Sunday, November 27, 2005
Saturday, November 26, 2005
A few years ago I cooked nearly the entire Thanksgiving dinner for my family (in response to my mother's declaration that we should all just go to a restaurant). But I think she felt like her territory was being invaded, so now I am only allowed to take on certain portions of the dinner, which usually means dessert (which is fine by me--I'd rather bake a pie than baste a turkey). This year, mom even bristled a bit when I decided to cook some green beans (but what could I do?--she was going to serve canned beans!) It's funny to observe my mom's response to these holiday meals. She really doesn't like cooking, but she wants to maintain her role in the tradition.
In other Thanksgiving news, my lovely niece Frances Jane was born, joining me as a Thanksgiving baby. She wasn't as big as me (10 lbs., 11 oz.) but she did arrive with a respectable, feast-day appropriate weight (8 lbs., 14 oz.). I attribute much of my interest in food to the fact that my mom cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner while in labor with me, so hopefully Frances will be equally enamored with food.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I was in a mood today to roll up my sleeves, chop me some veggies and really commune with the leafy greens, so I decided to make gumbo z'herbes. The name is a contraction of "gumbo aux herbes," and it's also known as green gumbo.
This is not like the gumbo you probably know. There's no okra, no andouille sausage. It turns out that gumbo z'herbes is traditionally prepared on Holy Thursday to be eaten on Good Friday. Fridays in Lent would normally involve seafood, but Good Friday calls for food to be even more scaled back, hence this soup. Don't be scared, though. This soup does not taste like guilt and penitence. It's lush and hearty and completely soul-satisfying; that is, thoroughly Cajun.
You can use pretty much any sort of leafy greens -- kale, mustard greens, even beet and carrot tops -- but I used collard greens, spinach, and chard. Along with leeks, celery, green onions and some herbs, they're sauteed with garlic and spices and file gumbo powder, then pureed and mixed into a roux, along with a dose of Tabasco. The recipe I used calls for you to add smoked ham, but as it seems I have agreed to marry a vegetarian, I omitted it. But I replicated the smokiness by sauteing a chipotle pepper with the greens. (My bottle of Tabasco is also of the chipotle variety, so that helps too.) I can only imagine this soup would be breathtaking with the ham and/or some sausage, though.
Monday, November 21, 2005
We Three Hungry Hungarians
Steven, our whimsical host, prepared chicken paprikash in the crock pot. It was simple and delicious!
For the Hungarian side dish, Kelly had prepared a cabbage salad with apples and fennel seed. She was convinced that it was atrocious, but we liked it. Plus it was purple.
And thanks to the loyal readers of Three Tarts, I had found a recipe prosaically and redundantly entitled "Hungarian Dessert Cake" which actually made me think of Paris and allowed me to bust out my two (count 'em) electric crepe pans:
then sprinkled with toasted almonds and baked.
That's the most work I've put into a cake in a long time, perhaps ever. But it was extremely luscious and great fun! We had a fabulous Hungarian meal, and I plan on making the paprikash myself later. As for the "Dessert Cake," well, I'm already wondering what could happen if I substituted Nutella for the plain chocolate and varied the flavor of the jam!
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Iron Chef a la Colorado
Appetizers: Breaded and baked zucchini and yellow squash rounds with three dipping sauces: ranch, pesto, and tomato sauce. (This has turned into my favorite recipe for summer squash--it gets me my fried food fix without actually counteracting the benefits of fresh veggies by deep frying them. Thanks, "Cooking Light" magazine!)
Main dish: Savory flan made with winter squash. (Cynde, you'll have to remind me which squash it was and what its delicious but funny-sounding sauce was called.)
Side dishes: Zucchini bread and summer squash ribbons.
Noah, post-zucchini bread:
Next up: a dinner in December with ginger as the theme ingredient. Stay tuned!
