Fall has arrived in Paris, announcing herself with a sudden cold snap and drizzly mornings. But don’t let the weather get you down – the skies will clear, and we’ll be able to enjoy crisp walks under the changing foliage of the Bois de Boulogne and cozy evenings bundled up at an outdoor café with a glass of vin chaud.
But what am I most looking forward to? The fall produce at the markets!
Fall is one of the best times to cook, as the last of the summer produce is still available (I’m looking at you, tomatoes, courgettes, and aubergines!), but the cooler weather brings treats like fresh figs, grapes, plums, and mushrooms as well.
And that’s a good thing, because as we settle into la rentrée, the new season, we’re cooking more than ever and looking for easy meals to serve our families. So, with that in mind, I’m bringing you a few recipes that feature some of the best fall produce, and are weeknight-easy.
Let’s start with figs. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve been slightly obsessed with fresh figs this fall. The first couple of weeks they were at the market, they were just fine – your usual tasty treat. But as the season went on and the figs ripened, OMG, they are now spectacular. Sweet and jammy inside, with a deep red-purple color that reminds me of a blackberry pâte de fruit. After eating my fill of these beauties in salads or as a snack, I decided that making fig spread is the best way to ensure that I’m still enjoying figs well after they leave the markets. And stay with me, because this fig spread may just be your secret weeknight weapon.
Honey Balsamic Fig Spread
INGREDIENTS: (Makes 2 cups)
450g fresh figs (about 11 figs)
2 T. sugar
60 ml water
1 T. honey
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 t. vanilla extract
Stem figs, then chop. Add chopped figs, sugar, water, honey, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla extract to a medium-large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir frequently. Add more water if the mixture appears dry or starts to scorch on the bottom. The figs will begin to break down, and the liquid in the pan will thicken, with larger bubbles coming to the surface more slowly. Taste, and add more sugar or honey if the jam is not sweet enough (that will depend on your figs!). If you add sugar or honey, simmer for another 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Then blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor, making it as smooth or chunky as you like. Refrigerate in jars or other airtight containers. Fig spread will last for at least a week in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to 3 months.
OK, so now for the best part. This balsamic fig spread is one of those special ingredients that can completely level up a simple meal. Swirl some in your yogurt for breakfast, or over vanilla ice cream for dessert. Serve on a cheese board with a mild goat cheese or Spanish cheese like manchego. And for dinner, you ask? How about using it as a glaze for chicken or duck? Or make it a “fancy grilled cheese” night (which at my house comes almost every week) with a layer of fig spread in your grilled cheese. Add some caramelized onions if you want to gild the lily.
Finally, how about a tartine with fig spread, goat cheese, and thinly sliced prosciutto? Once you’ve got the jam, that one’s on the table in 5 minutes flat. (And ok, you can buy jam too if making it isn’t in the cards right now.)
Fall Flavorful Mushrooms
Next up. Have you seen the mushrooms at the market? Almost as swoon-worthy as the figs. On my last visit, I picked up a combination of champignons de Paris and girolles (chanterelles). The girolles are expensive, but buy just a small amount and combine with regular mushrooms – the flavor is just fantastic. Here I’m pairing them with some sautéed daurade (bream) fillets – just ask the fishmonger to fillet these for you, and all the hard work is done.
Sautéed Daurade with Creamy Fall Mushrooms
INGREDIENTS: (Serves 4 people)
1 medium onion
400g champignons de Paris
2 T. olive oil
4 fillets daurade (about 530g total)
100g heavy cream
1 T. dijon mustard
2 T. chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Start by preparing your ingredients. Peel, halve, and thinly slice the onion. De-stem champignons de Paris, and wipe any dirt off with a wet paper towel. Slice mushroom caps. Wipe dirt off girolles with a wet paper towel, and chop roughly.
Now, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add sliced onion, and sauté for 3 minutes, until softened. Add mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until mushrooms release their juice and begin to brown, about 12-15 minutes. Add heavy cream and dijon mustard and cook until mixture thickens, 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Wipe out pan. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and pepper. Add fish fillets, skin-side up, to the pan. Cook for 4 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom, then flip. Finish cooking for another 4 minutes, until the flesh of the fish flakes easily. Skin will be crispy, and will release liquid as it cooks. Remove fillets from pan. Serve topped with creamy mushrooms, sprinkled with parsley.
Chicken recipe perfect for a cozy fall
Finally, a recipe that will warm you up on a chilly fall evening, and make your house smell delicious at the same time. This one is an easy sheet pan dinner. Veggies and chicken roast together on one pan, for easy cooking and easy cleanup.
Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
INGREDIENTS: (Serves 4 people)
1 large garlic clove
2 T. olive oil
2 fresh bay leaves
3 fresh thyme sprigs, plus more to garnish
2 T. salted butter, softened
1/2 t. pimente d’espelette
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 210 degrees Celsius. Now, prepare your vegetables. Peel and chop potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Peel carrots and cut into 1-inch chunks. Horizontally halve carrots that are 1-inch or more in diameter. Cut off dark green leaves from leeks, and slice off root ends. Discard top layer of leeks, and rinse. Cut into 2-inch chunks, then halve, horizontally. If you can see dirt between the layers of your leek, rinse again, then pat dry with a paper towel.
Chop garlic clove. Put potatoes, carrots, leeks, and chopped garlic in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add bay leaves and thyme sprigs, and stir gently.
In a separate small bowl, stir together butter and pimente d’espelette. Line a large sheet pan with tin foil. Add chicken breasts to the center of the pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide spiced butter on top, smearing across the top of each breast. Add the vegetables around the chicken, in a single layer. Bake for 25 minutes, and test to see if the chicken is done. It should reach 74 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer.
If the chicken is done but the vegetables are not yet tender, remove chicken and keep warm on a foil-covered plate. When both chicken and vegetables are done, you can add more color to them by moving the sheet pan to the top rack and broiling for 2-3 minutes. Serve chicken and vegetables drizzled with any pan juices. Sprinkle with additional fresh thyme leaves if you’d like.
More easy weeknight recipes perfect for the fall!
If you’re looking for more ideas perfect for fall weeknight meals, I combed my website, Vanilla Bean Cuisine, for some of my favorite meals for this time of year. These are the ones I go back to time and again, so I think you will enjoy them too.
Zucchini Stir-Fry with Tofu: Perfect use for those end-of-season zucchini!
French Lentil Soup: Serve this with some crusty baguette toasts for a warming meal that’s super nutritious too.
Panko-Crusted Salmon Fillets: Crunchy, creamy, savory, this recipe has it all, and is so easy to make.
Tuscan Tortellini Soup: Another soup perfect for fall. Tortellini and sausage are perfect together!
Cheesy Pancetta Frittata with Corn and Leeks: Frittatas are so easy, and you can fill them with almost any protein or veggies you have on hand.