Sunday, November 30, 2008

best potato latkes


While I am delinquent with telling you about an ingenious way to reinvent your turkey after Thanksgiving, because let’s face it, turkey leftovers can only get so exciting, I am way ahead of schedule in prepping you for the holidays. And here it goes. Hanukkah or not, I have not met a soul who doesn’t like latkes. And what’s not to love? Crispy, fried, and if done right, lacy pancakes that melt in your mouth. And a Hanukkah with out latkes is like Christmas without a Christmas tree – it’s a must. For all the various latke recipes out there, including the permutations with sweet potato, zucchini and other vegetables, I hold the classic potato recipe near and dear to my heart. A classic is a classic for a reason – its sheer simplicity and elegance outshine any attempts for a trendy update.

Latkes Latkes
Latkes Latkes

Ironically though, it is the simplest and most elementary of things that are at times hard to get just right. I’ve had my fair share of latkes – some good, some bad. The really heavy ones drenched in so much oil, you wonder where the potato went, the really bland mushy ones that aren’t at all crispy, really good ones you pile a ton of sour cream on (I didn’t grow up with apple sauce on my latkes and I still don’t enjoy it).


But this recipe has completely flipped my latke world upside down. I’ve never had latkes so good and the fact that I ate the entire batch I made in just about one sitting is proof enough. I even called my mother to tell her that our family recipe, which I boasted as being the best – was going to have to take a backseat to this one. Martha Stewart, yet again, has exceeded my expectations – because her latkes recipe (her mothers, in fact) is tremendous. Perhaps, it is because she ingeniously figured out a way to decrease the amount of moisture, while maintaining the same starch ratio, which makes the latkes extra crispy. Also, no matter what anyone tells you, you should hand grate the potatoes using the coarse side of the grater. It only takes a few minutes more than the food processor, and the results are a lacier latke, which means a crispier, more delicious latke.

Latkes Latkes
Latkes Latkes

Of course, that means you are in danger of eating your own batch and not sharing with anyone. Hardly a problem in my book, especially if you have plenty of sour cream on hand.


Continue reading best potato latkes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

thanksgiving ideas 2008

Thanksgiving_2006 (12)

In the eleventh hour, I wanted to perhaps collect a few of my favorite holiday recipes here and organize them here for you – in case you were still looking for sides, turkey tips and other ideas. These are not numerous, but it’s a few more recipes and they’re organized here. So rather than search this site, you can just glance down the list and click on what you like.

I hope that you all have a very happy, palate-satisfying Thanksgiving holiday!

My favorite turkey recipe here.

Porcini Barley Soup (better picture coming soon!)
Red Pepper Soup

veggies for the stuffing

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Acorn Squash with Spicy Dressing
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Onions and Lemon Zest
Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Acorn Squash with Wine Reduction
Spiced Glazed Carrots
Apple Celery Salad with Walnuts

Thanksgiving_2006 (5)

Pies, Etc.:
Apple Cranberry Pie
Apple Pear Pie
Pumpkin Bread Pudding Souffle — seriously my favorite thing ever, pardon the nasty pic!
Cornbread Ricotta Cake with Cranberries and Orange Zest
Pumpkin Ricotta Pancakes — for the morning after when you are lounging in your pajamas

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

pumpkin ricotta pancakes

pumpkin ricotta pancakes

Where did we leave off? Oh, that’s right, I was telling you about my love affair with ricotta. I wasn’t kidding you know because I was in this predicament, you see. I was craving pumpkins, but not just regular buttermilk pancakes, no sir. Regular pancakes were not going to do. I wanted lighter, fluffier, delicate pancakes. Pancakes that would almost dissolve upon hitting my tongue. Which, of course, meant adding some ricotta. See, how clever I am in making sure my current obsession makes an appearance.

pumpkin ricotta pancakes

Of course, I had to make it more complicated, or what fun would it be? When I think of ricotta pancakes, I usually think of lemon ricotta pancakes. And the ones I wrote about awhile back were stunning and decadent. And yet, in the middle of November, days before Thanksgiving, I had pumpkin on my mind. Pumpkin ricotta pancakes – why not? But that meant I had to create a recipe from various sources because I searched far and wide and while I found pumpkin pancakes and lemon ricotta pancakes, there were no pumpkin ricotta ones anywhere.

grade b, baby!!

Plus, I think this is all very à propos, because something tells me that after this Thursday some of you might have some leftover pumpkin and you might want to figure out a way to use it. And besides, who doesn’t love pancakes the day after Thanksgiving?

pumpkin ricotta pancakes

If you can spend the day in your pajamas lounging around, what better way to start it than with a plate of these?

