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Winter Squash

 

The change of seasons is upon us here in British Columbia, and that means new autumnal vegetables are taking the place of summer’s harvest. Where we once had beautiful, soft-skinned zucchini’s, we now have large, hard-skinned winter squash. Winter squash are varieties of squash that have different looks and flavours, but they are all very healthy for you. Check out your local farmer’s market this week to pick up some winter squash. They make for great side dishes, as well as soups, and provide a pleasant autumn aesthetic to any kitchen.

Winter squash varieties that have a sweeter flavour are red kabocha, butternut, sweet dumpling, and blue hubbard squash. Mild flavoured winter squash varieties are buttercup, acorn, and spaghetti squash. Squash with more earthy flavours are kabocha (green), delicata, and red kuri squash. Red kuri has a chestnut-like flavour.

Squash are a very healthy food. They are an excellent source of vitamin A. They are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and manganese. They are a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, tryptophan, and various B vitamins. They are also low in calories.

You can bake the flesh of the squash to make a delicious and hearty side dish. It is also quite easy to prepare. You preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As a helpful hint, put the whole squash in the preheating oven for about 7 minutes to soften the gourd, making it easier to cut the squash. Once you remove the squash from the oven, using a towel because it will be hot, you cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and pulp with a large metal spoon. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush with one tablespoon of canola oil and sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Place the squash on the parchment paper, flesh-side down. Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the squash over and put back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the flesh is soft. When you turn the squash over, it is optional to add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar to the flesh-side to sweeten the squash.

Like pumpkin seeds, you can roast winter squash seeds to make a delicious and healthy snack. Simply place the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes.

Squash can be kept through the winter if certain conditions are met. For one, you must buy a near-perfect squash. This means the squash has no bumps or bruises, and the stem is still attached. They store best in dry air. They do not like cold or damp conditions. If stored correctly, most squashes will survive into the spring.

If you are in Vancouver and looking to eat some squash, you have a couple of options. East is East has two locations, one on West Broadway and another on Main Street. They serve a sambar (butternut) squash soup. Bandidas Taqueria on Commercial Drive has many squash options, including the “Stella”, “Dani’s” enchilada, and “Sophie’s Poblano.” Try either of these restaurants for delicious squash options, or, better yet, buy some local squash from the farmer’s market and try experimenting in the kitchen with this delicious autumn crop.

 

Websites consulted for this article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_squash

http://www.epicurious.com/archive/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/visual-guide-winter-squash

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63#nutritionalprofile

http://www.eastiseast.ca/index.html

http://www.bandidastaqueria.com/index.htm

http://www.almanac.com/blog/celestes-garden/winter-squash

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Corn

 

Corn is ready to be harvested through summer and into autumn. It can be found at local farmer’s markets across British Columbia. Corn is delicious and healthy, and it has quite a history within our shared culture. Try buying corn now from the farmer’s market and freezing it so you can have the taste of summer corn all year round. It makes as a great side dish when combined with zucchini in a sauté.

Corn is a staple in nearly all diets across the world. It has a long history of being eaten by the Native Americans, and the first record of sweet corn comes from 1779 when the Iroquois gave the vegetable to the European settlers. Sweet corn, the type we usually eat off the cob, helps increase our bodies level of ferulic acid, which has cancer-fighting properties. Sweet corn is picked while still immature, in its milk phase, unlike other field corns that mature into the dent stage where they become dry. To tell if a piece of sweet corn is really fresh, simply pop one of the kernels. If the juices come spraying out, that is the sign of truly fresh sweet corn.

Unfortunately, once corn is picked, it has a very short window of freshness. However, corn freezes very well and you can easily freeze the corn you buy at the farmer’s market. It only takes a couple hours and, if you make enough, it will provide you with that sweet, fresh flavour of summer corn all through the winter. All you have to do is bring a pot of water to boil on the stove and put six ears of corn into the boiling water for three minutes. Fill a large stainless steel mixing bowl with water and ice (about 10 cubes). When the corn is done, move it from the boiling water to the ice water. Once the corn has cooled, cut the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife. Take the kernels and place them into freezer bags. Try to get as much air out of the bag as you can, and then put the corn into the freezer. Simple as that! Repeat these steps until you have as much corn as you want to save.

