The end of the line

Made my last CSA trip to Heron Pond Farm on Tuesday, only two more weeks left at Cider Hill Farm.  This is the end of the line.  I have liked the certainty of having produce in the house but my hands feel itchy to once again pick my own variety.  I’ve missed the joy of an empty refrigerator and the thrill of filling it up with spinach from Tendercrop Farm or eggplant from Wilson Farm.  I have missed having a reason to go to other farms.  I don’t know if I’ll join a CSA again next year, but I know I will continue to visit Heron Pond and Cider Hill as a consumer even if I don’t visit as a shareholder.  My love for fresh, local produce remains solid.

Finished But Not Over

Having two more weeks of Cider Hill Farm CSA means that the cooking from the farms is not quite over.  My last two recipes are in the works, one using pears and the other using Chinese mustard greens.  Stay tuned.

Battle Butternut Finale Recipe

When I started this squash challenge a couple of weeks ago, I asked for help picking a good beginner squash, and the woman who minds the stand at Heron Pond recommended the butternut.  She advised me to split it and roast it with brown sugar and butter but, despite the starry look in her eye when she described her favorite way to eat butternut, I didn’t take her advice.  Remember?

First I did this

Then I tried this

Both using the butternut.  This week I graduated to acorn squash, which I understand from squash lovers can be prepared in the exact same brown sugar and butter way as described above.  But sweet squash is not for me.

I made mine into Spicy Acorn Squash Soup, reaching to the opposite end of the flavor spectrum to make the most savory soup I could imagine, using Mexican seasonings: cumin, chili, oregano.  It’s pretty tasty.

I roasted the squash first to add another layer of flavor.  You could peel and cube the squash and add it raw along with the potato and cook both together in the stock until tender.  I do recommend using the potato in this soup.  It gives the acorn squash puree a little extra body.  The same soup could be made with a butternut squash.  In that case, I would leave out the potato.

  • 1 large acorn squash
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or light olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 tsp. good quality chili powder (such as Penzey’s medium heat)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 average size Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
  • salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Halve the acorn squash and scoop out the seeds and fibers from the squash’s center.

Cut each half in half again and place the four quarters on a baking tray.  Drizzle the squash with the oil and place it in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a fork slides into the flesh fairly easily but with a little resistance.

Remove from the oven and let cool enough to handle.  Using a large spoon, scrape the flesh from the skin of the squash.  Discard the skin and set the flesh aside for the soup.

Heat the oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Add the onion and garlic and sauteeing, stirring often, until soft.  Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper and stir to blend.  Cook over medium heat for another minute, stirring so the spices do not burn.

Add the squash, the stock, and the potatoes to the pot.

Cover and bring to a simmer.  Cook at a gentle simmer until the potatoes are tender.  Cool a bit and puree in batches in a blender until very smooth.  Return the puree to a clean pot and heat through.  Taste and add salt if necessary.  Garnish with some crema or sour cream if desired, and serve.

Tattoo Or Not?

The challenge was to find a savory squash dish I could eat and love, meaning the winning dish had to receive at least 7 points out of a possible 10.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Balsamic Reduction scored well at the family dinner table.  Its salty-peppery simplicity with the barest embellishment of a good quality vinegar had family asking for seconds.  I was fine with firsts.  But firsts was a first for me, so way to go squash preparation #1!

Family score: 6.  My score: 5.

Couscous with Roasted Squash, Spinach, and Caramelized Lemon Slices made for a more complex play of flavors.  All in all, sweet was balanced by savory and smoky was tempered by tart.  I liked this couscous, I liked the squash in this couscous.  I thought the components of the dish worked together, meaning the couscous didn’t taste as if I’d thrown squash in as an afterthought.  But my favorite part was the caramelized lemon in every bite.

Family score: 5.  My score: 5.

The Spicy Acorn Squash Soup filled my kitchen with all the aromas of a really good chili.  Since I love chili, this was a positive start to the taste test.

This squash soup is very good.  There.  I said it, I served up “squash” and “good” in the same sentence.  I love the seasoning and the potato really helps with the body as well as by taming the squash flavor.

I’m giving it a score of…6.5.

Of all the dishes, I think this is the one I’m likely to make and eat again.  Then why not a full 7?   Because I’m not sure, based on only the few spoonfuls I had today, if I will make it again.  I still feel a certain lack of excitement about the squash.  If, after this batch, I decide to make this soup again, I will have to revisit the score and perhaps get a squash tattoo.  I promise you’ll be the first to know.

Other CSA Soups

Chicken with Noodles, White Beans and Chard helped my son feel better after he caught his first cold of the season.  He passed on the parmesan shavings but I think they made the dish.

Curried Cauliflower Soup is the richest tasting creamless, butterless pureed soup around.  Curry and cauliflower marry well.  Top with garlic crouton and serve.

Produce Picks of the Week

Chinese mustard greens with sunny yellow flowers

Arugula that begged to go on top of last night’s pizza along with some prosciutto

©2010  Jane A. Ward