I love Thanksgiving and I will readily admit that I love it for one sole reason. That reason is this, it is an excuse to break the rigidity of routine, to step outside the confines of our everydayness and shirk gleefully those habits we practice, mostly out of necessity and for the sake of efficiency, every other day of the year. It is an excuse to make those familiar routines take a back seat – if only for one day and only for one meal. At its core, Thanksgiving is the simplest of holidays – no strings attached, no pressure around gifts or the like. It is a day reserved simply to step outside the familiar and celebrate the everydayness of the everyday : one table, one meal and perhaps a few (or many) guests to share it with however and with whatever food feels the most appropriate in that moment. And the meal can be one as complex or elementary as one chooses and need not conform to any rules or practices (other than the fact that I do very much like to think about those things I am grateful for and thankful for and practice kindness – but ideally that is everyday not just one) -so for the love and poetry of food and gatherings, we celebrate Thanksgiving.
I find great delight in creating a space, however temporal, for the express purpose of gathering. It began when I was hosting Kinfolk dinners in London – seeing people come together around a table and find common ground was unlike anything I had done before. But as I continued with these events, I realized that the feeling of elation I felt at the end (mixed with exhaustion!) was centered in the act of making space for connections and experiences to happen. And I love to create a space that gives an elegance to the everyday and offers and opportunity to become lost in the moment
For it is around the table that I do my best dreaming ~
The inspiration for this particular table came from the colors of the autumnal New England landscape and the elegantly simple ceramics from Barton Croft in England. Hand thrown and effortlessly elegant these matte white plates and bowls brought an enduring utilitarian elegance to the table and beautifully set off the soup and lentil dishes from our meal.
Thank you to Laurena for sharing her graceful and inspiring talents with us for this meal. The beginnings of this post started in much the same way as many holidays – with a journey. Car packed, a thermos of black coffee in the front console and an early departure time. In the blue-grey dawn of a particularly chilly morning earlier in November I dug parsnips from the garden . A thin sweater not quite warm enough, my teeth chattered as I sunk the pitchfork into the firm dark earth, tilted it back 45 degrees and stooped to collect my reward. Half a dozen or so long white parsnips emerged from below the soil – I gathered them up by their greens and shook off some excess earth from the roots, feeling that feeling of victorious gardener as I surveyed their size and shape. The first parsnips dug after a long summer growing season.
I quickly bundled them and popped them in a bucket in the boot of the car before closing the trunk and backing out of the drive. I turned on the headlights to cut through the still dark roads and pointed south, knowing that at the end of this journey would be a warm house and gracious hostess.
That hostess proved to be even more gracious than I could have imagined and when I arrived on her doorstep a few hours later, Julia greeted me with the warmth of an old friend, though we had never met in person and ushered me inside the back door of her stunning 18th century home. We first struck up a conversation months ago over Instagram – tied by our love of simple seasonal food and old houses. And we continued chatting over light fixtures, hardware, crumbling foundations, squashes and salads – its part of the magic of social media – being able to find your tribe, miles and oceans away. And those months of conversations lead us to this moment and two wonderfully inspiring days of collaboration –
Julia’s talents in the kitchen and behind the camera are remarkable – her effortless style and grace infuse everything around her – it was truly a joy working alongside her. And I’m so grateful to her for opening up her gorgeous home as the setting for these few days of holiday inspiration. And continue to be inspired by her wonderfully approachable style of cooking. She dreamed up a perfectly simple meal for this collaboration. Easy enough to be enjoyed on a weeknight with friends, around an intimate table filled with candle light while still feeling festive and seasonally inspired enough to take us through to the darkest winter days.
And of course no table is complete in my opinion without a cheese platter – I love to set one out at the beginning of any meal so that guests can nibble on something over the afternoon and evening. And nibble we did on the a delightful bounty of Vermont Creamery cheeses. Not only are their cheese stunning to look at their richness and flavor and outstanding. I am particularly fond of the lovely dusty grey Bonne Bouche
Find the recipes for our intimate holiday gathering below –
BLACK FUTSU SQUASH SOUP
- 4 pounds (about 2) black futsu squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1 vidalia onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1½ cups whole coconut milk, plus more for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- Fennel fronds (or other fresh herb), for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Cut each half of squash into approximate 1-inch wedges and arrange in one layer on 2 (or 1 large) baking sheets.
