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Every Thanksgiving for the last 14 years that we’ve lived in the U.S, we’ve always spent it with family and friends. It was a little sad going into this year knowing we would be spending it by ourselves as the regulars have all moved away. But little did I know that I would be sharing with a bigger crowd; all of you who are reading this.

                                                                                                                                                 Ironically our very first TG, we went hungry! We along with two other families decided to take advantage of the long weekend and head out to Washington D.C from Indiana where we were living at that time. We were fresh off the boat as they say, we had just made our own ‘pilgrim’s journey’ from England and did not know E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G would be closed on TG day. We were driving for about 11- 12 hours, the roads were deserted and nothing was open and that’s how we all came to celebrate our very first Thanksgiving. On the road; hungry, cold and tired! Of course we got smart by the time the next year rolled around and we dived right into all the TG shopping festivities like true locals.
Our TG meals are of course vegetarian but no tofurky, thank you very much. Somehow a bread stuffing has become a keeper year over year but everything else changes and I have a lot of fun creating dishes with all the familiar flavors and themes of Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                                  This year I felt like going with the ‘less is more’ theme. I made a corn dish as a nod to the grain[maize] that was a staple to native Americans, my ‘bread stuffing’ took the form of a ‘stuffed bread’ and some salad greens from my garden. The roasted sweet and red potato was made entirely by ‘numero uno’ who would be my first born, sibling to ‘second to none’ . It is best I give them some anonymity so they can be protected from my blabbing!  A maple flavored dessert to end the meal and that’s how simple our TG lunch was.

Menu

Sparkling Cranberry/ Apple Cider

Corn Au Gratin

Stuffed Roll Pull Aparts

Oven Roasted Sweet And Red Potatoes

Salad Greens With Cranapple Dressing

Maple Syrup Pudding

Will post some of the recipes in the next few posts.

Thanks for dropping by

Best, S.

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Don’t you think pumpkins and squash with their interesting shapes and colors make great subjects for still life art?

                                                                                               

  I don’t know a lot of  people who would say that winter squashes are their most favorite vegetables but these knobbly, wobbly veggies are so versatile that it is such a pleasure to cook with them. You slowly come to see their potential and in turn begin to love them.

I was at a Moroccon restaurant last year and one of the dishes I ordered was a vegetable stew. It had big pieces of pumpkin, squash, potatoes and carrots in a very bland sauce served over the couscous. My Indian palette having been assaulted with spices and fiery heat since birth needed some oomph to spike the stew. The waiter gave me this exotic spice paste called Harissa which had me at Hello! and it totally transformed the dish.

 So here is my creation inspired by that visit. I found it interesting that the vegetables were steamed. A very healthy way to prepare vegetables and I am doing this more often now. I diced the vegetables to bite sized pieces instead of the very chunky pieces served at the restaurant. Made a tomato, onion gravy, added the Harissa paste and the steamed vegetables and what a colorful, flavorful way to prepare winter vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                           The soul of this dish is the North African spice paste which I am sure has as  many variations as there are people preparing it. The key ingredients being chillies, garlic and caraway seeds. However cumin and coriander are among some of the other spices that can also be added to the spice paste.

Autumn Vegetable Stew

For the Harissa

7-8 Kashmiri chillies [available at Indian stores, these chillies are very mild but give an intense red color, can substitute another chili pepper with similar characteristics]

2 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons roasted and powdered coriander seeds

2 teaspoons roasted and powdered cumin seeds

1 teaspoon roasted and powdered caraway seeds

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For the vegetables

1/2 cup of diced potatoes

1/2 cup diced sweet potatoes

1/2 cup diced acorn squash

1/2 cup diced white acorn squash

1/2 cup of diced butternut squash

{Skin peeled. I left a little bit of skin on. Consuming the skin is good for you and it looks pretty to boot}

1/2 cup carrots rounds

1 tablespoon of light olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped red onions

1 cup of roughly chopped red juicy tomatoes

A couple of pinches of cinnamon[optional]

Chopped parsley/ cilantro for garnish

Preparation

 Soak the chillies and garlic in hot water for 15 minutes. Grind the chillis and garlic with all the spice powders and a tablespoon of the soaking liquid.  Add the olive oil to the paste and set aside. This is your Harissa paste. {if storing for later use add salt to taste}

Set up a steamer and steam all the veggies. Carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes take 9-10 minutes. The rest take 7-8 minutes. You can steam all the vegetables in a double tier steamer at the same time. The veggies should be a little undone in the center.

