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Holiday Cooking with 'Talk of the Nation'

Mollie Katzen's latest cookbook, <i>Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe.</i>
Mollie Katzen's latest cookbook, Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe.
Ina Garten's latest cookbook, <i>Barefoot Contessa Family Style.</i>
Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Family Style.

As cooks across America prepare to serve Thanksgiving repasts, Talk of the Nation turns to some of the nation's top cooks and cookbook authors for some culinary tips and some favorite recipes.

NPR's Neal Conan leads a discussion with callers and guests including Ina Garten, author of several Barefoot Contessa cookbooks; B. Smith, restaurateur and cookbook author; and Mollie Katzen, whose most recent cookbook is Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe (Hyperion, 2002).

Below is the recipe Katzen and Conan prepared during the Nov. 26 program, for broccoli-stuffed mushrooms; plus three more Katzen recipes, with her notes about preparation and variations. Following that are three Garten recipes, reprinted by permission from Barefoot Contessa Family Style (Clarkson Potter, 2002). In addition, restaurateur and cookbook author B. Smith shares three of her recipes. And at the request of many NPR fans, npr.org reprints the directions, given on air by a caller named Andrea, for an almond-studded cranberry relish.


Broccoli-Stuffed Mushrooms

From Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven

Stuffed mushrooms were very fashionable when I was first learning to cook. They were a special treat, made with domestic mushrooms (portobellos hadn't been invented yet), and the stuffing usually consisted of something very rich, like buttered bread crumbs and cheese. Here is a modern version of this retro concept, streamlined and de-fatted to please the Busy, Health-Minded Modern Cook (who hadn't been invented yet, either). The filling is made from tender-crisp minced vegetables with just a touch of cheese, and the now-ubiquitous portobello mushrooms can be used to make jumbo portions that are like a meal unto themselves.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on the context

Preparation time: 50 minutes (20 minutes of work)

1 1/2 pounds broccoli

1 small onion (about 1/4 pound)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt (possibly more, to taste)

Black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups grated gruyere or emmenthaler cheese (about 3/4 pound)

4 portobello mushrooms (4-inch diameter)

1. Shave the outer skins from the broccoli stalks with a good vegetable peeler. Cut off the topmost florets, leaving a bit of stem, so you'll have something to "plant", and set aside. Cut the shaved stems and the onion into chunks, and place them in a food processor. Process until finely minced. (You might have to do this in batches.)

2. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a medium-large skillet with an ovenproof handle. Add the broccoli florets and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry over medium heat for just a few minutes -- until the florets are bright green and tender-crisp. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

3. Without cleaning it, heat the skillet again. Add another 1/2 tablespoon oil, the minced broccoli-onion mixture, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and stir in 1 cup of the grated cheese. Grind in some black pepper to taste.

4. Remove and discard the mushrooms stems, and peel the mushrooms, if necessary. If you're using portobello mushrooms, scrape out the soft insides of the mushroom cap with a spoon. Divide the filling evenly among the hollowed-out mushrooms, and arrange a tight cluster of broccoli florets, facing upright, in the top of each one. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

5. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, and return it to the stove. Turn the heat to medium, and add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil. Place the filled mushrooms in the pan, cover, and cook undisturbed for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through.

6. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops, and place the entire skillet under the broiler for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is thoroughly melted and lightly browned. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.


Orange-Cherry Corn Muffins

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café

In addition to being perfect for a holiday dinner, these elegant muffins are also great for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea.

Use sweet -- rather than sour or tart -- cherries to balance the tartness of the orange juice and buttermilk. If you're using frozen cherries, don't defrost them first. Just slice them while still frozen (it's not difficult) and add them directly to the batter.

* The range of sugar allows you to make these sweeter or not, according to your taste.

* Remember to grate the orange zest before squeezing the juice.

* Use a fine grade of cornmeal (not the coarser polenta) for best results.

* Canola oil can be substituted for some or all of the butter.

* You can also make these in miniature muffin pans. The yield will be double, but the baking time will be approximately the same.

* If using frozen fruit, do not defrost it before adding to the batter.

Yield: 8 to 10 standard-size (2 1/2-inch) muffins

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 20 to 25 minutes to bake

Nonstick spray

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups cherries (fresh or frozen), pitted and sliced, or 1 cup dried cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray 8 standard-sized (2 1/2-inch-diameter) muffin cups with nonstick spray.

2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and orange zest in a medium-sized bowl.

3. Measure the orange juice and buttermilk into a 2-cup liquid measure. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat gently with a fork or a small whisk until smooth.

