These days leading up to Thanksgiving? Somehow they’re more frenzied than last week, clutched and cluttered, bunched and uncomfortable. But they don’t have to be. If we can just relax, and make the days spacious, the Thursday of all-day cooking can be a relief.
That hasn’t been my way this week.
This weekend, I cooked for nearly 24 hours straight. Most of it was planned, some of it unexpected. All of it joyful. A little exhausting.
I began the weekend on Vashon. For nearly two days, I played with my nephew. We enacted the epic saga of Mousie and Sneezy. Elliott and I played this for nearly twenty-four hours. Mousie is a small rat puppet, and Sneezy is a black labrador retriever puppy (stuffed version). They put on their swim diapers and swim through the ocean, which sounds like Burbledy-burbledy-burb. They sniff for food. (“I have found pineapple!” shouted Elliott, in the guise of Mousie, on his hand. “Here is some for Sneezy.”) And they play with their diggers. (Elliott is now pronouncing this Digggerrrrrrrrrruzz.) They like to splash and play together. And then Mousie turns to Sneezy and says, “I love you very much, Sneezy.” And Sneezy has a hard time talking for the lump in her throat.
They also fed each other scrambled eggs, which were delicious.
You might imagine why I had a hard time leaving on Saturday. (And why, incongruously, I have posted the photograph above, even though it has nothing to do with food.) Intent on taking a 10 am ferry, I somehow didn’t make it onto the boat until 3. Considering the fact I still can’t drive, it was a long series of bus rides home. Toward the end, we drove through near darkness. It was 5 pm, I had friends coming over for dinner, and I still hadn’t shopped.
Thankfully, all these months of cooking has made me efficient. And I wanted this to be good, because it was a dinner for my dear friends, Amy and Paul, who recently announced their engagement. Here’s what we had:
–aged pecorino romano cheese with chestnut honey
–Drunken Goat cheese from Spain on hazelnut crackers
–braised leeks with roasted garlic (with chicken stock and white wine)
–roast chicken with lemon zest, rosemary, and garlic
–roasted potatoes with rosemary and olive oil
–gluten-free sugar cookies
(Here, an explanation. I’m trying to make a vivid, nearly perfect gluten-free sugar cookie for you, dear readers, for the holiday season. This was experiment batch #2, with less salt and lemon zest this time. But I botched it when I added two eggs instead of one. Too cakey. Delicious. But not quite a cookie. The next one, I’m thinking, will be the one. And then I’ll post it up here, soon.)
The weekend really was a festival of food. Unexpectedly, on an emergency basis, a family of friends were in town, and they came over for breakfast on Sunday. At 8 am, with the kitchen still a mess from the joyful night before, I whipped together a banana bread, a huge scramble of smoked salmon, dill, and goat cheese, and some roasted potatoes. Pots and pots of coffee. It was lovely to see them, even with the circumstances, but there went my slow Sunday morning time. Spontaneously, an hour after they left, another friend stopped by for coffee, just an hour after they left. And we talked and talked and laughed for so long that I made us both lunch. (Leftovers from breakfast, but they were new to him.) Wonderful to see him. Truly. But it meant more cooking.
But then, after his departure, after only a two-hour break, I had two more friends over for dinner. Yikes. At least we all cooked together. Another roast chicken, with local, organic potatoes my lunch friend had brought me from the University farmers’ market, organic polenta with goat cheese and roasted asparagus, gluten-free stuffing they had made the night before, and a lovely canteloupe salad with lime juice and lemon verbena. Everything tasted vibrant and alive, and I love these friends. But by the time they left, I was exhausted!
While I wouldn’t recommend this as a pre-Thanksgiving ritual, it has been a beautiful series of meals. And now, the thought of cooking all day Thursday feels like no big deal. Maybe this is a good way to go….
Still, Thanksgiving can inspire sadness and dread for those of us who can’t eat gluten. What will we do without stuffing? Well, I have a recommendation for you on that one, as well as some tasty gluten-free recipes from around the web this week. Some of them may be non-traditional, but they all look great. And since the edict to eat gluten-free can result in life opening up, instead of shutting down, I thought I’d share some of the treats I’ve seen that I just can’t wait to try. Who knows? They might show up on my family’s Thanksgiving table on Thursday:
Rachael has really outdone herself here, with a piquant, tempting bowl of nuts. When was the last time you roasted nuts with rosemary? I have to try these tonight, and if I love them (that wouldn’t surprise me), I’ll have to plop them down on the already-groaning table on Vashon, later this week.
Aun at Chubby Hubby has a beautiful photograph of creamed corn in a copper bowl, which would be enough to make anyone desire it. Add to that the fact that corn probably was the staple food of the first Thanksgivings, instead of that dratted old wheat, and you have an elegant way to celebrate without making yourself sick.
Honestly, I don’t know why anyone ever complains about brussel sprouts. Remember when we were kids, and these green globes were threatened as punishment? That kind of punishment I could stand. I adore these vegetables, slowly simmered in browned butter. A friend of mine simply described his previous night’s dinner, with a loving description of the brussel sprouts in particular, and I could taste them in the air. Well, if you feel like me, you have to check out this post by Molly. The dear woman not only has mono, but she’s also inventing these fabulous foods. I would love to eat these Brussel sprouts at my Thanksgiving dinner.
