November 30, 2010

Two Vegetables. One Blogger Post.

One day this fall my husband came home with a box full of garlic and green tomatoes grown in the community garden at his graduate school. Busy, and daunted by the task of figuring out what to do with green tomatoes, I left them in the box on the counter. Coming home from work the next day I discovered the most lovely monochromatic arrangement of those very same tomatoes and garlic, nestled among two acorn squash.

It wasn't until later, when to my surprise the tomatoes began to ripen in their bowl, that I got around to painting his lusciously composed still life. And I couldn't help snacking on a few of those bright yellow tart tomatoes as I went along! This unexpected pairing of end-of-summer tomatoes with winter squash sure helped me out when it came to blog posts as well - seeing as I didn't get a tomato post up for its chosen month. (Thank you for providing the inspiration, Love.)

If you ask me, a winter squash, roasted simply, with a generous pat of butter is perfect just the way it is. The delicata we got at the last farmer's market of the season from Bruce, of Abenaki Springs Farm, was a stand-alone for me. My girls need a little more enticing when it comes to squash, however. Thus, I give you a recipe - of my very own!

Maple Cream Cheese Delicata Canoes
Roast the delicata on a buttered pan at 35o until fork-tender. While these bake place a cup or so of cream cheese in a small bowl. Whisk in a couple tablespoons of pure maple syrup to taste, and just a touch of milk to achieve a creamy consistency. When the squash are ready, sprinkle them with sea salt and spoon the maple cream cheese mixture into the boats.

(An aside: I don't like recipes that have the word "boat" in them. Categorically. I scan right across those recipes and move on to something else. So, yes, I'm hedging around that with "canoes," but after slicing the squash lengthwise and scooping out the seeds there's really no denying their nautical look - and probable seaworthiness.)

While I'm sneaking back to tomatoes this month, here are some photos from our Vegetable of the Month Club Summit in July. These were taken in Ryan and Katy's bountiful greenhouse.

A heavy branch of large green tomatoes broke and fell. We mustered the gumption to slice and fry them up (Laura has a hot oil burn scar to prove it.) They were delicious. Does anyone still have that recipe to post?

There was so much life in the greenhouse - floor to ceiling wonders - like these young okra and marvelous tomatillos.

The scent of tomatoes on the vine is one of my most favorite smells in the whole wide world.

November 26, 2010

So Much Squash

It's late November and I've eaten more squash in the past 3 months than I thought possible. As you can see, I am not discrimating, and I represented all of these squashes in the above paining. However, after careful consideration I have determined my favorite: delicata. Delicata squash is small and tubular, with green stripes down the sides that turn orange as it ripens. It bakes quickly and has a very soft and, well delicate, texture. The flavor is nutty and sweeter than acorn or dumpling squash. You can eat the rinds! AND save and toast your seeds! For an easy addition to salads, or as a side in its own right, cut the squash in rings, scooping out the seeds, coat with olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper and--possibly-thyme and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes.

My favorite use for this squash was in a warm layered salad of roasted beet slices, matchsticks of kohlrabi, lemon balm sprigs, and parmesan shavings. Did I add walnuts or pomegranate seeds? I can't remember, but I should have. A simple lemon juice and oil dressing. Everyone's a food blogger these days, so I won't even try to bring you high quality food photos. Use your imagination--

I also wanted to comment on seeds. You can easily toast seeds from many varieties of squash (not just pumpkin.) Soak your seeds in salt-water overnight, then let them dry and toast them on a greased baking sheet.

I've been thinking a lot about seeds lately. I could try to collect my thoughts. Maybe an essay would result? Probably not. Here is a detail of a recent paining of some Butternut Squash Seeds on my old veneer table:

November 20, 2010

Squash for Breakfast

It's squash month for the vegetable of the month club! Each of us decided to experiment with a different squash this month. My pick: butternut.

It's November, i.e. snowy winter in Colorado (although today of course it will be 55 and sunny - this is why I love this state). Our greenhouse has been officially "turned off" for the season (sigh...). Before we let the frost take over, however, we harvested 3 lovely butternut squash from the indoor jungle. Result: squash-spice muffins and 2 batches of butternut squash soup!

Squash-Spice Muffins
(I was going to add "healthy" to the name but then you might not try them - but seriously, they are very healthy :))

1 1/2 cups flour (plus 1 T extra for high altitude)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup butternut squash puree (see below)
3 Tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup plain yogurt (1/2 cup for high altitude - you can use fat-free if you like)
3 Tbsp molasses
1 large egg

For puree: Halve an unpeeled squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds & membrane. Place the halved squash cut-side down in a baking pan filled three-quarters full with water. Roast at 400 degrees F until squash is completely fork-tender. Let cool, scoop out flesh and mash it with a potato masher or puree with an electric mixer. Freezes well!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 12 muffin holes with cooking spray or use cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine sugar, squash puree, oil, yogurt, molasses and egg. With an electric mixer on medium speed, mix for 1 to 2 minutes (or mix by hand). Make a well in center of dry ingredients; pour in liquid mixture and gently fold to just combine (batter will be lumpy).

Evenly pour batter into muffin pan about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Butternut squash soup recipe coming soon...