Thanksgiving Harvest Salad

November 17th, 2014

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I love the idea of Thanksgiving: setting aside a day for giving thanks, sharing with those in need, and getting together with loved ones—and of course cooking and talking and eating and laughing together.

I’m not always absolutely thrilled by Thanksgiving dinner in practice, however. By the time one consumes a portion of each menu item at most harvest tables, one starts to feel awfully full.

My solution to this quandary is to try to include a green salad in the day’s offerings. One can eat a lot of salad and eat only a little of everything else.

I made the salad below with pecan oil graciously sent to me by La Tourangelle. If you have guests at your table with nut allergies, you may of course use extra-virgin olive oil, but otherwise I think the nut flavor suits this quintessential American holiday.

Feel free to add your own favorite ingredients. When my sister-in-law Leigh and I made this salad last year to take to Thanksgiving dinner at our cousins’ home, we served sweet-potato chips on the side. People threw them into their salad at the last minute to add crunch.

If you’d like to see me make the salad, watch the clip at the bottom of the recipe in which Ashley Kohl and I assemble the salad—after we pop some cranberry-apple crisp into the oven.

Happy Turkey Day (or as I like to call it, Salad Day!) to all……

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The Salad

Ingredients:

for the dressing:

4 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
10 tablespoons walnut or pecan oil

for the salad:

1/2 pound uncooked spinach leaves (more if you like)
1/2 cup walnut or pecan halves (more if you like)
1 apple (your choice, cored and sliced but not peeled)
1/2 small red onion, chopped into rings or pieces
1/2 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese (more if you like; omit for a lighter salad)
3 strips cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (more if you like)

Instructions:

First, make the dressing. In a 2-cup mason jar combine the vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, garlic, water, salt and pepper. Shake well. Slowly whisk in the oil.

Wash the spinach thoroughly and dry it.

Place the nuts in a small frying pan, and toast them over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly, to release their oils. Take the pan off the heat.

Just before you are ready to eat, slice the apple. In a salad bowl combine the salad ingredients.

Shake the dressing, and pour about a quarter of it onto the salad. Toss the salad well but carefully. Serves 6.

(You will have enough dressing for several salads. Refrigerate the dressing between uses, and make sure to bring it to room temperature and shake it well before you re-use it.)

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The Day of the Dead

October 24th, 2014

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My friends Donna and Dian in California introduced me to the Day of the Dead, la Dia de los Muertos, which is fast becoming one of my favorite holidays.

I gather that there are actually TWO days of the dead. On November 1, the spirits of dead children return to earth to join us. On November 2, adults follow.

Dian and Donna have wonderful, elaborate ofrendas, shrines dedicated to the memory of people they have lost. The ofrendas feature flowers, candles, trinkets, foods the people loved, skulls made of sugar, and even chocolate skulls.

I am only just starting to celebrate this holiday so my ofrenda is quite small—but I had fun putting it together. I brought it along to my most recent appearance on the television program Mass Appeal. I made Mexican hot chocolate in honor of the day and of my father (who LOVED chocolate).

The hot chocolate recipe, and the chocolate with which I made it, came from Taza Chocolate. I have tried making the hot chocolate with both vanilla-flavored chocolate (plus a little cinnamon) and the guajillo chile chocolate we used on the TV show. The chile chocolate might be a bit strong for kids, but it has a nice kick. And either frothy chocolate drink is fluffy and creamy.

Next year, I hope to give you a recipe for the traditional bread for the Day of the Dead, which you can see in the photograph of my ofrenda. I’m still working on the right formula!

Meanwhile, Happy Day of the Dead—and of course Happy Halloween. If you watch the video at the bottom of this post, you’ll see us make pumpkin bread for Halloween as well as the hot chocolate.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

1 2.7-ounce package (2 discs) Mexican chocolate
2 cups milk
1 pinch salt

Instructions:

Roughly chop or grate the chocolate. Set it aside.

Heat the milk over medium heat until it ALMOST starts to simmer. Remove the milk from the heat, and toss in the salt.

Slow add the chocolate, stirring until it dissolves.

Return the mixture to the stove and warm it up again over low heat. While it is heating, use a whisk, a frother, or an immersion blender to froth it.

Serves 2.

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Pudding Festival Results

October 6th, 2014
Puding Head Leslie Clark is crowned by judge Damon Herring. Courtesy of the Recorder.

Pudding Head Leslie Clark is crowned by judge Damon Herring. Courtesy of the Recorder.

Last week the Sons & Daughters of Hawley, the historical society in my small town, hosted the intermittent but always highly enjoyable Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival.

This event started out as the launching event for my Pudding Hollow Cookbook—and kept going because it was so much darn fun on its own. The person who wins the pudding contest that is the centerpiece of the festival is dubbed the new Pudding Head.

This year’s Pudding Head actually lives in the Hawley’s Pudding Hollow district, the home of Abigail Baker, who won a pudding contest in Hawley in about 1780. (Note: I’m old, but I’m not that old. Her pudding contest was the inspiration for, not the launch of, my book.)

Leslie Clark moved to town in August and lives right next door to me! She is proving to be a terrific neighbor and a darn good cook.

Here is Leslie’s prize-winning recipe. I haven’t tasted it yet, but from the judges’ reactions and from the ingredients, I know I will love it.

Remember readers, you have only five years to work on your recipes for the next festival! (Next year, the Sons & Daughters plan a men’s pie-baking contest.)

This event isn’t just delicious. It’s also a tribute to the power of community … and of course of food!

