Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Last Meal?

I was recently listening to KCRW's Good Food podcast whose focus mostly on Thanksgiving cooking, but there was a brief and touching segment in which callers described, in their own voices, their chosen last meal. I found it very poignant as well as quite thought provoking.

My last meal? Hard to say. I might let the good folks at Nuestra Cocina cook anything they wanted for me. I might ask for dosas from Chennai Masala. Or maybe my grandmother's beef brisket with baked potatoes and her tooth achingly sweet fruit salad.

If it were the last meal I ever cooked, well that's easy. I'd have my friend Laura join me once again to make buttery fresh corn tamales.

And what about you?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Things just didn't go that well for me on the biggest cooking holiday of the year here in the US. My apple crostata slumped and sagged while the shell for my maple cream pie was powdery above the filling and soggy underneath. I used slightly different dough recipes for each and both were off, so I'm blaming the flour rather than the recipes or the cook. Neither were inedible--we decided the crostata was too ugly for the Thanksgiving table and polished it off midday and the maple cream pie was silky and delicious despite its subpar crust. I thought there was too much nutmeg in the recipe and will cut way back next time because I want my maple cream pie to taste more like maple and not so much like eggnog but it was still quite delicious.

See how I started off talking about dessert? That's just like me.

The dinner itself was fine. I made a kosher turkey with cornbread stuffing, sweet potato kugel, mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower, challah rolls, and fruit salad. I'm not much of a meat eater so the whole process of cooking a giant bird makes me a bit queasy and I end up eating one slice of breast meat and moving on to the other dishes. The reality is I like cooking meat even less than I like eating it and I'd be perfectly happy with a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

We had lots of leftovers. I put the turkey carcass in my huge stockpot with onions, celery, and carrots to make turkey stock which I put to good use last night. Our Shabbat dinner included lots of Thanksgiving leftovers along with a Greek style egg-lemon soup using some of that rich turkey stock. The Picky Ones declared it "weird" and focused on the potatoes, but everyone was up for dessert, an old favorite from Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook by Anya von Bremzen. This cookbook is a delightful tour of the cuisines of the former Soviet Union. I have used many of the recipes over the years and it's also great reading.
The apple charlotte is very simple and thus only as good as the apples you use. The spouse brought home some beauties the other day and they shone in this recipe in which piles and piles of chopped apple are bound together in a light, eggy batter scented with vanilla, and cinnamon. This isn't a fancy dish--no one will be impressed at its appearance. But it has a rustic sort of no-fail charm about it which felt comforting after my recent dessert disasters. And, I happen to know, leftover apple charlotte makes a fine breakfast. The recipe is here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Something a Bit Different

I had so been looking forward to cooking a huge meal this week to serve on the turkey plates. However, given recent events I thought it might be wise to call off the extended family and have a simpler Thanksgiving with just the five of us.

The turkey has been ordered and the leftovers will surely be used. I won't make nearly the number of dishes I usually do and I can skip gravy altogether because none of us actually like it. Mashed potatoes, a sweet potato kugel, green salad and some fruit should round out the meal. We'll eat early and then, much later, dessert, allowing me to work around the whole meat/dairy separation thing. I've never found a good dairy-free pie crust and dessert just needs butter as far as I'm concerned. Luckily we won't be joined by Orthodox Jews who would rightfully shriek in horror at this extremely loose interpretation of kashrut but it works for us. I'm hoping to give this a try along with a tasty apple crostata a friend recently introduced me to.

A recipe recently caught my eye in Julie Sahni's Savoring India, a giant glossy coffee table book I found at our library. Apparently there is a South Indian fruit which is enough like a cranberry that immigrants to the US have happily made the substitution. I gave it a try today and didn't even feel like I was cheating on orders to rest. The cranberry chutney couldn't be easier--a bag of cranberries and few spices. I'm looking forward to perking up my Thanksgiving table with this, enjoying a little something spicy and fresh alongside my turkey. The recipe is here.

Cranberry Chutney Update: the chutney might not make it to my Thanksgiving table as it turns out (unsurprisingly) to be a splendid topper for uppma and I've been "sampling" enough that there's not much left!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

It's the End of the World as We Know It......

I don't think I ever would have known about this had the good folks at The Jew and the Carrot not pointed it out. Wow. It's not like pancakes are hard to make. "Just point, blast and cook". Oy.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cold-Fighting Chickpea Curry

Most sick people, it seems, want simple food: broths and juice, nothing too complicated or taxing for a body already fighting invaders. Not me! When I have a head cold all I want is food that's hot and spicy. I can't taste it unless it's highly spiced, but there are good reasons for spicing up the sickroom food: onions, garlic, and chiles are all great for the immune system.

Spicy chickpeas with tomato over rice is a perfect cold-fighting dish. The tomatoes provide lots of vitamin C, the onions and garlic have antiviral properties, and cumin, coriander, and turmeric boost the immune system. All that spice clears the head quite effectively, too!

I got the recipe from a friend who copied it out of her favorite Indian cookbook for me. I had to adjust to what I had on hand (no more fresh chiles, alas). While it hasn't cured my cold yet, it was a delicious dinner and an even better breakfast reheated.

I think the only reason I got this darned cold is because I've failed to brew up a fresh batch of The Tonic yet. Clearly that needs to happen before we get much further into cold season.