Posts tagged Thanksgiving
Monday, November 23, 2009

thanksgiving ideas 2009

little did i know of the dangers that lurked ahead...

We’re pretty much at the homestretch here – Thanksgiving is days (DAYS!) away and tensions are running high. Every year, I freak out that my turkey will be too dry, and every year, just like magic, it comes out perfect, so much so that there are barely any leftovers. And I, personally, love my turkey leftovers. I think I’m just anxious to get into the kitchen and get the actual dinner started. All in good time, I suppose. Until then, I am left to bite my knuckles in nervous anticipation.

escarole & pickled onion salad

Anxiety aside, I love hosting this holiday and cannot imagine not doing it. When we arrived to the US, it was the first real holiday I got to learn about, and I embraced it with a readiness and ardor only a freshly minted immigrant could procure. I wanted to learn everything that was quintessentially American, down to the most minute detail, and nothing screamed America to me more than a table displaying turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, pumpkin and apple pie. If my mother even so much as breathed a suggestion of serving a Russian salad alongside the traditional American dishes, I would shoot her a dirty look. I felt like she was sullying a holiday that was my instant passageway into assimilation and subsequent acceptance. When you’re a teenager and everything about you is awkward, being a foreigner with broken English and an accent is the last nail in the coffin of social suicide. I felt it keenly and perhaps was a bit overly concerned about it, but as we all remember when you’re 13, your issues feel like the weight of the world upon your shoulders. If I only knew then what I know now.

sweet potato salad

In my fervor and push to assimilate and prove my American-ness to everyone, but mostly, really, myself, I hijacked hosting it from the first year. Every year, I made my parents sit through a turkey dinner, tying this holiday upon their necks much a like a boulder-laden bib. Patiently, graciously, they complied with me. But somewhere along the way, we, somehow, grew into this holiday. It stopped being an exercise in trying to belong as the holiday finally grew to belong to us. And one year, and I’m not sure which year it was, the holiday was ours. Really, truly, wonderfully ours. And then we couldn’t remember what it felt like otherwise.

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

And perhaps, this is what I love the most about Thanksgiving – the part of belonging. No matter what religion or cultural background you are, Thanksgiving is for you. Unconcerned with gifts, it’s a holiday to gather with the people you love to celebrate the one thing we should perhaps do consciously every day – practice the act of gratitude. In a country full of immigrants and stories of wandering and arrival, this is a holiday to unite us all. Together, around a table, we partake in meal, share some laughs and hopefully give thanks for our lives. And there are so many things go be grateful for. Each one of us has his own list.

mushroom barley pie

This year, as pretty much every other year, I’m hosting Thanksgiving again (in other words, I am continuing hijacking the hosting duties, just try and pry it out of my hands!) and this time it’s for a party of 11 people (and my doorman!). For the first time since I moved to New York, nearly 9 years ago, my parents will be visiting me for the holiday, thus marking it our first Thanksgiving together in many years! Add to that, my practically next-door neighbor Sharon and her three cousins visiting New York, and my lovely friend Brita and her family and their dog, Oliver. And last, but not least Anna over at Very Small Anna needed someone to babysit her tortoise, Bowser, while she was out of town, and guess who volunteered? Full house, indeed! The heritage turkey’s been ordered months ago, and I can’t wait to pick it up on Wednesday.

sweet potato gnocchi

But, anxiety and dreams of assimilation aside, and many years that have passed, I wanted to share with you this year’s Thanksgiving menu because I’m very excited about it. Maybe it’ll give you a few ideas if you’re still searching for what to make. And if nothing on the menu calls to you, there are a few other suggestions below, which will, hopefully, strike a chord.

