It’s time to have your Thanksgiving dishes planned, there are only a few shopping days left. So, for your recipe searching convenience, I have put together a roundup of a bunch of my holiday greatest hits.
Get to the store now, so you can get the ingredients for a fanyastic Thanksgiving!
Nutty Curry-Stuffed Squashes
These colorful, single-serving squash halves are speckled with golden millet, green jalapeño, and crunchy nuts. Redolent of spice and a touch of coconut, they will draw your guests to the table by scent alone.
3 small sweet dumpling squash or mini pumpkins (about 13 oz/370 g each)
1 tsp canola oil
½ cup/60 g chopped onion
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 medium jalapeño, chopped
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup/50 g millet
½ cup/120 ml coconut milk
½ tsp salt
½ cup/55 g raw cashews
½ cup/55 g whole almonds, toasted
2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F/200° C/gas 6. Cut the squashes in half from the stem to the tip, or if you are using pumpkins that sit flat, cut off the tops as shown in the photo above. Scoop out the seeds and place them cut-side down on oiled baking sheets/trays. Bake for 10 minutes (they will not be completely cooked). Take the pans out and flip the squash halves over. When they have cooled, use a spoon to cut into the flesh, loosening it in spots but leaving it in the shell. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° F/190° C/gas 5.
2. In a 2-qt/2-L saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion, ginger, and mustard seeds. Sauté over medium-high heat until the onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon and stir until they are fragrant. Add the millet and stir to coat, then add the ¼ cup/60 ml water, the coconut milk, and salt and bring them to a boil. When it boils, cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the nuts, then stuff the mixture into the squashes. Sprinkle each with 1 tsp of coconut.
3. Bake the squashes until the filling is set and bubbling and the squashes are easily pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Let them cool slightly before serving.
Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffing with Apples
My favorite thing about Thanksgiving when I was growing up was always the sage-laced stuffing. This hearty rendition has chewy wild rice and whole wheat bread, and apples and nuts for even more sensations as you chew. Don’t wait for the holidays to make this dish; it’s a great way to use up stale bread and can be made with bulgur, buckwheat, or any of the rices.
Makes 6 cups, about 6 servings
1 cup water
1/4 cup wild rice
4 cups cubed whole wheat bread (about 5 slices)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or oil
1/2 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and cook the wild rice in it. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl and let them dry out for an hour or so, if you have time.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F In a large Dutch oven or pasta pot, heat the butter or oil and sauté the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat until all are tender. Add the apples, stock, pepper, herbs, and salt and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cooked wild rice. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the bread cubes.
3. Scrape the stuffing into a 2-quart casserole or baking dish and top with the chopped walnuts, pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. You can cover and refrigerate the stuffing for up to 4 days at this point. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Big Salad with Caramelized Pumpkinseeds, Pears and Pomegranate
From The New Vegetarian (Chronicle Books)
This is a great wintertime salad, with the pomegranates that only appear around the holidays and pears and pumpkinseeds. Vegans can just leave out the cheese and enjoy the crunchy spiced seeds instead. To take seeds out of the pomegranate, cut through the skin from stem to tip, dividing the fruit in quarters. Hold it over a bowl and pull apart the sections, then tear apart the pieces, gently freeing the seeds.
1 cup pumpkinseeds, raw
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 large bosc pears, sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, optional
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice concentrate
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave or organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted pumpkinseed oil
1 small pomegranate, arils (seeds) removed
1. Make the pumpkinseed topping up to a week ahead. Heat the oil for a minute in a medium non-stick skillet. Add the pumpkinseeds and toss in the pan over high heat, until the seeds are popping and browning, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the brown sugar and toss constantly until seeds are coated with melted sugar (careful-it will burn easily). Quickly mix in the spices and salt, then spread on a plate to cool. Cool completely and store in an air tight container until ready to use.
2. Make dressing in processor by mincing garlic and mint. Add pomegranate concentrate, lemon, honey and salt and pulse to mix. Gradually drizzle in oil with machine running.
3. Wash and dry romaine, then slice across the leaf in 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange on plates or in bowl. Top with shallots, pears and cheese. Drizzle over the dressing and top with the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds. Serve right away.
Simple Cranberry Whirl
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup raw cranberries
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
Put all ingredients in blender, blend to desired consistency. Drink.
