Posts tagged Thanksgiving
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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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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Thursday, October 28, 2010

butternut squash lasagna

butternut squash lasagna

I woke up the other night having dreamt of butternut squash lasagna. I often dream about what I’m cooking in real life, and sometimes have dreams about what I might want to be cooking when I wake up. Even while I sleep, my world often revolves around food. Some might find it odd, others – boring, but if nothing else, this dreaming peculiarity led me to gem of a recipe and for that I am forever grateful to that odd head of mine that not only conjures up food ideas, but also offers solutions to real-life pickles I face in the kitchen.

lasagna mise

In my dream, I was sitting at my dinner table, thinking about what to make for supper. The previous night (the awake, real-life part), I had decided upon a braised chicken with Moroccan spices and dates for our Sunday supper, but at the last minute, changed my mind and promised Andrew his favorite soup, scrapping the planned-on lentil soup. That, of course, threw a wrench in the works because no one wants to eat chicken soup followed by a chicken main course. I thought that something vegetarian might be a good, sensible idea, but I couldn’t make up my mind on what that something would be. With my supper plans unresolved, I went to bed with next evening’s meal on my mind.

butternut squash lasagna butternut squash lasagna

In my dream, I was making a list of possible main courses for dinner. I normally make lots of lists and they are strewn about all over the apartment. So it makes perfect sense that I’d be doing the same in my dream, but still, that consistency in my dream struck me as pretty funny.

As I was jotting down possible options, I thought perhaps a vegetable, spinach butternut squash (eureka!) lasagna would be perfect: the autumn flavors of cooked squash, layered with béchamel, and fresh mozarella and Parmesan, sounded perfect.

In general, I prefer my lasagna sans meat, using vegetables instead to create layers of flavor. While lasagna Bolognese sounds heavenly in theory, immediately upon eating a piece, I am compelled to take a nap. For the rest of the night. Even though I adore pasta Bolognese, and could eat it by bowlfuls regularly, the lasagna Bolognese doesn’t quite do it for me. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

butternut squash lasagna butternut squash lasagna

So how did this idea, conceived in the wee hours, come out? Let’s just say that I pray for all my dreams to have such delicious results. The lasagna turned out to be even better than I originally expected. It was delicate, autumnal and felt light as a feather. The combination of the melted burrata and Parmesan gave the butternut squash that unmistakable taste of October – the kind that is accompanied by mulled cider or fabulous red wine. Sage and pistachios, finely chopped and mixed with the squash, added a nice earthy dimension and some needed texture.

butternut squash lasagna

And best of all, no one at the table complained about the absence of meat. Everyone ate their portion and then immediately demanded seconds. A tiny piece was left over at the end of the night, lonely and abandoned in its baking dish. It became part of Andrew’s lunch the next day. Had I known the lasagna was going to be such a hit, I would’ve doubled the ingredients. Unfortunately, my dream never told me to do that. Tant pis. Clearly, there’s some room for improvement with the logistical portion of the dreams, but at least it gets the meals right.

butternut squash lasagna

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

butternut squash and cider soup

butternut squash and cider soup

We got back from London, and I promptly came down with one of those post-long-plane rides colds. At first, it was kind of fun to have a sexy rock-star voice, but when it quickly deteriorated into lower octaves, I started to sound like I’ve been drinking for thirty years. The sexy was long gone, and I just wanted my regular high-pitched, I-still-sound-like-I’m-thirteen voice back. That, and the ability to finish a sentence before erupting in a coughing fit.

I don’t know about you, but when I get sick, unless I’m running a serious fever, I don’t sit still. I don’t wrap myself in blankets, make residence on the couch and watch countless Dr. Who re-runs unless I am nearly dead to the world and have resigned to Gatorade and saltines. (By the way, the new Dr. Who is just not doing it for me. Just wanted to share that.) Something about being sick coupled with a desire to be constantly moving about sets me in motion. And makes me want to make soup. And to be precise – pureed soup that tells me that autumn is here, and it’s high time for squash.

butternut squash and cider soup

This soup comes from a highly-anticipated book – The Essential New York Times Cook Book written diligently and thoughtfully over the last six years by Amanda Hesser. The Amanda Hesser of the Cooking for Mr. Latte and The Cook and the Gardener fame, among others. Years ago, when I was reading chapters of “Cooking for Mr. Latte” in the Sunday Magazine, I would imagine myself falling in love and winning over my future husband with one meal at a time. I imagined myself jettisoning my job, packing a suitcase and moving to France to attend La Varenne. The stories always sounded so lovely, and I liked to imagine myself in them. It was the ultimate romance: love through food and stories around it. So many of our memories are shaped by what we eat and who we eat with, even if a meal is just with yourself.

butternut squash and cider soup

I am so very grateful to the that same thoughtful soul (you know who you are!) who sent me the fantastic Melissa Clark and Bill Yosses book for sending me a review copy of this expansive tome. It was on my list of books to own and it is an absolute treasure. Painstakingly curated and lovingly put together, this book is encyclopedic in its scope with recipes dating back to 1880’s, comprehensive, and thorough. But beyond its offerings, it’s like a treasure trove of history – stories told through recipes of how this country has evolved in what we eat, and consequently what we might be concerned with: sustainability, health, frugality, or excess. There are dozens of recipes I’ve noted and set aside. I will be cooking from it for decades.

butternut squash and cider soup

I tweaked this soup quite a bit because I like to play with some spices in my squash, so I added some cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne. And I wanted to make the squash taste more um, should I say “squashy”, so I added a tiny bit of lemon juice just to brighten the flavor just a bit. I took out the apple garnish, adding instead some cumin-spiced sour cream, which can be swapped for crème fraîche or yogurt, if you like, and sprinkled a few cilantro leaves on top. But, darlings, the cider! The cider was bold, pronounced, and unexpected. On the one hand, there was an unmistakable taste of apples and fall, but on the other hand, the apples gave way to more savory flavors of the squash playing a supporting, rather than a leading role. It’s soup that is at once inspiring and comforting, bold and subdued, celebratory and casual. And it’s perfect for those evenings when you’ve all but lost your voice. For if you cannot exclaim out loud the admiration for the soup, your empty bowl will be declaration enough.

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