A Happy Thanksgiving to All

It's been awhile since you've heard recipe news from me. As you know, I've been cooking and supervising hundreds of volunteers to continue feeding those-in-need from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. It is definitely a time to give thanks: For me personally, the thanks come from the opportunity to serve. The food maven himself, Arthur Schwartz, came to help yesterday and will be there in our satellite kitchen at Congregation Beth Elohim today. His tasks included peeling eggs (20 dozen of them!) and sautéing 30 pounds of onions until caramelized. They are for the homemade bread stuffing we will make for our pre-Thanksgiving meals. Our goal is 1500 sandwiches and 250 hot lunches - roast chicken, stuffing, mixed vegetables, cranberry sauce and "dinner" rolls. Fresh apple slices, too. Anne Hathaway and her new husband came to visit us at the shul the other day - they were heartened by the work that was taking place. That said, here are some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, for it is a time when simplicity might be most appreciated. I, too, will be preparing a Thanksgiving meal for a dozen or so of our family and friends, and then again on Saturday. And a nice invitation just came our way - a dinner of leftovers on Friday night at a neighbor's home. I adore leftovers more than you can imagine. In addition to the radically simple recipes below, you might enjoy my refreshing cranberry granita - yes, made from a wobbly block of leftover cranberry sauce - complete with its ridges.

Below you'll also find some wine suggestions from my favorite wine gal, Carol Berman (classinaglasswine.com), who says, "the Thanksgiving feast is filled with many flavors, which run from savory to sweet. I look to wines that simply harmonize with them and sway with the music of the meal. These are my Thanksgiving picks for 2012. Look for current vintages, although these all age gracefully and sell for less than $25.00."

Paumanok Vineyards, Riesling, North Fork, Long Island, NY Domaine des Terres Dorées, Beaujolais, L'Ancien, France Montinore Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Oregon Tenuta Pederzana, Lambrusco Grasparossa, Emilia Romagna, Italy

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Juicy Turkey Breast with Sausage, Fennel & Golden Raisins (adapted from Radically Simple)

This really elegant recipe is a cinch to make and looks like an elaborate French "ballontine." Have the butcher bone the breast, leaving the breast halves attached and the skin on. This is a perfect Thanksgiving recipe for six, but often I roast turkey thighs that are marinated in garlic, fresh thyme, rosemary and white wine so that we can all enjoy some dark meat, too. Stunning and simple.

12 scallions, white and green parts separated ¾ pound Italian sweet sausage, removed from casing ½ cup golden raisins 2 tablespoons fennel seed 3-pound boneless whole fresh turkey breast, with skin 2 tablespoon olive oil 2 cups chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the scallion greens in a row on a broiler pan. Mince the white parts of the scallions and combine with the sausage, raisins and 1-1/2 tablespoons of the fennel seeds. Sprinkle the turkey (skin side down) with salt and pepper. Spoon a line of sausage mixture down the center. Starting at one long side, roll up tightly to enclose the filling. Tie with string at 1-inch intervals. Place the turkey on the scallions and brush with the oil. Sprinkle with the remaining fennel seeds and salt. Roast 1-1/2 hours, basting with 1 cup broth, until the stuffing reaches 155 degrees. Transfer turkey to a platter. Place the pan atop the burners. Add remaining broth. Boil, scraping up browned bits, 5 minutes; strain. Remove string from the turkey; thickly slice. Drizzle with the pan sauce. Serves 6

Jane Brody's Brussels Sprouts

Jane Brody, the personal health columnist for the New York Times since 1975, is my neighbor in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She is crazy about Brussels sprouts and gave me her recipe to include in my book, Radically Simple. It is her adaptation of a recipe from the Bear Café in Woodstock, New York. I love how recipes travel around.

½ cup pecan halves 1-1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Toast the pecans in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 2 minutes. Set aside. Add the Brussels sprouts to the boiling water and cook 5 minutes. Drain well; cut each in half through the stem end. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook over high heat until golden, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and Brussels sprouts and cook until tender and browned in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Break the toasted pecans in half and sprinkle over the Brussels sprouts. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4 to 6

Leftover- Cranberry Sauce- Granita

This is one of my favorite inventions! After (or before) Thanksgiving you can transform a can, or two, of jellied cranberry sauce into an amazing granita --- or sorbet. Garnish with fresh raspberries or pomegranate seeds. If you don't have an ice cream maker to make sorbet, you can prepare this as a granita by freezing the mixture and stirring it with a fork until slushy.

Grated zest and juice of 3 large lemons Grated zest and juice of 2 large oranges 2/3 cup sugar ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract 16 ounces jellied cranberry sauce

Combine the lemon zest, ½ cup lemon juice, orange zest, and ½ cup orange juice in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar, vanilla and 2-1/2 cups water; bring to a boil. Spoon the cranberry sauce, in large pieces, into the saucepan. Bring to a boil and whisk until melted and smooth. Cool, and then chill well. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Serves 8

Tastes of the Week

Nov. 21 through Nov. 28th Sometime last week, when I was very, very hungry, I walked through the food market at Grand Central Station. There lay a bag of the biggest, puffy, onion-topped rolls that made made my mouth water. I regretted not buying them and so returned the next day. Purchased at Zaro's, these small breads are called "onion pockets" but are really more like little loaves of challah topped with bits of caramelized onion. A bargain at $5.99, my family enjoyed them all week long in myriad ways--not least of which was simply toasted, smeared with sweet butter and topped with soppressata.  Strong coffee. Heaven.

It's not my husband's cup of tea to go out for Thanksgiving dinner but we did anyway! We four (with son and daughter) went to the bustling Commerce, located, not unexpectedly, on Commerce Street in the West Village, one of the prettiest blocks in the city. Fabulous food -- roasted sweet potato tortelloni with hazelnuts, pomegranate & beurre noisette, devilled eggs, a wonderful bread basket, delicious moist turkey with all the trimmings, an order of very spicy artisanal spaghetti with 'Nduja sausage, garlic & parsley, and for me as a starter, a "Ragu of odd things: oxtail, trotters and tripe with hand-rolled orecchiette." Not that there was any room left in our bellies, but a mile-high coconut layer cake had to be one of the best cakes I've ever eaten. It was a lovely afternoon.

A solemn, but beautiful morning, at Ground Zero -- the memorial site at the World Trade Center. It was majestic in its intention, and gripping in its magnitude. Do go. It's a sacred place. But hours of walking, on such a balmy day, can make one hungry. We strolled to Stone Street in the Financial district -- cut off from traffic, it is a cobbled path between aged buildings of a more human scale. It felt a bit like being in London, or Naples; especially the latter as we delved into a really top-notch thin crusted pepperoni pizza at Adrienne's. Sitting outside on November 27th!, sipping red wine, was my idea of nice.

