Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Humpty Dumpty

Yesterday started off as an ordinary day; but I ended up at Urgent Care at Scripps Clinic with a broken right shoulder.  I'm managing; typing with my left hand and not being able to fasten or unscrew anything, but I think this will be my life for the next 6 weeks, so if you don't see me posting, it's because I am not able to.

Wishing you all a joyous holiday season!  Diane

Monday, December 5, 2011

'Tis the Season

 Every year at this time Chez Phillips smells like butter, sugar and chocolate; I'm making toffee.  A friend taught me this recipe years ago, and I continue to make it because my family and friends expect it, and it gets me into the holiday spirit. Yesterday I finished three batches; fortunately there are no tears in it, because the Chargers didn't play....they play tonight.  Although the recipe is simple, it takes some watching; allow yourself about 45 minutes for the first part...it can take longer, or it can be shorter, depending on your stove and ingredients.  I will give you a short list of do's and don'ts at the end. 

Christmas Toffee
Makes One 1/4 sheet pan

1 pound salted butter
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups whole almonds
12-ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (this is a matter of taste---I just don't recommend one of the high percentage of cacao chocolates or chocolate chips which are formulated not to melt)

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and set aside on a cutting board or heat proof pan.  
In a large microwaveable bowl, melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar and cook for 6 minutes on high.

While the butter and sugar are cooking chop 2 1/2 cups of the almonds and set aside.  Finely chop (in the food processor) the remaining almonds to fine dust and set aside.

 Cook the sugar and butter mixture an additional 6 minutes in the microwave; at the 4 minute mark, preheat a heavy bottom saucepan on the stove top over medium heat.  Using oven mitts, grasp the bowl, and pour into the preheated saucepan, and turn the heat up to medium high (this will vary with the stove)  Stir the mixture constantly---it may separate, but keep on stirring.  The toffee will turn a dark caramel color, at this point, stir in the almonds (sometimes this will bring the separated mixture together, but don't give up!) and continue to stir until the mixture comes together and is a dark amber color.
Pour the hot mixture into the sheet pan, and allow to cool.

Allow the pan to cool, then clean with HOT water to get off any excess hardened toffee. 
When the toffee is cooled, melt 6 ounces of chopped chocolate (I used Scharffenberger) either on the stove top in double boiler, or in the microwave (about 2 minutes)  spread over the top of the toffee in an even layer and sprinkle with some of the almond dust.

Wait until the chocolate has set (depends on the heat of your kitchen--2 to 6 hours) and turn the toffee out onto another sheet of foil.

Melt the remaining chocolate and sprinkle with the dust.  Wait until the chocolate is completely set before breaking into pieces.  I use a clean table knife and a meat pounder to chisel it into pieces.  Wrap in airtight containers and give as gifts. 

Do's and Don'ts

  • Use aluminum foil, parchment will melt
  • Use a silicone spoon to stir, wooden spoons tend to take on flavors from other dishes, and silicone stands up to the heat
  • Use a heavy bottom, 3 to 5-ply stainless steel pan (non-sticks tend to add water to this)
  • Use high quality chocolate; I use Scharffenberger, but Lindt, Ghirardelli and Guittiard will all work here
  • Never fill the hot pan with cold water after your spread the toffee into the sheet pan; it will ruin even the most expensive pan (how do I know this you ask---experience is a painful teacher!) 
  • There are a myriad of containers to use here, simple food safe plastic bags decorated with seasonal stickers, fancy tins, paper boxes---you can find these at The Container Store, Michael's, or your local gourmet retailer and this year I'm shopping local to support small businesses.  
I'll be back tomorrow with some dynamite cookie recipes, because that is next on this Elf's list!

Friday, December 2, 2011

My New Best Friend

My friends at Fagor are at it again; they have come up with the ultimate machine!  This is the multi-cooker; a pressure cooker, rice cooker and slow cooker all in one.  A great design, kind of like a cousin to R2D2 of the Star Wars movie, it even beeps at you, it's a great machine to have in your kitchen.

