Thanksgiving '08 - Bacon Brussles Sprouts and Pumpkin Cookies

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because it's the only one that's all about food and mandates that people get in the kitchen and cook things from scratch for a change! Uncharacteristically, I didn't cook a Thanksgiving meal this year. Instead I visited a friend in Portland and she cooked, which was fun for a change. I still managed to do a lot of cooking leading up to the holiday however, and created a few dishes that I was pretty proud of:

On the day before Thanksgiving (which is always the busiest day of the year,) the Co-op has an annual Thanksgiving themed employee potluck. The Co-op provides the turkeys, and everyone brings side dishes and desserts. One of our cashiers was convinced that he didn't like Brussels Sprouts, but I was certain that he just hadn't had them cooked deliciously enough, so I challenged myself to create a Brussels sprout dish that he would like.

I started with maple syrup and minced ginger heating in a saucepan.

I mixed some pecans around in the maple syrup to coat them,

spread them out on a pan, and put them in the oven to crisp up.

Meanwhile, I started cooking some bacon.

I cooked an entire package, which was two batches in the cast iron skillet. I thought it might be too much, but it ended up being perfect since I accidentally burnt quite a bit of it - I really need to work on my bacon frying skills!

After being in the oven for about 10 minutes, the maple syrup kind of poofed up a little and became very sticky. I made the mistake of letting this cool down too much and the syrup solidified and it became completely impossible to scrape the nuts off the pan. I put it back in the oven to rewarm, and then quickly scraped them off onto another pan without so much residual maple syrup on it.

Here's what they looked like when they were finally cooled. They were delicious! This would make a wonderful sweet crispy snack on it's own.

Here are the Brussels sprouts washed, prepped, and ready to go into the oven. I poured on the bacon grease from the skillet (all of it!) stirred it around to coat the Brussels and put them in a hot oven (425 degrees.)

Here they are after about 20 minutes. Perfectly roasted!

I mixed in the bacon bits and nuts, let the whole thing cool, and put it in the fridge overnight. I brought it in to the Co-op cold and heated in in the breakroom oven till it was sizzling. It was a hit! The only bummer was that it disappeared so quickly that I barely got to eat any of it. The combination of the salty fatty bacon and the crisp sweet pecans was perfect! The cashier I'd made it for said he liked it, but he still didn't think he liked Brussels sprouts....oh well, I guess you can't win them all.

I wanted to bring something with me for my Thanksgiving in Portland, so I decided to use up the last of my Winter Luxury Pumpkins in some pumpkin cookies. I loosely followed a few recipes that I found on the Internet, but mostly just made up my own recipe.

I started with lots of fresh minced ginger.

I had some maple pecans left over from the Brussels sprouts, so I chopped those to add some crunch to the cookies.

Then it was time to mix up the batter. I mixed two cups of Sucanat with two eggs and then creamed in a cup and a half of homemade butter.

Then came four cups flour (I use whole wheat for everything,) 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and a sprinkling of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Finally, I added the ginger, 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, and the pecans.

Is anything as good as cookie dough?

Here they are baked and cooling. They were very cakey textured cookies, but really good none the less. The fresh pumpkin flavor came through and was complemented really well by the maple pecans and the ginger.

It's really a shame how many people use canned pumpkin on Thankgsiving. It's really not that hard to cook pumpkins and puree them, and it tastes so much better. Canned pumpkin isn't really pumpkin at all, it's butternut squash. How sad that people don't know the flavor of real fresh pumpkin!
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Acacia's First Borscht

My friend Acacia tried another first at our house last weekend - Borsht. Her Dad spooned some of the bright red broth into her mouth, and she loved it! It makes great lipstick too!
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Persimmon Pie and Lamb Steaks

Aren't these persimmons sexy? They're local Hachiya persimmons from Willow Creek. This is an astringent variety that's basically inedible until ripe, but once they are they're simply delicious. These sat on the dining room table for about 10 days and were perfectly ripe by Sunday. When ripe, they feel just like a water balloon, and the pulp is ooey and gooey and sweet and oh so delectably persimmony. The texture freaks some people out a little, but I like to just suck the flesh right out of the skin.

Persimmon pie was on the menu for Sunday dinner, along with local lamb steaks and Brussels sprouts. Here's how I put it all together:

I bought this tapenade at the farmer's market on Saturday. It's nothing but locally cured olives from Orland, salt, walnuts, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil. Some of my very favorite things in the world all blended together - it doesn't get much better than that!

I processed some of the tapenade with fresh garlic, rosemary from the front porch, olive oil, and a little black pepper.

These are the local lamb chops. Beautiful!

