Tag Archives: holidays

Food and Fireworks

3 Jul

tumblr_mp43muLq3t1rsdtszo1_1280While these sparkling recipes are designed for July 4th fireworks, they are perfect for entertaining all summer long. Three cheers for the red, white, and blue! Hope you have a festive holiday weekend.


This is the essence of summer entertaining. It is a marriage of sweet and salty delights. Nice to mix red and yellow watermelon if you can find it.

– 6 thin slices of ripe watermelon, plus 3 cups of cubed watermelon, chilled
– 8 ounces feta cheese
– 1 cup slivered basil
– 24 oil-cured black olives
– ¼ cup olive oil

On a large platter, place overlapping slices of watermelon and scatter cubed watermelon on top. Crumble cheese and scatter on top.  Scatter basil on cheese and garnish with olives. Drizzle a little olive oil over fruit and cheese. Add a grinding of black pepper. SERVES 6.


tumblr_mp3yc4OIpy1rsdtszo1_1280SUN-DRIED TOMATO-BEEF SLIDERS with PESTO

These will surely become a family favorite – whether big or small. If making large burgers, they are sublime cooked on an outdoor grill.

– 1 pound ground beef (chuck or sirloin)
– 7-ounce jar sun-dried tomato in oil
– 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted
– ½ cup prepared pesto
– 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
– Handful of mesclun or baby arugula

Drain oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and set aside. Finely dice enough tomatoes to get ½ cup. Cut remaining tomatoes into slivers and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat reserved oil. Add onions and cook over medium-high heat until onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine beef, diced sundried tomatoes, cooked onion with all the pan juices, ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add ¼ cup ice water and mix well. Form into 12 small patties. Heat oil in large skillet and cook burgers on each side for several minutes until desired doneness. Stir together pesto and yogurt. Place the burgers on the buns and top with pesto mixture. Garnish with a few leaves of mesclun or arugula, and the remaining slivered sun-dried tomatoes. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.


tumblr_mp2it2CMwI1rsdtszo1_1280BOMBAY TURKEY SLIDERS with HURRY-CURRY SAUCE

These are a cinch to put together and both the sauce and the sliders can be prepped early in the day.


– ½ cup light mayonnaise
– ⅔ cup plain yogurt
– 4 teaspoons curry powder
– 2 tablespoons ketchup
– 1 small clove garlic, finely minced


– 1¼ pounds ground turkey
– 2 teaspoons curry powder
– 1 teaspoons ground cumin
– Large pinch chipotle chili powder
– 3 tablespoons finely minced scallions
– 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or basil
– 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
– 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted
– 12 thin slices Kirby cucumber
– 12 thin slices plum tomato

Stir together ingredients for sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Put turkey in a large bowl. Add the curry, cumin, chili powder, scallions, cilantro or basil, ginger and mayonnaise, plus 1 teaspoon salt. Mix until blended. Form into 12 small (2 ounce) burgers. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook burgers over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, turn over and cook 2 minutes longer. Place the burgers on the buns and slather with curry sauce. Top with a slice of cucumber and tomato. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.


tumblr_mp4dvrL0St1rsdtszo1_1280RED, WHITE AND BLUEBERRY SHORTCAKES

This luxurious dessert is worthy of fireworks. Wonderful if you can get tiny ripe strawberries from your local farmer’s market. The light touch of lemon zest in the biscuits and thin layer of lemon curd makes these truly memorable. Garnish with edible flowers.


– 1½ cups flour
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– ½ teaspoon baking soda
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
– Grated rind of 1 lemon
– ⅔ cup buttermilk


– 1½ cups heavy cream
– 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– ½ cup lemon curd
– 3 cups fresh berries: raspberries, tiny strawberries, blueberries
– Edible flowers for garnishing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut butter into small pieces and incorporate into flour mixture. Add lemon zest and buttermilk and mix lightly. Turn dough out onto floured board. Roll out to 1-inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch round and place on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake 16 to 18 minutes until golden. Let cool.

Whip heavy cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla until very thick.

