Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

~ Spicy Butternut Squash Soup ~

One of my favorite ways to eat butternut squash is roasted then pureed in a soup. When the squash roasts, its flesh morphs into a squidgy paste, intensifying its nutty flavor and coaxing out its natural sugars. I pair it with fall fruit such as apple, pear or quince and balance the sweetness with a savory stock and a kick of spice and heat. While the soup is thick, it’s light in ingredients with no added cream, relying on the squash for body. This recipe includes apples and chicken stock, and for spice I’ve added a little southwestern flair with cumin, cayenne and cilantro. It’s a vibrant start to any meal, including Thanksgiving dinner. If you are entertaining a crowd, consider small servings in little cups or demi-tasse as an hors d’oeuvre. Pumpkin may be substituted for the squash – I prefer hokkaido pumpkins.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Roasting the squash coaxes out its natural sugars and gives the best flavor to the soup. Serves 4 to 6.

1 small butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, diced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley leaves for garnish.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Lightly brush the exposed flesh with olive oil. Place, cut-side-down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until squash is fork tender, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add apple, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Cook, stirring until fragrant, 1 minute. Add squash and chicken stock. (There should be just enough stock to cover the squash and apples. Add additional stock as necessary). Simmer, covered, until apples are very soft, about 20 minutes. Carefully puree soup in batches in a food processor (or with an immersion blender). Return to pot. The soup should be thick. Thin it to desired consistency with apple cider. Stir in brown sugar, salt and pepper. Heat over medium-low heat and taste for seasoning. Serve warm with fresh cilantro leaves.

Thanksgiving Side: Spinach Gratin with Cheesy Breadcrumbs

~ Spinach Gratin with Cheesy Breadcrumbs ~

You might also call this a “fill-in-the-blank gratin.” I had spinach in the fridge, but other sturdy greens such as kale or Swiss chard will work equally well in this recipe. The preparation is simple, consisting of sautéing the greens-of-your-choice, followed by a quick nap of cream. A crunchy topping of breadcrumbs and cheese finishes the gratins in the oven. And I dare say if there is someone in your family who is less inclined to favor these leafy superfoods, this gratin may be just the vehicle to get them munching.

Spinach Gratin

There is no thickener such as egg or flour in this recipe, so the results are akin to creamed spinach in a cup, with a cheesy breadcrumb topping. Because of this, I like to serve the gratin in individual ramekins. Makes enough for 4 individual gratins.

1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped if large
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375 F. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together in a small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a large pot or deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté 1 minute. Add spinach, cover pot and cook over medium-low heat until leaves soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and salt. Simmer, uncovered, 1 minute. Divide spinach between 4 (3/4-cup) ramekins. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese. Bake in oven until tops are golden and gratins are bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

If you like this, you might enjoy these seasonal gratin recipes:
Potato Gratins from TasteFood
Broccoli Blue Cheese Gratin from Leite’s Culinaria
Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian from TasteFood
Artichoke Hearst au Gratin from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Cauliflower au Gratin from TasteFood

Cranberry Fig Chutney

~ Cranberry, Fig & Rosemary Chutney ~

Thanksgiving dinner is simply not complete without a cranberry sauce. While I have nothing against the traditional cranberry-sugar combination, I often find missing an extra layer or kick of flavor – so I devised this chutney. Chutneys are concoctions of sweet and savory fruit, spices and herbs, resulting in a well-rounded mouthful that pops in your mouth. This recipe is not heavily weighed down by too many spices, so the humble cranberry shines through – which, of course, is a requisite for Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

This chutney is not just for the Thanksgiving table. Use it as a condiment for roasted pork, duck and chicken. It’s also delicious when served as a condiment on a cheese board, or dabbed on crostini with soft goat cheese. Makes about 2 cups.

18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup Port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger (I use a microplane)
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

Place the figs in a small bowl. Pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes. When the figs are ready, place the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).

Here are a few more recipes for the Thanksgiving table from TasteFood:

Brussel Sprout Gratin
Sweet Potato Mash
Pumpkin Pecan Roulade
Cranberry Walnut Trifle

Kale Gratins

~ Kale Gratins ~

It takes a village. I consider myself lucky to be connected to an abundant group of friends whom I’ve met over the past few years through my blog and various food communities. These talented cooks and writers have become colleagues and pals whom I also consider like-minded souls. In this era of the far reaching internet, some of these friendships remain virtual (yet they feel so real) while others have luckily manifested into get-togethers and family dinners.

Which brings me to this lovely little side dish. The inspiration came to me this week from a post by my friend Steve who writes the wonderful blog Oui Chef. I haven’t met Steve in person yet, but I feel like we go a long way back, sharing similar food and travel interests, and a passion to feed our families well while sharing in the pleasure of cooking. He posted this cozy recipe for Creamed Kale that had my attention the minute I read it. Blame it on the rain that day, or just the fact that I adore kale, but I wanted to eat it right then and there. Steve dedicated this recipe to another good friend of ours, Liz, who authors the blog Liz the Chef. A while back Liz posted a phenomenal recipe for Spinach Gratin on Food 52 (which is where these friendships began – thanks Food52!) Liz and I have had the good fortune to meet a number of times, sharing meals at our dining table and connecting at food blog events. Her spinach gratin has been on my mental to-do list since the moment I saw it. And when Steve’s recipe popped up, I had all of the inspiration I needed to make these little Kale Gratins – thanks to my village of food-loving friends.

Kale Gratin

I served these as an accompaniment to steaming bowls of Cioppino Stew this weekend. Makes 6 individual gratins or one large gratin.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese, divided
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 bunches kale (I used a combination of curly and Tuscan), ribs removed, coarsely chopped – about 10 cups

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat butter in a deep skillet or wide saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, until bubbling and golden, about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and cream. Simmer, stirring, until thickened. Whisk in 1/4 cup cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove pan from heat and add kale. Stir to completely coat the kale leaves; they will begin to wilt. When the kale is thoroughly coated and slightly wilted, divide between gratin dishes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Transfer to oven and bake until the tops of the gratins are golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

If you like this you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian
Potato Gratins
Root Vegetable Gratin

Cauliflower Purée

~ Cauliflower, Celery Root, Garlic, Thyme ~

Looking for a simple side that’s light and fluffy but not mashed potatoes? This Cauliflower Purée is airy and delicate, a blend of cauliflower and celery root. One potato is added to the mix for a touch of heft and a little starch to prevent the purée from becoming a thick soup. The result is a refined side dish that is a wonderful accompaniment to fish, meat and winter stews.

Cauliflower Purée

The celery root, also known as celeriac, is mildly redolent of celery, and nicely balances the nutty and sweet notes of the cauliflower. Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

1 large head of cauliflower, chopped in 1 inch pieces
1 medium celery root, peeled, chopped in 1 inch pieces
1 large russet potato, peeled, chopped in 1 inch pices
Bouquet garni: 3 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf tied in cheesecloth
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in large pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Thyme sprigs as garnish

Combine cauliflower, celery root, potatoes and bouquet garni together in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until all of the vegetables are very tender. Drain and discard bouquet garni. Transfer to a food processor. Add garlic and butter and purée until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to blend. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm, garnished with thyme.

Potato Gratins

Yes, that’s potato gratins in the plural – not singular. I made these last weekend. Not only are they very cute in their individual ramekins, they are also elegantly and cleverly portioned. This ensures that you will be less likely to find yourself gobbling up half a baking dish of gratinéed potatoes or wrestling your child for the last crunchy cheesy corner stuck to the rim. Just saying. It happens.

Potato Gratins

A mandoline works best for thinly slicing the potatoes. Keep the skins on for extra nutrients and texture to balance out all of the cheesy goodness. Makes 8.

Unsalted butter
2 cups full-fat sour cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds small white, Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, very thinly sliced – no more than 1/8 inch thick
8 ounces grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 8 3/4-cup ramekins. Whisk sour cream, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper together in a bowl. Arrange 2 layers of potatoes overlapping in ramekins. Top with a heaping teaspoon of sour cream, spreading to cover the potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat layering process, occasionally sprinkling with additional salt and pepper, until ramekins are full, gently pressing down on each layer. Finish with a layer of sour cream and grated cheeese. Arrange ramekins on a baking tray. Bake until potatoes are tender and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 hour. (If top browns before potatoes are fully cooked, lightly cover with foil to prevent burning.) Serve hot.

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets, Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese


~ Yellow Beets, Wheat Berries, Goat Cheese, Chervil, Winter Greens ~

I used to hate beets. Now I can’t get enough of them. Perhaps I am scrambling to make up for all of those lost beet-eating years when I shuddered at the thought of tasting the earthy beet. Now that I am a covert, I always have a bunch of beets in my refrigerator, ready to accompany a roasting chicken or stir into a couscous or rice pilaf. Beets’ murky sweetness also adds a fresh foil to grains and salads, working especially well when matched with other strong flavors like bitter greens or tangy citrus. In this recipe they team up with healthy wheat berries and a mix of peppery, sharp greens. A shower of chervil adds a complementary anise note to this wintry salad.

Mixed Greens and Beet Salad with Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese

Don’t discard the pan juices from the roasted beets in olive oil. Once cool it makes a lovely dressing for the beets. Serves 4.

4 medium golden (or red) beets, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt
6 cups mixed greens, such as arugula, chicory, mizuna, red oak lettuce
1/3 cup cooked wheat berries (or farro)
1/2 cup fresh chervil sprigs
3 ounces crumbled fresh goat cheese
1/2 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Roast the beets:
Preheat oven to 400 F. Trim ends of beets and scrub clean; throughly dry. Place beets in an oven-proof rimmed pan or pot with a lid. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Cover pot with lid or aluminum foil. Bake until beets are tender but not too soft, 50 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from oven. Transfer beets to a cutting board and cool. Reserve cooking liquid in pot. When beets are cool enough to handle, peel away skins. Slice 1/4 inch thick and place in a bowl. Whisk 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt into reserved beet juice. Drizzle the beet juice over the beets and gently toss to coat.

Assemble salad:
Arrange greens on a serving plate. Sprinkle wheat berries over the greens and arrange beets over the salad. Scatter with chervil and sprinkle goat cheese over the salad. Drizzle any remaining beet juice over the greens. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the salad, to taste. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

Buttermilk Pound Cake, Cranberries, Candied Walnuts, Orange Mascarpone Cream

Here is a holiday trifle that I couldn’t wait for Christmas to make. The good news is that it’s perfect for Thanksgiving, too. This sumptuous dessert is sweet, tart, crunchy and creamy at once. Buttermilk poundcake is blanketed with layers of cranberry compote, orange infused mascarpone whipped cream and candied walnuts. (Do you see why I couldn’t wait?) Each bite is light and airy with the pop of sweet-tart cranberries and the crunch of cinnamon dusted nuts, so be sure to get a little bit of everything in each spoonful. And, even better, the trifle can rest in the refrigerator overnight, so it’s a perfect do-ahead holiday dessert.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

While there are several components to this trifle, each one may be prepared in advance, and each one is stand alone good, so feel free to use them on their own. Serve in a trifle bowl or individual goblets. Makes 8-10 servings.

For the buttermilk pound cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Line bottom with parchment; butter parchment. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl; set aside.
Beat sugar and butter in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add half of the flour, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour, mixing well to combine after each addition. Pour into loaf pan. Bake in oven until wooden skewer inserted in center comes clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and cool completely. Pound cake may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until use.

For the cranberry compote:
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop and release juices. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

For the candied walnuts:
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange walnuts on a baking tray. Bake in oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Heat sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as it begins to dissolve, stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is liquid and amber colored. Add walnuts and stir to coat. Add salt and cinnamon. Remove from heat and pour walnuts onto a baking tray lined with parchment or silpac sheet. Allow to cool completely. Break into pieces. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For the orange mascarpone cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, chilled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine cream and mascarpone in bowl of electric mixer. Beat until traces of whisk are visible. Add remaining ingredients and continue to beat until peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made 4 hours in advance.)

Assemble the trifle:
Reserve a few whole cranberries from the compote for garnish. Pour a thin layer of cranberry compote into the bottom of the trifle dish or individual glasses. Cut the pound cake in 3/4 inch cubes. Arrange a layer of pound cake over the compote. Top with a layer of cream. Sprinkle with a few of the nuts. Repeat layering process, finishing with a layer of cream and nuts. Garnish with reserved cranberries and finely grated orange zest. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered up to 24 hours before serving.

Optional: Brush each layer of pound cake with Cointreau or Gran Marnier for an adult version of this dessert.

Holiday Pumpkin Pecan Roulade

Pumpkin Pecan Roulade with Orange Mascarpone Cream

The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to get dressed up. The silver needs polishing, the shoes need shining and the kids need scrubbing. Even our food gets dressed up, with stuffings and dressings, garnishes and twists. Nothing escapes scrutiny, including dessert where dustings and dollops are par for the course. And, in the spirit of fancifying, what is known as the ordinary cake roll becomes an elegant roulade at the Thanksgiving table.

What is the difference between a cake roll and roulade? you may ask. Well, nothing. Both terms describe a light cake which is rolled in a spiral with a creamy filling. Yet the blandly descriptive cake roll is what I might consider an afternoon dalliance. For my Thanksgiving dinner, I am inviting the roulade, a French term which elegantly and aptly sums up the nature of the dessert as the word itself rolls off the tongue. I want that dessert at our dressed up holiday table.

Language aside, there are other reasons to include a roulade on your menu. It’s elegant yet uncomplicated, remarkably easy to prepare with stunning results. It’s a no-fail recipe, which is a welcome relief during the holidays and frees up more time to dress ourselves up for the guests.

Pumpkin Pecan Roulade with Orange Mascarpone Cream
Inspired by a recipe from Ina Garten. Serves 8 to 10.

For the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin or butternut squash puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting

For the filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Butter a 12 by 9 by 1-inch sheet pan. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper and dust with flour.
Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk eggs and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer until light and thick, 2 minutes. Add pumpkin and vanilla; mix until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients until combined without over-mixing. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle pecans over batter. Bake in oven until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 12-14 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack 5 minutes. While the cake is cooling, lay a clean kitchen towel on the work surface. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sifted confectioners sugar. Invert cake onto the sugared towel. Carefully peel away the parchment paper and discard. Starting at the long end, carefully roll up the cake, jelly-roll style, in the towel. Cool completely on the wire rack.

Prepare filling:
While the cake is cooling, combine mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, cream and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Stir in orange zest.

Assemble roulade:
Gently unroll cake on work surface. Spread filling evenly over cake with a spatula. Carefully roll the cake back up in the same direction, using the towel. Arrange seam-side down on a platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cut in 3/4 inch slices to serve.

Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries

~ Salad with substance: Kale, Carrots, Shallot, Pecans, Dried Cranberries ~

Fall and winter salads differ from their light and cooling summer cousin. Cold weather salads should be filling and comforting, hardy with fruit and nuts, cheese and dried meat. While served fresh, these salads should give warmth in substance. The base of this bright fall salad is kale. In it’s raw form kale is tough and bitter, best shredded in a slaw or sautéed in olive oil. For this salad I’ve softened the kale  by quickly blanching it just to soften its edges without wilting. The other ingredients fall willingly into formation, adding sweetness, crunch and a vibrancy of color pretty enough to decorate any holiday table.

Winter Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries
Sliced persimmons would also be a nice addition to this salad.
Serves 4 as a side.

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large bunch curly green kale, tough vein removed, torn in large pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pecans, halved
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add kale and blanch just until the color brightens and the leaves still hold their shape, 20 seconds. Drain immediately and rinse under cold water. Spin dry in a salad spinner or blot dry with a kitchen towel. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Toss with half of the dressing and taste for seasoning. Serve with additional dressing to taste.