Festive foods for your Halloween feast

  • Caramelized Oranges with Blackberries. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pumpkin Roulade with Prune and Chocolate Filling. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Orange and black Halloween-themed foods like blackberries, prunes, pumpkins, squash, and oranges. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Orange and black Halloween-themed foods like blackberries, prunes, pumpkins, squash, and oranges. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pumpkin roulade with prune and chocolate filling. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pumpkin Roulade with Prune and Chocolate Filling. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Recorder
Published: 10/23/2019 8:48:47 AM

Already, skeletons are clambering from their coffins and witches, ghosts and spiders are slinking from their lairs so they can haunt the night on Halloween.

Their colors are deepest black and livid white. Their time is night. They evoke death and the ancient belief that on Oct. 31 evil spirits are free to roam the world, creating trouble. Little trick-or-treaters imitate them, soliciting a candy treat and threatening a trick if it’s not forthcoming.

But there’s a competing troop of Halloween presences: jack-o’-lanterns lighting porches, and school bus-colored pumpkins standing guard at farm stands and markets. There’re shiny apples, too, and baskets of beige, green and yellow squashes, rainbow Indian corn, and the last of the year’s vegetables.

Their colors are vivid. Their time is sunshiny days. They evoke the harvest and the centuries when farmers and harvesters could celebrate the season secure in the knowledge that they had stashed away crops to tide them through winter.

The brilliant harvest and the dark denizens of the spirit world have color-coded Halloween, especially its foods, in black and orange. Cakes come with orange frosting, cookies are overlaid with dark spiders or white cobwebs, muffins, doughnuts, pies — all sport the iconic colors.

As you think of festive dishes for Halloween, orange presents few problems. As well as pumpkins and squash, you can play with carrots, orange peppers and sweet potatoes. For fruit, we have oranges themselves plus mangos, papayas, cantaloupes, apricots and more.

These orange fruits and vegetables get their color from carotenoids (as do autumn leaves, nasturtiums and other flowers). Eating foods that have carotenoids is important because indeed it’s true that carrots and other carotenoid-rich foods are good for your eyes. A 1994 study confirmed they reduce symptoms of eye strain and improve night vision. Other studies found that carotenoids improve the clarity and elasticity of the skin.

Black — or blackish — foods are less numerous than orange ones. There’s black beans and blackberries, plus prunes, licorice, molasses. poppy seeds and, if you like Mediterranean fare, squid ink to make into pasta or rice dishes.

Like orange foods, several black foods have significant nutrients. There’s protein in black beans and also iron and other minerals. Molasses is similarly rich in iron plus Vitamin B. Prunes and blackberries have lots of Vitamin K and Vitamin C respectively.

One Halloween cooking strategy is to pair the colors using one color to garnish a dish of the other: black bean soup with a swirl of pureed pumpkin or finely grated orange zest for example. Alternately, you could have a squash soup with a dollop of black bean dip. Another way of serving black bean dip is inside a large orange pepper with pepper strips for dunking. Or you can layer it with pureed squash or mashed sweet potatoes and generous sprinkle of zesty cheese in quesadillas.

For breakfast or brunch, combine orange or mango slices with prunes or blackberries. For a mid-morning or just-home-from-school snack, chocolate chips look black when studded in orange pumpkin bread. As for desserts, there’s lots of choices. White-frosted cakes or ice-cream topped with dark berries and slices of orange colored fruit are an easy option. More elaborately, enticing pinwheel slices of pumpkin roulade filled with a dark chocolatey filling prompt oohs and aahs at the end of a festive meal.

The recipe for this roulade is below along with some other black and orange specials for Halloween fun.

Spicy Black Bean Dipwith Orange Peppers

If this is for kids, you may want to use less cayenne and cilantro. For adults, you may want to boost both.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups cooked or canned black beans, liquid reserved

½ teaspoon dried oregano

3-4 cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)

Salt to taste

Dash cayenne pepper

1-2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt

2 large orange peppers

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and gently cook the onions for 4-5 minutes without browning. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Drain the beans from their liquid, saving a little of it on one side. Mash the beans roughly and add to the pan along with the oregano and chopped cilantro. Season to taste with salt and a little cayenne. Stir over moderate heat, mashing the beans to break them down. Finally, add enough sour cream or yogurt and a little of the reserved cooking or canning liquid to thin the mixture to dip consistency.

For serving, choose a large orange pepper with a stalk. Starting about an inch down from the top, carefully cut the top and its stalk off. Discard the ball of seeds, but preserve the top as a lid. Scoop out any seeds and whitish ribs from the inside. Fill almost to the top with the black bean dip. Replace the lid. Cut the other pepper into 2-inch strips to use for dipping. If you make the Black Chips below, add some of these for dipping.

Black Chips

This is a good project with kids. They can cut with cookie cutters and dip their shapes in the oil and poppy seeds. You could flavor the oil with garlic or chili for adults or adventurous young snackers.

3-4 (or more as desired) flour tortillas

About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt to taste (optional)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

cup poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or spread it with parchment paper.

Use Halloween cookie cutters to cut seasonal shapes from the flour tortillas — cats, spiders and witches’ hats are good. You could also do this free-hand if you like.

Warm the oil slightly. Mix the poppy seeds and cinnamon and spread on a plate. Dip the shapes in the warm oil; very lightly sprinkle with salt and then dip in the poppy seeds. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Eat as they are or use for dipping.

