a mincemeat pie to beat the cold

this weekend was cold, and felt especially so compared to the mild winter we’ve had so far. since i had already had my fill of christmas cookies and stollen, i started thinking about other winter treats i hadn’t eaten in a while. i decided to try a treat that was a staple of medieval winter cuisine and has stood the test of time: mincemeat pie. traceable back to the 13th century, when european crusaders were influenced by middle eastern cuisine that often combined sweet and savory ingredients, mincemeat pies traditionally contained meat, fruits, and spices. in slightly more modern times it proved a useful winter staple as the filling could be prepared in advance and sealed in jars for use during the cold months when most foods were in short supply. although meat has been weaned from the recipe in the last several centuries, it remains a rich and complex pie that i loved as a child.

having now baked one myself, i can tell you it is just as delicious as i remembered, and i think it will become a winter tradition in my kitchen. although the ingredients require 3 hours of cooking, the actually preparation of the whole pie is very simple. it’s the perfect thing to bake on a day when it’s too cold to go outside. once you have prepared the ingredients, you can leave them simmering on the stove while you attend to neglected to-do lists or watch a good movie, only stopping by occasionally to stir your filling. by the end of the day you will be warm and fulfilled with this sweet and spiced pie that i guarantee will keep the frost at bay.

the recipe i decided to use is from the baking companion to the ever-reliable best recipe cookbook, baking illustrated. i just know that when i try one of their recipes for the first time it’s going to be a success. that said, i did make a few changes of my own, which i have noted in italics in the recipe.

the ingredients, ready to go

modern mincemeat pie

serves 10-12

filling

6 large apples, a combination of crisp, tart, sweet, and soft varieties, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup currants

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

grated zest and juice from 1 orange

grated zest and juice from 1 lemon

1/4 cup diced candied orange peel

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

1 1/2 cups apple cider, plus more as needed

1/3 cup rum or brandy

dough

2 1/2 cups flour (i use half spelt and half wheat flour)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

6-8 tablespoons ice water

1 beaten egg for glazing the pie dough

1 tablespoon demerara sugar (or any sugar you have on hand) for garnishing the crust

1. preheat the oven to 400°f.

2. place all the filling ingredients except 1/2 cup of the cider and the rum in a large, heavy saucepan set over medium-low heat. bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer gently. stir occasionally to prevent burning, until the mixture thickens and darkens in color, about 3 hours, adding more cider if necessary to prevent burning. at this point, the filling should have a jam-like consistency. then stir in the remaining 1/2 cup apple cider and the rum and cook until the liquid is thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. cool the mixture to room temperature or refrigerate up to several days.

mincemeat filling, after 3 hours of simmering

3. while the mincemeat is cooking, prepare the dough. place the flour, spices, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until well combined. sprinkle in the vegetable shortening, and pulse for about 10 1-second pulses. sprinkle in the butter and pulse for another 10 1-second pulses, or until the mixture resembles course sand with pieces of butter no larger than a pea. turn the mixture out into a metal bowl and sprinkle with 6 tablespoons of ice water. using a spatula, fold and press the dough together, gradually adding more ice water if needed to make the dough cohere. divide the dough into 2 discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

3. when the mincemeat is cooled and the dough is chilled, roll out the first of the discs of dough, on a well-floured surface, to a 12-inch circle. transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate. then roll out the second piece of dough to a 12-inch circle. spoon the mincemeat into the pie shell. place the second piece of dough over the filling. trim the edges of the top and bottom dough layers to 1/2 inch beyond the lip of the pan. tuck the rim of dough under itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. flute the edges or press with fork tines to seal. cut a few slits into the top of the dough (any design you like; this is just to let excess steam escape). brush the top crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.

4. bake the pie on the middle rack until the crust is light golden brown, 25 minutes. rotate the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 350°f. continue to bake until the juices bubble and the crust is deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. the bottom crust should also be golden (easy to see if you use a glass pie dish).

5. transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before serving. garnish with whipped cream.

starting the new year right

the last few weeks of december were a whirlwind of cooking and eating, and i enjoyed every minute! one of my sisters and i started baking the thursday before christmas, and the result was double batches of gingerbread and cardamom rolled cookies, kourabiedes, and walnut wimpy balls. we also made 6 marzipan stollens, which have become a family favorite thanks to the ny times, and a batch of homemade eggnog. the time spent with her and my parents as we baked, decorated, and ate was the best vacation i could ask for. most of the best times with my family happen in the kitchen, and this holiday was no different.

but, you can’t consume sugar 24/7 without craving something savory. so my husband made a trip to little italy on christmas eve and came back with the most delicious fresh lasagna sheets from piemonte ravioli and fresh ricotta from da alleva. and in the meantime i roasted some sliced eggplant and zucchini, sauteed some mixed mushrooms, and cooked up a batch of our favorite mario batali marinara.  we then assembled 3 lasagnas, because when you have double batches of all your desserts, you can’t skimp on the main course!

after a few more days of eating and hanging out, my husband and i headed to naples, fl to visit his parents. in contrast to the cold spells we experienced on previous visits, we had nothing but sun and warmth this time around. my days on the beach were only interrupted by the search for delicious seafood, which we found at kelly’s fish house, riverwalk cafe, and truluck’s. we also managed to track down some delicious local oranges and grapefruits, which are now in peak season.

but by the time we got home on new year’s eve, both my husband and i felt like our bodies were ready for a change of pace. luckily i had made a surprise reservation for new year’s day at pure food and wine here in new york city. pure food and wine is a raw and vegan restaurant, so it was definitely a departure from our usual dining experiences. some of the dishes require that you ignore previous conceptions of standard items such as tacos or polenta, but i found everything i tasted to be incredibly refreshing and full of flavor. when you are cooking with only raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts it is important that the products are of very high quality. the difference came through on every dish, and unfortunately the prices as well.

then, on wednesday, we took our new year’s health kick to a the next level with a 3-day juice cleanse from blueprint cleanse. with the goal of relieving any residual holiday stress on our digestive organs, we consumed juiced greens, apples, beets, carrots, ginger, lemon, pineapple, mint, and cashews for 3 days. having done this before, and struggled through the last day, i was happy that this time felt much easier. my body felt light and healthy starting on the second day and i was sad to come to the end yesterday. that said, it is my goal this year to eat more vegetables and to eat lighter in general, so hopefully the healthy feeling will continue.

happy new year to all my readers! i look forward to blogging with you in 2012.

walnut wimpy balls

growing up, december was a magical month filled with preparation and anticipation for christmas. once the tree was decorated, the house was decked out in pine boughs and christmas lights, and the carols were playing on the radio, we could turn our attention to the food. more specifically, the cookies. standard on the list were decorated gingerbread and sugar cookies, gingersnaps, kourabiedes, and walnut wimpy balls. but while these are all delicious, wimpy balls hold a special place in our hearts.

these cookies, inspired by a recipe found in yankee magazine years ago, and tinkered with for years after that, will melt in your mouth. the icing, straight from my great-grandmother’s kitchen, is a burst of deep, thick chocolate. when smooshed together, these sandwiches will have you hooked at the first bite. just don’t forget to handle the cookies gently while you are assembling the finished product. they can crumble if pressed too hard, and then you’ll have to eat the ones you break!

walnut wimpy balls

(makes 50 bite-sized cookies)

cookies

2 cups whole walnuts

2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups flour

chocolate icing

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. preheat oven to 350°f.

2. in a food processor, grind walnuts with 2 tbsp of confectioner’s sugar until finely ground. set aside.

3. in an electric mixer, cream butter and remaining sugar until pale and fluffy. beat in the vanilla. then add flour and 3/4 cup of the ground walnuts and mix well.

4. roll balls of dough, about the diameter of a nickel, and bake on cookie sheets covered with non-greased parchment paper at 350°F for 10-12 minutes, until just barely golden. cool on a rack.

5. while the cookies are baking and cooling, prepare the chocolate icing. first add all ingredients together in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. then stir until chocolate is melted and all ingredients are fully combined. set aside.

6. when the cookies are cool, sandwich the flat sides together using 1/2 teaspoon chocolate icing. roll the sides in the remaining ground walnuts.

what’s your favorite holiday cookie? and do you want some new ideas?…

What’s Gaby Cooking: Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cookies

And Love It Too: Snowball Cookies (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free and Vegan)

Taste With The Eyes: Olive Oil Oatmeal Cookies

Jones Is Hungry: A Cookie for Chocolate Lovers

From My Corner of Saratoga: Gooey Butter Cookies

The Sensitive Epicure: Speculaas Dutch Windmill Cookies

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Salted Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Fudge

Virtually Homemade: Chocolate Mint Snowballs

Sweet Life Bake: Polvorones de Chocolate

Daily*Dishin: Cherry Topped Cream-Drop Cookies

FN Dish: Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies

Thursday Night Dinner: Peppermint Bark Cookies

Dishin and Dishes: Pecan Sandie Thumbprints With Cherry Frosting

Mooshu Jenne: Biscotti

Cooking With Elise: Sweet and Salty White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies

spiced stuffed winter squash

although the weather around new york city can’t seem to decide what month we’re in, the produce in the markets these days makes sure you know it’s winter. how can you tell? by the piles of colorful winter squash! winter squash is the food network’s fall fest ingredient of the week, and i happen to love it. let me pause at this point to mention that the term winter squash refers to a wide variety of squashes such as acorn, spaghetti, kuri, kabocha, buttercup, delicata, butternut, and hokkaido. they come in reds, oranges, yellows, and greens. when cooked, some are soft and taste like a mix between pumpkin and sweet potato. others come out with a mild savory flavor and a texture like spaghetti–bet you can’t guess which one that is! but the point is that winter squash is a very versatile ingredient, and all of them lend themselves to being stuffed with delicious ingredients.

this week i was in the mood for something a little spicy, so i returned to a previous success i had in the kitchen with my turkey chorizo, taken from rick bayless’s authentic mexican. i was also trying to work my way through some of the grains in my pantry, so i added some pearl barley. finally, kale joined the mix to add color and excellent health benefits. what’s great about this dish is that with a little advance preparation the night before, you can make the stuffing while the squash is cooking, and be ready to stuff it by the time it’s done. not only does this recipe look beautiful at the table, but it also has a wonderful combination of sweet and spicy flavors to add a little zing to your winter dinner!

pearl barley

spiced stuffed winter squash

1 4-lb kabocha squash (or equal quantity of your favorite winter squash such as delicata or butternut)

1 bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into thin ribbons (red or green kale would work as well)

1 medium onion, thinly sliced into half-moons

1 cup pearl barley (soaked for 8 hours or overnight in cold water)

1 lb ground turkey

2 medium dried ancho chiles

2 medium dried pasilla chiles

1/4 tsp whole coriander seeds

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp whole cloves

3/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp sweet paprika

1 tsp salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

4 tbsp olive oil

1. prepare the turkey chorizo the day before to allow the meat time to marinate in the seasoning.

  • Seed and de-vein the dried chiles, then heat a pan over medium-high heat and cook the chiles by pressing them flat in the pan until they begin to color and blister. remove and allow to cool until crumbly, then tear into small bits.
  • in a spice grinder combine the chiles, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, and peppercorns. grind until as smooth as possible. sift into a large metal bowl. the add the nutmeg, ginger, paprika, salt, garlic, and vinegar.
  • add the ground turkey and stir until well combined. allow to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

2. the next day, preheat the oven to 350°f.

3. cut a hole in the top of the kabocha squash in a 2-inch radius around the stem. (if you’re using an oblong squash such as a delicata or butternut, simply cut the squash in half lengthwise.) remove all the seeds and scrape out the strings from the inside of the squash.

4. roast the squash, open side down, on a lightly oiled baking sheet for approximately 1 hour, or until it’s soft all the way through. remove and set aside.

4. while the squash is cooking, bring the pearl barley and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. reduce heat and simmer until al dente, about 8 minutes. drain and set aside.

5. heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. brown the seasoned turkey, stirring occasionally to expose all the turkey to the heat, about 10 minutes. remove from the pot and set aside.

5. add another 2 tbsp olive oil to the pot. then add the onion and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. add the kale and cook until slightly wilted, about 8 minutes. remove from the heat.

6. thoroughly combine the barley, chorizo, and kale mixture in a large bowl. then spoon the mixture into the squash, pressing with the back of a large spoon to make sure the stuffing is densely packed.

7. return the stuffed squash to the oven for about 15 minutes, or until heated through. serve in slices if using a kabocha-shaped squash or in halves if using an oblong squash.

For more ways to try all the different kinds of winter squash, check out:

And Love It Too: Warm Winter Chili

Bay Area Foodie: Delicata Squash Soup

The Sensitive Epicure: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Cooking Channel: Kabocha Squash Pasta

What’s Gaby Cooking: Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Thursday Night Dinner: Butternut Squash Gnocchi With Sage Brown Butter

Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bisque With Sage Cream

FN Dish: Simply Roasted Winter Squash

six-pepper southern turkey cutlets

after preparing my thanksgiving express turkey roulades this week, i started thinking about other exciting preparations for turkey cutlets. i was inspired by a recent trip my husband and i took to charleston, sc. it was a quick weekend getaway to see the beautifully maintained colonial homes and historic fort sumter, where the civil war began. and, of course, to stuff ourselves with the delicious cuisine of south carolina’s lowcountry–shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, plump oysters, and much more. (if you’re headed to charleston, don’t miss jestine’s, a fantastic country kitchen; slightly north of broad, an upscale farm-to-table restaurant; or the gin joint, a tiny spot with sophisticated cocktails. i also can’t wait to return to try sean brock’s restaurants, mccrady’s and husk, which look amazing.)

with the region’s vibrant flavors still in my mind, i put together a piquant spice mix that made for bold and tasty cutlets. i used six peppers overall: black, white, pink, and green peppercorns, plus paprika and cayenne. i served the cutlets with some simply cooked kale and red rice, but you could choose any sides that suit your fancy–perhaps some true southern collard greens or macaroni and cheese. if you don’t get enough turkey at thanksgiving, this is a great way to enjoy it with some bold new flavors! of course, it’s also a quick and delicious meal year-round.

six-pepper southern turkey cutlets

serves 4

4 turkey cutlets, pounded to about 1/4″ thick

2 tsp coarse salt

1 1/2 tsp mixed freshly ground pepper (black, white, pink, and green peppercorns if available)

2 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 1/4 tsp half-sharp paprika (sweet is fine, too)

1 1/4 tsp mustard powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

3-4 tbsp olive oil

1. mix all the spices together in a small bowl.

2. one by one, place the cutlets in a large sealable container and sprinkle them with a generous coating of spices. flip each one and coat the other side. then add the next cutlet on top and repeat. you can fold the cutlets as needed to fit. once all the cutlets are coated, seal the container and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

3. when ready to cook, heat the oven to 200°f. then heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. once the oil begins to ripple, place one cutlet in the pan. cook until well browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. place the cutlet on a baking dish lined with tinfoil and greased with a bit of olive oil, then place in the oven to keep warm. repeat with the remaining cutlets, adding more oil to the pan as needed, until all the cutlets are cooked and ready to serve.

turkey and stuffing roulades with squash mash

thanksgiving is absolutely, positively my favorite holiday of the year. it brings together my love of cooking, spending time with my family, and eating ridiculously delicious foods. over the years, my family and i have created what we think is the perfect thanksgiving spread (i know many people think the same about theirs!). we have a secret binder with reams of recipes, and we start planning weeks in advance for our huge array of dishes–from stuffing to sprouts to our spectacular pumpkin pie. not to mention the turkey, of course.

last year, during the intense run-up to this headiest of holidays, i couldn’t bear the anticipation any longer. i needed some turkey, stat! i thought carefully about how to make a small thanksgiving dinner for my husband and me, one that wouldn’t take a whole day (or more) of cooking but would provide the deep, satisfying flavors everyone craves. i settled on turkey cutlets since they’re convenient and quick to cook. (i enjoyed them so much this year, in fact, that i decided to make more, in a spicy southern style, later in the week. stay tuned this weekend for the recipe!). i also had to include stuffing and gravy, because otherwise it’s just not thanksgiving, and i decided to throw some squash into the oven for a sweet and savory side (check out the recipe below).

putting all this together, i decided to make roulades–stuffed cutlets rolled and tied into perfect little packages. a classic technique suitable for any thin cut of meat, roulades make an elegant way to wrap up all your favorite flavors, including, of course, my family’s fantastic cornbread stuffing. they may take a little practice, but they come out delicious even when rough around the edges. the pan drippings also make a rich gravy in no time. altogether, these express roulades deliver the gratifying goodness of thanksgiving anytime the irresistible urge strikes!

express turkey and stuffing roulades

serves 4

2 tsp + 2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter, melted + 1 tbsp butter, cold

10 pieces turkey bacon (or pork or duck if you prefer)

1/2 medium onion, cut into small dice

1 tbsp thinly sliced fresh sage

1 tbsp minced fresh thyme, rosemary, and savory (or any combination thereof)

1/3 cup minced curly parsley

3/4 cup roughly chopped roasted chestnuts (minerve chestnuts are delicious and hassle-free)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 cups cubed cornbread

1/4 cup + 1/2 cup chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

4 large turkey cutlets, pounded thin

1 cup verjus or apple cider

1 tbsp flour

1. heat 2 tsp olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. once it ripples, add the diced onion and sauté until just beginning to soften, about 6 minutes. remove to a large bowl.

2. while the onion is cooking, cook 2 pieces of the bacon in a large dutch oven until crispy. turn off the heat and slice the bacon into thin strips, then place in the bowl with the onion.

3. add to the bowl the sage, mixed herbs, parsley, cranberries, chestnuts, and cornbread. add the melted butter and the 1/4 cup of stock and stir gently to combine all the ingredients.

4. to assemble the roulades, first cut four 18″ lengths of kitchen twine. lay each turkey cutlet flat on a board and top with about 1/2-3/4 cup of the stuffing. gently press the stuffing with your hand to spread it evenly over the cutlet, and be careful not to overstuff. roll the cutlet the long way, taking care not to lose too much stuffing out the sides (just stuff it back in if any falls out). place two pieces of raw bacon on the board so they overlap like a plus sign, then place the rolled-up cutlet in the middle. bring the four sides of the bacon over the top of the roulade. finally, place one length of twine on the board and place the roulade on top, so the twine goes along the long side of the roulade. wrap the two ends of the twine over the top of the roulade, then twist them 90° and wrap them down the short way (think of this as practice for future present wrapping). flip the roulade, cinch the twine tightly, and tie a double knot against the bottom of the roulade. cut the excess twine. then assemble the rest of the roulades.

5. heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in the dutch oven over medium-low heat. once it ripples, add the roulades and cook until well-browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes. flip and repeat on the top. then flip the roulades onto their sides and cook until each is well-browned, about 5 minutes per side.

6. while the roulades are cooking, make a buerre manié by combining the flour and 1 tbsp butter with a fork in a small bowl. set aside.

7. once all sides are brown, return the roulades to their original position, add the verjus and the 1/2 cup of stock, cover, and let simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. remove the roulades to a platter and let rest.

8. in the dutch oven, still over medium heat, add the buerre manié to the pan juices while whisking constantly to avoid lumps. continue whisking while simmering the gravy until it thickens enough to coat a spoon.

9. place each roulade on a plate, top with a generous pour of the gravy, and enjoy your express thanksgiving!

for a delicious, healthy, and easy to make side dish, winter squash is the way to go. there are so many varieties and each offers a slightly different flavor, so you won’t get bored. also, while they are excellent in soups, sautés, and other preparations, they are equally tasty simply roasted in their skins, then mashed with a little butter or olive oil and some salt and pepper. with this method the sweet and intricate flavors of the squash are really allowed to shine.

buttercup squash mash

1 small buttercup squash (my other favorite varieties are butternut, orange hokkaido, kabocha, and delicata)

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

salt and white pepper to taste

1. preheat the oven to 350°f.

2. wash the outside of the squash so it is free of dirt or debris. cut the squash in half from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds* with a spoon.

3. place the two halves open side down on lightly oiled aluminum foil on a baking sheet. roast for about 1 hour, or until the flesh is soft all the way through (test with a fork).

4. allow the squash to cool for about 10 minutes, then scoop the flesh into a metal bowl. stir in the butter or olive oil and salt and pepper until the mixture is mostly smooth. then serve!

*some squash seeds can be cooked like pumpkin seeds, and they make a delicious snack. just do a little “googling” to find out which squash seeds work the best.

and as you know, every family has their own cherished thanksgiving traditions. for more ideas to add to your holiday feast, check out the following blogs:

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:

Sweet Life Bake: Pumpkin Margarita

Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail

Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bruschetta With Sage Pesto

Mooshu Jenne: Green Salad

Two Peas and Their Pod: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Salad

Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad

Purple Cook: Pasta and Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe

From My Corner of Saratoga: Curried Pumpkin Soup

Mains:

FN Dish: Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey

My Angel’s Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens

Sides:

Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing

Virtually Homemade: Twice-Baked Cheddar and Chive Potatoes

Easy Eats Magazine: Sausage and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing

The Sensitive Epicure: Oyster Dressing and Gravy

Daily*Dishin: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes Supreme

What’s Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing

Family Fresh Cooking: Coconut Brown-Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Silvana’s Kitchen: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mushroom-Rye Stuffing

The Cultural Dish: Cranberry Sauce

Desserts:

I Am Baker: Pumpkin Cake

Heather Christo: Pumpkin Vanilla Ice Cream Pie

And Love It Too: Pumpkin Custard (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Haute Apple Pie Girls: Double Pumpkin Mini Pies With Candied Pecans

Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie

Daydreamer Desserts: Cuban Diplomatic Pudding

Thursday Night Dinner: Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Caramel Apple Pie

cauliflower-squash soup with crème fraîche

the cold weather that blew in over the weekend had me looking for every possible way to keep warm. and what better way than soup? with a hearty soup you can get all your vegetables in one bowl and keep yourself warm and satisfied. plus, soups are excellent for experimenting. once you have the general technique down for various styles of soup, you can mix and match ingredients to your taste buds’ content.

take cauliflower, for example, which is the fn dish ingredient of the week. disguised in its seemingly bland appearance is a deep flavor and some wonderful health benefits. in fact, 1 cup of cauliflower contains about 90% of your recommended daily value of vitamin c. think about all that cold-fighting power!

but flavor is the thing that really gets me excited when i sit down to a steaming bowl of soup. the delicious taste of cauliflower mixes well with many other ingredients, from aged cheddar to currants and capers. this time i picked a partner that would complement the caulfilower’s smooth flavor and spice up the color palette – orange hokkaido squash. this gourd has a rich, bold flavor and it’s not very stringy, which makes it great for pureeing. the structure of the soup, with sauteed aromatics, vegetables, and broth, makes it easy to substitute your favorite winter vegetables. but i highly recommend giving this version a try. with the accompanying garnishes – bacon, crème fraîche, and parsley – this cauliflower concoction is not to be missed!

cauliflower-squash soup

3 lb cauliflower, stemmed and cut into large sections

3 lb winter squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes

1 large onion, cut into medium dice

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

6 slices turkey or pork bacon, cooked until crisp and diced (optional)

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

8 tbsp. crème fraîche

1 cup minced parsley

1 tbsp. olive oil

salt and freshly ground white pepper

1. in a soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes.

2. add the squash and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

3. add the cauliflower and return to a boil. then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the squash and cauliflower are cooked through.

4. remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

5. in a food processor or blender, purée all the solids in batches until very smooth, using just as much of the liquid as needed. then strain the remaining liquid to remove any sediment and add the puréed soup.

6. to serve, return the soup to medium heat until warmed through and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste. garnish bowls with 1 tablespoon each of crème fraîche, bacon, and parsley.

take a look at the following blogs for more delicious cauliflower recipes:

The Sensitive Epicure: Cauliflower Souffle

Haute Apple Pie: Cauliflower and Chicken Gratin

CIA Dropout: Cauliflower Squash Soup With Creme Fraiche

Daily*Dishin: Tender Roasted Cauliflower

Virtually Homemade: Cumin Crusted Beef Tenderloin With Cauliflower Puree

What’s Gaby Cooking: Cumin Roasted Cauliflower

Thursday Night Dinner: Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

Cooking Channel: 4 Ways to Cook Cauliflower

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Painted Cauliflower

FN Dish: Roasted Cauliflower 5 Ways

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Cauliflower Soup With Sharp Cheddar and Thyme

Dishin & Dishes: Cauliflower Gratin