Sunday, December 26, 2010

Whipxack Christmas Borscht

Why do I love borscht? Is it the deep happy pinky-red color? Or because it is so fun to say? “Borscht.” The knowledge that if I go for seconds, I have eaten all of the veggies I need for the year to come? Or because for the past three years, our friends Tricia and TJ have invited us to share in their budding borscht tradition, adding instant family and tradition to our sometimes lonely overseas holiday. Yep, all of the above!

Eating borscht with friends will be a holiday traditions we weave into our own Christmas celebration. Hopefully, more often than not, it will be spent with TJ and Tricia. I asked Tricia to share her recipe, and here it is in her own words:

Last Tuesday, my husband TJ and I hosted our 5th annual Christmas Borscht dinner. The tradition started when we were living in Honduras and celebrating our first Christmas away from home. We were having Christmas Eve dinner with friends who were vegetarian, and we were looking for some Christmasy-yet-meat-free foods. Somehow (we cannot reconstruct the actual mental leap involved) we came up with the idea of vegetarian borscht -- mainly because when served with sour cream and parsley it is the perfect combo of red, white, and green. That first borscht was so dang tasty that we have continued to make it every Christmas season since. We have been lucky to share the last three years of meals with Ashley, Carter and Oscar. In the past we have basically made up the recipe as we go, but I was bragging to Ashley that this year I finally wrote up a recipe for our soup, and she kindly suggested I send it along for a guest -starring role on Smash n' Sniff. Grab your spoons folks, and ignore your families' protests that they don't like beets, or that borscht isn't a Christmas food. You know better!

Whipxach Christmas Borscht

Serves 16(ish)

*You don't have to chop anything too well, since it will all be blended in the end!
**Every time we make this it's slightly different, so feel free to not follow this recipe exactly. (I'm just making it up anyway.)

1 - 1.5 oz. dried porcine mushrooms
olive oil
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, trimmed, wiped clean and sliced
1 large onion, diced
about 6 medium-largish beets, peeled and sliced
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium parsnip, peeled and sliced (we have never used this, but its in a lot of recipes, and if we could get one here in Mexico I'm sure it would be delicious)
6 stalks of celery, cleaned and sliced (some recipes call for 1 small celery root -- go ahead and use this instead of celery if you can find one.  We can't, so celery works fine!)
4 medium sized potatoes, cut into chunks (don't bother to peel it!)
1 small white cabbage, cut into small chunks (we have also used red cabbage, depends on what's available)
1/4 cup of tomato paste (we usually use about 1 cup of tomato puree since we can't get the paste)
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
6 - 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth (we use turkey broth, leftover from Thanksgiving)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (we usually only have balsamic on hand, but I bet apple cider or red wine vinegar would be good)
salt, pepper
sour cream
1 bunch fresh dill or parsley for garnish (we usually can't get dill, I imagine it would taste good) 

BASIC RECIPE: Throw everything in a pot, cook, blend, serve

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 - 2 cups warm water for 15 minutes. Then drain, squeeze out excess liquid, and save all liquid

2. Heat oil in a LARGE soup pot

3. Stir in the white mushrooms, onion, beets, carrots, parsnip, and celery or celery root. Cook for a few minutes

4. Add porcini mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, tomato puree and salt/pepper. Cook for a few more minutes.

5. Add garlic and sugar.

6. Add broth and mushroom liquid. It should cover the veggies. If not, add more broth, or some water. Add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender (usually 45 minutes to an hour).

7. Remove from heat and remove the bay leaf!

8. Puree everything in a blender (will have to be done in batches).

9. When everything is blended, stir in vinegar, then taste. You may need to adjust and add more vinegar, salt, or sugar. Before you add more vinegar or sugar, follow Ashley's advice and add lots more salt!

10. Serve hot, with a blob of sour cream and dill or parsley (red, white and green!)

11. Makes a lot, you can theoretically eat it hot or cold, but we always eat it hot! This gets better as the days pass! Also freezes well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Guadalajara Christmas Market

In mid-November a Christmas market sprouts up behind the fruit and veggie market in the bric-a-brac neighborhood of Santa Tere, a few blocks from my house. Waiting until November to haul out the tree trimmings and nativity figures is a show of great restraint for Mexicans. The encroachment of ‘all things Christmas’ that clogs the aisles of every department store, grocery store and neighborhood tienda, begins its take-over in SEPTEMBER in Latin America. For the past three months, a 10 ft. inflatable Santa Claus has greeted me at the Costco entrance.

