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Carrot, Squash and Ginger Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

Last week’s column was devoted to tummy warmers and so is this week’s. What kind of a food columnist would I be if I didn’t devote at least one winter column and maybe more to hearty winter soups? Especially in this weather!

Ah, soup, glorious soup. Anyone who’s ever shivered, had numb toes and fingers and chattering teeth knows how wonderful a mug or bowl of hot soup is. There are so many to choose from, and I love them all. That’s because not only are they comforting, nourishing and savory but also because they’re one pot meals full of nutrition and appetite satisfaction.

Moreover, they just keep giving and giving if you make big vats of them and then divide them into containers for freezing. And they are oh so easy! You pretty much just throw the ingredients into a pot, cover it and simmer till done. And here’s an idea you might like. How about using one of the thicker soups as a pasta sauce? You can puree it or leave it chunky and reduce the liquid. Whatever kind of soup you make, be sure to serve it with lots of crusty bread, a mixed salad and a light red wine such as Beaujolais.

Carrot, Squash and Ginger Soup

Carrot, Squash and Ginger Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4 cups water or chicken broth

One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS: Steam the squash and carrots until very tender. In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat; add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. When slightly cooled, being careful of spattering oil, add water or chicken broth, steamed squash and carrots, ginger, salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through, about 15 minutes; remove from heat; let cool to lukewarm. In 2 or 3 batches, puree in food processor or with immersion blender until smooth. Reheat, stirring frequently, and add more liquid if too thick; sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately with stir-fried veggies and brown rice or refrigerate for later use.

Escarole and Bean Soup

Escarole and Bean Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

6 cups water or chicken broth

1 head escarole, washed and chopped

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt to taste, if using water

1/4 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: In a large pot, heat oil, add onion and over medium-high heat, cook until slightly golden; remove from heat. When slightly cooled, being careful of spattering oil, add water or chicken broth, escarole, beans, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir, return to heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until escarole is completely wilted, about 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve immediately with crusty bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil or refrigerate for later use.

Mushroom and Barley Soup

Mushroom and Barley Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 cups beef broth or stock

2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 celery ribs, thinly sliced

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 pound thinly sliced white or baby portobello mushrooms

1/3 cup barley

1/2 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large pot, combine all ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium-low heat, partially covered, until veggies and barley are tender. Note: For an even heartier soup, if desired, add approximately 1 to 2 cups small chunks of cooked beef at the beginning.

Chicken Pot Pie

By Barbara Beltrami

The holidays are history. All those sumptuous hors d’oeuvres and cookies have worked their way to postholiday residence in my body, but in these temperatures I cannot bear to even think of my annual New Year’s resolution, to subsist on rabbit food and rice cakes to reverse the damage. Baby, it’s cold outside and New Year’s resolutions be damned!

Surely my body is smarter than I am, even has a mind of its own and is telling me that it craves no-nonsense tummy warmers … simmering soups, stews and bubbling casseroles. I don’t need much convincing. Before I know it I’m standing in the kitchen chopping and stirring. By the time it is dusk and I turn on the lamps, savory aromas waft through the house.

It’s starting to snow again or maybe it’s still snowing. I sip a glass of wine and remember why I insist that I like winter when the snowbirds challenge my decision to stay here rather than move to Florida.

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 whole chicken breasts, bone in

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (for chicken breasts)

¼ cup olive oil

5 cups chicken broth

½ stick unsalted butter

1 medium-large onion, diced

2 tablespoons flour

¼ cup heavy cream

More salt and pepper, to taste (for sauce)

Two 10-ounce packages frozen peas and carrots, cooked according to package directions

Nonstick cooking spray

Four 8-inch pie crusts

2 tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Place chicken breasts skin side up in baking pan; rub with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until skin is golden and meat is cooked through. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and discard. Pull meat away from bone and dice. Set aside.

In small saucepan heat chicken broth. In medium saucepan, melt butter and cook onions over medium-low heat until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, about two minutes. Add the hot broth and, with wire whisk, stir vigorously over low heat until thickened. Whisk in cream, salt and pepper; stir in peas and carrots and chicken.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray four individual ovenproof bowls with nonstick cooking spray. Divide chicken mixture evenly among bowls. Top each bowl with rolled out pie crust; crimp edges and make a few slits in top. Brush crusts with milk, place bowls on baking sheet, then bake one hour, until crusts are golden and insides are bubbling.

