Tag Archives: fall

fettuccine w butternut squash + cauliflower

If you stop by your farmers’ market this morning, pick up a cauliflower and a butternut squash, as well as some parsley, and make this dish for supper. When we think of Italian food, we might not think of dishes like this, but it is a traditional Italian dish from Naples. It makes use of the best of the market this time of year, pairing creamy butternut squash (which melts into the sauce just at the end of preparation) with the marvelous texture of well-cooked cauliflower. At first I thought long ribbons of fettuccine were a counterintuitive pasta for this dish, but they are the perfect noodle to absorb this lush and hearty sauce.

Besides the cauliflower and squash, everything else in the dish is a pantry staple. The list of ingredients below is long, but when you parse it, you see that at least the process is not that fussy. All the vegetables and most of the seasonings go right in at the beginning, with only the pasta to cook at that point, and parsley and cheese to add at the end. If you cut up your squash and cauliflower beforehand, it makes an eminently doable weeknight dinner. For a dinner with meat, I would just fry some nice Italian sausages to serve after. But the dish is so hearty—I radically increased the amount of vegetables from the original recipe—that it’s not really necessary. Seriously, look at that giant measure of vegetables, below! It’s so virtuous that you can probably excuse all manner of sins for the rest of the week.

Fettuccine w butternut squash + cauliflower

Serves 6

Adapted from Lidia Bastianich, Lidia’s Italy, which is a great cookbook

  • 4 cups cauliflower, cut into florets and quartered
  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed with peel removed
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups of tomatoes from a can of whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, cut up
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 lb. fettuccine

1. In a large sauteuse or skillet with a lid, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until you can smell it, then add onion slices, and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Ad squash and cauliflower, capers, salt, and crushed pepper. Toss and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, add the lid, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan to prevent the vegetables (particularly the squash) from sticking.

2. Add the cut-up tomatoes, plus the vegetable stock, if using, or water. Stir and cover the pan again. When the mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to maintain the simmer, about medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes. Test a large piece of squash to be sure it is softened, then uncover and continue cooking until the juice in the pan is very thick and will coat the pasta well, about 5 to 8 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt as necessary, and keep it at a low simmer.

3. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the fettuccine and cook barely to al dente doneness. Remove a cup of pasta cooking water from the pan, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce (if that pan is not large enough, pour the sauce into the empty but hot pasta cooking pan and add the pasta back to it). Over medium heat, warm the entire mixture, tossing it well. The squash will break up a bit to help coat the pasta. If it seems dry, add a bit of the pasta cooking water. If the mixture seems to wet, cook it a bit more to reduce the juices. Then turn off the heat, toss with parsley and grated cheese, and serve in large, warmed bowls.

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pork loin roast w bacon, apples + onions

I never really thought I would become a slow-cooker person. But the demands of my job are fairly unpredictable. At the same time, I have noticed that having something good to eat at a reasonable hour (and by “good to eat” and “reasonable hour,” I mean not Indian delivery at 9:30 p.m.) contributes to the general happiness of the household. A few weeks ago I purchased a slow cooker. I have been learning to use it—what is good and what is not—and have been noticing that it definitely contributes to the net joy in the house. It is such a relief to come home and remember that, oh wait, supper is already done! Not only that, the cooker I got is large enough that it guarantees leftovers for at least another day or two.

In the process, I have realized that a lot of what I prefer to cook is, really, slow-cooker fare. I do a lot of low-and-slow braising on weekends, anyway. All it means, having a slow-cooker, is that I can have these meals during the week, too. The good news is that if you do not have a slow cooker, you can still use these recipes in the oven. Just remember, you can’t leave your oven unattended the way you can the slow cooker. This dish, in particular, is a genre of pork roast that I’ve made in various permutations for years. It works great in the slow cooker and in the oven. When the pork is finished the lean loin cut has become fork tender, and in the process it has produced its own remarkable onion- and apple-scented sauce. Here’s to civilized weeknight eating.

Pork loin roast w bacon, apples + onions

Serves about 6

  • 2 slices of thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • boneless pork loin roast (the whole loin roast, not just the tenderloin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried chile
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large apple, unpeeled, cut into wedges
  • 1 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1. In a large skillet, warm bacon over medium-high heat with oil. When shimmering and bacon is beginning to render its fat, turn heat to medium and add the loin roast. Brown the loin roast very well on all sides (this takes 8 to 10 minutes per side) and then place in the crock of your slow cooker. (Alternatively you can place it in a large oven-proof Dutch oven with a lid. In this case, preheat the oven to 275 F.) Rotate the roast and sprinkle with the salt, ginger, and ground chile.

