Cookery Maven Blog

Hubbard Squash Love

Is it possible to fall in love with a squash? I'm here to not only to say it's possible, it happened to me. I was at the farmers market and spied this beautiful Hubbard in the back of a pick up and felt my heart skip a beat. That 15 pound hulking, greyish blue squash was coming home with me and I was going to stuff it with everything good.

Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Around My French Table is in heavy rotation in my kitchen. It has everything from chicken b'stilla to Pierre Herme's olive sables to a pumpkin stuffed with everything good. Last winter, I was stuffing every squash or pumpkin I got my hands on but I never had a crack at a big, gnarly hubbard until I met this bad boy. It was as magnificent as I hoped. I went back the following Saturday and picked up this squash's little brother. I had an unfortunate incident with my stuffed squash at last year's Thanksgiving (I dropped it on the floor) and I plan on redeeming myself this year.

My version of everything good included italian sausage, caramelized onion, white wine, dried cranberries, wild rice and a variety of fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano and thyme). The only trick I've found with this recipe is managing the water content of the squash and the amount of cream and wine you add to the stuffing. If the squash has a higher water content, make your stuffing a little drier and vice versa.  This hubbard squash was pretty dry so I made sure the stuffing was nice and saturated with my cream and wine sauce.

Squash Stuffed With Everything I Think Is Good (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table)

1 pumpkin or squash, about 3 to 5 pounds 1/4 pound stale bread, cut into 1/2 inch chunks 1 cup wild rice, cooked 1/4 pound gruyère, shredded 1/4 pound parmesan, shredded 4 cloves of garlic, chopped 1/2 cup caramelized onion, chopped 1/2 cup celery, chopped 1 cup italian sausage, cooked and crumbled 1/4 cup dried cranberries 1/4 cup of fresh herbs, chopped 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup white wine salt and pepper freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a very sturdy knife, carefully cut a nice sized cap off the top of the pumpkin.   Clear away any seeds and strings from the cap and hold it aside while you scoop out the seeds and filaments inside the pumpkin.

Combine the cream, white wine and garlic in a saucepan and simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes.

Toss the bread, cheese, wild rice, dried cranberries, celery, caramelized onions and herbs together in a bowl, then pack it into the pumpkin. The filling should go into the pumpkin and fill it well.  You might have a little too much filling or you might need to add to it -- it's hard to give exact amounts.  Season the cream/wine mixture with salt, pepper and several gratings of fresh nutmeg and pour the cream into the pumpkin.  Again, you might have too much or too little.  You don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want to get a feeling that they're moistened.

Put the cap back in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours -- check after 90 minutes -- or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbly and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.  Remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so of baking so that the top could brown.

Lunch With A Gentleman Farmer, Goats and Quiche

Creation is a messy business— whether it is pastry dough or birthing 63 baby goats. I had three kids in diapers at one point in my life and thought I would never emerge from the fog of feedings, Cheerios, juice boxes and chronic exhaustion. It was a cake walk compared to ushering 63 baby goats into the world in less than a month's time. My friend, Michael, is the lead goat herder, cheese maker and gentleman farmer at Sassy Nanny Farmstead Cheese. Last year, he invited us to his farm to see the babies. I made friends with a little guy named Andy and decided I had a goat in my future. As it turns out, a goat would have been the proverbial straw on the camel's back and I am goat less. However, I am still a goat admirer and was excited to meet this year's new additions to the herd.

During the summer, there is a great farmers market every Thursday in Cornucopia and that is where I tasted Michael's goat cheese for the first time about five years ago. Growing up in Minneapolis, my previous experience with cheese involved plastic wrap and a grocery store. Once I put Michael's cheese in my mouth, I realized I had been missing the boat. Local cheese, made by a man who genuinely cares for his goats was a revelation— it was fresh and creamy without any of the gaminess I typically associated with goat cheese. He makes a number of goat cheeses: Lake Effect, a fresh, spreadable goat cheese, Buttin' Heads, a sea salt brined feta, Cabra Fresco, an homage to quesco fresco and Winey Kid (my favorite), an aged raw milk cheese with a red wine washed rind. Food tastes better when it hasn't been on a trans-continental trip of planes, trains and automobiles and Michael's cheese is no exception. His cheese is as good as anything I have tasted and I know the goats (kind of). How cool is that??

Living your dream takes a tremendous amount of hard work— the stakes are high and success is hard to measure. Michael, like most of my friends up here, decided to take a leap of faith and chose the road less traveled. I am glad he did because as Frost said,, 'that has made all the difference'. It makes a difference to live the life you dreamed of, to be a good steward to your environment and animals, to live in the moment (especially when the moment is one you would rather fast forward) and have the courage to watch it all unfold and know it is as it should be. When I moved to Bayfield and opened the restaurant with Renee, I had no idea what the future held for me but I knew it had all the components for an epic adventure. That is the beauty of Sassy Nanny Cheese, Good Thyme Restaurant or any number of the other small businesses up here— it isn't always easy but there are bound to be some epic adventures shared around a table full of good food, wine and friends.

Dorie Greenspan's Gorgonzola and Apple Quiche

1 pastry crust, blind baked in a 9 to 10 inch tart pan

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 apple (Empire, Gala or Granny Smith), sliced 1/4 inch thick

4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup milk

4 large eggs

salt and pepper

 Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 deg F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small skillet over low heat. Add onion and saute until onion is soft but not colored, about 10-15 minutes, then remove from heat. Place the partially baked pastry shell on the baking sheet (this will catch any drips). Spread the onion evenly over the bottom of the crust. Scatter the apple pieces over the onion and top with the crumbled Gorgonzola and shredded Swiss cheese. Beat the eggs, milk, and cream together until well blended and season with salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the tart pan. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the filling is puffed all over (make sure the center is puffed), lightly browned, and set. Transfer the quiche to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 5 minutes. Remove the sides of the tart pan and slide quiche onto a platter or cutting board. Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for 2-3 days.