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Jim Botsacos Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

Wild Greens Pie

Yield: 12 servings

1 1/2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil (about)
2 cups Finely Diced Onion
Coarse Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
1 1/2 cups Finely Diced White Part of Leek
2 cups Tightly Packed Blanched Black Kale (also called Cavolo Nero or Dinosaur Kale), Chard, or Escarole, Chopped
1 1/2 cups Tightly Packed Blanched Fresh Dandelion, Mustard, or other bitter greens, Chopped
Juice of 1 Lemon
3/4 cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
1 Tbs Grated Kefalotyri Cheese
1 cup Freshly Brewed Herb Tea (recipe follows)
1/4 cup Sliced Scallion
2 Tbs Chopped Fresh Dill
6 Sheets Frozen #10 Phyllo Dough, thawed as directed on package

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and leek along with a pinch of salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until very soft and translucent.

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2. Raise the heat to medium-high and add another tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the kale and cook for 2 minutes. Add the dandelion greens and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice, Herb Tea, and 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 to 18 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and transfer to a baking sheet to cool.

3. When cool, transfer the mix to a stainless steel bowl, fold in the Feta cheese, Kefalotyri cheese, scallion and dill and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil. Set aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a wire rack large enough to hold the molds on it. Set aside.

6. Hold the phyllo, as directed in note below.

7. Lay one sheet of phyllo dough on a clean surface and, using a pastry brush, lightly coat it with a bit of the remaining olive oil. Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo down the center lengthwise into 2 equal pieces. Then cut each piece lengthwise into 2 equal pieces so that you now have 4 pieces of equal size. Repeat the process to give you 8 strips, each approximately 1 inch wide. Work with just one piece of phyllo at a time because, if prepared in advance, the dough will dry out and be unusable.

8. Working with one mold at a time, lay one phyllo strip over the top of a mold. Gently press the phyllo down into the mold, letting the excess dough hangs down over the outside of the mold. Lay a second strip of dough across the mold, slightly overlapping the first strip, and press it down into the mold as before. Using two more strips, continue to line the mold.

9. Taste the cooled greens mixture and, if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper. Spoon enough of the mixture into the mold to fill it about three-quarters full once packed down into the mold.

10. Fold the overhanging phyllo up and over the filling to twirling at the top to enclose it completely. Using a small, sharp knife, make 4 small slits in the edges of the dough. Lightly brush with olive oil.

11. Continue making layered phyllo, lining and finishing the molds until you have completed twelve.

12. Place the filled molds on the prepared baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside for 3 minutes.

13. Working with one at a time, invert the molds to remove the pies. Serve hot, as is or on top of a lightly dressed tossed green salad.

Note: To hold the Phyllo: Keep the phyllo dough moist while working with it. To do this, place a sheet of parchment (or wax) paper on a baking sheet. Carefully unroll the entire package of phyllo dough (or the number of sheets required for your recipe) out on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with another piece of parchment (or wax) paper and then cover the entire stack with a slightly damp, clean kitchen towel. Make sure that the towel is not too wet or it will render the dough soggy and unusable. When removing a sheet of dough, roll back the towel and top piece of parchment. Remove a sheet of phyllo dough, and then re-roll the towel and parchment back over the remaining sheets to keep them pliable until ready to use.

Herb Tea


1 Large Carrot, cut into chunks
1/2 cup Chopped Onion
10 Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley Sprigs
5 Peppercorns
3 Allspice Berries
3 Whole Cloves
3 Garlic Cloves, smashed
2 Bay Leaves
2 Fresh Mint Sprigs
1 Fresh Thyme Sprig
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
1 Lemon, cut in half crosswise

1. Place the carrot, onion and 2 1/2 quarts cold water in a large saucepan.

2. Add the parsley with the peppercorns, allspice, cloves, garlic, bay leaves, mint, thyme, cinnamon stick and fennel seeds.

3. Squeeze the lemon juice into the mixture and then add the lemon to the pot.

4. Place the mixture over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Cook at a bare simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, discarding the solids. If not using immediately, place the liquid in a clean container and store, covered and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Fennel, Sweet Onion Casserole With Kasseri Cheese and Herb Bread Crumbs

Yield: 6-8 Servings


7 cups Onions, julienne
6 1/2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 heads Fennel, sliced 1/8" thick
1/4 cup Bread Crumbs
4 heaping Tbs Parsley, chopped
2 Tbs Dill, chopped
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
2 1/2 cups Kasseri Cheese, grated
To Taste Salt and Pepper/Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven 425°F

1. Place a medium sized pot filled with water on high heat. Bring to a boil.

2. In a medium sized sauce pot, on low heat, place 5 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.

3. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes more until the onions are lightly caramelized and sweet. Stir occasionally, season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

4. Take the fennel and cut it in half vertically going through the top to the stem. Take a mandoline, set it at about 1/8-inch and slice the fennel lengthwise leaving the core intact to hold the fennel together. Take care to use the hand guard provided by manufacturer. Set sliced fennel aside.

