There’s something about the fall time that makes sharing a meal around a table seem extra enticing – maybe because it’s Thanksgiving season in the US, or perhaps it’s just because the colder weather calls for hearty food and cozy conversations. If you’re traveling, it might be a little difficult to find that warm breaking-bread experience, unless you plan on stopping by one of our HI USA hostels, where it’s easy to find new friends to cook dinners with. Especially at HI Sacramento, which is practically made for community meals and fireside chats. The old Victorian mansion probably has the most comfortable couches this side of the American River, and most importantly, the kind of kitchen that cries for big meals to be cooked in and a dining area with a long table meant for lively dinners.
Since Sacramento also happens to be the Farm-to-Fork capital of America, we highly recommend that while you’re in town you visit one of the city’s farmer’s markets, like the Mid-Town Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and prepare your goodies back at the hostel. During the fall time you can expect to find ingredients like artichokes, leeks, beets and, of course, squashes of various shapes and sizes. If you’re at a loss for what do with your fresher than fresh hoard after your shopping excursion, we’ve come up with a menu made up of local, seasonal ingredients that also happens to be easy and economical to prepare. So, gather up a crew of fellow travelers, divvy up the chopping duties and get set to cheers, prost, cin cin or salud to a good meal with good friends.
Give the quesadilla a seasonal twist with a bright yellow-orange squash to add sweetness and color. Pair with any melty cheese that’s available – cheddar or Monterey Jack – or maybe even splurge a little on some goat cheese.
Squash (e.g. butternut) cubed
Clove of garlic
Small flour tortillas
Cumin and dried oregano (or you can experiment with whatever spices you find in the hostel kitchen!)
Melty cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack or goat cheese)
Salt and pepper to taste
First, season the squash with salt, pepper and spices and roast together with slivers of garlic. Once the squash is roasted heat up some butter in a pan. Place one tortilla in the pan, top with grated cheese and then with a single layer of squash. Place another tortilla on top, press down a little with a spatula and then flip the quesadilla to toast the other side. Repeat until you have enough quesadillas to feed hungry hostellers!
The Big Tomato Vegetable Soup
One of Sacramento’s nicknames is the Big Tomato because the city used to be a shipping and canning hub for the fruit. This vegetable soup uses the seasonal fare that the Big Tomato has to offer, and you can add or omit fresh produce depending on what’s available.
Celery stalks, chopped
Can of white beans
Can of diced tomatoes
Oil for cooking
Salt, pepper and herbs to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot and add onion, leek, celery and carrots and sauté until soft. Season with herbs (Italian herbs work well). Add the canned tomatoes and broth – the number of cans of tomatoes and broth depends on how many people you’re cooking for – and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beans and slow cook until the flavors have developed, then add the kale a few minutes before serving so it is just cooked and bright green. Serve with some crusty bread.
Apple Hill Crumble
If you’re around Sacramento during the fall time, it’s all but mandatory to visit Apple Hill, a network of orchards and farms that show off the area’s ability to grow fabulous produce. You’ll find that a trip to the orchards will leave you with more apples than you know what to do with, which is where this simple recipe comes in. Enjoy with a cup of Sacramento’s finest local coffee, and you’ve got a perfect ending to your hostel meal.
1 Cup Flour
¼ Cup sugar
Cinnamon and nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For the topping, combine flour and butter and mix with your fingertips until the mixture resembles crumbs. Stir in sugar and a pinch of salt and set aside. Heat some butter in a pan and add apples, cinnamon and nutmeg and coat with a single layer of sugar. Cook until the apples are soft (but not mushy). Line a baking tray with some butter, add cooked apples and top with the flour mixture. Bake until the top is golden brown and crisp and serve with a steaming cup of Sacramento coffee!
HI USA tip: If you’re on the road this holiday season and you’re feeling a little lonely, read some of our favorite holiday hostel stories to make you feel good and give you something to look forward to.