Thursday, October 12, 2017

Drawing In and Roasting Squash

Little yellow crookneck squash you're going to get roasted.
For the last couple of weeks I've been drawn more inside. Even when the weather is gorgeous, as it was this afternoon, I feel more compelled to do indoor chores. The garden still presents plenty of things to do, but I feel no urgency to do them. And when the mornings are chilly, as they have been the last few days, I focus inside.

It's just part of the cycle. Autumn arrives and things move inward and downward. Perennial plants begin pulling their energy into the roots. Leaves turn colors and fall to the ground. Late annuals pull out all of the stops, flowering and setting seed at a rapid pace to live up to their biological destiny: reproduction. Then they droop and drop.

And I am drawn inward, literally and figuratively. I spend my mornings on household tasks. And I feel like cooking! It's not that I hate cooking, but during the summer I try to avoid kitchen time as much as possible. Now I start my day in the kitchen -- and not just on breakfast.

During the summer I did spend my share of time in the kitchen. What am I supposed to do with all of that summer squash, after all? Green beans, long beans, peppers, and so on. I race through the snapping, chopping, steaming, roasting, etc., so I can get back outside. Today I take my time in the kitchen.

A couple of posts ago I promised to instruct you on how I make Roasted Summer Squash with Apples. So here it is. The squash was really, really, I mean Really productive this year. I made a lot of this stuff (and even froze some), as well as other squashy things.

Ready for the oven.
Use a shallow glass baking dish, such as the one above. It is about 10.5x15 inches and about 2 inches deep. Print on the bottom says it's 4.8 quarts (4.5 liters). You can use any size dish, depending on how much squash you have.

Summer squash (zucchini might work, too)
Medium size red onion
Apples (2 to 3 medium size ones for this size of dish)
Avocado oil or high quality extra virgin olive oil

Cut up vegetables and apples and place in dish. Do no fill much more than half full. If the baking dish is too full, it will take longer for the vegetables to cook and you won't get that nice, roasted flavor. It will be more like steamed or boiled.

Coat vegetables with oil. I like to just drizzle some oil over the vegetables in the pan and work them with my hand until the vegetables are well coated. Or you can dump the vegetables into a large bowl, drizzle with oil, toss with a wooden spatula until well coated and then place back in pan.

Add salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 400-degree oven for an hour or a little longer if you want them super soft. You should see some browning. Stir every 15 minutes, scraping vegetables off the bottom and sides.

Remove from oven. Serve hot, or keep in refrigerator to eat cold or reheat. Add toasted pecans for a special touch.

You can also roast the squash without the onions and apples. That's how I started doing it. Then I thought, "I'll bet that would be really good with onions. Ooo. Oooo. And apples!" You can vary the amount of onion and apples, and even add different seasonings as your whim desires.

You can roast just about any vegetable. Okra, eggplant, celery and tomato. 
While I roasted the above pan of squash and apples today, I also roasted up some okra that's been languishing in the refrigerator, with some summer's end eggplant, chopped celery, and a few golf ball size Black Vernaisse tomatoes that were sitting on the counter. I seasoned it with oregano, smoked paprika, and a hint of cayenne. Prepare it just like the summer squash, but it only needed about 30-45 minutes in the oven.

While I was processing the summer squash this summer, I also simply steamed some (for 6 minutes, stirring halfway through) and froze it to use later in stir-fries and other dishes. But most of the squash got roasted, or dehydrated.

The dehydrated squash is like chips -- addictive. I thinly sliced the squash (about 1/8 inch thick), salted the slices (I believe this not only enhances the flavor, but draws out water and makes the dried squash crisper), and placed in the dehydrator until crispy (135 degrees F. if you've got one with a thermostat). I bet you can't eat just one.

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