2. Return the skillet to the stove. If it does not have enough oil in it to fry the onions and apple, add another glug of vegetable oil. Warm the skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion and apples. Give the pan a few shakes at first and then let the apples and onions sit and get very brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Then stir the apples and onions and continue cooking until very brown. Scrape bacon, onion, and apple over roast in the crock of the slow-cooker.

3. Return skillet to stove. Add 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and scrape assiduously with a spatula or spoon to get all the brown bits from the pan. Simmer for about 1 minute and then add to the roast in the crock. At this point assess how much liquid is surrounding the roast in the slow cooker. Liquid should be about half-way up the side of the roast. Add more stock if necessary. Make sure the top of the roast is exposed and is not covered with apples or onions (push them to the side if necessary).

4. Turn slow cooker to the “high” setting and cook for 3 to 4 hours, or cook for “low” from 8 to 9 hours. Internal temperature of pork should be at least 160 F before eating. (In my experience, after 4 hours on “high” the internal temperature is well over 200 F.) (If cooking in covered Dutch oven at 275 F, bring entire pan to a rolling boil and place in the oven. Cook with lid on for 3 to 4 hours and then proceed with recipe.)

5. Remove pork to a cutting board to rest. Place a bowl in the sink or on the counter, with a sieve over it. Pour everything left in the pan or crock into the sieve and collect in the bowl. Take a spoon and press the apples and onions against the sieve, pushing much of the liquid and passing some (now pureed) solids into the broth. Take the liquid in the bowl and pour it into a saucepan or skillet. Bring to a boil and reduce until a thick sauce is formed. Taste for salt, and add more if necessary. (This will depend upon how salty your bacon was.) Serve pork warm with some of the sauce.

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chicken w glazed turnips

I feel there should be an annual celebration the week when turnips finally appear in the farmers’ market. To me, this is one of the great advantages of fall. Last week, when I saw the first ones at the Wednesday market, I was on my way from one meeting to another. I grabbed three gorgeous purple globes and popped them into my bag. They went to every meeting with me the rest of the afternoon, including a cocktail reception in the Beinecke Library. I must confess that I was quite distracted during the reception. All I could think was, “when was the last time that Gutenberg Bible across the room was within spitting distance of a bag full of turnips?” See, the turnip is the little black dress of the vegetable world, and perfectly at home in a building full of incunabula. And I’m sure they were just as popular in 15th century Germany as they are today. I always wondered about those ensembles advertised in J. Crew as “perfect for the transition from work to evening.” Now I know what they were talking about.

I  thought Melissa Clark’s article about roasting chicken thighs with whatever for supper last week was smart advice. I frequently turn to my skillet, rather than the oven. But I think the method below would work just as well for: cubed potatoes, butternut squash, rutabagas, broccoli, cauliflower, or sweet potatoes. Just for starters. Usually we don’t have boneless, skinless breasts, but that happened to be what I had this week. I was afraid the dish would not be very flavorful, but it was just the opposite. The chicken browned very nicely and left a great fond in the pan, which really enriched the turnips and turned them a delightful deep caramel color. Anyway, I think pork chops and chicken thighs would also be nice here. In fact, I plan on trying the pork chops next.

Until then, dear reader, I give you: the humble turnip. She walks with kings, nor lacks the common touch.

Chicken w glazed turnips

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large purple-top turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey

1. Sprinkle salt and black pepper on both sides of chicken breasts. In a large nonstick skillet or saute pan (that has a tight-fitting lid), warm vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until each side is deeply browned. Then add the lid to the pan and turn heat to medium-low, cooking with the lid on for about 20 minutes until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast is 170 F. Set chicken aside on a plate and cover with foil. There may be a good bit of brown fond in the pan from the chicken. This is good.

2. Add garlic and butter to skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add diced turnips and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until turnips are dark brown and beginning to caramelize. Add thyme, broth, and honey to the pan and replace the lid. Cook for about 15 minutes, until turnips are cooked through. About halfway through this cooking time, remove lid and thoroughly stir and redistribute turnips.

3. When turnips are tender and cooked, return breasts and any accumulated juices to the pan. Heat together for 5 minutes. Serve each person some chicken and turnips piping hot, perhaps with brown rice cooked in chicken broth.

