By Nancy Caivano
Hello there—and Happy November!!
Well, here we are—the last two months before the Millennium. It's hard to believe. I can remember as a child, thinking that in the year 2000, we would be living in a world like Star Trek—and I was hopeful it would happen!!
It's amazing when you look back and think of how far we have come in this time. In all aspects of our lives—technology, ideology—and of course—cooking. We have gone from cooking in pots over fires, to stone ovens, to electric ranges, to microwave ovens and back to cooking in pots over fires and stone ovens. of course, our cuisine choices have changed as well. We have seen high fat, no fat, nouvelle cuisine, spa cuisine, fusion cuisine, and a return to homestyle cooking. I think it is important, especially in this "holiday kickoff" month, that we celebrate our cuisine and cooking advances, and take some time to implement some good techniques into our daily lives.
For example, a return to "family dinner time" would be an excellent place to start. I recently had family visit, and we were gathered around the table, laughing like it was 20 years ago. This is family that lives out of state, that we don't get to see very often, but who used to be an integral part of our lives. When they returned home, my brothers and I decided to set aside 2 days a week, one day for each one of them to come to my house with their families, and make sure that we do it; this way we wouldn't lose touch, and we would spend at least 2 weeknights every week laughing. I happen to be blessed with an extraordinarily close-knit family—but even close families can drift apart in the daily grind of life. Making it a necessary thing to see each other is a perfect way to start the new millennium.
As for this month's recipes—they are tailored towards your Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations. All or most of these recipes can do double duty as either a first course or entree—a couple could even be a very rich side dish. They are all delicious and relatively easy. Some are even make-ahead, making your job a lot easier.
First the pastas. Our first pasta, Baked Pasta with Eggplant, Mushrooms and Three Cheeses, is one of those wonderful make-ahead dishes I mentioned. The pasta is cooked, then combined with sautéed vegetables and mozzarella, provolone and Romano cheeses, then baked in the oven until bubbly. It is a perfect dish to keep in the freezer for unexpected holiday guests, or simply for a night of holiday shopping for when you have no time to cook.
Next, we have Four Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Glaze—another make ahead dish. The ravioli with their scrumptious cheese filling can be made ahead and frozen, ready to pop into boiling water. The tomatoes for the sauce can be roasted ahead of time, and all you have to do is reduce the sauce for a fabulous dish, which can be a first course or entree.
Our last pasta is an extremely easy and extremely delicious dish—Pasta with Spicy Greens and Cannellini Beans. Freshly cooked pasta is combined with a mixture of greens sautéed in garlic and hot red pepper flakes, and smooth white beans that mellow the spice a bit. This is a warm, comforting dish, especially on a cold night. It is a cinch to put together, and again, can be a terrific first course or entree for your holiday table, or a Tuesday night dinner.
Now we move on to the Risotto portion of this month's column. Our first risotto, Citrus Risotto, is a very uniquely flavored dish. This dish combines the zest of three citrus fruits, lemon, lime and blood orange, along with aromatic vegetables such as garlic, onion and shallot. It also has Parmesan cheese and blood orange sections. The combination might sound strange, but it is a truly delicious dish. It can be a wonderful first course, entree, or even a rich side dish to just about any meat, poultry or fish.
Our next Risotto, Risotto with Garlic Shrimp and Walnuts, is a risotto with make-ahead components. Your shrimp can be sautéed the day before if you like, cutting the cooking time a bit. This is a dish full of fabulous textures, with the richness of the shrimp combining with the creaminess of the risotto and the crunch of the toasted walnuts. It is a treat whether served as a first course or entree.
For dessert, I thought a rich and flavorful "rice pudding" would be a nice and homey way to end your Thanksgiving celebration, or any other dinner for that matter. Apple, Pear and Raisin Risotto elevates rice pudding to a whole new level. The apples and pears are sautéed to a golden brown then combined into the risotto with amaretto soaked raisins, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. It is rich, creamy and full of fabulous fruit. I think your guests would be impressed to be served a warm rice pudding—not to mention your family!!
I hope that you have a wonderful holiday. Writing this column is one of the things that I am most thankful for. I truly enjoy coming up with these recipes for you, and I hope that you enjoy them as well. Have a wonderful November and I will see you again in December, when we can talk about all the holidays to come!
This page created November 1999
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