Friday, November 26, 2010

A no-trash thanksgiving meal

Here is a post I just wrote for my dear friend Samantha's blog. She is trying to live the year solely on local foods, a low carbon diet. She is thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful and creative. Check out her blog to see what she has been cooking so far.

I wanted to share some recipes with you this Thanksgiving and to tell you how much I enjoy cooking, especially for and with other people I cherish. Samantha and I made miso soup for breakfast the other day, on a misty weekend morning, and it was a beautiful morning indeed. I feel like cooking can be a very intimate experience, especially because taste and smell are so primal, and also because you want to make sure that the people you are cooking for enjoy what you've made for them. Food for me is primarily about sharing. At the same time, as students, it is easy to forget that food can taste good, and it doesn't need to be elaborate. In any case, just like Samantha, I take food seriously.

I come from a family of people that love to eat and cook - my parents and sister are amazing cooks. I have learned much of what I know from them. Also, being Indian, cooking is something I tend to feel out - recipes serve only as a baseline (except in baking, when proportions really do matter for things like developing the right amount of gluten in bread dough or fluffiness of muffins). Proportions are tinkered with. If you asked me how many teaspoons of turmeric I add to a pot of fried okra, I honestly couldn't tell you. Cooking can and should be creative - we all have different tastes, and it is fun to explore and expand your own tastes as well. Also, I think that it is important to imagine what things taste like - this will allow you cook in your mind, and make changes that you think will make things different or suit your tastes.

Here are some things I made for my friends (and myself!) this Thanksgiving. I found a great list of Thanksgiving recipes on Well's Vegetarian Thanksgiving on the New York Times website. All of these recipes were made trash-free, too! Here's what I made, and my thoughts on them. The NYTimes website calls for what is in black, and any changes/substitutions/additions I made are in green or the NYTimes ingredient is struck through:

1) Pumpkin dumplings (with my own addition of onion apple topping)

1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree (I had a can of this from a year ago, before I started my no-trash project, and so I used it. You can easily make your own pumpkin puree by peeling a pie pumpkin, steaming it, and then blending it)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup store-bought gluten-free flour blend (I used flour with gluten)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (Don't be shy - you can definitely use more oil than this. I love oil.)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 small head radicchio, sliced into 1/4-inch strips (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used dried parsley)
Two apples - they can be tart or sweet...whatever you'd like! You can also use pears.

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, eggs, flour and 1 teaspoon salt to make the dough.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook until softened, about five minutes; remove from the heat and set aside. I added apples to this to give it an added fall flavour. 
3. When the water comes to a boil, use a teaspoon to scoop up the dough and form a dumpling, then carefully slide the dumpling off the spoon and into the boiling water. Continue forming dumplings until half the dough is used. Cook until the dumplings float, then simmer for about two minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and add to the saucepan with the onion. Repeat with the remaining dumpling dough. Don't worry if the dumplings break slightly and make the water murky. That is totally fine!
4. Return the saucepan with the onion to medium-high heat. Toss in three-quarters of the radicchio and stir gently until just wilted, about two minutes; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste. To serve, divide the dumplings and sauce among four bowls and top with the remaining radicchio and parsley.
Yield: Serves 4.

I think that this recipe could have used some more spices and/or herbs in the dumplings (to satisfy my Indian taste buds), but I also appreciated the simplicity of tastes with the NYTimes recipe.

2) Roasted Vegetable Galette with Olives
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (could definitely use more salt)
1/3 cup water (needed a few splashes more than this to make the dough come together)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1 1/2 cups diced peeled carrots (3 medium)
1 1/2 cups diced peeled parsnips (3 medium) I used Daikon radish instead
1 1/2 cups diced peeled butternut squash (1/2 medium)
1 cup diced peeled beet (1 medium) I used both red beets and golden beets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (definitely used more than this)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried (didn't have this and so I think I used some oregano instead, although you could also use sage, thyme, ginger, lavender, black pepper or paprika, I'd say)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 head garlic
1 cup crumbled creamy goat cheese (4 ounces), divided (It is hard to find goat cheese without packaging)
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water for glazing
You can definitely add in or substitute in various kinds of potatoes, peppers or squashes. Express yourself through your choices.

1. To prepare crust: Combine all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse several times. Mix water and oil; sprinkle over the dry ingredients and pulse just until blended. Add olives and pulse to mix. (Alternatively, combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the water-oil mixture, stirring until well blended. Stir in olives.) I did this by hand. When you make doughs, it is important to know what they feel like. I also added a few hand fulls of water to make the dough come together at this point.
2. Press the dough into a disk; if it seems dry, add a little more water. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. The unbaked crust will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Just use some oil to coat the sheet.
4.To prepare filling: Combine carrots, parsnips, squash, beet (or whatever else you added or substituted), 1 tablespoon oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large bowl; toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on the prepared baking sheet. Cut the tip off the head of garlic. Set on a square of foil, sprinkle with a tablespoon of water and pinch the edges of the foil together. Place the packet on the baking sheet with the vegetables. Roast, stirring the vegetables every 10 minutes, until they are tender and beginning to brown and the garlic is soft, about 35 minutes. (The garlic may take a little longer.)
5. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl. Unwrap the garlic and let cool slightly. Squeeze the garlic cloves into a small bowl; add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and mash with a fork. Add the mashed garlic to the roasted vegetables and toss to mix. Add 3/4 cup goat cheese and toss to coat.
6. To assemble galette: Roll the dough into a rough 14-inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the dough on it. Arrange the roasted vegetables on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Fold the border up and over the filling to form a rim, pleating as you go. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup goat cheese over the vegetables. Stir egg and water briskly; brush lightly over the crust. (It would make it look nice, the egg glazing, but I totally forgot to do this!)
7. Bake the galette at 400 degrees until the crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Yield: Makes 8 servings.
This was so good. Again, I'd add more salt to the crust, and you can also try to add some herbs/spices to the crust.
Alsatian Pear and Apple Kugel with Prunes

5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds ripe Bosc pears You can also use D'Anjou or any other pear
an apple or two
2 small onions (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
Salt to taste
1/2 loaf bread (about 7 ounces), cubed
3/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter or pareve margarine, melted I just used vegetable oil instead of butter. It is hard to find trash-free butter. And if you notice cake recipes, they are just full of oil!
2 large eggs
2 cups pitted prunes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil.
2. Peel the pears and cut all but one of them into 1-inch cubes. Don't peel the pears - their skin is already delicate. I did peel the apple though.
3. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of the oil over a medium-high heat in a skillet. Lightly sauté the onions until they are translucent. Remove from the heat and salt lightly, allowing them to cool slightly.
4. Soak the bread for a few seconds in lukewarm water and squeeze dry. Put in a large bowl, and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the butter or pareve margarine oil. Stir in the eggs, onions and half of the diced pears, setting aside the remaining pears for the sauce.
5. Pour the batter into the spring form pan and bake for 2 1 hour 40 minutes or so hours.
6. While the kugel is cooking, make the sauce. In a heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat, put 1 cup of water, the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, the prunes, cinnamon, lemon juice and the remaining diced pears. Cook this compote mixture uncovered for 30 minutes.
7. Finely grate the remaining pear and stir it into the cooked compote. (I didn't grate the pear, although this would have been better. I thought that the pear would disintegrate, just like apples do when you boil them. I was wrong! No harm done, though)
8. When the kugel is done, remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Unmold from the pan onto a serving platter, and spoon half of the compote over it. Serve the remaining compote on the side.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

The onions give this an extremely savoury taste - very different than what we expect cake-like things to be. I loved it.


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