What to cook in September: Comforting dishes for a time of transition

Turn the oven back on to embrace the changing season.

Turn the oven back on to embrace the changing season

(Image, left: Dennis The Prescott; right: Drake Devonshire)

One of my favourite chores growing up was shucking corn for dinner. In late summer, when the corn was especially good and on the menu often, my mom would hand me a half-dozen cobs and send me out to the back deck. Wedging an ear between my knees, I'd use all my might to peel back its husk and then take my time removing every piece of silk that remained. Despite how long I inevitably took, my mom would always commend me for "helping" before dunking the cobs in simmering water. Those were the sunset days of summer to me: relaxing in the fading light and the return of hot, buttery corn.

September's crisper air has a way of tempting us back to our stoves. For many, this means baking, but there's also sautéing and slow-roasting, braising and boiling. And in stores (and personal gardens and cold cellars, if you're lucky), there's no shortage of at-its-peak produce to inspire warm, comforting dishes. Autumn favourites like delicata squash can be roasted to top a dinner salad, while cauliflower can be turned into savoury "steaks." Summer's last tomatoes can be melted into tarts, while herbs that went wild in the August sun can be blitzed to make pesto pasta. 

Eschewing my no-cook mentality from the warmer months (so many sandwiches!), I've been reacquainting myself with my oven this September, roasting everything from late-summer green beans to early-autumn brussels sprouts. But it wasn't until the other evening, when the air could actually be described as cool, that I finally returned from the store with some corn to boil. 

I still find shucking meditative and satisfying as an adult. Only, this year, I have more on my mind as I peel back the bright green blades: remote work; daycare and its ever-changing restrictions; friends I've missed; the news. I struggle to be present as I pick off each fine thread of silk — until a light tapping sound snaps me out of my funk. Across the kitchen, I spot my one-year-old squatting on the ground with a soup ladle (which he finds much more fascinating than any of his toys). In that moment, I can picture him sitting out back, an ear of corn between his knees, "helping."

The past year and a half has been a time of near constant change for me and so many of us. But knowing that the changing seasons offer the opportunity to rediscover the flavours and rituals we love is something to take comfort in. 

Here are some recipes that celebrate the return of warmth in the kitchen.

Seared Scallops with Sweet Corn Risotto

Big Roasted Delicata Squash Dinner Salad

(Photography by Betty Binon)

Cauliflower Steak with Crispy Chickpeas and Broccolini

(Image: Dennis The Prescott)

Roasted Tomato and Olive Tart

Massimo Bottura's Mint and Breadcrumb Pesto

Garlic Parmesan Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Pancetta

(Photography by Florence Grunfelder; food styling by Sabrina Falone)

Tray-Baked Salmon Niçoise

(Photo credit: Jackson Roy)

Drake Devonshire's Cream of Tomato Soup

(Credit: Drake Devonshire)

Mixed Berry Galettes

(Credit: Kyla Zanardi)

Reiko Milley is a senior copy editor for CBC's English unscripted content.

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