Mark Bittman’s Creamy Navy Bean and Squash Gratin with Bits of Sausage from The Food Matters Cookbook
I cook for the holidays the traditional way, though my definition of "traditional" might not be the same as yours. For me, "traditional" means going to the market, picking out what looks good and fresh, and ignoring the rest. It means starting with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans and using meat as a seasoning or garnish, the way our ancestors did. It means looking to other people's culinary heritages for ingredients and seasonings—things like real Parmesan cheese, smoked Spanish paprika, or Thai fish sauce—that make the dishes I grew up with more interesting and exciting.
My holiday cooking isn’t rigid or static, nor is it innovative for the sake of being innovative. What it is is good for my health, good for the planet, and, most importantly, delicious. --Mark Bittman
Makes 4 servings
Time: 1 1/2 hours with cooked or canned beans, largely unattended
4 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed, optional
1/4 cup half-and-half or cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 cups cooked or canned navy beans, drained, liquid reserved
Salt and black pepper
1 small butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1/2 cup vegetable stock or water, or more as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Heat the oven to 325°F. If you’re using the sausage, put a small skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the sausage and cook, stirring to break it into small pieces, for 5 to 10 minutes; don’t brown it too much. (If you’re not using the sausage, skip to Step 2.)
Combine the half-and-half, rosemary, and beans in a 2-quart baking dish; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck the crumbled sausage (if you’re using it) into the beans.
Cut the butternut squash halves into thin slices. Spread the slices out on top of the beans, overlapping a bit; press down gently. Pour the stock over the top, drizzle with the oil, and sprinkle with more salt and pepper.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is browned and glazed, another 45 minutes or so. Add a little more stock if the mixture seems too dry. And sprinkle the top with the Parmesan if you’re using it for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Bittman, New York Times columnist and bestselling author (How to Cook Everything) provides a rational approach to eating that not only improves health but also helps the environment. Extolling the benefits of a plant-heavy diet, Bittman offers more than 500 healthful recipes that feature unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains and reduce all types of meat to backup players. In addition, he shares five basic principles for sane eating that are easy to implement and understand as well as an unusually helpful pantry section and handy charts for substituting produce and seafood by season. Recipes focus on flavor, such as lemony zucchini risotto, which uses brown rice, and curried chickpeas and cauliflower with chicken. His chapter on beans offers a particularly varied selection, like a lentil stir-fry with mushrooms and caramelized onions, white beans and shrimp burgers, and beer-glazed black beans with chorizo and orange. Bittman also provides a resourceful index of dishes that can be made quickly as well as meals that can be made ahead of time. Practical and balanced, this collection will shape the way we cook at home for years to come.
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