Fall is definitely here, though. The leaves still have color, but the greens are gone and it won't be long until all the limbs are bare. The woodstove in the living room gives off a cheery warmth in the evenings when we light a fire to ward off the damp chill of late fall nights. But, all too soon we'll be cursing the never-ending task of feeding the fire nonstop all winter long. The first frosts have come, taking with them the last tomatoes, basil, peppers and such that we had not put away for ourselves. But in many ways, we've been dealing with the garden since...January? Between selecting seeds, starting early transplants, then full-on greenhouse and garden work, planting, transplanting, weeding & harvesting, it's not much of an exaggeration to say we garden 10 or so months out of the year. So there is a relief of sorts when the frost comes, a sense of being done, the cycle naturally turning towards a period of rest before regrowth.
It's also the time when I get asked with regularity how much longer the farm stand will be open, and if I'm counting the days until we close. While the garden cycle has come largely to a halt, there are still storage veggies that make fall delicious- pumpkins, winter squash, potatoes, and plants that can stand a bit of frost, like kale, chard or sage. So we stick it out later than any other farm in the area, with our closing day always coming the Saturday after Thanksgiving, this year November 28th. I enjoy most all of my customers, and in truth I do miss stand days a bit as we close, but it's the nature of how we do business, and there is a sense this time of year that you're preparing for winter, getting ready to get the critters and ourselves through what always seems to be the longest season.
This time of year, I am drawn to more in-depth recipes and often ones using the oven for a little bit of extra heat. It has a lot to do with my canning workload- if it's mid-summer and I've just spent 6 hours inside and in front of the stove, the last thing I feel like is spending more time there in the evening. It's like going back to work. But, somehow I don't mind it if I've just spent a good part of the day planting garlic or cleaning the barn or any of the numberless chores that take place outside of the kitchen, I'm up for something a little more complex than something on the grill. It's the time of year where I start to challenge myself again to use all the pretty cookbooks I keep in my kitchen. It's a fun time of year since I still have a selection of things I've grown or raised at my disposal, and it's always fun to try to use as many as possible to create a new dish. So, this week I made a new dish called Butternut-Sage Orzo. Except I didn't have any orzo ( a tiny pasta shaped kind of like rice), but I did have some tubettini, an equally small pasta that looks like the tiniest rings in Spaghettios. One of the most important things I think you can learn as a new cook, or to improve your cooking skills, is to learn when it's OK to substitute or omit, depending on what you have on hand. So, my side turned out to be a new favorite way to cook up some squash, and rounds a hearty, feel-good, comfort food on a fall night kinda meal. I made meatloaf with it, something I rarely make because I'm not a huge fan, but it's one of Dan's favorite things. We'll save a meatloaf recipe until I have something more exciting than average, but here's how to make the side dish!
Sage Butternut Pasta
1 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp oil of your choice
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine (or more stock)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 cup tiny pasta- orzo, couscous, tubettini, etc.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic & onion and saute until onion is soft. (If you're feeling fancy, go ahead and caramelize the onions & add the garlic at the end.) Add the squash and the liquids. Bring to a boil & simmer, covered, until the squash is almost tender and has absorbed almost all of the liquid. Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed. After squash is done as described, add in cooked & drained pasta, the sage and the Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve hot.