Being thankful is great and all, but we all know the best part of Thanksgiving is the food. I was sad we weren’t able to travel home for the holiday, but luckily we had some fellow transplants to celebrate with (roomies Peter and Stacie). The day started off early and cold with a Turkey Trot 5K, after which we promptly went home to warm up and start cooking. To everyone who’s ever cooked Thanksgiving food for me, I have new respect for you. Even after spending the week planning and shopping and pre-cutting everything, I was still a bit stressed out. Fortunately, with such a small group of people and no set dinner time, the day still turned out to be relaxing. We even practiced a bit of adulting and broke out the Fiestaware and mulled wine. The day was spent eating, drinking, playing cards, and feeding our leftovers to the cat and dog. I would highly recommend every dish we ate, and I think Murray would give them all two paws up as well. What we were lacking in turkey and stuffing, we made up for with stuffed pumpkin and two types of pie. Without further ado:
Beer bread with cranberry relish over cream cheese
Oh beer bread, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I used this recipe with Sam Adams Oktoberfest, but any Google-searched recipe will do. Cranberry relish recipe courtesy of my mom, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 orange, peel on, sliced thin and cut into triangles
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
1/4 cup bourbon
1/3 cup vinegar
11/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
Put all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and refrigerate, preferably overnight.
Smoked salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese crackers
Baked stuffed pumpkin
In trying to explain this dish to my mom, I said, “Well it’s basically the same concept as a stuffed turkey.” She got all huffy and said, “That’s ridiculous! I don’t think anyone is going to mistake a pumpkin for a turkey.” (Mom, maybe you weren’t huffy but you sounded like it. Please don’t revoke my Christmas presents for saying that.) Full disclosure: this pumpkin does not taste like a turkey. It tastes even better. I said it. Make it for your next Thanksgiving, or, if you simply cannot live without a meat entree, try it out as a side. Trust me. It’s like a creamy cheesy slice of heaven. Peter and Stacie made this one, so I don’t have the exact recipe, but I adapted a similar one from Epicurious:
1 small sugar pumpkin (or in our case, a large squash)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 pound Gruyère cheese, cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
A few handfuls of pistachios
1/4 cup chives
A few sprigs thyme
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut out the top of the pumpkin as though you are carving a Jack-o-Lantern, then scoop out the seeds and pulp. Set the seeds aside to roast later, compost them, or discard of them as you normally would. Sprinkle the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper.
Combine the bread, cheese, garlic, pistachios, and herbs in a bowl, then pour it inside the pumpkin. Add the cream and nutmeg, and season to taste. When Peter and Stacie assembled this, the pumpkin was so full it looked like it could easily spill over. That’s okay! You want it that full because it will settle a bit inside and turn into a big gooey mess of flavors.
Put the top back on the pumpkin, carefully carry it to the oven, and bake for about 2 hours, or until pumpkin flesh is tender. Check on it as you would any squash or root vegetable that you’re roasting, and poke with a fork to make sure it’s tender enough. When it’s ready, take it out of the oven (again, carefully). Let it cool a bit and then slice it like you might an apple.
Peter kept saying he was making potatoes for our event, but I didn’t figure out what kind until he broke out the frozen hash browns. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to introduce the actual name of this dish to him, and even more so to be able to eat it.
Another great recipe from Sue Filla (via Better Homes and Gardens). Normally I try to adapt this recipe by using only a tiny bit of butter and brown sugar, but I felt the occasion called for the whole shebang.
8 ounces parsnips, peeled and cut into matchstick-shaped strips
8 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick-shaped strips
3/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pears, cut into slices (I didn’t peel them)
1/3 cup pecan halves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
In a large nonstick skillet combine parsnips, carrots, orange juice, dried cranberries, and ginger. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 8 minutes until the vegetables are on the tender side and most of the OJ is evaporated.
Add pears, pecans, brown sugar, and butter to the veggie mixture. Cook for another 3 minutes or so until the mixture has a nice shiny glaze. In my experience, it’s hard to mess up this recipe. Cook for as long as you’d like, depending on if you want crispier or more tender vegetables.
Peter’s mom is retired but also loves to keep busy, so at the beginning of the fall, she drove out to Boston from Minnesota with a car full of canned goods and veggies from her garden. Then she drove the rest down to Tennessee, where Peter’s sister lives. Our freezer was chock full of these guys, so it was an easy decision to add them to our meal.
