Tag Archives: 5 star makeover

Butternut Squash Bisque with Prosciutto Chips and Crab

It’s 5 star make over time again, and this month’s theme is squash!

 Hosted by: 5 Star Foodie  & Lazaro Cooks!


Right away, I knew I would be doing something with butternut squash.  Sweet, and remarkably vibrant orange in color, it’s definitely my favorite member of the squash family.

Even though it has been more summer like here in Virginia with 80 degree days, the evenings have been cooling off, and the idea of things like soups and stews are beginning  to sound appealing.

I decided to make a bisque for this month’s challenge, showcasing the true flavor of butternut. I roasted the squash along with a red bell pepper to bring out the natural sugars before blending into a smooth puree; the base for the creamy bisque.  Sauteed onions and leeks were invited to the mix, along with some chicken broth and a bit of cream for simmering. I  balanced it out with some crisp salty prosciutto and crab for the  garnish.

After shooting the pics for this post, we ate the bisque for lunch (one of the benefits of photographing food for your blog! );  a nice treat to sit down and enjoy on a busy weekend day. —-really loved this one, yes, butternut squash is still my favorite.

I can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with this month! Be sure to stop by and visit 5 Star Foodie or Lazaro Cooks for the roundup this Friday for all kinds of wonderful ideas for squash!




Butternut Squash Bisque with Prosciutto Chips and Crab
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 (2 pound) butternut squash – halved and seeded
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • ½ cup finely diced leek
  • 2½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1⁄2 cup of heavy cream
  • Garnish:
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 slices prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup lump crab meat
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Brush the cut sides of squash with 6 tablespoons of the butter. Season with the salt, pepper and thyme. Place the squash cut side down in a baking dish and bake until tender, approximately 1 1⁄2 hours. Cool, scoop out the pulp from the skin.
  3. Puree the squash in a food processor with roasted red pepper. Reserve.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare garnish. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add prosciutto slices and cook until crisp, a few minutes per side. Drain on paper towel lined plate.
  5. Melt butter in saute pan over medium high heat. Add Panko crumbs and stir until crumbs begin to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add crab, continue to stir an additional minute. Transfer to plate and reserve.
  6. In a large saucepot, heat the olive oil and add the onions and leeks. Sweat over low heat. Add the puree of the butternut squash, and stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat; simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream.
  7. Garnish with crispy prosciutto and toasted crab crumbs

Bison Meatballs with Pickled Red Onions, Avocado Relish & Spicy Aji Amarillo Sauce

hosted by 5 Star Foodie & Lazaro Cooks!

Okay, here we are; the first 5 Star Makeover event of the year! As you can see from the images above, this month’s challenge is meatballs.

I have to say,  I am a lover of all meatballs, from all over the world. Whether they are served  Italian style atop spaghetti with red sauce, lamb meatballs with Mediterranean spices, Morrocan, Swedish, or Thai (like the ones I made here).

Among my favorites are the pescetarian versions made from fish and shellfish.  Even vegetarian meatballs are okay with me too; especially if we count arancini in the meatball category.

There  so many directions to go with this challenge. It really left the gates wide open for creativity.

I decided to go with an appetizer presentation, and thought it would be nice to make bison star of the ball.

 Bison is much lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than beef. Grass-fed, bison is  rich in vitamins, minerals, and flavor! January resolutions are well underway, and if you are looking for new ways to celebrate healthier eating, swapping out some bison in place of  beef in your favorite recipes is one small change that may help you along the way.

So here we go: Bison Meatballs with Pickled Red Onions, Avocado Relish, and Spicy Aji Amarillo Sauce.

I used Panko bread crumbs in the meatball mix to keep them light in texture, then baked them off in the oven.







I decided to go with bold , colorful flavors,  like pickled red onions, and avocado relish in lieu of  heavier ingredients, keeping the healthier look at meatballs in mind.  To finish the dish, I made a spicy sauce with Aji Amarillo paste (look for in latino markets or online) which added some nice heat to my Greek yogurt sauce.

We really enjoyed these spicy little bites, and I hope you will too!

Don’t forget to check with 5 Star Foodie & Lazaro Cooks! on Friday for the roundup of recipes from our cooking group.  I have seen a sneak peak at what they have been working on, and I know we are in for a treat!

Bison Meatballs with Pickled Red Onions, Avocado Relish, and S


1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/2 milk

1 pound ground bison

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon minced serrano chile (seeded)

1/2 teaspoon salt


Pickled Red Onions (recipe follows)

Avocado Relish(recipe follows)

Aji Amarillo Sauce (recipe follows)



Minced habanero pepper

Finely chopped cilantro


For meatballs:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place Panko bread crumbs in a medium bowl. Add milk, toss to combine, and allow mixture to soften for a few minutes. Add bison and remaining ingredients. Mix together using your hands, to combine ingredients.


