1120 “Thanksgiving”

I love Thanksgiving, and I love that nearly every Thanksgiving since 1999 has included at least one bonus Thanksgiving dinner – not the comprised of leftovers type, but the type where you’re surrounded by friends and loved ones who are not bound to you by genetics or tradition. I wrote about this in my zine last year – I love the way that we’ve invented and reinvented traditions while playing with the idea of family. I love that some years there are just a few of us far from home – and some years our house is bursting at the seams with good food and good friends.

Last year we were new in town, so we broke with tradition and instead had a Bosnian feast with friends in Chicago for Kim’s birthday. This year we both wanted to resuscitate the tradition, so in October, I sent out an email inviting friends to a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. When we didn’t hear back from many people, we decided to just have an open house – come when you can, bring something tasty, and everyone will go home full and happy. Little did we realize that all but two of the people we invited could make it, meaning that at 8pm we had run out of both plates and seating. By oh my goodness, was it wonderful.

There were so many good things that I can’t begin to recount them, but I do want to tell you about the two dishes we made. First, a pumpkin risotto which used up the last of the weekend’s pumpkin. I misplaced one of the onions – I think it must’ve just gone in early – and I would omit the white pepper next time, but otherwise the dish was a total success. The recipe claimed that it served 6, but at least 15 small portions were spooned out, leaving at least 2 for leftovers, so I would guess you could happily feed 8 hungry people if you want to give it a try.

And second, oh my word, the stand-out recipe of the evening and possibly the fall: Smitten Kitchen‘s sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese. Candied coins of sweet potato topped with a sort of Waldorf salad, except sub a sweet red wine vinegar for the mayonnaise, and sub dried cranberries for the apples. It was exquisite. I’m so glad we made a double batch, and I can’t wait to make more for my family’s Thanksgiving next week.

Recipes:
Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Goat Cheese from Smitten Kitchen
Pumpkin Risotto from Food and Wine

0819 Garden-Fresh Snack Dinner

Snack Dinner
Shane’s favorite grapes, which I included in our wedding vows because it was important to me to remember. Golden beets from our garden and the market plus a couple of huge sweet garlic cloves, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, then wrapped in tinfoil and roasted at 375 for about an hour. Green beans from the market, but Szechuan pickled by me.

Snack Dinner
Sopressata. Sharon Hollow goat cheese with garlic and Tellicherry pepper, a $5 impulse buy. The last of a loaf of Italian bread, and a handful of tiny cherry tomatoes that sprung up by surprise in our garden.

Snack Dinner
Green beans from our garden, quickly blanched. Cucumber and radish freezer pickles, also from our garden.

Snack Dinner
All in all, a glorious spread.

0615 A Serious Squash Salad

Shane stayed late at work tonight, so he missed out on the glory that was this salad:

OMG Squash

What is it? Two small zucchinis and two small summer squashes, sliced lengthwise and grilled. A chiffonade of mint and basil from the garden. Soft goat cheese and toasted pine nuts.  And I ate it ALL. Every last bite. And here is a funny Photobooth picture to prove it:

Squash makes me happy

The recipe called for boiling the squash, then tossing all ingredients with a light vinaigrette.  I prefer the squash grilled, and there was enough moisture and flavor from the grilling that I didn’t think the dressing was necessary.  Maybe next time I’ll use the dressing – and will share the salad with Shane.

Recipe:
Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts from Ezra Pound Cake

0508 This Pizza is a Miracle

A miracle in a couple of senses.  First, it’s a miracle that I got dinner on the table at all.  I spent today digging channels for baseboards:
Spirit of Hope Hoop House Build

and holding 16′ boards in place while they were marked, drilled, and hung:
Spirit of Hope Hoop House Build

plus lots of other mucking about, digging, holding, and securing while participating in the Spirit of Hope hoophouse build in Detroit. What you don’t get from these pictures, though, is an accurate portrayal of the weather. It was cold. It was windy. It rained a lot. It also hailed. And then occasionally the sun would peek out and give us all hope. It was a physically challenging day, but the net result will be an extended growing season for the community garden allied with the kind folks at Spirit of Hope.

After delivering my carpoolers home, I went straight for the tub with a glass of bourbon, both very necessary to soothe and warm my sore muscles. So you can see how getting dinner on the table, much less a home-cooked dinner, much less one that had to be rolled out, was kind of a miracle.

The second miracle? How fantastic these pizzas tasted!

