Happy 2012 everyone!
I’m sorry I’ve been out of commission lately. It appears as though some little cyberbeast decided to take up residence in my computer and now that it’s fixed, I can get back to business. Luckily, I only have to trade foodstuffs for top-notch tech work and with lots of time on my hands right now, I can cook up a storm (thank you Fletch)!
Yes, again. Shut up.
We had a wonderful night and Thomas got to experience ‘hibachi’ for the first time. If you could have seen his eyes when our chef made a flaming volcano out of a stack of onion rings! The Boy tried everything but didn’t eat much. I figured he must have eaten a big lunch at school, or that someone had brought in holiday cupcakes to share, since this was Dec 21. Then he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Mommy, I’m not really full, I just don’t care for the spices they use and I’m trying to be polite.”
It took all my energy to keep my composure. I nearly fell over trying to stifle the laughter! It was so sweet, though. We’d had a discussion a few days earlier when I told him where I’d like to take him for my special birthday dinner. I told him that I think he’ll like the tofu and fried rice and vegetables. He panicked, nearly to tears.
“I’ll never find ANYTHING I can eat and I’ll have to go HUNGRY!”
You see, despite my vast culinary portfolio, my child has a decidedly simple palate. He doesn’t like his pasta sauced, no cheese, no tomatoes, no pepper – GOD, NO! NO PEPPER! He doesn’t like his mac and cheese too cheesy, but it has to be cheesy enough with the right TYPE of cheese.
Let’s just say meals used to be trying at times. He is a little better when he helps me cook or he picks things right from the farm himself. I’ve discovered over the years that it’s just easier to separate his food before I make a sauce or combine food items. My little oddity likes things compartmentalized – he’ll eat all the fish first, then move on to the broccoli, then finish up with the rice.
I don’t get it. But to keep the peace, and really, his quirks aren’t ruining my dinner, I cut him some slack. But I did remind him that it is MY birthday and MY special dinner and sometimes we need to suck it up and do things that we don’t like. It’s what you do when you love someone, and boy does he love his mama!
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This is the time in our growing season when nearly everything is out of the ground and in storage. We’ve picked what we can store or sell and whatever is left in the fields is chopped up and turned into the ground to nourish the soil.
Ordinarily we’d offer a winter CSA (you buy a ‘share’ of the farm’s harvest and get a box of veggies every week – and it’s awesome! Email me for info re: our summer 2012 CSA) and we’d have our greenhouses heated with gorgeous green veggies growing inside their warm, moist home, but the flooding in August and September pretty much wiped us out. We’re crossing our fingers and planning on 2012 being a better year.
Eating ‘local’ is a growing trend (we farmers thank you!!!) and I know so many of you value and try to live that philosophy. Living in the Northeast, it’s not always easy. Since most of the local crops that are available right now in NY is root vegetables and storage crops, chances are your standard midday meal is a sandwich made with cardboard-y supermarket tomatoes, non-local lettuce and deli meats or cheeses.
Not this one!!! Not the Butternut Squash Grinder!
This hearty and flavorful sandwich could also be called a ‘sub’ or a ‘hoagie’. Why did I choose ‘grinder’? Grinder sounds a tad naughty… and I like naughty. As an added bonus, this grinder is vegetarian (not vegan, unless you substitute something for the cheese) but will satisfy even the staunchest carnivore in your life.
In this season of new beginnings and start-overs and resolutions to take care of one’s self, fried foods are a bit naughty, too. So are carbs…. But I urge you to try this anyway. You don’t HAVE to fry the squash, either. You can bake it. Spritzed with oil and baked on a Silpat-lined baking sheet, the squash will bake up nice and crispy. I’ve cooked zucchini sticks and eggplant slabs the same way and they’re all great. You can also use a baguette made with healthy whole grains. This one was multigrain and the seeds and things in it were a nice addition to the texture of the sandwich.
If you’re questioning this use of winter squash, please, suspend disbelief and just try it. If you like fried breaded eggplant (and honestly, who DOESN’T?), you will love fried butternut squash. The squash is actually sweeter and more kid friendly!
My dad has been making this for years as a side dish – and sometimes a full meal if he feels like it. He even fries the squash then freezes the discs for reheating and recrisping later on when he’s short of time (which is always because the man works from early morning to well after dark most days).
And if it’s good enough for hard-working Farmer Sonny, chances are it’s good enough for the eaters in your life too!
Butternut Squash Grinder
You decide on amounts — no recipe really, just suggestions! If you’re feeding a crowd, have a plate of each item set up and guests can assemble their own sandwiches.
Sliced butternut squash, breaded and fried/baked
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Roasted sweet red (or yellow or orange) peppers
EVOO, Balsamic Vinegar, Salt and Pepper
Hearty baguette or ‘peasant’-type bread
Char a sweet bell pepper over a gas flame, your barbecue grill or broil in oven until blackened. BE CAREFUL whichever method you choose! (I’m a mother, I can’t help it…)
Place the charred pepper(s) in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let this sit for 15-30 minutes or until the pepper(s) are cool enough to handle safely. The pepper will continue to steam and the skin will be easier to remove.
Peel off most the blackened pepper skin. Sometimes I use a paper towel to facilitate. Slice peppers into strips about the width of your sandwich roll. Yes, you can use jarred roasted peppers, but make sure they aren’t pickled in vinegar.
While the peppers are cooling, prepare the butternut squash. Peel the top half of a butternut squash. Slice it about 1/4″ thick and set aside. Have ready your ‘breading assembly line’: flour, beaten eggs and seasoned (salt, pepper, garlic powder) breadcrumbs.
I tend to use a finer crumb here since it sticks nicely. I typically make my own bread crumbs and sift them a bit to separate coarse and fine crumbs. The coarse crumbs are great for topping macaroni and cheese (with exactly the right type and amount of cheese, of course!)
Bread and fry the squash slices: dip into flour and tap off excess, dip into egg and let it drip off so you’re not dragging a ton of egg into your bread crumbs, then coat with bread crumbs. Fry (or bake) in oiled non-stick pan until golden and tender all the way through.
Now it’s just assembly that stands between you and scrumptious squash delight. Slice thru the baguette lengthwise and drizzle with a good-tasting extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Top that with a layer of squash slices… Make it as thick as you like. Men-folk (always the critics, aren’t they?) told me I could have put more squash. Must be the big mouths 😉
Put a few slices of fresh mozzarella cheese on top of the squash.
Layer on some roasted red pepper slices (yellow, orange, red… whatever! Make it pretty!)
Put a nice layer of peppery arugula leaves on top of the pile, then close ‘er up and dive in. The squash can be warm or room temperature when you assemble the sandwich. You can also bake or fry the squash in advance and reheat in a skillet or in the oven.