There is an interesting article on Slate about the disparity between foodie culture and the prevalence of AllRecipes in terms of how the majority of home cooks in America actually cook. It’s worth a look. Although the findings might not surprise you too much- if you’re like me and do a lot of searching for recipes, AllRecipes comes up quite often at the top of the results. When we searched for cornbread recipes, an Allrecipes pick was the second on the list (with a 4.8 rating and 4,300 reviews- take that, Epicurious).
It’s easy to see the place cornbread has in American food culture- is there any vegetable more inherently American than corn? It brings to mind (just as a start) the swooping farm country of the Midwest, the heritage of Native Americans, stuffing at Thanksgiving (or dressing, if you will) and a staple in the South where it’s right at home on a plate of barbecue. Mark Bittman has lauded it as a must-have when it comes to vegetarian diets. The sweetness of it, its unique gritty texture and its versatility makes it a pleasure to eat. Also, it’s incredibly different depending on where you get it- restaurants in the North, for example, tend to treat it like cake in its sweetness and richness and sheer height. Purists eschew adding sweetness and prefer to let the corn flavor shine. This is a good recipe because it lands right in the middle and it’s incredibly easy to adapt the recipe to your taste.
A few cornbread musts (that’ll make you feel like you just stepped out of Little House on the Prairie) A cast-iron skillet, hot and ready for a swirl of melted butter or shortening. A hot oven. Baking soda to make the batter bubbly and then it goes into the hot pan, on the stove for a minute and then into the hot oven for about 20 minutes until the edges are crunchy and pull away from the sides.
Look at these little beauties- aren’t they pretty? Like two suns in the sky. (Is that folksy enough? I’m trying…) The great thing about cornbread is that once you have a base, or a classic cornbread recipe ahem, you can riff on it a lot and make it your own. Add some fresh corn niblets (extra points for the fun word), a few chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I added two and the bread has a serious kick plus a pretty red tint to it), jalapeno, chive and cheddar.
1 Cup of yellow cornmeal
1/2 Cup of all-purpose flour
1 Teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
1 Cup of buttermilk
1/2 Cup of milk
1 Whole egg
1/2 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 Cup of shortening or melted butter
2 Tablespoons of shortening or melted butter
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Combine cornmeal, our, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.
- Measure the buttermilk and milk in a measuring cup, add the egg and stir to combine. Add baking soda and stir.
- Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
- In a small bowl, melt 1/4 shortening. Slowly add melted shortening to the batter, stirring until just combined. In an iron skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons shortening over medium heat. Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Spread to even out the surface. (Batter should sizzle.)
- Cook on stovetop for 1 minute, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Edges should be crispy!
“Okey dokey, artichoke-y.”
“After a while, crocodile.”
It’s funny the foods that permeate your childhood and discovering the source as an adult. For me, the ah-ha moment was a trip to Sicily a few years ago, in April, with my family. You cannot move about Sicily in the spring without being visually assaulted by artichokes, artichokes everywhere.
I’ve talked a little bit about this trip before and its impact on me, in terms of noticing how much of Italy’s culture actually permeated my life in big and not-so-big ways. That sounds a little simplistic but it was actually, really shocking to my system. This is why my mother talks the way she does. This is why we eat this. It’s one thing to know, intellectually, that Italians talk with their hands; it’s another to be confronted with it so specifically and see actual gestures that you thought only belonged to you or your family.
Stuffed artichokes were a staple at some holidays and the occasional weeknight treat, a favorite of my sister Jenn’s, and something I have never once attempted to make myself, until this week. Stuffed artichokes are one of those things that felt like they belonged firmly with my mom and my aunts- I always found artichokes kind of fussy and hard to eat for such little reward. But you can’t deny how unique and beautiful they are and that they’re actually fun to eat and share around a big table. Now when I see them, they remind me of streetcarts in Sicily, which isn’t such a bad thing either.
Sicilian Stuffed Artichokes
Makes 4 Servings | Print Recipe
4 Medium-sized artichokes
1 Cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 Cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 Cup parmiggiano reggiano cheese, shavings
1/2 Cup toasted chopped almonds
3 Cloves finely chopped garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Note: I found a great post today about cleaning and prepping artichokes- did you know artichokes are among the most heavily sprayed vegetables? I didn’t. Definitely worth the quick read (and the recipe looks amazing too).
- Clean the artichokes by pulling the harder, outer leaves off. You can also cut the stem and the top part of the leaves (which also gives it a really pretty look, as you can tell from Nicole’s pictures.)
- Put the artichokes in a bowl full of water and lemon juice to soak. Give them a quick rinse.
- Place asauté pan over medium-low heat and warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add bread crumbs and stir, sautéing until the crumbs are likely golden. Remove and let cool in a bowl.
- To the bread crumbs, add finely chopped parsley, garlic, salt and pepper, grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir until combined.
- Take the artichokes and pull the leaves back a bit, opening them as wide as you can and insert the bread crumb mixture and parm shavings. Drizzle artichokes with olive oil.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In an oven-safe saucepan, add 1 and 1/2 inches of water and place artichokes, standing up. Cover pan and place on stove over medium heat, cook for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove cover and place in the oven for 10-15 more minutes.
Grammie Esther lived across the street from us, which Daddy hated but used to his advantage. When he was hip deep in a story for the paper, for example, he’d send us off to school and holler at our backs, “Make sure you go to Grammie’s right from the bus!”
Every time we did that, she’d stand on the front steps and smile at us like it was the first time it had ever happened. Grammie Esther had a lot to say about Daddy and his method of raising his daughters and when it was just the three of us, she leaned into her argument hard. She fussed over our hair and recombed it, braided it into plaits. She tucked our blouses firmly into our skirts, even though school was over and the point moot. She put on records and shooed us away from the television set, ushered us into the kitchen and stuffed us to the gills. She’d set down a plate of sweet potato biscuits and interrogate us about our day as we ate. Her kitchen was spotless, her utensils and pots and bowls shining and practically new. There was a whole spread of food when we walked through the door but not a single dirty spoon or pan to be found. Biscuits, pound cakes, platters of crisp fried chicken, bowls and bowls of greens, soups and stews, delicate little cookies that crumbled in your hand before your mouth could reach them, chocolate cakes with white icing, you name it and she would produce it for you. And when I say “produced” I mean literally- she would emerge from the kitchen with the plate and the item of your request piled high, brushing off your compliments with a swish of her perfectly coiffed hair.
I would learn later that she didn’t make a lick of it, not a single thing. Grammie Esther raised three sons and saw all of them and her own husband through two great wars, worked the line at the phone company into her sixties, was the president of the local rotary for a notorious four month tenure of terror but her greatest accomplishment, by far, was that she perpetuated a lie of her good, from scratch Southern home-cooking for years and years. Her house smelled glorious, even on holidays, and there was plenty for everyone and a few nosy neighbors too but Grammie Esther had her hands in absolutely none of the making. To this day, and she’s been dead for many of them, nobody can suss out how she managed it, where it all came from (did she have a secret maid stashed in the pantry?) (a whole and operating bakery in the basement?) and how she avoided the knowing eyebrow raise of the other women in the neighborhood who could smell a store-bought pound cake from a mile away. What’s most amazing to me, even now, is how she managed to take food from away and make it feel like home.
