Two Great Holiday Recipes

The following recipes are from “Matthew Kenney’s Mediterranean Cooking,” which Matthew Kenney and I wrote in 1997. My family and l like them so much, we have made them part of our annual Thanksgiving dinner ever since.

Baked Squash Soup with Nuts and Spices

3 tablespoons blanched almonds

3 tablespoons hazelnuts

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon each ground ginger and curry powder

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (6 cups)

2 teaspoons olive oil

6 cups chicken stock (canned is fine)

1 cup plain yogurt

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1)Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the almonds on a pie plate or small sheet pan and toast for 3 minutes. Then add the sesame seeds and toast for 3 minutes longer. Add the hazelnuts and toast for 11 minutes more, or until the almonds and hazelnuts are browned but not too dark and the sesame seeds are golden. Chop the almonds. Let the hazelnuts cool slightly, rub off the skins in a clean dish towel, and chop. Mix the nuts and sesame seeds and set aside. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

2)Combine the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and curry powder in a small bowl. In a larger mixing bowl toss the squash with the olive oil. Add the spices and mix well. Spread out the squash on a cookie sheet.

3)Bake the squash, covered with aluminum foil, for 20 minutes, or until it softens and the fibers are starting to come apart. Transfer the squash to a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the stock, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

4)Transfer the squash to a food processor and puree. Strain through a medium-fine strainer, pressing out all the liquid with a wooden spoon or the back of a ladle. Add the yogurt and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

5)Divide the soup among warm bowls. Sprinkle with the nut-seed mixture and chopped cilantro.

Serves 8

Cardamom-baked Sweet Potatoes

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

4 medium sweet potatoes (12 to 14 ounces each), well scrubbed

1)Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2)Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the salt, chili powder, and cardamom. Mix well with a whisk or spoon. Let cool for 9 to 10 minutes to congeal which facilitates brushing.

3)Prick the potatoes with a fork. Brush them with half the spicy butter, wrap them individually in aluminum foil, and place the potatoes on a baking sheet.

4)Bake for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender. Split open and brush the insides with the remaining butter. Season with additional salt, if desired.

Serves 4 to 8 (depending on how many other side dishes you have)

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