IMG_1198

And if nothing strikes a chord, then I want to thank you, my dear readers, for coming here and being my sounding board, my audience, my friends. I love this little space I’ve carved out and in the last 15 months or so it has grown even more dear to me than ever before. I am grateful for all of you and wish you all a lovely, warm, wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

2009 THANKSGIVING MENU
Porcini Mushroom Soup
Alton Brown’s (influenced) Turkey
Stuffing from Gourmet, Unbound (but will be vegetarian)
Olive Oil Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Bread Pudding Souffle
Escarole Salad with Pickled Onions (recipe coming soon!)
Cranberry Sauce (recipe coming soon!)
Julia Moskin’s Corn (as seen on The Wednesday Chef)
Roasted Acorn Squash with Cilantro Dressing
Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Cumin-Roasted Parsnips (recipe coming soon!)
Apple-Cranberry Pie with Honey-Bourbon Caramel
Pine Nut Tart with Rosemary (from Claudia Fleming – recipe coming soon!)

OTHER SOUP IDEAS:
curried carrot ginger soup

Chestnut Apple Soup
Curried Carrot Ginger Soup with Pepitas, Cilantro Oil and a Homemade Spicy Marshmallow
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Red Pepper Soup

OTHER SALAD IDEAS:
fennel tangerine salad
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Black Beans and Chili Dressing
Fennel Tangerine Salad
Apple Celery Salad with Candied Pecans

OTHER VEGETABLE DISHES:
roasted acorn squash stuffed with spiced couscous in a wine reduction sauce

Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Eggplant
Cream Braised Cabbage with Leeks
Glazed Pearl Onions in Port
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Onions and Lemon Zest
Roasted Acorn Squash with a Wine Reduction Sauce
Spiced Glazed Carrots
Mushroom Farro Pie (at Gourmet, Unbound)
Sweet Potato Gnocchi

FOR THE DAY AFTER:
hazelnut chestnut cake

Hazelnut Chestnut Cake
Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
Turkey Salad (THE best salad for those turkey leftovers!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

escarole & pickled onion salad

escarole & pickled onion salad

I am willing to bet that while most of you are googling Thanksgiving recipes for Thursday, you’re not looking up salads. Am I right? Did call you out on shunning the greens? I guess there are plenty of other days in the year to eat salad, so maybe this is why it generally gets overlooked the last Thursday of each November. Who wants salad, when there’s turkey, and stuffing and soup and pie? Besides, November isn’t exactly a month when you wake up and think, “Salad! Now that’s an idea!” – salad’s more of a summer pastime. Stews and soups replace no-cook meals. Fall’s rule of thumb is more – if you can cook it slow and long, you’ve got yourself a winner.

escarole & pickled onion salad

However, this is where I have to say, “Yes, but…” and tell you that this salad here is – well, it is beyond what you’d expect. Simply put – you must make it. For this Thanksgiving, if you can. It’s my new favorite salad and will carry me through months of winter when my crunchy green vegetable consumption plummets. And if you think I’ve been waxing too poetic about too many a recipe, you don’t have to take my word for it. Deb of Smitten Kitchen and Kristin over at The Kitchen Sink have been swooning over this salad as well.

escarole & pickled onion salad

And this salad is definitely swoon-worthy. Hearty escarole, crunchy pickled onions, pungent pecorino. Oh, and did I mention hazelnuts? I did just write about them, but so what, can’t they get a nod twice in one month? There’s just something about this salad, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’ve fallen for it line, hook and sinker. It’s great as the main event, or a side, or as the main event, or.. wait, I think I’m repeating myself because, well, as I type this to you, my belly full of red coconut curry (more on that after Thanksgiving!), all I want to eat, right now, right this minute, is this salad.

escarole & pickled onion salad

The above endorsements aside, it’s not often that people asks for salad seconds and then thirds, and when you tell them there isn’t any more, pout. And then bring up that salad a week later at another dinner. I mean, it’s salad; it’s health food. It isn’t the sort of thing that inspires a fervent following. Except, it does. Salad groupies, anyone? Sign me up!

Continue reading escarole & pickled onion salad.

