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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Deliciousness of Autumn (a.k.a. What to Make for Dinner in the Fall)

If you are a fan of winter squash, then autumn is your season. Walk through the grocery store or farmers' market, stop by a local farm or farm stand, or check a backyard garden and you might find squash in every size and shape imaginable! Just yesterday at our final Mud Creek Farm CSA pick up (Community Supported Agriculture), we were treated to butternut, buttercup, and red kuri squash. Don't they look wonderfully delicious?!?
If you love the taste but are afraid to actually prepare winter squash, fear not. If I can do it, you can do it!

  1. Grab a sharp, sturdy knife, large soup spoon or ice cream scoop, and a large cutting board. You may also want to have a garbage bowl or small bag handy for the stem, seeds, etc.
  2. Carefully but firmly, cut the squash in half lengthwise. You may trim off the stem and bottom, or leave them intact. If you are roasting the squash halves, you may want to leave the stem for aesthetic purposes.
  3. Using your soup spoon or ice cream scoop, scrape out the seeds and strings. Discard.
  4. If you plan on mashing the squash, place the two halves, cut-side down, into a baking dish prepared with cooking spray. Bake at 375 F for 45 - 60 minutes; pierce with a fork after 45 minutes to check for doneness and adjust remaining time accordingly. When squash is done, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to remove the squash from the skin and into a bowl; discard skin. Use a potato masher to mash the squash with any desired ingredients (e.g., broth, milk, butter, spices, honey).
  5. If you plan on roasting the squash, cut into large pieces and trim the skin away (optional on some squash, such as butternut and delicate which have edible skin). Next, cut the large pieces to uniform chunks and add to a baking pan prepared with cooking spray, along with additional ingredients (e.g., sliced onion or garlic, herbs, spices, olive oil). Roast at 400 F for 35+ minutes, stirring halfway through. When squash is tender, broil on high for 5 minutes to brown the squash a bit.
So easy! Well, maybe not easy...but definitely manageable. Give it a try.

Now what are we going to make with our lovely fall veggies? Well, in addition to the squash, we received potatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, arugula, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, kohlrabi, and leeks. Then we went into the pick-your-own garden where there were still some items to pick. My farm-hands collected parsley, thyme, sage, and scallions.
"What am I going to eat for dinner?" seems to be the inevitable, daily, pesky question. Whether you do the cooking, or your significant other, or your kids, or your hired help...you probably want meals that are fresh, delicious, and appropriate for the season. Thanks to our CSA share and some recipe search engines, we've been enjoying meals like that for months. Now for this week's game plan. Okay, it's more like a week and a half. Bonus!

First, I'm going to roast and freeze one butternut squash, and chop and freeze the herbs and three-quaters of the scallions. Need tips for freezing produce? Click here. The greens will be the first to turn, so I plan to use the arugula and spinach as soon as possible. So, here's the plan for the rest of this week:

Next week we'll have:

I hope these meal ideas have been helpful, and have inspired you to make some delicious dishes with fresh autumn veggies. What's your favorite autumn meal? Be sure to Post a Comment and let us know. As always, thanks for reading.

Ricotta Pasta
- adapted from The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet by Nava Atlas
Serves 4.

12 oz. your favorite pasta
2 Tbsp. margarine or butter
2 roasted red peppers (jarred is fine), chopped
1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, grated; plus additional for serving
6-8 c. arugula, washed and stemmed
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a serving container, toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the margarine and the chopped peppers, and cover.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta with the reserved pasta cooking water and stir until well blended. Add Parmesan and mix well; set aside.
  3. Cover and steam the arugula using just the water clinging to the leaves in the same pot used to cook the pasta (about 1-2 minutes). Drain and chop the arugula; add to the cheese mixture.
  4. Stir cheese and arugula mixture into the pasta, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with additional Parmesan and crushed red pepper (optional).

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