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup flour

Salt and pepper, to taste

2½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium onions, cut into wedges

1 cup dry red wine

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

10 cups beef broth or stock

1½ pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice

½ cup chopped Italian parsley

1 bay leaf

DIRECTIONS: Combine the flour, salt and pepper; dredge the beef cubes in the mixture. In large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil, then cook the meat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned. Remove and set aside.

Melt the butter in the same pot, add the onions and cook over medium heat, until pale gold. Pour wine in pot and over medium heat with spatula scrape and loosen any bits from bottom of pot. Add garlic, tomato paste, beef and broth to pot; stir and bring to a simmer, cover and continue to simmer one and a half hours, until beef is tender. Add potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, parsley and bay leaf and simmer one more hour, until vegetables are tender. If necessary, add water or more broth during cooking. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms

By Barbara Beltrami

Doesn’t polenta, simply a mixture of corn meal and liquid, sound so much better than corn mush or grits? Actually, they’re all the same thing. While the mush or grits may be just as delicious, their names still suggest a bowl of well, glop; polenta, on the other hand, sounds as if it could be an operatic aria, an Italian race car or expensive designer label. At the very least, it suggests interesting savory continental fare.

A staple in northern Italy, polenta is to that region what pasta is to southern Italy and it’s just as simple to cook. You basically combine water, broth or milk with a five-to-one ratio of liquid to cornmeal, stir it and let it absorb enough water to make it tender, and then serve it up with pretty much anything you would serve with pasta, potatoes or rice. It is particularly good with any dish that has lots of sauce or gravy that it can soak up.

Some people like polenta loose and creamy like porridge or mashed potatoes for a hearty accompaniment or main dish; others like it drier and firmer so it can be sliced, then grilled, toasted or baked. The firmer one makes a terrific base for anything from breakfast to canapés. Have leftovers? Even if originally creamy and loose, polenta will become firm when refrigerated. To make it creamy again, just add some liquid when you reheat it.

Basic Polenta

Basic Polenta

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

5 cups water, milk or chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup medium cornmeal

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: Pour the liquid into a large sturdy saucepan over high heat; whisk in cornmeal. Stirring frequently with a long wooden spoon, bring mixture to a boil. Continue cooking and frequently stirring until it begins to pop or spit; reduce heat to low and stir and scrape bottom of pan to keep it from sticking or scorching. When it is thickened and starts to pull away from pan, about 45 minutes, it is done. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in olive oil or butter. Serve immediately with sauce, gravy or grated cheese or transfer to bowl or container, cover and chill until set. When ready to serve, cut into pieces; toast or grill; then add any canapé topping or spread you desire.

Creamy Polenta with Three Cheeses

Creamy Polenta with Three Cheeses

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups milk

2 cups water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1⁄₃ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1⁄₃ cup shredded fontina cheese

1⁄₃ cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: Prepare basic polenta (above) according to instructions but use 3 cups milk and 2 cups water. When polenta is done, remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheeses while it is hot enough to melt them. Serve immediately with pot roast, stew, chili, tomato sauce or on its own with a crunchy green salad.

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms

 

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 recipe for basic polenta, chilled and cut into 2-inch by 2-inch squares, toasted or grilled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

¼ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

12 ounces fresh baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons dry white wine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Melt butter with olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and parsley and cook until onion is opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms. garlic, wine, and sage and cook, stirring a few times, over medium low heat until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, salt and pepper, stir, and remove from heat. Spoon over toasted polenta squares and serve hot or warm with wine or cocktails.

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

By Barbara Beltrami

Phew! Here it is Christmas Eve. Shopping done, presents wrapped, cookies baked, cards addressed and mailed (or not). And tomorrow is Christmas morning. Let’s see. OK, checklist: The kids put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer and they have to get eaten; we’ve made sure the chimney is clear for Santa; better peek in and be sure the kids are finally asleep and dreaming of sugar plums, then put presents under the tree; and finally make strata for Christmas breakfast and put it in the refrigerator.

