Tender, plump, spicy pumpkin cookies with a double whammy of orange. Perfect for Halloween festivities.
f I could have only one dish this Thanksgiving, it would be a tossup between this stuffing and this tart. Wait, I also need these rolls, these mashed potatoes, and this gravy. Okay, it’s hopeless; may as well throw in this salad and this turkey. But even though each of these dishes is memorable, I bet this stuffing wins “Best of Show” at our Thanksgiving table this year. I can’t seem to get enough of it.
A large roast turkey is considered mandatory for many families as part of the massive meal that typifies Thanksgiving. It’s big, bold, beautiful, and definitely celebratory. When you have a large crowd to feed, there is no grander way to go. But what if your family is small, dispersed across the country, or for whatever reason, you long for a more intimate but still festive dinner with only a few close friends?
Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.
Can you say NYOK-ee? Luckily, gnocchi are more difficult to pronounce than to actually make. And unlike the pronunciation, you have lots of latitude on how to make, shape, and sauce these delectable little dumplings. Beyond the standard ingredients of ricotta, eggs, flour, and cheese, you can go wild with additional flavors. It’s almost Halloween, so of course I added pumpkin to my time-tested gnocchi recipe. And I’m glad I did. These may be my favorite gnocchi of all time.
I knew these rolls were going to be a hit, but I didn’t anticipate the mania that ensued as I took them from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, pulled them apart, and piled them on a platter to serve. I mean, should you stop someone from eating six rolls, back-to-back, without coming up for air? Or just pass them more butter?
Like most of the baby boom generation, I grew up on the ubiquitous American iceberg lettuce salad with the usual assortment of dreary bottled dressings. It was only in adulthood that I discovered that fruit could be used to good effect in a salad—beyond those ghastly sweet coconut and marshmallow concoctions that sat high and proud on every family buffet of my youth.
Northwest farmers markets were overflowing with fresh peaches this past weekend. And the selection is just beginning.
So far, I’ve seen Red Rose, Suncrest, Angelus, August Lady, Blushing Star, Snow Giant, Hale, Red Gold, Regina, September Snow, Summer Lady, and Yukon varieties. There are so many choices that making a decision is difficult. I sampled peaches at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturday and then again at the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sunday.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to Zuni Café culinary goddess, Judy Rodgers, for turning me on to dry salt curing. had wet brined poultry and pork for years before trying the salt curing process Chef Rodgers describes in The Zuni Café Cookbook. To compare the two methods, I conducted several tests, and to my palate, salt-curing wins. Although both methods have advantages, you just can’t beat salt-curing for ease and juiciness of the cooked meat.
I’ve been making roux since I began to cook our weekday meals in the second grade. In my family, a light golden roux was the base for pan gravy, which was the mandated accompaniment to mashed potatoes. Many years later, I learned about a darker version, which is the base for French brown sauces and traditional Creole dishes, such as Gumbo.
In my estimation, the ultimate Thanksgiving gravy depends on a properly made roux. It’s not difficult to produce and lends the gravy a roasted flavor dimension that can’t be obtained with a simple flour and water or cornstarch and water slurry.
I was walking through the Portland Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago and did a double take on a stack of orange cauliflower. I adore cauliflower (the earthy flavor, the crunchy or creamy texture), and the only nit I can pick with this lovely vegetable is its color. It gets lost on a white plate and looks pallid and unimaginative next to other basic ingredients I love, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and poultry.
This concept should have been a cinch. After all, I developed White Chocolate, Cardamom & Coconut Beignet and they’re wonderful—ethereally light, tender, moist, and beautifully flavored.
But I made a classic mistake at the onset. I tried to pattern the new beignets after the earlier success. And that, my friends, was a disaster. I threw batch after batch of beignets in the trash after just one taste.
Something different went wrong with each batch: too dry, too wet, not sweet enough, not pumpkin enough, not spicy enough, and finally, just okay but nothing special. I almost gave up. Where was I going wrong?
Northwest pumpkin season is in full swing, and I have new recipes ready to roll out in the weeks ahead. Get ready for Spiced Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignet, Pumpkin Chocolate Torte, and Caribbean Shrimp & Pumpkin Chowder. And while I get those ready for you, here are my pumpkin FAVORITES from past seasons.
There is something magically transforming about this particular combination of flavors. Wow is the only word I can think of to describe it. The buttery richness of flaky pastry, sweet tartness of apple, mellow bite of onion, deep savoriness of cheddar, and intense sharpness of blue cheese create a wondrous effect on the palate.
Every year about this time, I start craving salads. And by craving, I mean intense, must have it, primal longing. It’s as if my body, as well as my mind, knows that fresh local produce will soon be a fading memory. I find myself at the farmers markets overloading my trusty, ever ready Metro Kart with bell peppers, celery, sweet onions, corn, lettuce, fennel, chiles, and tomatoes. Plus whatever else looks amazing that day.
You’ve heard the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Well, it was definitely the impetus for this Thanksgiving dessert, as I was torn between pleasing my stepdad, Mike, who loves White Chocolate Cheesecake and my daughter’s boyfriend, Chris, who expressed a desire for Peanut Butter Cheesecake (which I quickly swapped for pumpkin in honor of the holiday.)
The combination of the two flavors was even better than I expected, with the white chocolate lending the pumpkin a measure of sophistication.
I grew up in a Yankee household with a Southern father. So even though I said “you guys” instead of “y’all” and didn’t act one bit like a “lady” unless under strict orders accompanied by threat of dire consequences, some Southern mores were passed on to me nonetheless.
