Fall Means Butternut Squash

With the cold weather suddenly descending on New York, it seems like a good time to swing into our fall recipes in earnest.  During our recent apple-picking trip, we also bought a butternut squash – a core piece of autumn produce.  We’ve posted a number of good butternut recipes over the lat few years, but looking back over our archives I was surprised not to find a post on what is probably our quintessential use for this gourd: butternut squash soup.  Ubiquitous, yes, but also delicious, easy, and requiring very few ingredients.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large onion, chopped

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed

olive oil

salt and pepper

vegetable broth (but water works too)

Really, the hardest part of this whole recipe is preparing the squash itself.  I have yet to find a peeling method that doesn’t seem more difficult than it should be.  Once you’ve got it peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes, you can go one of two routes.  The easiest possible cooking method is to start by cooking the onions in the soup pot (with olive oil, salt and pepper, until translucent), then add several cups of broth or water, dump in the squash, bring to a boil, then cook until the squash is soft.

However, if you want to go the extra mile, you can roast the squash cubes in the oven (still with olive oil, maybe even adding some rosemary or sage) until they get brown, cook the onions and broth as described above, and then add the squash to the broth already cooked.  This method will generally produce a richer-tasting soup in my experience.

In either case, you end up with cooked squash and onion in hot broth, which you then want to blend.  We have an immersion blender which is ideal for the job, but you could also transfer to a blender or food processor in batches.  Serve it with a crispy bread.

This is one of those recipes that we tend to eyeball, rather than having exact measurements.  Some trial and error will get you to a point where you know what ratios of onion, squash, and broth you want to use in order to get a blended soup with your preferred consistency.


Very Lazy Fall Apple Butter

I love apples.  I try to eat one a day, if not more.  Last weekend, we went up to Stuart’s Farm for a friend’s apple picking birthday party (genius!).  After gathering about 50 pounds of apples with friends and consuming an amazing amount of cider donuts, we came home with 18.5 pounds of apples.  What to do?  First up, Lazy Apple Butter, which used to be featured on my first food blog “Combustication” and is up on the web no longer.  This blast from the past was made by peeling, coring and chopping enough apples to completely fill a crockpot, adding about 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, a pinch of salt and a freshly ground teaspoon of cloves and a cinnamon stick.  Add more or less sugar to your liking and let the crockpot do its thing for about 8 hours on low.  If the apple butter is not dark enough or is still pretty thin, take off the lid and let it cook down on low for about an hour.  Trust your judgement.  If it tastes good and sticks to a spoon, can it!

This is pretty much the recipe and canning tips I followed.  Came out with 1 half-pint, 4 pints, 1-16 oz jar and some left over!  Holiday presents here we come!

Apples in Crockpot

I love how this…

Apple Butter Transformation

Turns to this…

Apple Butter

Then into all of these!!!


Quinoa Squash Gratin

Quinoa Squash Gratin

My weird idea on a Rosh Hashannah take on kugel (I know, it has nothing to do with it, but I wasn’t about to run out for egg noodles), this Quinoa Squash Gratin is delicious and easy to make!  Looking back, the quinoa squash mixture would make excellent croquettes.  Something to think about for the future!

Here is the original recipe.  I ended up using an acorn squash and steaming it instead of the plastic bag trick…not so into using plastic in the microwave.  A mix of Monterrey jack and cheddar subbed for the Gruyere and I used 2 eggs in place of the “egg substitute”.  I also keep a jar full of toasted bits of bread in the fridge and just whirred some of that in the food processor to make bread crumbs—conventional breadcrumbs or panko would be great as well.

For croquettes, I would mix everything up to the point you’re supposed to put it in the baking dish and then form into patties, roll in breadcrumbs and bake.  They would make great appetizers with an herb dipping sauce (parsley, cilantro, garlic, cayene, paprika, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil blended in food processor).


Saving Lettuce Seed

Saving seeds from lettuce.  Original Cracoviensis lettuce seeds came from Seed Savers Exchange.  Our crop turned out so well that I decided to try my hand at seed saving for the first time in order to have more for next year.  Lucky, as it now seems like Seed Savers is sold out of that variety.

The process for collecting the seed is pretty simple – you just let one lettuce plants bolt.  After a few weeks, the familiar lettuce plant  grew into a thick stalk about five feet tall, with flowering fronds at the top (sort of like this).  Once the flowers had started to bloom, I took the seed pods home and let them dry out over a couple of days before trying to remove the seeds.

Admittedly, I didn’t bother to do much research on harvesting the seeds, so my process was largely trial and error. After spending some time manually prying individual pods apart (easy, but slow) I decided to put the remaining pods inside a cloth bag and mash it around to open all the pods at once.  This worked fine, but left all the bits of chaff in with the seeds.  As a second step, I ran the pile of seeds and casings through a sieve, which caught most of the larger pieces of chaff and left me with a relatively clean pile of seeds.

