Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks For Another Year

The modern American holiday season is a mix of stresses, joys, rituals, and extensive advertising. With so much going on, it’s hard for many of us to remember why we’re celebrating in the first place. With that in mind, I’m writing this week’s blog entry as a paean to autumn, because for me, the holidays are a great time to reconnect with the Earth. The leaves change, the winds blow colder, and all around us, things are changing. While throughout the summer we grow lazy and comfortable, the autumn reminds us of how we are inextricably linked to the planet’s changes.

I gained my strong appreciation for this natural shift in the seasons while I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was a member of the Lindentree Farm CSA. Summer was always a time of excess, a time when I’d wonder every week about what exactly I was going to do with yet another 10 pounds of summer squash and zucchini. Eventually, we’d make our way towards the peak of the season, getting tomatoes, corn, peppers, potatoes, and the rest of the foods we associate with harvest. But at the end of the season, things changed – we’d see kale, cabbage, root veggies and pumpkins, foods that remind us less of irresponsible gluttony and more of careful storage.

I remember clearly spending one November day out in the fields at Lindentree, scrabbling amongst the dirt for a few leaves of spinach. While July and August had featured tomato vines, pea vines, corn stalks, and large heads of lettuce, all forming an undulating sea of green that rippled in the warm breeze, November found the fields empty. Everything had been chopped down and hauled off for composting, or had been tilled under. The warm, gentle breeze was gone, replaced by a chilly wind that skimmed across the bare earth, finding little resistance. The time for lazing in the sun was gone – it was time to head indoors and rest for the winter. It was a beautiful thing, this change that had occurred, and in celebrating the holidays, this is always foremost in my mind of things for which to be thankful.

This soup was concocted from a mix of everything that Lindentree Farm provided in late September and early October, so some of the food isn’t perfectly seasonal, but hopefully you froze some of it when it was coming in such mass quantities a few weeks ago.

1 winter squash (such as butternut, acorn, pumpkin or kabocha), providing about 2-3 cups pulp
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp thyme
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 bay leaves
2 large tomatoes, chopped, providing about 2-3 cups
2 apples, cored and chopped
¼ cup half & half or cream
Salt and pepper

Peel and chop the squash, then boil it in just enough water to cover for about 15-20 minutes, until soft. Don’t get rid of the boiling water – you’ll need it later.
Sautee the onion, pepper and carrots in the butter over medium heat until the onions are soft, stirring to prevent carmelizing.
When the onions are soft, add the spices and sautee for another 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, apples, squash, and about 1 ½ cups of the reserved water, and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until everything is tender and soft.
Puree in batches in a blender or food processor. When everything has been pureed, reheat lightly, adding ¼ cup half & half or enough to achieve your desired creaminess. Season with salt and pepper to taste.