One of my favourite things to do on summer and early fall weekends is to cycle to my local farmer’s market and fill my pannier bags with vegetables and fruits that are bursting with freshness. As I cycle home, not only am I appreciating the view of the river, and the wind on my face, but I am planning how I will use the day’s bounty. I am always so appreciative of the variety and quality of food that is nurtured so close to home. I often wonder why anyone would choose to buy strawberries that were grown thousands of miles away and picked before they are ripe to ship, when intensely sweet local berries are on offer. Even when winter comes, I check the origin of the vegetables to make sure I’m buying ones that were grown as close to home as possible. This is not always a choice of course, but I do think it’s important support the local producers in your area. I’m so lucky to have access to my brother’s organic farm as well. On a recent visit, we walked down through the fields and looked at all the varieties of squash and pie pumpkins that were growing and picked tomatoes and green and yellow beans to take home. He talked about the challenges of farming- being at the mercy of unpredictable weather patterns, insects, both beneficial and destructive and the expenses of equipment and repairs. I also heard the expertise and commitment to a way of farming that produces delicious and natural food that is a joy to eat. This thanksgiving, find food that is grown close to home and give thanks for the farmers that nurtured it. Here are a few recipes I made to celebrate the delicious squash that he grows.
The following link describes some of the different types of winter squash that are available now and through the winter months. The possibilities are endless!
Roasted spaghetti squash with sage butter
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. chopped chives
- 10 to 12 medium sage leaves, chopped
- A handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 small garlic clove finely minced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. salt
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Drizzle cut side with a small amount of olive oil. Lay, cut side down, on a rimmed cookie sheet on baking parchment and pierce each half with a sharp knife in one or two places. Roast in a 350 degree oven until very tender, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size.
Meanwhile heat the butter at very low heat and add garlic and herbs. Sauté for a few minutes to release the flavours, but don’t let the butter or garlic brown. Scrape out the long strands of cooked spaghetti squash into a serving dish and toss with herb butter and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve. Offer more cheese for your guests. ( l love lots!) Makes 4 servings as a side dish.
Note: Makes 2 servings if each is topped with a poached egg for lunch!
Maple pecan stuffed squash
- 1 delicata or sweet potato squash
- ½ small onion, chopped finely
- 3 large cremini mushrooms, chopped
- ¼ cup of chopped pecans
- ¼ cup finely diced dried apricots
- ½ cup French bread, in small cubes
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage or thyme and some chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup
- 2 tbsp. white wine
Halve, seed and roast the squash till tender. Sauté the onions, mushrooms and pecans in a tbsp. of butter or olive oil, if you prefer. When softened but not brown, add the apricots, bread, herbs and salt and pepper and sauté for a few more minutes. When ready to stuff the squash, drizzle the mixture with the maple syrup and toss. Place squash in an oven proof dish and fill each squash half itch stuffing. Sprinkle each with about a tbsp. of white wine and heat in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees till piping hot. If you need to hold them till serving time, cover with foil and keep warm on top of the stove. Alternatively, you can stuff them and bake just before serving. These are a nice side dish for thanksgiving , or alongside roast beef, pork or chicken. Makes 2 generous servings or 4 small if you cut in quarters.
Individual pumpkin cheesecakes with caramel sauce
- 1 cup of graham wafer crumbs
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 3 tbsp. melted, unsalted butter
- 1 250 gram package of cream cheese( I used light cream cheese)
- ½ cup of brown sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt
- ½ cup puréed pumpkin ( I roasted my own pie pumpkin from the farm but canned is fine too.)
- ½ tsp. of cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Caramel sauce
Place muffin cup liners in a 12 portion muffin. Mix crust ingredients and divide among cups evenly. I reserved ¼ cup of crumbs for a garnish for later, but this is optional. Using the bottom of a juice glass the same size as your muffin tin, press down to compact the crust in each cup.
Make filling by first beating the cream cheese in a stand mixture. When soft and smooth, beat in sugar. Scrape down bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix until smooth. Pour filling into muffin cups evenly and bake at 350 degrees until set, about 25 minutes. Cool. When ready to serve, remove wrapper and top with caramel sauce. I used “ Bonne Maman” or you could use dulce de leche. Both are available at the grocery store. ( No time to make my own!) Garnish as desired: maybe a tiny dollop of whipped cream and the reserved crumbs? I might even try freezing some? Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!