One of the best things about interning in the kitchen at Chez Panisse was the staff lunch situation. Every day, the Garde Manger and the pastry intern are responsible for cooking up a staff lunch. They use stuff from the day prior that didn't get sold, but let me tell you, we are not eating some stale leftover junk. They craft sprawling, colorful feasts out of the stellar, days-off-the-farm produce and meats that any other restaurant would be proud to serve to paying diners.
One dish really stuck out for me, because it really should have fallen into the camp of nasty, mushy veggie sludge fit for the pigs. Leftover roasted butternut and delicata squash, turnips and kale were coaxed into an intensely flavored gratin-like dish, addictive with subtle hits of garlic and sage. I went back for seconds, ignoring the freshly baked chocolate ginger cake and accompanying blackberry ice cream so I could make room for more squash. If that's not a testament to greatness, I don't know what is.
My version omits the turnips, because I couldn't find them, and subs in some sweet potatoes. If you can find turnips, consider throwing them in, just peeled, quartered and briefly blanched.
Autumn Squash and Kale with Sage
Yield: Serves 6 as a side
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 35 min Total Time: 50 min
1 small delicata squash, about 1 lb / 450 g
1 small butternut squash, about 1.5 lbs / 680 g
2 sweet potatoes, about 1 lb / 450 g
pinch cayenne pepper
1 large leek, sliced into thin rings
1 bunch kale, stems stripped and discarded, leaves roughly chopped
1-2 Tbs chopped fresh sage
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Preheat oven to 375F / 190C.
Cut delicata squash in half and scoop out seeds with spoon. Slice into 1/2" half moons, leaving skin on. Peel butternut squash with a peeler, then cut in half. Scoop out seeds, then dice into 3/4" cubes. Peel sweet potatoes, then dice into 3/4" cubes.
Toss squash and sweet potato with a good drizzle of olive oil and season with about 2 tsp salt and a small pinch of cayenne pepper. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and spread out squash and potatoes in a single layer on each sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 minutes, til all the veggies are tender but not totally mushy.
Meanwhile, heat about 1 tsp olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add leeks, then cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, til soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute, then add kale. Cook, uncovered, about 4 minutes, til leaves are wilted and softened. Add sage and cook another minute or so. Turn off heat and set aside.
Once squash and sweet potatoes are done, gently fold into the kale. Serve warm.