Dinner on the Farm + RECIPE: Red Kuri Squash Cardamom Cake

The weekends where I force my husband to harvest crate after crate of fresh vegetables from the field, haul them up to my parents’ huge kitchen and then spend hours cooking up an extravagant, locally-inspired meal for 20 friends is the absolute best kind of weekend.

It’s the kind of weekend where I am truly honored to be married to a farmer. With my love of cooking and his love of growing, we’ve got something really special going on here. And sometimes, amidst the stress of working a bazillion jobs and having nineteen unfinished to-do lists, I get really overwhelmed and can’t see straight and I take it all for granted. Then I spend two days dicing and pureeing, whisking and mincing, chopping and kneading and I suddenly remember that this is why we do this. For the food. And the experience. And the people who come together around a giant table. It’s beautiful. And we get to create something magical. First with his bare hands and then with mine. Seriously, we make magic happen out there on that table. How many couples get to do that kind of thing together?! I am awash in a good food weekend hangover. And I hope it lasts all week.

This past Saturday, my Carrot and I hosted 22 guests out at the farm. We gave a tour of all the fall crops and then served up five courses of vegetable happiness on the back deck of my parents’ beautiful home. (Have I mentioned that we rent farmland from my parents and this often involves a takeover or two or six of their home throughout the season?! Have I mentioned that we are forever indebted to my parents for being so generous and accommodating to a child who loves to not only farm but also be a hostess! Thanks mom and dad! You’re the greatest!)

The menu for this dinner was extravagant. To say the least. And I certainly went overboard. Like way overboard. As if five courses wasn’t already extreme enough, I also made them quite large because I don’t know, it’s hard to understand how much food five plates of food will be until you see everyone holding their bellies. Whoopsies. The more full, the better the hostess? Right? Okay, that’s what I’ll tell myself.

Anyways, I’ll be sharing all the dinner recipes with you because 1) I’ve never been so proud of a farm-inspired menu and 2) I have a bazillion beautiful photographs to share because my friend Stacy was a dinner guest with a camera (the best kind of dinner guest!). Those photos come later. Today’s photos will be a little less beautiful and a little more lame because they are my own and taking photos while serving five courses is not yet a skill I possess.

So let’s start with this dessert I made. Because dessert first. Always. Am I right!? This perfect, elegant, fluffy, spicy red kuri squash cake course was my absolute finest achievement.

plating time

I had this vision (for weeks) to make a dessert with winter squash and raspberries. I’m not sure why. I guess because I am a farmer and I feel like I have to incorporate a whole lot of produce into every course I serve out at the farm and although yes, we do have apples, it just doesn’t feel like apple season yet. Plus that’s such an obvious dessert choice! So I went totally nuts and convinced myself that I simply had to use the only other dessert-like items we are currently growing in a dessert together. Winter squash and raspberries it would be.

My mom is an excellent cook. She knows flavor. She told me probably 19 times that I should just stop forcing it. That raspberry and squash would be weird. That I was neurotic and crazy and too often get lost in my own crazy schemes and was stressing out about a dessert that didn’t need to be so difficult. All true. Definitely. But alas, I do get lost in my own crazy schemes and this one stuck.

What emerged was a delicate moist cake with a raspberry salted caramel and cardamom maple whipped cream. Also known as quite possibly my favorite food creation of all time. (Suck it mom! {I don’t meant that}). If you’re feeling fancy, make this cake with all the fixings. If you’re feeling more lazy than fancy, don’t feel bad. This cake can fly solo. And no one will even know what they missed. Because who would ever think that raspberry and winter squash was a good idea?!

From my table to yours,

Leek

P.S. Crazy home-building scheme is still in the works. At least for now. The township has approved the location we dreamed of building on! Next step: septic test holes! The things you get excited about as an adult are weird.

kuri squash cake

RED KURI SQUASH CARDAMOM CAKE
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Takes 50 minutes (for the cake, potentially longer for the fancy pants accouterments)
Makes 6 perfect cakes

2 cups cubed red kuri squash, seeds removed, skin can be left on
1 cup whole milk
Butter or cooking spray
1-1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
1/2 cup lager (you want a mild beer, so a cheap beer will actually work great; just none of that lite beer crap)
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Raspberry Salted Caramel
1/2 cup raspberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 teaspoons water
Cardamom Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 small ramekins, 1 dozen muffin pan or 9×9 square baking pan (I used the ramekins but I think a muffin pan would also work great; square baking pan will take longer to cook) with butter or cooking spray.
Combine squash and milk in a small saucepan on the stove. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the squash is very tender. Place a colander over a measuring cup and strain liquid from squash. Reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid. Puree the squash and 1/4 cup liquid in a food processor until smooth. (Just mash with a fork or potato masher if you don’t have a food processor).
Measure out 1 cup of puree into a large bowl. Combine with brown sugar, olive oil and eggs. Whisk until smooth. Add flour, cardamom, baking soda and sea salt. Pour evenly into pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Sometimes it took me 5 minutes longer to bake these. Not sure why. Use the toothpick test to make sure they’re cooked through. Serve warm!
For raspberry salted caramel: Combine raspberries and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes until they get super juicy. Press the raspberries through a fine mesh strainer, saving the raspberry juice. Let the raspberry juice cool and then combine with 1/4 cup heavy cream.
In a large saute pan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook over medium-low heat. Stir with a spoon pretty continuously until sugar dissolves. Once the sugar dissolves, stop stirring. Reduce the heat to low. The mixture will bubble slowly and turn from clear to a pale amber and eventually to a nice caramel-colored amber. Hint: this is when it’s turned to caramel!
Watch the mixture bubble slowly and don’t get too far from the stove. This caramelization process can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on how hot your pan and stove top gets. Stir the mixture every couple minutes (sometimes only the bottom layer of sugar caramelizes and you won’t see the true color and then suddenly it will be burnt and you won’t know why). Watch closely, medium amber = done. Once it’s caramel, sprinkle with sea salt and remove from heat. Stir in raspberry cream. Stir until smooth. This will thin the caramel quite a bit. If it’s thinner than you, just return to heat and simmer over very low heat until it has the thickness you like for caramel sauce.
For cardamom whipped cream: Whip heavy cream in a large mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. This is incredibly simple with a stand mixer. It’s a whole lot less fun by hand. Fold in maple syrup and cardamom.

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