Thursday, October 17, 2013

Winter Squash Pies {Gluten Free} & A Trip To The Farm



A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to get to go on a local farm tour at the Tutti Frutti organic farmstead near Santa Barbara, California. Tutti Frutti is owned and operated by Chris Cadwell, an organic farmer whose mainstays are heirloom tomatoes and winter squash, but he also grows beautiful heirloom varieties of bell peppers and eggplants. We roamed around the vast property and learned about the challenges of organic farming in southern California, which can be especially difficult due to the intensity of the heat and the scarcity of water.


They use landscaping fabric around the base of each plant to keep the moisture from evaporating from the soil and utilize a drip irrigation system, which is a grid of soft plastic tubes that run along each row of plants. There is a small hole in the tube near the base of each plant, so they can control the amount of water that drips out and for how long, which significantly cuts down on the amount of water that evaporates in the heat and increases the amount that is actually being soaked up by the plants' roots.




The other issue they have to contend with are pests, and unfortunately once there is a crop invasion, they have to let that crop go for the season since there isn't a truly effective organic pesticide in the marketplace (I tried every natural solution to get rid of the pesky grey aphids in my broccoli last winter and absolutely nothing worked, so I know this to be true). It is because of this kind of crop risk that the price for organic produce is slightly higher, but they value the health of their workers (long-term exposure to pesticides for farm workers can be deadly, read Tomatoland if you're interested), and the ecology around the farm, and would rather take a crop-loss risk than have chemical-laden water run-off go into the surrounding tributaries and soils.



Tutti Frutti is one of the many local organic produce suppliers that Vons Safeway uses to stock their produce shelves, and it was really interesting to get to stop at the grocery store afterwards and see the produce we'd seen earlier at the farm on shelves in the city. It was refreshing to know that a large grocery store chain was making an effort to use local and sustainable produce whenever possible (they've partnered with over 130 local farms in the southern California area). It really helps the local economy and keeps the areas outside the city lush with fields of green.



So at the end of the day at the farm, we were sent home with a basket full of produce, and luckily for me and my squash-obsessed heart, it included a large assortment of tasty winter squash varieties. I decided to use the Sweet Dumplings for teeny individual pies, but you could use any small sweet winter squash for this recipe (especially our good friend, the sugar pumpkin), just make sure they stay within the weight range. I am planning on making these again closer to Halloween, since they have such a lovely browning on them after they're roasted, and might drizzle a raspberry syrup over the top for a slightly spooooooky effect. Hope you're all enjoying the squash of the season as much as I am!



Ingredients:

3 small winter squash, about 1-1.5 pounds each (I used the Sweet Dumpling variety)
2 eggs
2/3 cup cream
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
pinch salt
few tablespoons whipped cream for serving (optional)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the tops off the squash and use a strong metal spoon to scoop out the stringy pulp and seeds. Place the squash, with caps set back on, on a baking sheet and roast for 30-35 minutes, or until the flesh is soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until safe to handle.


Use a metal spoon to gently scoop the flesh out of the squash and into a blender, leaving about 1/4-1/2 inch of flesh on the inside the squash to keep the skin from breaking. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and blend at high speed until the mixture is completely smooth.


Raise the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Evenly distribute the mixture between the three hollowed-out squash and place in the oven (without the caps). Bake for 40-55 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, garnish with whipped cream and serve with caps on.


28 comments:

  1. I love the idea of using the hollowed squash as a receptacle for all of the beautiful squash goodness! I will definitely be using this for a special meal coming up because it is such a beautiful presentation. :)

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    1. Thank you so much Diane! It really does make for a striking plate display, and it tastes good to boot! ;)

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  2. What a clever idea! And your photography is incredible...as always! Looks like the trip to the farm was a blast. :-)

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    1. Awwww thank you David! You are always so kind :) It really was an amazing trip, much different scenery than the one we toured in Vermont but equally beautiful.

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  3. This is such a cool idea! Also, love the pictures of the farm you visited...places like that are the best!

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    1. Thank you Katrina! It was quite an adventure, and so much fun getting to know the farmer and what it's like having an organic farm out in this dry climate.

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  4. These are so beautiful, and they sound delicious! I love finding local foods at the grocery store. Our grocery store has a "Farm Stand" where they put produce from local farms and tell you the name and location of the farm. It's my favorite! That arid landscape around those lush green fields is mind blowing. I'm glad that farm is doing so much to conserve water! What do they do for crop pollination? Do they keep bees? (You knew I was going to ask that!)

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    1. Hahaha, I did indeed! I should have included it in the post but totally forgot haha. They get a good amount of wind so they don't need to pollinate the tomatoes since the breeze does it for them, but they do bring in bees to pollinate the squash (they hire out for the bees while they need pollination, so they don't keep their own bees on the property). That sounds like an awesome grocery store! The Vons around here have displays like that sometimes and it's always so cool to be able to google the place and see what it looks like and learn a bit about the people running it. This trip definitely made me want to go on more farm visits, I've been wanting to try and visit a goat dairy farm but I've been having difficulty finding one in the area. I'll probably have to tack that onto a bay area trip sometime :) Basically, I just want to learn how to milk a goat so I can be okay enough at it to have my goat farm in Oregon someday. Hurray goats!!!

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  5. Wow, those pictures are lovely. What a great idea, thnks. It's so nice to visit a farm, how fun.

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    1. Thank you so much Asha! It was a total blast, and I learned so much. I definitely want to install a drip watering system for my garden once I get my own place, so much more efficient.

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  6. this is so absolutely gorgeous I could cry. what a lovely and clever way to serve pumpkin pie. pinning AND making! thank you :-)

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    1. Awww thanks so much Annalea!! That is so kind of you to say, I am blushing! Let me know how you like it once you make it, the brown sugar adds such a nice warmth to the dish :)

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  7. this is so absolutely gorgeous I could cry. what a lovely and clever way to serve pumpkin pie. pinning AND making! thank you :-)

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  8. first let me say i am shocked at the crystal clear day with the mountains so vivid, must have been windy before to get that clarity, such a stunning setting. i live in the country on a hillside too and know those picture perfect see 80 miles away days are not that frequent. next all you shots are fabulous, but the food shots could buckle my knees they look so delish!

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  9. I think I'm a farm girl at heart. Great info and those photos are incredible. The dryness vs the green is breathtaking. And the squash? I want some now!

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  10. Eva you have outdone yourself! These are so clever and eye-catching and of course sound delicious. Can't wait to try it!

    One time, in a desperate attempt to save a crop, I tried to spray aphids off individual leaves with water. It did not work, but I suppose at least I could say we tried everything (and never do it again!).

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  11. you are so clever! nothing can surpass this presentation, eva. bravo.

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  12. What a stunning post---the little squash shells look like pottery! I'd love to check out Tutti Fruitti, Santa Barbara is my favorite place to retreat to on the weekends.

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  13. Think about how much fun it would be if you went on a beach tour in India during your next holidays, with your family and friends. And if you live in a country where the climate is very cold, you will certainly enjoy the bright sun, white sand and clear sea of the Indian coastline!
    mr sanchos

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  14. Hot damn I love your photography.

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  15. Wow, such a gorgeous dish! I am so excited to try this out :) I bet it tastes ultra comforting!

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  16. This is a fantastic idea! I'm off gluten for awhile, and was just pouting because I'd have to miss out on pie this year. Not anymore!

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