A Healthy Autumn Dinner for the Soul

From pumpkin bread to stuffed turkey to gingerbread cookies, the period from Halloween to New Year’s always seems like a continuous marathon of gastro-gluttony. It’s when root vegetables begin popping up on restaurant menus, when vegetarians attempt (and fail) to imitate the glory of roasted bird, and when pies become the seventh food group. I always associate autumn with social meals, when people gather around a scenic open fire to share great food and wine. So naturally, I was quite thrilled when my friend Nancy Grabowsky invited me for a “healing” autumn dinner with her friends and family at Company.

As a yoga instructor and graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Nancy integrates seasonal foods with superfoods, nutritious and purifying ingredients meant to energize the mind and body. Her culinary philosophy—“Let your Food be Your Medicine”— permeates both her cooking style and life attitude. Our vegetarian dinner menu consisted of:

  • Cauliflower mint petit brioche with rose and green grape reduction sauce
  • Fig & Kabucha Squash Soup with fine herbs and crispy chipotle kale
  • Golden beet, purple potato, and Jerusalem artichokes vertical torte with aged manchego cheese, caramelized red cabbage and chestnut puree
  • Arugula Salad, Purple Basil, Dandelion & fennel, salty blackberries, lemon balm and pomegranate dressing
  • Amaranth Pilaf with Hemp and Almond Sauce, fried plantain
  • Flourless date cake with a sage-kiwi glaze, dark chocolate mousse
  • Turkish Wedding drink (almond Milk with crushed pistachios and Rose water)

Now, I’ve indulged in enough food to forget about most of them, but I will always remember Nancy for her unique flavors and textures. Despite lacking formal training, her understanding of ingredients surpasses anything professional education could ever teach.The chipotle-infused, slightly-bitter crispy kale married perfectly with the velvety sweetness of the rose-laced soup. The crunchy, celery-like fennel, dressed in an acidic and sweet vinaigrette, left my tongue-buds tingling with virginal delight.

Fig and squash soup, crispy kale

The vertical torte, layers of salty manchego sandwiched between sweet potatoes and beets, hit my palette with so many textures and flavors that I barely breathed between bites, fork wobbling with euphoric joy. Even the red cabbage, bathed in the savoriness of Amish butter and rose extract, tasted sublime. Now I know I’m biased, but friendship can only enhance food so much, and I try to dote compliments in moderation. Nancy truly astounds with her creativity and an uncanny ability to cook mouthwatering dishes. How she can “mentally” create a recipe with such developed and harmonious flavors simply amazes me.

The fundamental hallmark of a great meal is pure, soul-drenched satisfaction. Are you full? Do you feel about yourself? Are you content with life? I usually don’t feel that way about most meals, but I left dinner that night with a profound sense of happiness. Watching Nancy carefully stir the pilaf, re-season the brioche, and top the date cake with mascarpone mousse made me realize that food doesn’t just taste good because of fresh ingredients; it tastes good because of the love that chefs pour into their creations. It tastes good because great conversation is the best garnish. It tastes good because it reminds you of home.