Good things come in threes

By | | Cooking, Cooking to Share

Bring appetizer, side, dessert to Thanksgiving feast

Stuff mini pumpkins or delicata squash for a festive side dish to bring to a Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving is a holiday best shared. If you’ve been asked to join in on a Thanksgiving feast, here are three dishes to take to compliment the traditional dishes.

The appetizer trio begins with tangy goat cheese. You don’t need to make a huge quantity, just enough to nibble on while the finishing touches are put on the rest of the meal.

Flavor one part of the goat cheese with lemon zest grated with a microplane for the wispiest shreds and most flavor. Mash in some fresh thyme leaves you’ve run through with a knife.

Two other parts are rolled in dried spicy herb mixtures for intense flavors — a green and a red for color. For the red, choose your favorite North African harissa or ras el hanout spice blends.

For the green, a pizza seasoning mix works well with the goat cheese. Put the rest of the pizza mix in a pretty jar, label with the ingredients and take it as a gift to your host.

Drizzle the trio with extra virgin olive oil before serving.

Offering to bring vegan stuffed squash is a thoughtful option for those who don’t eat turkey. Sweet delicata squash is a good choice for stuffing for individual portions because it’s on the smaller side.

You also can stuff those mini pumpkins you might have considered only as decoration. They are tasty but very dense. In order to easily and safely cut off the top to remove the seeds and stuff them, you’ll need to precook them first, either in the oven or the microwave. Be sure to poke some holes for the steam to escape so they don’t explode on you.

To keep them warm on the way to dinner (and so you don’t have to ask your host for valuable oven space), now is the time to pull out that baking dish with the padded insulated cover your great aunt gave you that you thought you’d never use.

If not, put a folded towel on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the covered dish on top of the towel and top with another folded towel. Tie like a package with string or yarn. This should keep them warm for at least an hour, perhaps longer.

For dessert, you could offer to bring an addition to the traditional desserts. Adapted from Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba cake, this intense chocolate cake has filberts instead of her almonds.

To toast and skin the filberts, put them on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. They’ll smell toasty and any unskinned parts should have turned a pale gold.

Dump them onto another rimmed baking sheet lined with a dish towel, preferably a nubby terry cloth one. Top with another dish towel and rub until the nuts release most of their skins. This could be a good job for a late elementary school helper. They won’t release all the skins, just get as much off as you can. Let them cool completely before pulsing in a food processor until fairly finely ground with some larger bits.

Cut small slices of the cake to accompany the pumpkin pie (and pecan pie and apple pie and shoofly pie, depending on your own tradition).

The appetizer is a trio of tangy goat cheese. One is flavored with lemon zest and thyme leaves. Another is rolled in a spicy herb mixture and the last is rolled in North African harissa or ras el hanout spice blends for red color.

Goat Cheese Trio

  • 12 ounces (about) plain chevre
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon harissa or ras el hanout spice mixture
  • 1 tablespoon pizza seasoning mix
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Cut the goat cheese into thirds cross wise. Take one piece and mash it well with with lemon zest and thyme. Shape it into a round disk and put it on a serving plate. Garnish with thyme leaves.

Put the harissa or ras el hanout onto a shallow plate or piece of waxed paper. Put the pizza seasoning onto another. Shape the remaining pieces of goat cheese into disks the same size as the lemon thyme disk. Roll one piece on all sides in the harissa, then the other in the pizza seasoning. Place on the plate with the lemon thyme cheese. Wrap airtight to transport.

This is best served at room temperature. Right before serving, drizzle the cheeses generously with olive oil.

Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

Pizza Seasoning Mix

  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped or whirled in a spice grinder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like the heat)

Combine the ingredients and put in a small jar. Label and store, tightly covered, at room temperature.

Stuff the delicata squash with mushrooms, onions and quinoa along with herbs for a vegetarian side dish to bring along on Thanksgiving Day.

Vegan Stuffed Squash

  • 3 delicata squash or 6 tiny pumpkins
  • 1/2 cup pecans halves
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, well rinsed (any color or mixture of colors)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4+ tablespoons olive oil plus extra for garnish
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced plus one clove, sliced
  • 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms (any kind you like)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh sage plus 6 small leaves, for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

If you’re using delicata squash, wash well and cut in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of the squash so it will sit still in the pan while baking. Scoop out the seeds and set aside.

If you’re using delicata squash, wash well and cut in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of the squash so it will sit still in the pan while baking. Scoop out the seeds and set aside.

If you’re using the pumpkins, they are very dense and hard to cut when raw. Wash them well then poke several holes in the flesh near the stem. Zap in the microwave in 1-minute increments until they’ve softened slightly. You also can bake them in a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.

When you can pierce the flesh near the stem, cut off just enough of the top of the pumpkin so you can scoop out the seeds. Set aside.

Put the quinoa, broth and bay leaf in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the little curly bit has sprung out of the quinoa, about 15 minutes.

