Cooking in the Cave: Fall market is the best of both worlds

Scarlet red, deep red, burnt orange, yellows, purples and as many shades of green as there are people on this earth.

The farmers market in fall is a sea of colors, smells and tastes.

The summer crowds are gone, driven away by the cold mornings and that false sense that the season for the market is over.

But it isn’t.

The summer crops are at their finest, as our California summer extends long into October.

And the first of the fall crops—the winter squash, the greens and those roots too delicate to survive the warm nights and searing heat of summer—are in.

The tomatoes and peaches, the nectarines, the peppers and the summer squash are on the edge, close to being overripe but in that final stage of glory where they are beyond perfection.

This is the time when butternut squash and sweet potatoes rub metaphorical elbows with peppers and strawberries.

The dark, wintery gray-green of kale, mustard greens and arugula shares the bin with the brilliant, pure green of basil, mint and cilantro.

The first of the pears are in, as are the sweet potatoes, sweet carrots and tiny fingerling potatoes.

And only in the fall and winter—when the market crowd is diminished—do you have time to get to know the vendors.

You learn about their produce or animals; they  tell you why they feed their chickens this and not that and why a strawberry should have veins of red reaching all the way through.

This is the time when you find out not just what good produce is, but who the people are who provide it for you.

So if you are one of those misguided souls who have never experienced the farmers market, this is the time to start.

Spice Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe

1 medium-sized butternut squash, cut into sixths lengthwise
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Smash the spices and salt in a mortar and pestle. Add the oil and mix.

Place the squash pieces in a large ceramic or glass baking dish and smear the spice paste lightly over the flesh of the squash.

Roast for 40-55 minutes or until the squash is tender.

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