Routines: Moving, Cooking, Spending

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Routines come and go throughout life. What a bland and boring statement, and one that may not be qualified to start off a post of any nature – even those from years ago when angsty teens used to use livejournal as a publicprivate journal. But, as mundane as those six words may be, they really are (together) the subject line of my past week.

I moved recently. More appropriately, I moved about three months ago, which means I think I am all settled but there are still boxes I haven’t unpacked and surely forgotten about.  And since then, my routine has gone in a complete tailspin, again. Moving to New York inspired me to run everyday again, since Korea lulled me into a strange every-other-day routine. Then moving to a less luxurious part of town stopped me, seeing as it might not be so safe to run around in short shorts and a headband. My third move brought me closer to a park, and that lead me to that running every-other-day, seeing nature and refreshing me. Now, I cannot even come up with a reason not to run seeing as I live half-a-block from Central Park. I even woke up early this morning, coughing, and kicked myself out the door to see the most spectacular park I’ve seen in a while. That short and narcissistic story goes to show that I am affected – strongly no less – by location as to what I may find in my everyday routine.

One could argue that it can’t be said about food as well; you live in an apartment or house and you have a kitchen and you eat. Well, I’ll argue against it. I live in New York and work around food – why would I ever want to cook when I have free “family” meals and there are more restaurants to go to? I have gone through every incantation of eating in New York. Cooking exclusively at home and packing my lunches, eating only at Farmers markets even if that means traveling over bridges to get there, eating out enough to break even every month, falling into that dastardly trap of ordering food online (grubhub, you are a dirty temptress), and then finally finding a middle ground. Why? Oh, only because I live right next to the best grocer in all of the City, and a Farmers Market pops up every weekend. How can I say no to cooking incredible ingredients? Again: Routines come and go throughout life.

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The other night I had a decision to make: would I go and spend thirty on dinner, or take that thirty and hit up Fairway. The latter won out, and now I sit happy on my fifth meal from that purchase. To celebrate my brilliant decision – which I must say was the only decision made when I was growing up; this whole eating out more than once a week was a recent acquisition; I cannot blame parental choices for that – I chose to cook a little summer spread. Starting in this culinary world, I was a vegetarian so every time I cook proteins, I feel like I am doing something special (see: the tilapia I cooked that evening).

To start my summer off, a luxurious caprese salad with farmers market tomatoes sliced thin, slapped basil, a drizzle of truffle oil, and slices of fresh mozzarella – slightly salted.  Fresh, simple, rich, deep, delicious.

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With my cast iron skillets sizzling hot, the main dish started to sautee together. Onions and garlic kicked off the meal with yellow peppers and farmers market zucchini shortly to follow. In the pan right next door, Jersey asparagus and broccoli were blanching in seasoned water. The tilapia was sitting, waiting, on the counter, seasoned with salt and celery flakes. Couscous on the back burner, slowly expanding in it’s hot water bath. As the onions started to caramelize, and the zucchinis browned in that beautiful way they do, a slab of butter was added to the mix to give a little depth of flavor (aka, my heart will always have a touch of southern love in it, always will). With that tender combination tossed into the anticipating couscous, the tilapia took its sizzling spot in the hot cast iron, lightly wading in a combination of olive oil, butter, toasted garlic and translucently sweet onions. Spending only a few minutes on each side, small blackened pieces of the fish flaked off into the sautee sauce, quickly finding their way into the hot couscous salad, connecting a through line from couscous through to the protein. With the al dente asparagus and broccoli in the plate, the couscous as foundation, and the tilapia sitting, flaking apart, on top – the birth of a new cooking routine was born. Routines come and go throughout life.

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Maybe this will hold, maybe this won’t, but I am thoroughly enjoying my little brown stove in my apartment.

Ps. The whole meal paired surprisingly well with a Budweiser. At least this 20something thought so.

