Thursday, November 28, 2013

never too late

Yes, clearly this is back-dated, but I like to keep things on here blog-accurate. There is nothing like being too busy in the month after Thanksgiving to post about my favorite day of the year immediately.

And I feel like I was too busy to properly provide the full Thanksgiving experience. There was hardly anything in the way to Thanksgiving recipe testing, and while I usually make Thanksgiving prep a Monday-Thursday extravaganza, I was still scrambling Wednesday night at the grocery store.

But instead of focusing on what time I didn't have, I'd like to think I've become somewhat of a Thanksgiving professional. Wednesday night prep ended by midnight for a proper night's sleep (6 hours is proper, right?), and Thursday was so easy, I was watching the Cowboys by kick-off. (Okay, maybe I did a little bit of work at halftime, but that hardly counts).

I apologize for the photo situation - we were all a little too eager to sit down to eat for any proper presentation. We couldn't even hand over photo duties to Duchess at her first Thanksgiving - as you can see, she was pretty eager to sit at the dinner table, too!

Table 1:

1. Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Turkey
It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.

2. Naomi's Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple-Persimmon Stuffing
A straightforward stuffing recipe filled with the classic flavors, but extra interesting with the fruit. It makes me wish for the persimmon tree at my parents' house, and at the very least, reminds me to buy some at the grocery store.

3. Vegan Lentil Shepherd's Pie with Parsnip + Potato Mash
I had such high hopes for this, but the overly parsnip-y topping destroyed the whole experience for me. Don't get me wrong - I love parsnips, but the sweetness really overwhelmed all of the savory goodness going on underneath the surface. A real shame.

4. Naomi's Gluten-Free Cornbread
Posting this reminds me to grab the recipe from Naomi. It was perfect, and how all cornbread should taste.

5. Andouille-Cornbread Stuffing
Another Thanksgiving staple. I would probably get left if this didn't show up on the table.

6. Deb's Cranberry Sauce
You know, I wasn't even going to make any cranberry sauce, but Thanksgiving really isn't right without it.

7. Kale + Brussels Sprouts Salad with Sage-Hazelnut Pesto
We interrupt the list for an adaptation of my new favorite pesto. Perfectly fall, perfectly Thanksgiving.

Sage-Hazelnut Pesto
slightly adapted from Food52

1/4 c. packed sage leaves
5-6 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2.5 oz. hazelnuts, toasted
salt, to taste

1. Warm 4 T. olive oil, sage and garlic in a small pan over very low heat just until the sage just begins to lose its bright green color. Set aside.

2. Place the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor along with the warmed garlic clove and process until a fine crumble. Add the sage-oil mixture and process until combined. Season to taste.

Toss all that with raw, shredded Brussels sprouts, raw kale ribbons and roasted butternut squash cubes, and you have the perfect fall salad. I couldn't get enough of this.

I'll tell you what, though. I'm never breaking down another butternut squash again. No amount of money is too great to pay for already-cubed butternut squash. Fingers and sanity saved.

Table 2:

8. Blue Cheese Broccoli Gratin
The only way roasted broccoli could be improved is by drenching it in a blue cheese sauce. I could have polished off this massive tray by myself. It's the best.

9. Sriracha-Roasted Cauliflower
I added an extra shot of Sriracha and let the cauliflower marinate in the dressing this time, and the cauliflower came out much more worthy of the dish's name.

10. Vegan Gluten-Free Creamy Corn Pasta
This was a terrible, unfortunate fail. While it was so damn delicious when I last made it, I went ahead and tried to sub in soy creamer and gluten-free corn pasta, and the dish sank. I had already tested a corn rotelle the week before which was perfect, but in my grocery-buying haste, I ended up with untested corn spaghetti. And then I went and put it in a pot that was slightly too small, and it turned into a gummy mess. I'm shuddering just thinking about it again. Might have to make the real thing again when I get home just to erase the memory.