For instance, in our Seattle house, stuffing was called dressing, which is what my very lady-like Kentucky born-and-raised Grandmother called it. It didn’t matter if it was baked in the bird or alongside the bird, it was dressing nonetheless. It was served with perfect mashed potatoes (a point of pride for Kentucky cooks) and a silky, roux-based, turkey gravy.
Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the exotic condiments section of an upscale grocery store pondering whether to shell out $8 for a tiny jar of glistening something-or-other? The jars have names such as Sriracha, Chimichurri, and Harissa. You covet them ALL.
That’s exactly what happened to me recently at City Market in Northwest Portland. I walked out of the store with a tiny, expensive jar of Mustapha’s Moroccan Harissa and although it turned out to be quite delicious, barely an hour had gone by before I began to make my own. I had visions of Red Kuri Squash & Orange Soup with Cinnamon Harissa, and in order to follow that vision, I needed Harissa with more body and warmer spicing than the store-bought version.
Have you ever set out to eat your way across a city, focusing on a single seasonal dish?
Well, I didn’t intend to go on a winter squash soup kick while in Boston in October, but one thing led to another, as the saying goes, and there I was at Sorellina on our last night in Boston eating my 5th winter squash soup.
And here’s the thing. I could have continued this lovely madness for another week at least. It is highly instructive to see how top notch culinary artists across a major culinary mecca treat the same basic core ingredients and menu item, in this case, winter squash and a handful of flavor complements crafted into a smooth and silky soup.
How many times have you been at a local farmers market and walked smack dab into a mountain of baby shiitake mushrooms? I mean there they are, incredible in their tininess and then you realize that you can’t think of a thing to do with them. So you walk away and then kick yourself when you get home.
Well, that’s been me too many times to admit. But not last week at the Portland Farmers Market. My mind went blank, as it loves to do at just such moments, but I steeled myself and bought a pound and a half of the little jewels anyway. And all the while MauiJim is hissing at me, “But what are you going to do with them?”
We were at the Portland Saturday Market yesterday, and I couldn’t resist buying a bag of what may be the last of the season’s heirloom tomatoes. They come in such a variety of beautiful colors, shapes and sizes, and their flavor is incomparable. Nothing like the grocery store tomatoes that we grudgingly subsist on over the long winter.
Over the past year, restaurant menus everywhere were featuring heirloom tomato salads, and I sampled my fair share.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting variations on the corn bread theme, especially when leaves turn glorious shades of russet and crimson and nights turn cool. I LOVE corn bread–especially Aunt Elfred’s Corn Bread, which is high, light, and tender, with the requisite depth of cornmeal flavor and aroma.
Whenever I see an interesting corn bread recipe, I don’t bother with the basic formula, as I’m confident that no corn bread formula (and I’ve tested a gazillion) is better than Aunt Elfred’s.
Last week, I received a copy of Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz. I began immediately to flag the pages (a sure sign that I may actually cook from a book) but then paused on page 90, at a recipe titled, Apple-Red Wine Tart. David, what a great idea!
I poach pears and apples in red wine and a variety of spices nearly every fall, but it never occurred to me to expand the concept into a tart. How lovely that would that be. I actually went as far as buying a bottle of inexpensive, but hopefully decent, merlot to try the recipe when another mental pause occurred.
What if I macerated the apples in reduced apple cider, instead of wine? I knew from past cooking adventures, such as Spiced Apple Cider Caramel Sauce, that reducing and then caramelizing apple cider produces the most sublime nectar imaginable. I wondered if I could combine this idea with my Caramelized Pear & Anise Tart (not yet posted). And this superb tart is the result of all that wondering and David’s inspiring new cookbook.
What I love most about this chowder is its golden yellow hue and full sweet taste of fresh corn just of the cob. Over many summers of fresh corn bounty, I have explored every way imaginable to obtain a more pronounced corn taste in my corn soups, and the method presented here is “numero uno” thus far.
It is also perhaps the easiest method, as it involves pureeing the corn kernels with stock before the cooking begins. Thus, there is no scalding, dripping soup to ladle into a processor. In addition, this method allows for both a puree of corn, corn kernels, and a variety of colorful, perfectly cooked diced vegetables, which really enliven the whole effect.
Every year I develop a new pumpkin pie recipe and add it with a pretend drum roll to the Thanksgiving dessert table. I do this even though no one in the Bradley family, except me and our son Joshua, actually likes pumpkin pie.
So you can imagine my surprise a couple of years ago when we were invited to a Thanksgiving potluck and asked to bring ONLY the pumpkin pie. (How could they know that was my favorite part of the meal?) I used the opportunity to create SIX new pumpkin pies that year and of course brought them all to the potluck, each with a little description alongside. Some folks in that appreciative gathering actually ate a tiny slice from each of the six pies. I was delighted.
To tell you that this pie is beyond delicious is not to do it justice. But perhaps you will get some inkling of how good it is when I reveal that MauiJim ate an ENTIRE LARGE PIECE. Oh sure, he tried to avoid the pumpkin custard while focusing on the caramel, but in the end that effort proved futile, so he ate the whole darned thing. And then he raved about it and asked how long he had to wait to have another slice.
Every Saturday morning, from April through December, whether in Seattle or Portland, I head to one of the many world-class Northwest farmers markets. You might think I would become jaded after awhile, but it hasn’t happened.
Every week, I’m blown away by the gorgeous, tantalizing offerings, and every week I buy way more than I can cook over the weekend. I do this even though there is this strange man following me around, intermittently interjecting, “Enough already! You can’t cook all that.” I pretend to have no idea who he is, but of course it’s none other than MauiJim.