Roast Turkey Dinner in April

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As some of you know, I don’t do Thanksgiving as a holiday. There are lots of reasons, foremost being its link to Native American/Tribal genocide (MTV attempted to use humor to explain where we’ve gone wrong in celebrating some truly horrific atrocities in our history, and they do a pretty good job of it). I do like getting together with friends, and I like to provide a gathering place for folks who don’t have family close by. The Friday after, I gather folks for Friendsgiving, where I make an Italian feast. Part of my family is Italian, and I figure that folks have had enough stuffing and turkey by then.

I must admit, however, that I do love a good roast turkey with all the trimmings. After the winter holiday season, our local farmer had a few turkeys in their freezer still, and put them on sale. I bought a pretty giant one, about 17lbs or so. It wasn’t until this month that I had the time and inspiration to thaw it, brine it, roast it, and whip up all the sides. I am proud to say that (aside from the 3 day thawing and brining process), I did all of this in just one afternoon! I used Alton Brown’s brining recipe for the turkey, and I finally got to use my handy-dandy new meat thermometer (gift from my in-laws) to monitor the cooking.

My most exciting discovery was how great my spaetzle press works for perfect mashed potatoes! I just boiled the yukon golds in salted water until tender enough to be easily pierced with the tip of a knife and then was able to put the whole potato into the press, skin and all.

Out came perfectly riced potatoes, no skin or eyes at all. I added in hot whole milk and melted butter, salt and pepper to taste, just mixing enough to get a smooth consistency. I added a touch more milk before serving to loosen them up, and they held beautifully in the meantime while I finished the gravy etc.

I will never make mashed potatoes any other way. I actually can’t wait to make spaetzle as well. Also pictured: mushroom, walnut, sourdough stuffing, turkey giblet gravy, roast brussels sprouts, cranberry-clementine chutney.

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Taco Salad on the Terrace with TSCP

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I brought Stone Soup to work with me! Taco Salad on the Terrace (out in San Francisco). Everyone signed up to bring one or two ingredients, and then each person builds their own salad, buffet style. Some folks went all out, braising pork overnight, while other folks opened a tub of sour cream or salsa and called it a day. That is the beauty of Stone Soup, the foodies can cook if they like, but if you don’t like to cook or don’t have the time, most ingredients can be bought and served with little prep. We had chopped lettuce, cilantro, green onions, tomatoes, avocado, beans, veggie meat, grilled peppers and onions, sliced carrots and snow peas, and many more toppings.

With so much variety, it is easy to accommodate all types of dietary restrictions, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, etc. The best part was that we had leftovers for the following day! Stone Soup is the gift that keeps on giving. (Photo credit to KP. Thanks!)

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Kabocha Squash, 3 Ways

I know I recently said that delicata was my favorite squash, but I also have to sing the praises of kabocha. I love it in spicy coconut curries, roasted in a bit of olive oil, pureed into soup, and especially when I get slices of it in a bento box lunch, all crispy tempura.IMG_1703

The farmer’s market has so many beautiful varieties of winter squash right now, and my most recent kabocha ended up with three different destinies: roasted seeds, slices for Korean kimbap, and pureed into kabocha ginger ice cream.

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For the seeds, I cleaned them off in a strainer to remove the fleshy string bits and then tossed them with olive oil and a sprinkle of espresso chili rub that I often use for steak. I toasted them in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning once, at 300. Full confession, these weren’t my favorite roasted pumpkin seeds. The hull to “meat” ratio is not the best, so they’re quite chewy. With the chili rub, they were still delicious though, and we ate them all.

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For the kimbap, I sliced crescent moons, tossed them in olive oil and roasted till tender (about 20 minutes at 300). You can see some of the other fillings pictured below.

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To make the kimbap, we covered sheets of seaweed (“gim” in Korean) with a thin layer of sticky rice and then rolled our toppings up inside. The slices were served with a lot of kimchi and beer.

