After days of chopping and peeling and cooking and freezing, Thanksgiving finally arrived, and all the preparations gave way to thawing and warming and roasting and serving. As our family was coming in during the day, the appetizers made their entrance, just the ticket to keep everyone sufficiently satiated until dinner. The onion dip with cracked pepper was heated to almost bubbly, we took the chill off the eggplant and white bean puree, and the creamy herb dip punched up raw veggies.
It’s been a busy – and productive – week since my Thanksgiving post last week. Since then, my nice, neat dining room with some stacked dishes and serving pieces has turned into Thanksgiving Supply Central. We’ve added wine, a large coffee maker, paper goods, and food from the first trip to the grocery store.
On the cooking side, I’ve finished making the squash soup (and froze 2 large batches) and I made one sweet potato torte (see recipe below) and froze it yesterday as a test. I’ve never frozen the torte before, but thought if I could make it early, it would free up precious oven time on Thursday. I’m going to thaw it tomorrow and if holds its consistency after it’s warmed up, my experiment will have worked, which means I’ll make the other one this weekend and freeze that one, too.
My kids say that if you know nothing else about me, you know I’m fanatical about Thanksgiving. From the time I could pull up a chair next to the stove where my mom was cooking, I’ve been totally enchanted with the pomp and circumstance of this one day. Food, family, football. Did I say food?
Growing up, the production of putting on Thanksgiving was a fascinating home movie for me. I watched mom’s every move – planning the menu at the kitchen table; making a grocery list; pulling out the good dishes, the good silver, the tablecloth. I went food shopping with her, and helped with whatever I could handle. She prepared the food the day before and the day of. It was a traditional menu (turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows, green bean casserole, etc.), and although she doesn’t consider herself a gourmet cook, her food was absolutely delicious and the holiday table looked beautiful.
Well, I guess it’s my turn to be a little under the weather. I thought my allergies were kicking into high gear again. I do, after all, live on what used to be swampland in southeastern Pennsylvania. What I thought were allergies turned into what I thought was a cold. Sneezing, watery eyes, you know. A day later, what I thought was a cold turned into sinusitis. Blecchhh.
It’s been fall for about a month and it’s starting to get a little cooler here in Philadelphia, but I’m not quite ready to make soups and stews just because the calendar says so. I still want to keep summer going (and… my neighbor was kind enough to give me some of the last of his basil), so I thought, how about some basil ice cream? The chef who taught the culinary techniques course I took last year treated the class to basil ice cream one night and it was absolutely – and unexpectedly – delicious.
Sometimes things have a way of working out perfectly. When it happens once, it’s great, but when it happens a second time, we cheer up and down and high-five and are generally grinning ear to ear. After much talk last year about going to New York, my friend Jennifer and I finally got there last August. That first girls’ food day began with a long walk to see Eataly (http://www.eataly.com/) and ended with dinner at The National (http://www.thenationalnyc.com/). We spent a few hours walking through the maze of Eataly’s marketplace and ate lunch there. We checked out Fishs Eddy (www.fishseddy.com), a vintage-y kitchen shop with everything from old-time open stock china and flatware to dishes, glassware, barware, kitchen utensils, and more. Kitschy and cute and great deals. Had we driven to New York, the trunk of the car would’ve been filled. We toted our packages at least 25 blocks to midtown and finished our day with a terrific dinner at hip, quasi-casual The National.
So how did we top last year’s trip? For starters, after we got the confirming email for tickets for the Oct. 3rd taping of The Chew, we went into planning mode. Jennifer got us a reservation at Barbuto; she also suggested a shopping tour of Chelsea Market, an idea I loved since I’ve never been there. And, as if we really needed an big dinner (with a lot of food) after the amazing lunch we were going to have, I pitched Bar Americain, one of our favorites. (OK, the tuna tartare was calling. Can you blame me?)
My friend Jennifer and I spent several hours on a recent afternoon at the popular Chelsea Market (http://www.chelseamarket.com/) in New York.
The architecturally stunning building (inside and out) that’s home to this indoor food fair has undergone several transformations from the original National Biscuit Company complex in the 1890s. Its rich history includes production of such classics as Oreos, Saltines, Mallomars, Barnum’s Animal Crackers and Fig Newtons. The massive ovens of old were replaced with newer ovens and then moved to other locations. In their place are two buildings that house tech companies, the offices of the Food Network, and on the bottom floor, the stores and restaurants that comprise Chelsea Market.
The peaches and nectarines we picked a couple of weeks ago are long gone, so I gathered up the measly few Ginger Gold apples left from my Highland Orchards adventures and decided to make a batch of apple butter. Clearly underestimating how long the fresh-picked fruit would last, I high-tailed it back to the orchard to get more apples and check out the raspberries (about a week too early). I brought home another 6 or 7 pounds of apples, more than enough to make apple butter and have some left to eat straight from the fridge. Turns out, we love the sweetness and touch of tart/spice of these short-season beauties. Grown first in Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains, these pale yellow apples that sometimes have a red patch on the skin are related to the Golden Delicious and Albemarle Pippin apples, according to the Virginia Apple Board.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness….”*
This well-known beginning of the Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities struck a chord with me recently. A chord that ran directly to my cooking. The words aptly describe me in the kitchen: my learning process, my passion, my frustration, the good and not-so-good and the fearless and the uncertain. The quote popped into my head while I was making a grocery list for our family’s Rosh Hashanah dinner.
I recently upgraded my point-and-shoot camera to a Canon dSLR, and I’m very excited to learn how to use it. I enlisted my son, Andrew (a journalist/photographer who knows his way around cameras so well that his photos have been published on several news sites), to help me figure out all the settings so I can improve my blog photos.