In this week’s box:
4 lbs of sweet potatoes
2 bags of gala apples
1 bag of tomatoes
4 butternut squash
4 acorn squash
1/2 pint of raspberries
1 bunch of collard greens
1 bunch of curly kale
4 already picked pumpkins anytime or 6 pick your own pumpkins 9-12pm
2 pick your own bouquets of sunflowers
2 pints of raspberries
1 family hayride
I’ve been talking to some friends of mine who are on the fence about joining a CSA next year. I tell them about how I use the produce in my kitchen, and about how it brings my weekly grocery bill down, not only because I’m buying less produce, but also because I’m buying less meat. I tell them about how it has transformed our eating habits to a healthier, vegetables-first approach.
I also tell them about the values of CSA membership that aren’t quantifiable. Taking my kids to the farm each week, watching as each field changes bit by bit throughout the season and seeing first-hand the work that goes into growing food are good lessons for all of us. So is an understanding of the cycle of a growing season. That’s on display in this pickup. You will remember kale and sweet potatoes from some of the first boxes of the season (see my notes on kale here), They’re back as fall crops in this box. You also have some holdovers from summer, like tomatoes and raspberries, along with fall classics like butternut and acorn squash and apples.
Make sure your pantry is well-stocked with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. These are the flavors of fall, and they will help you work magic with this bounty of winter squash, sweet potatoes and other fall vegetables. The great thing about winter squash and sweet potatoes is that they’ll keep, allowing you to stretch out this box over several weeks.
I’ll be sharing a new recipe using butternut squash on this blog each day for the next several days. Some of those recipes will call for peeled and cut squash, some for shredded squash, and many for pureed squash. So today I thought I’d offer some basic instructions for pureeing butternut squash. It’s not hard, but once you do this, you can keep the puree in your freezer (I like to store it in quart-size Ziploc bags, flattened), ready to defrost for use in recipes throughout the year. The puree on its own is great baby food, too.
And until you’re ready to process your squash, they make great seasonal decor for your kitchen. I had several up through Thanksgiving last year, and they really added a nice touch.
Pureed Butternut Squash
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse and scrub squash (Use as many as you can fit on your roasting pan.). Using a sharp, heavy knife and a sturdy cutting board, cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. Place squash cut-side-down on a foil-covered roasting pan. Place in oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until a fork goes into the “neck” of the squash (the part without the hollow from the seeds) with ease.
When squash is cooked, remove from oven and let it cool until you can comfortably handle it. Use your hands to separate flesh from the thin layer of skin. Place flesh in a food processor or blender (NOTE: You will not want to fill your blender much more than halfway per batch.) and process until smooth.
To remove excess water, you can take the optional step of lining a colander with coffee filters or cheesecloth and pouring the puree in their to drain for several hours. Removing the water will make the squash better for baked goods like breads, pies and muffins. Call me lazy, but I have never found butternut squash to have too much excess water (pumpkin does), so I usually skip this step.
Acorn squash has a slightly different color and texture from butternut squash. It’s a bit more watery, but if you drained it after cooking, you could use pureed acorn squash in most pumpkin or butternut squash muffin or bread recipes. You can also roast your hollowed halves of acorn squash as a side dish. Try coating them with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and a dash of salt and cayenne and roasting at 400 degrees for an hour or so. Put about a quarter-inch of water in the bottom of the roasting pan to protect the skins from burning and to provide some extra moisture. Forgo the sweet stuff and fill the cavities with cooked orzo, rice or another grain mixed with cheese and crumbled sausage. Cover these with foil before baking for about an hour at 400 degrees, and you have a nice all-in-one meal complete with vegetable.
Collards and kale can both be cooked in the same way, and even mixed for a variety of texture. If you’re interested in a very traditional preparation, here’s a good basic recipe, adapted slightly from Camille Glenn’s “The Heritage of Southern Cooking.”
1 pound greens, such as collards or kale, or a mix
1/4 pound slab smoked bacon, or 1/2-pound piece smoked ham hock
1.5 quarts water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt, to taste
apple cider vinegar, for serving
Remove greens from thick stems and set greens aside in a salad spinner or colander.
Add bacon or ham hock to water in a large pot and allow to boil, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes. The water should reduce by half.
In the meantime, wash greens in a few changes of water, swishing to ensure you rid them of sand and grit. Drain.
Add greens to the pot. Add pepper flakes and allow greens to simmer long and slowly until they are tender, about one hour. The greens should simmer no more than 1/2 inch below the liquid line. Strain off any excess liquid and add it tot he pot only if needed as the greens cook. Taste for salt when the greens are almost done (remember that the bacon or ham hock already add salty flavor). Discard bacon or ham hock, drain the greens and serve.
Just thinking about a big pot of greens makes me hungry for biscuits. How about sweet potato biscuits? This recipe from Chow would be a nice accompaniment.