11. Butternut Squash Soup with Miso + Coconut
I have no idea how doubling the recipe nearly overflowed by Dutch oven, but we'll be eating soup well into the New Year. Good thing it's delicious.

Table 3:

12. Naomi's Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple Pie
It's pretty well-documented that I don't like apple pie. However, I'm starting to think that apple pie is acceptable if it has streusel on it. Naomi's had streusel.

13. Naomi's Vegan, Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
A really nice, spicy counterpart to my Honey Pumpkin Pie.

14. Honey Pumpkin Pie
Another staple. Forget the pecans - you don't need them.

15. Butterscotch Maple Walnut 3-Layer Pie
A new staple. Matty pulled me aside at the end of the evening to specifically request that this make an appearance every year. I don't blame him - it's a slice of dairy decadence. I couldn't find the black walnut extract for this pie, but it'll be worth the effort and investment to find it for an annual pie.


Monday, November 18, 2013

testing the water

It's getting dangerously close to the time when testing recipes for Thanksgiving is inappropriate. If the recipes are bad - fine, they won't make the menu. But what if they're good? That means *gasp* I'll have to repeat a recipe. And within 10 days of making it for the first time.

Luckily, I will have no problem repeating both of these next Thursday - Butternut Squash Soup with Miso + Coconut and Sriracha Roasted Cauliflower.

To be honest, the soup doesn't actually taste very strongly of either miso or coconut, but whatever magical chemistry happened in the simmering process made for a complex soup that wasn't overly sweet. I have 3 pies ready - I don't need my starter to be another dessert.

And that's not to say the cauliflower couldn't use tweaking. I'd say the olive oil amount goes down, and the Sriracha goes way up. The flavor was pleasant enough, but while I don't need my tastebuds to scream from the heat, I'd still like the dish to scream Sriracha. And I may have to schedule the oven so that this goes in last - it cools down really fast, and while I could eat roasted cauliflower in any shape, at any temperature, I may be the only one with as big a love affair.

P.S. Sorry, I was too jetlagged last night to realize this was the wrong filter to use for a meal in shades of all orange.

Butternut Squash Soup with Miso + Coconut
from Food52

Olive oil
2 1/4 c. water
2 T. white shiro miso
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1/2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/4 t. cumin
1/4 t. cayenne pepper, or slightly more to taste
1 lb. peeled and cubed butternut squash
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
salt to taste

1. Put 2 c. of water into a saucepan and heat to a simmer. Whisk the remaining 1/4 c. of water together with the miso, and pour that into the saucepan. Bring to a simmer, but don't let it boil.

2. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of a large, heavy pot. When it's hot, add the onion and sweat it until it's translucent. Stir in the ginger, cumin, and cayenne, and toast spices for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Deglaze with a ladleful of your miso stock.

3. Add the cubed butternut squash and the salt, mixing everything to combine, and then pour in the rest of the miso stock. Simmer until the squash is completely tender, about 20 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat, and purée the soup in a food processor or with a hand blender, being careful of the hot liquid. Return the puréed soup back to the pot, and stir in the coconut milk. Taste, adjust for seasoning and spice. Serve warm.

Sriracha Roasted Cauliflower
from White On Rice Couple

1/3 c. olive oil
1 t. sesame oil
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. rice vinegar
2 T. Sriracha sauce
1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds / 910g), cut into 3⁄4-inch (2-cm) florets

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a sheet pan or line it with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and sriracha sauce. Whisk well.
Gently add the cauliflower to the bowl and coat with the marinade.

3. Arrange the cauliflower on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the cauliflower over and roast for another 10 minutes, or until tender.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

thank you in advance

On today's episode of "Jetlag: Amsterdam," I succumbed to an 8:00p nap, woke up at 9:00p to watch the USC-Cal game on Gamecast, and am now too jacked-up to go back to sleep. Plus, now I want to watch all of the other footballs.

So, what does one do between Gamecast commercial breaks? Research Thanksgiving menu ideas, of course. I'll have exactly two weeks of condensed recipe-testing time once I get back home, and I may have to do one a day to make it in time.

