Monday, November 2, 2009

Hurrah for the CSA

My sister Denise and her husband are traveling in VietNam for three weeks. Denise is a great cook and a very adventurous eater. I cannot wait to hear about her travels when she gets home. Hopefully she will bring back some culinary tidbits and techniques from afar.  Graciously, while she is away I was given one week of produce from her CSA farm share. What a treat for me! I do not belong to a CSA which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, where you buy shares in a local farm and receive a percentage of their produce every week during their growing season. This arrangement provides cash to the small farmers up-front, a pre-sold market as it were, and gives the shareholders wonderfully fresh produce and direct access to their grower.

The Roxbury Farm delivers on Thursdays to the Upper West Side and I was told to bring my own bags. The fruits and vegetables were laid out in a small courtyard and each variety was labelled with how much you could take as part of your share. How fun!

As I expected for this time of year, there was kale and butternut squash, broccoli, onions, potatoes, loose lettuce and arugula and some beautiful pears. I thought I would try to come up with a recipe that used these ingredients and have a real farm fresh meal. My idea ran towards a gratin; layering the kale and the butternut squash and baking it in white wine and butter.
Filling my bag with goodies.
The Roxbury's kale was crazy fresh. It was so stiff and full and bushy I could have swept the floor with it! I knew I would have to cook it down somewhat before adding it to the gratin or it would be too tough. I did my usual saute with garlic and oil to add flavor and wilt it down a bit.

I wanted thin slices of the squash, so after peeling it I cut it into manageable chunks and pushed it through my mandoline . I have to admit this was a bit hair-raising as the squash is so firm you really have to push hard to get it through the blade. Here I was risking my fingers when I was really not sure how the dish would turn out.
My main concern was that the squash would be too sweet and over power the kale, so when I began to layer everything I decided to go light on the squash.
The results were good. As it turned out, it was the kale that really dominated with a very meaty, chewy texture. The butternut squash was quite mild but held its own. The kids ate a few bites and didn't hate it. I had leftovers today for lunch and actually liked it all the more the next day. As so often happens overnight, the flavors mellowed out and blended a bit. This dish became a really satisfying meal that was filling and very tasty. I would definitely make this for my vegetarian clients. What would you suggest for a wine pairing Amanda?

Kale and Butternut Squash Gratin
1 Tbs. Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
I bunch of kale trimmed of stems and roughly chopped
1/2 cup water
2 Tbs. butter
1 small butternut squash peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
s & p

preheat oven to 350F
Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic, cooking till golden, about five minutes. Add the kale and cook down for at least ten minutes till the kale begins to wilt and turn bright green. Add 1/2 cup of water to the kale and cover the pan and cook another 10 minutes till kale is tender.

First layer
Next time I will add add more squash to the top layer.
Butter a baking dish with 1 Tbs. of butter and layer in half of the butternut squash slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dot with a teaspoon of butter. Make a layer of cooked kale on top of the squash. Then add the top layer of squash, s & p and dot with the remaining butter. Pour in the white wine and bake uncover for 1 hour until the squash is tender when you pierce it with a knife.
I took a bite before I took a photo! Really tastes good.

serves 4

Sounds like the perfect Fall dish! Kale, when very fresh, can have such big, savory flavors. I really wanted to come up with a wine that would result in an interesting flavor combination. The sweet and spicy flavors that kale can deliver immediately made me think of Gewurztraminer. One of my favorite varietals, it is often associated with flavors and aromas of lychee fruit. It is extremely aromatic and really thrives best in cooler climates. The wines are usually dry, or off-dry (meaning there is a slight touch of sweetness to the wine). Gewurztraminer is commonly paired with Asian cuisine. I absolutely adore the perfumed, flowery bouquet this delicious varietal gives off. It's wonderful! The wine can be lush and rich, which is exactly how I like it.

Gewurztraminer is certainly not a subtle wine, which is why I think it is a good match for the kale and butternut squash combination. It can be decadent and exotic as well - be sure to consider it for hard-to-match recipes. My favorite Gewurztraminer hales from Alsace, France. Favorite producers are Trimbach and Zind Humbrecht. Typically $15 and up,  (into the $50-$60 range for late harvest, sweeter versions) this is a wine that is absolutely worth the splurge! If you haven't yet tried this decadent white, I hope you will soon! I'd love to hear if you love it as much as I!


  1. Finally! An awesome looking kale recipe. I grow lots of Tunscan Kale for my clients but I rarely eat it myself. With the butternut squash harvest, I am for sure, making this for company this weekend!

  2. Very cool! I belong to this CSA (actually, that's even the pick-up site I go to :)) and was wondering what to do with the kale...and one of the many squash I still have lying around from previous weeks! Now I know!

  3. Yet again, another very useful receipe! I love kale & butternut, but I never have thought to pair them together. I often make kale with garlic & oil in the oven cause it is so effortless. This receipe falls into that easy category that I am so fond of, adding a sweet element to the savory.I'll try this for the husbands' birthday party as a side dish to a slow cooked brisket.
    Thanks for thinking it out for me!


Thank you for your comment. Spammers have forced me to now review every comment before publishing. So please bear with me as I read through your comment. Thank you for visiting the blog!