Note: When you get to the end of the fennel bulb, the ends may not hold together, however, the ends are still usable.

5. At this point, the pot of water should be at a boil. To the pot, add a heavy rain of salt to season heavily. Place the fennel into the boiling water, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. The fennel should be al dente, should be easily pierced with a sharp knife.

6. Drain the fennel into a colander with a stainless steel bowl underneath to catch the liquid. Reserve 3/4 cup of the liquid; layout the fennel to cool on a half sheet pan.

7. Place the bread crumbs, garlic, 1 tablespoon of parsley, one tablespoons of olive oil, juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Mix until well combined and the mixture has the consistency of wet sand.

8. Take a 13" x 9"ovenproof baking dish and grease with 1/2 a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Layer the blanched fennel into the dish slightly overlapping; continue until you have 4 rows. Continue until the bottom of the dish is covered.

9. Take a 1/4 of the cooked onions and spread them over the fennel using a rubber spatula to evenly distribute the onions. Sprinkle with a quarter cup of the grated Kasseri cheese. Sprinkle with a quarter of the parsley and quarter of the dill, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

10. For the second layer, start layering the Fennel in overlapping fashion to cover the proceeding layer, alternating the direction of the fennel vertically and horizontally to give stability to the casserole, sprinkle with the cheese, the herbs and season lightly with olive oil salt and pepper (this is your second layer). For layers three and four proceed as directed in step 8 and 9 starting with the fennel. You should have four layers of fennel and the last layer is fennel, onions, cheese and herbs. Add the 3/4 cup reserved cooking liquid, sprinkle with 1/4 cup herbs bread crumbs, drizzle lightly with olive oil.

11. Cover with aluminum foil, place dish on a cookie sheet, then place in a 425°F oven for 10 minutes.

12. After 10 minutes, open the oven, remove the foil and return to the oven for 45-50 minutes until golden, brown and delicious.

To test casserole for doneness, a sharp knife should pierce easily through the center of the casserole.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts With Mavrodaphne Wine

Yield: 6 - 8 servings


2 1/4 lb. Brussels sprouts, cleaned and cut in half - stem intact
6 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 1/2 cups Mavrodaphne Wine
2 Cinnamon Sticks
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven 475°F oven.

2. Place a heavy gauged medium-sized roasting pan in the oven, or a large stainless steel oven proof sauté pan. Heat for 10 minutes until hot.

3. In a medium sized stainless steel bowl, add the Brussels sprouts, 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and the cinnamon sticks.

4. Open the oven, add the remaining extra virgin olive oil to the pan; place the Brussels sprouts in the pan and return to the oven. Roast for 10-12 minutes until caramelized, stirring occasionally.

5. Stir in the Mavrodaphne wine. Return to the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until the wine has reduced.

6. Taste to check seasonings, place in a large bowl and serve.

Ultimate Mashed Potatoes

Yield: 6-8


2 lbs Idaho Potatoes, peeled
2 stick Lightly Salted Butter, (preferably, European like an Italian butter) — cubed and soft
plus 1 - 2 tablespoons for holding
1/4 - 1/2 cup Heavy Cream, hot
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Cut the potatoes in half, and then cut in half again so that each potato is cut into quarters. Then cut into a rough dice, keeping the potatoes around the same size so that they cook evenly.

2. Place the cut potatoes into a large pot, cover with cold water and pour off the water just to rinse the potatoes. Refill the pot with cold water to cover about 1 inch over the potatoes. Note: The potatoes can be cut one day in advance and stored in the refrigerator in the same pot with the water. When ready to cook, place the pot on the stove and proceed as directed.

3. Add a heavy seasoning of salt. The water should be seasoned heavily, almost to taste like the "sea."

4. Place on medium high heat, bring to a boil; stir so that the potatoes don't stick. Lower to a simmer, cook until fork-tender approximately 10 - 15 minutes.

