Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Life is What Happens When You Aren't Paying Attention

   Time has a horrid tendency to slip away from me. As I figured it inevitably would, my "life", or whatever you call it, sent me a postcard from the future, saying, "Hey sucker, thanks for the flesh vehicle transport...oh by the way, it's fall!"
    Yes, blog fans, I've lost my entire summer. In between this catch-up posting and my last (in - shock - May!), I've nearly completed a seasonal cooking position, wrote countess recipes for my adoring friends at Fernbrook Farms CSA, spent a lot of time on my hands and knees weeding veggies and rescuing my own garden from squirrels, collected dozens of our own fresh eggs, and , alas, gotten absolutely NOWHERE on my writing projects. Including this, my neglected, deprived, dust-bunny-collecting little blog site.
  Blog, I sincerely apologize. But, I'm back now!

So much has happened while I was occupied...my little angel, the muse for my cookbook, has started first grade (!) and is losing her first tooth (double !!). Our wee chicks are now nearly full-grown hens, and are reliably laying fine brown eggs, while their brother found a breeding home in upstate NY. The monsoon season of late spring/early summer led to a long, dry spell of late...whod'a thunk it - to the point where I actually HAD to water my plants; although the moist start gave my lemongrass and Thai roselle a jump on life, and they look fabulous! And the vegetables, oh the vegetables...they are fat, delicious and forthcoming, courtesy of our workshare at the farm. More veggies than I know what to do with. My crisper drawer and freezer are vomiting green things.
   Note to self: Invest in chest freezer.
As I look out now, to my surprise, the leaves have already begun to drift earthbound, and I realize that November is a mere few days away...my favorite season, laden with winter squash, apple picking, and warm fires, hot cocoa in hand, chicken stock bubbling merrily away on the stove, intoxicating the whole house with its bone-sticking perfume. These are the days of the year I look most forward to, and spend the rest of the year dreaming about. Fall is a truly dreamy season. The colors spring forth out of paintings. The temperature is perfect for light sweaters and open windows. The sun dapples through amber branches onto still-green lawns, and sets at a reasonable hour in time for after-dinner viewing from the front porch. The earth smells of green hay, smoldering leaves, and apple pie, cold soil and the promise of next year's spring garden. Which I have already begun  - shallots and garlic are in the earth, mulched and prepped for a snowy slumber.
   Yesterday morning, I plucked the last of the year's plum tomatoes from my singularly surviving plant, and what looks to be the last butternut squash from my "surprise" vine that exploded out of a compost pile and grew into the neighbor's yard....seems I grow better things when I don't try so hard! Looking forth to warm, rib-sticking foods and crusty sweet pies, I want to share this recipe with you, so that you might also enjoy the beginning of the season in one sweet, succulent bite (or several, depending on your mood!). Enjoy!



Acorn Squash Crostata (makes 2)

Ingredients:
2 ½ c. white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur)
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. granulated sugar
2 sticks plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter (18 tbsp.), cut into small cubes and kept very cold
1/3 c. ice water
2 small or 1 large acorn squash, washed
¼ c. heavy cream
½ c. brown sugar
Turbinado sugar, for garnish

Method:
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, allspice, sugar and salt to combine. Add in the cold butter cubes. Pulse for 10 seconds to form a coarse meal. With machine running, drizzle in the ice water until the dough just comes together, about 10 seconds more. Turn out onto the counter and knead in any remaining flour, forming a large ball. Flatten into a wide thick circle, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the sides of the squash off into large pieces (4 per squash) and remove any clinging membrane and seeds. With a sharp, heavy knife, thinly slice the chunks 1/8 to ¼ inch thick, stacking the slices in order to keep them together. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Divide the chilled dough in half; keep one refrigerated while working with the first. On a floured board, roll the dough into a large circle about ¼ inch thick; transfer onto a baking sheet. Brush the middle of the dough with heavy cream thickly, roughly in the shape and size of the pie you want. Spread with half of the brown sugar. Working in order, use the largest acorn squash slices first and begin to shingle the in a pie shape atop the cream and sugar, from the outside in, overlapping slices to cover all of the bottom. Use a small piece to finish the center. Fold the outer edges of dough in and around the squash to form a crust, pinching together with your fingers (crostata are very rustic pies, so don’t worry about perfection!).

Keep the crostata cold in the fridge while you repeat with the second dough ball.

Before baking, brush the edges with remaining cream, and sprinkle the tops and edges with turbinado sugar. Bake at 400 degrees until the crust is deep golden and crispy, and the squash is tender and browning, about 20-30 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly, and serve warm with ice cream or at room temperature.