Which brings us back to dinner from October 14th, aka Canadian Thanksgiving, aka my first day of recipe testing. Here's what we learned:

Deep-Fried Turkey
Delicious. Shockingly manageable when done in a Dutch oven with just turkey legs. However, I am not ready to risk the house I own by attempting to deep-fry a whole turkey outside in a propane-powered vat of oil. Moving on.

Green Bean Caesar Salad
Not quite as cute as the version on Serious Eats because I may have overdressed the beans, but the dressing is so good, it was totally worth it. I think this one is going on the menu.

Cornbread Waffles
I want these morning, noon and at 2:00a after having napped without dinner. It's all the best qualities of cornbread and waffles put together. Unfortunately, I don't think they'd be any good if a party of 15-20 have to wait for them to get done, and frankly, there's enough to do and football to watch on Thanksgiving day than to try to turn out individual waffles. Maybe one year, I'll host a bring-your-own-waffle-maker dinner, and we can all play around with our own. Good for the repertoire, but not good for the big day.

Green Bean Caesar Salad
from Serious Eats
serves 8

2 1/4 lbs. green beans, trimmed
1/2 c. mayonnaise
6 whole anchovy filets
2 oz. finely grated parmesan cheese (about 1 c.)
2 T. fresh juice
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c. sliced pepperoncini, drained
2 medium shallots, finely sliced (about 2/3 c.)
1/4 c. toasted pinenuts

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Add beans to boiling water and cook until tender crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to ice bath until cool. Drain, dry and set aside.

2. Grind the anchovies to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add the mayonnaise, parmesan, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce, and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Start with 2 T. of dressing and toss with the green beans, pepperoncini, shallots and pinenuts. Adjust dressing to taste, and serve immediately.

Cornbread Waffles
slightly adapted from Edible Perspective
makes 2 waffles

3/4 c. fine-ground cornmeal
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 large egg
3/4 c. milk
2 T. butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 T. honey

1. Preheat your waffle maker to just over medium heat + grease if necessary.

2. Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until pale yellow, then whisk in the milk, melted butter and honey. Pour the wet into the dry and whisk until just combined. Let sit undisturbed for 7 minutes.

4. Scoop half of the batter onto the hot waffle maker and gently spread around with a spatula or butter knife. Cook until golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

remembering the summer nights

Hello, from Amsterdam! It's 5:45a, and I have been awake for 2 hours. My body has no idea what time it is. Is it really 1:45p in Tokyo, and shouldn't I have had some amazing sushi or udon by now? Or is it 8:45p in LA, and I should have just had this amazing Fresh Tomato Pesto Pasta and just begun to snuggle on the couch with Matty and Duchess to catch up on "Mad Men"?

I have no idea, but I'm starving and am counting down the minutes to my 7:00a gym session. Posting photos of pasta I made 2 months ago probably isn't the best idea, but I will say that I've hit upon a golden hour of slow (but not non-existent) emails from around the globe, and this is as good a time as any to catch up on the blogging.

This pasta is pure summer genius. It only takes as long to make as pasta takes to boil, and at the peak of tomato and basil season, there's nothing that can beat this meal. Don't be afraid that the tomatoes make for a weak and watery pesto - the flavor is pumped with tomato paste and rich walnuts, and there is absolutely nothing this dish lacks.

Fresh Tomato Pesto Pasta
from Food52
serves 4

1 lb. fusilli
2 c. grape tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 t. tomato paste
1 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 c. crumbled walnuts
1/2 c. coarsely grated Pecorino, plus more for serving if desired
1/2 c. olive oil
2 balls of burrata

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, walnuts, basil, pepper flakes and Pecorino; pulse to combine. With motor running, add olive oil in a steady stream until a thick sauce forms.

3. Toss the pesto and pasta together, and divide evenly among 4 plates. Top each with half a ball of burrata and serve immediately.