I have always felt sorry for every other country in the world that does not have the "Thanksgiving Buffer”—the holiday stop-gap that keeps marketers’ decency in-check until the last Friday in November, saving us from months on end of Christmas music and creepy elves pushing products. But, due to experiencing the magic of Christmas through the eyes of my 2.5 year old, my feelings are shifting and I couldn't wait to whore-up the house with Christmas glitz this year. This is the first year that I have wondered why I can't have a Christmas tree glowing in the corner while we celebrate Thanksgiving.

However, we held out until all of the Thanksgiving leftovers had been eaten, and then hauled out the box marked, “Christmas” and set off to pick out our tree.

The market fills an alley one block long. Venders sell lights fit for a show on the Vegas strip-- ribbon, ornaments and all sizes of figurines: kings, camels, horses, plants, etc., for a nativity scene. (Nativity scenes in Mexico have agave cactuses- the plant tequila is made from- and the devil—is that normal?) Oh, and of course, there are Christmas trees: pink, white, brown, and real.

The scene is a sharp contrast to my childhood memories of Christmas. No one is tapping the snow off of their boots in this temperate climate, no need to keep a hot steaming toddy to your lips to prevent icicles from growing out of your nose; the urban grit is a world away from the spacious Christmas tree lots of the Chicago suburbs. But really, this little alley could be a scene in any Santa loving country: red and green, gold glitz, sparkly glass ornaments, plastic mistletoe, miles of garland, and the bustle of families stuffing shopping bags and wrangling evergreens. Looking around, I realize Christmas has a solid brand, at least from where I am standing, the aesthetic is pretty universal.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…..

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Are Cupcakes Killing Traditional German Christmas Cookies?

This article, on the cover of a recent "Kultur Spiegel", a regular supplement in one of the most respected news magazines in Germany, is about "a Christmas drama". American cupcakes are replacing all of our treasured Christmas cookies! the author claims. Seriously Germany? I don't think you have anything to worry about.

Exhibit A: My Local Bakery and Konditorei

Nary a cupcake in sight ... just lebkuchen männer (gingerbread men), Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Vanilla Kipferln (vanilla, um, kipferl), Domino Steine (domino stones)...

....various Christmas cookies and cakes....

.. and a personal favorite, stollen confekt, a small pocket of stollen - Germany's answer to fruitcake - filled with marzipan. These are deceptively addictive and so delicious with a cup of coffee - and I speak from experience.

The glutton-free dieter's nightmare continues with another personal weakness, baumkuchen. Layers of light spongy cake dipped in milk chocolate. Also good dipped in coffee for breakfast. Also the reason why I have increased the number of times I go running during the month of December. But soooo worth it. 

Exhibit B: The Supermarket

Dear Supermarket Manager, I have a bone to pick with you.  I can't take my kids with me to the grocery store any more because of your ingenious little Christmas cookie displays. All that is missing here is a flashing neon sign and Santa himself sitting atop Rudolf while handing out free samples. How am I supposed to get around this? In fact, these displays are strategically positioned at the entrance so that you have to walk right THROUGH them to get anywhere else in the store. I have not made it out once without at least one major tantrum and no fewer than three chocolate Smartie-filled Santas sneaking their way into the shopping cart - at least two of which always seem to get scanned by the cashier before I've realized that I've purchased them. Kids 2 - Mom 0.

Seriously, even if a few people find cupcakes fun, different or novel, the so-called evil plot to overthrow lebkuchen is not going to amount to anything. There are enough stollen purists out there to secure their place on the grocer's shelves for many generations to come, I wager.

Oh sure they look harmless enough, but I swear these little Santas contain hidden mics with recordings of subliminal messages instructing children to raise hell until mom agrees to put at least two in the shopping cart. Talk about evil plots....

Exhibit C: The Christmas Markets 

Row after row of baumkuchen spitze, brittle, zimtsterne and other traditional Christmas cookies and cakes for you to mix and match.

The nougat and marzipan dealer. And I say dealer because this stuff is like CRACK. Addictive, sugar high-inducing CRACK. Cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, espresso, pistachio, hazelnut, with nuts, without nuts. No where else will you find a display of as many different kinds of pure balls of marzipan and soft (not brittle, like the Italian) nougat than at a German Christmas market. Cupcakes? What cupcakes?