Many of my chef friends who have sworn by stove top pressure cookers say that once they have used an electric pressure cooker, they have never looked back.  The electric cookers are the no-brainer of pressure cooking, you just set it and forget it.  The interior is non-stick and is removed easily for cleaning after each use.  It comes with a rack in the bottom for pressure cooking your favorite veggies, or for making creme brulee or pot de creme.
Tonight I made a Bolognese sauce in the multi-cooker, and it was awesome!   This recipe is simple, and gives you enough for 2 meals. 

Speedy Bolognese Sauce
Makes about 5 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 pound ground veal
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup beef broth
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with their juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  1. In the pressure cooker, melt the butter over  medium high heat and sauté the onion, carrot, and celery for 2 minutes to soften the onion. 
  2. Add the veal and pork, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. 
  3. Stir in the beef broth, tomatoes, and cream. Lock the lid in place and cook 5 minutes at high pressure.
  4. Release the pressure naturally and remove the lid, tilting the pot away from you to avoid any escaping steam. 
  5. Skim off any excess fat on the top of the sauce and stir in the parsley and serve over pappardelle, or tortellini.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chasing Moments


This week I received word that a friend had died; he had been ill for a while, and lived in Europe, and although I knew this news would come someday, I was surprised by how hard it hit me.  I've said before that death and I have a dance we do....I've lost plenty of people in my life, and each one is still tied to me with memories, letters, thoughts or postcards in my mind.  We creative types sometimes over think things, and it gets us into trouble, dragging us to places we have no business being; but thinking about Robert, and his life, and how many people we had in common, also had me thinking about the last time I saw him and how genuinely happy he was to see me. Although I know he would have preferred the company of Dr C so they could talk history and politics, he was his gentlemanly self with a twinkly smile, and a rapier wit.

 As I have let my mind wander, I thought back over the last 2 weeks while our children were here visiting; we had many moments with our granddaughter Poppy that I will remember, but I fear they will only be photos on a screen for her in later years.  How do we make those moments last in our mind; how are we our best selves every minute of the day?....I admit to losing it a couple of times while everyone was here....not a pretty picture, and one I wish I could erase but it's there, and the only thing I can do is hope and pray that I will be better the next time, living each day as best I can, honestly, and with humility.
Losing our friends, and family brings the reality of our own lives into sharper focus.  I've been struggling lately with the fact that there is no next book on the horizon, and although I love what I do, my focus has been somewhat blurred, and I'm not sure what that means.  Losing Robert has put that all into perspective for me...it's not about what I do, it's how I do it, making each one of those moments in time shine. 
I'll be back later this week with some recipes, and thoughts on gift giving for the holidays, until then, hug your loved ones....life is precious, and all too often we ignore it. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

In the Bag


My friends at Specialty Produce put together another amazing bag for us last week, and the Great News class was so much fun to teach!  If you bought the bag and haven't used all your fruits and veggies, here are a few more recipes to get you through the week.  
Jerusalem Artichoke and Sierra Gold Potato Gratin
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 pound Sierra Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, minced
2 leeks, cleaned, and finely chopped, using the white and tender green parts
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
6 drops Tabasco
1 1/2 cups finely shredded Gruyere or imported Swiss cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat the inside of a 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2.     In a large skillet, heat the artichokes, potatoes, milk, cream, garlic, leeks, thyme and Tabasco and cook 5 to 6 minutes, until the vegetables are almost done; they will be firm, but a knife will pierce them easily. 
3.     Transfer the vegetables to the prepared pan, and sprinkle with the cheeses. 
4.     Bake the gratin for 30 to 40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheeses are golden brown. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.  (Great with grilled meats, chicken, or seafood)

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes
Serves 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 bay leaf

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the garlic and lemon zest, and sauté for 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the artichokes and bay leaf, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the artichokes are softened.  Remove the cover, and cook another 5 minutes over high heat, to evaporate the juices, and crisp up the outer edges of the artichokes.  Serve immediately. 
Makes 3 quarts
Satsuma Mandarins are amazing, sweet nuggets that are delicious all by themselves, to open and eat anytime for a snack, but the people at Southern Living gave me the idea to try them in a homemade Limoncello-like liqueur.  Giving them all the credit, this is the recipe that appeared in this month's issue.
The recipe is easily halved, if you only want to make a small batch.