I made my first pecan pie to finish the weekend and my daughter made cranberry sauce -- the jellied block kind that makes me smile. Who knew you could make that?! It seems that the recipe has been on the back of the bag forever: All you need is a strainer, a wooden spoon and a strong arm to push those cranberries through the wire mesh. I also made a large turkey, stuffing, roasted butternut squash, string beans....it's important to have leftovers, no?

And I want to share a comment from a reader of Real Food magazine about my sweet potato, pear and walnut gratin. You don't have to wait for next year to make it. It would be lovely with roast pork or duck. Enjoy!

Dear Ms. Gold, I just had to tell you that yesterday I made your Sweet Potato, Pear, and Walnut Gratin recipe that appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of Real Food. It was the star of our Thanksgiving dinner, far outshining everything else on the table, and the kitchen is still redolent with the aroma of that magical concoction of cream, chipotle chile and curry! (Thank you so much for this inventive dish, and many others over the years.) -- KJ from Minneapolis 

Thanksgiving Paella & Cranberry Granita

While most folks use their cold turkey and fixings for retro favorites like turkey Divan, turkey loaf, hash, chowder, or a beloved Kentucky Hot Brown (a hot open-face turkey sandwich smothered with cheese sauce), I opt for more exotic tastes that evoke another time and place, as in my turkey paella! Or if truth be told, sometimes I make an entire Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday, which I will be doing this year. Paella later in the week. The depth of flavor in the (almost) traditional version comes from turkey stock, simply made from a picked-over carcass with bay leaves and garlic or you can use broth from a can. Paella, which originated in the Valencia region of Spain, has as its basic ingredients, rice, saffron and olive oil. The rice is cooked in stock then the add-ons are cooked in the rice. Here, they include red pepper, sausage, smoked chorizo, peas -- and Thanksgiving turkey! Paella is generally served in a paellera, a broad, round shallow pan with handles, from which it gets its name. I make mine in a big casserole on top of the stove and then spoon it into a heated paellera for effect.

More leftovers? Leftover vegetables get marinated in a spunky vinaigrette. You will need about 3 pounds of cooked/steamed vegetables to which sweet grape tomatoes are added. If making vegetables from scratch because your Thanksgiving guests ate them all, simply steam a mélange of tiny Brussels sprouts, string beans, thick oval slices of carrots and small broccoli or cauliflower florets.

But the crown jewel on the table set with leftovers is my cranberry granita -- made from a jellied block of cranberry sauce. Refreshing with its citrusy flavors, it is especially dramatic strewn with fresh raspberries or shimmering pomegranate seeds.

Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.

Marinated Vegetables

If using leftover vegetables, you will need about 3 pounds of cooked/steamed vegetables to which halved grape tomatoes are added.

3 pounds cooked or steamed vegetables (Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, stringbeans) 1 pound grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise 3/4 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin) 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons water 2 cloves garlic, pushed through a garlic press 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves 1 teaspoon dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

If using cold leftover vegetables, put them in a large strainer and place the strainer in a large pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and pat dry. If using fresh vegetables, boil or steam them until tender. Drain under cold water and pat dry.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Toss with vegetables. Add salt and pepper. Cover and marinate at least 6 hours or overnight. Let come to room temperature. Adjust seasonings. Serves 6 or more

Cranberry Granita

2 oranges 2 large lemons 3/4 cup sugar 2-1/2 cups water 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 16 ounces jellied cranberry sauce

Grate rind of oranges to get 1 heaping teaspoon zest. Cut oranges in half and squeeze to get ½ cup juice. Grate rind of lemons to get 1 heaping teaspoon zest. Cut lemons in half and squeeze to get ½ cup juice. Put juices and zest in a medium saucepan with sugar, water and vanilla. Cut jellied cranberry sauce into large pieces and put in saucepan.

Bring to a boil, whisking constantly with a wire whisk. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook, about 5 minutes, until cranberry sauce has completely melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool.

Transfer mixture to a large shallow metal pan or two metal pie tins. Carefully place in freezer. Stir mixture with a fork, every 30 minutes, breaking up ice crystals. Freeze for 3 hours. Using a spoon, scrape mixture into chilled wine glasses. Serve immediately. Serves 6 or more

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake, Your Way

So here we are, one day before Thanksgiving, and I urge you to count your blessings and be mindful of the tangibles, and intangibles, in your life for which you are grateful. Someone recently told me they are grateful for this recipe (below)! But if your gratitude has more to do with the people you love and care for, then why not consider making it for them? This one-bowl, crustless cheesecake sets beautifully after a day in the fridge and actually improves with age. The topping can be done your way -- I like to use a medley of pecans, white chocolate chips, and candied ginger, but you can use chopped-up Heath Bars, granola, crushed chocolate wafers, gingersnaps, tiny marshmallows, shredded coconut, dried cherries, or glacéed fruit. And whilst I make it in a 10-inch removable-bottom cake pan, it can also be made in a large square pan and cut into brownie-like pieces (as it's done in the photo. It's from an article I wrote for the fall issue of Real Food magazine.)

Wishing you all a happy and nourishing Thanksgiving Day.

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake Having the cream cheese at room temperature is key to a smooth and creamy texture.

24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream 1/4 cup cornstarch 3 extra-large eggs 15-ounce can pumpkin puree 1-1/2 cups sugar 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract soft butter for greasing pan

Suggested toppings: 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans 1/3 cup white chocolate chips 3 tablespoons candied ginger, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, crème fraiche, and cornstarch until smooth. Add eggs, pumpkin puree, all but 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Heavily butter a 10-inch, removable bottom cake pan. Pour in batter. Bake 30 minutes. Top with pecans, white chocolate chips, and ginger (or toppings of your choice) or the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake 40 minutes longer until firm. Remove from oven and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.  Serves 12

Nice to sip with bourbon or brandy or Drambuie.  (It's in the back of your liquor cabinet.) Enjoy!