Cut biscuits in half. Spread lemon curd on bottom half of each biscuit. Spoon whipped on top and add fruit. Top with biscuit “hat” and add more berries and whipped cream. Garnish with edible flowers. SERVES 6.

Day 6: A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas

21 Dec

12-21-2013 03;58;28PMWhen we think about main courses, it is generally dinner that comes to mind. But a main course for Christmas morning is fun to consider. A great idea is to make a breakfast strata: Layers of bread, prosciutto, feta, provolone and spinach, that can be assembled the night before and baked while you open presents. The striations of ingredients soak up the egg-and-milk base. Baked for 1 hour, the result is custardy, rich, and quiche-like. Best eaten in your pajamas while sipping winter mimosas — made with tangerine juice and prosecco topped with pomegranate seeds.

Cheese Strata with Prosciutto, Basil & Spinach

3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
16 slices firm white bread, crusts removed
8 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded
1/4 cup finely minced scallions, white and green parts
4 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup finely julienned fresh basil
5 extra-large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce

Butter a 12-x-7 inch glass or ceramic dish with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Cover the bottom with 6 slices of bread, plus 1 slice cut in half to fill the spaces. Evenly cover the bread with half the prosciutto. Sprinkle with half of the feta, provolone, scallions, spinach, and basil. Repeat to make a second layer. Cut the remaining 2 bread slices into 1/4-inch cubes; scatter over the top. Beat together the eggs, half-and-half, and hot sauce. Pour over the strata; press down firmly with a spatula. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and drizzle over the top.  Cover; refrigerate 5 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Uncover and bake 1 hour, until golden. Serves 8

A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas: Day 4

19 Dec

prime-rib-roast-beefHere’s a wonderful, upscale recipe that is lovely for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. The editors at Gourmet magazine once said this simple roast was one of the best they had ever tasted. It is “cured” in the same way that fresh salmon is for gravlax, literally buried in a mixture of coarse salt, sugar, fresh dill and cracked black pepper.  It is radically simple to prepare and radically delicious served with a silky potato puree and roasted winter vegetables. Open a bottle of full-bodied red burgundy or syrah.  The next day: Serve the world’s best roast beef sandwiches topped with a horseradish sauce made from crème fraîche, white horseradish, and a splash of sherry.

1/4 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper
3-1/2-pound boneless rib roast, rolled and tied
1 cup finely chopped fresh dill

Stir together the salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl; rub all over the beef. Put the dill over the salt mixture. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Make a small hole in the bottom of the plastic so that any accumulated liquid can drain. Place in a small roasting pan and weigh down with a baking sheet topped with a few large heavy cans.  Refrigerate 24 hours, pouring off liquid from time to time. Unwrap the beef; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrape the coating off the beef and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a roasting pan. Roast in the middle of the oven 1-1/4 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 130 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil; let rest 15 minutes. Carve as desired. Serves 8

Day 3: Countdown to a Radically Simple Christmas

18 Dec

Photo: Kate Whitaker

One week to go before Christmas Eve, so it’s a good time to start planning your menu. Here is a favorite glazed ham that I make year after year. Served hot on Christmas Eve with mashed rutabagas and caramelized shallots, the morning after I sauté leftover bits with soft-scrambled eggs (delicious with toasted panettone and warm maple syrup). The next day I use the meaty bone to make fragrant lentil soup. Leftovers might also appear in a custardy quiche with sharp cheddar and cumin seed or as an honest ham sandwich, thinly sliced and piled high on rye bread. It’s mouthwatering any way you choose. (adapted from Christmas 1-2-3, Stewart,Tabori & Chang).

Glazed Christmas Ham
House-filling aromas will trigger mouthwatering anticipation. Its flavors — salty meat, sharp mustard, sweet crust — hits your palate like a harmonious chord. Simple cooking techniques keep it moist and succulent.