My vision for the kabocha ginger ice cream was inspired by classic pumpkin pie. I roasted half of the squash until very tender and scooped out the bright orange flesh. The skin was so tender and delicious that we ate that as a snack, sprinkled with sea salt. I just figured that the green and orange blended together would not be pretty in the ice cream.

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I then pureed the flesh with whole milk, 2 egg yolks, fresh grated ginger, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla and sea salt. I let my vitamix run on the hot soup setting to cook the custard and then chilled it overnight (ok, I also ate quite a bit of it straight out of the blender). After freezing it in my ice cream maker, I topped it with candied walnuts and coconut milk caramel sauce!

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Duck Egg Deviled Eggs with Caramelized Onions

I can’t say enough about these local duck eggs. I love letting them really shine in this deviled egg recipe. I added a touch of whimsy with some herb garnishes – tarragon, dill flowers, oregano flowers, and chives.

Duck Egg Deviled Eggs

– 6 duck eggs
– 1/4 cup mayo or greek yogurt
– 1/4 cup caramelized onions
– 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
– salt and pepper to taste
– herbs to garnish

Hard boil the duck eggs. I like to start them in cold water, over high heat until boiling, let simmer 1 minute and then turn off. After about 5-6 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water. When cool enough to handle, crack and gently peel the eggs. Cut a tiny slice off of each end of the egg (to create a flat surface), and then cut in half crosswise. I like the look of round eggs better than oval, and they are easier to eat.

Pop the yolks out into a bowl and mash with the mayo, onions, mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper. I like to scoop the filling into a ziplock bag or piping bag to pipe back into the egg whites, but a spoon will work as well. Garnish with herbs, frizzled onions, black sesame seeds or chili flakes.

The Secret to Grits

My lovely partner should really be writing this, but I’ve watched enough times that I think I can fake it. I lived in the south and had my share of grits. I know enough that I basically will not order grits out at a restaurant unless I have it on good authority that they know what they’re doing. Luckily, I live with the best grits maker in the world, and you can wow your friends and loved ones too.

All you need are 1) good quality grits and 2) dairy products (or even, dairy-like products). I have been using Palmetto Farms grits lately (white corn, heritage, stone ground, etc) and love them. I like a large grain grit so that it has some chew to it when it’s done. And for dairy, I like the trifecta of butter, milk and cheese. Most grits recipes use too much water, and a watery grit is the worst! Start with less and add more (or add milk) if you need to. You can never add too much butter or cheese, but be sure to add the cheese at the end so it doesn’t just stick to the pan. This is a basic recipe, but feel free to tweak it or add things like chopped jalapenos or different cheeses (blue or chevre is nice). You can easily make this recipe vegan by using veggie stock in place of the milk and subbing in vegan “butter” and cheese. We have a friend who is dairy-free, and I used some of my homemade vegan nacho cheese and a spoonful of coconut oil based spread. I tried both the dairy-full and dairy-free versions, and both were make-noise-it’s-so-good delicious.

– 2 cups whole milk*
– 1 cup water
– 2 teaspoons kosher salt
– 1 cup stone ground grits
– 4 to 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar*
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter*
– ground black pepper to taste
*Can sub in vegan options

Bring milk, water and salt to a boil in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Stir in the grits in a slow stream, whisking to keep lumps from forming. Turn heat down to low and cover, stirring every 3-4 minutes until creamy. Taste for doneness after about 15-20 minutes. Add more milk if needed. Stir in cheese, butter, and black pepper to taste. Adjust salt.

Top with … anything! We had a DIY grits bowl buffet last weekend with some friends, and our toppings included: braised dino kale, sauteed mushrooms, diced andouille sausage, sungold tomatoes, oven roasted tomatoes, chopped herbs, avocado and purple cabbage slaw.

Grits Bowl

Spicy Fennel Relish

I’m prepping for the 4th of July already, and, for me, that means condiments. This spicy fennel relish is tangy and crunchy and going fast… I hope there is some left for the 4th!