Tastes of the Week

November 14  through 21, 2011 Had one of the loveliest brunches -- at Maialino -- in the cool, plush Gramercy Hotel overlooking New York's park of the same name. Sitting at the bar (in the quiet sunlight of November) a friend and I shared an $8 glass of a red wine from Tuscany served in a very expensive wine glass. I love when that happens. It is a very Danny Meyer touch to do that. Maialino is Danny's "Roman" restaurant (one of many in his empire) and is a divine place to dine. We ate the welcome basket of focaccia with gusto and then moved on to a "budino" -- an orange-scented olive oil "cake-lette."  Not quite muffin nor tea bread, it satisfied the morning urge for something sweet but not-too-sweet. It was hard not to notice the extra-thick pepper-crusted bacon sitting in front of our bar neighbor so we ordered that, too. It was hard to resist the autumnal offering of poached eggs on roasted brussels sprouts and squash puree -- heavenly morning food. And I LOVED my bowl of tripe with an olive-oil fried egg on top. I enjoyed the tripe at Maialino the first time I went and thought the idea for breakfast was inspiring. It begged for a few sips of red wine. Then something funny happened:  I was spotted entering the restaurant by the owner from his apartment across the street and so out came a few more dishes to try:  amazing paper-thin slices of ham made from suckling pig (!) -- soft and tender, it simply melted upon your tongue; and a helping of squash-filled agnolotti with fried sage, butter and a sunny hint of lemon. That was another bit of Meyer Hospitality: He is the master. Brunching at the bar is so special at Maialino that a lovely woman next to us told us we could find her there every Sunday -- with newspapers in hand and a whiff of Rome in the air.

As guest lecturer at a luncheon for the Junior League of New York last week, I was treated to a menu of my own food! It's always interesting when that happens and sometimes the results can be alarming. But Chef Patrick did a special job of interpolating my recipes for 4 into recipes for 75. Not always easy to do. So the next time you have a crowd for lunch you might want to try:  a salad of Pea Shoots & Greens with Goat Cheese & Cumin Vinaigrette; Crisped Chicken with Chimichurri & Avocado, Walnut-Onion Muffins (which are perfect for Thanksgiving so look for the recipe below), and "The Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake" topped with raspberries and a one-ingredient creme anglaise (made from a reduction of egg nog.) The topic of the lecture was "mindful" cooking, including the concept of radical simplicity, and the recipes can all be found in Radically Simple.

And one of the most special lunches in New York, now going on for 25 years, is the Power Lunch hosted by the "insatiable" food critic, Gael Greene. It is an extraordinary event of extraordinary women (and a smattering of men who pay $10,000 to attend!) to raise money for Citymeals-on-Wheels. Gael started it decades ago with legendary food guru James Beard and it has grown into a NY institution -- both the lunch and the organization for which multi-million dollars have been raised over the years. The most meaningful moments occur when we are treated to the voices of actors reading the words of the older people, many who are shut-ins, who count on Meals on Wheels for their very sustenance. Not only is the meal important but also the companionship and care that accompany each delivery.  For many elderly there is no one else who knocks on their door any more. For many years, Joe Baum and Michael Whiteman used to host the event at the Rainbow Room (which we owned and operated for 13 years). Now it is held at the glorious Taj Pierre Hotel. I thought lunch was delicious:  It's not easy to prepare 300 portions of perfectly cooked bass, brussels sprouts the size of your fingernail, roasted beets, and the best assemblage of miniature pastries -- macaroons, tiny lemon meringue tarts, genoise cupcakes -- ever.

A nice tuna sandwich with a fried egg and hollandaise at April Bloomfield's restaurant John Dory...at the hip Ace Hotel -- accompanied by a Finger Lakes wine, a dry riesling, called the Gotham Project. Now who wouldn't love that!

Walnut-Onion Muffins (yum!) In the 1980's, I helped create a three-star restaurant in New York called the Hudson River Club, whose menu was based on the region's local bounty. My friend Wendy Dubit, who had a farm in the Hudson Valley, found this recipe in an old cookbook. I just made it radically simple. Its yummy moisture and flavor comes from pureed onion.

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped 2 extra-large eggs 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 6 tablespoons sugar 1-1/2 cups self-rising flour 1 cup shelled walnuts, about 4 ounces, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat 16 muffin cups with cooking spray. Process the onion in a food processor until finely ground. Measure out 1 cup. Beat together the onion, eggs, butter, and sugar. Blend in the flour and chopped walnuts to make a smooth batter. Fill the muffin tins and bake 18 minutes until just firm and golden. Serve warm.  Makes 16

Make these muffins on Thanksgiving morning and enjoy. Today the muffins, tomorrow a pumpkin cheesecake...

Crazy for Cranberries

I'm crazy for cranberries as I'm sure many of you are. The following recipes, chosen from a repertoire of dozens, are interesting variations on a standard theme but have more verve and vibrancy. One such newfangled version always appears on my Thanksgiving table and I often make enough to give away as gifts in pretty glass jars. But you may be interested to know that a wobbly block of cranberry sauce, straight from the can, takes center stage. I just love the stuff:  I love it's garnet color, its opaque yet translucent sheen, its tart-sweet syzygy, the way it waxes and wanes, and the way it is generally left untouched, slowly becoming unglued as the temperature rises around the table. Poor jellied cranberry sauce. What to do? I turn it into a delicious cranberry granita (!) -- a recipe I'll share with you on "Thanksgiving Leftovers Day" -- a new culinary holiday that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every November. Never heard of it? I just made it up! Anyway, the jellied cylinder, complete with the slightly indented striations from the can itself, is something I look forward to year after year. It's a tradition I would never change.

The first offering below is this year's favorite spin. It is a fresh, sprightly relish that cleanses your palate and adds electricity and color to each of the meal's components. And you can make it today, for it improves with each day that passes -- up to five days in advance -- and it takes only two minutes to prepare. Can you find the time? The second recipe is dark and jammy and reminiscent of a conserve (a thick jam made from two or more fruits.) Its deep color comes from dark-brown sugar and ruby-hued dried cherries which plump right up and add unexpected bursts of sweetness. Candied ginger and fresh lime zest tell the rest of the story.

For more saucy cranberry ideas, you may refer to my posts of 2010 (November 20 and December 1) which features a dynamic chutney and dulcet cranberry-maple syrup, and a simple and sophisticated apple-cranberry sauce. Not bad at all with a holiday bird (or with potato pancakes!)

Today the cranberries, tomorrow the...

