Stuff and Stuffed
After yesterday’s post, I’m getting the sense that there are many kindred cranberry spirits out there. That’s a relief since I really didn’t feel like chucking the next three recipes out with the dishwater. Especially since this one for spaghetti squash stuffed with sauteed collards and poached cranberries topped with a classic white sauce is shamefully easy but guaranteed to impress any dinner guests, even if it’s just the same ol’ crew that shows up at your table every night.
But before I get ahead of myself with all the virtues of cranberries, did you all hear the exciting news?? “Localvore” has been dubbed the 2007 New oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year. Oh, you already heard? Well, darn it, I just found out, and I’m thrilled that 1) this is an officially recognized word and not just some slang term amongst us wacky farmers market types and 2) it’s had such an impact on our nation’s culture since its coinage two years ago out on the West coast that it gets recognized with this award.
I’m pretty certain I’ve been a localvore since the day I was born, trucking fresh blueberries or the likes over such distances as 15 feet from the garden to the swing set so I could have a snack. But I was one of the very few lucky kids that got to grow up on a farm. I read an interesting fact in Kingsolver’s book. According to her and her husband’s research, in the past 10 years, the United States has lost on average 300 farms a week! Meanwhile, we import 1.4 million tons of potatoes each year. Wait a second…what?? Yep, we’re loosing hundreds of small farms a week while we import over a million tons of the common, grow-it-anywhere-even-in-a-pot potato!
In a terrible and painfully ironic plot twist, US farmers actually export 1.1 million tons of potatoes each year, making just a fraction of the money they could if those same potatoes were kept here to meet local consumer demand for 1.4 million tons. And it’s not just the near-extinct small farmer that suffers in this equation. The rest of us have to deal with poor quality potatoes, some rotting across the 1,000+ miles they travel to get to our plate, that have bumped up the size of all of our carbon footprints. Makes ya think, doesn’t it? If it doesn’t, then you’re just not meant to be a “localvore.”
But let’s get off the depressing state of affairs for US farmers and focus instead of the virtues of the darling cranberry. While only five percent of all cranberries grown in the United States are sold fresh (the other 95% are juiced, frozen or dried), it’s the best way to eat them since processing of any kind begins to break down their beneficial nutrients. As you probably already know, cranberries are packed full of goodness, mostly in the form of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Both of these plant compound do-gooders have been found to fight cancer and reduce the side effects of aging.
Cranberries also contain tannins, which the ladies in the audience probably already know help reduce urinary tract infections. But tannins also reportedly help fight plague and gingivitis. Move over Oral-B…cranberries are combating gum disease the al naturale way! Okay, before I get myself in trouble here, I’d just like to say that your daily brushing routine should not be replaced by eating a cup of cranberries twice a day. I don’t want any of you sending me your root canal bills! The basic message here is that cranberries are yet another one of nature’s treasures for maintaining good health.
Stuffed Spaghetti Squash with White Sauce
A Straight from the Farm Original
1 large spaghetti squash
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 young collard greens, cut into thin ribbons
½ c. white wine
¾ c. fresh cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ¼ c. milk
1 T. butter
2 T. flour
Freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and lay cut-side down on baking sheet. Prick several times with a sharp knife and bake for 30-45 minutes until a knife slips easily into the squash. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to easily handle.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil and sauté collards and scallions for 4 to 5 minutes until greens are wilted. Add cranberries and wine to skillet and cover. Lower heat slightly and let simmer until liquid evaporates, about 4 minutes.
With a fork, fluff spaghetti squash to separate strands and scrap out the shells. Add squash strands to skillet and toss everything together. Keep warm in the skillet over very low heat while you prepare the white sauce.
Warm the milk in a small pan. Transfer the milk back to the measuring cup. In the pan, melt butter over low heat, then add the flour, stirring to cook for about a minute until the mixture forms a thick paste. Remove pan from heat and gradually add the warmed milk, whisking constantly to remove lumps. Return pan to low heat and cook, whisking, until the sauce boils and thickens. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
To serve squash, fill empty squash shells with vegetable mixture. Spoon about a half cup of sauce over each stuffed shell. Serve immediately.
(serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side)