Exhibit D: The Enemy

One of a handful of cupcake specialty shops in town, trying to capitalize on the trend - which is credited in great part, claims the Spiegel article, to the popularity of "Sex and the City" in Germany. The one cupcake peddler I spoke to claimed that if anything, cupcake sales were down around the holidays due to the increased competition from all of the other baked good flooding the market. Although those topped with crushed candy cane do seem to be holding their own. 

So, defenders of traditional German Weihnachtsgebäck, stollen purists and militant anti-cupcakists, fear not. While the American cupcake may have made a splash as the new trendy baked good, your Christmas delicacies, contrary to reports, are stocked on the shelves and will most definitely remain so for many Christmases to come.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

South Indian Local Spice

  Everyone on the bus is staring at me. I always managed to be the local attraction, despite the sari.

In preparation for my semester abroad in Madurai, India, I was given a crash course on customs and cultural differences; I learned to conduct myself as a respectable Indian girl. Upon arrival, my host family dressed me for the part—they wrapped me in vibrant saris with perfect pleats, sparkly stickers called bindis were placed on my forehead, and paisley swirls of henna decorated my body. My wanderings throughout the cavernous carved stone stalls of the Meenakshi Temple taught me how to barter and order sweet milky tea. I mastered the customary southern Indian head wobble, the respectful bow over hands pressed in prayer and only passed items with my right hand.

I stood out like a drag queen in church, and yet I felt my attempts to blend in with the locals were fairly successful—until I ate. With the first bite of my host mom’s cooking I was gripped by an intense panic that the inferno blazing inside my mouth was going to cause my head to spontaneously combust. My taste buds were under attack, my eyes burst from their sockets, a deluge of sweat washed over me.  The ability to pass chilies, so intense, from lips to stomach, would require months of pre-game training.

Riding a fresh wave of sweat, the bindi slid down my nose.

Stopping in mid-bite, jaws gaping; four dark brown faces stared at me with expressions of confusion and deep concern. Apparently, "turning pink and crying" while I ate was blowing my cover.

This post was entered into the Grantourismo - HomeAwayUK Travel Writing Competition for November on the topic, "Living Like Locals". We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

November Project: Thanksgiving Dinner

Mmmm, looks good. What's for dinner?

The Bourgaroni's fourth annual Thanksgiving Extravaganza

Herb Butter Roasted Turkey
Turkey Gravy
Port Cranberry Sauce
Marcus' Herbed Mashed Potatoes
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Annika's Sweet Potato Casserole
Jiff's Traditional Green Bean Casserole
Martin's Steamed Brussel Sprouts
Kai's Corn Bread (by Susanne)
Lowri's Celeriac and Potato Gratin

Pumpkin Pie
Earl Grey-scented Flan
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Pecan Pie

Whipped Cream
Vanilla Ice Cream

Whoa. That's a lot of food. But was it enough for 40 people? 

Ask Haiko - that's not a peace sign - it's a "second plate" sign. 

Enough food for seconds.. for 40? How'd you pull that off?

We put our army of kitchen bitches to work!

A table overflowing with old classics, first attempts, new favorites. A traditional American Thanksgiving prepared by one American, one half-American, five Brits, a Swede and numerous Germans. Guests who were well-versed in the tradition of dankbarzeit, or "thankful time", a new German word created for the occasion that translates as "Jiff's totally annoying insistence on a group of people, some of whom do not know each other at all, publicly embarrassing themselves by stating one thing, sometimes extremely personal, sometimes humorously removed, that they are thankful for", knew what to expect. For the novices, we put together a short film (imovie is soooooo awesome) with examples of things that one could be thankful for - if only I could figure out how to post it here.

In addition to being thankful for not burning the entire building down despite have three ovens going simultaneously all day long, I am particularly thankful for this community of people who gathered with us to celebrate one of my favorite American traditions. Thank you everyone! Same time, same place next year! Danke Schön!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November Project: Saibling meets Reisling

Click for larger
First off, HAPPY THANKSGIVING dear smashandsniff readers! I realize that all of you in the States as well as many of you expats are celebrating today and I wish you warm blankets, lots of tag football and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade action to go with your turkey-stuffing-gravy-mashed-potato comas. I will be eating schnitzel tonight but FEAR NOT: I have 40 people coming over for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night. Yes, I said 40. And I will tell you all about it next week. But until then...

