"Whether you're a salad aficionado or simply trying to get your family to eat wholesome, fresh foods, the season's flavors blend beautifully for comforting salads," says celebrity chef Curtis Stone, star of The Learning Channel's hit show "Take Home
"The flavors of the season are crisp, naturally rich and comforting," says Stone. "They're a perfect lead-in to the celebratory atmosphere of the holiday season."
Fresh, seasonal fare can be incorporated into virtually every course of your entertaining and everyday meals. Stone offers the following suggestions for ingredients and dishes that make the most of the harvest:
-Pumpkin is a versatile squash and can be a star ingredient in dishes from the main course to, of course, dessert. Its high water content means pumpkin must be cooked well. It's worth the time, though, because the results are an intense flavor that is low in fat, salt and cholesterol, and high in fiber, iron, and vitamins A and C.
-Pears are also at their peak. This time of year you'll find pears have a buttery smooth texture and a sweet aroma that's much harder to come by in other seasons. The choices are many, but the Bosc variety remains a favorite as one of the most versatile. Its flavor is sweet and its flesh firm. It also holds up to intense cooking.
-When it comes to meats, many associate this season with game. However, any hearty roast or lean cut of pork or beef can be a great centerpiece for a celebratory meal. If you're adventurous, duck is popular choice. For more traditional fare, serve your family's favorite meats with fresh root vegetables and fruits.
"Don't forget salads as the weather grows cool," Stone says. Capture the flavors of the season in an appealing salad by incorporating seasonal fruits and vegetables such as pear, pumpkin and even parsnip. Include some seasonally appropriate protein such as pork or duck and you can turn a simple side salad into a surprising main course.
And because a salad is the very essence of freshness, Stone recommends using a dressing that's equally fresh. "As long as you choose carefully, you don't need to blend your own dressing to get the taste of homemade," Stone says.
"Look for prepared dressings that are crafted from the freshest and highest quality ingredients. My favorite is Marie's - no preservatives, and it's kept cold in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle to lock in the fresh flavor that will enhance any salad."
For more seasonal cooking tips and recipes from Stone, visit www.maries.com and win a chance to take Stone home to cook for you and up to five friends.
and Pear Salad
1 pork tenderloin, about 1 pound
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (6-ounce) bag baby spinach or salad
2 pears, ripe, cut in half, cored and
1/3 cup walnut halves, toasted
¼ cup dried cherries
½ cup bleu cheese dressing
Preheat oven to 425 F. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Pan-sear pork until golden brown on all sides. Place pan in oven and finish roasting until thermometer registers 155 F. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let rest for five minutes. Cut pork into thin slices. Divide spinach between four plates. Top each plate with pear and pork slices; garnish with walnuts and cherries. Spoon bleu cheese dressing over salads. Prep time: 30 minutes; yield: four servings.