Tag Archives: squash

Winter Squash Soup: A FarmerChef Special

29 Mar
by Francine

Yesterday we took all of our leftover winter squash and made a soup.  We used one ambercup squash, two sweet dumplings, one delicata and some butternut squash and of course ,some of our dried sage.  We loosely followed this recipe by Smitten Kitchen.

A photo of the special

One thing, I’ve realized about doing FarmerChef specials is that soup goes over really well.  We sold lots of soup weeks 1, 2 and 5.  Is it because it’s hard to shake off winter?  Or do people just love soup no matter the time of year…I know I do!

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Thanksgiving Decorations = A Tasty Snack

31 Jan
by Francine

A photo of the roasted seedsIn early fall, our kind farming friends gave us many pumpkin-y things to decorate the restaurant. When Christmas took over the restaurant, I brought the harvest to our living room.

A few weeks ago I realized, I should probably remove the harvest decorations since there was snow on the ground and our neighbor had already removed his outdoor Christmas lights.

Instead of just throwing away the squashes, I wanted to get the seeds out of them so I could have a snack.

Never one to be deterred by a thick skinned squash, I decided to crack them open by dropping them on the kitchen floor.  (I should mention that our kitchen floor is old linoleum and that no one is in love with the state of our kitchen…it’s constantly mentioned that it needs a facelift.) I do not recommend this method of opening gourds or squash if you have lovely wood floors or if someone in your house is trying to take a nap.A photo of the cracked gourds

Once the squash cracked open a bit (it took quite a few times of ‘dropping’ on the floor), I used a knife to wedge it open some more and scoop out the seeds.

Then I rinsed the seeds, salted them and toasted them in the oven. Crunchy and yum!

There were five different kinds of squash and gourds. I tossed all the seeds into one bowl.  I couldn’t really tasty a difference between them except for the seeds of the turban squash…they were very big and not too crunchy.

But I do have a warning… Photo of an unpleasant squash*For more information on this bitter orange guy see the comments.

Do you have a method for opening gourds and slightly dried out squash that is more sophisticated than “drop repeatedly on the floor”? If so, I’d love to hear!

Do you like toasted squash seeds?  Do you season them with anything other than salt?

Happy cracking!

Winter Sunshine Muffin

10 Jan
by Francine

Last week, I adapted this recipe (which has become my go-to, easy to adapt, wholesome muffin recipe).

A photo of the muffin

  • In place of bananas and green tomatoes, I used the orange flesh of two sweet dumpling squashes I had roasted and scooped from their shells.
  • I added 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground cloves and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg.
  • I also added some freshly grated ginger.
  • Finally I added a handful of dried cranberries.

The result…a spicy, moist, smile-inducing treat—the perfect nibble to enjoy with a cup of tea on a a sunny winter afternoon.

What to do with all this squash? Part V

17 Nov

A Winter Squash Series: Butternut Squash (3 Ways)

by Francine

Squash is plentiful, long lasting, festive and somewhat of a puzzle. It can be difficult to get through it’s sometimes-thick skin and figure out what to do with it. I decided to figure out this puzzle by picking up four wee squashes at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. I’ve been researching each one and looking for recipes that are more than cut in half, scrape seeds, bake and top with butter. Stay tuned to find out what I did with each squash, as well as some fun facts.

Winter Squash family photo

I’ve had lots of fun with Butternut squash since I bought the little one, pictured above, back in late September. I turned the little one into a surprisingly savory dish with walnuts and vanilla using a recipe I found on Simply Recipes.A photo of Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla

Feeling inspired, I got a huge Butternut squash from a local squash grower and turned it into a wonderful soup that used peanut butter (!). This soup was featured on a River Cottage Everyday episode, and it was so good that (brother) Luke decided to teach the recipe at his cooking class.

The third recipe (for yet another huge Butternut) used tahini and lemon juice; it turned out to be to be surprisingly rich and filling. Also we discovered that this dish (from Smitten Kitchen) tastes best right after it’s made…the coldness of the fridge takes away some of the lovely flavors.

A photo of Nutty Butternut Squash SoupAll three recipes are uniquely tasty. I happily recommend each one.

Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla from Simply Recipes

Nutty Butternut Squash Soup from River Cottage Everyday

Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad from Smitten Kitchen

Happy making and eating!