Friday, November 20, 2009

apple cranberry pie with honey-bourbon caramel

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

Everyone has their favorite pie. The one they swear by. The one they are tempted to make every Thanksgiving. And this is mine. There are pumpkin pie lovers and pecan pie lovers and sweet potato pie lovers. But for my money, nothing beats a good apple pie at the end of a great meal.

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramelfriendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel
friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramelfriendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

This entry has been a week in the making. A full week of me staring at the computer screen trying to say something meaningful and eloquent and a propos Thanksgiving. But here’s the rub – I’m so beyond eloquence where this pie is concerned, I’ve rewritten this oh, maybe twelve times? I’m not even joking. So let’s try something here for a change.

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramelfriendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

Apples.
Butter.
Honey.
Bourbon.
Caramel.*

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramelfriendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

These should be your five reasons (like you need more) to make this pie this Thanksgiving**. I know what you’re about to say, “But Olga, I’ve never made this pie before, can I subject my guests to a first time experiment?” My answer is an unequivocal YES. And YES. And YES, AGAIN. You can. You should. You must. And here’s another thing for you to consider. I have SO much faith in you, that I’m absolutely positive you will be victorious and create a pie that your family and friends will talk about for years to come. You might even set a new bar in pie-making.

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

This pie is oh-ever-so-slightly more fussy than your regular apple pie in that you make the honey bourbon caramel before coating the apple slices. You will want, and I warn you here, to sit on your couch and lick the remaining caramel in the pot. For that, you make take five minutes because one must never let a good thing to go waste. In the time that you’re licking the caramel out of the pot, you also let the apples absorb the caramel a little more, so it works out fine. But then, you must waste no time, and put your pie together and bake it.

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel
friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

I suggest, while your pie is baking in the oven, that you sit down and have a filling snack. Perhaps a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or maybe some warmed up beans with toast and a runny egg. But eat something because the smell of this pie will render you incredibly hungry. And you don’t want to torture yourself because a hungry cook is an angry cook and we all know what happens when one cooks angry.

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

One other thing I forgot to tell you is the matter of decorating your pie. Because this is a holiday, a simple pie crust top with some vents won’t do. You should make dough leaves. Or use a cookie cutter with an autumnal theme. Or, if you have some other cookie shape, use that. The more random – the better! I remember when I made this pie last year, we spent a good portion of dinner laughing at my choice of decorative accent. And this time around, I’m tempted to do it again, eventhough I have leaf shapes, but where’s the fun in that?

friendship apple cranberry pie with bourbon caramel

*You might have seen this honey-bourbon caramel before. I simply decided to use it here again. I’m very happy I did.

**If anyone has any last minute Thanksgiving questions, I’ll be answering until Turkey Day itself, but on the very day I’ll be cooking all day, so I won’t be around. Shoot me an email or leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Continue reading apple cranberry pie with honey-bourbon caramel.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

fig tart with caramelized onions, rosemary and stilton

caramelized onion, fig & stilton tart

Do you know how I finally admit to myself that we’re in the thick of autumn and there’s no turning back? It’s nights like tonight: cold, rainy, windy nights. Nights when I’m going home after a sweat-filled, seriously challenging spin class and standing in the middle of a salad bar only to realize that the last thing I want to be eating tonight is a crunchy salad. Give me something warm and keep the cold vegetables away, please!

lots of onions - mmm.caramelized onion, fig & stilton tart

Normally, I’m a salad lover, the girl who loves to crunch on the crudite at parties.* In Russia, vegetables were the one thing I would dutifully eat. I would push the meat around my place like it was a soccer ball, secretly hoping that my mother would somehow think I was eating it. But my mother was far too smart for that, having gone through a very similar trick with her own mother and would give me stern looks after which she’d point to my plate with her fork, as if saying, “Don’t even try this wit me! I see right through you. Now eat your chicken cutlet!” My mother held a draconian watch over what I ate and I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until my plate was spotless and sparkling. But the vegetables – those went fast! It was the other stuff I couldn’t bear to eat. Vegetables – I could’ve been eating for weeks and months on end.

