Change-of-season dinners

Photo by Keri White

As fall progresses, we start to say farewell to summer’s produce. However, warm temperatures may still linger well into the autumn and, just like wardrobes, which have transitional phases, so does food.

I lament the final batch of local tomatoes, grieve for the last of the peaches, keen a bit over the zucchini. But as the bounty of autumn’s harvest arrives, I bounce back.

The recipes here are designed as a bridge — on the lighter side and featuring end-of-summer crops that are cooked, thereby masking the fact that they are past their prime.

But they’re substantial enough that you don’t reach for sunscreen and bug spray as you sit down to dinner. Think of them as a stylish cardigan — ready to don when a slight chill arrives, but easily wrapped around your waist if summer seems to stick around.

Early Fall Fish Dish

Serves 4

I opted to grill this in a foil pan; it enabled us to cook the meal outside, which kept the kitchen cool on a late summer day, and it passed off the task to my husband, who prefers to “man” the grill. But this is a cinch to convert to an indoor meal if the weather or your preference dictates: Simply bake the fish at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes in the oven, depending on thickness.

We used tilefish because it was fresh and local, but any flaky fish works — salmon, cod, haddock, bass, snapper, etc. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of the fillets. The tomato/onion/lemon mixture is delightful with the fish and is a nice topping for rice or pasta. It is also delicious scooped up with crusty bread.

1½ pounds tilefish fillet
2 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
Salt and pepper
1 lemon
1 red onion, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon butter, cut in pieces
1 bunch parsley, chopped

Heat a grill to medium-high heat.

Place a few pieces of butter in the bottom of a baking pan along with the tomato and onion.

Spritz the fish with lemon juice, and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper. Place a few more pieces of butter atop the fish, and top it with the lemon rind and parsley.

Cook the fish in the pan with the grill cover closed for about 20 minutes; check it for doneness. It will flake easily and be opaque throughout when done.

Zucchetti with Sundried Tomatoes and Haloumi

Serves 4

This is a great way to use surplus zucchini. I use a spiral slicer, but you can also hand grate it or use a food processor. The “zucchetti” strands will be shorter, but they will still be delicious.

And if your family requires actual pasta for a dish like this, you can certainly add it or go halfsies with pasta and zucchetti.

3 tablespoons oil, separated
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Red pepper flakes to taste
A few generous pinches of salt
2-3 zucchini, spiralized into “zuchetti”
⅔ cup sundried tomatoes (dry, not in oil)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 package haloumi cut in small, bite-sized pieces and dried with a paper towel

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté the onions, garlic, red pepper and salt.

Cook until they are soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

While the onions sauté, cut the sundried tomatoes into halves with kitchen scissors and place them in a microwave-safe bowl. Add water just to cover and heat them in the microwave for 1 minute. Let it sit so the water becomes infused with the flavor.

When the onion is sautéed, add the zucchetti, and stir it so it begins to cook. Add the chickpeas and the tomato mixture. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in another skillet to medium-high, and cook the haloumi in batches until it is brown and crispy on all sides. Drain it on paper towels.

Check the zucchetti for doneness — it should be cooked but not mushy — this takes about 10 minutes in the pan.

Scatter the haloumi over the zucchetti mixture, and serve immediately.

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