Mini-Stuffed Pumpkins with Sausage-Rice-Fruit Medley

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by Cathy Pollak

ricestuffedpumpkinsThanksgiving is without a doubt the most American holiday in our history. It is a celebration of beloved foods and traditions bringing to mind happy memories of good times shared with family and friends.

Because this national harvest celebration is so near and dear to the hearts of Americans it is no wonder so many of us spend weeks planning this very special banquet.

I look forward every year to the roster of ingredients so ritualized in our Thanksgiving meals. The anticipation of the usual heirloom dishes of cornbread stuffing, butternut squash and mashed potatoes always induce many enduring holiday memories of years past.

However, even though our families expect many of same dishes prepared from year to year, I always like to add something new and different to the holiday feast. It's also a bonus when this new dish is particularly attractive and noticed almost immediately by your guests.

This year, bring the beauty of Fall indoors and serve these Mini-Stuffed Pumpkins with a Sausage-Rice-Fruit Medley. This dish will elevate your holiday table with its rustic charm, natural beauty and comforting flavors.

Sip and Savor Apple Cider

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by James Farmer III

AppleCider-2Baby, its cold outside! I’ve found myself sippin’ and savorin’ a warm drink of sorts all day – Earl Grey this morning, Orange Zinger later on, the latter two combined and then for my nightcap, this warm cider was just the ticket.

Every year, my fair peach state yields the last of its famed crop towards summer’s end. Afterwards, apples from our northern mountain counties’ orchards start coming in, giving us another fabulous fruit for a season. Pies, cakes, tarts, butter, and sauce all come from the apple crop, but one apple product in particular is nostalgic with the crisp autumn days – apple cider.

Velvety smooth, delightful to the taste, and luscious warm or even chilled, apple cider is the result of concentrating the apples’ juice with flavors oh so complementary of apples: cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, and a dash of citrus.

Whenever I journey into the mountains during apple season, I am sure to bring home to the Peach Country stores of apple cider to get me through fall and into winter. In lieu of trekking to these mountain caches for a jug or two of this delectable nectar today, this recipe was not a bad consolation at all.

Dessert Risotto with Wine Poached Figs

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by Susan Russo

figrisottoOne night last week Jeff came home from work and handed me a bag from his clinic. I thought, "Yes! More free anti-wrinkle cream!" (Having a dermatologist as a husband does have its advantages). When I peeked inside the bag, however, I discovered something even better than antioxidant cream: a dozen plump, brilliant green figs that were beginning to split from ripeness. "Wow! Where did you get the fresh figs?" I asked. "Adel gave them to me from the tree in her yard," he said.

Adel, who works with Jeff, told him, "Last year my tree produced three figs. One for me, one for my husband, and one for the birds." Fortunately she's having a bumper crop this season, and we're two of the lucky beneficiaries.

To celebrate fall's arrival, I'm sharing a recipe for Dessert Risotto with Wine Poached Figs. Arborio rice, which is used to make risotto, makes the most luxurious rice pudding imaginable: it's plump, tender, and creamy. Topping it with perfumed, wine-poached figs adds elegance and sweetness, resulting in a remarkably velvety, rich pudding.

Kohlrabi Soup

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by Joseph Erdos

kohlrabisoupKohlrabi, a vegetable that sounds just as foreign as it is alien to most people, is a subtle-flavored vegetable in the cabbage family. In fact it's German name translates to cabbage (kohl) turnip (rabi). Varieties include purple and pale green. It often gets confused with rutabagas or turnips, but it's actually much more attractive than both. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw (its taste resembles that of radishes) or cooked (where its taste is similar to boiled broccoli stems). This creamy soup is the perfect recipe for kohlrabi, because the vegetable turns sweet and tender.

This recipe is based on my mother's version. Her soup is a Hungarian specialty. It's wonderful for a first course before an elegant dinner. When you match it with a big chunk of bread or crackers, it's even great as an entire meal. Its creaminess and sweetness always hits my comfort spot. And even though, as a kid, I never thought of kohlrabi as much of a vegetable, I still always asked my mom to make this soup in the fall and winter.

Easy Persimmon Bread

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by Amy Sherman

SpicedPersimmonBreadI've never really gotten into making bread. I do it occasionally, but it's not my passion. When I want to bake something I usually don't have much patience so quick breads are more my style.

There are lots of great quick breads. Two of my favorites are banana bread and persimmon bread. They each use very ripe or over ripe versions of the fresh fruit. For persimmon bread you want to use the Hachiya variety. The Fuyu is rounder shaped than the Hachiya and is a bit crunchy, good for using in salads, it has a pale orange color.

Fresh Hachiya persimmons are really extreme. Their color is almost shockingly bright orange and the texture is downright slimy. Though they are sweet there is sometimes a very bitter after taste to the raw fruit. They sound just awful, but actually they are quite delicious. And if you can't fathom eating them raw, you should really try them in bread because they are no longer bright orange, slimy or bitter. This recipe comes from a neighbor of my parents and is my favorite style of persimmon bread, rich, dark, spicy and almost like a firm pudding in texture.