10-pound smoked ready-to-cook ham, shanks portion
1 cup coarse-grain mustard
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon garam masala

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place ham in a shallow roasting pan and add 1/4 inch water to pan. Cover ham with foil and bake 2-1/2 hours. Remove ham from the oven and pour off most of the fat. Raise oven temp to 450 degrees. Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, remove the skin and most of the fat. Score the remaining fat by cutting diagonal slashes in a diamond pattern. Spread the ham thickly with mustard. Stir together sugar, cinnamon, and garam masala and sprinkle the surface of the ham heavily with the mixture. Return to the oven until sugar melts and hardens, about 25 minutes. It will become a bit crackly. Serves 12

A Radically Joyous Hanukkah

1 Dec

NEWEdible.Latke.hiresThis year Hanukkah is going to be a little different.  First of all I’m going to be a judge at a big deal latke competition with other Brooklyn foodies at BAM on December 10th.  I was honored to be asked by Liz Neumark, creator and impresario of Great Performances and owner of Katchkie Farms and Sylvia Center.  Everything she touches is magical and meaningful. I’m thrilled to be joining Leonard Lopate, Gabriella Gershenson from Saveur, and Lee Schrager from the New York Wine and Food Festival. We will be sampling 17 different kinds of latkes and you can join me!  Just reserve your spot by clicking here.  Even though I’m not a maven, Hanukkah has always been special.  My family was once featured in a cover story in Gourmet Magazine about my three-ingredient Hanukkah celebration at home.  This month, I have written a story about Hanukkah in my Cooking Light column called Radically Simple.  You can check out the recipes below.  And on December 14th, along with the true food maven Arthur Schwartz, I will be a judge at an applesauce! tasting at Park Slope’s very cool synagogue Congregation Beth Elohim.  As most of you know, Hanukkah is a holiday filled with illuminating rituals:  Eight nights of candle-lighting and gifts, and foods fried in olive oil!   The former refers to the miracle that happened during the rededication of The Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC, when a tiny bit of oil, enough to last only one night, lasted eight. The latter are edible expressions of the miracle:  Crispy potato pancakes, known as latkes, and jelly doughnuts (known as sufganiyot), traditionally top the list.  But this year, a few new dishes will grace our table at home: nuggets of cauliflower fried in olive oil and served with tahini & pomegranate seeds, and radically simple latkes made with three root vegetables.

Every household prepares latkes differently but grating a little of one’s knuckle into the mixture is often a reality!  Once upon a time, latkes were made from potatoes only but this year, ours include sweet potatoes and parsnips, and a bit of exotic perfume provided by ground cumin.  Another twist?   Instead of ubiquitous applesauce as an accompaniment, I serve these crispy latkes with a dazzling beet puree meant for dipping or drizzling.

For dessert, there is no simpler offering than fleshy dried Calimyrna figs and Medjool dates served…frozen!  They taste like candy and are a delicious with morsels of bittersweet chocolate or gold-foiled Hanukkah gelt, to be eaten one-by-one. Come to the latke tasting!  Try my latke recipes in Cooking Light!  And enjoy.

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Crispy Root Vegetable Latkes with Beet Puree
Get the latkes going first, and while they cook, puree the sauce.

2 cups grated peeled sweet potato
2 cups grated peeled baking potato
1 cup grated peeling parsnip
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 large eggs
1 cup grated onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)
1 cup chopped, peeled apple
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (8-ounce) package precooked red beets, drained

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Place first 3 ingredients on paper towels; squeeze until barely moist. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, eggs, and onion in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add potato mixture; beat with a mixer at low speed until combined.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil; swirl. Heap 3 tablespoons potato mixture into pan to form a patty; flatten slightly. Repeat procedure 5 times to form 6 patties. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place latkes on a baking sheet; keep warm in oven. Repeat procedure twice with remaining oil and potato mixture to yield 18 latkes total. Sprinkle latkes with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Garnish with dill, if desired.

4. Combine apple and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with latkes. Serves 6

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Fried Cauliflower with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds
Cilantro gives this a bright, zippy taste and lovely color; the leaves are especially festive when strewn with pomegranate arils over the cauliflower. Serve with hot sauce and cut lemons, if you wish.