Shape bison mixture into 11/2-inch balls and place onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Bake 12-14 minutes, or until fully cooked.




Place a pinch of pickled red onions in the bottom of tasting spoon (or plate). Place meatball atop pickled onions, followed by about 1 teaspoon of relish. Drizzle meatball with Aji Amarillo Sauce, and garnish with minced habanero pepper and cilantro

Makes 12 meatballs


Pickled Red Onions

3/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons  sugar
Pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
5 allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian red pepper flakes
1 large red onion, peeled, and thinly sliced into rings

In a small, non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings and chile until boiling.Add the onion slices and lower heat, then simmer gently for 30 seconds.Remove from heat and let cool completely.Transfer the onions and the liquid into a jar then refrigerate until ready to use.


Avocado Relsih

1/2 English cucumber, quartered, seeds removed

1 small avocado, pitted, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped grape tomatoes

1 teaspoon olive oil

Juice from half of a lime

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon honey

Generous pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl, tossing well to blend flavors.


Aji Amarillo Sauce

6 ounces Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon grated ginger root

1 1/2 teaspoons aji amarillo paste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.


White Asparagus with Tarragon Cream and Toasted Bread Crumbs

Green asparagus or white. What’s the difference?

Unlike green asparagus, which is grown above ground, white asparagus (also known as spargel in Germany) is grown underground (see photos below, courtesy of Foodproject.com).  Deprived from light, the  development of chlorophyll is prevented, and rather than turning green,  the asparagus remains an elegant shade of ivory.  Just as the tips of white asparagus break through the surface of the soil, they are quickly harvested (by hand) and sold  in roadside stands and markets in northern Europe.  In some cases, the tips are allowed a brief amount of sun to gain a bit of green accent against  the white stalks. Though similar in flavor to grassy undertones in green asparagus, the white variety tends to be a bit more tender and delicate  in flavor.

Until recently, finding fresh white asparagus in the US was a difficult task. But now, white asparagus is harvested domestically from March to early May, and may be picked up (if you are lucky!) in your local farmer’s markets. If this is not the case for you (or me), you may purchase imported European white asparagus, or will find imported varieties from Peru at your grocery store.

I was in Pawleys Island, SC (in the middle of my tour with Friends at the Table) during the time I was working on this post, and after a trip to 3 different stores, good old Piggly Wiggly came through for me, at a time I thought I would be special ordering from the produce department. I’m pretty sure I embarrassed my dad (who I was with in the store) when I let out a squeal of excitement upon spotting it! A few ladies resembling Driving Miss Daisy looked over at me like I had been drinking some spiked sweet tea.

Wishing to truly showcase the flavor of the white asparagus, I decided to create a sauce made with European butter and fresh tarragon to glam it up a bit. The toasty crumbs add the contrasting texture it needs, and is rich enough to stand alone as an entree. You could also add a sprinkle of sauteed pancetta as well if you like.

If you have never tried white asparagus, I hope you will go on the hunt for some and try some of the amazing recipes my blogger friends have come up with for this month’s 5 Star Makeover. Be sure to stop by 5 Star Foodie or Lazaro Cooks! sites for the roundup on Friday!



You’ll need to peel the asparagus prior to cooking, removing the tougher exterior of the stalk.

To prevent the fragile tips from breaking off during the cooking process, cook in an upright asparagus basket, or, tie the asparagus in bundles with cotton twine, and lower into a pot of vigorously simmering (but not boiling) water.

White Asparagus with Herbed Cream and Toasted Bread Crumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups  1/2-inch artisan bread cubes

2 pounds fresh white asparagus

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 stick unsalted butter,   cut into tablespoons

3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons minced chives

Salt and pepper


For toasted bread crumbs:

Place bread cubes in the bowl of a food processor and process into fine crumbs. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add bread crumbs to pan;  stirring constantly, until bread crumbs are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Reserve crumbs until ready to use.

For the white asparagus:

Bring  water to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add salt and lemon juice lemon juice. Meanwhile, trim about 1/2″ from the ends of the asparagus. Lay spears on a work surface, then peel thin skin from each with a sharp  vegetable
peeler, starting 1 1/2″ from the top and running the length of the spear. Add peeled asparagus to boiling water, and reduce heat to medium, maintaining a steady simmer. Cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 8–20 minutes, depending on thickness. Lift asparagus from  water and drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile,  boil wine and shallots in a medium heavy pan over medium-high heat until reduced by three-quarters, 10–15 minutes. Add cream and reduce again by half, 5–7 minutes; reduce heat to low. Add butter to pan one tablespoon at a time, whisking  until smooth.  Whisk in herbs, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Place cooked/drained asparagus in a large serving bowl. Add cream sauce, and toss well. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs.

Makes 6 servings