caramelized onion, fig & stilton tart

In Russia, however, fresh vegetables were only available in the summer. Fall, winter, early spring brought on lots of root vegetables, stews, soups, but not salads. I would have died for a salad back then. But now? With this rainy, drizzly weather, on days like these all I want is something slow-cooked, caramelized, hearty. Like a giant pile of sliced onions slowly and patiently cooked over low low flame for nearly an hour and a half until they’ve succumbed to the kind of perfection only achieved food gets brown and tastes of fall – a heap of fragrant, golden-brown goodness. A bit of sharp cheese doesn’t hurt either and a few slivers of fresh figs accentuate the onions. Add some buttery puff pastry in the mix, bake it until flaky and golden. As a piece de resistance, drizzle a bit of your best honey and bit into it. And then see the magic unfold.

caramelized onion, fig & stilton tart

I knew I had a winner on my hands when I saw the main ingredients of this listed in the title. As if I needed another excuse for caramelized onions, Stilton (swoon!) and figs. What I didn’t anticipate is what a hit it was going to be with my guests for a party I threw earlier this month. I don’t think I ever got this many compliments on a single dish, with these two being the continuous crowd-pleasers. This tart vanished in a matter of minutes. I kind of felt bad for guests who arrived late, but I’m sure those who ate a few extra slices didn’t mind their tardiness one bit. Even I snagged a piece and nearly fell over because people, this is good stuff. I mean, really good. The kind of good that makes you want to take the rest of the plate, go to your room, lock the door and not share. Fortunately for others, I like sharing and I prefer not to transition to pants with an elastic waist. But, I could’ve gladly consumed many more slices of this tart if there were any left.

caramelized onion, fig & stilton tart

Don’t believe me? Go and and make it for yourself! I dare you to eat only one piece.

caramelized onion, fig & stilton tart

*Before you go ahead and think that’s all I eat at parties, let me assure you that I’m an equal opportunity food consumer. If I see it, I will eat it!

Continue reading fig tart with caramelized onions, rosemary and stilton.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

roasted sweet potato salad with black beans & chili dressing

sweet potato salad

Okay, quick, when I say “potato salad” what do you think of? First associations, no cheating now. I bet you thought of summer and picnics, didn’t you?

And if you live in the Northeast, you probably thought of how summer of 2009 cheated you of the appropriate number of picnics. And now that we’re in the full swing of fall, there’s no turning back. Pumpkins and squash in the farmers market have replaced tomatoes and berries. The mornings are darker; the day lights hours – shorter. We wear layers. We carry umbrellas. We switch our closets out to winter clothing – a task that somehow always takes longer than you’d think. I have no explanation for this strange phenomenon; it would seem pretty straightforward: sweaters in, sun-dresses out. Right? And yet somehow it’s more tricky than this.

sweet potato saladsweet potato salad

And since we’re about as deep into fall as we can get (oh, yes, I know that November is all but knocking on the door) we’re pretty much done with the picnic season. While I’m sorry to just dangle the carrot in front of you, please don’t hate me because I’m going somewhere here with this. While the potato salad conjures up images of summer and cook-outs, I’d like to introduce you to my new fall staple – the sweet potato salad. This is all about the cozy and the comfortable. Think you, flannel, mulled cider and this salad. Some dim lighting and softly-playing music. You might even have a blanket nearby. There, doesn’t fall sound absolutely wonderful?

chili lime dressing

I first spied this recipe over at Mark Bittman’s New York Times Bitten blog and instantly knew it was going to become a new favorite. I’m not sure if it’s the jalapeno-lime dressing, or the roasting of onions and potatoes, which instantly gives them a more hearty, smokier flavor than if you were instead to boil the sweet potatoes. And Mark mentions that roasting gives the potatoes a tougher exterior so they keep their shape better when you mix all the ingredients (remember how smushed the regular potatoes get in a traditional potato salad?) One glance and the recipe held my attention. It was something old, yet something new. A seasonally updated twist on the known that sounded healthy, delicious and made me excited to go to the farmers market and see beautiful sweet potatoes laid out on farmers’ stands. Summer – I’d hardly thought of it.

sweet potato salad

Speaking of new and updated, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share with you some of the new features on Sassy Radish. That’s right – new things are abound if you poke around a bit. I’ve been joking to my friends that Sassy Radish got a face-lift, but it’s more like it got that and a few fillers to plump it up. Hey, anything to keep looking good for you, folks! So what do we have around here that might be of interest?

