Winter is not an easy time to eat locally in the Northeastern U.S. I hear it's already spring in California (at least judging by the weather and produce), and Florida has its famed citrus. Though still seasonal by the time they get here, in transit those Sunshine State oranges have incurred the carbon debt and nutrient loss of shipment and storage, not to mention the wear and tear of a big chain supermarket.
Local, seasonal food is the holy grail of the conscientious urban eater. Okay, a garden would be better; there’s no trucking required, and the food is as fresh as can be. But when you live in a one-bedroom with east-facing windows that look onto another building, your growing options are scarce. (See also: last summer's failed herb garden. The basil and rosemary died for lack of sun.)
So, I try to shop as much as possible at the greenmarket. Chatting with the farmer isn't quite the same as getting my hands dirty, but it will do for now. At least the food comes from not-too-far away.
But February! Jeez, February, you break my heart. Sure, the seafood guys are still at the market, along with the wineries, the goat cheese lady, and the bags of locally braided pretzels, but produce is scarce. Thin on the ground. Thin in the air. Generally pretty trim. (Quoting Eddie Izzard might not help, but it makes me feel better.)
Last weekend, in terms of produce, my local farmers market boasted: mushrooms, onions, potatoes, apples, sweet potatoes, and squash. Not exactly a variety of nutrients therein. I left with an onion and two apples in my canvas bag. I knew the apples had been in storage since the fall, almost as long as the acorn squash on my kitchen table.
The squash’s stripes had gone from green to orange, but that's the point of winter squash, right? With their thick skins and all? To stay good for months? Sure. Local from last December still equals local. Local in a lazy kitchen.
Roasting a halved acorn squash with butter and brown sugar is tasty enough, but I wanted to try something new. Inspired by this recipe from Epicurious and this one I posted on CHG a while back (plus a little old fashioned making-it-up-as-I-went) I ended up with a sweet, flavorful-but-not-spicy side dish that I'm very happy with.
Seasoning the apples and squash separately gives a little more variety to the dish; the squash receives more of the sweet-tasting garam masala, while the apples get a heavier hand with the curry powder. A splash of apple juice keeps everything moist, though you could probably roast this, too, with maybe a touch more oil.
Note: though the rind was very pretty, it didn’t make for easy eating. I added peeling to the instructions so you don't have to pull shards of squash skin from your mouth. Additionally, the prices below reflect greenmarket/local apples, squash, and onions. In general, buying them there is fresher, kinder to the environment, and more supportive of my local economy. In this case, it’s cheaper than supermarket produce, as well.
Not having had the foresight, freezer space, or extra dough to lay in a frozen store of last summer's veggies, I do what I can. But it's nice, when you can, to go whole hog (whole local, grass-fed, ethically raised hog) and make an entire dish from foods (relatively) nearby.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
Curried Apples and Acorn Squash
1 acorn squash
2 apples, cubed (I used something that looked like Galas, but I bet Granny Smiths would add a nice tartness. I'd avoid anything mushy like Macs.)
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ c apple juice or cider
1 t (plus a dash) curry powder
1 T maple syrup
1 t garam masala
½ t powdered ginger
¼ t salt
dash of nutmeg
1 ½ T butter
1 T olive oil
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil (or not, if you like scrubbing).
2) Peel and cut the squash into cubes, 1 to 1½ inches on a side.
3) In a bowl mix 1 T olive oil, 1 T maple syrup, 1 t garam masala, ½ t powdered ginger, ¼ t salt, and a dash of curry powder. Add squash cubes and toss to coat.
4) Spread into your baking pan, in as close to in a single layer as possible. Bake about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice for even cooking.
5) Meanwhile, melt 1 T butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, a sprinkle of salt, and sauté until tender, maybe 12 minutes.
6) Add 1 t curry powder and a dash of nutmeg and stir for 1 minute.
7) Add apples and saute a few more minutes, until the apples are hot. Transfer to a bowl to wait for the squash.
8) Once the squash’s 25 minutes are up, add the apple mixture to the squash in the baking dish. Sprinkle with ¼ c apple juice, and stir together. Bake another 20 minutes or so, until the squash is tender.
Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber and Price per Serving
237 calories, 9.6 g fat, 5.8 g fiber, $0.93 (4 servings)
1 acorn squash: 345 calories, 1g fat, 13g fiber, $1.00
2 apples: 143 calories, 0.5g fat, 6.5g fiber, $1.25
1 medium onion: 106 calories, 0g fat, 3g fiber, $0.75
¼ c apple juice or cider: 30 calories, negligible fat or fiber, $0.15
1 t (plus a dash) curry powder: negligible calories or fat, 0.5g fiber, $0.04
1 T maple syrup: 52 calories, negligible fat or fiber, $0.25
1 t garam masala: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $0.02
½ t powdered ginger: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $0.01
¼ t salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $0.01
dash of nutmeg: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $0.01
1 ½ T butter: 153 calories, 17g fat, 0g fiber, $0.11
1 T olive oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, $0.12
TOTALS: 949 calories, 38.5g fat, 23g fiber, $3.72
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 237 calories, 9.6g fat, 5.8g fiber, $0.93