While the quinoa cooks, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet until they just begin to smell toasty and nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve 6 halves for the garnish. Coarsely chop the rest and put into a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook another half minute. Add to the bowl with the pecans.

Add more oil as needed to the pan and cook the mushrooms until they’ve softened and given up their liquid. Add to the pecans and onions.

Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of brandy or wine, then pour into the bowl with the vegetables.

When the quinoa is done, remove the bay leaf and sprinkle the sage and thyme on top. Fluff with a fork, incorporating the herbs into the mixture. Fold in the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the squash and put in a shallow baking dish, preferably glass or ceramic. Cover with parchment and then tightly cover with aluminum foil. Bake about 40 minutes or until the squash are cooked through and the stuffing is steaming.

When the squash is almost done, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic and the whole sage leaves in a small skillet or saucepan over medium low heat until fragrant. Uncover the pan of squash and place a pecan half and one sage leaf on each. Drizzle with the infused oil. Rewrap for transport to the dinner. Makes six servings.

Vegetarian option: Replace the olive oil with butter or use a combination of the two. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese with the onion mixture. Season with salt after adding the cheese.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is topped with a chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coffee
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ground toasted and skinned hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the chocolate and coffee into a small saucepan to melt over the lowest heat you can manage. (You also can melt this in a double boiler or the microwave.) Set aside to cool to room temperature while you continue with the cake.

Combine the 1 tablespoon each of flour and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan. Butter the pan and put the paper into the bottom. Butter the paper. Dust the pan with the flour and cocoa mixture. Tap out excess. Set pan aside.

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until they are fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and salt. Add the chocolate and mix well.

Use a spatula to gently mix in the nuts and flour until just incorporated. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and prod the batter with a spatula to evenly fill the pan.

Bake about 20 minutes or until the cake has puffed. The center should wobble slightly if you tap the side of the pan and skewer inserted about 2 inches in from the edge should come out almost clean.

Cool on a rack in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto another rack, remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely before glazing.

Pour warm glaze over the top of the cooled cake, smoothing it to an even coat.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 12 whole toasted and skinned hazelnuts

Heat the cream until it begins to steam and bubbles start to appear around the edges. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let sit a minute or so until the chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth. Pour warm glaze over the top of the cooled cake, smoothing it to an even coat. Decoratively arrange the hazelnuts on top of the cake.

Good things come in threes

Bring appetizer, side, dessert to Thanksgiving feast

Stuff mini pumpkins or delicata squash for a festive side dish to bring to a Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving is a holiday best shared. If you’ve been asked to join in on a Thanksgiving feast, here are three dishes to take to compliment the traditional dishes.

The appetizer trio begins with tangy goat cheese. You don’t need to make a huge quantity, just enough to nibble on while the finishing touches are put on the rest of the meal.

Flavor one part of the goat cheese with lemon zest grated with a microplane for the wispiest shreds and most flavor. Mash in some fresh thyme leaves you’ve run through with a knife.

Two other parts are rolled in dried spicy herb mixtures for intense flavors — a green and a red for color. For the red, choose your favorite North African harissa or ras el hanout spice blends.

For the green, a pizza seasoning mix works well with the goat cheese. Put the rest of the pizza mix in a pretty jar, label with the ingredients and take it as a gift to your host.

Drizzle the trio with extra virgin olive oil before serving.

Offering to bring vegan stuffed squash is a thoughtful option for those who don’t eat turkey. Sweet delicata squash is a good choice for stuffing for individual portions because it’s on the smaller side.

You also can stuff those mini pumpkins you might have considered only as decoration. They are tasty but very dense. In order to easily and safely cut off the top to remove the seeds and stuff them, you’ll need to precook them first, either in the oven or the microwave. Be sure to poke some holes for the steam to escape so they don’t explode on you.

To keep them warm on the way to dinner (and so you don’t have to ask your host for valuable oven space), now is the time to pull out that baking dish with the padded insulated cover your great aunt gave you that you thought you’d never use.

If not, put a folded towel on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the covered dish on top of the towel and top with another folded towel. Tie like a package with string or yarn. This should keep them warm for at least an hour, perhaps longer.

For dessert, you could offer to bring an addition to the traditional desserts. Adapted from Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba cake, this intense chocolate cake has filberts instead of her almonds.

To toast and skin the filberts, put them on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. They’ll smell toasty and any unskinned parts should have turned a pale gold.

Dump them onto another rimmed baking sheet lined with a dish towel, preferably a nubby terry cloth one. Top with another dish towel and rub until the nuts release most of their skins. This could be a good job for a late elementary school helper. They won’t release all the skins, just get as much off as you can. Let them cool completely before pulsing in a food processor until fairly finely ground with some larger bits.

Cut small slices of the cake to accompany the pumpkin pie (and pecan pie and apple pie and shoofly pie, depending on your own tradition).

