Turkey, White Bean, and Spinach Soup




There are a few "givens" when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving -- the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning, turkey as the star of the meal, the post meal food coma, and of course, the refrigerator full of leftover turkey, side dishes, and dessert. Thanksgiving leftovers are quite possibly  as anticipated as much as the actual meal itself a win-win situation whoever you are -- those who don’t like to cook are covered at lunch and dinner (or breakfast – leftover pie is a completely acceptable breakfast option) and for those of us who like to cook, Thanksgiving leftovers provide a great opportunity to use classic dishes as a starting point to create more inventive recipes. As much as I love planning the traditional Thanksgiving menu, figuring out what to do with the leftovers is the most fun part.

A few of my favorite ways to use up leftovers, if you’re looking for some inspiration:

-Leftover mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes can be formed into pancakes and fried in a little butter and olive oil to make savory pancakes, good as a side dish or on their own with a salad.

-Leftover roast potatoes are great in a frittata.

-Leftover cranberry sauce is delicious stirred in to cake or muffin batter to make a cranberry swirl cake or muffins, or used as a topping for pancakes or waffles.

-Leftover roasted squash is great stirred in to pasta or risotto (post and recipe forthcoming!)

-Leftover turkey and mashed potatoes make a great shepherd’s pie – use the turkey in the filling and the potatoes as the topping.

-Leftover turkey is also great in a pot pie, in chili, in a hash for breakfast, in a wrap, in quesadillas or enchiladas, or most traditionally, used to make a turkey sandwich – my favorite is a turkey BLT. Or, in soup, the star of today's post.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake


This is my second Thanksgiving post on the blog, to follow up on Monday’s Stuffing. Though I am a big fan of the three traditional Thanksgiving desserts – pecan, pumpkin, and apple pie – I always try and make something different at Thanksgiving, just to add a bit of variety to the table – not to mention I’ve posted three pumpkin desserts, shared an apple cake not so long ago, and although I love pecan pie, corn syrup and pecans are hard to come by in Rome.

This recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake comes from Al di La restaurant in New York City. Though I had seen it circulating on many a food blog a while back with rave reviews, I hadn’t ever gotten around to making it, preoccupied as I was with over the top layer cakes and icebox cakes. No matter what my fellow bloggers said it seemed like such a simple cake, and I wasn’t sold on the chocolate/pear combination; I’ve always thought that fruit and chocolate are best eaten apart, (I’m in the minority here in that I’ve never liked chocolate covered strawberries –weird, I know). I did however like how this cake is Fall-ish, using pears as one of its main ingredients. I thought I would give it a try before Thanksgiving, on the off chance I liked it enough to add it to the menu.  

Apple, Sausage, and Apricot Stuffing

Even though Christmas is over a month away, Italians are in full on Christmas mode – lights are hanging, stores are selling decorations, and panettone is on display in the supermarkets. This is not so surprising – Italians after all do not celebrate Thanksgiving, the defining event of the month of November in the U.S, the precursor to Christmas. Seeing as how we are both an Italian and American food blog, I couldn’t not dedicate a post to this holiday, which is of course all about food. I hope our American readers can get some ideas for recipes they can make next week, and explain a little about the holiday to our readers from other parts of the world.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a holiday celebrated where families get together, to, as the name suggests “give thanks” for what they have and share a meal together – this holiday is all about the food. Turkey is always the main star of the meal, and is served accompanied by various side dishes (mashed potatoes! cranberry sauce! stuffing! vegetables!) and pumpkin, pecan, and apple pie is traditionally eaten for dessert. That being said, the nice thing about Thanksgiving is that every family has their own traditions – no menu is the same. My colleague, who is from the South, makes macaroni and cheese and candied yams; a vegetarian friend of mine skips the turkey all together and loads up on the sides; and my Nonno always made lasagna alla Bolognese for my family along with the typical Thanksgiving fare.

