True Confessions: I’m always looking for ways to get the Grill-Meister to eat more vegetables. I like the challenge.
The latest effort was this salad with grilled vegetables and fresh mozzarella “pearls” on a bed of romaine, tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a surprise ingredient – golden raisins. It got the Grill-Meister’s Seal of Approval, a certification that is quite difficult to attain when vegetables are involved!
Here’s how to do it.
Grilled Vegetable Salad with Mozzarella and Golden Raisins
Makes 6-8 servings as a side dish, 4 as a vegetarian main course
1 fresh zucchini, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
1 fresh yellow squash, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
1 red bell pepper, sliced longways, in about 1 1/2 inch widths
1/2 medium red onion, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds and separated
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat. Toss the vegetables in a medium bowl with 1 TBSP of the olive oil, then grill for 3-4 minutes per side until the vegetables have nice grill marks but are still nicely al dente. Return the vegetables to the bowl and toss the with the remaining tbsp of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, garlic and golden raisins. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and let the vegetables rest until they are room temperature, then add in the mozzarella pearls.
Distribute the romaine across an attractive serving platter, then place the grilled vegetable / mozzarella mixture on top. Add a little more pepper and garnish with the green onions and parsley.
The Grill-Meister was amazed that he liked this, and especially amazed that it would be good at room temperature (he was expecting the grilled vegetables to be served hot as per usual). The sweetness of the golden raisins and the balsamic vinegar are a perfect foil for the earthiness of the grilled vegetables and garlic, and the crunch of the romaine alongside the creamy mozzarella pearls provides a nice textural balance. This dish is a easy stunner.
And one more thing: you can dress it up to be a main course by adding slices of grilled chicken, or if you’re going vegetarian, slices of grilled tofu or portobello mushrooms.
Holiday dinners are about tradition, traditional recipes and taste memories that carry meaning beyond anything our taste buds can comprehend; here are some from my family’s table:
The yeast rolls from “Mema’s” recipe, almost the basis for a religion (you know I’m right).
The stuffing/dressing. It.Must.Be.Right. There’s a whole, as-yet unpublished story about the evolution of the dressing in my family, a North-South conflict that threatened my parents’ marriage until it was resolved. I’ll come back to that later, but before Christmas, because I promised a dressing devotee that I’d document it.
That green bean casserole that no one should like because it has all those extra-processed ingredients – hello, “French”-friend onions from a can!!!??? Someone in my family always manages to sneak that dish in, and they all look at me to see if I will break into food-snob mode and castigate them. This year, I relaxed my standards and had a few bites at Thanksgiving. Surprisingly, the world didn’t stop spinning on its axis. Yet.
The faux cranberry-something in a can (another anathema to me, but hey, some of my loved ones swear by it, and so does Rick Bragg). To counter this abomination, I actually make cranberry relish from scratch, and I’m usually the only one who eats it. I’m ok with that.
Sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping (where o’ where did that come from???)
The fresh creamed corn made from a 75-year old recipe.
That last bit, the creamed corn, is the subject of today’s post. This is serious business.My Dad always made my grandmother Mema’s creamed corn (once she was finished making it; she’s been doing Thanksgiving for the angels since 2000). Dad earnestly took Mema’s recipe and made it his own. The documentation of her recipe is below, from a school project my aunt undertook years ago.
My aunt’s notes below the instructions are a testimonial:
This was the way I had eaten corn all my life until I married. It was a big let-down to try canned cream corn and I have made it a point to use this recipe often.”
I wanted to get the latest take on this, so in 2015, I asked Dad, via email:
Dad – I found Mema’s recipe for creamed corn (from Aunt Lynda). It used corn, butter, water, salt and pepper. I think you said you used cream instead, and white pepper. Is that right?
He was immediately forthcoming, as this was an important issue in the family:
Kim, last year I followed mom’s recipe to the letter and I’m sure you remember it had too much butter. This year I followed my recipe with just a lot of white pepper, maybe a tablespoon of butter and less than a cup of water. Much better.
Dad is gone now. I’m having a hard time believing that he will not be bringing creamed corn every year, or ever again. Last year at Thanksgiving (2016), because of an illness, he was out of the hospital but on a stomach feeding tube, and couldn’t eat – or even taste – anything, but he still made his famous creamed corn. Did I mention that this creamed corn is from scratch, starting with fresh corn on the cob and never, ever frozen or canned – don’t even think about it!
