A Weakness for Winter Squash

I have several collections.  Cookbooks, naturally.  Kitchen utensils.  Vintage ice crushers – a fun find at an antique shop, a red Dazey Rocket table-top ice crusher started it all, then a desire to have a sturdy ice crusher for summer cocktails, escalating to an embarrassing amount of time spent on e-bay, and a rainbow assortment of clunky ice crusher soldiers standing at attention around my kitchen.

Anyway, this past autumn, frivolity budget limited to nil, I rationalized that purchasing a grand variety of winter squash was not willy-nilly spending on decorative accouterments, rather stocking up for winter with eccentrically lovely-looking vegetables…that could double as counter-top knick knacks. Needless to say, I got a little ahead of myself. The majority of my finds are certainly larger than one-meal vegetables, and though they will  contently linger on the cellar steps throughout the winter months, once opened, they require a purpose…or purposes. Fortunately, they are as versatile as they are attractive to look at.  I’ve had some fun incorporating the rich, orange flesh into every course of dinner, as well as breakfast and lunch. Here are several of my favorite squash recipies of late:

Breakfast:

Pumpkin Pancakes
makes 16 pancakes (the recipe can be halved, or extra pancakes can be frozen for a quick weekday breakfast option…occasionally, I have mine “on the go” warmed in the oven, then wrapped around a maple syrup-dipped breakfast sausage link)

This recipe was sourced from the Winter 2010 issue of Edible Portland Magazine.  It is adapted from Mother’s Best cookbook by Lisa Schroeder & Danielle Centoni.

 

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
6 eggs
3 cups whole milk
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick)

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, spices, sugar).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and eggs until well combined.  Incorporate the milk. While gently stirring, slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.  It will be a little lumpy.  Add the melted butter, stirring gently.  If time allows, let the batter rest in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.

Heat a griddle over medium heat (350 degrees F for an electric griddle).  When the griddle is hot, brush it with a little melted butter or oil, then wipe with a paper towel so that it is evenly greased. Ladle a half-cup of batter per pancake onto the griddle.  Cook until bubbles begin to pop on the surface of the pancakes, the edges look a little dry, and the undersides are golden (about 2-3 minutes).  Flip pancakes and continue cooking until cooked through (about 2 minutes more).  Serve with softened butter and maple syrup.

Lunch:

Winter Squash Corncakes with Bacon (& Dried Corn)

…then one day, Facebook became a useful tool for meal planning! Jim Dixon, proprietor of Real Good Food, was kind enough to answer my plea for a use for a lot of pumpkin.  He shared this recipe for squash corncakes with bacon.  I added a bit of dried corn that I had preserved last summer, but that’s optional!

1 cup “good” cornmeal (I use Ayers Creek Farm Amish Butter Cornmeal)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs, separated
1 cup winter squash puree
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon (Jim roasts slab bacon, then dices it)
1/3 cup dried corn, re-hydrated in hot water for 5 minutes, then drained

Combine dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking soda, & salt).

Blend egg yolks with squash puree and milk.  Add this to the dry ingredients and mix just enough to incorporate.  Gently stir in bacon and corn.

Beat egg whites to stiff peaks.  Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Heat a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, with sufficient oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan – there should be enough oil to pan-fry the fritters (about 1/4 inch of oil).  When the oil is hot enough that a tiny bit of batter bounces up to the surface when dropped in the oil, add large spoonsful of batter to the pan.  Fry until golden brown on both sides, and cooked through (about 2 minutes per side).

Antipasto:

I wrote about a lovely sweet and sour (agrodolce) squash preparation for a post on Thanksgiving Side Dishes that would make a fantastic appetizer, supper vegetable, or pot-luck dish.  Here’s a link – Fried Marinated Winter Squash

Dinner:

Brown Rice, Pasture-Raised Chicken,
& Winter Squash Congee
serves 2

Last October, Organic Gardening Magazine visited the Portland Farmers Market, and set up a lovely display, including an Organic Vegetable and Herb Garden, and a Demo Kitchen.  What a fun day it was to be the on-site chef, incorporating seasonal produce and products from the market into easy, healthful autumn recipes that were demo’d and sampled for market goers!  This recipe calls for winter squash, but experiment with other seasonal vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots.