Strata? What’s that? It’s a wonderful eggy casserole-type dish with bread and whatever else you want to add — ham, cheese, bacon, sausage, cheese, onion, mushroom, spinach, broccoli, tomato, green pepper, fruit — whatever you’d put in an omelet or frittata or anything that strikes your fancy. It’s assembled ahead of time so the bread can soak up all the eggy liquid, then refrigerated and the next morning popped into the oven to bake while you sit and watch the kids open their presents.

Tip: It tastes best if you eat it while you’re in your pajamas.

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

Strata with Spinach, Bacon, Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon butter

1 pound ready-to-eat crescent rolls, torn into chunks

12 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 pound crispy bacon, crumbled

1 pound fresh spinach, cooked and squeezed dry

½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced thin

¾ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS: Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with butter. Place half the crescent roll pieces evenly on bottom. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Pour half the egg mixture over the crescent pieces. Let sit about 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Evenly distribute bacon, spinach, mushrooms and Gruyere in separate layers over soaked crescents. Top with remaining crescent pieces, then pour remaining liquid over them. Press down to ensure that all pieces are immersed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove plastic wrap. Bake strata for 45 minutes to one hour, until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with hot coffee, tea or cocoa and a fruit salad.

Strata with Sausage, Eggs and Cheddar Cheese

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

12 one-inch-thick slices of rustic white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

½ cup cooked crumbled sausage meat

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

12 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

DIRECTIONS: Combine the bread, sausage and cheese and pour into a greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, half-and-half and mustard; pour over bread mixture and press bread down to be sure all cubes are immersed in liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F, remove plastic wrap and place strata in oven. Bake for one hour, until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve hot or warm.

Strata with Pears, Raisins and Pecans

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One 1-pound loaf cinnamon raisin bread, cubed

1½ cups diced, pared and cored pears

1 cup raisins

²⁄₃ cup coarsely chopped pecans

10 large eggs

2½ cups half-and-half

4 tablespoons melted butter

1⁄₃ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Combine bread, pears, raisins and pecans; pour into a 9- by 13-inch greased baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Pour over bread mixture and press top to make sure all bread pieces are immersed in liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 325 F. Remove plastic wrap; bake strata 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and top is golden. Serve hot or warm with bacon, or sausage, maple syrup and hot coffee, tea or cocoa.

Russian Tea Cakes

By Barbara Beltrami

For me, a highlight of the winter holiday season is the annual cookie exchange hosted by my wonderful neighbor who gathers a bunch of her friends, neighbors and relatives to bake and share holiday cheer. Everyone brings her favorite cookies, deposits them on the dining room table and stashes an empty container somewhere to collect the assortment of cookies from other ovens later. Then we always gravitate to the kitchen to meet and greet, chatter, munch and sip.

As the evening winds down and the anticipation builds up, we adjourn to the dining room and line up with our containers to ogle the assortment of cookies on the table and select a few from each platter.

And what an assortment it is! Spread before us is each woman’s childhood favorite, treasured heirloom family recipe and often her ethnic root ID. Greek kourabiedes, German spritz, Scottish shortbread, English mincemeat tarts, French sables, Mexican biscochitos, Russian tea cakes, Italian biscotti regina, Finnish Finska kakor and Israeli sufganiyot are but a few of the ethnic cookies that over the years have rendered the assemblage of goodies a veritable United Nations.

As I’ve researched recipes for this wonderful but daunting list of ethnic holiday cookies, I’ve discovered that with few exceptions, every cookie, no matter its origins, calls for virtually the same ingredients: butter, flour, sugar and eggs and is really just a variation of another culture’s recipe. Give each of them a different shape and name and you’ll still have pretty much the same delicious cookie! Wouldn’t it be nice if the world could take a lesson from its cookies?

German Spritz Cookies

German Spritz Cookies

YIELD: Makes about 6 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup butter, softened

²⁄₃ cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2½ cups flour

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl mix butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla thoroughly. Gradually work in flour. Divide dough into quarters; fill cookie press with one quarter at a time and force dough onto ungreased cookie sheet in desired shapes. Sprinkle with colored sugar and bake for 7 to 10 minutes until set but not brown. Serve with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, ice cream, fruit punch, eggnog or any liqueur.