Dad was an amazing optimist; taking a bit of every dish at our 2016 Thanksgiving table of bounty, he made a to-go container that he froze for a time in the future when he would be able to eat again. That time didn’t come. He left us in June of this year, never having gotten clearance to eat normally again, never thawing and enjoying that belated Thanksgiving feast. I miss him every day. But I feel his presence every day, too.
But here I go digressing again. Let’s do the recipe! This year, I made the creamed corn myself for the first time in advance of our 2017 Thanksgiving celebration. Hoping not to create a family controversy, I made some minor modifications to update the classic recipe while preserving its simple elegance. Since no one noticed, I think I’m in the clear. The major differences were that I used cream instead of water, added a bit more of a savory taste with a small amount of sautéed leeks, and the secret ingredient – ground nutmeg.
Using the vintage corn scraper handed down from my father and grandmother, and with their recipe notes as a guide, I was deep in the heart of family taste memories when I made this dish.
Harvell Family Creamed Corn (serves 8-10)
8 large cobs of fresh corn
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced and chopped leeks
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg or about 50 scrapes of fresh nutmeg (preferred)
1 green onion, very thinly sliced
Shuck the corn cobs and wash off any stray silk. Use a corn scraper or knife to cut all of the kernels from the cobs, collecting them in a large bowl.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the leeks and sauté for 5-7 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add the corn and “corn milk” and continue to sauté on medium for 7-10 minutes until the mixture is thickened and the corn is soft. Add the cream, salt and white pepper and cook for about 5 more minutes until the cream has thickened. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
Serve hot and garnish with the sliced green onion.
Note: The creamed corn will keep for several days in the fridge, so you can make it early. It won’t seem like a large amount, but it is very rich, so a small serving is just right.
The end product is a rich, creamy dish that makes you nostalgic for the old days when life was simpler, people were kinder and you could borrow an egg from your neighbor, even if you never experienced any “old days” in that way.
Check out my post about the usefulness of a corn scraperhere, and check out this other blogfor the deep-dive into the mechanics of the use of a scraper. And let me know if you make the Harvell Family Creamed Corn for your holiday table.
Thanksgiving is about tradition, comfort food and family. But it is also fun to shake it up a little, and I just love this dish for the juxtaposition of the traditional (a roasted root vegetable and bacon) and the kicked-up punch from bacon-jalapeño jam with the surprise addition of dried cranberries. The Brussels Sprouts are almost blackened, the jam provides a sweetness and an almost caramelized texture, and the bite of the jalapeño is balanced by the tartness of the cranberries and welcome crunch of the salty bacon. Yum! It’s almost a spicy Brussels sprout hash, and passed the Grill-Meister test – he who hates vegetables, and especially root vegetables, had two servings! The double-baconizing of these little root vegetables might have something to do with it.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries, Bacon and Bacon-Jalapeño Jam
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 tbsp olive oil (you may need more)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup thinly sliced leeks
2 slices of very thick bacon, cut into 1/4 strips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup bacon-jalapeño jam (or pepper jelly if you can’t find bacon-jalapeño jam – see below)
more salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 450°. Line a baking sheet with foil, then put the trimmed and halved sprouts on the sheet and toss with the 3 tbsp of olive, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, then roast for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, remove the sprouts and stir them to ensure that they are roasting on all sides, adding a little more olive oil, if necessary. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes, and repeat, roasting for about 5 more minutes until they are mostly browned (it may not take this long).
During the last 10 minutes the sprouts are roasting, sauté the bacon and leeks until the bacon is done to your liking (I like it medium-crisp for this dish). If there is excess bacon fat (more than you feel comfortable with), remove it with a spoon and reserve for another use. Add the bacon-jalapeño jam and cranberries and stir to mix, then add the Brussels sprouts and toss to ensure that it is all mixed together. It will be very sticky and almost caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve warm, and get ready for the kudos.