 

 

 

Unsuccessful Pranks: Seven Attempts

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 Break a prank down, and it takes an idea, planning, practice, patience, laughs, reactions, sometimes un-pleasantries, and success. Break an Unfamiliar Supper down and it takes an idea, a menu, planning, practice, patience and focus, many laughs, reactions, work, and success. It seemed  perfect that our last Unfamiliar Supper was held on every school kid’s favorite day: April fool’s day.

The day after Easter Sunday Brunch with a group of caring and amazing ladies, Lexie and I headed back into San Francisco proper, really into the heart of hipsterdom of the West Coast – The Mission.  Alex – a good friend of mine from High School whose message on Facebook prompted the whole trip out to the West Coast – had been so kind to open his home the night prior, allowing us to stay over so that we could get a fresh and clean start in the morning.  We woke in the morning to beautiful blue skies, an empty home and what we came to find out was an empty kitchen.

I had been emailing back and forth a few weeks back about who may show up, how many people, what the hosts wanted to eat only to get a lot of “We’ll get people there” and “Oh I’m so excited!” and “I eat every kind of food! Just not meat!” and even “Oh, you should check with Alex as to what they have in the kitchen because I think they have nothing to cook with.” As someone who’s life revolves around cooking and serving and feeding people and being around food, I didn’t really understand what “nothing” was when it came to kitchen supplies. They have a pot, right? Salt? Pepper? That should be all good. Turns out, they had next to nothing. Condiments and beer, that belonged to a roommate who wasn’t there, two pots, 20 forks, and no baking pans. “We have nothing.”

No matter, Lex and I were in for a small challenge, seeing as the space was incredible: huge ceilings, wonderful open floor plan, massive bay windows, open aired and comfortable kitchen. And seeing as Alex had been so kind to trust me with the place for the day to prepare, we started jamming out. Door open, fresh air, beat-filled music, and incredible ingredients from gardens, Berkeley Bowl, and the local Asian Market (Shout out to Duc Loi’s Japanese, Korean, and Meat departments: O! How I would live in that grocery store). It was a morning that encouraged all aspects of Unfamiliar Suppers, that is to say being in the kitchen cooking with amazing ingredients in a beautiful new city with a good friend and colleague is exactly where I belong.

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By four, the we had set up the mise-en-place with make-shift quart containers, two of the desserts had been made and were setting, I had run to the local Salvation Army to pick up a braising pan large enough to take Duc Loi’s full supply of short ribs that sat braising for four hours, the soba noodles were cooked and chilling, and the shitakes were marinating and preparing to be course one.  Thinking it was all under control, we stepped out for a few more things to get ready for the dinner itself: Tecates and burritos the size of babies. By five we were sustained and sated, ready for complete Unfamiliarity.

Complete Unfamiliarity in the sense that we knew only four people there out of the 20 that ended showing up.  But nothing brings people together (cue cliché) like food, right? Slowly but surely people started to filter in. Alex “found” a case of wine in his room to share with the crowd, people started to find their spots (see: couch, table, standing, what became a “chef’s pass”) and the supper began.

The first course: accidental mini banh-mi’s with roasted shitake mushrooms, fresh cucumber, carrots, and yuzu mayonnaise.  Tender, savory, slightly sweet.

The second course: Thai-style lettuce wraps with scrambled spicy tofu, with a hoisin-siracha glaze with cilantro and celery garnish. Fresh, bright, savory, with a touch of spice.

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The third course: Cold Soba noodle salad with a peanut sauce garnished with shredded broccoli, carrots, pickled shallots sliced nori, whiskey, pickled mustard seeds, and finely sliced snow peas. Hearty, filling, cold and refreshing.

The fourth course: Coconut Curry soup with Japanese Eggplant, baby shitake mushrooms, Thai basil, and cilantro. The perfect amount of mouth-coating savory sweetness with a bit of heat.

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The fifth course, and final savory course: Braised and Roasted Short Ribs rubbed in a hoisin glaze served with Mirin rice, nori, and a sesame fried egg. The meat literally fell off the bone. In all reality, the bone was just for decoration.

