Tag Archives: squash

Sounds Of Silence

As we move closer to the presidential election, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by both the pandemic and our turbulent political discourse. I traverse between a feeling of calm to a nameless agitation that grabs me the moment I leave the safety of our home. It seems that the world is becoming more and more dangerous. My heart grieves for the victims of Covid, the poisoning of our planet for profit, the inequality and injustice displayed by people in power. Our problems seem overwhelming. I often wonder what impact one person could possibly have to change the tone of the conversation, much less the world? As an individual how do I live a life that nurture others, the planet and myself? How do I stay authentic to my beliefs in a world that wants to label me?

In the small microcosm of my life, I look for signs of hope. How have I made a difference? Since I moved to the country, my greatest teachers have been nature, the seasons, and the land. If we care for the land, the land offers up the food that both feeds us and provides our livelihood. That clean, wholesome food is taken to the farmers market and sold to people that care about what they feed themselves and their families. It’s a life that is simple, focused and real. We place a seed in the ground and have faith that it will grow. I believe that we often receive what we put into the world; a sort of what goes around, comes around. When I am kind to people, it follows that people are generally kind to me. But what happens when people are unkind, disrespectful, and angry? What happens when there is drought or deluge or crop failure? When a pandemic strikes or unemployment, or changes we didn’t expect or ask for? I believe this is when our faith is really tested, when our priorities and attitudes matter.

It seems to me that faith, the belief in things unseen, is about the things in life that cause us to question, to change, to grow. I don’t believe that the challenges in life are judgements, but opportunities to understand the world and ourselves more fully. How do we cultivate our better selves when we are up against our fears and the rapid pace of change? We are all flawed human beings; there are no saints among us. How do we nurture our inter-connectedness? How do we come to realize what happens to one of us, happens to us all? My greatest challenge is to keep my heart open, to feel pain when someone is hurting, to look at the glass as half full.

As the fall prepares us for winter, may we take the time to reflect and adopt a slower pace. The land rests, and in the same sense so do I. Dormancy is a gift. I can’t assimilate life without periods of quiet. There is time for long morning coffee and deep listening. Clocks tick, fires burn and hearts beat. It is a season where less is more. This resting period is a time to replenish both our physical and emotional beings. In this quiet stillness I hear a small voice say, “Your faith is measured by the wideness of your heart.” One of my favorite poets, Stanley Kunitz said it in a different way: “Live in the layers, not on the litter.” In these layers of life, the peace I sought is found.

Although food is my passion, there are days when I’m involved in other interests or projects. This is when the simplicity of a sheet pan dinner is exactly what I turn to for a meal that is virtually hands off, yet delicious. They are basically designed around a protein and a vegetable. This one uses everything that I have either in freezer or pantry. Although I have used pumpkin as the vegetable, you could just as easily use sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Don’t forget to save your pumpkin seeds to roast, for an added treat.

A delicious sugar pumpkin, loaded with seeds.
Pumpkin wedges, ready to be tossed with olive oil and maple syrup.

DIJON-ROSEMARY CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MAPLE GLAZED PUMPKIN

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 5 shallots, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small sugar pie pumpkin (about 2 lbs.)
  • 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Ready for the oven
Seasoned perfectly

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, 3 tablespoons of the oil, the vinegar, garlic, and rosemary. Add the chicken, garlic and shallots and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the pumpkin.
  3. Cut off the top and bottom of the pumpkin, then cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each half into 1-inch wedges. In another large bowl, stir together the maple syrup and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the pumpkin and toss to combine. Place the pumpkin wedges in a single layer on one end of the prepared pan. Remove the chicken, garlic and shallots from the marinade and place on the other side of the pan. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast until the chicken is opaque (160 degrees F) throughout and the pumpkin is golden brown and soft, about 45-50 minutes. Serve right away. Sprinkle fresh rosemary leaves as a garnish.

Serves 4-6

Beautifully golden and aromatic
ENJOY!!

“Silence isn’t empty, it’s full of answers.”

Autumn Leaves

It is cool and has been pouring since yesterday evening, with no sign of letting up anytime soon.  The vantage point from my desk is perfect for watching both weather and nature.  The current on the lake is from the north, and with each puff of breeze, leaves are letting go and baptizing the ground.  It is gray, and natural to turn inward; checking in on one’s feelings, hopes and dreams.

My personality is one of deep feeling.  I emote.  As a recovering DQ, you never have to guess where I’m coming from, because I will tell you, without hesitation.  I do better with small groups of like-minded people, who understand my straight forward presence.  I occasionally offend people with a perceived ‘bluntness’; yet this has been a trait that I have fought hard to adopt.  I was raised in a family that children were to be seen and not heard, leaving me with a feeling of invisibility that lasted well into my 30’s.  Harmony trumped truth in any social situation, regardless of my internal screaming.  Change is hard.

Although many people see me as strong and opinionated, I am also open-hearted, cry easily and rail against injustice, both real or perceived.  I accept that I will always be a work in progress, willing to love and be loved.  Cooking for others is my most sincere form of love.  Nourishment comes in many forms; a kind word, a compliment, or the warmth of a hug.  May we rely on each other for small gifts that are shared openly.  During this season of letting go, may I shed what no longer serves me.

STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large acorn squash (I like the Carnival variety)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 3 cups loosely packed, chopped greens (kale, Swiss chard or beet greens)
  • 3/4 cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F., and halve the acorn squashes lengthwise down the middle.  Scoop out the seeds.  Place the squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the squash are fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, place wild rice and water in heavy medium size pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down to a simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes to one hour, or until rice splits open and is tender.  This will be determined by the freshness of your rice.  Drain in wire colander and set aside.
  3. In a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and chopped onions.  Saute until onions are translucent.   Add chopped greens of your choice and continue cooking until greens are wilted.  Add almonds and dried cherries or cranberries, along with drained wild rice and combine.
  4. Fill each half of squash with filling, and place baking sheet back in oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Any leftover stuffing can be refrigerated and eaten as is or spooned over a salad.  Serve hot with fresh chopped parsley as garnish.