The appetizer is a trio of tangy goat cheese. One is flavored with lemon zest and thyme leaves. Another is rolled in a spicy herb mixture and the last is rolled in North African harissa or ras el hanout spice blends for red color.

Goat Cheese Trio

  • 12 ounces (about) plain chevre
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon harissa or ras el hanout spice mixture
  • 1 tablespoon pizza seasoning mix
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Cut the goat cheese into thirds cross wise. Take one piece and mash it well with with lemon zest and thyme. Shape it into a round disk and put it on a serving plate. Garnish with thyme leaves.

Put the harissa or ras el hanout onto a shallow plate or piece of waxed paper. Put the pizza seasoning onto another. Shape the remaining pieces of goat cheese into disks the same size as the lemon thyme disk. Roll one piece on all sides in the harissa, then the other in the pizza seasoning. Place on the plate with the lemon thyme cheese. Wrap airtight to transport.

This is best served at room temperature. Right before serving, drizzle the cheeses generously with olive oil.

Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

Pizza Seasoning Mix

  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped or whirled in a spice grinder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like the heat)

Combine the ingredients and put in a small jar. Label and store, tightly covered, at room temperature.

Stuff the delicata squash with mushrooms, onions and quinoa along with herbs for a vegetarian side dish to bring along on Thanksgiving Day.

Vegan Stuffed Squash

  • 3 delicata squash or 6 tiny pumpkins
  • 1/2 cup pecans halves
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, well rinsed (any color or mixture of colors)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4+ tablespoons olive oil plus extra for garnish
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced plus one clove, sliced
  • 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms (any kind you like)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh sage plus 6 small leaves, for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

If you’re using delicata squash, wash well and cut in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of the squash so it will sit still in the pan while baking. Scoop out the seeds and set aside.

If you’re using delicata squash, wash well and cut in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of the squash so it will sit still in the pan while baking. Scoop out the seeds and set aside.

If you’re using the pumpkins, they are very dense and hard to cut when raw. Wash them well then poke several holes in the flesh near the stem. Zap in the microwave in 1-minute increments until they’ve softened slightly. You also can bake them in a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.

When you can pierce the flesh near the stem, cut off just enough of the top of the pumpkin so you can scoop out the seeds. Set aside.

Put the quinoa, broth and bay leaf in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the little curly bit has sprung out of the quinoa, about 15 minutes.

While the quinoa cooks, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet until they just begin to smell toasty and nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve 6 halves for the garnish. Coarsely chop the rest and put into a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook another half minute. Add to the bowl with the pecans.

Add more oil as needed to the pan and cook the mushrooms until they’ve softened and given up their liquid. Add to the pecans and onions.

Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of brandy or wine, then pour into the bowl with the vegetables.

When the quinoa is done, remove the bay leaf and sprinkle the sage and thyme on top. Fluff with a fork, incorporating the herbs into the mixture. Fold in the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the squash and put in a shallow baking dish, preferably glass or ceramic. Cover with parchment and then tightly cover with aluminum foil. Bake about 40 minutes or until the squash are cooked through and the stuffing is steaming.

When the squash is almost done, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic and the whole sage leaves in a small skillet or saucepan over medium low heat until fragrant. Uncover the pan of squash and place a pecan half and one sage leaf on each. Drizzle with the infused oil. Rewrap for transport to the dinner. Makes six servings.

Vegetarian option: Replace the olive oil with butter or use a combination of the two. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese with the onion mixture. Season with salt after adding the cheese.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is topped with a chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coffee
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ground toasted and skinned hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the chocolate and coffee into a small saucepan to melt over the lowest heat you can manage. (You also can melt this in a double boiler or the microwave.) Set aside to cool to room temperature while you continue with the cake.

Combine the 1 tablespoon each of flour and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan. Butter the pan and put the paper into the bottom. Butter the paper. Dust the pan with the flour and cocoa mixture. Tap out excess. Set pan aside.

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until they are fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and salt. Add the chocolate and mix well.

Use a spatula to gently mix in the nuts and flour until just incorporated. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and prod the batter with a spatula to evenly fill the pan.

Bake about 20 minutes or until the cake has puffed. The center should wobble slightly if you tap the side of the pan and skewer inserted about 2 inches in from the edge should come out almost clean.

Cool on a rack in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto another rack, remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely before glazing.

Pour warm glaze over the top of the cooled cake, smoothing it to an even coat.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 12 whole toasted and skinned hazelnuts

Heat the cream until it begins to steam and bubbles start to appear around the edges. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let sit a minute or so until the chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth. Pour warm glaze over the top of the cooled cake, smoothing it to an even coat. Decoratively arrange the hazelnuts on top of the cake.

By Kim Davaz

Kim Davaz always wants to know the story behind a recipe. She’s written about food for The Register-Guard since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @kimdavaz; contact her here.