Cooking with Fall and Winter Produce: Andrew Ticer & Michael Hudman

“That’s not going to work.”

For Memphis chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, there are no better motivating words, especially when they’re trading ideas with each other. Cabbage ravioli, brown butter vinaigrette, sunflower seed risotto — they make crazy stuff work because they believe not following the rules is often the best thing to do, especially with vegetables.

“Smoke ’em, roast ’em, braise ’em, do whatever you want — just forget you’re not eating meat!” says Ticer. “So many exciting, delicious meals start by ignoring how vegetables have traditionally been cooked and trying something new.”

Hudman chimes in: “A good way to get into that mindset for fall and winter is to figure out what meat dishes can feature a vegetable instead. Everyone is eating such hearty, roasted food, but carrots or beets or turnips can easily act as focal points. Do what you think you’re not supposed to do and treat a vegetable like you would any other protein.”

Here’s how the authors, restaurant owners and award-winning chefs like to cook in the colder months in Tennessee.

Shop smart

At the farmers market, talk to the farmer

Ticer: My best advice is to start a conversation with the farmer. I love to take the kids downtown to the Memphis Farmers Market or out to the Agricenter to learn what agriculture is doing in our area now. Ask the people behind the tables what they’re eating. That’s how you find out when purple hull peas are popping, or when tomatoes are at their freshest. Let them tell you what they’re excited about and cook that.

At the grocery store, go in with a gameplan

Ticer: If you’re going to the supermarket, however, stick to a list. My sister is one of those shoppers who walks up and down the aisles hoping inspiration will strike, and for most people, that’s a recipe for disaster because it’s overwhelming. Find a recipe you like at home and shop for that.

Root around

Ticer: Celery root is an intimidating looking vegetable, but it’s actually really light and refreshing. Prepare it just like potatoes au gratin. Take some cream, heat it slightly and add in salt until it tastes like saltwater. Once that cools, mix in a beaten raw egg and layer slices of celery root in a shallow dish. Grate some garlic over the top and pour the liquid just to cover. Bake at 250 degrees for two hours. I promise you’ll never miss the potato.

Find a similar recipe here.

Use mushrooms as meat

Hudman: In Italy they make “ragu,” typically a meat sauce, with mushrooms, and it’s phenomenal. Take whatever local mushrooms are in season and cook them with beets, carrots or other hearty root vegetables and add some San Marzano tomatoes to tie it all together. You can serve it over pasta or polenta [boiled cornmeal] or any other grain for a filling vegetarian meal.

Find a similar recipe here.

Stock up

On scraps

Hudman: Stock doesn’t have to be made from meat to be flavorful. Collect all your vegetable scraps over a few days, caramelize them in a pot with a little oil and use that to make a vegetable stock. Use carrots or parsnips for a sweeter broth and celery root or sunchokes [a root vegetable similar to an artichoke] for a heartier version.

On beans

Ticer: One of our go-tos is bean soup, which you can make with butter beans, purple hulls, speckles, crowders, white beans, and which you can do little by little. Cook your beans in water with a bay leaf and herbs until they’re tender but not mushy. Strain the beans out and eat some, but reserve the cooking liquid. Do that a couple of nights a week and at the end, put all the stocks together with a little chicken stock and cook that down. That will marry all those bean flavors and then to finish it, add back in a little of each bean, lemon juice, parm, maybe some baby greens, and take it off the heat. The greens will wilt but still be toothsome. It’s ridiculously warm and filling.

Finish with fat

Hudman: Remember the key to good soup is stock. I remember my grandmother used to have an old meat grinder, and when she was making chicken stock, she’d shove everything through it — bones, skin, everything — and add a little of that mix back into the stock. That’s a really good trick, but if you don’t have a meat grinder, you can get the same effect by adding a little bacon fat or schmaltz [clarified chicken fat].

Grill greens

Hudman: Greens cooked in broth with bacon or ham hocks are great, but we also love to grill them. Throw them on the heat for a few minutes, cut them up and toss them with big chunks of bread and salsa verde. It’s a different way to eat collards, kale and turnip greens, and it works especially well with the young ones that are still nice and tender.

Squeeze some citrus

On your spinach

Hudman: Meyer lemons are kind of like a cross between a lemon and an orange, and when they’re in season in the winter, we make Meyer lemon butter for spinach. We cook down the peels in a little bit of water until it reduces to about one-third of its original volume, add a little bit of sugar, puree that and add melted butter. Fold that into lightly wilted spinach. It’s a bright, fresh alternative to creamed spinach.

On boiled beets

Ticer: One of the simplest dishes I do at home is boiled beets. Once you boil them, the skins will slip right off under cold water; then you crush them and drizzle them with olive oil and fresh orange juice. Add a pinch of salt and you’re good to go.

Save the stems

Hudman: We’re big into using the stems of herbs because there’s so much flavor and texture there. Cilantro, parsley, basil — just pull the leaves off, chop the stems up really fine and mix them with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Use that to dress fish or roasted beets or carrots. It’s cool because the stems have a nice juice in them that gives you a good punch and texture.

Add crunch to crust

Ticer: You can shave or grate pretty much any vegetable over the top of a pizza — Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, chiles. The same goes for toast or pasta. Let your microplane or mandolin do the work and skip the cooking altogether.

Switch up squash

Cook it whole

Hudman: We’re big squash guys — pumpkin, butternut, acorn — and the great thing about small squash like acorn is that the cooked skin is edible and gives the dish great texture. Roast it whole, halved or in slices with a little olive oil or butter, salt and pepper, maybe some honey, and eat the whole thing.

Find a similar recipe here.

Leave it raw

Ticer: Mikey’s been doing a raw squash salad I love. He shaves it really thin, does a quick salt/acid/olive oil cure, and mixes that with nuts and cheese. It’s such a light, unexpected way to use squash.

Find a similar recipe here.

Sauce it up

Hudman: Spaghetti squash marinara is also a classic where you roast the squash, shred it and then top it with marinara and mozzarella and broil it.

Find a similar recipe here or get their recipe in their book Collards & Carbonara.”

To find a favorite fall ingredient of your own to plan a meal around, here’s the full list of everything that’s in season in November in Tennessee:

  • Apples
  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Collard Greens
  • Herbs
  • Honey
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard Greens
  • Pecans
  • Pumpkins
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes
  • Scallions
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnip Greens
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash
  • Zucchini
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