Tags Posts tagged with "Barbara Beltrami"

Barbara Beltrami

Lobster Mac and Cheese Casserole

By Barbara Beltrami

It’s that frenzied time of year when the imminent holidays take huge chunks out of not just our wallets but our time. For many of us, preparing complicated and time-consuming meals is out of the question, and it’s either takeout or something quick but hearty that can be shoved in the oven while we scramble around to attack the holiday chores. This is when casseroles can be the answer. They’re meals that the kids enjoy and can even pitch in to help prepare (if you can pry them away from their iPhones and video games). Casseroles can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen, then reheated. Here are a few that are my favorites.

Lobster Mac and Cheese Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 stick unsalted butter

½ cup flour

1 quart 2% milk, heated but not boiled

8 ounces Emmenthal (Swiss) cheese, grated

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

4 ounces fontina cheese, grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1½ pounds cooked lobster meat

1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for macaroni. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile in a large saucepan, melt all but two tablespoons butter over medium heat; reduce heat to low and, stirring constantly with wire whisk add flour, cook for two minutes, until nicely blended and a pale golden color. Still whisking, add hot milk and cook a minute or two more, until mixture is smooth and thickened; remove from heat and whisk in the cheeses, salt and pepper and parsley until well blended and smooth. Stir in cooked macaroni and lobster; transfer to greased large casserole dish or individual ramekins. Melt remaining two tablespoons butter and combine with breadcrumbs; sprinkle over mac and cheese mixture. 

Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Casserole

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup uncooked wild rice or wild rice and long-grain rice blend

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 shallot, minced

¼ cup flour

1½ cups chicken broth

1½ cups half-and-half

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin

3 cups diced cooked chicken

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook rice according to package directions; set aside. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt half the butter, then cook the shallot until opaque but not brown, about a minute or two; sprinkle in flour and whisk until just blended; add broth and half-and-half and over medium heat, vigorously whisk; when smooth, simmer about 5 minutes, and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. In medium skillet over medium heat, saute mushrooms in remaining butter; add, along with chicken and rice, to butter-flour mixture; thoroughly combine and turn into 2-quart greased casserole. Bake about 30 minutes, until bubbly and barely crispy on top and garnish with parsley.  

Bean and Corn Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 green frying pepper, diced

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon chili powder

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

One 28-ounce can + one 14-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

One 14-ounce can corn kernels, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil; add onion, garlic and frying pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and chili powder and stir until blended. Stir in tomatoes and their juice and over medium heat, bring to a boil; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in beans, corn, salt and pepper, thyme and parsley, and transfer to greased two-quart casserole. Bake until bubbly, about 40 minutes; sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 more minutes. Garnish with cilantro before serving.

My Favorite Turkey Gravy

By Barbara Beltrami

I can still see them standing there by the stove, Mother and Aunt Ruth in their ruffled gingham aprons and Aunt Lillian with the dish towel tucked in her waistband. And I can still hear the arguing as each one vied for her version of the best and, of course, only way to make the gravy.  

“You have to chop up the neck meat and the gizzards That’s what thickens it.”

“No it doesn’t, it just makes it lumpy.”

“You have to deglaze the pan with a good splash of wine.

“What do you want to do, get the children drunk?”

“You’re not going to use all that fat, are you?

“What do you think makes it taste so good?”

“I told you we should have put herbs in it. It has no flavor.”

“Not so much flour! Too much salt!”

“It’ll never thicken with the flame that low.”

“Don’t cook it down so much. We’re not going to have enough!”

And so it went, year after year. Some Thanksgivings the gravy was great, others it was awful, but most Thanksgivings it was OK enough to save the mashed potatoes and make the white meat seem moister than it really was. I’ve developed, with no one allowed to come near the stove when I’m making it, my own versions of those turkey gravies of yore. And I certainly don’t have to tell you what to serve them with! Just make sure they’re nice and hot.

