By: Jillian Fraioli
Out of all the holiday memories, Halloween memories always jump out at me first.
My mother loved to go all out. We had a screened-in front porch where she’d tie up sheets splattered with glow-in-the-dark paint, and hang cobwebs and creepy crawlies. She’d take a huge cauldron and get dried ice for the night. She’d dress up as a witch, with scars, teased hair, and full makeup. My father would put up black lights, furthering the effect. Right before the kids would swarm the neighborhood, my mom would start up the cassette player, all set with spooky tunes and creepy sounds. It was the late ‘70s, after all.
There was even one Halloween, my favorite, where I helped Mom boil spaghetti noodles and peeled grapes, which we put in shallow bowls, with the candy stash hidden in the middle. The kids knew it was in jest, but we got a huge kick out of them having to feel gross innards and eyeballs in order to get their treats.
I still look forward to trick or treating in our neighborhood. We love watching the parade of costumes (even though I would be super happy to never see another Frozen costume for the rest of my life). But we don’t go all-out on the decorating like Mom. Some years we’ll play some Halloween Pandora and we’ll put up spooky lights on the porch with the pumpkins.
Our neighbors do a good job: some have the tombstones in their yard, or skeletons hanging off the trees. These houses also play spooky noises, and some even have a coffin or two, or even some decapitated floating heads. It makes me think of the things Mom and I could do now, proximity not being an issue. One of our neighbors takes an old TV (it has to weigh at least a hundred pounds!) and puts it in their front bay window, rotating different horror movies of old each night leading up to Halloween. Last year, there was quite the group of adult neighbors standing around commenting on The Bride of Frankenstein. I remember watching all those black-and-whites with my parents as a kid, before Jason or Freddy came on the scene.
Oh Halloween. You might just be my favorite.
So instead of going all-out with the decorations, we like to be sure we have a post-sugar rush spread set up for our close friends and neighbors. Usually it’s late, so we like to go for light Halloween treats: soup, appetizers, and one themed cocktail. Along with the below recipes, we’ll put out a large cheese board surrounded by fresh breads, nuts, olives, and seasonal fruits.
(Roasted Pumpkin and Carrot Soup with Ginger and Coconut Milk)
Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a starter in mugs
Full Cooking Time: 2 hours
Active Time: About 35 minutes
I start making this pumpkin soup recipe in September with the first harvest of butternut squash. So, if you cannot find sugar pumpkins, you can substitute other winter squash easily: acorn, Hubbard, or Delicata all work.
- 1 large sugar pumpkin (or substitute) — about 3 pounds, cut in quarters (remove seeds now if you want to roast them for garnish, or leave them in and remove them after they are roasted — this makes it slightly easier, but I prefer to roast my seeds)
- 1 pound of carrots, peeled and cut in half
- 2 inches of ginger, peeled, chopped in four big chunks
- 2 leeks or 1 large white sweet onion, peeled and washed, and cut in large chunks
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled, left whole
- 3 tbsp olive oil, divided into 2 and 1
- 4-6 cups chicken or good vegetable stock (homemade or store-bought, look for low-sodium)
- 1/2 cup of white wine, optional
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp of salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 full-fat can of coconut milk, 2 tbsp of the creme reserved for garnish if you wish
- 1 medium-ripe orange, zest removed, juiced
- Cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
- Roasted pumpkin seeds
- Drizzle of creme fraiche or the coconut creme you have reserved
- Pre-heat your oven to 385 degrees
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat
- Toss pumpkin, carrots, ginger, leek or onion, and garlic in the olive oil
- Roast vegetables for 35-45 min., until the pumpkin is soft. You might have to take the garlic, ginger, and leeks out at about 30 min., so check around the 25-30 min. mark.
- Remove the pumpkin flesh from the skin (and the seeds if you did not remove them)
- Heat a 6-quart heavy-bottomed pan on medium with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, and add in all of the vegetables. Toss in the heated olive oil, and add the white wine, let it cook out the alcohol, about 2-3 min.
