Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Here's what I plan to do with the butternut squash

Sour Cream Butternut Squash Pie
One 9-inch pie; 8 servings

A tangy pie with a light, souffle-like texture. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Building up a high fluted rim, prepare in a 9-inch pan, preferably glass, glazing with the egg yolk: Baked Flaky Pastry Crust, or Pat-in-the-Pan Butter Crust.

In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk together thoroughly:
1½ cups freshly cooked butternut squash
8 ounces (scant 1 cup) sour cream
¾ cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
¼ teaspoon salt

Whisking constantly, heat over medium heat until just warm to the touch.
Beat on medium speed until foamy: 3 large egg whites, at room temperature. Add: ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form, then gradually beat in: ¼ cup sugar

Increase the speed to high and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the squash mixture. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake until the top has browned lightly and feels softly set when touched, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. At this point the pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Let warm at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Call me. Then, serve with: whipped cream.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My tomato forest

They're six feet tall and counting. I am harvesting some 3lbs of tomatoes at least twice a week from a patch with 9 plants. They're the neighbor's envy and owner's pride. I will always maintain that it is ALL in the soil prep - amend, compost, till the compost in, compost some more and mulch generously. This is my essence of all the gardening advice I have to offer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Perfectly shaped, delicious and loaded with goodness

Today, we pulled out the most perfectly shaped, proudly pink and delicious beets. This took a lot of patience - the seeds had endured a whole year in my freezer, took at least four weeks to germinate and were in no hurry to mature. The curiosity got the better of me, so I had to pull them out to see what lay underneath.

As I savor these soft and sweet chunks of pink, I learn that the wild beet, the ancestor of the beet with which we are familiar today, is thought to have originated in prehistoric times in North Africa and grew wild along Asian and European seashores. In these earlier times, people exclusively ate the beet greens and not the roots. The ancient Romans were one of the first civilizations to cultivate beets to use their roots as food. The tribes that invaded Rome were responsible for spreading beets throughout northern Europe where they were first used for animal fodder and later for human consumption.

Beets' value grew in the 19th century when it was discovered that they were a concentrated source of sugar, and the first sugar factory was built in Poland. When access to sugar cane was restricted by the British, Napoleon decreed that the beet be used as the primary source of sugar, catalyzing its popularity. Around this time, beets were also first brought to the United States, where they now flourish. Today the leading commercial producers of beets include the United States, the Russian Federation, France, Poland, France and Germany.

As noted in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Detopoulou P, Panagiotakos DB, et al.), people whose diets supplied the highest average intake of choline (found in egg yolk and soybeans), and its metabolite betaine (found naturally in vegetables such as beets and spinach), have levels of inflammatory markers at least 20% lower than subjects with the lowest average intakes.

For those expectant moms, beets are particularly rich in the B vitamin folate, which is essential for normal tissue growth. Eating folate-rich foods is especially important during pregnancy since without adequate folate, the infant's spinal column does not develop properly, a condition called neural tube defect. The daily requirement for folate is 400 micrograms. Just one cup of boiled, sliced beets contains 136 micrograms of folate.