‘Cookbook Book’ digests genre’s past 300 years

Among the year’s must-have holiday gifts, books always get their due.

And for enthusiastic cooks, great cookbooks are bound to top their wish lists, right? I guess it all depends.

Christmases past have brought me such utilitarian classics as “Betty Crocker’s Big Red Cookbook,” trendy celebrity-chef take-offs like Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home” and even the esoteric tome “L’Amateur de Cuisine,” in the original French. The givers’ intentions are commendable, of course. The problem is that I never use these books to the extent they expect.

Sure, I cook. And sometimes I need to consult an authoritative source to ensure success. But more often than not, new cookbooks provide some inspiration for new dishes or new ways of doing things. After the initial read or recipe test-run, I’m unlikely to revisit a cookbook to plan the week’s menus, or even a special-occasion meal.

Yet I am someone who wants a context for the cookbooks, authors and recipes that drive the culinary industry and shape current dialogues around food. For those of my ilk (and anyone with just too many cookbooks), there just so happens to be a source that boils down 125 of the most influential cookbooks of the past 300 years into 320 pages.

Deliciously titled “Cookbook Book,” the new title by Phaidon ($59.95) explores the genre as examples of art, cultural touchstones, life handbooks, flights of fancy, sociological tracts and self-promotion, according to a recent review by the Chicago Tribune. The book is largely made up of pages reproduced from these cookbooks, but it also features pocket histories of highlighted works, revealing a bit about authors, their intent and the context in which works were published.

There are the usual suspects, such as “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (from 1966) by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck; “Joy of Cooking,” (from 1980) by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker; “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.

There are the “ah ha!” books: “The Art of Mexican Cooking” by Diana Kennedy; “The New York Times Cookbook” by Craig Claiborne; “Moosewood Cookbook,” by Mollie Katzen. And then there are quirky relics of the 1960s and early ’70s, including “Les Diners de Gala,” a tribute to his wife by Salvador Dali; 1964’s “First Slice Your Cookbook,” by Lady Arabella Boxer (daughter of the 18th Earl of Moray); and “Singers & Swingers in the Kitchen: The Scene-Makers Cookbook,” a 1967 book by Roberta Ashley.

And those are just the cookbooks published in English. There are cookbooks in Italian, German, Spanish, French and more. Some recipes are in English at the rear of the book in a chapter of recipe translations, although most use metric measurements. But that’s of little consequence for those of us unlikely to actually cook from the book.

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Liver paté an easy nosh for Hanukkah and beyond

The latke is emblematic of Hanukkah in a spread that includes plenty of other traditional foods. Even non-Jews take the holiday as their cue to enjoy yet another comfort food in a season filled with them.

This quintessential potato pancake can take lots of directions with the inclusion of other root vegetables, including sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, even beets. And dipping sauces beyond sour cream and applesauce, the subject of a previous post, can likewise evoke myriad culinary traditions.

But since MacLevin’s restaurant, the Rogue Valley’s year-round source for latkes, sputtered out late last year, it isn’t that oft-touted specialty I’ve been craving. The whole-foods eatery and unconventional Jewish deli in Jacksonville satisfied my craving for chicken livers about once per month.

Sauteed with red onions and served on rye toast, MacLevin’s livers were among the only organic ones available at any local restaurant. The owners trekked to Ashland Food Co-op to purchase them, which is exactly what I had to do earlier this week after confirming that no Medford grocer kept them.

Because the special trip warranted buying a lot of livers, I decided to turn them into paté, which would keep a bit longer in the refrigerator than the fresh organs. A simple concept that comes together really quickly, a rustic chicken-liver paté really requires only a skillet and food processor. My spread closely resembled a recipe published several years ago in the Oregon Healthy Living magazine.

My effort yielded enough paté last night that I have several small jars in the refrigerator, enough to enjoy later in the week, maybe with a few latkes. Paté of this type also lends itself to make-ahead appetizer, one that could be kept on hand, along with matzo crackers, to entertain drop-in guests.

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Gobble gougeres as appetizers or with light meals

I love intricately plated appetizers probably more than the average person. So I’ve spent no small amount of time over the years rolling dates in prosciutto, folding phyllo into miniature triangles and topping off pastry cups with cheesy fillings.