1 cup short grain brown rice

3 cups water

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 quarter-sized slice of fresh ginger

2 peeled garlic cloves, lightly crushed

6-10 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade

1 cup winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, kabocha, or turban, peeled and cut into small dice (1/4 inch)

1 cup shredded cooked pasture-raised chicken

freshly ground black pepper

½ cup chopped green onion (green tops only) or ¼ cup chopped chives

¼ cup chopped toasted peanuts or hazelnuts

Combine the rice, water, and salt in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and add the ginger and garlic.  Cook the rice, partly covered, at a slow, steady simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally, and adding broth as needed to keep the rice soupy but not drowning in liquid.  By the end of the cooking time, the rice should be very tender, and beginning to fall apart.  Taste the rice as you go, removing it from the heat if it cooks more quickly.

Add the winter squash cubes, and more broth if the rice seems dry, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring gently every couple of minutes.

Once the squash is cooked, remove the ginger and garlic cloves and add the chicken.  Season with several grinds of black pepper.  Add enough broth to bring the congee to the consistency of loose porridge and simmer for 3-4 more minutes to warm the chicken.  Stir in the green onion or chives, adjust seasonings and consistency (it should be a little soupy, and eaten with a spoon).  Top with toasted peanuts or hazelnuts and serve hot.

…this warming rice porridge makes an ideal lunch after a brisk Autumn day out and about.  Soothing and easily digestible, congee will appeal to adult and little appetites alike.  For more sophisticated palates, compliment your congee with condiments such as chili sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped green onions, or crispy fried onions.

Dessert:

Pumpkin Custard
makes about eight 4-ounce ramekins or one larger custard

You can also elaborate on this recipe to make pumpkin crème caramel or crème brûlée.  For crème caramel, caramelize sugar and pour it into the bottom of the ramekins and let it set before adding the custard mixture.  Chill overnight.  When ready to serve, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the custard and turn out onto a serving plate.  For crème brûlée, bake as directed below, then chill.  When ready to serve, sprinkle with sugar and caramelize, preferably with a blow torch.

3/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 tsp. finely grated peeled fresh ginger root
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
5 large farm eggs plus 2 yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Make sure that the oven rack is situated in the center of the oven, then pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Heat a tea kettle of water.

Scald the milk in a small saucepan.  Remove it from the heat and set aside.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugar, grated ginger, spices, salt, eggs and yolks.  Slowly incorporate the hot milk, whisking the mixture as you pour in the liquid.  Add the vanilla extract.  Pass the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl or a very large glass measuring cup (for ease of pouring into the custard cups).  Discard the solids.

Pour the custard into the ramekins or a tall, round casserole dish such as this or this.  Place the dish(es) into a high-sided roasting pan.  Place the roasting pan on the oven rack.  Carefully pour the hot water from the tea kettle into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins or casserole dish.  Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the roasting pan, tenting it above the custard and loosely crimping it to either side of the roasting pan (but not all the way around).  Bake until the custard is nearly set, about an hour (when touched, there should be a firmness similar to jello, with an amount of jiggle in the center, but not liquidy – a thin knife blade should come out fairly clean).   Remove the roasting pan to the counter, then carefully remove the ramekins to a wire rack and allow the custard to cool to room temperature.  If using a larger casserole dish, allow the custard to cool in the waterbath for 20 minutes before removing the dish to the rack.

I prefer this custard still warm, the day it is made, with a dollop of sweetened chantilly cream (or “crème chantilly” – a fancy name for whipped cream with sugar & vanilla).  It can also be wrapped and refrigerated.  It will keep several days.