0508 This Pizza is a Miracle
Asparagus, prosciutto, and goat cheese

0508 This Pizza is a Miracle
Roasted red pepper, shallot, asparagus, and goat cheese

I had picked up a frozen ball of pizza dough at Plum earlier in the week, so tonight I split it in half, rolled it out, and pre-baked it at 450 for about 10 minutes.  I was surprised by how much the dough puffed up – we tend to like a thinner crust, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it any thinner than this.  Add the toppings, toss the pizza back in the oven for a few minutes, and dinner was on the table.

Shane fancied his up with balsamic crema and olive oil, while I didn’t even wait to sit down to start eating.  So good!  I’ve decided that we need to keep pizza dough in the freezer at all times if it means that a dinner like this can be made in a pinch.

0505 Linguini with Spinach and Goat Cheese

Dinner was simple and delicious.  I made a tomato sauce last night to save time for tonight’s prep – so making dinner was as simple as warming up the sauce and boiling the pasta, then tossing a few handfuls of fresh spinach into the sauce at the last minute.  When combined and then dotted with soft goat cheese, it made for a creamy and savory bowl of happiness.  It also very effectively cleared out the last of the spinach, goat cheese, and Al Dente pasta – and to some extent redeemed spontaneous pastas from Monday’s disappointment.  With random spinach-y greens growing in our garden, I suspect you’ll see many more meals like this in the future.

Garden Greens

Recipe:
Tagliatelle, Spinach and Goats Cheese from Jamie’s Dinners

0428 Michael Symon’s Macaroni and Cheese

We were given a copy of Michael Symon’s Live to Cook, the first cookbook by the Cleveland restaurateur and Iron Chef America personality of the same name.  We keep talking about going to Symon’s two restaurants in Cleveland, but the closest we’ve gotten is tonight’s macaroni and cheese.

0428 Michael Symon's Macaroni and Cheese

Yeah, yeah, I know this isn’t the most mouthwatering of photos, but do you see those bubbles?  That’s goat cheese and heavy cream, and a lot of both, and it’s bubbling up through freshly ground pepper.  And it’s delicious.

I’m not generally big on fancied up macaroni and cheese, to be totally honest.  I don’t like bread crumbs on top, and I don’t really care if it’s baked.  I don’t need four kinds of cheese, or a whole lot of accouterments to make me happy – just melted gooey goodness, with maybe some ham or peas added at the last minute.  Y’know, like this:

Best. Meal. Ever.

But I digress.

Dinner was deceptively simple.  Not quite as simple as the shells and cheese above, but much more simple than you’d expect from a fancy chef’s cookbook.  The sauce is goat cheese, rosemary, and heavy cream warmed together and reduced, with shredded chicken and your noodles stirred in towards the end.

That’s it.  No funny business.  No superfluous salt and pepper or seasoning, which struck me as a bit odd.  No pepper at all?  Really?  No pepper.  OK, so I added pepper.  And if I made this again, I would add more pepper.  I would also cut back on the sauce, and add in some vegetables, like the asparagus we served with the macaroni and cheese.

So maybe I do like my macaroni and cheese fancied up after all.

Recipe:
Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook

0422 A Simple Chicken Pasta

I don’t know what’s happening, but I just haven’t been feeling the cooking love this last week.  Maybe this is the dénouement of the exciting wedding weekend?  Maybe I’m feeling spoiled after a few weeks of eating out on trips and with visitors?  I dunno.

The net result, though, is that we plan meals and then don’t feel like making/eating them, and THEN end up with stuff in our fridge that needs to be used before going bad.  Last night’s asparagus was intended to be eaten with pork chops, which were intended to be grilled about a week ago.  Instead they’re in the freezer, waiting to be used later in the week (perhaps) (if we don’t flake out again), and the asparagus was perfect with our snacky cheese dinner.  Tonight’s chicken breasts were intended for this recipe from Bon Appetit, but then we got lazy, and then we ate the peppers with something else, and then and then and then…sigh.

SO in the end, we had chicken and pasta.  I sliced the chicken breasts into cutlets and browned them in the cast iron skillet with garlic and a little butter.  While the pasta was boiling, I melted some of last night’s City Goat in the skillet, then tossed it with the pasta and served it immediately.  Simple and flavorful, and on the table in under 30 minutes.  I suppose if this is what ‘not cooking’ looks like in our house, we’re still doing better than most.