Fall squash and how to squish it

At harvest time, the season of Thanksgiving and Halloween, one of the mainstays in our kitchen is squash, of which the popular pumpkin is just one variety. Native to North America, pumpkin and many other varieties of squash were introduced to European settlers by the aboriginal peoples of the Americas. “If it were not for pumpkins, we’d be undone soon,” said an early North American colonist in his 1693 diary, highlighting the importance of these native squash to early settlers. Catherine Parr Traill also describes planting squash near her homestead, close to what is now Lakefield, Ontario, in the mid-1800s.

The numerous varieties of squash can be divided into two main categories: summer squash, which has a soft skin and includes zucchini and crookneck, patty pan, and yellow squash; and winter squash, which has a harder rind and includes acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard, pumpkin, sweet dumpling, and spaghetti squash.

Both types of squash have a high nutritional value, providing us with carotenoids (an antioxidant) and vitamin C, as well as potassium, niacin, calcium, iron, and fibre. Winter squash and other deep orange vegetables are especially high in beta-carotene, the source of vitamin A.

Cooking with Squash

Squash and pumpkin are among my favourite vegetables to cook with. Beyond all their nutritional goodness, they seem to contain the golden warmth of the sun in their beautiful green and autumnal orange shades, and all the sweetness of the earth in their bountiful pulp. They are a flavour sensation no matter how simply or extravagantly one prepares them, and their versatility is a bonus.

Many of the winter squashes can be used interchangeably, although each has its own particular strengths. Squash is a tasty addition to a stir-fry, soup, stew, or as a side dish baked or sautéed in a little butter or olive oil, its sweetness offsetting some of the other autumn vegetables. Because of this sweetness, squash can be used in both savoury and dessert dishes such as the classic pumpkin pie. Other desserts include butternut pie, zucchini bread, and pumpkin loaf.

I recommend using organic squash in your recipes. Squash can be stored in a cool, dry place such as a garage or porch for up to six months. Ideal temperature is 5 to 10 Celsius.

Baked squash

Cut squash in half, and scoop out seeds and stringy bits. Brush the surface of the flesh with melted butter or olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange cut side down in a baking dish and add water to a depth of about a quarter inch. Bake in a preheated oven at 375*F for 30 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the squash.

Variation: after 20 to 30 minutes, stand the squash upright and brush with more melted butter or olive oil, salt, and pepper. Brush with maple syrup and nutmeg and continue cooking.

Baked spaghetti squash

Bake squash as described above. When cooked (make sure it is tender and soft), scoop the flesh out of the skin and mix it together with a little extra butter, freshly grated cheese (parmesan, swiss, or cheddar), minced parsley, basil, coriander, or dill for garnish, and salt and pepper to taste. For those who do not eat cheese, it is just as tasty without it.

Stuffed squash

Bake squash as described above. Scoop the flesh out and saute it in a bit of butter and add diced vegetables such as onion, carrots, beans, peas, or broccoli. You can also add cubed apples or raisings, breadcrumbs, or grated cheese or quark if you like. Then fill the skin with the prepared squash mixture.

Variation: pre-cook a grain such as rice, quinoa, or couscous, and when the vegetables are cooked, add the grain to the veggie mixture in a little butter (which adds a nice flavour to the grain). Fill the squash. You can also bake it again to brown the top.

Squash and carrot soup

1 large onion
3­–5 medium to large carrots
1 medium-sized squash
2–3 cups water or soup stock
thyme, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper to taste
garlic (optional)
apple (optional)

Sauté onion in butter or olive oil. Peel and chop squash into large cubes. Cut carrots into large pieces and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes. Add enough water or stock to just barely cover the vegetables (don’t put in too much liquid or the soup will be runny instead of thick). Add peeled and cored apple or peeled and mashed garlic if using. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Serve with a garnish of fresh herbs.

Submitted by Karen Fliess

First published in The Chronicle (Fall 2003)

Meals on a budget: a day in the life

 

The challenge: to produce healthy meals on a tight budget, using all-Karma ingredients

Breakfast: super morning oats

Total cost per serving: $1.38
Prep. time: 12 minutes
Ingredients (for one serving):

½ cup bulk organic rolled oats — $0.16
Small handful of bulk organic nuts/seeds (e.g. walnuts, filberts, pumpkin seeds) — $0.57
Small handful of bulk organic black currants — $0.15
Drizzle of bulk Temple’s Sugar Bush maple syrup — $0.20
Sprinkle of bulk ground cinnamon — $0.05
Splash of milk (of your choice — ours is Hewitt’s goat milk) or yogurt — $0.25

Directions:

1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add oats, smallest pinch of salt. Stir. Reduce to medium heat.
2. Immediately add the nuts/seeds and currants. Stir.
3. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the syrup, cinnamon, and milk/yogurt.

Lunch: Karma-style instant ramen noodle soup

Total cost per serving: $4.07 with kimchi ($3.82 without)
Prep. time: 8 min.