Growing up, we always went to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. It was always an exciting day – a Thursday without school, where I got to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV in the morning. It was wonderful to see my extended family all in the same place for a day, and of course there was so much delicious food. My favorite part, not surprisingly, was dessert – in addition to making the usual pumpkin and pecan pie, I liked to try out new desserts like chocolate caramel cheesecake or apple crumble, or make my Nonno’s favorite, coconut cake.

Pumpkin Pancakes

You already know I love pancakes (just look at the name of this blog) and I’ve made it pretty clear that I make it my job to cook with pumpkin as much as possible in the Fall, so it was just a matter of time before I put the two together to make the star of today’s post: pumpkin pancakes, aka my new favorite breakfast. If my recent posts are any indicator, I’m a big fan of comfort food and cozy dishes when the weather gets cold, and these pancakes are no exception. They are perfect for a chilly morning, incentive to get out from under the covers and warming in a way that your usual cereal or yogurt could never be. These pancakes are fluffier and thicker than your typical pancake thanks to the addition of the pumpkin, and are packed with pumpkin’s usual sidekicks -- ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Disclaimer: These pancakes were so delicious I found myself cooking up the leftover batter at various points after I photographed them (a pancake before lunch, pancakes for dinner, pancakes the next morning). I found that the longer you let the batter sit, the more intense the flavor of the spices becomes, so if you want to prepare the batter in advance and let it sit in the fridge for a bit, that would be fine. I like my pancakes served with maple syrup and butter, but if you’re not a maple syrup fan or it’s not readily available where you live, you can also serve these with just plain butter or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. And as if you needed any more convincing to make these, note that this recipe is also a snap to make – just whisk all the ingredients together, heat up your skillet, and you’re good to go.

Next up: a savory pumpkin recipe and another post using another Fall ingredient – apples!


PUMPKIN PANCAKES

Ingredients:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼  teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, egg, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients over the flour mixture and whisk until combined. 

Heat a little butter or vegetable oil (or butter spray, if you’re in the U.S and have that) in a large skillet over medium heat. Ladle ⅓-cup of the batter onto the skillet for each pancake. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges are set and the bubbles around the edges are open and set. Flip and cook on the second side for an additional 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve the pancakes immediately. Makes 8 pancakes (feel free to double the recipe if you are cooking for a bigger group).


Recipe adapted from www.browneyedbaker.com





Pasta e fagioli

Remember when I told you about how hot Rome is in the summer? Those ever rising temperatures that made things like no cook pesto and no bake icebox cake the best things to eat? Well, those days are over. We’re now officially in to Fall here in Rome – in the span of just a week or two the temperatures have gone from summery to downright cold, meaning my Ugg boots are out, the space heater is on in my office, and I’m all for making comfort food to combat the cold. My go to Fall recipes tend to be cozy and hearty dishes like ragu’ alla bolognese, risotto (post forthcoming!), and of course pasta e fagioli, the star of today’s post.

Pasta e fagioli –which means pasta and beans – is an Italian soup that, much like polenta, used to be considered a “peasant” dish, as it is composed of inexpensive ingredients that are still filling and nutritious. Nowadays however it can now be found on menus in Italian restaurants, and was a staple in my house growing up -- I remember that there was nothing better than coming out of freezing New England temperatures and having a pot of this soup waiting for us for dinner. Despite its simple ingredients, it is full of flavor thanks to fresh herbs, plus the tasty addition of pancetta (note that this can be left out for a vegetarian version). It is warming, filling, and perfect with freshly grated parmesan cheese on top and a side of bread to get every last bit of broth in the bowl. Note that this dish is also better a day or so after it is made, as the flavors develop even more. Enjoy everyone!

PASTA E FAGIOLI

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
5 cups chicken broth

¾ cup of crushed tomatoes
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup ditalini pasta (dry)
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving


Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, beans, and rosemary and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer the soup for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender or blender, puree 2 cups of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth – be very careful when you do this, as the soup will be hot. Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the ditalini and boil the pasta e fagioli with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 9 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary. Season the soup with pepper and salt to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with some Parmesan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil just before serving. Serves 6.