Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash


Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

The final product, after topping with shredded hard Parmesan cheese.

This is a recipe based on one from an Italian friend who uses halved zucchini. After receiving verbal instructions on the preparation, I winged it with an acorn squash I had on hand. Precook the squash in the oven before stuffing it with the sausage and vegetables to ensure it is fork-tender and mellow.  It takes time to set up, but you’ll be impressed by the result. This is an amazing mid-summer garden recipe your whole family will enjoy.

 

Ingredients:

1 large acorn squash – about 8-9″ in length and 6″ in diameter
2 tbs. XV olive oil
2 Johnsonville mild Italian sausage links, casings removed and crumbled
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium-sized green or red bell garden pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium-hot Hungarian wax garden pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium vine-ripe garden tomatoes, diced
2 large, fresh garden basil leaves, minced
Small handful fresh garden Italian oregano leaves, minced
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded hard Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic granules
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°-F. Cut and prep all ingredients so you have them on hand and ready to go.

Wash and pat dry the squash. Using a very sharp chef’s knife and a steady hand, carefully slice the squash in half around the middle, perpendicular to the stem. Use EXTREME CAUTION so you don’t slip and cut yourself. The flesh and outer rind are very tough. Remove the seeds and membrane with a soup spoon. Cut a narrow section off of the base of each half so they sit flat. Place in a medium-sized shallow baking dish with the cupped interior facing up. Brush with 2 tbs. olive oil and season lightly with Kosher salt and black pepper. Bake uncovered in the oven for 15 minutes.

While the squash halves are baking, fry up the Italian sausage over medium heat in a heavy cast-iron skillet, breaking it apart as it browns with a spatula. Drain off the fat. Add the chopped onion. Stir until just translucent, about 7 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 tsp. garlic granules. Add the cayenne pepper. Add the diced bell and Hungarian pepper. Continue stirring until slightly softened. Remove and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the diced tomatoes, basil, oregano and Mozzarella cheese. Fold in lightly to combine.

Reduce oven temperature to 375°-F.  Using thick oven mitts, carefully remove the baking tray from the oven. Spoon in the mixture, dividing between the two squash halves.

Place the baking dish back in the oven and bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes at 375°-F.

Remove again and carefully top each half with the shredded Parmesan cheese. Bake again uncovered for ten minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Remove, let stand for ten minutes and serve.

Serves 2

NOTE: When perfectly done, the texture of the squash should not be mushy or soupy. It should easily peel away from the outer rind with a spoon, but still have some firmness.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pre-baking the squash at 400°-F with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Preparing the Italian sausage mixture in a mixing bowl.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

The sausage mixture after roasting in the squash for one-half hour at 375°-F.

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Johnsonville® Chiliville Chili


If I stumble across a great recipe, I’ll test and share it with my fellow bloggers. Here’s one for you chiliheads – it’s a great seasonal recipe that my wife found in Taste of Home Magazine. It was on a full page ad featuring Johnsonville Italian sausage — a legendary product made right here in Eastern Wisconsin.

My family loved the recipe. My wife and I both agreed that in the future we would reduce the brown sugar* by half. The exact published measurement is shown here. Other than that, it was excellent. You’ll note that the preparation is simple and doesn’t take a lot of time to set up; this is a plus for busy families, as my made-from-scratch chili recipes are quite time consuming.

 

Ingredients:

1 16 oz. package Johnsonville ground mild sweet or hot Italian sausage
3 cans (14.5 oz. each) diced tomatoes with green peppers and onions
2 cans (16 oz. each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 can (14.5 oz.) beef broth
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 tbs. brown sugar*
2 tbs. chili powder
1 tbs. worchestershire sauce
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
shredded Sargento® cheddar cheese

Directions:

In a 5-quart Dutch oven, cook the sausage and ground beef over medium heat until meat is browned. Drain off fat. Stir in onion, celery and garlic. Cook and stir until tender.

Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, broth, tomato paste, sugar, chili powder, worchestershire sauce, cumin and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with shredded cheese.

Serves 4-6

Grilled Italian Sausage with Marinara Sauce over Penne Pasta


Grilled Italian sausage with marinara sauce over penne pasta

Who’s up for making a made-from-scratch marinara sauce with fresh summer garden herbs?  Sounds like a lot of work?  It’s easier than you think.
This is a classic spicy red sauce prepared in the old world Italian tradition. We’ll serve it with grilled Italian sausage and Crimini mushrooms over a bed of penne pasta.

The sausage takes center stage — made locally in Johnsonville, a town in Eastern Wisconsin (their brats are legendary!)  Many large retail grocers will carry it.

My family loves this recipe. I’m trusting yours will too.

For another version of homemade marinara using garden tomatoes, click here.


Ingredients:

1 package Johnsonville® mild Italian sausage (5 links)
2 28-oz. cans Red Gold® tomatoes (one crushed and one diced)
4 large cloves fresh garlic; peeled and minced
6 large Crimini mushrooms; washed, stemmed and sliced
1 small onion; peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4″ strips
1/2 cup fresh Italian oregano leaves; minced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves; minced
1 green bell pepper; cored and sliced
1 red bell pepper; cored and sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. beef boullion granules
Sea salt, to taste
Hot red pepper flakes, to taste
1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions (about 11-12 minutes)
XV olive oil
Grated fresh hard Parmesan cheese

 

Directions:

Preheat an outdoor charcoal grill with enough coals for a medium-hot fire. Mound the briquettes and fire until white hot; about twenty minutes. Cook the sausage links covered over indirect heat with the top vent partially choked down.
Turn every 5 minutes until firm and evenly browned. Remove and set aside.

In a 3-quart heavy enameled cast-iron sauce pot, heat 1/4 cup XV olive oil until shimmering, then add the minced garlic. Stir constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn. Cook for three minutes. Add the sliced Crimini mushrooms and cook for an additional three minutes, then add the sliced onion and a pinch of sea salt. Cook until the onions are tender and translucent. Add the two cans of tomatoes, the oregano and basil and stir. Add the sugar, red pepper flakes and beef boullion. Simmer on low, partially covered, stirring occasionally for at least two hours. You cannot rush a good marinara sauce! After the first hour, add the sliced red and green bell pepper. Cut the Italian sausage at a bias in 1/2″ chunks and add to the pot. The sauce can be left to simmer for at least six hours with great results. Just make sure to keep the heat at an absolute minimum.

Boil 3 quarts of water in a separate stock pot. Add 1 tsp. of sea salt. Cook the penne pasta until just al dente. Drain well and serve with the sauce, topped with shredded hard Parmesan cheese.

Serves six comfortably
Total cooking/prep time: 4-6 hours

fresh garden basil blossoms

Fresh basil with flowering blossoms

 

Garden Marinara Sauce with Italian Sausage


I love fall, because my garden is setting many heirloom tomatoes — the perfect time to make a pot of made-from-scratch Italian marinara sauce. This recipe also calls for grilled or pan-fried Italian sausage served over pasta. The marinara is based, in part, on a recipe from a friend who is first generation Italian – his family hails from an area just outside of Rome.

Easier than you thought, eh?  Enjoy.


Ingredients:

2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. rendered bacon fat
8 cups pureed garden tomatoes (blanched and peeled)
2 cloves garlic – peeled and minced
1 medium spanish onion – fine chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves – minced
1 sweet bell red pepper, diced
1 carrot – peeled and grated
1 tsp. salt, to taste
Pinch of sugar
12 dried chiltepin peppers, to taste, crushed in a mortar
1 tsp. dry ground Turkish oregano
1 tsp. dry ground basil
1 tbs. dry ground parsley flakes
2 dry bay leaves

5 mild Italian sausage links, grilled or pan-fried and cut into chunks at a bias
Your choice of pasta noodles, cooked al-dente


Directions:

Using a 3-quart heavy non-reactive enameled cast-iron pot, add the olive oil and rendered bacon fat. Heat on medium and then add the onion, garlic and celery, stirring for about 20 minutes until translucent.

Blanch and peel the garden tomatoes and pulse in a food processor until smooth. (To blanch tomatoes, wash and add to a pot of boiling water for thirty seconds, then plunge into ice-cold water. The skins will peel off.)  Core, process and add to the pot and increase the heat until a low simmer is achieved. Add the carrot, bell pepper and dry spices. Simmer on very low heat, partially covered for about six hours, until most of the water is rendered out, stirring occasionally. While the sauce is cooking, grill or fry the Italian sausage and then cut into chunks and add to the pot, during the last two hours of cooking. Stir every half-hour.

Serve over your choice of pasta, cooked al-dente.

Makes about 2.75 quarts. Serves 4-6

Note: to cut the acidity of tomatoes, sugar is added. Shredded carrot is also used. Taste and adjust to your preference accordingly. A touch of dry red wine may be added, but is not necessary.

Mike’s Kachina Canyon Stew


Mike’s Kachina Canyon Stew | Culinary Compost

I’ve fiddled with the ingredients and preparation for this original southwest recipe over the course of six months. I’ve got it down to a science. This stew, made with hot Mexican Chorizo or Longaniza sausage, is satisfying and fairly spicy, with an incredible depth of flavor. The small amount of rendered fat from the sausage creates a really rich base for the broth. Enjoy with cornbread, a side of tortillas cooked on a griddle, chopped cilantro, scallion and a spoonful of sour cream.

Ingredients:

2 tbs. XV olive oil
8 oz. bulk spicy ground Chorizo or Longaniza sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, with greens if possible, trimmed and fine chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, diced
2 small “new” red potatoes, scrubbed well and diced with skins on
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
Juice from 1/4 fresh lime
1 cup frozen kernel corn
1 fired and peeled fresh poblano – diced, or one 4 oz. can chopped green chili
1 15.8 oz. can great northern or pinto beans, rinsed
2 dry bay leaves
Salt (about 1/2 tsp., to taste)
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
6 dried chiltepin peppers, crushed (optional, for heat)
1 tsp. whole cumin seed, toasted and ground in a mortar
1 tsp. dry Mexican oregano leaf
1/4 cup washed and trimmed cilantro leaves, fine chopped

Sour cream – 1 tbs. per bowl, optional
Scallion, thin-sliced as a garnish, optional
Tortillas, browned on a comal (griddle) with olive oil, and then cut into 1″ x 3″ strips

 

Directions:

In a heavy 3.5 quart cast-iron or enameled cast-iron soup pot, heat 1 tbs. of olive oil until shimmering and brown the chorizo sausage over medium heat. Remove from the pot and place on paper towel to drain off the fat.

Next, add 1 tbs. olive oil, the onion, celery, and garlic and saute until the onion is semi-translucent, but not carmelized, over medium-low heat. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the chorizo sausage back to the pot. Add the diced tomatoes and chicken stock and bring up to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer.

Add the kernel corn, chopped red bell pepper, lime juice, carrot, the diced poblano or small can of green chili, the Mexican oregano, cumin and black pepper. Add the bay leaves. *Salt to taste. Simmer partially covered for about 20-30 minutes. Add the potato and simmer for 20 more minutes or until tender. Rinse the beans in a colander with hot water and drain well.  Add the beans to the pot and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat until heated through. Add the cilantro, shut off the heat, let stand for five minutes and serve with sour cream, scallion and browned tortillas.

*Go easy on the salt — the sausage and canned beans are loaded with it. I would not add any until you taste, and then correct the seasoning if needed.

Serves 4-6

Note: this recipe can be doubled easily with the same results.

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch | Culinary Compost

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch. The tough outer skin is unpalatable and should be removed before baking.

Mike’s Sausage con Queso


Mike's Sausage con Queso recipe | Culinary Compost

This recipe is one of my hands-down favorites. The Chorizo sausage is rich and savory, adding just the right amount of meaty zip to round out the flavor. If you can’t find bulk ground chorizo, use the casing version by removing the casing and then browning it in a pan. Either method works well.

And my secret ingredient? Chimayo chili powder, available in bulk from many New Mexican online retailers.

Ingredients:

8 oz. spicy bulk chorizo sausage
8 oz. block Monterey Jack cheese, cubed
8 oz. block Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 tsp. pure mild chimayo chili powder
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 poblano pepper*, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (if you need more heat)
6 dried chiltepin peppers, crushed in a mortar (if you need even MORE heat)
1 roma tomato, cored and diced
chopped cilantro leaves or scallion for garnish

Tortilla chips for dipping

Preparation:

Prepare the poblano pepper. In a 2.5 quart cast-iron pot or heavy sauce pan, brown the chorizo sausage until no longer pink. Remove and reserve on paper towel to absorb the fat. Drain and discard the fat drippings from the pot and add the cheese. Heat on medium-low, stirring constantly until melted. Ensure that the cheese does not scorch. Add the meat back in. Add the peppers, garlic and chimayo powder and stir well until blended. Finally, add the tomato, remove from heat and serve in a dipping bowl with scallion or cilantro as a garnish.

*Note: To roast the poblano, wash the pepper and broil in your oven until the skin blackens and starts to blister off, about seven minutes per side. Remove and place in a sealed paper bag for ten minutes. Then rinse under cold water and work the tough outer skin off. You can also *carefully* use a portable propane torch with great results.

This recipe can also be prepared in your microwave oven, but there is no substitute for slow and low on the stovetop. If you can’t find chorizo sausage, Jimmy Dean spicy breakfast sausage will work well.

Serves 4-6.

Dried Chiltepin Peppers | Culinary Compost

Dried chiltepin peppers – don’t be fooled by their tiny size. They pack intense heat, measuring 80,000 Scoville heat units.

Kraut and Kielbasa Polish Dinner


This recipe is about as old-world utilitarian as it gets. My father-in-law was part Czech, and he made a recipe very similar to this. It’s even better reheated the second day.

Ingredients:

4-6 strips bacon, cubed into 1/4″ chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 Hillshire Farms® Polska Kielbasa, cut into 1/2″ slices
4 potatoes, scrubbed well and cut into eighths (keep the skins on)
1 28 oz. jar Frank’s® sauerkraut, drained
2 tbs. fresh parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a heavy, non-reactive 5-quart stock pot heated to medium-high, brown the bacon slightly. Add the chopped onion. Lightly carmelize, then remove with a slotted serving spoon and set aside. Add the sliced kielbasa to the pot. Brown lightly, reduce the heat and return the onion and bacon to the pot.

Heat oven to 275° F.

Add the kraut and spices. Add the potatoes. Mix and heat covered in the oven for about two hours until the potatoes are tender. Stir once during cooking.
Remove, let stand five minutes and serve.

Pair with buttered French bread and a nice salad.

Serves: 4-6

Note: This recipe, due to the acidity of the kraut, will wreak havoc on the finish of cast-iron pots. For this reason they are not recommended.