• Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

    I was so excited to see broccoli at the farm today.  Broccoli is one of those vegetables that are loved by everyone, including kids.  I came right home and made a warming soup with the broccoli stems and the beautiful leeks we have been receiving lately (see recipe below).  I was reminded again how using up stems and stalks significantly reduces waste, stretches our CSA produce and dollars, and provides significant added nutrition to our diet.

    CSA Tip–Use the Stems

    Many of the vegetable and greens we receive from the farm contain highly fibrous stems that we are simply used to throwing out.  Take broccoli, for instance.  Supermarkets now cut off the stems and sell just the florets because people balk at paying for the bulk of a stem that they will never use..the joke is on them, however, because a) they are simply charged more for the florets to make up for the lost revenue, and b) the more that vegetables are pre-cut at the grocery store, the more quickly they lose vital nutrients.

    In many cases, stems can be made highly palatable by just a few simple steps.  With greens, stems can be sautéed or steamed first until they soften up, then the rest of the green can be added for quick cooking.  Thick stems from greens like Swiss Chard can be made into pickles (click here).  Broccoli stems require a simple go over on the surface with a vegetable peeler, which reveals tender flesh underneath that is palatable enough for even a raw salad (see recipe below).  So get adventurous in the kitchen and start trying different ways to use up stems and stalk.  You might hit upon some dishes you really love.

    Featured Item—Delicata Squash

    Delicata squash is the perfect transition vegetable from summer to fall—it still provides that beautiful late summer color (its flesh is a nice bright yellow) but it is starchier and heavier than summer squash, which satisfies the beginnings of our comfort food cravings. Further, the skin is thinner than other winter squash so it is generally edible when cooked—this allows us to start enjoying the fall produce without introducing the hassle of tough outer skins. Finally, add to the fact that it has a dense, silky texture and an irresistible sweet flavor (kind of like butternut or sweet potato) and you have a real winner.

    Another reasons to love this squash is it’s nutritional value. For a winter squash, it is relatively low in starchy carbohydrates and is low in calories as well. Delicata contains very impressive levels of vitamin A and C, as well as impressive amounts of vitamin B2, manganese, copper, potassium, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, folate, and vitamin K. Because we tend to eat the skin, we benefit from the fiber and many added nutrients inherent in skins that are often too tough for us to digest.

    Sometimes called sweet potato squash (for its flavor) or peanut squash (for its shape), delicata squash is an heirloom variety that has only been around for a little over a hundred years. It has long been popular for its wonderful taste. However, it fell out of favor for years due to the fact that it is more difficult than other winter squash to transport and store because of its thinner skin. We are fortunate to be able to try this special gem in our CSA distribution.

    Delicata squash is oblong and has creamy white skin with dark green striping. Like other winter squash, it will keep for at least a month (and sometimes more) in cool (not cold), dry, dark storage so it can be enjoyed late into the fall. A basement or garage can work well as long as the squash does not freeze. Keep in mind that squash that has bruises or other damage will spoil more quickly.

    Like other winter squash, Delicata can be baked, steamed, or boiled. Here are some more specific preparation ideas.

    Stuffed (see recipe below):

    Slice lengthwise, seed, then bake, covered (add a bit of water to the pan). Stuff and then re-bake, uncovered, to warm through. Stuffing ingredients that work well are cooked greens, nuts, rice or grains, ground meats, cheeses, bread (like breadcrumbs), and dried fruit (e.g. cranberries, raisins).

    Pureed (like mashed potatoes):

    There are two general ways to do this. 1. Peel and chop and then steam or boil until tender. Drain. Puree with favorite add-ins like butter, milk/cream, and cheese. 2. Slice lengthwise and seed. Bake, covered, until tender. Scoop out flesh from skin and puree as above.

    Soups/stews:

    Dice and add to soups/stews at end of cooking. Cook until just tender. Great in chili, vegetables soups, bean soups, and meat soups/stews.

    Creamy pureed soup:

    Peel, seed and dice. Cook onions, leeks, shallots, and/or garlic in a bit of olive oil until tender. Add squash. Pour in vegetable or chicken broth until squash is just covered. Add herbs like sage or thyme. Cook until squash is tender. Process in blender until smooth. You can add a bit of cream, sour cream, or fresh herbs to finish if you like.