What to do with all this squash? part IV

7 Nov

A Winter Squash Series: Ambercup Squash

by Francine

Squash is plentiful, long lasting, festive and somewhat of a puzzle. It can be difficult to get through it’s sometimes-thick skin and figure out what to do with it. I decided to figure out this puzzle by picking up four wee squashes at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. I’ve been researching each one and looking for recipes that are more than cut in half, scrape seeds, bake and top with butter. Stay tuned to find out what I did with each squash, as well as some fun facts.A photo of Ambercup squashLast week, I shared my experience of preparing a thick skinned, pumpkin-like squash while I was living in China. Today I’ll share with you the recipe for Ambercup Squash with Sweet Beef, prepared and adapted using this recipe as a guide.

Ambercup Squash with Sweet Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1 Ambercup squash, cubed and peeled
  • 1/2 pound of beef, preferably top sirloin steak, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4-5 spring onions, chopped
  • vegetable oil, for stir-frying

For the beef marinade:

  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch

For the sauce:

A photo of the dish

First, it’s difficult to cut this squash. Remember all the fun I had cutting a similar squash on my kitchen floor when I was living in China?  Well…I learned from my previous experience. :) First, poke the squash with a knife to make some holes, then microwave it for 30 seconds or longer (depending on your microwave’s settings), but be careful because you don’t want it to start cooking. 

I put mine in for 30 seconds. This helped soften it, but only slightly. I got the knife in and attempted to halve it, but I was stuck. I called my brother for help. He looked at the knife sticking out of the small pumpkin, laughed and used his strength to split it. (Perhaps it would have been good to soften it a bit more so I could split it using my own strength, but hey, that’s what brothers are for.)

Once halved, scoop out the densely packed seeds and cut into 8 slices. You don’t have to peel them now; you can more easily remove the peel after they’ve been boiled.

Boil the slices until they are softened and pokeable with a fork. Don’t over boil them because you do not want mushy squash ruining your stir fry. Drain the squash slices, rinse with cold water and allow to cool.

A photo of the dishWhile the squash slices are simmering begin marinating the beef. The beef needs to be thin and either cubed or cut into small strips. Mix the marinade of soy sauce, rice vinegar and corn starch. It should marinate at least 15 minutes to soften the meat a bit. If you do it well ahead of time, be sure to store it in the fridge.

Once the squash is cooled, it’s time to peel off the skin. Unfortunately the skin didn’t peel off as easily as I’d hoped. I had to use a pairing knife to peel the now soft skin. It isn’t difficult, it just takes a bit of time. While peeling, you can roughly cube the squash.

(Iknow there might be an easier way to cut, peel and soften Ambercup squash. I’m just sharing the way I did it. If you’ve had success with a particular method, please share below in the comments. I’d love to hear!)

Next put a little cooking oil in a large frying pan or a wok. Add the marinated beef and stir fry for a few minutes, you want the outside to begin changing color but only just. This is a Chinese cooking technique that helps keep meat tender when stir frying. Once the meat is lightly cooked, remove and place in a dish (don’t worry, we’ll cook it more later).

Finely chop garlic cloves and cut the white and light green parts of green onions into 1/2 inch sections. (We didn’t have any green onions so I used some chives from our garden.)

Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl: soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, Shaoxing cooking wine, oyster sauce and corn starch. Once mixed, taste to see if you like it. If you think it needs more flavor you can add more of that ingredient. (I think this sauce should be more sweet than salty, but that’s just my preference.)A closeup photo

Add a bit more oil to the pan and add the garlic and the squash. Sauté for a few minutes, but be careful not to break apart the chunks of squash. Then add the beef and stir fry altogether.

After a few minutes add the sauce. Stir everything together and allow the beef to cook. You can add a little water if you want your sauce to be juicier and if you want it to thicker just add a bit more corn starch.

That’s it! Garnish t with sesame seeds and cilantro and serve it with a side of steamed rice. My family members enjoyed eating something different and I loved the colors.

Have you ever prepared a squash-y stir fry?


