I love summer in Humboldt County for a number of reasons, including the amazing produce our farmers bring to the markets and the fog that keeps us cool (“Get Out into the Fog”, August 26). Therefore, I usually enjoy my favorite season in my favorite place. This year, however, after almost two years without visiting my homeland and family, I visited Italy at the end of August.
Suddenly, I missed a month of tomatoes, peppers, melons, figs, peaches, pluots and sweet corn at the farmers’ markets. I missed cycling on the avenue of the giants on Sunday morning and stopping at the farm which is there at the end of the ride (“A bike ride among the giants”, September 10, 2020) . And no catch-up since my return can give me back what I missed. On the other hand, I loved shopping for food and cuisine in Italy and Switzerland. There, I set up my usual approach: I looked for local products, looked for ways to buy what was in season directly from the producers, then I was creative in the kitchen with this that I bought.
In the Val Venosta, an alpine valley on the western slope of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), near the Swiss and Austrian border, surrounded by hectares of apple orchards laden with almost ripe fruit, we ate pears from the new harvest, freshly harvested cabbage, lots of mountain strawberries and my first zucchini (winter squash) of the season.
The internet has helped me find places to visit, like farms that sell direct to customers, but keeping my eyes peeled has helped. For example, in Prato allo Stelvio, the town in Val Venosta where we stayed, knowing a few Germans helped me realize that what looked like a house was also a farm stall twice a week. There I bought homemade flatbread, cabbage and their formaggio di malga.
During the days we spent in the Alps, we tasted different types of formaggio di malga, cheeses made during the summer months, when cows, sheep and goats graze on rich high altitude pastures. Not all of the cheeses I bought were great, but a cheese that is only average on the plate can still work well once melted, so I experimented with adding cheese to the cooked veg just before cooking. to serve.
We bought pears and apples from a farm stand, a trailer parked along the path that takes cyclists among apple orchards, through old towns and Stelvio National Park, away from busy highways. The self-service booth also offered fresh apple juice and dried apple and pear slices.
My husband loved the pears which inspired me to add the fruits to the cabbage. The first winter squash seemed like a nice addition, so the recipe I’m sharing here was born. When I got home to Humboldt, all the ingredients were waiting for me at the first farmers market I visited, so I kept doing it. When I taste it, it reminds me of sweet alpine memories.
Cabbage with winter squash, pear and cheese
Choose different types of squash, pears and cheese for a dish that tastes slightly different each time.
For 5-6 people.
8 ounces of winter squash, such as honey, butternut or delicata
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 ounces of red onion, finely diced
1 pound of green cabbage
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon harissa spice blend
cup of lukewarm water
4 ounces of firm, thin-skinned pear or Asian pear
¾ -1 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
1 ounce of freshly grated cheese of your choice
Remove the seeds and strings from the squash (a grapefruit spoon is my favorite tool for this). Use a heavy-duty pivoting vegetable peeler to peel the squash, then cut it into cubes no larger than ½ inch.
Heat olive oil in a 10-inch deep sauté pan or large skillet over medium heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the onion, mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squash, mix well and cook for another 2 minutes. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Meanwhile, quarter and seed the cabbage. Cut each quarter into ¼ inch thick ribbons.
Add the garlic to the pan, sprinkle the harissa over the vegetables and mix well. After 1 minute, add the cabbage and water, stir lightly (this will be a bit inconvenient, given the volume of the raw cabbage) and cover. Cook over low heat until the cabbage is almost ready (18-20 minutes), stirring often.
During this time, cut, seed and slice the pear.
Add the pear to the cabbage and mix well. Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. The cabbage and squash will be tender, the pear slightly crisp.
Sprinkle ¾ teaspoon of salt, mix, taste and add more salt if necessary. Remove the pan from the fire.
Spread the cheese over the vegetables and cover the pan again for a few minutes to let the cheese soften. Use immediately.
Simona Carini (her) also writes about her cooking adventures on her blog www.pulcetta.com and shares photos on Instagram @simonacarini. She particularly enjoys creating still lifes with products from the farmer’s market.