                                                                            

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

                                                                                                                    Remove  the vegetables from the steamer as soon as they are done, so steam does not condense on the vegetables and make them soggy. Spread them out. At this stage, after the veggies have cooled you can store them in the fridge along with the Harissa paste for upto two days before proceeding to the next stage.



                                                                                                                                                           Heat a pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the onions for a couple of minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and cook in a moderate flame till the tomatoes break down and you have a homogenous tomato, onion sauce. Add 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of Harissa paste and mix into the sauce. Add the 3 cups of steamed veggies. Add salt to taste. Gently work the gravy to coat all the veggies, and add the cinnamon powder. Put a lid on the pan and let the veggies cook in the gravy for about 5 minutes. If the gravy is drying out add some water or the soaking liquid from the chillies. The veggies are done when the spices, flavors and salt have permeated the veggies. Check for salt and consistancy. Add water if you want it runnier. Garnish with your choice of herbs. I served it with lentils and couscous.




                                                                                                                                                          A dish using seasonal vegetables and reflecting the colors of the season, just perfect for Thanksgiving.

Thanks for dropping by.

Happy Thanksgiving, S. 

 

 

Dear family and friends

I need to make amends

There’s a secret I wish to confess

And blogger rumors I need to address

It’s true, it’s true! Food is what I blog about

On these pages I have finally come out

And to celebrate, here is my trifle

Do give it a try, it’s easy to assemble!

 Here is how this trifle began

                                                          

Sugar syrup

1 and a 1/2 cups of sugar + 1 cup water. Heat to dissolve.

Pumpkin Sauce

Mix 1/2 cup sugar syrup to every cup of  pumpkin puree [no sugar or spice added] and blend well.

Cream cheese sauce

Mix 1/2 cup warm water to every 1/2 pound [16 oz/2 regular packages] of cream cheese and hand blend to a smooth consistancy.

                                                                                              

Layer.

                                                                                                                                                              Decorate.

                                                       

Here is a little back story on this trifle. I had a group of friends coming over, and it was Thanksgiving time. I was going to get a few pound cakes with the different seasonal flavors and assemble this trifle. Luckily for me Krispy Kreme had a buy one dozen get another dozen free offer. So I used donuts instead. [Here I used pumpkin spice and glazed]

It is true, my family didn’t know about my blogging nor did any of my friends until now.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best, S.

 

 

Thai soup stock made with some of the herbs from my garden, to be frozen for later use.

An annual rite of passage for these plants is to be brought in to protect them from the winter cold. They will adorn my bathtub until spring of the following year. A good amount of the kaffir lime leaves have already found its way into my freezer and a few will go into my stock. The Jasmine and Curry plants are as you can see, in hibernation mode.
I tap the pots several times to get rid of the bottom feeders that cling to the pots. I move them onto stands and spray the underside of the pots with a homemade insecticidal soap, so any remaining creepies, crawl out. I keep it on elevated stands, away from the ground and check for insects for a week or so. Then one more final spray and I bring it in. I downsize the plants to just a few leaves for photosynthesis.
The Thai basil is an annual in this zone, so it is time to strip it of all remaining leaves before frost renders them unusable. I am going to chop up the leaves and mix it with oil and feeze it. Haven’t done it before, so I am curious as to how it is going to turn out. A few of the Thai basil leaves will go into my soup stock. The seeds, I’ll preserve for next seasons planting.

