Monday, November 22, 2010

spiced butternut squash and carrot soup

spiced butternut squash and carrot soup

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Thanksgiving. I’m ready for Vermont, itching to get out of the city. And it’s not that I don’t love New York, but I need to be surrounded by trees and mountains for awhile. Brooklyn, you don’t count – you never wear me out. But Manhattan – I’m looking at you. Today’s commute alone was that final straw that made me want to be instantly transported to rural New England. I wanted to be in a rustic house, wearing wool socks and eating this soup. I think it could do lots of soothing things for my soul. And if yours needs soothing, might I suggest a bowlful?

Soup is a funny thing. It strikes me as a thing people can tolerate, or love. But apparently, there are people out there who hate soup. I don’t get it. It’s a little like hating “WALL-E”. How can anyone hate Wall-e with his Short Circuit physique and his love of “Hello, Dolly!” But I once overheard people discussing it on the subway, and called it pointless and silly. I wanted to interject and offer up my arguments for WALL-E’s innate genius, but thought better and kept my opinions to myself.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

sourdough, pear and chestnut stuffing

sourdough, pear, and chestnut stuffing

I got so excited to make this stuffing, I forgot to take pictures. I mean, I took two here for you, but by the time this stuffing was ready and coming out of the oven, I was so excited to just eat it, I was all, camera what? And that’s how you, my darlings, got the shaft. Two measly pictures that are mediocre at best. This is what I’ve got for you. Sometimes I’m a selfish lady who thinks only of herself. And you know what’s even worse? This is the fourth year in a row that I made it and forgotten to take pictures. Oh Thanksgiving, you are such a distraction!

Stuffing is near and dear to my heart. I didn’t grow up with it, but perhaps it is precisely because I had a stuffing-less childhood that I am particularly attached to it. I get really upset when someone tells me they don’t like stuffing. I take it personally and feel a challenge coming on – the kind when I hear someone denouncing Brussels sprouts, except I’m pretty sure that more people will say they like stuffing than Brussels sprouts. And I’ve all but made it my personal duty in the cold fall and winter months to spread the Brussels sprouts love around. I’ve made a few converts so far.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

maple frozen yogurt

maple frozen yogurt

I can’t quite focus, my mind is all scattered and fragmented. A nasty voicemail left at work this morning threw me off, and I am feeling a bit of out of sorts. Like the music is playing but I can’t quite keep the beat. You know that feeling? I’d like for it to stop. And this is why I need to get the message across right away. That spoon above is full of something delicious – maple frozen yogurt. And you must make it soon. Maybe to sit on top of these. Because they go excellently together. I know this because that’s how we had ours.

maple frozen yogurt

Look, I know that it’s mid-November and that you might have retired your ice cream machine for the season, and I know what you’re thinking about homemade ice cream: all that waiting and planning ahead is just a bit too much around this harried time of year. I’ll be honest: this ice cream takes time. There are egg yolks to temper and a custard to chill. But this maple frozen yogurt – nothing to it!

First of all, this isn’t quite ice cream, nor is it quite frozen yogurt. It’s a bit of both, straddling both names and ideas. Secondly, it takes mere minutes to prepare, an hour to chill, and then the whole mess goes into the ice cream machine to emerge half an hour later as a glorious frozen maple ice cream. Or frozen yogurt. Whatever you want to call it. This is so easy and requires such minimal hands-on time, you could do the whole endeavor on a busy weeknight after getting home from work.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

apple upside-down cornmeal cakes

apple upside-down cornmeal cakes

Thanksgiving is two weeks away and I am all aflutter. My favorite holiday, my favorite time of year, my favorite foods. This year, for the first time in eight years, I’m hanging up my hosting hat and donning on a supporting one. It’s not easy – I’m so entrenched in Thanksgiving that to think I’ll only be cooking two dishes instead of a dozen is an adjustment. But it’s a good adjustment – this Thanksgiving is as cozy and comforting as it gets. This year we’re in Vermont, Andrew and I, celebrating with his family in a small, quiet, New England town. There will be fleece trousers, flannel pajamas, and, I hope, endless amounts of hot mulled cider. There will be naps. There will be a thousand piece puzzle. There will be bananagrams, I am told, longish trail runs, Andrew’s mother’s amazing sour cream cake, and book started and finished. I am bringing my camera and my only regret is that I don’t yet own a wide angle lens. I might even shoot some film too.

honeycrisps

It is because of Robert Frost that I will forever link together Vermont and apple-picking. His New England is the New England I ache for, the New England that has a firm, tight grip on my heart and has made me a New Englander forever. It is home, simple and true. It is at once rustic and elegant, austere and welcoming. It is home to messy apple cobblers, autumn apple pie, creamy clam chowder, and the best lobster in the country. New England was made for a holiday like Thanksgiving – or maybe it’s my foolish heart, heavy with love for the region.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

cider-braised pork shoulder with caramelized onions

brown food ain't pretty, but it sure tastes good

Perhaps because I wasn’t reared in the culture of pork eating, I am at odds with the animal. It’s not like I didn’t have pork growing up – I remember slivers of lardo and slices of speck, and an occasional pork loin, slow-cooked, studded with garlic cloves and bay leaves. There might have been a cutlet or two in there somewhere. But pork, at least in my memory, wasn’t a staple in our household in Russia, and became almost non-existent the minute we landed in America. My father, for reasons he still can’t furnish, considers pork to be somehow less kosher (or more unkosher, to be exact) than other tref foods. His ruling was final – pork was out – and so it didn’t enter our house unless my mom and I snuck some in, mostly in the form of bacon.

flying pigs, who else?

And so, based on this history, I’m really weird when it comes to pork. Really, oddly, inexplicably weird. First of all – we must exclude bacon from the pork umbrella. Bacon is special and is a food group in and of itself. So is speck and lardo and other cured meats like prosciutto. But other stuff is fair game. Pulled pork sandwich? Yes, please! I’ll take seconds too! Pork chop? No, thanks. Pass. Yawn. Pork cutlet? Pass, again. How about an apple-cider braised pork shoulder? Um, here’s my plate, please pile some meat on it! Confused yet?

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Monday, November 8, 2010

brown butter maple pumpkin bread

brown butter pumpkin bread

I am in dire need of a weekend morning butler. Specifically for the duties of coffee and coffee cake. It would greatly improve my mornings. Andrew, I hope you’re reading this, in case, um, you need Hannukah gift ideas, a morning butler would be amazing!

A typical weekend morning in our household goes a little like this. Around seven o’clock, my body decides that it no longer wants to be asleep. Nevermind that I very much want to be asleep and my brain is quite content being in close contact with a pillow. But my body, well, it has other plans. My body decides that it wants to be up and about, getting ahead with the day, going to the farmer’s market, picking up groceries, figuring out the Sunday supper menu.

pumpkin puree

But what my body doesn’t realize fully is that until it ingests about 2 cups of coffee, it, along with my brain, is amazingly, utterly useless. The tricky part is actually making coffee before you’ve fully woken up. This rather simple task of measuring out water, coffee, pouring the water into the machine, and pressing the “brew” button – is challenging for my uncaffeinated brain. I should do like Andrew does and just force myself to sleep a little longer, but I just wind up tossing and turning. And so I get up early and run errands before Andrew wakes up.

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