Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash mingles with its fall friends in this festive soup:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

There is something magical about roasted butternut squash. Its brilliant orange flesh softens into buttery squidginess, and when roasted, its natural sugars are coaxed out and gently caramelized, accentuating the squash’s inherent nutty flavor. It’s hard to believe something so rich and sugary can be loaded with nutrients and beta-carotene, but so it is. One cup of butternut squash provides a health nut’s worth of Vitamins A and C, as well as a robust shot of potassium, manganese and fiber. In this recipe, roasted butternut squash mingles with its fall buddies – apples, cider, and loads of warming spices – yielding an essential autumn soup. Serve it as a starter to any meal, or dress it up in little shot glasses as a fancy soup starter when hosting a crowd. It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season.

Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Makes 4 to 6 large bowl servings or 16 to 18 small appetizer shots, depending on size of glass

1 medium butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable for vegetarian option)
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush the exposed flesh with olive oil. Place squash, cut-side-down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened without coloring, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the apple, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the roasted squash and chicken stock. (There should be just enough stock to cover the squash and apples. If needed, add additional stock to cover). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.
3. Carefully purée the soup in batches in a food processor (or with an immersion blender). Return the soup to the pot and stir in the apple cider, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Warm thoroughly over medium-low heat and taste for seasoning. Serve warm, garnished with a small spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream if desired.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Cranberry Sauce 2.0
Add a little zing to your sauce

Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without cranberry sauce. And while I have nothing against the traditional sugary cranberry combination, I find I crave an extra depth of flavor in the standard sauce – and so I devised this chutney. What I like about chutney is it’s a combination of fruit and savory ingredients, and not timid about incorporating herbs, spices, and even a kick of heat. In other words, it nails many of the flavor senses (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, heat) that, to me, yield a more satisfying mouthful.

In this chutney, dried figs add a mellow, nutty sweetness, and fresh ginger and orange add perfume and zing, all of which balance out the cranberries’ natural astringency, while allowing them to remain the star of the show – after all we’re talking Thanksgiving here.

The good news is that this chutney is not exclusively for the Thanksgiving table. It also makes a great condiment for other fruit-loving proteins such as pork, duck, and lamb. I like to serve it as an accompaniment on a cheese platter as well, or dabbed on goat cheese-smeared crostini.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
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 peeled fresh ginger
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

1. Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Combine the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro and Walnuts

brussels-sprouts-grapes-farro-tastefood

This brussels sprouts recipe is perfect for the holiday table. Roasted grapes and a shellacking of caramelized pomegranate balsamic vinegar tame and complement the earthy crucifers. Farro and toasted walnuts add heft and heartiness to this side dish, while nicely providing a satisfying vegetarian option on a meat laden table. If you can’t find pomegranate balsamic vinegar, you can make your own by whisking together 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses.

Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

1 pound brussels sprouts, halved (or quartered if large)
12 ounces seedless red grapes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked farro
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the brussels sprouts, grapes, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle the pomegranate balsamic vinegar over, stirring to coat. Return to the oven and roast until the sprouts are tender and the grapes have begun to shrivel, about 15 minutes more, stirring once or twice. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add the farro and walnuts and toss to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Get Your Grill On: 5 Recipes for Memorial Day Grilling

pomegranate chicken skewer tastefood
Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Yogurt, Mint, and Pistachios

Chipotle Ribs TasteFood
Smoky Chipotle Glazed Ribs


Grilled Shrimp Tostadas

BLT salad view

BLT Salad with Avocado and Grilled Croutons

jerk chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Cranberry Pear Galette


cranberry galette tastefood

I am not a patient baker. My desserts tend to be “rustic” which, in my case, is a polite way of saying messy and imprecise. Fortunately for me there is a place in the dessert world for my rustic desserts. I call it my sweet spot (pun intended) which includes crisps, crumbles, cobblers, galettes, and crostatas. These desserts show off the season’s best fruit, in the company of some sort of pastry dough or streusel and are assembled in a delightfully unfussy way. This Cranberry Pear Galette is a perfect example – it’s a free-form tart, which is also known as a crostata. Unlike a traditional tart or pie, a baking dish is not required. The spiced fruit filling is simply mounded into the center of the pastry dough, then the pastry edges are gathered and folded around the filling leaving the top exposed. The result is a golden free-form crust cocooning a bubbling center of oozing fresh fruit. Now, that’s my kind of dessert. Try this one on for your Thanksgiving holiday.

Cranberry Pear Galette

Serves 6

Pastry dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, but into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water

Filling:
4 ripe but not too soft pears (bosc or anjou), peeled and cored, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons almond meal, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly whisked

1. Make the pastry dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse once or twice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is pea-sized. Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Transfer the dough to a work surface and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
2. Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper into a circle approximately 12-inches in diameter. (It does not have to be perfect!) Slide the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the pears, cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons almond meal, the lemon juice, orange zest, cardamom, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir to combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon almond flour over dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Mound the fruit over the almond flour. Fold the borders up and around the fruit. Lightly brush the dough with the egg and sprinkle the galette with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Transfer the galette to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla a ice cream.

Holiday Sides: Root Vegetable Gratin

root vegetable gratin tastefood

~ Root Vegetable Gratin with Sweet Potato, Red Potato and Rutabaga ~

My cheese and potato loving family loves a good gratin. I use a simple method of layering thinly sliced potatoes with a rich garlic infused sour cream and shredded Gruyere cheese. Simple and, yes, decadent. I switched up my go-to recipe recently when I wanted something more flavorful and nutrient-rich than white spuds. Thinly sliced rutabaga (also known as Swede) and sweet potato were included in the mix, and I switched out the white potatoes for red, which tend to hold their shape more while cooking. The result was a colorfully striated gratin, flecked with sage and thyme, adding their earthy fragrance to the sweet and nutty root vegetables. This is a wonderful side dish, and makes a rustic and festive addition to any holiday table.

Root Vegetable Gratin

Feel free to mix up the root vegetables to your taste. In all there should be about 3 pounds of vegetables.

Serves 8

16 ounces full fat sour cream
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 medium-large red potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 large sweet potato, peeled, about 3/4 pound
1 medium rutabaga, peeled, about 3/4 pound
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, finely grated
1/3 cup heavy cream, or to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Butter an 8 by 10-inch gratin dish.
Whisk the sour cream, garlic, sage, thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl and mix well.
Thinly slice the potatoes and rutabaga, preferably with a mandoline. Arrange half of the red potatoes, overlapping, in the bottom of the gratin dish (there will be about 2 layers). Spread 1/4 of the sour cream over the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 of the Gruyere. Cover with the sweet potatoes, overlapping in about 2 layers. Spread with 1/4 of the sour cream and 1/4 of the gruyere. Repeat with the rutabaga, more sour cream and gruyere. Finish with the remaining red potatoes, sour cream and gruyere. Drizzle some of the cream around the edges and in the corners of the gratin without overfilling.
Bake in oven until vegetables are tender and the top of the gratin is brown and bubbling, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Loosely cover gratin with buttered foil if browning too fast.) Serve hot.

Holiday Sides: Kale, Quinoa, Pomegranate Salad

kale quinoa salad tastefood

~ Kale, Red Cabbage, Quinoa, Carrots, Pomegranate, Raisins, Almonds ~

Just because there’s a chill in the air doesn’t mean we should skip fresh salads. In fact, at this time of year it’s more important than ever that we boost our immune system with healthy greens and grains – and not just for keeping the doctor away. Hardy cold weather salads are a welcome addition to any holiday table. Deeply flavorful and unabashedly colorful, wintery salads are hefty enough to absorb copious handfuls of nuts, fruit and grains while providing a beautiful addition to a special meal. Even the non-meaters will gobble them up, while the vegetarians will be very pleased with this substantial option.

This is one of my favorite cold weather salads. Brimming with curly kale, red cabbage, and quinoa, it could be a meal in a bowl. The addition of dried raisins, toasted almonds and glistening pomegranate seeds adds all the extra bling necessary to invite this salad to your Thanksgiving dinner. The key to this recipe is to massage the kale. Yes, that’s right. By gently rubbing the leaves in oil, lemon and salt before assembling, the leaves will be coaxed into a softer and milder version of themselves, making for a delicious raw salad.

Kale, Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad

Unlike most salads, this may be entirely prepared up to 1 hour in advance, which is ideal for entertaining. Serves 6 to 8.

Kale:
1 large bunch curly green kale, ribs removed, torn in bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Dressing:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage (or radicchio)
1 to 2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1/3 cup cooked quinoa (I used red)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

For the kale: Place the kale in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Using your hands, gently rub the leaves to coat for about 1 minute. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 2 hours).

For the dressing: Whisk the garlic, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Assemble the salad: Add the cabbage, carrots, shallot and quinoa to the kale. Add half of the dressing and toss to combine. Scatter the raisins, almonds and pomegranate seeds over. Gently toss with more dressing to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour.

Spaghetti, Meatballs and Lady and the Tramp

meatballs spaghetti tastefood

Valentines Day and … Meatballs?

You might be surprised to hear this, but I am not a sweet person. That is, I don’t eat lots of sweets. I prefer savory dishes, and if I indulge in any one department it usually involves salt, not sugar. So, this Valentine’s Day when I found myself thinking of a special meal to prepare for my family, a rich chocolate cake was not at the top of my list. Instead, I will make delicious comfort food, something sating and homey, pleasing to the entire family – and savory, not sweet. So, this is on our menu for the big day: Spaghetti and Meatballs. And don’t tell me that isn’t romantic either;  you need only to look to Lady and the Tramp for inspiration…

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Makes about 12 (2-inch) meatballs. Serves 4.

For the meatballs:
3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (28 ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti
Whole basil leaves for garnish
Finely grated Parmigiano cheese for serving

Combine the pork, beef, garlic, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, oregano, salt pepper and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Add the egg and  mix in with your hands. Lightly form into 2-inch meatballs. Place on a plate, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the meatballs in batches, without overcrowding. Brown on all sides, turning gently with tongs or a spatula. Remove and set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel. When all of the meatballs are browned, pour off the oil.

Make the sauce: Without cleaning the skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and saute until softened, 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add wine and cook, scraping up any brown bits, until reduced by 2/3. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Add tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper. Return meatballs to the skillet. Cover and simmer over low heat until the meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add spaghetti and cook unitl al dente; drain. Serve spaghetti with meatballs and sauce ladled over. Garnish with basil leaves and grated cheese.

And here are a few sweeter suggestions for your Valentine’s Day from TasteFood:
Chocolate Brownies
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Pots de Creme

Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake

cranberry cake view TasteFood

~ Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake ~

For the past few days I’ve been reaching around a big container of cranberry sauce sitting in my refrigerator – a left over from our Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve pointedly ignored it until yesterday, when I realized I needed to take action, either by freezing it or repurposing it. I am done with turkey for the moment, so the thought of freezing sauce for another round of dolloping over a roasted bird was not terribly enticing. Baking, however, was something I could get excited about. It’s been raining cats and dogs lately, and the holiday season is before us, so something warm, spiced and sweet, wafting fragrant aromas from the oven into the kitchen would be perfect.

Cranberry Cake TasteFood

Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake

Use a whole cranberry sauce (not gelee) for this recipe – preferably homemade. A recipe for a quick and easy sauce is included at the bottom of this post. Serves 12.

Streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cubed

Cake:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups whole cranberry sauce

For the streusel:
Combine all of the ingredients except the butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside while you prepare the cake.

For the cake:
Heat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Beat sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the zest, vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, alternating with the yogurt and finishing with the flour. Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan. Spoon the cranberry sauce evenly over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the cranberry sauce (it will be sticky). Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the cake. Bake in oven until knife inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. The flavors will develop as the cake cools.

For the cranberry sauce:
Place 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon orange zest and a pinch of salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

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.