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.

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