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leek, goat cheese + bacon tart

In many ways, fall is the ideal time to be making tarts. Fall vegetables like cauliflower, butternut squash, leeks, hardy greens, and potatoes are all very low in water content and therefore play very well in egg custard. (A tart or quiche with tomato or zucchini is always welcome, but you have to do a bit of work with salt or roasting to pull a lot of the water out first; otherwise you end up with an egg custard that oozes water. It tastes okay, but I really hate the little channels of moisture running through the custard.) As with most egg dishes I prepare, this one was the result of scrounging around in a more or less bare cupboard. I had lovely fresh leeks and eggs, and an odd nubbin of Humboldt Fog cheese kicking around the refrigerator, as well as a couple of scrabbly pieces of bacon. If that doesn’t scream “tart!” to you, I don’t know what would.

I give two options for tart crust below, but you could also buy a tart shell in the grocery store or pull one out of your own freezer. I like my tarts—especially if they are for lunch, which this one was—to be quite eggy, so you will see this recipe has a much higher ratio of egg-to-dairy than most tarts you’ll find in your cookbooks. It sets up quite quickly in the oven, and it terribly filling. You could add more cheese—I simply didn’t happen to have any more suitable cheeses around—and make it more savory. In the recipe below, when I say to slice the bacon into “batons” I simply mean that if you have regular slices of bacon, slice them crosswise into thin strips. That way, when you slice into your tart, the bacon won’t get caught up in between slices the way longer pieces would.

To clean the leeks properly, simply trim off the green top end and the root end, and slice the leeks thinly. Then, after they are sliced, dump the slices into a big bowl or tub of cold water. Put your hands in there and agitate everything. The grit and sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl, and the leeks will float at the top. Scoop the clean leeks off the top, and into the pan they go.

I made this for lunch with a salad, but you could just as well serve it for breakfast with fruit. I think some of the season’s nice pears would be perfect. If you have a slice left over, it makes an excellent supper washed down with a glass of wine.

Leek, goat cheese + bacon tart

  • a prepared tart crust of your choosing (suggestions below)
  • 3 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut into batons, or 2 oz. pancetta, sliced into batons
  • 2 large or 3 small leeks, trimmed, washed very well, and thinly sliced
  • a little butter, if needed
  • a knob of goat cheese (about 1 oz.) – I used Humboldt Fog
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • black pepper

1. Prepare a tart crust of your choosing in a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. There is a great one here and my standard crust here. Or you could buy a prepared one and thaw it according to package directions. You may also have to par-bake it a bit before filling it. Once the crust is set into the tart pan, put it in the refrigerator to hold it.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Meanwhile, place chopped bacon in a skillet over medium heat. Cook until bacon is browning and fat is rendered. Add the cleaned leeks and stir occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes, until leeks are softened and cooked. If your bacon was too lean to render enough fat, add a little butter if necessary to cook the leeks. Set cooked mixture aside.

3. In a medium bowl combine eggs, half-and-half, nutmeg, and a few grinds of black pepper. If your bacon is salty, you do not need salt, most likely.

4. Place tart crust on a baking sheet on the counter. Scrape leek and bacon mixture into the shell and distribute evenly. Distribute dollops of goat cheese around the tart. Pour in the egg mixture carefully. Put the baking sheet with the tart pan into the oven. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 F (without opening the oven door). Bake for 20 more minutes, or just until the center of the tart is set. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes; cut into wedges; serve. The tart can also be served later, at room temperature.

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pasta w cauliflower + sausages

Cauliflower may be one of my desert-island vegetables. To me, it is the darling of the cruciferous kingdom. Unlike its cousins—cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi—cauliflower has a certain irresistible charm. I never understood why babies were said to come from the cabbage patch. The cauliflower patch is the real home of adorable beauties, florets folding in on themselves, worlds within worlds.

It’s versatile, too, and can be worked into tarts, eggy casseroles, gratins, or just roasted, steamed, or pickled, or eaten raw. I had spotted a vegetarian version of this recipe in my trusty Marcella Hazan and wanted to make it into a one-dish meal by increasing the proportion of cauliflower to pasta (I made the version for two noted below, with just one-half pound of pasta to about 2 pounds of cauliflower) and adding a bit of sausage. I also added crunchy bread crumbs, and salty olives. (I find that it is never wrong to pair olives or capers with cauliflower.)

