Towards the end of summer, the asters that have been growing taller and taller, higher than high as they reach for the sunshine dwarfing the other garden flowers in the process, bloom. What looked like spindly weeds the last three weeks are now adorned with daisy-like purple flowers, turning their golden centers to the sun. Their deep purple petals mirror the spring irises that sit green and spent in their shadow.
Almost as instantly as the opening of those first asters, the bees come buzzing. Soon the gardens that surround the house are swarming with their soft, fuzzy bodies, and my children, squeal as they slide past so as not to disturb them.
For a good two months those blooms held in the garden, giving life to an otherwise dying landscape as September turned to October and the nights began to frost. Now, as I clear garden space, pack it with leaves to insulate it from our Minnesota winter, I first take a few moments to start something new for next year. Bulbs are buried, and along with them, a few seed bombs that will explode next year into a garden of wildflowers for our friendly bees.
My herbs have come in from the gardens, the last of the squash has been harvested, the carrots pulled. In the kitchen, I’ve given in, albeit reluctantly, to fall-flavored foods. I finally finished putting up tomatoes, and I’ve moved to apples. Pies and crisps and cider are common these days. For dinner there are squash and root vegetables, and I’m turning the oven on with gusto, hoping it will keep the cold out a bit longer into the evening hours.
These empanadas pair sweet winter squash with caramelized shallots and fragrant sage and thyme (the kind that’s hanging to dry in my dining room at present). They’re helped a long a bit further by creamy goat cheese. This salty and sweet combination bursts from flaky pastry shells, the essence of fall wrapped in a tiny little package.
Winter Squash Empanadas with Caramelized Shallots and Goat Cheese: Bee Friendlier
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 shallots, sliced
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 egg
- 8-10 tablespoons ice cold water (or chicken or vegetable stock)
- 10 ounces winter squash puree
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 1 egg
- In a small to medium saute pan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add in the sliced shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add in the butter chunks. Using your hand or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dough until the butter chunks range from tiny to pea-sized.
- In a small dish, whisk together the egg and 4 tablespoons of water. Drizzle the egg over the butter crumb mix and stir with your pastry blender to combine. Add in 1 tablespoon of remaining water at a time, stirring after each addition, until the dough starts to come together. It will still be crumbly, but should stick together slightly when squeezed into a ball.
- Separate the dough into two even parts. Wrap each in plastic wrap, using the plastic wrap to help form a disk. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Combine the winter squash puree with the caramelized shallots, sage, thyme, and salt. Stir to combine.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll into ¼" thick sheet and cut out about 5" rounds from the dough. In the center of each round, place a heaping teaspoon or two of winter squash mix and a small ½-teaspoon sized dollop of goat cheese. Fold the round in half, pinch and press the edge with the tines of a fork to seal. You can crimp them, too, if desired.
- Place your empanadas on your lined baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough and filling are used. Lightly beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush, brush the empanadas.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is evenly golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool slightly before serving.
This summer presented us with the opportunity to talk about good and bad yellow-and-black winged creatures, as wasps attached themselves first in our front yard and then under the flashing in the back. With the honeybees and bumble bees buzzing happily on the flowers and the wasps swarming up above (until we knocked down their nest and beat them senseless), the kids had an very personalized lesson in how to tell the difference and how we want one but not the other.
Pollinators are important for crop production, supporting and pollinating two-thirds of crops in the U.S. They are necessary for your chocolate fix, your morning cup of coffee, the cotton of your shirt, your afternoon almond snack, tomatoes on your salad, the pumpkins you carved for Halloween and the ones you roast for pie this month. Without an adequate population of pollinators, we can say goodbye to so many things that make up our life as we know it. Yet we spray our backyards to control for insects, we dump extra pesticides and insecticides on crops rather than practicing sustainable farming practices, and then when those pollinators threaten to disappear, reduce their numbers, fail to show up for the job we expect them to do, we fail to see the connection or care enough to act.
Learn more about colony collapse, pollinator problems, and how you can help by visiting Cascadian Farm’s Bee Friendlier site. Be informed, learn what you can do, and start making a difference.
Lene getting seed bombs ready and my mom doing manual labor in my garden.
This post is part of the Bee Friendlier campaign by Cascadian Farm. I’ve had a working relationship with CF since 2009. They are providing the giveaway and have sponsored this post, but all thoughts, opinions, recipes, and babbling are mine and mine alone.