My Favorite Turkey Gravy

My Favorite Turkey Gravy

YIELD: Makes about 8 cups

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup vegetable or olive oil

1 leek, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

Neck, giblets (except liver) and one or two extra turkey wings, separated at joints

8 cups chicken broth

1 celery rib, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

1 garlic clove

Handful of herb sprigs (parsley, sage, thyme)

Turkey drippings from roasting pan

¾ cup dry white wine

½ cup flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat, then add leek and turkey parts; cook, stirring very frequently, until browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add broth, celery, carrots, garlic and herbs; cover and simmer two hours. (I do this while the turkey is roasting.) Remove and discard veggies and all turkey parts but wings. (They can be de-boned and saved for another use, dog or cat.)

When turkey is done, remove it to cutting board to rest; pour roasting pan drippings into bowl and let fat rise to top. Place roasting pan over two burners on stove top over medium heat. Add wine and with a wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from the pan bottom until liquid is slightly reduced, 3 to 5 minutes.

Reserving half a cup, discard the separated fat, add pan juices to liquid in roasting pan and combine thoroughly. Pour half cup fat into large saucepan, whisk in flour, salt and pepper and continue to stir until roux achieves a nice golden brown color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually ladle hot broth into flour mixture, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat. Add turkey dripping mixture, stir vigorously and bring to a boil, then simmer gently until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.

My Other Favorite Turkey Gravy

My Other Favorite Turkey Gravy

YIELD: Makes 4 to 4½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

3–3½ cups roasted poultry stock

½ cup apple cider

½ cup flour

1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2/3 cup mixture of chopped fresh sage, parsley and thyme

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

INGREDIENTS:

Carefully lift turkey from roasting pan; set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Pour drippings into small bowl or measuring cup. Let fat rise to surface and skim off but reserve ¼ cup. Add drippings to stock. Set roasting pan over two cook-top burners on medium heat. Add cider and cook, scraping up any brown bits, about two minutes. Whisk in flour and reserved fat; continue cooking and whisking until roux is a nice deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Still whisking, gradually ladle in stock and simmer until mixture is thickened. Add vinegar, soy sauce, herbs and salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Roasted Marinated Sweet Potatoes. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

As the countdown for Thanksgiving begins, the cooking side of my brain starts thinking of recipes, old ones and some variations on them as well as new ones to jazz up the dinner a bit. It seems like a good time to take you along on this culinary journey and share with you this week and next some of the recipes that have been in my files for a long time and some that have recently landed there. This week I’ve been fooling around with sweet potatoes. Although I personally think that a sweet potato baked in its skin can’t be improved upon, I know most people think a sweet potato has to be made even sweeter with things like brown sugar and maple syrup and yes, marshmallows. Capitulating to the majority I offer you the following recipes.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups peeled cooked sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch discs

1½ cups tart apples, cored, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch half moons

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ stick unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9×5×13-inch baking dish or deep pie dish. Evenly arrange half the sweet potatoes in the dish, then half the apples followed by half the sugar and half the salt; dot with butter; repeat procedure using second half of ingredients. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes, uncover and bake till apples are soft and top is brown. Serve with turkey, chicken or duck.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Pecans

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 sweet potatoes

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

 2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup raisins

¼ cup bourbon

½ cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Scrub potatoes and bake until tender, about 45 minutes, depending on size. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash in a large bowl. Add sugar, butter, eggs, cream, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and raisins, and mix until thoroughly combined. Turn into greased casserole and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes; soak pecans in bourbon for at least an hour, then sprinkle them with the bourbon  on top and bake another 10 minutes, until they just start to brown. Serve with turkey and cranberry sauce.

Sweet Potato-Cranberry Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 sweet potatoes, peeled, boiled, and cut into ½-inch-thick slices

1½ cups whole cranberry sauce

¾ cup water

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place potato slices in a 2-quart greased casserole. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cranberry sauce, water, sugar, zest and cinnamon; bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in butter until it melts; pour mixture over sweet potatoes. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Serve with turkey and stuffing.