Boneless Pork Chop with a Persimmon and Pomegranate Salsa

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by Susan Russo

PorkPersimmonFirm Fuyus can be eaten like an apple; they taste like one too -- mildly sweet but with hints of cinnamon. Fuyu persimmons are ideal for savory dishes, such as salads and salsas, where they add color, flavor, and texture.

The first time I made this salsa, I used just persimmons and no onion, and I thought it needed a bit more splash. This time I added some savory scallions and tart pomegranate seeds.

It was pleasingly splashier in both taste and presentation. This refreshing salsa pairs especially well with pork, though it would be good with roasted turkey, grilled lamb, or a mild white fish, such as mako shark (which Jeff had and loved last night).

Persimmons aren't just pretty, they're nutritional powerhouses too--especially high in potassium, lutein (for ocular health), and lycopene (a cancer fighting antioxidant).

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushrooms

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by Megan Martin

pumpkingnocchiIn our house, "Gnocchi" means "I love you".

The time invovled in making the pillowy mixture is minimal, but it is the act of cutting each strip to just the right width...chopping bite sized dumplings and then rolling each one delicately across the ridges of a fork - those repetative moves of delicious intent translates so purely to my husband as he savours one gnocchi at a time.

I have made several verisons of Gnocchi, using potatoes and even squash. Though in keeping with the season of pumpkins and fall delight, I am pleased with this version. The sage and shallots carry a certain melody throughout the dish that can only be thought of as fall.

For a vegetarian, this is the perfect Thanksgiving meal.

Persnickety towards Persimmons? Don’t be…they’re Perfect!

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by James Farmer III

persimmonsProminent throughout the Deep South and up through Virginia to Connecticut and back down towards Florida and west to Kansas and Texas, the common Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, makes for a Farmer’s favorite with its growth habit, bark, leaf shape, and fruit color…that fabulous color holding the rank somewhere between terra cotta, salmon, apricot, and orange.

“Don’t you EVER bite into a green persimmon…it will turn your mouth INSIDE OUT!!!” That is what Grandmother, Mimi’s grandmother, my great, great grandmother would exclaim about this fruit. Tart and sour, the unripe persimmons are about as useful as a boar’s teat, but the ripe persimmons are lovely, flavorful, and quite delicious. “They’ve got to be DEAD ripe,” according to the grand dame Mimi herself.

Because of their extreme astringency, the persimmon will most often make you pucker, but once the sour cells within the fruit are “bletted" or partially rotted the fruit becomes much more palpable. Killed by cold, the astringent cells actually rot somewhat and cause the fruit to take on a sweeter flavor, and, thus, the old adage that persimmons are not ripe until the first frost. There is a whole chemistry lesson here but I shan’t attempt to explain the how’s and why’s – just know persimmons most often become ripe after the first frost.

Miso-Glazed Acorn Squash

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by Joseph Erdos

acornmisoAcorn squash has such a unique shape, that is worth showing off in recipes. When I cook with them I always try keep their features intact, so I don't peel them. Stuffed with a meat filling and baked, they resemble open hearts. When they're sliced, as in this recipe, they look like scalloped crescent moons. They are a perfect vegetable to roast because they hold their shape well particularly when the skin is left on. They can be steamed or sautéed, and even mashed like potatoes, making them a very versatile vegetable. But roasting is my favorite cooking method because it concentrates their natural flavor.

Most acorn squash recipes use sweetener to bring out the flavor. The traditional route would be brown sugar, which automatically gives it Thanksgiving flair. Instead I use maple syrup for its rich sweetness. The focus of this recipe is miso paste, the Japanese ingredient made from soybeans that is used in miso soup. The miso paste adds a salty, savory flavor. The combination of sweet and savory elevates the flavor of the squash even more. This recipe makes a very simple side for the holiday that complements a multitude of other sides and the main bird. It's quick and easy enough to put together in minutes. Just sit back and roast.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

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by Amy Sherman

butternut-squash-soup-web1As each new season arrives I begin to think that it's my favorite. The colors, the scents, and the flavors of fall are just beginning to tantalize my senses. For sure it's the rich and eye-catching colors that grab me first; the pumpkins, pomegranates, pears and apples are so beautiful they almost beg to be put on display.

Of course anything that is associated with Thanksgiving is also a hallmark of fall. Pumpkin, pecans, cranberries, even brussels sprouts. Just the words alone make my mouth water in anticipation. It seems in preparation for the winter, flavors intensify. Not that the flavors of summer aren't intense, but they have a different fresh delicate succulent quality about them that disappears in the fall.

All sorts of winter squash are turning up at the market right now. Hardy vegetables that have some staying power. They wait until you are ready for them, unlike summery tomatoes and basil that say "use me or lose me!"


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