Now, this one showed up on Heidi’s 101 Cookbooks nearly a month ago, but I have to bring it back to your attention for the festive day. I attempted this decadent recipe–complete with whole cream and a vanilla bean–with butternut squash, and I nearly fell over. But Heidi assured me they’re even more beautiful with sweet potatoes. Well, who can resist this?
If you grow tired of all the tastes of Thanksgiving–gorgeous, but somewhat the same–why not try this soup from Too Many Chefs? This chickpea and onion soup started life as a chickpea and leek soup, but it was switched. I love the fact that it started from an original recipe by Jamie Oliver, but was modified and handed down from blogger to blogger. And now, I’m presenting it to you.
Now, I don’t want to brag, but I am proud of the fact that I’ve learned how to make a darned fine gluten-free pumpkin pie. If you didn’t see the post I wrote about it in September, click on the above link, and I’ll be happy to show it to you. After all, what would Thanksgiving be without pumpkin pie? I’m glad I don’t have to imagine it.
A GREAT, GLUTEN-FREE STUFFING
A new friend of min, Olivia Lorenzo, is a great delight. She and her boyfriend were the two friends over here on Sunday night, the ones who introduced me to canteloupe with lemon verbena and lime. She’s an incredible cook. A few weeks ago, they had me over for an Indian feast, for which they had been cooking for days. They made six, homemade chutneys. And they finished with a delicate rice pudding covered in organic rose petals they had grown in their garden. Olivia and I could talk about food for hours, comparing notes and recommending little nooks in which to buy obscure gourmet foods. On top of that, she grew up in Napa Valley, in a family of winemakers, so she and her boyfriend always bring over the most impeccable wines to dinner. I feel blessed to know her now.
It turns out that she has been working on her own gluten-free recipes for years. In fact, she’s been compiling an allergen-free cookbook for people who still truly love gourmet foods. I’ve been urging her to start her own website, and she might, soon. But in the meantime, she was kind enough to share her recipe for gluten-free stuffing with us all, just in time for the holidays. (It is written in her own words.)
“Yes, you could stuff your turkey with a rice-based stuffing, but for
many families, there is just no substitute for the traditional bread
stuffing. Yet if you or your guests have any gluten sensitivities, or
even sensitivities to MSG, store-bought stuffing mixes will not serve
the purpose. So whats the food-sensitive cook to do?
This stuffing is such a convincing bread stuffing that now I always
serve it, even to groups where no one has a gluten or wheat
restriction. Literally no one has ever noticed the substitution, so I
have no qualms about suggesting that it replace your family recipe.
This recipe works well as both stuffing (cooked inside the bird) and
dressing (cooked outside the bird), but as it reheats beautifully and
so little in the Thanksgiving repertoire does, I prefer to make it the
evening before as dressing, then reheat. Its good for days afterward,
If your holiday table will include vegetarians, omit the bacon and
cook as dressing; its still delicious. If you will be serving vegans,
omit the bacon and use vegetable shortening instead of butter. The
vegan version is a bit drier, but still tasty.
Gourmet Tip: Despite the name, water chestnuts are not in fact nuts;
they are tubers. The name is derived from their appearance. Unused
water chestnuts should never be stored in the can, or they can develop
a metallic taste. Store them in enough water to cover in a plastic or
glass container in the refrigerator. Change the water in which they
are stored daily.
8 cups gluten-free bread (rice bread works best; 1 loaf of Ener G Rice
Bread will yield 9 cups of cubed bread.)
3 cloves garlic
2 medium white or yellow onions
1 bunch celery
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts
3/4 pound bacon
1/2 cup (1 stick) non-dairy margarine or butter (if restrictions permit)
3 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2-cup chicken broth, or 1 cube bouillon dissolved in 1/2-cup water
(omit salt, if using bouillon)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Slice bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread in a single layer on a baking
sheet. Bake in oven for 40 minutes, or until dry and crispy. (If you
have the time, you can achieve a similar effect by leaving the laden
baking sheet to dry out overnight.) Set aside.
Peel and mince garlic. Dice onion and celery. Drain water chestnuts
and chop into small cubes. Slice bacon into 1-inch lengths.
Melt margarine or butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, being
careful not to allow it to boil. Add garlic, onion, celery, water
chestnuts, and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion
is softened, about 5 minutes.
Add poultry seasoning and pepper. Stir to mix.
Add bread cubes, stirring until well coated. Cook, stirring, for 2
minutes, to add crispness. Remove from heat, add broth or water and
bouillon mixture, and toss until combined.
Stuff the mixture into the body and neck of the turkey, or place in an
oiled baking pan. If cooking outside the bird, cover with foil and
bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees.
Makes approximately 12 cups, enough to stuff a 12-15 pound turkey
comfortably and leave over a small containers worth of dressing to
So, with a good, gluten-free stuffing, incredible mixed nuts, a variety of soups and fabulous vegetables, who could complain about having to be gluten-free for Thanksgiving?
Not me. That’s for sure.