Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lows and Highs in Local Eating-From Maggie Montgomery

The low point for local eating this week was definitely last Saturday when I found that nice, big pumpkin melted into the carpet. The low part for Dennis was trying to clean it up.

We’d put the season’s pumpkins and squash in an unheated room upstairs and closed the door. Squash like warmer temperatures and lower humidity than our cellar provides, and we thought the room would be about right. Now and then, on cold days when the wood-burning cookstove is hot in the kitchen, I bring one or two squash downstairs, cut them open, scoop out the seeds, put the squash in a baking dish with a little water, and roast them in the oven. We eat the seeds too, if they’re still tender—-rinse them, soak them in salt water, then roast them with melted butter in a pie pan until they’re brown. Yum!

But upstairs, there’s that big stain on the rug. We still have to buy a scrub brush and have at it with carpet cleaner again—and maybe again and again. We found and removed a couple more squash on the verge of melting. We’ve also moved the squash off the floor.

Dennis and I wondered if we’d reached the point in the year where the squash were going to make a habit of rotting, so last night I brought some downstairs to cook. The pie pumpkin was dry and stringy—I could hardly force it through the food mill even though it had cooked a long time. The buttercup was beautiful. I didn’t have time to make them into anything yesterday, but tonight they'll become pie or soup or custard.

Inspired by the pumpkin, Dennis also went through the carrots and beets in the cellar. They’re holding up remarkably well, but we’re running low on carrots and the beets are sprouting some pale, pink leaves.

Other than the cilantro and basil in the window, we aren’t growing anything right now. So the focus is on cooking and eating. We talk a lot about creating a regional northern Minnesota cuisine, based on what grows here.

The high point for the week? It might have been the homemade noodles that became Mee Goreng for our family’s Chinese New Year gathering last Friday, or it might have been the raspberry crepe cake. A crepe cake is simple to make, if a bit time-consuming. Simply make a double batch of crepes (you’ll need 25 or 30 of them). As each one comes out of the pan, spread it with a thin layer of homemade raspberry jam. Stack them up. Sprinkle the top layer with a little sugar. Serve with whipped cream. For greater impact, you can optionally pour about ¼ cup of brandy on top and light it before serving (note: brandy isn’t local, of course)!

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