Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why Are There No Thanksgiving Songs?

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Mine was great! No one refused to come up to the table or threw a fit. No one was high on heroin and we weren't at a Sizzler in Los Angeles. It was just lovely. Here's my sister, waiting for the big day at the already set table.

I'm going to post as many of these recipes as I can stand eventually, but for now, I'll show you some pictures and let you in on my final menu. Please note - everything on this menu was made from scratch. Because I'm crazy that way.

Pecan Goat Cheese Balls

Main Dinner (made by me):
Roast Turkey with Black Truffle Butter and White Wine Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Chestnut, Leek and Apple Stuffing
Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Pecans
Sauteed Swiss Chard with Shallots
Green Beans with Pine Nuts and Lemon Zest
Caramelized Fennel with Parmesan
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Buttermilk Biscuits

Side Dishes (made by Donna):
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Pies (made by Mom and MO):

Ice cream and Whipped Cream, both from scratch, made my me and my sister.

Zack said this was an insane amount of food. I think he was just jealous not to be there. Doesn't everyone look happy?

Here's my plate, filled up with a little bit of everything. Let the holiday season begin!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

If you're reading this, it's probably already Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving. A time for family (to drive you crazy). Whether they mean to or not (and usually out of love). A time for them to guilt you into making homemade ice cream and having the machine not work. But that's all part of the Thanksgiving experience (as my Uncle Danny might say).

My favorite cooking tasks are the super repetitive ones. If the recipe calls for rolling hundreds of cheese balls, kneading dough for 20 minutes or stuffing millions of mushrooms, I'm in heaven. Making stock is the opposite of that.

For really good gravy, you need homemade stock. For Thanksgiving, when you've got lots of giblets and spare parts hanging about your kitchen from the turkey, you have no excuse not to make some. Here's my turkey parts. The liver is the thing in the down left corner.

This recipe is from Gourmet - I followed it to the letter (for once).

Classic Turkey Stock
Turkey neck and giblets (excluding liver - that will make your stock bitter)
1 large onion, quartered
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery rib, sliced
Greens from one leek (optional)
3 parsley sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
10 cups of water
1 Tbs vegetable oil (ok, I used olive oil. I lied about following it to the letter)

Heat the oil in a stock pot. Brown the turkey parts and the onion.

Here's the vegetables all nice and chopped.

I've never seen a stock recipe that had leeks in it. That's why I picked it. Anyways, add all the vegetables and the water and the herbs to the pot and simmer it for two hours. Skim the fat from the top every once in a while. See? The opposite of repetitive. You just put it in a pot and walk away. That's weirdly stressful for me.

It should reduce by about half. Strain it and use it for gravy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Almost time....

It's almost Thanksgiving (a food blogger's favorite holiday). I've got lots of delicious things in the works, but none to show you yet. This is the first Thanksgiving where I've arrived in CA more than an hour or two before midnight on Thursday, so I actually get to pick out my own vegetables this year (finally! I hate sending other people with lists. No surprises that way).

So far, I've got some lovely red swiss chard, fennel bulbs, Granny Smith apples, carrots, celery, potatoes, walnuts and more from the Alameda Farmer's Market. But there will be more! So much more.

For a little sneak peek, I can tell you that I'm using Gourmet's Roast Turkey with Black Truffle Butter and White Wine Gravy recipe....

Here's hoping mine turns out as well. Happy Cooking!

Monday, November 24, 2008

More pie!

My house is being overrun with sweet potatoes. I get them every week in my CSA and I never know what to do with them. Finally, after weeks of pile up, I had enough. We had company coming! I decided to make a pie.

I found a sweet potato pie recipe in an old recipe of Gourmet that looked easy enough. I made some adaptations due to food allergies of my guests and the constrictions of my refrigerator. I think it made it even better.

Sweet Potato Pie with a Gingersnap crust (click here for the original recipe)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus additional for buttering pie plate
Flour for dusting
1 cup finely crushed gingersnap cookies (5 ounces; 20 2-inch cookies)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 lb sweet potatoes (I used 5)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup non fat milk
1 tablespoon whiskey (I used Maker's Mark)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour pie plate, so that nothing sticks later.

Toss together all crust ingredients in a bowl with a fork until crumbs are moistened, then press evenly over bottom and up side of pie plate. Bake crust 6 minutes, then cool on a rack.

Increase oven temperature to 400°F.

Prick each sweet potato once with a fork. Roast for one hour, or until tender. Halve potatoes lengthwise and cool. Don't they look pretty?

I could have just eaten them plain at this point. They were really good.

This next part is tricky, so I'm copying it straight from the magazine:
While potatoes cool, cook sugar in a dry 8-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar melts into a deep golden caramel. Remove from heat. Carefully pour water down side of skillet (mixture will bubble and steam vigorously), then return to heat and simmer, stirring, until hardened caramel is completely dissolved. Remove from heat.

