You may think cooking with seasonal veggies is a quaint or romantic notion. You may think it will limit your cooking and eating options. You may think it will be uninspired.
I would agree with you on the first two counts, but not the last!
I’m extreme, I know. I challenge my chef-self by using exclusively what is growing in my garden (or stored in the basement or freezer). I don’t buy produce anymore (except lemons and ginger) because the ‘local’ grocery has no local food choices. How boring and environmentally unfriendly!
Besides that, the store’s an hour’s drive from this snow-covered stretch of land.
I’m stuck in the country with my veggies!
Things could be worse.
On this frigid house-bound mid-December day, things are surprisingly good. So what if I can’t hop in my car or walk down the block and pick up exotic food ingredients on a whim?
I’ve got decently stocked cupboards, some stellar raw ingredients and a love of occupying the space by the stove, wine in hand.
This time of year the pickings grow slim. I’ve got some rapini and parsley still alive in the sunroom. The chickens are eating the last shreds of kale in the garden. We have veggies in the freezer, but I don’t want to dip into that store so soon.
Plus, fresh veggies are more fun.
I’ve entertained ideas of making a cookbook. It would feature northern-climate seasonal veggies – ie. what grows here. I’ve devoted specific pages in my handwritten recipe book, compiling recipes for parsnips, rhubarb, potatoes, strawberries…
I think that being limited in my options brings out creativity and a certain curiosity. I enjoy the challenge.
We’ve been storing our collection of squash under Tim’s pottery-making table. He extracted one the other day to show me soft spots blooming, unwelcome polka-dot mold growing.
It’s been just 2 months since we cut their hard, heavy heads from the vine. I thought I cured them properly, following internet instructions to a tee…
Anyway, time to use up the squash!
I made ground-meat-stuffed squash and a loaf of squash bread last week, but the following inspired soup was the best squash-dish of them all.
Squash and Bacon Soup
Everything’s better with bacon, right?
This soup has luscious body and a tinge of maple-sweetness. I pride myself on making really simple recipes and this is one of them! Ok, you might not have duck stock lying around, but I’m sure chicken stock would work just fine.
one medium-sized squash (3-4 pounds)
approximately 6 slices bacon, roughly chopped (4 oz)
one onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 chilli, chopped
1 litre duck stock
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the beast in half and scoop out its pulpy seeds.* Brush a little oil on the cut halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut-sides down on a baking tray and roast for 40 minutes or until soft. Let cool. (You can do this ahead).
Fry bacon in a small pan until crisp. Let drain on paper towels and pour the fat into a small jar – you can use this later for frying eggs (yum!) or whatever else.
Fry the onion in a heavy-bottomed pot in a tablespoon of your bacon fat until it softens. Add the garlic and chile and fry 2 more minutes, stirring as needed.
Pour over the duck stock.
Scrape out the squash flesh and add it to the mix. Don’t throw away the skins – you can eat them! Sprinkle with salt and maple syrup – an excellent cook’s appetizer.
Bring the soup to a boil and let simmer 5 minutes.
Add the bacon, maple syrup, cumin, salt and pepper.
Blend with a hand blender!
Simmer 10 minutes more.
And you’re done!
*I washed a few squash seeds and let them dry on parchment paper to plant next year. Now that’s thinking ahead!