What to do with all this Squash? Part III

2 Nov

A Winter Squash Series: Squash-y Memories from Living in China

by Francine

The tiny ambercup squash looks like a baby pumpkin; it also looks a lot like the pumpkin I encountered when I was living in Dalian, China. I picked one up from the vegetable market near my apartment building in Fall 2009. I was feeling festive so I drew a little smile on it. But when I decided to cook it, I realized this little guy was no pumpkin.A photo of the pumpkin I got in Dalian

The skin was nearly impossible for me to cut through. I vividly remember kneeling on my kitchen floor, bracing a cutting board with my knee and trying to keep a round pumpkin from rolling away while wielding a large knife. (It probably wasn’t the safest way to cut something, thankfully the knife was somewhat dull.) The thing that’s important is that I managed to chop that little pumpkin into chunks. I tried peeling it too, but I gave up and decided to boil it, afterwards the skin easily peeled off. I may have I made pumpkin soup, but can’t really remember.

After that experience, I learned the word for the winter squash I had prepared—nan gua (南瓜) which translated means pumpkin. After clicking through multiple Wikipedia pages and ‘winter squash varieties’ Google searches, the best I can ascertain is that nan gua is more exactly a Red Kuri Squash or maybe a Golden Nugget Squash aka Oriental Pumpkin.

While I was in China, I didn’t end up preparing another nan gua, probably because my arms were still sore.  I did get to taste it again, when my Chinese friend ordered a pumpkin and meat dish for lunch.  It was a tasty, saucy, stir fried dish with bright orange chunks in it…a lovely thing to try on a chilly January afternoon.A photo of the cutting process

When I was trying to decide what to do with  the Ambercup squash I got from the farmers’ market, I thought, hmm… this looks a lot like that nan gua I hacked away at on my kitchen floor. As I searched for what to do with Ambercup squash, I also Google image searched 南瓜 since they could be squash twins. I came across a photo of nan gua and beef along with an accompanying recipe in Chinese.

I plugged the recipe into Google translate and then did a bit of my own translating because after reading “until cooked pumpkin, sung out,” I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to sing show tunes to get my cooked pumpkin out of the pan. The translation of the author’s description of nan gua is equally humorous, “a pumpkin is simply iron, I use chopped bones, sword, and get tired to grimace in pain be considered open.” I definitely grimaced in pain to get that nan gua open. Although I didn’t use chopped bones, I suppose I could’ve chopped off my knee bone.A photo of Nan Gua

Funny translations aside, I did make Nan Gua Beef with Ambercup squash. It was enjoyed by my family atop steamed rice. Next time, I’ll share the recipe and some tips I learned while preparing Ambercup squash—a little squash with a very thick skin, you could even say it’s ‘simply iron’.


What to do with all this squash? part II

21 Oct

A Winter Squash Series: Sweet Dumpling Squash

by Francine

Squash is plentiful, long lasting, festive and somewhat of a puzzle. It can be difficult to get through it’s sometimes-thick skin and figure out what to do with it. I decided to figure out this puzzle by picking up four wee squashes at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. I’ve been researching each one and looking for recipes that are more than cut in half, scrape seeds, bake and top with butter. Stay tuned to find out what I did with each squash, as well as some fun facts.

A photo of squash in a box

The farmers from whom I bought the very cute Sweet Dumpling squash from told me that it’s a perfect one person squash. It’s just the right size if you’re cooking for yourself.  Simply cut it in half, roast in the oven, jazz it up with some spices or some sweetness and enjoy.

I decided to make soup for one with a Sweet Dumpling squash.

  • First I cut the squash along its waist and removed the seeds.
  • Next I roasted it for about 25 minutes at 325 F.
  • While it was cooling, I sautéed half of a small onion and one slice of bacon with a little butter (but you could use oil).
  • Then I scooped out the flesh. (I read that the shells/skins of sweet dumplings make great festive bowls.)
  • I added the the squash flesh to the onion/bacon mix.
  • After that, I stirred in some half and half along with water to get my preferred soup consistency.
  • I simmered it for 5-10 minutes.A photo of the soup
  • A dash of salt and I had myself a little bowl of sweet dumpling soup.

The taste?  To me it was like sweet corn and squash mixed together. Very tasty!  Next time I’ll use a few sweet dumplings that way I can share and maybe have some leftovers (but I doubt it). :)

Have you ever prepared sweet dumpling squash? Does it sound like fun to use a squash ‘shell’ as a bowl?