Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

I cherish the experience of the change of seasons on the east coast. Growing up in southern California was like living in the same day, every day, day after day —sunny and in the 70’s. Of course, sunny and 70 is pretty special sometimes too, but I would not trade my colorful, stark season changes for such consistency, no matter how temperate. So it is with great excitement that I say goodbye to the lush bright red, yellow, and orange tomatoes we have been savoring at the farm and say hello to the first of the winter squash. I was so excited to hear that we were receiving spaghetti squash this week. I cannot remember ever having this variety at the farm and certainly have never written about it, so here’s to a completely new post!

Featured Item—Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a variety of winter squash unique in its tendency to separate into fine, spaghetti-like strands once cooked. The flesh is mild, almost nutty but understated enough to take on whatever flavors are added to it in dishes, which is why it makes such a great substitute for pasta. While a serving of pasta can add as much as 200 calories to a dish, a cup of of spaghetti squash has about 42 calories. Further, spaghetti squash and pasta (especially whole wheat varieties) both contain a decent amount of fiber, but the squash contains vitamins, important antioxidants, and Omega 3’s and 6’s, which you don’t get with pasta. This is why many folks who are trying to lose weight in a healthful way use spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta in their meals.

While spaghetti squash makes a great substitute for pasta , there are other creative ways it can be used. Toss the cooked strands with oil/butter and herbs, herbs and cheese, or greens and use as a veggie side dish. Mix the strands with a cheesy sauce and other vegetables and bake as a casserole or a gratin. Use in a stir-fry. Top halved cooked squash with a sauce and cheese of choice and serve it “twice baked” (spaghetti squash Parmesan anyone?). Try mixing the strands with egg and flour and making them into fritters.

Check out this great article from the Huffington Post, which offers 29 creative ideas for using spaghetti squash (click here), or consider this article from Babble.com which features 25 different delicious-looking recipes (click here) One recipe particularly caught my eye as it uses spaghetti squash as a base for a gluten free pizza crust (click here). I also loved an idea for turning the strands into a crusty nest and making little meatball muffins out of them (click here). So many ideas…..

It is funny but I was developing yet another eggplant recipe this week that uses cinnamon and cloves and as I was tasting it I thought, “This would be so good with spaghetti squash”. Low and behold, here it is at the farm this week. So I am including the eggplant recipe below. Depending upon when you come to the farm this week, eggplant may still be in the share. Don’t forget about the PYO fairy tale eggplant, they are still producing.

When choosing spaghetti squash, select firm squash without dents or significant marring. Store at room temperature or in a cellar where they will keep for at least a month. To cook, cut in half, scoop out and discard seeds, and microwave, bake or steam until soft (if microwaving or baking, place a little water in the pan and cover to keep the squash moist). Using a fork, separate the cooked flesh into strands.  Drain well in a colander to remove excess water, then use as desired.

CSA TIP—Create your own CSA cookbook

We all have our systems for keeping track of recipes. Some of us use good old-fashioned note cards, some of us make binders, and some use cookbook programs on our computers. But how about considering the idea of making a specific cookbook of your CSA recipes? I find that if my CSA ideas/recipes are in one neatly organized place, it makes it so much easier to come up with dinner on a hectic day. I like to organize my CSA recipes by main ingredient (fennel, eggplant etc…), but I also keep more general files for salads, side dishes and entrees. I am lucky enough to have found an easy-to-use recipe management system called MacGourmet for the Mac that I find to be quite adequate for my needs (click here). I can enter recipes manually, easily transfer recipes from the web into my files, print or share recipes, make cookbooks, and do semi-complicated searches by ingredient(s). If you are computer savvy and want to try an online method, I recommend it. There are several other programs out there so research them carefully and find the one that is best for you. However you choose to do it, being organized with your CSA ideas and recipes can be a very helpful way to keep your meals interesting, make your cooking more efficient, and save yourself some time.

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I recently tried a great vegetarian dish in which a compote similar to this was served alongside an Indian spiced cauliflower steak. I loved it so much I decided to recreate it using eggplant from the farm. As I mentioned above, this compote would be great as a pasta sauce, especially over spaghetti squash. I think the sweet notes and warm spices in the compote would pair beautifully with the slightly sweet and nutty squash. I also think the compote would complement pork, duck or chicken as well. If you happen to have cauliflower, roast up some steaks and serve it with this compote….it is delcicious.

Note: When I developed this recipe I was out of regular balsamic vinegar and used a Pumpkin Spice balsamic vinegar from O’live A Little instead. Because this vinegar has added sweetness and spice, you may find that you need to add a bit more spices, vinegar, or sugar to the version below.

Eggplant and Raisin Compote

INGREDIENTS:

– 2 teaspoons coconut oil

– 1 small onion, very thinly sliced

– 1 small eggplant (or 6-8 fairy tale eggplants), cut into 1/4″ dice

– 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

– 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or brown sugar, or more to taste

– 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

– pinch ground cloves

– 1 1/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

– 1/3 cup raisins

– 1/3 cup chopped green olives (with or without pimiento)

– 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

METHOD:

In a medium Dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and caramelized (they should be light brown. Stir regularly to prevent burning). Add balsamic vinegar, spices, sugar, salt, broth, eggplant, raisins, and olives. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and stir well. Continue to cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is very soft. If mixture gets too thick add more broth a couple of tablespoons at a time. Remove from heat and stir in pine nuts. Taste and add more vinegar or sugar as needed.

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This dish is great way to kick off the cooler weather and the change in produce coming out of the farm.  If you don’t happen to get fennel in your share (items vary by pick up day), you can substitute the fresh fennel with onion (just don’t leave out the fennel seeds).

Pork Ragu with Triple Fennel Over Spaghetti Squash                         Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 3 slices bacon, minced

– 1 pound ground pork

– 3 small fennel bulbs, diced small

– 6 cloves garlic, slivered

– 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed

– 1 teaspoon dried oregano

– 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

– 1 bay leaf

– 1/3 cup tomato paste

– 3 med/large tomatoes, diced small (or use 1 1/2-2 cans diced tomatoes)

– 1 cup dry white wine

– 3/4 teaspoon salt

– 2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds

– cooked spaghetti squash strands from 1 squash

– Parmesan cheese, optional

METHOD:

  1. Cook bacon in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat until bacon is crisp and has rendered its fat. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon bits to a paper towel- lined plate to drain. Discard all bacon fat. Return pan to heat and add ground pork. Cook, stirring frequently and breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until pork is browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain all but 2 teaspoons fat from the meat. Add fresh fennel, garlic slivers, oregano, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until fennel and garlic have softened and are beginning to brown (about 8-10 minutes). Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste darkens and caramelizes, about 3 minutes. Add white wine and deglaze by scraping up all browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, reserved bacon, and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain spaghetti squash if it is wet or weepy. Reheat spaghetti squash in microwave. Top with hot sauce, fennel fronds, and Parmesan (if desired).

0 thoughts on “Simply Fresh by Julie Wern”

    1. Hello Jeanne. My favorite way to cook okra is simply roasted. First wash whole okra well. Dry well with paper towels. Slice into 1/2″ thick slices. Toss with refined coconut oil or other high smoke point oil and sea salt. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees, turning every 5-8 minutes, until okra is tender and caramelized.

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