Sunday, November 28, 2010

What to do with leftover Thanksgiving Turkey?

I can hear it already, the sigh emanating from kitchens around the country.  The fridge door is open and the containers of Thanksgiving leftovers are just sitting there challenging you to figure out what to do with them on the third day after the holiday.  Can you really take eating a plate of turkey and the fixings all over again?  Even my own father made a comment today about how he was on his fifth meal of leftovers, and he is usually the first one to figure out how to make a sandwich with everything.

My folks had several creative solutions to this culinary dilemma when we were growing up. Last week, my sister and I reminisced about a few of their choices.  There was Turkey Leftover Soup.  Mmmm...I can visualize the murky grey-brown broth even now, a few decades later.  Chunks of mashed potato floated on top of it.  Green beans rubbery and chewy provided that extra touch of texture.  Some vague semblance of shredded turkey meat would sometimes appear in the thick depths.  Then, a few weeks (or months!) later, we'd find a leftover container of it in the back of the fridge, fuzzy stuff growing on top of it.

Another leftover treat was Turkey Tettrazini.  Just swap out the tuna in Tuna Tettrazini for cooked turkey and voila!, you have a new post-holiday recipe for your files.  I really do believe in not wasting good food, so I'm only sort of tongue-in-cheek about this.  One of the dishes that I did actually like was one that my mother made using recycled Thanksgiving turkey is Turkey Curry.  It is not a fancy dish, or even a typical Indian-style or Thai curry, but, rather, just basic and simple.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now that the pies are baked, the squabble about the side dishes has been resolved (this year it was over sweet potato fries), and the turkey is roasting in the oven, it's time for the annual holiday trivia fest (and Christmas present name drawing in my family).  What was the first Thanksgiving celebration like, what did they eat, and who was really around the table?  Like every other American child, I grew up with the ideal of dourly-dressed Puritans gratefully sharing their harvest meal with the uncivilized Native Americans after a winter in which the former almost starved to death.  Long planks were filled with turkeys, pies, corn, potatoes, and every other imaginable autumn food.  

At a lecture at the 92nd Street Y Tribeca on I attended last Wednesday, Dr. Libby O’Connell, Chief Historian at The History Channel, gave an engaging talk on the real origins of this festival and how the picture of it that we have in our minds today matches up with what that feast would have looked like almost four centuries ago. One of the first things that she set about doing was to clarify the name “thanksgiving.”  Festivals with that name as well as feasts celebrating the bounty of the harvest have been around for centuries prior to Plymouth. These traditions are evident from the earliest societies.

As Dr. O’Connell pointed out, as soon as farming is seen in civilization, we see homage paid to the gods of growing food. The harvest festivals involved large meals and some type of singing and/or dancing. Thanksgiving ceremonies, however, were of a more somber nature and involved fasting, prayer, and religious ceremony. A good yield in any year would have been a cause to be celebrated.  It would also have been appropriate to thank the local god/diety/saint that the people deemed responsible for providing them with the abundance to sustain them for the upcoming colder weather. 

This is the background for the traditions that the earliest European settlers brought with them to the New World.  In fact, some of the surviving written accounts reflect accounts of them giving thanks in ceremonies that pre-date the one that we honor today, including the one at Berkeley Plantation in Colonial Virginia.  As we know from our history studies, life was not easy for those who came to these shores from Europe.  In their first year here, many of the settlers died from disease and food-related illnesses, and it was through the generosity of the native peoples who taught them how to grown food in this new climate that they were able to survive and eventually to thrive.  Edward Winslow, one of the Plymouth colonists described this first harvest feast that they had. This is what is referred to as "The First Thanksgiving" (with apologies to my VA peeps who claim that the first one was held there).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Dishes - A Roundup

This year things are going to be a bit different for me for Thanksgiving.  As I'm no longer working in an office, the annual ritual of folks passing by my cube, looking for those last-minute recipe hints or swapping holiday cooking disaster stories (for the record, I don't have any of those) is not going to be taking place.  This also means that I don't have to confess to anyone that I've never actually made the centerpiece of the meal: the turkey.