It would be impossible to study heritage and heirloom recipes without focusing on the South. Start your search from anywhere and you will inevitably end up in the South. So we’re embracing it. Southern food is delicious and homey and folksy, some of it absurd, some of it so old-fashioned that it feels other-worldly.
Biscuits are a good place to start because, you know, biscuits. Is there any able-bodied bread-eater alive who sees a plate of biscuits and says, “Ugh, biscuits?” No. Impossible. We were intrigued by these sweet potato biscuits because of their bright, friendly color and that the liquid comes from a mixture of milk and mashed sweet potato (delicious and great for you and available all year round). And we really wanted to eat them.
The use of sweet potatoes date back to the colonies- we can use the origins of the sweet potato pie, a soul food staple, among African American slaves to infer the use of sweet potatoes in other baked goods. And then apparently Thomas Jefferson made them (I’m sure he made them) and served them at the First Continental Congress in 1774, such a good guest, the Sophie Fisher of the Continental Congress. (If you’re jonesing for one of those, you can still order them here.)
Sweet Potato Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup baked, mashed sweet potato (about 1 medium potato)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), frozen
Heavy cream, for brushing the tops
1. Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and set aside. In a separate large bowl, mix together milk and mashed sweet potato until evenly combined.
2. Grate frozen butter using a box grater and toss with dry ingredients until butter is coated. Add milk mixture and mix until dough forms a shaggy mass. Do not overmix.
3. Cover counter with 1/4 cup of flour and dust your hands (dough is very wet). Turn mixture out onto the floured surface and knead until it just comes together, about 30 seconds (the dough will not be smooth). Don’t overwork the dough, it’s very soft.
4. Pat into a circle and use a floured rolling pin (or your hands) to roll dough to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. You can use a 3-inch cutter but we found smaller biscuits handled easier. You should get about 8 large biscuits, 12 smaller.
5. Place biscuits on a baking sheet, brush tops with heavy cream, and bake about 12 to 15 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.
Serve with honey butter or makes an excellent egg sandwich. Slice some leftover Easter ham and pile high. Would also be amazing with fried chicken. Or as a side on Thanksgiving. Oooh, a sage and turkey sandwich. It’s a very tender biscuit though so you will have to eat your sandwiches with messy hands.
Lordes sat down in her assigned aisle seat on the plane. Truthfully, she fell into it. As she stepped out of the aisle, her toe snagged the seat in front of her and she all but toppled in, shoulder first. Elegant, refined, she thought to herself with an outward grunt. She twisted until her butt was firmly in the seat and let out a sigh of relief.
There was, then, a timid tap on her left shoulder. Lordes glanced to her left and came face to face with the round, chubby face of a drooling baby, gender undetermined. The baby’s anxious-looking mother, held the baby by the waist and let the little feet tap tap tap on her thighs. “I’m just going to apologize ahead of time,” the woman said, her face twisted in anguish. She had a thick accent, reminiscent of Georgia where Lordes had spent the last four days in the ballroom of a Garden Inn Suites. “For my baby. My husband was supposed to fly with me but he got offered first class and it’s his birthday so I thought it would be nice for him. But now I’m sitting here by myself, with my baby, and I don’t know how loud she’s going to be.” She, then. The bald baby grinned at her. “And my friend told me I should make these packets, like with ear plugs and granola bars and stuff and hand them out and apologize to people but I didn’t have time to do that! Because she was fussing really late last night and I was going to get up early to do it but I was too tired-“
Lordes held up a hand to stop her. She slid the sunglasses off her face and looked the terrified woman in the eye. “Listen, lady. I just worked sixteen straight days without a day off. Three conferences in Jacksonville, Charlotte and Atlanta. I’m taking this flight to Houston and from there, I am going somewhere where they serve drinks in those coconuts with umbrellas. I am not planning on speaking to anyone for eight glorious days. It’s the first vacation I’ve taken in three and a half years. I do not care if your baby screams starting now to when we land. I don’t care if it takes a dump or smacks me upside the face. Your baby,” she said deliberately, “is not a half-in-the-bag asshole sales rep who’s itching to pat me on the butt and tell me to fetch him a scotch and soda, so your baby can basically do whatever it wants to do. And when that lovely stewardess-“
“Right. When she comes by with that cart, I am pouring myself the biggest glass of wine in the galaxy and I am getting one for you too. And we are going to toast and then I’m taking this pill,” Lordes held it up, “And I will see y’all next Tuesday.”
Hola from Mexico! (I hope. I’m supposed to leave 2 days from now and this tropical storm/multiple lightning symbols on the Weather Channel app is giving me minor heart palpitations. But hopefully! When you are reading this! Mexico!) I love food and I love blogging and I love you but I did not take my laptop with me on this trip. My phone is operating as a very fancy camera only. The only time I will be checking email is to tell my parents I arrived safely (hopefully!) and if I happen to fall in love/marry the Benecio del Toro of Mexico. You feel me, right? You get what I’m laying down? I know you do.
Nicole sent me the recipe for this Summer Caprese Salad with a note that said “winging it.” I mean, listen- it’s salty pancetta, sweet melon and cheese. The drizzle is something fun but we can’t fail here. I made something very similar before I left and it’s perfect for this time of year, just what you want.
Summer Caprese Salad
Serves: 6 | Summer Caprese Salad
1 small cantaloupe, cut into bite size pieces
3/4 pound bite-sized mozzarella balls
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced thin
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1/2 Tbsp butter
Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Crisp the pancetta: Preheat oven to 400°. Place pancetta slices on baking pan and bake for about 5 minutes until pancetta slices are curled and crispy. Keep an eye on them as they may be done cooking before 5 minutes.
- Make the balsamic reduction: Place balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 5 minutes).
- Toast the pine nuts: Melt butter in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add pine nuts and cook stirring often until pine nuts are lightly toasted.
- Assemble salad: In a large bowl, combine cantaloupe and mozzarella. Crumble pancetta into salad and top with toasted pine nuts and balsamic reduction. Finish with a sprinkle of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.
“Okay, let’s see.” She hit the swooped arrow and they all held their breath as the page blinked and reloaded. When the group saw the name at the top of the page, they booed and railed.
“Ugh, come on Ted!”
“Of COURSE it’s from Ted!”
“Ted’s the worst!”
Lorraine frowned and walked over to where Stan, Jerry, Kelly and Lara were gathered around Stacy’s computer. “What are you guys doing?”
“It’s 2:30 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” Stacy reminded Lorraine. She nodded to her computer screen. “We’re trying to see how long I can go without getting a new email. I haven’t had a new one in 5 minutes! I mean, before Ted.”
Lorraine stared at them all. “Maybe we should just go home, guys.”
Are you feeling what I’m feeling? Which is “what am I still doing at my desk?” It feels… like BETRAYAL that there are things that still need to get done this week. Doesn’t the universe know I have eating to do? Serious eating? World championship eating?
