This dinner enters fall, savoring the deeper flavors of the season and a palette of different seasonal colors. It leans on ocher and ruby, with an earthy squash pie and pears in red wine and pomegranate.
But it’s not too taxing to prepare. Most can be done ahead of time, leaving the cook free to spend an afternoon enjoying the beautiful, cool but sunny fall weather.
For starters, something green: a salad of crunchy romaine leaves, topped with a lemon vinaigrette sprinkled with a touch of anchovy. Although this is a very simple salad, it can be exquisite, especially if you pay attention to every little detail. For the fresher version, use the pale hearts of large romaine or baby whole romaine heads, removing the hard or dark green leaves (keep the outer leaves plucked to make a chopped salad, braised lettuce or to add them. soup). Or choose packaged organic romaine hearts, available at most supermarkets, but make sure they’re not old (check the bottom of the heads, the root ends. If they’re dark brown, the lettuce is hanging out too much. a long time.) Fresh lemons, of course. Good fruity extra virgin oil. And for the anchovies, spend a bit more, even for the few fillets in the dressing (most inexpensive supermarket anchovies are mushy and taste like fish). And when you start, take it easy.
For a substantial meatless main course, a tasty vegetable pie is always welcome. This pie requires butternut or any other hard squash variety, like kabocha, hubbard, or acorn, if you can find any. It’s garnished with caramelized onions, kale, edam and sage, then nestled between two sheets of pastry. Make an easy puff pastry or, to save time, use frozen puff pastry rings. The beauty of this pie is that it can be baked several hours ahead and reheated to serve. This allows the flavors to blend and makes it easier to cut the pie. You can serve the pie with roasted Brussels sprouts or sautéed mushrooms finished with garlic and lots of parsley, or both.
A classic cool-weather dessert, poached pears in red wine, completes the meal. They’re really best if they’re made a day or two (and up to a week) in advance and given time to soak in the red wine syrup for a deep, dark magenta stain. Use firm, slightly unripe pears. A certain restraint with the spices makes the best syrup: a stick of cinnamon, a small amount of cloves and a spoonful of black peppercorns do the trick. Serve them chilled with fresh cream, whipped cream or ice cream. To top it off – and you should – garnish the pears with a handful of pomegranate seeds, which add a pleasant sweet and sour pop and a touch of bright fuchsia to the color story.
Romaine salad with anchovies and lemon
Total time: 20 minutes
1 (pack of 3) romaine hearts, or 6 to 8 roman baby heads
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons of juice (from 1 lemon)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, reduced to a paste or grated
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A piece of Parmesan, to finish
1. Prepare the romaine hearts: cut off the bottom and remove a few outer leaves from each head. Gently separate the pale inner leaves and refresh them in a deep basin of cold water. Drain the leaves well, then wring out, wrap in kitchen towels and refrigerate.
2. Prepare the vinaigrette: in a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and anchovy. Stir in the olive oil and season well with S&P. Taste and adjust the seasoning; the dressing should be rather tart.
3. Place the leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pour the vinaigrette over the lettuce and gently coat the leaves, stirring with your hands. Using a peeler, grate large shavings of Parmesan cheese over the salad.
Savory Butternut Squash Pie
Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 1h30
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
900 g butternut or winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2.5 cm cubes
250 g kale, Swiss chard or other robust cooking green
1 tbsp coarsely chopped sage
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped thyme
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 (225g) puff pastry circles, or use 2 (400g) puff pastry rectangles
140 g edam, cut into 0.5 cm cubes
3 tablespoons of grated pecorino
1 beaten egg
1. Place oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat if the onions are browning too quickly.
2. Transfer the onions to a large bowl. Add the squash cubes, kale, sage, thyme and garlic. Season with salt and red pepper flakes and toss to coat.
3. Heat the oven to 180C. Roll out the puff pastry rounds to 30 cm in diameter (or roll and cut the dough rectangles to obtain two 30 cm rounds). Line a 10-inch pie plate or other shallow round baking dish with a 12-inch round of pastry. Add the filling to the squash, stacking it high. Sprinkle with edam and pecorino. Place remaining dough on filling and crimp edges to seal. Paint the top of the pie with beaten egg.
4. Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 1 hour, until the pastry is golden brown and the squash is soft when probed with a paring knife (start checking at the half mark. (time and 45 minute mark to ensure pastry does not brown Cover with foil, if so.) Let stand for at least 10 to 15 minutes before cutting into large wedges and to serve.
Pears in red wine
Total time: 1 hour, plus soaking
6 small, slightly under-ripe pears
1 bottle (750 ml) of medium-bodied dry red wine, such as Côtes du Rhône
250g of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of whole black pepper
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick (5 cm long)
Fresh cream or ice cream, for serving
60 g pomegranate seeds, for serving
1. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the pears from top to bottom, leaving them whole, with the stems attached and the pit intact.
2. Place pears in a large, wide, non-reactive pot (enameled or stainless steel) in a single layer. Add the wine, sugar and spices. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer very gently and cook for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer meets no resistance. Remove from the heat and transfer the pears to a deep container, leaving the liquid in the pot.
3. Heat the poaching liquid over high heat and boil until reduced by half. Pour the syrup over the pears and refrigerate overnight if possible.
4. To serve, place each pear in a deep plate and top with a little red wine syrup. Add a spoonful of crème fraîche or a scoop of ice cream and finish with a pinch of pomegranate seeds.
© The New York Times