5. Place a large colander in the sink and drain the potatoes making sure to remove all the water.

6. Pass the potatoes through a food mill a little at a time along with the cubed butter — 1/4 at a time. Or put the potatoes back into the pot in which they were cooked taking care to remove all the water; and using a potato masher; mash the potatoes, incorporating the butter 1/4 at a time.

7. When all the potatoes have been mashed, season with salt. Slowly incorporate the hot cream a little at a time using a potato masher in an up and down motion. The potatoes should hold their airy consistency and become very white and light in texture.

8. Before the last amount of hot cream is added, check seasoning for salt and pepper. The last amount of seasoning should be added at this time so that the potatoes do not become overworked. Add the remaining cream in the same manner as before.

9. If you are not going to serve the potatoes right away, place 1-2 tablespoons of the cubed soft butter with a rubber spatula on top of the mashed potatoes, then cover.

10. If holding the mashed potatoes, when ready to serve place the potatoes on the heat, on a low flame. When warm, incorporate the remaining butter that is on top and add a touch of hot cream to adjust consistency.

Sweet & Spicy Sweet Potatoes With Brown Sugar, Orange and Spices


4 medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled, sliced thin, just under a 1/8th of an inch
(approximately 2 1/2 lbs of potatoes)
5 Tbs Butter
3/4 cup Brown Sugar — packed
3/4 cup Orange Juice
2 Tbs Hot Pepper Spice Mix (recipe to follow)
To taste Salt
3-4 Tbs Brown Sugar — reserve

For the Hot Pepper Spice Mix:

1 1/2 tsp Aleppo Pepper
1/2 tsp Dried Greek Oregano
3/4 tsp Whole Toasted Fennel Seed
3/4 tsp Dried Orange Peel
1/4 tsp Dried Mint
1/4 tsp Dried Basil

For the Hot Pepper Spice mix:

Mortar & Pestle Method:
Combine the Aleppo pepper, oregano, fennel seeds, orange peel, mint and basil. In a mortar and pestle, muddle spices until finely ground. Remove and reserve.


Coffee Grinder Method:
Place orange peel, then fennel in coffee grinder, lightly pulse 10 - 12 seconds, add remaining spices, pulse 10 - 12 seconds. Mix well in a stainless steel bowl and reserve.

Sweet & Spicy Sweet Potatoes With Brown Sugar, Orange and Spices

1. Preheat oven to 425°F

2. In a large mixing bowl, place sugar and orange juice, using a wire whisk mix to combine.

3. Add potatoes to the bowl, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add to the potatoes, toss to coat. Add 2 tablespoons of the hot pepper spice mix, season with salt to taste.

4. Take a 13" x 9" ovenproof dish, grease with 1 tablespoon of butter. Layer in the potatoes, shingling them and making rows to line the bottom of the baking dish. Continue to stack the remaining potatoes in rows, start off with three vertical rows running the 13" length of the pan, and then turn the baking dish and layer in horizontal rows (about 4 across). Continue to alternate until you have filled the baking dish. Pour any excess liquid on top layer. Top with remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.

5. Place the dish on a baking sheet, cover with aluminum foil, place in 425°F oven cook for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, basting the potatoes with the cooking liquid every half hour.

6. Sprinkle the reserved 3 - 4 tablespoons of brown sugar over the potatoes and place under the broiler for 5 - 10 minutes until golden brown.

Cranberry, Walnut & Sun-dried Cherry Compote

Yield: 4-6 servings


1/2 cup Water
1 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries, picked and cleaned
1 cup Orange Juice
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 Vanilla Bean, scraped
Pinch Ground Allspice
1 1/2 cups Light Brown Sugar
1 1/2 cup Sun-dried Cherries
1/2 cup Walnuts, lightly toasted and rough chopped
pinch Salt

1. Combine the water, orange juice, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, pinch of allspice, sugar and a pinch of salt in a large sauce pot over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil, then add the cranberries and the sun-dried cherries; simmer for 8 - 10 minutes or until the cranberries pop and the compote becomes thick. Fold in the walnuts, remove the pot from the heat, cool and refrigerate.

Note: The cranberry compote may be done up to 3 days in advance, let cool and place in an air-tight container and refrigerate.