    Simply baked (see recipe below):

    Slice it lengthwise, seed, drizzle with a bit of melted butter or olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper (and maybe a bit of brown sugar), cover, and bake until tender. At 350, this will take about 45-60 minutes.

    Braised (see recipe below):

    Sliced lengthwise, seeded and sliced into pretty half moons and either baked or braised in cider, broth, wine, and/or fruit juice (like orange or apple cider).

    • Delicata Squash with Rosemary, Sage, and Cider Glaze (click here)

    Layered (like in “lasagna” or casseroles):

    Slice lengthwise, seed, and bake, covered. Slice and layer cooled baked squash in a casserole dish with other ingredients such as cheese, greens, white sauce, nuts etc…and bake until hot throughout.

    • Roasted Delicata Apple and Onion Tian (click here)
    • Delicata Squash and Sausage Gratin (click here)

     In a Salad (see recipe below):

    Bake or steam delicata slices and add to your favorite salad. See below for an arugula and delicate salad with spiced apple cider vinaigrette.

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    I came up with this stuffed delicata squash recipe a couple of years ago to use up ingredients from my week’s CSA share. Swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach or arugula can be subbed in for the kale if you don’t have it. The recipe can easily be halved if you only have one squash or you are cooking for only two people.

    Delicata Squash Stuffed w/ Turkey Sausage, Kale & White Beans

    (4 servings)

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 medium Delicata squash

    – 2 teaspoons olive oil

    – 3 links Italian Turkey Sausage, casings removed

    – 1/2 onion, minced

    – 3 cloves garlic, minced

    – 1 medium tomato, chopped

    – 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage, (or dried)

    – 1 15 ounce can Cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

    – 1 cup chopped cooked Kale

    – 3-4 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth

    – 2 1/2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

    – 1 1/2 tablespoon grated Parmesan

    METHOD:

    Preheat oven to 375. Wash squash well and cut off ends. Halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place cut side up in a glass baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour about 1/3 cup water to the side of the squash into the baking dish (the water will keep the squash from drying out). Cover with foil and bake until squash is tender, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour off any water left in the dish before stuffing the squash.

    In a small bowl, coarsely mash drained and rinsed beans with a fork until you have a chunky paste with some whole or only partially mashed beans in it. Set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Set aside.

    Heat olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until brown, breaking up meat as it cooks. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add tomato and sage and cook until tomato softens, another 5-7 minutes. Add beans and broth and cook just until heated through. If mixture seems dry, add more broth (you want a fairly moist stuffing because it will dry out some in the oven).

    Spoon sausage mixture into cooked squash cavities, mounding filling at the tops. Sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture and spray tops with cooking spray (or drizzle with olive oil). Place uncovered in oven and cook until hot throughout and the tops begin to brown, about 20 minutes.

    NOTES:

    I cooked my kale in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then drained and chopped it.

    This recipe can be prepared in phases. The squash can be cooked one day ahead (refrigerate before proceeding). They can be stuffed several hours ahead, covered, and refrigerated until ready to bake. Top with breadcrumb mixture right before placing in the oven.

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    The following is a tasty baked dish that would go great with almost any meat entrée. We enjoyed it with simple grilled chicken.

    Baked Delicata w/ Bacon and Parmesan                                   Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 large Delicata squash

    – 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced

    – 2 teaspoons olive oil

    – 1/4 teaspoon salt

    – 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    – 1/4 cup dry white wine

    – 4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

    – 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

    METHOD:

    Preheat oven to 375. Spray an 11 X 7 inch rectangular casserole dish (like a pyrex) with cooking spray.

    Scrub squash well, cut off ends, and split lengthwise in half. Using a spoon, remove seeds. Slice into 1/4″ half moons.

    Place squash and onion in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to evenly distribute mixture (or use hands to rub oil and spices into the squash). Pour squash into casserole dish and spread evenly.   Pour wine over squash and cover with foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until squash and onions are tender. Remove foil and sprinkle evenly first with bacon pieces and then with Parmesan. Return to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until cheese is melted and wine is largely evaporated (but before bacon burns).

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    This salad is a great combination of fall favorites…apple cider, winter squash, and cranberries.

