• Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

    CSA Tip–Cook that arugula

    As the season progresses the arugula leaves and stems are becoming larger.  This often means the arugula is less tender and often spicier in its raw state.  No worries.  If your arugula is too tough or too pungent to eat raw, try cooking it like any other green.  It is especially good cooked into soups/stews or braised in some kind of liquid.  This past week I added chopped arugula to my bean chili at the end of cooking.  It was yummy.  You can also try making pesto with it.  Taste your arugula to check for spice level.  If needed “cut in” your pesto with a mild green like kale or chard.  Try serving it with pasta.  For another idea for using older arugula, see my recipe below for Arugula soup.

    IMG_0401Featured Item—Carnival Squash

    It is always a major sign of the change of seasons when summer squash begins to give way to winter squash.  With winter squash it is as if the whole fruit “hardens” in order to protect it from the cooling elements.  Thin edible skin is replaced with hard skin that is often too tough to eat.  Small, soft seeds become large and hard.  The flesh is often orange, as if to mimic the falling leaves around us.  But this orange flesh is so decadent…tender, sweet, nutty, satisfying…a true blessing of the new season.

    One fun winter squash variety is the carnival squash.  Technically a hybrid between acorn and sweet dumpling squash, carnival squash are almost too cute to eat.  Their shape resembles acorn squash, but is a bit more “pumpkin like”, with a characteristic furrowed top that reminds me of a circus tent (how appropriate).  They are often golden with green vertical striping, or cream colored with orange markings.  They are small to medium in size, typically about 5-7 inches in diameter.

    Technically, the skin and seeds of most winter squash are edible, but can be tough in some varieties.  I found my latest roasted carnival squash to have nice thin, edible skin.  I am not sure if the skin would be as desirable with older fruit or squash that has been curing for long periods of time.  I suggest you try yours before rejecting it, as there tends to be lots of fiber and nutrients in the skin.

    In general, winter squash is highly nutritious. It is a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and manganese.  It also contains good amounts of vitamins E and B6, as well as folate, calcium, magnesium and niacin.  Winter squash is also a wonderful source of important antioxidants called carotenoids.

    Because of its tough, furrowed outer skin, carnival squash is often baked or steamed, either whole or in pieces, as it is not easy to peel it in its raw state.  Once cooked, it can be eaten with the skin on (if desired) or the flesh can be scooped away to be used in any number of preparations.  Cooked carnival squash has a sweet, nutty flavor that has been compared to sweet potatoes and butternut squash.  Thus, it is excellent in soups, on salads, or even stuffed.  See below for a simple baked carnival squash recipe.

    Choose firm squash without puncture marks or soft spots.  Store in a cool, dark place with low humidity where it will keep for at least a month.

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    I initially thought to stuff the carnival squash, but decided the cavity was a bit too small to make it worthwhile.  Instead I roasted the squash with coconut oil and Moroccan spices.  It was delicious.

    Coconut oil is the newest trend in cooking oil…not only is it delicious, but many feel it is a more healthful oil for cooking than canola or olive oil.  If you don’t have coconut oil for this recipe, butter would make a good substitute.

    Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that is delicious with vegetables, lamb, chicken or fish.  It is one of the staple spice blends I always have on hand (see recipe below). This version is adapted from Gourmet, April 1998.

    Baked Carnival Squash with Coconut Oil and Moroccan Spices            Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 medium carnival squash, cut in half.  Seeds scooped out and bottoms trimmed so halves can sit stably

    – 1 teaspoon coconut oil, divided

    – 1 tablespoon brown sugar

    – 3/4 teaspoon Ras El Hanout (see recipe below)

    – 1/4 cup water

    METHOD:

    Preheat oven to 425℉.  Place squash halves cut side up in a small baking dish.  Place 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil in each cavity.  In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and Ras El Hanout.  Sprinkle over squash.  Carefully pour water around the base of the squash (not on top).  Cover tightly with foil.  Bake for 45 minutes or until squash is very tender (Make sure water doesn’t cook off or squash will burn on the bottom).

     

    Ras El Hanout                                                                                    makes about ¼ cup

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 teaspoons ground cumin

    – 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

    – 2 teaspoons salt

    – 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

    – 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    – 2 teaspoons ground coriander

    – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

    – 1 teaspoon ground allspice

    – 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

    METHOD:

    If possible, toast cumin and coriander seeds and then grind them in a spice grinder to get the freshest flavor.

    Mix all ingredients well.  Store in an airtight container.

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    In an effort to come up with a fall beet dish my family would eat, I developed this easy beet and apple saute.  It is perfect for fall, and goes especially well with pork roast or chops.

    Chiogga Beet and Apple Saute                                                                        Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 teaspoons butter or butter substitute

    – 1 teaspoon olive oil

    – 1 large organic Gala apple, cored and cut into 1/3″ half moon slices

    – 2 Chiogga beets, peeled and cut into 1/3″ half moons

    – 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons

    – 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

    – 1/4 teaspoon salt

    – 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

    – 1/2 cup apple juice

    – 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

    – dash ground cloves

    METHOD:

    Melt butter with olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add apple, beets, onion, and thyme.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until beets and apples have significantly caramelized (they may not be totally tender at this point).  Add salt, brown sugar, and apple juice.  Stir and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until beets are tender.  If juice has not thickened by then, uncover and allow juices to thicken to a glaze.  Remove from heat.  Stir in lemon juice and cloves.  Serve.

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    I find this soup to be a tasty way to use up older arugula that may be a bit tough or stem-y.  The trick is to not use too much arugula or the soup can get bitter.  Potato balances out the flavor and helps to thicken the soup.

    Garnish with croutons, if you have them.  Rye croutons work particularly well.  Goat cheese, french fried onions, or bacon bits are delicious on top as well.

    Arugula Soup                                                                                    Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 teaspoons olive oil

    – 2 small onion, chopped

    – 2 cloves garlic, minced

    – 3 generous handfuls well washed arugula

    – 4 small/medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

    – 4 cups home-made or purchased vegetable broth

    – 1 teaspoon salt, if using no salt broth; otherwise salt to taste

    METHOD:

    In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add broth, arugula, potato, and salt.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until potato is soft.  Carefully puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth.  If soup is too thin, place it back on the stove and cook off some of the liquid.  Taste for salt level.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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