1/3 cup cilantro leaves, packed
1/3 cup tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
6 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 large head)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pomegranate arils

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Add 6 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is the consistency of a creamy salad dressing. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse to combine.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add cauliflower; cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Place cauliflower on a jelly-roll pan lined with foil. Roast cauliflower at 375° for 18 minutes or until tender, turning once. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add pomegranate arils; toss to combine. Serve with tahini mixture. Serves 6

Two Great Cooks, Two Great Cookbooks

14 Dec

‘Tis the season to give and receive…and if you’re lucky, this year’s best cookbooks will be part of the exchange. I recently was given a gift of Ellie Krieger’s new book “Comfort Food Fix” and later that week bought for myself Melissa Clark’s “Cook This Now.” There was something strikingly sympatico about both books — each meant for a unique audience — and I was eager to find the treasures within. Both titles are “calls to action,” compelling the home cook to get into the kitchen immediately and do something! Their subtitles tell the rest of the story. Ms. Krieger’s book is filled with “Feel-Good Favorites Made Healthy,” while Ms. Clark offers “120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make.”

As the author of twelve cookbooks, I know the vicissitudes of creating original dishes that satisfy home cooks’ deepest wishes: Recipes that balance a sense of ease in both the time they take to prepare and the “stress factor” in making them. If the recipes “feel healthy,” so much the better — especially for weekday or family cooking. Add to that an interesting new ingredient, technique or combination of flavors, and you’ve got a book full of enticing new dishes to try.

While the food world is small and many of us know each other, I am only an acquaintance of the authors, meeting up for an occasional chat at a cookbook launch, a chance meeting in the farmer’s market, or once an encounter at a very short lunch. But I have been a fan of both authors for years. Ellie is host of one of TV’s more credible food shows —Healthy Appetite, shown weekday mornings on the Cooking Channel, and the author of “The Food You Crave” and “So Easy.” Melissa is the triumphant food writer for The New York Times‘ column “A Good Appetite” and the author of 32 cookbooks.

I asked both authors which five recipes in their books were personal favorites. An unfair question, I know! Ellie selected her Blueberry Muffins, French Onion Soup, Shrimp and Grits, Scalloped Potatoes au Gratin, and Mini Cheesecakes, while Melissa highlighted her Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Salted Yogurt, Roast Chicken with Chickpeas, Lemons & Gremolata, Vietnamese-Style Steak with Cabbage. Pistachio Shortbread, and Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise. Unknowingly they created little menus for you and me. Ellie’s approach might seem the more familiar and homey to Melissa’s more adventurous riffs — the very embodiment of interesting ingredients and new flavor combos.

Each author has successfully carved out a special niche in the crowded marketplace of cooking and cookbooks. As a registered dietician with a master’s degree in nutrition from Columbia University, Ellie brings formidable knowledge and expertise to her craft. Her goal in Comfort Food Fix was to re-formulate pleasurable recipes — banana-walnut pancakes, oven-fried chicken, lasagna, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie — so that you could include them in a healthier regime. Particularly useful, and insightful into her methodology, is her list of “The 15 Fix Factors” — including ideas such as using low-fat milk thickened with a bit of flour or cornstarch to create a creamy mouthfeel; the concept of the “un-fry” — achieving crispiness in a low-fat way; adding whole grains, cooking to keep nutrients, trimming portions, and sweetening smartly. I especially like the notion of keeping it real, and using a bit of butter to enrich foods. According to Ms. Krieger, only 1 tablespoon of sweet butter is needed to add supernal creaminess to her recipe for mashed potatoes. Another wave of her magic wand? A Mushroom, Onion & Gruyere Quiche with Oat Crust was 530 calories before her “fix” and only 290 calories afterward. It also looks delicious.

Melissa, on the other hand, in Cook This Now brings one of my favorite Japanese proverbs to life: “If you can capture the season on the plate, then you are the master.” Her recipes feature organic, fresh ingredients that can be uniquely obtained during each month of the year and has us thinking about the procurement of ingredients and cooking as though there were 12 seasons in a year. I love that notion. December brings us Beet & Cabbage Borscht with Dill, Golden Parsnip Latkes, Braised Leg of Lamb with Garlicky Root Vegetable Puree, and lovely sounding Red Chard with Pine Nuts, Garlic, and Golden Rum Raisins. Know what, Melissa?  I am going to “Cook This Now!” Melissa’s cooking style, as well as her writing style, is personal, knowing, and seasoned liberally with brilliance.

