large lemongrass plantLast January, I was all about lemongrass, specifically a lemongrass stock recipe from favorite chef Annie Somerville of the famous Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. I was offering a recipe for winter salad that made use of the few greens we have in the Midwest during winter. But the showstopper ingredient was lemongrass stock from Somerville’s bestseller Fields of Greens. This freezable stock has been a staple in my kitchen ever since. So when Frank Biver out at Biver Farms said he had a BIG plant, I was at the ready with my shears.

And Frank was not kidding about size. His lemongrass plant was fished from the throwaway compost pile as an experiment. As you can see, Frank’s plant is on the order of Little Shop of Horrors—we call her Audrey. And we really hope she reappears next year—or maybe one of her cousins. Anyway, I’ve made quite a bit of lemongrass stock, and decided to follow Somerville’s lead to create a vegan curry, using rich fall produce like butternut squash and fairytale pumpkin. The curry was a favorite out at the weekly CSA gathering, and with the addition of some Cahokia Rice, which was also cooked in the lemongrass stock, it fed the farm. So here’s how to make it for your field hands…

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Out of Stock

Ok, so not everyone has a lemongrass plant on the order of Frank’s. In fact, unless you grow it yourself or shop at a farmer’s market, it is more likely you don’t have it. So while it will not taste exactly the same, the lemongrass stock can be switched out for vegetable stock and be just fine. If you are not worried about adding meat, I really think a good homemade chicken stock is the way to go. It will make a rich curry. Consider the stock I made for this past summer’s mole.

Spicy Surprise

In one batch of curry I actually added diced radish—those sweet babies from last month. They weren’t overpowering, but they were definitely there. If you’d like to try this for a little unexpected bite and still have access to some, include them with the bell peppers.

Butternut or Pumpkin?

I have made this curry once with the butternut squash and once with a small fairytale pumpkin. Both were delicious, but both are not equally easy to prepare. As winter squash go, butternuts are a breeze to peel, seed and dice. This is not true for most pumpkins. One of the reasons pumpkins stay picture perfect Halloween through turkey day and beyond is that they have hard, thick exteriors; their shells are their protection, allowing the flesh to cure for that beautiful full flavor. The shells continue to harden until finally the fruit over-ripens, and the pumpkins begin to develop soft spots—the sure sign it’s time to bake a pie or something.

And sometimes, pumpkins give up early. Moisture or a bit of mold or some critter causes them to develop one of those soft spots prematurely, which is what happened to my first fairytale of the season, but the ending was still happily ever after. I bought another one for the porch and roasted the gotta-go one. Because it was feeling a bit puny, it was pretty easy to split open, seed and roast until it was beginning to get soft, about 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Peeling after that was a cinch. In fact, I do this all the time, for instance in last year’s Pistachio-Encrusted Pumpkin Wedges. It can be done.

So I guess what I’m saying here is that there’s more work if you decide to go with a pumpkin, but the flavor is really wonderful. And, if there is a pumpkin on your porch that’s looking a bit peaked, use it! Pumpkins are more than porch décor!