Farm To Fork, A CSA Series: Our Last Box And Roasted Pheasant

This is part ten of a series about our CSA boxes and what we do with them. Recipes follow for Roasted Pheasant With Maple Syrup Glaze, Leftover Pheasant Salad, Gooey Butter Bars With Home-Cooked Pumpkin, and Roasted Delicata Squash With Beans. 


Two weeks ago, on October 18th, we picked up our nineteenth (and final) Bluebird Gardens CSA box. It contained various squash, potatoes, a head of cabbage, one bunch of kale, radishes, a small stalk of Brussels sprouts, spinach, and a bright orange pie pumpkin. In the heat of the busy moment, I’ll admit I felt little relieved that this was the last time we had to pick up a CSA box, not realizing how I’d feel a week and a half later. Now, as I look at my remaining few squash, potatoes, and beets, I would gladly trade time for more weekly supplies of organic vegetables.


Some of our meals were as simple as sautéed cabbage and vegetable hash, but I was forced to be more adventurous when Jake came home from work with a bag of freshly-hunted pheasants. Hunting seems to be more of a popular pastime in North Dakota than in the Twin Cities. (Although Jamie’s Hunting for Dinner series shows that there are plenty of hunting opportunities in the Twin Cities area!) Neither Jake nor I have ever hunted, but most of Jake’s current coworkers hunt on a regular basis. When his boss gifted us with pheasants, we wanted show our appreciation by cooking them fresh (instead of freezing for later) so we could provide an update for his boss that Monday. All the online research I did concurred that pheasants tend to become dry after cooking and pointed me towards brining, a method I have never tried. I ended up adapting a pheasant recipe from Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook, from his website Honest Food.  


The idea of cooking the pheasants made me panic a little. I am well versed in cooking most vegetables, but have a less successful track record cooking larger pieces of meat. This situation challenged me to cook a new meat with new methods such as brining and trussing which caused some anxiety, though I am grateful for this opportunity brought by the unexpected pheasant. Brining was extremely easy. I will take advantage of this method as it is a huge asset to people like me who are afraid of overcooking meat because it ensures the meat is tender and flavorful. Roasting pheasant also gave us an opportunity to use CSA vegetables. In lieu of an empty roasting pan, I roasted the birds over a bed of CSA vegetables, and served them with sautéed Brussels sprouts cut from the stem. The next day, I incorporated diced radish and the leftover Brussels into a creamy pheasant salad that we enjoyed for the rest of the week.


Cooking local game meat alongside local vegetables was a meaningful experience. Jake and I found it strange that we were so unfamiliar with this local meat. We had to clean and gut the whole birds, and we were also surprised at our squeamishness of handling the meat – a great reminder of the disconnect between us and the products we often buy from grocery stores. I laugh as I remember gawking at the strange lumps and bumps inside the pheasants and trying to clean their inner cavities with a spoon. As I tried to scrape a mysterious inner substance into the sink, some splattered into my eye. I remember squealing with fear and shouting “No more whole birds, Jake. No more whole birds.” After this baptism in pheasant juice, I feel new courage to not only explore local meats and vegetables, but to embrace opportunities that force me to confront culinary methods I have previously avoided out of fear.


Besides the pheasant adventure, my second favorite dish of the last two weeks paired roasted delicata squash with beans and kale. I was inspired by the recipe on Shutterbean that created a salad from these ingredients. While the author flavored her salad with vinaigrette, I prepared my version more like “franks and beans.” The process of cooking this meal was completely impromptu, and so I apologize for the lack of precise measurements. I served the beans along with high quality franks, but you could substitute vegetarian or chicken sausage.


My last CSA recipe ends in dessert. I don’t know about you, but I’m still not quite tired of pumpkin desserts. Instead of giving away my extra squash this week, I cooked my last pumpkin and turned it into dessert that I shared with my coworkers. I was drawn to this recipe through Serious Eats’ Cook The Book series on Paula Deen’s The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook. Yes, I realize many people are not fans of Paula Deen and her high caloric/semi-homemade cooking, but I bake with the philosophy that if I’m going to make dessert, I don’t worry about butter and sugar content. Instead, I cut the dessert into small pieces and share with others so many can have a taste. I’m a fan of these bars. They melt in your mouth and can be made with local, organic pumpkin. What’s not to like?


As I mentioned at the beginning of this update, we already miss our CSA boxes. Our first experience with a CSA was full of highlights, some of which were having a consistent supply of local and organic produce, being forced to learn how to cook unfamiliar vegetables, finding creative ways to prepare those that overstayed their welcome, and sharing extra produce with others.


The biggest challenge of participating in a CSA was time. Some weekdays, it felt stressful to pick up the CSA box after work and spend up to an hour preparing the vegetables for storage. Certain produce, such as potatoes or corn, backed up some weeks and required time to blanch and freeze them. The summer and fall got away from me, and even with the best of intentions, I did not take advantage of the farm’s harvest events. Our CSA membership included tickets that allowed us to come to the farm and harvest certain types of vegetables. In addition, the farm offered many vegetables as free picks throughout the season. Fergus Falls is only an hour from Fargo, but during busy weeks, that hour felt out of reach. The tickets can be used next year so I will try to donate or return the tickets, whether or not we join Bluebird Gardens again. I think it would be fun to try another CSA and now realize that I should not choose one based upon harvest events because of my own time constraints.


All in all, the benefits of joining a CSA outweighed the feelings of inconvenience during busy weeks and it’s difficult to imagine another fall and summer without participating in community supported agriculture. It’s been a pleasure to share our experience through this series and learn from Simple, Good, And Tasty’s readers.


