If you've been hanging around these parts for some time now, you've probably heard all about my Thanksgiving family tradition.
It's around this time of year that I have a lot of conversations that go a little like this:
Person: "Thanksgiving is coming up ... I bet it's your favorite holiday, I bet you already have your menu planned."
Me: "Ummm, not exactly."
Person: "Oh stop. I bet you love to cook for everyone on Thanksgiving."
Me: "Ummm, no. Not really. Actually, we are going out to eat for Thanksgiving. We've been doing it for the past few years and I love it. I love to have someone else do the cooking, and I looooove that I do not have to do the dishes."
Person: *totally perplexed*
I have this same conversation about 10 time between October up until Thanksgiving, and I can completely understand the confused reaction I sometimes get. Every year I go through the ... I miss cooking for Thanksgiving, I am going to cook again this year ... and then I run it by Michael and he swiftly changes my mind. The truth is, we really enjoy going out with our family on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving for me over the past few years has become a holiday where me and the fam get spoiled. Someone else does the cooking, someone else scoops an extra serving of stuffing onto my plate, someone else makes an apples pie from scratch, and someone else gets to run the dishwasher more than one time during the day. I get to relax, my family members get to relax, and we get to enjoy some really good food that someone else made. I love it.
Even though I am not cooking this year, that does not mean I will not share a few things that would be on my menu if I was cooking. This colorful dish would definitely be on the menu.
In the past when I have cooked, I like to keep things simple and traditional, but I also like to modernize classic dishes. My definition of modernize in the kitchen is all about using less processed ingredients, less butter, less ...... marshmellows.
This is a healthy, colorful dish that combines broccoli and cauliflower, two vegetables that you would normally find on a Thanksgiving table. Tahini and pomegranates are not ingredients that are normally found on a more traditional Thanksgiving table, but I think once they make their debut, they will be a welcomed addition.
Pomegranate seeds have that wonderful pop that adds an ever so slight bit of tart sweetness. They also add a festive, colorful tone to the dish. The tahini adds a creamy element without adding cream. This side dish won't leave you feeling overindulged.
This takes about 20 minutes to prep and cook, so it is the perfect, easy addition to a big meal. You can also pre-cook the broccoli and cauliflower in the cast iron pan, and wait to put it in the oven to warm up right before you are ready to serve.
Purple cauliflower used to be somewhat of an anomaly, but recently I've been seeing it everywhere. Grocery stores, farmers markets, sometimes it has taken the place of white cauliflower all together. I hope it is as easy for you to find as it was for me. While it has the same flavor as the white, it really make the colors in this dish explode off the plate.
Hey guys, guess what? I want to be the one to tell you this, so here it goes. Summer isn't over yet. Just because Labor Day has come and gone, I am not turning in my flip flops for knee-high boots just yet. I am going to soak up every last second. As long as I have a slight hint of tan on my legs and vegetables in the garden it's summer in my mind.
This summer was a productive one for me. I had some pretty serious goals I was trying to accomplish, but within the serious goals I had some not so serious ones I was aiming for too.
Try to wiggle in a couple of beach days in-between working on the cookbook (check).
Have fun (check).
Sleep in during the last week of August (check).
Work on my garden and improve my green thumb skills (check).
Last summer I planted my first garden on my own, and I had very few successes and way too many zucchinis and mini-pumpkins. This summer I had a different strategy. I may have cheated a little, but I think it was necessary in my learning process.
I planted my garden with plants I bought that had already sprouted. Some may call this cutting corners, others may call this smart, but since I am not a person who can dedicate all of my attention to my garden, it turned out to be the best decision I could have made. My entire garden was a success (except for some little creature who was loving my kale) but besides that we now have a beautiful and balanced garden that is full of gorgeous summer vegetables.
I have been eating mostly from the garden for the past few weeks, and as far as home cooked meals go, there is not much that beats that.
I planted a few swiss chard plants in my garden and by mid-August they had grown to have some of the biggest leaves I have ever seen. I'm talking seriously big. I had to do something fun with them.
You know I am not one to take the safe route and just throw them into a pan and satuée them. I wanted to come up with something totally different. After several attempts, these enchiladas came to be.
Michael and I had a little bit of a debate on what to call these. Actually, the debate was sparked because I was accidentally calling them "empanadas" and he vehemently protested. Empanadas are one of Michael's great food loves, so I wouldn't want to mess with them. Woops! Enchiladas ... not empanadas! Once we sorted out the confusion, he agreed that "enchiladas" made more sense.
Traditional enchiladas are made with a corn or flour tortilla that has some kind of filling, topped off with a tomato based sauce and typically lots of cheese and then baked. Over here, I have a slightly different take on enchiladas for you. Subbing out the processed, carb-heavy tortilla for swiss chard is bold move in the health direction. And, by sticking with the green theme, adding in a green tahini instead of a tomato based sauce and cheese still satisfies the creamy texture but in a much more "still kind-of bathing suit season" sort of way. This is a perfect light, but indulgent, meal to ease into late late summer.
I've been getting asked a lot recently how I come up with new recipes and where I get ideas from. Well, first things first, I think about food. A lot. Constantly. Probably more than the average person (but probably not much more than you, if you're taking the time to read this blog about food). Constantly thinking about food is a necessary starting point, but there are many outside influences, some obvious and others not so much.
I eat out a decent amount. It's hard not to living in NYC. I love to eat out just as much as I love to cook. It might be my biggest source of inspiration, and it's nice to have someone else do the cooking (and the dishes). Every new restaurant experience from the most casual to the most fancy has a way of getting the ideas flowing.