Roasted Marinated Sweet Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar

Juice of one freshly squeezed lemon

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large ovenproof skillet heat the quarter-cup of oil. Add the sweet potato chunks and over medium heat let them caramelize on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes; add salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary and toss together. Transfer pan to oven and roast until tip of sharp knife pierces the potatoes easily, about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; add honey, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons oil; toss to coat; let sit and cool to room temperature or serve warm. Serve with meat or poultry and tossed green salad.

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Orange-Balsamic Vinaigrette

By Barbara Beltrami

Autumn brings with it a plethora of veggies that we too often think we have to cook to death in soups, stews and casseroles. But greens like kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower make a nice base for a salad. Root veggies like beets and carrots add color while nuts and seeds give a whole new dimension to salad dressings. Add autumn fruits with or without your favorite lettuces and you’ve got a great main or side dish. Add some protein like chicken, beans, salmon, shrimp or cheese and you’ve got a healthful one-dish meal, if you want. And there’s no reason you can’t try them with the dressing of your choice instead of the ones here.

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Orange-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Orange-Balsamic Vinaigrette

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

3 to 4 medium beets, washed, trimmed, peeled and cut into quarters

12 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 tablespoon minced red onion

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 cups baby arugula

2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

½ cup chopped toasted walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray shallow baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; add beets, garlic, thyme and 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil; toss to coat thoroughly, then roast, turning once or twice, until beets are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven. When beets reach room temperature, dice them. In medium bowl, whisk together remaining oil, vinegar, orange juice, zest, onion, mustard, and salt and pepper; add beet mixture; toss to thoroughly coat. Line salad plates with arugula; heap beet mixture evenly on top; sprinkle with goat cheese and walnuts. Serve immediately at room temperature with meat, poultry or a hearty soup.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Baby Spinach and Apple Cider Dressing

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and diced

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1½ cups apple cider

¼ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup minced shallot

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ pound baby spinach, washed and patted dry

3 sweet-tart apples, peeled, cored, diced and tossed with freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a very large bowl toss the squash cubes with the quarter cup of olive oil, brown sugar and salt and pepper. Spread evenly on baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until squash is tender. Meanwhile in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat combine the cider, vinegar, shallot, and salt and pepper and bring to a boil; cook for about 6 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Let cool a little, then add mustard and cup of olive oil. Let cool completely. Line a platter or large bowl with spinach; add squash; drain apples and place on top of squash; sprinkle with almonds and cheese, if using. Serve at room temperature with a meat, poultry, soup or pasta.

Brussels Sprout, Pear and Kale Salad with Mustard-Honey Vinaigrette

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 firm Anjou pears, peeled, cored and sliced into half-inch wedges

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 large bunches lacinato kale, center stem removed and leaves cut into thin strips

12 ounces fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced

2 cups dried cranberries

1 garlic clove

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

¼ cup white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl toss the pear slices with the lemon juice; remove pears and reserve lemon juice for another use, if desired. In a large bowl toss together the pears, kale, Brussels sprouts and cranberries. Cover with plastic wrap and chill to up to 4 hours until ready to serve, then remove from fridge and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile in small bowl whisk together the garlic, oil, mustard, honey, vinegar and salt and pepper; let sit at least an hour, then remove garlic and toss dressing with salad. Serve at room temperature with poultry, meat or casserole.

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon

By Barbara Beltrami

From William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” Act IV, Scene IV, comes a quote: “For you there’s rosemary and rue; these keep seeming and savor all the winter long.” Rosemary is an herb that gives its best aromatic and savory gifts in the cold weather. It’s a strong herb; you need only brush it with your fingertips or sleeve to keep its pungent scent a good while after. An evergreen plant in the mint family along with thyme, basil, oregano and lavender, it has many medicinal as well as culinary uses. Try roasting a chicken and poking rosemary sprigs in the cavity or under the skin. Put rosemary leaves in a bean and cabbage soup or use it with pears in a cake. Fresh rosemary is best, but it freezes well. Grow some on your window sill and savor it all winter long.