4. Slowly pour this mixture, plus the melted butter, into the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl. When it is almost all mixed, add the cherries, then complete the mixing with a few swift strokes until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Don't overmix; a few lumps are okay.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. For smaller muffins, fill the cups about four-fifths full. For larger muffins, fill them up to the top. If you have extra batter, spray one or two additional muffin cups with nonstick spray and fill with the remaining batter.

6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven, then remove the muffins from the pan and place them on a rack to cool. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving.


For each variation, follow the main recipe with these adjustments.

Orange-Cranberry Corn Muffins

Increase the sugar to 2/3 cup, and omit the vanilla extract. Replace the cherries with:

* 2 cups chopped fresh cranberries

Raspberry Corn Muffins

Increase the sugar to 1/2 to 2/3 cup. The orange zest is optional. Omit the vanilla extract.

Replace the cherries with:

* 1 1/2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen)


Sweet Potato Pudding

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café

Here's a great way to use up leftover cooked sweet potatoes! Consider serving this for a quick -- even portable -- breakfast. Top this golden, sweet dish with blackberries and the color combination will be as exciting as the taste! Vitamins and protein are all generously present. If you're aspiring to the proverbial five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, this delightful pudding is a sneaky way to close in on your quota.

* Cooked, mashed pumpkin or squash can be substituted for the sweet potato.

* This pudding keeps very well in the refrigerator for up to a week, if you cover each cup tightly with plastic wrap.

Yield: 6 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes (once the sweet potato is cooked), plus 35 to 40 minutes to bake

Nonstick spray

1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potato

1/2 teaspoon salt (scant measure)

1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional Accompaniments

Squeezable lime wedges

Blackberries (fresh or frozen, defrosted if frozen)

1. Half-fill a 9- by 13-inch pan with water and place it on a rack in the center of the oven. Then preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray six 6-ounce ramekins with nonstick spray.

2. Place the mashed sweet potato in a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle in the salt, sugar, and spices, and continue to mash until very smooth. Slowly pour in the beaten eggs and mix until they are completely blended in. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract and mix until everything is uniformly combined.

3. Spoon the pudding into the prepared ramekins, distributing it equally among the 6 cups. Gently place the ramekins in the panful of hot water in the oven.

4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted all the way into the pudding--about halfway between the edge and the center of each ramekin--comes out clean. (The center might still be soft, but it will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven.) Carefully remove the pan from the oven, then take out the ramekins one by one and place them on a rack to cool. (A well-fitting oven mitt is very useful for this sometimes-awkward process.)

5. Cool to room temperature or chill before serving. This pudding tastes best at room temperature or cold, with some fresh lime juice squeezed onto each serving and a few choice blackberries on top.


Cranberry-Ginger Sauce

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café

Cranberry-ginger sauce has a wonderful tart flavor with a touch of heat. If you have some left over the morning after your holiday dinner, serve it for breakfast, mixed into a bowl of plain yogurt atop a steaming bowl of, freshly-cooked hot cereal. You can also just eat this plain, with a muffin or a piece of toast.

* Cranberries can be stored indefinitely in the freezer, so you can make this recipe any time of year.

* This sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 2 cups

Preparation time: 2 minutes of work, plus 20 minutes to cook and time to chill

1 cup fresh cranberries

1 can (12 ounces) frozen cranberry juice concentrate, defrosted

3 tablespoons corn syrup, or to taste

A few slices fresh ginger

1. Combine everything in a small to medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the berries pop and the liquid is reduced by about one third.

2. You can leave the sauce as is or purée some or all of it in a blender for a thicker sauce. (Fish out the ginger slices first.)

3. Cool to room temperature, then adjust the corn syrup to taste, and chill until cold.



East Hampton Clam Chowder

Serves 6 to 8

This soup is a variation on a recipe from the original Loaves and Fishes cookbook written by friends Devon Fredericks and Susan Costner. Instead of the usual bland cream and clams, this one is like a clam stew with lots of vegetables and just a bit of milk to finish. You can make it a day in advance and reheat it slowly before dinner.

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided

2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)

2 cups medium-diced celery (4 stalks)

2 cups medium-diced carrots (6 carrots)

4 cups peeled medium-diced boiling potatoes (8 potatoes)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 quart (4 cups) clam juice

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

3 cups chopped fresh chowder clams (1 1/2 pounds shucked clams)

Melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper and sauté for 10 more minutes. Add the clam juice, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

In a small pot, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over very low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in a cup of the hot broth and then pour this mixture back into the cooked vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes until the broth is thickened.

Add the milk and clams and heat gently for a few minutes to cook the clams. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot.

