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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!

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