About this Blog

As I go into my second year blogging about cooking and eating locally, I am thinking more and more about my own heritage. Why is cooking and eating locally sourced food important to me? What values am I honoring by doing this and how were these values instilled in me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Squashed Out

Sometimes, even with all of the variety we enjoy through our local CSA, we can get too much of a good thing.

I look forward to seeing piles of brightly colored, oddly shaped winter squash in front of the farm stand just as the air begins to get crisp here in New England. Like a hoarder, I buy them up by the armful and pile them in baskets on my dining room table and kitchen counter.

For me, winter squash is the quintessential symbol of abundance and nourishment. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A and C.  It is a very good source of Folate, Niacin (a nutrient important for HDL levels), Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Calcium and Magnesium. 

Until this winter, I thought my family ate a lot squash. So, I was thrilled with the many varieties I found in my crate: butternut, buttercup, acorn, carnival, delicata, spaghetti and sugar pumpkins. I baked them, cubed them, pureed them, roasted them, stuffed them and made soup (See Soup for a Snowy Day).

We continued to receive more squash into our winter share, which I had expected; however, now in early March, I am tired of squash.

When I went to pick up our share two weeks ago, I was overjoyed to finally see a bag of fresh baby spinach in our crate. This was a real treat after all of the root vegetables that carried us through the winter; however, I hoped that the CSA manager did not see the brief disappointment that must have passed over my face when I saw the two butternut squash tucked into the crate as well.

I wouldn’t dream of complaining. Since we live in a town house without access to a little plot of land on which to grow my own vegetables, I am more than grateful to accept whatever goodies arrive in my crate.

However, I am squashed out.

Back in the car, I wondered what to do with the squash. The easy answer would be to give them to a neighbor or make another batch of squash soup. I still had some dried chili peppers, a couple of apples that were really only good now for baking and some broth in the freezer. But then I remembered a dish that I had made back in November using squash, sausage, barley and kale that Peter and I had really enjoyed. I hadn’t repeated the recipe because kale was gone for the season.  However, now I had some fresh baby spinach, so I thought I would try the recipe again with a few different ingredients.

Thank goodness for hot house spinach. It arrived just in time to revive a dying food love affair.

If you have a good recipe for winter squash, please share! I need to start building up a reserve of new dishes to try next winter.

Here’s my recipe for barley risotto with sausage, squash and greens:

Barley Risotto with sausage, squash and greens

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 pound sausage
4 cups stock (vegetable, turkey or chicken all work fine)
1 cup pearled barley
1 medium yellow onion or three shallots, chopped (I like to use shallots with sausage)
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
3 dried chili peppers, chopped (or to taste)
1 bunch kale or several handfuls of baby spinach, chopped (I tend to use my eyes to judge)
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, cook sausage through until done.
Remove cooked sausage from pan and set aside.
If sausage is extra greasy, remove some of the fat from pan then add onion or shallots, garlic and chili peppers.
Cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender.
Add pearled barley, stir and then add broth and season with salt.
Bring to boil.
Turn heat down to simmer and cover.
Cook until barley is not quite tender.
Add squash cook until squash is tender.
Add kale or spinach and cook until greens are just tender.
Add cooked sausage, Romano cheese and pepper to taste.


  1. Looks like a great recipe.

    I love squash and buy it for myself, but my family would not have enjoyed the over-abundance of squash during the winter.

    Community food shares can be quite expensive here, and it is hard to pay the prices when the items will not be eaten. I love the idea, but when I tried it last year, I was not pleased with the results. I appreciate how resourceful you are and enjoy reading your blog.

    A new trend in our county are the restaurants that serve local foods which is great, but also has increased costs.

  2. Laura,

    Thanks for the comment. We ended up not renewing with our first CSA because we found that all we received were greens and an overabundance of tomatoes. PJ was just starting on solid foods, so we couldn't keep up with the amound of greens we were getting and I didn't have the time to can with a small child to care for.

    I did a lot of research before we joined our current CSA. I found them at our local farmers market, then started visiting the stand at their farm before making a commitment to join.

    For me, variety was important and getting things besides vegetables. We get eggs, honey and fruit with our summer share among other little surprises. The variety is what makes it possible for us to stay committed to the farm.

    Knowing your family is also important and if the food isn't getting eaten it doesn't make a lot of good sense to keep going back.

    I think everyone is different and how each family eats is unique. I know many people feel the up front cost of a CSA is prohibitive, so it is not for everyone.

    We've actually saved money by participating; however, my input into the process has a lot to do with the cost savings. I can and freeze much of what we receive. I also cook a lot of soups and stews using less expensive cuts of meat or purchasing whole chickens and fish to save money by processing them myself. Not every family has the interest and time to do this, so again, the cost/benefit has a lot to do with how much you are willing to put into the process.

    Thanks for your comment.