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Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 12:11 am

You’re in ’luck

’Tis the season for potlucks!

 

Get your casserole dishes ready! The holidays are almost here, which means potlucks are sure to be soon filling up your calendar.

Potlucks are a popular choice for the season because they allow everyone to contribute to the meal. This lessens the workload for everyone since each guest is only worried about one or two dishes rather than an entire meal. And who couldn’t use less stress during the holidays?

“A potluck affords the host or hostess the opportunity to enjoy his or her guests by sharing in the preparation of foods for your buffet table,” explains Monica Musetti-Carlin, author of Country Comfort Potluck Favorites (Hatherleigh Press, 2014). “It’s a chance to put everyone’s best ‘food’ forward as one carefully prepares their dishes with love for those you care enough about to spend the holidays with.”

When looking for great potluck recipes there are a few things to keep in mind. First, note the serving size. You’ll want to make sure you bring enough for everyone to get a taste, so check to see if you’ll need to make more than one batch. Also make sure whatever you choose can be easily cut into manageable pieces. “No one wants to have to use a knife when you are juggling a plate, a cocktail and a conversation,” says Musetti-Carlin.

Finally check with your host to see what kinds of dishes are needed so there aren’t any duplicates or if anyone has dietary restrictions.

Check out these 10 recipes that are sure to be a hit at your next holiday potluck.

RICOTTA STUFFED ZUCCHINI
With Pistachio Topping (recipe courtesy of Valentina Solfrini, author of Hortus Cuisine blog)

“This recipe is easy to make, and can be made with peppers or tomatoes using the same method. The stuffed vegetables can be cut into bite-sized pieces and served as an appetizer,” says Solfini.

For the filling:
• 150g fresh ricotta, or a mix of robiola and ricotta
• 2 tbsps grana, or other seasoned cheese, like pecorino
• The inside of the cooked zucchini
• 1 egg
• 8-10 basil leaves, finely chopped
• 1/2 tsp thyme, if you like it
• 1/2 tsp dried oregano
• A grating of nutmeg
• 1/2 tsp turmeric, or curry powder
• 1/2 tsp Paprika
• Salt and pepper
• EXTRA: some pesto, to mix in the filling

For the zucchini:
• 4 small zucchini
• Olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• A couple tablespoons of fine breadcrumbs (just skip this or use cornmeal instead for a GF version)
• A couple tablespoons of very finely chopped pistachios
• Some extra grated seasoned cheese to sprinkle on top
• Extra but recommended: Oil from dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil
• Balsamic vinegar glaze, to serve

Cut the zucchini in half and steam them. They will need to cook until quite tender, about 15 minutes. Scrape the seed part off, and add it to a bowl. Don’t scrape too much – the zucchini should look like little boats for the filling. Lay them on a baking tray lined with a piece of oiled baking paper. Lightly oil each zucchini half with the dried tomato olive oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. If you’re not using the dried tomato oil, just sprinkle with some flavorful extra-virgin olive oil.

To make the filling, add the ricotta to the bowl with the inside of the zucchini and mash well with a fork. Add all the other ingredients but leave the egg last, so you can taste the mixture and add more spices to your liking.

Preheat the oven to 180 C˚ / 355 F˚.

Stuff each zucchini half with the mixture. Sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and the pistachios, and some extra cheese if you like, and top with another drizzle of dried tomato oil or extra virgin olive oil. Bake the zucchini for 10 minutes, or until they start to get golden brown on top. You can finish them off under the broiler for a minute, for some extra crispiness.

They are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven, but they make a lovely cold meal, as well.

FALL HARVEST BUTTERNUT SQUASH
With Almond-Pecan Parmesan (recipe courtesy of Angela Liddon, The Oh, She Glows Cookbook)

For guests with specialized diets it’s always helpful to have a few dishes that everyone can enjoy like this vegan (gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free, grain-free) butternut squash dish.

For the squash:
• 1 (2-3 lb) butternut squash, peeled and chopped
• 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup fresh parley leaves, finely chopped
• 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
• 1 cup stemmed chopped lacinato kale leaves

For the almond-pecan parmesan:
• 1/4 cup almonds
• 1/4 cup pecans
• 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/8 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 2.5-3-quart casserole dish. Peel the squash. Thinly slice off the bottom and top and then halve the squash lengthwise. Remove the seeds with an ice cream scoop. Chop the squash into 1-inch chunks and place in the casserole dish. Add garlic, parsley, oil and salt. Stir until well combined with the squash. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

To make the almond-pecan parmesan, combine the almonds, pecans, nutritional yeast, oil and salt in a food processor. Pulse until chunky. Fold the kale into the squash and sprinkle the parmesan mixture on top. Bake at 350 degree Fahrenheit for 6 to 8 minutes uncovered. Serves 4-5.

