Pumpkin and Sage Ravioli with Spiced Apples and Pecans

 Why not whet your guests’ appetites for this Thanksgiving Dinner with  this impressive sweet and savory starter!

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 ounces whole pecans, shelled
1 Gala apple (See Cook’s Notes)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ginger
Dash of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
One 9- ounce package Pumpkin and Sage  Ravioli (See Cook’s Notes)

Directions:
Prepare ravioli according to package directions. While ravioli boils, add the cinnamon, sugar, a chop the pecans, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Slice the apple in 4 quarters, and then slice the quarters into 1 inch slices. Toss the apples in the spiced sugar mix.

In a large skillet, melt the butter, add chopped pecans and apple, and sauté for 1 minute. When ravioli is ready, drain and arrange on the plate. Top the ravioli with pecan-apple mix, and serve.

Cook’s Notes:
Any variety of apple can be substituted for  the Gala apple.

Most grocery stores and large supermarkets carry various brands of fresh and frozen ravioli. If Pumpkin and Sage ravioli is not available in your area, a plain ricotta cheese ravioli can be used in this recipe as an alternative.

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TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

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Kentucky Bibb Lettuce Salad with Bourbon Vinaigrette

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Bibb lettuce is named for its original cultivator, John Bibb. In 1865 he grew his special Bibb lettuce in Kentucky’s alkaline soil. This variety, also called limestone, would become the first American gourmet lettuce. Bibb lettuce varieties are known for tolerating varied soils and heat and resisting blight during summer months, making them a choice lettuce for home gardeners. Not only does tender Bibb lettuce comes from Kentucky,  but  so does the best Bourbon whisky, both coming together in a perfect combination of Southern flavors that is fits nicely on the menu for a Kentucky Derby brunch.

 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
8 chicken breast skins
1 1/2 cups pecan halves and pieces
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
8 cups torn Bibb lettuce (2 to 3 medium heads)
4 cups trimmed watercress
4 large peaches, pitted and sliced
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

For the Bourbon Vinaigrette:
Makes 1 1/4 cups
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Woodford Reserve Bourbon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup canola oil

Directions:
For the Chicken Skins:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pat chicken skins dry.Bake skins on parchment paper-lined sheet pan for 15 minutes.Remove from the oven to cool.Crumble the skins into medium -sized bits and set aside.

For the Pecans:
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Toss pecans in butter. Stir together brown sugar and red pepper in a bowl; add pecans, tossing to coat. Spread pecans in a single layer in a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined shallow pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned, toasted, and fragrant. Remove from oven.Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes; separate pecans with a fork and set aside.

For the Bourbon Vinaigrette:
Whisk together vinegar, brown sugar, bourbon, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add canola oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth.Set aside.

For the Salad:
Gently combine the watercress, peaches,red onion slices and pecans in a large bowl.

To serve, place several Bibb leaves on a salad plate. Place the peach mixture on top of leaves. Sprinkle the crumbled cheese and chicken skins bits on top of the peach mixture and lightly drizzle with the vinaigrette.

 

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor


Applewood Smoked Gouda Cheese and Pepper Jelly Appetizers

This recipe was adapted from Chef  Vivian Howard who contributed to  the January 2015 Issue  Food and Wine Magazine. Originally conceived as a fancy grilled cheese sandwich  made with Époisses, the pungent French cow-milk cheese, and sweet and spicy pepper jelly, it can easily be adapted to be a festive appetizer. I made my own hot pepper jam for my version of this dish.

You can find the original recipe by following this link:
http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/epoisses-grilled-cheese-and-pepper-jelly-sandwiches

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Serves 4
Ingredients:
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Eight 1/2-inch-thick slices of French bread
4 Tablespoons hot pepper jelly
8 ounces Applewood Smoked Gouda Cheese, cut into 1/4-inch
slices

 Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a pie pan, toss the pecans with the oil and salt. Bake for 8 minutes or until toasted. Let the pecans cool, then coarsely chop.

Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Toast in the oven until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and spread 1/2 tablespoon of the pepper jam on the other side of each slice. Arrange the cheese on the buttered of 4 slices of bread and top with the pecans and return to the oven, for about 3 minutes and bake until the  cheese is melted.

Remove the cheese toasts and arrange on a serving platter with the jam covered toasts. Serve with additional hot pepper jam on the side.