Archive | November 2013

Thanksgiving Part 2 – Thanksgivukkah

The Main Meal: Since there is only one of me, I decided on a relatively simple main meal: Roasted veggies, challah-apple stuffing, and cranberry sauce. All of this was served with a Beaujolais (an excellent holiday wine, as its light, easily drinkable, and goes well with food).

Thanksgiving meal

Roasted veggies are super easy. I went with a pretty golden-themed root veggies, but you can roast nearly anything. Chop up 1 golden beet (fairly small), a yellow yukon potato, and two carrots. Toss in salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 400 until they are all tender. While still hot, put the cooked veggies into a bowl and toss with some white wine vinegar. One piece of advice – beets often take longer to cook than potatoes or carrots, so chop them smaller – that way everything will be done at the same time.

Traditionally, and also within my family, stuffing is made with cornbread, and includes things like celery. I dislike cornbread and celery. This year, however, was special, because it was Thanksgivukkah! The start of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincided this year, creating the new holiday of Thanksgivukkah. Which means new and exciting foods! My best friend sent me a list of Thanksgivukkah foods, and one immediately made it onto my list of things to cook for Thankgivukkah: Challah-apple stuffing. Not that I used their recipe – I made a few improvements. Chop a 1/4 loaf of challah into roughly 1 inch pieces, and stick them in a bowl. Mince 3 cloves of garlic and slice 1 small leek (the white parts). Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a frying pan, then add the garlic and leeks. Saute a bit, then add one green apple, chopped, 8-10 sage leaves, chopped, and 2 pinches of dried thyme. Saute all together until done. Add the mix to the challah, then add 1 cup of vegetable broth. Mix it all together, than pack into a baking dish – I used my two mini-loaf pans. Bake at 400 for about 20 min, or until lightly brown on top.

Cranberry sauce: Bring 1/2 water to boil. Add 6 tablespoons of sugar and 1 cup fresh cranberries. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened and looks/tastes good, about 15 minutes.

Dessert: For dessert was one of my all-time favorite things ever – Apple pie! I mastered apple pies for Thanksgiving when I was eight, and have made them for the family (or myself) every year since then. However, the recipe is my secret, so you will simply have to muddle through without it. Sorry – but a girl’s gotta have some secrets.

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Wherein we have a holiday revolving entirely around food

Thanksgiving has long been one of my all time favorite holidays. Its about food. Namely, cooking and eating a giant amazing meal. My little internal historian is forcing me to mention that the Pilgrims did not come to Massachusetts to escape religious persecution, they came for economic opportunities, like everyone else, and to avoid the Dutchification of their little group. Also, they were not the first European settlers in what is now the US (they weren’t even the first English, not to mention there were, you know, already millions of people living here). On the plus side, Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday during the Civil War, so that makes it all better. Ok – now that that’s out of my system. For all intents and purposes, Thanksgiving is a standard harvest feast. Which, in my opinion, is awesome.

The one annoying thing about Thanksgiving is that people get very confused as to how it works for vegetarians. People have this weird idea that one cannot have Thanksgiving without eating turkey. Which is silly. My family would change our Thanksgiving menu every year, and it was always always good, and always fun to cook. This year for Thanksgiving, my family was all scattered, so I decided to have my own Thanksgiving feast of one in my apartment. I cooked all morning, making everything from scratch  (of course) and had my dinner at the slightly odd time of 2:30. So here is a breakdown of my Thankgiving meal. Also, part of my Thanksgiving music playlist: “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” by Arlo Guthrie, and PDQ Bach’s “The Seasonings.”

Appetizers: Crackers and cheese. Simple, I know, but easy to snack on while everything is finishing cooking in the oven. I had two types of cheese, goat cheese brie and Irish cheddar, with some apple slices and a glass of Riesling.

The Salad Course

winter salad

Basic winter salad of my own design. Spring lettuce mix, with crumbled gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries, and little sections of tangerine. For the dressing, I simply chopped up some garlic, added salt, pepper, white wine vinegar, and olive oil, mixed them all together, and spooned it onto the salad. Served with a light white wine.

Khachapuri!

One of the great things about working in the field of international relations, is that a number of my coworkers are from different countries, and everyone has traveled to interesting places. As a result, one day at lunch, one of my coworkers, who is from Georgia (the country, not the state) started talking about the different types of Georgian cheese breads – in particular one that was basically a bread boat filled with cheese mixed with egg. I was instantly enamored of the concept, and needed to make it for myself. Sadly, she was not able to give me a recipe, so it was left to the internet to teach me how to make it.

The recipe I found was this: Adjarian khachapuri. Since this was an experiment in foods that are incredibly bad for you, I decided to make only 1 cheese bread, and adjusted the recipe accordingly.

1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons water
1 package yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour

Heat the milk and water together. Once it’s warm, add the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to give the yeast time to start bubbling. Then add the melted butter and an egg. Mix all the liquids with the flour. Knead until elastic, then let rise for and hour or two.

Meanwhile, make the cheese filling.
1-2 cups shredded cheese
1 egg
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped

In theory, you are supposed to use some kind of Georgian cheese called sulguni. There was no way I was going to search around for it. So I used a combination of shredded mozzarella and goat gouda (which, for the record, is incredible stuff). Mix the shredded cheese with an egg. I also decided to add in a bunch of chopped garlic, cause why not? You can also add parsley, but I didn’t have any.