The sixth course: Cold brewed Earl Grey Milk Tea with Boba. Floral, mildly sweet, gorgeous texture.

The Last course: Matcha Panna Cotta. Honestly, what a perfect way to end an incredibly huge meal: soft, sugary creamy Panna Cotta with a hint of vegetal Matcha, coming with that caffeine to keep you up and digesting.

Three hours later, we had seen a lot of excited faces, heard a lot of laughs, received a few pats on the back, let ourselves enjoy a few Tecates, and only could pack up one Tupperware full of left overs. A success, with no hang ups.

There is no proper way to end this, except to say: THANK YOU SAN FRANCISCO (Alex, Max, Evan, Laura, Rachel, and Daphne. Thank you.)

 

unfamiliarsuppers@gmail.com if you want to set one up of your own.

Surprise Easter

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The facts: A month out from the trip, I contacted a friend of a best friend. She was a known foodie, and lover of parties/gatherings/get togethers. She lived in Berkeley or – as she ashamedly pointed out – Albany. She had Sunday and Tuesday free. We settled in on Sunday to host a brunch at her house for about 14 people. We wanted to do a nice three course meal, keep it relatively inexpensive, and keep the brunch drinks flowing. That Thursday before,  the number of people wanting to come dropped from 14 to 11 in basically an instant, and we didn’t quite know why.
The reality: Turns out, none of us had realized it was Easter Sunday.

With that little cognitive mishap out of the way, Unfamiliar Suppers wanted to give them the best meal they could have on Easter. Fresh breads for sure. Jams. Eggs. French toast. Berries. Bloodies. Bloody Marys as much as they could handle. Bloody Marys that demanded us to run out in the middle of service to go grab more supplies. Bloodies.

Keep in mind that this brunch was coming on the heals of the Berkeley 25 person dinner the night before. So as we fell asleep in a room just twenty feet from the kitchen we just prepped and cleaned in, we knew that we would be walking those ten paces in the morning to start beating eggs and kneading dough.

But lo and behold, we woke up with a spring in our step and sunshine on our faces to cook the best Easter Bunny Lovely Lady Brunch they had ever seen.

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Rachel’s house was amazing – beautiful huge windows, open floor plan, massive kitchen, outdoor patio, it was the thing of dreams for a supper / brunch club to come cook in. With most of the meal prepped at Laura’s house just a mile away, we got to out there around noon. By 12:30, ladies were enjoying fresh baked breads and Bloody Marys, sitting around a table illuminated by the sun peaking through heavy rain clouds. When 3:30 rolled around, everyone was happy, full, and tipsy off of Easter.

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The first course we put out was fresh sourdough toast with compound nori butter and maple-rosemary biscuits with rhubarb jam. A nice pastry board that had the savory butter with even a touch of umami from the dried seaweed, and the sweet rhubarb with a touch of tang.

Soon to follow came two gorgeous cast-iron pan cooked caramelized onion, cheddar, and swiss chard frittatas  with sliced avocado served along side a cucumber salad and potatoes roasted two ways: oven roasted potatoes with either rosemary, salt, and pepper or kimchi. Savory or spicy and tangy. The kimchi potatoes flew off people’s plates, even when only half of the massive slice of frittata was devoured.

The grand finale – oven baked bread pudding French toast served with maple roasted bananas, macerated strawberries, and whipped cream. Honestly who could say no other than an adamant gluten intolerant or severe lactose hater?

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What was incredible about this brunch, is that everyone was so happy to see each other, share stories, sit and revel in the fact that nothing had to be done today not only because it was a Sunday but also because it was a Holiday, and everyone was ecstatic about the food – they clapped when we came out. Clapped! it made me blush, no lies. Pictures snapped. Bloodies drank. Smiles shared. Naps planned.

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Happy Easter.

Wander with Unfamiliar Suppers

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When you get off the plane, dazed, confused, and hyped up on airplane coffee, you know your trip is going to be magical when an overcast sky doesn’t get in the way of your ecstatic gasps at every new architectural design, every flower in the next window, or hill you have to climb. The first two days spent in San Francisco were “acclimating” days, better know as “play” days.  We figured we had to take in all of the fresh blooming spring flowers, and who could resist walking up the San Francisco hills, let alone say no to someone who offered to take you around to Oakland’s community gardens? It was silly to think of working nonstop, and to be honest: who appreciated a day old mise-en-place? The fact was, these wandering days with no true agenda lead me to one of the best days I’ve had in some time.

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Lucky for me, three of my favorite people were in San Francisco at the same time – a best friend from high school, one from college, and obviously my traveling companion. One night after an impromptu leather workshop and subsequent Pakistani food, I found myself catching up with my high school friend. We planned the next day in the sun with a run, wandering through the mission, fresh juices, and bakery visits. Afterwards, Lexie and I rode over what seems to be one of the longest bridges in America, save the one leading to New Orleans, to be taken on a tour of Oakland’s community gardens. Sun shining, Motown music blasting from the garden’s neighbor’s porch, we midst of a free-for-all in the blossoming garden of greens, peas, edible flowers, and herbs — and this was only the first of three gardens. On our second day there, we had sat in the upstairs of a coffee shop, writing with jittery hands out our menus. Some were complete. The first was not. Dessert wasn’t anywhere near figured out until our last garden, where we found rhubarb taking over an entire flower box – Lexie needed to have it, and I was struck by inspiration. Strawberries weren’t quite in season, and to be honest – strawberry rhubarb isn’t my bread and butter for a dessert. It’s good, I admit. But it’s played out. Sorry.

 

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Resting for a second in my college buddy’s home for a split second with Jasper the house cat, we geared up to go to a house party in what was to be one of the nicest homes I’ve ever been in. Who knew the Oakland hills had magical sunsets and talented concerts? On top of I all, during the concert, the whole street’s power went out, and the artists lit candles, broke out the acoustics, and howled at the moon in beautiful harmony.

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The next morning, in what could only be called an afterglow, Lexie and I inventoried our garden findings, and took Ms. Zoe’s – a great friend and consequently our garden tour guide the previous day – advice to head to Berkeley Bowl for the rest of our goods.

Now, let me just say candidly: Berkeley Bowl has some of the most aggressive cart-drivers, but it is all worth it since it may be the best grocery store in the country. The selection was incredible and I cannot speak highly enough of the layout – 60% produce (conventional and organic in separate sections), 15% bulk items (thank you fresh soba noodles and every grain you could think of), 5% wine, and the rest funky canned goods.

By 1pm we were home, organized, and properly cooking. As we had known from before, Lex and I simultaneous busted out the preparation in no time. “What do you want with this?” “Oh, I got that tart” “Okay, so I’ve done this and this, what can I do for you?” “Are you doing okay” “Holy hell I get focused chopping for so long” “Let’s just go play in the sun for a second?” “Where is Jasper?” It was yet again great to be working in the kitchen with her.

One of the perks of Unfamiliar Suppers, for those who cook with U.S., is how incredibly giving the hosts are. Every home we went into, the host would give us the freedom to do whatever we needed to do with their kitchen, allowing us full creativity. We were able to have both their support, their kitchen, and freedom of expression. Sometimes those kitchens are incredible, sometimes they need us to use the toaster oven as the make-shift spice rack. The top of the refrigerator is for oils. The kitchen table is covered with chopping boards with no room for a diner quite yet. Maybe the oven door is a bit too close to the refrigerator so it hesitates mid-open. And maybe you have some of the best cooking experiences ever there.

The first course was complete. The second on its way. The third was prepped and sitting in the refrigerator until further notice. The dessert sat on the coffee table, cooling, out of sight out of mind (as many baked goods must be during the cooling process, mind you).

By 6:30 pm, we were set. The kitchen had been cleared, cleaned, and the prep-station for serving had moved into another room for the time being. People started to wander in, hugging as they passed the kitchen, asking if Laura was here, wondering what the name of our little supper club was “was it unfamiliarity?” “it’s supper club nyc right?” “Familiar foods, for sure.”