Kale and white bean soup with tofu sausage
This might have been my favorite part of the meal, if I do say so myself. I’ve been meaning to make a kale and white bean soup ever since I had some at Veggie Galaxy, a vegetarian diner in Cambridge, but I knew I wanted it to have a bit more to it. So, I added some homemade tofu sausage, with excellent results. Unlike the stuffed pumpkin, I think this sausage might genuinely trick most people. I would never dare to do that, though, because I want everyone to know how great tofu is without being duped into eating it. I do, however, dare you to try this recipe at home. You’ll love it.
Soup (adapted from The Kitchn)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 small red potatoes, diced (skins on)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped lengthwise into thin ribbons
4 cups vegetable broth/water
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf (I did not add because these are ridiculously expensive)
1 rind Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (did not add but obviously it would be delish)
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Set a large pot to medium heat and add a swirl of olive oil. When hot, add the onion and saute about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and saute another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for just a minute or so. The vegetables should begin to look transparent at this point, but the potatoes should still be somewhat crisp.
Add 1/4 cup of veggie broth and the kale. Stir well, then cover the pot with a lid. Stir the kale regularly until it is barely tender, and continue to add more broth or water to the pot as the kale dries out.
Add the rest of the broth, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, cheese rind, and 2 teaspoons of salt. If the veggies aren’t quite covered, add extra broth or water. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the kale is completely tender and the potatoes are completely cooked. Add the beans and veggie sausage (recipe follows).
Tofu sausage (adapted from Edible Perspective)
1 package firm tofu
1 medium onion, diced into small pieces
1 red bell pepper, diced into small pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup red wine
2-3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds (these are so important. They make the sausage!)
1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, sage, basil
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt
First, press your tofu. I did this by cutting it in half lengthwise, then placing it on a thick towel. Cover with another towel and a cutting board, then add canned foods or a heavy pot to the top. I tried to retain a little moisture so that I’d be able to mush the tofu together a bit, as opposed to just cutting it into chunks.
Add a swirl of oil to a skillet set over medium heat, then add the onion and pepper. Cook until softened. Smush the tofu into the pan with the onion and pepper. I say smush because you want it to maintain that crumbled-sausage texture. The tofu should look a bit like scrambled eggs. Cook the mixture for 2 or 3 minutes while stirring. Try to avoid breaking up the tofu when you stir.
Add a tablespoon of oil, then add your garlic and seasonings. Pour in the red wine and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.
Set your oven to broil, then spread the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Broil for about 10 minutes while watching for burning. I kept my oven door slightly ajar while doing this so I could keep an eye on it.
Apple crumb pie and dried fruit and nut pie, with homemade whipped cream
I first read about the dried fruit pie in one of my favorite books, A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg. I knew I had to make it but I wasn’t sure when. Normally I veer toward the traditional pumpkin or pecan pie on Thanksgiving, but we had pumpkin as the main course and pecans are a little too expensive, especially when you live in Boston. It was like it came to me in a dream; of course, the dried fruit pie was the solution! It seems homely enough: a combination of prunes, dried apricots, golden raisins, and, in my case, dried cranberries (though the recipe calls for dried apples). Cook in water until boiling, drain it, and then stir in some sugar so the fruit gets all plump and sweet. Mix it up with a bunch of chopped walnuts (the poor man’s pecan), and plop it into a simple homemade pie crust. Top with another pie crust (or don’t, but let’s be honest: the more butter, the better). It’s deceivingly boring – what person under the age of 75 enjoys prunes? (Confession time: I do.) But when you taste it, especially with a dab of homemade whipped cream, you’ll know you have a winner. I was going to include the recipe, but honestly, it’s as simple as that. It was my very first homemade pie and it turned out lovely. Also, speaking of deceiving people, I actually did accidentally fool someone into eating this. My friend Carly came over the next day and was confused about the type of pie being served and mistakenly requested this one, thinking it was pecan. Although she pretended to be mad at me for “tricking” her into eating my weird pie, I’m pretty certain that she really enjoyed it. The lack of leftovers in the days that followed is pretty good proof.
All the rest
I’m fairly sure I annoyed everyone with my picture-taking, but who else was going to document this momentous occasion?