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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Pasta with Kale, Sausage, & Mushrooms

This quick weeknight dish makes kale a crowd-pleaser. 🙂 It was fabulous.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Latt. I used my CSA red kale instead of black kale and I doubled the mushrooms and the garlic. I also modified the cooking sequence. This recipe could easily be adapted to make a vegetarian version by omitting the sausage.

  • 1 bunch red or black kale, washed, ribs removed
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausages
  • 8 oz (½ pound) shiitakes mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz  pound) cremini mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 4 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock or pasta water
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 pound pasta (spaghetti, ziti, penne, or fusilli) (I used La Molisana Pantacce Toscane, 106)
  • 1 T Kosher salt for the pasta
  1. Sauté with olive oil or grill the sausages to put a crust on the outside, drain on a paper towel, cut into 1/4-inch rounds, then set aside.
  2. In a hot pan lightly brown the kale with the olive oil and remove.
  3. Add the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic; sauté until lightly browned.
  4. Turn down the heat to medium. Return the kale to the pan along with the sausages, stock, and butter. Braise for 15 minutes. The liquid should reduce by half.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.
  6. Meanwhile, make the pasta in boiling salted water, drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and black pepper, toss.
  7. Add the cooked pasta to the sausage mixture, toss to coat with the sauce. Serve with grated cheese.

Escarole, Beet, & Tomato Salad with Warm Shallot Vinaigrette

I love finding recipes using escarole that are outside of the “Italian soup” box- especially in the summer. This incredible, layered salad was elevated by the warm shallot vinaigrette and the creamy blue cheese topping. It was slightly- and wonderfully- wilted from the warm beets and dressing.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I roasted the beets instead of steaming them, and modified the proportions. I loved the color variation from the mixed-color tomatoes and combination of golden and red beets. It was a true celebration of my CSA share. 🙂

  • 2 bunches beets, bulbs peeled, trimmed, and cubed, greens reserved for another use (I used golden & red beets)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (I used 1 large shallot with 2 bulbs)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting shallots
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
  • 1 cup halved cherry or mixed-color tomatoes (5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 to 1/2 large head escarole, core and dark outer leaves removed; inner, light-green leaves washed, well dried, and torn into 2-inch pieces (4 packed cups)
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh dill
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, preferably Danish, thinly sliced or broken into chunks (I used Castello Creamy Blue Danish Cheese)
  1. Set oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place cubed beets on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place beets in pre-heated oven, and roast for approximately 30 minutes, or until caramelized and tender.
  4. Meanwhile, combine shallot, oil, and a pinch of salt in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then whisk in vinegar. Season with pepper and more salt, if desired.
  5. When beets are cool enough to handle, toss with tomatoes, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons warm dressing.
  6. In a large bowl, combine escarole leaves, beet mixture, and dill. Toss with additional vinaigrette as desired; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Top with cheese and serve with remaining vinaigrette alongside.

Wild Mushroom Crêpes with Sunny Eggs

When we lived in Chicago, one of our favorite weekend traditions in the winter was going to see a movie and then eating at La Creperie. The restaurant was cozy and warm and the food was delicious. This dish brought us back there. 🙂

This wonderful dinner was also reminiscent of the mushroom crêpes that my Mother-in-Law serves on Christmas Eve as part of a traditional multi-course Ukrainian feast. I loved that this version incorporated roasted wild mushrooms- it made them rich with mushroom flavor. Incorporating an egg made them hearty enough to serve for dinner. (This dish really could be served any meal of the day.)

This recipe was adapted from a Food and Wine “staff favorite” recipe contributed by Twin Cities chef Thomas Boemer. I increased the garlic and modified the proportions and method. We ate them with roasted asparagus on the side. Perfect!

I’m sharing my cozy dish at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #215 this week, co-hosted by Laurena@ Life Diet Health and Alex @Turks Who Eat. Enjoy!
Yield: Serves 6

Make the Sauce:

  1. In a medium saucepan (I used a 1.5 quart), melt 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat.
  2. Whisk in all-purpose flour until combined.
  3. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup cream and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup cream, nutmeg, and 1/2 cup of the mushroom filling.
  5. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until no floury taste remains, about 7 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a food processor, blender, or using an immersion blender in the pot, purée until smooth.
  7. Return sauce to pan and season with salt to taste. Keep warm.

Make the Crêpes:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk 4 eggs, milk, bread flour, melted butter, and kosher salt until smooth.
  2. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet or crêpe pan over moderate heat; brush with melted butter or oil. (I did 2 pans at once.)
  3. Add about 1/4 cup of the batter, about one-sixth, swirling to coat the pan evenly. Cook until lightly browned on bottom, about 2 minutes.
  4. Using a spatula, flip crêpe; reduce heat to moderately low.
  5. Arrange about one-sixth of the remaining mushroom sauce in a ring on crêpe, about 4 large spoonfuls, and immediately crack 
1 egg in center of ring. Lift the ring and allow the egg white to spread around the crêpe.
  6. Cook until egg white is set and yolk is still runny, about 3 minutes.
  7. Top with a few mesclun leaves. Drizzle with one-sixth of the roasted mushroom filling, mushroom sauce, and garnish with thyme, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a plate.
  8. Repeat procedure to make 5 more crepes. Serve immediately.

One Year Ago: Buckwheat Popovers

Two Years Ago: Pear Clafoutis

Three Years Ago: Vanilla-Bean Sablés and Viennese Sablés

Four Years Ago: Bread Machine Brioche

Five Years Ago: Asparagus Gruyère Tart

Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole

The plus side (supposedly!) of the original recipe for this dish from Martha Stewart was that it was a vegetarian casserole without cheese. After seeing an adaptation on Kirkley Crossing, I added fresh mozzarella. :/ Cheese makes everything better! I added fresh spinach too.

