Thursday, January 08, 2009

2008 Holiday Recipes

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar

From Thanksgiving until Christmas, any evening that wasn’t spent out at a holiday party was spent cooking for a holiday party, the holidays themselves, or gifts. I made a few old favorites: Red Onion Marmalade and Pear with Jasmine Mandarin Tea Jam. I also tried a lot of new recipes this year, and only one was a disappointment---the most unsavory smelling asparagus tapenade. Otherwise, every recipe was a winner … I consider something a winner when more than one person asks for the recipe. Because there were so many, I don’t want to clutter up a single blog post, so I’ve given each one its own post, and included a link to the posts below. Enjoy some of these while the weather is still chilly. Save others for gift baskets next year.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Zucchini Latkes & Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce

White Onion Marmalade

Smoked Paprika, Chive and Walnut Cheesy Dip

Pear and Raspberry Jam

Brown Butter Applesauce

Top photo by Julie Fay Ashborn

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar

This soup was perfect for a light, Christmas day lunch. It’s beautiful with its combination of apples and smoked cheddar. I made the base soup (excluding the sautéed apples, cheddar, and chives) a couple days ahead of time, giving the flavor a chance to develop. This recipe made four good-sized servings. I was also quite generous with the smoked cheddar, doubling the amount in the recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar
adapted from Food & Wine


- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup apple cider
- A 1 3/4-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice (5 cups)
- 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 McIntosh apples, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/3 cup coarsely shredded smoked cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
- Chopped chives or thinly sliced sage leaves, for garnish


1) In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes.

2) Add the apple cider and cook until syrupy, about 3 minutes.

3) Add 1 of the chopped apples, the butternut squash, and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 40 minutes.

4) In a blender, puree the soup in batches. Return the soup to the saucepan and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm. (At this point, you can put the soup in the fridge for a couple days).

5) Heat a medium skillet. Add the butter and 1 diced apple and cook over high heat until the apple is tender and golden around the edges, about 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, for taste (I didn’t).

6) Ladle the soup into warmed bowls.

7) Garnish with the smoked cheddar, sautéed apples and chives.

Photo by Julie Fay Ashborn

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

The first time I tried this recipe, I overcooked it. It was dry and didn’t have the flavor I was hoping for. But there was just something about it that made me try it again. I bumped up the spices, cut way back on the sugar, and made sure there were plenty of walnuts. The second loaf had the perfect spicy, not-too-sweet holiday flavor I was hoping for. I’ve doubled the recipe, so I don’t have to waste half a can of pumpkin puree. This recipe makes two loaves. Eat one now. Freeze one for later.

Pumpkin Walnut Bread
adapted from Bon Appetit (which got the recipe from Cindy Mushet’s The Art and Soul of Baking)


- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temp
- 2/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 can (16 oz) canned pumpkin puree
- 1 cup neutral flavored vegetable oil (canola)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 generous cups chopped toasted walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position oven rack in the center.

2. Lightly coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with melted butter or high heat canola oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan (I didn’t do the parchment paper, but I’ll throw it out there for anyone who wants to).

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Mix well.

5. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

6. Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly distributed.

7. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into prepared loaf pan and level the top.

8. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

9. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Zucchini Latkes & Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce

When I was invited to my friend Ann Le’s Hanukkah/holiday party, I decided to make zucchini latkes. Having never made any kind of latke before, this wasn’t the brightest thing to do. I couldn’t keep a little zucchini patty together if my life depended on it. My kitchen looked as if a zucchini had thrown up in it by the time I was through, and I’d invented three new swear words, none of them pretty. But … from the few blobby, unattractive zucchini latkes that came out of the venture, I can definitely say that they taste good. So I’m putting this recipe up, for anyone who’d like to try it and give me some advice.

Along with it I’m including the Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce I made for the party, as well. Even though the zucchini latkes should be served with sour cream (my sis spiked ours with dill), this applesauce recipe deserves exposure. The rosemary gives it a distinctive freshness, and the brown butter pushes it over the edge into the decadent category. I took one bowl to the party and canned the rest for my parents’ Christmas basket. I plan to can a great deal more before this winter is through. The original Bon Appetit recipe was a little complicated, involving a food mill. I dumbed it down, and it came out just fine.

Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce
adapted from Bon Appetit


- 3 cups unsweetened apple juice
- 3 4-inch fresh rosemary sprigs
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 1/2 pounds (7 to 8 medium) Braeburn apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 12 cups)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter


1) Combine apple juice, rosemary, and cinnamon, plus a large pinch of salt, it a large pot. (Hmm, I forgot to add the salt).

2) Boil until juice is reduced by half, about 8 minutes.

3) Mix in apples. Cover; cook over medium heat until apples are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Uncover and, if necessary, cook until liquid evaporates. Discard rosemary and cinnamon. (Basically, I cooked this until it turned into applesauce!)

4) Melt butter in small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until butter browns, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

5) Mix brown butter into applesauce.

6) Can immediately (use proper canning methods) or cool and put in the fridge.

7) Bring to room temperature or re-warm before serving.

Zucchini Latkes
from Gourmet


- 3 pounds zucchini
- 1 1/3 cups plain fine dry bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp dried marjoram (I used thyme)
- About 1 cup vegetable oil for frying


1. Grate zucchini using medium shredding disk of a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

2. Squeeze zucchini in batches in a kitchen towel to remove as much liquid as possible.

3. Transfer zucchini to a large bowl and stir in bread crumbs, eggs, marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

4. Preheat oven to 200°F.

5. Heat 1/3 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers.

6. Scoop 2 tablespoon mixture per latke into skillet (6 to 8 per batch).

7. Flatten with a fork to form 2 1/2-to 3-inch pancakes.

8. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side (adding more oil as necessary).

9. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in oven.

White Onion Marmalade

This marmalade is wonderful with an aged Gouda or sharp cheddar on crackers. It is sweeter than my red onion marmalade, which has some kick to it because of the pepper flakes and ginger. The marmalades make a great pairing on an appetizer table, or in a basket of Christmas presents.

White Onion Marmalade
adapted from Gourmet, Food & Wine, or Bon Appetit (I cut the recipe out years ago and can’t remember the source)


- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice or quarter slivers (about 8 cups)
- 6 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 heaping Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper


1) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

2) Add onions, shallots, sugar and bay leaves; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

3) Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low.

4) Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is dark golden and syrupy, about 20 minutes.

5) Immediately transfer to jars using proper canning methods; or cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Smoked Paprika, Chive and Walnut Cheesy Dip

This recipe began as a Vegetarian Times recipes for “cheese” bites, meaning it was made with tofu and rolled into little balls for appetizer nibbles. I used cream cheese, instead, and when I served it, I found that people just smashed the balls onto crackers, so it seemed much easier to simply make it as a dip/spread. The smoked paprika really makes this appetizer, so don’t substitute plain paprika. And also make sure to toast the walnuts, as that’s key, too. Make it a couple days ahead of time; serve with crackers, and it’s the perfect low maintenance party dish.

Smoked Paprika, Chive and Walnut Cheesy Dip
adapted from Vegetarian Times


- 1 1/2 cups walnuts
- 16 oz. cream cheese
- 1 cup finely chopped chives
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika (I added more, to taste)


1) Preheat the oven to 350.

2) Spread walnuts on a baking sheet, and bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool, and grind finely in a food processor.

3) Mix walnuts and remaining ingredients until smooth.

Pear and Raspberry Jam

When I came across raspberries at the Third & Fairfax Farmer’s Market just before Christmas, I was overcome with a craving for raspberry jam. Don’t know why, but I decided to add pears to the jam. The result is everything I love about raspberries—that tangy-sweet taste of summer—with the comforting winter flavor of pears. Use it on your morning toast, a PBJ, pancakes, waffles … whatever you’re in the mood for.


- 1 cup pears. Approximately 2 pears. I used Bartlett.
- 1 cup raspberries
- ½ cup sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tsp calcium water (see note below)
- 1 tsp pectin (see note below)


Day One:

1. Peel the pears, remove their stems, cut them in two, core them, and cut them into small dice.

2. In a preserving pan (I used a regular saucepan), combine the pears, raspberries, sugar, calcium water, and lemon juice.

3. Bring to a simmer and then pour into a bowl.

4. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two:

1. Bring the mixture to a boil in a preserving pan. Skim, if necessary.

2. Add pectin and continue cooking on high heat for about ten minutes, stirring gently. Skim carefully, if necessary.

3. Check the set. I did this by putting a plate in the fridge. I dribbled a little of the mixture on the cold plate. When it quickly gelled, it was ready.

4. Put jam into jars immediately and seal.

This recipe yielded 2 (and a bit) 8 oz. jars.

Note on Pectin & Calcium Water:

I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which allows you to use less sugar—I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I try to avoid sugar when possible. I made the calcium water according to the directions that come with the packet. Pomona’s Universal Pectin can be bought at Whole Foods.

Note on Canning:

For complete canning & safety information, go to Home Canning or the National Center for Home Food Preservation.