Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dark Days, Pumpkin Crazed

I doubt I was the only one beguiled at my farmers' market last fall. Surely, others were similarly seduced by the amber glow of pumpkins piled under a red umbrella or enticed by bumpy heirloom orbs heaved upon a table. There must have been someone else equally enamored with a blue-green mottled squash to dub it "Frankenstein" or to load their child's radio flyer wagon with a speckled squash the size of a toddler. Perhaps another bean ogled their fall porch "decorations" with anticipation, imagining just the moment when Thanksgiving would be over and the knife would fall, splitting those little cuties in two and unearthing their smooth salmon colored flesh. Was I the only one so charmed by the opal, oblong candy roaster squash to buy not one, but two? Maybe someone else eeked away their New Year's frantically roasting seeds and pureeing pounds of pumpkins. Maybe they too peek into their freezer from time to time, marveling at the frozen coral-colored jars and tubs, and wonder just what in the world to do with all that bounty.

Eat it, of course!

I am in the midst of Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is my Green Book Club's book of the month and I'm savoring it, chapter by chapter, like a home baked pumpkin pie. In the book, Kingsolver discusses the Slow Food movement and its effort to convince us to slow down, reconnect with what is on our plate and truly enjoy our food (and the company with whom we share it). Being involved in our food production, whether it be growing backyard veggies, making homemade bread, canning summer's berries for winter's jam, or looking the farmer in the eye who grew our food, imbues the food with the flavor of memories as well as extraordinary taste.

So, to Slow Foodies everywhere, this dish, is for you:

My mom, who is a lifelong winter squash lover and avid recipe collector, saved a beautiful recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Tart from Gourmet magazine a decade ago. It was worth the wait.

The recipe, which has been downloaded to Epicurious here, begins with making pastry dough. Because my kids can't have gluten, I used this recipe for a gluten free tart crust and relied on locally milled flour (thanks for the tip, Married with Dinner). I unearthed the tart pan from the back of my pantry. It still bore the Williams Sonoma sticker on the back, a testament to the use it's received in all the years since we received it as a wedding gift.

Assembling my ingredients, I realized I was out of butter. Not to worry. I am a Slow Food convert, and, more importantly, a reader of Crunchy Chicken. I know how to make butter from local heavy whipping cream, a glass jar and some enthusiastic pint-sized helpers.

After chilling my homemade butter, I made the pastry dough only to realize that it is supposed to rest in the fridge overnight. Not to worry. Did I mention that it's all about the Slow Food these days? Who cares if it takes two days to make a tart? I'm sure it will be worth it. (It was.)

The next day, I once again collected my ingredients. A local onion turned sweet and brown in homemade butter and local olive oil. I substituted puree from the locally grown, green monster that perched on my porch all fall for the butternut squash. The puree mingled with a local egg, local heavy whipping cream, local goat cheese, backyard herbs (thyme, oregano), and non-local Fontina and then the whole mixture found peace in a homemade tart crust. After 40 minutes in the oven, the entire house smelled of autumn. Coming home from school, my five year old opened the door, sniffed quickly and pronounced "something smells go-oood!"

And it was! Did I mention, it was worth the wait?


CindyW said...

Woo, ahhh, the homemade tart looks utterly delicious! One of these days when I meet you in person, I want a slice of that pie :)

Burbanmom said...

I made "Artisan Bread" last weekend that took an entire day of rising and kneading, rising and kneading. During the final knead I added in some fresh roasted garlic and fresh basil, because I can never leave well enough alone.

I misjudged how long all this would take and it didn't even go in the oven until 9:00 pm. Hubby thought I was nuts.

We had it the next night with dinner. It was DA BOMB! I can't wait to make it again! (ooh, wait, can I say that if I'm supposed to be slow? or did I say that because I'm slow?!? It's all so confusing!)

Jennifer said...

YOu are making my mouth water. That sounds FABULOUS. I love onions. And pumpkins. And tarts. YUM!

Anita said...

Sounds like the Giusto's flour tip panned out -- hooray!

That tart sounds delish... and I don't even like squash.

Green Bean said...

Cindy: we are going to meet someday! And I'll save the tart for you - well, maybe. My youngest is eating a slice for breakfast right now! I was thinking you might want to go to Slow Food Nation together - it's in SF in Sept. A long ways away but keep it in the back of your head.

Burbs: Did I mention you rock! Artisian Bread? OMG. I thought I was doing well by using my breadmaker. Hmm, being slow, maybe you should say it was such an enjoyable experience and you hope it takes a week next time to make instead of two days?

Jennifer: It really was good but unfortunately not very helpful in this whole Trim the Fat thing.

Anita: Guisto's all the way. Better yet, my local health food store carried it so I can by my locally milled flour from a locally owned store. Thank you again!

Raw Food Diva said...

homemade butter? my first memory is kindergarten and all us kids sitting in a circle and gettin a turn to shake the jar. After it turned to butter we all got a little bit on a saltine cracker. It was a lesson in where things come from that I have never forgotten.

Green Bean said...

RFD: that is such a great story. My oldest is starting kindergarten next fall and I was thinking what a great project that would be for him there. Nice to know that it has stayed with you all these years!

kale for sale said...

Beautiful! You know it's good when a 5-year old likes it. I too savored Kingsolver's book and wish I could read it again for the first time. Enjoy. I have Anita to thank too for the flour tip and found it at our local health food store - in bulk!

Joan said...

I will confess to having some squash still in my garden windwow left from similar bursts of enthusiasm at the farmer's market. They are so beautiful. It's hard to pass up. So, I am glad to have a new way to use some of it. And it was great to be reminded about the butter-making process. I did that with my students years ago and had forgotten about it. Thank you for a wonderful-sounding recipe.

Blue Collar Crunch said... my mouth is watering. Your pictures look quite tasty! Next time I make bread, I'm going to have to make some homemade butter to go with it.

feral007 said...

I was like Jack and the pumpkin stalks last autumn! I often read about pumpkin pies o/seas, but here we make it into soup - awesome; roast it, mash it, herb and oil it; and just plain boil it add butter and garlic to it! You can never have too many pumpkins. I'm just on a mission to find how to keep them over winter tho as they are not keeping well. Any tips?

Green Bean said...

@feral - Personally, I think the best way to preserve pumpkin is to roast it, puree it and stick it in the freezer - though many winter squash will keep in a cool dark room through January or February. I believe that you can also pressure can chopped pumpkin.


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