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My Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

19 Oct

It’s October… and in the interest of celebrating everything Halloween, here is a list of my favorite pumpkin recipes.

Pumpkin Polenta

Pumpkin Polenta

Pumpkin Risotto

pumpkin-risotto

Roasted Pumpkin Salad

 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

I have made this mac and cheese with pumpkin too, especially when making in large quantities for the Yoga Center.

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Vegetable Pot Pie

 

Hope you like these pumpkin delicious ideas to celebrate Halloween, or even as turkey-free Thanksgiving ideas.

What are YOUR favorite vegetarian pumpkin recipes or ideas??? Please share…

Wild Mushroom Lasagna

8 Dec

This Thanksgiving I traveled to visit with my sister and her new baby boy… I noticed this is one of the few times in my life I have spent Thanksgiving outside Puerto Rico, besides the 2 Thanksgivings I spent while living in Chicago a few moons ago. Not even when I lived in NYC I spent Thanksgiving there. Nope… I’ve never seen the Macy’s Parade live. Always on TV.

Since I’ve been vegetarian, I’ve always been the one planning the main menu. If someone wants to bring turkey, they’re welcome… but I plan the menus and they’re all vegetarian for everyone to enjoy all the same. This year, we spent it at a relative’s home so I debated if we should bring something for my mom and me to eat or if we should eat before going there, just like we do for other type of occasions/celebrations.

We decided to make something to bring over because Thanksgiving is such a food celebration, it would feel weird not to eat anything while there. We decided to bring my Tomato Bruschetta as an appetizer because the hosts totally love it… I made a new version of my cranberry preserves, this time with a guava/piña Caribbean twist… and as the main event I prepared a Wild Mushroom Lasagna.

I’ve already mentioned The Boys Farmer’s Market… and they usually have such fresh mushrooms that I could not pass up the opportunity to cook something with an assortment of fresh wild mushrooms. I picked them all, not one came inside a package. It was wonderful…

WILD MUSHROOM LASAGNA

For the Mushroom Filling:
2 small Portobello mushrooms caps, sliced
5 large white mushrooms, sliced
¼ lbs oyster mushrooms, separated into “leaves”
½ large yellow onion, diced
¼ tsp thyme leaves
2 tbs minced fresh parsley leaves
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Lasagna:
1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 ½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tbs minced fresh parsley leaves, divided
3 tbs olive oil
½ large yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbs spelt flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
9 whole wheat no-boil lasagna noodles
¼ cup Gorgonzola cheese, finely crumbled
½ cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded

 

First, you make the mushroom filling…

  1. In the largest skillet you have, add olive oil and onions. Afterwards add the garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent for about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms in a single layer. Try not to crowd the pan… if it does, it’s better to make it in two separate batches. Allow the mushrooms to cook without moving them too much. They will brown and get a delicious flavor.
  3. After the mushrooms have browned on all sides, add salt, thyme and pepper. Mix a few more times and add the parsley. Allow the mushrooms to cool before adding them to the lasagna. You could also make this the night before if you’d like.

To make the sauce…

  1. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 ½ minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Gradually whisk in milk and broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, whisking frequently. Add salt and bay leaf and reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure to scrape bottom and corners of saucepan.
  2. While the sauce cooks, place shredded Gruyère and 1/2 cup Parmesan in large heatproof bowl.
  3. Also, combine ricotta, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley in medium bowl. Set both bowls aside.
  4. Add the cream cheese to the thickened sauce. Stir until the cheese has melted. Remove saucepan from heat and discard bay leaf. Gradually whisk 1/4 cup sauce into ricotta mixture. Pour remaining sauce over Gruyère mixture and stir until smooth; set aside.

Now we assemble…

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2.  Take a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Distribute 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of baking dish. Place 3 noodles in single layer on top of sauce.
  4. Spread 1/2 the ricotta mixture evenly over noodles and sprinkle evenly with parmesan and ½ the Gorgonzola. Drizzle more sauce evenly over cheese. Add a layer of the cooked mushrooms.
  5. Repeat the layering of dry noodles, sauce, ricotta, parmesan, Gorgonzola, mushrooms and more sauce.
  6. Place final 3 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining sauce, spreading with rubber spatula and allow spilling over noodles. Sprinkle evenly with more parmesan and ½ cup mozzarella.
  7. Cover lasagna with a piece of parchment paper and a piece of foil. Bake until edges are just bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until surface is spotty brown. Cool 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons parsley.

Guava-Piña Cranberry Jam

3 Dec

I wanted to try a few different variations on cranberry sauce… I have relied on my true and tried recipe here for quite some time. It’s been a staple of Xmas for a few years and I’ve had friends and family request it for Thanksgiving and Xmas pretty often.

But I wanted to see if I could give it a more Caribbean twist… something I could put my Latin stamp on. Inspiration comes from many places and Guava-Piña is a fruit combination very popular in Puerto Rico. We happened to have frozen pulp in the freezer, left over from our Guava Fizzy Drink creation earlier and the fresh pineapples from The Boys are extremely sweet and juicy.

Would the flavors the Caribbean go well with the tart northern American cranberry flavors? Check it out for yourself…

 

GUAVA-PIÑA CRANBERRY JAM

1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup water
¼ cup guava pulp, defrosted
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces about ¼” thick

 

  1.  Wash the cranberries.  Go thru them and throw away all the ones that have gone soft.
  2. Place the cranberries, water, guava pulp and sugar in a large heavy saucepan.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil.  I cover it so it comes to a boil faster, but watch it, because it can boil over.  After it starts boiling, uncover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  The cranberries will begin to pop on their own.  Stir it every few minutes, and as you stir, pop the cranberries that might be still whole.  It’s the pectin inside the cranberries that helps the sauce thicken.
  4. After the cranberries are cooked, remove from heat and mix in the pieces of pineapple.  Let cool.  Be careful, the mixture is VERY HOT and could burn you.
  5. Transfer to smaller jars or plastic bowls.

 

It’s nice because you can actually taste the guava and the pineapple pieces in the sauce.  The flavors do not get masked with the tartness of the cranberries.  This is awesome to serve over pancakes, over vanilla ice cream or to just eat over crackers…

Pumpkin Polenta

30 Oct

I am a fan of Italian flavors… and this recipe fits very well with the flavors of autumn.   We do not have autumn here in Puerto Rico, but pumpkin is a favorite of mine and I wanted to do something that would highlight the flavor and nutrition of the pumpkin.  Plus, I still had some pumpkin seeds in my fridge I wanted to use up…

 Pumpkin Polenta

 

PUMPKIN POLENTA

1 ½ cups of pumpkin, peeled and cubed
4 tbs quick cooking polenta
½ cup of water
½ cup of milk
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted – as garnish

 

  1. First we steam the pumpkin… place in a steamer for about 10-15 minutes to cook thoroughly.  After the pumpkin is done, mash it well and place it in a colander lined with a coffee filter or a paper towel and let the moisture of the pumpkin drain out a bit.  This can be done well in advance before moving on to the rest of the steps.
  2. Then we make the polenta… I heat the water, milk and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Add the polenta while stirring to avoid getting lumps.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the desired consistency, which is like a smooth cream of wheat.  I’ll be honest; I follow the instructions on the polenta package I buy.  If the instructions on your package are different, follow the instructions on your package, but what I do is to replace ½ the water the recipe calls for milk – makes a creamier polenta, in my opinion.
  3. When the polenta reached the desired consistency, add the drained pumpkin puree, the grated cheese and season with pepper.  Stir well for the cheese to melt and the pumpkin to combine well with the polenta cream.
  4. Serve warm and sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds.

 

Great vegetarian alternative for Thanksgiving lunch or dinner… don’t you think?

A night of French Cheeses

22 Dec

One of the presents I gave myself for my birthday was a Cheese Class given by our favorite French chef, David Chamyol, from the restaurant Bistrot de Paris in San Juan. My friends, Laura and Annie Mariel accompanied me for a whole night of dishes made primarily with French cheeses.

               cheese-class-nosotras-copy         notre-chef-de-cuisine-copy

It was very fun. First, we learned how to make raclette. Raclette is the cheese as well as the grill/broiler used to melt the cheese. It’s basically a melted cheese under a very special grill, also known as raclette, and then you pour the melted cheese on top of boiled potatoes, bread or vegetables. We tasted the cheese before melting and after… I was super surprised how different the cheese tastes after its melted. The taste is very pungent and sharp when you cut it fresh, but after its melted the taste turns very mellow. I loved it on top of the boiled potatoes… a great nibbling dish for a night with friends.

             raclette-en-bandejita-copy      raclette-en-proceso-de-derretirse-copy

 

              papas-sobre-raclette-copy         raclette-sobre-papas-copy
Actually, my friend Laura loved so much the raclette concept, she went online the next day and immediately bought herself a raclette grill. Apparently, at our Fete des Francophones in January, the raclette will be making a special appearance.
Then, we learned how to make Tartiflette… this is a baked dish made also with potatoes and onions sautéed in butter and olive oil. Then, you transfer these potatoes to a baking dish and cover with pieces of Reblochon cheese. Then you bake the tartiflette in the oven for 20 minutes and voila, you’ve got a very hearty dish that you can enjoy with a nice side green salad. The cheese is very smelly and pungent. This was my least favorite dish to be truly honest – maybe because I was getting full with the boiled potatoes and raclette… it is very rich and dense.

            tartiflette-antes-del-horno-copy          tartiflette-con-ensalada-copy
To finish, we learned how to make a proper French cheese fondue. You shred equal parts of gruyère, comté and beaufort cheeses and add ½ part of vacherin cheese. You add those to a base of white wine, Dijon mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper. If you truly want to make this karma-free, I would make it at home with a bit of apple cider, apple juice or white grape juice or even apple cider vinegar. You melt the cheeses in that base and add a bit of kirsch. I was told that a proper fondue was not a fondue without the kirsch. I’ll have to find a reasonable facsimile to emulate the cherry flavor without the alcohol. But it was lovely… I loved dunking the pieces of bread, cornishons, pear and apple in the smooth cheese blend. To be honest, this was my first time eating a cheese fondue. I’ve seen it made plenty of times at the Food Network, but never tried it myself. We all fell in love with the concept and decided we needed to repeat it for one of our Les Francophones get-togethers.

              quesos-fondue-copy            fondue-copy

                                                                                pan-con-fundue-copy
I should also mention that in addition to the cheeses used in the dishes I have described above, we also tasted goat cheeses, cheeses made from brebis mountain sheep, blue cheeses, among others. These cheeses were specially provided by Marco Dettling from The Cheese Market, a Swiss guy now living in Puerto Rico and imports many fresh European cheeses. His appreciation and knowledge of European cheeses was evident. He actually turned out to be an “almost neighbor” of mine. We live in the same street… what a small world this is, no?

cheese-master-blue-cheeses-copy

What I loved about this cheesy experience was that there’s so much versatility when cooking with cheese… pastas or risottos is just a small fraction of what you can do. French cuisine is filled with creamy and cheesy concoctions that will give you the opportunity to savor new and interesting kinds of cheeses you might not be usually accustomed to taste. It’s a window into another culture and exposes you to new tastes and experiences.

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