An autumn menu

Stuffed squash and a salad with roasted vegetables make a flavorful, seasonal dinner – and don’t forget the cranberries for dessert.

New England-style upside-down cake Cranberries take the place of traditional pineapple in this New England-style upside-down cake. (Globe photo / Jim Scherer)
By Adam Ried
November 14, 2010

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From time to time we’re all prone to delusions of grandeur, and believe it or not, mine are triggered by winter squash. Like a superhero (didn’t I just say delusions?), I see right through to the center cavity, and I scheme to fill it with something savory and satisfying. Inspiration for the recipe here came from a pot of mushroom-barley soup, minus the soup. Pair the mushroom- and barley-stuffed squash with this salad and the cranberry-pecan upside-down cake with its sweet-tart topping, and you have a warming, comforting dinner just right for the season.

Mushroom and Barley Stuffed Squash Serves 6

2 3/4 cups vegetable stock or low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup hulled barley

Salt and pepper

3 large delicata squash, about 1¼ pounds each, halved lengthwise and seeded

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 large leek, white and light-green parts only, chopped

1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons minced thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons minced sage

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/2cup chopped parsley

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the stock or broth to a boil. Off heat, add the barley and ¼ teaspoon salt, return to heat and bring to a boil, adjust heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the barley is tender but still chewy, about 35 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, and set aside.

Meanwhile, rub squash halves with 1 teaspoon oil each, sprinkle with salt and pepper, place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, turn the squash halves, brush 1 teaspoon orange juice concentrate on each half, and continue baking, cut sides up, until just short of tender, about 20 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet with squash from oven and set aside (leave oven on).

Meanwhile, chop the reconstituted mushrooms (you should have 1/4 cup) and add to the barley.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the celery, leeks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes; transfer to the pot with the barley. Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add the remaining oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the crimini mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 8 minutes. Add half of the garlic, the thyme, and the sage, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute, then add to the pot with the barley mixture. To the barley mixture add the remaining garlic, vinegar, pepper to taste, and most of the parsley, and stir to mix. Taste the filling and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Divide the filling among the squash halves and bake until the squash is fully tender and the filling is heated through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve at once.

Arugula Salad with Roasted Onions and Peppers and lemon-caper vinaigrette Serves 6 Roast halved, unpeeled onions at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes. Broil the red peppers until blistered, steam in a bag to loosen skins, and peel.

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons grainy mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons capers, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 cups (loosely packed) baby arugula (about 7 ounces),

5 large radishes, thinly sliced

2 medium onions, roasted and chopped

2 red bell peppers (about 8 ounces each), roasted, peeled, and sliced slices

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, mustard, capers, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Vigorously whisk in the oil to blend. Taste the vinaigrette and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.

In a large salad bowl, toss the arugula, radishes, onions, and most of the roasted bell peppers with about three-quarters of the dressing to coat. Scatter the remaining roasted peppers evenly over the salad, drizzle with the remaining dressing, and serve at once.

Cranberry-Pecan Upside-Down Cake Makes one 9-inch cake

Cooking spray

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 3 tablespoons melted butter

1/3cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

2 cups chopped pecans, toasted and cooled

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

Adjust oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-2 inch round nonstick cake pan with cooking spray. Evenly pour the melted butter into the pan and sprinkle with the brown sugar, then the cranberries, and then 1 1/4 cups pecans, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. In a food processor, process the remaining 3/4 cup pecans and the remaining 2 tablespoons flour until finely ground; stir into the flour mixture.

With a hand-held or standing mixer, cream the remaining

1 stick of butter and the granulated sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla and beat well. Reduce mixer speed to low; add about a third of flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds. Repeat, using half of remaining flour mixture, all of remaining buttermilk, then last of remaining flour mixture; increase mixer speed to medium-low and mix until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.

Scrape the batter into the pan with the cranberry-pecan mixture, smooth the top, and bake until edges are just pulling away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes, then invert the still-hot cake onto a serving plate. Cool cake and serve.

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Barley types

Barley grains are made up of layers – the hull, the bran, and the endosperm. Pearl barley is the most highly processed, having had its hull and bran layers, and sometimes even some of the endosperm, removed. It is quick-cooking and tender. Hulled barley retains some of its bran and all of its endosperm. Its texture is hearty and chewy, and it is full-flavored and considered more nutritious.