Kale seems to have become the vegetable of the moment, which is good news for kale lovers like me. In this mac and cheese, the hearty vegetable appears two ways: mixed into the casserole and also as a crispy topping. Because of this, it almost seems like it’s two different vegetables, which makes this not only delicious but also fun to eat.
One of the memorable dishes Jackie and I ate on our recent trip was at the lively restaurant HaBasta near the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv: a chickpea-free variation on Middle Eastern masabakha – itself a variation on hummus. It included roughly chopped toasted almonds, which made us smile (and return to the restaurant a couple of days later to have another portion). So, toasted nuts were on my mind, and I was looking for an excuse to use them as soon as we got home.After nearly four weeks of travel, we returned in late October wondering what we’d find in our local (New York City) farmers’ markets that would harmonize with the chopped nuts. In the small market nearest our building there were still a few tomatoes, but these weren’t going to end up in sandwiches: either they were on the verge of deliquescing or they had lost all hope of ripening fully. That’s not to say they were lacking in flavor: skinned, chopped and simmered with olive oil and salt for 15 minutes, they made a light, delicious, fresh-tasting sauce. There were, of course, pumpkins and their kin in the squash family, some manageably small and others big enough that the vendor was selling them cut into wedges with their seeds neatly scraped out.Traditionally, our first home-cooked meal upon returning from a trip is pasta of some kind, and I was certainly going to use some of the tomato sauce and some of the pumpkin in a pasta dish. That was my opening: I would use toasted nuts to add flavor and crunchy texture: a logical pairing, because nuts, often in the form of crushed amaretti cookies, are commonly combined with winter squash/pumpkin in Italy to make one of the great classic ravioli fillings.Coarsely chopped toasted almonds would have been nice enough, but even better was what I used: hazelnuts. If you can find some, buy vacuum-packed bags of blanched, perfectly toasted hazelnuts from Italy (they keep for years). Otherwise, toast hazelnuts in the oven or microwave, rub off as much of their skins as you can, and chop them very coarsely so that they don’t get lost among the other ingredients: some pieces may be as big as a third of a nut, some smaller.For the pasta, I made a batch of saffron-infused cavatelli (gnocchetti sardi) simply because I felt like it. You can indeed use cavatelli (or indeed orecchiette) for this dish, but any short dried pasta would be fine: nothing much longer than an inch, so it can all be eaten with a spoon.This was a fine homecoming dinner after a long trip. It almost goes without saying that pasta is the perfect welcome, and the first squash and last tomatoes were entirely October. And the hazelnuts? In brief, they made the dish – and made it something we’ll eat again soon.
Harold Dieterle’s restaurants are known just as much for their delicious and unique meals as they are for his Top Chef acclaim. Plated over mint cavatelli, these tasty little bites are exciting and comforting all at once —– the perfect combination to remind you that it’s just another Thursday night.
Roasted squash cavatelli laced with garam masala, dressed in butter, and served with shiitake, crimini, button and oyster mushrooms that have been cooked en papillote. You'll be hard-pressed to find a dish that inspires more comfort and warmth. It's one of the latest recipes by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot of the beautiful site, Ideas in Food. Check out their article for tips on dealing with unwieldy butternut squash, how to improve the texture of your pasta, and another use for squash seeds. - Arthur BovinoEditor's Note: If you don't have time to make the cavatelli from scratch, try to buy a similar, fresh pasta and then prepare the Butternut Squash Seed Butter and Grilled Mushrooms en Papillote recipes (they are easy and quick) and serve together. Of course, the original version is the best, but this way is faster and still fresh-tasting.