By Kim Dannies
The slackening season affords a moment to reflect upon the beauty and bounty of an exceptional summer. Plump Caprese salads, luscious ripe melon, fresh corn on the cob dripping in butter: all sweet but fading memories. Kale, winter squash and celeriac have now all moved into the kitchen, along with the queen of winter slaw, red cabbage. Beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, salsify, turnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, fennel, peppers, green beans, leeks, onions, shallot and garlic will all be worthy companions for the long winter ahead.
To ease the transition to hard-core winter cooking I bought a big container of cherry tomatoes at Costco, and roasted them with lots of chopped garlic, sea salt and olive oil. Then, I lightly steamed a package of haricot vert (also from Costco) and lined them up on a rectangular platter. Next, I doused them with the roasted tomato and juices and laced the edges with a lemon aioli (mayo, lemon juice, garlic). It was gorgeous and delicious and it took the sting out of my dwindling summer romance.
This is a terrific dish for large groups—a real stunner on the buffet. To balance the season, serve it alongside a creamy chevre-infused butternut squash studded with bacon. A simple green salad and grilled sliced meat will feed and please a crowd with minimal effort.
Bacon & Chevre Squash Gratin
Roast a large butternut squash, or purchase pre-cut chunks. Cook enough squash to yield 8-cups of pulp. In a large prep bowl combine the squash with 2 cups of chicken stock, 1 or 2 T Garam masala, salt to taste, and half a cup of maple syrup. Using an immersion stick, blend the squash until smooth. Fold in 1 cup pre-cooked bacon bits and 6 ounces of crumbled goat cheese. Taste for seasoning; pour into a casserole dish. Can be prepared three days ahead.
To serve, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the squash, covered, for 30 minutes.
Uncover and top with the breadcrumbs; bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Serves 14.
Breadcrumb mixture: in a food processor pulse 4 garlic cloves with a large pinch of sea salt. Add three handfuls of artisan-style bread cubes and 2 T of cold butter. Pulse mixture gently until crumbled.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.