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. continue reading
lately I have been feeling a persistent restlessness
when I’m in the city, I long for the country but when I find myself among the fields and gardens of the farm, I yearn for that urban hum and bustle
In the company of others I imagine a sublime solitude and in those moments of separateness, I find myself seeking the company of others – jovial conversations and long drawn out dinners with friends.
Setting the table, is one of those rituals I cherish. As a child I was tasked with collecting the flatware, polishing and carefully laying each piece beside the plate, in its designated place. Now, it has become a part of the process of eating together, whether it’s a weeknight, dinner party or holiday, that I love deeply. It has become something of a meditation, a pause at the end of the day (though some days a much more hasty pause than others) when the rhythm of everyday life takes over and I know exactly where I’m meant to be and what I’m meant to be doing. And it is a routine which, unlike many others, has the ability to nearly effortlessly expand, or adapt to the moment. What is most weeknights two place settings at the table easily accommodates more weekend or holiday settings, and I find myself happily making room, shuffling about, sitting elbow to elbow.
I have shared many tables over the years, with family, close friends, new friends, and total strangers. Each meal has been uniquely its own, with some more memorable than others but each one creating and then possessing a certain magic all its own. Ephemeral, perhaps even sublimely theatrical.
walking the fields I’ve found myself collecting and pocketing little bits of things – subconsciously brainstorming the thanksgiving table – the shiny side of chestnut leaves, dried pods from flowers gone by, a few gourds left from october. Pieces of fruit which will become part of dessert later in the night, sage which is still wonderfully abundant in the garden, pale gold maple leaves. I have been amassing a color palette in my head, a stack of miss matched dish linens could act as napkins and a collection of glasses sitting on the counter to dry become an unexpected grouping. All of these bits individually unremarkable but collected, something different all together. This is the essence of the table too.
Below are a few recipes which make a meal. To me they are the quintessential flavors of autumn; of new england. Thought hopefully presented in a newish sort of way. They hold in their flavors, ingredients, indeed their very make up, same sense of place that the smell of apple wood smoke winding up from a chimney on a cold autumnal conjures in my mind. They are about the ingredients available and abundant at this moment and few spices borrowed from other places to make this meal a little more remarkable, a little more festive.
The little sugar pumpkins take on a gorgeous starch richness when baked and stuffed with the beautiful long grain black rice they are visually just as appealing. They carve nicely, and can be served in thick slices mounded with the fruit, nut and herb laden rice. The rice naturally has an aroma of summer hay and when cooked it reveals an intense nuttiness and gorgeous texture. Save the seeds from the pumpkin and roast them up for perfect snack with a glass of wine or for munching during a football game – they are delicious.
The kale salad is simple but continues the play of sweet and savory so well accommodated by autumn. Pears are still sweet and juicy this time of year and the ruby-red jewels of the pomegranate seeds elevate this otherwise simplistic salad. A mustard dressing ties it all together.
And the almond cake, inspired by one I had in Portugal and adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe is dense and stick to the roof of your mouth good. Caramelized apples, hints of cardamom and cinnamon, It’s a cake to make you linger at the table –
For the Wild Rice Stuffed Pumpkins
- 3 small sugar pumpkins (aprox 2lbs each)
- 2 cups / 400g long grain wild rice
- 2 cups / 250g toasted pecans
- 1 cup / 165g yellow raisins
- 1 cup / 135g tart unsweetened dried cherries
- zest from three large oranges
- 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 1/2 cups mint loose packed then chopped
- 8 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
- 3 tsp corse salt + a few more pinches for the pumpkin cavities
- freshly ground black pepper
- rinse rice in cold water and soak overnight
- rinse and drain the rice again, add it to a large pot with enough water to cover the rice by an inch
- bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat and simmer rice for 30 minutes. Drain off any liquid that remains and set the rice aside to cool
- toast pecans in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned, being careful not to burn. remove from the oven and once cool enough to handle, roughly chop. then set aside
- in a large bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients and let them stand while the rice cools
- with a large sharp knife, cut the top off the pumpkin, horizontally and about 3 inches below the stem. reserve and set aside
- using a spoon remove the seeds and stringy insides, hollowing out the pumpkin. then add a generous pinch of salt to each cavity
- when the rice has cooled (it doesn’t have to be cold and can be slightly above room temp) add it along with the pecans to the rest of the ingredients. Toss to combine all flavors and set aside for 45 mins
- Preheat the oven to 425
- divide the mixture evenly between the three pumpkins and stuff each cavity with the rice mixture. Replace the lid (wrapping any stems in foil so they don’t burn) and place in a shallow baking dish, along with 2 cups of water.