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon

YIELD: Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS: 

One 3- to 3½-pound roasting chicken, cleaned, rinsed and dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 whole lemon, quartered

1 medium onion quartered

4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise

4 to 6 rosemary sprigs + more for garnish

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Rub cavity of chicken with salt and pepper and juice from lemon quarters; place onion quarters inside cavity. Tuck wings under neck and tie legs together; tuck garlic and rosemary sprigs under skin; rub outside of chicken with juiced lemon wedges, then smear all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast chicken until it is just done, about one hour. Remove from oven and let rest; remove from roasting pan and transfer to warm platter. Set roasting pan over medium heat on stove top; add wine to pan juices and scrape bits and pieces from bottom of pan; add water, boil liquid, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and reduced by half. Serve chicken with pan juices and roasted potatoes. 

Chick Pea and Veggie Soup with Rosemary

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

2 cups finely shredded fresh cabbage

2 cups diced zucchini

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

 Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

One 28-ounce can chick peas

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in a large heavy sauce pan or pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until garlic starts to brown and onion is transparent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and discard garlic; add rosemary, tomatoes and their juice, cabbage, zucchini, stock, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat 20 to 25 minutes, until cabbage and zucchini are tender. Add chick peas, stir and cook another 5 to 10 minutes until they are heated through. Serve hot with fried bread cubes and a spinach salad.

Pear-Rosemary Upside Down Cake

Pear-Rosemary Upside Down Cake

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

Nonstick cooking spray

4 large pears, peeled and cored

1½ cups sugar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 large eggs

1 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1½ cups flour

¾ cup stone ground yellow cornmeal

½ teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray inside and bottom of 9-inch springform pan, then wrap outside bottom and sides with heavy duty aluminum foil. In large bowl gently toss pear slices with two tablespoons of the sugar and all the rosemary; arrange pear slices in bottom of pan. In large bowl with mixer on medium speed beat eggs with remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Add oil, orange juice and zest; continue beating just until blended. Add flour, cornmeal and salt; beat on low speed until blended. Pour batter over pears in pan; bake until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1¼ hours. Cool completely in pan; run knife around edges of cake, invert cake plate over cake and turn cake plate and pan over; carefully remove ring. Serve with creme fraiche and pear brandy.

 

Traditional Apple Pie. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Election Day is next Tuesday and it brings with it political polarity the likes of which we’ve never seen until recently. Nobody seems to agree about anything anymore, and most people dare not bring up the subject of politics, lest it bring a shouting match, a détente among friends or family members or worse, the end of a formerly close relationship. Red or blue, Democrat or Republican, we are fortunate enough to have Election Day, an institution as American as, well, apple pie. In its honor I’ve decided to present three different apple pie candidates. You choose the one you think will be best.

Basic Pie Crust 

YIELD: Makes two 8- or 9-inch pie crusts.

INGREDIENTS: 

21/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup solid shortening

4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the flour and salt. With two table knives or a pastry cutter, work the shortening into the flour mixture until flour-coated particles are the size of peas. Sprinkle ice water, one tablespoon at a time, into mixture until it is completely moistened and all dry ingredients have been incorporated. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a disc; lay between two large sheets of waxed paper on a floured surface, and with a rolling pin, roll out a crust approximately 10 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer to pie plate by inverting waxed paper and peeling it off. Use any torn parts to patch irregularities in crust.

Traditional Apple Pie

Traditional Apple Pie

YIELD: Makes one 9-inch pie.

