Food for Hard Times


Greens used to be the vegetable of the poor. My Depression-scarred grandparents adored them and passed that love on to me. In the fall, my grandfather plowed up our vegetable garden and sowed the field in turnips. By early November, we would have not only turnips, which kept for months, but also the turnip greens. My grandmother would preserve them by cleaning, blanching, and freezing them, so they too would be available throughout the winter. We also relied on collards, which are in season right now. (We got some lovely batches in the last few deliveries of our CSA.)

Greens make me think of my grandparents, and I’ve been wanting to talk to them a lot lately: “Are you as worried as in 1929 as I am now? Do you think this is going to be as bad?” This morning I woke up and actually thought I should give them a call, then realized they aren’t available anymore. All I can do now is cook the foods they ate when times were hard–even if they now show up in stores whose prices would have sent my grandparents into apoplectic shock.

I’ve shared one recipe for greens on this blog (Hulga’s Vegetarian Collard Greens), but was shocked in perusing my archives that I haven’t featured more. So here’s one from last week that will give you something to do with your fall vegetables.

Butternut Squash and Collards with Penne (2 large servings)

1/2 pound penne pasta
1 medium butternut squash (can substitute any fall squash, including pumpkin), stem removed, halved lengthwise, and seeds scooped out, plus 1 tsp. olive oil for roasting
3 cups collards with stems, chopped (turnip greens, mustard greens, or kale would probably work too)
1 tbsp. olive oil or 1 cup chicken stock for sauteeing
1 large onion, quartered and sliced thin
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. crushed red pepper (add more or less to taste)
2 – 3 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
NOTE: Save seeds from squash to roast, either for garnish or a snack

1. Preheat oven to 350. Baste halved butternut squash with olive oil. Place cut side down on jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft.

2. Meanwhile, saute onion in olive oil or chicken broth in large skillet on medium high heat until translucent. Add garlic and stir. Add collards, crushed red pepper and salt. Turn heat to low and cover. Cook on low heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for about 15 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside, covered, until squash is done.

3. Put salted water on to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

4. When squash is done, scoop out of skin and add to collard mix. Add 2 cups chicken stock. Stir together. Continue to add stock in small amounts until squash has reached consistency of thick tomato sauce. Mix with pasta in large bowl. Serve with grated parmesan cheese. Garnish with roasted butternut squash seeds if desired.

Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds

Preheat oven to 400. Rinse squash seeds and remove most of flesh. Spread out between two cloth towels and pat dry. Place in small bowl. Add 1 tsp. olive oil, salt to taste, and stir. Spread on jelly roll pan or cookie sheet and roast for 15 minutes or until lightly brown.

5 thoughts on “Food for Hard Times

  1. this recipe sounds really good. In fact, I’m going to hunt for some collard greens at the farmer’s market tomorrow so I can try it out. My grocery store only carries greens in dainty bunches of about 5 leaves, and they cost around $3 per bunch.

  2. I made this for dinner last night, substituting acorn squash for butternut. It was good, but a little too sweet. I think I might splash in a bit of red wine when I heat up the leftovers tonight.

  3. Hulga–I hope it’s not too late to dissuade you from the red wine. I would try Tabasco or red peppers instead, or more salt. But let me know how the wine works.

  4. The wine was just the ticket. A few splashes of Malbec toned down the sweetness of the squash and gave a rich and complex flavor. It also turned the penne a mottled red color, but I can live with that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s