20 Satsuma mandarin oranges
2 (750 milliliter) bottles vodka
4 cups sugar

  1. Peel the oranges using vegetables peeler, reserving flesh for another use  
  2. Scrape bitter white pitch from the rind in a large glass pitcher or 3 quart jar; pour vodka over strips.  Cover and let stand at room temperature 7 to 10 days.  
  3. Bring sugar and 5 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  
  4. Reduce heat to low, and simmer stirring occasionally, 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved.  
  5. Remove from heat; let stand 30 minutes.  
  6. Pour syrup into vodka mixture.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.  
  7. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another pitcher, discarding orange rind strips.
  8. Pour into bottles or Mason jars; seal and chill 4 hours before serving.  Store in the refrigerator up to 1 month. 
As you get ready for Thanksgiving, I hope that you are enjoying the moments with your family and friends.  A little wine, a bit of whimsy and lots of good cheer help to fill holidays with good times and great memories.  Salute!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving

If you haven’t already thought about Thanksgiving, it’s time; we have 2 weeks until the big day, and if you aren’t prepared, it’s time to get your lists out and check them twice. 

Thanksgiving is the holiday that most people stress over; there is family anxiety and there is food anxiety.  The food anxiety can disappear if you follow a few easy guidelines, and (hopefully) read my books on how to make the Do-Ahead Thanksgiving Dinner.  Here’s a list of tips to get you started:

  • Get your knives sharpened now; I’ve never cut myself with anything but a dull knife, and during Thanksgiving week, no one will have time to sharpen them for you. 
  • Order your turkey now; figure ¾ pound per person if you want some leftovers, or 1 pound per person if you want to send people home with doggie bags.  Fresh turkeys taste so much better—some of the frozen turkeys may be the ones that were fresh last year.

  • Make up your shopping list now

  •  Divide the shopping list into parts:  Non-perishables---include paper towels, and trash bags if needed.  This would be all the items that are shelf stable and can be stored, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. You can shop for these now---better to get this out of the way.
  • Perishables:  fresh fruits and vegetables --- shop for these 2 to 3 days ahead of the holiday
  • Dairy products and frozen foods:  butter, cream, milk, sour cream, ice cream, frozen veg etc. can all be purchased now, they have long shelf lives in the fridge/freezer.
  • If you are ordering rolls, pick these up the day before
  • Give yourself permission to have someone else do the work; if you have a great bakery, have them make the pies, rolls or desserts.  Veggie trays take 2 to 3 hours for preparing all the veg---go to your warehouse store, buy the veggie tray and make your own dip—no one will ever know!
  • Set your table a few days ahead of time, making sure all your serving dishes will fitJ; cover the table with a sheet, and that will keep the kids/animals and dust off the table.
  • If you are having more than 8 people at the table, set up a buffet for serving, then direct people to the table for seating.

