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.

Orecchiette with Sausage & Chard

This is a variation of one of my favorite Italian restaurant dishes, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. It was fast to prepare and really full-flavored- incorporating anchovies, freshly ground fennel seeds, and lots of garlic. Great.

This recipe was adapted from 177milkstreet.com, contributed by Jeanne Maguire. I substituted jarred fire-roasted red peppers and brine for Peppadew peppers. I used a combination of sweet and hot Italian sausage as well.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 12 ounces orecchiette pasta
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound (about 6) sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed (I used 2/3 sweet (4) and 1/3 hot sausage (2))
  • 3 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mild Peppadew peppers or fire-roasted red peppers, plus 1 T brine (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 8 to 10 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth or stock, divided
  • 3 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  1. Remove the stems from the chard leaves and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Soak in a bowl of water, drain, and set aside.
  2. Cut the leaves into 3-inch wide ribbons; wash and drain. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  4. Drain, return to the pot and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet (with a lid available) over medium-high, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  6. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into small chunks, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Discard all but 1 T of the drippings from the pan.
  7. Add the anchovies, ground fennel seed, and peppers to the skillet and cook over medium, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  8. Stir in the garlic and chard stems, then cook until the garlic is aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  9. Add 1/4 cup of the stock and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the liquid evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in the chard leaves and the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the leaves are wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes.
  11. Scrape the chard mixture into the pot with the pasta. (I added the pasta to the pot with the chard instead!)
  12. Add the sausage and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir over medium-low until the pasta is heated through, about 1 minute.
  13. Gradually stir in the Parmesan, then the Peppadew or roasted red pepper brine.
  14. Taste and season with salt. Serve sprinkled with more Parmesan.

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Chickpeas & Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

This dish was also named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best” in their 40th anniversary issue. It was super delicious.

The recipe was contributed by Missy Robbins of Lilia in Brooklyn. She was also named a “Best New Chef” in a previous issue. The genius of this dish is that Robbins substitutes chickpeas and kale for pasta in her spicy pomodoro sauce. It still tasted rich and indulgent for a “healthy” dish. I increased the amount of garlic and incorporated my CSA red kale. The inclusion of fennel seeds added subtle sweetness. We ate it with a crusty baguette to soak up all of the sauce- a little bit less healthy but crazy good.

I hope to make this dish repeatedly with my CSA kale. I absolutely love dishes that make kale a crowd-pleaser! 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant 
but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and 
the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes.
  4. Stir the kale into the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.
  6. Spoon into bowls and garnish with herbs. Top with finely grated pecorino and serve hot.

Spicy Red Lentil Stew with Coconut Milk & Spinach

This Indian stew was fast to prepare, loaded with spices and flavor, and was absolutely fabulous. What a combination! If that wasn’t enough, it was also a hearty vegetarian dish with a little bit of heat. All my favorites.

This recipe is from Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball. It is a simplified version of a classic Goan dish. I increased the amount of onion and served the stew with warm naan and chopped grape tomatoes on the side as an optional garnish.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 T coconut or peanut oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • kosher salt
  • 3 tsp finely grated fresh ginger, divided
  • 2 tsp yellow or brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp freshly ground fennel seeds
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 13.5 to 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 cup split red lentils, rinsed
  • 6 oz (about 6 cups) baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • juice of 1/2 to 1 lime
  • unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish, optional
  • chopped tomatoes, for garnish, optional
  1. In a large saucepan over medium to medium-high, combine the onion, oil, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
  2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and are just beginning to color, 7 to 9 minutes.
  3. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the grated ginger, the mustard seed, turmeric, coriander, fennel, and red pepper flakes.
  4. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the water, coconut milk, and lentils, then bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the lentils have broken down, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  7. Uncover and stir in the spinach; return to a simmer.
  8. Off the heat, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of grated ginger and the lime juice.
  9. Season with salt to taste.
  10. Serve, garnished with coconut flakes and chopped tomatoes, as desired.

Winter Squash & Red Bean Mole

This is an another amazing vegetarian chili variation. Hearty too. It was especially wonderful for me as well because it incorporated a lot of flavors typically used in a traditional Mexican mole, one of my absolute loves.

This recipe was adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Table: 250 Brand-New Recipes from the Natural Foods Restaurant that Revolutionized Eating in America from the Moosewood Collective. I doubled the recipe, increased the garlic, and omitted the ground fennel. We ate it with corn muffins and a green salad. Fabulous!

Yield: Serves 8 to 12

  • 4 T olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onions (I used 2 large onions)
  • 10-12 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seeds, optional
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 T chopped fresh thyme of 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped poblano peppers (can substitute cubanelle peppers)
  • 3 cups seeded and chopped red, yellow, or orange bell peppers (I used 2 red, 1 yellow, & 1 orange)
  • 6 cups diced butternut squash (bite-size cubes), from 1 medium butternut squash
  • 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 2/3 cups water
  • 6 T pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 T sesame seeds
  • 2 15-oz cans red kidney beans, drained
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped, or to taste
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • sour cream, for garnish
  • thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
  1. In a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat, warm the oil. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Add the onions, garlic, fennel, cinnamon, thyme, salt, and black pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions soften, stirring often to prevent sticking.
  3. Add the celery, poblano peppers, and bell peppers and cook for another 5 minutes until the peppers brighten and become fragrant.
  4. Stir in the squash and cook for a minute or two more.
  5. Add the tomatoes and water to the pot, cover, bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  7. Using a spice grinder, mini food processor, or a mortar and pestle, finely grind the pepitas and sesame seeds.
  8. When the squash is tender, stir the ground seeds, kidney beans, chipotles to taste, and chocolate into the stew. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Stir in the cilantro.
  10. Garnish with more cilantro, sliced scallions, and/or sour cream, as desired.

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Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas, Cumin, & Turmeric

I love yogurt marinades because the resulting meat is always extremely tender. This dish was particularly great because it used a yogurt marinade with a short marinating time, only 30 minutes.  It was also a sheet-pan dish which made it a full-flavored weeknight meal.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Alison Roman. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, and substituted caraway seeds for the fennel seeds. We ate it garnished with the yogurt sauce and lemony red onions, with Basmati rice and roasted vegetables on the side. Perfect.

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or 1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken, cut into parts (alternatively, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, such as breasts, thighs and legs)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ cups full-fat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, divided
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds or fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup mint or cilantro leaves, torn
  • Basmati rice, for serving
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Combine 3/4 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon turmeric and 2 tablespoons water in a large bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. (It should be on the salty side, as this is a marinade.) Add chicken and toss to coat evenly. Let sit at least 30 minutes at room temperature, and up to overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Place oven rack on the top third of the oven and heat to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  4. Combine chickpeas, fennel/caraway seeds, cumin, remaining teaspoon of turmeric and half the red onion slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  5. Move chickpeas to the outer edges of the baking sheet. Scrape any excess marinade off the chicken, and place the chicken parts in the center.
  6. Place baking sheet in oven and bake, tossing chickpeas occasionally, until the skin of the chicken is evenly browned and the chickpeas are golden and starting to crisp, about 30 minutes for boneless meat and up to 45 to 50 minutes for bone-in meat. Be sure to toss the chickpeas occasionally as they roast to encourage them to get coated in the chicken fat as it renders.
  7. Meanwhile, toss remaining onion slices with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  8. Combine remaining yogurt with remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  9. Once chicken is ready, scatter with lemony onions and mint or cilantro, as desired.
  10. Serve with seasoned yogurt alongside as a sauce.

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