WHOLE WHEAT PUMPKIN BREAD
(recipe created by Matthew Carlin; courtesy of Monica Musetti-Carlin, Country Comfort: Potluck Favorites)

Forget pumpkin chai lattes – this whole wheat pumpkin bread is a perfect compliment to any dish that might show up at a potluck meal.

• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon cloves
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 cup clover honey
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup pumpkin puree
• 1/2 cup walnut nuts, chopped

Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together dry ingredients. Add eggs, oil, honey and vanilla. Mix together by hand with fork. Add in pumpkin puree and nuts. Grease a large load pan with butter or use a lined muffin pan. Pour batter two-thirds of the way up.

Bake loaf 30-40 minutes or muffins 18-22 minutes. When an inserted toothpick comes out clean, it’s done. Allow to cool. Serves 10-12.

CHRISTMAS DUCK SOUP
With Star Anise (recipe courtesy of Three Little Halves blog)

Tired of turkey? This duck soup is a great alternative main protein dish for a fall or winter get together.

• 4-5 cups duck stock
• 2 carrots, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
• 1 two-inch-long cinnamon stick
• 5 large scallions  
• 2 small garlic cloves, smashed  
• 2 tbsp double concentrated tomato paste  
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 1 tsp Worcester sauce
• 4 whole star anise
• 6 black peppercorns
• 16 coriander seeds
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/4 cup dry sherry
• salt

Cut four scallions into large chunks. Slice one scallion thinly and keep for garnish.
In a large saucepan caramelize one tablespoon of sugar. (Be careful not to burn it, it happens quickly.) When sugar is caramelized add to it duck stock, carrots, scallions, garlic, bay leaf, star anise, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, coriander, tomato paste and Worcester sauce. Season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the soup begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the sherry and simmer for another minute or two.

With a fork or slotted spoon, transfer the carrots and star anise to individual bowls. Discard the rest. Strain the broth and ladle it into the bowls. Garnish with the remaining chopped scallion and serve. Serves 4.

MEDITERRANEAN ZUCCHINI PASTA SALAD
(recipe courtesy of Valentina Solfrini, author of Hortus Cuisine blog)

“Any pasta salad is great for potlucks, but this is one of those salads that gets better and better as it sits in the fridge – the longer the zucchini marinate, the better it is going to taste. It is also easy to transport and can stay outside the fridge as well,” explain Valentina Solfrini, author of food blog Hortus Cuisine.

For the salad
• 4 medium zucchini
• 200g spelt, rye or whole wheat short pasta, such as fusilli, rotini or penne
• 5 generous tbsp capers, rinsed
• 1/2 cup or more pine nuts and/or almond slivers, toasted
• 5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 2 scallion or spring onion, finely sliced
• 1 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp coriander powder
• Pepper to taste
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
• Extra basil, for garnish
• Lemon juice and pepper to taste

For the dressing
• 1 bunch parsley
• 1 cup packed basil leaves
• 2 garlic cloves, grated
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Add all the dressing ingredients to a food processor, or just finely chop everything by hand and combine with the olive oil.

Prepare the zucchini: slice them thinly – slightly thicker than a credit card, I’d say. Use a mandoline for best results. Grill on a well heated griddle or grill for just 30-40 seconds per side, or until you see dark ridges. Toss with half the dressing, the crushed garlic clove, spring onion, coriander and vinegar. Marinade the zucchini for at least 1 hour, but it’s even better if you prepare them the night before.

Fry the rinsed caper in 1 tsp olive oil until crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Then, in the same pan, toast the pine nuts and almonds until slightly browned – it will only take a minute or so, keep an eye on them.

When all ingredients are ready, cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water according to package instructions.

Roughly chop the zucchini strips, and add them in a bowl with their marinade (remove the garlic clove!) along with the pasta, nuts, capers, salt or gomasio, sesame seeds if using, and leftover dressing as you please. Add pepper to your liking, adjust salt if needed and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Garnish with basil and serve, warm or cold. Keeps well in the fridge for 3 days. Serves 4-6.

Tip: Add some spices like saffron or ras-el-hanout if you really want this to stand out.

HOLIDAY CHESTNUT SOUP
(recipe created by Emily Elliot; courtesy of Monica Musetti-Carlin, Country Comfort: Potluck Favorites)

Nothing says holidays like actual roasted chestnuts. Bring the classic Christmas tune to life with this hearty chestnut soup.

• 3 cups roasted bottled chestnuts, whole
• 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
• 3/4 cup carrot, thinly sliced
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 2 tablespoons cream sherry
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
• 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast chestnuts on a pan for 15 minutes, then remove to a large bowl and cool to room temperature. Combine onion, carrot, and oil in pan; toss to coat vegetables. Bake vegetables at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add to chestnuts; stir in stock and sherry. Pour half of stock mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour pureed mixture into a large soup bowl. Repeat with remaining stock mixture. Stir in salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes. Beat cream until soft peaks form. Serve hot with a dollop of dream, a sprinkle of thyme and a few cranberries. Serves 12.

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