What to cook in November: Mushrooms, brussels sprouts, rutabaga — and crabapples!
Swap rutabaga for the zucchini in your cake, plus more ways to use up November’s bounty
This article was originally published November 1, 2018 and was updated November 8, 2019.
You may have trouble believing us that there are actually seasonal ingredients you can be cooking with in November. But you can! There are! You should! Because, as we've told you before, when you start with the freshest, most in-season ingredients, you'll be much further ahead on the path to better tasting food.
Mushrooms, brussels sprouts, rutabaga and crabapples are all being harvested here in Canada right now, most likely at a farm close to you. So let's go over some fun ways to cook all these things this month. Hopefully you'll be inspired to continue making incredible and seasonal meals even in November.
Fall is the season for mushroom foraging and if you've never tried it, look up tours near you. If hunting down fresh 'shrooms just ain't for you, look at farmers markets or seasonally-focused supermarkets for wild varieties picked locally like chanterelles and hen of the woods. Even in-season, wild mushrooms tend to be costly, so strategize by combining them with cheaper button or cremini mushrooms in your dish. Fun tip: both button and cremini are just baby portobellos! Here are some ideas for cooking:
Make mushroom soup. Season and let the mushrooms simmer low and slow to unlock their deep, earthy flavour, then give them and their juices a good whiz in a powerful blender. What you'll have is a soup just as creamy as, and yet ten times more magnificent than the canned mushroom soup of your childhood. Swirl in some truffle oil and you'll be so glad you've grown up.
Fry up a whole whack of mixed mushrooms to use in grain salads, frittata, and crustless quiches all the week. Mushrooms release a lot of moisture so frying always takes patience. If you want, you can try roasting them instead.
Brussels sprouts were the vegetable that everyone loved to hate, but if you still hate 'em we're pretty convinced you just aren't cooking them right. Think of them as mini cabbages and you may find yourself warming up to them. (Buy them still on their weapon-like stalk and spark gladiator conversation.)
Bake them right on the stalk. It'll take about 45 minutes to an hour to get this right, but it's a show-stopping addition to your feast. Let guests twist them off the stem themselves and serve alongside roasted garlic aioli for dipping.
Batter and bake them for a crunchy and unexpected side. Trim and halve them and toss them in chickpea flour. Then make a second mixture to roll them in by combining cornmeal and chickpea flour, adding your favourite dried herbs and spices along with salt to perk it up. Mix in enough oil to turn this mixture into crumbs and toss the brussels sprouts in this. Bake until their insides are tender-crisp, making sure to turn them so the crumbs don't burn. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over before serving, along with flaky salt if it doesn't already have enough.
Shave them thin for slaw. An especially good dish if you're still turning up your nose, as breaking them down like this makes their strong flavour more manageable. Dress the raw shavings as you would a cabbage coleslaw, tossing in some toasted pine nuts or pecans dried cranberries as you wish.
Braise with cream and rosemary. Cut brussels sprouts into slivers no more than a ½-inch in length, peeling back any tough outer leaves and removing the ends. Brown them in a bit of oil first and then add cream — one cup per pound of brussels sprouts. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat with a couple sprigs of rosemary for about 30-35 minutes until soft. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and some bacon crumbs, if you've got them.
Root-a-wha? A cross between a turnip and a cabbage, rutabagas are slightly sweeter and milder than a turnip, with still the slight hint of heat. If you get them from a local farmer, they're less likely to be covered in that paraffin wax used to prevent drying during transport and storage. Here are a few ways to embrace this unsung hero of the root-veg world.
Boil a roughly chopped rutabaga until tender, adding just enough coconut milk, maple syrup, and lemon juice to sweeten and loosen it up. Puree it all with a dash of cinnamon until smooth, adding more liquid if you need to help your food processor along. Throw a couple handfuls of cilantro into the mix and serve alongside a crispy, pan-fried fish.
Bake it into cake or bread where you'd otherwise have used zucchini, carrots or pumpkin puree. Look for a recipe with a lot of warm spices like cloves and allspice, which it complements nicely with. We'll challenge anyone to guess what vegetable you've used!
Use in place of turnips in any of your go-to recipes. You'll find it to be a little starchier and sweeter, so enjoy the change. Try mixing it with an equal ratio of potatoes for the perfect mash, and don't skimp on the butter and herbs.
Slice it thin for a rutabaga gratin. We like ours layered with gruyere cheese and moistened with sage-infused cream. Bake the gratin until bubbling and serve it alongside your Sunday roast.
The power of these pectin-rich little things may surprise you. Check your local market (or forage) for this year's harvest and see for yourself why we're loving crabapples in our autumn baking.
Make your own pectin. Here's a more in-depth article on doing this right, but if you're into jamming, it's helpful to know why crabapples with their gelling power should totally be your friend. And don't forget that if full-blown canning isn't your thing, you can always try freezer jam. Then you skip the water-bath step and instead keep the jam in the freezer, portioned out in manageable amounts for you to take out and consume within a month.
Bake with crabapples. Mix them with regular apples in a recipe where they'll brighten up the flavour. Keep the amount you use minimal as their astringency can overtake. Try a few crabapples in your apple pie, apple cake or apple toffee bread pudding for another layer of appley flavour that will help offset the sweetness and really round out the treat.
Infuse crabapples with your favourite liquor for a holiday apple drink. Look up a recipe online to get it right, but the general idea is to infuse a liquor you love and that will benefit from a bunch of chopped crab apples thrown in — think brandy and not tequila. Include some warm spices like cinnamon and cloves and let everything sit with some sugar for a couple weeks. Don't worry about coring the crab apples, you want all the flavour those seeds give too. Everything gets strained after a couple weeks, just follow the recipe and then start experimenting with different flavour combos.
Here are some recipes perfect to dive into for November.
Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks.