August 27, 2014 10:44:23 AM
Last Saturday I was a late volunteer at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market. That is, I arrived at 8:30 a.m. to stay until time to pack up the coffee and tables, around 10. I was delighted to see how busy things were when I arrived. Some years ago, the crowd would descend at 7 a.m. and be gone by 8. Now, we have customers arriving at 8 or 8:30 keeping the energy going till the end. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."
I was surprised to find butternut and acorn squash available. It's usually described as a winter squash. Lydia Enlow explained to me that they are grown in the summer and can be held until winter to eat. They differ from summer squash in that the fruit (they are a fruit, not a vegetable) is left to ripen until the mature stage and the skin toughens.
Although a lot of cooks peel the skin with a knife, you can actually use a vegetable peeler, which is much easier and certainly safer. To cook, either roast them or boil. I prefer the no-water method of roasting, which caramelizes the sugars and concentrates the flavor.
One method of roasting is in the first recipe below. Another method would be to simply halve the squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until soft. From there you can scoop out the flesh and mash with a little butter, or put into a food processor with some chicken broth and maybe a dash of cream or milk and it becomes soup. Season with what strikes your fancy: cinnamon, allspice, cayenne or perhaps some plain yogurt. For a more intense spice flavor, sprinkle your spice of choice on the squash before roasting.
The first recipe is from Sara Foster's cookbook, "Fresh Every Day." Sara owns two food markets, one in Durham, North Carolina, and the other in Chapel Hill. Her reputation has grown since her first cookbook, "The Foster's Market Cookbook," published in 2002. She is known for her fresh, simple dishes that highlight the flavor of the ingredients.
The second recipe is from "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison. If you are a devoted vegetarian cook, then you are probably familiar with Ms. Madison. Even if you are not a vegetable-only eater, then you should get to know her cookbooks. They are bibles for how to prepare our market produce and fruits A-Z.
BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND GOAT CHEESE
Serves 6 to 8
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups (about 12 ounces) fresh or frozen black-eyed peas (or purple-hull peas)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves (or oregano)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Sweet and Spicy Vinaigrette
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
(Source: "Fresh Every Day," by Sara Foster)
SWEET AND SPICY VINAIGRETTE
Makes about 1 cup
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
PROVENCAL WINTER SQUASH GRATIN
Serves 4 to 6
2-2 1/2 pounds butternut squash
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons flour
Extra virgin olive oil
(Source: "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," by Deborah Madison)