Hearty Halloween

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Each year the Logan Square Neighborhood Association tosses a Halloween party for kids in Coxe Park. The adults have just as much fun as the children. After the party, the little ghosts and goblins go trick-or-treating through the neighborhood.

Some of my neighbors on a particular block dress up and offer goodies to the adults. They set up small tables beside their stoops. Wine, cocktails, cheese and crackers, and crudit�s with assorted dips are always on offer. One year, Halloween was quite brisk, so we sipped mugs of pumpkin soup, which immediately warmed us up.

A more elaborate Halloween party is always a treat for grownups. My husband Edward and I attended a big bash a number of years ago. We dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Ghost. A friend made our costumes. She took white sheets, drew faces, cut out eyes and a mouth and we threw them over us. You could instantly tell I was the female because my ghost eyes had long dark eyelashes. Edward wore a black silk top hat.

If I were to give a Halloween party for adults, I would serve lots of orange-colored food and drink. Smoked salmon is a natural here, as is pumpkin soup. You easily can purchase pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin cheesecake. During the autumn months, I like to use crushed spiced wafers for the crust when making cheesecakes. Although I think it lacks tomato flavor, fresh or dried tomato pasta is a pretty pale shade of orange. Mix it with black squid-ink pasta and you and your guests will really be in the Halloween spirit.

When buying canned pumpkin, make sure it is unsweetened. You will need unsweetened pumpkin for the recipes that follow. Pumpkin-pie filling is available in jars and cans, but it contains added sugar and spices. This mix is great to have on hand whenever the urge to make pumpkin pie comes over you.

Shrimp are pinky-orange and since I never met anyone who passed them up (except if they were kosher), they are also perfect for a "monster bash."

Here are recipes for an adult Halloween party.

Hot Spiced Cider
From The Craft Of The Cocktail by Dale DeGroff

Ingredients:

1 gallon fresh apple cider
8 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish
6 star anise
12 cloves
12 allspice berries, cracked

Directions:

Simmer but do not boil the apple cider and spices in a large saucepan for a couple of hours. Strain and serve hot with a cinnamon stick for garnish. To make an alcoholic version, add 1 ounce Calavados or applejack and 1/2 ounce of Berentzen’s Apple Liqueur to each serving.

Serves 20.

West Indian Pumpkin Soup
From Blue Corn and Chocolate by Elisabeth Rozin

Ingredients:

4 to 5 slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sweet green pepper, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, mashed
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup canned tomatoes, with juice, coarsely chopped
1 large bay leaf
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Good pinch crushed dried hot peppers
Several good grinds black pepper
1 tablespoon cream (sweet) sherry
Salt to taste

Directions:

In a heavy pot, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pour off the fat, leaving just enough to film the bottom of the pot.

Add the onion, green pepper, carrot and garlic. Saut� over moderate heat until the vegetables are soft.

Add the remaining ingredients except the sherry and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for about 30 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the sherry. Taste for salt. Garnish the soup with the reserved bacon pieces.

Serves six.

Note: This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

Roast Pepper Romesco Sauce
From Blue Corn and Chocolate by Elisabeth Rozin

Ingredients:

1/2 cup roasted almonds (not blanched or salted)
2 roasted orange peppers
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Good pinch cayenne pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried hot peppers
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Directions:

To roast the almonds, spread whole unpeeled almonds in a single layer in a pie pan or baking pan. Place in a 300-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are very lightly browned.

To roast the peppers, place each on a fork and hold over a gas jet until blackened. Or put them on a baking sheet and roast in a 500-degree oven until they are black or very soft. Once roasted, place peppers in a brown paper bag. Once cooled, run them under cold water and peel them.

To make the dip, combine the almonds, peppers, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process into a coarse paste.

While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Blend into a smooth paste.

Add the vinegar and process a few seconds more. Serve with a crudit� platter.

Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1 cup crushed ginger snaps
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the crust, mix together the crushed ginger snaps and butter. Press the mixture onto the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake about eight minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just combined. Beat in the pumpkin, cinnamon and ginger until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Place the pan into a large pan filled with about 2 inches of water. Bake about 90 minutes or until the cake is puffy and lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature. Place in the refrigerator and remove about one hour before serving.

Serves 10.