About the Bacon-Jalapeño Jam
Followers of this blog know that it is not commercial and I don’t accept ads or do paid endorsements, but I do share info about products that I use and love. You’ll also have heard of Just Pure Flavors, our local (wonderful) purveyor of fresh, professionally made jams. It’s their bacon-jalapeño jam that inspired this recipe, and I highly recommend it. I found Just Pure Flavors a few years ago at our local farmers market in Tomball, TX (a suburb of Houston to the Northwest), but luckily for you, they also do a booming mail order business. You couldn’t get this jam in time for Thanksgiving, but Christmas is another story. In fact, these jams often end up in Christmas stockings at Glover Gardens.
Or Un-“Baconize” and Go Vegetarian
Note to my vegetarian friends – you could make a beautiful and tasty vegetarian version by using pepper jelly (or the Inferno Sauce from Just Pure Flavors) instead of the bacon jam, and substituting olive oil and a mix of dried and reconstituted mushrooms for the bacon. A little bit of ground dried mushrooms would also add a wonderful umami depth. Let me know if you try it!
Just Pure Flavors has inspired quite a few recipes and been mentioned here quite a bit i click here to scroll through them if you’re interested. I love supporting local businesses, and in fact, this post is in support of Small Business Saturday, coming up this weekend.
The Grill-Meister isn’t a big fan of most vegetables, but I’m on a lifelong mission to pull him over to the bright side. One way I’ve been successful in this mission over the past few years has been with slaws. I can throw together a quick slaw as a side dish, and he’ll usually eat it without grumbling (much). But he came to love, love, love slaws after having the Mango Coleslaw at Peli Peli, an upscale Houston-area eatery that serves South African food with a twist. The twist being…”fusion”, including the use of marinades and spices that have Dutch, Asian and Portuguese roots, alongside big American meats and seafood. It works! I could go on and on about Peli Peli, one of my favorite restaurants, but this isn’t a restaurant review post, it’s a recipe post.
One of the best things about Peli Peli is that it moved the Grill-Meister from slaw-tolerant to slaw-loving. Adding those dried mangoes did it.
Of course, now that he is a slaw connoisseur, the Grill-Meister gets a little more involved in the slaw assembly, or would that be slaw-sembly? After tasting my latest, in which I dutifully added dried fruit and a little fresh fruit, too, he frowned, paused thoughtfully, and said, “Pretty good. Would be awesome if you added toasted pecans.”
So I did. And he was right. The recipe is below. I decided to call it Fruit Salad Slaw, because without a few of the ingredients, it would be a lovely fruit salad.
6 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped dried fruit (see notes below)
1 cup chopped tart green apple, cored and seeded but not peeled
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecans (click here for instructions)
1/4 cup orange juice (fresh if possible)
2 tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil (plain is ok, but if you have fruit-infused oil, it will be even better)
2 tbsp high-quality balsamic vinegar (white balsamic would be prettier)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dijon mustard
Combine the slaw ingredients in a medium serving bowl and stir to distribute. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, then pour over the slaw ingredients, tossing to combine well.
We served the Fruit Salad Slaw alongside Blackened Tilapia, and it was a perfect complement for the crisp, spicy fish. The other side is halved grape tomatoes, halved fresh mozzarella (cherry sized) and green onions, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I usually serve them as an appetizer.
Notes (Lots of Notes)
You’ll see in the quick pic above of the finished product that the balsamic vinegar – which tasted wonderful – gave the slaw a bit of a dingy look. I’m going to invest in a good-quality white balsamic this Saturday during my farmers market run and make it again.
Also, I had on had some blood orange-infused olive oil, and it really jazzed up the dressing. The Fruit Salad Slaw would still be good without it, but you might want to grate a bit of orange zest on it if you are using plain olive oil.
The dried fruit I used is from HEB (a wonderful grocer in Texas), and it is just “mixed dried fruit”, the mix being apricots, prunes, apples, peaches and pears. You could use any combination, or just one. Interestingly, the Grill-Meister didn’t notice that this mixture doesn’t include dried mangos, like his beloved Peli-Peli slaw.
I tinker with ingredients when I need a quick side and this recipe is one of the results. After tasting it, my Bonus Son said, “Whatever you did to make this salad, you need to write it down. It’s perfect.”
