Cooking together with others has proven strengthening to the bonds of friendship many times over. Some of my best friendships were forged over a sizzling range or hot oven. It’s a great way to spend time together and be productive all at once. And when I can cook with like-minded, seasonal-searching, risk-taking foodies all the better.
One recent instance of this occured in while visiting a friend in NY (not only a like-minded foodie, but a like-minded farmie as well). Coming to the end of the harvest season there are still lingering squashes, leeks, garlic bulbs, greenhouse herbs, beets, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, carrots, hearty kale and chard greens and an odd green onion or two. Pair this knowledge with a gal who had more of a CSA share than she could possibly put away herself – pounds of pastured ground beef, asian greens, mini delicata squashes – and a couple of free pie shells from the ‘seconds’ bin at the co-op where she works. Voila, you have an end-of-November-local-meal.
For the savory pie we used:
1lb. ground lamb
1lb. ground beef
4 mini delicata squash (no matter what part of the country you live in, it seems that this year was the year for undersized winter squash)
A few fresh herbs – parsley, dill, basil
2 spelt pie crusts
A few dried, sliced tomatoes for fun
The great thing about this pie is that you don’t have to have exact measurements to follow through. Simply brown the meats, bake the delicata til tender and mix all the ingredients (sans crust and tomatoes) then dollop and press into the pie shell (we lined the bottom of the shell with the tomatoes, and pressed a few on top for looks) and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, til the pie shell is flaky and a bit browned.
*Though the squash made this pie really creamy and it held together well, it would be just as easy to add an egg or 2, or some milk or cream to the mix if you’re so inclined.
Roasted root vegetables were the accompaniment to our main dish. Now I’ve used various root vegetables in my roasting pans and my favorites end up being: sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and turnips. I’ve also added potatoes, whole garlic cloves, rutabagas, radishes and parsnips. Except for the potatoes, all of the above need very little oil to get them through a round in the oven without sticking.
3 medium-sized rutabagas
1 large sweet potato
4 medium beets
salt and pepper
any dried herbs, my favorites being: savory, thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage
a bit of olive oil or a pat of melted butter
Wash and cube the veggies and toss in a bowl with the oil. Lay out in a single layer on a baking pan and sprinkle the seasonings and herbs over top (I’ve found that if you add the herbs to the mixing bowl that they stick together and concentrate in patches and don’t provide as uniform a taste for the whole batch). Bake this anywhere from 325-375 for 25-45 minutes, with a few stirs from time to time.
*If roasting potatoes you can soak them in cold water for about 15 minutes before mixing so that they won’t absorb as much of the oil. Also, more frequent stirring is a good idea – they really tend to start sticking to the pan towards the end.
To lighten our fare a bit we also included a fresh winter greens salad of finely chopped kale, chard and bok choy, some minced fresh garlic, a couple of diced green onions and some fresh herbs (basil, dill and parsley) and tossed in some chopped raisins and walnuts. A light spritz of apple cider vinegar and olive oil sealed the deal and we were in business.
The business, that is, of oohing and ahhing and further moanings of praise while patting ourselves on the back with our forks and claiming this to be “the best supper ever!” Yes friends, I testify that friendships are formed and solidified over such things as place settings, browned beef juices, garlic mincing skills, seasonal fare and savory pies.