Kabocha Squash Coconut Soup

kabocha squash coconut soup with pepitasThis smooth rich soup is made with nutty kabocha squash, leeks and carrots and seasoned with a hint of ginger. It is rich and creamy from coconut milk. Brandy Giggey, my student in the Episcopal Community Services CHEFS program, http://www.ecs-sf.org/programs/chefs.html, helped me develop this recipe, and critiqued each batch. After a particularly gingery batch, she suggested that I saute the ginger to mellow out the flavor.

I’ve tried this recipe with both regular and light coconut milk. The regular milk gives a more pronounced coconut flavor, but the light is lower in calories. I’ll let you choose what’s right for you.

You can roast the squash and vegetables and/or make the vegetable broth ahead of time. You can cook the vegetables in the broth ahead of time, and then blend and heat before serving.

makes 3 1/2 quarts (15 cups)

IMG_3902

Ingredients

6 cups vegetable broth (recipe below) or chicken broth

1 small kabocha squash

14 oz can coconut milk

2 cups 1% milk (To make this vegan, use milk substitute)

3 large carrots, peeled

3 large leeks, split lengthwise and rinsed well.

1 tsp minced ginger

1/2 tsp coconut oil

1 Tb olive oil

1 tsp sea salt (to taste)

a few grinds pepper

¼ cup pepitas

Preheat oven to 350◦ Stab whole kabocha several times and roast for 30 minutes. Toss white part of  leeks and peeled carrots with olive oil on a foil-lined heavy pan. Leave squash in the oven and roast all the vegetables for another 30 minutes.???????????????????????????????While vegetables are roasting and cooling, prepare vegetable broth: Heat about 5 cups of water to boiling. Soak green parts of leeks in salad spinner and rinse at least 3 times, making sure to remove all the dirt. Roughly chop them and 4 celery sticks, and put in boiling water. Season with 1 tsp celery seeds, 1 tsp dried thyme, 2 bay leaves and 1 tsp salt, simmering 1 hour. Pull out green leeks and celery with a slotted spoon and discard. Strain broth into a large bowl, then pour back into pot to boil. (If you prefer, you can use chicken broth instead of vegetable broth.)

Cut top off roasted squash then let cool. Scoop out and discard stringy seed pod. Cut flesh from peel and into 1 inch chunks and slice carrots.  Saute the minced ginger in coconut oil for a few minutes, but don’t let it brown.

Heat broth and coconut milk and then add roasted squash, carrots, white part of leeks, and ginger. Simmer vegetables for about 30 minutes, and then  cool enough to blend.

Pour soup and milk into a large bowl. Fill blender half-way with liquid and then add vegetables. Liquefy and return to the pot. It took me about 3 batches to blend.  If you have an immersion blender, use that instead.

Add a few grinds of pepper, Stir in about 1 tsp sea salt, to taste, then simmer for another 15 minutes and serve.

Toast pepitas (green shelled pumpkin seeds) on a comal or heavy skillet at medium heat and toss on top of soup to garnish

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Drunken Pecan Sweet Potato Pie

pieA pecan walks into a bar, orders a shot of Jim Beam and jumps into the glass. The bartender looks at it, shakes his head and says “You’re nuts.”

This has got to be the best sweet potato pie I have ever tasted. It combines a pecan pie topping made from bourbon soaked pecans atop a creamy, spicy, sweet potato filling. I infuse the cooked yams with cinnamon sticks just after baking to give it an earthy cinnamon flavor. It’s lower in fat than most sweet potato pies and not overly sweet.

This recipe works best when the cook is singing along with Ray Charles and James Taylor’s  “Sweet Potato Pie” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzZle2RDzTc

Ingredients:

drunken-pecans

FILLING

3 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, such as Garnet (also called yams)
6 thin cinnamon sticks
3 large eggs
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne

PECAN SOAK
3/4 cup raw pecans halves
3 Tb Jim Beam bourbon

PECAN TOPPING
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, put in just a pinch)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon                                                                                                                                      1 Tb heavy cream

Pour bourbon over pecans and let soak for 3 hours.

