Anticipating autumnís colors like the morning school bus, a cook can add gold to the plate with seasonal vegetables. A touch of fresh orange flavor with juice or zest or both heightens the golden aura.
About now, as the vegetables tumble into view at the market, some cooks are already anticipating what might play for the holidays. Itís not too early to take a few recipes out for a test drive.
A beginning cook can wow the audience with a simple side of boiled carrots amped up with an orange sauce. I like to use a soft spatula to gently turn the carrots to coat with the sauce so that they keep a perfect golden coin shape, and no one can accuse that cook of being a rookie.
Slightly more complicated, hard-shelled winter squash seasoned with ginger makes a perfect first course soup. In the audition phase, it makes a weekday meal with a hearty salad and warm, crusty bread.
The recipe below makes a smooth soup, but small nuggets of squash distributed throughout the soup, as long as they are tender, add an extra dimension. Especially when served as the main event for supper. The trick is to buy squash that has already been peeled ó and maybe cut in cubes ó to save time and frustration.
Sweet potatoes, traditional seasonal side dishes, can be tamed into desserts too. The somewhat complicated sweet potato-pecan pie below needs a trial run before a big event, something the family will undoubtedly enjoy. Iím not advocating it as an everyday dessert. Who has time? Who can endure that many calories?
Rare and long-anticipated indulgences become truly special when they at last find their way to the table.
CARROTS IN ORANGE SAUCE
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1. Have a large bowl of ice water handy. Bring orange juice to a boil in a saucepan. Add zest, lemon juice.
2. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon cold water. Add to orange juice mixture, stirring until sauce thickens. Remove from heat, but keep it on the stove.
3. Simmer the carrots in water seasoned with salt and sugar until crisp-tender. Drain the carrots. Add to the ice water to cool. Drain again.
4. Put the sauce back on the heat. Gently fold the carrots into sauce. Serve hot.
SWEET POTATO PECAN PIE
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Make the filling:
2 to 3 baked sweet potatoes
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small egg, beaten until frothy
Page 2 of 2 - 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon each allspice and nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; beat until smooth. Set aside.
Make the syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 small eggs
1-1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup chopped pecans
9-inch unbaked pie shell, homemade or purchased
1. Combine all ingredients except pecans. Beat on slow with electric mixer for one minute, until opaque. Stir in the pecans.
2. Spoon filling into shell; pour the syrup on top.
3. Bake at 350 degrees, 1 hour, 45 minutes.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND GINGER SOUP
Makes 6 servings
To preserve the soupís bright color, stir in a teaspoon of lemon juice just after cooking.
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds butternut squash, cut into small coarse cubes
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup orange juice
Salt, ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
1. Melt butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until it softens. Add ginger; cook, 1 minute longer, until the ginger is fragrant, watching closely to be sure it does not burn.
2. Add the squash, and cook, stirring, until it starts to soften. Add stock, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to a simmer. Cook, partly covered, 20 minutes. Stir, add orange juice; cook 10 minutes longer until squash is very soft. Remove from heat; cool 15 minutes.
3. Puree in food processor until smooth. Return to pot; add salt and pepper. Serve hot or chilled with parsley or cilantro scattered over a dollop of sour cream.
Linda Bassett is the author of ďFrom Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.Ē Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Lindaís blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.