Confetti Shells Pasta Salad
Cooking Time: About 30 Minutes; Serves: 6-8
8 ounces small pasta shells or other small pasta, uncooked
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/2 c. finely diced yellow bell pepper
1/3 c. roasted red peppers in oil, chopped, oil reserved
1/2 c. coursely chopped very ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 c. petite frozen peas (they’ll thaw in the salad)
1/2 cup chopped cheese (small cubes); mozzarella or gouda is quite nice
3 tbsp oil from roasted peppers
2 tbsp capers
3 tsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Gather all ingredients, chopping, dicing and measuring as indicated. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package; drain. Combine all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl. Then combine the rest of the ingredient in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit for a while for the flavors to “marry” and the peas to thaw.
Add grilled chicken breast slices to make this a main dish rather than a side salad.
The seventh post in a series about the New Orleans Jazz Festival covering food (restaurants and recipes), fun, music and travel tips.
In the run-up to our Jazz Fest trip in early May, we are building anticipation by looking back at past good times in New Orleans and sharing our travel tips.
Today, we discuss a rather serious situation: The Foodie’s Dilemma.
How to Enjoy Festival Food and Yet Save Room to Experience NOLA’s Restaurants?
The issue at hand is: the festival food is so wonderful, so food-truck-trashy-tasty good, so “mama’s been making it for years just like this” authentic, that any self-respecting foodie simply has to eat it. And yet, as a proud foodie, you want to save room for the dinners at the myriad of super-fine restaurants New Orleans has to offer, like Bayona, which was profiled in an earlier post. It’s a difficult thing. I’ve been to Jazz Fest five times and still don’t have the formula right for solving the Foodies’ Dilemma. The best advice I have is to do a lot of walking and make room for more! Since there are nine different food locations all around the festival offering over 250 menu items, you can do a lot of your walking just trying to make up your mind! The other strategy we deploy is to skip breakfast, make a reservation for an early lunch at a foodie’s choice restaurant, then head out to the festival and start the serious snacking in mid-afternoon.
How to Choose from All the Mouthwatering Goodness?
And that’s the second part of the Foodie’s Dilemma: once you’ve realized you’re just going to be stuffed the whole time, and not really as ashamed about the gluttony as your Mama taught you to be – how do you pick between all of mouth-watering goodness provided by the 70+ vendors? With the memory-laden lure of your old favorites, how can even a foodie branch out and try something new? I’ve never had the Crab & Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms that Prejean’s restaurant brings to Jazz Fest, but how could I pass up the Crawfish Monica or Crawfish Strudel that I always have? In the crawfish department alone, there were 18 different selections featuring this delicious little crustacean in 2016. So many options, so little time! The Foodie’s Dilemma is actually a Foodie’s Delight.
Festival Food Photos
So today, for your culinary daydreaming pleasure, here’s a look at some of the delectable festival food, just random pics I’ve snapped during a few of our Jazz Fest journeys. Some of the food was mine; some was in the hands of strangers. People are always really nice about letting me photograph their food.
People are always nice at Jazz Fest, period. It’s like a great big family reunion, but, instead of genes and upbringing, the thing you have in common is a love of music and food.
Catfish Almandine, Potato Salad and Creole Stuffed Crab
Fried Crawfish and Greek Salad with Gyro Sandwich
Have these photos piqued your interest? The resources below include a link to the food section on the Jazz Fest web site. There’s a lot more there to see and salivate over.
Crawfish Monica Recipe from Emeril’s Test Kitchen
Did you know that the amount of rotini pasta used to make the Crawfish Monica sold at the festival in a single year is 6 tons??? That stuff is hurt-yourself good. So here’s a Crawfish Monica recipe via GoNOLA, with a video from chef Chris Wilson, the director of culinary operations at Emeril Lagasse’s test kitchen.
Food list on the official New Orleans Jazz Fest site
I was working on a presentation in my office at 4:45 on a weekday, and I was startled when my arm rang. (I’m still getting used to my new Apple Watch.)
Rose never calls me during work hours unless it’s a food emergency, so I answered, awkwardly holding my wrist up to my face and hoping no colleagues ventured into my office. “Hi Rose, what’s up?”
“Kim, I’m wrestling with a spaghetti squash! How do you get the dang thing open?”
This is serious business. I forgot that I was talking to my wrist and told her the Spaghetti Squash Disaggregation Truth as I know it. (Rose grants me an elevated foodie status, and I try hard to deserve it.)