Halloween Quesadillas

Using black beans and either sweet potatoes, or as here, a bright orange winter squash such as acorn, butternut, or sugar pumpkin, gives these quesadillas black and orange Halloween stripes when they are cut in quarters. Making quesadillas is an assembly job so have all the fillings to hand when you begin heating the tortillas. It’s also useful to have a helper, and since kids generally like quesadillas, they are often willing assistants.

2 cups black beans (canned or home-cooked)

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Pinch red pepper flakes

Salt to taste

3 cups cooked mashed squash (butternut, acorn, or sugar pumpkin, for example)

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

2 teaspoons orange juice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon olive or canola oil

8 flour tortillas

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar or other cheese

1 cup medium or hot salsa

2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro

Optional extras: mashed or sliced avocado, chopped lettuce, thin strips red pepper

For serving: about 1 cup sour cream or guacamole

Drain the beans of any liquid and reserve it in case you need it later. Mash the beans with the cumin, thyme, pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Set aside. (They tend to stiffen if made ahead; if so, return them to a spreadable consistency by adding a little of the reserved liquid.)

In a bowl, mix the squash with the orange zest and juice, and either cinnamon or nutmeg. Set aside.

To make the quesadillas, line up the bowls of beans and squash, corn, cheese, salsa, and cilantro on a convenient point on the counter. Grease two frying pans with a little of the oil. Place the pans over moderate heat and put a tortilla in each. Working with one of the tortillas only, spread on it a quarter of the beans, followed by a tablespoon of so of cheese, a quarter of the squash followed by any additional ingredients (such as avocado or pepper strips) you want to use. Finish with another tablespoon of grated cheese, a spoonful of salsa and a sprinkle of cilantro. Take the unfilled tortilla from the other pan and place it on top, pressing down a bit with a spatula. Let it cook for another half minute then lift it onto a cutting board and cut into four pieces for serving. Keep warm while you make more (or eat these then make three others.)

Caramelized Orangeswith Blackberries

The blackberries give these caramelized orange slices a Halloween appeal, but they are a great dessert any time of year, with or without the blackberries.

5 navel oranges

1¼ cups sugar

3-inch cinnamon stick

About 1 cup blackberries

With a sharp knife, peel the oranges thickly, taking all the skin and leaving just the orange flesh without any white pith. Do this over a bowl to catch the juice. Slice the oranges and put them in a serving bowl, with any broken pieces underneath and the prettiest slices and saved juice on top.

Put the sugar in a saucepan with ⅔ cup of water and the cinnamon stick broken into two pieces. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring just until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly until the sugar becomes amber-colored. At this point watch carefully as it can burn quickly. While you are waiting for the sugar to reach the right color, boil another ⅔ cup of water in a separate container and keep it very hot.

When the sugar mixture has reached the amber color of caramel, quickly move the pan to the sink and wearing an oven-mitt to protect your hand and standing back a bit, pour in the boiling water, which will cause hissing and perhaps spitting. Return to the heat and stir until any hard bits that have formed dissolve. Pour over the orange slices. Cover and chill in the fridge for 2 hours (or up to a day) For serving scatter on the blackberries.

Pumpkin Roulade withPrune and Chocolate Filling

This roulade is not as difficult as it may sound. With a dollop of cream, it works as a (fairly) fancy dessert, but the chocolatey pinwheel filling appeals to kids too.

For the roulade:

4 eggs at room temperature

1 cup sugar

¾ cup pumpkin or winter squash purée

3 tablespoons butter, melted but not hot

¾ cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons powdered coriander

1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

For the filling:

7 ounces prunes

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)

2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the base of a 15-by-9 jelly-roll pan or a 16-by-10 cookie sheet with parchment paper. Warm a large mixing bowl. Stir together the flour, baking powder and coriander. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs and the sugar in the warmed (not hot) bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on high speed beat until the mixture has tripled in volume and looks pale. Fold in a third of the pumpkin. Repeat this step, adding one third at a time, until it is all mixed in. Now sift in the flour mixture through a sieve. Fold it in with a spatula. Finally, stir in the melted butter. Gently spread the batter in a thin layer on the prepared pan. (If you are using the larger pan, don’t worry if doesn’t come up to the sides; getting within an inch or so is good enough.) Bake for 15 minutes or until the surface is dry, lightly browned and springs back when you press it lightly in the center. Remove from the oven.

Spread a sheet of wax paper or a smooth-textured kitchen towel on the counter with its long edge parallel to you. Sift two teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar onto it. Invert the pan on it so the cake falls out onto it. Strip off and discard the parchment paper. Let cool for a few minutes, then, while the cake is still warm, flip the edge of the paper or towel over the roulade and roll it up. The effect is to wrap the paper or towel inside. Sounds odd, but it trains the roulade so it’s easier to roll when filled. Leave until room temperature.

To make the filling, put the prunes in a small saucepan and add water to just cover them. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes until they are tender. Scoop the prunes from the pan and save the liquid. Melt the chocolate chips (either in a microwave for 1-2 minutes or in a bowl suspended over but not touching boiling water).

Mash the prunes into a puree. Stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract plus either a tablespoon of the reserved liquid or dark rum. The mixture should be thick but spreadable. Add a little more liquid or rum as necessary to achieve this.

To finish the cake, unroll it without forcing it absolutely flat. Keep the long side parallel to you. Leave on the paper or kitchen towel. Spread the filling over it, leaving a half-inch bare area on the short sides and also on the long side furthest from you. Now gently but firmly roll the cake back up using the towel to help press it firmly but gently into a roll. (Don’t roll the towel into it!). Let finish cooling then trim off both of the ends to reveal the pinwheel effect. Place on a narrow serving dish. If you want to keep it for later, wrap in plastic wrap.

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