I spread the tapenade mixture onto the chops and let them marinate in the fridge for most of the day.

Then it was time to make the pie.

I squeezed the persimmon pulp out of the skin and easily mashed it into this delicious puree. For the pie, I started with 2 local eggs beaten with 1/2 cup Sucanat, some cinnamon, cloves, and a dash of salt. I added 1 cup of persimmon puree to this, then two cups of half and half, and a couple tablespoons melted butter. The recipe was very much like a pumpkin pie, with persimmon in place of pumpkin.

Here's the pie going into the oven. The crust is homemade, but the making of it was not picturesque enough to document. I need lots more practice with pie shells before I put them in a blog post. I baked the pie at a high heat (425) for 10 minutes, then turned the heat down to 350 and cooked it about 40 minutes more, until it was set. It cooled, then went in the fridge to chill.

Roasting is about the best way to cook Brussels sprouts as far as I can tell. I used to hate these veggies when I was a kid - I remember learning to plug my nose in order to choke them down. I love them now - especially these local ones from Willow Creek. They get sweeter as the weather gets colder, so this time of year they're at their most delicious.

I trimmed them, cut them in half and mixed them with local sliced red onions and some local carrots that had been kicking around the fridge for too long. I heated up some bacon grease that had also been sitting in the fridge for a while with the little bit of leftover melted butter from the pie and coated the veggies in it. They went in a hot (425 degree) oven for about a half hour. You have to be careful not to burn veggies when cooking them this way. If you don't stir them every 5 minutes or so they start sticking to the pan.

While the sprouts were roasting I cooked the lamb. I browned each side, then added some sweet vermouth and chicken stock and let it cook slowly, turning the steaks every so often. I have a bottle of vermouth left over from my Dad's visit this summer, and I've discovered I much prefer cooking with it to drinking it.

After the lamb was cooked through, I took it out of the pan and made a sauce. The combination of the lamb drippings, tapenade marinade, vermouth, and stock made a wonderful black sauce that I thickened with a little flour.

Here are the finished Brussles sprouts. The one thing better than roasted Brussels sprouts are Brussels sprouts roasted in bacon grease!

Here's the sauce. It was so thick and black - if I didn't know what was in it I might have thought it was a black bean sauce.

I cut the chops into four pieces and reheated them. We saved two pieces for another meal.

Here's dinner. The picture could have turned out a little better - it sure was good! I was glad that there was no starch included in the meal since we had a delicious pie to eat afterwards, and that provided plenty of carbs.

And here's the pie. I whipped some cream and sprinkled a little cinnamon on top for color. Delicious! It tasted amazingly like a pumpkin pie. I think if I hadn't known it was persimmon, I probably would have assumed it was pumpkin. If you closed your eyes and really tasted it though, you could taste the persimmony goodness!
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French Onion Soup a la Julia

I think I mentioned in my last post that I've been into Julia Child recently. I read her memoirs on the plane coming back from my brother's wedding in September, and I've been hooked ever since. I've purchased one of her cookbooks and rented all the episodes of her old TV show I can find on Netflix. I certainly don't agree with her on everything - mostly I think she makes everything too complex and time consuming - but overall, I really dig her. She makes cooking so delightful and fun! I have a feeling if she was alive today she would be part of the Good Food Revolution.....it's also pretty inspiring to know that she didn't even start to learn to cook until she was in her thirties.

This soup was in honor of her. It's pretty much the recipe that she makes on one of her shows.

It was also in honor of these onions - from Ed in Blue Lake. These are some of the last of his Copra onions. They're great storage onions, but he can't seem to grow enough to keep them around for long. They're such beautiful, big, perfect onions! This is definitely one farmer who could do great things with a little more land.

The onions were really big, so it only took four of them to fill my four quart soup pot.

I cooked them in butter.....and cooked them and cooked them - first at medium heat to let them soften, and then a little higher to brown them. If only I could have taken a photo of the smell! It took over an hour for them to start browning.

Once they were ready, I added a little flour and cooked it in for a few minutes, then chicken broth (left over from my last post), salt, vermouth (red cause that's what I had, although Julia says to use white.), and brandy.

With such a rich hearty soup, we needed a fresh green salad for balance. I made one up quick with arugula from John in Bayside, and peas and Sungold tomatoes from the garden - yes I finally have some tomatoes, and it's November!

About 15 minutes before dinner time I started assembling the soup. First a layer of toasted French Bread (store bought, but made locally.)

A layer of sliced Swiss cheese.....

....soup on top of that.....

....another layer of toasted bread......

....and finally some grated Swiss cheese. I baked all this in a hot oven for about 15 minutes and vua la!


It was very rich, but very delicious! Bon Apetite!
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