This is my first eating-centric holiday since I hit my goal weight (which SEEMS like a positive but I have been racked with anxiety over maintaining this weight ever since, determined not to screw it up). I had thought, foolishly perhaps, that once I hit The Number, all of my worries and fears and anxiety over food (what? how much? when? why?) would just dissipate into thin air but, if anything, it’s just intensified. I am eyeing this holiday with equal parts joy and trepidation. And so, my somewhat panicked answer, is to wrap the entire week in soup (that’s a funny sentence).
Soup for everyone! Hot, warming, comforting, deceptively light and ethereal soup will sustain us and redeem us. Maybe you’ll tackle this for a first course or maybe it’s the answer to “what the hell are we going to eat at 8pm when we’re oddly hungry again” on Thursday night. Or maybe it’s for Friday. Or Wednesday. Soup is always, always a reliable answer, popping and gurgling over there on the stovetop, minding its own bidness. And this Pumpkin Coconut Soup is so easy that it practically makes itself.
SKS Thanksgiving Recipes
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake | Multicultural Stuffing | Pear Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Syrup | Brussels Sprouts with Mint & Anchovy Sauce | Spinach with Fresh Indian Cheese | Mini Pumpkin Pies (new!) | Whiskey Glazed Carrots (new!)
Thanksgiving Recipes 2014: Easy Pumpkin Coconut Soup
2 Cups of pumpkin puree
2 Cups of water or broth
1/3 to 1/2 Cup of coconut milk
1 Teaspoon (up to 2 teaspoons) of red curry paste
3 or 4 Tablespoons of honey
1/4 Teaspoon or more of cumin
Pumpkin seeds and herbs (optional)
1. In a large saucepan, combine pumpkin, water/broth, and coconut milk on medium heat, and stir to combine.
2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of red curry paste, stir to combine. Add honey. Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin to the soup and season the soup with salt to achieve the desired saltiness. Once you seasoned the soup with salt, you may add more red curry paste if desired, using 1/2 teaspoon. Some ready-made curry pastes are spicier than others.
3. Top with roasted, salted pumpkin seeds and a scattering of chopped, fresh herbs.
“Did you know that Some Kitchen Stories now has all of their recipes on Pinterest?”
“What? No way! Tell me more!”
“It’s true! I just clicked on their profile and now I can see their whole recipe collection right there! It’s amazing!”
“It IS amazing. What happens if I click “pin” on this whiskey glazed carrot recipe?”
“Why you get to keep it forever, Tamera! You ridiculous fool!”
“I am going to pin all of their gorgeously photographed recipes into my own Pinterest profile. That’s what I’m going to do. Thanks, Chloe. You’re the best.”
“I know, right? I AM the best.”
Okay! Holidays! WE ARE GO.
Right now, at this moment, there are Doughnut Muffins on the table. There are mini pies, improvised with this new maple recipe, in a foil-wrapped baking tray (I really need to buy some disposable holiday-treats receptacles). There is homemade Salty Caramel Ice Cream in the freezer and a container of salty, buttered pecans… somewhere… some are in my belly (all made last night, Friday night, by the way, because my life is sad? Or amazing? I mean it did smell amazing in here, like slowly simmering maple syrup and warm donuts. Yeah, I’m going with amazing. We’re going with amazing, not sad, spread the word.)
It’s 9:30 in the morning and it’s totally fine, I’m not worried at all, but I have to do laundry, clean the apartment in preparation for my parents’ arrival on Tuesday (yay!), go running (to prepare for all of the food that I will be eating later today), wrap my friend’s birthday present, finish writing this post and all before 1pm…. I should probably get going. Right? Yeah. HOLIDAYS. WE ARE GO.
For your holiday table this year, we tackled a seasonal, festival vegetable and (with a nod to Ree) made everything better by adding whiskey, butter and brown sugar. Because HOLIDAYS. WE ARE GO.
SKS Thanksgiving Recipes
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake | Multicultural Stuffing | Pear Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Syrup | Brussels Sprouts with Mint & Anchovy Sauce | Spinach with Fresh Indian Cheese | Mini Pumpkin Pies (new!)
Whiskey Glazed Carrots
1 Stick of butter, divided
2 Pounds (to 3 pounds) of carrots, peeled
1/2 Cup of Jack Daniels or other whiskey
3/4 Cup (to 1 cup) of brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon (to 1 teaspoon) of salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Chopped chives or a sprig of thyme (optional)
1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in two batches, cooking until they take on some color (about 60-90 seconds per batch). Remove from skillet.
2. Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium, and add remaining butter. When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Stir together, then add carrots back to skillet. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze is thick, about 5 more minutes.
4. Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives or sprigs of thyme, if desired.
Cancer had done strange things to Maybeth. The first strange thing was the taste of silver in her mouth, like there was a fork in it, always. Dr. Wineslaw had explained the reason for this to her but Maybeth forgot it instantly, an affect of the chemo. If her mouth was a fork, her brain was now a sieve. She has been very sick, she needs to stay at home with Home Care Assistance.
The second strange thing was that she had cravings. Rather than the desire to abandon all food because of the fierce nausea, as Dr. Wineslaw had warned her, Maybeth found that she was drawn to a small, select list of foods that offered pure pleasure and no pain. She could eat peanut butter, hummus, and cream cheese endlessly. Strangely, the more neutral and blameless of foods- stale crackers, white bread, left her reeling. Maybeth found herself, weeks into Round 3 of chemo, with a house full of spreads and nothing on which to spread them.
The third strange thing, which she considered now with a spoonful of hummus in her hand, was that the only companionship she could endure during her treatment was her mother’s.
“And then I told him, I said, Jacob, if you put that in my cart, you are asking for serious trouble.” Cindy Patridge paused in the middle of her story and glanced up at her daughter. They sat cross-legged from each other on the floor where her mother clipped coupons, the chain from her glasses dangling from either side of her face like tinny curtains. “Are you listening to me, Maybeth?”
“Uh huh.” Maybeth’s lips twitched as she brought the hummus to her mouth. Her mother, a notorious cheapskate, self-involved and self-obsessed to the core, demanded an audience at all times for her long and winding and tedious stories. Cindy Patridge was always in an uproar over something, from the diminishing width of the lanes on the Southbay expressway to the quality of the sermon at Woodbury Presbyterian. She was loud, she smelled like patchouli oil and grass clippings, she wore socks with sandals throughout summer, and was thoroughly unaware of how widely she was disliked by her friends, family and community at large. She had little to no patience for the tribulations of others.
She never lingered, either, over Maybeth’s stories about her treatments. She did not ask follow up questions when Dr. Wineslaw gave them the latest reports. She huffed impatiently when the nurses swung over to check Maybeth’s vitals if they happened to interrupt one of Cindy’s stories by doing so. She brought terribly inappropriate things to Maybeth’s bedside like off-brand watermelon candy and tiny bottles of vodka from the airplane, romance novels that Maybeth would never read in her lifetime, and pictures of relatives who were “either dead or insane” her mother would say after each one and throw them gleefully into a pile. She acted the same way now as she had when Maybeth was a healthy ten-year-old. At fifteen. At twenty-two. At thirty-five. Nothing for Cindy Patridge had changed in the slightest. There was no “new normal” and “old normal.” There was just Cindy telling her that her cat had gotten stuck in the bathtub for twelve days and she’d called the fire department because they were the only ones who could get close to the ornery beast, with it mangled fur and claws. “That’s going to be me when I go,” Cindy snorted.
