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Cooking from the Autumn Garden

By Anna Tracht, Phase II Fellow

Each week, I’m lucky enough to work with the two other senior fellows, Sarah and Katie, at the AMI Urban Farm on the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB) campus. My days there have been a highlight of my week throughout the year, and it’s wonderful to share in the harvest of all the vegetables that are growing at the farm. This past Wednesday, Katie, Sarah and I cooked dinner with AMI alum Kayla, making the most of the autumn garden and the bounty coming out of it. Here are some of our favorite recipes from that evening, using pumpkin, squash, cornmeal, potatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, arugula, and sage from our garden and our friends’ gardens- let us know how you use your fall produce in your kitchen!

Cast-Iron Cornbread Bake

For this tasty dish, whip up your favorite veggie sauté. We used potatoes, eggplant, peppers, onions, garlic, and black beans. We also threw in plenty of smoked paprika and cumin. Another option is to prepare a small batch of your favorite chili recipe. While your veggies are cooking down on the stovetop, mix up some cornbread. We used this recipe: When your veggies are just about cooked, pour the cornbread batter on top of the pan, and bake the whole thing in the oven at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until the cornbread is just cooked through. Remove from the oven, let it cool, slice it up, and serve!

Roasted Delicata Arugula Salad

My favorite way to roast delicata squash is to cut it in half length-wise, scoop out the seeds, and slice into small crescents. Spread them out on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper on top, and roast at 375 for about half an hour, mixing them occasionally so they don’t stick to the pan. Once the squash pieces have started to brown and are easily pricked with a fork, they’re ready to eat.

These roasted squash pieces are absolutely wonderful on top of an arugula salad, along with caramelized onion. To top it off, we made a sage and balsamic vinaigrette. Blend balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, a clove of garlic, and some fresh or dried sage. Feel free to adjust to taste!

Pumpkin Blondies

For dessert, nothing beats the autumn classic: pumpkin. For a healthy take on a pumpkin dessert, try this recipe for pumpkin blondies: We subbed in peanut butter for the almond butter, and sprinkled pecans on top. It was a delicious way to enjoy the rich flavor of a pumpkin grown by friends.

Once all of this food came together, we sat down to enjoy the meal together. Before eating, we took a moment to thank each other, and to acknowledge and recognize the work that had gone into creating the meal in front of us, from growing and caring for it in the field, to preparing it to eat that night. It was wonderful to feel the sense of power that comes from a group of women working together to create food- it feels like tapping into a deep cultural tradition. As we move further into this season of harvest, I’m looking forward to more meals like this, and wish many for you and those you love.

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