Make the Most of Any Fall Vegetable: 5 Essential Staples

100411-squash.jpg You walk into the grocery store and you're faced with large bins of beautiful squash and fall vegetables. They're brilliant in color, firm to the touch and they're just begging to be taken home. But suddenly panic falls over you as you realize you have no idea how you should prepare them or what they might go with. Well, forget your desire for a recipe. Let me tell you: As long as you have these five things in the kitchen you can cook anything your root vegetable heart desires.

1. Salt & Pepper: Most ingredients are at their best when they have just a little salt and possibly pepper applied to them. Don't worry that you have to create some fancy dish; don't forget that most fall or root vegetables do just fine with a little salt and some heat.

2. Olive Oil: It doesn't matter if you're roasting or pan frying, a little good olive oil goes a long way to making a slightly crisp exterior that lets that squishy inside to shine through. Likewise butter can also be a friend; it just depends on what you keep around.

3. Cream: When in doubt of how to cook most squash or roots, simply try roasting and then whipping with a bit of cream. It's an easy way to relieve stress on presentation. Or you could blend things all the way out and turn your veggies into a creamy soup instead.

4. Fresh Herbs: A bit of rosemary, a little basil, it doesn't much matter what herbs you have in your kitchen; it just matters that you do. If you think salt and pepper are a little blah, try a fine shred of herbs added after cooking to give things a boost.

5. Onion & Garlic: Or at least something from the onion family. It might be shallots, garlic, leeks, or any of the wonderful onion varieties. No matter how you slice and dice them, they will always improve a quick sauté or roast from your favorite Fall vegetable find.

What do you keep on hand during this time of year? Do you have a staple that ends up in many a dish? In my own home nutmeg and cranberries always seem to find their way into vegetable dishes as does quinoa occasionally. What are your staples for fast easy preparation?

Related: Autumn Recipe: Brown Butter & Maple Glazed Turnips