My mother always made the turkey and gravy.  I wasn't even allowed near it, except when it came to pulling out the innards (which, thankfully came stored in a plastic bag shoved down its inside).  At every other meal to which I've been invited, it is usually the host who takes care of this.  Even when my roommates and I had folks over to eat many years ago, I was able to get out of poultry duty.

I'm the first one to volunteer to bring dessert or a side dish to the meal, if it is a potluck, and will almost-willingly peel the mounds of potatoes it takes to feed my large and carb-friendly family (although I'm really looking for someone in the next generation who can take over from me on that), but I've never tackled cooking the big bird.  This year will be no different, as far as I know.

So, what I've been promising everyone is that I'll pull together some of the side dishes that I've posted previously that might be suitable for the occasion.  I've also linked to two other new dishes that I created recently using products that I recently discovered via Schoolhouse Kitchen.  These might not all be the same things that were served at the first harvest celebration held by the Puritans in Plymouth, but they should be very tasty and might give you some new ideas to carry over to your own family's annual table.  I hope that you enjoy them.

Buon appetito!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brooklyn Oenology (BOE) Opens Their Tasting Room

As Tweeted around yesterday by Grub Street, Brooklyn Oenology (BOE)  has opened a tasting room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This venue has been operating for almost two weeks now, showcasing its own label BOE Wines as well as wines, cider, and spirits produced in New York State. A friend of mine and I visited it on its opening night and really enjoyed the casual, slightly industrial, mildly rustic atmosphere. Most important of all, we liked the wines.

I'm a recent convert to New York State wines, and I’ve gotten to taste a few amazing ones at some of the food-related events to which I’ve been invited. Visiting the BOE Tasting Room gave me an opportunity to sample a few of the great bottles that Alie Shaper,  owner and winemaker has created using New York State grapes (the premise of the label and brand). The staff is approachable, friendly, and knowledgeable about the wines that they carry and will assist you in getting to know the personalities of the vintages, as they did with my friend and I. What is interesting, too, is that the labels on the BOE bottles peel off so that you can keep a record of what you have sampled or create your own artists’ scrapbook with the gorgeous designs. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin-Pecan Muffins with Maple Butter

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was at the Union Square Greenmarket and spotted the stand for Cayuga Pure Organics, which is usually at the market on Wednesdays.  One of the items I noticed that they had on the table was farro (or emmer), about which I'd just posted in my recipe for Farro Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Thyme-Roasted Mushrooms. While we were talking, a vendor from another stand paid a visit and picked up some bread from them.

Interested in our conversation, he and I started talking about squash and recipes.  "Have you ever had a buttercup squash?" he said.  

"No," I replied, "I don't think I've ever seen one."

"Come with me," he said.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Amsterdam Market Smørrebrød Festival

One of the things that I really love about the New Amsterdam Market is that it features different kinds of food events and showcases the variety of the things that we eat in this city.  This was really evident in the Ice Cream Festival this summer and the Hudson Valley Harvest in October.  Today, we had a chance to dip into another part of the New York's culinary heritage with the Smørrebrød Festival.  This was part food festival, part competition, as the participants were pitted against each other in a variety of categories.

Ulla Dubgaard and Maiken Tandgaard Derno from the Consulate General of Denmark were kind enough to talk with me at the earlier part of the event about how this came together.  For a couple of years, they have been working with well-known chef Trina Hahnemann and her Danish Rye Bread Project on a possible activity based upon the revival in cooking and in traditional fare that has become bigger and bigger on the food scene in general and also in Europe specifically (see Ireland and Darina Allen).  With Noma named best restaurant in the world earlier this year, they said that the timing seemed appropriate to launch this initiative.  

Rye bread or rugbrød itself is something that is an intrinsic part of their heritage.  From farmers who used to take slices of bread layered with fat and salt to have as their lunch to workers in the industrial revolution days who ate it with potatoes, meats and whatever else was leftover from the night before to the modern smørrebrød shops similar to our hamburger stands, rugbrød is rich in fiber, provides good bacteria through its mild fermentation, and stands as a perfect platform for whatever flavors are placed upon it.  Baking the bread oneself is also part of their tradition, as Maiken explained that parents make it for their children's lunches and university students use their dormitory ovens to produce loaves, even with good bakeries from which to purchase it.  It was clear in talking to them that they were honored to be able to bring this part of their native country to the market and that they were very impressed at the number of people who showed up today to share in this tradition.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chocolate Show New York 2010

For years I've always thought about going to the Chocolate Show in New York but have never quite made it there.  I know folks who have the date of this annual fair imprinted on their brains so that an alarm goes off to get them in gear to buy the tickets to go to it.  It's just never happened that way for me, despite the fact that I love chocolate and have such a large sweet tooth that I often give it up for Lent just to wean myself off of it a bit.  

