilled some apples and other fruit along with a charred poblano, chopped it all up and put it on top.

“It was a very simple fall dinner and it tasted so much like fall because of the roasted apples,” said Graham. “So, anything with roasted apples, such as stuffed roasted apples with sausage.”

If grilling is not an option for you and you’re looking for something easier to make your fall foods, try the InstaPot. According to Graham, you can make all your soups stews, your beans and rice, all in a single crock pot all day.

“It’s just a quick way to form a lot of comforting flavors and it’s one thing that you can have to make sure your dinners are done in 30 minutes and you don’t have to cook all day.”

Co-owner of Egg Plantation Shannon Mee agreed with Graham that recipes for fall are associated with a feeling of home, and that people seem to crave heartier foods come fall.

“The first thing that comes to mind is nostalgia: coming back home to the amazing smell of a freshly prepared dinner that you recognize,” said Mee. “Bringing back memories of family recipes and eating fresh flavorful ingredients around the family table.”

She added that if one is looking to create a smorgasbord of fall flavors, or drafts some ideas for creating a fall-themed dinner, there are a couple of suggestions he could make.

“Another reason people associate fall with heartier foods is because as cooler fall weather approaches appetites generally shift to crave heavier comfort food recipes such as:

  • Crock Pot Recipes
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Casseroles
  • Chili
  • Chicken or Steak Pot Pie”


A staple of any fall feast or menu in anyone’s home, according to the local experts, is chili.

“The most important ingredient is the chili, and this might be a shocker, but it’s the chili, ” said Scott Ervin, the CFO and co-founder of feedSCV, when asked what tips and tricks he might have for the hearty meal. “My tip and trick there is to actually get dried chiles at the market to roast them yourself and to create your own chili powder, because it’s not very difficult.”

With the help of a grinder that will help create the freshness you won’t be able to get from a store-bought chili dish — which can oftentimes be made long before you it gets to your table — and stores like Vallarta — who carry several different kinds of dry chilies — one can create a hearty chili that contains fresh flavors, Ervin said.

As for the meat, Ervin says a trap that people may fall into when it comes to the meat selection is using a filet mignon or New York strip. However, because of the low-fat content on those cuts, and their being very tinder, the tendency is for people to overcook them.

“Chuck (roast) is probably the best,” said Ervin. “And I look to throw in some tri tip sometimes…if you’re going to make a green chili, I would use a lighter meat like a pork, like a pork shoulder probably.”

Some people like to cube their meat when it comes to chili while others use ground beef, but Ervin says he likes to do both for mouth-feel and texture.

However, you cut it though, Ervin says to keep in mind that both the meats and chili flavor are supposed to be the stars of your dish.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS