I grew up in a family where virtually nothing was wasted. My mother would save the tiniest sliver of Breyers ice cream that used to come in a square container, and sometimes, oh my God, we’d even take leftovers to amusement parks. I of course wanted those horrible hot dogs rolling around on those metal tubes all day. I often think how almost criminal it is that we have three refrigerators in our house that are so stuffed with food we can’t even see what’s growing in the back of each of them. Yes, I teach cooking classes so there’s always a lot of ingredients needed for classes and testing recipes, but it’s still no excuse for wasting precious food.
I decided that instead of dreading the monthly clean-out of moldy bits and pieces and the slimy gook from spilled jars, I should stage our own version of Chopped, where contestants are given a handful of secret ingredients and they have to come up with some brilliant dish. The difference of course is that I won’t try to make a four star dinner out of cheese doodles, octopus, gelatin and some sort of spiky fruit. I’m challenging myself to search the freezers and fridges each week for several ingredients and to figure out a dish in one hour. This kind of self imposed contest forces you to use a variety of skills – it could be searing, braising, frying or roasting, or whatever – in new ways and to really work the spices you have on hand.
Okay I admit, this first week I had a head start. I just finished doing a week of cooking demos on back to school healthy snacks and lunch options on Fox News (link to avocado video) and had great lime jalapeno guacamole left over. I had also had a huge package of 12 inch tortillas from making low fat baked tortilla chips on air. Quesadillas anyone? So I searched the fridge and found perfectly ripe yellow heirloom tomatoes, Iberico cheese and smoked prosciutto (similar enough to Iberico ham). Perfect ingredients to make a Spanish-ish Quesadilla. Here’s the recipe:
The last article I posted was all about forgetting about time. It was about leaving that sauce on the stove until it was good and ready. This post, however, is the complete opposite. Making torrone is one of the rare moments where I can be seen moving quickly, almost rushing. It’s such a rare event, that my family doesn’t know what to do with me. They laugh as I buzz around the kitchen, impatient while the sugar is melting and having a mild-panic attack as the hot candy hardens while I cut it, little stands of sugar freezing mid-air.
This kind of torrone is not the typical variety that most people are accustomed to. It is not the white, nougaty candy that comes packaged in a pretty box. For years, I didn’t even know that type existed. All I knew was the dark, honey- colored, almond candy topped with “dottie sprinkles” that my great Aunt Mary made every year for Christmas. Maybe, like me, Aunt Mary got a kick out of the hustle and ‘danger’ of making torrone and that is how it became a family tradition that hasn’t been skipped in what I can imagine is well over 50 years. Torrone di mandorle e miele (as it is formally known) is a sweet adventure in what toasted almonds, honey, and sugar can be capable of doing. An adventure in how three ingredients can transform into cheerful, little bites of holiday bliss and memory.
Almond and Honey Torrone
From: Christina Esposito
2 cups toasted, slivered almonds
2 cups sugar
1 tbs honey
Dottie sprinkles (rainbow non-pareils)
Greased (buttered) glass/marble/pyrex cutting board (a non-wooden surface that can withstand high temperatures without breaking)
A wooden or metal mold
Before you begin, make sure that everything is ready to go. Grease your cutting surface and candy mold, get out the dottie sprinkles and orange, and pour your glass of drinking wine (optional). In French, gathering all of your cooking materials and ingredients before you actually start cooking is known as having your “mise en place”. Most of us don’t cook at home with everything carefully thought out and prepared ahead of time, but for torrone, having your mise en place is essential.
Now, put the two cups of sugar in a medium to large sized pot over medium-low heat. Be sure to stir the sugar even at this beginning stage. Keep stirring until the sugar is melted. This might take a little while. First, the sugar will start to clump together. Then, it will darken in color and melt.
When all of the sugar is melted and there aren’t any clumps, add the honey. The honey will make the sugar bubble and fizz a little- this is normal.
Next, take the sugar and honey off the heat and quickly stir in the almonds. This will be a bit messy, but that’s okay. This is also the point where mild chaos might ensue because you need to work quickly from here on out!
Pour the mixture into the greased candy mold. Being VERY careful, use the orange (which acts like a greased spatula) and roll it over the mixture to flatten it out. The candy will be super, super, hot.
Once the mixture is flattened, liberally shake on the sprinkles. Use the orange once again to push the sprinkles into the candy.
Continue to work quickly and carefully and begin to cut the candy into little squares. This must be done with haste because as you will find out, the candy is fast to harden and might even freeze in little strands in mid-air. Also be sure to eat a few pieces while the torrone is still kind of hot. You’ll regret it if you don’t!
Once all the candy is cut and cooled, store in an air-tight container. Torrone lasts for a good three or four weeks so you can enjoy it during the entire holiday season!
Note: cleaning the pot that you melted the sugar in will look impossible and menacing. I promise it isn’t. Just fill the pot back up the water and heat on the stove. The hard sugar and almonds will melt off into the water.
Today I will tell you about pie, specifically, fruit pie. Even more specifically, I will tell you how to make apple-cranberry pie. This is a really, really good pie. Especially for Thanksgiving, which, incidentally, just happened…conveniently before I got around to posting this. I was going to say you could make this pie for Thanksgiving, and I guess you still can, you just have to wait a year. Anyways, here are some reasons to make this pie.
The crust is flaky and buttery and guaranteed to take, like, 3 years off your life.
The cranberries in the filling help cut the sweetness of the apples, providing a whole new level of flavorful complexity to what would otherwise just be a very, very good apple pie.
The apples themselves are cooked in the microwave, and they are still delicious, and this will blow your mind when you eat the pie.
The filling isn’t runny.
OK, with that out of the way, here are some tips for making the recipe, adapted from the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook.
So here’s the deal. This recipe is all about making the flakiest crust possible. While the original recipe insists that you need to use a food processor to make the crust, I think it’s good to do it by hand because you can get a more uneven distribution of butter in the dough which makes for a really flaky crust. Also, the original recipe uses both butter and shortening, but I just replace the shortening with more butter. This makes for better flavor, but does make the dough sort of unwieldy. As such, it is supremely important that you chill everything that goes into the crust. Seriously, even the flour (I would skip chilling the salt and sugar, just because there isn’t very much of either in the recipe.) Also, this recipe calls for vodka which evaporates out of the crust while it bakes and makes the crust, you guessed it, even flakier. The vodka is completely flavorless, and I think it really helps, but you can definitely just replace it with more ice water.
This filling is basically a layer of cranberry filling at the bottom of the pie, topped with apple filling. I’ve had really good luck with this recipe. It tasted good and wasn’t runny or goopy. Overall, it’s just super solid (as a recipe, of course, not as a filling consistency. That would be icky.)
So that’s basically it. Hopefully the instructions are clear. Please comment if you have any questions, suggestions, thoughts, opinions, pictures of you eating the pie, etc. Enjoy!
Apple Cranberry Pie
From: Theresa Kaplan, adapted from Cooks Illustrated
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
20 tablespoons butter (5 sticks), frozen and cut into .25 inch pieces (alternatively, 12 tablespoons butter and 8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, also frozen)
¼ cup vodka, chilled
¼ cup ice water
8 ounces (2 cups) cranberries, fresh or frozen
¼ cup orange juice
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 ½ pounds Golden Delicious Apples
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter.
Incorporate the butter by picking up handfuls of the dough and rubbing it between your fingers, letting it fall back into the bowl. Do this until the butter is evenly distributed in small clumps and there is no more loose flour mixture.
Sprinkle in vodka and ice water. Continue the above mixing process until the dough starts to come together. (You might not need all the liquid; you don’t want your dough to be any wetter than it needs to be to just stick together.)
Gather the dough up and divide it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten the dough into disks, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for an hour or more.
