Thanksgiving Archive

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

pear cranberry and gingersnap crumble

pear, cranberry and gingersnap crumble

In my defense, I resisted this crumble for possibly even a single hour before going to the kitchen to assemble the ingredients. A whole hour, an hour in which we could have had a buttery, spiced gingersnap and brown sugar crumbled lid atop a glurp-ing puddle of soft, sweet pears and slumped, tart cranberries, bubbling through cracks in the rubbled surface. An hour in which I instead thought there were better things to do, like pretending to clean the kitchen while staring into space and imagining how good the crumble could be. They give out medals for this kind of valor, right?

the line-up
shedding pear skins

My husband and I, well, we’re exactly as exciting as you might imagine because we talk about pears a lot. I’ll take the blame, I’m sure I usually start the conversation, which goes roughly like, “Pears? Really? You just don’t like pears?” And he’ll say “They’re just so one note. They’re sweet and boring,” usually while slicing another of his beloved Granny Smith apples into perfect quarters. (He’s such a tidy eater people, I comparatively eat with the grace of a Hoover). And the thing is, I agree with him 100 percent, but I see these things as characteristics, not flaws. However, in baking, I agree that pears could use a little help. They like acid and they like berries; brighter fall spices like ginger play off them well and you’ll be surprised what a pinch of white pepper can do to wake them up.

de-bellied pears

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

the best baked spinach

the best baked spinach

On a beach vacation that already feels like it was too long ago, I tucked into the collection of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto and realized I’d inadvertently brought on vacation with me the very best book ever for my current brand of mental unevenness. Apparently, even the great Julia Child went a little insane writing her cookbook. She fretted over if varied and uneven ingredients would keep her recipes from working as she wanted them to in others’ kitchens and even had occasional bouts of frustration with her tiny, ill-equipped kitchens. And Julia is like my superhero! I was no less than 10 pages in when I already felt better about my choices, the work I had left, life itself, the universe at large… or perhaps it was just those no-good piña coladas and that blue-meets-blue horizon working their magic on me. Nevertheless, I thanked Julia.

overflowing spinach
wilting the spinach

In one of my favorite early letters, Julia gushes about the produce in France: “Strawberries, for instance, are dreamberries, but extremely fragile.* Beans are so deliciously beany…” and goes on to explain that the French hadn’t really gotten onto the system of growing hardier produce that would keep longer in the markets. Amusingly, however, she found U.S. packages of spinach at the grocery store and it from there that she went on a tangent about a French “system” for spinach which she found “terribly good” and went on to describe a gentle cooking of spinach, stewing it in a very small amount of roux for a little binding and broth before stirring in a small amount of cheese and baking it in a dish topped with breadcrumbs.

all that spinach because only this

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

green bean salad with fried almonds

green bean salad

I’m pretty sure I had a normal relationship to all things stringy and green when I started this site, but if my archives are any indication, at some point in 2008, something shifted and I became a green bean fiend. It might have even been May of that year, a month that be began with a simple summery salad but by month’s end, I was forcing Alex to endure takeout from a medicore French restaurant up to twice a week, just so I could have their side dish of skinny green beans with a pat of butter, some shallots and tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice. (When he cut me off, I simply went into the kitchen and attempted them myself.) I began remembering which restaurants cooked green beans perfectly each time, like the one on 7th Avenue that served them with roast chicken, buried in jus under a pile mashed potatoes and I literally ate them before the salty, crispy skin. I began judging places harshly if my beans flapped or flopped on a plate. I could speak unhealthily at length about various cooking times and what texture they’d leave the beans.

haricot verts
trimmed and tailed

Little has changed since May of 2008, well, except now a certain 12-toothed toddler had joined me in my green bean enthusiasm. We cook a pound at least once a week and eat them with nothing but a sprinkle of sea salt on top. And at least once a week I force us to order takeout from a restaurant just because they make a great green bean salad. And last week, we were able to sneak out to a new pasta restaurant in our neighborhood and look, the pasta was great, but this is what I really remember: green beans, lightly pickled red onions, thinly shaved fennel, slivers of celery and almonds, so well toasted their insides were the color of coffee.

red onion

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

garlic butter roasted mushrooms

mushrooms in garlic caper butter

A repeat offender in the lede-burier category, let me begin with what matters: this is absolutely my new favorite quick and obsessively delicious way to prepare mushrooms.

little browns

And now, a story. Once upon a time, I was a vegetarian who loved going to steakhouses. A friends birthday would approach and out of kindness to me, they’d start talking about gathering friends at a restaurant that had vegetarian options and I’d beg them to go to a steakhouse instead. “It’s your birthday! I know you want a steak! You deserve a big fat juicy slab of steak,” I’d try to coerce. Why was I such a weirdo? Because good steakhouses have even better sides, and no matter how much the waiter sneered when I ordered them without a $50 centerpiece, I knew I’d be getting some flawlessly poached asparagus hollandaise and roasted potatoes like you wouldn’t believe. And mushrooms; I had broiled, buttery and garlicky mushroom caps at Sparks over a decade ago that I haven’t forgotten about since.

garlicked and buttered, ready to roast

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

sweet corn spoonbread

sweet corn spoonbread

What an awkward time for me to admit this, as no doubt these will grace some tables this week I’ve been gracefully invited to, but I’m not really into, well, mashed things: potatoes, yams, parsnips, root vegetables and other purees that serve as the piles to sop up everything awesome that runs off our main courses before our forks can catch it. I mean, I won’t pushed mashed potatoes away; it’s not that they actually taste bad. It’s just that I’ve never been convinced that they taste better than the sum of their copious amounts of various combinations of butter, cream, buttermilk, sour cream, crème fraîche, cream and goat cheeses. No, really, I mean copious. Jeffrey Steingarten, a man whose essay collections you should read if you have not already, found that the magic formula that elevated mashed potatoes to, well, the kind you’ll probably gush about on Thursday night fell somewhere between one and four sticks (a pound) of butter for every two pounds (two to three) of potatoes. I know, I know: “Deb, you are such a party pooper.”

some stuff you need

But I delight in cornbread. And this, corn bread meets pudding meets soufflé under the alias of spoonbread, is something that I would happily heap on my plate and eat it without fear that my heart might give out before I can get to the pie. A Thanksgiving without pie would be unacceptable, afterall. I’m not saying this is health food — guys, I hope you know I would never do that to you so close to the eatingest holiday of the year — it is, afterall, whole milk, eggs and butter, but it has a richness that suggests so much more.

splashy but worthwhile

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