The key to the recipe is timing. If you play your cards just right, you can cook the sausage first while your water is coming to a boil and the cauliflower cooks in the boiling water. Then, as the sausage vacate the pan to make way for the garlic and anchovies (and what have you), the cauliflower will be just finishing up and available to be drained and scooped right into the skillet for a second tour of cooking. Keep your water boiling and dump the pasta in right away—it should finish cooking just in time to be drained and scooped right into the same skillet (with a bit of cooking water to get the sauce sorted out) to finish the dish. While all of this is going on, you can brown the bread crumbs in a smaller skillet on the side. I know it probably seems strange to imagine cauliflower florets combined with pasta. But trust me, it works. The cauliflower is fairly velvety, and clings beautifully to the penne.

Pasta w cauliflower + sausages

Adapted from Marcella Hazan Essentials of Italian Cooking

  • 1 lb. hot Italian sausage links
  • 1 head cauliflower, about 1.5 to 2 lbs., broken into florets
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 3 anchovies, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives (I used Lucques olives)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 lb. small penne pasta (or 1/2 lb. if preparing for two people)

1. In a large skillet, cook sausage until cooked all the way through, and center registers 170 F on a meat thermometer. Set aside. Meanwhile, set a large pot of salted water to boil. When boiling, add cauliflower florets and cook at least 15 minutes, until very soft, but not disintegrating. If you time this properly, you’ll be able to take cauliflower straight out of the boiling water and into the saute pan. If not, then remove cauliflower from boiling water and set it aside. And in any case, keep the boiling water simmering and add the pasta to cook while sauce finishes.

2. Add some olive oil to the sausage pan and keep at medium heat. To the warm olive oil, add garlic and cook until light gold in color. Add anchovies and crushed red pepper, and cook until anchovies dissolve. Now, if it is cooked and tender, scoop cauliflower out of boiling water and add to pan. (Or if cauliflower finished too early, simply add the cauliflower.) Break up the cauliflower florets with the back of a spoon, leaving none larger than a walnut. Some of the florets should mash into bits that are quite small. Add the olives as well. Cook and stir over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, until flavors combine and cauliflower is sauteed and browning.

3. At the same time, heat a glug of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs to the hot oil. Stir frequently for about 3 to 4 minutes, until bread crumbs are well toasted. When they are a deep golden brown, set them aside in a bowl.

4. Assemble the dish: when pasta is through cooking, scoop the pasta from the boiling water, reserving at least 1/2 cup water to make the sauce. Put the pasta in the skillet with the cauliflower, tossing very well to combine. Add the reserved pasta water a bit at a time to get the sauce to coat all of the penne. Garnish each plate with bread crumbs, chopped parsley, and serve with sausage along side.

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kale + mozzarella salad

As tomatoes become grainy and corn becomes starchy, and many other summer vegetables flame out or fade away, kale—at least in Connecticut—is a vegetable that makes the transition with us from spring, to summer, to fall. A lot of the kale we are getting here now is hardier than usual, maybe with a touch of frost burn around the edges. But it’s no less delicious and no less welcome for those blemishes, at a time of year when our fairer summer friends take their leave from the kitchen.

Nothing can be simpler than making a raw kale salad for supper. You can make it a million different ways. In fact, I had every intention that this particular salad would in fact be one of those different ways: a raw kale, lemon and avocado salad. But the avocado I’d been ripening all week had other plans. (Don’t you hate it when you slice into an avocado, one that you’ve been babying along to ripeness, only to discover it is slimy and brown inside?) Luckily I had a nice ball of fresh mozzarella in the refrigerator, ready to take its place beside finely sliced kale, red onions, and lemon juice. The key with any raw kale salad is to rub it down properly with an acid, like lemon juice, and then olive oil—at least 15 or 30 minutes before you plan to eat. (Be warned: if you have an office job where you tend to get paper cuts, you better be a masochist to undertake this particular procedure.) The acid and oil kind of “cook” the kale a bit—it will still be verdant and crunchy, but a little easier to eat. I like to mellow it out with something a bit fatty (in this case mozzarella and not avocado) and make sure just before supper that the whole thing is properly salted after all. (Sometimes I find I need to add a bit more salt at the end.) Enjoy improvising on this theme over the next few weeks, a not insignificant consolation in the face of fall.

Kale + mozzarella salad

  • 2 bunches (about 20 large leaves) of lacinato kale, washed and cut into a fine chiffonade
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella
  • freshly cracked black pepper

1. Combine the finely sliced kale, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the lemon juice into the kale leaves for about 3 to 4 minutes. Assiduously work it into the leaves. Add olive oil and honey and continue to massage for 1 to 2 more minutes. Set aside while you prepare other dishes, at least 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Just before serving, add onion and mozzarella. Grind black pepper over, to taste. Serve.

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