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Leslie’s Luscious Coconut Cream Custard

from 2014 Pudding Head Leslie Clark of Hawley, Massachusetts

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (5.4-ounce) can coconut cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup shredded coconut

Instructions:

Met the sugar in a pan with the cinnamon. Spread this melted syrup in the bottom and sides of a baking bowl, reserving about 1/4 cup for later decoration. Allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Using a hand or electric mixer, blend the eggs, liquids, and nutmeg for 5 minutes. Pour this mixture into the sugar-lined baking bowl. Top with shredded coconut uniformly.

Bake in a bain marie (hot-water bath) for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean.

Re-melt the reserved sugar and cinnamon, and drizzle them on top of the cooked custard. Sprinkle a little extra coconut on top. Allow to cool before serving. (This pudding is best served at room temperature.)

Serves 8. (Servings should be small; this pudding is rich!)

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Return of the Pudding Festival

September 22nd, 2014

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My favorite culinary event, the Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival, will return this coming Sunday, September 28, in my beloved Hawley, Massachusetts, after a five-year hiatus–an even longer hiatus if you consider the fact that the most recent festival (in 2009) took place in Charlemont, not in Hawley. 

Centering around a contest, the day is a whole lot of fun.

Good food, good scenery, good music, and good company. A perfect combination.

I hope readers who can will attend this festival—and perhaps enter a pudding! Here is the schedule for the day:

11 a.m.
Puddings arrive at the Hawley Grove in East Hawley. (We ask a $15 entry fee. And please bring the recipe!)
11:15 a.m.
Free tour of nearby Sidehill Farm (a wonderful organic dairy farm, and a donor to the contest).
12:30 p.m.
Lunch. (Donation requested.)
1:30 p.m.
Pudding parade, entertainment, and announcement of the contest winner(s). Puddings will be available for tasting after the judging—although you eat at your own risk!

Here’s a pudding to get you salivating. I was going to make it on TV last week, but we ran out of time so you see it in the video but don’t watch the preparation. It’s simple, and a variation on it is a frequent entry in the contest.

To make it more local, I used Taza Chocolate. Taza is a company in Somerville, Massachusetts, that buys organic cacao beans and stone grinds them. They sent me some chocolate to play with (they also generously donated a chocolate sampler as a prize in the pudding contest) so I used their cinnamon chocolate discs to make the pudding.

The recipe as it stands here is only gently chocolaty. If you are a major chocoholic, feel free to add more chocolate.

And if you’d like more information about the Pudding Festival, visit its website.

Cinnamon Taza

Taza Chocolate Pudding Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce Taza chocolate (from a disc; you choose the flavor!)
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons grated Taza chocolate
1 cup boiling water

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Into a bowl sift 3/4 cup of the sugar with the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat in the milk and vanilla.

Melt the ounce of chocolate and the butter together in a double boiler. Add them to the other mixture. Pour this batter into a greased small 1-1/2- to 2-quart casserole dish.

Blend the brown sugar, the remaining white sugar, and the grated chocolate, and sprinkle them on top of the batter. Pour the water over all. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 6 to 8.

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I can’t leave you without a cute story. As you’ll see in the video below, I occasionally call myself the Queen of Pudding. (This distinguishes me from the winner of the Pudding Contest, who is known as the Pudding Head.)

At the end of Mass Appeal everyone was invited to eat pudding. One of the other guests took a bite, looked at me, and exclamed, “You really ARE the Queen of Pudding!”

I had to fluff up my feathers just a little. Well, maybe a lot.

Here is my video preview of the Pudding Festival. The corn pudding recipe will come soon!

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Pasta with Melon? You Bet!

September 17th, 2014

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My friend Michael Collins accompanied me to my most recent TV appearance. Michael and his partner Tony, an artist, were the owners and hosts at one of my family’s favorite western Massachusetts eateries, the Green Emporium in Colrain.

That restaurant closed a couple of years ago, but they are hoping to reopen in a new location, and they want to keep Michael’s work as a chef in the public eye. So he made the main course for our gig on Mass Appeal, and I put together the dessert.

His dish was absolutely fabulous. I would never have thought of pairing fresh local melon (or any melon, for that matter) with pasta, but the sweetness of the melon with the acid of Michael’s tomato sauce really worked. (The cream didn’t hurt, either.)

Michael’s recipe appears below (thank you, Michael, for sharing it), along with the video of his segment. I’m afraid my face disappears behind my hat somewhere in the middle of the segment, but he looked fine, and that’s all that matters.

But before we get to the recipe, I want to announce that we have a winner for the Yummy Yammy salsa giveaway—Peter from Connecticut. Thanks to all of you who left comments on my last post.

On to Michael’s triumph……

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Michael’s Pasta with Melon and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1 local cantaloupe, peeled and seeded
butter and olive oil as needed for sautéing
the juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pint heavy cream
approximately 4 cups marinara sauce, pureed
grated Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh basil, and freshly ground pepper for garnish

Instructions:

Cut the melon into 1-inch chunks. Sauté it very briefly in butter and olive oil. Add the lemon juice, the salt, the pepper, and the cream. Stir in marinara sauce until the whole concoction is a pretty pink, more or less the color of the melon. (You’ll probably want about 3 cups here.)

Cook for a few minutes to reduce the sauce slightly. Serve over the pasta of your choice. Garnish with cheese and basil, and grind pepper over all. Have the extra marinara sauce warm at the table in case it’s wanted. Serves 4 to 6.

Here’s the video:

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And here’s the clip of my dessert, a peach cobbler. The recipe appears elsewhere on this blog.

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