Spicy Fennel Relish

– 3 fennel bulbs, 1/4 to 1/2 dice
– 1.5 cups white wine vinegar
– 1 cup water
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 5 whole peppercorns
– 2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
– 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
– 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
– zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
– juice of 1 lemon
– 2 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients except for fennel into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pack chopped fennel into a glass jar and pour the hot liquid over, pressing down on the fennel to submerge. Let sit overnight, keep in fridge for up to 1 month.

Spicy Fennel Relish

Mexican Birthday Feast and Vegan Nacho Kale Chips

What’s pictured below is actually the leftovers from the Mexican birthday feast. This is because I will nearly always, without fail, prepare an epic feast, artfully plated, and then forget to take photos. I like to think it is because I am just so living life that I don’t think to take them, but it’s not great for this blog.

Mexican feast bowl

This feast was prepared for my partner on their 40th birthday, so it had to be over-the-top. Mexican is a favorite, and with a large crowd, gourmet taco bar was a good call. Offerings included: pork carnitas, crispy chorizo sausage, roasted mushrooms and onions, tofu-sesame-carrot taco filling, roasted tomatillo salsa, pineapple-ghost chili salsa, chipotle pico de gallo, fermented jalapeño apple hot sauce, pickled onions, cilantro, cabbage salad, queso fresco, crema and vegan crema, vegan habanero nacho cheese, tostones, and Mexican arancini stuffed with cheddar.

Some friends generously brought drinks and dessert including: jalapeño margaritas with sea salt foam, boozy horchata, salted caramel ice cream and a Mexican sugar cookie ice cream. I make a few toppings for a DIY sundae bar: toasted coconut, burnt pineapple compote, gluten-free citrus pound cake “croutons,” and some whipped mascarpone. No pictures of any of that sadly, but I promise it was all amazing.

The surprise leftover that really wowed me though were these kale chips that I made using the vegan nacho cheese dip. I stemmed, washed and dried one bunch of dino kale (the flat, dark green, oval-shaped kale) and then massaged it in a big bowl with about 1/4 cup of the cheese dip. Lay the kale out flat on a parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet and bake at 250 for about 40-60 minutes. The first time you do this, you may have to check on them a lot, you want them to be totally dry and crispy but not brown too much. They can get a bitter flavor if they burn.

Here’s the recipe for the nacho cheese – which is also fantastic on celery sticks or tortilla chips.

1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water overnight, drained
2 tablespoons hot sauce (I used a homemade fermented habanero sauce, very spicy, but use what you like)
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar (or to taste, I like it tangy)
1 teaspoon agar powder dissolved in the vinegar plus a little water (you’ll need to heat and stir to dissolve)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup organic unrefined coconut oil

Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until the consistency is totally smooth. You could use a food processor or regular blender, but the texture will be more grainy. Taste and add more seasoning as you see fit – I often find that I want it to be more tangy and saltier. You can add more vinegar or a dash of lemon for tang and you can add more miso or plain salt to make it saltier. You could also stir in chopped chives or pickled jalapeños at the end.

Bo Ssam (Korean slow roasted pork)

Inspired by chef David Chang’s recipe for bo ssam, I made this Korean style slow roasted pork for a group potluck series I host called “Stone Soup.” The potluck name comes from that old children’s tale about a hungry traveler who goes through a town asking for food to eat. Everyone says no, so he starts to make his own “stone soup” with just a pot, some water and a clean river rock. As he is cooking it, neighbors start to come around, and one by one they add something to the pot. At the end, there is a dish big enough to feed everyone and more rich and delicious than what could have been created by any individual person.

For our Stone Soup, each person brings just one ingredient – those that like to cook can get more creative, but there is always the option to bring something that needs no cooking or prep work. This time around, I roasted the pork and a friend make several sauces to go with it. Other folks brought lettuce leaves for wrapping, shredded veggies, chopped scallions, grilled tofu, and a pot of rice. Together, we had ourselves a feast!

