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Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed With Italian Sausage And Pears

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My favorite part of any stuffing is the crunchy and caramelized topping that occurs in the last minutes of cooking. How the croutons become golden brown, the pears release their sugars and glisten from that slight char along with the crunchy exterior of the sweet Italian sausage. Yet inside, the stuffing is soft and flavorful. What I’m describing is my Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed With Italian Sausage And Pears.

Let me start by showing you how roasting winter squashes brings out their flavor. Then I’m going to go a step further and fill them with savory sausage and sweet pears.

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Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: 1 (12-inch) non-stick sauté pan, 4 rimmed baking sheet pans, chef’s knife, small mixing bowl, whisk, pastry brush

Ingredients:
4 acorn squash, seeded and tops and bottoms cut
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 stick of butter, unsalted, melted
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1/4 cup of light brown sugar

Ingredients:
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, bulk or casings removed
1 sprig plus 1 tablespoon of fresh sage leaves, julienned
2 tablespoons of butter, unsalted
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 diced Bosc pears
1 diced zucchini
6 cremini mushrooms, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of chili powder
3 heaping cups of Homemade Ciabatta Croutons, 1 /1/2 inch bread cubes
1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
Bib (Boston lettuce) lettuce and fresh sage for garnish

Directions For The Homemade Ciabatta Croutons:
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Start by evenly dividing the bread cubes out onto two rimmed baking sheet pans. Add olive oil, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, toss to coat. Spread the bread cubes evenly into a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes turning them once halfway through the cooking process to making sure they brown evenly.  Leave on sheet pans to cool.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.
Start by cutting the tops off the 4 squash. Next, clean the seeds out of the inside. Then cut a thin slice off the bottom of each one so they will sit upright on the baking sheets. Place 2 on each sheet tray. On the inside of each acorn squash add olive oil, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until fork-tender. Melt the butter then transfer the melted butter to a small mixing bowl. Add chili powder and brown sugar, whisk to combine. Brush the inside of each squash with the flavored butter mixture. Return to the oven for another 5 to 7 minutes. Be sure to keep a close eye on the squash for the last few minutes of cooking. You don’t want them to burn. Remove the squash from the oven, Set aside.

In a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat (no oil needed) add the skinless sweet Italian sausage. Using a wooden spoon, start breaking up the sausage. Cook the sausage for 15 minutes until brown, crumbly, and there is no pink. Transfer the cooked sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel allowing the fat to drain, set aside.

Tip: Take a paper towel and wipe out the sauté pan. No reason to dirty another pan.

Using the same sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter, olive oil, and chopped sage leaves. Once the sage becomes fragrant add the diced cremini mushrooms, zucchini, celery, onions, Bosc pears, minced garlic, chili powder, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Once the veggies start to soften, then add in the diced pears. Stir and continue to cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cooked sausage back to the pan, stir to combine. Cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Tip: It’s important that all the veggies are relatively cut the same size ensuring they’ll cook at the same time.

At this point, add the sausage and vegetable mixture to the bowl with the croutons. Add the grated Pecorino Romano cheese, gently toss to combine.

Fill each of the squash with the filling. Any extra filling place into an oven-safe baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over the top of each one and place back into the oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until the tops become golden brown and caramelized.

First, place the leafy greens on the plate. Arrange the Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed With Italian Sausage And Pears on top, garnish with a sprig of fresh sage. Serve hot.

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

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Farro With Grapes, Pineapple, And Raspberry Glazed Almonds

It’s really amazing to me that Farro is one of the oldest grains in the world.  It’s composed of grains from certain wheat species. It’s believed that this grain was the one from which all others were derived. Not until recently was Farro so easy to find in the grocery stores, however; it’s now available, where the rice and dried beans are found.

Farro is softened in water and cooked until al dente. Like rice and barley, Farro is a blank canvas. You can add whatever ingredients you like to Farro enhancing the overall dish.

I’ve made Farro, in the past, using chicken or vegetable broth as my cooking liquid and adding asparagus, mushrooms, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. There have been times where I’ve made Farro is the style of risotto, using white wine, Parmesan cheese, and other ingredients to flavor the dish. Commonly served as a savory dish, I thought I’d put a twist on the usual Farro recipes and make my Farro With Grapes, Pineapple, And Raspberry Glazed Almonds. A light and healthy snack that curbs those sweet cravings.

I started with raspberry glazed almonds. You could substitute hazelnuts or walnuts, whatever you have on hand. I also have some dried cherries, dried apricots, golden raisins,  fresh pineapple chunks, and green grapes.

That’s all there is to it!  Believe me when I tell you, this dish is so addictive. Listen, rice is also commonly served as a savory dish, but as a dessert, rice pudding is also amazing. Why not put a sweet twist on Farro.

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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 to 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: 1 (6-quart) saucepan, mesh sieve, chef’s knife, large mixing bowl

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of Farro, rinsed and drained
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of *Agave nectar dark amber (liquid measure)
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 cup of whole seedless green grapes then halved
1/4 cup of chopped dried cherries
1/4 cup of chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup of golden raisins
1/4 cup of chopped raspberry glazed almonds (nuts of your choice)
1/4 cup of pineapple chunks (Dole pineapple chunks in 100% pineapple juice)

Directions:
Place 1 1/2 cups of Farro in a mesh sieve, rinse and drain. In a saucepot on medium-high heat add in the 4 cups of water salt, and the *Agave nectar. Give that a good stir before adding in the drained Farro. Stirring occasionally to prevent and Farro from sticking together, bring the Farro up to a boil. Reduce the heat to low heat, cover, cooking for 25 to 30 minutes. Pour the cooked Farro through a mesh sieve again draining off any remaining liquid.

Next, transfer the Farro into a large bowl. Add the other ingredients and toss to combine. The cold grapes and pineapple mixed with the warm Farro are so delicious.

Ladle a good helping of Farro With Grapes, Pineapple, And Raspberry Glazed Almonds into a porcelain serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Agave nectar: Agave is a natural sweetener that comes in dark or light amber.

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