Photographs by Meadow Linn

Monday, November 23, 2009

Part 2

I’ve been playing mad scientist in the kitchen this weekend. The following Thanksgiving recipes are the result of my mixing, blending, chopping, and kneading. I hope you enjoy!

Quince Poached in White Wine and Honey

Until two weeks ago, I’d only seen quince a few times in my life. They are an ugly, bizarre looking fruit. And though usually confident in my culinary skills, I found them intimidating. At my local Farmers’ Market, I discovered a small booth I’d never seen before. The friendly farmer’s display of fruits and vegetables was less bountiful than the others’, yet the ugly yellow fruit in the back corner was enchanting. Captivated both by this intimidating fruit and the sign that read, “Certified Organic/Templeton, CA,” I gave in and bought two quince.

Quince is a hard fruit that cannot be eaten raw. The taste and texture of a cooked quince is reminiscent of both apples and pears.

After poaching the fruit in wine and honey, and loving every syrupy mouthful, I went to the Farmers’ Market yesterday ready to fill my canvas shopping bag with this previously daunting and intimidating fruit, which was actually quite benign afterall. But I was too late. Earlier in the day, my favorite restaurant bought out the entire stock!

I suggest serving the following recipe in addition to your favorite cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving. Or, serve the quince with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delicious autumnal dessert. Mix the leftover syrup with 0% Fat Greek Yogurt and top with chopped almonds for a tasty and nutritious snack.

serves 4-6
2-3 Quince (1.5 lb – 2 lbs)
*As long as the syrup covers the fruit in the pot, use as much or as little fruit as you like.
1 bottle (75 ml) white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
3/4 cup honey
1 lemon (juice and zest)

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, mix the wine, honey, and lemon juice. Simmer.

Peel the quince. Cut in half lengthwise and core. I found that using a melon baller helps, though you may need a small pairing knife to get out the stem. Slice into 1/4-inch slices.

Add the quince to the wine and honey mixture and simmer until the fruit is tender and delicious (approximately 1 hour). Sprinkle with lemon zest.

Cool and serve with Thanksgiving turkey or with ice cream for dessert.

Yeasted Pumpkin Rolls

Boil boil toil and trouble. The creation of this recipe reminded me of my childhood as a budding recipe writer. My recipe inventing was both out of necessity and out of curiosity. Neither of my parents baked very often, so our cupboards were not filled with an assortment of flours, sugars, and special pans. So, from an early age I learned the art of substitution. In addition, I liked the feeling of accomplishment that came from knowing the genesis of a particular dish was not from a book but from my own imagination. My creations were not always meant to be eaten—sometimes they were the indoor equivalent of a mud pie. Other recipes, however, were indeed intended for consumption. The results were often mixed. For instance, one time I made up my own cookie recipe. They were so hard that my dad kicked them across the floor and called them “hockey pucks.” Another time, I added green food coloring to cookie batter. The slightly over-cooked cookies were a putrid green-brown color that nobody but me would eat. Although there were as many catastrophes as triumphs in my early days of recipe development, I continued to strive to invent, create, and concoct. Years later, I have more experience under my belt (and a rounder belly from years of taste-testing) and a better knowledge of ratios and food chemistry.

I think I nailed it this time! The following rolls will be on my Thanksgiving table this year. I invite you to try them and let me know what you think.

Makes 16 dinner rolls
1 cup milk (8 oz)
1 cup canned pumpkin (8 oz)
4 tbs. unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1 tbs. sugar

1 tsp active dry yeast

4 1/2 – 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt

1 egg

egg wash:

1 egg, white only
1 tbs. water

1 tbs. black sesame seeds
*Can be purchased at Asian markets and some natural foods stores.

In a small saucepan, combine milk, pumpkin, butter, and sugar. Over low, stir milk mixture occasionally until butter melts. Remove from heat. It should be about 105 – 115ºF (lukewarm). If it’s too hot the yeast will die; wait until it cools. Sprinkle yeast on top of milk mixture and let sit 5 minutes. This is called “proofing”. If the yeast is active, it will be frothy at the end of five minutes.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine flour and salt. Start with the smaller amount of flour and add more as needed.

Mix the egg into the warm milk and yeast mixture and pour into the bowl with the flour. Knead in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook until smooth and elastic (approximately 10 minutes). If the dough doesn’t come together after a few minutes, add more flour by the spoonful until you reach desired consistency (I used 4 3/4 cup + 1 tbs).

Remove dough and place in a large oiled bowl (I used Canola cooking spray, but I think it would be better with melted butter). Turn the dough once to coat the top with the butter. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm location to double in bulk (1 – 1 1/2 hrs.).

Punch down and knead briefly. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces and shape into rolls. This is done by pulling the dough toward the bottom of the roll and pinching the ends between your thumb and forefinger. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with a clean dishtowel and allow to rise for 45 mins. – 1 hr.). Preheat oven to 425º F.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with the water. Just before putting the rolls in the oven, brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the black sesame seeds. The contrast of the black seeds against the orange roll is stunning.

Bake at 425º F for approximately 15 minutes. The tops should be golden and the internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer should be between 190ºF and 210ºF.

Enjoy warm with butter or a big dollop of gravy!

Baked Butternut Squash with Fontina Cheese

This is my rendition of a beyond-delicious-dish that my friend Maurica prepared for our Thanksgiving dinner last year. It’s so good you’ll want to make it over and over again.

I like to call this the 1-1-1 Recipe.

Serves 8-10
1 butternut squash, grated (approx. 10 cups)
1 small to medium sweet onion, grated (approx. 1 cup)
1 pkg. Fontina cheese (approximately 3/4 lb), grated (3 cups)

some pinches of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Mix the butternut squash, onion, and cheese together in a large bowl.

Butter a 15 x 10 x 2 inch baking pan.

Place the squash mixture in the buttered baking pan and sprinkle with a pinch of ground nutmeg, if desired. Bake covered until the squash and onion are tender and the cheese is melted (approx. 1 hr). Remove cover and broil until top is golden brown.

*If you do not love onions as much as I do, they can be omitted from this recipe and it will still be delicious. If you love cheese (who doesn’t?!), more can be added to increase the ooey gooey goodness. Warm leftovers and serve with a fried egg on top for breakfast—Mmmm!

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