Continue reading pumpkin ricotta pancakes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

cranberry orange cornmeal cake

cornmeal ricotta cake with cranberries

If you’re anything like me and have not yet met a pumpkin pie you liked, and the idea of making yet another apple pie for Thanksgiving is making you yawn, have I got a cake for you. I spied it first in LA Times online edition and was immediately drawn to the word “ricotta” in it. Also cornmeal, cranberries, and orange caught my eye. It was as if someone read my mind and found all the ingredients I have been obsessing over at the time and found a way to marry them together.

cake mise pan with liner
cornmeal & flour eggs, oil, maple syrup, vanilla

I’m not sure why, but ricotta cheese has been on my mind a lot and I’ve been looking for ways to add it to as many dishes as I could. Places where it belongs and places where it perhaps does not. I will even admit to actually eating it off a spoon with my eyes semi-closed, as if in some kind of a reverie. Maybe it’s my body’s way of telling me I need more dairy in my life or calcium, but ricotta, my love, has been a ingredient I want to write lyrical poems about. I like what it does to baked textures – softening them, and making them cloud-like, lighter and more delicate. The same dough texture seems to be lifted up, melting in your mouth and not leaving that heavy, bready feeling.

make sure not to overmix. my favorite

You would think that by my superlative description of ricotta and the burning desire to make this cake that it was a fairly recent recipe, but no. I just couldn’t get my act together for over a month. I had this recipe at the top of the pile and just couldn’t get around to it for one reason or another. And then the morning I was determined to bake this cake, I couldn’t find the recipe. After a few hours of searching, I found it, but by then it was kitchen painting time and so I had to put the recipe away and paint. Yesterday, of course, when I was all but ready to start my baking, I couldn’t remember where I had put the recipe the day before. Seriously, I could use some organizing in my life!

cake batter ready for baking

I finally did locate the recipe, but it’s embarrassing that I managed to lose it twice in my compact New York apartment. Imagine if I had a bigger place, never mind an actual house!


All in all, this is a keeper. I think that I would double the amount of maple syrup and decrease the sugar a bit – but I wonder if that will mess with the consistency. I would also use Grade B rather than Grade A syrup. But all in all, the ricotta makes it delicate and comforting. The cake is not too sweet, which I really like, and has a tart bite, thanks to the cranberries.

cornmeal ricotta cake with cranberries

A tip to those who love to bake with cranberries but find them impossible to find after most of the year. I buy 7-8 bags of them around this time of year, freeze them, and use them in baking throughout the year. Cranberries keep frozen remarkably well.

cornmeal ricotta cake with cranberries

Continue reading cranberry orange cornmeal cake.

Friday, November 21, 2008

cream braised brussels sprouts

Braised Brussel Sprouts in Cream

I must first apologize for the ugly picture above. No matter how hard I tried, these sprouts refused to look sexy for me, and instead you get this washed out, glib picture. I’m sorry for that, I really truly am. But as disgusting as this picture looks, that’s how good these sprouts are. Better even, they’re stunning, operatic, grand. Sure, they may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, braised in cream this is a royal dish. One that is perfect on its own, or as as side to some hearty roasted meat. Or maybe even, say turkey?

Everyone is probably counting the days down to Thanksgiving, I know I am. Menus have been planned, dishes have been discussed, shopping lists drawn. And yet, in my emails with friends from here and there, I keep hearing the same sentiment – I just need more sides. Well, if more sides is what you need, here, use this one. Because, let’s face it, the green beans have been overused to the point of delirium. They could use a break from all this pressure to perform on the foodiest of all the food holidays. Here, give Brussels sprouts a go.

the glorious brussels sprouts leeks

Disliked by many a child, I am almost positive that he (or she) will gobble this up in minutes. And maybe even ask you for seconds. I think that the trick here is cream, which in my opinion, makes most things better and elevates them to a status fit for a feast and not just an everyday side. Lemon juice, too, makes it sparkle even more so. And seeing as this is really easy to make (I know, here I go with this easy stuff again!), you won’t even feel taxed adding one more side to your Thanksgiving menu. And it’ll look that much more impressive!

my newfound favorite vegetable -- the humble leek!

Honestly, whatever yield I give you below, I am lying through my teeth. This was devoured in one sitting by three people and quite honestly, we would all have gone for seconds. Or, in my case, I probably would have had three helpings if that were an option. This recipe, which was adapted from Molly, is a true stunner and one to be made over and over this cold wintry season.

In case this is not an appealing side dish for you – I’ve compiled a few Thanksgiving dishes that should be pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. And will post it tomorrow!

Continue reading cream braised brussels sprouts.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

olive oil mashed potatoes

olive oil mashed potatoes

I think I should let you in on a small secret – make me mashed potatoes and I’ll be instantly won over. I know – I sound like I’m setting the bar low here. But in all seriousness, I am truly in love with well-prepared mashed potatoes. You know the kind – perfectly salted, hearty, filling, richly-flavored and undeniably seductive. Potatoes? Seductive? I’m certain some of you are rolling your eyes at me.

not just garnish

Except I think that the potato is kind of like the little black dress – indispensable, perfect for just about any occasion and with limitless possibilities on variations and accessories. I could rattle off at least a dozen mashed potato recipes, each with its own unique flavor, because as ubiquitous as the spud is, its every day appeal is precisely what gives it the versatility it possesses.

olive oil mashed potatoes

So why am I giving you what seems to be the most basic recipe? Why am I even omitting garlic? The trick to these mashed potatoes, in this particular case, is olive oil. The best you have in the house. The best you can afford. Because how sublime your mashed potatoes will taste will depend exclusively on the quality of the olive oil used. It should also be noted that this is a vegan recipe and is perfect for those with lactose intolerance. Or, if you keep kosher, this works well with any poultry or meat dish you are cooking alongside.

And just as it’s sometimes best to keep your little black dress free or any bold accessories – this is one recipe that wins because of its understatement.

Continue reading olive oil mashed potatoes.