Cranberry-Lemon-Apple Relish

12 ounces fresh cranberries 2/3 cup turbinado sugar 2 lemon wedges (skin and all, no pits) ½ large Gala apple, in large chunks 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice Large pinch salt

Pulse in food processor until finely ground. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Makes 2-1/3 cups

Cranberry, Dried Cherry and Ginger Conserve

1-2/3 cups dark brown sugar 24 ounces fresh cranberries ¾ cup dried cherries, about 3 ounces, coarsely chopped 3 tablespoons finely minced candied ginger 1 large lime

In a large saucepan, bring 2-1/2 cups water and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries, dried cherries, 3 tablespoons minced ginger and a pinch of salt. Bring mixture to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to medium-high. Grate zest of lime and add to pot. Cook for 15 minutes,  stirring frequently, until cranberries pop and mixture is thick. Let cool with cover askew.  Transfer to a bowl or jar; cover and refrigerate until cold. If desired, garnish with additional candied ginger or grated lime zest. Serves 8  (makes 5 cups)

Sweet Potato Triptych

Here are three fabulous seasonally-appropriate sweet potato recipes -- all perfect for your Thanksgiving feast. One is made with only three ingredients and is totally fat-free, the other, a gratin, can be made days ahead and simply reheated, and the third is a seductive spin on roasted sweet potatoes, blanketed with a sticky maple "honey" I invented. It is nothing more, and nothing less, than pure maple syrup simmered until sticky-thick, perfumed with cinnamon stick and zested lemon. It can be made early in the day and gently warmed when the potatoes are freshly baked. A cinch to make, the result is a cavalcade of sweet, salty, buttery, citrus flavors. Satisfaction guaranteed whichever you choose.

Sweet Potato, Pear, & Walnut Gratin

This is a lovely merger of flavors and a unique addition to your Thanksgiving table. It is delicious with, or without, the layer of sliced Muenster cheese tucked midway through the layers of sweet potatoes. The spices add a gentle perfume to the cream base which bathes and softens the vegetables. This can be prepared one to two days ahead and reheated: Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake 5 minutes longer.

 3 pounds sweet potatoes 1 large firm ripe pear 3 cups half and half 1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder 1/8-1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder 1 large clove garlic, smashed 6 ounces thinly sliced Muenster cheese 1 cup grated parmesan cheese 1 cup walnut halves 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel potatoes. Slice very thin across the width. Peel pear. Thinly slice lengthwise; removing pits as you go. Put half and half in a medium saucepan with curry, chili powder and garlic. Bring just to a boil; lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Set aside; remove garlic when ready to use. Put parmesan and walnuts in bowl of food processor; process until finely ground.

In a very large shallow ovenproof casserole (12 cups), arrange half the potatoes in overlapping slices to form a cohesive bottom layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange pears to cover potatoes. Arrange Muenster cheese over pears. Arrange the remaining potatoes in an overlapping pattern to form a cohesive top layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour cream over and around potatoes. Cover top of potatoes with walnut-parmesan mixture. Dot with butter. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve hot. Serves 8

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sweet Whipped Butter & Maple "Honey"

8 large sweet potatoes 1-1/2 cups pure maple syrup 1 large cinnamon stick 1 large lemon ½ cup sweet whipped butter ¼ cup freshy minced chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes but do not peel them. Pierce them several times with the tines of a fork. Place them directly on the racks in the oven. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Put maple syrup and cinnamon stick in a large saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to low to maintain simmer and cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 25 minutes. Add grated zest of lemon and 1 tablespoon juice. Remove from heat until ready to serve potatoes. When potatoes are soft, transfer them to a cutting board. Cut them in half lengthwise and place on a platter. Gently heat maple sap. Dollop potatoes with whipped butter and spoon hot sap over potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and chives. Serves 8

Sweet Potato, Ginger & Orange Puree This amazingly simple, bright orange puree tastes rich and fattening but it's fat-free. Add a large pinch of Chinese five-spice powder if you desire -- it's a nice touch.

2 large oranges 4 larges sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds 3-inch piece fresh ginger

Grate the zest of the oranges. Cut the oranges in half and squeeze to get 2/3 cup juice. Set aside. Scrub the potatoes but do not peel. Place in a large pot with water to cover.  Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium. Cook for 50 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft. Drain well and peel under cold water. Cut the potatoes into large pieces and put in the bowl of a food processor. Using a small knife, peel the ginger and finely chop enough to get 3 tablespoons. Add the ginger, orange zest, and orange juice to processor. Process until very smooth. Add salt to taste. Reheat before serving. Serves 8

Today the Stuffing...

Thanksgiving stuffing, also known as "dressing" (which always perplexed me), is one of my favorite parts of the meal. I grew up with Pepperidge Farm packaged "croutons" mixed with lots of butter and caramelized onions and I loved it when my mother baked it in a casserole and the topping got all brown and crispy. It is one of those childhood taste memories which I cling to, still. But I offer you a slightly more upscale, and definitely more interesting stuffing this year: Cornbread, Bacon & Shiitake Stuffing. It is meant to accompany almost any turkey flavor profile or cooking technique, but has real character of its own. It might seem labor intensive to make your own cornbread, but this recipe is speedy and can be done way ahead of time and frozen, if you wish. I hardly ever freeze anything but please feel free -- especially if it's going to keep the stress level down. In that spirit, I would like to offer the concept of Mindful-Based Stress Reduction and specifically apply it your Thanksgiving preparations. You should make the cornbread at least 1 to 2 days before using as it's best if it's a bit dry to better absorb all the delicious juices. You can use an equal amount (16 ounces) of store-bought cornbread or corn muffins, but the result will be sweeter. The stuffing itself can be made a day ahead and reheated.

Cornbread, Bacon & Shiitake Stuffing

Cornbread 1 cup flour 1 cup yellow cornmeal, fine or medium 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 cup milk 1 extra-large egg, beaten 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Stuffing 4 tablespoons olive oil 3 cups chopped onions 2 cups chopped celery 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped 5 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice 5 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms 2 extra-large eggs, beaten 2 cups chicken stock

To make the cornbread:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in milk, egg, and butter. Stir well and pour into well-oiled 8-inch square pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until just firm. Let cool.

For the stuffing:  Heat oil in a 6-quart pot. Add onions and celery and cook 15 minutes over high heat, stirring, until softened and golden brown. Add rosemary, bacon, and mushrooms and cook 10 minutes until mushrooms are soft and bacon is cooked. Cut cornbread into 1/2-inch pieces and add to pot. Stir and cook 5 minutes. Whisk together eggs and stock; pour over cornbread mixture and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and serve. Serves 8

Today the stuffing, tomorrow the sweet potatoes:  Three fab recipes!  Stay tuned.

Thanksgiving Countdown 2011

Over the years I have created dozens and dozens of Thanksgiving recipes for Bon Appetit, cover stories for Real Food, and once concocted a 15-ingredient Thanksgiving dinner feature for Newsday. Yes, 15 ingredients for the entire meal!  One day I'll share that with you. But today I begin a seven-day countdown to America's finest holiday, the one we will all be sharing next week. What a lovely notion. And while today, the 3rd Thursday of November is known around the world as Beaujolais Nouveau day, and next Thursday is Thanksgiving day, it's not a bad idea, at all, to serve the former with the latter.