1. Goodbye MovableType, hello WordPress – that’s right, I made the publishing platform leap and switched teams. Lately, comment spam got to be so unwieldy in MT and I just didn’t have time to manually (yes, you read that correctly – manually) clean them out, because they were coming thousands a day. I heard from many people that WP has a terrific plug-in that catches spam way better than any other, and so I decided to take that leap. These wonderful people pulled all this off in a week. And put up with my late night emails (yes, there’s a time difference, but nonetheless).

2. Print feature – I know many of you have written and said there’s no way to print the recipe and guess what? Now you can! At the bottom of each recipe there’s a print link – and it prints with a picture – how awesome is that?

3. Updated recipe indices – the regular recipe index is still in place, but now you have a recipe index by month and a recipe index by topic/ingredient (that tag cloud you see below) – you can sort by that.

4. FAQ page – the questions are coming, but if you think there’s something that should be on it that you’d like to see, drop me an email and I’ll include your question.

5. There’s a conversions link – convert grams to ounces and back – without whipping out your calculator or trying to do math in your head (fun, but not without consequences, especially if cooking with bourbon and, um, having a taste).

6. Subscribe by email – you can now get Sassy Radish updates without having to check your RSS reader or the actual page. Content can get delivered to your inbox, which is particularly useful if your employer blocks everything but CNN, Bloomberg and the New York Times (big banks, I am looking at you).

8. My updated blogroll – it’s now pulling from my good reader and is dynamic. So when I subscribe to something new – it will reflect that as well.

9. Earlier posts – want to go back in time and see what I cooked up months prior, but wish to see the time line? At the bottom of each page, there are now links called “earlier posts”.

10. It looks like there are still a few kinks being ironed out but for now: PLEASE UPDATE YOUR RSS READER FEEDS: be it Google reader or something else.

So change, much as I like to resist it, is good. Especially change that replaces a traditional staple with a delicious updated one. This is a hearty and filling salad, but one that won’t leave you feeling sluggish or heavy. In fact, its crisp, bright, spicy notes will energize you and give you a spring in your step. And we could always use a bit more of that in the dark fall hours.

Continue reading roasted sweet potato salad with black beans & chili dressing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

Consider this a lesson in scale. Something no cookbook will really tell you. You won’t see in the notes something like “If multiplying batches, strongly suggesting NOT trying to mix them all in one batch as your kitchen equipment is designed for home-sized batches, not bakery-sized ones”. Pretty obvious, right? And yet it wasn’t to me, until a few days ago. But now I know – when scaling things in multiples, you might want to do a few batches, to save your sanity and your equipment. In any case, this is a cautionary tale, just for you.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frostingpumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

As a total aside, I often wonder how various people cook under pressure. Like when you realize that what you’re doing might not work out, or that you missed a crucial step in the process (not that it’s ever happened to me; goodness, no!) and are trying to add this step later, and you get all focused and tense, or maybe you just remain completely cool as a cucumber, or maybe you hum? Me, I become sullen, focused, quiet. I want to be left alone; I don’t want to converse. I just want to get through the bump in the road and get beyond it. I tend to scrunch up my nose and purse my lips and squint a lot. Did you envision that lovely visage? Yes, that’s me, trying to focus. Stunning, I know.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