- Spoon 3 tablespoons of the coconut oil over top and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Massage the oil into the squash until every wedge is completely coated.
- Roast in the oven until very soft when pierced with a fork, about 30 – 35 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- In a large pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat, add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent and very soft, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, turmeric, and coriander and cook for 3 – 5 minutes longer.
- Remove from the heat. Using a spoon or your hands, scoop the cooled squash flesh from the skin and add to the pot. Discard the skin.
- Add the coconut milk and 1½ cups of water and stir to combine. Return the pot to high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes to reheat and meld the flavors.
- Working in batches, blend the soup in a high-powered blender until completely smooth. Once smooth, return the soup to the pot. At this point, you can adjust the thickness of your soup with water to your liking (we added 1 cup of water).
- Reheat the soup if needed and adjust the salt as necessary.
- Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Drizzle coconut milk over top and top with fennel fronds to garnish.
BRAISED LENTILS WITH ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES
For the vegetables:
- 4 – 6 small parsnips, greens trimmed
- 1 bunch small carrots, greens attached
- 1 bunch radishes and/or small turnips, greens attached
- ¼ cup olive oil Salt, to taste
For the lentils:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- ½ fennel bulb, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ cups French lentils
- 5 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade), plus more if needed
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Halve any larger vegetables lengthwise, if needed, so they are all roughly the same thickness.
- On a large sheet pan, or several large cast iron skillets, toss the vegetables with the olive oil and salt to taste.
- Arrange in a single layer and roast, tossing once halfway through, until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife and their greens are crisp, about 25 – 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the chopped shallots and fennel and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the vinegar and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Simmer until the liquid has almost completely reduced, about 5 minutes.
- Add the lentils and the vegetable stock and bring to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have absorbed most of the broth and are tender, about 45 to 50 minutes, adding more broth throughout the cooking process if necessary.
- Once cooked, spoon the lentils onto a platter and top with the roasted vegetables. Serve family style.
Serves 4 – 6
note: both the crust and crumb topping can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until you’re ready to assemble the tart.
For the crust:
- 1 cup flour, plus more for rolling the dough
- 2 Tbsp teaspoon sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick or 115g very cold butter, cut into cubes
- 2-3 Tbsp Ice cold water
For the filling:
- 3 – 4 small, crisp apples (such as empire or gala)
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon sugar
For the crumb topping:
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
- Sprinkle of nutmeg
- ¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- Confectioner’s sugar, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Set aside a 14 x 4 ½-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom.
To prepare the crust:
- in a medium bowl, combine the salt, flour and sugar. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter or your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and is the consistency of wet sand
- Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time until until the dough just comes together. Do not overwork your dough.
- Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days
- Meanwhile, halve and core the apples and thinly slice into half moons on a mandolin. Add the apple slices to a large bowl and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the top. Toss to combine.
- In a separate bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, and spices. Add the butter and use your fingers to work into the oat mixture. Set aside.
To assemble the tart:
- on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an approximate 16 x 6-inch rectangle, or until about 1/8-inch-thick.
- Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll over the tart pan, allowing the excess dough to fall over the sides.
- Using your fingertips, gently push the dough into the tart pan and up the sides. Take care not to stretch the dough while you do this – if there are areas that are not covered by dough, just rip small excess pieces off the edges of the dough and press them into these areas as necessary.
- Use your rolling pin to gently roll over the top of the tart pan to trim the excess dough.
- Fill the tart with the apple slices and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top. Then sprinkle with the crumb topping and the chopped walnuts.
- Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the apples are soft and the crumb topping and crust are golden, about 1 hour.
- Set aside to cool aprox 20 minutes. Once cooled enough to handle, carefully remove the tart from the pan and transfer to a serving platter. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and cut into wedges to serve.