Thanksgiving is one holiday that begs for you to be at the table -- not in the kitchen -- so some stealth planning and creativity are required. Every dish of my colorful, flavor-packed menu can be done ahead. You'll find some new techniques; a few riffs on Thanksgiving classics -- a sweet potato-and-pear gratin, cornbread-bacon-shiitake stuffing, two-minute cranberry-apple-lemon relish (addictive!), and a creamy pumpkin cheesecake "your way."

If you have not already decided how to cook your bird, I present an idea that is not so much radically simple as it is radically delicious. It may be one of the longer recipes I've ever created, Double Crispy Roast Turkey in Apple Cider Brine with Do-Ahead Apple Cider-Tarragon Gravy, but the ultimate benefit may be that it requires less than 3 hours in the oven! My new technique of one-day brining and one-day "dry aging" in the fridge results in succulent, tender flesh and crackling, crispy turkey skin. It's a cinch to do and requires no basting. Even before your pan juices are ready, an apple cider sauce base is waiting for you, ready to amalgamate into a gorgeous turkey gravy.  And an extra bonus is that the turkey rests on a bed of scallions that delicately flavors the sauce and also prevents the turkey from sticking! Here you go:

15-pound fresh turkey (not brined) 3-1/2 cups fresh apple cider (from the refrigerated case) 1 cup kosher salt 12 cups water 3 large cloves garlic 2 large bunches scallions 1/2 cup chicken broth 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1 small bunch fresh tarragon

Wash turkey; remove giblets. In a very large pot, combine 2 cups apple cider, salt and water. Add 2 cloves garlic, pushed through a press. Stir until salt is dissolved. Submerge the turkey, breast side down, in brine. Add water to cover the turkey, if necessary. Cover and refrigerate 16 to 24 hours. Remove from brine and pat very dry. Place turkey on a rack on a platter (to catch drippings) and refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Trim scallions and place side by side on a large, shallow roasting pan. Place turkey on scallions. Roast 2-3/4 hours until done, tipping turkey into pan twice while roasting to remove juices. Meanwhile, put 1-1/2 cups apple cider, chicken broth, remaining garlic clove, pushed through a press, and butter in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes until reduced to 1 cup. Dissolve cornstarch in 3 tablespoons water and whisk into saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon and set aside.

Transfer turkey to large cutting board. Pour pan juices into a large measuring cup; let rest 5 minutes and remove fat from top using a spoon.  Slowly add pan juices, 1/4 cup at a time, to simmering apple cider reduction to achieve a well-balanced gravy, tasting as you go and keeping at a simmer until desired flavor is achieved. Whisking constantly, cook 5 minutes until thickened. Carve turkey and garnish with tarragon. Serve with gravy.  Serves 8

Today the turkey, tomorrow the stuffing.

Someone is Killing the Great Consultants from Brooklyn

This year we consumed four Thanksgiving dinners. This is my husband's* account of dinner #3 hosted by another one of the most fabulous home cooks we know. Recipe below. The New York Gazette

Someone Is Killing the Great Consultants from Brooklyn

Brooklyn, NY -- Nov 28 – Two famous restaurant consultants were found in their car here last night in a complete daze. Rushed to Methodist Hospital nearby, they were diagnosed as having overdosed on L-tryptophan along with uncontrollable surges of melatonin.

The couple, whose heads were flopping about like Stevie Wonder dolls, reported that earlier that evening they had consumed large quantities of an extraordinary turkey cooked by the master himself – a seasoned amateur named Geoffrey Weill of North Bergen, NJ. According to the couple, from various accounts pieced together by the hospital’s staff, they were lured to New Jersey with the promise of a modest Thanksgiving dinner, only to be assaulted by an array of irresistible comestibles, their will to resist greatly compromised by champagne being poured down their empty stomachs.

Medical experts says that this condition frequently is induced during the Thanksgiving period with intent to do harm, although the couple, whose names were withheld pending notice of next of kin, appeared to be unscathed. There still was money in their pockets and credit cards unused.

Law enforcement officials said that no specific law was broken since the couple was not harmed but that they were exploring the legal implications of being seduced to cross state lines with malicious intent.

A Methodist Hospital spokesperson reported, shortly before midnight, that the couple would recover. However, in their delirium they talked about a mystical cranberry relish with pomegranate syrup; a stuffing so wonderful that it must have possessed ingredients that were medically antagonistic to human genes, and some superlative orangey-yellowish vegetable whose name they could not recall.

Calls to the home of Mr. Weill went unanswered and his whereabouts were not immediately known. He and his wife were described by neighbors as ordinary sort of people with a reputation for staging fabulous dinners. No one recalled anyone in their neighborhood ever falling prey to foul play after dining with the Weills. Checks of credit card usage at nearby supermarkets revealed that Mr. Weill had indeed purchased a turkey at Pathmark earlier in the week, this turkey being larger than any 24 people could safely consumer, and observers say that based on car counts there were no more than a dozen adults in the house that evening.

A turkey carcass was discovered in the couple’s car, suggesting to police that they had been given the promiscuous remains of that turkey and that they had consumed, perhaps with the urging of their hosts, all the remaining meat since only the bones were left as evidence.

My Once-A-Year Turkey Broth 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 cups finely chopped onions 1 large meaty turkey carcass 4 chopped tomatoes 2 bay leaves 6 cups, more or less, leftover roasted or raw vegetables 4 cloves garlic

Heat oil in a very large pot. Add onions and cook over high heat, stirring often, for 15 minutes until dark brown. Crack turkey carcass in half and put in the pot. Add remaining ingredients and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lower heat and add 1 tablespoon salt. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Strain soup into clean pot and reduce until desired flavor is reached. Makes about 2 quarts

* My husband Michael Whiteman (baumwhiteman.com) is an international restaurant consultant who (with partner Joe Baum) created the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.

Turkey Paella!

Not so long ago, I was the entertaining columnist for Bon Appetit magazine and wrote a monthly feature for almost five years called Entertaining Made Easy. Sometimes I used to laugh and say "Who's kidding who?  Entertaining is never easy!"  But I've devoted much of my professional life trying to make it so! One year, I was asked to create an entire dinner from Thanksgiving leftovers.  I remember loving working on that story.  The challenges involved in spinning traditionally American flavors into something fresh, new and global were especially fun.  What emerged from the overabundance of stuffing, turkey parts, overcooked vegetables, random leeks, the last dregs of wine, and a quivering block of jellied cranberry sauce was "Span-Ital" (ha, I just made that up!) -- a menu featuring Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms, Marinated Vegetables a la Grecque, an honest Turkey Paella, and a credible Cranberry Granita (which the brilliant food critic Gael Greene recently posted on her site).