Fall Fruit Spoon Sweets


1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup figs cut into quarters
1/2 cups apricots — sliced
2 tsps vanilla extract
3 cups Mavrodaphne wine (a sweet Port-like Greek dessert wine)
sugar (equal amount of hydrated fruit weight)
pinch salt
touch of lemon

For the Sachet:

A cheesecloth containing the following spices tied with kitchen string
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cloves
2 allspice


Take dried fruits and hydrate in Mavrodaphne wine, adding enough water to cover, let sit for 20 to 30 minutes to soften fruit. Strain fruit, save liquid, weigh the fruit, weigh out an equal amount of sugar. Place fruit and sugar in alternating layers. In a pot add all of the liquid, bring to a boil, reduce, then simmer, add sachet, cook 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat, let fruit sit in syrup about 2-3 hours. Return to heat, bring to a simmer for 5 minutes, pull off the heat and add vanilla extract and touch of lemon, cool.

Apple Walnut Crisp With Samos Caramel and Ice Cream

Yield: Serves 8

7 cups Apples, peeled, cored and small diced (Macoun or Granny Smith)
1/2 cups Golden raisins, soaked in 1/2 cup Samos (reserve Samos for Caramel)
2 cups Streusel Topping (plus 2 - 2 1/4 cups for topping)
8 2 1/2" x 2 1/2 "ring molds

Samos Caramel Sauce — recipe follows

Streusel Topping — recipe follows

1. Preheat oven 325°F

2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, take each 2 1/2" x 2 1/2 " ring mold and spray with a non stick cooking spray. Place sheet pan with ring molds in the refrigerator to chill until ready to fill.

3. In a stainless steel mixing bowl, mix the 7 cups of apples with the 1 1/2 cups golden raisins, 2 cups of the streusel topping, fill the molds approximately 3 quarters with the filling which is approximately 3/4 cup packing loosely.

4. Take approximately a 1/4 cup of streusel and top each mold with streusel, taking care to leave the streusel in large pieces so that it has the texture of a crumb cake topping.

5. Take a clean cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Using a spatula, place the spatula under the bottom of the mold; lifting the mold and transferring to the clean cookie sheet. Transfer all 8 molds; place the apple crisp in 325°F oven for 30 - 35 minute or until golden brown.

Allow the Apple Crisp to come to room temperature before serving.

To serve: unmold the apple crisp and place in the center of a dessert plate, drizzle with Samos caramel and a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

To make the Caramel:

Yield: 2 cups


1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 cups Light Brown Sugar Packed
1/4 cups Calvados (apple flavored brandy)
1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
3/4 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Samos, reserved from the soaked raisins
4 whole Allspice
4 Whole Cloves
1/2 tsp Whole Fenugreek

1. Combine all ingredients except the spices in a stainless steel sauce pot. Whisk together to combine; bring to a boil over medium-high heat and insert a candy thermometer, cook the mixture until it reaches 240°F, stirring occasionally for 15 - 20 minutes

2. Remove from the heat add the spices and let steep for 1 hour. Strain and reserve warm until ready to use.

To make the Streusel Topping:

Yield: Approximately 5 cups

3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour, Sifted
1 1/2 cup Brown Sugar Packed
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp Lemon Zest
1/2 lb + 2 Tbs Butter, melted (2 sticks plus 2 Tbs)
1 1/4 cup Walnuts, coarsely chopped

Place all ingredients in stainless steel mixing bowl, except the butter, and mix well. Slowly add the melted butter until all the ingredients come together. Mixture should hold when squeezed firmly by hand.

Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla-Scented Whipped Cream

Yield: 1 - 9" x 2" Pie


1 1/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/4 cup Sugar
6 Tbs Butter, melted
1 15-ounce can of Pumpkin puree (Libby's is preferable)
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Fresh Ginger, finely chopped
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
pinch Kosher Salt
3 Eggs
1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
1 T Maple Syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter together in mix until it becomes the consistency of wet sand. Fill the bottom and sides of a 10" pie pan with the crust, making sure there are no holes or gaps (using the flat side of a metal measuring cup to compact the crust works well). Set in the refrigerator to chill for approximately 5 minutes.

3. Pre-bake the crust for 8-10 minutes, uncovered, until the crust is light golden brown. Remove crust from the oven, and set aside pie crust to cool.

4. In the meantime, prepare the filling by placing the pumpkin puree in a stainless steel bowl along with the cinnamon, ginger, sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. Whisk in the heavy cream until thoroughly incorporated, then add the eggs whisking until the pumpkin filling is well incorporated.

5. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and place on a half sheet pan, bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the pumpkin filling has set. Cool and reserve.

Prepare the whipped cream:


2 cups Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
3/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

1. Whip the heavy cream in a mixer over medium-high speed until it begins to thicken. Lower the speed to medium, and add the sugar and vanilla extract to the bowl. Continue whipping the cream until it reaches the soft peak stage.

2. Serve immediately with the pumpkin pie.

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