Make a single pie crust in a standard 9-inch pie pan or a tart pan and freeze it. Blind bake it just before filling.

Roast pierced sweet potatoes on a  foil-lined cookie sheet at 375° for about 1 ½ hours until very tender when pierced. Half-way through cooking time (45 minutes), turn the yams over.

cinnamon stick in yamI

Immediately after you pull them from the oven, pierce each end of the potatoes and insert a cinnamon stick lengthwise all the way through each end. Cover yams with foil and let cool. You can do this part a day before. Peel potatoes and remove cinnamon sticks. Purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. Measure 2 cups.

Set oven to 350°. Beat eggs in a mixer until frothy. Pour pecan-infused bourbon from pecan soak into the eggs. Beat in remaining filling ingredients until well blended. The filling will be thick. Pour into a hot pre-baked 9″ pie crust and spread level. Use a pie crust protector or wrap pie rim with 4 strips of foil  to prevent it from burning, and bake pie for 30 minutes.
caramelized-topping

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt and heat to boiling. Let boil for just a minute, then turn off heat. Add cream and stir until smooth. Stir in pecans, coating them well with the caramel syrup..

pecans-coated-with-toppingStir in pecans,
Take the pie out of the oven and remove foil from pie crust. Make 2 concentric circles of pecans around the pie. Spoon extra caramel topping over the pecans.

ready for the oven

Continue to bake until center jiggles only slightly when shaken gently, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack at least 2 hours.
Enjoy topped with maple-syrup sweetened whipped cream.

Roasted Mushroom Turkey Gravy

Roasting the mushrooms adds a whole new dimension of flavor and texture to this classic turkey gravy. Stirring the gravy will build up your arm muscles.


Makes about 3 cups gravy

Ingredients:

1 pound crimini mushrooms, cleaned well

About 2 Tb olive oil to coat mushrooms

1/4 cup dry sherry

several grinds black pepper

1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Turkey drippings from Thanksgiving turkey

Salt to taste if not using brined turkey drippings

Directions:

Start the mushrooms the day before Thanksgiving. Scrub mushrooms with a soft brush or wet paper towel and rinse well. Chop the woody ends of the stems. Toss with olive oil until well coasted.

roasted mushrooms.jpg

Place on an oiled pan and roast for 15 minutes until they are nicely browned and soft.

When mushrooms are cool enough to handle, cut into fourths or sixths depending on the size of the mushroom. Store in a container with the liquid.

Boil giblets and neck with  1 cup water, 1/2 onion, a celery stalk, fresh thyme and pepper for an hour. When cool, chop giblets finely if you want to add them to the gravy. Store in a container until turkey is cooked.

When turkey is roasted, pick up the turkey on the rack from the pan and place over the serving platter.

If you roasted your turkey without liquid, stir sherry in the roasting pan and heat while scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Stir in mushroom liquid, turkey stock and  Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or boxed turkey stock to make 2 3/4 cups.

If using my recipe for Thanksgiving Turkey, use the liquid and roasted vegetables at the bottom of the pan for gravy:

???????????????????????????????Remove large pieces of herbs from the liquid, then pour liquid into a fat separating cup. This is a cup that has a spout connected to the bottom of the cup.  The fat will rise to the top and only the fat-free liquid will pour out. Add reserved turkey broth, sherry and mushroom liquid to make 2 3/4 cups stock.

Measure out 1/2 cup fat left in the cup. If there is not 1/2 cup, then add butter. Pour into a medium saucepan. Whisk in sifted flour over medium heat to make a roux. Cook the roux about 7 minutes over medium heat, stirring often, until it begins to darken to the shade of peanut butter.

Heat the stock to a boil in a medium pot. Put the roux in a large mixing bowl. Set beaters on low and slowly pour in the hot turkey broth, beating constantly.  Add minced thyme, rosemary, and several grinds black pepper. Beat the gravy on medium high until it is smooth. Pour the gravy into the pot and heat until it is simmering. Stir gravy fwhile it heats to a boil.