While I was writing Juice It!, I remember having a conversation with another green juice aficionado. Comparing our usual green juice configurations, our favorite little touches. Of course, citrus, ginger, perhaps an herb like mint. But she said something that stuck with me.
“I used to put two apples in my green juice.” She said. “And then I just put one, and then I just stopped putting it in at all. I don’t need it now.”
Well, it was a comment that I continued to mull over, as I designed the juice recipes for my book, and later, as I did interviews about the book. It seems very grown up, to my mind, to shift away from needing your juices to be sweet. Of course, apples in juice are perfectly healthy, in fact, juicing a whole apple, skin and all, with a slow juicer, puts tons of heart healthy and protective nutrients in your drink.
But the one thing that people seem to have heard out there in the amorphous world of nutrition lore is that juices are all “just sugar.”
Like all the attacks on foods that bounce around the internet, or that you hear from your cross-fit trainer, this is an overly simplified soundbite.
Yes, many pasteurized, filtered juices that you buy in bottles on the shelf are probably just a step better than soda. Just a step, in that they aren’t concocted in a lab, but simply extracted and cooked. When you take a fruit whose main health benefits come from fiber and vitamin C, and filter out the fiber and cook away the C, well, you have something left that’s not as good for you as the original plant, but still sweet.
But a fresh green juice is hardly “just sugar.”
I use a slow juicer that crushes the plants, pressing out the liquids and even allowing a noticeable amount of fiber into the juice. And as a grown-up, I can make a juice that is hardly sweet at all.
So, like my wise friend, you might want to try cutting back on the sweeter fruits in your juices, and add just enough to make it palatable for you. For the everyday juice, lean toward veggies.
Of course, this is assuming that you are not drinking sugary sodas. Even the sweetest fresh pressed juice is a far cry better than a soda, or a sweet coffee concoction at the coffee shop.
It’s silly to eat bags of Halloween candy, then point the finger at a juice made with a bunch of vegetables as being empty sugar.
This juice is carrying the juice of fresh turmeric and ginger along with the veggies, giving you a dose of brain-protective, anti-inflammatory plant chemicals. All the peels of the cucumber and apple are hiding anti-cancer compounds, so juice them along with everything else. Kale is one of the most nutritious foods we eat, so juicing some to add to your healthy, fiber-filled diet just pumps up the calcium and green goodness in your diet.
So give my grown-up green juice a try. Start by juicing all the ingredients up to the apples, and then taste. Do you need the sweet? It’s perfectly ok if you do. Add two apples, one apple, half an apple. Maybe next time, you’ll need less.
Don’t worry about perfection. Just the fact that you are making yourself a fresh juice is putting you in a small group of health-seekers, people who want to take care of their bodies for the long haul.
I still like an apple in mine.
Grown Up Green Juice
Makes about 2 cups if you add the apples
1 bunch kale
2 inches fresh turmeric
2 inches fresh ginger
1 large cucumber
1 large lemon, peels removed
2 apples, to taste
Juice it all, adding apples at the end and stirring it up to taste. Drink within 24 hours.
Have you ever seen “Fox Sushi” on a menu? Did you wonder what kind of sushi a fox might make?
There are two reasons for the name. One is an old belief that fox spirits are roaming about in Japan, where their mischievous, sensual behavior is to blame for unexpected events. Like troublemaking fairies, these spirits need to be placated. They are known to follow the god or goddess of the rice harvest, called Inari. Because of this, the fox spirits enjoy a nice bite of sushi. Over the years, a specific type of sushi was invented for the roving foxes.
Also called Inari Zushi, the dish features a lovely golden brown piece of tofu, opened up like a pita bread and stuffed with sushi rice. Often, the rice is plain, or it might have some veggies mixed in. The fried tofu also has two corners, which could be construed to resemble the ears of a fox, giving the dish a second meaning.
Many Shinto and Buddhist shrines in Japan today have shrines dedicated to Inari, and shops nearby will sell Inari Sushi to leave as an offering.
The tofu wrapper is called “Abura Age” or as this can says, “Inarizushi No Moto, and you buy it canned, which makes this the fastest, easiest way to wrap your rice. It’s available at Japanese markets and online (one source is here)
I know that some of you find cooking with tofu a little daunting, so you will be thrilled to give these nifty pockets a try. You can make them yourself, by slicing tofu thinly and deep frying it, then simmering it in a broth of soy sauce and mirin. Or you can buy it. It’s pretty tasty and good in other dishes, too, so give it a try.