In a medium saucepan, boil the cranberries, orange juice, ½ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, mashing up berries a bit as you go, until the mixture forms a jam-like consistency, and a spoon dragged along the bottom of the pot leaves a line that doesn’t fill in immediately. This should be around 10-12 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in water. Let the mixture cool until room temperature, about 30 minutes (the filling can now be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)
While the cranberries are cooking and chilling, mix ½ cup sugar, the remaining ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon salt, and cornstarch in a large bowl.
Peel, core, and cut the apples into ¼ inch slices. Add the apples to the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cornstarch mixture, and toss to coat.
Cover and microwave the apples for 10-14 minutes until the apples begin to turn translucent and the liquid is thick and glossy. Be sure to stir the mixture every 3 or 4 minutes as it cooks. Cool the apple mixture to room temperature, about 30 minutes. At this point the apples can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
While the filling is cooling, preheat oven to 425˚. Be sure to place a baking sheet on a rack below the one you intend to cook the pie on to catch any dripping.
Roll out the larger piece of dough into a 12 inch circle on a well floured surface. Loosely roll the dough over the rolling pin and then ease it into a 9-inch pie plate. Cover the crust loosely and chill for 30 minutes until the dough is firm.
Roll out the smaller piece of dough into a 12 inch circle. Wrap it and chill it for 30 minutes until the dough is firm.
Unwrap the dough and spread the cranberry mixture in the bottom of the pie. Cover it with the apples, mounding them in the middle. Roll the second disk of pie dough loosely over the rolling pin and ease it over the pie. Pinch together the edges of the crust and trim any excess from around the edge of the pie plate.
Cut 4 2-inch slits in the top crust and brush it with the egg white. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar over the crust.
Place pie in oven over the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until the crust is light brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚, and rotate the pie. Continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Let the pie cool for around 2 hours on a wire rack.
Before Thanksgiving, we were all so geared for that first taste of the turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes. The second and third bites were pretty fabulous too and I for one was really looking forward to The Sandwich the next day. But by day three leftover turkey is a challenge and most of us just want to see it disappear. When my producer asked me to come up with a leftover cooking demo for the last day of the Thanksgiving TV extravaganza, I thought turkey puff pastry turnovers. It took a lot of trial and error (do you add stuffing or not, I wondered) to come up with the perfect combination. These turnovers are both beautiful, easy, and practical because you can also freeze them and pop them in the oven when whenever you want. And they include bacon too so how could you go wrong? They were a huge hit with Mark and the girls, and the staff at WTIC went crazy over them too. We hope you like them as well!
Question of the Day: What did you do with your leftovers from Thanksgiving?
Turkey Cranberry Puff Pastry Turnovers
From: Heide Lang
1 sheet puff pastry sheets defrosted
All purpose flour for rolling out the dough
1 egg, whisked
1 pound or more leftover turkey cut into 2 inch pieces
8 or more tablespoons leftover gravy
8 tablespoons homemade or canned whole berry cranberry sauce
6 strips cooked crispy bacon, crumbled
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage or rosemary (optional)
1/3 cup or more crispy shallots* (see our recipe for butternut squash soup for recipe)
Roll out one sheet of puff pastry out on a floured surface to 14X14 inches. Square off the edges of the dough using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
Cut both the length and width of the dough in half so there are 4 equal parts. You will have four 7 X 7 squares.
Whisk 1 teaspoon water and 1 whole egg in a small bowl or ramekin and set aside.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Carefully move the puff pastry squares on to a separate piece of parchment paper.
Place two to three ounces of turkey and two tablespoons each of both gravy and cranberry sauce on each diagonal half of the square. Sprinkle evenly with bacon, shallots and ¼ teaspoon of herbs (optional) on each half of diagonal halves as well, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the square.
Brush the entire border of each square with egg wash and fold over
Use a fork to seal the edges and to assure the filling won’t leak out while the turnovers bake.
Cut the parchment paper around each turnover leaving a 2-inch border. Carefully pick up each by the edges of the parchment paper and place them on the cookie sheet (they will be very fragile, and tend to lose their shape if you lift them with your hands on to the cookie sheet.)
Carefully brush each turnover with egg wash.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve immediately with a green salad and roasted vegetables.
This Pumpkin Fondue is one of our absolute favorite recipes of all time. We’ve posted this one before, but in light of the demo it on TV the other day, I decided to bring it back from the archives. It’s too important to miss! If your Thanksgiving menu is still flexible, we highly encourage you to check this one out! Scroll down for the recipe and a video of the TV segment!
Pumpkins Stuffed with Everything Good – Our Way
From: Heide Lang, Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
8 strips bacon (¼ cup shallots may be substituted for vegetarian version
¼ pound stale bread cut into cubes
¼ pound cheese, such as gruyere, emmental, cheddar, smoked gouda, asiago, parmesan, or any combination, cut into ½ inch cubes
3 cloves of garlic pressed or minced
1/8-1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions
2 teaspoons or more fresh herbs (i.e., parsley, rosemary, thyme)
½ cup dried cranberries (optional)
1 sugar or Cinderella pumpkin weighing about 3 pounds
1 cup or more heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sautee shallots until they are crispy (about 15 minutes), or fry bacon until crispy. Set aside.
Combine chunks of bread and cheese, along with dried cranberries (this is optional, but will add beautiful color to the fondue). Season with salt and pepper.
Add bacon or shallots to the bread and cheese mixture. Combine well.
Add any herbs you choose, along with the chives or scallions, and garlic. Toss well.
Using a very sturdy knife, cut off the cap of the pumpkin, just as you would a jack-o-lantern.
Scoop out the stringy pumpkin and the seeds and generously salt the inside of the pumpkin.
Pack the filling tightly into the pumpkin (there shouldn’t be any air pockets).
Pour in cream until the bread mixture is saturated and there is a bit of liquid on top (but be careful not to have the bread “swimming” in heavy cream).
Put the cap back on and bake until the pumpkin is soft, about 60-90 minutes. Check the pumpkin after 45 minutes to see how soft it is. Continue baking until the ingredients are bubbling and the meat of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Do not let it burn, or the pumpkin will turn black and collapse as it cools. You don’t want all your good work ruined!
Place a large spatula under your creation and move it gently to a beautiful platter.
Serve as a side dish or an appetizer on small plates.
Tim Lammers, a delightful anchorman at Fox News in Hartford, was very skeptical when I told him we were making mashed potatoes with turnips for the show last week. Turnips, as vegetables go, are not very pretty in their raw form, and many people put in them in the same category as Brussels sprouts (which we will be making later in the week as well!) He was surprised and delighted at just how delicious the potatoes tasted. As a bonus, we also prepared a roasted pear puree, which adds a lovely sweetness to mashed potatoes and cut the richness of the Thanksgiving meal. Here are all the recipes we made.
Question of the day: What are your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes?
Mashed Potatoes and Turnips with Roasted Pear Puree
From: Heide Lang
1/8 cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
4 ripe bosc pears, peeled, quartered, cored
1 basic mashed potato recipe (see below)
1 pound turnips peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine honey, lemon juice, melted butter and pears in medium size bowl. Toss to coat evenly.
Season with salt and pepper and place pear mixture in a baking dish so that all the fruit is in one layer.
Roast pears for 30 minutes and then toss the pears in the juices.
Continue roasting for about 30 minutes until the pears are very tender (this will vary depending on how ripe the pears are).
Transfer pears with liquid to a food processor and puree until smooth or puree directly in the dish with an immersion blender. Set aside. (Pear puree can actually be made up to 2 days ahead).
In the meantime, prepare basic mashed potato recipe. (See next recipe)
Place turnips in a separate pot of salted boiling water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
Puree turnips until smooth and combine with mashed potatoes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Re-warm pear puree and serve together by placing the potato mixture in a serving bowl and swirling in the pear puree. Alternatively, serve separately, and let your guests determine how much puree they would like.
Basic Mashed Potatoes
From: Heide Lang
4 pounds russet potatoes peeled
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon or more of salt
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pepper
Cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. You want to make sure the potatoes are the same size so they cook evenly.