So there you have it. Two new books to curl up in bed with. Happy Holidays.

Melissa Clark’s Pistachio Shortbread (from “Cook This Now“)
According to Melissa, if she had a signature dish, it would be shortbread.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 teaspoons orange blossom water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar, pistachios, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are coarsely to finely chopped. Pulse in the butter and orange blossom water until a moist ball forms. Press the dough evenly into an 8-inch-square baking pan.  Prick the shortbread all over with a fork. Bake the shortbread until barely golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Slice the shortbread while warm.

Tastes of the Week

5 Dec

November 28 through December 5

This week’s tastes bridge a change in the calendar as well as a change in attitude. There is the seismic shift from ordinary food to the ritualistic fare that graced our family tables on Thanksgiving. It will continue in the weeks to come as we buy our prime ribs and smoked hams, peel potatoes (and a bit of our finger) for making latkes, start baking a thousand Christmas cookies as my friend Judy Rundel has done for 30 years, find a credible fruit cake, send honeybells from Florida to friends as gifts, clip new holiday dishes to try, while we preserve our unique heritages with tattered family recipes. With the holiday lights now flickering on every street corner, we observe piles of tangerines in the stores, Christmas trees and poinsettias lining the sidewalks, and a whiff of holiday expectation in the air.

Even restaurant going this week had a sense of the season. A meal at the venerated Four Seasons restaurant, located in the Seagrams building, always has a bit of festivity about it — especially in the Grill Room during lunch. Eating across the way from Ralph Lauren, it was festive indeed to dive into a puddle of creamy polenta topped with a small poached egg and a shower of shaved truffles; followed by fluke sashimi with lemongrass, steelhead salmon with wild mushrooms and green beans with an almond-caper beurre noisette (a nutty brown butter sauce), and sauteed Arctic char — an unappreciated fish as I see it — accompanied by salsify (an unappreciated root vegetable!), mizuna, and a truffle sauce. Disks of key lime pie and walnut tart were a gastronomic kick-off to the holidays.

Another indication that the holidays are upon us is the level of activity in New York on Saturday night:  We had an impossible time trying to get reservations, anywhere!  After two hours of searching and relying on Open Table, we found ourselves at a very good, acoustically comfortable (yet very busy) restaurant on the corner of Thompson and Spring street in Soho. Few know the chef, or owner, and it is hardly a venue in which to see or be seen, however we enjoyed it very much —  primarily for those reasons, but also because the food was unexpectedly delicious and we had wonderful service, from a staff that hailed from Poland, India and Sicily. Also unexpected was a quiet table in the corner near the window overlooking the bustle of New York night life.  We devoured creamy burrata (a cheese from the south of Italy) with excellent tomatoes (from where I wonder?), terrific fried calamari with “strings” of crispy fried vegetables, fabulously toothsome spaghetti with a sauce of fresh clams (really cockles) zucchini, olive oil and spicy garlic; mixed homemade sweet and spicy sausage with lentils, squash and broccoli rabe; filet of king salmon with a mustard sauce, celery root (another unappreciated veg!) and asparagus (thick, meaty and fresh from somewhere). My husband enjoyed his pasta special laden with duck and we toasted his prowess, and patience, in finding such an unassuming spot. Oh yes, the restaurant is called Savore. The executive chef is Francesca Bergamini and the Chef is Edilberto Soriano.

And now begins a slew of holiday recipes to get you in the mood.  Here’s a sugar-coated, crackling holiday ham which will trigger mouthwatering desire. Elemental in its flavors — salty, sweet, sharp, aromatic, its simple cooking technique keeps it moist and succulent.