Sunday, November 13, 2005
belated thanksgiving tips and links
I made the gravy once, but didn't love it--that may be because I'm not so great at making gravy. The turkey itself is beautiful and tastes amazing. I also prep the turkey by cutting an orange in half and rubbing the juice and all over the turkey (inside too) to freshen things up and give the turkey a slight citrus flavor. In addition to placing herb sprigs in the cavity as the recipe recommends, I also add shallots and pierced lemons.
As for dessert, I love this pumpkin pie with ginger streusel:
You said your sister doesn't like pumpkin pie, but she may just like this one, as it's quite an improvement on the typical. And at Thanksgiving, don't you need two desserts?
This chocolate cranberry tart is also delicious and lovely.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
my first Thanksgiving dinner
But we'll have at least a couple vegetarians present, so I need to think of a substantial veggie dish that can double as an entree for the vegetarians and a side dish for everyone else. I have a butternut squash dish that would seem really at home on a Thanksgiving menu, but that's too similar to the sweet potatoes, and the sweet potatoes are just non-negotiable, I'm afraid. They're so good. (Frankly, though, if it were up to me, we'd have sweet potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, and potatoes au gratin. heh.)
Maybe a really good stuffing/dressing. Anyone have a killer recipe, something that could stand on its own as an entree? (I won't be baking it inside the bird.)
I think I'll also make challah bread, as well as some kind of non-starchy vegetable. And I have a good cranberry sauce recipe, if I can find it. Dessert has me stumped, as my sister's not a big fan of pumpkin pie.
Any suggestions, anyone? Have a turkey secret your mom swears by? What dishes do you crave at Thanksgiving?
food porn! food porn! food porn!
This is the best mac and cheese ever -- it's Mark Bittman's recipe from "How To Cook Everything." It starts with a roux-based white sauce that you add lots of sharp cheddar and Parmesan to. I also add just a little bit of mustard, which sharpens the flavor just a tad without it tasting like, well, mustard. And then it's baked until the noodles on top get all crunchy...sigh. Cheese makes me happy.
Monday, November 07, 2005
finally, this Tart bakes a tart
By the way, I love my apple corer. It made the job easy:
The pears go in the tart unadorned, but for this version with apples, I tossed them with a little lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Oh, and some fresh-grated nutmeg. I let that sit while I prepared everything else.
On to the crust. Flaky pastry crust is one thing I've never quite fully mastered, but I'm getting better. My great-grandma would be pleased. In my grad-school stint working at a bakery, I learned that the keys are very, very cold butter and just barely mixing long enough to make things hold together, like so:
I shaped that into a disk, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and chilled it while I worked on the filling, which involves almond paste, an item the bagger at the grocery store invariably places in the bag of non-food items. I'm not sure why. The packaging is vaguely reminiscent of toothpaste, I suppose.
Anyway, the filling is the almond paste, sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and vanilla. If you've got a food processor, electric hand mixer, or a fancy-pants stand mixer, now's the time to break it out, because you'll never get the lumps out of the almond paste otherwise. The stuff is very, very firm. (The almond paste itself, that is. The filling will be sort of a cake-batter consistency when you're done.)
I pressed the crust into the tart pan and spread the filling in the bottom. The recipe calls for an 11-inch tart pan, and mine is 9-inch, so I had some leftover filling. I learned the first time around to go easy on the filling, lest the tart overflow and you find yourself having to clean the oven. I arranged the fruit on top and dotted with butter, and here it is, all dressed up and ready to go into the oven:
I tried to do a concentric-circle thing but it looks kinda goofy. Oh well. And here's the finished product:
It got a touch too brown in spots, as you can see -- my oven in this apartment runs reeeally hot. That's even with putting the rack in the very bottom of the oven! Alas. Anyway, I can't wait to taste. (It's still cooling. We'll see how long I can stand to let this go on.) The pear version was fantastic.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
more autumnal soup--with a Carribean flair
Friday, November 04, 2005
My favorite are the jell-o ads, especially this one of a man rushing to save his jell-o from the path of an oncoming train (and who wouldn't do the same, really?)