INGREDIENTS: 

Two 9-inch pie crusts, each crust rolled out to 10-12 inches

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1½ tablespoons cornstarch

7 cups pared sliced firm tart apples such as Granny Smith, Winesap or Jonathan

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter

2 to 3 tablespoons milk 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl combine sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch; add apples and toss to coat evenly with dry mixture. Letting edge drape over rim of 9-inch pie plate, line it with one crust. Heap apple mixture evenly over crust; dot with butter. Top with second crust; seal crusts by pinching edges of both crusts together and pressing them down on pie plate rim with fingers or a fork; flute edge. Cut slits in top crust, then brush with milk. Bake until crust is golden and apples are soft, about 50 to 60 minutes. If edge of crust starts to get too brown, cover with strips of aluminum foil. 

Deep Dish Apple Pie

Deep Dish Apple Pie

YIELD: Makes one pie.

INGREDIENTS: 

Nonstick cooking spray

6 cups tart, firm apples such as Granny Smith, Greening, Winesap or Jonathan

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Small pinch of salt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pie crusts for 9-inch pie, rolled out 1⁄₈ inch thick

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray sides and bottom of 10×6×2-inch baking dish. In large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients except butter. Transfer to baking dish; spread evenly. Dot with butter and top with pastry crust; with small sharp knife, make a few slits in crust, then brush with milk. Bake until crust is golden and apples are soft, about 40 minutes. 

Apple Crumb Pie

Apple Crumb Pie

YIELD: Makes one pie.

INGREDIENTS: 

Pie crust for 9-inch pie

Filling for traditional apple pie, above

½ cup unsalted butter

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup flour

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line pie plate with crust and seal edges against rim. Put apple mixture into crust. In medium bowl combine butter, sugar and flour and salt; mix until crumbly. Spread evenly over apple mixture. Bake 50 minutes, until topping starts to crisp and apples are soft.

Pumpkin Risotto

By Barbara Beltrami

Most of us think of pumpkins as the main ingredient in pies, but they’re far more versatile than you might think. I’m not talking about pumpkin martinis or lattes or dishes made with canned pumpkin puree. I’m talking about savory familiar dishes that feature fresh pumpkin instead of their usual main ingredients … dishes such as curry or risotto or even oven fries. Yes, I know it’s a lot of work to cut up a pumpkin, but the taste and texture of what you get from doing it are worth the trouble. If you really think you can’t be bothered, then wait till Halloween and use the pumpkin flesh that’s carved out of the jack-o’-lanterns.

Thai Curried Pumpkin 

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

One 1½- to 2-pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size cubes

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon red curry paste

One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

Freshly squeezed juice of one lime

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¼ cup peanut oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

To a large pot of boiling salted water add pumpkin; cook 5 to 8 minutes, until barely tender. With slotted spoon remove from water and set aside. In a blender or food processor, puree shallots, garlic and curry paste with two tablespoons water; add coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar and pulse a few times to combine with curry paste mixture. Put oil in a wok and warm over medium heat; add curry mixture and stir constantly just until it releases its fragrance, about 10 to 15 seconds. Stir in coconut milk mixture, bring to boil, add pumpkin and reduce heat to low; cook, stirring once or twice until pumpkin is very tender but not mushy, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle with basil and serve immediately with rice.

Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

One 2-pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1½ quarts chicken broth

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup minced onion

½ cup minced celery

1½ cups arborio rice

¾ cup dry white wine

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss pumpkin cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper in shallow baking pan; bake until they are tender but not mushy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat warm chicken broth and leave on low heat to simmer. In a large heavy pot or saucepan over medium heat melt butter, then reduce heat to medium, add onion and celery and, stirring frequently, cook until onion is opaque, about 5 minutes. Add rice, stir, add wine, and stir for another one and a half minutes. Add one or two ladlefuls of broth and stir frequently until broth is absorbed. Repeat procedure, always stirring frequently, until all broth has been absorbed and rice is al dente, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the baked pumpkin and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately with a sauteed leafy green vegetable.

