• Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

    My CSA week

    This past week I had a hard time getting to the farm. When Saturday came around and I still couldn’t get there I had to send my husband instead. What an adventure for him–his first CSA pick up experience! Never mind that he picked the husk cherries off the vine (alas they were completely unripe) and it took him over an hour to pick a pint of raspberries, at least we had our produce for the week. It was so hard to do without my CSA vegetables all week. It makes me really appreciate what we have in our wonderful CSA.

    Because it was such a short CSA week for me, I only have one meal’s worth of experiences to share with you, but it was a great repast. We had family and friends over for dinner and decided to marinate some chicken to grill.

    For appetizers, I made a really interesting, different, but delicious take on chips and salsa—Tomatillo, Raspberry, and Husk Cherry Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Crisps (see below for recipe). I also made a bruschetta with some slow roasted tomatoes I had made a few weeks ago (Click here for recipe).  To make the bruschetta, I first crisped baguette slices in the oven and then rubbed them with a garlic clove. I then spread the toasts with softened honey-infused goat cheese, which I topped with the slow-roasted tomatoes. Oh my goodness, everyone loved them. The slightly sweet goat cheese paired beautifully with the condensed, sweet caramelized flavor of the roasted tomatoes. My husband even said they were one of the best things he has ever eaten! Now that is a compliment!

    To accompany the grilled chicken I made a wonderful ratatouille that used the last of my tomatoes, along with some zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, onion, and sweet peppers. There are many recipes for ratatouille. I personally like the one from the All New Joy of Cooking cookbook by Rombauer and Becker. Ratatouille is a traditional way to use that quintessential late summer combination of veggies. If you haven’t made it yet, I highly recommend trying it.

    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.

    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).

    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.

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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. The family ended up loving it.

    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 dish is great for fall and would pair nicely with pork tenderloin/chops or ham. The recipe was adapted from The New York Times .

    Cider Glazed Delicata with Rosemary                                           Serves 4

     INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 large Delicata squash

    – 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

    – 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary

    – 1 1/4 cups apple cider

    – 1/2 teaspoon salt

    – 1 tablespoons pure maple syrup

    METHOD:

    Scrub squash and cut off ends. Halve lengthwise and remove seeds. Slice crosswise into 1/4″ thick half moon slices.

    In a small bowl, mix apple cider, rosemary, salt and maple syrup until syrup is dissolved.

    In a 10″ skillet, melt butter until foamy. Add squash and cider mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking undisturbed for 8 minutes. Remove cover and increase heat until cider is at a rolling boil. Cook, stirring occasionally (stir gently as squash gets cooked so it doesn’t break apart), for another 20 minutes, or until sauce has reduced to a thick glaze. Serve.

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    This salsa is not dessert sweet but not quite savory either. The tomatillo, raspberries, and husk cherries are each individual flavor bombs that make a completely unique and delicious combination.

    Tomatillo, Raspberry and Husk Cherry Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Crisps

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 large tomatillos husked and rinsed, chopped into 1/4″ pieces

    – 2 cups fresh raspberries

    – 1 cup halved husk cherries

    – 2 small jalapenos, seeded and minced

    – 1/4 cup minced cilantro

    – 1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste

    – 3 tablespoons sugar

    – 6 whole wheat tortillas

    – 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, to taste

    – butter flavored cooking spray

    METHOD:

    1. Place chopped tomatillos, halved husk cherries, jalapeños, raspberries, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl. Using a spatula, fold mixture gently so as to not crush raspberries. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
    1. Preheat oven to 300℉. Mix 3 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon (to taste) in a small bowl. Place tortillas on a work surface and spray one side well with butter cooking spray. Sprinkle each tortilla evenly with cinnamon sugar. Cut each tortilla into halves, then each half into 5 triangles. Place tortilla triangles in a single layer on a baking sheet (you will need to do 3-4 batches). Bake until golden and crispy throughout, about 10-15 minutes. Remove crisps to a rack to cool and continue baking the rest of the tortilla triangles.
    1. Once crisps are cool, taste salsa. If it is too tart, add a bit more sugar. Serve salsa immediately with cooled tortilla crisps.
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