Filling the pond with trout is one of the magical things we do here each spring. I like to think of trout as a gateway livestock. If I start with trout, I might soon be plucking eggs from beneath my flock of chickens, racing piglets through the orchard, and knitting sweaters from my freshly shorn sheep. A girl can dream, can’t she?
Historically, our trout guy, the legendary Fred Laing, was here each year to fill our pond with a hundred+ of the gleaming, floppy creatures (Fred always kicked in a few for free…as neighbors do). This year we were all sad to learn of Fred’s passing – but happy to meet Fred’s son, Mike. Mike’s got some big galoshes to fill.
Apparently many of Fred’s trout secrets died along with him…all off to that sparkling fishing hole in the sky. Our course Fred’s wife, Mike’s mom, Sally, is still around to help unravel the great fishy mysteries. We were pleased when Mike kicked in a few extra rainbows just like Fred used to do. His father would be proud.
Trout day was also made special because it marked the pub date of April Bloomfield’s new book, A Girl and Her Greens. This is the first book I ever pre-ordered (including my own) so it arrived at our front door just a few minutes after the trout settled in. I would eat anything April Bloomfield cooks, and read anything she writes. A Girl and Her Pig is practically a bible around here. And of course, it sparked my own piggy adventures. This new book, and its dead-simple recipes, is a veggie-eaters must-have!
So I poured over April’s greens wishing my garden was already in full bloom. With my refrigerator near-empty at dinnertime and my cupboards practically bare, I remembered the last few ingredients I might have to work with and got to whipping something up.
It was a deliriously simple early-spring meal – a slab of something from the freezer circa not-too-long-ago, and whatever was still in good standing from the root cellar (aka, the box of winter squash I had shoved into the back of our coolest coat closet).
BUTTERNUT SQUASH POLENTA – INSPIRED BY, BUT WITH LESS INGREDIENTS THAN, APRIL BLOOMFIELD’S NEW BOOK.
April makes her recipe for 6-8 as a side. I used the following quantities for the 2 of us and will fry up the leftovers in a cast iron pan tonight. Update: the fried up leftovers were delightful!
1/2 tbsp flaky sea salt
1 cup of coarse polenta
1 lb of butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
4 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, all mushed up
a pinch of dried red pepper flakes (I used habanero, which made it quite spicy)
1 tbsp butter
1 oz of grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp mascarpone (I fridge-improvised with the creamy layer from the top of a Old Chatham Sheepherder’s yogurt.)
a handfull of chopped chives (not in April’s recipe, but it’s the only thing that’s growing out there, so I’m making the most of it)
Preheat the oven to 350;
1. Combine 3 1/2 cup of water plus almost all of the salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Get out your finest whisk and add the polenta, doing that whisking thing as you pour. In about 2 minutes, turn down the heat to as low as you can go. Cover your pot and stir the stuff every now and then. It will be ready in 45 minutes.
2. Ask your husband (wife, friend, neighbor, child, etc.) to toss the squash around in the oil, the garlic, the last bit of salt, the pepper flakes, in a baking dish. Pour a few tablespoons of water into the bottom of the dish, cover tightly with foil, and plop into the oven. In 30-40 minutes, the squash is done. Remove the foil and let all the bits get a little color on them in the oven. About 15 minutes more.
3. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any brown bits of cooked squash from the bottom of the baking dish and add the whole mess into the polenta.
4. Stir in the rest of the olive oil, the butter and the Parmesan. Fold in the mascarpone (if you, unlike me, happens to have it hanging around), add something cute and green if you’re stubborn about about it, and crack a few grinds of pepper on top.