Once the dough the dough has finished rising, you are ready to roll it out. Rather than make a very large cheese boat, I divided the dough in half to make two medium-sized cheese boats. Regardless, take the amount of dough you want to use, and roll it into the shape of a football (American football, not soccer football). Place the cheese filling in the middle. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling so it looks like a boat. Bake in the oven at 400 for 15-20 min. you can add a raw egg to mix in at this point or not. I didn’t because only so much artery-clogging I can do in one recipe.

khachapuri

Eat it while it is still warm. The cheese was less goopy than its supposed to be, but I was totally ok with that. You can eat it by itself,  or, do what I did, which is eat it with slices of tomato, and a glass of riesling. I know, riesling is usually considered the ankle tattoo of wines. But – it’s not always sickeningly sweet – you can get really good medium-dry rieslings, which I am quite fond of. Regardless, if you like cheese and bread, try khachapuri – it is truly amazing.

Turnovers – all the flavors of fall wrapped in pastry

Well, not actually all the flavors of fall. There are no apples or halloween candy in this dish. But headlines don’t need to be 100% factually accurate (at least that’s what I’ve learned from years of reading the news) so yeah fall turnovers. Sometimes, my dishes aren’t actually inspired by a holiday or a story. I searched my trusty Greens cookbook, saw butternut squash turnovers and was like “sold!” Although I did make this recipe while dancing around my kitchen listening to Beyonce (yes, even I listen to that sometimes).

Part 1: Pastry dough. You kind of want to make this earlier than later, because then the butter will get all streaky and incorporated into the dough better. Pastry crust is flour, salt, butter, and water, in varying amounts. Usually I go for a rough 3:1 rule. Three times as much flour and butter. Pinch of salt. Cut flour into flour/salt mix. You can use a fork, but a pastry cutter is way easier. Add water slowly until the dough comes together.  But this is a rough approximation, and if you are a pastry dough novice – find a solid recipe you trust and try that first. There are a million different ways of making pastry crust, but the two most important tips are: add enough butter so that the dough can almost stick together without the addition of water. The other is add water a little bit at a time so that you add only just enough to combine. Too much water ruins dough. Be careful with water! Set aside till the filling is done.

Part 2: The Filling. The original recipe was just called for butternut squash and seasonings, but I had some wilting kale that was in the “use it or dump it” phase of existence. So I used it.  Chop the butternut squash into chunks, coat with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast at 400 til tender. While the squash is roasting, saute diced (as in smaller than chopped) onions and garlic in olive oil. Add kale and saute for a while. Add a bit of wine and some dried thyme and continue cooking until most of the liquid has cooked off and the kale is done. Now, the recipe called for white wine, but I already had a bottle of red open, so I used that instead – it turned the onions and garlic into a pretty pink color!  Add the roasted squash and mix it all together.

The pretty fall colored filling!

The pretty fall colored filling!

Part 3: Assemble and Bake. Divide your dough into balls, and roll them out into rough circles. My old roommate accidentally acquired my rolling pin and never gave it back. Two years later I still haven’t bought a new one. But you can use a wine bottle instead  if you don’t have a rolling pin. Put some filling on one side, and seal them. If the turnover won’t close, add a little bit of water to the edges to help. Place finished turnovers (they should be shaped like a half moon) and bake at 400 until the dough is light brown.

the less pretty finished product

the less pretty finished product

Part 4: Eat! Enjoy with a glass of that wine you just cooked with, or really whatever. The nice thing is that these are a fairly completely meal all by themselves, so you don’t really need too much else. Makes it a great lunch to pack for work as a result. Also – the pastry crust will be less flaky if you reheat it in a microwave. One of my coworkers swears by his toaster oven. I don’t have the counter-space to buy one, so I just reheat in the microwave anyways.

Cheesy Bread – a beautiful marriage

The second I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. I enjoy making yeast breads, and have had great success making cheesy biscuits. But cheese bread? Absolutely necessary. But like happens, and a balance of healthy and unhealthy foods needs to be achieved, so it took a few weeks before I put plan into action. But I finally did, and the result was both glorious and addictive.

so yummy.

so yummy.

For once I used a straight-forward recipe Cheesy Puff Pull Apart Bread although I did make a few adjustments

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 envelope yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 egg
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (grated)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, salt and yeast, and stir to mix. In a small saucepan heat milk and 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat until butter is just melted, then add water. Add milk mixture to the flour and stir to combine (either with dough hooks or a spoon). Add the egg and 3-4 ounces of the grated cheese. Knead (dough should be slightly sticky) and let rise for 1 hour. It is important to use sharp cheese – cheddar or something else strong. Cooking cheese mellows it out, so if you want the cheese flavor to come through, make sure you start with a fairly intense cheese.

The assembly is the only part that sounded tricky to me, but its easy. Roll out with dough into a large rectangle/square thing. The exact size and shape doesn’t really matter too much. Brush with butter, then sprinkle with cheese. Cut into strips, and layer them on top of each other.

layer the dough like so

layer the dough like so

Than cut the giant pile into six square-ish pieces and stick them sideways in a loaf pan. See – easy.

The result was amazingly delicious. It really was something I just kept eating, because a couple pieces was never enough. In theory you can pull apart this bread, and for the most part that was true. However, sometimes the pieces were a bit too large, and so they needed to be sliced in half. But that’s just me being nit-picky. I just ate the bread with butter, but it would probably taste good with jam, or apples too.