Monday, November 17, 2008

Turkey Fest '08

What could be better than good friends, good food and a little kickstart to the holiday season. Every year, my friends and I throw a pre-Thanksgiving potluck turkey fest--ringing up a little warmth and cheer before we all head home for the real deal. Typically the one hosting the festivities, I love spending a good part of the day (and usually the day prior) in the kitchen doing some serious, cold-weather cooking. There's something a bit more soothing about cooking during fall and winter -- dishes sometimes take slightly longer to cook, but it's certainly worth the time. Braving freezing cold weather or being active in a warm kitchen (I swear, prepping for a big dinner is a workout in itself!)...I'll take the kitchen thanks. Anyhow, some good 'ol standbys made a repeat appearance on the menu this year - obviously our turkey mascot this year was on hand, recipe to come). This post kicks off a bunch of tasty, not-too-time-consuming, deceptively healthy recipes for the holidays. Stay tuned for tips and tactics throughout the month on how to navigate your way through the holiday season, absolutely doing it up without going overboard and kicking yourself come January 1. Nothing's worse than feeling like you have to be strapped to a treadmill for a month straight in order to work off a few too many holiday benders. Something I often remind people of is that you can always find healthful balance and an upside to your holiday spread -- Thanksgiving staples like sweet potatoes and squash are loaded with antioxidants, beta-carotene and fiber; green beans are packed with vitamins K, A and C; even your favorite pumpkin pie brings value to the table stacked with antioxidants and beta-carotene. True, those sweet potatoes can be loaded with butter and marshmellows, the green beans smothered in mouthwatering bacon grease, the pumpkin pie isn't complete without a buttery-flaky crust. The key is -- drumroll -- moderation. I know, I know, it ain't sexy or fun, but it's true. Have the good stuff, just head into the game with your head on. Play smart and take small amounts of your favorite, heavier dishes. Zone in on lighter basics like roast turkey, salad, cranberry sauce and veggies. And if you're facing really dire straights at the in-laws, a friend's or relative's, remember it's one portions let you leave room for dessert which is a T-giving must-have in my book. And if dessert really isn't all that worth it, wait for something that really is -- trust me, I guarantee you'll have your pick throughout the month.
Ok, to start off some holiday recipes, I'm posting up course 1 -- an appetizer that has evolved into an annual tradition among my friends. I created this a few years back out of a love for all things butternut squash, parmesan cheese and cherry. Sounds odd, but you'll be coming back for more.

Butternut Squash Bruschetta w. Pine Nuts & Sour Cherries
1 medium-large butternut squash (roasted, peeled and cubed)
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 can cannelini beans (white beans), rinsed and drained
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 cup sour cherries, jarred in natural juices and drained
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped (1-2 Tablespoons)
½ - ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
salt, to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

1 crusty French or whole wheat baguette
additional olive oil for brushing

Preparation: Cut butternut squash in half, brush with olive oil and roast at 350 (cut side down) for about 30-35 minutes, or until about ¾ the way done (still slightly hard, but able to be cut). For an easy shortcut, places both halves in the microwave for 7-9 minute. Allow squash to cool, peel/cut skin off and cut into small chunks. Heat oil in a deep frying pan/saucepan and sauté onion until translucent. Add in cannelini beans, squash, chicken broth & rosemary -- decrease heat and bring to a medium-low simmer. Add salt to taste, add in cherries, parmesan and pine nuts, cook until majority of broth evaporates and ingredients become warm and “stew-like” – squash should be slightly mashed/slightly chunky.

Cut baguette into thin slices about 1" thick. Arrange on a cookie sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Toast in oven at 350 for 4-5 minutes. Place a spoonful of squash mixture onto bruschetta toasts and arrange on a serving tray or plate.
Makes 2-3 dozen bruschetta
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Katie said...

This Bruschetta dish is amazing! I love it so much and miss having Marissa make it, but I did make it this fall for my own Thanksgiving feast in Madison, WI. I just kept it as a side sans bread since it was a gluten-free feast. Our guests hailed from all over the world and I was glad to showcase some "American" cooking that wasn't all sugar and fried. If you have not tried making this yet, plan on it this fall...I know it's far away, but I am dreaming about it already.

auntie katkat said...

The Butternut Squash Bruschetta with Pine Nuts & Sour Cherries is a really unusual ciombination. However it is one I will make again because it ticks all the boxes. In fact added to a duk jus it will complement duck perfectly.