NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

December 5, 2012

Keep dinner easy as you deck the halls

Here’s the thing about decorating for Christmas. It should be fun. It should be an occasion. It should involve delicious food.

But since your attention really should be on the decorating — and getting all those (expletive deleted) lights untangled — the food you serve needs to be fast, easy and mostly hands off.

When I was a kid, the night we put up and decorated the tree was a shrimp feast. We bought many — too many — pounds of cooked shrimp, then paired them with a bunch of sauces for dipping, some sparkling cider and a purchased dessert. Done. It was special, but also effortless and allowed easy grazing while hanging ornaments.

These days, I like to put a little more effort into it. But not much. That’s why I came up with this medley of roasted vegetables and sausage. You basically season a bunch of produce and arrange it on baking sheets. Toss on some sausage, then pop the whole thing in the oven while you sweep up the glass decorations your child just smashed.

Keeping the vegetables separate on the baking sheets not only makes for an attractive presentation (it resembles a Cobb salad, from which the dish takes its name), it also lets you easily add faster cooking items toward the end of the cooking time.

ROASTED COBB SALAD

Start to finish: 1 hour

(10 minutes active)

Servings: 8

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Kosher salt

1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Ground black pepper

1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 pound Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed

2 tablespoons molasses

2 pounds sweet or spicy Italian sausages

Heat the oven to 425 F. Coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix the cornstarch, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the squash and toss until well coated.

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