The In Between Time



This year in particular, it seems to be a race to transition from fall to winter and start thinking about gingerbread and gifts and holiday travel — when really we just got home from Thanksgiving a few days ago. Regardless, we’re feeling it here too: this afternoon we’ll head out to buy our tree at the Boy Scout lot down the road and stop off for clam chowder at Ivar’s — a new but fierce tradition in our house. Sam will hang some lights outside, and at some point this week we’ll string popcorn and cranberries on the tree, hang a wreath on the front door, and nuzzle garland on the shelf above the fireplace. There’s a rumor it might even snow tomorrow — I won’t hold my breath. But I would like to hold my breath and hope to prolong the in between time we find ourselves in now as we look back on one holiday and ahead to another. I’d like to draw it out as much as possible this year.
20131010_AttuneKaleBake-100Before bed for the past month or so, I’ve been reading Nigel Slater’s Notes From the Larder. I know some of you are familiar with it already, but if you’re not, Notes From the Larder is essentially a kitchen diary with recipes spanning each day (or most days) of the year — so it’s uber-seasonal and full of Slater’s succinct and beautiful meditations on simple, daily food. The entry for November 18 is titled “An Autumn Taking Stock and a New Pear Cake.” While I didn’t make the pear cake depicted in the photo, I can relate to the feeling of taking stock this time of year — especially as we gear up for another busy holiday full of travel, seeing friends old and new, gift buying and giving, and family.

20131010_AttuneKaleBake-101While Slater’s entry really focuses on taking stock around the garden, it’s also a universal sentiment. He notes, “The garden seems to have been in this state of assorted ochers and reds for several weeks now. It is rare I stop and look for as long as I have today, but I just cannot take my eyes off it … For many, this garden would not be a scene of romantic melancholy and rich-hued foliage but an unholy mess in desperate need of weeding, raking, sweeping and pruning.” There is an inclination to do a lot right now: decorate the house, select the perfect cookies, plan a holiday gathering, purchase just the right gift, get a little exercise, make travel plans — all in the span of three weeks. It’s a lot. And Slater’s inclination to look around at the garden — which exudes the need for much tending — and notice the beauty in the wildness is something I want to put in my pocket this season. There’s a very strong chance we won’t get to everything we’d like to do or see or read or accomplish this season. It just can’t all happen. I hope to be able to stand amongst the flowers and the weeds and not lament the latter too, too much.

Remember how I spoke in the last post about being prohibited from preparing kale at the Thanksgiving table? Well I’m making up for that today with this creamy squash and kale bake I developed for Attune Foods. The kale bake is similar to the Winter Greens and Grains Gratin I made last year — only this version boasts pieces of butternut squash, less cream, and a crispy topping made from Uncle Sam Cereal, butter and Parmesan cheese. It’s perfect for the weekends you return home and crave kale after heavy holiday meals, yet it also satisfies the desire for comfort food on cold December nights when you don’t have much stocked in the refrigerator. Perhaps you’ll find occasion to make a pan of it during this busy in between time. And hopefully, eat it slowly — saving some for leftovers the next day.

Butternut Squash and Kale Bake with Crispy Parmesan Topping

Butternut Squash and Kale Bake with Crispy Parmesan Topping

  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 50 mins
  • Inactive time: 20 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 25 mins


For the Bake:

1 medium butternut squash (about 1 ¾ pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped into large pieces (7-8 cups)
1 shallot, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to season
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper

For the Parmesan Topping:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup Uncle Sam Original cereal (or bran flake cereal)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 425 F and butter a 2-quart baking dish.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the squash is just tender. Stir once or twice to avoid sticking. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the shallot, kale and a pinch of salt. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking, for about 5 minutes. Fold the cooked squash pieces in with the kale and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Prepare the topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, Uncle Sam cereal and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, milk, nutmeg, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper. Turn the squash mixture into the prepared baking dish and pour the liquid over the top. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and top with Parmesan topping. Bake uncovered for an additional 20 minutes, or until top is crispy and center is set.

Allow to cool and set for 15 minutes before serving. Cover leftovers and refrigerate for up to 3 days.


  1. kate l

    Cooked kale, chard, and the like always seem to benefit from crunchy bits. I usually use fried breadcrumbs, but I like this cereal idea a lot. Sidenote -- my sister lives in Seattle, and when I visited I asked her what the deal was with a place called Ivars I pronounced it I-vars, with an emphasis on the "a." She laughed and corrected me. "I-vers." Who knew?

    1. megang

      Ha, that's funny Kate. Yes Ivar's is definitely beloved by many here (although depending on which location, many much older folks). Good chowder though on cold winter days. And yes, for the kale recipe: you could use something like All Bran -- something unflavored and crunchy. Enjoy!

  2. molly

    as the proud owner of not just one but TWO copies of Slater's book (i first ordered it from england, where it was published as Kitchen Diaries II, then thought it was a new Nigel book! three cheers!! no, twenty three cheers!!! oh, my, it's just a new cover, and title, and at least american measurements, silly me...) i am deeply familiar with pretty much every entry, excellent, all. though i think your determination to enjoy the flowers and weeds is my favorite bit of all.

    cheers to that, megan.


    1. megang

      That sounds like something I would do, Molly! Until recently I was convinced that the Ottolenghi cookbooks was just Plenty with a new cover ... which, apparently it's not :) I do love the Nigel Slater book so much. Something so great about reading it before bed (largely, perhaps, because the entries are short enough that I don't fall asleep - ha). Hope you guys are staying warm this weekend! ~ m

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