December seems to be an especially tricky month for finding balance. There is so much joy, so much celebrating, so much wonder. Yet there’s also an inevitable busyness that leads to such a frantic pace of life, which seems so contrary to what this season is supposed to be about. Eating in balance is also difficult when all I want to do is bake holiday goodies all day long. This polenta dish provides at least some balance– a little savory to counter all of the sweet. It’s simple enough for busy days and nourishing enough to compensate for having a bit too much dessert. The caramelized onions, mushrooms, and greens along with some fresh thyme make an excellent trio; the ricotta and goat cheese add a touch of creaminess, just enough to make it slightly indulgent but not overly so. The key to perfectly creamy polenta is cooking it over low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and gradually adding more water. While 30 minutes may seem a bit laborious, it’s just enough time to caramelize the onions, soften the mushrooms, and wilt the greens while the polenta cooks. Afterwards with some quick assembly, it all melds together in the oven with mounds of soft and melty ricotta and goat cheese. It’s perfect for chilly evenings gathered around the table with loved ones and friends.
Our most recent weekend was filled with visits to the cider mill and apple orchard and the apple pie and crisp baking has begun. It feels good to be settling into these cooler autumn days. Now that squash season is upon us, the number of squash from our CSA have been piling up on our kitchen island and yesterday I decided it was finally time to start doing something with them. I began with the delicata squash– oblong, beautiful, and especially wonderful because you can keep the skin on for eating. It’s roasted to draw out the sweetness, along with some red onions, then tossed together with some tender baby kale, crispy radishes, toasty pepitas, and tossed with a balsamic molasses vinaigrette. Happy fall, my friends!
Retro tv dinners come to mind when I think of meatloaf, probably because I didn’t grow up eating it and my preconceptions primarily come from passing through the frozen food aisle at the store. It took me some time to come around on meatloaf, but after I saw this recipe, it suddenly became appealing and worth giving a try. In the updated version here, classic meatloaf gets a lightened up summer spin with turkey and an abundance of colorful roasted summer vegetables and fresh basil. This does require turning on the oven, but it’s great when you need a make-ahead meal since everything can be assembled earlier and then simply baked in the oven before serving. Grilling is great in the summer, but it also requires someone actively being at the grill right before the meal is served. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to work ahead of time, put on the oven timer, and forget about it until the timer goes off. If I’m having guests over, meals like these make mingling so much easier. This recipe makes more roasted vegetables than needed for the meatloaf. I like having the extra veggies to serve alongside the meatloaf, but cut the vegetables in half if you only want enough for the meatloaf. Mustard mashed potatoes make a wonderful accompaniment as well.
Preheat oven to 425. In a medium bowl, toss together the zucchini, peppers, and onions with olive oil and 1 tablespoon of rosemary. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 375. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together turkey, mozzarella, panko, basil, thyme, 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, crushed red pepper, remaining 1 tablespoon rosemary, and 1 cup roasted vegetables.
In a small bowl, whisk together ½ cup ketchup, eggs, and wine. Add to turkey mixture and mix again to incorporate. (It may be easier to use hands to mix together.)
Transfer mixture to a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Use the back of a rubber spatula to smooth and form a rounded top. Spread remaining ¼ cup ketchup evenly over the top of loaf.
Bake until cooked through and top is lightly browned, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and allow meatloaf to rest 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with warmed roasted vegetables and mustard mashed potatoes.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup (or more) whole milk
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
In a large pot, cover potatoes in lightly salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer potatoes for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are soft when a knife pierces through. Drain potatoes and return them to the pot.
Roughly mash the potatoes with a potato masher or pastry blender. (I leave the skins on for a more rustic feel, but peel potatoes if desired.) Add ¾ cup milk, butter, mustard, salt, and pepper and continue to mash until you reach desired consistency. Add more milk a couple tablespoons at a time if necessary.