Cocoa powder is the finishing touch to a Monte Bianco.

Chefs offer

Personal chefs Michael O'Connor and Francesco Valentini offered these suggestions for dishes that would be appropriate to the holiday table.

O'Connor's Sandy Beans are reminiscent of that Thanksgiving staple, the Campbell's Green Bean Bake, but much lighter and more distinctive. It's a very simple dish that O'Connor says tastes more complex that it really is.

Sandy Beans

8 ounces frozen french-cut green beans, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a non-stick pan. Add breadcrumbs and stir until combined. Mixture will resemble wet sand.

Drain beans and place in an oven-proof dish. Spread breadcrumbs evenly over the top. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Watch closely to prevent scorching.

Just before serving, stir breadcrumbs and cheese into beans. Serves 5.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 94 calories, 6 g total fat, 14 mg cholesterol, 297 mg sodium, 3 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 2g fiber.

Valentini says the Italian repertoire doesn't offer much in the way of dishes that would fit the American Thanksgiving table, but he did come up with this traditional fall dessert using chestnuts.

Monte Bianco (White Mountain) seems simple, but step one is to peel a pound of fresh chestnuts, which could take an hour.

Valentini is a purist, but use canned chestnuts or a prepared chestnut purée if you must.

Monte Bianco

1 pound fresh chestnuts
1 pint milk
1 ounce sugar
1/2 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons Amaretto liquor
Whipped cream and cocoa powder, for garnish

Peel chestnuts. Place in a skillet and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes; drain. Peel off the thin skin covering the nut while still hot (after cooling they will be hard to peel).

Place chestnuts, milk, sugar and vanilla bean in a pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer 60 to 80 minutes, until the chestnuts are very tender and have absorbed much of the milk. Discard vanilla bean.

Mash chestnuts until smooth. Add Amaretto and mash again to incorporate. Refrigerate until chilled, 10 to 15 minutes.

Scoop mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Squeeze mixture onto serving plates. It will come out like a noodle; form into piles, or "mountains" about 2 inches high. Top with whipped cream and dust with cocoa powder. Serves 4.

Variation: Make 1 large mountain and scoop out individual servings at the table.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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