Finska Kakor

Finska Kakor

YIELD: Makes about 4 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup butter, softened

¼ cup sugar

¾ teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour

Dash of salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

½ cup finely chopped almonds

DIRECTIONS: In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, the quarter cup sugar and extract. Sift together the flour and salt and, working it in with your hands, gradually add to mixture. Chill for one to two hours. Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut into 3-inch by 1-inch strips. Brush lightly with beaten egg white, then sprinkle with mixture of remaining sugar and almonds. Carefully transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 18 minutes or until pale golden. Very gently remove to cooling rack until room temperature and crispy. Serve with coffee, tea, eggnog, milk, hot chocolate or amaretto liqueur.

Russian Tea Cakes

Russian Tea Cakes

YIELD: Makes about 4 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS:

2 sticks butter, softened

½ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2¼ cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

¾ cup finely chopped nuts

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl cream together the butter, the half cup of confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Sift together flour and salt and along with nuts, stir into butter mixture. Chill for 1 to 2 hours. Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and, while still warm, roll cookie in the remaining cup confectioners’ sugar. Then when cool, roll in the sugar again. Serve with coffee, tea, hot cocoa, milk, fruit punch, eggnog or any liqueur.

Zucchini and Carrot Latkes

By Barbara Beltrami

You don’t have to be Jewish to love latkes — those crispy pancakes or fritters made most often from grated potatoes and fried in oil to symbolize the cleansing and rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after it was defiled by the Syrians some 21 centuries ago. The Maccabees had only enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but miraculously it lasted for eight days.

Aside from this tradition, here’s the thing you must remember about latkes: They must be thin and crisp. In order to achieve that you must first coarsely grate the potatoes and any other vegetables in the recipe, then squeeze those grated veggies as dry as possible and discard the liquid that accumulates. You can add a little flour or matzo meal to the mixture, but that’s optional. A thin coating of oil in the skillet is sufficient for frying them.

While potatoes are by far the most traditional and popular ingredient, nowadays other vegetables such as sweet potatoes and zucchini have made their way into the customary Hanukkah fare. Follow the preparation procedure faithfully and create your own latkes. And you’d better make a lot, because they go fast before they even make it to the table!

Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes

YIELD: Makes 2 dozen pancakes

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and placed in cold water

1 medium onion

1 large egg, beaten

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Using a hand grater or food processor, coarsely grate the potatoes and onion. Place in a fine mesh strainer or clean tea towel and hold over a bowl while you squeeze out all the liquid. (The potato starch will settle to the bottom of the bowl; reserve that after you have very carefully poured off all the water.) In a large bowl mix the potato and onion with the starch; add the egg, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly to combine.

Place a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat, pour in a thin film of vegetable oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Scoop about two tablespoons of the potato mixture with your hand or a large cooking spoon, flatten as much as possible, then drop gently onto griddle or into skillet. (Be careful as oil may spatter.) Flatten again with a spatula or the back of the spoon. Continue until griddle is filled but pancakes are not touching each other. Fry until golden, flip and fry the other side. Remove and place on a thick layer of paper towels, then press more paper towels on top of the pancakes to soak up excess oil. Serve immediately or reheat in a 350 F oven. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

Zucchini-Carrot Latkes

Zucchini and Carrot Latkes

YIELD: Makes 2 dozen pancakes

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds zucchini, coarsely grated ½ pound potatoes, coarsely grated

2 large carrots, coarsely grated

1 medium onion, coarsely grated

²⁄₃ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

²⁄₃ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1⁄₃ cup flour

2 eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 garlic clove, finely minced

Vegetable or peanut oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Drain, press and squeeze the grated vegetables to remove as much moisture as possible. Place in a medium bowl and add the cheese, parsley, flour, eggs, salt and pepper and garlic and mix thoroughly. In a large skillet, heat about ¼-inch of oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan). Using a large cooking spoon or your hands, scoop mixture and shape into patties; drop gently into hot oil and press with back of spoon to flatten. Over medium-high heat, fry, turning once, until both sides are crispy and golden brown. Drain on several layers of paper towels and press more paper towels on top. Serve with tomato sauce or sour cream.

Sweet Potato-Apple Latkes

Sweet Potato-Apple Latkes

YIELD: Makes 16 pancakes

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and grated

1 apple, peeled, cored and grated

½ cup flour

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 2 large eggs, beaten

Approximately ½ cup milk

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS: Coarsely grate the sweet potatoes and apple over a medium bowl. Drain, press and squeeze to eliminate as much moisture as possible. In another medium bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Add the eggs and milk, a few tablespoons at a time, until the batter is stiff and moist but not runny. Add potatoes and apple and mix. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a skillet just to the point of barely smoking. Gently drop the batter in two-tablespoon measures and flatten with the back of the spoon. Fry, turning once, until both sides are golden, about 3 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels and pat tops with more paper towels. Serve hot with applesauce, maple syrup, honey or cranberry sauce.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Wasabi Mayonnaise

By Barbara Beltrami

What ever happened to the hors d’oeuvres that used to be a staple at every cocktail party? Thank goodness, pigs in a blanket, regarded by professional caterers as the consistently most popular hors d’oeuvre at any party, have survived the hors d’oeuvres revolution.

But what about sweet and sour meatballs? Scallops wrapped in bacon? They’ve been usurped and driven out of town by the ubiquitous smoked salmon and caviar or fig and goat cheese canapés, bruschette and crostini, spring rolls and sun-dried tomatoes, quiches and crudites, lamb lollipops and wonton wrapped and phyllo-filled delicacies that practically come with pedigrees.

I’m as guilty as the next person in serving and scarfing down these precious concoctions. But if I put them on a tray next to their popular predecessors, guess which would be gobbled up first. If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people who still serve any of those once so popular and delicious dinner precursors, good for you! And please invite me to your next party because frankly, I’m getting tired of their replacements. And while you’re at it, don’t forget the sour cream and onion dip.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

YIELD: Makes 16 servings

INGREDIENTS: 2 pounds ground beef

½ cup bread crumbs

1 onion, minced

Half a green bell pepper, minced

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1½ cups jellied cranberry sauce

12 ounces ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl combine the beef, bread crumbs, onion, green bell pepper, egg, salt and pepper and parsley; mix thoroughly. Roll mixture into balls about the size of a walnut and place in a large baking dish. Bake in 375 F oven for 25 minutes or until brown on top; turn meatballs and bake another 10 to 15 minutes to brown other side.

Meanwhile in a large pot combine the cranberry sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and hot red pepper flakes. Mix thoroughly; taste to adjust flavor and add more sugar, soy sauce or vinegar, if desired. Heat, stirring frequently, over medium low flame. Keep at a simmer. When meatballs are cooked, remove them from oven and gently add them along with any juice or fat in the pan to the sauce. Stir and continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve hot with pineapple chunks, rice, toasted Italian or French bread slices, sweet pickles or cheese cubes.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Wasabi Mayonnaise

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Wasabi Mayonnaise

YIELD: Makes 24 pieces

INGREDIENTS:

Toothpicks

½ cup teriyaki sauce

¹⁄₃ cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, crushed

12 large sea scallops, rinsed, patted dry and halved horizontally

12 slices of bacon, cut in half crosswise

DIRECTIONS: Soak toothpicks in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, whisk together the teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, ginger root, lemon juice and garlic. Carefully wrap bacon around perimeter of each scallop half; secure with toothpick. Remove crushed garlic from teriyaki mixture; brush each bacon-wrapped scallop with teriyaki mixture and place in foil-lined baking pan. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes until golden brown on top side; turn and bake another 4 to 5 minutes until second side is golden brown. Serve hot with wasabi mayonnaise.

Wasabi Mayonnaise: Whisk together one cup good-quality mayonnaise, one tablespoon soy sauce, two teaspoons sugar, two teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, one or two teaspoons wasabi paste (depending on how hot you like it). Serve in small bowl.

Moss Ball

Moss Ball

YIELD: Makes a one-pound ball

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces cream cheese

½ pound blue, Roquefort or Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

¼ pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 small onion, minced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: Place all cheeses in mixer bowl and let sit at room temperature until softened. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add onion and Worcestershire sauce and beat well. Roll into ball, wrap and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. In small bowl, mix the nuts, parsley and black pepper. Spread on sheets of wax paper or on a large baking sheet. Roll cheese ball in nut and parsley mixture until well coated and nuts and parsley are all used up; press any straggling pieces into the ball. Cover again and chill until firm, about 2 hours. Serves with crackers.

