This month's double anniversary issue of Cooking Light magazine (November 2012) looked good enough to eat. The headlines, scattered all over the chocolate-hued cover, were obviously meant to delight. "The Best Fast Meals Ever," "Best Recipes of Our First 25 Years," "The Most Delicious Desserts" and more. Hard not to fall in love. I write a column for Cooking Light called Radically Simple and in this edition are three stunning starters meant expressly for your Thanksgiving table. There's a tri-colore salad (endive, watercress, radicchio) with an addictive bacon-cider-maple dressing; a creamy pumpkin-red pepper soup thickened with sweet potato and perfumed with five-spice powder and rosemary, and phyllo cups filled with ricotta, chèvre and fresh thyme. Looks like you cooked all week. Yet the recipes, in keeping with the column's intention, are radically simple to prepare. But this special issue has had me devouring each of its 296 pages and inspiring me to cook so many OPR! (Other People's Recipes!) Want an idea? There's Creamy Lobster Pappardelle, Cavatappi with Browned Brussels Sprouts and Buttery Breadcrumbs, Scallion Pancakes with Korean Dipping Sauce, Fiery Chicken Thighs with Persian Rice, Soy-Citrus Scallops with Soba Noodles, and Fresh Ginger Cake with Candied Citrus Glaze,
And I was totally wowed by the food of 13-year old Flynn McGarry, the culinary avatar to the mesmerizing talents of pianist Lang Lang when he was of a similar age.
To the list of most important Italian cookbooks of the last 25 years, however, I would stand up and add the delicious and encyclopedic tome Naples at Table, written by renowned Italian cooking expert, historian and teacher, Arthur Schwartz.
Best of all (and I love to learn new things every day), was a word I stumbled upon in the ingredient list for a winter citrus-and-escarole salad. In the spirit of full disclosure, I had never heard the word before! Pomegranate arils! Apparently, it's a popular crossword puzzle word. Look it up!
Here's my recipe for Creamy Pumpkin-Red Pepper Soup. Enjoy. Creamy Pumpkin-Red Pepper Soup Hands-on time: 30 min. Total time: 60 min.
The soup can be topped with a variety of things: I love Parmigiano-Reggiano and rosemary, but savory sprinkles like chopped smoked almonds or toasted pecans would be lovely. This tastes even better the next day ... or the day after.
3 cups chopped peeled fresh pumpkin 2 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled sweet potato 1/4 cup chopped green onions 1 teaspoon five-spice powder 1 teaspoon ground cumin 2 teaspoons olive oil 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic 3/8 teaspoon salt, divided 5 cups no-salt-added chicken stock (such as Swanson) 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 2. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt; toss well. Place vegetable mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until tender, stirring once. 3. Combine vegetables, stock, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Place half of vegetable mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Process until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining vegetable mixture. Stir in butter. Top with rosemary, if desired.