It’s fair season, ya’ll! For several weeks, Mainers have been highly anticipating the annual shindigs across the state. There are three to speak of: Common Ground, Cumberland County, and Fryburg Fairs. The latter two start when the one before it ends, so you can really get your fair (and geography) fix if you were really dedicated.
On separate occasions, people told Chris and me that we needed to go to Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Common Ground Fair. The two of us are crunchy enough that folks generally get a good sense of what’s right up our alley. A fair dedicated to organic gardening, humanely raised animals, solar energy, crafts, art, and preservation is exactly that–right up my freakin’ alley! And it certainly didn’t disappoint.
There’s only one road in to the fairgrounds in the small town called Unity. If you ever go, there is a train that shuttles people back and forth from a few miles up the road from the fairgrounds which I highly recommend to avoid getting tangled up in traffic.
Once we arrived, we walked through the gates and the first section was devoted entirely to a farmer’s market. Apples, squash, leafy greens, potatoes, and onions spilled over the tops of harvest baskets. After winding through the market, we made our way to the food vendor section because as we do before fairs, we didn’t eat anything the morning-of because we knew what was coming: scrumptious fair food. Now, if you’re looking for funnel cakes and fried twinkies, this is not the fair for you. Most* foods are not only healthy(ish) but are made wholly of locally-sourced ingredients.
We started with a small basket of fried shitake mushrooms, lightly fried and salted and a lemonade sweetened with local honey.
Then, I moseyed to the next tent over and got a lamb gyro, and it was the best $10 I’ve spent in a long time. Chris got a brat with onions and peppers but gobbled it up before I could take a picture. No complaints there.
After food, we wandered over to the barns to see the furry, feathery, and wooly animals in all shapes and sizes, like this cute fellow with the overgrown bangs:
And what would a fair be without a craft tent or two?! All of the textiles being sold at the fair were hand-woven/spun/carved/whittled/painted/made. Everything was stunning!
Before we knew it, we had been there 4 hours and we were hearing the last call over the intercoms. As we were leaving, I stopped by one of the market vendors to pick up a few things for the week.
Since it’s fall and since there was the slightest bite in the air, I left with a bag full of squash. In fact, I left with more squash than I knew what to do with. I was just utterly in love with the colors, shapes, and sizes of them all, so I pretty much had to get one (or two) of each.
So the better question: what the hell was I going to do with all the fleshy, sweet, golden potential-deliciousness I had on hand? My mind went to a tagine.
Tagines are Moroccan stews named after the earthenware, conical-topped pot in which they’re cooked. Often, they’re stewed with spices like cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and dried fruits like prunes, raisins, and apricots, and honey, so they’re lightly sweetened. This particular recipe is a variation of a traditional tagine, stuffed inside a sweet squash. It’s heightened by the sweetness of prunes and honey, caramelized shallots, and acorn squash.
The pot itself really is a kitchen must-have if only for its beauty. My mother-in-law gave us one a few Christmas’s ago, along with a couple easy-to-follow cookbooks, and we use it nearly every week. With Christmas coming up, if you were wondering what to get the cook you know and love in your life, a tagine is a perfect gift!
- 2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
- 2 Tbsp. butter+2 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter)--if you don't have ghee, use olive oil or 3T butter
- 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
- 12 small shallots, peeled, ends trimmed, and left whole
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 16 oz. can of chickpeas, drained)
- 16 prunes, halved
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 2 cups chicken of vegetable stock
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Chopped cilantro
- lightly roasted Marcona almonds to garnish
- Preheat over to 400 degrees.
- Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place acorn squash halves, cut side up, on the sheet. Place ½ Tbsp. butter in each half. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon.
- Roast for 1 hour or until the flesh is tender.
- While the squash is cooking, heat the ghee in a tagine or dutch oven over medium heat.
- Stir in ginger, garlic, and cinnamon. Add shallots. When shallots start to brown slightly, add carrots and chickpeas.
- Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add prunes and honey, stirring to coat.
- Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid, and simmer for about 45 minutes.
- Once squash is done, stuff each half with ¼ of the tagine mixture. Drizzle each with remaining sauce.
- Top with Marcona almonds and fresh cilantro.