Butternut squash has a long shelf life- which works well for me when I receive large quantities of it as part of my CSA! As you can imagine the growing season in New England is short, though our local farm does an amazing job of squeezing every last bit of sunshine and warmth out of earth and sky to make the harvest last as long as possible. In fact, they do such a good job, that the farm offers an “Extended Harvest” share, with pick ups well into November.
Each week from June through November I am the happy recipient of culinary treasures… fruits and veggies of all sorts. The spring and summer pick ups generally contain perishable produce that has to be dealt with immediately… eaten, frozen, or canned for future meals. The November shares are far more forgiving in terms of shelf life; onions, garlic, potatoes, and winter squash can live on my kitchen counter or in a cool spot in the basement for a long while before I turn my attention to them. Cabbages, radishes, and carrots will survive almost the entire winter in the produce drawers of my fridge.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter veggies and incredibly versatile. It can be baked, roasted, or turned into soup, pairing well with many different types of flavors. According to The Flavor Bible, the wide range of combinations include (but is definitely not limited to):
Butternut squash + bacon + maple syrup + sage
Butternut squash + cilantro + coconut + ginger
Butternut squash + ricotta cheese + sage
Below is my take on Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream. The tart apples are beautiful with the rich nutty squash, while the cider’s sweetness rounds everything out. I usually use chicken stock, but vegetable stock will work equally well if you’d like to keep this strictly vegetarian.
Do you have a favorite winter vegetable that you like to use? What do you with it?
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
½ cup chopped peeled carrot
½ cup chopped celery
2 small granny smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon crumbled dried sage leaves
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ cups apple cider, divided
2/3 cup plain greek yogurt or crème fraiche
Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium high heat. Add squash, leeks, carrots, and celery; sauté until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Mix in apples, thyme, and sage. Add stock and 1 cup cider. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until apples are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly.
Using an immersion blender, puree soup. Alternatively, soup can be pureed, in batches, in a blender.
Make cider cream. Boil remaining ½ cup cider in heavy small saucepan until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Cool. Place yogurt or crème fraiche in small bowl. Whisk in reduced cider. (Soup and cider cream can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.)
Bring soup to simmer. Ladle soup into bowls. Dollop with cider cream and serve.
Being part of a CSA has so many benefits… supporting and connecting with local farmers while picking up my weekly share under a tent in a field is far more interesting than maneuvering the aisles of the grocery store, and enjoying veggies that were literally just picked earlier that day, they don’t get any fresher and more delicious! Because the nature of a CSA promotes a “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset” mentality, another benefit is that I’m challenged to finds ways to use vegetables that I normally would pass by, as well as the ones that I don’t care for (I’m talking to you zucchini).
Each fall, sugar or pie pumpkin make appearances in our CSA pick up. At first I was intimidated, my hands on experience with pumpkin was limited to a once a year carving for Halloween, followed by roasting the seeds. The only other pumpkin I had ever used in the kitchen came from a can. But stretched to do something with this new addition to the weekly pick up, I found myself roasting pumpkins. It couldn’t be any easier. Lately, more and more sugar and pie pumpkins are showing up at the grocery store, so I can’t be the only one using them. And while definitely not necessary because canned pumpkin is so good (though it may not be all “pumpkin”), roasting your own pumpkin is fun to try.
***Important note- Do NOT use jack-o-lantern pumpkins, they are far too watery! Instead, look for small sugar or pie pumpkins, usually in the 3-6lb range.***
Wednesday night is pasta night at White House Red Door; at the very least, that means 52 nights of pasta a year and, to be honest, I’m sure we exceed that, easily. The wonderful thing is that there are so many shapes, sizes, styles, and sauces that we could quickly go through a year without any repeats. Actually, having written that, I really should consider this a challenge. Note to self… New Year’s Resolution decided… a year’s worth of pasta.
Most Wednesday nights I use dry pasta, pairing with some seasonal veggie and sauce. Occasionally meat makes an appearance, but only in a supporting role. Favorites include:
Fresh pasta is a tremendous treat; a group effort saved for a quiet day when we can dedicate ourselves to the task. The rewards are well worth the effort and seem to lend themselves to cold, snowy days.
homemade butternut squash ravioli + sage + brown butter
One dish that turns up almost monthly is Lasagna Roll Ups. The perfect preset portions, incredible variety in terms of filling, and ease in getting this on the table make it one of my pasta night “go to” stand outs. The basic formula of ricotta, parmesan, salt and pepper remains constant, even standing alone if needed. However, when you have leftover or fresh veggies staring at you every time you open the fridge, throw them in the filling. Just about anything works- squash, zucchini, greens, peppers, mushrooms, onions are just a start.
This recipe is one to play with according to your taste. The quantities of sauce and cheese below are just guidelines. Love your lasagna gooey, saucy and cheesy? Done. Just add more sauce and cheese. Hate greens? No problem. Swap the greens for another vegetable you like. Missing the meat? Brown some sausage, ground beef, or add leftover chicken. It will be delicious. Trust yourself!
PS- If you have any roll ups left, they make excellent additions to a lunch box. Simply warm up in the microwave and immediately transfer to a thermos.
1 box lasagna noodles (15-18 noodles)
1 32oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce, 1 ½ cups reserved
2 cups ricotta
½ cup freshly grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella, ½ cup reserved
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 bunch greens… spinach, kale, swiss chard or combination
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare casserole dish by covering bottom with thin layer of marinara sauce.
Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles, 6 at a time, until flexible. When flexible, remove noodles with tongs and place on a cookie sheet lined with a clean dish towel. Top with another clean dish towel, and repeat with next batch of 6 noodles. Repeat until all the noodles are cooked.
Make the filling:
Saute chopped greens in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Remove from pan and finely chop. Set aside.
Combine ricotta, parmesan, and nutmeg. Stir in finely chopped greens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spread ricotta filling lengthwise down noodle (approximately 2 tablespoons per noodle). Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons marinara sauce over ricotta and top with 1-2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella.
Tightly roll up noodle jelly roll style and place seam side down in prepared casserole. (Depending on the casserole dish I use, my noodles usually end up being in 3×5 rows. It is important for the rolls to fit snugly against one another so that they don’t unfurl.) Repeat with remaining noodles.
Pour reserved 1 ½ cups of marinara over roll ups. Top with reserved ½ cup of shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.
Bake until heated through and bubbly, 30 minutes or so.
I love vegetables, especially those I can cook quickly and simply. Shopping with the seasons in mind makes it easy to enjoy their flavors in their truest form… you don’t have to do much to a perfectly ripe, in season tomato, or green beans, or [insert your favorite vegetable of choice].
Our town is home to a small organic farm and we are fortunate enough to belong to its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture); in the cold dark months of winter we pre-pay our local farm for a season’s worth of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Here in our part of the world that means I pick up our weekly share beginning in June and go through October. Each pick up day is a little like Christmas morning… what is in my share this week? How much am I going to get? Since June, this season has brought greens of all sorts, lettuces, scallions, scapes, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, kohlrabi, onions, garlic, beets, fennel, beans, herbs, and berries. With every pick up comes the happy challenge of how to use each of these gifts before next week’s share demands my attention and refrigerator space.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side. Because of the seasonality, the downside is that “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Words I’ve often said to my kids and lately, find myself repeating weekly as I pick up an every growing ration of zucchini. It’s the nature of the beast and we are in prime zucchini season. I’m sure you are seeing loads of zucchini too… in your CSA, at the farmer’s market, and at the supermarket.
Despite all my veggie love, zucchini is one that I could do without. It’s my personal kryptonite. I’m not sure why this is… I don’t recall any traumatic childhood dinner table incidents involving zucchini. Maybe it’s because it looks so much like a cucumber- and I love cucumber, so that I’m always disappointed by the false pretense, a poser. Maybe it’s the tendency to quickly turn to mush if left a minute too long on the stove, in a soup, or on the grill. In any case, I must accept that we are at peak zucchini season. Each passing week larger and larger quantities are appearing in my share, stretching my creativity, pushing me out of my zucchini comfort zone. Rising to the challenge, I’ve found a few ways to prepare this green monster so that I actually enjoy eating it. Zucchini season won’t last forever, by the time I’m ready to wave the white flag, or dishtowel in this case, it’s time will be done, replaced by one of my favorites- tomatoes. In the meanwhile, enjoy these easy and delicious takes on zucchini.
The Zucchini Fritters make excellent appetizers, sides, and stand on their own for lunch (or breakfast- eaten straight from the fridge!). You’ll find plenty of uses for the accompanying Tzatziki Sauce recipe. In addition to serving it with the fritters, I use it as a topping for meat- think lamb burgers and seafood, especially shrimp; use it as a dip for veggies or pita chips; spread it on naan, add the protein of your choice and some crunchy lettuce to build a delicious wrap. The Zucchini Carpaccio recipes are incredibly versatile, and take about 5 minutes to get on the table. I’ve given measurements, but please improvise according to your taste. There is no right or wrong! If you love lemon, use more lemon! Don’t like goat cheese and thyme? Use feta and oregano! Play with your food.
Please feel free to share your favorite ways of preparing zucchini. I’m always on the hunt for more tasty ideas.
2 ½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (from about 3 medium)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ cup (or more) all purpose flour
½ cup crumbled feta
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ cup chopped green onion
1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)
Toss zucchini in ½ teaspoon salt in a colander, place in the sink allowing the zucchini to “sweat.” Let stand for 5 minutes. Press out excess liquid; transfer zucchini to a dry bowl.
Mix in egg, yolk, ½ cup flour, cheese and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix in parsley, onions, and dill. If batter is very wet, add more flour by the spoonful.
Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle* over medium high heat. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto skillet. Cook fritters until golden, about 5 minutes per side.
Serve with tzatziki sauce or plain greek yogurt.
*Because seasoned cast iron is non-stick I didn’t need to use oil. If you are using a regular skillet, you will have to fry the patties in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of corn oil, adding more olive and corn oil as needed.
**Can be made 1 day ahead. Place on baking sheet, cover, and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 350° oven for 12 minutes.
This sauce is a delicious multitasker. Serve it as a dip for vegetables, pita chips or wedges, grilled lamb, and the zucchini fritters.
8 oz full fat greek yogurt
½ a hot house cucumber, cut lengthwise, seeded, quartered, and finely diced
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Serve immediately, or let it sit in the fridge to really let the flavors come together.
Zucchini Carpaccio with Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Basil