Serves: 4

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“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
― Humbert Wolfe

COMFORT IN A PAN

Surprise, I’m posting again! I apologize for my hiatus; 2018 turned into the most difficult year of my life.  Thankfully, we survived and are better for it.  We treasure each day and are moving forward with renewed purpose and gratitude.  So far  winter has given us daily  options to grapple with, from freezing rain and ice, to wind, and drifting feet of snow.  This has not been a  problem, as it gives us ample reasons to stay home and do what we enjoy:  cooking, reading, writing and playing games (we love cribbage and dominoes); not to mention working steadily on soap production for the next market season.  The good news is I’m making significant headway on my next cookbook: Twisted Basics: Rethinking Food.

While during some research I came across a staggering statistic: 70% of Americans don’t cook.  That’s right.  Most Americans eat out at least 4 times a week.  We heat up, microwave or assemble food; but cooking from scratch is becoming something of a novelty.  I asked myself, “are we really that busy?”  I couldn’t imagine not cooking regularly.  For me, it’s my most sincere expression of love.  I also started wondering if people understood what they were missing.  The kitchen has always been the heart of the home; a place where intimacy takes place, both in the preparation of food and the sharing of it around our table.  As I was contemplating this, I felt as though we’ve been sold a collective bill of goods.  As we scramble to meet our financial needs, we are forgetting some of the fundamental, simple pleasures of life:  cooking fresh food, with love, for our friends and family.  Isn’t it time we break bread together?

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Vegetable Lasagna:

  • 1 quart pasta sauce (Full disclosure:  During tomato time on the farm, I can dozens of quarts of roasted tomato sauce.  I have never tasted a deeper, more intense sauce that literally screams of summer.  The method for this will be in the new cookbook, and it’s way easier than it sounds!)
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and shredded on coarse setting of box grater
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded on coarse setting of box grater
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen spinach, (if fresh, wilt in large skillet with 1/4 cup water) either way, make sure you place it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out all excess moisture
  • 1 container (16 ounces) whole milk ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan or pecorino, finely shredded
  • 1 farm-fresh egg
  • 1 12 ounce package sliced provolone
  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles

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DIRECTIONS:

  1.  In medium bowl, combine the ricotta, pecorino, thyme and egg.
  2.  Place 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9 deep-dish lasagna pan; position 3 no-bake lasagna sheets evenly spaced.  Spread ricotta mixture on top on each section.  Then top each ricotta  section with zucchini and carrot mixture; followed with one slice of provolone, cut in half for each section.
  3. Next, top each section with a no-bake lasagna sheet, 1/4  cup of sauce per sheet and repeat with ricotta mixture.  Then top with chopped and drained spinach on each section, two 1/2 slices of provolone, and continue with lasagna sheets for each section.  Sauce again, ricotta, zucchini and carrot mixture, provolone cheese and lasagna sheets.
  4. Sauce again, then sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese on top.  Cover with foil.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 30 minutes covered; 30 minutes uncovered.  Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting into six servings.

Serves 6

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“Italian food is all about ingredients, it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.”

                                  —- Wolfgang Puck

 

Never Too Much!!

We’ve all heard by now the growing importance and benefits of fermentation.  During the growing season when cucumbers, zucchini and other vegetables are so abundant you might be tempted to drop them anonymously on your neighbors doorsteps; it’s a great time to think about the winter larder.  I enjoy putting up food.  There’s nothing better than opening a jar of summer in the middle of winter.  It helps me to appreciate the life we’ve chosen and the obvious health benefits.

I enjoy both the color and flavor of pickled squash.  This recipe is flexible enough to use any squash that seems to be coming out of your ears.  Summer squash, zucchini (any variety) or my favorite, patty-pan.  I select small or medium sized squash as you don’t want the seed cavity to become to large, otherwise your pickles become mushy.  I also don’t use the amount of sugar typically recommended in many recipes; I find the brine way too sweet for my taste.  I typically triple this recipe if I’m hauling out all the canning stuff anyway. These little gems have become family favorites.

Fresh and abundant

Fresh and abundant

Patty-Pan Squash Pickles:

  • 4-6 patty-pan squash, washed, halved vertically and sliced 1/4 inch thick (approximately 12 cups)
  • 2 medium sweet onions, halved vertically and sliced in 1/4 inch thick half moons
  • 2 red, orange, yellow or combination, seeded and sliced in 1/4 inch pieces equally 4 cups
  • 1/3 cup pickling salt
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1 cup can sugar
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric

Ready for the pint jars

Ready for the pint jars

 

Toss squash, onion and bell pepper strips with pickling salt in very large bowl.  Cover vegetables with ice cubes.  Cover and let stand for 3 hours.Sterilize pint jars, and prepare lids.  While jars are boiling, drain vegetables, but do not rinse, discarding brine and any unmelted ice.  Combine vinegar, sugar and spices in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Pack squash into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Cover with hot brine leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Seal and process jars for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water and let stand for 24 hours.  Make sure each jars seals by pushing in the middle of each lid.  They should not pop.  Refrigerate after openings.  Makes 4, 1 pint jars.

Healthy & delicious patty-pan pickles.

Healthy & delicious patty-pan pickles.

 

“There may be many metaphors for living…. but we have to do the living.”