Cranberry Chutney

By Barbara Beltrami

Once Thanksgiving is over and the turkey is just a carcass in a soup pot, and the fixings are just unidentifiable messes in plastic containers, there is still a whole month and beyond in which to take advantage of fresh cranberries, those little ruby-red gems that are in seasonal abundance. Rich in vitamin C, cranberries are not just a life-support system for a sauce. They make a fabulous pie, a delicious chutney and a moist and dense tea loaf — all perfect for holiday entertaining. And …. the tea loaf is an excellent gift from your kitchen as well.

No time to cook now? Buy them anyway and freeze them for the next occasion when you need something special. (They can be frozen for up to a year.) When you scavenge around and find them in the frosty recesses of your freezer right behind the turkey soup that was rejected in favor of a pizza, you’ll be happy to have stashed such a treasure.

Cranberry Walnut Pie

Cranberry Walnut Pie

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie

3 cups cranberries, halved

½ cup walnuts, finely chopped

1 cup raisins

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

Dash salt

Half a stick of unsalted butter, cut into six pieces

DIRECTIONS: Line a 9-inch pie dish with one pastry crust. In a medium bowl mix together the cranberries, walnuts raisins, sugar, flour and salt and turn into pastry-lined dish and dot evenly with butter. Cut remaining pastry crust into ¾-inch-wide strips and make a lattice across the top of the cranberry mixture. Bake at 425 F for 40 to 50 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or rum raisin ice cream or whipped cream.

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Chutney

YIELD: Makes 4 to 5 cups

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup brown sugar

3 cups fresh whole cranberries

3 fresh pears, peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup drained canned pineapple chunks

1 cup dried figs, chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

½ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon peeled chopped fresh ginger root

1 tablespoon prepared grainy mustard

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

2 cinnamon sticks

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS: In a large saucepan, heat vinegar and sugar to boiling point. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes; add cranberries, pears, pineapple, figs, onion, orange juice, ginger, mustard, orange rind, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Continue to simmer half an hour, until cranberries burst their skins and mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve warm or at room temperature with pork, ham, fowl, game or any soft cheese.

Cranberry-Citrus Tea Loaf

YIELD: Makes one 9- × 5- × 3-inch loaf

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 egg, well beaten

½ cup grapefruit or orange juice

2 tablespoons vegetable, canola or sunflower oil

¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur

1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

½ cup chopped fresh pecans

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon orange extract

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9- × 5- × 3-inch loaf pan. Sift together the dry ingredients, then add the egg, juice, oil and liqueur. Stir to combine. Add cranberries, nuts, zest and extracts; mix thoroughly but do not overmix. Spread batter evenly in prepared loaf pan. Bake 50 minutes to one hour, until cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool 15 to 20 minutes; remove from pan when ready to serve. Serve with hot tea, coffee or chocolate with butter, orange sorbet, butter pecan or vanilla ice cr

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

By Barbara Beltrami

This year we’re spending Thanksgiving at the home of friends … friends whom we think of as family, and we’ve been asked to bring a dish we remember from the Thanksgivings of our childhood.

I’ve been delving deep into my memories of those days. I do remember that while the turkey was in the oven we always went to the local high school football game where I spent the time enviously ogling the cheerleaders and their oh-so-grown-up hairdos and outfits. Later, after glasses of claret for the women and Rob Roys for the men, we would cluster around Uncle Bob as he carved the turkey with his new-fangled electric knife, surreptitiously snatch pieces of the skin that fell away and vehemently blame each other when we got caught.

Nothing varied from year to year; the menu was ironclad and to stray from it with any innovation was considered sacrilege. And so, with the “bird” and its giblet gravy, we had yams baked in their skins, mashed potatoes, stuffing laced with crispy onions, cauliflower, string beans, creamed onions and sliced cranberry sauce straight from the can. No pies except apple and pumpkin were dessert worthy, although I do seem to remember somehow pecan pie miraculously crashed the party and joined them at some point.

Years later when I married and had my own family, I began my own set of menu traditions that in some cases were spin-offs of a few of the ones I had grown up with. What follows are ones that have become my own customs and rituals over these many years. That’s one of the great things about Thanksgiving; it is made of traditions and memories and, no matter what they are, they’re yours.

