Friday, November 18, 2011

Nurture Your Family - Great Thanksgiving Dishes to Share

One of the things I love about the holidays is that it's always a time to cook wonderfully comforting and delicious food. Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving at your house or arriving as a guest, spending time in the kitchen preparing food is one of the greatest ways we nurture and love each other. Whenever I cook, my 19 month-old daughter is always in the kitchen with me, apron on, helping and "cooking" with her pots and spoons. I cherish each moment of our kitchen time together and it reminds me of how food and cooking can bring so much joy to our lives. Here are some of my favorite simple and easy recipes, perfect for an autumn evening spent with family and friends. Bon Appetite! 

APPLE AND PEAR CRISP. This is my absolute favorite desert of all time and I have yet to have leftovers whenever I make it. 

APPLE AND PEAR CRISP, Courtesy of Ina Garten, Serves 8. 

2 pounds ripe Bosc pears (4 pears) 
2 pounds firm Macoun apples (6 apples)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

for the topping:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

-Peel, core, and cut the pears and apples into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and add the zests, juices, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a 9 x 12 x 2-inch oval baking dish.
-For the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.
-Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to one hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm.

PAN-BRAISED CARROTS WITH ROSEMARY AND ORANGE.  If you love to cook and don't have Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day cookbook, put it on your Christmas list.  It is filled with simple and delicious recipes.  My brother-in-law (and professional chef) gave it to me several years ago and I'm always inspired to cook when I take it off the shelf. 

Courtesy of Sara Foster, Serves 4-6.

1 pound small carrots, with tops on (about 2 bunches)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Juice of 1 orange
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

-Trim the tops off the carrots, leaving about 1/2 inch of the green stem attached, and wash thoroughly.
-Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat until the butter melts.  Add the carrots and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 8 minutes, until the carrots are tender and have a little color.
-Add the rosemary and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the orange juice, 1/2 cup of cold water, salt and pepper. 
-Cover, reduce the heat to low, and let the carrots simmer until nearly all of the liquid has cooked off, about 10 minutes.
-Season with more salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.


PUMPKIN AND GOAT CHEESE RISOTTO, Courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis, Serves 6.

4 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth, plus extra for moistening, as needed
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
4 slices applewood smoked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 leek (white and pale green part), thinly sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
2/3 cup dry white wine, like pinot grigio
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/3 cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 coarsely crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about 6 oz.)  

-Whisk together the broth and pumpkin in a heavy medium saucepan and simmer over medium heat.
-Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low to keep the broth warm.
-Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel with a slotted spoon to drain.
-Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until almost tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the thyme.
-Add the rice and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until completely absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. 
-Add 1/2 cup of the pumpkin broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.
-Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to absorb before adding the next.
-Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, and the mixture is creamy, 20 to 25 minutes, adding addt'l warm broth by 1/4 cupfuls if risotto is dry.
-Mix in the Parmesan, 1 tablespoon parsley, the remaining salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from the heat.  Add salt to taste. 
-Divide the risotto into 6 bowls and sprinkle each with the bacon, goat cheese and remaining parsley and serve. 

BAKED SWEET POTATO FRIES.  This is always a hit with kids!

BAKED SWEET POTATO FRIES, Courtesy of Ina Garten, Serves 4. 

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

-Preheat oven to 425 degrees
-Cut sweet potatoes in wedges or like french fries
-Place wedges on large baking pan or cookie sheet. Pour olive oil, and toss to mix.
-Sprinkle brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Toss to coat wedges.
-Spread out in a single layer. Place pan in oven and bake for 15 minutes, then take out and turn wedges over.
-Place back in oven and bake another 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on the outside.
-Sprinkle with extra kosher salt to taste. Cooking time will depend on how big the wedges are.
-Optional: sprinkle a little ground cumin with the other seasonings.

COTIJA CORN.  This deliciously simple recipe is almost foolproof and the seasoning makes the corn so flavorful!

ALISON'S COTIJA CORN, Courtesy of Alison Maring (my sister!), Serves 4.

4 ears fresh corn, shucked
1/2 cup sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese

-Boil or roast corn on the cob until tender.
-Combine the sour cream, lime juice, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper.
-Brush mixture on corn.
-Roll each cob in the cotija cheese.
-Dust with cayenne and a sprinkle of lime juice.

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