Monday, March 29, 2010

A Farewell To Farms

The weather here in New York has become an exercise in duality, flip-flopping somewhere between gorgeous, bright sunny days demanding the darkest of sunglasses, and dismally depressing rainstorms that flood our poor New Jersey neighbors. Vicious gusts of wind add some extra excitement to the mix, sending broken umbrellas tumbling down the street like miniature fabric zombies. Despite the many sunny days it's hard to get overly excited about the possibilities of Spring when you're doing battle with the elements. As badly as I'd like to embrace the comings of the season, I'm not quite ready to let go of some parts of winter. Strange to hear from someone that raises all hell when winter shows up and does nothing but complain about it, I know, but the truth is that I haven't really been able to exploit the best of what winter has to offer. 

My Winter CSA provided me with an abundance of beets, carrots and various pantry ingredients, including tomato puree (awesome), pickled green tomatoes (a bit of a question mark) and pickled beets (yikes). There were also a few basics like eggs, milk and yogurt, all of which I loved, but in general I was really looking forward to great produce that I could use every day. Instead I got some not so versatile ingredients that were difficult to make shine on their own. I'd hoped for winter greens and a myriad squashes in addition to the multitude of roots I'd received, but none of those showed with the exception of one lonely spaghetti squash. And so I have a deep yearning to take advantage of what I missed of winter, before it's gone. I think I rose fairly well to the challenges of using beets and carrots on an almost daily basis, but now it's time to have a little fun!

Overwhelmed by the urge to experiment with squash on a rainy day last week, I broke with tradition and bought my produce in the supermarket. One acorn squash and a few local apples later I was well on my way to making a delicious squash and apple soup. I was really looking forward to harnessing the sweetness of the squash by roasting it and then combining it with tart green apples. The interesting thing about apples is that when you saute them slowly with onion you get a sort of apple/onion jam. It's sweet and tart and really good smeared on toast with a piece of brie, but even better in a squash soup. If you think that part's easy (sliced onions, chopped apples and a whole garlic cloves slowly cooking down in butter or olive oil), the squash is even easier. Simply cut it into quarters, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, and toss into a hot oven. Roast 30-45 minutes or until soft, and scoop straight into the blender. Add the apple-onion mixture, a little liquid and blitz until smooth. All that's left is to heat it back up and season with salt and pepper.

It's a really great soup with complex and layered flavors. I decided to top mine with roughly chopped walnuts for an extra nutty bite and a bit of crunch, but a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds would be equally delicious (in facts it's what I'm doing the next time). A swirl of olive oil later I had a soup to help me transition between the seasons (this would make a really great cold soup too, especially with a little extra apple). It also helped me come to the conclusion that this will be my final season with a CSA, at least for now. While the summer shares are infinitely better than their winter counterparts, and I so love the idea of supporting a farm and knowing that my money goes directly to it, I also love experiencing the range of the seasons. I love the challenge of using everything in my CSA box, but by tying myself solely to one farm, my culinary version of the seasons reflects only what their farm can provide. By joining a group like Urban Organic, I can get produce (both fruit AND veggies) from a variety of local, organic farms delivered straight to my door, AND I don't lose out on getting organic produce that isn't available in my area, like citrus and other winter fruits. Urban Organic acts as an aggregator for organic produce, sourcing the best products available from local, sustainable farms, while casting a wider net on regional items like the many fruits only available in Florida or California (those are still organic and sourced from family farms and farm co-ops/CSAs). I'm hoping that by becoming part of this organization, I can get a better and more complete feel for the seasons, and have a better overall experience of each one. And maybe one day, after all my griping, winter will end up becoming my favorite food season of them all. Unlikely, but it's worth a try!

Squash and Apple Soup

1 acorn squash (butternut or spaghetti work too), quartered, seeds remooved
2 semi-tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 small onion, sliced
1 garlic clove
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp butter
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
extra virgin olive oil
Garnish: chopped walnuts or toasted pumpkin seeds

1. Heat oven to 400 F degrees. Place squash wedges on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and bake until flesh is soft, about 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your squash.

2. Meanwhile, heat butter, a few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, apple, onion and garlic in a non-stick skillet. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until apples and onions are soft. Remove from the heat and add mixture to a blender to cool.

3. When the squash is done, scoop it into the blender. Add nutmeg and 1 cup of stock and blend until smooth. Continue to add stock 1/4 cup at a time until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Reheat soup before serving, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve topped with chopped walnuts or toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!


1 comment:

Teri Lyn Fisher said...

This sounds divine!!!!