A bit of summer flavor for cold winter nights, from the farmers of Maine's Blue Bell Farm.
Photographed by Derek Bissonnette
David Asmussen and Meredith Eilers started Bowdoinham’s Blue Bell Farm in 2013. In winter, when they’re not growing organic produce, their days are all about maintenance and preparation: fixing tools, poring over seed catalogs, pruning trees. Eilers is a partner in a law firm and chairs the board of the Maine Farmland Trust. At the end of a winter workday, Asmussen says, there’s something rewarding about heading to the pantry or freezer for some of last year’s tomatillos. “It’s nice to treat yourself to something you put away,” he says, “like opening up a little can of summer.”
2–4 small acorn squash olive oil 2 cups dry black beans 1 pound ground pork (optional, if you prefer a vegetarian dish) 1 1⁄2 teaspoons chili powder 1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed toasted fennel seed 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed coriander 1 teaspoon salt
For the salsa verde
1 pound tomatillos 1 garlic head 1 paste tomato (or 1 cup of canned tomato puree) 1 white onion 1 green pepper 1 jalapeño, diced finely 2⁄3 cup chopped cilantro apple cider vinegar 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375. Split each squash in half and scoop out the seeds. We like to use the Honey Bear variety of acorn squashes because they’re sweet and single-serving size — for this recipe, they double as a perfect-size bowl. Place the squashes face down on a roasting pan with a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of water. Roast for 45 minutes or until you can poke a fork through the back of the squash.
While the squash is roasting, rinse the beans and put them in a pressure cooker (unless you’ve soaked them in advance — “we never plan ahead,” Asmussen says). Asmussen and Eilers use the black turtle variety, which takes 8 minutes at high pressure (this will make plenty for leftovers). After that, turn off the heat and let the pressure come down naturally. They should still be nice beany shapes, not mush. If you’ve soaked the beans, simmer over low heat on the stove for 45 minutes or until tender.
If you’re making this a meat dish, sear the pork in a pan with chili powder, paprika, fennel seed, coriander, and salt, without stirring too much, so there are some crispy parts. Consider adding oil if the pork is lean. If you’re skipping the meat, add the seasonings to the beans and fry. Serve the black beans in the acorn squash bowl, top with ground pork and salsa verde.
To make the salsa verde, peel the husks off the tomatillos and garlic (we get our kids to do it). Put them on a cookie sheet under the broiler, set to high. Broil until they’re nicely toasted on one side, then poke them around, toast a bit more, and take them out. Put the tomatillos, garlic, tomato, onion, green pepper, jalapeño, cilantro, and a dash of vinegar into a food processor and zip for a few seconds. Add chili powder and salt to taste.