    Arugula and Delicata Salad with Spiced Apple Cider Vinaigrette     Serves 4

     INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 medium delicata squash, washed

    – ground cinnamon

    – ground cloves

    – 1 cup unfiltered apple cider, preferably organic

    – 1/2 stick cinnamon

    – 4 whole cloves

    – 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

    – 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

    – 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

    – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

    – 6 cups arugula, washed and dried

    – 3 tablespoons dried cranberries

    – 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted

    – goat cheese or sharp cheddar, crumbled or cut into small dice

    METHOD:

    1. Preheat oven to 400℉. Brush or spray a rimmed baking sheet with coconut oil; Cut squash in half lengthwise and using a spoon, remove seeds. Cut squash into thin half moons. Place in an even layer on the baking sheet. Spray well with coconut oil (alternatively, toss with about 1-2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil before placing on baking sheet). Sprinkle with sea salt. Lightly sprinkle with ground cinnamon and cloves. Bake for 6 minutes. Turn pieces and bake an additional 6-12 minutes or until squash pieces are tender but not beginning to burn. Remove from oven and allow to cool while preparing the rest of the salad.
    1. In a small saucepan, heat apple cider, cinnamon stick and cloves over medium-high heat until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool. In a container long enough to contain the handle of a stick blender, blend reduced cider, shallot, cider vinegar, mustard and olive oil until emulsified (alternatively use a stand blender). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss arugula to taste with cider vinaigrette (you may not need to use all the vinaigrette).
    1. Divide dressed arugula among four salad plates. Top with slices of delicata, toasted pecans, cheese and cranberries. Serve immediately.

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    The leeks give this soup incredible silky body, eliminating the need for rich cream or butter.

    Leek and Broccoli Stalk Soup with Fresh Dill              Serves 2-4

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 4 medium leeks

    – 2 cloves garlic, minced

    – 2 teaspoons oil of choice or butter, I used avocado oil

    – 2 broccoli stalks, florets cut off and reserved for another purpose

    – vegetable or chicken broth, enough to cover vegetables (about 3 cups)

    – 1/2 teaspoon salt

    – pepper to taste

    – 2 tablespoons fresh minced dill

    METHOD:

    1. Cut leeks where the whilte/light green area meets the dark green area. Discard dark green parts or reserve these pieces for making broth or compost. Slice the light green/white portions in half lengthwise, then cut each long piece into thin half moons. Place in a colander and rinse really well with cold water. Drain.
    1. Cut off about 1/4-inch of the tough end of the broccoli stalks (opposite where the florets were). Using a sharp vegetable peeler, shave off tough outer skin of broccoli stems as well as you can. Don’t worry if you can’t get it all. Then chop into 1/2” pieces. Set aside.
    1. In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add leeks and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until leeks soften, about 8 minutes. Add broccoli stems and stir well. Add enough broth just to cover the vegetables (if you have too much broth, your soup will be runny and will need to be thickened by reducing after it is blended). Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook, stirring occasionally, until broccoli stems are very tender, about 30 minutes.
    1. Take care when blending hot liquids, as steam build up can cause the lid of the blender to shoot off, causing a big mess. It helps to let the mixture cool somewhat before blending. Add broccoli leek mixture to blender (if you have a small blender, blend in two batches) You should not fill your blender more than 1/3-1/2 full of hot liquids. Start on a low speed and increase speed slowly to avoid accidents. Blend until completely smooth. Stir in dill and any additional salt and pepper, if needed, to taste. Serve or refrigerate for later service.

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    If you aren’t quite ready for fall foods, this salad is great way to use both your broccoli florets and stems.  It is super popular at picnics and with those that don’t tend to love raw broccoli…for some reason the dressing and other ingredients turn the broccoli texture and taste into something else entirely.

    Curried Broccoli Salad

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 cups broccoli florets and stems, stems trimmed and outer skin peeled to reveal tender stalk
    – 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
    – 1 cup halved organic seedless grapes
    – 1/2 cup chopped celery
    – 1/3 cup toasted slivered or sliced almonds
    – 1/2 cup regular, reduced fat, or vegan mayonnaise
    – 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
    – 1/4 cup sugar
    – 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

    METHOD:

    1. Break florets into small pieces and dice stalks (you want two cups at this point) and place in a medium sized bowl. Add green onions, grapes, and celery.

    2. Whisk mayonnaise with curry powder, sugar and vinegar until sugar dissolves. Pour over vegetables in bowl and toss until completely coated. Add nuts just before serving and toss to coat.

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