It sounds harder than it is. I'm usually freaked out by caramel making, but it was pretty easy.

Honestly, you could probably skip this step and just add some sugar to the filling mixture....

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and add the flesh to the bowl of a food processor or a regular bowl and mash them with a potato masher/fork. Blend in the food processor until smooth (or just mash), then add eggs, cinnamon, and salt and mix until smooth. Add milk/cream, caramel, whiskey, and vanilla, and blend until combined well.

Pour filling into crust!

Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes and then cool on a rack for an hour. It will continue to set while it cools, so don't be too put off if the center is still jiggly (but it can't be soupy. That wouldn't work).

Serve warm.

It's good pie! Everyone liked it. Zack said he likes it more than pumpkin pie, which I thought it was nice. Cadence liked it too.

Cutest baby ever. Plus she likes my cooking (as do her parents).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oy vey

I don't have anything to blog about today. It's all the fault of this:

I am too old for midnight showings of movies followed by early morning auditions. But I'm making sweet potato pie for my visitors! So you'll hear all about that soon. I promise.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm feeling a little bit British

I've been drinking a lot of tea lately. That's what people do when they're sick, you know. Especially when you have a virus that can't be treated with medicine! Argh. But anyways. Tea. Along with the tea, I've also been craving bread....or crackers...or cookies...or really anything in the carb family. I'm not sure why.

The Amateur Gourmet
must have known about both my recent love of tea and carb craving, because yesterday, he posted a recipe for cream scones. It looked really easy, and since all I'm doing is staying home as much as possible so that I can recover from being sick, I decided to make them (what an elegant sentence that was).

It's so easy! You could totally make them at home. Yes, you. Even though you think you can't cook, you could make these, no problem.

Cream Scones (I adjusted the recipe to my tastes. You'll see)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cream, plus a little more just in case
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Mix your dry ingredients in a bowl. See the cream, waiting on the side?

Add the cream and mix until the dough just comes together. You want a "shaggy dough" to form. You can add more cream if the dough seems dry. Don't overmix. That's bad. Add the chocolate. Yum, chocolate.

3. Spoon the dough into six blobs on a baking sheet. Brush with a little more cream, sprinkle some sugar on top and some extra mini chocolate chips as well.

4. Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops of the scones turn golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Now check out my scone close up!

It's nice, right? It's light and creamy and who doesn't love chocolate? These are going to go along with my tea really well. It's gonna rock. I'm going to break out into little songs and say British things like "Pip pip, cheerio, old bean, chim-chim-a-ree."

You may need to come take these away from me - not just to stop the British-ness but to keep me from eating all six of them in one day. That would be bad for my girlish figure.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Turkey Day

You know what, readers? It is almost Thanksgiving. The biggest cooking holiday of the year, and I am not sure what to make. First of all, I'm hindered by the all vegetarian side dishes (so many vegetarians in CA). Second, I haven't scoped out the produce in CA yet - I know it will be amazing, but what will it be? I just don't know. So far I'm thinking:

Turkey (duh. I use the recipe from the November 2006 issue of Gourmet. It's super easy)
Gravy (ditto)
Mashed Potatoes (one of the only Thanksgiving foods that my sister likes)
Butternut Squash (because I love it this year - not sure what to do with it yet)

....and some more stuff? My dad wants me to make challah, obviously we need some cranberries and some more vegetables....but what? My mom will probably make a salad (the members of my immediate family are all big salad enthusiasts) and a pumpkin pie.....

Any thoughts? Recipes? I need help.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cooking through the sickness

What's a girl to do while she waits for her antibiotics? Cook, of course. I had these vegetables in my house (courtesy of my CSA):

These seemed like a natural soup choice to me. I got my mom a new cookbook this weekend (Deborah Madison's Local Flavors - a cookbook devoted to seasonal farmer's market cooking) and I flipped through it and found this recipe for a simple potage (which as far as I can tell means potato soup. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). It was so easy, I'm not even referring back to the book for what the directions were. I'm a maverick.

Leeks (I used two)
Potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred - I just grabbed a handful of small ones)
Baby Turnips (I just used a small bunch)
Chicken Stock (use water if you're a vegetarian. Or vegetable stock. But veggie stock is for losers)
salt and pepper
cream (optional)
1.5 Tbs butter

1. Wash and chop all your veggies. I chopped them, then washed them. I didn't peel the potatoes or the turnips. Potato skins are good for you and the turnips were really small. Wash the leeks really well, post chopping. Leeks are muddy little suckers.

2. Melt the butter in a large soup pot. Toss the vegetables in the butter and add 1/2 cup water or stock and some fresh thyme (or dried thyme if that's all you have). Simmer for five minutes.

