Cooler weather in the fall usually gives us a chance to have some cool weather vegetables that typically do well in the spring so everyone should not be surprised to find radishes in your share this week. Radishes store best if the tops are removed. Keep the tops if you please and store radishes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Winter squash is the name given to the cucurbits that develop thick skins, which allow them to be stored over the winter months. Sunshine squash is a variety of Kabocha squash that is orange-skinned and turban-shaped. Kabocha squash is a Japanese varietal of winter squash that is now grown around the world. Known for its naturally sweet flesh that is not stringy, sunshine squash are also high in vitamin C and beta carotene. Keep whole squash in a cool, dry place that has plenty of ventilation. Cut squash can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Kabocha squash can be baked, roasted, or steamed and cut pieces make a great addition to soups, stews and gratins. Winter squash goes well with a variety of flavors, including olive oil, butter, Gruyere cheese, Parmesan cheese, Fontana, sage, rosemary, garlic, onion, apple, coconut milk, ginger, lime, curry, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Cutting a large squash can be challenging; to avoid hurting yourself, try to create a flat stable surface. A heavy knife or cleaver and a rubber mallet are useful tools. Make sure to cut next to the stem and not through it. If you need to peel the squash, use a chef’s knife to peel off the outside skin. Save the seeds for baking if you want a fun crunchy snack.
Last weeks’ CSA share included pie pumpkins, small round orange skinned mini-pumpkins known as Baby Pam’s. Pie pumpkins are best stored and treaded like winter squash. These small pumpkins can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, including pies, soups, ravioli filling, breads, muffins or even a puree for young children. Pumpkin puree can also be frozen for later uses.
More sweet onions this week means it’s time to start using them. Sweet onions are not meant for storage and will need to be used by November. In addition to the soup, sweet onions also caramelize well for a sweet onion jam and make for some amazing onion rings. Check out www.saveur.com for recipes on fried onion rings.
Baked Winter Squash or Pumpkin
A basic approach for cooking squash that can be used any number of ways. Cut squash in half, then scoop out the seeds and fibers. Brush the cut surfaces with a thin film of oil and set the squash, cut side down, on a sheet pan. Bake at 375 degrees until the squash looks wrinkled, soft, and a knife pokes through the skin easily, usually around 30-45 minutes. The cut side should be richly browned and glazed. Squash can be served warm or cooled for later use to make a puree, soup, or pie filling.
Coconut Squash Custard (serves 6-8)
Adapted from Saveur Magazine
Baked inside a hollowed out kabocha squash, this popular treat is found in markets throughout Laos.
One 1 1/2 -2 pound kabocha squash
½ cup canned coconut cream
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
6 egg yolks
Using a long sharp knife, cut off the top of the squash, about 1” from the stem end. Discard top. Using a spoon, scoop out seeds and fibers to make a hollow cavity. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, whisk together the coconut cream and ¼ cup of the brown sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, while whisking occasionally; remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar with the salt and egg yolks until yolks are smooth and pale yellow. While whisking the yolks, slowly drizzle in the hot coconut cream mixture. Transfer mixture to the top of a double boiler set over simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 4 minutes.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pour custard into the reserved squash and set on rack in the bottom of an 8”x8” baking dish. Pour 1 cup boiling water into dish. Bake until knife inserted into center of custard comes out clean, about 2 hours. Let cool; slice into 6 wedges. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
French Onion Soup (serves 4-6)
Courtesy of James Peterson, Splendid Soups
This recipe does require a fair amount of stirring time at the stove but if you have the time, it is fairly simple. If you cook with wine, I suggest adding a generous ½ cup of red wine to the initial de-glazing procedure.
2 ½ pounds onions, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups beef or chicken stock or equal measure of the both stocks
1 sachet: 3 fresh thyme sprigs, 3 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf (tied in a bundle)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup finely grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Thickly sliced French bread, toasted
Slice the onions lengthwise as finely as you can. Melt the butter in a wide, heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot and add the onions. Stir the onions every few minutes over medium heat until they soften and begin to brown, about 40 minutes. When they start to brown, pour in ¼ cup broth and turn heat to high. Stir the onions, scraping off any caramelized juices that have clung to the bottom and sides of the pan. When the broth has almost evaporated and forms a brown glaze on the bottom of the pan, add another ¼ cup broth and repeat. Continue doing this until you have used 1 cup of broth.
Add the remaining broth and the sachet to the onions and gently simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot so the caramelized juices dissolve in the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove the sachet.
AT THE LAST MINUTE: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Ladle the hot soup into deep ovenproof bowls. Sprinkle half the cheese over the soup and place a slice of toast in each bowl. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Put the bowls on a sheet pan and bake until the cheese bubbles and turns light brown, about 10 minutes.