Turn the Heat Up!

Because many of us minimize our use of processed foods on Pesach, we’re always looking to raise the bar on flavor using basic ingredients. Lately, chefs and recipe developers have been touting the benefits of roasting vegetables before turning them into soups and stews. Other cooks have taught us that toasting nuts before adding them to baked goods heightens their flavor. Wow! This is an idea that can truly be helpful for Pesach cooking!

Roasting the squash and the apples brings dimension to the soup that you could never achieve by starting the dish with raw vegetables!

Roasted Butternut Squash
and Apple Soup

For the soup:

3 to 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded

2 yellow onions

2 McIntosh apples, peeled and cored

4 tablespoons good olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 4 cups chicken stock (make some extra when preparing soup for the Seder)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the garnish:

Scallions, white and green parts, checked and sliced diagonally

Coconut flakes, lightly toasted

Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment or foil. Cut the butternut squash, onions and apples in large cubes. Divide the squash mixture between the prepared sheet pans and spread it in a single layer. Toss each with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, add them to the chicken stock and use a hand blender to purée the soup. Add the cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste and add salt or pepper as needed. Top with some or all of the garnishes and serve.

* * *

Break from compote with this hearty fruit dessert. Serve with homemade ice cream or on its own.

Roasted Fruit Dessert

1/4 cup sugar or honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 to 4 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) fresh fruit, pitted and sliced (you can choose peaches, plums, nectarines, pears, apples, pineapple, mangos, or bananas)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1/4 cup fresh orange or lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Peel the fruit if that’s your minhag. In another bowl, toss the fruit with the vanilla and orange juice.

In a roasting pan or oven-proof baking dish, arrange the fruit cut-side up, pouring any extra juice in the baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with sugar and cinnamon.

Roast for approximately 20 minutes or until the fruit is fork tender.Toasting nuts draws the natural oils to the surface, intensifying the rich nutty essence, creating a deeper color and making the nuts crunchier. Toasting your nuts prior to adding them to a recipe can improve the flavor and texture of any dish. Or serve them alone as a tasty snack.

Spicy Roasted Almonds

1 cup raw almonds or

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon paprika (optional)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl until the almonds or hazelnuts are well coated. Spread the nuts in the prepared sheet pan and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Stir half way through the baking time. Remove from the oven and lift the parchment paper off the pan to cool the nuts off more quickly. Be sure to keep an eye on these during the last 5 minutes of baking, as they can go from baked to burnt in an instant.

Once cooled, the nuts can also be chopped and sprinkled over any homemade ice cream or even the roasted fruit dish above.