Kabocha Squash, Sausage, & Cornbread Gratin

I am in love with kabocha squash- it is just so creamy and sweet. This dish may be the ultimate autumn casserole. It was a little bit involved to prepare but the results were worth every minute.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I slightly modified the proportions and method. Fabulous!

4 to 6 servings
  • 1 small to medium kabocha squash
  • 7 large garlic cloves
  • 3 6-inch-long rosemary sprigs
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale (I used a 10 oz bag), ribs removed and torn into 1-2″ pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 1 pound fresh pork sausage, such as sweet Italian (about 4 links)
  • 2 cups crumbled cornbread, from a 6×4 inch piece
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  1. Bake cornbread. (I used Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix.) Set aside to cool.
  2. Position a rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection.
  3. Cut off stem end of kabocha squash and rest on cut side. Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds and stringy innards with a spoon; discard. Cut squash into 1″-thick slices. Using your knife, slice off the tough peel and layer of light green flesh beneath.
  4. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of the knife and remove peel.
  5. Combine squash, garlic, rosemary sprigs, heavy cream, and ¼ cup water in a medium saucepan. Season generously with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer until squash is tender and easily mashes when pressed with the back of a spoon, 20-25 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, grasp stem end of each kale leaf. Starting at stem, slide your other hand along length of leaf to strip leaves. Repeat with entire bunch; discard stems. Tear leaves into 1″–2″ pieces (you should have about 8 cups).
  7. Peel 2 shallots and thinly slice crosswise.
  8. Use the tip of your knife to prick the sausages all over in several places.
  9. Crumble cornbread into coarse crumbs (you should have about 2 cups).
  10. When squash is tender, remove saucepan from heat. Uncover and pluck out rosemary sprigs, leaving leaves inside pot. Transfer entire mixture to a medium bowl (reserve saucepan) and mash with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until no distinct pieces of squash remain. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Wipe out pot with paper towels and heat over medium. Add butter and heat until melted. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  12. Add kale to the pot, a couple of handfuls at a time, stirring to wilt between each batch, and cook until leaves are dark green and wilted, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
  13. Transfer to kale to the bowl with squash, then fold to incorporate.
  14. Heat the olive oil in the same saucepan over medium and add sausage. Cook, turning once, until browned on both sides (they won’t be cooked through), about 6 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let cool for a few minutes (reserve saucepan again and do not pour out fat from sausages–you’re going to use it one more time).
  15. Meanwhile, using a rubber spatula, scrape squash and kale mixture into a shallow 2-qt. baking dish and smooth top. (I coated the baking dish with cooking oil spray.)
  16. Cut sausages crosswise into 2″ pieces and nestle into top of squash mixture, spacing evenly.
  17. Heat the drippings remaining in the saucepan over medium and add cornbread crumbs. Cook, stirring, just until crumbs are evenly coated in fat. Scatter cornbread crumbs over squash mixture; season with more salt and pepper.
  18. Bake gratin until crumbs are toasty and brown and sausages are cooked through (you can insert an instant-read thermometer into center of sausage to check if registers 140°, or just cut into one with a knife), about 15 minutes.
  19. Let cool 5–10 minutes before serving.
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Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

My daughter is obsessed with donuts- specifically donuts with pink icing and sprinkles. Her new bicycle bell is a life-size pink frosted donut with sprinkles! 🙂

I must say that she was quite pleased with this cinnamon sugar variation. When we debated over whether or not they were too heavily coated with cinnamon sugar, both of my kids informed me that such a problem was not even possible. 😉

This recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Using my mini donut pans, this recipe made 12 donuts. I substituted 1/2 cup of buttermilk instead of a combination of yogurt and milk and I reduced the amount of butter in the topping. They made a very special breakfast.

Yield: 8 standard size donuts or 12 mini donuts

For the Donuts:

  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (65g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) buttermilk (or skim, 1%, 2%, or whole milk, almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60g) yogurt or sour cream (nonfat, low-fat, vanilla, plain, Greek or regular yogurt), at room temperature (I used another 1/4 cup of buttermilk)
  • 2 T (30g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Coating:

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4-5 T unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Donuts:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C), preferably on convection. Spray a donut pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the egg, brown sugar, milk, and yogurt together until smooth. Add the melted butter and vanilla, whisking until fully combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be very thick.
  5. Spoon the batter into the donut cavities—I highly recommend using a large zipped-top bag for ease. Cut a corner off the bottom of the bag and pipe the batter into each donut cup, filling 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 9–10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool for about two minutes and transfer to a wire rack set on a large piece of parchment paper or on a large baking sheet.
  7. Bake the remaining donut batter and transfer to the wire rack. Allow donuts to cool down until you can handle them.

To Coat with Cinnamon Sugar:

  1. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  2. Brush the melted butter, on the top or on the top and bottom, as desired; dunk into the cinnamon sugar mixture coating all sides.
  3. Donuts are best served immediately.

Notes:

  • Leftovers keep well covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  • You can freeze the donuts for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and warm up to your liking in the microwave, usually a few seconds.

Chicken with Vinegar

I have made this simple and full-flavored dish a couple of times recently. It’s a crowd pleaser in my house.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. According to the article, Jean-Georges Vongerichten learned how to make this recipe from the chef Paul Bocuse, who popularized it at La Mère Brazier in Lyon, France.

I decreased the oven temperature, used shallots in the sauce and scallions as a garnish. I kept all of the drippings to make the sauce and omitted the water and butter in the finished sauce. The extra sauce was wonderful drizzled over roasted potatoes and sautéed greens.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3-pound chicken, cut up for sautéing
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup minced shallots (about 2 large)
  • 1 cup good red-wine vinegar (preferably with 5% acidity)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, optional
  • fresh parsley, thyme, or tarragon for garnish
  • sliced scallions, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Set a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; when it is hot, place chicken in the skillet, skin side down. Cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned. Turn and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place skillet in the oven. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until almost done, about 165 degrees (juices will run clear, and there will be just a trace of pink near the bone). Remove chicken to an ovenproof platter. Place it in the oven and turn off the heat, and leave the door slightly ajar; alternatively place in a warming drawer tented with foil.
  4. Place skillet over medium-high heat, and add shallots; sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add vinegar, and raise the heat to high. Cook a minute or two, or until the powerful acid smell has subsided somewhat. Add 1/2 cup water if using vinegar with >5% acidity (I omitted the water), and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is slightly reduced and somewhat thickened.
  6. Stir in butter, if desired.
  7. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, and turn the chicken in the sauce. Garnish with herbs and scallions, as desired. Serve immediately.

Note: Most wine vinegar sold in the United States has an acidity level of 7%; many French vinegars are just 5% acidity. So it’s best to cut strong vinegar with some water.

Easy Fridge Dill Pickles

This is the easiest recipe I’ve ever posted- and I’ve posted my favorite garlic bread recipe. 😉

Now that I’ve made them twice, I have to share the method because they were absolutely delicious. This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. I listed the ingredients needed for each 24-ounce (3 cup) jar. I bought an enormous bag of Kirby cucumbers at a farm stand and just kept making pickles until they were all sliced. TONS of pickles! I filled an assortment of recycled jars, lining the top with saran wrap to keep the lid from absorbing the pickle scent.

I used fresh dill and crushed garlic cloves to flavor the brine, but sliced white onion, dill seeds or pickling spice were other suggested seasonings. Pickles may be the perfect snack.

Per 24-ounce Jar:

  • 4-5 Kirby (pickling) cucumbers (or enough to fill the jar)
  • 3 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T chopped fresh dill and/or one dill sprig
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  1. Using a mandoline, cut the cucumbers into 1/8-inch thick rounds. Place them in a lidded jar, filling the jar to the top.
  2. Add salt, dill, and garlic cloves.
  3. Pour in the white vinegar. The liquid level will be much lower than the height of the cucumbers but will adjust as they wilt.
  4. Close the jar, lining the lid with saran wrap if desired, and shake to distribute the ingredients.
  5. Place the jar in the refrigerator and shake it once or twice over the next few hours.
  6. Pickles are ready to eat in 6 to 8 hours but will keep, submerged in their brine, for up to 3 weeks.

Notes:

  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dill seeds or 1 T of pickling spice can be substituted for the fresh dill.
  • Thinly sliced white onion can be substituted for the garlic cloves.
  • Seedless cucumbers can be substituted for Kirby cucumbers but the pickles may be less crunchy.

Bucatini with Burst Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

My kids are back in school! I can get back to sharing dishes that we enjoyed this summer (and probably last spring as well). I have quite a few to share. 🙂

This is a fabulous, restaurant-indulgent, late summer pasta dish. The real beauty of it is that it could be made in any season to bring back the taste of summer. It was also quick and easy to prepare- the best combination. The cheese adds creaminess to the finished dish but can easily be omitted for a vegan version.

This recipe was adapted from Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox. I used grape instead of cherry tomatoes, bucatini instead of spaghettini, and modified the proportions. I am definitely going to make this dish year round. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound bucatini, spaghettini, spaghetti, or angel hair pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds (about 3 pints) grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2-4 T finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. (Simmons recommends 2 T of kosher or fine sea salt in 4 quarts of water.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12- or 14-inch skillet or wide, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes, then stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the tomatoes have burst, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain the pasta.
  6. Add the pasta, along with the reserved pasta cooking water, to the pan with the sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the pasta is coated, about 30 seconds, then stir in the basil and parsley.
  7. Divide the pasta among serving plates. Dollop with the ricotta and sprinkle with Parmesan and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and serve immediately.

One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes

This dish is amazing summertime comfort food as well as a great dish to make celebrating summer tomatoes. It is a variation of a delicious Martha Stewart Living one-pot pasta dish that I’ve also enjoyed and posted in the past.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I increased the quantity to make 4 main course servings, modified the proportions, and used a Vidalia onion as well as freshly picked vine-ripened tomatoes. (from a friend- lucky me!) The fresh backyard basil was the icing on the cake.

Serves: 4 as a main dish, 3 as a hearty main dish, or about 6 as a side dish

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro (the package will note a 30-minute cooking time)(I used Nature’s Promise farro)
  • 1 large onion, preferably Vidalia
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • a generous pound or grape, cherry, or small vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons, for garnish
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving, optional
  1. Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak (5 to 10 minutes is sufficient) while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Adding each ingredient to the pot as you finish preparing it, cut onion in half, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons.
  3. Thinly slice garlic cloves as well.
  4. Halve or quarter the tomatoes.
  5. Add salt, red pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil to pan, and set a timer for 30 minutes.
  6. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. (I used a medium-size enameled cast iron pot.)
  7. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a meaty chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, cook it for 5 additional minutes, until farro is more tender.
  8. Adjust seasonings as desired.
  9. Transfer to a wide serving bowl. If there’s enough leftover cooking liquid to be bothersome, simply use a slotted spoon to leave the amount you wish to behind.
  10. Drizzle farro lightly with additional olive oil, scatter with basil and parmesan. Serve immediately.

Tomato-Braised Gigante Bean Gratin (Pizza Beans)

This dish could or should be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen called the dish “pizza beans” to make it more appealing to her kids- so I did the same. 😉 She also had the genius suggestion of serving it with garlic bread, giving it even more appeal. Perelman described it as “a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles.” Heaven!

My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are already big fans of Greek Gigante beans, by the way. 🙂 With the name “pizza beans,” my kids were expecting pizza, but the flavors in the dish were more like minestrone soup. It may have been more well-received if I had simply called it by the original title, Tomato & Gigante Bean Bake. 😉

This dish would also be wonderful as a cold-weather comfort food casserole. The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I used a pressure cooker to cook the dried beans, incorporated the pressure cooker bean liquid as well as beet greens, and increased the amount of garlic. I plan to make it again in the winter and give it a different title. I’m sure it will be more well-received. It will be served with garlic bread, of course.

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white or red wine, optional
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) curly kale leaves, beet greens, and/or mixed baby greens, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 grams) crushed tomatoes (28-ounce or 800-gram can minus 1 cup; reserve the rest for another use)
  • 1 pound (455 grams) giant white beans such as Italian fagioli corona, Greek gigante/gigandes, Royal Corona, or large lima beans
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable broth or pressure cooker bean liquid, as needed
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons (5 grams) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
  • garlic bread, for serving, optional
  1. To use a Pressure Cooker to “Soak” the Beans: Place 12 cups of water, 3 tsp of coarse salt and the dried beans in a pressure cooker. Raise to high pressure (2nd ring) for 2 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans.
  2. Cook the Beans in a Pressure Cooker: Place the drained beans with 9 cups of fresh water in the pressure cooker. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Cook on low (1st ring) for 3 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans reserving the bean liquid.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. In a 2 1/2-to-3-quart (ideally oven-safe) deep sauté pan, braiser, or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the kale/greens, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  8. Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth/bean liquid, 1/4 cup at a time.
  9. Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
  10. If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
  11. Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler.
  12. Finish with parsley, if desired. Serve with garlic bread.

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