On Friday night, Susanne and I went to our local neighborhood wine shop, Weingut Wein, for a fabulous home cooked meal - with 15 other people. Jochen, our local wine expert, pairs the wines with his wife Inka's fine cooking and once a month or so they offer dinners in their wine shop, each course paired with one of Jochen's personally selected wines. This time the theme was Saibling (a fish that is a close cousin of salmon - my German-English dictionary is offering "char","fingerling" and "samlet" as translations - help!) meets Riesling. The saibling is raised in the "altes Land" here across the Elbe river in Hamburg by an older couple who harvest them from a chalk pond. It is a very particular way of raising the fish and as the couple will soon retire and has not yet found anyone willing to take over their chalk farm, it may soon be extinct, at least here. So Inka prepared an amazing four course meal with the Hamburg saibling and Jochen found the perfect riesling pairings.

A hot smoked trout ("forelle") with roasted potatoes and herb apple remoulade.

Inka prepares the plates while Jochen explains a bit more about the saibling harvest and the wines he has chosen to accompany them. I was so absorbed in food and conversation that I forgot to snap a photo of the second course, the cold smoked saibling with orange lentil salad. The fish looked and tasted like smoked salmon but lighter. And while I am not usually a lentil fan, these lentils were a perfect foil for the fish, slightly acidic and sweet.

The cassoulet of hot smoked saibling was similar to a minestrone, lighter than a cassoulet. The smoked fish with the vegetables was fantastic.

And the cold smoked wild salmon (the only fish originating outside of the region) with a dill mustard sauce paired with a very minerally riesling - "mineralisch" in German - it's one of those words that just works so well that I anglicize it, like, "paired with a very mineralish riesling" - and then, oh, wait.... mineralish... is that a... did I just make that up? Whatever, you know what I mean. The longer I live here, the more "Denglish" I speak. Na ja. 

The wine crate-stocked shelves served as the perfect and effortless (it is a wine shop after all) decoration as we sat with strangers at tables of four or eight. A couple looking for a romantic evening alone might not appreciate sitting at a communal table. But Susanne and I had a fabulous time with our tablemates - a lovely older couple who drank us under the table. 

Thanks Jochen and Inka for a lovely and delicious evening!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November Project: December Project

The season opener. First day of the Weihnachtmarkt season and of course I arrived early and stayed late, kids in tow. Whether they liked it or not. At first, they needed a bit of cajoling. Because it was cold. Like, suddenly really cold. But I had just the thing to get them in the spirit:

My favorite Gypsy Santa band. The same one every year. At the same stand. These guys kill it on a clarinet, an accordion and a tamborine. They draw the hard-core Weihnachtsmarkts enthusiasts like myself. But my kids weren't feeling it.

Amalia was mentally singing along to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". Henry on the other hand, shot me a look every three seconds that said, "Get me the f*ck out of here!" Every time the clarinet player took a step in his direction, winked, nodded or just blew, Henry twisted around and grabbed for me in utter desperation.

I realized that I was striking out here and it was essential that they have a good time if I wanted to get my glüwein on this season. There was only one thing to do:

They were toooootallly psyched about the carousel. And more than happy to oblige when a TV news crew showed up and asked if they would go around a few more times for a film shoot. What!?!? I have to drive the SUPER COOL TOTALLY AWESOME FIRE ENGINE WITH BRASS BELLS THAT I LOVE TO RING NON-STOP AGAIN!?!?! Awwwww Mom! Do I have to!?!??!

And just when they thought it couldn't get any better, the Tirolean bratwurst stand. Total contentment. If my plan is working, two budding Weihnachtsmarkts fans are in the making!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

As Local As I'll Never Be

I spent two years living with a family in a hut made of cow dung in Mauritania, West Africa. I learned to speak the village language, Soninké, enough discuss the Koran with my host “father”, shoot the shit with my teenage brother Moussa about American pop culture and talk to my moms about female circumcision. I worked in the millet fields, pulled water from the well and slept outside with my sisters.

The Peace Corps, in essence, is the ultimate exchange program. It’s an opportunity to live more local than you ever thought possible in the developing world, basically being adopted into a family.

One afternoon during the daily tea break, I made fun of Moussa with the requisite insult, “You eat beans!” Everyone laughed. “Ah, Laliya (my local name),” said my mom, Khujedji, “You really are one of us.”

“No she’s not," Moussa shot back. “If anything happens to her, they’ll fly her out of here and she’ll leave us behind.” Khujedji shushed him. But he was right. I had an out.

For me, this was novel; for them, it was real life. I might have lived in the same mud hut, but I would be evacuated if I became severely ill; I’d be flown to shelter in the event of civil unrest and I would never be dependent on a millet crop for my survival.

While I gained a better understanding of daily life than otherwise possible, I would never know what it’s really like to be local.

