Friday, September 23, 2011

A Change of Seasons

On the way home from work yesterday, I noticed gold in the trees and sniffed autumn in the breeze. The page on the calendar magically turned to September 23. I might be holding on to summer for dear life, but fall is officially here.
At 6:30, the sky was almost dark, and not just from the rain. Instead of corn and melons at the market, there were root crops and apples. Pork tenderloin in the oven sounds better than salmon on the grill. Butternut squash puree was a welcome addition to the dinner table.
I'm lucky to live in Pennsylvania. Just as one season starts to weary my senses, the next brings change. Local strawberries taste all the more sweet because I know they only last for a few weeks, but they give way to the next crop and the next. And when the heat and the humidity get unbearable, I relish the laziness because I know fall will soon bring not just cooler air, but also falling leaves, macintosh apples, and giant pumpkins. Of course, the big family holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are only a blink of an eye away. Then we get to share food and cheer with everyone we love.
So, I'm looking behind at summer, wishing for just one more watermelon, and looking ahead to Christmas, anticipating cookie baking, but in the meantime, I will enjoy the early fall and its bounty. I hope you will, too!

Here's a recipe for a great fall side dish. The most difficult part is peeling the squash, and if that task is too daunting, most markets sell already cleaned and cut squash (but at a premium!)

Pureed Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into about 2 inch cubes*
maple syrup, to taste
butter, to taste
cinnamon and nutmeg, optional
Put squash in a covered, microwave-safe dish and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Make sure the squash is very soft. Do NOT add water to the dish; the squash will produce its own steaming liquid.
When the squash is soft, drain well and transfer it to the body of a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade. Process until smooth. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup, total, and about a teaspoon of butter for every cup of puree. Blend just to combine. Serve.
Don't worry if this recipe makes more than your family can eat in one setting. Leftovers are delicious!

*To peel this stubborn vegetable, use a chef's knife to remove both ends. Use a sharp potato peeler (I love the OXY peelers) to remove the skin. Cut in half between the bulbous bottom and the more slender top, then place flat side on the cutting board and slice into 2-inch slabs. Put the slabs on their sides to cut again, and then cut crosswise. With practice, you can peel and slice a squash in under five minutes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

To market, to market

On the way home from school today, we stopped at the East Goshen Farmer's Market. It felt good to be back after missing it for two Thursdays in a row. The market continues to expand, but there are certain vendors that I have to visit. My first stop was to Frecon Farm for peaches, plums and sickle pears. While I was waiting in line, Gary visited Blueberry Hill Produce for corn, just to make sure that they didn't run out before I got there. A visit to the market would not be complete without the beets from Maysie's Farm, and Sam also had huge heads of escarole and gorgeous radishes to add to my market basket. I picked up a baguette from Wild Flower Bakery. Then I made another stop to Blueberry Hill for ingredients for gazpacho. The green beans were lined up like firewood in quart basket, so I couldn't resist them. Luckily for my waist and wallet, John and Kira (the chocolateers) were not there today, but I'm hoping they'll be back next week. Not only are their candies delicious, they come in adorable shapes. Who can resist caramels wrapped up in a honeybee chocolate casing or chocolate cherries that look like ladybugs? A dozen multi-hued eggs from Lindenhof and a bag of granola from Laura's Biscotti, and we were home again, home again, jiggity jig.

So what did we have for dinner? We went to Le Saigon so Tim could have their soft-shelled crabs before they went out of season. The corn will have to wait until tomorrow night.

When we got home, I handed off some peaches, plums, and pears to Tim (once again, I bought enough fruit for a small army), put the beets on to steam, harvested the heart from the escarole for salad later in the week and cooked up the tougher outside leaves for soup, nibbled on a few radishes before stashing the rest in the vegedor, and whipped up a batch of gazpacho. Now, all the purchases that need to be in the fridge can actually fit, and I have several meals started for the coming days.

And that's why I love going to the East Goshen Farmer's Market!