A lot of you have asked about my CSA (community supported agriculture) membership, so I thought I’d use this post to explain a bit about it — especially since this recipe is fully inspired by my farm share.
A CSA is a program that allows you to buy fresh produce directly from local farmers. When I lived in Boston, I participated in a farm share from Siena Farms for two years (fun fact: Siena is owned by the husband of the woman who runs the well known restaurants Oleana and Sarma). My friends Lea, Austin and I split a box of fresh vegetables each week. The share lasted all summer long and included greens, garlic, carrots, kohlrabi, onions, potatoes, and more. Split 3 ways, it mapped out to about $15 per week which was equivalent to what I usually spent getting veggies at the grocery store.
When I moved to Seattle, I knew I wanted to get involved in a farm share right away. I love knowing that I’m eating with the seasons and I like to know where my food comes from. My Boston CSA also challenged me with items that I might not buy at the grocery store on a regular basis — I had to mix my cooking style to accommodate that week’s box and I learned to like new foods because of that. Plus, if I didn’t eat something quickly, I had to preserve it. Since that first CSA in Boston, I’ve learned to pickle, make sauces, and dry herbs. And I really, really enjoy supporting local farmers. It’s my way of connecting with the ground beneath my feet every single day.
Seattle has a lot of CSAs, but Tilth Alliance is perhaps the most famous. It’s the one I signed up for when I moved here because they allowed for late arrivals. For $25 per week, I got a half share of fruits and veggies. I loved this share because it featured produce from a bunch of different area farms, not just one. Each week we got a newsletter about where the produce came from, along with recipes from the farmers themselves. The Tilth share also included fruit — I got peaches, plums and apples in addition to all the usual greens, herbs and veggies. As a bonus, I picked up my share in the middle of the Wallingford Farmer’s Market so I was able to grab whatever else I might need (butter, meat, veggies I didn’t get) in one trip. I could add things to each week’s shares, too — eggs, flowers, and milk. I loved it.
My share just ended for the summer and Tilth is actually shutting down their CSA next year. However, many of the farms that have incubated within Tilth will be starting their own CSAs. I’m excited to support one (or two!) of them next year, and I’m thinking about joining a meat share, too. Many people think that supporting local farmers too expensive, but I’ve actually found quite the opposite to be true. If I go to Trader Joe’s or QFC or Whole Foods, I spend close to $40 on produce (yes, I eat a lot of green things). When I pick up my farm share, I’m spending close to half that — often for produce that was picked the day before, produce that was grown by people in my community. That makes my heart sing. The onions are 10 times as pungent and funky, the tomatoes are bursting with juices and bright red or bright green, and the kale has extended flavor and crunch. The produce lasts longer, too. It’s a joyful experience to know that I’m eating real food — food as humans were intended to eat it.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 6 cremini mushrooms, sliced horizontally
- 2 T olive oil
- 1/2 t dried thyme
- 1 package of italian sausage (5 links)
- 1 box lasagna noodles (the “no cook” kind)
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 T flour
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1.5-2 cups milk
- 1 t dried sage
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese + 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the butternut squash chunks and mushrooms with olive oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper, then roast them for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through to prevent burning. After 20 minutes, you should be able to prick the butternut squash easily with a fork. Remove them from the oven and let cool (but keep the oven on).
Meanwhile, cook the italian sausage in a medium saucepan — squeeze the meat out of the casings and cook it until there’s no more pink. Remove the sausage from the pan, then add the onion and saute until light brown. Once the onions look fairly translucent, add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Then make a roux by melting 1/4 cup (or 4 T) butter in that saucepan over medium-high heat (you can leave the onions and garlic in the pan, just scoot them to the side!). Once the butter is melted, sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk quickly for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture looks light brown and bubbly. Slowly add 1.5 cups milk in a steady stream, reduce the heat to medium, then continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add the sage and 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, stirring to make a basic cheese sauce (much like the sauce I make for mac n’ cheese!). If the sauce seems too thick, add the last 1/4-1/2 cup milk. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat, keeping it on low.
Transfer the roasted butternut squash and mushrooms to a bowl and lightly smash them to make a kind of lumpy paste.
To construct the lasagna, grease a 13×9 pan and add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of the pan. Top with lasagna noodles, then 1/3 of the sausage, then 1/3 of the butternut squash mixture, then a few spoonfuls of ricotta cheese. Cover with another hefty spoonful of sauce, then repeat: noodles, sausage, squash, ricotta, sauce. Complete that one last time — noodles, sausage, squash, ricotta, sauce. Then finish the lasagna with the reserved shredded mozzarella cheese and another light sprinkle of sage, salt and pepper.
Bake the lasagna for 30-35 minutes, until it’s golden and bubbly and the noodles have been sufficiently rehydrated. The top should be golden brown. Oh, and don’t worry about eating this all on day one — it stays good for a while, tastes better the next day, and can even be frozen! Enjoy.