Roasted Pheasant With Maple Syrup Glaze

Adapted from Hank Shaw’s recipe for Roasted Pheasant With Prickly Pear Glaze on Honest Food


Pheasants, skin-on or skinned (if skinned, use bacon to wrap the birds)

Brine: ¼ cup salt per 4 cups of water per pheasant (I’d use a little less salt)

Carrots, roughly chopped

Onions, roughly chopped

Potatoes, roughly chopped

Olive oil or butter

Sage leaves

Black pepper

Bacon strips

Maple syrup




       1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

       2. In a container, mix salt and water until dissolved. Submerge pheasant and allow to brine in the fridge. You could brine overnight or as many hours as possible if you are limited with time.

       3. After the pheasant has brined, remove from brining liquid and pat dry.

       4. Place the roughly chopped vegetables in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

       5. Rub the pheasant with olive oil. Season the exterior and interior with pepper (the meat should be adequately salted from brining).

       6. Place 1-2 leaves of sage inside each pheasant.

       7. If the pheasant is skinless, wrap bacon around the breast-sides of the birds.

       8. Truss the birds for more even cooking. Check Chow’s video How To Truss A Chicken for help.

       9. Place on top of the chopped vegetables, breast-side down.

       10. Bake for 15 minutes.

       11. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake for about 15 minutes.

      12. Flip the pheasant breast-side up and bake for about a half hour or until the pheasant is adequately cooked and bacon is crisped. Baste the pheasant at least three times with maple syrup mixed with a little melted butter.



Fast Sautéed Brussels Sprouts


Brussels Sprouts

Olive Oil





       1. Wash Brussels sprouts. If sprouts are on the stalk, cut sprouts from the base of the stalk. Trim off any leaves that don’t look very fresh.

       2. Slice Brussels sprouts and halve very small ones. If sprouts fall apart or leaves come off, sauté with the rest of the sprouts.

       3. In a pan heated over medium-high heat, sauté sprouts in olive oil with salt and pepper until tender crisp and caramelized. The sprouts will soften more if you steam by covering the pan for a few minutes.


Leftover Pheasant Salad


Pheasant meat, chopped or pulled into bite-sized pieces

Apple, diced

Radish, diced

Red onion, finely diced

Brussels Sprouts, chopped and roasted


Lemon juice

Course grain mustard, 1-2 tablespoons



Hardboiled egg, chopped



       1. Mix pheasant meat with as much diced apple, radish, red onion, Brussels sprouts as desired.

       2. Add enough mayonnaise to coat.

        3. Season with plenty of lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper.

       4. Toss in hardboiled egg.


Gooey Butter Bars With Home-Cooked Pumpkin

Adapted from Serious Eats’ adaptation of Paula Dean’s Recipe for Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes


For Crust:

1 package of yellow cake mix

1 large egg

1 stick of unsalted butter, melted


For Pumpkin Filling:

8 oz cream cheese, softened

15 ounces pumpkin puree

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 splash almond extract

1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

16 oz. powdered sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1 pinch of salt



      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   

      2. Grease baking pan and line with parchment paper.   

      3. Mix together the cake mix, egg and butter until combined. Gently press into baking pan. 

      4. In a bowl, mix together the pureed pumpkin and cream cheese. Add three eggs, vanilla, butter. Stir in the almond extract, powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.

      5. Evenly spread pumpkin mixture over the pressed cake layer.

      6. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until set in the center.


To Cook Your Own Pumpkin:

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

      2. Wash pumpkin.

      3. Cut in half (or into smaller pieces).

      4. Scrape out the seeds and pulp. While the pumpkin is roasting, separate the seeds from the pulp for roasting.

      5. Place in a baking dish, skin side up, and add about a quarter inch of water. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

      6. Scoop the flesh from the skin. For the smoothest texture, puree or push through a ricer.


Roasted Delicata Squash with Beans

Adapted from the recipe for Delicata Squash Salad With Kale And Cannellini Beans on Shutterbean.


1 delicata squash, halved, de-seeded, and sliced

Olive oil



Soy Sauce or tamari

Maple syrup or honey

½ onion, diced

1 Tbs Tomato paste

Cannellini beans, one can, drained

Ketchup, about 1/3-1/2 cup

Brown sugar, to taste

1 Tbs mustard

Worcestershire sauce, to taste

Balsamic vinegar, to taste (could also use apple cider or red wine)

Optional: Cayenne pepper or another hot pepper

Kale, at least a couple handfuls



      1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

      2. Toss delicata squash slices with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast on a sheet pan until tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Near the end of cooking, glaze with a little soy sauce mixed with maple syrup or honey. Remove before the glaze burns.

       3. In a saucepan, sauté onion until the edges start to caramelize.

       4. Add tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.

       5. Add drained beans.

       6. Add ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Adjust these ingredients until you reach the sweet/tangy balance you desire.

       7. Fold in the kale and cook until tender.                                           

       8. Top the beans with roasted delicata squash and serve with your choice of hot dog or sausage.



Jeni Hill grew up in the Twin Cities and recently moved to Fargo. Her two sustaining passions are food and writing and she combines the two whenever she gets the chance. Jeni believes food is never just about the food and considers it the finest medium to connect with others. When she is not crafting contributions to Simple Good & Tasty, she may be posting to her blog An Herbalist Eats20food, or Fargo's High Plains Reader. Her last CSA article for us was How to Cook a Pumpkin and More.