To keep to the Japanese tradition of eating seasonal foods, I opted for some lovely kabocha squash in the filling. It’s orange as a fox, and has a wonderful meaty texture (see a previous post raving about kabocha here.) I like to braise my squash, and use the tender cubes in lots of dishes. In making this recipe, you can make just enough for the 12, or you can go ahead and cook extra rice and braise the whole squash, and take out what you need for this dish.
I always love making extra of things that I will certainly use. The black rice can become a breakfast dish or a quick fried rice, later in the week. And extra bean curd slices can be sliced on salads or stuffed in sandwiches.
Of course, the mythic fox spirits probably have a taste for their traditional white sushi rice, so in this version, my use of black rice might surprise them. I hope that it would delight.
Black Rice Fox Sushi
Of course, you could use other grains, like a red rice, or even quinoa, although the dramatic black rice goes so well with the orange squash, it really works in this.
Makes about 12, appetizers for 6, a meal for 2-3
1/2 cup black medium grain rice (Forbidden Rice is one brand)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon canola or coconut oil
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup peeled and cubed kabocha squash
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 (about 2/3 can) abura age
pickled ginger, wasabi paste, and kimchi
First, cook the rice. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rice and cover, turn to the lowest setting, cook for about 25 minutes. Let stand, covered for about 5 minutes before seasoning.
Season the rice with the maple and rice vinegar, stir in by folding, don’t break the rice.
For the squash, heat the canola or coconut oil over medium heat in a small saute pan and saute the onions for five minutes. Add the kabocha and stir for a minute, then add the stock and salt and cover. It should cook the squash through in about 5-8 minutes. Uncover, test with a paring knife, and raise the heat to boil off any extra liquid. Let cool, then fold into the cooled rice.
Stuff the rice mixture into the tofu pieces. Garnish with piles of ginger and kimchi, a dab of wasabi, and if desired, pass tamari for additional seasoning.
You know that when a gorgeous new vegetable appears in the produce section, I’m going to grab it. Purple Sweet Potatoes? Yes, please.
It turns out that the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato is actually pretty new, at least to the commercial market. A farmer in Stokes County, North Carolina, was looking for a profitable crop to replace tobacco, since tobacco is not such a great bet, these days. The story is that a mysterious woman saw him win a prize at a local fair for his sweet potato, and she came up to him afterwards, to give him the enigmatic yam. He patented the variety in 2006 and it’s been on the market since 2008, and is grown in California now, too.
The purple yam has many of the great health benefits of a regular sweet potato, with the bonus of the purple pigment, anthocyanin. That puts them in the antioxidant star category with blueberries. The purple replaces the orange that gives orange sweet potatoes all that Vitamin A, but you can get your beta carotene from a carrot. Purple is harder to find.
So alongside the purple antioxidants, the sweet potato has all that great fiber, vitamin C and trace minerals. Sweet potatoes have the unique quality of tasting really sweet, but not raising blood sugar levels very much. Studies have found that other phytonutrients in the sweet potato actually act to stabilize blood sugars, making them a good treat for diabetics.
There’s even some compelling evidence that the protein in sweet potatoes kills cancer cells and stops them from metastasizing. (watch a video on this here)
But lets get back to the fun here, these roots are like a pot of purple paint, waiting to be used. Take a look at the color of a baked and pureed one:
Of course, baking with the puree was going to be fun, but I also had to give them a try in a savory dish, so I sliced one up and tossed it with a little canola and roasted it at 425 for about 20 minutes. Here are the “fries” with a little guac I put together.
The purple sweet potato is just a little different from say, a Garnet Yam. It’s a little drier and denser, and the texture is more like a mealy baking potato. The dryness makes them perfect for making these fries, as well as for making a concentrated purple paste for baking. I’ve also roasted them whole and then sliced the cooled flesh for a salad, and thrown them into vegetable soup.
As you can imagine, a bowl of simply mashed purple sweet potatoes, with a little olive oil and garlic, or a little maple syrup, would make a fun side dish at any Fall dinner.
If you are lucky enough to have a source for the purple sweet, by all means give them a try in any sweet potato recipe. Or, try this cookie. Not too sweet, and vibrantly colored, they are definitely a conversation starter at lunch!
