It’s hard to talk about a salad. The leaves will inevitably wilt by the time I can think of something clever to say. Sometimes, their simplicity is betrayed by a lengthy narrative. I can only talk about a salad by how it found me.
This salad found me by way of a random recipe – or rather, a suggestion of a recipe I saw online, a glimpse of potential that manifested in a complex and comforting wintry dish: chunks of pistachios and honeyed dates with crisp watercress support a warm and gingery mix of pears and parsnip. I think it’s a contender for my Christmas dinner.
I’m currently obsessing over watercress. There were some bags of baby kale at Whole Foods the last time I was there but I hesitated to buy it because the bag would require me to eat nothing but kale salads for the remainder of the week. I’m kind of a flimsy salad devotee. For me, a salad necessitates some warm soup, or crusty bread, or a heavy pasta. Or all of the above. God forbid someone serves me iceberg lettuce.
One day I’m going to enjoy eating iceberg lettuce again but I think I am too underwhelmed with my history of terrible salad bars and equally depressing “house” salads.
Ginger Pear and Parsnip Salad
2 small parsnips, cut into strips
1 small pear, sliced thinly
1 ts finely grated ginger, I used my trusty Microplane
1 TB olive oil
1 bunch of watercress
2 ts chopped pistaschios
4 dates, deseeded and chopped
3 ts olive oil
1 ts sherry vinegar
Salt & Pepper
+ Mix oil and vinegar in advance.
+Heat olive oil in a skillet and brown the parsnip with 1/2 of the grated ginger until they are tender to the fork. Remove the parsnip from the skillet and repeat with the pears. Do not overcook, unless you like your fruit soft. I prefer them a bit on the crisp side so I cooked it on medium heat for only about 3 minutes. Place the parsnip back into the pan to keep them warm while you mix your salad.
+Toss the watercress, pistachios, and dates in dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Put warm parsnip and pear on top and serve immediately.
The weather has been terrible here. By that I mean my relationship with the weather here is on a hiatus. I’ve been cooped up with my frozen claws clinging to keyboard and mouse. Sometimes walking by my neighbor’s flowerbox brings a bit of serenity. There are strawberries in there! I used to watch each lil’ one because you can always tell when someone’s about to have SOMA strawberries – though I overheard the owner telling a friend that he would personally NEVER eat one of those berries.
The plants are so happy they are oozing out of every corner.I can see the mint peeking (or escaping?) out of the underbelly of its wooden home. I miss the outdoors and its sunny side of nature. I miss real jungles because my jungle is made of concrete and concrete trucks.
If only you could see my neighborhood right now… it’s a prefect image of irony with construction cranes and continual homelessness. The only other thing that’s beautiful and innocent is the colony of bees on my roof. Did you know? We have a beehive, and their honey tastes like fennel. I’m certain that they eat nothing but fennel nectar. Sometimes, the bees fly down onto my balcony and they have a go at my lavender blossoms or rosemary flowers. Worker bees are really cute and I encourage everyone to set up beehives because they are so inspiring to watch.
I have a parsnip salad i’m working on for monday and another brussel sprouts hash somewhere in there if I get motivated enough to poach eggs. Really, I just want to write about tea and cookies. It’s ripe for discussion now that I wear nothing but blankets. Here are some of my favorite internet finds this week, the theme is “What a Foodie Wants for Christmas”…
+ A foodie needs chocolate – shaped like baguettes.
+ A foodie would want this mouse warming pad to keep her hands warm while editing photos. I kid… really though , I’ve been looking for this forever and I found it when I searched for “heated mouse” on google. FTW!
+ A foodie would want to serve his/her drinks in a beautiful dispenser… because you can’t survive on edibles alone. Sometimes, there are libations!
+ Foodies would want yet another board to serve cheese or fruit on. There’s never enough wooden boards. Ever.
+ A foodie wants a little cup. Sure, they might serve you espresso… or some kind of amuse-bouche but who cares? It’s adorable!
+ A foodie would want a vintage cookbook. Especially if it’s French!
+ A foodie can make a lovely winter stew with ceramic casseroles! You know you love stews.
+ A foodie needs a custom made doggie mug of their actual dog. Wait what?
Granola. The word crunchy comes to mind, like walking on fresh fallen snow-covered leaves.
Breakfasting on granola is a contemplative effort because granola doesn’t try to please, it definitely doesn’t sound pretty, and it certainly is not polite. I have resisted granola because I am vegetarian, partially because I don’t like to be placed into comfortable categories that makes me “like to eat” certain fares. I’m talking about you kale! However, I did make this granola. Worst yet, I even gave some of it away – jars of it in tidy boxes by means of jet fuel . I think that makes our relation at least amicable?
