Butternut Squash and Brazil-Nut Potstickers
Plus, a big reason why you should support a small community farm.
Photos by Leah Lizarondo
Last weekend, I had the privilege of paying homage to one of the community-supported agriculture groups that I was part of this season: Garfield Community Farm. Chef Kevin Sousa, one of the farm’s most ardent supporters, hosted a fundraising event with a pie contest (featuring almost 50 pies!), a fresh cider press, beer from East End Brewing Co., music, and cooking demonstrations by Chris Fennimore and yours truly. The weather could not have been better, and so many people showed up to support this little urban farm that could.
In 2008, a group from The Open Door Presbyterian Church and Valley View Presbyterian Church, led by John Creasy, planted the first seeds of what would evolve to be a 2-acre farm on reclaimed land in Garfield. This farm employs innovative practices such as permaculture and organic farming, resulting in yields that provide for the Valley View Church’s food pantry, a group of CSA members, a farmstand for the Garfield community and Sousa’s Salt of the Earth restaurant. During the summer, the farm completed a bioshelter that will be used to grow seedlings in the spring and provide small crops in the winter.
What’s the difference between a bioshelter and a greenhouse? As John puts it in the GCF blog, “A bioshelter is quite simply an ecologically designed and managed greenhouse. For instance our bioshelter is designed for passive solar heat gain, uses insulation instead of a furnace, harvests thousands of gallons of rainwater, is partially earth sheltered and very soon will create all of [its] own electricity.”
Such practices are the beacons of hope for our food system. These beacons are carried by smallholder farms such as Garfield Community Farm, not by industrial agriculture.
While the war rages on about GMOs, pesticides, monoculture farming and a whole slew of industrial agriculture methods that are unsustainable, smallholder farms are quietly doing what “Big Ag” markets itself as doing: feeding the world.
In a recent article in The New York Times, Mark Bittman writes that “the industrial food chain uses 70 percent of agricultural resources to provide 30 percent of the world’s food, whereas …’the peasant food web’ [of small landholders] produces the remaining 70 percent using only 30 percent of the resources.” And since the United States’ rate of hunger is the highest of any developed nation, we need the efficiencies of small farms like Garfield Community in more neighborhoods like Garfield to provide fresh, real food to those in need.
So it was very much a pleasure and privilege to share last Sunday with the community to raise funds for Garfield Community Farm.
For the demo, I made some winter-squash potstickers using the farm’s produce. This is such a fun dish — an extraordinary way to use winter squash and a combination of flavors that are very unpredictable but work incredibly well together.
The potsticker is filled with a winter squash puree with Asian flavors — soy sauce, ginger, scallions — plus a more modern Brazil nut “cream.” So the style is a little bit Western with the combination of a creamy pâté that mimics the cheese component of, say, a ravioli or pierogi. It also uses squash, which you are more apt to find in a ravioli filling than in a potsticker. The combination makes for heavenly, little creamy bites.
Don’t be intimidated by the dumpling pleat-folding action in the photos; you can simply fold the wrapper and pinch to close.
Make these this season, and everyone will love you for it. These potstickers are delicious, unexpected and will definitely be the unique item at the buffet table!
Winter Squash and Brazil-Nut Potstickers
Yield: Makes about 40 potstickers
40 wonton wrappers*
Butternut Squash Puree
- 1 pound cooked winter squash (I like to roast them)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons potato starch or arrowroot, sifted
- ¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Place cooked winter squash in a food processor and puree. Place in a pot and add soy sauce, maple syrup, salt, scallions, ginger, salt and pepper. Over medium heat, bring to a gentle boil. Add the sifted potato starch and continue to boil gently while stirring. Simmer until the mixture is somewhat thick but not pasty.
Brazil Nut Puree
- 1 ½ cups Brazil nuts, soaked overnight then drained
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- salt to taste
- pepper (lots)
water, if needed
Place all ingredients except water in a food processor and process until smooth. You may need to add a little water at a time until desired consistency — more like a paste.
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 scallions, chopped
Mix all ingredients and stir to incorporate.
Place about ½ teaspoon each of winter squash puree and Brazil nut in the center of each wrapper; brush edges with water. Bring up corners to make a semi-circle, press to seal. Place on a baking sheet (you can freeze the dumplings at this point to be cooked later). While filling, place a damp towel over the already filled dumplings to prevent the wrapper from drying out.
Lightly coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add potstickers and let the bottom “sear.” Shake the pan to prevent sticking. When bottoms are seared, pour enough water to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan and steam the dumplings for about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and repeat with remaining oil and potstickers.
Serve with sauce.
*Available in some grocery and Asian specialty stores. If labeled, I prefer the “Shanghai” style because it is thinner than “Hong Kong” style wrappers. The filling is the star, not the dough.