Putting together this week's story on four Illinois farmers and their favorite Thanksgiving recipes ranks up there as one of my favorites. Vicki Westerhoff, David Cleverdon, Tracey Vowell and Marty Travis -- they are some good eggs, and with fascinating back stories to boot.
They were all gracious enough to share their recipes during what is typically for them a busy, busy time -- and if you don't try Travis' cornbread recipe, you're missing out.
Speaking of, I missed a few resources for local food during the winter months in our listing, but the Local Beet, of course, has me covered.
Here, after the jump, are two more recipes from Cleverdon we didn't have space for in the section that make clever use of squash and greens. The rolls, his great-grandmother's recipe, have been in Cleverdon's family since the late 19th-century.
Polenta with Italian Greens
MAKES 8 SERVINGS
1 pound Italian greens (cavolo nero or spigariello), cleaned, stemmed and coarsely shopped
4 garlic cloves
1 cup polenta (Cleverdon uses Bob's Red Mill brand)
2 fresh bay leaves
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter
Red pepper flakes
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Add greens and garlic cloves. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes until greens are slightly softened and bright-green. Drain in a colander.
Fish out the garlic cloves, transfer them to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess water. Transfer greens to food processor, sprinkle with salt and process with the garlic until very smooth, about 3 minutes.
Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil in a medium pot. Slowly whisk in polenta. Reduce the heat, add the bay leaves and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until polenta thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the pot, about 45 minutes. If the mixture gets too lumpy, use a whisk to smooth it out. If it gets too thick, add more water as needed to maintain a creamy texture.
When the polenta is cooked, stir in the pureed greens and garlic and cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, until thoroughly heated. Stir in Parmesan and butter. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
While polenta is still warm, spread it onto an oiled bakesheet, ¾- to 1-inch thick. Let stand overnight. Cut into rectangles, brush with butter, place on a sheet pan and roast in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes or until crispy.
Kinnikinnick Squash Rolls
MAKES ABOUT 18 ROLLS
1 cup Winter Squash (Blue Hubbard or Buttercup; Butternut will do in a pinch)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
Couple pinches of salt
1 cup scalded milk
½ yeast cake
About 2 1/2 cups flour (this will vary depending on density of squash)
Add squash, butter, sugar and salt to milk. When milk is lukewarm, add dissolved yeast.
Using a stand mixer, add enough flour to get a stiff dough. Cover and let rise overnight.
The next morning, punch down dough and shape into walnut-sized balls.
Put balls on greased pan and let them rise until at least double in size.
Bake in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.