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Nigella Lawson: Dishes For Fall, Quick And Tasty

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson in London.
Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson in London.

The autumn leaves are falling — and food writer Nigella Lawson is ready to share some of her favorite autumn recipes. With ingredients like butternut squash, pears and chestnut puree, many of the flavors are mellow but tart, with an earthy sweetness.

And while many people may be sad to see the end of summer, Lawson isn't one of them, she told Steve Inskeep.

"I welcome the fall with open arms. The idea that it's going to get a bit chillier, and I can be in the kitchen stirring something, seems to me a fantastic state of affairs."

As for the ingredients she recommends for cooking dishes this time of year, Lawson said, "Pumpkin is great, but I think butternut squash is, in a way, easier for the cook."

The problem, she said, is that there are so many types of pumpkins — and many of them are more decorative than flavorful. Squash, on the other hand, are much easier to depend upon.

And squash can be easy to work with, too. For instance, Lawson said that she will usually seed them and chop them up — but she leaves the skin on.

"I'm a lazy person, so I'm always looking for ways to eat fabulously well — without too much effort," she said.

Once the roasted butternut squash comes out of the oven, Lawson crumbles blue cheese over the chunks, letting the tangy bits play against the sweet and mellow gourd. And she adds pecans, which are plentiful in the autumn.

The dish can substitute for a meat entree, Lawson said. And if you have some nice salad leaves around, you can allow the squash mixture to cool, and toss it with the mixed leaves.

"It's a great first-course salad," Lawson said. And that versatility is important.

"I think when food tastes good," Lawson said, "you should not try and limit its opportunities to be eaten."

While she always enjoys fresh vegetables, Lawson said she has gotten over her distaste for buying pre-chopped foods.

"If you buy [vegetables] that have been chopped and straight-away frozen," Lawson said, "they are actually still perfectly good for you — and sometimes we need that standby" for when unexpected guests arrive.

"My mother, however, obviously, would be turning in her grave," Lawson said. "But sometimes we have to do things that displease our mothers."

Asked to name a nice dessert to finish off an autumnal meal, Lawson seized on the Mont Blanc. The dish, she said, is what her grandfather would have called "landscape cookery."

Chocolate stands in for the soil; chestnut puree represents the mountain, with cream as the snowy peak.

"And then, as my brother would say, I apply it to my face," Lawson said. "It's so delicious."

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