Maybeth had smiled at the time and swirled the spoon through the bowl, enjoying the ripple it made. “Then what happened, Mom?”
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Basic Hummus Recipe
Source: Jerusalem | Makes: 6 servings | Print Recipe
NOTE: You’ll need to soak dried chickpeas overnight!
1 and 1/4 Cup of dried chickpeas
1 Teaspoon of baking soda
6 and 1/2 Cups of water
1 Cup Plus 2 Tablespoons of tahini (light roast)
4 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 Cloves of garlic, crushed
6 and 1/2 Tablespoons and ice cold water
Good quality olive oil, to serve (optional)
Toasted pine nuts, to serve (optional)
1. The night before, place chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water (at least twice their volume) and leave to soak overnight.
2. The next day… drain chickpeas.
3. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for three minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on type and freshness. Once done, they should be very tender and break up easily between you fingers but not quite mushy.
4. Drain the chickpeas (again). You should have about 3 and 2/3 cups which you will put into a food processor and process into a stiff paste. With the machine running, add tahini, lemon juice, garlic cloves and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
5. Finally, drizzle in the ice water slowly and allow it to mix for 5 minutes until you get a smooth and creamy paste.
4. Transfer hummus to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes. If refrigerating for later use, bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. To serve, drizzle with good olive oil and a scattering of pine nuts.
Hummus will keep in the fridge up to 3 days. If it lasts that long.
Destiny and Keevah never really met, formally. There were no real introductions, no mention of last names or what they each did for a living, at the time. They ended up in the same small circle at the home of their mutual friend Maris who had decided, on a whim, to throw an informal brunch for everyone she knew. The only thing she had said as she glanced from side to side at her friends was, “My two most unusually named friends, under one roof!”
Destiny and Keevah had both smiled sheepishly and sipped their coffee before they fell into separate conversations.
In the corner of the room, unseen, the same Destiny and Keevah stood. They were ten years older and surveyed the brunch scene, and their younger selves, with bemused horror. “God, look at my hair,” Keevah said. She reached a hand up to touch her own natural curls, now unruly but still far, far improved from the days when she would forcibly iron her hair into flat, shiny submission. “Why am I talking to Brad Saunders? Ugh, I hated that guy.”
“She’s serving that burrata salad. I remember how impressed I was about that. Burrata at brunch.” Destiny, now largely pregnant, rested a hand on her kicking belly and stared at the back of her younger self. “Is that really how I look from behind?”
“You’re fine.” Keevah scowled at her younger self who, at that moment, batted Brad Saunders on the arm and laughed. “I wish we’d been friends at this party,” she said. She’d shuffled home miserably after the party, Keevah remembered, exhausted by the chitchat and the forced splendor of Maris’ home in the South Loop, depressed about her own crumbling apartment, stung by an offhand comment from Maris about the state of her love life. Or lack thereof.
“Me too.” Destiny arched her back and winced. “Look at poor Maris. Trying so hard to have a good time.” They both glanced over at the friend who had introduced them or, really, just off-handedly put them together in the same room. She was wearing pearls but was barefoot because that had seemed very elegant, to be in pearls but barefoot. She could not really pull off the look though, when so many people nearly stepped on her naked feet.
How could Maris have known that this was the first of many times that the two women would be thrown into the same awkward party or social situation? That they would eventually come to seek each other out. That they would catch each other’s eye when someone said something just too ridiculous to go unnoticed. That they would then meet up for a drink, just the two of them, and end up, as it happened, talking about Maris, who they were both struggling to still be friends with, or find things in common with.
More trips to the bar, stops at the bookstore, coffee after coffee after coffee, lounging movie nights, late night texts after one of them had broken up with a guy or was starting to see a guy or when each of them had met the guy. Keevah at Destiny’s mother’s funeral; there was a moment when she could feel Destiny start to go beside her and Keevah reached out and grabbed her arm and Destiny did not cry, which was what she wanted- she was trying to be strong for her brother. Destiny running up the steps at city hall in her black pants and boots when Keevah called in the middle of work on a Tuesday to tell her she was getting married and could she get there quick, as Keevah had changed her mind at the last second about wanting a witness. All the little moments in between; countless, endless, stacked up like gold coins between them.
They watched the scene before them and their singular, struggling selves and then Keevah snagged two glasses of mimosa from the side table and handed one to Destiny. “Just a sip for you, Mama,” Keevah said and she raised her glass. Destiny looked at her expectantly. “To Maris. Who did her job.”
Destiny grinned and raised a glass to toast their hostess. “Who did her job.”
Thank you so much for helping us celebrate our three years of SKS this week! All of your warm and lovely comments were deeply appreciated. And, uh, wow- I got a lot of good name ideas so thank you for that too. The full list is below. I think it’s safe to say that we, as a group, wish we were living in a romance novel.
And now… drumroll please for our two winners! The numbers picked, by Random.Org were comments 31 and 3; congratulations to Allison Day and Melanie!
We will email you today to discuss which foodie package you would like to receive in the mail from us. Our most sincere thanks to everyone who participated.
Here were your character names, in the order received. I should be good for the next three years with these. Or ten years.
Computer (for a dog)
Earlene and Earl (twins)
Eleanor and Leanore (twins)
Jeanette and Antoinette (twins)
Axel de Luna
Baloney Raymond (ha!)
Anders (Workaholics fan?)
Bronwyn (perfect for that Lord of the Rings fan-fiction I’ve been meaning to write…)
Ogee Eckard (your own name IS amazing)
Reese Luisi (I’m Italian, so I liked the full name)
And now, ladies and gentlemen, your salad… specifically, your Heirloom Tomato, Chorizo and Burrata Salad which, frankly, is almost too beautiful to eat. Let us just stare at it and behold its wonder and be thankful that cheese exists. Especially burrata which is like mozzarella but magic. If burrata is ever on a menu, you say “We will have all of the burrata you have.” End of lesson.
Heirloom Tomato, Chorizo and Burrata Salad
400 grams of heirloom tomatoes, halved
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
6 Slice of chorizo, sliced diagonally
1 Tablespoon of capers, rinsed
1 Ball of Burrata cheese
2-3 Slices of fresh baguette
1 Garlic clove, halved
Fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 265°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Place halved tomatoes on baking tray, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Turn tomatoes so cut side is facing up and roast for 30 minutes. Transfer smaller tomatoes into a bowl to cool while the larger tomatoes roast for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add to bowl.
3. In a frying pan, grill the chorizo on each side for 1 minute until golden. Transfer to paper towel to drain. To hot pan, add capers and fry for 30 seconds until slightly golden. Transfer to paper towel with chorizo.
4. On a baking sheet, place the baguette slices. Drizzle both sides with olive oil and grill until golden. Remove and rub one side with the cut garlic.
5. To serve, place the tomatoes, chorizo and capers together on a plate. Top with the burrata, drizzle with oil and balsamic to taste. Scatter with basil leaves and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with grilled baguette.
