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Nov 2, 2015

Autumn Harvest ~ Cooking Class 126

Our mad pumpkin carving skills!

For my October class I wanted to feature the flavors that bring the taste and feel of the harvest of fall to mind. From pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes to a hearty soup; roasted beets, pecans, and cranberries; the taste and smell of sage, plus a horseradishy mustard sauce all come to mind. It was a bountiful feast indeed!  

Red and golden beets with burrata, pears, pistachios, thyme and balsamic.
I had planned to do a beet appetizer until my sister sent me a recipe for a sweet potato appetizer that she'd recently had at a party, saying it was one the best appetizers she had ever eaten. I know she knows good food, and I'm not pickin' on her, BUT she is a vegetarian so I also know that she's missing out on a lot of really great appetizers. My top ten list would probably all include some kind of meat or seafood. Immediately coming to mind is a crostini of elk carpaccio with huckleberry preserves that I had in Beaver Creek, Colorado and it was to die for; mussels with chorizo in coconut curry in St Croix that we couldn't get off our minds so we went back for more, a year later. There are the duck confit nachos from Coco Maya, and sushi and crudo from Zengo! She is really missing out!

Anyhow, since my upcoming cooking class was "Autumn Harvest," I decided to give the recipe a try. I didn't expect to be blown away but  I was so wrong (sorry sis, you were right, there I said it, into the microphone), it was fantastic!

You start by giving the potatoes a good blistering in a hot oven. The "salad" is a mixture of pecans, celery, cranberries, parsley and shallots. Add some goat cheese and dress it with a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, olive oil and Dijon mustard. It's simple, comes together fast and is unbelievably delicious. You know me....I was tempted to add bacon, but was glad I didn't.

You can use yams and/or sweet potatoes; I used both and liked the presentation of the two colors. I sliced them thick and hearty, which gives you a nice mouth full of creamy potato. You could slice them thinner to make them go farther, for a big crowd but if you do I think you would lose some of what makes them so great: the creamy, sweet texture, so go big or go home is my advice.

For our first course we made a Carrot-Coconut-Curry Soup. This is a soup that I first fell in love with last winter. I have been making it all summer long with the abundance of carrots that my friend Linda, has been supplying me with and I love it even more each time I make it. I've tweaked this recipe from a basic carrot soup I found in Bon Appetit, by kicking it up with the curry, some Thai red chile sauce and creme fraiche. Fresh garden carrots make it delicious and the coconut and curry add a nice Asian feel to it while the Thai chile sauce leaves a good kind of heat at the back of the throat. The creme fraiche cools it off and adds a silky richness that leaves you wanting seconds. It's super easy and has only a few ingredients so it comes together pretty fast. Win-win, plus it tastes as good as it looks!

For our entree we whipped up a Pecan Chicken with Creole Mustard Sauce (recipe from the amazing Cabernet Grill) and a stuffed acorn squash, plus we made Butternut Squash Gnocchi.

Cristina and Kim, the Gnocchi Queens

Connor and Scott, the backup Gnocchi team
We finished up the night with a Pumpkin Waffle dessert and a cigarette. Yeah, it was that good.

Here was the full menu...give me a shout if you want me to post any of the other recipes. (The Acorn Squash with Sun-dried Tomato Polenta, is already up.)

PRINT RECIPE:  Blistered Sweet Potatoes Loaded with an Autumn Salad of Pecans, Celery, Cranberries and Goat Cheese

PRINT RECIPE:  Carrot-Coconut-Curry Soup

*Thanks to Kitt for many of the pix!