Place the potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, and then salt the water (the water should taste like the ocean in order for the potatoes to be properly seasoned). (Water should always be salted once the water is boiling. Otherwise, the salt will sink to the bottom and stick to the bottom of the pot.) Lower the temperature to a simmer and cook until a fork easily goes through the potatoes, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.
Drain the potatoes in a colander and “dry mash” without the milk or butter for 2 minutes over a low flame.
Add the butter and gently mix into the potatoes without mashing (you don’t want to over mash the potatoes or they will be gluey).
Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and warm milk.
Gradually add warm milk and cream to the pot and mix thoroughly.
Add pepper and additional salt to taste. Mash potatoes until smooth or coarse, your preference.
One of the great (and challenging) things about television demos is that you have to make two of everything: one recipe a day earlier for the camera shot and the second live with the host of the show. It takes about a full day to get ready for about five minutes of television that involves a lot of prepping and staging. There are of course many rewards, including all the leftovers! It’s just like having company. My family is having part of the Thanksgiving meal every day (except poor Gabrielle who can’t stand hearing about the dishes from her dorm room!) leading up to the big day. Lucky Isabella has loved having fig goat cheese shallot squares for breakfast (yes, at 6:30 a.m.) for the past two mornings and butternut squash pumpkin soup for lunch.
Today, I made bourbon mashed sweet potatoes, our favorite boozy side dish, along with the pancetta cups with goat cheese, which are so easy, delicious and satisfying. I can’t wait to have them for dinner along with a turkey I made over the weekend so I could create some new leftover recipes.
Let us know if you are planning to make any of our recipes and if you come up with any interesting new ingredient additions. We can’t wait to hear from you. And stay tuned for tomorrow’s segment on Mashed Potato variations!
8 red grapes cut in half (you may also use ripe pears halved, cored, and cut into ¼ inch thick slices or a thin slice of a firm apple instead of grapes)
2-3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the pancetta slices snugly in mini cupcake muffin pan.
Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
Carefully remove pancetta from pan and place on paper towel to absorb the oil. Remove the pancetta cups from the paper towel and on to an attractive serving platter.
Top each with one with a heaping teaspoon of goat cheese and a half a grape. Sprinkle with thyme or rosemary (optional) and serve.
Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes
From: Heide Lang
4 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup heavy cream at room temperature
1/2 cup bourbon whiskey (We like to use Maker’s Mark bourbon. You may also reduce the bourbon to ¼ cup for milder taste.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional – adding cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg will give the potatoes more of an autumny taste, but will slightly take away from the pure sweet taste of the sweet potatoes and bourbon.
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional – see above)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put the potatoes on foil or parchment paper and brush with olive oil.
Bake until soft and the potatoes start to “ooze” syrup, approximately 45-60 minutes (depending on the size of the potatoes). Remove and let cool slightly.
Remove the skin and put the contents of the sweet potatoes in a medium size bowl (if using a hand blender) or place in a food processor.
Add salt, bourbon, heavy cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon (optional) and nutmeg (optional). Puree until smooth.
Serve or cover and refrigerate overnight. This dish can me made the day before and re-heated in a microwave or oven at 350 degrees.
Few will admit this, but preparing Thanksgiving dinner stresses people out. We are living with non-stop information overload and everywhere online, on television, and on billboards we see pictures of that annoying perfect turkey with all the flawless trimming and a relaxed happy host just waiting for their guests to arrive. Nope! We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, but it’s hard not to feel a little judged because, well, you probably are being judged kind of a little, or maybe even a lot depending who is coming. It’s like going to the hairdresser. Why we care what people think of our hair I’ll never know, but we often do!
So when WTIC Fox News Connecticut asked me to do a Thanksgiving cooking extravaganza for the next eight weekdays in a row starting today, I jumped at the chance to show viewers and our blog friends just how satisfying and easy it can be to host Thanksgiving (Ironically, I’m not hosting this year, but that’s okay because after this series my family will have had about a dozen trial turkey day dinners!). Each day, I will share the recipes and the videos with you, and give you clever ideas meant take the stress out of the day (don’t carve the turkey where people can see you).