Get the biggest, sharpest butcher knife you have and stab ithard straight through the heart, like it’s a mortal enemy, then slice downward.
Rose had already done the stabbing.
“My knife is stuck!”
“That happens to me, too. You have two options – get a hammer and use it to tap your knife further into and down the squash beast, or get another knife and go at it from a different part of the squash.”
“Really? This happens to you, too? I thought there was some kind of Chef Squash Magic you could tell me about, some kind of kitchen wizardry…” She tailed off, sounding kind of wistful and disappointed. I hated to let her down.
“No Rose, really, I’ve been in that same situation, alone in the house, just me and the squash and that helpless feeling when it seems like more than you can handle. But I was not going to let it win, Rose. That’s where the ‘thinking it’s the enemy’ part comes in. GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT!” (I had forgotten that I was in an office setting and was talking to my wrist loud enough for co-workers to hear me waaaay down the hall – but, as I said, this was serious business and Rose needed my full support.)
We shared a few niceties, I encouraged her once more (“You’ve GOT this!”) and then hung up – or rather, I pushed a little red button on my watch to end the call and went back to my presentation. I wondered how she’d fare, but knowing Rose, my money was on her. It takes more than a gourd to defeat a grimly determined woman.
The Rest of the Story: a Tale of Triumph Over Gourd-Adversity
A few hours later, I was rewarded with the rest of the story, presented on Facebook by a triumphant Rose.
“Sooo….my first sincere attempt at cooking spaghetti squash. Pinterest failed to mention that these squash do not have a soft melon-like consistency….they are hard boulders that taunt you with their inaccessibility. Thank you, (another friend), for your attempt at helping me, but I ended up swallowing my little pride and calling the Oracle, Kim. She suggested the stab and split downward method. After working out my frustrations on unsuspecting produce, the second picture is the final result. It tasted great, and was made more satisfying with the knowledge that I was consuming an earlier arch nemesis (that dang aforementioned boulder squash). I know this is long, and I don’t normally post food, but I’m celebrating a well earned triumph.”
She did it!
The Wisdom of the Crowd: A New Technique
Rose’s post generated lots of compliments and comments. The banter was wonderful. She added:
“I have to admit, it’s really good. Also, really easy once you break into the agricultural spawn of Satan.”
“We have it all the time. My chain saw works great for cutting the little Devil.”
“This happened to me last week! After getting in a full workout cutting it, I read that you can microwave it for 5 min first to make it easier.”
“Poke holes and microwave for 2 minutes! It softens it significantly for you to cut it.”
“I see somebody else mentioned it (microwaving)! It really helps. You just can’t touch it for like 20 minutes after LOL!”
“I’ve found that hatchets are fun! That is of course if you forgo the above mentioned softening techniques.”
Softening in the microwave? Great idea! I had never heard that one and am ready to try it, unless…see Rose’s answer to the suggestion that she try the microwave approach.
“That will depend heavily on how the rest of my day has gone. The technique I employed to get into the squash this time was oddly therapeutic.”
Facebook folks asked for the recipe, which she shared:
Permission to Share
Final note: I sought permission from Rose the Mighty Squash-Quasher to share this event and the Facebook conversation .
You have the intrepid heart of warrior! Kudos for winning the squash war and bringing the gourd to its culinary knees. The recipe looks super-yum. Can I put this escapade in my blog? Oh please?
Epicurious sends a message every day, just for me (and their umpteen zillion other subscribers). I usually don’t have time to read it right away (or ever, sometimes), but today’s caught my eye. It listed their top ten stories of 2016, and as a food blogger, I was interested to see what generated the most interest. They introduced the list:
Cooking made us happier in 2016 (there’s proof!), and so did these stories, which are our ten most loved, clicked-on, and shared stories of the year.
They’re all interesting, and I’ve provided the link to the online version at the end of this post. But the one that stood out was #6 on the list, “The Case Against Baby Carrots” by Adina Steinman.
Here’s the scoop: baby carrots aren’t babies at all!!! They are full-grown carrots masquerading as cute, younger, fake versions of themselves after some vegetable-style cosmetic surgery.
Sez the story, which is subtitled “Why Baby Carrots are Evil”:
Baby carrots are in fact full-grown carrots, whittled down into earplug-shaped cylinders. They aren’t sweeter, fresher, or younger than the bunches of carrots they’re sold alongside. In fact, they’re often made from older carrots, hence the starchy, not-very-sweet flavor you get from some bags.
