Buttermilk Cornbread Dressing with Italian Sausage

I loved that this recipe used buttermilk to moisten the stuffing- in addition to the more typical stock and butter. The sausage was not overpowering in the finished dish but added great flavor. I used locally made sweet Italian sausage with fennel seeds- perfect.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Yewande Komolafe. The sausage could be omitted for a vegetarian version. The original recipe notes that if store-bought or boxed mix cornbread is used, it should be crumbled and and spread out on a sheet pan to dry for 4 to 12 hours prior to assembling the dish. I made the accompanying cornbread recipe, which does not require drying time, two days prior to making the dish.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

For the Cornbread:

  • 8 T/115 grams/1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups/250 g medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup/114 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup/55 g granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups/470 milliliters buttermilk, preferably full-fat (I used low-fat)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the Dressing:

  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
  • 1 T neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola, plus more if needed
  • 1 pound loose pork sausage (I used sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1 large yellow onion, very finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 4 celery ribs, very finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 T chopped fresh sage (from 10 large leaves)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 recipe cornbread for dressing, broken into 1-inch pieces, or 10 cups loosely packed cornbread
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup buttermilk, preferably full-fat (I used low-fat)

To Make the Cornbread:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch skillet, preferably cast-iron, and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. (I weighed the dry ingredients when possible.)
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and eggs. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir until incorporated.
  5. Fold in the melted butter.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and smooth the top.
  7. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the sides pull away cleanly from the skillet, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. Cool completely and serve warm or room temperature, or reserve to make cornbread dressing.

To Assemble & Bake the Dressing:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium and pour in the oil.
  3. Add the sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces, until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink, about 8 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cooked sausage to a plate, keeping any fat in the skillet. Add a few additional tablespoons oil if needed to evenly coat the bottom.
  5. Add the onion and celery to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds and sage, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  7. Return the cooked sausage to the skillet and stir to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add the cornbread pieces and toss to combine.
  9. Pour in the stock and buttermilk, and stir until well mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
  10. Transfer the cornbread mixture to your prepared dish and spread evenly.
  11. Drizzle the melted butter over the top.
  12. Cover the dish with foil and bake until heated through, 30 to 35 minutes.
  13. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees, remove the foil and bake until the surface is golden brown in spots, 15 to 20 minutes.
  14. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving warm.

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash & Greens

My kids love the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. (It sells out daily- so they are clearly not alone!) This vegetarian comfort food dish seemed reminiscent enough to be a crowd-pleaser. 😉 I liked that it incorporated leafy greens too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I modified the method and proportions. I also added a poblano chile, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Nice.

Yield: Serves 6

  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and diced, divided (or 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound rigatoni, penne, or other tubular pasta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
  • 4 packed cups greens (I used 2 cups turnip greens (sliced into 1-inch ribbons) and 2 cups baby spinach)
  • 8 oz (1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
  • 1/3 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley and tender stems, roughly chopped, for garnish
  1. Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. (It should be a little too firm to the bite.) Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add the diced onion and half of the diced poblano chile, season with salt, and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the cubed squash and season with salt, cumin, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
  7. When the squash is just tender, add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to an active simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat, then use the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the remaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine.
  10. Stir in the greens one handful at a time until each addition wilts slightly.
  11. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and the remaining diced poblano chile. Place in the oven and cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.
  12. Top with minced cilantro and serve.

Classic Macaroni & Cheese with Sourdough Bread Crumb Topping

This cheesy pasta lived up to its title as “classic.” The combination of cheeses gave it the perfect velvety texture. We ate it as part of my husband’s birthday feast this year. Everyone loved it!

The recipe was adapted from The New Best Recipe All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. The original recipe also notes that the recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch square baking dish. Great.

Yield: one 9×13-inch casserole: Serves 6 to 8 as a main course or 10 to 12 as a side dish

For the Bread Crumb Topping:

  • 6 slices (about 6 ounces) good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into rough pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Sourdough sandwich bread)
  • 3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

For the Casserole:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • salt
  • 5 T unsalted butter
  • 6 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 5 cups milk (whole, low-fat, or skim okay)(I used 3 cups whole and 2 cups low-fat)
  • 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

To Prepare the Bread Crumbs:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the bread and butter until the crumbs are no larger than 1/8-inch, about 10 to 15 pulses. Set aside.

To Prepare the Pasta & Cheese:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the broiler.
  2. Place a 9×13-inch broiler safe baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. (I also covered the enameled handles of my baking dish with foil to protect them from the heat of the broiler.)
  3. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until the pasta is tender (NOT al dente).
  4. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water (for reheating leftovers). Drain in a colander and set aside.
  5. In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium-high heat until foaming.
  6. Add the flour, mustard, and cayenne; whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. (I used a flat whisk.)
  7. Whisking constantly, gradually add the the milk; bring the mixture to a boil. The mixture must reach a full boil to fully thicken.
  8. After the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated cheeses and 1 teaspoon of coarse salt. Whisk until the cheeses are completely melted.
  10. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is steaming and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  11. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and sprinkle the top evenly with the bread crumbs.
  12. Broil until the crumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary for even browning. (I set my oven to Broil+Max @500 degrees.) Cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Poblano, Black Bean & Cheese Enchiladas

Recently, my friend gave me beautiful cast iron baking dishes. I knew that I wanted to make enchiladas in them right away! Our Cinco de Mayo feast was the perfect occasion. Our meal also included chips and guacamole, of course. 😉

The recipe for these hearty, vegetarian enchiladas was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. I modified the proportions and method. We ate them garnished with sour cream, red onion, avocado, and cilantro with refried beans and rice on the side. We topped off our festive meal with a Tres Leches Cake. Perfect.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (I used a food processor)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, plus more for serving, optional
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups coarsely grated mild Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 10 to 12 (6-inch) soft corn or flour tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s corn & wheat tortillas)
  • fresh cilantro leaves and stems, for serving
  • sliced avocado, for serving, optional
  • diced white or red onion, for serving, optional
  • rice and refried beans, for serving, optional
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. (I used the convection setting.)
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onions and chopped poblano chile; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and charred in spots, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cumin and minced garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  4. Transfer half the vegetable mixture to a blender; add the tomatoes, chili powder and chipotle chile. (I used a Vitamix.) Blend until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (If your blender isn’t particularly strong and the sauce looks more like a chunky purée, add 1/4 cup sour cream and blend again until smooth.)(I omitted the sour cream in the sauce.)
  5. Add the black beans and 1/2 cup cheese to the remaining vegetables in the skillet and stir to combine. Some canned beans are already salted, so taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  6. Place the tortillas in a tortilla warmer (or on a plate) covered with a damp paper towel. Cover and microwave for 1 minute, or until warm and pliable.
  7. If using individual dishes, spread a few spoonfuls of sauce over the bottom of each dish. (I used 5 dishes.) Alternatively, pour enough enchilada sauce to lightly coat the base of a medium casserole dish or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread it to cover the bottom of the dish(es).
  8. Line up the filling, tortillas and baking dish in a row. Place a heaping 1/4 cup of the bean mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll up the tortilla and place in the casserole dish(es), seam-side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. (I placed 2 enchiladas per individual dish.)
  9. Spoon or pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.
  10. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cheese, to taste. (I used 1/2 cup cheese per dish.)
  11. Place the baking dish(es) on a rimmed baking sheet and tent with foil. Bake for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese has melted and has browned in spots, about 10 additional minutes.
  13. Top with sour cream, avocado slices, diced onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Note: The sauce and the black bean mixture (without the cheese) can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The spice level in the sauce can be easily modified by adjusting the amount of chili powder.

One-Pot Crispy Gnocchi with Burst Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella

This is a variation of one of my favorite quick dishes that also uses store-bought gnocchi as a shortcut. It is less spicy which pleased my husband. 😉 The cheesiness of this version definitely made it a crowd-pleaser.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. It was the perfect dinner to make and serve after making cupcakes all afternoon with my daughter. Fast and fabulous.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 (12- to 18-ounce) packages shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 8 to 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more, to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups (2 pints) small tomatoes, such as cherry, grape or Sungold
  • 4 to 6 T thinly sliced (chiffonade) or torn basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 8 to 9 ounces (8 slices) fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  1. Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
  2. In a large (12-inch) skillet on the stovetop, heat enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (about 1 tablespoon) over medium-high. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  3. Add half the gnocchi to the pan, breaking up any that are stuck together. Cover with a lid or baking sheet and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  4. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi and olive oil.
  5. Add the butter to the skillet and cook over medium-high, stirring often, until golden-brown and toasty, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper, reducing the heat slightly if necessary to avoid scorching.
  7. Add the tomatoes and 3 tablespoons water and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened and the liquid has slightly thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Smash the tomatoes as they burst to help them along.
  8. Add the seared gnocchi and basil, stir to coat, then shake into an even layer.
  9. Top with the mozzarella and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  10. Broil until the cheese is melted and browned in spots, 2 to 4 minutes. (I set my oven to 500 degrees Broil+Max.)
  11. Top with more basil, red-pepper flakes, and black pepper as desired.

Maqlubeh (Palestinian Upside-Down Chicken & Rice)

I have a Maqlubeh (Maqluba) recipe collection. :/ I have always wanted to make this beautiful, multi-layered, flavor-packed dish but was hesitant because it is a bit of a project. This streamlined version inspired me to finally try it. I even made it on a weeknight! (admittedly a little ambitious…)

This recipe was adapted from 177milkstreet.com, contributed by Courtney Hill. I substituted boneless, skinless chicken thighs for bone-in. I also used unsalted butter and chicken stock.

When presenting the finished dish, the platter is gently shaken to create cracks in the rice. The cracks reveal the aromas as well as the chicken and vegetables inside. I absolutely loved it- and drove my family crazy talking about it all evening. 😉 Although it could be served as a complete meal on its own, I served it with roasted asparagus and broccoli as well. It is classically served with a tomato, cucumber and yogurt salad. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 cups white Basmati rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs (about 6) or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3), trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup raw slivered almonds
  • 8 ounces cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 to 10 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 to 3/4 medium eggplant (about 8 to 12 ounces), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock
  1. In a large bowl, combine the rice and 2 tablespoons of coarse salt. Add water to cover by 1 inch, then set aside.
  2. Prepare a lidded pot that measures 9½ to 11 inches in diameter and 4 to 6 inches deep. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.) Cut 2 rounds of kitchen parchment the size of the pot. (I cut the rounds slightly oversized so that it had a little bit of a lip.)
  3. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  4. Set the pot over medium and heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering.
  5. Add the chicken “skin side” down and cook until browned, about 7 minutes for boneless or 10 minutes for bone-in. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  6. Remove the pot from heat. Place 1 parchment round on the bottom, then turn to coat it with fat.
  7. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the parchment-lined pot, then sprinkle evenly with the almonds.
  8. Drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer, then rinse under cool running water and drain again.
  9. Scatter 1 cup of the rice in a thin, even layer over the almonds.
  10. In a medium bowl, mix together the remaining rice with the cauliflower, garlic, melted butter, cumin, allspice, turmeric, nutmeg and 1 3/4 teaspoons each salt and pepper. Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture, then distribute the remainder in an even layer in the pot.
  11. Place the chicken and accumulated juices (if using boneless, skinless chicken) in the pot, slightly nestling the pieces into the rice-cauliflower layer; discard any accumulated juices (if using bone-in chicken).
  12. Shingle the eggplant slices over the chicken in an even layer. Sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup rice-cauliflower mixture.
  13. Pour the stock into the pot (it will not fully cover the eggplant), then bring to a boil over medium-high. Set the second parchment round over the food, the cover the pot with the lid. Cook for 5 minutes, reduce to low and cook, undisturbed, for 35 minutes.
  14. Remove the pot from the heat, uncover and let stand for 15 minutes.
  15. Remove the parchment (and accumulated liquid on the top), then invert a serving platter onto the pot. Holding the platter against the pot, carefully invert the two together; leave the pot overturned on the platter and let rest for about 10 minutes. Slowly lift off the pot and, if needed, remove and discard the parchment.
  16. Gently shake the platter to create cracks in the top of the finished dish.

One-Pot Coconut Chicken Rice

This one pot dish was creamy, flavorful and absolutely delicious. The spices had a great balance with the richness of the coconut milk. I served it with roasted asparagus on the side. It was a perfect springtime dinner.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Shayma Owaise Saadat. I modified the proportions and method. I also swapped spinach for the kale. I increased the amount of leafy greens but would add even more next time! The original recipe notes that canned chickpeas can be substituted for the chicken to make a vegetarian version.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
  • 2 T grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium or 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 9)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 13.5-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 6 to 8 cups of thinly sliced spinach or 4 cups Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise into strips
  • store-bought sliced pickled red chiles, for serving, optional
  • lime wedges, for serving, optional
  1. Place rice in fine mesh sieve set inside a medium bowl; pour in cold water to cover.
  2. Agitate rice with your hands until water is cloudy. Drain and repeat until water is almost clear (about 3 to 5 times). Drain.
  3. Pour in water to cover rice by 2 inches; let soak 30–45 minutes.
  4. Heat oil in a large heavy pot with a wide base over medium-high. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  5. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 1 minute.
  6. Using paper towels, pat the chicken dry.
  7. Add chicken, turmeric, cayenne, and 2 teaspoons of salt to the shallots and garlic. Cook, turning and moving around chicken thighs as needed, until chicken begins to turn opaque, about 2 minutes.
  8. Pour in 3/4 cup water and bring to a simmer.
  9. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, turning chicken once, until chicken is cooked through and very tender, about 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the lid of the pot and wrap it with a kitchen towel, securing the corners up and over the top of the lid with a rubber band.
  11. Drain the rice and add to pot with chicken, then add coconut milk and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil.
  12. Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook, undisturbed, 15 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat. Remove towel and lid. Remove towel from the lid.
  14. Arrange spinach (or kale) in an even layer over chicken and rice and cover with lid. Let sit until wilted, about 10 minutes.
  15. Top with chiles, if using. Serve with lime wedges.

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