- Bake for 1 hour or until the skin of the pumpkin is easily pierced, blistered and browned. check the pan periodically to ensure there is a bit of water in the bottom
- remove pumpkins from the oven and serve immediately or at room temp. Slicing each pumpkin vertically into 4 large wedges and scooping rice on top
For the Kale Salad
- 3 large bunches of lacino kale
- 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 small firm green or bosc pears, cored and sliced into 1/4 slices
- 2 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup good quality olive oil
- 2 tbsp cranberry jelly (or red currant)
- 3 tsp grainy mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- wash and dry the kale, strip the woody spine from each leaf and discard, and tear into 4″ pieces
- add kale, salt and apple cider vinegar to a large bowl. Massage with clean hands until the leaves have broken down and softened, 2-3 minutes.
- add pear slices and pomegranate seeds
- in a small bowl whisk together the cranberry jelly, mustard and olive oil. If the mixture is a little thick add a splash of water and whisk until emulsified
- drizzled dressing (as desired, you may not want it all) over salad and toss well to combine
For the Apple Cake
adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson
for the puree
- 3 large tart cooking apples
- 1 tbsp juice lemon
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp sugar
for the carmelized apples
- 1 extra-large or two large apples of your choice
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp finely ground green cardamom
for the cake
- 8 large eggs at room temp
- 325g almond flour
- 275g sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp pure almond extract
- pinch of salt
- for the puree peel, core and roughly chop the three tart cooking apples. add to a small sauce pan along with the lemon juice, three cinnamon sticks and sugar
- bring the pan to a bubble over medium heat, then reduce, cover, and simmer over low heat, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples become very mushy or breakdown all together
- remove from heat and let cool to room temp. then discard cinnamon sticks. there should be a heaping cup of puree
- for the caramelized apples – peel core and slice apples into 1/2 slices
- melt butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat, once bubbling add the cardamom and stir constantly until fragrant
- add brown sugar and stir until dissolved
- then add the apples in a spiral starting from the outside of the pan so that the face of each slice has full contact with the pan. Cook 2- 3 minutes or until browned, turn and brown the other side.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool
- for the cake – preheat the oven to 350
- lightly oil the inside of a 10″ spring form pan with a tasteless oil and cut a circle of parchment to fit in the bottom of the pan. dust the inside with almond flour
- separate the eggs. reserve whites in a large bowl, add yolks to food processor
- along with the egg yolk,add to the food processor the cooled puree almond flour, sugar, lemon juice, pinch of salt and almond extract
- arrange the caramelized apple slices in a single spiraled layer at the bottom of the spring form pan
- in a separate bowl beat the egg whites to soft peaks, its ok if the tops flop over a little. then, gently fold in the mixture from the food processor until well combined
- pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, over the top of the apple slices and place in the oven immediately
- bake for 35 – 45min. checking after 35 for doneness
- remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. once cool, run a thin knife along the inside edge of the pan to ensure the cake is free before carefully removing the mold.
- Invert cake onto a plate or platter and dust with powered sugar. serve that day
Things are truly winding down at the farm. The last vestiges of summer, a few unripened green tomatoes clinging to the vine, have been picked. The garden has surrendered and will lay dormant now until next season. The hens are laying less. The dark mornings, chilly wet days and early evenings give them no motivation and they seem preoccupied with foraging in the field anyway. The shorter days mean less time spent outside and with the daylight growing more scarcse, I am looking forward to bright mornings and seeking out the warmth of the indoors. continue reading