This post was entered into the Grantourismo - HomeAwayUK Travel Writing Competition for November on the topic, "Living Like Locals". We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

November Project: Bammy's Turkey Gravy

Thanksgiving 1974: Aunt Nancy, Bammy, and my beautiful Mother.
It has recently been brought to my attention that gravy can be bought in a can. Yes, in a CAN! And people buy those cans and serve gravy from them to people they don’t hate! Ok, I realize that I am sort of naïve about these things and rather than allow the reality of America’s laziness and loss of tradition seep into my consciousness, I happily believe that everyone takes the time to make proper gravy. And by proper gravy I mean the kind that is rich with layers of flavor and silky with the sweat and worry that goes along with making The Gravy.

Gravy is a major stressor. I cannot think of a more important condiment. If you are out of mustard, the sandwich is not ruined; salty crisp chips can be enjoyed without salsa. But Thanksgiving dinner without a thick deeply flavored slathering of gravy? Well, let’s be honest, it is a total failure. A savory gravy can save the driest, most desiccated turkey. I can understand not wanting to have that sort of responsibility, especially when most people will be lazing about with mimosas or enjoying a brisk game of touch football, oblivious to the culinary feats taking place in the kitchen. But consider the alternative: your friend offers to make it and brings over her “famous” fat-free, dairy-free, salt-free gravy (!!!) or worse Aunt Judy shows up with CANS of gravy!

It could happen, but don’t let it.

My grandma, Bammy, is a bit of a gravy nazi and won’t let anyone even think about making the gravy. Along with the mashed potatoes, gravy is her domain. Last Thanksgiving I followed her around the kitchen and diligently recorded a very sacred tradition: The Gravy. So pick up the whisk and take matters into your own hands—be the hero.


2 quarts water
Turkey neck and giblets
1 white onion, chopped
4 celery stalks, leaves included, chopped
3 carrots, peeled, chopped
5 sprigs parsley
7 sprigs thyme
2-3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons chicken base (bouillon)
Pan rich with roasted turkey juices and bits
6-8 tablespoons flour, sifted
Kosher salt and pepper
A few drops of Kitchen Bouquet- This is a very old school ingredient, and can be omitted (however, Bammy would NOT approve). She mainly uses it for color.

1. For the stock, combine the first nine ingredients in a pot and let simmer for one hour, or more.
Pass stock through a fine strainer and reserve the liquid. Trim off all usable meat from the neck. If desired, with a paring knife trim the giblets well. Cut neck meat and giblets into bite-sized pieces and add to stock. Discard all other vegetables and herbs. Cover and put in refrigerator; this step can be done a day ahead. You can use this stock and lots of butter to baste the turkey.
2.To make the thickener, combine the flour and two cups of the chilled turkey broth in a jar. With the lid on tight, shake vigorously until it is smooth with no lumps. (The stock cannot be hot, or else it will be lumpy.)

4. To make the gravy, bring the turkey stock to a low simmer. When the turkey is done, remove it from the pan to rest and skim off most of the fat—but not the turkey juices! Place the roasting pan over a burner or two on the stovetop over medium heat.

5. To incorporate the caramelized turkey bits and flavorful juices into the gravy, pour the thickener into the pan and bring to a simmer. Scrape up the bits from the bottom with a rubber spatula.

6. While whisking, slowly add the stock to the pan. Whisk continuously until all is added—don’t leave the stove, it is very important that you keep whisking! Return to boil and it will thicken to deeply flavored, silky gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over everything on your plate!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November Project: Saturation Point, Brief Respite

 A few years ago, I spent several weeks traveling in India on my own. After my very first parantha breakfast, my first thali dinner, I was smittenly blissed out. Why have I not been eating only Indian all my life!?!? I thought to myself. The cardamon-scented biryanis, the rich butter sauces, the ubiquitous lentils, the spicy pickles. And a thali was the perfect way to try a little of everything. I ate at street stands (having been thoroughly warned not to), local hole-in-the-walls, and more upscale Indian-for-tourist type restaurants. But something happened around day ten: I wanted a pizza. I wanted pasta. I wanted a cheeseburger. I wanted anything that did not have a trace of cardamon, garam masala or nutmeg and for God's sake, NO LENTILS. 

Yesterday, exactly 17 days in to the November Project, I hit my no lentil point. No more squash, in any of it's lovely variations. No stuffing, no gravy, no root vegetables, nothing gratin. I needed something so completely different, Gegenteil, 180 degrees, several thousand miles and many different languages away from foods that are associated with a cornecopia. And hence, this simple but delicious pad thai recipe, for a change of pace.