Add the mushrooms, and chopped giblets if desired, and cook 5 minutes stirring constantly. The gravy will thicken, although you may not notice it until it cools down, but it should coat the back of a spoon. Adjust salt to taste if necessary.

Thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle food section for their tips on making gravy with roux.

Low-fat cornbread and chestnut stuffing

close up of stuffingThis fragrant stuffing uses less bread than traditional stuffing, and uses only  2 Tb olive oil and 1/2 cube butter.

You can make a gluten-free stuffing using my recipe for gluten-free cornbread. You can also make this a vegetarian recipe by using vegetable broth or mushroom broth and either skip the turkey sausage or use a vegetarian sausage.

Stuff your turkey, then bake the rest in a casserole dish. Because I brine my turkey, I only add salt to the stuffing that I bake separately.

produce for stuffing

Ingredients

Half of an  8 × 8 pan of Rosemary-scented cornbread or gluten-free cornbread, cut into cubes to make about 4 cups. (This way you get to nosh on the cornbread before making the stuffing!) cube the cornbread 2 Tb olive oil, divided

½ pound turkey sausage without casings

½ cube (1/4 cup) butter (use only 2 Tb if adding sausage)

2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)

2 cups chopped celery (use the inside stalks, reserving the outside ones to surround the roasting turkey)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped (remove seeds and ribs)

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 Granny Smith apples, chopped

2 tsp rubbed sage

1 tsp minced fresh sage

3 Tb fresh thyme OR 2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp minced fresh rosemary

½ tsp (several grinds) black pepper

1 cup roasted chestnuts (shelled), sliced or crumbled (about 10 large chestnuts)

½  cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup pecan pieces

2 Tb dried cranberries

2 eggs

1 ½ cup turkey or chicken broth

½ to 1 tsp salt to taste (unless used for stuffing a brined turkey)

Make Turkey broth:

1 ½  cups water

turkey neck and giblets

1 onion, finely chopped

several stalks celery with leaves, cut up

1 clove garlic, minced

On Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, boil turkey neck and giblets in water with celery and chopped onion and  garlic for an hour or more. Strain into a container and use to moisten this stuffing. (Reserve giblets if you like chopped giblets in your gravy.)

Briefly parboil, then roast chestnuts (be sure to cut them first so they don’t burst!) at 425′ for 15 minutes. Let cool, then shell them. I found it’s easier to scoop the meat out with a teaspoon.  (Or buy the precooked, shelled ones at Trader Joe’s if you don’t want to spend all that time peeling them.)

Make cornbread on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. You can also cube and roast the butternut squash on Wednesday:

If using turkey sausage, fry in a pan until browned and crumbly.

Heat another Tb oil and the butter in a large, heavy frying pan. Stir-fry onions, celery, bell pepper, mushrooms, apples, and garlic over medium heat until they soften. Add sausage if using, butternut squash, dried cranberries, pecans, chestnuts, parsley and herbs and heat a few minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the broth until warm. Beat the eggs and add  broth. Gently add to the cubed cornbread and other ingredients.

If not stuffing your turkey, bake in a  9 x 13 baking dish sprayed with olive oil at 350◦ for 45 minutes until the top is toasted. Alternatively, use the microwave since the oven’s got the turkey in it: 15 min should do it. You can finish it off in the oven for a crunchy top.

Light as a feather cream biscuits

These are the lightest biscuits I’ve ever tasted. They are made with cream and the dough is handled as little as possible so that the gluten is not developed. Not exactly health food, but wonderful just out of the oven at holiday feasts.

I make bunny biscuits each Easter.

Be careful about putting 2 bunny biscuits together or you will end up with more biscuits than you can eat!

You can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it. Pop it into the oven just before serving the first course.

Thanks to Susan whose recipe inspired these:

Makes 12 biscuits.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1  Tb baking powder

1/4 tsp salt (I use sea salt)

1 1/2 cups cold cream. I put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before mixing it in the dough.

3 Tb melted butter, cooled

Preheat oven to 450′

Melt butter and let it cool. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add cream and slowly stir until the dough is shaggy.

Oil a cookie sheet. I use the insulated kind. Grab a piece of dough the size of the biscuit you wish to make. Dip each biscuit into the melted butter and place on the cookie sheet.

For bunny biscuits, shape the dough 1 1/2 thick and cut it with a deep bunny cookie cutter. (Dip the cutter into flour first.) I dust the tops with a tiny bit of flour instead of dipping them in butter, to make white bunnies.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Low fat creamy garlic mashed potatoes

Low fat creamy garlic mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes can be creamy and flavorful without all the calories from cream and large amounts of butter. Enjoy these with your Thanksgiving turkey and gravy.

Do not use green or sprouted potatoes which will be bitter, or those which have cracks or mold spots. Store unwashed potatoes in a dark, cool, dry, well- ventilated place such as a pantry shelf. Sunlight can turn them green, which can be mildly toxic.

Serves 8

4 pounds russet potatoes (about 6 large potatoes). (Burbank russets are best).

2 Tb salt for boiling, 1/2 tsp salt at end

1/2 cup milk

2 Tb butter

2 garlic cloves, smashed

several grinds pepper

Make your mashed potatoes close to serving time. They are best this way.

Scrub potatoes, then cut into large chunks. Use a large stainless steel pot; (aluminum or cast iron can turn the potatoes gray). Place potatoes with 2 cloves smashed garlic and 2 Tb salt  in the pot and cover them with cold water by 1 inch.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for 12-15 minutes until soft. Drain potatoes in a colander, then peel (unless you like the peel on). Heat the milk, butter, several grinds pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt in the microwave or in a pan until hot, but not boiling. While milk is heating, either shred the potatoes and garlic with the shredding disk of a food processor, or pass through a potato ricer. Transfer to a large bowl.

Stir the milk mixture gently into the potatoes. Do not over-beat, or the potatoes will become gluey.

Next morning fried leftover mashed potatoes:

Crispy – Creamy potatoes, lower in fat than hash-browns. Great as a side to eggs. Melt 1-2 tsp butter in a large, heavy skillet, such as cast iron. Make an even layer of  1-2 cups leftover mashed potatoes. Let it cook over medium heat for several minutes until bottom is brown. Using a metal spatula, turn over potatoes several times so that they brown on all sides.

Thanksgiving Turkey

All summer long I’ve been watching my sage plant grow, looking forward to stuffing my Thanksgiving turkey with it. Now it’s Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving and I’m about to transform my $6.77 Safeway turkey into a moist, tender, fragrant roast. I brine the turkey using fresh herbs, honey and lemons. Before roasting the turkey, I stuff it with fresh herbs and slather it with garlic-infused olive oil instead of butter.

I bought my turkey on Saturday and it has been defrosting for the last three days on a pan in the fridge, and I just made the brine. I adapted the brine recipe years ago from Bon Appétit. Their recipe is for a 19- to 20-pound, bird, but works fine with my almost 16 pound one. I prefer to brine in a bucket, as you never know what chemicals are  in the plastic garbage bags. I went to my local deli (Saul’s) and asked them to give me a 5 gallon white pickle bucket. You can also ask a bakery for a frosting bucket. You can also buy a brining bag. My husband found one for $6. But when we lifted the turkey in the brining bag with the brine inside it broke! So don’t do that! Instead put the sealed brining bag inside a garbage bag for extra strength.
Brine:

brine ingredients

2 cups coarse kosher salt
1 cup honey or maple syrup
A bunch each of fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
8 large garlic cloves – peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black pepper
2 lemons — cut in eighths

Water to cover turkey

Heat a large pot with water, salt, and honey, and stir until they dissolve. Pour into the bucket or brining bag along with enough ice and cold water to fill it about 1/3 or so. Alternatively, heat about 4 cups (1 quart) of water and stir in honey and salt on Monday night before Thanksgiving. Let cool, then store in the refrigerator until Tuesday morning.

Add fresh herbs, lemon quarters, and garlic. Grind the pepper into the water and stir until most of the ice melts. Rinse the turkey inside and out,and reserve the giblets for soup and gravy.

Tear off the large piece of fat near the bottom cavity, wrap in plastic and freeze it. You will later mix this with herbs to rub under the breast skin.

Place turkey in the bucket or brining bag so that both cavities fill with brine and the large cavity end is up. Add enough cold water so that the turkey is submerged. Cover, and place in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours.
brining bagbrine garbage bag

On Wednesday morning, rinse turkey inside and out. Place large cavity-side down into the bucket (or a pot if using a brining bag) and let it drain for two hours in the refrigerator. Flip it so the other cavity can drain and leave it in the fridge for another hour or two. Then pat it dry and set on a rack over the roasting pan. Let it air dry, uncovered in the refrigerator for another 18-24 hours.

Leave a cube of butter out overnight so it will be soft on Thanksgiving Day.

On Thanksgiving morning, preheat oven to 400’. Rinse turkey and transfer to the serving platter and  pat  dry. Clean the roasting pan thoroughly and dry it. Spray both pan and roasting rack with canola oil spray.

Ingredients to stuff and surround turkey:

1 cube softened unsalted butter

8 cloves garlic

6 bay leaves

3 stalks celery

1 large red onion

2 leeks

1 bunch parsley

1 bunch thyme

several large sprigs rosemary, plus more for decoration

several large sprigs sage, plus more for decoration

1 orange

2 lemons

2 carrots

garlic olive oil

black pepper

Cheesecloth and heavy aluminum foil

Chop the frozen fat finely, add 1/2 cup  (1 cube) softened butter, and mix in fresh minced herbs (garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (while singing “Scarborough Fair”) as well as a spoonful of rubbed sage, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and a bit of chopped onion.

Loosen the skin above the breast and stuff the herb-fat mixture into this area.

Push it all the way in so it covers the breast meat under the skin. This will self-baste the turkey. Rub it in the 2 cavities.

Stuff turkey in both cavities with fresh chopped garlic, celery, red onion, leeks, parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, sage, orange and lemon wedges.

Place the rack in the pan and fill the spaces under and around it with more herbs, and as many chopped red onions, leeks, celery and carrots as will fit, and fill with water to about an inch below where the turkey will sit. Place the turkey on the rack, breast side up, and oil the breast side of the turkey with garlic olive oil and grind a bit of pepper over it. Turn it so it is breast side down and oil and pepper the back side. No need to add any salt, as the brine has already salted the turkey.

With turkey breast down, roast for 2 ½  hours. Set timer for 30 minutes to  baste with the liquid that is under the rack. Add more water if needed to keep it to an inch below the turkey rack. Rotate the pan 180′ several times during cooking. When skin becomes crisp and brown, cover with a piece of cheesecloth and tent with foil. Baste the skin over the cheesecloth.

After 2 ½ hours, remove turkey from oven and carefully turn it so that it is breast side up. (I just bought a turkey turner for this. If you don’t have one, use oven mitts covered with paper towels to grab the turkey.) Ask someone to help you hold the rack. Tuck the wing tips under the shoulders.

Insert a food thermometer temperature in the meatiest part of the inner thigh.  After the breast browns, cover with cheesecloth and tent with foil. Continue roasting, rotating and basting for another 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the thermometer reads 165 °F. Then insert the thermometer into  the thickest part of the breast to make sure it is also at 165 °F. Larger turkeys will of course take an hour or more time.

Remove turkey from oven and let sit for 20 minutes on the serving dish to allow the juices to set and make carving easier. Now it’s time to make your gravy.

Use the liquid and roasted vegetables at the bottom of the pan for gravy. Remove large pieces of herbs from the liquid then pour liquid into a fat separating cup. Pour defatted liquid into your gravy. Follow directions for Roasted Mushroom Turkey Gravy

Serve with

Roasted Mushroom Turkey Gravy

butternut squash soup 

or Chunky Kabocha Soup with Appeal

Spinach Autumn Fruit Salad,

Low fat creamy garlic mashed potatoes,

Green Beans with Chestnuts

Rosemary-scented cornbread

Light as a feather cream biscuits

Jellied Cranberry Sauce

for dessert: Drunken Pecan Sweet Potato Pie and Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving! There is much to be grateful for.