As most gardeners this year, we are struggling with an overabundance of squash. The freezer is filling, we have ingested as many as possible, and plants continue producing. My favorites of the season are these starburst squash, meaty, crisp and mild in flavor. Excellent for frying.
Yesterday I attempted a new strategy: oven baked squash chips. First step: remove the seeds.
Second step: thinly slice the squash into strips. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, then bake in the oven.
The challenge became baking the strips evenly, so I played around with oven temperature settings to try and attain an even crispness. Success proved elusive, but the taste was good. These will make a nice snack item or side for dinner.
In addition, the toasted squash seeds made a delicious snack item. The seeds, coated with olive oil and seasoning salt, are thinner than roasted pumpkin seeds and melt in the mouth.
Without the potatoes. My neighbor suggested another way to use up the armloads of squash produced this summer. Potato cakes. Except they are squash cakes.
Peel squash then cook until soft before mashing with a potato masher. Drain in a colander, squeezing out all excess water. Mix with a beaten egg, flour, salt, pepper, and finely chopped onions. Fry in oil. This proved a family hit and a tasty approach to using up excess squash!
So far, our "cover and festoon with Christmas lights" strategy has saved our pepper plants each night that temperatures dip below 35 degrees (with a low of 27 a couple of weeks ago).
Yesterday, however, I harvested most of the hot peppers (jalapeno, yellow, and some other mystery variety with plenty of heat) and created several batches of jalapeno (or hot pepper) jelly. One batch, viewed at left, sported added bits of hot red peppers.
I'm especially partial to the taste of lime, and so plenty of lime juice was included for a splash of citrus to accompany the heat.
I make no claims to being a champion jelly and jam maker as no batch ever turns out with perfect consistency. This time, however, the leftover jelly had great texture and flavor, especially when served on a saltine cracker.
Now if I can just save the plants until another crop develops ...
Without high expectations, I cut apart a couple of aging sweet potatoes this past June and planted them in an area of dirt and mulch between the house and a walkway. They quickly produced vigorous vines which spread throughout the plot of ground and up and over the walkway before creeping along behind the house.
Our recent frost killed these vines, and so I dug around in the ground for any developing sweet potatoes. I discovered a good many, mostly small (as in this photo) with the exception of a half dozen large (a few covered with scavenging bite marks - moles perhaps?).
We have now had several meals with "sweet potato fingerlings." Scrub the potatoes then toss them with olive oil and kosher salt. Bake in the oven until the outsides are crispy. Sort of like french fries.
Practicing for Thanksgiving ...
Personally, I prefer a top crumb crust rather than double-crust berry pies, but feel free to disagree.
Another favorite herb growing in our garden is basil which can be pinched back repeatedly until the weather turns cold and frosty.
This afternoon we picked a fair amount of basil leaves and blended a batch of pesto. Now I am not a purist when it comes to making pesto varieties and tend to use whatever we have on hand as long as parmesan cheese, olive oil, and some kind of nut make an appearance. Today's version included chopped pecans, garlic, roma tomatoes, and a touch of homemade chile sauce.
With our few remaining roma tomatoes of the season, we baked a tomato pesto pizza on foccacia bread (dough kneaded in our bread machine) for supper.
Result below ...
After taste-testing a variety of homemade pizza dough over the past few years, we may have found our favorite - focaccia bread.
Using a bread machine recipe, we mixed a focaccia dough, allowed it to rise for ten to fifteen minutes, flattened it into two circles (well, sort of), rubbed each with olive oil, then slid onto pizza stones and baked for five to ten minutes. We added desired toppings, then baked for an additional fifteen minutes in a 400 degree oven. Baking length and oven temperature may vary.
Delicious baked dough flavor favorably complemented the toppings, and now we have a new family favorite pizza! We hope to try another batch later this week for a pesto and roma tomato version.
'Tis the season to write about food, I suppose, as a good part of most every day is spent processing something from the garden. And no, I'm not complaining.
Cubanelle peppers made their first appearance in my garden this summer, and several plants are producing nicely and should continue to do so until our first frost.
These cubanelles were stuffed with a mixture of spanish rice, turkey, sauteed onions and garlic, cheese, and diced fresh tomatoes, then placed in a baking dish atop a spread of sweet spaghetti sauce (leftover from yesterday evening's pasta dish) before spending about forty minutes baking in the oven. Fresh green beans from the garden and cantaloupe (from our local farmers' market - our cantaloupe proved a sad disappointment this summer) completed the meal.
Peppers are my personal favorite garden offering, and this summer we have green (becoming red if we leave them to ripen), cayenne, cubanelle, chile, banana and jalapeno.
Making our own salsa or pico de gallo sauce is our most common use of this variety (in addition to eating them raw). See photo below. Chop roma tomatoes, a mix of mild and hot peppers, and onions. Add lime juice and salt and cilantro (currently growing as an herb in our garden). Let stand a few minutes or refrigerate before serving to mix flavors. Other additions could include corn, garlic, cucumbers, squash - whatever you have on hand.
We have sauteed squash with onions (probably our favorite use of this garden crop). We have added squash to teriyaki stir fry (the white bush variety works well - sort of like tofu soaking up the flavor). We have frozen quarts of blanched, chopped squash for use in vegetable soup this winter and have eaten platefuls raw. And still my refrigerator remains laden with bags of squash (no, I'm not complaining!).
I went web hunting for additional squash-based recipes and found one from a cooking magazine that touted vegetable fries as the perfect summer replacement for french fries. My kids were not convinced as they watched me dip lengths of white squash (dense with few seeds) in a beaten egg wash, then a bread crumbs/parmesan cheese/seasoning dry mix. After baking at 425 degrees for thirty minutes, the vegetable fries appeared as above. Tasted fine, but no fooling my family that these were french fries!
So ... No, these vegetable fries do not look like french fries, and although we ate them and will probably make them again, nor do they taste like french fries. Moral of the story? Don't believe everything you read on the internet ...
This is our story, in real time and in photos. It is neither unique nor unusual nor extraordinary. But it is our story.