Before I tell my farm visit tale, I want to let you know Homestead Gardens is holding a Farmers Market Holiday Outpost every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Food products—not crafts or greenery—are being sold from local producers. I'll have the luscious Chape Creamery and Chery Glen cheeses plus Chesapeake Fields delectable snack, which is also extremely healthy (but you can keep that a secret.) Bonaparte Breads is also there with irresistable almond croissants, breads and soups. Around the very cool miniature train display is seating and often there is live music. It's quite a festive destination in itself. Come and hang out!
While scouting and exploring for a future farm tour, I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the beautiful winter produce from the largest organic farm in Maryland—One Straw Farm. Lovingly tended by Drew and Joan Norman since 1985, One Straw Farm supplies families, restaurants and wholesalers with the finest certified-organic produce. Joan has also initiated the Faith-Based Initiative with her CSA. She now services eight churches in the Baltimore region. Joan presented me an entire case of my favorite squash which led to every conceivable recipe I could create and test!
So let’s get back to cooking winter squash—specifically butternut along—with an outstanding recipe inspiration for the holidays. Originally conceived by Bon Appetit magazine, I wanted to tweak the style to represent more of the Chesapeake Region’s bounty. We’ll be consuming it for Tiki Turkey Day, the annual Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s staff Thanksgiving meal. This year the “Best Dish Competition” will feature recipes made with as much local product as possible. Let’s see if my favorite recipe gets the prize.
And yes, we’ll publish all of the winning recipes.
PLUS: I ‘ll be posting another Butternut (or pumpkin or even sweet potato) recipe I created as soon as I test it one more time!
Butternut Squash Gratin With Local Goat Cheese And Pecans
8 to 10 servings
Squash is often sold already peeled and seeded, making this recipe even easier.
3 1/2 pounds butternut squash (about 2 medium), peeled, seeded, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (8 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
3 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 1/ teaspoons chopped fresh sage
5-ounces soft fresh goat cheese ( about 2/3 cup)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup pecans coarsely chopped
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes. Coat 11x7-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spread half of leek mixture over bottom of prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of squash and half of cheese. Repeat layering with leeks, squash, and cheese. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour cream mixed with curry powder evenly over gratin. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake uncovered until gratin is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if previously chilled).
TO GO: This gratin is a good choice for transporting because it travels well. Either complete the dish at home (wrap it tightly to keep warm) or wait until you get to your destination to add the cream and nuts and then bake.
Have some fabulous beta carotene!
Posted by Rita Calvert. Rita is a chef, educator, and writer and a founding member of Buy Fresh Buy Local Chesapeake Region. Visit her website On the Road With Chesapeake Local Bounty.