We enjoy this menu so much that if we are invited to someone else's house and we have no leftovers of our own, I make an entire Thanksgiving meal in order to have some.  For they are as meaningful as the day itself.

Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms

2 packed cups leftover stuffing ¼ cup finely chopped flat parsley ¼ cup finely chopped basil ¼ cup minced scallions, white and green parts 2 ounces provolone, grated on medium holes of box grater olive oil for drizzling 18 medium portobello mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Crumble cold stuffing into a bowl.  Add parsley, basil, scallions, all but ¼ cup grated cheese and mix well.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  If mixture seems dry, add a little olive oil and mix. Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp cloth.  Remove stems.  Using a small spoon scoop out center of caps.  Fill each cap with stuffing.  Place mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle each mushroom with a little of the remaining cheese.  Bake 12 minutes until stuffing is a little crisp.  Serve hot, warm or room temperature.  Serves 6

A Turkey Paella

¼ cup olive oil 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped 2 heaping cups finely diced onion 1 large red bell pepper 2 cups long-grain rice ¼ teaspoon saffron 4 cups chicken broth or turkey stock 4 large plum tomatoes, cut into large pieces 1 teaspoon oregano scant ½ teaspoon cayenne ¾ pound smoked chorizo or cooked sweet or hot Italian sausage 1-1/2 pounds cooked turkey (I use 1 pound white meat and ½ pound dark) 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat oil in a 6-1/2-quart Dutch oven. Cook garlic and onions in oil for 8 minutes over medium-high heat until soft and golden, stirring often. Cut red pepper into ¼ inch dice to get 1 heaping cup and add to onions. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in rice, saffron, stock, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, oregano and cayenne.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium.  Cover pot and cook 15 to 18 minutes, until rice is just tender. Slice chorizo or sausage into ¼-inch thick rounds. Add to pot.  Cut turkey into pieces that are about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide.  Add to pot.  Add peas and stir well.  Cover and bake 20 minutes until hot.  Remove from oven.  Let sit 5 minutes. Stir and serve.  Serves 6 or more

*To make turkey stock:  Break up turkey carcass from cooked turkey and put in a 7-quart pot with cover.  Add 3 bay leaves and very large head garlic, cut in half through the equator.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium and cook, uncovered, 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Pour broth through a coarse-mesh sieve into a clean pot.  Cook broth over medium heat until reduced to 4 cups.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Makes 4 cups

At our home, we now add "leftovers" to our list of things to be thankful for.

It's 6 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Turkey Is?

If you are the host of today's festivities you are, no doubt, up early to start cooking your turkey.  If you are me, however, you are at a good friends home in Maryland, with a cafe filtre in hand, sitting alone in a dark kitchen, dying to share a few last minute ideas with any takers.  As promised yesterday on Twitter and Facebook, here follows a recipe for roasted root vegetables that I recently starting serving as a Thanksgiving hors d'oeuvres. Radically simple to prepare, these veggies are surprisingly delicious at room temperature and satisfy many gustatory issues on this rather peculiar eating day.  First, they can be made early in the morning (and drizzled with good olive oil and a splash of fresh lemon juice just before serving.)  Second, they fulfill the commandment to respect any vegetarians coming to visit. Third, they are inexpensive.  Fourth, they don't compete for oven time later in the day.  Fifth, they look dramatic on a large platter.  Sixth, they don't fill you up in the way that cheese logs and artichoke-spinach dip often do.  Seventh, the pecan gremolata is addictive.  And last, but not least, they taste good with Prosecco, apple cider or...Scotch!

Equally compelling is my gently spiced Sweet Potato Gratin.  It looks a lot like a birthday cake and can be transported (and reheated) easily in the cake pan in which it's baked.  Intriguingly spiced, it taunts your taste buds with nary a marshmallow in sight.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I'm going back to bed.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Pecan Gremolata If you don't love turnips, you may substitute an equal amount of butternut squash or rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces.

1 pound carrots 1 pound parsnips 1 pound turnips, butternut squash or rutabaga 1-1/4 pounds Brussels sprouts 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling 3/4 cup pecans 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 2 large lemons 1 small clove garlic

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel the carrots, parsnips and turnips.  Cut the carrots and parsnips in half lengthwise and then in half across the width.  Peel the turnips (butternut squash or rutabaga) into 1-inch wedges or chunks.  Trim bottoms of Brussels sprouts and cut in half lengthwise.  Place the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Put vegetables on large rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast 45 minutes, tossing several time during baking.  Roast 10 to 20 minutes longer until tender.  Transfer to a large platter.  Make gremolata;  Put pecans in food processor and pulse until finely ground (like bulgur wheat). Transfer to a bowl and stir in Parmesan and parsley.  Grate the rind of both lemons and add to pecans.  Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Push garlic through a press and add to mixture.  Add a pinch of salt, if needed.  Scatter on top of vegetables.  When ready to serve, drizzle with more olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon.  Serves 8

Spiced Sweet Potato Gratin This can be made up to 8 hours in advance and reheated in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  You will need a 9 or 10-inch removable-bottom springform pan.

7 large sweet potatoes, 3-1/2 to 4 pounds 1-1/2 cups sour cream 12 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, shredded 1 tablespoon curry powder 1 tablespoon ground cumin 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Put sweet potatoes in a large pot with water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil and boil 20 minutes until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a small knife.  Be careful not to overcook as they need to be sliced.  Drain in a colander under cold water.  Slice potatoes 1/4-inch thick and pat dry with paper towels.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of the springform pan with a round of foil.  Line the bottom with a layer of sweet potato slices (about 2-1/3 potatoes per layer.)  Fill in any spaces with potato pieces.  Press down lightly to make a thick layer.  Spread 1/2 cup sour cream over potatoes to cover completely.  Mix spices in small bowl; sprinkle with 1/3 of the spice mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat process, making 2 more layers, ending with cheese on top.  Place pan on rimmed baking sheet; bake 35-40 minutes until top is golden and bubbly.  Remove from oven.  Serve while hot or reheat later.  Cut into wedges.  Serves 10 to 12

A Radical Way to Make Turkey

This is radical: A deconstructed holiday bird featuring white and dark meat that roasts in just 1-1/4 hours!  The flesh stays ultra-moist and flavorful because of its overnight immersion in wine and brine.  Smaller, flatter pieces allow faster browning and less cooking time.  It is perfumed with bay leaves, fresh or dried, and a bit of aromatic oregano which imparts a revelatory herb-y aroma, the sine qua non of Thanksgiving smells.  This is the perfect bird for those who:  have only one oven; have no more than eight friends; who love to try new techniques; and for those who like to break with tradition.  It is also a recipe for those who like to give themselves a break!  There is little fussing or guess work in determining how the white meat will stay juicy and the dark meat thoroughly cooked.  You begin with a total of 8 pounds of raw turkey (breasts and thighs only) which will amply fill your large turkey platter. Another bonus?  There is little last-minute carving to do.