Julie and Marco stood outside the apartment door. Julie was afraid to knock. Marco was not.
It was Thanksgiving and they were not at home. They were in London. It had been a hasty move, when Marco got the call, and they’d packed up their little house in Wisconsin and boarded a plane for England in the spring. Marco left behind a family. Julie did not.
She gripped his hand and held onto the foil-wrapped plate, teetered on her heels. The apartment, the flat, was on the second floor of a row house in a neighborhood Julie had never seen. “Is this weird? What if this is weird?”
Marco shrugged. “If it’s weird, it’s weird.” He smiled and gave her hand a squeeze. He was much easier about things, about people. Over the years they’d been together, he’d grown calmer and her more nervous. She hated it. She hated that this was her role, to worry, and it was his to soothe.
When he reached out a hand to knock, she pulled him back a step. The hall was dimly lit and she could vaguely hear sounds from inside, the sounds of Marco’s coworker and his wife, a few of their friends. Some were from England, some from America, one man and his partner from Canada, the coworker had said. “You and Julie should come too,” he’d insisted. “It’ll be grand. Bring Brussels sprouts, would you?”
“What if there isn’t a turkey?” Julie whispered to Marcos and he looked at her. It was the first thing to come into her head.
She wasn’t sure what had come over her, to be honest. Thanksgiving had never a mainstay of her life. Throughout the years, she floated through the holiday, a few relatives here, a friend’s parents’ there. Until Marco. Once there was Marco, there was a home for Thanksgiving, with his parents, and sisters and his brother and grandfather and bachelor uncles, his nieces, loudness and crashing pots and the smell of turnips and mulled cider and these strange empanada-like things that Julie couldn’t stop eating. She looked at him, unable to tell him how much she missed his family, how much she wanted to see them on the other side of the door, to be swallowed whole by his mother’s arms, the wide smile on his sisters’ faces, the way they would tease.
Marco grinned. “It’ll be fine.” He knocked on the door with his free hand.
The theme for this post is “unexpected.” That’s the theme for this week too.
It was supposed to be pumpkin pie, the post. Instead, it’s Brussels sprouts. And Brussels sprouts with a left-turn of a sauce, no less.
Among other things that were unexpected- the fact that I’m writing this at 10pm on a Friday night, writing about delicious roasted vegetables while my apartment smells like a cupcake factory and too many sneaks of batter are sinking in my belly. I went a little overboard with them, the cupcakes. Remember that scene in Harry Potter when they’re in the vault and everything they touch explodes and multiplies? That’s how I feel about cupcakes in my house right now. What the- what- how- wasn’t there just supposed to be- how many did I MAKE?
There’s also the fact that there’s a car parked outside my house that I am driving that is not my car. My car’s rear window had an unexpected collision, while parked and unattended mind you, with a lawn care company’s truck on Tuesday morning. There are still tiny shards of glass on the street.
And that doesn’t scratch the surface of the strangeness that was work this week. Up, down, up, down. Yesterday I ended up on the floor in the bathroom with my head at my knees.
So yeah, when Nicole said, “Something happened with the pie…” I rolled with it. Yes, of course. Brussels sprouts.
The SKS Thanksgiving recipe collection
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake | Multicultural Stuffing (new!) | Pear Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Syrup (new!) | Saag Paneer (new!)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mint and Anchovy Sauce
1 Lb. of Brussels sprouts, outer leaves trimmed and cut in half
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 Dozen of large mint leaves
Large handful of flat-leaf parsley
4 Anchovies in olive oil
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
2 Cloves of garlic
Fresh black pepper
Salt to taste
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Place prepared Brussels sprouts on a large baking sheet, toss with oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until cooked through, about 25 minutes.
3. While sprouts are roasting, make dressing; combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and combine until very smooth. Taste and add salt as desired.
4. Transfer hot sprouts to a large bowl, add butter and stir until melted.
5. Stir in dressing and serve immediately.
Nothing I write could beat this true story. Not today.
I know, okay? I know. You think this is a little crazy. An Indian staple on your Thanksgiving table? Making CHEESE? Oh sure, girls, maybe while we’re at it, we should just add a few burritos rolled in handmade corn tortillas and throw in a few souffles too, ya lunatics.
Here’s the thing though. Spinach- very much a green vegetable. Ginger- a warm, holiday spice. And heavy cream- the Thanksgiving Day Chef’s very best friend. And yeah, a delicious, soft, Indian cheese mixed in. It’s a little out there but it’s freaking delicious and this is THANKSGIVING- we’ll do what we want. Ya dig?
The SKS Thanksgiving recipe collection
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake | Multicultural Stuffing (new!) | Pear Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Syrup (new!)
Saag Paneer (Spinach With Fresh Indian Cheese)
For the cheese (or 7 oz. of store-bought paneer)
8 Cups of milk
1/4 Cup of fresh lemon juice
6 Tablespoons of ghee or canola oil
For the spinach
4 Cloves of garlic
1 (1″) piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 serrano chile, stemmed and chopped
6 Cups of finely chopped spinach
Kosher salt, to taste
6 Tablespoons of heavy cream
1/2 Teaspoon of garam masala
1/4 Teaspoon of cayenne
Indian flatbread or rice, for serving
Make the cheese
1. Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, draping it over sides and set in a sink.
2. Bring milk to just under a boil in a 4-qt saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon to prevent it from scorching. Reduce heat to medium-low, add juice, and gently stir until large curds form, about 30 seconds.
3. Pour milk mixture into colander and gently rinse off under cold running water any foam and residual lemon juice from curds. Gather corners of cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out liquid.
4. Tie opposite corners of cheesecloth together to make a sack, and hang it from a large kitchen spoon suspended over a deep bowl. Set aside at room temperature until excess liquid has thoroughly drained from cheese, about 1 and 1/2 hours.
5. Transfer sack to a plate, untie cheesecloth and loosely drape corners over cheese. Place a large heavy pot on top of cheese, set aside for 30 minutes.
6. Cut into 1/2″ and 1″ pieces.
7. Heat ghee in a 12″ nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add cheese and fry until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cheese to a plate and set aside; reserve skillet with ghee.
Make the spinach
8. Place garlic, ginger, chiles and 1/4 cup of water into blender and puree into a smooth paste. Return skillet with ghee to stove and heat over medium-high heat.
9. Add ginger-garlic paste, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
10. Add spinach, salt to taste, and cook, stirring often, until spinach wilts, about 1 minute.
11. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring often, until spinach is very soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in cream, garam masala, and cayenne.
12. Add cheese to skillet, cover, and continue cooking until liquid thickens and spinach is soft, about 15 minutes. Serve with flatbread or rice, if you like. (Or turkey and the fixins.)
This time of year makes me think of her.
It was Halloween night, a few years ago, and it was raining. Rain on Halloween is a sad sound. I remember thinking that as I sat at the kitchen table. It was late and Chloe and Harris were asleep- it had been a hard day. All the pressure and strain of Halloween had broken them down by the joints and not even their bright orange pails filled with candy were a comfort by the time night fell. I sat at the table and sorted through the load of sweets on the table. There would be noticeably less candy in the morning, a few into my pocket, the rest into the trash, and I hoped they wouldn’t notice.
