For our demonstration and tasting we had eight different types of winter squash. We had an uncooked squash, a baked squash and the toasted seeds of each variety so that our guests could see and sample the attributes of each one. Margie McDonald described the origin, growing patterns and taste characteristics of each squash as we served a slice of the squash being discussed with a little taste of local cheddar cheese to accompany.
Many of us know butternut, spaghetti and delicata squash – but for the most part Americans under utilize winter squash. Winter squash has a rich history – in Native American folklore, winter squash was one of the “three sisters,” along with corn and beans. These were cornerstones of the food chain for the tribes because they could stay nutritionally healthy on these three food types when hunting and gathering times were hard.
This is one of the reasons that we felt it would be helpful for our guests to have the opportunity to see, touch and taste some new varieties. We had some cooking techniques to share, but we really tried to create a brainstorming environment to see what came to mind for each of us as we experienced the variety. The Galeux d’Eysines, pictured above with One-eyed Jack, is a beautiful French heirloom squash with a salmon colored skin and richly textured with bumps and warts. It has a very sweet, firm orange flesh and the seeds are fatter and have more meat than a pumpkin seed. One reason you see fewer of some of the heirloom squash is because the vines may only produce two or three squash per vine. The Galeux d’Eysines can range from 5 to 12 pounds.
Marina di’ Chioggia Pumpkin literally means Sea Pumpkin from Chioggia. Chioggia is a town in the province of Venice and is known for these rustic, large turban-shaped blue-green fruits. Their pebbled skin indicates maturity and inside you find a sweet orange flesh desirable for baking or even grilled and brushed with olive oil and rosemary. In the photo below Margie is holding one up so that you can see the turban hat bottom.
Another favorite was the Blue Ballet, which is like a smaller version of the Blue Hubbard Squash. One-eyed Jack is holding one up below for your viewing pleasure. The beauty of the Blue Ballet is that the flesh is firm and less fibrous than some of the other squash so it can be used raw for baking. You could either grate it or dice it finely to use in a recipe that might normally use apples or pears. There is a nice recipe for a Blue Ballet Honey Drizzle Cake from the Domestic Goddess in Training blog that you might want to try. It’s metric – so be glad for all the nutrients in winter squash that will help your brain function well enough to do the conversion. I love Blue Ballet simply baked with nothing added. I also recommend this grilled with a little butter and finish by drizzling some agave nectar over the slices and then top with toasted pine nuts.
Okay, so I’m feeling overly squashed now and I promise to share more squash secrets later, but I do want to tell you about the grand finale of my gig at the Point Reyes Farmers Market. In order to highlight our end of the season fundraiser, a silent auction of “Apple Art” created by area artists on 5″ x 5″ canvases, I grilled two types of apples and served them with Point Reyes Blue Cheese crumbles. But – what was really cool was my outfit! I have a beautiful apple green long silk shirt from my Aunt Gladys that I wore under my amazing eye-popping red & green apple apron. It was not slimming, but while my therapist is on sabbatical I’m in no position to continue processing the meaning of my mid-life weight gain. Although I think the fact that I was willing to look like a ginormous apple woman without a second thought means I’m appropriately focused on my success in the food chain of fame. You have to work with what you’ve got – right now I could totally survive a snake or gator bite or a famine – and I can still climb a tree faster than you can say “drizzle more butter on those grilling apples!”
I love this pale apple by Heather Pratt, but then again, all of the apple portraits are uniquely appealing.
The painting below is by Max Hurwitz – you can bid on all of these great pieces of art at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s from 9a-1pm at Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reye’s Station. It all culminates with our Harvest Dinner at Toby’s on Saturday, November 14th at 6pm.
Thank you Max for reminding us all that there is a place for everyone and every critter on the Food Chain!!!