Add 5 more cups of stock or water and some salt.

3. Bring to a boil, then bring down the heat to a simmer and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes. You can add some pepper here. And some more salt if you want. At this time, I decided I wanted to make my soup a little more pureed, but I didn't want to wash my food processor, so I just mashed it a bit with my potato masher.

4. There were still some larger bits, but I think that's okay. Varied textures! Then I added a little bit of cream (sinful, I know. But I added about 1/4 of a cup to a gigantic soup pot. You could even add less. Or no cream at all. Or some milk. Whatever floats your boat).

It turns a nice light color with the cream though. See?

5. Now eat it! I put a little more thyme on top as a garnish. Garnishes make my photos look really nice.


Monday, November 17, 2008


Today I made an Apple Wacky Cake. I got the idea from Meredith's blog. You've seen her blog, yes? Well you should if you haven't. It's neat.

Rather than do the exact same post that Meredith just did, I have decided to just link to her post and take a picture of my final product (which turned out well, in my humble opinion).

I used a cake pan instead of a skillet, like Meredith - I even greased the pan before hand. But the cake stuck to the pan anyways. Oh well. If something called "wacky" cake looked too pretty, that would not be right at all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's good when you're sick?

Tea. Lots and lots of tea. Where's a good place to get tea in New York, you may ask?

That's right, Alice's Tea Cup. Have you been there? It's adorable. They have pages and pages filled with different types of tea, cute little cups, quotations from Alice in Wonderland hand painted on the walls.....basically it's the girliest place imaginable. Many a baby/bridal shower has been held there, and little girls with fairy wings and princess tiaras fill the tables, celebrating birthdays or just hanging out after preschool. I don't care. I can be girlie sometimes. And the tea is really good.

Since it was my first time there, Amanda and I splurged and got the "mad hatter" which means two pots of tea, three scones, two sandwiches, mocha cake and cookies.

It was a lot of food. We couldn't finish it, but that just meant that I got to take scones home and eat them later. My sandwich was a BLT and it was far and away the best BLT I've ever had. A huge stack of bacon dripped fat onto delicious tomatoes and lettuce, while blue cheese and black bread complemented the taste nicely. Plus, I had healthy detox tea, so that I wouldn't be sick anymore.

Ok, well I'm still sick, but at least I'm also cute, right? You can't have everything.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Alone time

Sometimes, you just have to pamper yourself. For some, that means massages or pedicures, for me, it means cooking for three hours so that I can eat fancy food while I watch old MGM musicals by myself. Potato, potah-to.

I got this recipe from The Amateur Gourmet, who got it from Mario Batali, so you know it's good. Dad, try to avert your eyes from the pictures of meat simmering on the stove.

Braised Short Ribs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
a few beef short ribs - one big one or two small ones per person, I made extra for leftovers
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chop[ed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine (I used Shiraz because I had it in my kitchen already)
1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, tomato juice discarded
1 cup brown chicken stock [I used boxed chicken stock and it was fine]
thyme, rosemary, oregano - You could use fresh if you have it. I didn't.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Get an oven proof skillet and heat the oil in it until it's really hot and smoking. Season the meat with salt and pepper and brown them really well in the oil. Browning the meat is super important. Mario and Adam say that you should brown it for 15 minutes on all sides. This gives it a nice crust and makes more flavor later.

3. Remove the meat to a plate and set it aside. Now, remember your vegetables?

They are very important. Add them to the pan that you cooked the meat in and soften them for a few minutes. Add some salt and pepper, the red wine, chicken stock and herbs. Bring it to a boil and add the short ribs back to the pan.

4. That was easy, right? Cover with foil, and put in the oven for two hours, or until the meat falls off the bone. Yum.

You can make some orzo now! (and by now, I mean while the meat cooks, not when it's all done like in the picture above)

Butternut Squash Orzo

1/2 lb butternut squash, seeded and peeled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1.5 cups orzo
1.5 cups brown chicken stock

Once again, I just roasted a whole squash and saved some. Did you know I love butternut squash? I may have mentioned it before.

1. Roast your squash. I chopped it into little squares, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuck it in the oven with the meat for about 45 minutes, or until it was tender.

2. Then I put as much squash as I thought the orzo could handle into the food processor along with honey and balsamic vinegar and some more salt and pepper. Yum! Ok, leave that alone for a while.

3. Here comes the annoying part. Bring some water to boil and add some salt. Use a big pot. You don't want to crowd the orzo. Cook the orzo for three minutes (you're "blanching" it, not cooking it. Whatever the hell that means). Strain it.

Ooh! You need to make an "ice bath." That means you get a big bowl of ice water that you could fit a strainer full of orzo in.