(Make no mistake, the November Project will continue apace tomorrow - still have to share the world's best stuffing recipe, port cranberry chutney and spicy harissa carrots with you. And Smash has got a few tricks up her sleeve as well.) 

Shrimp Pad Thai by Mtlabor, courtesy of (who else?) Food 52
Serves 2
  • 1-2 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces thick rice noodles
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • small handful honey roasted peanuts, chopped
  • small handful cilantro, chopped
In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, 2 tablespoons oil, and tamarind concentrate. Stir until sugar is dissolved and set aside. (Jiff's note: mmmm Tamarind! So fragrant!)

Soak the rice noodles in hot tap water for about 20 minutes, or until they start to soften but not fully tender. Drain and set aside. (Jiff's note: I thought these noodles were too think. I will look for thinner ones next time. Also, make sure they are thoroughly cooked; mine were a little too al dente, which works better with Italian pasta that Thai - in my opinion.)
Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a small bowl and set aside. (There's lots of things to set aside, aren't there? Makes it easier in the end because the cooking of this dish is fairly quick).
In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil under high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the shrimp start to turn pink with browned edges. Remove shrimp and set aside.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet. Add garlic, shallot, and jalapeno. Cook over medium heat and stir continuously for about 1 minute. Add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until scrambled, about 30 seconds. Add the egg noodles and toss with tongs to combine. Pour the tamarind/fish sauce mixture over the noodles and increase the heat to high, continuing to toss the ingredients with the sauce.
Add 1/2 of the chopped peanuts and cooked shrimp. Toss noodles for about 2 more minutes. Dish out onto hot plates and top with remaining peanuts and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy! (But remember, it's back to (Thanksgiving) tomorrow!)


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November Project: Just Trust Me On This One

Image via Sarah Shatz, Food 52

So, by now you have noticed a pattern. I confess: I am a serial Food52 user. But the recipes, 99% generated by home cooks and food bloggers are so well written, straightforward and do not contain a mile long list of ingredients. As I have already said, Smash is the trained chef. I am a food enthusiast and very amateur-at-best cook. I have never said I am a very good cook - but I love to do it. I love to create something that makes the entire house smell like home, that makes my guests swoon and that is simply enjoyed and then gone. A sort of Buddhist-like ritual. And Food 52, under the direction of the inspirational Amanda Hesser and Merril Stubbs, is powered by people who share this philosophy.

This Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Galette is something I have earmarked, "make this after The Kitchen dinner and before Thanksgiving". And last night I did. And it was diiiiiivvvviiiine. Make this for Thanksgiving. Make this for lunch. Make this for company. Make this for yourself. It is simple in practice, complex in flavor and impressive on the table. It took me a bit longer to do because I had two cranky kids under foot but otherwise, it was piece of cake. Or, ahem, galette.

Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Galette by lorinarlock
Serves 4 to 6
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup semolina flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 10 cloves, garlic whole and unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1 cup grated fontina
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
To make the dough: Put the flour, semolina, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to form a mixture that looks like small peas. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough sticks together (to test, remove the top and gather the dough in your fingers. If it sticks together without crumbling, it’s ready). Add the ice water while pulsing, until the dough comes together, being careful not to over mix. Transfer to a lightly floured board and shape the dough into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
To make the filling: Cut the squash into two pieces to separate the rounder part from the narrower section. Peel the entire squash, cut both parts in half and remove any seeds. Cut all four pieces into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put in a large bowl and add the olive oil, chopped garlic and thyme. Toss to coat evenly. Spread out on one of the prepared baking sheets. Set the bowl aside. Sprinkle the squash with the salt and pepper. Put the garlic on the baking sheet and bake until the squash and garlic are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use. 

When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and put in the reserved bowl. Mash with the back of a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the ricotta. (Jiff's note: this roasted garlic is so sweet and fragrant without being pungent, it's dreamy.)
Remove the pastry from the fridge and spread the garlic-cheese mixture over the top, leaving a 1-inch border. Spread the squash over the garlic-cheese mixture and fold the edges toward the center of the galette. Sprinkle the fontina over the center of the galette. (Jiff's note: I think I used more than a cup of fontina; I operate under the "more cheese is always better" premise). Sprinkle the edges of the crust with the parmesan and bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.
Serve with a small side salad of some sort and a glass of Riesling and savor.