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Christmas Menu: Squash Soup, Lamb Shanks, Pecan Pie and more...

Christmas Menu: Squash Soup, Lamb Shanks, Pecan Pie

Maybe you’re like us and mulling what to serve at your Christmas and New Year’s meals. Or maybe you’re like one friend who began planning her Christmas menu right after Thanksgiving. If you’re the former, we’ve assembled some menu suggestions to help your planning process.

We aim to please meat eaters, fish lovers and vegetarians with our main dishes. We also have a variety of desserts to suit all tastes, including vegan palates, as well as a variety of side dishes. We offer up squash as a first course, either roasted or in soup. Pick and choose. Or maybe these will inspire your own creations.

First Course

Roasted Pear-Butternut Soup with Crumbled Stilton

Maybe you’re like us and like to begin a big meal with soup. We like pears and butternut squash. Both are in season. So why not combine the two. “Here (the pears) are roasted to sweet perfection with butternut squash and puréed to create a cream soup that gets a luxurious garnish of Stilton cheese,” notes the cookbook where this recipe comes from, EatingWell In Season (The Countryman Press, 2009). (Click here for recipe.)

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash with Cornbread Stuffing

Here’s another take on squash. It comes from Karina Allrich, who writes the fabulous gluten-free goddess blog. The stuffing features curried apples, cranberries, and gluten-free cornbread. If you don’t require a gluten-free recipe you can make your own favorite cornbread. (Click here for squash recipe.)

Main Courses

Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Cranberries

The red and green colors in this dish will add a festive note to your table. Quinoa is a cereal grain that’s native to the Andes Mountains. It’s super nutritious and packs roughly as much protein as milk. The recipe comes from Fran Gage’s fine book, The New American Olive Oil: Profiles of Artisan Producers and 75 Recipes (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009). (Click here for recipe.)

Oven-Roasted Fish with Herb-Citrus Dressing

This easy recipe from award-winning cookbook author Marie Simmons is one of our favorite ways to prepare fish. We’ve used halibut and wild salmon with equal success. We’ve also grilled the salmon on a cedar or cherry plank, which adds a subtle smoky flavor while keeping the fish moist. Alternatively, you can use swordfish or Pacific cod. The fish can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled. And you can mix and match the herbs in the dressing, using basil and parsley as substitutes for the dill and mint. (Click here for recipe.)

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushroom Bolognese

Meat eaters will rejoice with these braised lamb shanks (a photo appears at the top of the blog). The dish comes from Napa Valley chef Michael Chiarello. The lamb shanks are matched with wild and domestic mushrooms, including morel, shitake and chanterelle. The braising liquids are used to create a bolognese sauce for topping orecchiette pasta. The recipe comes from Chiarello’s book, The Tra Vigne Cookbook (Chronicle Books, 2008). (Click here for recipe.)


Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries

It’s hard to go wrong with butternut squash or cranberries. This dish combines the two to create a colorful presentation. It comes from Boston chef Tony Polito, author of a new cookbook entitled Fresh (Aurora Foods Publishing, 2010). (Click here for recipe.)

Marinated Butternut Squash

We admit we’re kind of addicted to butternut squash. Blame it on the fact that butternut squash is so good and so seasonal at this time of year. This dish is easy to prepare and packs some heat via the marinade, which includes garlic, mint, and red pepper flakes. It comes from food blogger Sara Dyson. (Click here for recipe.)

Sautéed Carrots with Warm Olive and Mint Dressing

“Carrots and olives were made to go together,” says Susie Middleton in her cookbook Fast, Fresh & Green (Chronicle Books, 2010), where this recipe appears. The carrots are dressed with a vinaigrette and combined with mint, chopped olives, and chopped toasted almonds.  (Click here for recipe.)


Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake

You don’t have to be a vegan to savor this delicious cake. Our kitchen was filled with the wonderful aroma of toasted almonds while we baked it one weekend. The cake is the creation of Fran Costigan, a fabulous pastry chef who specializes in delicious vegan desserts. (Click here for recipe.)

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

We can vouch for this deliciously moist, nutty, orange-infused cake. We had it with a group of chefs who were equally impressed. In fact, a chef sitting next to us noted he typically doesn’t eat desert. But, in this case, he happily ate the cake. The recipe comes from chef Trey Foshee, who heads the kitchen at the San Diego restaurant Georges at the Cove, in La Jolla. (Click here for recipe.)

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is one of our favorite desserts for the holiday. It’s festive and brings back memories of holidays past. This pie features an olive-oil crust. The recipe comes from our friends at Viking Range. (Click here for recipe.)

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch

Olive Oil Primer: “Earthy,” “Greasy” & Other Taste Defects

The term “earthy” can be a good thing when tasting a wine. Do a Google search on the words “earthy” and “wine” and Pinot Noir, Bordeaux and Riesling come up. Wines made from the Sangiovese and Petite Sirah grapes pop up, too. But in the olive oil world, an earthy tasting olive oil is not something you want.

In fact, earthy is a flavor associated with olives that have dirt or mud clinging to them. Bottom line: The olives weren’t washed before they were pressed.

Here’s a rundown of other defects you might find when tasting olive oil, based on International Olive Council definitions:

  • Heated or burnt: Occurs when oil is exposed to excessive and/or prolonged heat during processing.
  • Hay-wood: Flavor of oil produced from olives that have dried out.
  • Greasy: Flavor reminiscent of diesel oil, mineral oil, or mechanical grease.
  • Vegetable water: Flavor acquired by prolonged contact with the vegetable water that is a by-product of pressing olives.
  • Brine: Obtained from olives that were brined (such as table olives) before pressing.
  • Esparto: Flavor obtained from using new mats made from esparto (a type of grass) when pressing olives.
  • Grubby: Flavor obtained from olives that have been attacked by the olive fly, which causes disintegration of the olives before they are harvested.
  • Frozen: Flavor obtained from olives that experienced heavy frost or prolonged cold temperatures before being harvested and pressed.

Stay tuned for more olive oil tasting terms.

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch

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