Maybe that's why they call this a challenge.
It is because of these purchasing limitations that I took some chances and picked up a few things we might not normally have bought. After all, I can't have us running out of food, now can I? And since a few of our usual fall-backs are currently off limits, most notably pasta, I'm finding myself willing to step out on a limb and get a little more creative with meal-planning. Frankly, this is right up my alley. I thrive on a good challenge.
My Carnivorous Husband generally tolerates more than supports my food purchasing proclivities so I had been more than a little concerned about how this local food pledge would affect him. One of my goals is to show my family why this is so important, not to teach them the virtues of self-denial. I want them to have as much fun as I am, to see this as an adventure, to be able to laugh at my missteps and foibles (and believe me, there have been more than a few), and to feel a sense of ownership and camaraderie when we do well.
Good thing my expectations aren't very high, hmm?
Amazingly, even when the odds have been stacked against us and time has been short and it would have been much easier to just open a box of pasta and toss it with one of the sauces I froze over the summer, my little family has thrown themselves behind me, transforming into my personal cheerleading squad, and cheerfully accepted one very late dinner and one less-than-satisfying dinner. And The Tolerant Carnivore who I had feared would roll his eyes at this whole undertaking? When the kids and I showed up at the Locally Grown pick-up point on Thursday, there he was, sitting on the steps in his work clothes, waiting to surprise us and to find out what the hubbub was all about.
I love my support squad. And I want so badly to make this worth their while.
So I have pulled down obscure cookbooks from high atop my shelves and I have picked up some ingredients we have very little (if any) experience with. The bread machine has earned a permanent home on my kitchen counter and I've scoured the internet looking for information on purchasing a pasta roller. I've learned how to make fried chevre, one of our long-time favorite restaurant items; I have finally mastered the art of making pizza crusts, thanks to my yard-sale bread machine; I have learned how to make sweet potato chips and succeeded in converting my husband from his former sweet potato spurning ways. Like I said, this is right up my alley. And I'm having more fun than is probably socially acceptable for a rural stay-at-home-mom just making dinner.
Butternut squash is in season right now and is aplenty at the farmer's markets. I had only tried cooking with it once before, and that particular recipe was a dismal failure, but with the summer squashes disappearing rapidly around here, I thought it high time that I learned how to make use of the butternut. It's a beautiful specimen, to be sure, and is slap-packed with nutrients. Full of optimism, but hedging my bets nonetheless, I snagged a few of these squashes and collected a handful of recipes for their use. To my complete amazement, we struck gold on the very first try. Using a recipe from Vegetarian Planet, adapted to make use of the ingredients I could source locally, I made a simple dinner of crumbled feta cheese, roasted slices of Vidalia onions and butternut squash atop a whole-wheat pizza crust (courtesy of that wondrous $2 bread machine). It was a revelation. The squash was velvety and richly flavored, the onions were soft and sweet, and the feta was just tangy enough to round it all out.
The whole family loved it (and continued the love with the leftovers for lunch the following day), but most surprising was that The Carnivore and I both kept stealing pieces of the roasted squash from the pan as I was trying to top the pizzas. A side dish could be made of the roasted vegetables alone. I can't wait to see what else we can do with this squash.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH PIZZAS (serves four as an entree, adapted from Vegetarian Planet)
- 1 large Vidalia onion, sliced
- 1 medium (about 1 to 1-1/2 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced very thin
- 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- coarse salt & freshly ground pepper
- 3 Tbs olive oil, divided
- 1 to 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 batch pizza dough (using whole-wheat flour in place of half of the called-for bread flour)
- 2 Tbs shredded sharp, hard cheese (optional)
- In a large, rimmed cookie sheet (or a jelly-roll pan), toss the onion, squash, rosemary, salt & pepper with 2 Tbs olive oil.
- Bake the vegetables at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until onion begins to caramelize and squash is tender.
- On a floured surface, separate the pizza dough into 2 balls and roll each out to about 8 to 10 inches in diameter.
- Prick the pizza dough rounds in several places with a fork and place on well-seasoned pizza stones or on baking sheets dusted with cornmeal.
- Cook the dough at 450 degrees for about 5 minutes, until crispy and beginning to brown. Remove from oven.
- Distribute the squash mixture atop the two pizza dough rounds and top each with 1/2 of the crumbled feta.
- Bake the pizzas at 450 degrees for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, until crust is browned on edges.
- Drizzle pizzas with remaining olive oil, sprinkle with a little additional coarse salt and the shredded sharp cheese, if desired.