Monday, November 16, 2009

The Harvest Is Nearing Its End

It was a tough summer for gardens.  My little experiment on my back patio was quite a disappointment.  Our grand old ash tree that shades the patio provides a quaint intimacy for dinner parties on a bricked-in, high-walled patio but it shaded my little peppers, cucumber, strawberries and tomatoes a bit too much.  I think at peak summer light, I was getting about an hour and a half of sunlight. 

My Chicago Avenue community garden plot was a whole different story.  Zucchini, beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes, swiss chard, spinach, basil, basil, basil, we had a bit of abundance starting in early July.  But regardless of where your garden was, wasn't it a hard summer?  I heard tragic stories of green tomatoes never turning red with our rainy cold August.  Deer attacked a meticulously tended patch up on the North Shore and those tomatoes definitely never had a chance.  Beef steak grew to the size of plum varieties and quit.  Lost potential.

I've written an awful lot lately about processes, cycles and seasons.  There is something wonderful about having a time for this and then having a time for that.  Last week, I sent all my little plants, those that had given me plenty of flavors and calories to play with and those that withered in the dark, damp patio back into the ground.  There they will rest and contribute to the soil that served them this summer.  Next spring we'll have another chance.  In the meantime, I'll pour over seed catalogs.  Study up on what, if any, fruit bearing plants grow well in the shade.  And I'll tend them better next year.  I've learned lessons about watering, dedication to the ground and trying not to force my silly plants to grow where they want to.  Isn't that just a helpful image for this year?  Yes my friend, we have lots of potential and most of us have the gift to see that potential before us.  But just because you see it, doesn't mean it'll grow there.  Just because you seized that opportunity, doesn't mean that it worked out, just this time.  Never fear my love.  You'll have another chance next spring.  The warm gusts of March will blow those golden leaves right off of your beds and you'll see new potential there that you hadn't seen before.  And it will grow.

 Fall Harvest Bread
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
2 T white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c milk
1/4 c applesauce
1 T canola oil

1/2 can pumpkin puree
1/2 bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 c chopped pecans
1 apple, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, spices, salt and soda.  Set aside.  In a large bowl blend together sugar, milk, applesauce and canola oil.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Add dry ingredients to wet, 1 cup at a time.  Fold in pumpkin puree, cranberries, pecans and apple.  Pour into a 5x9 pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

I like to make two at once to share with friends.

adapted from Good Things Catered

Monday, November 9, 2009

Acorn Squash-stravaganza

This is a tribute to newly found bloggers, food friends and recipes that exalt the lowly squash. It seems to me that there are a few uber-health freaks who are in on the secret of how good squash really is. Carbohydrate, vegetable, vitamin, mineral all packed into deep flavor, squash is my absolute favorite fall vegetable. And normally, I keep eating it until well into March when asparagus comes along and finally tells me that my 5 month winter food favorite has run its course.

A stands for A nod to Heidi: From one swede to another, her stuff rocks.  Dinner inspiration often comes from her incredible photography and natural, fresh, seasonal foods. I made her Roasted Corn Pudding the day after she posted it and loved it. Thanksgiving this year will likely land on Saturday and gracing my table will be this recipe, next to the old faithfuls of green bean casserole and cranberry chutney. I didn't use anise as she suggested but threw in some extra nutmeg, fresh thyme that grows in my windowsill and in my humble cooking opinion, I think you need to bake the squash for upwards of 40-50 minutes. I had plenty of additional pudding to make in a separate rammekin to augment lunch the following day. The proof (that I made it) is in the pudding. Er... photo:

B is for boyfriend's brother's babe.  Chalk it up for another Kevin Bacon-esque connection that just keeps giving.  She's one of the lucky few who gets to do this food thing for a living.  And in the midst of work, keeps up with eating well and graciously encouraging others to do the same.  I love a good foodie who is gracious:  no pretension about what you can and have and will make.  No no.  So thanks TKTC.  You tweeted this recipe some weeks ago and it was fabulous.

Martha Stewart's Moroccan-Style Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, halved
2 T olive oil
3/4 lbs ground chuck
2 T ground cinnamon
2 t ground nutmeg
2 t kosher salt
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c bulgar wheat
1 c water
1/4 c golden raisins
1/4 c flatleaf parsley
2 T toasted almonds

Coat open flesh side of squash with olive oil and bake at 400 for 40 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 T oil.  Add beef and spices and simmer until browned, 6-8 minutes.  Remove from pan and discard all but 1 T drippings from the pan.  Reheat and saute onion and garlic.  Add 1 t salt and bulgar and stir to combine.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until all the water is dissolved.  Fluff with a fork and combine beef, raisins, 1 T almonds and parsley.

Scrape out the flesh of the squash and combine with bulgar/meat mixture.  Divide in half among two shells and sprinkle remaining almonds.  Bake for another 10-12 minutes or until the tops have nicely browned.

And feel free to use as brain power reading market commentary at work during your lunch hour the following day:

originally here