On Saturday morning my sister and I were packing up our things to return to school after a lovely Thanksgiving break. As I crammed my no-bigger-than-3oz-of-liquid-abiding belongings into a tiny carry-on suitcase, I jealously watched her fill her car with Costco-sized bags of lentils, giant bottles of honey, containers of cranberry sauce, and a big mug of coffee. But although the constraints of air travel prevented me from toting all the contents our leftover-laden fridge back to Chicago, I did manage to bring a sizable stash of the most important Thanksgiving remnant with me: the turkey.
Have you ever noticed that the first items to go at bake sales always seem to be the things that are the simplest to make? Puppy chow, funfetti cupcakes, brownies from a mix. As much as I love making things from scratch, there’s something to be said for finding convenient ways to appeal to the masses. The corn thing does just that. This concoction of canned corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream, and butter takes less than five minutes and zero cooking ability to put together, yet it has elicited a standing ovation from my family at Thanksgiving dinner (I kid you not) and multiple requests for the recipe post-consumption.
I’m fairly certain that there’s nothing to say about Thanksgiving food that hasn’t already been said a million times out there in the food blogosphere as we gear up for the most food-centric week of the year. So I will just say a big ole, from-the-bottom-of-my-sugar-cured-heart thank you to all you loyal readers, fans, guest bloggers, and general patrons of this blog. Writing it with Joanna has been an absolute highlight of the often tumultuous and never boring last 6 months of my life.
I’m nothing short of thankful for the wonderfully midwestern meat-and-potatoes holiday feast I’ll have with the Stanley clan on Thursday. I wouldn’t want it any other way, though I do spend a lot of time thinking about what I would serve at my own perfect meatless Turkey Day meal. At the moment this stuffed squash is a frontrunner. It packs way more flavor per square inch than should be allowed for a humble acorn squash. If it doesn’t make it into your Thanksgiving spread, it would be a perfect light-but-delicious meal for a post-gluttony weekend.
Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Kale
1 small acorn squash, halved and seeds scooped out
1 T olive oil
1/2 c finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t cinnamon
1 c chopped raw kale
a few glugs of balsamic vinegar
a hearty drizzle of honey
1 c cooked quinoa (I used real Peruvian quinoa- thanks Noura and Joanna!)
1/3 c crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/3 c dried cranberries (roughly chopped) or currants
Red pepper flakes, to taste (I used about 1/2 t, decrease if you prefer less of a kick)
1/2 c cilantro, chopped
1/3 c toasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 425. Drizzle squash halves with olive oil, lightly season with salt and pepper, and place on a piece of foil on a baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for 20 minutes, flip them over, and roast another 10-20 minutes until fork-tender and starting to brown.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the onion until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic, cumin, and cinnamon and cook for just a minute, until fragrant. Mix in kale and cooks just until it wilts down- you want it to keep its crunch. Deglaze with some balsamic vinegar and then remove from heat. Mix in all other ingredients, reserving a little cilantro and pumpkin seeds for topping. Scoop the filling into the squash and top with a drizzle of honey or olive oil.
I was in the mood to make resolutions this week. It may be 7 weeks til opening day of resolution season, but the timing feels right as the last few weeks have felt more than a little like the first weeks of the rest of my life. The sugarcured ladies and our compadres started the course that will take use right up to the end of our preclinical years of med school and the exam-that-shall-not-be-named, a course that should rightfully be titled “Learn All of the Diseases, onyourmarksgetssetgooooooo.” It’s actually called CPP&T. For your future reference. I’ll try not to talk about it ad nauseum but it might be tough to find other things to talk about sometimes.
I don’t know if my back or my bookshelf is going to break first under the weight of the textbooks I have to schlep around for CPP&T, and oddly enough, the more I read textbooks, the more I want to spend time reading things that aren’t textbooks so at the top of the resolutions list is “read more things that aren’t textbooks.” Hyde Park is a veritable oasis of bookstores, and I spent a couple of leisurely hours browsing the shelves last weekend in my state of post-finals bliss. I bought and devoured the new biography about one of my favorite authors and now I’m craving fiction and taking recommendations and I’m thinking that this was a very good resolution.
Luckily, since I get to make the rules, reading cookbooks totally fits the resolution bill. I got to visit one of my top 5 favorite bookstores on the planet while in MN a while back – you read right, I managed to do something beside eat while I was there – and I felt it my duty as a loyal customer to purchase the cookbook I’d been ogling on Amazon for weeks- Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. You might remembering me raving about Ottolenghi’s Plenty and this new book might stand a chance to displace the older, adored Plenty from it’s spot of highest honor on my shelf. At least until I get my signed copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook tomorrow…
I don’t really know how you could go wrong with barley and tomatoes and feta, but Ottolenghi and Tamimi, as expected, make these simple ingredients shine. Don’t be fooled by the name risotto- there’s no fussy boiling of broth and constant stirring involved here. Like all good comfort food, the barley and the feta only get better as they sit in the fridge overnight and the leftovers make for the kind of lunch you’ll have to force yourself to wait until lunchtime to eat.
Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta
1 c barley
1 T butter
4 T olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into small dice
2 small shallots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 t smoked paprika
4 large strips lemon peel
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
3 c vegetable stock
1 1/4 c crushed tomatoes, liquid drained (note: I used one large can of diced tomatoes and pureed and drained half of them to serve as the crushed component)
1 T caraway seeds
8 oz feta, broken into small pieces
Rinse and drain the barley.
Melt the butter and 1 T olive oil in a very large frying pan. Cook the celery, shallots, and garlic over medium heat until soft but not brown. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, lemon, pepper flakes, tomatoes, and stock plus a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat so the mixture can simmer gently and cook about 45 minutes, until barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Be sure to stir often to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cooking time may vary based on what kind of barley you use.
In the meantime, toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan until they just start to darken. Lightly crush them with the back of a spoon (it’s ok to leave some full seeds). Mix the caraway with the remaining olive oil and feta. Mix to combine and leave to marinate until the risotto is done.
Once the risotto is done cooking, taste and adjust the spices, salt, and/or pepper. Serve topped with marinated feta + oil.
To no one’s surprise, we here at sugar cured do our best at all times to surround ourselves with people who love good food. Many of my dearest friendships began over common culinary interest, and as a matter of fact this blog might never have existed if Joanna and I hadn’t bonded when she recognized the recipe for the leftover soba noodles with eggplant and mango that I brought for lunch one day last August. So it was just a matter of time before we featured the culinary talents of one of those food-loving friends in the form of a guest post.
A couple of weeks ago, the sugar cured girls had the good fortune of sous chef-ing on the creation of these delicious meat/spinach pies with our good friend Rahad Gondoli (who has chosen to write under a pseudonym in order to keep the origins of the top-secret family recipe shrouded in mystery). Mr. Gondoli writes:
This is an old family recipe. And like almost all old family recipes over the generations it’s been slightly amended and meticulously perfected again and again. The recipe originates from the Levant, and like many dishes from the region different peoples claim its ownership.
I’ve only known it from my dad, and him from his mom, and so on. One of my earliest food memories is my dad rolling out thawed dough balls next to mounds of flour on our wood block table. He’d juice the lemons with an orange plastic lemon squeezer and stand back from the table to sharpen his knives with a thin steel rod.
It’s always a special occasion to have meat and spinach pies, and when we make them we make a lot, to share with others. I hope you enjoy them.
Lebanese Meat and Spinach Pies
For the meat filling:
Hello out there. Sorry for my radio silence of late. Things have been hectic here since we last talked. There has been an embarrassing incidence peanut-butter-and-pickle-sandwich-for-dinner-kinds-of-nights around here and not enough creations I felt were worthy to share with you. But I just picked the other half of Sugar Cured up from the airport (and she brought me New York bagels, bless her soul) and hearing about all her food adventures in NYC (which you all will undoubtedly hear about soon) made me realize I was long overdue for a post.
As I’ve probably told you before, and as you might have guessed by the peanut butter and pickle ref – don’t knock it til you’ve tried it – most of my food habits are yolked to my (often bizzare) cravings. And the other day I got a crazy craving for stuffing. Now I’m nearly certain that I’ve never even tasted stuffing and I don’t really know what it’s supposed to taste like, so it’s more likely that I was craving the idea of it- salty and sweet and celery and thyme and onions and carbs. And I’m just as certain that the Kate-original-creation that resulted in no way resembles any stuffing that any reasonable person makes. But it satisfied the craving to a T and I can’t wait to make it again. It uses mostly ingredients that I always have on hand but manages to be full of enough unexpected flavors to be uniquely craveable. You might even be tempted to skip the stuffing and put this on the Thanksgiving table in its stead.
If you’re not the type of person that hoards mason jars of strange grains in her pantry (ahem, not that I know anybody like that) you might not be too familiar with bulgur. Think of it like couscous with more substance. For most of my bulgur recipes, I just pour some boiling water over it and let it sit on the countertop until it’s soft, but for this recipe I opted to simmer it in broth and I liked the results.
“Stuffing” Salad with Bulgur
1 c bulgur (substitute couscous or quinoa but seriously you should try bulgur)
1 c water + 1 c broth or 2 c water + 1 square vegetable bullion
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/2 c onion, finely chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 medium sweet potato
2-3 large handfuls of kale, roughly chopped
Several sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 c almonds, roughly chopped or slivered
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/3 crumbled goat cheese
Cook the sweet potato, using whatever method you prefer. My preferred method is by microwave. Stab the potato with a fork, cook on high for 4-5 minutes, flip it over, and cook another 2 minutes or so, continuing in minute intervals until it is soft but not mushy. Allow to cook, then remove the skin and cut into 1/2″ cubes
Meanwhile, put the bulgur and the broth and/or water in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid gone. Set aside with the lid on to allow the grain to continue to steam.
While the bulgur cooks, prepare the vegetables. Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet, then add the onions and shallots and cook until soft and translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook until just soft. Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Then add the kale and cook until it starts to wilt, 2-3 minutes. Deglaze the veggies with several glugs of balsamic vinegar (sorry y’all- I don’t have it in me to measure my vinegar). Cook just a minute longer so all the flavors can combine. Mix together grains, sweet potato, vegetables, cranberries, cheese, and almonds in a large bowl. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.