Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grilled Butternut Squash

Sunday may have been Father’s Day, but the evening was a veritable celebration of Mother Earth.

I served a fresh-picked salad, added a flurry of basil over the main chicken dish and a chiffonade of sage over the sides, and presented a rhubarb pie sprinkled with fresh black raspberries for dessert - all of which came from the backyard.

Plus, I used the last of my butternut squash that was harvested last fall. Which is good, because I have eight Waltham Butternut Squash plants growing like gangbusters in my middle bed.

I couldn’t believe how well the squash was preserved after all this time. Once cut open, it was sweetly glistening and still as orange as I remembered that the first-picked were.

I wanted to go beyond the wintry preparations and pure├ęs of squash that we’re all used to, so I thought of a classic combination to vary: butternut squash, sage and shaved parmesan cheese. I cut the two large squashes lengthwise, then spritzed some cooking spray on the outer skin sides. I then rubbed a blend of olive oil, garlic, sea salt, pepper and a touch of white wine vinegar to the flesh. I topped it all with the sage I’d picked while gathering basil leaves and salad greens.

I preheated the grill to about 400 degrees – a good roasting temperature – then placed the squash on, flesh side up, and closed the top so the grill would act as an oven. I turned them over after 15 minutes, when the sage had frizzled a bit and the garlic and olive oil had sizzled their way into flavoring the flesh of the squash.

Two rotations later (got to get those grill marks!) I removed them and immediately re-seasoned with a little salt and pepper, then the parmesan.

The skin was delicate and papery, but nutty and earthy, completely crumbly and edible. The flesh was soft and tasty even after a full period of winter and spring storage. In a way, I was sad to see the last of my squash go, but am really looking forward to this year’s harvest.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eating Our Way Through the Backyard

It has begun.

On Saturday evening, my daughter ate her way through the backyard. Starting with our black raspberry bush, whose canes are producing like gangbusters this year, she picked the outer few while I waded into the thorny underbrush to get the rest. Dee-lish! After that, we hit the sugar snap peas, swollen from recent rain for the loudest “snap” with each sweet bite. She ventured on to both purple and green basil – a nice garnish, she said. I nibbled some outer leaves of my mache to try, but she took a pass and “traded” me for my share of the sugar snaps. We’ve also picked the equivalent of a $3.99 grocery-store clamshell of mesclun for a few salads so far this year.

It wasn’t exactly a feast that night, but it was fun and it really felt like summer again.

And, like last year, things are just coming up on their own from seeds, compost, buried kitchen scraps or whatever wintered over. So far, we’ve got two types of climbing beans and no fewer than a dozen “secret” tomato plants popping up in the squash beds and elsewhere, which I have thinned to six of the strongest plants. The biggest surprise? Our secret potatoes. I looked out the back window last month during a rainy weekend and kept wondering about this weed, or something, that just kept getting bigger and bigger. When I ventured out on that finally-dry Monday afternoon, I recognized it immediately: it was a potato plant! Did we miss one of the fingerlings or russets during the harvest last year? I laughed so hard.

The funny thing is that when I told my daughter upon picking her up from kindergarten, she bolted out of the car and into the backyard, hunted around a bit then quickly identified it. Yes, we all know what a potato looks like, but how many of you out there know what the actual plant looks like?

That’s my girl. I’m proud of her. And the fun really has begun.

Eco-nomics update:
Romano Bean Seeds $0.80
Kirby Cucumbers $1.99
4-Pack of Tomatoes w/5 plants $1.99
Acorn Squash $1.79
Eggplants – 2 pks @$1.99 $3.98
Sugar Baby Watermelons $1.98
Subtotal: $10.55
Added to previous total $18.31
Total Spent: $28.86

Picked salad greens $3.99
Handfuls of sugar snaps $1.50

In the black by: $23.37