The seeds I got were ultimately a bit smaller than the ones from the packet, which I chalk up to not waiting long enough to harvest the pods.  I may try to test a few out in a window box just to see how viable they are.

Regardless of the results, it was really amazing how many seeds I got from just one plant.  After all the care I took in raising these lettuce plants, the natural process of self-propagation automatically provides the gardener or farmer with the core supply necessary to carry on growing crops – and in bulk!

Ultimately, if I took these seeds to early and they don’t grow much lettuce next year, it’s not the end of the world – I don’t mind paying a couple extra bucks for a new packet from Seed Savers.  However, going through this process really gave me a more tangible appreciation for the impact that anti-seed saving measures on GE crops (most notably carried out by Monsanto) must have on commercial farmers.

 


New Brooklyn CSA Cooking Blog

Just a note to point out that some friends of ours have started blogging about cooking with their CSA spoils.  We fully encourage you to check out The Snearses.


White Beans and Things

White Beans and Things

Our garden has been treating us quite well this season!  In addition to LOTS of lettuce, we’ve been harvesting garlic scapes, chard and a bit of purple kale.  This melage was used in this white bean salad of sorts.  Heated up some olive oil, added a sliced shallot, added chopped garlic scapes and cooked for a few.  I then added the chopped up greens and until they wilted and added a little more than a cup of white beans and a handful of dried cranberries.  Salt and pepper to taste and then some toasted almonds thrown in for good measure.  Delicious on its own or over a whole grain or lettuce.


Pesto Couscous Salad

They say the heat wave’s gonna break tomorrow.  For now, cooking must be kept at a minimum.  Boiling the water for this couscous just about put us at the limit.

After cooking the couscous, we mixed in some homemade pesto (made of basil from our garden) and some pecorino, then put it all in the fridge to cool off for about 20 minutes.  We finished it off with some chopped red pepper, toasted sunflower seeds, and a little crumbled goat cheese on top.  Served slightly chilled.


Sage and Lemon Infused Gin

Our community garden has an overabundance of sage at the moment.  A lot of the things we often cook with sage are more autumnal fare – butternut squash, potato and seitan stew,etc.  Being, as we are, in the middle of a heatwave, we decided to infuse some (cheap) gin with sage leaves and and lemon peel.  We’ll let it sit for a few days, and by the end of the weekend, we should be able to have some herbaceous martinis or something.

Maybe you have some summery sage food recipes, so that we can get a little something in our stomachs along with our cocktails.


Radish Pickles

Accidentally bought a duplicate bunch of radishes yesterday at the farmers’ market (where NOBODY took the greens!) and had to figure out something to do with them so they didn’t go to waste.  We considered some radish slaw, but we were having tacos and I thought it might be nice to make those pickled radishes and carrots that you get at Mexican restaurants.  In that endeavor, we did not succeed.  However, we ended up with some other kind of pickled radishes that are now my hands-down favorite radish preparation.

Basically, I took about a cup of vinegar (half white and half rice) and a cup of water, two tablespoons of sugar, two tablespoons of salt, a few sliced cloves of garlic, and some whole peppercorns, brought it all to a boil in a saucepan, and poured it over a ball jar full of sliced radishes.  After half an hour in the fridge, you’ve got tasty pickled radishes.  Wait until the next day, and some of that acidic bite has gone away, but you still have that buttery radish flavor, plus the briny pickle goodness.  These will be featured in my mouth, all summer long.


Sunchoke Soup with Tempeh & Pumpkin Seeds

We really enjoy sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes), but they are a pain to clean!  Armed with my trusty vegetable peeler, I made short work of a bunch of them and a lone russet potato to make this soup.  Inspired by this recipe, I changed things up by using what we had at hand and it was delicious!  We ate some cold the other night and I almost liked it even more.  A refreshing alternative to vichyssoise!  For the tempeh and pumpkin seeds I made a marinade out of some soy sauce, grapefruit juice, sesame oil and a few other things from the fridge.  Srchicha was probably involved.  I let the tempeh soak for about an hour and then baked them in the oven at about 375F – turning them until all sides were golden brown.  I then brushed some of the leftover marinade over pumpkin seeds and baked those until they got toasty.  These were the toppers for the soup.

Sunchoke Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • about a pound of sunchokes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 cups of broth
  • 1/2 cup half and half or creamer of your choice
  • salt and pepper to taste

To Do:

  1. Place cubed sunchokes and potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil.  Cook until a fork pierces the pieces easily and drain.
  2. Rinse the pot and add a bit of olive oil to coat the bottom.  Over medium heat, saute the onions until soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.  Put the cooked sunchokes and potatoes in the pot and add about 3 cups of the broth.  Let it come to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and blend the soup carefully (blender, immersion blender, food processed, whatever – just be careful with hot liquids!).  Put it back in the pot and add the cream and bring to a gentle simmer.  Add more broth if the soup seems too thick.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve topped with seitan cubes, pumpkin seeds or chives for garnish.