On other nights, I might have the radio on but holidays were different. On holidays there was something about the silence that felt right, it felt like something I deserved. I can remember what I wore, how the skirt pinched at my waist and the hem brushed against my leg and made me want to scream. I sat at the table with clenched fists, a pad of paper before me, the torrent of things left to do, left undone, stuck inside me, bottlenecked.
She must’ve come into the kitchen for some water. I don’t remember the reason. All I know is I heard her shuffle in and pause and knew that she stared at me, my grandmother, in her robe and slippers. I would’ve wondered if she recognized me at the table, perhaps I would’ve froze, not wanting the ache of her forgetting, not able to bear it on top of everything else.
But instead, she moved toward me and placed a hand over my fist, her skin like paper, and she leaned down and felt her lips on my forehead. “Just start with one thing,” she murmured and when I looked up at her, she nodded to the pad of paper. She had never shown me such affection before. I wondered who she thought I was, in that moment. I remember that I didn’t care.
Thanksgiving is the best. You know that, right? We’re all in agreement on that point? Good. I figured you would. Family, gratitude, football and an epic meal. I cannot wait. And yes, okay, it makes me a little sappy. The stories around here are going to be taking a wide left turn from spooky-ville. I can’t help it! There are lists to make and food magazines to flip through and old episodes of Nigella to watch (and promptly ignore half of the recipes because they’re a little weird) and thick socks to wear and travel plans… LET’S DO THIS.
Nicole’s review of Multicultural Stuffing: “I’m not sure if I’m going to use this stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving; it was good but not as good as the one we’ve used in the past. I added some salt & some cranberries afterwards and it was better- it would be good with crispy, salty bacon.” (I mean, everything is better with crispy, salty bacon.)
The SKS Thanksgiving recipe collection
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake
Timing Note: This recipe recommends that you take a loaf of challah bread, cube it, and set it out to dry for 2-3 days
7 Tablespoons of butter
1 Tablespoon of sesame oil
3 Small, yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2-7 Cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Bunch of celery, ribs separated and chopped
1/2 Pound of shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps diced
One 1-lb loaf of challah bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and set out to let dry for 2-3 days
1 and 1/2 Cups of jarred, peeled roasted chestnuts, diced
1 Cup of canned water chestnuts, drained and diced
1-2 Tablespoon of sesame seeds, toasted
4 Teaspoon of sweet paprika
1 Egg, lightly beaten
Leaves from 1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 Teaspoon of chopped leaves of one fresh herb or a mixture (thyme, oregano, savory, tarragon and basil
1/2 – 1 Cup of chicken stock, warmed
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Place a large skillet over medium heat and heat 6 tablespoons of the butter and sesame oil.
3. Add onions, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring often, until onions are soft (about 8 minutes).
4. Increase heat to medium-high, add celery and cook, stirring often, until celery is softened (about 10 minutes).
5. Add mushrooms and cook until most of mushroom’s liquid has evaporated (about 3 minutes).
6. Transfer vegetable mixture to a large bowl, add challah cubes, and toss with a kitchen spoon until well-combined.
7. Add chestnuts, water chestnuts, sesame seeds, paprika, egg, parsley and fresh herbs, season to taste with salt and pepper, toss well.
8. Set 4-5 cups of the stuffing aside (if stuffing the turkey). Mix in just enough warm stock to stuffing in bowl to make it moist but not dense and packed together.
9. Grease a medium baking dish with remaining butter. Spoon stuffing into dish, cover with heavy-duty foil and bake until hot (about 30 minutes).
10. Uncover baking dish and bake until golden on top (about 15 minutes more). Garnish with parsley.
“Here’s to the waning days of summer!” Across the train car floor, the man they called One-Eyed Jack lifted his tin cup in salute. Only a few strands of straw separated us. I leaned against my wall of the car and tried to ignore him, tried to get some sleep. The dog beside me, I hadn’t had the time to name him, let out a snore. He was shaggy and gray with dust and deaf to boot. Without me, who knows where he’d be.
One-Eyed Jack drank the rest of whatever was left in his cup and used a shaking hand to catch what dribbled into his beard. “You’re not one for drinking, huh?” he called over to me. I wished he’d quiet down. The train was approaching a stop, Lewisburg if I had to guess from my glance at the schedule back in the yard, and I’d rather not have to break out of the car at a run, not with my knee aching the way it did.
He might’ve been a bit drunk but he wasn’t dumb and this wasn’t his first train. When we slowed to a stop, he shut right up and we both held our breath when the door to our car opened. The dog beside me started to growl. I laid a hand on his good ear.
But it wasn’t no bother, no cops or anything. Just a guy like us whose round face lit up when he caught a glimpse of Jack in the corner of the car. He climbed right up and shut the door behind him and they greeted each other like old friends.
But when he turned to me and they sat side-by-side, I realized they weren’t friends at all but brothers and not just brothers but twins, identical safe for the glass in Jack’s bad eye. I couldn’t help but stare. “Hello, brother,” the man said to me, not to Jack and raised a hand. I nodded back. The dog whoofed.
“A silent man,” Jack said soberly with regard to me and he clapped his twin on the shoulder. “How you been there, Bobby?”
“Oh, you know.” Bobby grinned. He was missing most of his teeth. “Here and there, everywhere. Got these though. Old Mike was getting pinched and dropped ’em.” He lifted the paper bag, it made more noise than was my liking, and then turned it over as the train pitched forward. What was inside it rolled toward me and bumped my leg, the one that had no dog to keep it warm and still.
I lifted the peach and now stared at it instead of the same-faced men across from me. Bobby gave me another wave, “Enjoy it, brother.” He crawled across the floor and grabbed the rest and separated them, half for him and half for One-Eyed Jack.
By chance, we bit into them at the same time. They were ripe and the juice dribbled down our three chins. The taste filled me. I clawed at a piece and held it out for the dog who ate it greedily in seconds. For the moment, we were all kings.
Rosemary, Bacon and Sugar Roasted Peaches
4 Slices of thick-cut bacon
4 Large semi-ripe peaches (cut in half, remove pit)
1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
1/4 Teaspoon of coarse salt
1/8 Teaspoon of black pepper
4 Large sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 Ounces of blue cheese (crumbled)
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. In a bowl, combine the brown and white sugars.
3. Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat and add bacon, fry until crisp and fat is rendered. Once crispy, remove with tongs and let rest on a paper towel to drain. Pour most of the bacon grease out of skillet (into a heat-safe jar is best), leaving a thin layer in the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low.
4. Take the peaches and sprinkle them (cut-side up) with half of the sugar mixture, and all of the salt and the pepper.
5. Place the peaches in the skillet, cut-side down, and tuck the rosemary between them. Cook for 5 minutes or until cut sides are caramel-colored and golden. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on the un-cut side of the peaches. Drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of bacon juices over the peaches.
6. Place skillet with peaches in the hot oven and roast for 10 minutes.
7. Remove from oven flip the peaches carefully so they are cut-side up. Roast for another 5-10 minutes until peaches are soft and fragrant.