So begin the process today.  Select your turkey parts at the butcher or grocery.  Before you go to bed, submerge the turkey in a very large pot (make sure it fits in your fridge) filled with wine-and-brine (see below).  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  This new technique will ensure a good night's sleep and liberate both you, and your oven, on the big day. You might want to serve this year's turkey with Marilyn Monroe's recently-revealed stuffing recipe, my spiced cranberry chutney, Joan Hamburg's amazing Ritz Cracker Stuffing (see The Food Maven's website), or the world's simplest sweet potato puree accented with orange and fresh ginger (sssshhhh....it's fat free).

And...if you're interested in trying something new, have the following ingredients in your kitchen tomorrow morning: 4 pounds sweet potatoes, large container sour cream, large chunk of extra-sharp white cheddar, curry powder, ground cumin, cinnamon and ginger and stay tuned!

Wined-and-Brined Turkey with Bay Leaves 2 cups dry white wine 2 large turkey breast halves, about 2-1/2 pounds each 2 very large turkey thighs, about 1-1/2 pounds each 16 fresh or dried bay leaves 6 tablespoons olive oil 1 large clove garlic 2 tablespoons best-quality dried oregano leaves

Combine the wine, 6 cups water, and 1/2 cup kosher salt in a very large pot.  Submerge the turkey pieces.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Remove the turkey from the brine; pat dry.  Scatter the bay leaves in a large shallow roasting pan.  Place the turkey on top.  Combine the oil and garlic pushed through a press in a cup.  Rub the garlic oil into the turkey.   Sprinkle with the oregano, salt, and pepper.  Roast the turkey, skin side up for 45 minutes.  Turn the pieces over and roast 35 minutes longer, until cooked through.  Transfer the turkey, skin side up, to a cutting board.  Pour 1 cup boiling water into the pan, scraping up the browned bits; strain through a sieve.  Carve the turkey and serve with the pan juices.  Serves 8

The World's Best Carrot Cake

I am a bit ashamed of myself.  It is 6:35 in the morning and I have my finger stuck in a 1/2-inch layer of cream cheese frosting atop a 6-inch wedge of the best carrot cake I've ever eaten.  This is the third day in a row that I've done this.  It all began on Friday night when we had a pre-Thanksgiving celebration at the home of Anne Kabo in Margate, New Jersey.  Anne is one of the best home bakers I know and I shared that with the world on page 318 of Radically Simple.  There you can find her radically delicious cheesecake, simple and decadent enough to rival any blue ribbon winner.  Everything beautiful Anne bakes is always best-of-show and this weekend alone I had sampled her almond-kissed cranberry "pie" for breakfast, a delicate lemon cake with a gossamer slick of orange icing, the moistest pumpkin-nut bread, and what I now consider...the world's best carrot cake.  I am naturally prejudiced (since we love Aunt Anne and Uncle Richard) but not overly so.  When it comes to sweets, I can be acutely objective.  The fact that I even had room for dessert after the preternatural turkey dinner (that too was delicious -- Brussels sprouts with pine nuts, sweet potato puree with streusel, carrot-flecked stuffing were highlights) was testimony to its value.  The fact that I had a second helping was sheer gluttony. Aunt Anne has been making this cake for 25 years with the only change being its shape.  It has gone from square to round.  I love that it is not iced all over but instead shows off two thick layers glued together with an addictive cream cheese frosting and then topped, as though it was the universe's largest cupcake, with a heavy blanket of much more frosting.  There is a little frosting on my computer keys right now.

Aunt Anne was kind enough to share her recipe with all of us.  Perhaps you will make it today for your company on Thursday or consider bringing it as a Thanksgiving offering...wherever you may be going.

Anne Kabo's Carrot Cake 4 large eggs 1-1/2 cups canola oil 2 cups sugar 2 cups unbleached flour 1 tablespoon cinnamon 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 3 cups grated raw carrots (use large holes of box grater) 8 ounce can crushed pineapple (in juice), drained well 1 cup black raisins 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut 2 rounds of parchment paper and place in each of two deep 8-inch round cake pans.  Lightly oil insides of pans.  In bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs, oil and sugar several minutes until well blended.  In another bowl, mix together, flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Slowly add this mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just blended.  Add carrots, drained pineapple, raisins and nuts.  Beat until just blended.  Bake 45 to 55 minutes  until done, and inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool and invert cakes.  When totally cool, ice the cakes as desired.  (Anne adds a thin layer in the center, a thick layer on top and leaves the sides exposed.)

Cream Cheese Icing 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 1/2 box of confectioners sugar (8 ounces by weight) 1 teaspoon vanilla

In bowl of electric mixer, using paddle attachment, beat together butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until thick.  Chill briefly if too soft.

Cranberry Blog (oops...I mean Bog)

Good morning.  I did re-test my Spiced Cranberry Chutney and here it is.  You can make it with frozen cranberries (that don't need to be thawed) or berries fresh from the package.  Did you know that you can freeze cranberries up to 9 months?  (Just learned that myself.)  And you can refrigerate this chutney up to 3 weeks, probably longer.  Many cookbook authors, food stylists, and magazine writers keep lots of cranberries in their freezer because you just never know when you need them.  I won't disclose the magazine, but I just submitted a proposal for Thanksgiving dinner 2011! and will need lots of cranberries for testing sometime next summer (yes, 9 months from now.)

Spiced Cranberry Chutney 1 medium garlic clove 1 medium yellow onion, about 3-1/2 ounces 12 ounces cranberries 2/3 cup golden raisins 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 1/3 cup cider or rice vinegar 1 tablespoon mustard seed 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves pinch red pepper flakes 3/4 to 1 cup finely diced ripe mango

Put garlic and peeled onion in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.  Transfer to a large saucepan.  Add cranberries, raisins, 3/4 cup sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, ginger, allspice, cardamom, cloves, pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt.  Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and place cover askew.  Cook 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until chutney is very thick.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mango.   Stir well, cover and let sit until room temperature. Stir, cover and refrigerate until very cold.  Makes about 3-1/2 cups

And here's one more signature use of cranberries.  It will fill a winter morning with mouthwatering perfume as it gets drizzled over thick slices of hot french toast. It is also delicious poured on freshly fallen snow.  Really.