I pulled the lemongrass out. The tender inner core I will chop and store. The tough outer leaves not suitable for cookin, will flavor my stock.

A couple of the Tabasco peppers will go into the stock as well and the rest will be dried.

                     

I put the above highlighted pickings from my garden along with some garlic and cilantro stems in a pot, added 5 cups of water  and made a stock out of it. Cooled and strained, it is ready  for the freezer. Next time a Thai soup will be a cinch, but most importantly I feel like I have put to good use, the last remnants from my garden.

                                                                                                                                                                     I I did not want to throw away the strained flavoring, I crushed it, added a cup of water and heated it to make a secondary ‘frugal’ stock’. Added galangal, a few vegetables at hand and tofu for a simple flavorful soup.

                                                                                                                                                                  

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.   

Sending this to ‘A way to garden’ for the fall festival.

This was our lunch yesterday.

 We eat salad meals quite often and this was the first salad of the season with fall vegetables and fruits. There can be so many permutations from this platter that everyone really eats a different salad and these MYO combos are such a fun eating experience. We felt so good that we had done our part in eating healthy, that we gave ourselves a pass and packed away platefuls of rice at lunch today! That’s how it goes in this family.
I have an urge this time of the year, to roast vegetables. So I decided to mix up some roasted beets and butternut squash with some figs, pears, fingerling potatoes and some spring and bitter greens. I made a very sweet dressing, and to contrast that, another slightly tart and bitter dressing. I can say this, you will eat with all our senses except the sense of sound, as words will be superfluous.

                                                                                                                                                     Roasted the beets and butternut squash in a 375 degree oven. Scrubbed the beets thoroughly and trimmed the top and packaged it in aluminum foil and roasted for an hour. Check to see if it is done, by piercing a fork and if it slides through easily, it is ready.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Diced the butter nut squash and roasted for about 30 minutes in the same 375 degree oven. I did not use any oil with the beets or the squash, nor did I have to turn the squash during the roasting  process. It was firm on the outside and soft inside. Check to see if it is done to your specs, you might want to leave it a little longer if you want it softer.  As soon as the beets and squash came out of the oven I seasoned it with some salt. [peeled and diced the beets first, ofcourse]

Scrubbed the potatoes clean and boiled in salted water till done. Best to do a taste test for this. Left them with skins on.

Dressing #1;  An apple cider reduction vinaigrette.

The sweet dressing complimented the mostly sweet fruits and vegetables. An apple cider reduction dressing without any oil, that’s right NO OIL. The reduction makes the apple cider so syrupy that the dressing is creamy enough without any oil.

I cup apple cider

1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard

1/2  tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tsp salt

Pepper to taste.

Reduce a cup of apple cider to a 1/4  cup. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk.

Dressing #2; A wine reduction vinaigrette.

A faintly bitter dressing, to contrast the sweetness and compliment the radicchio and Belgian endive. This is a wine reduction dressing. I had some left over wine from my brother and sis-in-law’s visit and I wondered if a wine reduction would work well in place of an acid in a salad dressing.? A little bit of experimentation later, I think I may have a fancy schmancy vinaigrette and probably this is the closest I’ll ever come to french cooking!

1 cup white wine [a 2007 New Zealand Reisling which was really, my relative’s choice of alcohol]

4 tablespoons of shallots very finely chopped

6-8 cloves of garlic cut into halves

3-4 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Herbs of your choice. Optional. [I used 1/2 a teaspoon of chopped sage and rosemary combined]

Add the shallots and garlic to one cup of wine and gently heat in a stainless steel saucepan. The longer it takes to reduce the more infused the wine is with the flavors of garlic and shallots.

Reduce the wine so that when you strain the shallots and garlic, you get a 1/4 cup of liquid. Whisk in the olive oil and add the salt, pepper and herbs if using. This is a light dressing, so as not to overpower the natural taste and flavors of the salad.

The rest of the players in this medley.

