Thanksgiving Day Stuffing

ImageI, like most Americans, have my prejudices around what constitutes a proper Thanksgiving Day meal.  Stuffing is almost a religious experience in my house.  I have no use for the fancy-shmancy stuffing that is showcased on magazine covers this time of year.  Don’t even talk to me about goat cheese!  Stuffing is the ultimate tradition (along with the canned cranberries that look like jelly) and should be revered as classic American comfort food.  This is my mother’s recipe and has been served at every Thanksgiving that I can remember. Now, someone please pass the canned cranberries.

This recipe will stuff a 12-pound turkey.  Feel free to cut this in half or double it, if you are feeding a crowd.

Makes 12 cups stuffing – enough for a 12 pound bird

2 Sticks Butter

2 large onions, chopped

1 cup minced celery  (about 4 stalks, leaves removed)

1 cup chopped nuts of your choice (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts)

8 to 10 cups fresh bread crumbs (see below)

1 teaspoon dried sage (fresh is nice if you have it, use 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Using a large pot, dutch oven or casserole, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the nuts, cook stirring constantly until they start to brown, about 3 minutes.

Add the bread crumbs and herbs, and salt to taste, if you use salt.  Stir the bread crumb mixture for another minute or two and remove from the heat.

You can do this much ahead of time and the stuffing will last in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, for a couple of days.

Pack the stuffing into the prepared bird and roast according to your turkey recipe.  If you prefer, you can put the stuffing into an ovenproof dish and bake, for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Bread Crumbs:

This recipe calls for almost 2 loaves of bread.  Of course, the bread that you use will determine the amount of crumbs.  A batard or ciabatta will render more crumbs than a standard white loaf.  If I don’t have homemade bread for the crumbs, I use Acme Bread’s sweet batard for this recipe. It’s available in most grocery stores and is quite good, for store-bought bread.

2 large loaves bread torn into chunks

Using a food processor or blender, work in small batches to process the chunks of bread into crumbs.  Don’t worry if the bread crumbs don’t process into uniform sized crumbs.  The inconsistency is part of the charm of stuffing.  Bake on a rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Measure out 8 – 10 cups and freeze the rest.  You can do this ahead of time and freeze the crumbs in a ziplock bag. Frozen bread crumbs are a nice thing to have on hand and they keep forever.

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Fresh Marinara Sauce

Tomatoes!  What to do with all of those luscious red tomatoes that are in season now.  Well, you can give some to me, as I have managed to grow one meager stalk with a single tomato that refuses to ripen.  Otherwise, here is a simple marinara recipe for you to try.  It freezes well, so double the recipe and save some for winter, when only canned tomatoes are available.

Fresh Marinara

This is a simple marinara sauce and is good with fresh tomatoes or canned, when fresh tomatoes aren’t in season.  This recipe may be used for pasta, pizza or as foundation for puttenesca (add anchovies, olives, capers).  I also simmer halibut or other firm white fish in the sauce and serve over polenta.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, chopped

1-tablespoon honey or sugar

6 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons salt (skip this if using canned tomatoes)

½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

3-4 cups fresh tomatoes, diced (or 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes)

¼ cup fresh basil, oregano and/or thyme (dried is ok, use 1 teaspoon each)

Heat olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven or large saucepan.  Add onion, cook 4-6 minutes.  Add honey, garlic, salt (if using) and fennel seeds.  Cook about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes; simmer over low heat for about 15-20 minutes.  Add the fresh herbs.  Serve.

Arugula, Onion and Roasted Corn Salad

I was at my local farm (Terra Bella in Pleasanton, CA) to pick up my CSA of  fresh eggs and they had the most beautiful red onions for sale.  The earth was still clinging to the stalks and the purple-red onions smelled so sweet.  I bought a bunch, sliced them up and added them to the salad below.  If you have ever sautéed arugula and onions together, you know how heavenly it smells.  Add some juicy cherry tomatoes and fresh pecorino romano cheese and you are in for a summer treat!  Eat this outside on a warm summer night and have a glass of your favorite chardonnay or lemonade.

Arugula, Onion and Roasted Corn Salad

1 bunch arugula

1 red onion, sliced

1 cup fresh corn (frozen is ok)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (or honey)

Wash and drain the arugula.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add corn kernels and cook until the kernels are golden-brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the onions, the olive oil and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the balsamic vinegar and cook another 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat, add the arugula and mix to combine.  Serve over tofu, fish or as a salad with your favorite meal.

Mango, Pineapple and Avocado Salsa

I use this easy salsa to spruce up fish or tofu.  It also stands on its own next to tacos, or a hearty grain salad.  It is refreshing, light and uses its own syrup for flavor, no extra additives!

2 avocados

2 mangos

1 whole pineapple

1/4 cup of any or all of the following:

Coconut

Peanuts

Walnuts

Raisins

Peel and slice the avocado, mango, and pineapple.  Chop all 3 fruits into 1/4 inch cubes.  Add optional ingredients, if using.  Stir to combine and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Serve over fish, tofu, pound cake, you get the idea!

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

This is one of the easiest vegatable dishes that I know and kids love it!  It’s inspired by my husband’s aunt.  She made a similar dish for us one evening, and making this reminds me of that wonderful meal!

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

Ingredients

5 lbs. spaghetti squash

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves minced garlic

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. minced fresh basil or parsley

1 egg (optional)

2 tablespoons cream (optional)

Additional parmesan cheese for passing

Directions

Pierce squash in several places with a long-tined fork or metal skewer. Place on baking pan and bake 1 12/ to 2 hours. Using potholders, squeeze squash to test for doneness. It is ready when it gives slightly under pressure. Remove and cool.

Heat saucepan over heat, pour in olive oil. Add garlic and cook until tender but not browned for about 5 minutes.

When squash is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and stringy portions. Using a fork, pull pulp from the shell in long strands and add them to the warm garlic oil.  Cook on low for another 3 minutes.

Toss squash strands gently with cheese, cream and eggs (if using). Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with basil or parsley. Broil under broiler until top is golden brown.  Serve immediately. Pass additional cheese at the table.

For a printable version of this recipe, click below.

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

Homemade Mayo

Did you know that you can make your own mayonnaise?  It’s so simple, easier than scrambling an egg.  Once you try your own, you’ll never want the store-bought variety again.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Yields 1 cup

1 egg

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, white wine or flavored vinegar

Salt and pepper

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put ingredients in a blender, food processor or use a hand emulsifier and process, mix, blend until smooth.

Additions:

Fresh chopped parsley, marjoram, chives, thyme, rosemary in any combination

Chopped garlic

Anchovies

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder

This keeps for about a week in the refrigerator.  If the thought of using raw eggs is a concern, microwave the eggs prior to mixing.  About 20 seconds on high will kill off any bacteria without damaging the end result.

Charoset

Passover is coming!  Next week, many of us will be serving bread-free meals to honor the Jewish holiday of Passover.  Here are a couple of nice charoset recipes that I’ve made for my son’s preschool.

Traditional Charoset (Nut Free)

9 red apples
3/4 cup red wine or grape juice
1 1/2 cup good quality honey
3 cups raisins
Cinnamon

Peel and chop apples, mix with remaining ingredients.  Serve with matzoh.

Israeli Charoset (nut free)

6 red apples
6 bananas
6 oranges
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
3/4 cup wine or grape juice
Cinnamon

Peel and chop apples, bananas and oranges.  Mix with remaining ingredients and serve with matzoh.