We’ll start with appetizers, starters, side dishes and dessert, and work our way up to taking the fear out of carving and what to do with all that turkey meat come day three of leftovers when major boredom sets in.
Yesterday, we made Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Shallots and Fig Goat Cheese Caramelized Shallot Squares made with puff pastry. These recipes are both huge crowd pleasers and don’t require a ton of time or skill. Watch today’s video to learn how to make these winner recipes as well (http://foxct.com/2013/11/18/try-a-new-thanksgiving-side-dish/)
Also, we’d also love to hear about your Thanksgiving success and disasters (especially if they’re funny. What are your favorite and worst Thanksgiving memories?
Fig Goat, Cheese, and Caramelized Shallot Squares
From: Heide Lang
1 ready-made defrosted puff pastry sheet
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2 ½ cups of thinly sliced shallots (4 large shallots, or 6 small ones)
½ teaspoon salt
12-14 whole dried figs (3 ounces)
3 teaspoons honey
5-6 ounces crumbled goat cheese
¼ cup coarsely ground walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Roll out the puff pastry to a 10 X 13 rectangle. Poke a few holes in pastry with a fork (so it doesn’t puff up while baking.)
Pre-bake the puff pastry until it is just slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.
In the meantime, melt the butter with oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the shallots.
Cook the shallots on medium heat until they are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently, especially if you are not using a non-stick pan.
Add the salt, and season to taste with pepper. Set aside.
Place dried figs in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and dry figs.
Slice figs 1/8 inch thick, and then coarsely chop them (you should have ½ cup of sliced figs). Mix with honey and set aside
Spread the shallot mixture evenly over the pre-baked pastry.
Sprinkle the goat cheese, followed by the figs and the walnuts.
Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese starts to bubble, about 15-20 minutes.
Let cool and cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
From: Heide Lang
3/4 cup olive or canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ½ cups sliced shallots (6-12 shallots, depending on size)
Heat oil and butter in a 12-inch saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble.
Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots.
Cook until golden brown, about 30 minutes (add more oil if the shallots start to burn) stirring frequently.
Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Pat down to remove excess oil. Once the excess oil is absorbed, place the shallots in an airtight container and use to garnish soups, vegetables, potatoes, and sandwiches.
Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Shallots
From: Heide Lang
4 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups leeks, chopped
1/3 cup shallots, chopped
2 1/2 cups fresh butternut squash cut in 1-inch cubes
1 can pure organic pumpkin puree (no sugar added)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon cane sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons fresh ginger finely minced
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 Bartlett pear, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
5-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/3 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
4-5 tablespoons crispy shallots (see recipe below)
1/3 pound pancetta, sliced thin (optional)
Heat canola oil in a 6-8 quart pot. Sautee shallots and leeks over medium heat until they are soft and glassy, but not yet brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the butternut squash and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add the pumpkin puree and stir well.
Add salt, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cayenne pepper. Stir and cook over medium heat for one minute.
Add the pear and broth and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is hot, turn down the heat to a steady simmer on a low-medium flame. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the pears and squash are soft.
Puree in a food processor, or with an immersion blender (you may also use a blender, but be sure to let the soup cool to lukewarm first).
Add sour cream and mix well.
Fry pancetta (optional) in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, until crisp, and pat between two towels to absorb grease.
Serve with crispy shallots and/or crumbled pancetta on top.
Most people think I’m a little bit strange when I tell people that Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s really simple. I adore the foods of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Easter, not to mention all the glorious casual picnic foods from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but I just love the theatre and whimsy of Halloween.
This great holiday, after all, is not about gifts or how perfect the table looks for relatives. It’s about fun, and magic, and theatre. It transcends age. We will have 8-year-olds and 16-year-olds side by side at our house all enjoying the same silly food and wearing goofy costumes. What could be better? I get to take my apron off and think solely about what would make kids of all ages happy. The pressure is off to be perfect. All anyone cares about is that the offerings are funny, maybe a little “scary” and of course colorful.