This was at the entrance to the show.  How impressive!

Yes, the dresses are made of chocolate.  I like the flapper one.

This year, as I'm writing more about food events around town for this blog, I decided to head over there to check it out for myself.  It was actually held in a much smaller space than the Fancy Food Show that I attended in June, which I was surprised to see.  The link to the fair gives a list of the participants.  There were plenty of free samples to try, and some wonderful vendors with whom to speak about their products.  I walked away finding a few new favorite chocolatiers and had nice pleasant buzz from all the items we consumed.  Here's the ones that I really loved and some others that I found really interesting.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Product Spotlight - Schoolhouse Kitchen

Growing up, I was always the odd one out in the family.  I couldn’t stand to have jelly on my peanut butter sandwiches, and I didn’t actually like jam or jelly in any form.  I also felt the same way about the jar of bright yellow mustard that lived in our fridge.  Fortunately for me, things have changed, and I have found something that I now really love to eat.  The amazingly delicious spreadable fruit, chutneys, and mustards from Schoolhouse Kitchen are light years away from these items and flavorful and intricate enough to make a convert out of the most staunch skeptic in the condiment department.

I first encountered their products at the New Amsterdam Market during the Hudson Valley Harvest event, where I was able to taste several of them (one of the great perks of the market is that the vendors allow you to try before you buy).  The flavor and complexity of the Cherry Blackberry Sage & Clove spreadable fruit and Horseradish-Dill Mustard lingered happily on my palate and remained in the foodie sensors of my brain the entire way through our market tour.  Unfortunately, I neglected to pick up a couple of jars to enjoy at home.  The next Sunday, I went downtown as soon as I could break free from my errands and bought some as one of my first vendor stops.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Casa Italia Atletica Event during New York Marathon Weekend

I grew up with a devoutly Francophone mother.  She came into her culinary own during the Julia Child wave, and I can vividly remember watching "The French Chef" with her when I was a child.  While I enjoy French food and cooking and am still trying to master all the classic techniques, my tastebuds took me on a different path, and I really fell in love instead with Italian cuisine and food principles. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to find myself in a room full of similarly-minded people at an event put together by the Casa Italia Atletica listening to the representatives of several provinces talking about food, wine, and sport.

Titled "Italy that still runs - genuine passion," this is one in a series of global events that Casa Italia Atletica is doing to promote Italian products overseas and was being held in New York because of the marathon on Sunday.  Fred Plotkin, author of several books on Italy, was the moderator and translator for the panels, which included presentations by representatives from Ascoli Piceno, Reggio Calabria, Molise, Siena, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, and the Confederazione italiana agricoltori (agricultural representatives association).  I was invited to attend by Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communications, whom I know from graduate school.  Of course, in addition to the discussions, there were some wonderful samples of food, drink, and olive oils to try.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Personal Chef - Trailing with Mark Tafoya of Remarkable Palate

Today I had a unique opportunity to trail (or shadow) a personal chef on one of his weekly client engagements.  Chef Mark Tafoya has had his business ReMARKable Palate for many years, hosts a culinary podcast, and is also co-owner of The Gilded Fork, a culinary media enterprise.  He also runs, a company that creates videos for websites.  With all these different outlets for his time and energy, I was honored that he was able to take on my request for some 1:1 mentorship.

For several years, even prior to starting this blog, I have wondered about going into the personal chef industry.  I've looked into the offerings of the U.S. Personal Chef Association, tried to figure out how to create this kind of business, and pondered how to make it work in New York City, which is different from many of the models about which I've read in other places.  Seeing Chef Mark work today and hearing some of his advice culled from his time working with clients in their homes, I gained more confidence that it just might be possible for me to do this too.

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