Okay, put the strainer in the ice water - this way the orzo will stop cooking and the orzo won't get lost in the ice water. This is confusing. It looks like this.

Now take it out of the water and spread it out on a baking sheet to dry.

3. Bring your chicken stock to boil in a saute pan. Add the squash puree and the orzo and cook until the orzo absorbs the stock.

Stir it a lot so that it doesn't stick. It'll take about 10 minutes or so.

It looks good, right? Serve it up to yourself and watch Funny Face. Meat, squash, Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire....ah, bliss.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Queens is the best

Queens is a great borough. People love Brooklyn (for whatever reason), but Queens is the place that I call home. Not only is it a nice place to live, the food is great! I found myself in Sunnyside a while ago, wondering where to go to eat. My friend Sam (who used to live in Sunnyside, but defected to trendy Williamsburg, due to rent issues) who was with me asked me if I liked falafel. Why not, I figured, and so we went down Queens Blvd to this place:

It doesn't look like much, but the falafel sandwich with home bread? Amazing. What is home bread, you may ask? I don't really know, but I know it's warm and fluffy and delicious. I got it with everything, which included lettuce and tomatoes and some sort of yummy sauce. See how good it looks?

Check it out if you're ever in Sunnyside!
Mangal Kebab
46-20 Queens Blvd., between 46th and 47th Sts., Sunnyside, Queens

Piedmont is famous now

Okay, my readers. Zack stole the only computer cord in our house today and took it to work with him, leaving my battery drained computer to die early in the day, before I could post anything. I fully intend to do a full food post any minute (I've got some stored up - just like bears in the winter), but I read this article just now and had to share it with you. Click here.

Did you read it yet? Did you? It's so interesting! It's about food. And Piedmont! My high school, being picked apart in the New York Times. Apparently, chocolate cookies are banned from the food service now. Warm Otis Spunkmeyer cookies are some of my best middle school memories (middle school is a tough time. You understand).

If you choose not to read the article, like an uniformed lazy loser, at least take this sentence away with you - "The Piedmont High water polo team falls woefully short of {nutritional} standards, selling cupcakes, caramel apples and lemon bars off campus in a flagrant act of nutritional disobedience." Best sentence ever! I love it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Back to Squash

So, before all this election hooplah happened, I was really into butternut squash. Now that the election is over, I am returning, as promised, to the squash.

A little while ago, I needed a relaxing day. So, I decided to make butternut squash risotto with my friend Jaclyn. You've seen her before on this blog. You can read about it here. I realize that most people would not consider making risotto from scratch relaxing - I'm just a freak.

Butternut Squash Risotto, adapted from Ina Garten

1 smallish butternut squash
olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
a few strips of bacon, diced
2 large minced shallots
1 box Arborio rice (I think that's usually 17 oz)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (at least)
fresh sage, a few leaves

1. Peel your butternut squash. I'm warning you now - it's kind of hard. I used a serrated vegetable peeler.

Then chop it into smallish pieces.

Trader Joe's sells peeled, cut butternut squash in packages. It's good, but not as good as my farm fresh squash. It's a lot easier though.

2. Preheat you oven to 400 degrees. Put your cut squash on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, pepper and some olive oil. Toss them around to coat them. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender. While that happens, you can start the other part of your recipe.

3. Dice your shallots and bacon. Oh bacon. You are so delicious. I did not eat you for so long. What was I thinking? Crazy Jewish vegetarian parents, steering me in the wrong direction.

In a large pan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Saute your shallots and bacon until the shallots are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. It's gonna smell really good.

4. Add the rice and stir so that it gets all coated in buttery goodness.

5. Oh yeah! You should have your chicken stock heated at this point - just simmer it over low heat while you cook. I forgot to tell you.

Add the wine to your rice. I don't measure. I just pour it in. Yum. Stir and cook it for a few more minutes.

6. It's a good thing you heated your chicken stock. We're going to start adding it to the rice, one ladle full at a time. Just pour a little bit in and stir until it's evaporated into the rice. By cooking it slowly this way, the rice is releasing starches that makes it amazing. Add a pinch of salt with the stock.

Once each ladle full (or large spoonful, whatever) is absorbed, add another ladle full of stock. See how the rice expands as you go on?

Keep adding until the stock is gone. The rice should be cooked, but have a bite to it. It'll take a while, maybe 20-30 minutes.

7. Check your squash! It looks yummy. I love the bright orange color.

Take the risotto off the heat and add the squash. I had some leftover squash that I got to keep and eat. It was so good. Add the cheese too and rip up some sage leaves and throw those in as well.

Mix it really well! See my awesome stirring action?

8. Serve it with a nice salad so that you can pretend that you're healthy.

Yay! It was really good. Since taking these pictures, I actually made it again and it was just as good. My friend Jaclyn really liked it too. Thanks for your help!