So, back to scaling and home kitchens and fun with all that. If you’re ever asked to do a larger-scale baking job, you should consider a thing or two. Like, the fact that you have a kitchen for home use. Or the concept of batches. Or the fact that perhaps even though you have a “Professional” strength mixer, your 5 quart bowl is anything but a professional size. Because you know, if you were um, say, a bakery, you’d be making dozens of cupcakes, not a mere dozen. And perhaps, you, dear readers, would have the foresight to consider all that, but lately, I’ve been in a whirl of work and travel I think my brain is full. I ought to sit down and think for a minute, but I don’t have that minute. Sigh.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

The other thing you want to make sure you’re good at, if you’re scaling a project like this, is multiplication and fractions. Now, fractions – I got this. In fact, I’m all over fractions, being that I work in finance. But if fractions ain’t your bag, get some help from a math-inclined friend, because when you are looking at 5/8 of a teaspoon measure of something and have to multiply it by three, that’s when you wish you really did pay attention in your math class.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

So how did I get to baking four dozen cupcakes in one sitting? Well, last weekend my friends Bill and Josey tied the knot, and I think my friends and I set some kind of a record for non-stop dancing at a wedding because that is pretty much all we did. And a few weeks prior to the wedding itself, Josey and Bill sheepishly asked me if I would make cupcakes for their rehearsal dinner. In response, I enthusiastically started to jump up and down. They took that as a yes.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

Because fall is full of amazing flavors and smells, I wanted to make cupcakes that would celebrate the season. And when I think of fall, I first think of pumpkin. I can’t go a block without seeing them displayed in stores, at farmers’ markets, on steps of brownstones (albeit the decorative pumpkins aren’t the ones you eat). I decided that I wanted to do a spiced pumpkin cupcake with a cream cheese frosting sweetened with some maple syrup, and thought (what naivete!) that I was being original and genius at creating something new. But when I excitedly wrote a friend about my new baking project, she responded, sounding a bit been-there-done-that “Oh like the cake David Leite made and Smitten refashioned into cupcakes?”

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

A few google searches later, I realized that my ideas were hardly original. And not only did Deb go ahead and make cupcakes, she piped the most beautiful roses on them as well. I’ve never piped any flower onto any cake or cupcake, so I watched the “how to” videos on YouTube ad infinitum. Please note: watching how to pipe roses and making them are two very different things. Which would explain for why my roses look out of shape and so, um, deconstructionist looking. I found that the cream cheese frosting was soft and was difficult to pipe, and my hand wasn’t used to making rose petals. If anyone can think of any tips as to perfect the matter (other than “practice, practice, practice”) I am all ears. But I do fear that I may just have to beg a bakery to take me under their wing for a week where all I do is play with frosting.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

A word or two about batches. They are (or seem to me) key in home baking where you are working with smaller bowls and containers. If you were to take this particular recipes, I recommend the following: take the ingredients below, multiply them by 3 and then divide by 2 to get your 2 batches. That way you measure everything out exactly, and not eyeball it (like, ahem, some people here) which then necessitates a few Hail-Marys in hopes that your eyeballing was good enough not to wreck a batch of cupcakes. You can also weigh your ingredients and do batches that way, as Lisa brilliantly suggested to me last night.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

Also, for cookware, I seriously recommend having 2 muffin trays. I think 2 is not an unreasonable number to have and you will certainly need it at one point or another, so stock up accordingly. The ones I like you can buy either here or here. I generally shy away from dark colored non-stick bake ware and find this non-descript light metal work best.

pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cinnamon frosting

In the end, this is all non-tricky stuff. The cake batter isn’t finicky. The frosting comes together like a dream. It’s sort of an easy process, but if you do wind up making four dozen cupcakes, be sure to give yourself a day to do it. Piping flowers takes time and is much trickier than it looks. But if you know what you’re going in for, you are prepared, you remain calm and you emerge triumphant, with boxes of cupcakes whisked away to a rehearsal dinner or whatever event you’re making them for. Your forehead will remain uncreased; your nose – unscrunched; and instead of pursing your lips, you might even be smiling to yourself as you lick the frosting off your fingers.

Continue reading pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting.