Monday, November 28, 2011

Post holiday cheer

Starting off the post Thanksgiving week with a light fresh salad --- my favorite combination right now, chopped romaine, waterkress, chopped apple, pomegranate seeds and some dried cranberry and home-made black cherry balsamic vinaigrette.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving palooza

On days like this, when you have deadlines but all you want to do is take a break, relax and spend endless time cooking an elaborate lavish pumpkin pie or infuse the house with the aroma of a perfectly roasted turkey, it is harder to stick to work. When the calls for sales and endless coupon emails start ending up in your inbox already well before Thanksgiving and both Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to be lumped into one big holiday season, it is difficult to not be scooped up in the holiday cheer. But then, why not? The bright lights of candles, silvery china and big shiny Christmas trees light up the world when nature is at its darkest. But, it is still back to work, a few more days.

happy thanksgiving break!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Farro Risotto with Red Kuri Squash and Lemon

This a flavorful variation on the butternut squash lemon risotto I cooked the other day. Instead of arborio rice, I used farro. Farro is a similar to wheatberries. Instead of butternut squash I used unpeeled red kuri squash, which has a firm orange colored flesh and rich flavor. “Farrotto” is similarly prepared as risotto but has a more nutty flavor.

Farro Risotto with Red Kuri Squash and Lemon (makes 2 serving)

  • 1/2 pound peeled red kuri squash, deseeded
  • about 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1/2 cup farro
  • 1 Tb dried or fresh lemon thyme
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • goat cheese crumbles

Cut the red kuri squash into small dice (1/3 of an inch).

In a small pot, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer. Heat the olive oil in larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute it, stirring them occasionally, until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook it until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the farro, red kuri squash, and lemon thyme. Stir  for about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and let it cook off for about 2 minutes. Add about a 1/2 cup of stock and cook, stirring it constantly and making sure to scrape around the sides, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Continue adding stock, a 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring almost constantly, until the farro grains are tender with a bit of bite, about 30 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and black pepper. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if needed. Stir in some Parmesan cheese before serving.

red_kuri farrotto

Treasures from the last summer farmers market

We were lucky this year, the weather was mild up until a few days ago but now it is how it normally is nearing Thanksgiving: a chilly cold making everyone bundle up at the farmers market. Today was the last opportunity to stock up on the essentials: sheep’s milk feta, beautiful lacinato kale, kuri squash, macoun apples and celeriac. Among other things,

Luckily, the first winter farmers market is in 3 weeks….


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Let the holiday season begin

It is hard to believe that in less than 2 weeks it is already Thanksgiving. After it, the first real snow and the christmas season are not too far. Nature provides some beautiful holiday decor this year.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Insanely good Turkey Gravy

Not too many more weeks before Thanksgiving, and recipes are abundant. This one deserves extra clipping. Very involved, but it will be really worth it.

Gourmet 2005

Insanely-Involved-But-Totally-Worth-It Gravy (origin)

  • Turkey neck and giblets from your bird
  • 3 additional turkey necks
  • 2 whole chickens (or 8 leg quarters)
  • Aromatics like carrot, onion, leek, etc., to taste (optional)
  • Kombu and/or dried shitake mushroom, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon flour, or as needed
  1. A couple of days in advance, make stock using the turkey neck, extra necks and whole chickens. Start by preheating the oven to 425°F. Roughly remove all of the skin and cut off the breast meat. It’s okay to do a quick and shoddy job of both—you're just making gravy.
  2. Salt the breasts liberally and refrigerate for later. Separate the chickens into their parts and cut the necks into 3-inch segments. Place everything in a large roasting pan along with the giblets and skin off to one side.
  3. Roast for 45 minutes or until a little past golden brown. Deglaze the roasting pan, fastidiously scraping all browned bits with a wooden spatula and add the precious liquid to a stock pot along with all the bones, meat and vegetables (if you’re using them) and enough water to cover. Bundle the skins in a cheesecloth and add to the pot. (Feel free to add dried shitake or kombu to the pot if you want extra umami.)
  4. Heat your stock on high until it reaches a simmer, then turn down to low and allow to just barely simmer for about 3 hours.
  5. Strain the stock carefully into a pot with a heavy bottom and a tight fitting lid—this is your gravy pot. Discard the remaining solids, but reserve your bundle of skin, placing in back in the gravy pot as well. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. The next day, skim off the fat that has congealed on top of your stock and reserve it to make a roux a bit later on. Reduce the remaining stock to the approximate desired quantity of gravy (probably down to 3 quarts, 2 for pouring and 1 for stuffing). Once the stock has come to a boil, add your chicken breasts, turn off heat and allow breasts to poach for 10 minutes. Remove the breasts and wrap them tightly in saran wrap. Resume reduction of stock—the chicken can be used later or as a backup in case you run out of turkey.
  7. Presumably, your turkey is in the gentle roasting process by now. Interrupt your turkey roasting just long enough to obtain the drippings, ideally in something sturdy like a tempered glass measuring cup. Put the drippings in the freezer to separate; you want to keep the fat and trash the water. Fastidiously deglaze the roasting pan, adding the contents to your gravy pot.
  8. Remove the skin bundle and blend with as much stock as needed to get the blender going, probably about a cup. Reserve the resulting skin puree.
  9. In a nonstick pan, warm about 2 ounces of turkey fat (or the skimmed chicken fat) with turkey drippings and once the fat is hot, add 1 tablespoon of flour per ounce of fat. Stir over low heat until golden brown then remove from heat.
  10. Adjust the gravy to your desired consistency using a combination of turkey fat roux and skin puree. The roux will thicken but may take a moment to materialize. The skin will add unctuousness.
  11. If desired, you can puree the giblets into the gravy, or reserve to add to your stuffing. Adjust gravy to desired flavor with salt, pepper and any other accent, like a splash of vermouth.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trader Joes adventure

You probably can relate to the feeling that if you do NOT have a Trader Joes in close proximity but have to drive a few hours: if you are in Trader Joes, you feel like taking everything in the store home. Yesterday was another one of those TJ adventures in Portland. I did not buy all those things, but my camera still took the old favorites and the newbies home.


Some of my favorites: Brussel sprouts on ‘the vine’, liberte red wine and spanakopita. And the newbies: pumpkin cheese cake anyone?  TJ_coll4T