Purple Sweet Potato-Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Cherries
Makes about 22 cookies
Of course, you can use regular sweet potatoes if you don’t have purple.
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons ground golden flax
3/4 cup purple sweet potato puree
1/4 cup canola or coconut oil
1/2 cup raw honey or light agave
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour (for bright color, or use half white wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
Preheat the oven to 350 F, line two sheet pans with parchment.
In a medium bowl, combine the almond milk and flax, stir to mix and let stand for 5 minutes to thicken. Add the sweet potato, oil, honey or agave and vanilla and stir vigorously to mix.
In a large bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the sweet potato mixture, it will be thick, switch to kneading it with your hands just until mixed. Mix in the cranberries and chocolate.
Use a tablespoon to form rounded balls of dough, about 2-3 tablespoons each. Form into balls and place on the sheet pans, leaving 2 inches between the balls. Wet your palms and flatten to 3/4 inch thick.
Bake for 8 minutes, reverse the pans and bake for 8 minutes more, until golden on the edges. Transfer to racks to cool.
November is underway, and it’s time to start planning that big Thanksgiving menu. This is the fun part,when you can spend hours mentally rolling through a list of your most beloved holiday dishes. It’s easy to come up with far more must-have dishes than you can possibly make, much less consume. Then comes the process of cutting the list down to the essentials.
Thanksgiving is all about the feast, and it’s an opportunity to roll out your favorite Fall flavors. How many starchy side dishes can we fit on the table, with mashed potatoes, candied yams, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, rolls, bread stuffing, and wild rice pilaf? Which pie can possibly be the one, when we absolutely have to have pumpkin, apple, pecan and sweet potato, and a pumpkin roll cake and gingerbread and…
And on it goes.
I’m lucky enough to get to be a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner, which means I get to bring some sides. The hostess is making and serving a turkey, mashed potatoes and pies. So I can rock out on the veg sides that will serve as mains for the vegetarians in the room.
I actually teach a class on these at cooks of crocus hill in December, if you live in the Minneapolis Area, link here. I’ve been a meatless guest for so many years, I’ve been working on dishes that I will enjoy as a meatless main, while the omnivores can dig into them as really great sides.
But back to Thanksgiving. I won’t be making pie for the meal, which could mean no leftover pie the next day. That just won’t do. I need my morning pumpkin pie fix.
Don’t worry, though, I got started early with this recipe for a pie made from fresh, real pumpkin and all clean foods. So I peeled and chopped a pie pumpkin. You could do this with a kabocha squash, too. I wanted to make a pumpkin pie with no tofu or filler, just sweet pumpkin and some almond butter for flavor. Lots of spice, and a crunchy crumble topping.
It’s not too sweet, if you want it to be closer to typical pie sweetness, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar to the filling, and a couple tablespoons to the topping. It would be great with a whipped coconut milk topping, or some vanilla ice cream.
So, for those of you looking for a new, plant-based pie for the holiday, this could be a contender. I’ll keep making my epic menu lists.
Because its just as fun imagining the meal as it will be to eat it!
Chunky Pumpkin Streusel Pie
You can also make your favorite gluten free pie crust and use brown rice flour in the topping for a gluten free pie.
4 cups peeled and cubed pumpkin (or kaboch squash)
1 tablespoon canola oil, or butter
3 tablespoons apple juice
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons cold water, approximately
1/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons arrowroot
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup sliced almonds
First, braise the pumpkin cubes. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the pumpkin, stir to coat with oil and lightly brown. Add the apple juice and cover, reduce to medium so that the apple juice steams. Keep covered for about 5 minutes, then pierce with a paring knife. When tender, take off the heat and let cool.
Make the Crust: In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Drop in the coconut oil and use a fork to break the oil into chunks throughout the flour. Quickly stir in the water, a tablespoon at a time, use your hands to gather into a bowl. If you need a little more to help make a dough, sprinkle it in.
Flour the counter and roll out the dough, fit it in a 9-inch deep pie pan, and flute. Chill the crust.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
In a food processor, place 3 cups of the pumpkin and puree, reserving the remaining cup of pumpkin pieces. Add the almond butter, maple syrup, arrowroot, spices and vanilla and puree. Let stand while you make the topping.
In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt and cinnamon, and mix. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and stir to mix. Add the almonds and mix.