When everyone had taken their seat in the candlelit living room around two tables borrowed from a church just up the road (and needing to be back the next day by 9am for Easter services), I turned to Lex to find out how exactly we would serve. “Buffet?” “Plate it?” “Let’s do it Downton Abbey style.”

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First course out was a local Greek-style salad. Red and green lettuces, frisse, massaged kale, rice stuffed grape leaves, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, shallots, rice wine vinaigrette, nasturtiums. Not many words are needed to describe how beautiful that dish was.

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We wanted to keep with very classic courses, so we followed the salad course with a pasta dish. While we were prepping, we also came upon the cover of one of Laura’s cookbooks, and had to make it too: roasted eggplant with baked ricotta. So as people’s appetites were piqued by local greens, we hit them with a fresh basil-parmesan pesto soaked pasta cooked with white wine, shallots, and capers for added acidity all twirled with Downton excellence and topped with basil chiffonade.

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With spring coming, we chose a fish dish over a meat course. Next was Cod Amandine. Beautiful cod fillets swimming in white wine baked – almost poached – for twenty minutes with the smallest bok choy florets and whole cherry tomatoes along side almond slivers. The dish was light, acidic, filling, and vibrant. The cod was paired with Israeli couscous cooked with coconut milk, giving a bit of heft and sweetness to the final savory course, and of course – heaps and heaps of herbs.

As Lexie pointed out while roaming around the gardens: we should do a rhubarb jam because it is the perfect plant to make jam out of. Cook it with sugar and it jellies itself. Nature’s wonder. So jelly it, we did. We had to do something with strawberries – but not the main stage. Rather, I wanted a bit of acidity to balance the incredible sweetness of any jam. Lemon tarts. And since lavender grows literally nine steps from the kitchen, those lemon tarts became all that much classier: Lemon lavender tarts with freshly macerated strawberries, local rhubarb jam, with a touch of whipping cream. Insane.

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Five hours after the first guest arrived, two cases of beer, six bottles of wine, many conversations, one masterpiece drawing, and 25 full bellies, we called the first Unfamiliar Supper a success. In a few hours we were to be getting up to start the process all over, but this time for Sunday brunch.

 

Southern Charm

The South (capital s included) does something strange to you. I lived there for the first two years of my life, and more recently the four years of college. I didn’t come back north of the Mason Dixon line often, so I can say that I lived down there. More often than not, I’d take my vacations in Savannah or Charleston, sometimes Atlanta, and one summer: all over the South. And as a result, I have this strange affinity for Southern things. I have this strange pride for Southern fare, be that food or houses or the draw; there is something that the South can do to you to make you fall in love.

As tried and true readers might know, I also have an affinity for cooking people lots of food. Sometimes it is lots of people lots of food, like last Sunday. I sent out an email around Thursday saying “I have a ton of food. I want to cook it. Come over and eat it. Bring nothing but yourself, hunger, and maybe a friend.” After a few responses, and knowledge that it wasn’t just going to be me and my roommate taking down a feast of food, I started to devise a plan.

The first ingredients that I looked at, which in turn shaped my entire menu, were collard greens. These leathery, huge, elephant ear-like greens are a staple in my southern diet. Anytime I see them on the menu, I get them. With bacon, or without. With maple syrup or without. Slow-cooked for about twelve hours so that they are best eaten with a spoon or only blanched and in that case, a knife would be honorable.

After that, my CSA veggies fell into place. Collards with Brooklyn cured ham. Cornbread biscuits with buttermilk. Mashed potatoes with a half pound of butter, and a half pound of cheddar cheese. A spinach salad with orange surpremes and braised balsamic onions.  Mustard roasted Squash and carrots so that they were soft, mushy, and freaking delectable. Coleslaw made of cabbage, celery root, and golden beets. Lentil soup with kale and parsnips (prepared like split pea soup). And for those brave enough to trudge on through another course, or those simply holding the idea that there must be a dessert as truth: banana cream pie.

 

The meal started at 8:15 and ended three hours later with a bottle of wine or three, courses and talk of New York and the South and all the meanwhile, sitting at the head of the table, I felt I had provided for my friends, just as any good Southern Family would. They traveled to me, so I fed them. It’s simply southern, in a third story Brooklyn apartment.

Starting To Get Warm

When I look back on last winter, I remember a tiger onesie that acted as my heat – seeing as my Korean-style warmed-floor heat was broken – biting cold that, one day, left me crumpled up in a ball along the Han River rocking back and forth hoping for blood to restore to its rightful place in my hands, coats that never kept me quite warm enough, and some delicious foods. Kimchi and soup and stews and lots of barbeque. I remember some pitchers of watered down beer and the first endeavors into what was higher-class Korean cooking. I also remember a little venture into Thailand to escape the cold.

This winter, Brooklyn has been so much the kinder with mild days in the 30s and 40s and sometimes 60s. Runs in shorts and long sleeved t-shirts and coffee outside and even wind breaker jackets all create a thread of a winter affected by global warming. I mean, come on, no one’s kidding here – it is real people.

Sure we’ve had a few snow flurries and nights have become cold enough that I don’t want to bike home because my bare hands touching a metal lever to use the breaks doesn’t sound like a wining combination. But on the whole, this winter has been tepid. Luke-warm. One that, to my warnings for friends from California of “It gets so cold that you don’t even want to go outside despite the shining blue skies,” has left me a liar.

Until, really, now. Now it is cold. Now it hurts to walk outside with a hand exposed to hold the cell phone to my ear. Now I bundle down into my hood and jacket and sip hot coffee to warm my insides. Now I crave hot chocolate and hot cheese. Now I want for movies under blankets. Now I am a bear and start to hibernate.

No more salads, either. When it gets this cold, I don’t want “fresh” per se. I want cooked and soothing. I want comfort food, but not in the Southern typical fried cheesy mess that comes out with chicken and mashed potatoes and collards and corn bread and some pumpkin pie. Well, I don’t want that kind of comfort food, always – that is. More, I want warmed breads with local fat-full butter and a steaming hot soup.

With my CSA share (yes, folks, CSAs happen in the winter too! And it’s not ALL beets!), I’ve been able to explore some pretty amazing soups to help me through the cold days and warm me up after a long run. They also are great for freezing and moving forward in life with. Together.

The most recent soup adventure I went on was guided by my work place’s amuse-bouche. Before you start on your main meal (be that just an entrée, or an appetizer, too), the chefs come out and give you a gift from the kitchen to excite your palate: an amuse-bouche. Often a soup and some hot potato croquets, the amuse-bouche is a wonderful surprise and generous offer from the chefs of your meal.

They’ve been doing some potato-leek or parsnip soups as of late, and that just sounds splendid on chilly days. Rooty, nutty, rich, earthy; sustenance.

With the muse of my workplace, and the box of root vegetables sitting in the refrigerator, I took to a 400 degree oven with about seven parsnips, four carrots, one acorn squash, one onion, five cloves of garlic, seven potatoes, olive oil from Italy, truffle salt, pepper, and forty minutes.

On the stove’s top sat sixteen ounces of vegetable stock, ten ounces of water, two browned cloves of garlic, peanut oil, and sesame oil, with touches of salt and pepper. Simple seasonings, for simple goodness. Cliché? Sorry.

After forty minutes, the veggies (turned once during their stay in the warm oven) hopped into the veggie stock, and sat for another twenty minutes.

Armed with my masher (no immersion blender, yet!), I mashed my way through the squash, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic. A quick staycation in a blender with the help of about a quarter-cup of water per three cups of soup, made this soup a pureed dream.

Now, after only about an hour and fifteen, sits nearly ten cups of silky smooth, nutty (see: parsnips!), earthy (see: truffle salt!), slightly sweet (see: parsnips! Carrots! Squash!), umami based (see: sesame oil! Peanut oil!) soup with depth and a subtle burst of flavor.