- Turn down the heat to medium low, and add 4 cups of the stock to start, and the bay leaf.
- Let everything simmer for 30-45 min. (this is when I’d make the Frankenstein Fingers)
- Now everything is soft and flavors are combined; remove the bay leaf, and add your coconut milk, the whole can, all the orange zest, and half the orange juice.
- Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the soup until very smooth (I use my Vitamix — not on the soup setting).
- Taste and adjust. You might need more stock if it’s too thick, you might need more orange juice if it needs a kick of acidity, or you might want to add a splash more wine, salt, or pepper. I find I almost always use the extra juice, and from 1/2 to 1 extra cup of stock to thin it out, but it will depend on your squash!
- Garnish with your choice of items above. Serve warm.
If you want to get real fancy, you can serve the soup in a halved, hollowed-out pumpkin shell, surrounded by cute little mugs. I just let people help themselves from a terrine and mismatched mugs — we go eclectic and functional in my house.
(Asparagus Spears Wrapped in Prosciutto and Phyllo Dough)
Makes 30 spears
Full Cooking Time: about 35-45 minutes
Active Time: About 15 minutes
- 4 ounces thinly-sliced prosciutto cut into 30 long, thin strips
- 30 asparagus spears trimmed (big and fat is better, so they don’t shrink too much and leave you with gaping air between the spear and the wrapping)
- Frozen phyllo dough, thawed
- Olive oil cooking spray or 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper as desired
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat
- Wrap 1 prosciutto strip around each asparagus spear, in a spiral, leaving the tip exposed
- Place phyllo sheet on work surface and keep it covered with a barely-moist towel to prevent it from drying.
- Cut dough into rectangles that are about 2×4 inches. You basically want them to be big enough to wrap around your asparagus while leaving only the tip exposed.
- Remove 3-5 strips at a time, depending on your desire of phyllo thickness, and coat each strip with the cooking spray or dip finger in oil and rub top of dough, layering them on top of one another; the oil will help seal the dough. I like to make it messy, so it looks like peeling skin. Then wrap the now stacked pieces of phyllo around the asparagus/prosciutto spear. Don’t forget to leave the tip exposed (Frankenstein’s fingertip!)
- Place each spear on a baking sheet, seam side down.
- Repeat procedure with remaining phyllo, asparagus, and cooking spray. Once done, give all of them a light spray or brush of olive oil.
- Bake at 400° for 15 min. or until phyllo is golden and crisp. Serve warm.
While I think these are amazing on their own, I will often whip up a lemon or Sriracha aioli or some sort of dip with these — use your imagination! You can also put some fancy mustard inside before you wrap them up. So many variations!
Makes about 12 1-cup servings (so in our house, six servings)
Full Cooking Time: About 40 minutes
Active Time: About 10 minutes
- Cheesecloth, double-layered or disposable tea bag, or even a coffee filter
- 2 cardamom pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 whole allspice
- 3 Pink Peppercorns (optional)
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1 orange, sliced, pitted
- 1 lemon, sliced and pitted
- 3 quarts apple cider (or apple juice if cider isn’t available; fresh is best, if you’re lucky to live near an orchard or three!)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar, or agave syrup
- 1-2 cups brandy, or rum, or even Calvados; or serve on the side for shots to be added to the mulled cider, so the kids can enjoy it too!
- Lightly crush the cardamom, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon stick, and put them in the cheesecloth with the peppercorns to make a bundle, and close by tying the corners together, or with kitchen twine.
- Place all ingredients, except the booze, in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
- Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low, and let flavors meld for 30 min. before serving.
If you’re not serving to the kiddos, or you’re pouring into a thermos for your trick-or-treat beverage, go ahead and stir in the alcohol after the simmer — but reduce the heat to warm, so you don’t burn it all off!