Friday, November 20, 2009

Mediterranean Goodness


Serves 6 to 8


1 medium spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
1/2 cup feta cheese


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Place the cut sides face down on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Saute until the onions become tender. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the olives.   

Use a fork to remove the meat of the squash. Mix into the sauteed vegetables. Garnish with the feta.  

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

A New Side Dish

Stately and imposing, roast turkey has an alluring presence on the table. But, all too often, the feast offered the eyes does not translate to the tongue. That is why I stand with the sides in the turkey v. side dish debate. I don't believe a relatively lean bird can compete with bread crumbs soaked in eggs and potatoes smothered in butter. I won't even start with the pie.

Unfortunately, I'm not the only one in the family who covets the side dishes. When remnants of the Thanksgiving day meal are lined up, buffet-style, my siblings and I elbow for leftovers - mashed potatoes, dressing, and corn (a family tradition) - like early morning shoppers at a black Friday sale. A few forkfuls of the dismantled turkey eventually also make it onto our plates. Inevitably the dreaded post-Thanksgiving complaints are registered. "Is the dressing all gone???" "What happened to the mashed potatoes?"

Given our unanimous preference for sides, I decided to add another dish to the table this year. I wanted something to counteract the richness of the mashed potatoes and dressing. Bon Appetit's brussels sprouts slaw with mustard dressing should create the right balance. In-season and full of flavor, the briefly steamed sprouts offer crunch and tang. I'm hoping their presence on the menu will lead to less tussling over leftovers after the holiday.

Quick tip: score each sprout before placing them in your steamer. This helps the leaves and core to cook at the same rate.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Cranberries

(Adapted from Joy of Baking)

-  The peel of conventionally produced oranges, lemons, and limes contain residues from pesticides. So consider using organic versions in recipes that call for the peel.  


1 large egg
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with canola oil. 

In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg, orange juice, and vanilla.   

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Blend the butter into the flour mixture so it resembles coarse crumbs.  

Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Add the cranberries and walnuts.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.  

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack before slicing.  

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Rethinking Cranberries

My mom had a run-in with cranberry sauce soon after she moved to the states.

It was 1963 and the administration at St. Alexis Hospital had invited all the foreign residents to spend Thanksgiving with a host family. At the time, my parent's social circle included recent immigrants from India, Mexico, and South America. Eager to branch out, my mom convinced my father to accept the invitation. The staff provided my parents with the name and address of an American family living in Cleveland. And like Marco Polo, my parents set off to discover the mysteries of their new world.

I like to picture them stepping out of their black VW bug. My mom in a carefully pressed silk sari; her shoulder-length hair tucked into a plump bun. My father in a dark suit with the buttons discreetly fastened. When they reached the door, they were welcomed by a middle aged Caucasian couple, two children, and a grandmotherly figure who all turned out to be gracious hosts. Other details about the family - their names, hair color, clothing - have faded with time. Even now, my mom vividly remembers the meal.

Soon after they sat down to eat, the grandmother commented on my mom's slender build.

"You're too skinny. You need to eat more!"

She insisted that my mom be given an extra large helping of turkey. Before handing my mom her plate, the woman of the house asked whether she wanted cranberry sauce. From across the table, it reminded my mom of the savory pickle she ordered from
ABC Trading Company (Canal Street, New York, New York) along with cumin, cardamom, coriander and other pantry staples. She nodded politely. Feeling part of the inner circle at last, my mom happily bit into a forkful of turkey smothered in the burgundy-colored sauce. The turkey paled in taste compared to the spice-laden meat she was accustomed to and the sauce was sweet! It was an incomprehensible pairing. She still recalls how she had to fight the nausea that begun bubbling up her throat. Sadly, when she looked down, there was a huge chunk of turkey smothered with cranberry sauce resting on her plate.The following year, my parents celebrated Thanksgiving with the Mennons who had also immigrated from Kerala. Mr. Mennon's employer had offered him a turkey and my mom had insisted that he accept it. She and Mrs. Mennon basted and roasted it under the wing of Good Housekeeping Cookbook (which still has a hallowed place in my mom's kitchen.)

The meal did not include cranberries.
I remember my mom serving canned cranberry sauce off and on at Thanksgiving. Perhaps she felt obligated to include it the longer she lived in the states. Everyone ignored it. After eatingLinkKerala dishes day in and day out, we were wary to let sweet and savory flavors mingle. I have never bothered to include cranberries at the holiday meals I've hosted. But lately I begun itching to make room for the garnet colored fruit on the table. This year a cranberry walnut upside down cake from Gourmet will grace the table.TIPS:

- I love the warm taste of cinnamon and add 1/2 teaspoon to the dry ingredients when preparing this cake.
- It's best to invert this cake directly onto the serving dish because it has a delicate crumb, despite its rustic appearance. If you plan to move it more than once, add a tiny layer of oil to the surface of the wire rack or dish before you lay it down.

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