Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What to Eat Before the Feast

 Like any red-blooded American, I love Thanksgiving.

And like an Olympian, I train for the event.  I want to make sure that I am in prime condition to enjoy the constant grazing and gorging that accompanies the day.  So I tend to eat a little less throughout the week.

In case you haven't noticed, I love soup.  So, naturally, soup and salad are a great way to eat a little lighter yet still feel satisfied, reserving plenty of room for the Simpson-esque shoveling of food on Thursday.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk
I didn't have another pumpkin for the pic.  But that's a pretty apple, no?

This is a great first course for Thanksgiving or a teaser meal leading up to the day.  Turkey Day flavors with a bit of a twist. Roasting your own pumpkin gives you a strange sense of satisfaction, but you can use 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree if you are a wuss.

1 3 lb. pumpkin
2 Tbl olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbl curry powder
1 Tbl turmeric
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
shaving of nutmeg
4 cups chicken stock
14 oz coconut milk
2 tsp lemon juice
salt n' pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Using a really sharp knife, slice off top of pumpkin. Slice into quarters, then into eighths. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for about an hour.  Remove and allow to cool.

In a stock pot over medium flame, heat olive oil, curry, turmeric, coriander, and cinnamon for one minute.  This will allow the spices to bloom. Add onion, garlic, celery, and apple to the oil and stir to cover.  Season with salt and red pepper and sautè veggies until tender for about 5 minutes.  Scoop out pumpkin flesh and add to pot.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Allow soup to cool slightly and purèe mixture.  Pass through a sieve and return to pot.  Add coconut milk and lemon juice.  Delish!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Biscotti and Macaroons

I've been busy directing a production of Urinetown: The Musical at Rhodes College (and it's a pretty darn good production if I say so myself).

We have a brush up rehearsal before we begin the second week of shows, so I thought I would bring some treats to some hungry college students.

Oh, and, if you're in town, come see Urinetown!

Walnut, Fig, and Rosemary Biscotti

I am by no means a baker, and these are super simple to make. The rosemary and lemon zest make add a happy surprise to this not too sweet cookie.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbl fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbl lemon zest
3/4 cup dried mission figs, diced
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, and rosemary with an electric mixer.  Mix in eggs one at a time.  Slowly add dry ingredients until just mixed.  Stir in walnuts and figs.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form dough into a log (about 3"x13").  Damp hands help out tremendously with this step as the dough is rather sticky. Cook until golden brown, about 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Resist trying to move it to a cooling rack, lest that sucker should break half in two.

Using a serrated knife, slice log into 1/2" cookies.  Place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and place cookies on top of the rack.  This will help crisp up the cookies without having to turn them. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Coconut and Apricot Macaroons
These remind me of Passover and when I was a young Jewish boy.

One day I will learn how to make those delightful French macaroons, but until then I love these sweet little bites!

14 oz sweetened shredded coconut
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites at room temperature

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325. 

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, apricots, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Keep them egg whites fluffy!

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper into roughly 1 1/2" blobs.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


'Twas a cloudy day and I am in need of some comfort food. Fast.

What could be better than tomato soup and grilled cheese. But as Ina says, "Let's turn the volume up."

Tomboy Tomato and Caramelized Onion Soup

A Bowl Full of Love
I first encountered this soup working at Tomboy restaurant in Chicago.  I managed to get the recipe and played around with it. It is so simple, and extremely satisfying.

3 lbs yellow onions, diced
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 stick butter, unsalted
2 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
4 cups chicken stock

In a stock pot over low heat, melt better and oil together.  Add onions and stir to coat. Let these suckers cook slowly, allowing to caramelize (roughly 30-35 minutes).  Once the onions are sweet and golden brown, add cumin and chipotle.  Saute for one minute.  Add tomatoes and stock.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Using an immersion blender (or working in batches with a traditional blender), puree the crap out of it. Pass through a sieve discarding solids.  Serve hot with a garnish of goat cheese.

*For a fancy grilled cheese, try using a bold stinky cheese like Taleggio or Brie on ciabatta bread with some of my Onion and Fennel Jam! You'll be happy you did.