Fall pickup: Oct. 2, 2013

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

*9-12pm*

2 pick your own bouquets of sunflowers

2 pints of raspberries

1 family hayride

Emily’s notes:

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.”

Old-fashioned greens

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.

Week 8: June 19, 2013

In this week’s box:

sneads19

Total retail value of this week’s box: $41

Total retail value distributed so far this CSA season: $426

Emily’s notes:

First of all, welcome, berry season! These beauties sure are tasty, but be aware that raspberries are some of the most fragile berries, with the shortest shelf life, so carpe diem and heap them on ice cream or yogurt, or just pop them in your mouth, within a day or so. If you do want to save them (something that never becomes an issue in my house) place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet immediately after bringing them home and place them in the freezer. Once they’ve frozen, place them in a zip-top bag for storage.

A friend and fellow Snead’s CSA member recommended to me this recipe for Squash and Kohlrabi Empanadas last year. It would go well with this week’s box, and you could substitute kale, beet greens or kohlrabi greens for the spinach.

Speaking of kohlrabi, it was the featured vegetable this week on the blog Adventures of  a Yankee Kitchen Ninja. The blog’s weekly CSA rescue feature offers six ideas for using this vegetable. Find the post here.

Kale has become quite trendy as a superfood. It’s a dark leafy green that is packed with nutrients. I have grown kale in my backyard for the past two years, and have really grown to love it. In my house, we use it just about every day. I put it in smoothies with banana, yogurt, frozen fruits and other typical smoothie ingredients. I typically chop a handful of kale leaves to sprinkle on pizzas or in quesadillas when we make those. I love it in quiches, omelets and other egg dishes or in soups. And a big pot of stewed kale is also a favorite. I don’t use a recipe, but typically I start by heating either butter, oil or bacon in a Dutch oven. Then I add garlic and onions, and once those have cooked I add my kale, chopped and separated from the thick stems (which you could chop and saute with the onions). After the kale turns bright green, I add just enough water or chicken stock to halfway cover it and salt and pepper to taste (add some crushed red pepper if you like it, too). I cook this for a while, adding more liquid along the way if I think the greens need it. This is not the most exact of recipes, but to me this is a dish that can kind of sit on the stove until the rest of your dinner is ready.

If you want to get a bit more adventurous in your kale eating, I would recommend this recipe for BBQ kale chips from the local Doctor Yum Project. I am also a fan of using raw kale in what are called Massaged Kale Salad recipes.

The last time we got beets I decided that my favorite way to eat them is cooked (either roasted or boiled) and sliced on salads. But just in case you missed it, here is the recipe for chocolate beet cake that I concocted with our last bunch of beets.

You don’t have to get out the heavy canning equipment to make the most of pickling cucumbers. Here is a good post that explains the difference between various pickling methods, and offers a refrigerator pickle recipe for cucumbers.