Snack:

Pumpkin Bread

adapted from Oregon State University Extension Service
makes two 9X5 loaves

My 3-year old loves this bread.  Both eating it, and helping me make it.  And I love having him in the kitchen with me – he delights in assisting, and it is a good opportunity to practice counting and measuring, fine motor skills, following directions, and it’s a science and cooking lesson all in one…plus it’s fun!

2 cups pureed pumpkin
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter & flour two 9X5 inch loaf pans.

Mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, sugar, oil, and water.  In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Add the raisins & nuts to the flour mixture.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just long enough to combine.

Divide the batter between the 2 loaf pans.  Bake until a skewer or thin-bladed knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about an hour.

Cool the bread in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn them out and cool completely on a rack.  When completely cooled, you can wrap the loaves in plastic wrap.  They also freeze nicely.

Preserve:

Citrus Confiture with Pumpkin & Dried Apricot

A gift of a marmelata pumpkin, which, as the name indicates, is well suited for marmalades and the like, was inspiration to seek out this recipe from my new favorite preserving book by Christine Ferber, entitled Mes Confitures.  I was hoping for something more  pumpkin-y, but nevertheless find it immensely satisfying, as my friends do, eating it out of the jar with a spoon.

1 1/4 pounds pumpkin, or 13 oz. net
11 oz. dried apricots
2 3/4 cup sugar
1 pound 1 ounce oranges
1 lemon
7 oz. Gewurztraminer

Cut the dried apricots into sticks a little less than 1/4 inch thick and macerate them in a bowl with the Gewurztraminer.  Split the pumpkin and cut it into sections.  Remove the seeds, peel the sections, and cut the flesh into very small dice.  Rinse and brush the citrus fruit under cold water.  Cut the citrus in half, then slice into very thin half-moons.  Cut the moons in half so that the slices are 1/4 the size of the citrus rounds.  (Christine says to slice the citrus into very thin round slices, then quarter the slices…you can do either.  Just remember to remove the seeds!)

In a preserving pan, combine the macerated apricots, the diced pumpkin, the citrus pieces, and sugar.  Bring to a simmer and turn this preparation into a glass or ceramic bowl.  Cover with a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, pour the preparation into a preserving pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring gently.  Skim and continue cooking on high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.  Skim again as necessary.  Check the set.  Put the jam into jars immediately and seal.

Something More Involved:

These recipes are just a smattering of what one can do with the vast variety of pumpkin & winter squashes we find at Farmer’s Markets.  Here is a link to an intriguing out of the ordinary pumpkin pie that I came across on the blog “You fed a baby chili?” – Pumpkin Pie Redux, which will also lead you to a Caramelized Pumpkin and Guava recipe, if you follow the links of the link!

I, too, made a pumpkin pie……but “my” recipe came from The Joy of Cooking.  Here is a link to the recipe.  I use evaporated milk in place of cream (this substitution is in the “Joy” book that I own) and nutmeg rather than allspice.  I think this pie a perfectly acceptable, delicious standard when made with your own pumpkin puree and pie crust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What – not enough?  Wanting more?  Coming soon, a post to the Montavilla Farmers Market Blog, Seasonal Abundance – a squash preparation tutorial, a recipe for Pumpkin & Brown Rice Soup, and an interview with the squash farmers of Val’s Veggies.

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About Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans

By offering Sage Culinary Advice, The Farmer's Feast assists Farmers' Market shoppers in making the most of their purchases, and helps vendors realize the culinary possibilities of their products. We create culinary education programs at Farmers' Markets. Through food preparation and cooking demonstrations, recipes focusing on technique, samples, stories and free advice, we're encouraging people to cook more often, from scratch, with market-fresh ingredients. Our goal? To cultivate domestic culinary arts. Once you've tasted the Farmer's Feast - glistening local produce, pastured meats, artisan cheese, wild seafood, rich nuts, grains and legumes - and see how easy cooking this bounty can be, you'll be hungry for fresh. Visit The Farmer's Feast on Facebook / E-mail wildeats@msn.com
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