Eating seasonally, locally and supporting farmers come deep wintertime equates to shivering trips to one of the few year-round farmers markets, where tables are piled high with a dozen varieties of potatoes, gnobbly carrots, turnips, beets and a few sorts of sturdy winter greens. It's good stuff, tasty, a welcome shift in our menus when, in November, when we're eager to embrace soft sweaters and kabocha gratin.
But winter is long. And grey. And come this time of January, after months in heavy rotation, that platter of roasted root vegetables (again?) doesn't quite inspire the same levels of salivation.
Amy Pennington to the rescue! The Check, Please! host (the second season debuts next fall), author, and gardening and food writer, launched her latest project this month: a new ebook series, Fresh Pantry. Each month, Amy will focus on one seasonal ingredient, riffing on it in a dozen (sometimes more) recipes.
Pennington says the montly ebook series is, "meant as a tool to help people eat within the season. It really exploits one veg at a time so eaters can see that you don't have to eat the same ol' butternut squash soup all winter."
Pennington tackles winter squash in the first installment (buy it here). February's muse: alliums (that's onions, leeks, chives and garlic to you and me). After that it gets a little sunnier with each month: Carrots in March, and rhubarb (rhubarb!) in April.
So, now I'm hungry. Here: An exclusive excerpt from Amy's Winter Squash ebook.
Maple-Baked Acorn Squash & Sage from Fresh Pantry: Winter Squash by Amy Pennington
This recipe is a slam dunk. It is so simple, I’m almost embarrassed to include it here, but this tried-and-true dish demands attention. I cook this when I’m too busy to think but I want to eat something easy and healthy. It takes about 3 minutes to prepare and get in the oven, and I can do chores or work while it is baking. I love serving this side with a simply baked fish, but honestly I often eat it right out of the pan while standing up in my kitchen.
1 acorn squash, washed, cut in half, seeds removed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or brown sugar)
4 fresh sage leaves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the acorn squash halves, cut side up, in a pie tin or small roasting pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the syrup to each cavity, along with the sage leaves. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the squash is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before handling.
Discard the sage leaves and, using a fork, scrape the flesh up from the skin, mixing to combine flavors. Sprinkle with coarse salt and serve.
PANTRY NOTE: Acorn squash is the best choice for this recipe. Its porous and thick nature allows the maple and butter to seep in with-out being too stringy. This dish holds in the fridge for one day before becoming too dry.