Have you ever had one of those days when you know you have approximately 999 little things to tackle, yet you choose to do everything but? Yeah, that was me yesterday. There were (are) emails to respond to, plans to be made, food to be prepped, a magazine article that should have been written by now, and a sad garden that needs to be pulled and turned over before the snow makes a lasting appearance. I hope to get to that last part some time this weekend, but let’s be real, it’s probably more likely that I’ll continue to harvest the bits that are still growing (arugula, mint, beet greens, and teeny carrots and radishes) and roll the dice with things come Spring. Based on one of the photos below, it’s fair to say that my Hunter boots need a serious waxing as well; that project is last on the list though for obvious reasons.
I did manage to get all of my Thanksgiving grocery shopping done, however, and when I got home, all I wanted to do was hang out in the kitchen with my newly acquired ingredients and cook for the sake of cooking. No blog post in mind, no recipe that had to be made for a specific project, and no getting ready for Turkey Day. If you like to cook too (And I am guessing you do since you are here!), then I think you can relate when I say that the chopping, stirring, and creating in general is cathartic for me. The process helps me to zone out – and oddly – refocus my energies once I am done.
A bowl of creamy mashed turnips and these carrots are what I made; both deemed too fresh and pretty to be stashed in the refrigerator. I liked the carrots so much that I decided to start snapping and put this together. So much for avoiding that? Pending you have Chinese Five Spice and tahini in your pantry, they would make a beautiful last-minute addition to tomorrow’s menu. Or you can whip them up any old time and eat them for dinner – straight from the serving platter – like I did. I should also mention that because I wasn’t too keen on proportions and all as I was working, this recipe makes more vinaigrette than you’ll need. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem as it pairs well with any root vegetable or variety of leafy green. I am about to mix up the remnants with a pile of kale, and then hop on that to-do list. : )
It’s no secret that I love pretty patterned plates, setting the table and getting my friends and family together for a meal. Those were probably some of the motivating factors in me creating this space in the first place, actually; endless excuses to cook, style, and share! I – like most of you I am sure – am preparing for my loved ones to arrive later this week – but for today, I am skipping over the turkey (Truth be told, it’s not my favorite, anyway. I’d be happy with just gigantic servings of mashed potatoes and stuffing!) and heading straight into post-Thanksgiving, Christmas-y territory. With the help of Pottery Barn, I am throwing a holiday shindig straight out of the Alps.
The inspiration behind this dinner comes from the PB Alpine Toile collection. I chose this set because it feels festive, but will still work throughout the Fall and well into Winter too (I see many more blog appearances in its future!). I built the table around the salad plates, and then added classic elements like white dishware, striped napkins, and wood chargers. The chargers do double-duty as platters; I like using them for cheese – or chestnuts and brews in this case (Also, they’re on sale right now!)! Finishing touches came in the form of glass votives and bits and bobs that I pulled from my backyard – evergreen branches and loose pinecones. I wanted the overall vibe to be rustic and warm.
The food, like the table, is meant to be earthy. Think: simple slow-cooked braises that can be prepped well in advance. Aside from pounding the steak flat – which does require a little bit of muscle! – the most challenging part about making the rouladen is deciding what to stuff it with. You could go the traditional route with a stone ground mustard, bacon, and pickled vegetable combination or opt for a seasonal variation as I did here with chestnuts, cranberries, and fresh sage. As for the cabbage, it gets baked in a pot with apple cider, wine, and spices, and emerges two hours later all sorts of sweet and tender. I added a dill spaetzle to the menu – which is essentially this pierogi dough, pushed through a press and boiled – but buttered noodles would be just as nice of a complement.
While these portions will feed a crowd, when pared down, I think this would be a fun and festive date night concept as well. You could pop open a couple of beers, do some chopping, and snuggle up to the fire with a pile of cozy blankets while your comfort fare simmers away. Sounds lovely, right?
With just a bit over a week until Thanksgiving (Can you believe it?), the holiday season is officially upon us! Before we know it our kitchens will be pumping out glorious platters of food and our dining rooms will be bustling with friends and family from near and far. It truly is the best time of the year! In addition to the foodstuffs (And our loved ones, of course!), every holiday gathering needs drinks, right? Today then, I am partnering with Rioja wines to demonstrate the perfect pairing.
A little bit of background on Rioja wines: Hailing from North-Central Spain, Rioja refers to the wine as well as to the region it comes from. Made mainly from the Tempranillo grape, Rioja wines are one of only two D.O.C regions in Spain, and all Rioja wines are regulated so you can be sure you are buying a quality bottle every time. In addition to their caliber, these wines are versatile and affordable. There is no need to break the bank on vintages for your holiday dinner, and certainly no need to stress over different bottles to pair with each course. You can choose from juicy rosados, crisp blancos, or elegant reds ranging from lighter notes to more robust ones, full of spice (My personal favorite!).
More squash! (‘Tis the season, I guess?) And a couple of housekeeping items…
I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately looking for this Stuffed Pumpkin. There are some issues with external links that I am working on sorting out, but if by chance you land here and read this post, the pumpkin still lives! I actually made one this weekend (There are a couple of shots of the process below.), and overall it makes me so happy that you are making and sharing it too. And, if the concept is new to you, or you are in need of a flashy Thanksgiving side (Or vegetarian main course, with the bacon omitted.), this one is clearly a winner.
I have also been slowly but surely updating old posts and organizing what will eventually become a real recipe index, so if anything ever looks out of place or you can’t find something, please feel free to send me a message. I love to hear from you. : )
Most days I come to this space and feel like I have at least 100 things that I want to say about food, or life, or whatever; it can be hard for me to condense everything and make some semblance of a post. Today is not one of those days. Partly because I think you all may have a recipe similar to this in your back pocket. It requires a fairly standard combination of ingredients, and at this point, you probably don’t need me to tell you that butter and sugar and squash when paired together are magic. I mean, duh. Thanksgiving: 101.
The difference here is a vanilla bean thrown on the roasting pan (Or extract added to the butter, if you prefer.) with said squash, which perfumes it as it cooks. While that happens, butter gets browned, spices and lemon zest are added, and a few of the seeds get dry toasted in a pan with chili powder for extra kick. The whole dish is delightfully flavorful and simple to prepare.
Although I suppose I’ve already explained most of it to you (!) – I am going to avoid rambling anymore and leave you with a few pictures of what this time of year looks like in Upstate New York. Some are from my own backyard while others are from a walk I took in Cooperstown last weekend. Because when I think of Fall, there are few things that conjure up this season more than – another! – squash recipe and lots and lots of colorful leaves. : )