Even though the best, juiciest tomatoes are well behind us, fall is still a wonderful season for produce in North Georgia. Not only do we get to enjoy all the vegetables typically associated with this time of year—sweet potatoes, turnips, kale, cabbage, beets, collards, winter radishes—but also we are treated to a second round of tender vegetables that make such a brief appearance during our spring: lettuce, spinach, fennel, and carrots, to name a few.
But wait; there’s more. As if all that weren’t enough, nature sometimes throws in a bonus gift with our fall order.
When farmers turn over their summer fields to get ready for winter, they pull up the last of their summer crops. That means that right now—this week, possibly next—you’re likely to see the end of hot-weather heroes like eggplant, peppers, and basil.
Everything ends up at market at once. The variety is stunning, possibly the best of the year. Farmers’ stands overflow with piles of big leafy greens, At some tables, small baskets of eggplants and peppers, maybe even a few tomatoes and okra, sit to the side, allowing the cool-season vegetables to have their moment in the fading sun.
The cool weather is refreshing, too. It’s really a great time to go shopping. Now all you have to do is figure out what to do with the embarrassment of riches in your canvas shopping bag.
Green Pepper and Sweet Potato Fried Rice
Though I usually use brown rice in recipes, it never seems quite right in fried rice, a dish so satisfying it survives as cross-cultural comfort food, thousands of years and as many miles from its origins in ancient China. In cool weather, when I especially crave its magical combination of salty, oily and crispy, I cook a few cups of white rice once or twice a month and put it in the fridge overnight, so that the next day it will be ready for frying.
3 to 4 servings
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided use
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced into thin rounds, then cut into matchsticks
4 small green peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced crosswise
1 small onion, cut into ¼-inch wedges
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups cooked, chilled white rice
Sriracha to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Soy sauce to taste (1 to 2 tablespoons)
4 lime wedges
In a large wok or high-sided frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons oil on high heat. Add the sweet potato wedges and cook, stirring only a few times as necessary, until nearly tender, about 4 minutes. Add the green peppers and onion and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the rice and a squirt of sriracha sauce. Cook without stirring for 1 minute to allow the rice on the bottom of the pan to get crispy. Stir and cook 1 to 2 minutes more to heat rice through. Push contents of pan away from one edge of the pan to expose a few inches of cooking surface. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, then pour in the beaten eggs. Stir immediately as they cook quickly. When set, chop up the scrambled egg with your cooking utensil and stir into the rice mixture. Add cilantro, then soy sauce, to taste. Serve with lime wedges.