Soups and Hors D’oeuvres
Soup is usually an entrée in our home, whether a classic French Onion or a hearty meat and vegetable with chunks of bread on the side. Thanksgiving, especially if you’re entertaining for the day, offers a number of opportunities for soup to complement light hors d’oeuvres, and gives the gentle cook a reason to get some food in the belly while preparing the feast. Here is a quick-ish soup along with some complementary pre-feast nibbles for your consideration:
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (serves approximately 8)
This is perhaps the best-known Thanksgiving soup, and there are at least a few dozen recipes that will entice even the most hard-core Curcurbita-phobe to have at least a taste. My recipe is nothing too fancy, and can be prepared the day before and frozen in order to save time and space.
4lbs Butternut Squash (2 med squash), halved lengthwise, clean and set aside the seeds
2 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Rubbed or Fresh Chopped Sage
4 Cups Chicken Broth
½ Cup grated Carrot
½ Tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 Tsp Salt
Ground Pepper to taste
½ cup Heavy Cream or Half-and-Half
2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Preheat your oven to 400F. Dice the squash into 1-inch pieces and place into a baking dish with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and toss to coat. In a small saucepan on low heat add the carrots, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring constantly until the sugar is melted and the carrots are soft and beginning to caramelize. Pour the mix from the saucepan over the squash chunks, toss thoroughly to coat and arrange the pieces in a single layer in the baking dish. Bake for one hour, tossing to recoat the squash after 30 minutes. Mix the remaining olive oil, soy sauce and the sage in a small dish until well blended, then add the seeds to the dish. Stir to coat the seeds and lay them out on a cookie sheet or shallow pan in a single layer. Drizzle the remaining soy/sage mix over the seeds, then put them into the oven to bake with the squash until browned (usually 30-45 minutes), remove from the oven and allow them to cool.
In a large saucepan heat the chicken broth until just boiling, then add the cooked squash and stir until mixed. Simmer for 15 minutes and the allow to cool until just warm to the touch. Transfer to a food processor (or use a blender or hand-mixer in the saucepan) and blend until smooth. It will be a bit thick when you’re finished with the blending, then transfer the soup back into the saucepan and slowly heat on low, slowly stirring in the cream or half-and-half until rich and creamy. At this point you can cool the soup and refrigerate or even freeze it to be reheated just before serving. If serving immediately, pour into a tureen or individual small ramekins and garnish with the roasted seeds.
Chocolate Crostini (serves 8-12)
Some readers may think that chocolate should wait until dessert, but this is Thanksgiving- I say “why wait?” This recipe is super-quick and easy to make with ingredients most people always have on hand, and chocolate as an appetizer is usually greeted enthusiastically:
1 Crusty Baguette, cut into ½- to-1-inch slices
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Bar Dark (Bittersweet) Chocolate, divided to match the bread slices
Turn your oven to broil, or set your toaster oven to high. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the bread in a single layer, not touching. Place under the broiler for no more than two minutes until lightly browned and toasted. Flip the bread and toast the other side in the same manner. Remove from the broiler or toaster oven, turn off the heat but leave the oven closed (more about why in a moment) and flip the bread again without allowing it to cool too much. No, I’m not compulsive- the side that was toasted first will have an indentation from toasting, and acts as a little “dish” to hold the chocolate. A chef-friend of mine- a real chef – taught me that about twenty years ago. Next, drizzle a bit of the olive oil over each piece of toast, enough so each piece has a decent amount. Next, place a piece of the dark chocolate in each little indentation on the toast. It will begin to melt just a little from the warm bread, and put the tray back into the warm oven (not on, but still hot) for a couple of minutes. Remove from the oven and set it down firmly on the countertop; if you should drop it a few inches it would do the same trick. Why? It “sets” the chocolate in that little dent in the toast, plus it will make your guests wonder what you’re about in the kitchen. For an added kick, add the merest pinch of red pepper or a couple of red pepper flakes.
I’m no fool: There are so many variations of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, casseroles and the like which find their way to the table at Thanksgiving that I will not insult you or your ability to make your own. However, it’s a good idea to have a few quick and interesting recipes that will satisfy the need to add something a bit different to the menu- but not so different that it seems incongruous. I love green beans, parsnips, potatoes and carrots: I grew up eating lots of them, and my Dad still grows beans and potatoes in his garden. Here are three fairly quick and very simple sides to toss into the Thanksgiving fray:
Honey Almond Green Beans (serves 6-8)
These are always a favorite with kids: It’s very colorful, crunchy and sweet. It takes about 10 minutes from beginning to end if you’re practiced at cutting vegetables, so it can also be whipped up at the last minute as long as you have room for another pan on your stove.
8 Cups Fresh Green Beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Tbsp Butter
¼ Cup Sliced Almonds, toasted or raw
1 Tsp Pepper, coarse ground or cracked
2-4 Tbsp Honey (depending on taste)
Salt to taste
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted and hot, add the almonds and toss until they are just beginning to brown. Add the green beans and bell pepper and toss until coated. Add the honey, salt and pepper and toss to coat again. Increase the heat to medium-high and sautee 5 minutes, tossing to assure even cooking. Place into a covered dish to keep warm until serving.
Orange Ginger Beets
We love beets. We love the greens, the roots, everything about them. We especially love the way it looks like a massacre has just concluded when they’re sliced up for cooking. Unfortunately, beets by themselves are a bit bland for all their sweetness. So, we use the sturdy root as a foundation on which to add orange and ginger and then cook them to tender perfection. This recipe assumes 3-4 beet slices per serving, adjust more less as you desire:
6 Medium Beets, greens removed, scrubbed or peeled and beards (roots) trimmed
1 Cup Orange Juice, with pulp (fresh squeezed is best, just save some of the pulp)
2 Tbsp Fresh Grated Ginger or Ginger Paste
1 Tbsp Olive Oil or Butter
In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil or butter on medium-low heat. Slice the beets into ½-inch thick slices, cut to fit the pan in as few layers as possible. When the oil/butter is hot, place the sliced beets into the pan and coat with the hot oil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. While the beets are simmering, mix the orange juice and ginger together until well-blended. When the beets have begun to soften a bit, increase the heat to medium, stir the orange-ginger mixture once more and add it to the pan, stirring to mix the beet juice and the orange juice. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes or until the beets are tender, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. For a thicker sauce, simmer uncovered until the liquid is reduced by one-third. Place in a serving dish and serve warm.
Parsnips and Carrots in a Rum Butter Rosemary Glaze (serves 6-8)
Image courtesy McCormick’s
Those readers who know me well are aware that I have a fondness for working spiced rum into many dishes. Here’s one that you can prepare while making sure the rum is properly spiced, in your glass as well as in the pan. I don’t shy away from the butter in this one, because it adds such a savory counterpoint to the sharpness of the parsnips and the greenness of the rosemary:
1 Pound Medium Parsnips, scrubbed and trimmed
1 Pound Medium Carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
2-3 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Rosemary (more if you like)
4 Tbsp Butter
½ Tbsp Olive Oil (to keep the butter from burning)
2 Oz Silver or other Spiced Rum
2 Tsp Salt, divided
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Slice the parsnips and carrots into 1-inch pieces and add them to the pan, tossing to coat with the oil. Add 1 tsp salt to “sweat” the vegetables and cover for 5 minutes, tossing occasionally to keep from sticking. Add the butter slowly, tossing the vegetables to keep it from burning, then add the rosemary. Toss until the rosemary is mixed into the vegetables, and then add the rum. Cook until the liquid begins to thicken, then increase the heat to medium-high. Toss or stir until a glaze begins to form, then remove from the heat. Place in a serving dish and serve hot.