Herbed Cornbread Stuffing

Herbed Cornbread Stuffing

YIELD: Makes stuffing for a 20- to 24-lb turkey

DIRECTIONS:

Two 16-ounce packages prepared herbed cornbread stuffing mix

5 to 6 cups hot broth

½ pound unsalted butter, melted

¹/3 cup olive oil

3 medium onions, diced

3 celery ribs, cut into half-inch slices

Two 14-ounce cans peeled and cooked chestnuts, drained and diced

4 Granny Smith apples, pared, cored and diced

2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a very large bowl combine the stuffing mix with the broth and butter according to package directions. In a large skillet heat the oil for 30 to 45 seconds. Add the onions all at once and stirring frequently and cook over medium high heat until they are brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from skillet and add to stuffing mix.

Lower the heat to medium low and in same skillet sauté celery and apples until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from skillet and add to stuffing mix, along with diced chestnuts. Add parsley, sage, thyme, salt and pepper (taste first because mixture may already be salty enough).

Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use. Before placing inside turkey, be sure that it is approximately the same temperature as stuffing. Serve with turkey and all the fixings on Thanksgiving Day and the next day with turkey and cranberry sauce in a sandwich.

Really Sweet Sweet Potatoes

Really Sweet Sweet Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS:

5 large yams or sweet potatoes, pared and cut into 3- to 4-inch slices

1 cup orange juice

½ cup maple syrup or honey

1 cup brown sugar

1 partially frozen stick butter, diced

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Place sweet potato slices in a greased large baking pan. Drizzle orange juice and syrup over them, sprinkle brown sugar on top and then dot with pieces of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and tops are crispy. Serve with turkey and all the fixings.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted brussel sprouts

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups golden raisins

2 cups apple juice or cider

3 pounds Brussels sprouts

Salt, to taste

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a baking pan large enough to easily hold the Brussels sprouts. In a medium bowl, combine the raisins and the apple juice and let them soak until plump. Place Brussels sprouts in a steamer and sprinkle with salt, then steam them 5 to 6 minutes, until bright green but not cooked through. Drain the raisins, reserve liquid for another use or discard.

In a large bowl combine the Brussels sprouts, raisins, olive oil, rosemary and black pepper. Toss to coat evenly, then place in baking pan. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are tender in center and turning golden on outside. In a small pan or microwave, heat the balsamic vinegar; place the sprouts in serving bowl and drizzle the vinegar over them. Serve hot or warm with turkey and all the fixings.

Lentil Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

Lentils may not be the most attractive foods when cooked, but they do pack a powerful nutritional and delicious wallop. Low in fat and high in protein and fiber, they are a staple of many Asian cuisines.

When I looked them up in my old cookbooks, they often were absent. However, in my newer and more recent cookbooks, they occupy a whole column in the indexes, a gift of the many immigrants and ethnicities that have become a part of our American culture.

I would venture to say that lentils are one of the go-to elements for ethnic as well as vegetarian recipes and are an ideal addition to anyone’s pantry for a quick-cooking, tasty and nourishing dish that welcomes and complements other flavors. From the familiar greenish-tan ones to tiny green Puy lentils to red (actually salmon pink) lentils, with many other varieties along the spectrum, their mild earthy flavor has captured many a palate.

Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs

Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup green Puy or black beluga lentils, rinsed

2 teaspoons salt

1 large garlic clove, minced

12 ounces fresh tomatoes, chopped

²/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 handful fresh dill, chopped

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Fill a large saucepan with one quart cold water; add lentils, garlic and two teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss hot lentils with tomatoes, scallions, dill, oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or warm with lamb or chicken and tossed green salad.

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups lentils

9 cups cold water

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 large onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, sliced thin

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons wine vinegar

Juice of one lemon

DIRECTIONS: Place lentils in a large pot and cover with the 9 cups water; add salt and pepper, onion, celery, carrot, thyme, bay leaf and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer 45 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaf and discard. Scoop out 2 to 3 cups of the lentil and vegetable mixture and puree in a food processor. Return puree to remaining soup, stir and bring back to a boil. Stir in vinegar, a tablespoon at a time, until just a hint of its flavor is evident. Serve hot with cucumber salad and hearty bread.

Red Lentil Curry

Red Lentil Curry

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder

2 cups diced carrots

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 cup red lentils

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 handful fresh chives, chopped or sliced

DIRECTIONS: In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic and scallions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, carrots, sweet potato, lentils, broth and salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, then simmer until lentils and veggies are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with chives. Serve hot with naan bread and rice.

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