Food columnist Judi Leaming recently returned from Door County, Wisc., where she and her husband, Spicer, took part in a six-day Road Scholar program. The recipes in this column were shared with their group by Janice Thomas, who owns the Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay, Wisc.

We've now returned from our Midwest travels, which included the six-day Road Scholar (formerly known as Elderhostel) program at the northern tip of Door County, Wisc., which I tried to describe for you in last week's column. The experience of this very special program has provided me with a wealth of new recipes to share with you — and I'll be looking forward to finding similar Road Scholar programs in the future. A special thank you is extended to my loving husband Spicer who was willing to go along and participate in a non-bike-oriented experience.

The recipes in this column were shared with our group by Janice Thomas, who owns the Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay, Wisc. Janice is a very knowledgeable chef who courageously welcomed our group of 17 into her school's kitchens. She turned us loose in groups of three or four with the recipes that she provided with confidence that we would be able — in just several hours — to prepare and serve a full menu lunch.

In the midst of chaos and comments and questions like, "Which pan do we use?," "How do we turn on the broiler?," "Do we wash the kale before chopping?," Janice calmly walked from group to group offering encouragement to everyone. Imagine the surprise and satisfaction that we all felt when we did indeed sit down to savor our efforts. (The menu also included an Apple and Fennel Soup and a Stuffed Pork Loin.)

Butternut Squash and Wisconsin Cheddar Pudding

(for main dish brunch or as vegetable side dish)

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)*

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (divided usage)

7 eggs

2 1/4 cups half-and-half

6 tablespoons dry white wine

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 day-old baguette, torn into 1-inch pieces (crust on); should equal 10 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped shallots (about 4)

1 pound fresh kale, ribs removed and coarsely chopped

8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

*Squash can be roasted a day in advance. Cool and refrigerate overnight in an airtight container.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with oil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and bake until tender and caramelized, turning once — at least 20 to 30 minutes. (The more caramelized they become, the more flavorful they will be.)

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl and slowly whisk in half-and-half, wine, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to blend well. Add baguette pieces and fold gently into egg mixture just to cover bread. Let soak for 30 minutes, stirring gently every 10 minutes.

Place 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft — about 5 minutes. Add chopped kale and cover for 3 minutes to wilt then remove lid and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-x13-inch baking dish. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half of the bread from the egg mixture and spread evenly in dish. Spoon half of the kale over bread. Spoon half of the squash over the kale and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Make layers again with bread, kale and squash. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the squash. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover tightly and bake for 20 minutes then remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Just before serving, slip casserole under the broiler for 2 minutes to create a golden brown cheese. Cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

Garden Greens with Parmesan Crisps and Door County Cherry Herb Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons tart cherry juice (may be available in a health food store)

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons walnut oil (almond, hazelnut or pistachio oil will work, too)

Freshly ground pepper

6 to 8 cups seasonal fresh garden greens

Dried cherries (or craisins)

Whisk together vinegar, cherry juice, thyme, lemon juice and salt in the same bowl then whisk in the olive oil gradually until it is emulsified. Whisk the walnut oil into the rest of the vinaigrette. Just before serving, toss the vinaigrette with the greens and top with a Parmesan crisp.

Parmesan Crisps (also tasty served plain as an appetizer)

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (important to use freshly grated cheese)

Olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush carefully and evenly with olive oil; dust with flour then shake off excess flour. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the cheese on the parchment paper and, using your fingers, spread the cheese into 2-inch circles. Repeat with remaining cheese — you should have about 12 rounds. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until they are golden brown — watch carefully. Use a small spatula to transfer baked rounds to paper towels to cool. Work carefully and quickly — if crisps are left to cool too long they will break. Store the crisps in an airtight container for up to two days.

Pear and Walnut Tart

2 cups flour, plus more for work surface

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (about 4 per tablespoon) and chilled

1 whole egg plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten together

1 cup golden or sultana raisins

1 cup brandy

2 pounds firm ripe Bosc pear, peeled, halved, cored and thinly sliced crosswise*

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup chopped walnuts

8 ginger snaps, crushed

In a bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup sugar and salt. Add 8 tablespoons of the butter; work butter into flour until it resembles coarse sand. (This can be done in a food processor but be careful not to over pulse.) Add egg mixture; stir to form dough. Briefly knead dough on a well-floured surface. Press dough into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap; chill for 2 hours.

Working on a floured surface, roll out dough into a 13-inch circle about 3/16-inch thick. Transfer dough to an 11-inch removable bottom tart pan on a baking sheet; lightly press dough into pan. Trim the edges of dough; prick bottom with a fork. Cover the bottom of the tart shell with plastic wrap and chill in freezer for 20 minutes.

Place a 13-inch circle of parchment paper inside tart shell; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until edges are brown — about 20 minutes. Remove paper and beans and continue to bake until browned all over — 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool.

Put raisins in a bowl and cover with brandy; let sit for 20 minutes. In another bowl combine remaining sugar, pears and lemon juice; transfer this fruit mixture to the cooled tart shell. Drain raisins and scatter over pears. Sprinkle walnuts and crushed cookie crumbs over pears.

Dot top with remaining butter; cover rim of tart with strips of foil. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven until tart is golden and bubbly – about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool and serve. Serves 8 to 10.

*It is important to use Bosc pears because they are firmer, but you want to use ripe pears!

As a bonus, you can mix the brandy that you drain from the raisins with some premade caramel sauce and heat in a small saucepan until you can whisk the brandy and caramel together to form a sauce. Set aside and serve over slices of tart that have been topped with unsweetened whipped cream.

To contact Judi Leaming, email