Pumpkin Oven Fries

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

One 2- to 3-pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch sticks

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl toss all ingredients together until pumpkin is thoroughly coated. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and spread pumpkin sticks around so that there is space between them. Place in oven and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until crispy and golden brown on outside and tender on inside. Place in a serving bowl and toss with cheese. Serve hot or warm with poultry or meat and a green salad.

Rigatoni with Sausage and Cauliflower

By Barbara Beltrami

Pasta sauces are just as seasonal as other foods. Summer’s over. No more basil pestos or fresh tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants. Now it’s time for hearty sauces featuring cold weather veggies like broccoli rabe, cauliflower and winter squash paired with beans, nuts and sausage. These are not your traditional tomato-based sauces, but they are full of flavor and texture and protein. They’re the kinds of sauces you usually find only in upscale Italian restaurants and are a whole lot easier to put together than you would think, so give them a try.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Cannellini

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 large bunch broccoli rabe

½ cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

One 14-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 pound orecchiette pasta

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse and trim broccoli rabe. Remove coarse outer leaves and tough parts of stems, then chop into bite-size pieces, taking care to leave florets intact. In a large skillet over moderate heat combine oil, garlic and broccoli rabe; saute garlic and broccoli rabe until garlic is light golden. Add broth, pepper flakes and salt and pepper, partially cover and cook over moderate heat, about 5 minutes. Add beans and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until broccoli rabe is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted water, cook orecchiette according to package directions, drain and transfer to a large serving bowl, toss with broccoli rabe mixture, then sprinkle with grated cheese. Serve immediately with a dry robust white wine.

Rigatoni with Sausage and Cauliflower

Rigatoni with Sausage and Cauliflower

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 head cauliflower, washed, trimmed and separated into bite-size florets 

½ cup olive oil

1 pound Italian sweet sausage, crumbled

2 garlic cloves, minced

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

½ cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound rigatoni, cooked according to package directions

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

DIRECTIONS:

Sprinkle cauliflower with salt and steam until just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat; add sausage and cook until browned; add garlic, tomatoes with their juice, pepper flakes, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and cook until mixture is thickened and juice is evaporated. In a large pasta bowl combine sauce and pasta; toss thoroughly and sprinkle with grated cheese. Serve with a Caesar salad.

Penne with Butternut Squash, Hazelnuts and Sage

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded

1 pound penne pasta

½ pound unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

1/3 cup coarsely ground toasted hazelnuts

8 fresh sage leaves, cut into narrow strips

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place squash on a baking sheet and roast until flesh is very soft, about 45 minutes to one hour. Meanwhile put a pot of salted water on to boil; cook pasta according to package directions; set aside to keep warm. With a serrated spoon scrape out flesh from squash skin; puree in food processor with half the butter until very smooth. Add salt and pepper and stir to thoroughly work in; set aside to keep warm. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt remaining butter; continue cooking until foam subsides and butter starts to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in hazelnuts and sage strips. In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the squash puree and brown butter mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately with a spinach and mushroom salad.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

By Barbara Beltrami

I think carrots may well be one of the top unsung heroes of the American pantry. Could it be because when we were kids we were admonished to eat our carrots so we could see in the dark? Or because they were accompaniments to the peas that we had to eat or we wouldn’t get dessert? Even cookbooks don’t give much attention to carrots. OK, so they’re not one of those veggies that have come into popularity after prior obscurity. But for me, the carrots are the best part of a pot roast gravy. They’re great with fresh herbs, lemon and butter. Never mind carrot-ginger soup; try cream of carrot soup. And who doesn’t like carrot cake? They’re the golden veggie.