8. Remove from oven. Discard rosemary. Sprinkle on the crumbled bacon and blue cheese. Serve immediately.
When I was a girl and my mama was blue, she’d lead me into the kitchen by the hand.
The sadder she was, the fancier the meal. When she pulled out the tapered candles from the blue box, I knew it was a doozy. When she ironed the tablecloth and folded the napkins in three different ways, I knew it was best to do as she said and nothing more. When she sat me down with the silver and handed me a cloth, I said a little prayer and hoped someone was listening.
Somehow, the meal set her right again. The fancier the meal, the more tears to work through, that’s what her hands said. And by the time we were done, my mother would rest her palms against the counter for just a second. She’d arch her back and shut her eyes and let out a breath. “Sally Sue,” she’d say. She wouldn’t be looking at me. She’d be staring at the fancy tile over the counter, tracing them with her eyes. “Let’s eat.”
The scalloped potatoes were my favorite.
It feels strange to say I had a favorite at all, since I ate every one of those meals in a state of my very own; my worry and fear and pleasure and sadness tangled up inside me until I was a miniature version of her. The longer she cooked, the better she felt and the worse I worried. But yes, I had a favorite. In all of that. Maybe because of all of that, who knows. Those potatoes. They were perfect.
Everything I have to tell you, you already know.
I just got over a head-splitting cold. (Everyone has a cold.) I’m on a diet from tophealth. (Everyone is on a diet.) I don’t want to leave my house. (It’s January. There’s a gazillion feet of snow falling in Utah and other places. No one wants to leave their house.) I put on my pajamas at 6:15pm tonight. (Okay, that’s all you. And that’s really sad.)
I never told you my resolution. I don’t think, in fact, that I’ve actually said it out loud. So here it is and everything in this post will back it up.
This year, I want to bump up the resolution of my own life. I want it to be more vibrant. I want it to sing more.
This has less to do with wanting happier things to happen to me (which I cannot control, to a degree). I just want to notice more. I want to slow down and be able to look around me and know what it means. I want to do small things better. And I want to notice when they start to add up.
FIRST, MAKE CLARIFIED BUTTER
1/2 pound of unsalted butter
1. Slowly melt the butter in a heavy small saucepan over medium low heat. Do not stir.
2. Remove from the heat, and carefully spoon off all of the foam from the top.
3. Pour the clear liquid butter through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, leaving behind the solids in the pan.
4. Once cool, the clarified butter can be refrigerated for weeks.
4 Idaho (or baking) potatoes
4 Tablespoons of chilled clarified butter (see above)
Coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt)
1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat, use a nonstick baking sheet or a medium-sized baking dish.
2. Cut off the two ends of one potato and reserve them. Trim the 4 sides of the potato to form an even brick. Slice of potato about 1/8 inch thick on a mandoline, keeping the slices in order if you can (just like a line of shingled dominoes).
3. Hold the stack of potato slices in the palm of one hand and use the other to shape them back into a brick, as you would a deck of cards. Lay the stack on its side on the baking sheet and put the reserved potato ends, cut side down at either end keep the stack aligned. Then, with the palm of your hand, angle slices slightly to resemble a line of dominoes that has tilted over. Adjust the end pieces to keep the stack and shape, and align the slices if necessary.
4. Dot the top and sides with pieces of the clarified butter. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
5. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, keeping the stacks at least 2 inches apart.
6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned on the edges and tender in the middle when tested with a skewer. Serve immediately.
There was much hitting and jostling on Bert and Gregory’s side of the table. Annabelle, their mother, cast them one stony look on her way back to the kitchen. Bert immediately dropped his hands, and his attempt to drop a bit of stuffing down the neck of his brother’s shirt. Gregory seized the moment of weakness to seize a green pea from the bowl, stuff it up one nostril and then, with the help of the other nostril, shot it at his brother’s face. “Ow! Mom! Gregory nose-pooped a pea into my eye.” Bert clasped a hand over his eye for dramatic effect.
“Honestly!” Annabelle smiled through clenched teeth at the various family members who wandered past on their way to the long dining room table. “You’re not ten years old anymore, boys,” she hissed at her sons under her breath. And it was true that at fifteen, they were almost grown. “Stop it! Stop it at once or I will throttle both of- Oh, Grammie Ham!” Her voice immediately rose six octaves as she patted her hair and gestured for the boys’ great-grandmother to take her seat beside them. “There you are! There you go! Sit, sit, there it is!”
Their mother always spoke to Grammie Ham as if she was a baby poodle attempting to take her first wobbly steps. She had done this ever since the day she’d learned just how much the old woman meant to leave them when she died. “Hooray, you’re sitting! Hooray for Grammie Ham! You sit so beautifully, Grammie Ham! Yes, you do!”
The boys, momentarily distracted by the appearance of Grammie Ham, stared dully at her as Annabelle cooed and crowed back to the kitchen, fussing over the other guests to take their seats. Grammie Ham’s watery eyes passed over them. They wondered if she even saw them there.
Grammie Ham was, and always seemed to be, less person and more… gray. Hair, skin, clothes, everything was the color of slick clay; over the years, she seemed to embody the color more and more. She sat in her chair, spidery hands grasping at the edges of the napkin before her (which was shaped like a swan that appeared to be gasping for air) until it became clear, to Bert and Gregory’s mounting horror, that she was actually attempting to stand up and push herself off the edge of her chair.
“Do something,” Bert whispered to Gregory, who was typically the twin of action. But Gregory stared, unsure of what to do as Grammie Ham wheezed and pushed and shoved her way up until she was hovering, hunched, over the table.
“G-gram-” Gregory finally muttered (after Bert jammed his leg with his fork). “D-dya need something?”
The boys watched as she grabbed the bowl of green peas and with one final lasting gasp, sat down on her chair with a thump, the bowl in her hands.
Bert and Gregory watched, transfixed, as she reached a trembling hand into the bowl and emerged with a single green pea… and promptly shoved it up her nose.
They stared. “G-gram.” Bert whispered. He was partially watching for his mother. He wasn’t sure if he wanted her to see this or not. He had a dim feeling she’d knock him sideways for it though. Gregory’s eyes were as wide as saucers. “G-gram, don’t- that’s not how you eat-“
Annabelle came bustling over then, clapping her hands. “All right everybody,” she trilled loudly and waved and hollered for their attention. “Dinner’s about to be served.” Bert swallowed. Gregory just continued to stare at Grammie Ham, who sat calmly with a pea up her nose. Annabelle must’ve noticed the pallor of their collective faces because she leaned over the table. “What are you about?” she hissed at the boys again.
“Better not be.” Her expression turned to rapturous, her voice tuned to baby poodle talk as she swiveled over to Grammie Ham. “And how are you, Grammie dear? Who’s sitting so nicely? Who sits better than you?” And the pea shot forcefully out of Grammie Ham’s nose and landed directly in their mother’s gawping mouth.
Of everyone at the table, only the three of them knew what had just occurred. Bert and Gregory were frozen like statues. They stared at their mother, whose eyes were wide, her face the color of steamed prunes. The only movement their mother make was to drop her eyes down to the pea that now rested in her mouth.
