Autumn and winter squashes are overflowing bowed tables at farmers markets as we bundle and bustle into late months on the calendar. Many cucurbits are overlooked and used strictly as décor on merry porches until the poinsettias replace them to the backyard somewhere. Smooth, yellow and oblong, spaghetti squash is in the class of most interesting American native cucurbits. Raw, it may resemble any other hard winter squash with seeds. Taking on an otherworldly character when baked, the flesh falls from leather like skin resembling precisely sliced vermicelli ribbons beckoning to be combined in all manner of mysterious creations picking up flavor nuances like a greedy hitchhiker. Slice in half and remove seeds to begin your culinary adventures. Bake with olive oil or butter filled cavity, seasoned with sea salt and pepper, snuggled in a covered baking dish in a hot 425* oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Fluff with a fork to devour creamy strands as is or while feeling exotic, mix with some freshly made garam masala, orange zest and toasted almonds serving alongside nice lamb Tagine. Sauté sliced winter vegetables with awesome olive oil paired generously with chopped soft herbs, parsley, marjoram, tarragon and a touch of tomato sauce and lavishly drape over sweet ribbons for a sexy, soul craving break from holiday “food” onslaught. Leftover cooked squash can be sweetly incorporated into cinnamon spiked pancakes or cranberry studded pumpkin muffins leaving bamboozled partakers with a lingering cucurbit flavor wondering what they just ate.
Not just for carving to scare wee bairns, some pumpkins are amazing eaten. Deep red and magenta to almost make believe orange, the Rouge Vif d’Etampes looks like something out of a fairytale. AKA Cinderella pumpkin, owing to the resemblance of a famous getaway coach, this French heirloom cucurbit makes for excellent, long lasting décor. Legend has it that this pumpkin may have been the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t be captivated by her squashed, deeply ribbed good looks alone though as the molten orange flesh is creamy sweet, beckoning to be pie filling as much as savory treats.
Gently slice off top scooping out seeds, saving them to sprinkle with salty olive oil and roasted for crunchy tidbits. Create a layered casserole inside the pumpkin by throwing sliced zucchini, chopped onion, grated parmesan and cooked spinach into the cleaned pumpkin. Top off with eggs beaten with cream and seasoned with salt and pepper. Put the top back on placing on a baking sheet in 350* oven for about an hour until the egg mixture has set. Use the rich flesh for pie, cookies and breads by cutting off top, slicing in half and scooping out seeds. Place in a baking dish with a ½ inch of water, cover and bake at 350* until soft. Puree or mash and use according to your recipe. You will likely have several recipes worth of pumpkin puree from just one so I measure it out according to recipes and freeze it in batches for later culinary tricks and treats. Add chocolate chips top any pumpkin cookie or bread recipe for a surprisingly addictive sweet. My motto: Two for décor and one to eat now. You will never buy a can of pumpkin again.
Creamy yellow and orange specked with long green furrows, the Delicata squash is almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Also known as Sweet Potato squash the Delicata does indeed marry well with the yam. Pick firm and heavy squash and prepare to roast, sauté or mash by removing both ends and peeling the skin off. Slice in half lengthwise removing seeds to free up the flesh for a velvety soup concocted by roasting and puréeing squash with a touch of stock, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon spiked cream. Create an amazing Thanksgiving side dish of sliced Delicata layered with sliced apples, onions, fresh thyme and grated Gruyere baked to bubbling golden brown. Embellish mashed potatoes with half mashed squash and a few zests of orange peel. Cube and simmer along with lentils, garlic and fresh ground cumin warming chilly winter tummies. After partaking in the delights of this squash you’ll never lose sight of the culinary pleasure enclosed in that astoundingly beautiful shell.
As of this writing, still no rain, but the ridges around us are amazing in their scorched simplicity and deserve a romp up and down dusty trail, spotting owls, coyotes, spiders, snakes and all manner of wildlife native to our hood. There is a group of 16 turkeys we spot almost every hike. They started out as 17 babies about 3 or 4 months ago and to our knowledge have only lost one. Traveling in a tight group throughout the park probably helps in survival. So fun to casually monitor animal friends in our midst. Get out and start from any staging area, you won’t be sorry as about halfway along your bliss kicks in and you remember what you are grateful for as stresses slough off leaving you in good shape to happily continue on through life.
The Farmers Market Lovers Calendar is once again available for holiday gift purchases at www.lelseystilesfoods.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. I deliver!! Happy Thanksgiving!!