Carrots with Fresh Dill, Lemon and Butter

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pound fresh carrots, trimmed and peeled

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

½ stick unsalted butter

Freshly squeezed juice of half a small lemon

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS:

Cut carrots into half-inch diagonal slices; sprinkle with salt and pepper; steam until tender, but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Melt butter; in small bowl combine with lemon juice and dill. Place carrots in a serving dish and toss with butter mixture. Serve with meat, poultry or fish.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

3 cups flour

3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1½ cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs, slightly beaten

11/3 cups chopped walnuts

1½ cups shredded zucchini

2 cups pureed cooked carrots

½ pound softened cream cheese

6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Dash vanilla extract

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

DIRECTIONS:

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round layer cake pans with waxed paper, then grease with butter. In a large bowl sift dry ingredients; add oil and eggs; beat well; then stir in walnuts, zucchini and carrots. Pour into prepared pans; place on middle rack of oven and bake about half an hour, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks; when cool, transfer to cake plate and frost.

For the frosting: In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter; sift in the confectioners’ sugar and beat until thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice. Spread between layers, on sides and top of cake. Serve with coffee, tea or milk.

Cream of Carrot Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 pound carrots, cleaned and peeled

½ cup half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot melt the butter in the olive oil. Add onion, cover and cook, stirring halfway through, until onion is transparent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add broth, water and carrots, and over high heat bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes. In bowl of food processor, puree carrots in small batches, if necessary; return them to liquid, stir to combine thoroughly and transfer back to pot; stir in half-and-half and salt and pepper over low heat until mixture is just hot but not boiling; ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately with a well-chilled sauvignon blanc.

Meatball Heroes

By Barbara Beltrami

No matter who your team is, a tailgate picnic before the game heightens the anticipation and feeds the spirit. First you need to pack lots of crisp juicy apples and several kinds of munchies. You’ll want thermoses of hot tea and coffee as well as coolers of ice cold drinks. And then hefty sandwiches accompanied by cole slaw or a mixed green salad and something decadent, sweet and salty for dessert. Personally, I think nothing lends itself to that challenge like meatball heroes. Served up with some cheese-stuffed jalapenos to start and some pretzel brownies to finish, it’s a winner of a tailgate meal. 

Cheese-stuffed Jalapenos

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

¼ pound cream cheese at room temperature

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons snipped chives

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne

12 jalapeno peppers washed

3 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl thoroughly combine the cheeses, sour cream, cilantro, chives, salt and pepper and cayenne. Wearing disposable food prep gloves split the jalapenos in half lengthwise and remove seeds and ribs; rub both sides with olive oil and place in baking dish. With a table fork, press the cheese mixture into each half of the jalapenos. Bake until mixture just starts to bubble and brown and peppers are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meatball Heroes

Meatball Heroes

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick olive oil cooking spray

1½ pounds ground beef

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 large eggs

1 small onion, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup unflavored breadcrumbs

2 slices white bread, soaked in water until soggy, then torn into one-inch pieces

½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Pinch baking soda

¼ cup olive oil

1½ crusty baguettes, cut into 6 sections

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. In large bowl thoroughly combine the beef, cheese, eggs, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, bread, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Roll mixture into two-inch balls and place evenly on baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes, turning once, until both sides are brown. Meanwhile, in large saucepan heat tomatoes, baking soda and olive oil over medium heat until gently bubbling; place meatballs in tomato sauce, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, one and a half hours or until sauce is reduced and thickened; add salt and pepper to taste. Horizontally split the six sections of baguette, distribute the meatballs and sauce evenly on bottom halves, cover with top halves and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. 

Pretzel Brownies

YIELD: Makes 1 dozen large brownies.

INGREDIENTS:

2 sticks + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

¼ cup sweetened cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1¼ cups flour

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups salted pretzel sticks, broken up

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-large saucepan over low heat, melt the two sticks butter with the bittersweet chocolate, whisking occasionally until smooth. Whisk in cocoa powder; add sugar and vanilla extract; stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour until partially incorporated, then add chocolate chips and stir just until everything is thoroughly combined. Grease bottom and sides of 9×13-inch baking pan with the remaining tablespoon butter. Spread half the pretzels evenly in bottom of pan, then carefully spread batter (which will be stiff) evenly over pretzels, finally sprinkle remaining pretzels evenly over batter. Bake about 40 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.