Take the chilled crust out of the refrigerator, and scrape the pumpkin puree into the crust. Sprinkle the pumpkin chunks over the puree and tap down. Sprinkle the oat mixture over the pumpkin evenly.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the filling is puffed around the edges. Cool and chill for the neatest slices.
In all the discussions online and out in the world about gluten-free, one thing seems to get lost in the din. Truly, we all need to understand, gluten free people are just busy, regular people, and they are not going away. No amount of complaining about how hard it is to cook for them will change anything.
They are here, get used to it.
One author who was gluten free before anybody was jumping on the bandwagon is Carol Fenster. She maintains an invaluable website that is a resource for the gluten avoider. She’s been developing recipes that work for GF people for almost 20 years. I’ve written about Carol before, read my interview here.
Fenster is a respected expert, and has been living GF since it was a real endeavor just to get some non-wheat flours. That’s how Carol knows just how GF people really live.
They are busy. They want to get dinner on the table. Just like everybody else.
To meet this need, Fenster has put out yet another book, in which she has curated just the quick, easy, super popular recipes from her giant library of winning GF recipes.
Her brand new, 100 Best Quick Gluten Free Recipes meets that need, or as she puts it, solves the “refrigerator stare-down.” If you want one small volume to put on the kitchen shelf, grab this one. Keep her hefty 1000 Best Gluten Free Recipes on the sturdy bookshelf in the dining room, where you can peruse it at your leisure.
This one, you will grab when hunger has preceded your meal plan. You’ll be glad you did.
Whether you are an old hand at this GF thing, or a newbie, you will be able to jump right in. The book starts with a very concise introduction to the reasons for avoiding gluten, a guide to flours, and the brands of ingredients that are safe. A handy list of pantry items to stock will set you up for success. There are even some menus in case you just want Fenster’s sure hand to guide you to putting a meal together.
Then the recipes that most people need are all there, Breakfast and Breads, Soups, Salads, Sandwiches and Snacks, Grains Beans and Pasta, Mains, Desserts. Greatest hits from older books, plus lots of new recipes, and updated versions of old favorites.
What more could you want, when you walk in the door and need a GF meal?
Microwave Muffin in a Mug
Excerpted from 100 BEST QUICK GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES © 2014 by Carol Fenster. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: about 60 to 70 seconds
Use this muffin recipe when you’re pressed for time. Although you could make the whole muffins from start to finish quickly right when you need them, here’s the most efficient way: Whisk together the dry ingredients the night before and put them in a covered bowl on the countertop. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, molasses, and oil until smooth and then refrigerate, tightly covered. Next morning, grease the mugs, then whisk together the dry and wet ingredients, and divide the batter evenly among the mugs. Cook in the microwave and, in a minute you will have fresh, hot, über-healthy muffins. Eat them immediately right out of the mug! Easy!
1 cup ground flax meal
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder[1/2] teaspoon apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice [1/4] teaspoon salt
1 large egg[1/4] cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1. Grease 4 shallow, microwave-safe coffee mugs (the size of the mugs will determine how high the muffins will rise and how quickly they will cook). In a small bowl, whisk together the flax meal, walnuts, baking powder, apple pie spice, and salt until well blended. Add the egg, molasses, and oil, and whisk until thoroughly blended. The batter will be droopy-soft. Divide the batter among mugs. Place the mugs on saucers or plates to catch any drips.
2. Microwave on High power for 60 to 70 seconds. The muffins will rise up and possibly fall over the side of the mug (depending on the mug size); the saucer catches the drips. The muffins are done when they are no longer shiny; cooking time may vary depending on the wattage of your microwave oven. (They won’t brown like muffins baked in a regular oven.) Remove from the microwave and cool slightly before eating right out of the mug. Or, run a sharp knife around the edge to loosen and remove the muffin from the mug. Serve immediately.
STORAGE: These muffins are best eaten immediately after cooking.
Per serving: 345 calories; 10g protein; 23g total fat; 11g fiber; 28g carbohydrates; 47mg cholesterol; 290mg sodium
NOTE: These muffins are very versatile. Instead of flax meal, use gluten-free oat flour. Rather than molasses, use maple syrup. Replace the apple pie spice with ground cinnamon. Use melted coconut oil rather than canola oil. The possibilities are endless, and finished taste and texture will vary depending on your modifications, but this allows you to tailor this muffin recipe to suit your needs.