A fantastic side dish that is worth trying to make is the corn and zucchini sauté. This recipe is simple to moderate in difficulty, but worth the challenge for its unique taste and its rarity as a side dish. It is not commonly seen, but works with nearly any main course. The recipe is as follows:

 

Corn and Zucchini Sauté

2 tablespoons butter

1-tablespoon olive oil

1½ cups small-diced sweet onion

1-teaspoon kosher salt

1¼ cups small-diced zucchini

2 heaping cups of fresh corn kernels (cut off the cob)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1-teaspoon ground cumin

1-teaspoon ground coriander

2-3 tablespoons fresh mint

¼ lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are light golden and shrunken, another 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and the zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is slightly shrunken and almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add the corn, garlic, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until the corn is tender but still slightly toothy to bite, 3 to 4 minutes. (It will begin to intensify in colour, glisten, and be somewhat shrunken in size, and the bottom of the pan may be slightly brown.) Add the cumin and coriander and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the mint, a good squeeze of lemon, and a few generous grinds of pepper. Stir, let sit 2 minutes, and stir again, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, or lemon. Serve warm.

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Corn and zucchini sauté recipe adapted from the Summer 2015 Cookfresh magazine (page 88)

Corn freezing technique adapted from the Old Farmer’s Almanac blog, “Celeste in the Garden” (http://www.almanac.com/blog/celestes-garden/garden-celeste-freezing-corn)

Additional information found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_corn

Recipes Share Your Ideas!

Beets

 

Beets are a polarizing vegetable. Many love the red root, while others despise its existence. If you are in the second category, I must suggest that you reconsider. When beets are in season in British Columbia, as they are now, they can make refreshing salads and delicious side dishes. They are also extremely good for your health. Beets can grow into the winter, making them a resilient crop that will continue to be fresh while other vegetables slowly end their growing season.

Beets are a very good source of folate and manganese. Folate, also known as folic acid, helps make and repair your DNA. Folic acid also helps in aiding rapid cell division and growth, most needed during pregnancy and infancy. Folate is also necessary in producing healthy red blood cells. Manganese has a detoxifying effect on the body. It is an important element in our development and metabolism, and in our antioxidant system. With these benefits, it becomes evident that eating beets helps keep your body healthy. It is also worth noting that beet greens, located on top of the beetroot, are actually more nutritious than the beetroot itself. Beet greens are a source of fiber, potassium, iron, vitamins A and C, and various minerals.

Through the winter’s frost beets will grow. In fact, they can continue to grow in almost freezing temperatures. In World War II, one Russian city survived Nazi-occupation by eating beets, as they were the only crop that would grow during this harsh time.

To store beets, you can freeze, can, or pickle them. However, as with nearly all food, beets are best when they are fresh. What follows is Mama Friesen’s beet salad recipe. This recipe is a delicious side dish that has a beautiful presentation and can compliment nearly any meal. Try it at your next dinner party or family gathering.

Mama Friesen’s Beet Salad

Salad

5 medium-sized beets

1 package goat cheese (flavoured or not)

½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds

½ cup cherry tomatoes

¼ – ½ cup fresh dill

Greens (preferably Asian greens, arugula, spring greens,

or a combination of the three)

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Dressing

½ cup balsamic crema (thick balsamic vinegar)

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

 

To roast your pumpkin seeds: Put the seeds in an 8-inch square-baking pan. Toast the seeds on bake at 325 Fahrenheit for approximately 10 minutes or until the seeds are lightly browned.

To roast your beets: Put the beets in aluminum foil as they are (skin on and everything). Drizzle some olive oil and crack some salt and pepper onto the beets. Close the foil around the beets. Roast in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit, for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your beets. Poke with a fork to check if they are tender.

Remove the beets from the oven and let them sit until they are cool enough to handle. Then, cut the roots off and peel the beet. Slice your beets into rounds.

On a large platter, spread your greens to form a bed for your beets. Layer your sliced beets on top of the greens. Crumble the goat cheese onto the top of your beets. Then, sprinkle over your toasted pumpkin seeds. Scatter the tomatoes on top of that. Chop your fresh dill over all.

Combine all your dressing ingredients together. Whisk and pour over the salad.

 

(This recipe was adapted from White Water Cooks At Home by Shelley Adams)

Websites consulted for this article:

http://www.healthy-beets.com/beet-greens.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beetroot

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folic_acid

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manganese

http://www.almanac.com/plant/beets

http://www.almanac.com/blog/celestes-garden/growing-beets-backyard-garden