Ingredients (for one serving):

1 package Lotus Foods Jade Green Ramen — $2.49
1 small bok choy (or ½ large bok choy) — $0.75
1 Homestead free-range egg — $0.58
(optional) 1 tbsp. Ontario Natural Food Co-op Organic Kimchi Style Sauerkraut — $0.25

Directions:

1. Follow directions on package to make ramen.
2. While ramen noodles are cooking, boil the egg in a separate pot until medium soft.
3. Break apart bok choy and slice leaves lengthwise. Add to water when ramen noodles are halfway done.
4. Serve in your favourite soup bowl. Add boiled egg and (optional) kimchi.

Dinner: fish on kale and squash

Total cost per serving: $5.23
Prep. time: 50 min.

Ingredients (for four servings):

1 Kabocha squash or 2 small acorn squash — $3.00
1 bunch organic kale — $3.50
2 small portions frozen wild caught salmon — $13.14
Zest of 1 lemon — $0.50
Sprinkle of dill — $0.15
(optional) 1-2 tsp. coconut sugar or maple syrup — $0.10
Olive oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Chop squash in half. Drizzle olive oil inside squash and on pan. Place halves upside down on pan. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove cooked squash from skin and mash with a fork. Add optional toppings.
3. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Blanche chopped kale in water for 3–4 minutes. Remove kale and rinse under cold water.
4. Place thawed fish in a pan with a little olive oil. Cook fish on low-medium heat with lid on. Add lemon zest and sprinkle dill to taste. When internal temp is 70°C (158°F), it’s ready. Cut each cooked portion of fish in half. Check for bones.
5. First plate the squash, and then the kale, and lastly place the fish on top. It looks pretty and tastes good!

by Kate Tessier

First published in The Chronicle (Spring 2016)

Dilly Garlic Popcorn

Adapted from Thug Kitchen Recipe Book (appeared in the summer 2016 The Chronicle)

I am a huge fan of potato chip type snacks but never seem to have a bag around just when I need them most. This popcorn recipe can be whipped up faster than I can run out to grab something, and is probably more delicious than anything I could have gotten. Plus it is extremely cheap, organic, and there is no chip bag garbage. Why? Because all the ingredients can be bought in bulk from Karma!

This summer snack goes well with other fun and cheap/free things such as watching outdoor summer movies or a baseball game at Christie Pits. Movies play every Sunday night this summer from June 26 to August 28 and are PWYC (for more info go to www.christiepitsff.com) and the Intercounty Baseball League Team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, have home games every Sunday at 2:00 pm from May 22 to July 31 for free (for more info go to mapleleafsbaseball.com).

Herb topping

Makes 10-15 popcorn batches. Make ahead of time and keep in a jar with your spices.

1/2 cup nutritional yeast (~ $0.40)

1/4 cup each of dried dill, basil, and garlic powder (~ $2.25)

2 tsp. salt

Popcorn

Makes about 7 cups. Make per serving or keep in a container for a few days.

1 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil (~ $0.20)

1/2 popcorn kernels (~ $0.40)

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (~ $0.40)

Total cost for each batch is ~ $1.25

• Heat sunflower oil and add kernels when hot (you can put a few kernels in at the beginning; when they pop, it is ready!)

by Morgan Johnson

Sourdough banana muffins

Last fall, I attended one of Burns Wattie’s sourdough workshops at Karma, a terrific introduction to this ancient practice. Sadly, I waited too long to start baking and lost the starter (sorry, Burns!), but happily, someone on the Chronicle Committee shared her starter with me so I could try again (thanks, Morgan!).

I’ll be honest, it’s been a bumpy path. Apparently I’m not very good at following instructions – I haven’t managed to produce wonderful loaves of bread consistently, and the timing of the different steps keeps tripping me up. But the more I read about the human microbiome, fermented foods, and concerns with modern wheat flour, the more determined I am to master this skill.

If you have sourdough starter, you know you have to feed it regularly to keep it alive, tripling the volume each time. That means using it up by baking regularly or discarding quantities of starter. Fortunately, I found this muffin recipe online at Cultures for Health; it uses a cup of starter at a time and I find it much simpler and faster than making bread. Even better, my patient family members, who loyally eat the bread, love these muffins!

(This recipe is from www.culturesforhealth.com, except for my asterisked comment.)

1 cup sourdough starter

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup mashed bananas*

1 egg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

*I liberally substitute ingredients in everything I cook… feel free to use a cup of yogurt, sour cream, or sour milk (or fresh milk with a splash of apple cider vinegar) if you don’t have bananas. You can also add up to a cup of berries, rhubarb, diced apple or pear, or practically any fruits, seeds, or nuts – be creative!

Instructions

At least 12 hours before you wish to bake them, combine sourdough starter and flour. It will make a very thick dough, so do not be alarmed. Cover and place in a warm spot to culture for 12 – 24 hours.

After 12 – 24 hours, preheat oven to 375°F. Combine sugar, banana, and egg in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the cultured dough. Gradually add the liquid ingredients, stirring just to combine.Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. Bake at 375°F for 18 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

by Amy Stein

First published in the The Chronicle (Summer 2016 )