“I would like some milk please, when you get a chance, Annabelle,” was all Grammie Ham said in reply. Deep in his belly, Bert felt a laugh begin that he was sure would last for days and days.
There are a few things that I was not anticipating when I considered my adult life. Among them: I didn’t think, ever, that I’d end up living in Maine. I would never have imagined that my career would involve the two words Face and Book. And I certainly did not think, as a plump child raised primarily on carbohydrates and my mother’s chicken cutlets, that I would ever, in my whole life, consider bread to be a treat.
But here we are. I am a grown-ass woman. I pay bills. I buy my own airplane tickets. I’m responsible for the care and well-being of a large animal. And I so rarely eat things as simple and splendid as dinner rolls that their promised presence on the Thanksgiving table practically moves me to tears. ROLLS. I CAN EAT ROLLS. Specifically, homemade no knead dinner rolls. That’s right. THERE WILL BE ROLLS.
These, as rolls go, are as simple and splendid as they get. They don’t require any fussy laboring, they can be made ahead of time and, if you’re anything like me, they can quietly and quickly (and unexpectedly) become the most important thing on the whole table (MUST GET TO ROLLS. AND BUTTER.)
The child version of me might still be reaching for the stuffing but the adult version is all about the rolls.
No-Knead Cloverleaf Rolls
Make ahead! To store, let cool, wrap tightly in plastic, and keep at room temperature, up to 2 days.
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Cup of warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees)
2 and 1/4 Teaspoons of active dry yeast (one 1/4-ounce packet)
3 Cups of all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), divided
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of fine salt
1 Large egg
3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for brushing
1. In a large bowl, combine sugar and water. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit until foamy, 5 minutes.
2. Add 1 cup of flour and, using a mixer, beat on medium until smooth, 2 minutes.
3. Add fine salt, egg, and butter and beat until combined.
4. Add remaining 2 cups flour and, with a wooden spoon, mix until just combined.
5. Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl, lightly coat with cooking spray, and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight (or up to 2 days). Dough will double in size.
6. Divide into 27 equal pieces (1 ounce each).
7. Lightly coat 9 standard muffin cups and your hands with cooking spray.
8. Roll each dough piece into a smooth ball and place 3 balls in each cup.
9. Liberally coat with cooking spray and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
10. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, 45 to 90 minutes.
11. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
12. Bake rolls until puffed and deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
13. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt; serve warm.
He looked up from his spot on the couch, their son asleep on his chest. “Do you need help?” he mouthed over Connor’s head. She smiled and shook her head.
Tomorrow, there would be twenty-seven people in their small house on Westport Lane. Bob’s family and her’s, together, with a few friends thrown in. Oh, and the Carltons from work. They’d had nowhere to go for the holiday and Ess could never resist offering when she heard such a thing. No one should be alone on Thanksgiving.
There was too much to do and only a few hours before she’d have to climb out of bed to tend to the turkey in the darkness of early morning. Connor’s toys were still strewn about the living room, the dining room table was only partially clear and the only thing Ess had managed to do ahead of time was bake a few pies and stash them in the freezer. She stepped into the dark kitchen and felt something in her breath catch.
This would be the first Thanksgiving without her mother.
Bob had asked her, just once, to reconsider her offer to host. “It’s too soon,” he’d said softly and she could see in his quiet eyes that he remembered them standing side by side, hip to hip, at the counter, tucked over their respective duties. Her mother was soft too, quiet but held the knife in her hand with an authority that could calm a quelling storm. She would never tell Ess what to do but would nod and gesture, tilt her head left and right and Ess would know what she needed. That other half of onion. A handful of parsley, chopped. The cubes of bread that sat in the red bowl on the table. A glass of water.
Ess felt frozen for a moment in the doorway. There was so much to do but now the thoughts, the worries, the frets, were drowned out by the memories of her mother. She felt paralyzed. Maybe Bob was right. It was too soon. In the pit of her stomach, the fear bloomed that she would always feel this way; that it would always feel too soon.
She felt a hand on her lower back, then, nudging her gently forward. She frowned and turned to scold Bob for pushing her but he was falling asleep on the couch with Connor’s head tucked under his chin.
Ess gripped the doorway that led to the kitchen, which once belonged, like the rest of the little house on Westport Lane, to her mother. There it was again, that pressure on her back. Ess took one step and then another. Her feet led her to the counter, filled with bags upon bags of unpacked groceries. Ess reached up with a trembling hand to touch the first bag, the cold cans within it, the bag of flour, the sweet potatoes, the canisters of cinnamon and cloves. The feeling that there was someone at her back had faded. But it hadn’t gone, simply moved, replaced by a similar sensation at her side, at her hip. The air beside her felt warm as if another body stood there, though she stood alone in the kitchen.
She unpacked the rest of the bags and set about her duties. It was only when she picked up the knife in her hand, felt it settle into her palm, that she felt the rest of her settle too, the calm and the quiet wrapping around her like a blanket.
For Tanta Shirley…
It feels almost silly to give you ideas for Thanksgiving.
Recipes for Thanksgiving have so much to do with people, more than the Food Network and magazines and blog posts. Everyone has favorite recipes, traditions, old stand-bys. Even if there’s a twist or two in the mix, it’s inevitably because of a person or a couple of persons who delight in trying new tastes at the table for the holiday, and possibly scandalizing Aunt Sue with a way to cook green beans that don’t have fried onions scattered over the top. Menus are crafted as much by the guests as they are by the host- what says Thanksgiving to them, what brings them the most comfort and joy to make and serve. And to eat.
We’ll be posting a few Thanksgiving recipes this month but I think instead of offering them up as suggestions (which, feel free if you’re looking for inspiration, that’s why we’re here) they should feel more like tributes. I hope you’re looking at these photos of Sweet Potato Casserole, strewn about with marshmallows and crunchy pecans, and remembering the first time you had such a concoction. Maybe you remember that moment you first took a bite, as a child, and reveled in just how sweet it was, that revelation of “This tastes like candy. I’m eating candy for dinner.” Or maybe you only saw it at the table as an adult, at someone’s else’s house, and it struck you suddenly that every table does Thanksgiving a little bit differently. And that’s okay as long (as long as the surprises involve more marshmallows and less turnips.)
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole
Note: You can half the sugar if you’d like and this dish will still be crazy delicious. – Nicole
4 and 1/2 pounds of sweet potatoes
1 Cup of granulated sugar
1/2 Cup of butter, softened
1/4 Cup of milk
2 Large eggs
1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 Teaspoon of salt
1 and 1/4 cups of cornflakes cereal, crushed
1/4 Cup of chopped pecans
1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of butter, melted
1 and 1/2 Cups of miniature marshmallows
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Bake sweet potatoes at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Let stand until cool to touch (about 20 minutes); peel and mash sweet potatoes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
2. Beat mashed sweet potatoes, granulated sugar, and next 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon potato mixture into a greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish.
3. Combine cornflakes cereal and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle over casserole in diagonal rows 2 inches apart.
4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows in alternate rows between cornflake mixture; bake 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.