But something has to give when preparing a holiday spread for 30 people. It’s times like these that one-pot dishes, such as my faux cassoulet, mentioned in a previous post, are entirely appropriate. Likewise, a few homemade dips are easily mixed up and stashed in the fridge a few days ahead of time. For tonight’s holiday party, I’m offering two cold dips, baba ghanoush and smoked salmon-spiked cream cheese, along with a classic, hot artichoke dip.

When catering to just family later this month, I’ll likely spend a few extra minutes to produce a platter of our favorite Savory Puffs. The topic of a 2010 post, these bite-sized gougeres are filled with an herbed cream cheese mixture. Always in high demand for festive occasions, they made a light meal with soup and salad the evening before Thanksgiving.

And while relying on some classic French technique, gougeres sound more difficult and time-consuming than they really are. Read more about the process in this 2012 story. Although I’ve never frozen them after baking, some cooks swear that reheating them doesn’t compromise the quality. They’re nearly has delicious at room temperature several hours after baking.

Here is a spicy variation courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times photo

Gougeres With Gruyere and Piment d’Espelette

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 to 1 teaspoon piment d’Espelette or chili powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/2 cups plus (about 6 3/4 ounces) flour, sifted

5 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen, for finishing

In a large saucepan, heat the butter, milk, salt, piment d’Espelette and nutmeg together over low heat until butter has melted completely. Add the flour, stirring vigorously until mixture forms a paste, then cook, stirring and smearing dough continuously, until mixture starts to smell nutty and small beads of fat form on surface of dough that’s just come off bottom of pan, for about 10 minutes total. (This will be thick, like sugar cookie dough.)

Transfer dough to bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and set aside until dough has almost reached room temperature, for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

When dough has cooled, with mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing until batter re-forms between each egg and scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. When you have added all eggs, mix in the Gruyere and Parmesan on low speed.

Using 2 spoons, form batter into golf ball-sized balls and arrange them on prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart, dipping spoons into a bowl of warm water between each to keep dough from sticking. Sprinkle gougeres liberally with the sea salt.

Bake gougeres in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Without opening oven door, reduce temperature to 350 F and continue to bake for 25 more minutes, or until gougeres are brown and crisp on outsides and half hollow in centers.

Serve immediately or set aside to cool on racks no more than a few hours before serving.

Makes about 2 dozen gougeres.

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Choose presents cooks can cherish, not regift

The past week has been spent devising the menu for a holiday party, composing to-do lists to prepare the house and penciling yet more dates onto the calendar for gatherings and revelry.

Then I woke up this morning to the realization that just over two weeks remain until Christmas. As I was plotting how to arrange the furniture to accommodate the Christmas tree, I should have been planning how to put gifts underneath.

Of course, I have no excuse to be caught off guard. Christmas wish lists have been making the rounds between family and friends by email, text message and word of mouth. Suggestions for myself, not surprisingly, always include a few items for the kitchen.

Since last Christmas, I’ve been collecting gift cards to Sur la Table to purchase a really nice knife, mentioned in a previous post. And once I have that in hand, new cutting boards would be dandy. Those are one of the suggestions in list of gifts for beginner cooks recently published by Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service writers’ recommendation tended toward wood or plastic, depending on preference. While I prefer wood, which can be sanded down after years of use (a scored plastic board must be discarded), I’ve been coveting  a set of Epicurean boards, which offer the texture of wood in the form of organic fibers pressed together with a food-safe resin. Touted as more durable than wood or plastic, they’re also dishwasher-safe.

Also on my wish list are silicone bowl toppers and egg-poaching cups. Admittedly, those are specialty items that make time in the kitchen a little more enjoyable once a cook has all the basics, which don’t have to cost a bundle. According to Tribune News Service, those include:

1. Cast-iron skillets: At least one, at least 10 to 12 inches in diameter. They retain heat, they don’t scratch easily, and they get hot enough to truly sear meat. But buying good cast iron isn’t as easy as just going to a store, unfortunately. Modern cast iron takes longer to develop that dark, shiny seasoning. The best cast iron is old. Look online or scour flea markets and your grandmother’s cabinets.

2. Vegetable peelers: A straight-edge peeler and a serrated-edge peeler. A serrated peeler isn’t a luxury. It can handle delicate tomato and peach skins, and it can tackle tough squash rinds and leathery mango peels. Zyliss makes a great one.

3. Half sheet pans: This is your best oven tool. Don’t waste money on air-insulated, non-stick cookie sheets. Buy two aluminum half sheet pans. You can use them to roast vegetables or chicken legs, bake cookies or make a jelly roll.

4. A strainer: The choices here are typically a fine-mesh bowl sieve or a colander with bigger holes. The simple fine-mesh bowl doubles as a steamer and a colander. Silicone colanders press down flat for easy storage, a blessing in a small kitchen.

5. Microplane zester: The original, with the 2-inch-wide shaft, is useful, but we also like wider ones, which can handle citrus zest but also can make a snowy pile of hard cheeses like Parmigiano.

6. Measuring tools: The choices are endless, so here are a few points to consider. Make sure the dry measuring cups have flat edges, so you can level things. Round cups make it easier to get every last bit of sticky things out. With liquid measuring cups, bigger is better. Buy the 2-cup or 4-cup size and forgo the 1-cup size. Measuring spoons should be sturdy. Spring for a set with a 1/8 teaspoon, and consider getting two sets. Having one set for dry ingredients and one for wet saves time when you’re making multiple dishes.

7. Locking tongs: Flimsy metal tongs are hard to use and can tear up food. Try a locking pair with silicone pads that soften their grip on foods. Many cooks swear by Oxo brand.

8. Mandoline: Want to make quick work of coleslaw? A mandoline is invaluable for slicing or chopping vegetables. Nervous about someone taking off a fingertip? Pair this gift with a cut-resistant glove.

9. Whisks: A heavy whisk with thicker wires for mixing heavy batters and a lighter one with thin wires for beating air into delicate things. A short one for small bowls and a flat one, for making sauces in a skillet, are nice to have, too.

10. Scissors: Every kitchen needs a good pair of scissors. Get a pair you can take apart and run through the dishwasher. (And find a place to hide them, so they don’t keep walking away.)

11. Mixing bowls: Buy a set of nesting mixing bowls. As much as those brightly-colored plastic bowls are enticing, glass bowls are a better fit. You can use the small glass bowls as the top of a double boiler. They retain heat if you need to keep food warm, and they keep food colder if you need an ice bath.

If you’re still stumped on what to get the more seasoned cook, check out this post from Christmases past. And in the white-elephant category, here are Tribune New Service’s picks for the dumbest kitchen gear:

Onion goggles. All you need is ventilation. Turn on the range hood if onion fumes are getting to you.

Avocado and mango peelers. A little practice and a sharp knife is all you need.

Poultry syringes. Injecting flavor is a great idea, but we always end up frustrated when spices clog the tube. Is it that hard to plan ahead and marinate?

Egg separators. Practice, people. If you really need help, use a funnel (another handy kitchen tool).

Creme brulee torch. Save yourself some money: Go to a hardware store and pick up a small propane torch on the plumbing aisle. Same thing, and it lasts longer.

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Lentil cooking water doubles as soup stock

There are plenty of lentil soups out there, including one suggested with the story in this week’s food section. Whether brown, green or red, these legumes often are simmered with carrots, celery and potatoes, perhaps accented with bacon.

But it’s the rare recipe that specifies a use for lentil cooking water, which typically goes down the drain. The following dish, recently featured in the Los Angeles Times, captures all the nutrition extracted from low-calorie, high-fiber lentils (they’re also one of the best sources of folate, as a 2013 food story reported).

Cooked lentils are added back to this curry-spiced puree of roasted cauliflower and other veggies. Richness and more flavor comes from coconut milk, common in vegan recipes but completely in keeping with Mendocino Farms’ recipe.

Los Angeles Times photo

Mendocino Farms’ Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup

Lentils and Lentil Stock

2 cups green lentils

1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Rinse the lentils and place in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and 6 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a very gentle simmer, skim any scum floating on top and loosely cover. Continue to cook until lentils are tender, for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from heat and pull out carrot, onion, garlic and thyme. Strain lentils, reserving 4 cups lentil stock and 2 cups cooked lentils (any leftover stock and lentils can be used for another purpose). If this doesn’t yield quite 4 cups stock, add enough water to make 4 cups.

Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup

1 head cauliflower, cut into mini-florets

1 large carrot, finely diced

1/2 cup oil, divided

2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 onion, peeled and minced

3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, finely diced

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 cups lentil stock

1 (11-ounce) package coconut milk

2 tablespoons agave nectar

2 cups cooked lentils

Heat oven to 450 F. Take 2 cups of prettiest the cauliflower florets and toss with the diced carrot in 3 tablespoons of the oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Spread vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender, for 8 to 12 minutes. Remove and set aside. This will be added at the very end of this recipe.

Toss remaining cauliflower with 2 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender, for 8 to 12 minutes; use this for soup.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and saute until translucent, for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in cauliflower roasted for soup, the potatoes, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne and black pepper, along with the lentil stock and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, loosely cover and continue to cook until potatoes are tender, for about 12 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk. Increase heat and bring soup to a boil, then remove from heat.

Cool soup slightly, then puree until smooth. Add the agave nectar and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the cooked lentils, along with reserved roasted cauliflower and carrots. Gently reheat, then taste and adjust seasonings and flavorings as desired. This makes about 3 quarts of soup.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

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Post-holiday soups easy on the budget, waistline

A few quarts of turkey stock typically are this week’s reward for cooking over the course of several days.

But a big pot of turkey posole, a hit with the whole family, polished off the carcass and its distilled liquid in a single meal the day after Thanksgiving. My husband, Will, spearheaded the dish with a few of my suggestions.

Little did we know that the Mexican celebratory soup, often made with pork, had been touted as holiday fare in Bon Appetit magazine. Either we’re not as creative as we thought, or we’re on the cutting edge of comfort cuisine. Regardless, the recipe that we parsed together is very similar to the one that Bon Appetit published. Instead of dried chilies, we used roasted poblanos from our garden, frozen until the need arose.

Cooks who still have the bird’s remains or stock on hand likely are looking at soup, both to save money in the coming week’s grocery budget and some calories after so much feasting. Look for some suggestions and recipes in this week’s food section.

While the seasonal interest in pumpkin is waning, winter squash of all types are still in good supply. This one could be made with several types, including butternut.

Roasted Pumpkin and Pear Soup With Apple Relish and Bacon

Tribune News Service photo

1 (2- to 3-pound) pie pumpkin or butternut squash, cut in half, seeds scooped out and reserved

3 pears, peeled, cut in half and cored

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 fresh thyme sprigs

4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with a knife

1 yellow onion, peeled and diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 rib celery, diced

1/2 fennel bulb, diced

3 strips bacon, cut into chunks

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated

1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 quart chicken or turkey stock or vegetable broth, plus more to thin soup

1 cup heavy whipping cream, plus more to thin soup

Optional garnishes: Apple relish, bacon and/or pumpkin seeds (recipes follow)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the pumpkin and pear on a baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over all and generously season with the salt and pepper using hands to evenly coat. Turn pumpkin and pears cut side down on baking tray. Divide and tuck the thyme and smashed garlic under pumpkin. In a mixing bowl, toss the onion, carrot, celery and fennel with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper; spread mixture on other baking tray.

Roast vegetables in preheated oven until pumpkin is blistered and soft and onion mixture is lightly caramelized, for about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool completely. Discard thyme and garlic. Scoop flesh of pumpkin and place with pears and onion mixture in a food processor. Pulse, in batches if necessary, to create a very smooth puree.

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until crispy; remove from pot and reserve. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger and red-pepper flakes and cook until very fragrant, for about 1 minute. Add in the juice, zest and wine, scraping to incorporate any brown bits, and cook for 10 minutes to reduce liquid. Add vegetable puree, the syrup, broth and cream. Bring soup to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes to marry flavors.

Strain soup through a hand strainer for a finer texture. If soup is too thick, thin with additional stock and/or cream. (Make-ahead tip: Soup may be made 2 to 3 days ahead; keep in an airtight container in refrigerator.)

Garnish with bacon bits, apple relish or pumpkin seeds. (Garnishes may be made ahead of time. Store relish in refrigerator)

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

APPLE RELISH: Toss together 2 finely diced Fuji apples, with skins on, along with 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley and 1/2 teaspoon chopped, fresh tarragon.

PUMPKIN SEEDS: Wash and dry reserved pumpkin seeds. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in a 275-degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring often so they do not burn.

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In soup or salad, savor pumpkin with leeks

Pumpkin has enjoyed pride of place on this blog for the past couple of weeks. Lest readers get the impression that this winter squash is worthy only of Thanksgiving dessert, this post will celebrate pumpkin’s savory possibilities.

Pumpkin-leek soup, of course, is a classic, one I’ve previously recommended. I suppose that’s why this Los Angeles Times recipe that pairs roasted pumpkin and sautéed leeks caught my eye.

If your holiday spread, like my family’s, always seems to be short one vegetable, this could be the solution. Because the components of this salad can be prepared a day in advance, getting this dish to the table won’t require another rack in the oven or element on the range.

Reminiscent of frisee salad with lardons, which has become so popular in restaurant circles, this salad won’t be overlooked, unlike bowls of spring mix or baby spinach, which seem like afterthoughts at festive meals. Texturally, it layers roasted, caramelized vegetables atop a crunchy canvas that’s almost slaw-like.

And with bitter notes of mustard and walnuts contrasting with the sweet pumpkin, onions and leeks and savory bacon, this dish has interest enough to constitute a lighter main course anytime this winter. If this recipe is coming up on your radar too late for Thursday, consider it as a vehicle for leftover chunks of turkey.

Leeks are one of my favorite cold-weather crops, but they do take some extra care to clean. Because the white part of the leek’s base is most prized in cooking, farmers mound dirt around the leeks to keep out sunlight, extending the white as the leek grows. The result is a lot of dirt and grit between the layers of leeks as they grow.

To clean leeks, peel and discard any old, outer leaves, then trim away dark-green leaves, reserving the white and very light-green base. Trim root ends, then halve leeks lengthwise. Rinse leeks under cold, running water, feeling between the layers to loosen and dislodge any dirt or grit. Slice as desired.

Finally, rinse the pieces in a colander under cold water, ensuring they’re totally clean.

Los Angeles Times photo

Roasted Pumpkin Salad

10 cups cubed pumpkin (peeled and seeded), cut into 1-inch pieces (from about 7 pounds of pumpkin)

3 cups red pearl onions, peeled and trimmed

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 1/8 teaspoons salt, divided

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3/4 teaspoon minced, fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon minced, fresh thyme

6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

1 medium leek, trimmed (root end and tough outer greens), halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup walnut oil

1 cup walnut halves

2 heads frisee, leaves separated from root

6 cups lightly packed mesclun mix or mixed greens

Heat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, toss the pumpkin and onions with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt, several grinds of pepper, the rosemary and thyme. Place vegetables on a foil-lined baking pan and roast in preheated oven until softened and lightly caramelized, for about 45 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes for even coloring. Remove pan and allow pumpkin and onions to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Drain all but 3 tablespoons bacon fat, discarding or reserving the rest for another use.

Add the leek strips to pan and place over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until they soften and just begin to color, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, for about 30 seconds. Stir in the white wine and cook, scraping up any flavorful bits that stick to bottom of pan, wine evaporates, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place leek strips and any cooking liquid in a medium bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and mustard. Drizzle in the walnut oil while whisking to emulsify. Season with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and a few grinds of pepper, or to taste. Set aside in a warm place.

Toss the walnuts with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread on a sheet pan and toast in oven at 375 F until nuts are fragrant and a rich brown color, for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Set aside. Salad components may be made up to this point 1 day in advance. Refrigerate components separately and warm dressing before folding into salad.

In a large serving bowl, toss the greens with two-thirds of vinaigrette. Gently fold in roasted pumpkin and onions, crisped bacon and toasted walnuts. Add extra vinaigrette as needed to lightly coat ingredients.

Serve immediately, or cover and chill until needed, up to several hours in advance. Allow to warm slightly before serving.

Makes 10 servings.

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Feast on this blog’s Thanksgiving recipes, tips

In nearly a decade of writing about food, I’ve run across enough holiday tips and tricks to stuff this blog as full as a Thanksgiving turkey.

Past years saw some of the best holiday stories rounded up on a single Mail Tribune web page. But the guide known as Holiday 101 didn’t make the transition to the newspaper’s recently revamped website. Happily, this blog still retains many of the individual story links, from pairing the most pleasing wines to enlivening the feast with some unconventional ingredients, such as pomegranates and fennel.

Enter “Thanksgiving” in the search field at the top of this page to access more than 30 holiday-related posts since 2007.

Tribune News Service photo

They chronicle feats in my own family’s kitchen, from cooking a garden-variety, grocery-store turkey in just two hours to ensuring that our pasture-raised, heritage-breed bird was the best main course to date.

I’ve both demystified hosting vegetarians and advocated thrifty ways of transforming leftovers. The effort behind centerpiece desserts designed to wow guests is offset here with simple instructions for 11th-hour cranberry sauce. Food safety, whether it be sanitation strategies or fire-prevention tips, are essential, no matter your menu plans.

And there’s all the requisite formulas for figuring quantities needed to feed your crowd, along with listings for hotlines, apps and social-media support from industry experts.

Beyond this blog, find more Thanksgiving recipes from the pages of A la Carte and newspaper test kitchens in the newspaper’s Recipe Box. The free, online database of more than 3,700 dishes contains at least 40 recipes filed under “Thanksgiving.” Select it from the pull-down menu attached to the “category” field. Or search by ingredient, pumpkin perhaps.

Happy feasting!

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Finish off Thursday’s feast on a lighter note

For all those inclined to mix pie dough in the food processor, there’s someone else who would rather skip the resting and rolling and just grind up some graham crackers or cookies for a quick crust.

If that’s you, or if you’re just looking for a twist on pumpkin pie, here are two recipes to try, courtesy of Tribune News Service. Apart from the crust, both fall into the no-bake genre and would be ideal make-ahead Thanksgiving desserts.

The first is described as a light, fluffy pie, which relies on gelatin to set the filling. Beating the egg whites separately ensures airiness, lacking in the standard pumpkin-pie chaser to Thursday’s feast.

Consider using the chiffon pie’s cookie-crust instructions to make the second recipe, an unconventional ode to pumpkin pie a la mode. I personally love the season’s pumpkin ice cream and imagine it would be only more enticing essentially mixed by hand from good-quality vanilla ice cream and pumpkin puree. The frozen pie recipe yields two desserts but may be halved for one.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

2 cups crumbled ginger snaps

1 cup sugar, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

3 eggs, separated

1 1/4 cups fresh cooked or canned pumpkin

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 whole nutmeg, grated, or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly whipped cream, for serving

For crust, preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor, finely grind the ginger snaps. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Drizzle the melted butter over crumbs and pulse to combine. Pat mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie pan and bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

For filling, soak the gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. In a saucepan, combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, the pumpkin, milk, remaining cinnamon, the nutmeg and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring until thickened, for about 10 minutes. Stir in softened gelatin, then transfer to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.

Beat reserved egg whites in a large mixing bowl on medium speed until foamy. Continue beating, gradually adding remaining 1/2 cup sugar until egg whites are thick, glossy and hold soft peaks. Fold whites into filling, taking care not to deflate whites.

Pour into baked pie crust and smooth filling with a spatula. Chill until set, for about 2 hours. Pie may be made a day in advance, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve with dollops of whipped cream.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Canal House Cooks Every Day” by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton ($45, Andrews McMeel Publishing).


Easy Frozen Pumpkin Pie

2 quarts vanilla ice cream

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for optional garnish

2 (9-inch) graham cracker or gingersnap crumb crusts

1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

Take the ice cream out of freezer and let sit just long enough to soften. With a mixer, beat the pumpkin with the brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir softened ice cream, then quickly stir in pumpkin mixture until no white streaks remain.

Spoon evenly into the prepared pie crusts and divide the pecans over top. Freeze for at least 4 hours, until firm; cover with plastic wrap and return to freezer until needed (for up to 1 month).

Remove from freezer about 10 minutes before serving. If desired, top with the whipped cream and sprinkle with additional nutmeg.

Makes two 9-inch pies, about 16 servings.

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Bourbon-bacon pie crust perfect with pumpkin

Just in time for Thanksgiving, a lucky 30 participants will learn the “Lost Art of Pie Making” today at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center.

This class with a professional baker of 45 years is so popular that it sells out months in advance, before it was on my radar as a feature for the newspaper’s weekly food section. A bit of advice to all you pie enthusiasts: Look for it on the Extension’s new Master Food Preservers class schedule after the first of the year and sign up early.

Making pie crust from scratch is the main lesson in today’s class, which promised students an apple pie to take home and bake and an empty pie shell to fill with cream filling. I’ve always theorized that I make pie crust so rarely that the holidays are not the time to perfect it. So I keep reaching for the refrigerated, roll-out crust year after year. So does my mom for her pecan and pumpkin pie.

But the following recipe from the Los Angeles Times could convince me to try homemade pie crust this year. I’ve heard time and again how easy it is in a food processor. In fact, the Times’ recent article even recommended using the food processor for whipped cream.

My family likely would be won over by the subtle bacon flavor (who wouldn’t?), which has been getting plenty of play with Bourbon in the foodie world. It also helps that my parents’ preference for breakfast tends to yield bacon grease, certainly enough for this recipe.

With all that richness, whipped cream could put this dessert over the top. But it is traditional, after all. Just make sure it’s the real stuff, not “whipped topping.” Here are the Times’ tips for perfect whipped cream:

Start with cold ingredients and utensils: cold cream, cold whisk, cold mixing bowl (store your bowl and whisk or beaters in the freezer for several minutes before getting started, if possible). Your cream will whip faster if everything is chilled.

Add the sweeteners or flavorings just as the cream begins to thicken and gain volume. Taste and adjust

If you over-whip the cream and it begins to lose that smooth texture and become stiff and coarse, and you see it separate and begin to curdle, you may be able to fix it. Gently whisk in (by hand) a little more cream until you regain the proper texture. Of course, whip long enough and you may happily find you’re on your way to homemade butter.

Food processor method: Place the cold ingredients in the bowl (the bowl and blade do not have to be chilled) and process until you get the consistency you want, barely a minute or two. The texture is rich and superior to any others that Times recipe testers have tasted.

Tribune News Service photo

Pumpkin Pie With Bourbon and Bacon Crust

Pie Shell:

1 1/2 cups (6.4 ounces) flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

3 tablespoons cold bacon grease or shortening, cut into 3 pieces

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons cold bourbon

2 tablespoons ice water, more as needed


1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups half-and-half

4 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons butter, melted

To make dough using a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the bacon grease and pulse until incorporated (dough will look like moist sand). If using shortening instead of the bacon grease, increase the salt by 1/4 teaspoon (to 3/4 teaspoon). Add the butter and pulse just until butter is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the bourbon and water over mixture, and pulse once or twice until incorporated. Remove crumbly mixture to a large bowl and gently press mixture together with a large spoon, rubber spatula or palm of your hand just until it comes together to form a dough. Mold dough into a disc roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover disc tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

To make dough by hand, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the bacon grease and incorporate using a pastry cutter or fork (dough will look like moist sand). If using shortening instead of the bacon grease, increase the salt by 1/4 teaspoon (to 3/4 teaspoon). Cut in the butter just until it is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the bourbon and water over mixture; stir together just until incorporated. Gently press crumbly mixture together with a large spoon, rubber spatula or palm of your hand just until it comes together to form a dough. Mold dough into a disc roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover disc tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a round roughly 13 inches in diameter. Place in a 9-inch baking dish, crimping edges as desired. Freeze formed shell for 20 to 30 minutes before filling and baking. For a nice sheen, brush the crust with egg white before baking.

For filling, in mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, brown and granulated sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Beat until well-blended. Add the half-and-half, eggs and butter; stir to combine. Pour filling into prepared pie shell. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool to room temperature or chill before serving.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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