Search This Blog

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Riding The Cusp

Staring at a pile of acorn squash tumbled on a farm stand, a quiet voice drifted across the table, "You're not ready yet, are you?" On that particular warm morning at the farmers market, I wasn't quite ready to let summer go. I was on the prowl for fresh heirloom tomatoes, half runner green beans, peppers, and ripe paw paws. Winter squash wasn't on my radar.

We're in the midst of the cusp, the time of year when the seasons gently shift  and morph together. Sun-kissed tomatoes, radishes, gushingly sweet multi-colored watermelons, cantaloupes, and sweet bell peppers vie for space alongside gourds, pumpkins, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and dried corn.  The cusp.

As we slowly transition into fall, riding the cusp can be tricky business.  This time of year, I bridge the seasons one day at a time. Grow it and I will come. While I'm not quite inclined to blow out a full autumn feast just yet, I try to go with the flow. Although we might still have plenty of time to soak in the perplexing myriad of late summer hold overs, impeccably fresh winter squash is having its moment in the sun. I finally went there.

Wilted Swiss Chard Salad With Blistered Grapes, Roasted Squash, And Chevre.

While I adore caramelized roasted winter squash glazed with brown sugar and butter as much as anyone, I'll hold back until autumn takes a firm hold, brisk breezes stay true, and dried fallen leaves rustle through long dappled shadows.

After halving 1 medium sized Madison County Red Kuri squash and 2 Stonehedge Farm acorn squash, I scooped out the seeds and used the outer ribs as guidelines to slice the squash into 1/2" half moons before tossing them with olive oil, salt, and cracked black pepper. After scattering them onto a sheet pan, I slid the half moons into a pre-heated blistering 450 degree oven for about 35 minutes, turning them midway and checking to see if they were tender.

When the squash caramelized and charred a bit, I pulled them from the oven and set them aside.

Some folks use only the brightly veined leaves of chard and ditch the stalks. Cooking them separately from the leaves, I like to treat them like gussied up jeweled celery.

After rinsing one large bunch of Casey County red Swiss chard, I trimmed the leaves from the stalks, stacked the leaves together, rolled them up, sliced them into 1" ribbons, set them aside, and sliced the stalks on a very sharp bias. I drizzled 2 tablespoons vegetable oil into a screaming hot skillet, carefully dropped the stalks into the sizzling oil, showered them with salt, and gave them a quick saute to retain a slight crunch (about 2 minutes) before scooping them onto paper towels to drain.

While the oil was still hot, I tumbled 2 cups Woodford County seedless purple Mars grapes into the skillet and added 1/4 cup water to help burst the grapes. Just before the grapes collapsed from the heat, I added the chard to the skillet, folded it through the grapes, covered the skillet, and let it rip for 3 minutes.

I pulled the skillet from the heat, splashed the greens with  fresh lemon juice and Oliva bello extra virgin olive oil. After giving everything a quick toss, I tucked the roasted squash into the wilted chard before finishing with flaked sea salt, cracked black pepper, slivered shallots, and flecked creamy chevre.

Kissed with heat, fruity olive oil, fresh lemon, and grape jus, the slightly bitter chard played off the earthy sweetness of the roasted squash, perky chevre, and the muted musky undertones of the softened warm grapes.

Riding the cusp.


No comments: