Easy sausage and kale gnocchi

Now it’s October and the weather is just starting to cool down here in California, I start thinking about these sorts of comforting midweek dishes.

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8oz kale
1 packet of potato gnocchi (about 14 oz)
1 small onion
Olive oil for frying
3 good-quality sweet or spicy Italian pork sausagemeat or sausages
200g tomato passata
Large handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
4 oz fontina cheese or mozzarella

Heat the oven to 400 F.
Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Shred the kale and remove any tough stalks then drop into the water with the gnocchi and cook for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse both under cold water.
Finely chop the onion. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan, then crumble in the meat from the sausages (discard the skins).
Add the chopped onion and fry for 7 minutes or until just soft. Add the passata and basil leaves and simmer for 3 minutes.
Toss the kale and gnocchi through the sausage mixture, then transfer to a 1.5 litre (7 cup) ovenproof dish. Tear over the cheese and season with salt and pepper, then bake for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Roasted butternut squash, quinoa, kale, cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese salad

A stunning array of flavors from the toasty walnuts to the sweet cranberries added to the very flavorful quinoa and goat cheese… Need I go on?
This recipe is from a blog called “Stuck on Sweet”

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Serves: 4

1 small to medium butternut squash, diced fairly small
2 large leaves of kale, stems removed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese (or feta if you prefer)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
olive oil
salt and pepper

Prepare the quinoa according to package directions. Use chicken stock instead of water to add flavor. Cool completely.
While the quinoa is cooking, add a few drizzles of olive oil to a saute pan and place over medium heat. Add the diced butternut squash and saute until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool.
In the same saute pan add a little more olive oil and the kale. Wilt slightly, 1-2 minutes, you want the kale to still be slightly crunchy. Remove from pan and roughly chop. Set aside to also cool.
Again, in the same pan add the walnut pieces, no olive oil is necessary. Toast for a few minutes on low heat – careful not to burn! Remove from pan and let cool.
Add all of the cooled ingredients along with the cranberries, goat cheese, a little salt and pepper, and gently mix.
If you want to add a little more olive oil you can, but I don;t think it needs it.

Indian-style kale with chick peas and coconut

This is the best way to eat kale (other than deep-fried!) that is full of intense flavors, is luxuriously creamy and absolutely divine!

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1 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
thumb-sized piece ginger, grated
2 heaped tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp tomato purée
7 oz kale, large stalks removed, leaves finely shredded
14 oz can chickpeas, drained
1 cup vegetable (or chicken) stock
2 oz unsweetened grated coconut (or fresh coconut, grated)
4 heaped tbsp Greek-style yogurt
1 tbsp mango chutney

To serve
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp freeze-dried curry leaves (optional)

Heat the butter in a deep frying pan, add the onion, then soften gently for 5 mins. Turn up the heat and add the ginger and spices; fry for 2 mins until fragrant. Stir in the tomato purée.
Add the kale, chickpeas, stock and two-thirds of the coconut, stir well, then cover the pan. Bring to a simmer and let the kale steam for 10 mins until very well wilted. Mix in the yogurt and chutney, then season to taste – don’t boil once the yogurt has gone in. Remove the pan from the heat, and leave it covered to stay warm.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan. When it’s hot, add the garlic (and curry leaves, if using) and sizzle for 30 secs-1 min until the garlic begins to turn golden. Spoon the oil, garlic and curry leaves over the chickpeas and kale, then finish with the remaining coconut.

Sweet Italian sausage and kale pasta with lemon cream sauce

This is a wonderful recipe for those cold winter nights. It’s full of strong, earthy flavors, offset by the unctious,bright lemon cream sauce. This is a recipe from the wonderful Saveur magazine.
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¼ cup good quality olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 tsp crushed red chile flakes ( or more if you can take it!)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
2½ cups half and half
⅓ cup grated Parmesan
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound dried penne pasta
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley, for garnish

Heat oil in a 6-qt saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion and red chile flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces until browned, 16 to 18 minutes.
Add the chopped kale, season with salt and pepper and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.
Add the half and half and bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally until reduced by a third, 7 to 8 minutes.
Stir in Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and zest, nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper; set aside and keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the penne and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente, 8 to 9 minutes.
Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking water; add both pasta and water to the reserved sauce and cook about 5 minutes more. Serve garnished with parsley.

Crispy roasted kale

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This is the only way I really like kale, as it’s so crispy and crackly. It’s actually quite addictive, with the fleur de sel sprinkled over it while it’s hot.  This is an Ina Garten recipe.

2 bunches curly kale (about 2 1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Arrange 3 oven racks evenly spaced in the oven.
Lay each kale leaf on a board and with a small sharp knife, cut out the hard stem. Tear the large leaves in half. Place the kale in a large bowl of water and wash it well.
Drain the kale and dry it in a salad spinner. Dry the bowl and put the kale back in the bowl.

Toss the kale with the olive oil,1 tsp Kosher salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Divide the kale among 3 sheet pans or roast them in batches.
If you put too much kale on one pan, it will steam rather than roast and will never get crisp.
Roast for 15 minutes, until crisp then sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve hot.

Eggs poached in kale and tomato sauce

Such a tasty, healthy dish for brunch or Sunday supper.
Serves 4 to 6
 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
1 small carrot, scrubbed and minced
1 celery stalk, minced
3 tbsp Italian parsley, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bunch kale, washed and finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 x 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
Salt and pepper
4 to 6 large eggs (depending on how many each person wants to eat)
3 oz crumbled goat cheese, for serving (optional)
In a large, deep frying pan, heat your olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, then add the onion, carrot, celery and parsley.
Cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, about 10 mins.
Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and cook for 1 minutes, then add the kale.
Cook, stirring, until the kale has softened somewhat, about 5 mins.
Add the tomato paste and canned tomatoes, plus their juice.
Smash up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and add a few pinches of salt and pepper, cover the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 mins . taste and add more salt and pepper to taste.
 Use your wooden spoon to make wells in the sauce for your eggs.
Crack each of the eggs into it’s well and sprinkle them with a little more salt and pepper.
Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the egg whites have set but the yolks  are still runny, about 5 mins.
Crumble the goat cheese over the eggs, if using, and serve warm.
Crusty bread for mopping up the sauce is a great idea too.

Grown-up tuna noodle bake

I can hear you thinking “Oh no, no way” but try it, it’s really tasty and is definitely a “grown-up ” version of that dreadfully dated American staple. It also freezes beautifully.

Serves 8

Butter, to grease the dish
12 oz fusilli pasta (or shells or wide noodles or whatever pasta you like)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cremini mushrooms
1/3 cup minced shallots (about 2 large shallots)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
3&1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 to 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (NOT pre grated!)
3 tbsp capers, drained
2 x 5oz cans chunk light tuna, drained of oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup thinly sliced kale or spinach
1&1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375F

Butter a 2 1/2 to 3 qt casserole dish and set aside.
Cook the pasta until al dente in a large pot of salted, boiling water. Drain and set aside

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the mushrooms and shallots, cook for about 5 minutes or until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms are beginning to soften.
Add the garlic and continue cooking for 1 additional minute. Slowly pour in the wine, lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the flour to the pan and stir well to ensure all the mushrooms are coated.
Increase the heat to high and slowly pour in the milk, bringing the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring to avoid sticking or clumping, until the milk begins to thicken and starts to look more like a sauce, about 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, parmesan cheese, capers, tuna, flaked, sour cream, chopped kale or spinach, thyme, salt and pepper.
Pour the creamy mushroom sauce into the bowl and stir to coat all the ingredients.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish and set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the breadcrumbs and cook until fragrant and slightly toasty, 2-3 minutes.
Sprinkle the crispy breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly brown.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle chopped parsley on top.
Serve hot.

Cover and refrigerate the leftovers for up to 3 days or freeze immediately.


Butternut squash bread pudding

Gorgeous!!      Serves 4 -6

Preheat oven to 375 F

3 cups butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
ground or dried sage
4 cups sturdy, day old French or Italian bread, cut into large cubes
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup minced shallots
3 garlic cloves
1/2 lb sweet Italian or spicy Italian pork sausage
1/2lb sliced mushrooms
1&1/2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup half and half
2 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 to 1&1/2 cups shredded mozzarella or fontina cheese

Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes. Oil a cookie sheet and toss the squash in the olive oil. Season with the salt, pepper and dried or ground sage. Bake at 375 F  for 40 to 45 mins.

Cut the bread into large cubes and put in the oven for about 5 minutes while the squash is cooking.
Remove to a large bowl.

Meanwhile saute the minced shallot in the olive oil and butter until wilted.
Add the minced garlic and saute briefly until soft then add the mushrooms and cook them through.
When the mushrooms are browned and nearly done cooking, add the chopped kale and saute for a few minutes. If necessary, add a little more oil. Season all with salt and pepper then remove from the pan and place all the cooked vegetables in the bowl with the cooked bread.

Use the same pan to cook the sausage. Remove the casings from the sausages, break up the meat in the pan and cook through. Add a little more olive oil if there’s not enough in the pan, to keep the meat from sticking.
Add the cooked sausage to the bowl with the vegetables, along with the squash when it’s cooked through.

Whisk the eggs, in another bowl and add the half and half, then the milk and stir in the cheeses.
Pour the mixture into the large bowl with the bread/vegetable/sausage mixture and mix it all together with a wooden spoon.
Let it sit for at least 15 mins in order for the bread to soak up the liquid.
You can also make the recipe to this stage and refrigerate overnight letting the bread soak well in the juices.
Pour it into a greased 9 x 13 inch casserole dish and bake at 375 F for 35 to 40 minutes.
You can turn on the broiler to get it a little more browned near the ned of the cooking.

This recipe also reheats really well for leftovers!

Sweet Italian sausage with white beans and chard over pumpkin polenta

This is divine!!!   Serves 2 but can easily be doubled.

1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1 large bunch of Swiss chard, kale or spinach or any other leafy green vegetable of your choice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz sweet Italian sausage pushed out of their skins, or the sausage meat
1 cup drained, rinsed canellini beans
1 cup canned pumpkin puree, or even better, homemade roasted and mashed butternut squash
1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
a good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz grated Pecorino Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until softened.
Meanwhile, prepare the Swiss chard. Cut off the thick stems and slice the leaves into 1″ ribbons. Rinse in a colander and set aside.
Add the garlic and crumbled sausage meat to the onions. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook till the sausage meat has turned from pink to light brown, add the white beans. Cook for another minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add the Swiss chard(or spinach etc) with the water still clinging to it. Stir to combine then cover the pan and raise the heat to medium high. Let the greens wilt down while you prepare the polenta. Stir occasionally.
Whisk together the water/chicken broth and pumpkin puree in a medium saucepan. Season generously with salt and add the nutmeg. Place the cornmeal in a small bowl and pour a little of the pumpkin mixture over it, stir well (this will make it easier to incorporate the cornmeal into the heated pumpkin mixture, without clumping)
Bring the remaining mixture in the saucepan to a boil. Whisk in the wet cornmeal until smooth, then reduce heat to medium high and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for about 10 minutes.
When the polenta has thickened (if you draw the spoon across the bottom of the pan the line should remain visible for a short time) stir in the grated cheese and turn off the heat. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.
Taste the sausage and bean mixture and season with salt and pepper if desired.
Divide the hot polenta between two plates and top with the sausage, white beans and chard.