So here’s part of our line-up for All Hallow’s Eve at our house. We’ll offer our friends and fellow trick-or-treaters Mad Scientist Bubbly Brew, followed by cauliflower brain dip, and darling little “pumpkins” made of clementines and celery. There will be other things, but these are my favorites. I hope this sampling of our Halloween inspires you to think like a child even for just one day. Happy Halloween everyone!
Have you got any special halloween foods you make at your house? We’d love to hear about them! Comment below to let us know!
From: Heide Lang
One dozen or more Clementines
Several stalks celery
Peel Clementines and place on a fun Halloween platter.
Cut a stalk of celery into small pieces for the pumpkin stem. Stick a celery piece into the top of each peeled Clementine and serve!
Creepy Cauliflower Brain Dip with Guacamole
From: Heide Lang
4 ripe avocados peeled and pitted
½ cup chopped onions
1/8 cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup cilantro (optional)
1 4 ounce can finely chopped seeded jalapeno chilies**
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
1 cup of tomatoes, diced and seeded (or canned diced tomatoes in the winter)
1 large cauliflower
1 package of red licorice string
Place all guacamole ingredients but tomatoes in a food processor or in a medium sized bowl. Puree in the food processor or puree in bowl using an immersion blender until very smooth.
Drain tomatoes thoroughly through a sieve and gently blend into the avocado mixture using a spatula.
Remove all of the leaves from the cauliflower and remove the stem so that there is a hollow area, but most of the florets are intact. (Use toothpicks to hold the sides together if it starts to fall apart).
Put the hollowed out cauliflower into a snug fitting bowl. (For a really scary presentation, wrap the bowl in cheesecloth stained with red food coloring.)
Fill in with the guacamole and decorate the florets by weaving the licorice between the florets to make the veins and arteries. You may also sprinkle a bit of red food coloring on the “arteries” as well but be careful not to overdo it.
Mad Scientist Bubbly Brew
From: Heide Lang
Clear glass container or punch bowl
Artificial green or red drink, such as Gatorade or Hawaiian Punch (You may also use a clear liquid like seltzer or Sprite, died with food coloring, if you want)
Gummy worms, plastic spiders or any other creepy creatures you wish
Fill container or punch bowl with a green or red beverage.
Place gummy worms, spiders, etc, on the edge of the bowl.
Add a few small pieces or pellets of dry ice, just enough to get the brew bubbling and smoky. If it comes in a big brick, you will need to chip pieces off of it. (Do NOT pick up dry ice with your bare hands. Use tongs to handle it or protective rubber gloves if you must pick it up with your hands.)
Serve immediately, adding additional pieces of dry ice every 10 minutes, or as needed.
There is nothing like finding a dessert that’s beautiful, easy and unbelievably delicious. We all know that it isn’t always so easy. There are a lot of desserts that fit only one or two of those stipulations. A genoise cake, for example is beautiful and delicious but certainly NOT simple.
That’s why this dessert is so special. Did I mention that it’s fairly low-calorie as well? I used to make roasted pears with pomegranate juice and red wine, which was very good but it just didn’t quite have the depth a great autumn dessert should have. I tinkered with apple cider and port wine instead and added ginger, cinnamon and cardamom to create this gem of a fall treat. I honestly haven’t met anyone in any of my classes who hasn’t gone crazy over this one. You may also want to prepare this if you are having an open house as well. The combination of pears, port, cider and spices says cozy autumn like nothing else. I bet it will sell your house in a flash!
The best thing about it is that your friends and family will not only love it but they will be so honored you spent so much time making them a special dessert. The truth (note, I am whispering) is that it will take you about 15 minutes to get in oven. Don’t worry. Your secret will be safe. Who am I going to tell?
Oh, and be sure to save any extra sauce to pour over French toast, pancakes or waffles over the weekend. The recipe purposefully makes more sauce than you will need for the pears alone so you can have leftovers. Who could ask for more?
Do you have any easy winner dessert recipes like this one? Let us know in the comments, below!