NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 21, 2012

Stepping up the Sides

Soup, veggies can impress as much as the turkey

By ALISON LADMAN
Associated Press

---- — There’s little question about it — butternut squash belongs on the Thanksgiving table. But that shouldn’t lock you into the two tried, true and overdone means of preparing it — mashing and roasting.

For something a little different this year, we decided to turn our Turkey Day butternut into a rich and creamy bisque. It comes together quickly and even can be prepared a day ahead. To do so, follow the recipe except for adding the cream. When ready to reheat, do so over low heat, then stir in the cream.

We like the bisque topped with the pan-seared corn and cherry tomato salsa, but you also could toast pumpkin seeds and sprinkle some of those over each serving. Or even better — tamari-coated pumpkin seeds.

SQUASH BISQUE WITH ROASTED CORN SALSA

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 8

2 tablespoons butter

1 large red onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

4 cups cubed butternut squash

2 carrots, diced

1 quart vegetable stock or broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of this mixture. Add the ginger, butternut squash, carrots and bring to a simmer. Cook until the carrots and squash are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

While the soup cooks, make the salsa. In a skillet over high, heat the oil.

Add the corn kernels and grape tomatoes and sear until browned, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved onions. Stir in the vinegar, then season with salt and pepper.

When the soup is ready, transfer it, working in batches, to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pan and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with the salsa.

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For those hosts seeking to serve a more exciting side dish than the traditional green bean casserole, here’s a recipe that can impress with its flavors without requiring endless hours of prep — blanched asparagus and haricots verts. The vegetables get nothing but a quick blanching in boiling water, then are dressed on a platter with olive oil, golden raisins and goat cheese. That’s it.

ASPARAGUS AND HARICOTS VERTS

WITH GOAT CHEESE AND PINE NUTS

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 8

1 teaspoon olive oil, plus additional for drizzling

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon ground coriander

Salt

1 pound haricots verts, trimmed

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed of woody ends, sliced lengthwise

1/4 cup chopped golden raisins

1/2 cup grated firm goat cheese

In a medium skillet over medium, heat the 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add the pine nuts and cook just until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the coriander and season with salt. Set aside.

Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Blanch the haricots verts in the boiling water until bright green and just tender, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to immediately remove them to the ice water. Repeat the process with the asparagus, cooking it for 4 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks.

Drain and pat dry the vegetables, then arrange them on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil, then top with the pine nuts, raisins and goat cheese.