  • To stave off hunger, serve a self-serve soup from your slow cooker, set on warm; guests can help themselves if the smells from the kitchen are making them hungry.
  •  If you can only make two things ahead, make the gravy and mashed potatoes, they are the last minute things that make cooks nutty with the gravy ending up lumpy and the potatoes watery. 
·         These are the top 12 pieces of equipment to pull off the perfect thanksgiving dinner:
o   Heavy Duty Roasting Pan (All-Clad and Mauviel are tops here)
o   Cuisipro roasting rack with removable pin
o   Sauce whisk
o   3-quart saucier for gravy (All-Clad wins here)
o   Emile Henry or Le Creuset oven to tableware
o   Silicone food loops
o   Carving knife ( I prefer one with granton/hollow ground)
o   Silicone basting brush
o   More Than Gourmet©  Turkey Stock Base (reconstitute for gravy)or Superior Touch Better than Bouillon Turkey soup Base
o   Oxo Peeler
o   Meat thermometer (either Taylor/Polder probe, or instant read---I have both )
o   Fat separator (Oxo wins here)

Students always ask what brand of knife I recommend; any high end retail store will carry a selection of good quality knives:  Wusthof, Shun, Messermeister,  and Global are all great brands and it will come down to what feels right in your hand.  If the knife feels too heavy you will never use it, if it feels too light, it will wobble in your hand, and you won’t feel comfortable with it---make sure to test drive the knives (any reputable kitchen store will let you hold the knives, and feel which is right for you)  If you have read this blog, you know where I teach, and the staff at each of these places will take good care of you, making sure that you find the right knife to fit you. 
And promise me you will never carve the turkey at the table!  It's a recipe for disaster! 
I’m on my way home after 3 weeks of teaching pressure cooker classes, and will have more to say on this subject with some new recipes in the coming days.  I hope you have a great day---now get out that list!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Soup's On!

I spent the weekend in Central Pennsylvania, at The Kitchen Shoppe, and taught 4 classes in 3 days; it was a whirlwind, but I love this part of the country, and this Shoppe, and the students.  A converted barn, the manager used to board her horses in the lower part (this is the back of the property)  The leaves were still on the trees, in spite of the snow that fell the week before (so glad I wasn't here!)  At our Do-ahead Thanksgiving class, I prepared a soup that wasn't in the students' packets, and wanted to share it with them, and with you if you are in the mood for soup, this is a winner any night of the week.  It's terrific garnished with lump crab, or goat cheese, or crostini.  

Silky Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
One medium sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
One medium apple, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
6 to 7 cups butternut squash, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 pounds)
8 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a 5-quart saucepan, melt the butter, and saute the onion, apple and thyme for 3 minutes, to soften the onion.  
  2. Add the squash and toss to coat with the butter. 

Add the broth, cover, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until the squash is tender.  cook's note: if you have a pressure cooker, cook at high pressure for 5 minutes, release the pressure naturally, and proceed.
Puree the soup with an immersion blender, and add the cream. 

Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper. 

I hope you all had a great weekend, I'm in DC headed to Chapel Hill, NC tomorrow and teach on Wednesday night.  I'm headed home to Dr. C. on Thursday and will be ready!  Here are a few snaps from the trip to Pennsylvania.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Something Fishy This Way Comes

    An investigation by Consumer Reports alleges that the seafood we are buying is either not what it seems, or could be something altogether different than its label.  This is pretty frightening given that most consumers are wanting to add more seafood  to their diets, in search of a healthier alternatives to animal protein.  The problem is that we believe what we are told most of the time:  if the sign says "halibut" and the price is sky high, who are you to believe otherwise?

    Wild Alaskan Halibut

    This really is a case of buyer beware.  If you are buying your seafood at a supermarket, chances are you will get something that may not be labeled correctly, and that guy behind the seafood counter is probably the same guy who is sometimes checking you out when you are done with your shopping. Buying your seafood from a fish market should be a better bet, and Whole Foods did pretty well with their labeling.

     In the case of salmon, there were huge discrepancies, when the fish was labeled; some King Salmon was actually Coho, some sockeye was actually coho, and beware of farmed salmon, grown in congested, small "pens", where the salmon are fed corn and soy pellets, and do not have the diet that salmon eat in the wild.  Farm salmon is low in the Omega 3's that we would like to have in our diet and contains the highest levels of PCB's of any animal protein.  The salmon is further insulted, by having color added to its skin. 

