Baltimore-area chefs share sophisticated fall recipes

For The Baltimore Sun
These recipes from Baltimore-area chefs prove there's more to autumn cuisine than pumpkin spice lattes.

Summertime produce gets all the love, but when the mercury drops and the leaves start to change, farmers' markets fill up with an exciting new batch of fruits and vegetables. From mushrooms to squash, the ingredients of autumn are earthy, hearty and pair perfectly with cool evenings, red wine and football.

"I get a yearning to cook fall flavors and heartier dishes," said Brian Lavin, the chef and owner of Gnocco in Highlandtown. "Once it cools down, stick-to-your-ribs food is nice and comforting."

Here, Lavin and four other local chefs share the recipes they like to prepare during the fall. Their creative dishes prove there's more to autumn cuisine than pumpkin spice lattes.


Apple and ricotta agnolotti with duck confit

Lavin's dishes at Gnocco are rooted in Mediterranean cuisine. This time of year, he says, pastas "scream out" for fall flavors, like the sweet-savory combination found in this homemade agnoletti stuffed with sauteed apple, ricotta and duck confit.

Yields 4 servings

For the pasta dough:
2 cups 00 (fine Italian) flour, plus 4 tablespoons for sprinkling
10 egg yolks
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place 2 cups flour, egg yolks, water and olive oil in bowl and mix by hand until they become a cohesive, slightly sticky mass.

Sprinkle additional flour on countertop and knead dough for 5 to 6 minutes, until it becomes elastic.

Tightly wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 6 hours.

For the apple filling:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
Salt to taste

Place butter and olive oil in a hot pan over medium-high heat.

Once the butter is foamy, add onion and fennel. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, agitating the pan frequently, until the onions and fennel are lightly caramelized.

Add the apples to the pan and saute until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool.

Add the apple-vegetable mixture, ricotta and egg to a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt.

For the duck confit:
4 cups duck fat
2 duck legs
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Season duck legs with salt.

In a pan over medium-high heat, melt the duck fat.

Add the duck legs, melted fat, garlic, rosemary and thyme to a casserole dish and cover very tightly with foil.

Place the dish in the oven and bake for 4 to 5 hours, until the duck is tender.

Remove the skin from the duck legs and shred the duck meat.

The reserved cooking fat can be cooled and reused 1 or 2 times.

To assemble the pasta:

Using a pasta roller on the second finest setting, gradually roll the pasta.

Cut the roll of pasta in half lengthwise so you end up with two long strips of pasta dough.

At 2-inch intervals, working from one end down to the center of each strip, place 1 teaspoon of filling on the strip, centered between the two long sides. You should be able to place about 16 spoonfuls of filling on each strip.

Lightly spritz the dough with water and fold the empty half of the strip over, so it covers the half topped with filling.

Avoiding the filling, press down on the dough, removing any air with your fingers.

Using a pasta cutter, cut the dough in between where the filling was placed, to make individual angolotti.

Place each agnolotti on a lightly floured cookie sheet. The pasta will remain fresh for 12 hours and will last for about two weeks when frozen.

For the sauce and to complete the dish:
4 tablespoons butter
10 leaves fresh sage
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar

Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.

Add butter and sage to a saute pan over medium heat.

While the butter is browning, add the pasta to boiling water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes (3 to 4 if pasta is frozen).

Remove from the water and drain, reserving about a half cup of cooking water.

Add the pasta to the browned butter and sage sauce, along with 3 to 4 tablespoons of pasta cooking water.

Let the sauce reduce until the pasta is lightly coated.

Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


Sausage- and farro-stuffed acorn squash

Silver Queen Cafe chef and owner Jason Daniloski is a fan of meals that place vegetables at the center of the plate instead of relegating them to side dishes. Though this dish is not vegetarian — it includes sausage — acorn squash takes top billing, proving that vegetables can be hearty main courses.

Yields 4 servings

2 medium acorn squash
4 tablespoons butter, plus a small amount extra, divided
4 teaspoons brown sugar, divided
1/3 cup farro, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, out of casing and crumbled
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup fennel, diced
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
1 honeycrisp apple, diced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut acorn squash in half, horizontally, and scrape out the seeds.

Drop 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon brown sugar into each squash half. Rub a little butter on the cut edges of the squash.

Place squash in oven and roast for about 1 hour, until it is tender but not mushy. While the squash is roasting, you'll prepare the stuffing and dressing.

To cook the farro, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Add the farrow and stir. Simmer until al dente, approximately 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking mayonnaise, whole grain mustard, pure maple syrup, cider vinegar and salt and pepper (to taste). Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and brown, breaking it up with a fork as it cooks. Once cooked through, set the sausage aside and drain the pan, but do not wipe it out.

Add the shallots, fennel and red pepper to the pan and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the apples, rosemary, sage and thyme, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. The juice from the apples should deglaze the pan. If it needs further deglazing, add ¼ cup white wine or chicken broth and cook until it evaporates.

Stir the sausage back into the vegetable mixture and heat through.

Add the farro to the mixture and heat through.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the squash halves are roasted, divide the sausage and farro mixture between the 4 halves. Drizzle the dressing over the top of the squash halves and serve warm.


Walnut-crusted halibut with butternut squash puree and roasted royal trumpet mushrooms

Chef Fabio Mura of Turf Valley's Grille620 dresses up halibut fillets with a quick crust of walnuts and breadcrumbs, then serves the fish over fragrant butternut squash puree paired with woodsy roasted mushrooms.

Yields 2 servings

For the butternut squash puree:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, halved and diced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 leaves fresh sage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 pinch of pumpkin spice
White pepper to taste
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the butternut squash on a baking sheet. Roast, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes, until tender.

