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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don’t Forget the Side Dishes for the Turkey!


Of all the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is the one most defined by food. And, for most of us that food is based on tradition. My own family looks forward to a big bird with crisp golden skin served with rich pan gravy. They know there will be homemade cranberry chutney, and since our family DNA harbors deep Southern roots, cornbread dressing is a must at our table. However, when it comes to the sides—those special recipes that play supporting roles in this holiday menu—my clan is open to new creations. 

I often include new accompaniments like the delectable one featured here. A glorious mélange of the season’s robust vegetables, including butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, brown mushrooms, and leeks, this dish pairs fabulously with the traditional bird and dressing. The vegetables are sautéed, scented with rosemary, then sprinkled with toasted pecans, and Parmesan.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Favorite Cookie—Finally the Right Recipe!


    
For more than half a dozen years I’ve bought decadent chocolate and almond-studded shortbread cookies from one of the bakers at my local farmers’ market. Although I’ve used all sorts of ploys to get the recipe, the merchants have shared only small tidbits about the bars. “Yes, they do have extra dark chunks of chocolate in them,” they confirmed, and “Yes, there is a hint of sea salt,” they have told me. Beyond that, they have politely avoided revealing any other tips.

I’ve made these bars countless times, always with good results, but never quite like the original. I even printed a recipe for them in my syndicated column, and have included them in several cooking classes. Finally, after several recent tries, victory was mine. I simply switched from bittersweet to 70% dark chocolate and lowered the amount of sugar!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Comforting Soup to Share with Others


This past weekend as ominous warnings about Hurricane Sandy were reaching the air waves, I found myself at a book-signing at the farmers’ market in our small New England town. An engaging local bookstore owner had set up a table for me where copies of my recent cookbooks were displayed. Although the storm was still two days away, dark clouds and intermittent rain were discouraging signs that sales would not be brisk. But the bookseller and I were both wrong!

The town was teeming with visitors (many from the East Coast and the Midwest) since it was Amherst College family weekend, and the local folks too were out in full force. Everyone wanted to stock up on food supplies for the days ahead. As people stopped by, concerned about what to cook to have on hand in an emergency, they eyed my book, Sunday Soup, and asked if I could suggest an easy recipe they might prepare from it. Quickly I suggested Fabulous Fall Roots Soup—a humble creation made with carrots, leeks, and rutabagas.This scene was repeated so frequently that I began to refer to this dish as the “storm” soup.

At home I prepared a batch myself as Sandy approached, knowing that this potage could be heated up

Friday, October 26, 2012

Warm Fall Squash Dip—Different and Delicious


Back in the 1990s while working on First Impressions, a book of appetizers, I created a recipe for a warm fall squash dip served with sliced apples and sautéed sausages. The main ingredients in that simple recipe were pureed acorn squash, curry powder, and sour cream. For years, I served this colorful starter when autumn arrived, but then somehow the dish fell off my radar screen—until this year when I decided to give the recipe a facelift. 

For my 21st century version I roasted and pureed cubed butternut squash, and seasoned it not only with curry powder, but with rosemary and thyme as well. And, in place of sour cream, I substituted crème fraiche, which has a more complex flavor.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stuffed Pasta Spirals—Great Main Course for Make-Ahead Entertaining!

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Baked Pasta Spirals
When you’re entertaining is there anything better than an all-in-one main course that can be assembled a day ahead, then cooked at serving time? The following recipe for pasta spirals (which are really individual rolled lasagnas) stuffed with ricotta and prosciutto fall into  this special category.

The dish was inspired by a display of individual lasagnes that I spotted several years ago in the food section of the celebrated Bon Marché department store in Paris. During a long stay in France, I went often to La Grande Epicerie, and every time I passed the counter of take out dishes, was intrigued with the interesting fillings encased by single rolled sheets of pasta.

Pasta Spirals Ready To Go in the Oven
Back home on this side of the Atlantic, I created my own version, spreading a simple mix of ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, bits of prosciutto, and Italian parsley on individual cooked pasta noodles, then rolling the sheets into spirals and napping them with a zesty tomato sauce. This casserole can be popped into the fridge, and be ready and waiting the next day. Count on about a half hour to bake the dish, and serve it with easy sides—a mixed green salad and some warm crusty peasant bread. Voilà—a delicious meal with no last-minute fuss!



Friday, October 12, 2012

Brussels Sprouts Star in a Great Fall Side Dish


For years I overlooked Brussels sprouts when teaching or writing about food, mainly because I was worried that most people just didn’t like these small green spheres that resemble mini-cabbages. That is certainly not the case today. Countless chefs and home cooks have discovered how creatively this vegetable can be used.
           
For instance, a recipe for Sautéed Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Apples has become a favorite for many readers of my book, Sunday Roasts. For this dish, which takes only about a half hour to assemble and cook, sprouts are halved, blanched, and then sautéed along with sliced Golden Delicious apples and bits of salty bacon. The assertive taste of the Brussels sprouts, the sweet note of the fruit, and the salty hint of bacon form a winning combination.
           
This dish would be a colorful and delicious accompaniment to roasted chicken, pork, or lamb. Or, you might try it with grilled sausages or sautéed turkey cutlets. The days are getting cooler and crisper, and the choice of vegetables fewer at the produce counter, but verdant little Brussels sprouts are plentiful this time of year. Don’t’ let them go unappreciated!

Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Apples

1 pound Brussels sprouts
Kosher salt
4 ounces thick bacon slices (4 to 5 slices), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley

1. Cut off and discard the bases from the Brussels sprouts, then halve the sprouts. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the sprouts and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook until the sprouts are tender but not mushy when pierced with a small, sharp knife, for 8 to 10 minutes or longer. (Cooking time can vary depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts.)

2. Strain the sprouts in a colander, then place them (still in the colander) under cold running water until completely cool. Pat them dry and set aside. (Brussels sprouts can be prepared 6 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

3. Sauté the bacon in a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat until browned and crisp. Remove it with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Pour off and discard all but 2 teaspoons of the drippings in the pan. Return the pan to medium heat and add the butter. When hot, add the apples and cook, turning often, until softened and just lightly browned, for about 5 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and bacon to the frying pan. Stir and cook until all ingredients are heated through, for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

4. Mound the vegetables in a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot.
Serves 4

Cost: Inexpensive
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Start to finish time: 35 minutes

From Sunday Roasts by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2012)
Photo by Susie Cushner     


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Warm Spiced Pear Tart--Just In Time For Fall!


Years ago, when I was beginning my career as a food writer and teacher, I loved to prepare Julia Child’s baked pear gratin with a macaroon crust from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I. The recipe was simplicity itself. Pears were sliced, placed in a baking dish, tossed with apricot jam and white wine, and then baked with a topping of crushed cookies and bits of butter.           

Last week, as I was contemplating different fillings for an autumn tart, I remembered that dish and knew that those pears would be delectable baked in a pastry crust. I added seasonings of  cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves to the fruit, and to keep things really easy, used purchased puff pastry for the tart shell. When done, this dessert boasts a golden, flakey crust and a filling of tender, juicy pears infused with aromatic spices.