It’s an outrage, and as the writer says, these carrots are pure evil. I will never, ever buy these manually-midgeted carrots again. I have no idea why I didn’t realize they were a sham, but from today forward, I am committed to peeling the authentic full-grown versions.
In honor of the noble, full-sized root vegetable, here is a picture and a recipe that a friend of mine brought to a wine party, made with beautiful heirloom carrots. They are tossed with sumac and mint, topped with toasted pistachios and served on a bed of marvelous whipped feta. They were delicious!
Here’s how it looks in the magazine where he found the recipe.
We love our holiday food classics here at Glover Gardens, but it is also fun to mix it up a bit. At Thanksgiving this year, my Aunt-Mom (there’s a story for another time) did just that with these wonderful sweet potato “stacks” she found in Cooking Light. Yum! And look how attractive they are.
My Aunt-Mom says she doesn’t like to cook but is really, really good at finding great new recipes. This one can be found online at Cooking Light’s site here: Sweet Potato Stacks with Browned Butter.
Some of the most alluring recipes I’ve come across in my years of cooking have been published in Wine Spectator. They are always perfectly paired with wine, described delectably and photographed beautifully, and I’ve been known to keep back issues for years, planning to make that picture-perfect meal a reality in my kitchen. Someday.
The December 23, 2002 issue had just such a meal: A Holiday Menu from Wine Country. Oh my, it looked good: White Bean Soup with Fried Sage, Pan-Roasted Duck with Root Vegetable Hash and Sweet Potato Puree…whee! I held onto that issue of Wine Spectator for a couple of years, revisiting the recipe and ingredients a bit wistfully from time to time while realizing that my everyday life with a small child didn’t really support making this super-sophisticated meal. But as they say, good things come to those who wait. I finally broke out that recipe for a very small girls’ night at my house during the holidays a few years later. It was just two of my closest friends and me, ready to cook, laugh, tell stories and maybe even cry a little (if necessary) in the little kitchen of my 1920s wood-frame cottage. Two of us were single moms at the time, and the third a “restaurant widow”: her husband was the managing partner at a very popular restaurant, and was never home in the evenings. All three of us were without children that night, for various reasons. “Like sailors on leave,” one of them said.
The menu from the magazine, billed as an easy holiday meal to make at home, was provided by the executive chef of Napa Valley’s Auberge du Soleil, Richard Reddington, who was described as wine country’s “hottest young chef”.
The last thing I want to do on a holiday is kill myself in the kitchen,” Reddington says. “I want to be done and I want the kitchen to be clean and I want to sit down with my guests for an hour and drink a glass of sparkling wine.”
Gentle readers, you should know that there are definitely different definitions of “easy”. Easy, it was not. Tasty, it was. Might as well drink that sparkling wine while you’re making the dinner, because it will be a while before you get to the finish line.
In my little kitchen with my two girl-buddies, there was a frenzy of chopping and chatter, and it took us a couple of hours to get the meal made. We had a marvelous time, uncovering the meaning of life and praising the fiber of root vegetables as we sautéed each of them individually before mixing them (they don’t cook at the same rate and might get mushy if crammed together in a pan). We also praised ourselves for being smart and sophisticated enough to appreciate root vegetables – no bourgeoisie, we! We exclaimed over the richness of the pureed sweet potatoes as we laid crispy-skinned pan-fried duck on them and began the devouring.
We drank our wine and told our stories with the desperate urgency of moms who only have a night off a couple of times per year – and of course the kids took center stage in all of those stories.
We knew were were the luckiest gals in the world that December evening, with our wine, our stories, and our fiber-laden root vegetables. I cherish the memories of that night, with that meal, and those ladies. One of them has left us and is now cooking with the angels, and I imagine her in heaven savoring the super-crispy duck skin with the rich, smooth pureed sweet potato and crunchy, root vegetable hash without worrying about the calories. If you’re interested, you can read more about her here, but grab a cup of coffee first, ’cause it’s a long one.
Gather some friends and try these recipes one day when you have time. They won’t be quick and easy, but you won’t be sorry. Here it is again: A Holiday Menu from Wine Country.