Seasonal Flavors to Fall For
Chef Kuniko of PIKUNICO Tells All
Being in California means sometimes we forget that food is seasonal. Yes, that’s right. During certain parts of the year, like Fall, apples, bananas and bell peppers will be fresher, taste better, and will be perfectly ripe… more so than at other times of the year. When these ingredients are harvested (and consumed) at the right time, not only will their flavorful facets increase, but so will their nutritional value. We had the opportunity to speak with Chef Kuniko of PIKUNICO, a fast-casual Japanese restaurant that focuses on, “Californian ingredients with a touch of authentic Japanese flair,” about the seasonal flavors she will be incorporating into her Fall menu. Here is what she had to say.
What are some seasonal ingredients of the fall/autumn season that are on your radar?
Anything yellow and orange in color! (Squash, turmeric, yam, etc)
How do you incorporate those into your dishes both at PIKUNICO and in your cooking at home?
Our fall special menu includes a fried kabocha bowl, with seasoned egg, cucumber, radish, jalapeño pickles, watercress, and ginger rice.
At home, I started to steam yams in my steamer for starch and fiber intake. I’d serve it with teriyaki chicken breast and sautéed swiss chard. For the yams, I’d keep it simple with very nice extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel on top (or any crunchy salt).
What are some easy ways to incorporate these seasonal ingredients at home, for those of us that aren’t professionally trained?
Boil water in a pot, add salt until you can taste the saltiness in the water, cook the seasonal vegetables! A lot of vegetables can be a main dish when prepared that way. Sprinkle any spices, olive oil, salt over it when ready.
Is there a dish that you always come back to when the leaves change?
Butternut squash soup! This is my go-to recipe to get into Fall spirit.
Autumn Butternut Squash Soup
4 cups Butternut squash, peeled & chopped
4 cups Water
3 Garlic cloves, sliced
1 Cup Yellow onion, sliced
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Cardamom Pods (press down with side of the knife to crush the pods, take the seeds out)
1 Tbsp. Honey
Salt and black pepper to season
1) Place the butter and olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat.
2) When the butter starts to bubble, add the sliced onions. When the onions gets translucent in color, add garlic, clove and the cardamom seeds. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Add the chopped butternut squash in the pot , stir for about 5 min.
4) Pour in the water, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 min.
5) Find your cloves (3 pieces) and discard from the soup base.
6) Blend all in the blender (careful! It is hot!) until smooth, taste, re season with salt and pepper, add the honey to taste (you can skip the honey entirely as well).
7) If there are lefts over of this soup, definitely freeze in one portion size container so you can have this soup for those days you just don’t feel like cooking.