Merriam-Webster defines “thanks” as “kindly or grateful thoughts,” and it defines “giving” both as “to make a present of” and also “to put into the possession of another for their use.” These definitions, joined together into one word, Thanksgiving, could not better express what happens in the Helena community at this time of year.
The idea that no table should be bare, especially throughout the holidays and the cold winter months, inspires our neighbors on every level to share their resources with those of us who are experiencing food insecurity. At Helena Food Share, we have local farmers who bring their produce, grocers who on a daily basis share their expiring-but-still-good wares, and countless folks just like you and me who want to make a difference and share a turkey, the price of a holiday meal, or a donation to help feed the hungry in our community. Being able to celebrate together with a delicious Thanksgiving meal is something that we Helenans all agree upon.
The last of the local harvest brings an abundance of winter squashes, both familiar and unimagined, to Helena Food Share. As we head into the holidays with more strange squashes than we know what to do with – never fear! All squash are delicious and there is a recipe out there to convince you. Winter squashes are a healthy source of fiber and are loaded with carotenes and vitamin C. Here are two recipes to tempt you, either as part of your Thanksgiving meal, or for any winter menu:
Winter Squash Fritters
3 cups winter squash (any kind; I used buttercup), peeled, seeded, and grated
1 bunch of green onions, sliced thin
1/3 C flour
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying
3 leaves of kale, stemmed and chopped
Combine all of the ingredients except the oil in a bowl. Heat a couple of Tb of oil in a skillet over medium heat and drop enough of your batter, about 1/3 C each, to form 3-4 fritters. The natural sugars in the squash cause the fritters to caramelize quickly, so a lower heat is necessary. Cook 2- 3 minutes and then flip the fritters and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked through. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes for good measure. Remove from heat, drain on paper towels, and continue cooking batches of fritters until your batter is done. Very nice as a side dish, or lovely served as a meal with a salad.
Hearty Winter Squash and Barley Salad
1 medium winter squash, such as butternut or buttercup, peeled, seeded, and diced into approximately 1-inch cubes
1 ½ C barley
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1 bunch parsley, chopped
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
5 scallions, sliced thin
¾ C toasted pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts or pecans (optional)
I bunch kale, remove the big stems, chop coarsely, and in a bowl, sprinkle a small bit of salt on the kale and then massage it lightly with your hands while tossing it. Doing this removes any bitter taste.
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ C brown sugar or maple syrup
½ C olive oil
Salt & pepper
Prepare the barley:
Bring 6 cups of lightly salted water to a boil and add the barley. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cover with a lid. Cook for 40 minutes, and drain. You can test the barley for doneness after 30 minutes; it should be firm yet tender when it’s done. This step can be done ahead of time. It’s best to let the barley cool down before using it for your salad.
In a pan, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Add a small pinch of salt and your squash cubes and cover with a lid, allowing a crack to let the steam escape. Cook for about 5-8 minutes, until the squash is easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside.
Toss all of the ingredients together with the dressing and let sit for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors blend before serving.