Even just wandering around the streets, walking by a restaurant and checking out their menu in the window will get me inspired. This city loves food, and sure does it well. I'm constantly being bombarded with awesome ideas.
It also helps that most of the people I know love food and love to talk about food, and if they have a good idea or a recipe or a restaurant to try they are always willing and excited to share it with me. These conversations are my favorite sources of inspiration.
Last week we had dinner with friends at the Fat Raddish in the lower east side (yum). I got a lot of inspiration that night, not only from the food from that restaurant but also from our friends. They're very into food, Andy is by far the most talented home cook I know, but they work late hours so home cooked meals on the week nights usually consist of something that can easily be throw together. Julie told me that she made stuffed baked sweet potatoes the other night, and it sounded so awesome ... I warned her I might be stealing her idea.
I couldn't stop thinking about baked potatoes. I love how easy it is to just throw one in the oven, but also how you can load it with all sort of healthy and delicious toppings. It quickly becomes an easy, tasty, complete meal.
I'm sure you've heard the expression "eat the rainbow", and that's easy to do when you're starting with a bright orange potato. Greens were of course my next color of choice to add. You can use any green you like, but I really like the taste of mustard greens. They're hearty and have a bit of an edge to them. White beans round out the protein and add another element of color. Lastly, I wanted an awesome sauce to finish this off, and cilantro has a way of balancing everything out.
I'll be making this many of the nights that I am not eating out. Thanks for the inspiration Julie.
Bayley, our sweet crazy mutt dog, turned three last week (that's 21 in dog years). His birthday is March 1st. He's adopted, which means we do not know what his exact birthday is, so we gave him a made up birthday when we got him. I make sure to give him a few extra hugs on his birthday (he's a big time hugger, he loves getting hugs).
I am a bit of a crazy dog lady. I'm that person who has to stop every dog on the street just to give them a scratch and say hello. I love the dog culture and the conversations you have with other dog owners.
"This is Spot, don't mind him, he's a bit ant-social."
"Oh, Roofus loves to play, can he pay with your dog."
"Jack gets really excited when he sees big dogs, he thinks he's bigger than he really is."
It's amazing how much a dog's personality reflects their owner's. I like to think that Bayley got his happy and loving attitude from us.
The other day I was walking him around our neighborhood and a random guy stopped us on the street and asked if he could pet Bayley. This guy spent a good couple of minutes scratching him, hugging him, telling him how beautiful he was. Bayley was eating it up. Then he told me he just lost his dog and that it felt good just to pet another dog. My heart sank, but I totally knew what he meant. It just feels good to get some love from a dog.
I walked away with a giant smile on my face knowing that my dog made that random guy on the street so happy and brightened his day.
Owning a dog is not 100% love 100% of the time. There are definitely moments when I think to myself, why on earth am I taking care of this pain the butt animal. When he jumps on my friends when they come over to our apartment, or when he whines to me during the day because he would rather be outside playing. There are many moments of frustration.
But all of those moments added up do not even come close to negating the fact that animals bring so much happiness into a home.
My all-time favorite thing that someone said to Bayley on one of our walks: "That dog sure does love life."
Yes ..... yes, he does.
So for Bayley's birthday this year, he got hugs + I got a bowl of soba noodles with a ginger tahini dressing with lots of greens. Because I was more in the mood to celebrate with a bowl of soba noodles than a piece of cake.
I could eat this every day of my life and be happy. There is something about the creaminess of the tahini that gets me excited. Since I stopped eating dairy, it's the healthiest way for me to get a creamy fix.
It's no secret that I love a big bowl of noodles or a big bowl of greens, so combining the two is just double happiness for me.
The great thing about this dish is you can add any type of green or vegetable that you like, it goes with just about anything. Collards, swiss chard, carrots, cucumbers + tomatoes when the summer comes back around. Same thing goes with pairing this dish. You can add soba and tahini to so many meals as a side dish, or you can just eat it alone for lunch. Yum.
I think I am going to make this every year for Bayley's birthday, and for many of the days in-between.
As you may know, I am a huge fan of Yottam Ottolenghi. His books are a constant source of inspiration for me, and I frequently daydream about having lunch at one of his London restaurants.
My first introduction to Ottolenghi was unusual. On a visit to Maine a couple of years ago, my Aunt + Uncle took me to this fabulous book store in Portland, Maine that sold just cookbooks. Just cookbooks. Dangerous.
Out of the mounds and mounds of gorgeous cookbooks, I could not tear myself away from this one vegetarian focused book with an attractive pillow-like white cover. The recipes were different. Unique. A wonderful combination of mediterranean + middle-eastern flavors. When I went to checkout, the cashier owned the book already and went on and on about what a great book it was. I couldn't wait to get home and make every single recipe.
I bought Ottolenghi's book Plenty before it was released in the US, not knowing what a hit it would end up being here. That also means my book is in grams and celcius, and although it is slightly inconvenient, I look it as a badge of honor for discovering this book before it's US debut.
After cooking my way through Plenty, I couldn't wait until I had the opportunity to eat at one of his London restaurants. This summer I had my chance, and it lived up to everything I had expected. I went to his restaurant in Notting Hill and order as many things that would fit onto one plate. I sat outside in the rain (because that was the only seat open) and I was in heaven. While I was there I was also able to pick up a signed copy of his original book, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook which features the recipes made at his restaurants, and it too has become a staple in my kitchen.