September 19, 2011

Another Recipe from Sage Mountain

As Autumn Equinox approaches, I have the privilege of spending days at Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center to cook for herbalism students.
Last night's meal culminated in a spontaneous dessert creation. A student brought a beautiful winter squash from her garden to share with everyone. We cooked it into a squash custard. The simple richness of its fall flavors delighted everyone! Give it a try.

Squash Custard

Choose pumpkin or butternut squash. 
Chop it, scoop out the seeds and save some if you would like to plant them next spring.

Place chopped pieces, skin on, in a metal steamer. Fill the bottom of the steamer with water, bring to a boil, reduce to low, and steam for 15 minutes or until squash is soft.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a 9-inch round or square glass baking pan with oil.

Once squash is soft, remove from steamer and rinse quickly in cold water.
Remove outer skin, and place in a bowl.

Use about 3 cups of cooked squash and add:
1 can whole fat organic coconut milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cardamom, allspice
1/4 teaspoon each: nutmeg, cloves
pinch salt

Mash everything together with a potato masher until all is well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk 4 eggs.

Add eggs to squash mixture, mix together, and pour into baking dish.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, or until custard has set.
Yum! Serve as is or topped with toasted pine nuts or pecans.


You can also use this as a pie filling. Just be sure to bake your pie crust half-way before adding custard mix.

September 14, 2011

Learning at the Farmers Market

Take a look at the latest article about Farmers Markets in Vermont. I am inspired by our local market's efforts to weave local food and education!

September 13, 2011

Easy Canning Technique

Are you tired of pressure canning? Make your life easy with this technique, which has served me well for 5 years. It only works for "hot pack" foods, which are the ones I cook on the stove before canning. I use this technique for jam, applesauce, and tomato sauce.
Give it a try!

While jam/sauce is cooking, sterilize jars and lids by placing them in the sink, pouring boiling water over them, and draining them on a clean dish towel.

Separate oven racks so that a jar fits in between them and line the racks with cookie sheets.


Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Ladle hot jam/sauce into hot jars. Make sure you leave 5 cm of head space from the top of the jar.

Remove air bubbles and adjust head space as needed.

Wipe any jam off of jar rims and put lids on jars.   
Screw bands down until tight. 


Turn off the oven. Place jars in oven and leave them in for 6 hours or so.

Test jars by pressing on the top to make sure that the lid is firm.

Repeat the oven canning process for any lids that are not firm.

Label jars with name and date, place on pantry shelves.

September 11, 2011

Transition Into Fall with Spelt Squash Gnocchi

Welcome to the September full moon, a poignant transition time between late summer and fall. Garden vegetables grow sweeter during cool nights, somehow knowing that this is their last chance to flourish. Savor autumn's balance between abundance and surrender. It will bring harmony to the winter months ahead. My father and I recently re-created a recipe for gnocchi, traditional northern Italian dumplings, in a way that bridges the transition between late summer and fall. We combined potatoes from the early harvest with the first winter squash to create a dish where summer meets fall. Enjoy!

Spelt Gnocchi with Winter Squash and Potatoes

Choose 4 medium potatoes with dry flesh and 1/2 small butternut squash.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roast the squash inside its skin in a baking dish with 1/2 cup of water for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in water until soft. 
When the squash flesh is tender, remove it from the oven, scoop out the seeds, and then scoop out the flesh. Discard the seeds and skin and set the flesh aside.

Cut the potatoes into chunks and pass them through a vegetable mill.
Pass the squash through the mill as well.

Add just enough spelt flour to give the dough consistency, about 1 1/2 cups. It needs to be supple without being too sticky.
 
Roll the dough into inch-thick ropes.  
Cut the rope into small chunks.



 


Roll each chunk off the edge of a fork to create grooves on one side and a hole in the other side.






As you are shaping the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add the gnocchi in small batches and remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon when they rise to the top. Place them in a deep baking dish and keep them in a 250 degree oven to stay warm if desired.

When all the gnocchi are cooked, spoon pesto over them, serve and savor this delicious time of year. 

Pesto 
In a food processor, mix:
            ½ cup olive oil
            2 Tablespoons almonds, sunflower seeds or pine nuts
            2 teaspoons salt
            ½ Tablespoon lemon juice
            Parmesan cheese to taste – about 2 Tablespoons (if desired)
Blend at highest speed for 2 minutes.

Turn the off processor, add enough basil to fill the bowl, and blend at lowest speed, stopping occasionally to tamp basil down into blades and add more as needed.
While blending, mixture may become too thick with basil leaves. If so, pour additional olive oil in a small stream through the opening of the food processor while it is blending.

Taste for salt and enjoy!
If you are making a large batch, place in small mason jars, label and freeze for winter use.

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