In front of my third story window, looking out over the bare trees and setting sun’s light on the brownstones across the way, next to a window that lets just a small amount of fresh crisp frigid air in, I topped my steam-dancing soup with some parmesan and pepper and felt fully warm and content during the depths of winter.

Thanksgiving: The Day Cooks Love (Or Fear)

Text: “How was your fantastic food holiday”

Message: “I’ve been waiting for your post.”

Question: “So, what’d you eat on Thanksgiving?”

It might be just the American thing to do: ask about that holiday where we gorge ourselves and delight and laugh at the fullness we feel, let alone and sometimes separate from the satiation that is ubiquitous throughout homes warmed by ovens cooking turkey at 350 for 3-6 hours. Or, it might be the fact that I think about, talk about, write about, take pictures of food twentyfourseven. Whatever.

To answer those questions: My fantastic food holiday was splendid. It was wonderful and full of family (not all of my family, unfortunately, since we’re all spread out across the country trying to take over, but of course!) and friends and going to the grocery store and stocking up, and writing down lists and trying to time the cooking procedures just right and working well with Nancy in the kitchen and the oven not working the night before and making ice cream that might not be ice cream rather just frozen milk fats surrounding brandy… it was ridiculous.

Thanksgiving is such a strange holiday for me. It’s one of those days that I feel drawn to the home so that I can really flex my culinary muscles – it’s a day that centers around my passion, so why wouldn’t I love every second of it? I get to go to the grocery store, fight through the hoards of people in line for a turkey, go to the wine shop to pick out a nice red to couple well with those few sides that people may or may not focus on, then come home, blast the oven, turn on the open flame, and zone out to the sizzling, whispering, steaming food in front of me.

It’s also the holiday that I feel most comfortable being away from home, strangely enough. In the past 8 years, I’ve spent 4 of them abroad or away from the home. It’s a nice challenge, it’s a nice reminder of home, when it’s so far away.

But this year. THIS year. This YEAR! I’m home. I’m on the path to turning my kitchen official. I’m making money so that I can splurge on that nice cheese to make the squash casserole just that much deeper, that much better. This year was great.

On the menu, dear readers all anxiously awaiting:

Turkey Prepared according to Saveur’s recommendation (including letting the bird sit in the refrigerator for two days, to “dry out” the skin to create oh-so-moist meat)

Grandma Slappin’ Good Stuffing (non-vegetarian, folks)

Homemade, not-so-bitter Cranberry Sauce

Butternut Squash Bake (or casserole, whatever nomenclature you prefer)

Mashed Potatoes (mmm Half n’ Half abound!)

Not Slimey, Not Bitter, Not disgusting Collard Greens

Brussels Sprouts cooked in a Wok. Who knew?

Braised Carrots

Gravy (please pass the water glass, it’s that good)

No Biscuits… sad face emoticon

Rye Whiskey Ice Cream

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

Since the Recipes would take up another four pages, let me choose some of the favorites:

Nancy’s Stuffing:

It’s a secret, how annoying.

 

Collard Greens (that won’t make you run to the garbage)

In order of appearance

6 Strips of bacon

Cook these strips, cut in half, for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat

Olive Oil – a splash(ish)

2 big ol’ handfuls of Collards (they’ll cook down)

Salt  (to taste)

Pepper (enough so that you can see it on the collards)

1 package of chestnuts

1 White (or red) onion, chopped (or diced, whatever floats your life-vest)

Add all of this to the bacon, and let it cook together, over medium-low heat, for about 45 minutes. It won’t get too soggy, I promise (there’s no real liquid in there, remember)

Add a couple swigs of maple syrup 10 minutes before you’re done cooking the greens. More if you like them sweet, less if you like them not as sweet.

Total, the flame should be kissing the bottom of your cast iron (or other pan) for about an hour and five to an hour and ten minutes.

If you let them cool, and save some for tomorrow, then they’ll be even sweeter and more tender. Just sayin, they go quite nicely on a “next day sandwich.”