I made the polenta but did use jarred marinara as a shortcut. We enjoyed it with a green salad. Cheesy vegetarian casseroles are perfect comfort food in cold weather!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Polenta:

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (not quick cooking)
  1. Mix one cup of liquid with the cornmeal and stir. This prevents the cornmeal from lumping when added to the boiling liquid.
  2. Bring the remaining stock to a boil in a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot and add the salt and pepper.
  3. To the boiling stock, pour the cornmeal slurry in a steady stream, stirring constantly until completely added.
  4. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until done, about 30 to 40 minutes. When done, polenta will pull away from the sides of the pot and will be soft in texture.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and finish as desired. Adjust the consistency with additional stock or water, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Pour onto a greased half-sheet pan and refrigerated until cool and firm. (I coated the sheet pan with cooking oil spray.)

For the Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole:

  • 24 oz jar (3 cups) marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine- delicious!)
  • 1 batch Polenta (recipe above)
  • 2 large handfuls organic baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, or more if necessary
  • coarse salt
  • 1 medium eggplant, preferably organic, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 pound (16 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  3. Slice polenta into squares about 1/2 inch thick. (I cut mine into 24 pieces.) Brush lightly with olive oil. Place in the skillet until lightly browned. Flip over and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the skillet until nicely browned, flip over and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Spoon about 1/2 cup tomato sauce into a 9-inch square baking dish, spreading to coat evenly. Arrange eggplant slices snugly in a single layer. (I used 9 slices per layer.)
  6. Top each round with a sprinkling of spinach (1 large handful) and a slice of mozzarella cheese.
  7. Top with a layer of polenta.
  8. Spoon about 3/4 to 1 cup tomato sauce over the top. Repeat with another layer of eggplant, spinach, cheese, and polenta. Finish by dotting with remaining tomato sauce.
  9. Cover with foil; place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and juicy, about 45 minutes.
  10. Remove foil; place on upper rack in the oven and continue baking until sauce is lightly caramelized and eggplant is tender, about 15 minutes more.
  11. Remove from oven; let cool slightly, and serve.

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Pasta al Forno with Asparagus and Chard

This dish was the first-runner up for Valentine’s Day dinner. It was a Valentine’s Day bonus that I made it in addition to our celebratory biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie. Right? Why choose when you can have both? 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey. I increased the amount of vegetables, modified the baking temperature, and incorporated the garlic used to make the garlic oil. We could eat some sort of cheesy, veggie pasta every night of the week. Great!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Béchamel:

  • 5 T (70 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 T (20 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups (650 g) whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp (2 g) fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 g) freshly grated nutmeg

For the Pasta:

  • 2 T (24 g) coarse salt
  • 1 pound (454 g) penne or rigatoni
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound), large stems removed, cut into 1-inch ribbons
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 T (30 g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 batch béchamel, about 3 cups (recipe above)
  • 1 1/2 cups (130 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

To Make the Béchamel:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is a light butterscotch color, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking continuously to keep lumps from forming.
  4. Continue to whisk and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and has the consistency of heavy cream.
  5. Pour the sauce into a bowl to cool.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil, add the salt, and cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.
  2. Drain the pasta well and spread it out over the surface of a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Heat the oven to 475, preferably on convection.
  4. Steam the chard and asparagus for 4 minutes, or until tender. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat, add the garlic, and cook for a minute or so, until it begins to sizzle. Lower the heat and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  6. Brush the inside of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with some of the garlic oil.
  7. In the pot that was used to cook the pasta, combine the cooled pasta, the garlic oil (including the garlic, if desired), the béchamel, half of the grated cheese, the steamed asparagus and chard. Stir until well incorporated.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pasta begins to brown on top.

One Year Ago: Flattened Chicken Thighs with Roasted Lemon Slices

Two Years Ago: Meera Sodha’s Chicken Curry

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

Italian Potato-Pasta Soup with Greens

My husband is not partial to brothy soups. Making this one required some convincing, but I was able to win him over by the inclusion of pasta and potatoes. By the way, he loved it. 🙂

This wonderful soup recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I increased the onions, garlic, and kale, and added fresh lemon juice. I also used my homemade turkey stock. We ate it with a green salad, of course, and sliced sourdough baguette. It was surprisingly filling! Absolutely delicious too.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for garnish
  • 2 cups+ diced onion (I used 1 1/2 large onions)
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced fennel or celery
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large thyme sprig or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • parmesan rind, optional
  • 3 quarts/12 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water (I used  2 quarts of homemade turkey stock and 1 quart of chicken stock)
  • 2 pounds medium-size starchy potatoes, such as Yukon Golds or russets, peeled (if desired) and cut in 1-inch chunks (I skipped peeling the potatoes)
  • 6 to 8 ounces kale or chard, stems removed, leaves sliced across into 1/2-inch ribbons (about 6-7 cups total)
  • ½ pound dried pennette, orecchiette or other small pasta
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or marjoram, for garnish
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
  1. In a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add onion, carrot and fennel, stir, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until softened and golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the heat to prevent vegetables from browning or scorching.
  2. Stir in bay leaf, thyme sprig, garlic, paprika tomato paste, and parmesan rind (if using), and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth, potatoes and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a brisk simmer. Cook until potatoes are cooked through but still firm, 12 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  3. Stir in kale and pasta and simmer another 10 minutes, or until greens are well cooked and pasta is done. (Soup can be made up to this point, without the pasta, cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
  4. Add the fresh lemon juice and stir to incorporate.
  5. Ladle soup into bowls, and sprinkle with chopped rosemary and Parmesan. Drizzle each serving with a teaspoon of olive oil, if desired. Pass extra Parmesan at the table.

Note: If making ahead of time, do not add the pasta until reheating.

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