Sugar-Coated, Crackling Holiday Ham

10-pound smoked ready-to-cook ham, shank portion
1 cup coarse-grain mustard (such as Pommery)
1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
kumquats with their leaves, for garnishing

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place ham in a shallow roasting pan and add 1/8 inch water to the pan. Cover ham with foil and bake 2-1/2 hours. Remove ham from oven and increase temperature to 450 degrees. Pour most of the fat from the pan. Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, remove the rind, except for the area around the shank bone, and most of
the fat. Score the remaining fat by cutting diagonal slashes in a diamond pattern. Stir together mustard and bourbon and cover the surface thickly with the mixture. Stir together sugar, cinnamon and cardamom and coat the ham, patting down to cover completely. Add freshly ground black pepper and return to the oven for 25 minutes until the sugar melts and hardens: it will become a bit crackly. Present on a large platter and decorate with kumquats with their leaves. Carve and serve while hot. Serves 12

Tastes of the Week

28 Nov

Nov. 21 through Nov. 28th

Sometime last week, when I was very, very hungry, I walked through the food market at Grand Central Station. There lay a bag of the biggest, puffy, onion-topped rolls that made made my mouth water. I regretted not buying them and so returned the next day. Purchased at Zaro’s, these small breads are called “onion pockets” but are really more like little loaves of challah topped with bits of caramelized onion. A bargain at $5.99, my family enjoyed them all week long in myriad ways–not least of which was simply toasted, smeared with sweet butter and topped with soppressata.  Strong coffee. Heaven.

It’s not my husband’s cup of tea to go out for Thanksgiving dinner but we did anyway! We four (with son and daughter) went to the bustling Commerce, located, not unexpectedly, on Commerce Street in the West Village, one of the prettiest blocks in the city. Fabulous food — roasted sweet potato tortelloni with hazelnuts, pomegranate & beurre noisette, devilled eggs, a wonderful bread basket, delicious moist turkey with all the trimmings, an order of very spicy artisanal spaghetti with ‘Nduja sausage, garlic & parsley, and for me as a starter, a “Ragu of odd things: oxtail, trotters and tripe with hand-rolled orecchiette.” Not that there was any room left in our bellies, but a mile-high coconut layer cake had to be one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. It was a lovely afternoon.

A solemn, but beautiful morning, at Ground Zero — the memorial site at the World Trade Center. It was majestic in its intention, and gripping in its magnitude. Do go. It’s a sacred place. But hours of walking, on such a balmy day, can make one hungry. We strolled to Stone Street in the Financial district — cut off from traffic, it is a cobbled path between aged buildings of a more human scale. It felt a bit like being in London, or Naples; especially the latter as we delved into a really top-notch thin crusted pepperoni pizza at Adrienne’s. Sitting outside on November 27th!, sipping red wine, was my idea of nice.

I made my first pecan pie to finish the weekend and my daughter made cranberry sauce — the jellied block kind that makes me smile. Who knew you could make that?! It seems that the recipe has been on the back of the bag forever: All you need is a strainer, a wooden spoon and a strong arm to push those cranberries through the wire mesh. I also made a large turkey, stuffing, roasted butternut squash, string beans….it’s important to have leftovers, no?

And I want to share a comment from a reader of Real Food magazine about my sweet potato, pear and walnut gratin. You don’t have to wait for next year to make it. It would be lovely with roast pork or duck. Enjoy!

Dear Ms. Gold,
I just had to tell you that yesterday I made your Sweet Potato, Pear, and Walnut Gratin recipe that appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of Real Food. It was the star of our Thanksgiving dinner, far outshining everything else on the table, and the kitchen is still redolent with the aroma of that magical concoction of cream, chipotle chile and curry! (Thank you so much for this inventive dish, and many others over the years.) — KJ from Minneapolis 

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake, Your Way

23 Nov

Photo Credit: Terry Brennan

So here we are, one day before Thanksgiving, and I urge you to count your blessings and be mindful of the tangibles, and intangibles, in your life for which you are grateful. Someone recently told me they are grateful for this recipe (below)! But if your gratitude has more to do with the people you love and care for, then why not consider making it for them? This one-bowl, crustless cheesecake sets beautifully after a day in the fridge and actually improves with age. The topping can be done your way — I like to use a medley of pecans, white chocolate chips, and candied ginger, but you can use chopped-up Heath Bars, granola, crushed chocolate wafers, gingersnaps, tiny marshmallows, shredded coconut, dried cherries, or glacéed fruit. And whilst I make it in a 10-inch removable-bottom cake pan, it can also be made in a large square pan and cut into brownie-like pieces (as it’s done in the photo. It’s from an article I wrote for the fall issue of Real Food magazine.)

