arrived last Thursday with its bounty of fruits and vegetables in their glorious
array of colors and textures. Farmer's market bins overflow with winter squash
in more shapes and colors every year. Besides the traditional acorn, butternut
and Hubbard squash varieties, we now see the carnival squash shaped like
the acorn but with green-stippled orange and cream stripes; delicata, a
small, cream and green striped squash with sweet, buttery flesh; and from Japan,
the bright orange or dark green kuri squash, firm and dry like a sweet
One of the many ancient food treasures the Americas
gave to the world, squash have been eaten for more than 10,000 years. They were
cultivated first for their seeds, which are a good source of protein, essential
minerals and monounsaturated fats, but the flesh was thin and unpalatable.
indigenous farmers in Central America developed the first thick-fleshed, mellow
squash we enjoy today, its cultivation and improvement spread across the Americas.
The "three sisters" of Native American agriculture: squash, corn and
beans became the staples of a high quality, nutrient-rich diet for centuries.
Spanish and Portuguese explorers carried squash and other
indigenous foods around the world where farmers developed even tastier varieties
that now come back to America. (In later columns we will delve deeper into the
contributions of America's Indian agriculture to our daily food.)
always stock up on winter squash during peak season. They are decorative as well
as delicious and last all winter if stored in a dry place at between 50 and 60
degrees. A large basket of colorful assorted squash and a pot of chrysanthemums
now adorn the entry hall in my house and delights me every time I come and go.
As for eating squash, I've tried most of them and always come
back to the butternut, my favorite, and, I discovered, the most nutritious of
the varieties I could find values for. Their light tan skin conceals a bright
orange meat that packs a nutritional wallop. One cup, baked in the skin, contains
12,000 International Units of Vitamin A, 1,200 milligrams of potassium, a host
of other important nutrients, only 2 milligrams of sodium and less than 100 calories.
And stay tuned. Scientists are just beginning to discover the effects of some
of the phytonutrients in squash on promoting health and preventing disease.
are a great way to enjoy squash: aromatic, beautiful and comforting against autumn
frosts and winter blues. These two fall soups: Harvest Vegetable Soup and Squash
and Apple Soup feature squash which adds sweetness and body to the mixture.
Vegetable Soup (Serves 6)
This is a basic soup recipe that easily adapts
to seasonal ingredients. You can vary the amounts and ratios of various types
of vegetables and herbs depending on what's at the market or simply what you have
on hand. Try sweet potatoes instead of squash; leeks for onions, or add slices
of fresh okra. This is a no-fail recipe. Whatever you do, the ingredients will
blend into a rich savory-sweet brew that will satisfy you down to your toes
tablespoons oil (extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed safflower or sunflower oil)
cups onions, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic,
2 cups squash (butternut or kuri hold their shape in soup)
cut in 1-inch chunks
1 large bay leaf
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup red or white dry wine
3 large ears sweet corn, cut off
1 medium potato, cut in 1-inch cubes
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 4 to
6-inch sprigs, each of fresh basil, thyme, oregano and parsley.
1 cup green
beans, cut in 2-inch lengths
2 teaspoons each fresh thyme, basil and parsley,
1 cup greens, coarsely chopped spinach or Swiss chard.
a large heavy soup pot, sauté over medium-high heat the onions, celery
and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add the bay leaf, broth, tomato juice,
wine, corn, potatoes, salt and herb sprigs.
Bring to the boil then cook
on medium heat 20 to 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add minced herbs
and green beans and cook 10 minutes or until they are just tender. Add spinach
and cook until greens are barely tender. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Remove
whole herb sprigs before serving.
and Apple Soup
My son's wife, Tara, introduced me to this delectable soup
Mountain Harvest Cookbook (Doubleday and Co., 1985) written by her friend
Roberta Sickler. It's become a fall and winter staple in our family. I use it
here with Roberta's blessing.
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 apples, peeled and
6 cups vegetable broth
4 cups diced [peeled] butternut squash
teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 t dried rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly
few grinds of black pepper
1 cup fresh apple cider
cup heavy cream [or half and half] [optional]
the butter in a heavy soup pot and cook the onions, celery, and apples still soft,
about 5 minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and simmer 10 minutes. Add the
butternut squash and seasonings and simmer until tender, about another 15 minutes.
most of the vegetables and broth in a blender. Leave a little at the bottom of
the pot unpureed, for texture. Return the pureed mixture to the pot together with
the cider and cream. Stir well and cook gently until just heated through. [Avoid
boiling to prevent curdling.]
I wrote this, I thought about the old Franklin Cider Mill. We used to make an
outing there at least once every fall to watch the old fashioned cider pressing,
taste the cold, tart-sweet nectar fresh from the press and carry home a gallon
or two-one to drink right away and one to let ferment a while for some fizz and
tang. I'm pleased that the Mill is going stronger than ever and that people are
still flocking there from miles around. While they don't have their own website,
(in fact, water-powered since 1832, the cider mill doesn't have any electronic
equipment) it's become such a popular destination, there are no shortage of other
which feature the Mill with contact information and maps.
Makes 12 muffins. These are a great accompaniment to any
1 cup unbleached flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk (I like to use buttermilk for a moister texture. Reduce baking
power to 2 teaspoons and add 1 teaspoon baking soda)
1 large egg
1 cup uncooked corn kernels
thoroughly the flour, cornmeal, baking powder (baking soda) and salt in a large
mixing bowl. In another bowl beat together the milk, egg and melted butter. Add
corn, then stir into the dry ingredients until barely moistened. Fill well-greased
or paper-lined muffin tins and bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20 to 25
Call in friends and family, put the soup in a tureen on the table,
pull the muffins from the oven, gather round the table and give a toast to good
company and good food. - Rima
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