    Farm Salmon

    Farm Salmon before the injectable dye

    Buy wild line caught salmon.  The FDA has yet to rule on the genetically modified salmon that the industry is touting as the next best thing; it is injected with a gene from the "ocean pout" a member of the eel family--it will grow twice as large in half the time that it takes a wild salmon to grow.  Problem is, once it's genetically modified, it's not really a salmon anymore.

      The report stated that "grouper" (above) was mislabeled, and was actually tilefish, which has three times as much mercury as grouper.  The FDA advises women of childbearing age and children to avoid tilefish, yet stores are selling it under the name "grouper".  Buyer beware--this is what tile fish looks like:

    Filet of sole, a mild fish that is generally available in markets, was mislabeled, or not even the same fish in 1/2 of the Consumer Reports samples.  Some were labeled sole, but were in fact, turbot, catfish or flounder.  All of these fish would cost the purveyor less than the real thing. 

    Many fish are on the endangered list, because they have been over-fished.  To find out which fish are fit to eat, click here  go to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site, or here to go to the Marine Stewardship Council.  These sites will fill you in on what you need to know.  Next time you go to the supermarket be prepared, and if it says swordfish, maybe it was this guy once upon a time.

    On the Road Again

    It's that time of year again, I'm out on the road visiting independent cooking schools, teaching cooking classes, sometimes 2 a day as I cross the mid-west, and then head to the East Coast.  I'm currently in Indiana visiting my son in Bloomington, home of the IU Hoosiers.  Ryan is an IU alum, and sports writer, and if I didn't plan these trips, I probably wouldn't get to see him as often as I do.  I spent last week in West Lafayette, IN at KitchenArt and CooksWares in Cincinnati. 

    I'll be heading back to West Lafayette tomorrow for 2 more classes before heading East to Carlisle, PA and The Kitchen Shoppe, ending my book tour in Chapel Hill, NC at A Southern Season.  The theme for this fall's travels is pressure cooking; my book, The Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook is out, and the students are loving the recipes, easy of use, and the food that comes out a pressure cooker. Risotto in 7 minutes without stirring?  I think I need that!

    We all remember the stories about grandma's pressure cooker that exploded, and sent split peas showering everyone within a 2 mile radius; today's new slow cookers are sleek stainless steel pots, with so many safety features it's next to impossible to have anything go wrong. 

     So as I pack up my bags, and get ready for another day, I'll share this risotto recipe that is fast and fabulous from the pressure cooker, I hope you'll go into your local independent cooking school and ask about pressure cookers, and see if this isn't a piece of equipment that you need, I know I'm sold!

    White Risotto

    Serves 6

    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 shallot, finely chopped
    1 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
    1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, or dry vermouth
    3 1/2 cups chicken broth
    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper (optional)
    1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar

    Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the oil in the pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the rice and toss to coat. Pour in the wine and broth and lock the lid in place. Cook at high pressure for 8 minutes.

    Quick release the pressure and remove the lid, tilting the pot away from you to allow the steam to escape. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the cheese. Taste the rice for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Allow the rice to stand for 2 minutes and stir again. If the risotto is not quite cooked, give it another minute over medium heat. Serve in shallow bowls, and drizzle with some of the balsamic vinegar.

     Wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween from the crossroads of America.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Going Bananas

    Dr. C. celebrated his birthday yesterday and I made him a fabulous dinner, but his favorite seemed to be the experimental birthday cake that I made him; a caramelized banana upside down cake.  It's too good not to share with you all, and I think it could be amazing with a flambe of dark rum, but since I've been known to light off the smoke alarms around here, we chose the warmed cake with vanilla ice cream....heavenly!

    Caramelized Banana Upside Down Cake
    Serves 8

    1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
    1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
    2 ripe bananas, sliced 1/2-inch thick
    Coat the inside of a 9-inch round baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar, and spread into the prepared pan.  Arrange the bananas on the butter sugar mixture and set aside while making the cake. 