I used to think granola was a specifically summer thing. It’s refreshing with cold milk and not nearly as comforting as warm Irish oats or creamed wheat. However. However, I think warm milk is amazing. Also, there’re all sorts of milk that deserves experimentation and attention, like flax milk, or rice milk and almond …. I digress.
Granola. This granola, my granola, comes from a series of experiments and standing in grocery aisles staring at plain cereals. How I came to bags of puffed millet I can’t exactly recall but I think it was in Atlanta in some organic grocer, the kind that carries seeds that most people feed to birds. I put those in my granola too. I like birds.
This recipe is “safe”. I’ve thrown in many things and it comes out perfectly well-adjusted to its new composites. I like to think that when it’s time to clean out my pantry of all the grains, all the nuts and seeds, and all the dried up bits of fruit, I can make something like this to share and eat on mornings when I don’t feel like poaching eggs.
1 c pistachio
1/2 c pepitas ( I like the raw green looking kind)
2 c puffed millet
1 c rolled oats
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1/2 c flax seeds
1/2 c hemp seeds
1/2 c honey (Can use maple syrup if vegan, but granola will be less clumpy)
1/4 c refined sesame oil (this has more nutty flavored than the heated oils)
1/2 ts vanilla sea salt
1/2 ts ground cinnamon
1/2 ts ground cardamom
1 ts almond extract
1 ts orange extract
1 c dried raisins or dates
+ Preheat oven to 320F
+ Mix the wet and dry mix in separate bowls. Combine the two mixes an spread onto a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
+ Place into heated oven and stir every 10 minutes. The granola is done in about 25-30 minutes. do not overcook. You should have a crumbly sheet of granola.
+ Toss the dried fruit on top of the granola and allow to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.
I like the idea of sending away Christmas Cookies and Summer Jams in the fall… I find it’s generally well received and I select new recipients every year based on some random equation I have in my head. It is that time of the year after all – but I’m not talking about Christmas per se… but the magical cusp of Thanskgiving and Christmas that makes sparkles appear in the air, nearly everyone is kind and loving and happy to one another. It makes the winter and general cold weather maladies a bit more bearable.
Sending a package across the country is akin to sending off a little piece of oneself. For me, this little act takes a lot of time, mostly in meditation about the various alchemy of materials, the perfect proportions of jars to one another on a bed of shredded Aspen, or their intended recipient and the way they might react when in holding that particular jar.
I’m highly affected by these imaginary thoughts and the shipping task consume me a bit more than necessary because I insist on making the gifts I ship. On few occasions I will buy some small items – like local honey or a bag of walnuts. For this particular package, I chose two Bay Area honey varieties for a good friend of mine in hopes of moving her here in the near future. Honey is a good thing for bribing. I also make my own labels using a cute stamp set of an evergreen, a tiny owl, and letter sets. They appear all over my jars and gifts, though my new found treasure in gift packing is the use of real nuts and aspen shavings. They give it a special warm touch… rather than synthetic packing peanuts or plastic wrapping bubbles. They cost a little more, but the nuts are edible, and you can compost/recycle the aspen. They also look great.
Recipe for 1 Care Package
1 Jar of Maple Apple Butter
A handful of walnuts
I also like this list of ideas for wrapping all of those gifts I need to make/buy.
Are you feeling overstuffed yet? Do your stomach a favor and try a digestif. I’ve already mentioned my favorite – the ginger-Fernet Elixer. This drink is a more Christmas colored digestif with a very different flavor palate and a syrupy sweetness. This is a simply fabulous drink to serve just for its bright red colors. It’s very close to a Manhattan but has lovely rosemary and cinnamon flavors. When you bring the drink to your nose, be sure to take a moment to smell the nice cinnamon aroma.
I would suggest using frozen cranberries and pomegranate seeds for garnish. In my taste-testing, most people thought it was too syrupy, so I’ve decreased the sugar to my liking – you should do the same. It also tastes great with a splash of bitters.
I took the photo above by shooting through my fingers. I’ve been wanting to try it and the light colors bending around my fingers give it all a rosy effect. Exactly how I felt after imbibing in all of my cocktails.
Get the recipe here. Be sure to try it with less sugar in the syrup. I used about 2/3 of the recommended sugar.
Thanksgiving is the one time of year when it’s acceptable to overeat, because most hosts/hostesses consider it rude to not eat at least two plates of food. I’m full from testing recipes for a week, so I was really excited to get to try out some digestives I found online. This is my first of two.