One of the great benefits of shopping in a Coop that seeks out great local produce is the moment when I find a new variety of a favorite food. This week, as I was pondering the pear selections, I was delighted to see a whole display of Harrow Sweet Pears. They were a little bigger than my beloved (and hard to find) Luscious Pears, but a little smaller than a typical Anjou.
I bought a whole bag of them. Oh, be still my heart.
These Harrow Sweet pears were delicious. Juicy, sweet, with barely a hint of tart to keep it in balance. Meltingly tender, with a little russeting to the skin to give it a bit of bitterness on the edges. I could have just polished off all of them eating over the sink, but I tried to show some restraint. I only ate two.
That gorgeous half red one on the front left is the Harrow Sweet, and there is another one in the back center. To the right of the Harrowsweet is the Red Bartlett, to the right of that, a Concorde, behind that, a Bosc, and the other red pear is a Red D’Anjou, and the round green one on the left is a D’Anjou.
Any of these pears can be your perfect pear, really. If you are baffled by pears, frustrated when you cut into one and it’s too hard, or already too mushy inside, you just need to learn the simple art of judging a pear’s ripeness. It’s all about the stem end. When the flesh at the base of the stem gives to gentle pressure, it’s ready. If you wait until anything else gets soft, it’s too late. If the stem is gone, that is a bad sign, too. You see, most pear varieties are picked hard ripe. This makes it really convenient; all you have to do is keep them refrigerated, taking out pears as you need them, and letting them ripen on the windowsill.
A few varieties, like this Harrow Sweet, can be ripened on the tree, making them even more fragile and unlikely to take the pear market by storm. These are the kind of fruit that doesn’t make it far from the farm. I guess it’s one of the benefits of living in a cold, Northern state.
Most pears taste similar, with copious juice and sweetness when ripe. D’ Anjou, Bartlett, Concorde, all have lush, melting flesh and drip with juice when perfectly ripe. The Bosc stands out for its firm texture and understated sweetness. If you are looking for a pear that holds its shape, the Bosc is the one, and you will see it in recipes for poached pears time and again, standing tall even after an hour of simmering in wine syrup. But the magical moment of picking up a perfect pear calls for a plan. If you find one today, what will you do, after you eat two or three? Pears make fine pie, pear butter and sauce, and you can certainly slice them over your granola. Use them in you smoothies, and don’t overwhelm them with strong flavors, or you will lose the pear magic.
My choice for showing off my pears was this salad. With a dressing that is thickened with a puree of pear and pecan, it’s got lots of pear flavor. A hefty handful of slightly hot, sweet pecans gives it some weight. A few warm spices give it the Fall feel, without going too crazy. I let the pears shine.
Perfect Pear-Pecan Salad
PECANS: 1 cup pecan halves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon raw sugar 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 of a pear, peeled
1/4 cup pecans
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large head butter lettuce, washed and dried
4 ripe pears, sliced
For the pecans, preheat the oven to 325 f. In a bowl, toss the pecans with the olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, cayenne and salt. Spread on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes. The pecans should smell toasty. Cool on a rack.
For the dressing, put the pear half and the pecans in a food processor. Process until smoothly pureed. Add the lemon, scrape down, and process again. Add the sugar and salt, process, and with the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil. Transfer the dressing to a small bowl.To assemble, spread butter lettuce leaves on a platter or on individual plates. Cover with just-sliced juicy pears, drizzle with the dressing, and cover with spiced pecans. Enjoy immediately.
I officially packed my shorts away for winter,trading them out with my heaviest sweatpants and long sleeved t’s that were boxed up all summer.
Yup, this stuff just got REAL. “Winter is coming,” and all that.
As I laundered and fluffed my comfort clothes, I pondered the concept of comfort food. After the recent news reports about the study that showed that “comfort food” doesn’t actually give you any lasting comfort. (NPR story here) I don’t expect to see sales of mac and cheese to plummet, do you?
It’s amazing that this was reported as breaking news, but somebody actually studied it. Of course, what we usually think of as comfort food is rich, heavy, and often associated with childhood. Mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, meaty pastas and pizza, ice cream, chocolate cake, creamy pudding are often thought of as comfort food, right?
The popular notion is that we seek comfort from our stress and worry by digging into one of these foods, and probably eat way too much of it. Unfortunately, the momentary bliss of bathing our tastebuds with fat, sugar and salt is fleeting. Afterward, if you really ate alot of it, you do get a sedated feeling, as your body tries to handle the big load.
But in the study, nobody who ate a serving of comfort food reported feeling any better afterward. Maybe they didn’t eat themselves into a sugar coma, since they were being observed?
Where I beg to differ with the reports is their conclusion that food offers no lasting comfort. Granted, you need to put the right stuff in, to make it a healthier form of comfort.
So I emerged from my laundry room and decided to engineer a bowl of breakfast that would comfort me both while I ate it, and after. I went with our favorite Fall flavor, pumpkin spice. Except unlike all the lattes and mixed drinks, I used actual pumpkin and actual spice, not artificial flavor. I wanted a warm bowl of belly-filling oats, not a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
I’m so not interested in the many artificially flavored, sugar bomb iterations of pumpkin spice in the marketplace of late. Bad things happen to good flavors- and pumpkins and a mixture of spices are good flavors, not something to be abused.
And the Pumpkin-Spice Swirl Oat Bowl was born. After a few delicious experiments, I can empirically say that I felt comforted before, during, and after eating this comfort food. Thinking about it as I made it was even a comfort, as I anticipated eating it. Chowing down, super comforting, and of course, working for the rest of the morning with a slow-burning, energizing bowl of oats in my core seemed to shield me from the sadness that sometimes sets in when I put all my summer clothes away.
So, if you want a comfort food that works, give this a try. At least you won’t be flooded with regret after eating the whole thing.
Pumpkin Pie Swirled Oat Bowl
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water (or use part apple juice)
pinch salt (optional)
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (half a can)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons pie spice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1. Cook the oats in the water with a pinch of salt. Combine in a small pot and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let stand, covered, until time to serve.
2. In a blender or food processor, puree the cashews, adding 1/2 cup water as needed to make a creamy puree. Add the pumpkin, maple, pie spice and vanilla and process.
3. Transfer the puree to a sandwich sized zip top bag and seal, then cut off a corner to make a piping bag.
4. Portion the oats into two bowls and use a spoon to form a trench in the oats in the shape of a swirl. Carefully squeeze the bag to fill the trench with pumpkin. Squeeze it while holding the opening at the bottom of the bowl to get the puree down deep in the oats.
5. Sprinkle with dried cranberries, and cinnamon or pie spice if desired. Serve hot.
I don’t think it’s any huge secret that we all have the occasional skin “challenge.” It starts in your teens with breakouts, and we all go on our own individual “journeys” with various bumps, rashes, and eventually, wrinkles. I’m thrilled to have made it to the age that I can have all of the above, sometimes, all at once.
So, it pays to feed that skin, all along the way. When I’m sensing a scruffy pallor to my face, or a new eruption on the way, I try to head it off with some skin-nourishing foods. Carrots are an all-time skin all-star,loaded with antioxidant carotenoids, which protect and heal the skin, and even work to protect you from sun damage. The big guns, though, are below.
I lucked out at the Farmer’s Market and scored these locally grown, just harvested roots. They even came with a healthy length of ginger leaves, which went right into the juicer. (Waste not, want not!) Turmeric is an amazing medicinal and culinary ingredient, famous for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties. Turmeric is also lauded as a brain protector, which isn’t a bad side effect for my vanity, either. The ginger, in it’s fresh, juicy glory, fights inflammation, aids digestion, and boosts immunity. I LOVE the flavor of ginger, so I have a tendency to just double the amount called for in a stir-fry recipe, because I want it to be assertive.
The apple is no slouch, either, with pre-biotic fiber that will help my good inner bacteria to flourish. The skins are packed with antioxidants, that have been shown to help the whole cardiovascular system.
I have to say, this juice was so tasty that I could hardly believe that it was “good for me,” but that’s the great thing about plant-based healing. If you are doing it right, you don’t have to eat or drink anything too weird. I learned that lesson along the way, so that you don’t have to. I have choked down some healing herb teas in my day that smelled like a blend of pond scum and socks, so it’s infinitely better when your healing potions taste like a glass of jazziness.
To your health!
Turmeric Carrot Skin Tonic
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
2 inches of fresh turmeric root
2 fat inches of fresh ginger
1 big apple, skin on
4 big carrots ( I had the lovely Beta-reds, use what you have)
Juice it all and drink.