If you use bottled clam juice instead of fresh, you may need to add more salt.


Smoked Salmon Spread

Makes 1 1/2 pints

We started to make this dip at Barefoot Contessa to use up extra smoked salmon, but it was so popular that we had to buy more salmon just to make it. This is my idea of the perfect "no-cook" appetizer to serve with drinks. And the good news is that it actually tastes better if you make it a few days early.

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, drained

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 pound (4 ounces) smoked salmon, minced

Cream the cheese in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until just smooth. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, horseradish, salt and pepper, and mix. Add the smoked salmon and mix well. Chill and serve with crudités or crackers.

If you can find it, I prefer Norwegian salmon; it's drier and less salty than other smoked salmon.


Parmesan Roasted Asparagus

Serves 6

Italians often eat their vegetables as "antipasti," that is, before the main course. This is a very easy first course that I sometimes serve in the classic Italian way, topped with a single fried egg.

2 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus (about 30 large)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 lemons cut in wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

If the stalks of the asparagus are thick, peel the bottom half of each.

Lay them in a single layer on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and return to the oven for another minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

I prefer thick asparagus to thin ones; they have much more flavor.



Jerked Roast Turkey

Serves 8

One 10- to 12- pound turkey

2 cups jerk sauce (store-bought—Vernon’s, Walker’s Wood, etc.)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

Corn-bread-Jalapeño Dressing (recipe follows)

3 medium onions

3 medium stalks celery

5 sprigs parsley

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Remove the giblets from the turkey. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Blot dry with paper towels. Rub the jerk sauce evenly over and inside of the turkey. Place the turkey breast side down inside a 2-gallon, heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Refrigerate and marinate for 48 hours, turning occasionally.

Position the oven rack near the bottom of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the turkey from the plastic bag. Wipe off the jerk sauce and pat dry. Rub the turkey with ¼ cup of the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey with the dressing or onions and celery cut into large pieces. Place the parsley inside the cavity of the turkey. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and set the turkey breast side up on a rack in a large roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Roast the turkey until a meat thermometer registers 180 degrees in breast meat or 185 degrees in thigh meat, approximately 3 ½ to 4 hours. Brush the turkey with the remaining butter, basting occasionally. When the turkey skin is golden brown, cover with foil over the breast to prevent over-browning. Remove the turkey to a warm platter and cover loosely with a towel. Let rest 30 to 40 minutes before carving.

Cornbread-Jalapeño Dressing

Yields 9-10 Cups

6 to 8 cups cornbread cubes

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped celery (including some leaves)

½ cup finely chopped jalapeno peppers

2 teaspoons ground sage

2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 ½ cups turkey or chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, place the cornbread and set aside. In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, celery, and jalapeno peppers. Sauté until tender. Do not brown. Remove from heat. Stir in the sage, thyme, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add to the cornbread. Stir in the eggs. Add the turkey or chicken stock, ½ cup at a time, until the mixture is moist but not wet. Taste and adjust seasoning. Spoon dressing into a large buttered baking dish. Cover and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until the dressing is browned, or stuff the turkey with the dressing and bake as directed.

Skillet Pumpkin-Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream

Serves 8

Pecan Crunch Topping

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup chopped pecans

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Pumpkin Filling

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (see Note)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

One 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin

2 eggs

8 ounces sour cream

Apple Layer

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

2 small Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/8-inch thick

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Vanilla ice cream

Cinnamon stick

Place a baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven. Place the oven rack for the pie on the second level up from the bottom. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To make the pecan crunch topping, in a small bowl combine the sugars, flour, cinnamon, salt, and pecans. Add the butter and, using two knives or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

To make the pumpkin filling, in a small bowl stir together the sugars, flour, spices, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, eggs, and sour cream until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients.

To make the apple layer, in a large bowl mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour; toss with apples to coat evenly. In a 10- to 10 ½ – inch iron skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the butter and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until just starting to brown; top with the apples and remove from the heat.

Pour the pumpkin filling over the apples and scatter the crunch topping over the top, leaving about a ¼-inch border of pumpkin around the edges uncovered.

Bake 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake about 40 to 45 minutes, until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack and cool at least 30 minutes.

To serve, spoon out of the skillet, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and grate the cinnamon stick over the ice cream.

Note: For a softer pumpkin pie consistency, use 2 tablespoons flour. If you prefer a firmer pumpkin pie, use 3 tablespoons flour.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Neal Conan
Award winning journalist Neal Conan was the final host of Talk of the Nation, which broadcast its final show on June 27, 2013.