In a soup pot placed over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, sage and one teaspoon of salt, sauteeing until the onion is soft and golden brown.

Add the roasted pieces of butternut squash and season with the cinnamon, pumpkin spice, white pepper and remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir for a few seconds.

Add the chicken stock and white balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

Set aside and let slightly cool.

Strain the pulp from the liquid and, working in small batches, puree using an immersion blender. If the puree is too thick, add liquid until it is a smooth and creamy consistency.

Set aside and keep warm while preparing the other ingredients.

For the mushrooms:
1/2 pound royal trumpet mushrooms, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic puree
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the mushrooms in a bowl with the parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic and enough olive oil to coat the mushrooms. Toss until the oil and dry ingredients are evenly distributed.

Spread the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Cook for about 12 to 14 minutes, flipping halfway through the process.

After cooking, add salt and pepper to taste, set aside and keep warm.

For the fish:
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup California walnuts, finely ground (pulsed in a food processor)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 8-ounce halibut fillets
Microgreens for garnish (optional)

To make the walnut crust, toss the panko breadcrumbs and walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing often. They will become lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the butter and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix until well incorporated.

Lay a large piece of parchment paper on a counter and top with the crust mixture. Cover with another large piece of parchment paper. Press down to flatten slightly. Then, with a rolling pin, roll out to ¼ inch thick.

Place the crust on a flat surface in a freezer to set. Remove after about 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat the broiler on high.

Remove the crust from the freezer and, keeping the parchment paper on, use kitchen shears to cut two pieces of crust the same size as the halibut fillets.

Working with a nonstick saute pan, evenly heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat.

Season the fillets with the other 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.

Once the oil is hot and smoking, add the halibut fillets and sear for 5 minutes on one side. Flip and sear for 3 minutes on the other side.

Remove one side of the parchment paper from the crust and top each piece of halibut.

Transfer the saute pans from the stove top to under the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and toasted.

To plate, spoon the butternut squash puree on the center of the plate and top with mushrooms. Place the halibut on top of the mushrooms. To garnish, drizzle extra virgin olive oil around the fish and sprinkle microgreens for color.


Roasted butternut squash with herbed ricotta, chicories and pumpkin seed gremolata

At Turn House in Columbia, executive chef and owner Thomas Zippelli's menu is seasonally driven and incorporates local ingredients whenever possible. His roasted squash with ricotta and assorted chicories (lettuces), which could serve as a main course or as a side dish to a pork loin or steak, makes fall produce interesting by mixing a variety of flavors, temperatures and textures.

Yields 4-6 servings

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bunch fresh sage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
6 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
4 ounces pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 8-ounce bottle pumpkin seed oil
1 Belgian endive
1 head treviso (a mild type of radicchio)
1 head tardive (another type of radicchio)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season the squash with salt and pepper to taste. Place in a cast-iron pan and place in the oven, roasting until fork-tender, about 25 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine sage, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix in ricotta until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

In a food processor, chop pepitas, then add pumpkin seed oil and pulse until the combination is course texture but still runny enough to run off a spoon.

Separate the leaves of the endive, treviso and tardive. Dress them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

To finish, on a large plate, spoon some of the herbed ricotta cheese in the middle, then arrange the butternut squash pieces and lettuce leaves around the outside of the plate. Drizzle the pumpkin seed gremolata over the dish.


Autumn-spiced chicken with smoked sweet potato mash and butternut squash curry

Chef Chad Wells, the executive chef of Victoria Restaurant Group, which includes Columbia's Victoria Gastro Pub, gives simple chicken breasts the fall treatment with a dry rub of all the spicy, smoky and sweet flavors associated with the season. He pairs the chicken with smoky sweet potato mash and a silky, curried puree of butternut squash, for a meal that packs a flavor punch.

Makes 4 servings

For the smoked sweet potato mash:
5 large sweet potatoes, peeled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 ounces butter
1 1/4 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Place sweet potatoes in the water and cook until tender all the way through. (Time will vary depending on the size of the potatoes.)

Drain the liquid from the potatoes and place on a hot grill for five minutes to add smoky flavor to the potatoes. (This step is optional.)

Place the smoked sweet potatoes into a mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients.

Mash the potatoes by hand using a masher, or puree with a mixer.

For the butternut squash curry:
2 onions, diced
2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
Oil for saute
6 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
4 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Kosher salt to taste

Set a pan over medium-high heat and cover the bottom with cooking oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and butternut squash.

When the squash starts to become tender, add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, paprika and curry powder and cook until fragrant.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the pumpkin puree and tomato paste. Stir until evenly combined.

Add the flour and stir until the vegetables are coated.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the mixture is reduced by about half.

Remove the sauce from the heat and, working in batches if necessary, puree in a blender.

Once pureed, use a fine mesh strainer to strain out any remaining vegetable bits. Season to taste with kosher salt.

For the chicken:
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons ground cumin
5 tablespoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons ground coriander
6 tablespoons granulated garlic (not garlic powder)
6 tablespoons kosher salt
5 tablespoons brown sugar
4 skin-on chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the spice rub, combine cinnamon, cumin, paprika, coriander, garlic, salt and brown sugar in a bowl. Mix until evenly combined.

Rub the chicken breasts generously with oil and the spice rub.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a greased pan and cover with foil.

Place in oven and roast until they are three-quarters of the way cooked, about 12 minutes.

Remove the foil and cook until the skin is crispy and the chicken is cooked all of the way through, about another 5 minutes.

Serve the chicken with smoked sweet potato mash, butternut squash curry and a seasonal vegetable of your choice.

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