Korean slow roasted pork

Ssam sauce, black garlic sauce, fermented hot sauce, scallion-ginger sauce
Ssam sauce, black garlic sauce, fermented hot sauce, scallion-ginger sauce

Walnut-Almond Citrus Cake

I was on the lookout for a decadent dessert for a dinner party that could be gluten free without seeming so. Although this recipe was not initially gf, it called for just 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, so I figured it could easily be replaced with gf flour. I was right! The bulk of the cake is actually ground nuts (originally pistachios, but I now make it with almonds and walnuts since those are cheaper), so the small amount of flour doesn’t play a huge role.

I then wondered if I could make it vegan as well by subbing out the eggs for ground flax goo and coconut oil for the butter. Why, yes you can! The resulting cake was more dense, but just as delicious. The cook time was longer, but the resulting crispy/chewy edges were more than worth the wait. I think next time I’ll bake it in two smaller pans, but, other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Cake batter

Walnut-Almond Cake

  • 1 1/3 cups unsalted shelled pistachio nuts (or use walnuts)
  • 1 1/3 cups blanched whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (or use coconut oil)
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs (or use 3 tablespoons flax meal combined with 9 tablespoons water, mix and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or use gluten free flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Oil a 4-by-8-inch loaf pan (if making a vegan cake, I recommend splitting the recipe up into two pans). Then, dust it with flour or gluten free flour, tapping out the excess.

In a food process, combine the two nuts and pulse until finely ground. Set aside.

Combine the butter (or coconut oil) and sugar in a large bowl. Grate the zest from the lemons directly into the bowl. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Mix in the vanilla just until incorporated. On low speed, gradually add the nuts and mix just until incorporated. Then add the eggs (or flax goo), one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stir in the flour and salt and mix just until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes (longer if vegan). Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, run a paring knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake sides, invert the cake onto a plate, and lift off the pan. At this point, the cake can be served warm or allowed to cool completely before being sliced and reheated. I’ve fancied this up by plating each piece with a dollop of whipped cream (or vegan cashew creme) and a few orange supremes, but it’s just as good as bit sized finger food.

Birthday Party: The Sandwich Edition

I don’t know why I love a good theme so much, but I do. I love to cook around a theme, whether it is a particular cuisine, like Thai or Korean or Hawaiian, or just a random thought that sparks my imagination for a party and then a menu. Last year’s bday theme for my angel-in-an-apron was “monsters,” complete with monster eyeball deviled eggs and furry orange cheese ball creatures. This year, the theme is “sandwich.” OK, not as cool.

Really the theme is “rockstar,” but I tried to think of “rockstar foods” and didn’t come up with much. Then I decided that variations on the theme of sandwiches would do nicely. Rockstars, I am sure, don’t bother with forks and knives, so sandwiches could work.

On the savory side: (build your own) cubanos and Korean bbq chicken on mini Hawaiian sweet bread rolls. On the sweet side: pound cake and angel food cake “sandwiches” with various fillings, including lemon curd, blueberry compote, pastry cream, hazelnut-chocolate spread, bananas, toasted coconut and almonds, and whipped cream.

Korean BBQ Chicken Sandwich on Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

Here’s the recipe for the chicken sandwiches:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half
BBQ Sauce:
1/2 cup fermented Korean chili paste (gochujang)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar or palm sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, grated
1 tablespoon garlic chili paste (or to taste for spice)

Mix bbq sauce ingredients together until smooth. Place chicken pieces into a large container or zip-top bag with 1/2 of the bbq sauce and let marinate in the fridge for at least one hour. Grill or broil the chicken pieces until cooked through and charred in places.

Serve the chicken on sweet rolls or in small flour tortillas with extra sauce on the side. Offer a tray of garnishes such as sliced cucumbers, green onions, cilantro, jalapeno slices and shredded cabbage.