Editor’s Note: This is the 17th week of a 19-week challenge, Dark Days, a pledge taken by 88 blogs spanning the country, to eat one meal a week as sustainable, organic, local and ethical possible. For Dianna’s last meal, she explains Kilpatrick Family Farm’s CSA process while expressing some rutabagas and squash “angst” and share her three-squash culinary experiment! – Christina
We have a winter CSA share through Kilpatrick Family Farm. They do a very smart thing: instead of delivering a box of vegetables that they pack and pick for you, they let you come to the farmers market and select four, five or six free choice items.
Less work for them, fewer rutabagas for you.
They usually also have one vegetable that they pick out to give you as part of your share. So on a typical week you get the vegetable of their choice plus five vegetables you actually want. On a good week, they give you Brussels sprouts or onions; once we even received honey. On a bad week, they give you butternut squash.
We have gotten butternut squash in our share four times this winter. I know because it is late March and this morning I had three butternut squash sitting in a pile on my kitchen counter. I made butternut squash soup with the first one and we each ate a cup of it and said, “Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Then we stuck the leftover soup in the refrigerator and a week later quietly put it out with the rest of the compost. We are not winter squash fans, with the exception of Delicata, which we grow in our garden and truly love. But, like all good things, Delicata squash does not last so you have to eat it by Thanksgiving before it turns into a tasteless mass of orange flesh, indistinguishable from butternut squash.
So my final Dark Days Challenge was to get rid of all that damn butternut squash. I decided to try three different recipes, one braised, one baked, one boiled, to see if it was possible to come up with a butternut squash dish, using local ingredients, that didn’t make me want to scrape it straight into the compost bucket.
Going to my all-time culinary hero first, I tried Mark Bittman’s recipe for braised butternut squash. It was an easy fit for the Dark Days Challenge because the only ingredients are squash, salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic. I didn’t have any local parsley, so I didn’t use it. The garlic was left over from last summer’s garden. Unfortunately, the dish was absolutely tasteless, except for the aroma of garlic. I am sure if you ate it as a side dish at a fancy restaurant, you’d be fine, especially if you were drinking a 15 dollar glass of wine and eating braised lamb shanks or something. But it did nothing to dispel my butternut squashophobia.
The next dish that I tried was baked caramelized squash with butter and our own maple syrup. I modified a recipe I found on the web, adding ¼ cup of maple syrup from last week’s boil instead of ¼ cup of brown sugar called for in the recipe. It was sweet but edible, and my husband said, ”This isn’t so bad because it doesn’t taste like butternut squash.”
My final dish was something I made up since all the boiled butternut squash recipes I found sounded horrific. I cheated a tiny bit in that I decided a minced jalapeno pepper was in the category of “spices.” Everything else comes from our stored garden crops (canned diced tomatoes, garlic) or our CSA share (onions, butternut squash). I just couldn’t stand another sweet or tasteless squash dish so I invented Spicy Butternut Squash and Tomato Stew.
Michael just tried some and said, “It is better than usual. It is kind of good.” Success!
Spicy Butternut Squash and Tomato Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cut up onions
6 minced garlic cloves
1 peeled, seeded butternut squash cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cups water or vegetable broth
1 minced jalapeno pepper (remove seeds if you don’t like heat)
1 pint diced tomatoes
salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
In a deep pan or medium pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring now and then, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the squash, water and jalapeno pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt pepper and cinnamon and simmer for 10 more minutes until the squash is tender and the flavors marry. Eat with homemade bread and a side salad.