Warm Cranberry-Maple Syrup (adapted from Christmas 1-2-3) 1 cup fresh cranberries 1 cup pure maple syrup 1 cinnamon stick or split vanilla bean

Place all the ingredients in a small heavy saucepan.  Add 1/2 cup water and stir.  Bring to a boil, then immediately lower heat and simmer 15 minutes. Strain through a coarse-mesh sieve, pressing down on the cranberries to extract juice.  Serve warm.  Makes 1 cup

A Tale of Two Cranberries

Years ago when I was a young chef, I used to enter recipe contests designated for professional chefs only.  Much to my surprise I won each one of the three I entered.  One was for white rice, one for Bisquick, and the other for fresh cranberries.  It's not that I was the best chef in the country, or even had the best dish, but my recipe titles were always intriguing and the flavors were always bold.  There was Jade Rice with Shrimp and Scallops; Mile-High Tamale Pie, and Spiced Cranberry Chutney, respectively.   Adding fresh mango, cardamom, mustard seed and pepper flakes to traditional-style cranberry sauce was a bit of culinary derring-do way back then. Years later, when creating a repertoire of dishes for my 1-2-3 books, I experimented with cranberries, again, but this time in a most radically simple way.  Three simple elements: fresh cranberries, sun-dried cherries and dark brown sugar, coalesced into two entirely different dishes:  One version was raw and the other, cooked. I loved the contrast, the ease, and the fun in experiencing the disparate qualities from the same ingredients -- the first, a tart relish, the other a sultry compote.

It certainly is the time of year to be thinking about such things.  Cranberries are harvested in the fall after the berry (originally white) takes on its distinctive garnet color.  And there is no Thanksgiving table in America (or in Canada on their Thanksgiving day) that will be devoid of the super-fruit in some form. Somehow the Native Americans knew of their beneficial medicinal properties long before the word anthocyanin was known.  

Today, I am going to re-test that decades-old prize-winning cranberry chutney and give you the results tomorrow.  Today, "the tale of two cranberries." (Adapted from Recipes 1-2-3 Menu Cookbook.)

Ruby Cranberries with Sun-Dried Cherries:  Relish and Compote Relish

12 ounces (about 3 cups) cranberries 4 ounces (about 3/4 cup) sun-dried cherries 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

Put cranberries and dried cherries in a small bowl.  Mix gently.  Add half the mixture to a food processor.  Process until coarsely, but evenly, chopped. Transfer to bowl.  Repeat with remaining mixture.  Add brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a grinding of black pepper.  Mix very well so that the sugar dissolves and gets incorporated.  Cover and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.  Makes 2-1/2 cups

Compote 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar 12 ounces (about 3 cups) cranberries 4 ounces (about 3/4 cup) sun-dried cherries

In heavy medium saucepan, put 1 cup water, brown sugar, pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bring to a boil; add cranberries and dried cherries. Return to a boil, reduce heat and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until cranberries have popped and sauce has thickened.  Cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until cold.  Makes 2-1/4 cups

It's raining cranberries. Please send me your favorite recipe -- after all, it's almost Thanksgiving, a time to share.

Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. President

I was enthralled by the story yesterday in the food section of the New York Times about Marilyn Monroe's recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing. What a fabulous bit of sleuthing by authors Matt and Ted Lee to determine the origin of the recipe.   In a new book called "Fragments" -- a collection of letters, poems, and "scribblings" of Ms. Monroe's from 1943 to 1962 -- resides a poignant reminder of a real life: a handwritten recipe for stuffing a turkey or chicken. Amazing in its complexity, it is quirky and voluptuous, and much like the cook herself.

But more interesting for me, on a personal level, is that the book highlights Monroe's life when she was married to Arthur Miller and a student of Lee Strasberg at the Actor's Studio, predominantly in the late '50's.  Some 15 years later, right after graduating Tufts University, I decided to open a catering business out of my small apartment in midtown Manhattan.  I called it "Catering Artistique."  My boyfriend at the time was a terrific actor and I, a very bad actress. Instead I set my sights on cooking and wound up with a roster of clients including politicians, (infamous) lawyers, and theatre people.  Among them were Lee and Anna Strasberg.  They hired me many times to cook their holiday meals and be their "go-to" girl for cocktail parties and intimate gatherings. I cooked mostly at their apartment on the upper west side.  It had a homey kitchen with a famous back door.  And you would never know who would walk in (or out) at a moment's notice.  Most often it was Al Pacino who lived in the building.   Sometimes I did the event solo, or with my boyfriend Lee. Decked out with a white shirt, black bow tie, and black pants, he would play the starring role that evening as he acted as a waiter -- just waiting, someday, to be an actor.  It was hard not to swoon at all of it during those evenings, rubbing elbows with the theatre's most humble glitterati.  And it was impossible not to think of what those evening's would have been like -- if Marilyn had walked through the kitchen door.

Marilyn's stuffing according to the Lee's, has 11 ingredients plus five herbs and spices.  The recipe I offer below, which I created for the holiday issue of Real Food magazine, is far simpler, radically so, and unlike Ms. Monroe's recipe, has a whiff of garlic.   There are surprising similarities however --my recipe is also a bit "Italian-inspired" and also includes nuts, almonds, rosemary and parmesan cheese.  Here's a sneak preview:

Almond, Rosemary and Panko “Stuffing” This modern stuffing has an old-fashioned taste because of traditional flavors of celery,  onion and rosemary.  But the twist is the use of panko breadcrumbs (in addition to bread slices), sliced almonds, and a liberal amount of nutty, sweet Parmigiano-Reggiano.  This “stuffing,” baked outside of the turkey’s cavity, can be assembled early in the day, and refrigerated in the large baking dish which will later be heated alongside the turkey.   You may add slivers of prosciutto to the mix if desired.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped celery

2 cups coarsely chopped onion

2 teaspoons dried basil leaves

2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano

1 cup sliced almonds

2 cups panko

5 slices firm white bread, cut into ½-inch squares

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 extra-large eggs

1-3/4 cups chicken stock

1 large clove garlic

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil in 4-quart pot.  Add celery and onion and cook, stirring, over high heat for 10 minutes until soft.  Add basil, oregano, and almonds and cook 2 minutes.   Stir in panko and bread squares and cook 2 minutes until coated.   Transfer stuffing to large shallow baking dish.  Stir in cheese, salt and pepper to taste.   Beat together eggs and chicken stock.  Add garlic, pushed through a press.  Pour over bread mixture.  Mix well.  Stir in rosemary and dot with remaining butter.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.  Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and crispy, about 1-1/2 hours.   Serves 8