    For the Cake

    1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
    1 large egg
    2 ripe bananas, mashed
    1/3 cup sour cream
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the vanilla, eggs and banana, beating until the mixture is combined.  Add the sour cream, flour and baking soda, and beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Carefully pour the mixture over the bananas, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove the pan to a wire rack, cool for exactly 10 minutes, and turn the cake out onto a plate.  The cake can be stores at room temperature for up to 4 hours, after that refrigerate the cake.  To serve, warm the cake in the oven, and serve with vanilla ice cream.  

     Buon appetito and Happy Birthday Dr. C!

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    It's in the Bag

    Friday was my Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Bag class at Great News, and what a bag it was; packed with fall bounty it was such fun to put this all together for a great class.  From left, sugar pie pumpkin, Valencia orange, fennel, spaghetti squash, pomegranate, romaine, Easter egg radishes, and golden beets.

    Romaine salad with roasted golden beets, Valencia orange, pomegranates, crumbled goat cheese, with orange balsamic vinaigrette.

    Pumpkin cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting.

    Pear Upside Down Cake

    So, if you weren't able to come to class, but have a bag, here are a few recipes for your bag this week.

    Grilled Caesar Romaine Salad
    Serves 4

    Two heads romaine, tough outer leaves removed, washed thoroughly and dried
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    2 to 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
    1/4 cup crushed garlic crouton, either home made or store bought

    Preheat the broiler for 10 minutes, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
    Cut each head of romaine in half through the center, and arrange the lettuce on the prepared baking sheet.
    In a food processor or blender, blend together the oil, garlic, Worcestershire, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and pepper, until it is thickened.  Using a silicone brush, brush some of the dressing over the lettuce leaves, and sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese.  Broil for 3 to 5 minutes until the cheese begins to melt.  Remove from the broiler, arrange each romaine onto a salad plate, drizzle with a bit more dressing, some cheese, and finish with the crushed croutons.  Serve warm.
    (Do-Ahead:  You can prepare the dressing ahead for 3 to 4 days, wash and spin the lettuce dry and keep in zip lock bags with paper toweling for up to 2 days)

    Farfalle with Pumpkin and Italian Sausage
    Serves 6
    To prove that pumpkin isn't just for pie, try this amazing pasta dish and wow your family!
     For the Pumpkin:
    One 3 pound sugar pie pumpkin cut into quarters
    To prepare the pumpkin for roasting, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and arrange the pumpkin on a baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake for 1 hour.  Uncover and bake another 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is still firm, but soft in the center.  Cool the pumpkin until you can handle it and remove the seeds, (it's easier to remove them once it's cooked) and separate the flesh from the skin.  Chop the flesh coarsely, and set aside.  (the cooking times will vary depending on how large your pumpkin is) The pumpkin will keep frozen in air tight containers for up to 3 months.
    For the Sauce

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from its casing
    1/2 cup sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
    6 sage leaves, finely chopped
    2 cups coarsely chopped cooked pumpkin (see above)
    salt and pepper
    1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    1 pound farfalle pasta, cooked 3 minutes short of al dente, saving a bit of the pasta water if needed
     1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

     In a large skillet, heat the oil, and saute the sausage breaking it up, cooking it until it is no longer pink.  Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat, and add the onion, sage, and reserved pumpkin, sauteing until the onion is softened.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the nutmeg. When the pasta is cooked, add it to the skillet, keeping the heat at medium, and toss in the sauce, add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce appears to be dry.  You will want to cook the pasta in the sauce, so that it absorbs the flavors in the pan.  Add 1/2 of the cheese and toss again.  Serve the pasta in bowls sprinkled with the remaining cheese.  

    Sugar Pie Pumpkin can be used in place of butternut squash in most recipes.