There was a time when I was unconvinced that digestives were capable of working magic on distended bellies, but they really do. I tested this out by eating two full meals and drinking one ginger-Fernet midnight reviver. It worked wonders. There’s a nice warming sensation from the ginger’s heat and if you are like most San Franciscans, you love Fernet.
This is no child’s drinks – there’s an adequate amount of gin and the first sip is like stepping into a really cold shower or taking a full swallow of alka seltzer. As the ice melts and the ginger settles your indigestion, the drink mellows out and you’ll want a second it’s so remedial.
Get the recipe* here.
*You can tweak this to have less ginger if you juice it yourself… mine was very strong and adjusting the recipe for more sugar and gin, and lime made it more cocktail-like.
If there’s one thing missing in my life, it would have to be pecan trees. I remember when I would pick them around this time of year in Tennessee – bags and bags of fallen nuts, free to pick and eat. I’d eat one pecan for every two shelled. It was the good (and nutty) life.
Pecans are much more expensive than most other nuts in the Bay Area, so I tend to buy walnuts, but they lack that maple-like flavor that pecans naturally possess. Pecans are also easier to shell. I’ve purchased a bag of fresh walnuts and a bag of fresh chestnuts, and I’ve already punctured myself once trying to obtain chestnuts. Self-injury is no way to start a recipe. I’m waiting for a slower day to attack the walnuts but they look so monstrous compared to the thin-shelled pecans.
Pecan vs. sweet potato pie is another Thanksgiving dilemma I am always trying to resolve, which brings me to this leafy tart. It’s inspired by a pistachio frangipane tart I saw in Brooklyn’s One Girl Cookies recipe book. I knew I had to try making it with sweet potatoes and pecans – two pies in one! I’m a sucker for beautiful presentatiosn so I wanted to make something reminiscent of fall with bright orange leaves laying on earthy frangipane. It would be like eating an edible forest floor that was covered in magic dessert fairy syrup.
This is my first time making the dish, so it was not perfect. I didn’t poach the sweet potatoes enough – they were still rather hard and chewy. This is a fairly simple fix so I’m pretty stoked about making this centerpiece for Thanksgiving.
1 1/2 c flour
1 TB sugar
1/2 ts salt
8 TB very cold butter, cubed
3 TB iced water
1 egg yolk
1/2 c shelled pecans
1/4 c sugar
zest of 1 orange
Poached Sweet Potatoes
Juice & rind of 1 orange
1/2 ts cardamom
1/2 ts cinnamon
pinch of allspice
pinch of nutmeg
1 c sugar
2 c water
+ Prepare the crust by pulsing flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter cubes and pulse until coarse crumbles are the size of peas. Whisk together ice water and egg yolk in a separate bowl. Add to food processor and pulse until dough holds its shape. Place dough onto a floured surface and work it into a 5″ disk. Wrap tightly with saran and place into the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
+ Next, prepare the poaching liquid. Bring orange rind, juice, spices, and 2 cups of water to a boil then turn off. Slice sweet potatoes as thinly as possible. Mine were about 1/16″. I did not use the mandolin because the potato was too large and I had chosen them for the width of my leaf cookie cutter. Use a metal cookie cutter, cut leaf shapes out of the thin slices of sweet potatoes. Sometimes, this is easier if you turn the sharp edge up, and place the potato onto the edge. Roll your pastry roller over the cookie cutter like you would to cut a tart pastry shell.
+ Bring your syrup back to a boil and poach the leaves for at least 4/5 minutes depending on the thickness of your leaves. I only poached mine for two minutes but it was not enough. Allow the potatoes to sit in syrup while you make the frangipane paste.
+ Turn on your oven to 350F
+ Prepare the frangipane in your food processor by pulsing pecans and sugar for about 1 minute. Add orange zest and butter, pulsing until well combined. Add egg and pulse until mixture is well combined. If you like your nuts coarse, this could be finished by hand in a small bowl.
+ Drain leaves* from syrup and arrange them in a circular fashion on top of the tart. Place 3 pecan halves in the center of the tart.
+ Drizzle two tablespoons over the sweet potatoes and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Rotate the tart and cover with foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes.
* The leaves should be very soft at this point… they will dry out with baking so do not hesitate to cook them a bit more. I’ve served this to a few people who did not think the leaves were undercooked, but you want to bake these with soft leaves that can stand a bit of drying out.
Day 5 of my 7 Days of Thanksgiving posting brings you Grilled Cabbage with Lemons – I can hardly think of a better $2 well spent. I can’t remember when the tradition started, but I’ve always liked making cabbage in its various guises for Thanksgiving. It’s so easy to prep, and I never fret about “messing it up” because it’s 2/$1 at my corner store. It’s purely peasant fare and tends to be overlooked this time of year when everyone makes such concerted efforts to impress. This dish is not the typical cabbage soup of Russian winters or a pickled kraut to sit aside sausages. It’s more like a crispy salad that cleanses your palate so you can feel a little lighter after two plates of heavy food.
I made this a few years ago during my first Thanksgiving in San Francisco. It was the first time I had access to a charcoal grill on turkey day so I turned my typical cabbage dish – shredded and sauteed with pine nuts and soy sauce – into this simple grilled affair. It looked curious and vibrant on the table next to brown casseroles and mashes but it was devoured completely by the end of the night. I had a request for the dish the second year so I think this is my new Thanksgiving specialty. I especially love how quickly this dish comes together in about 15 minutes.
I wanted to test this out on the stove and in the oven since the grill is not an option for everyone and it fried up perfectly on my skillet. I tried the broiler first but it took way too long, but the skillet managed to “grill” the wedges of my giant cabbage in 10 minutes. Not bad. You can also pre-cut and oil the wedges in advance, but it takes no more than a minute for the minimal prep.
Grilled Cabbage with Lemon
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Salt, Pepper, and Olive Oil
+ Slice cabbage into 1.5″ thick wedges and brush liberally with olive oil. Dust salt and pepper onto the cabbage wedges and grill them on a skillet or hot grill until cabbage start to wilt. They will be slightly burned yet still crunchy. Squeeze lemon onto the wedges and serve immediately.
Day 4 of my 7 Days of Thanksgiving posting brings you my main dish! I underestimated my time for this so I brought out a soft box to take some nighttime photos, but I’m not happy with them at all. I hope I make it through to Thanksgiving day. Making/posting everyday is very hard, and I applaud anyone who does that. Pheeewwwwwwww. Did I mention this dish is vegan?
Feeding Vegans can be difficult this time of year. Last year, I made Peter Berley’s roasted seitan but it was quickly eaten by meat eaters who thought it looked like meat – they also thought it was great (I kindly informed them that they had two turkeys and ham, so please stop). This year, I’m making this sausage stuffed squash and hiding it. I tested these on the meat eating men of the household and they approved. Paul even had a second one – he thought it tasted like meat. I migh tadd some celery to this stuffing so I’ll let you know after Thanksgiving how it goes!
I’m not being paid for this endorsement, but here it is. Buy this sausage. I eat it all the time sautéed with kale, garlic and red chili flakes, but now I’m using it as a meaty stuffing. It’s perfectly seasoned and sticky. Wonderful vegetarian products like this is great for thanksgiving when you don’t need to make everything from scratch. Save your efforts for gravy.
Also, I must say, I’m tired of quinoa stuffed acorn squash or anything like healthy grains. It ‘s Thanksgiving! I need something heavy and ridiculous because there’s a digestive that needs to be fed (Wednesday’s Post). The mushroom level in this recipe is a must. If you have to give up eating meat, dairy, and eggs, this is a good way to go.
Vegan Sausage and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash with Mushroom Gravy
6 mini acorn squashes or 3 regular acorn squash, halved and deseeded
1 Gimme Lean Sausage Style (don’t get ground beef style)
1 lb mixed mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 TB sage, chopped
1 spring of thyme, chopped
1/2 c coarse bread crumbs
+ Soak dried mushroom in hot water for gravy recipe.
+ Preheat oven to 350. Brush squash with melted butter and sprinkle a little salt onto the cut flesh. Fill a casserole dish or pyrex pan with 1/2″ water and placed squash cut side up. Bake for 30 minutes.
+ Meanwhile, make the sausage stuffing. Sautee the onion, garlic, and herbs until onions are tender. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Depending on how large your mushrooms are cut, this might take more than 15 minutes. I don’t let them get too soft because they add to the texture of the stuffing. The less tender they are, the more contrast to your stuffed squash.
+ Mix the cooked mushroom mixture with the Gimme Lean sausage and breadcrumbs. I think a stand mixer might be useful. I did this with my hand, but I couldn’t do anything else until that was thoroughly mixed.
+ Remove the squash from the oven and evenly distribute the stuffing amongst the halves.
+ Bake uncovered in the oven while you finish the gravy. The stuffed squash should be ready by the time the gravy is finished. Check the internal temperature – it should be around 160 degrees.