Another favorite of his is an adaptation of a recipe by chef Daniel Boulud for a stuffed squash that Easley stuffs with Sonoma County ingredients: bread from Gougette Bakery in Santa Rosa, mushrooms from Mycopia in Sebastopol, and shredded cheese and cream from one of local dairies. . It is baked inside the pumpkin and transformed into one of the most sublime fillings he has ever eaten.
“I make wine and I love to cook. And you study it to try to do it well. Technique, ingredients, those are all very important,” she said.
But he believes that, whether it’s a deli sandwich made by volunteers or a stuffed squash recipe from a celebrity chef, there is a common ingredient.
“Love is a flavor. It is what feeds us,” she said. “It’s not what’s in the filler. It’s what you put into their creation.”
This recipe is based on chef Daniel Boulud’s famous stuffed pumpkin recipe. Chuck Easley adapted it to celebrate the great local abundance of ingredients available in Sonoma County, but feel free to use ingredients of his choosing.
Sonoma Stuffed Squash
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 medium-sized pumpkin, top removed and seeds and strings removed (Cinderella pumpkin works well)
1-2 cups squash sliced from top and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 loaf of sourdough bread from your favorite local bakery, cubed
6 ounces pancetta, cooked (use bacon as a substitute or walnuts for a vegetarian version)
1 pound mushrooms, sliced (black trumpet or mushroom of your choice)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or sage (or a combination)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese (such as Cypress Grove Midnight Moon or Bellwether Farms Carmody)
1 cup Bellwether Farms basket ricotta
2-3 cups cream or half and half
nutmeg, freshly grated or canned (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Using a knife, cut a circular top from the squash wide enough to easily stuff the squash later. Scrape out the seeds and strings. Cut off some of the meat from the lid and cut into cubes, about a cup or 2, and set aside.
Cut sourdough bread into ½ to ¾ inch cubes. Place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 15 minutes until just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat, add the pancetta or bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving the oil in the pan.
Return the pan to medium heat and add the mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Sauté until they release their liquid, then cook a few more minutes until the liquid evaporates. Set the mushrooms aside.
To fill the pumpkin, rub the inside of the pumpkin with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Start by layering ⅓ of the toasted bread cubes, followed by ⅓ of the mushrooms, ⅓ of the bacon, a handful of the cubed squash, a few tablespoons of the ricotta, and ⅓ of the cheese. Pour in about ¾ cup of cream, then season with salt and pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, if desired. Repeat these layers 2 more times until the pumpkin is filled to the top. Finish with the remaining cream.
Place the lid on top of the squash and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake 2 to 3 hours, until you can easily pierce the flesh of the squash with a knife.
Remove from oven. Remove the lid from the pumpkin and allow it to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm, removing the squash from the sides along with the filling.
This recipe from La Rochelle Winery owner Chuck Easley is adapted from one his grandmother made. Use a mixture of peppers that you can adapt to your liking. If you prefer it mild, use mainly bell and poblano peppers. For a little extra heat, use a jalapeno or 2. For what your grandma called “tortas from hell,” use mostly jalapeno with just a little bit of poblano and bell pepper.
Grandma Lou’s Pepper Pies
Makes approximately 12 4-inch pepper cakes
1 large egg, beaten
3 cups chopped bell peppers (mixture of bell peppers, poblanos and jalapeños)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup Bisquick, plus more if needed
Salt and pepper
oil for frying
Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Add bell peppers, onions, and cheese and mix well. Sprinkle over ½ cup of the Bisquick, a healthy pinch of salt, and some ground pepper. Stir to combine. Let sit for one to two minutes. The mixture should come together into a spoonable dough that is not too runny. If so, sprinkle in another tablespoon or 2 of Bisquick and stir.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour batter by the tablespoonful into the hot skillet, being careful not to overcrowd the skillet. Cook approximately 4 to 5 minutes until set and bottoms are golden brown. Flip with a spatula and cook on the other side for another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a 200 degree oven. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Note: The bell peppers and onions can be sautéed in a skillet and cool slightly before adding to the bowl with the beaten egg mixture.
You can contact staff writer Jennifer Graue at [email protected]