Spring greens, Radicchio and Belgian Endive

Figs

Red and D’Anjou pears

Craisins

Candied pecans and parmesan cheese crisps. See my previous post on how to prepare them.

Make your own [MYO] plate, choose your dressing or combine both, add your toppings or not and have it any which way you pretty please.

Or even add eggs as one of my children did.

 Do let me know when you try it and please give me your feedback.

BEST, S.

With autumn approaching, I start fantasizing about cooking with the fall bounty. The house begins to smell of cinnamon and spice and everthing nice! My first experiment for the fall 2010 season is being licked clean even as we speak.

So I took some Granny Smiths and Honey Crisps and gave it the savory treatment. I mean why should baked apples only be turned into desserts? So I made a rice and raisin filling, stuffed them apples and baked ‘em good!

There are a few steps before the apples are ready for the oven.

Make the rice, fry the raisin and croutons, mix them together and stuff the apples and bake.

For the rice.

1tsp light olive oil

1 tsp butter

¼ cup red onion  and ¼ cup celery, both finely chopped

¼ cup Basmati rice

¼ cup apple cider

¼ cup water

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary [to be used throughout this recipe]

Pepper to taste.

For the butter kissed raisins

2 tsp butter

¼ cup raisins

And the croutons

1 tsp butter

¼ cup French bread, cubed into tiny pieces

 2 apples [Honey Crrisp and/or Granny Smith]

Preparation

Make the rice

Soak the rice for 15 minutes in warm water before cooking. This ensures long elegant grains. Meanwhile chop and dice onions and celery as finely as possible. Chop the Rosemary and set aside, this will be used to layer the flavor throughout the cooking.

In a small shallow pan melt the oil and butter and drop the chopped onions and celery and saute on a low flame for 5-7 minutes till the vegetables are soft. Drain the rice and shake of all the excess water and add to the celery and onion. Add about a teaspoon of chopped rosemary and toast the rice for a couple of minutes to coat every grain with the butter and oil.

Then add the salt, apple cider, water and apple cider vinegar and turn up the heat.

When you see the the rice grains hopping upto the surface like in the above picture [left upper section]  reduce the heat to a very slow simmer and put a lid on the pan. If you have a glass lid it will be easy to see when the rice is done, usually in about 7 minutes for a quater cup of rice. If you can’t tell, lift the lid and when the water is dried out and the grains are puffed up, it is done.

Add some more chopped rosemary and fluff the rice and set aside to cool.

While the rice is being cooked you can get the raisins and croutons ready.

Preparing the raisins and croutons.

Melt 2 tsp of butter in a pan set over a very low flame. Add the raisins and move it constantly in the pan so the raisins don’t burn. When they swell and plump up remove from pan and set aside.[ Do not drain as we need all the buttery flavor to be intact]

 In the same pan to any remaining butter add another teaspoon of butter and fry the croutons. When they are golden brown hit it with some salt, pepper and some chopped rosemary.

Prepare the apples.

As I am never able to finish a whole baked apple, I thought it would be good idea to cut it into two halves and stuff it. Prepare the apples like so and start the oven and set to 350 deg.

Cut off a small slice on the bottom for the apple to be stable in the baking dish. Rub the insides with some more chopped rosemary.

Now that we have all the parts, let’s put it all together.

Mix the rice, raisins and croutons when the rice cools down to room temp.

Pile each apple with the stuffing, the mixture fills 4 apple halves. Bake the apples in a foil covered dish at 350 for 30 -40 minutes. My apples took exactly 30 minutes. If the apples are in for too long they will collapse with the pressure from the steam within. It is a good idea to check under the hood after 30 minutes. Gently insert a fork into the apple to see if it goes through easily. If so, your baked apple is ready. Remove from the oven immediately and take off the foil. This is important as the apple can continue to cook and the skin can split.

Hope you try this savory apple recipe and do let me know how it turned out.

Best, S.

  Sending this creation to the ‘ Fall Fest’ cross blog event organized by Margaret Roach of ‘A way to garden’.

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