Wishing you all a happy and nourishing Thanksgiving Day.

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake
Having the cream cheese at room temperature is key to a smooth and creamy texture.

24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 extra-large eggs
15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
soft butter for greasing pan

Suggested toppings:
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
3 tablespoons candied ginger, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, crème fraiche, and cornstarch until smooth. Add eggs, pumpkin puree, all but 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Heavily butter a 10-inch, removable bottom cake pan. Pour in batter. Bake 30 minutes. Top with pecans, white chocolate chips, and ginger (or toppings of your choice) or the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake 40 minutes longer until firm. Remove from oven and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.  Serves 12

Nice to sip with bourbon or brandy or Drambuie.  (It’s in the back of your liquor cabinet.) Enjoy!

Crazy for Cranberries

21 Nov

Cranberry-Lemon-Apple Relish. Photo Credit: Terry Brennan.

I’m crazy for cranberries as I’m sure many of you are. The following recipes, chosen from a repertoire of dozens, are interesting variations on a standard theme but have more verve and vibrancy. One such newfangled version always appears on my Thanksgiving table and I often make enough to give away as gifts in pretty glass jars. But you may be interested to know that a wobbly block of cranberry sauce, straight from the can, takes center stage. I just love the stuff:  I love it’s garnet color, its opaque yet translucent sheen, its tart-sweet syzygy, the way it waxes and wanes, and the way it is generally left untouched, slowly becoming unglued as the temperature rises around the table. Poor jellied cranberry sauce. What to do? I turn it into a delicious cranberry granita (!) — a recipe I’ll share with you on “Thanksgiving Leftovers Day” — a new culinary holiday that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every November. Never heard of it? I just made it up! Anyway, the jellied cylinder, complete with the slightly indented striations from the can itself, is something I look forward to year after year. It’s a tradition I would never change.

The first offering below is this year’s favorite spin. It is a fresh, sprightly relish that cleanses your palate and adds electricity and color to each of the meal’s components. And you can make it today, for it improves with each day that passes — up to five days in advance — and it takes only two minutes to prepare. Can you find the time? The second recipe is dark and jammy and reminiscent of a conserve (a thick jam made from two or more fruits.) Its deep color comes from dark-brown sugar and ruby-hued dried cherries which plump right up and add unexpected bursts of sweetness. Candied ginger and fresh lime zest tell the rest of the story.

For more saucy cranberry ideas, you may refer to my posts of 2010 (November 20 and December 1) which features a dynamic chutney and dulcet cranberry-maple syrup, and a simple and sophisticated apple-cranberry sauce. Not bad at all with a holiday bird (or with potato pancakes!)

Today the cranberries, tomorrow the…

Cranberry-Lemon-Apple Relish

12 ounces fresh cranberries
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
2 lemon wedges (skin and all, no pits)
½ large Gala apple, in large chunks
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Large pinch salt

Pulse in food processor until finely ground. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Makes 2-1/3 cups

Cranberry, Dried Cherry and Ginger Conserve

1-2/3 cups dark brown sugar
24 ounces fresh cranberries
¾ cup dried cherries, about 3 ounces, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely minced candied ginger
1 large lime

In a large saucepan, bring 2-1/2 cups water and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries, dried cherries, 3 tablespoons minced ginger and a pinch of salt. Bring mixture to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to medium-high. Grate zest of lime and add to pot. Cook for 15 minutes,  stirring frequently, until cranberries pop and mixture is thick. Let cool with cover askew.  Transfer to a bowl or jar; cover and refrigerate until cold. If desired, garnish with additional candied ginger or grated lime zest. Serves 8  (makes 5 cups)

%d bloggers like this: