Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Reflections

This year was one of the 5th orphaned Thanksgiving tradition that my husband and I hosted. It was a showcase of oven roasted turkey and side dishes to gorge on. The prized turkey was made with herb butter under skin cooked with sage, paprika, and salt on the skin, and to help it along, cooked in an oven bag. Yes, instead of every 20 minute basting, I only had to baste once an hour. It cooked quickly within 4 hours, the 12 pound turkey was done. All side dishes had butter in them. I remembered what Julia Child always said, "You can leave out the cream and butter [from your dishes] if you want, but you'll be sorry!"

This year I asked myself, why put myself through the hard work of cooking, preparing, and cleaning for orphaned friends, that either do not have close family, or chose to otherwise stay away from their blood relatives during this time? I being first generation of Colombian parents, never had a proper traditional turkey dinner cooked at home; yet here I was, fulfilling a very American tradition that goes back to the pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal for survival. 

Many people I spoke to changed or added touches of cuisine from their native lands and culture. An Asian American friend, always included a mix of long and short grain rice to his meal instead of potatoes. A Latina woman always included tamales. A Persian friend, was making curried rack of lamb instead of turkey. An African American friend always enjoyed the mac and cheese dish topped with crab meat. This year, my mother brought some plantains to fry.  I've also heard rumors of salmon instead of turkey. I guess we can say Thanksgiving is evolving, transforming to fit into our needs.

I am a glutton for punishment I suppose, as I embarked on another large meal and hosting. I remember the women in my family always ran the kitchen, preparing big lunches for the entire family. It was a sense of pride, and duty to take care of family. I couldn't go to an other's house, as we were invited. I couldn't forgo the turkey, as it was now expected, a tradition had been born to come to our house. I couldn't leave people homeless without a place to find a small bit of comfort during this season as we move more and more into the darkness and cold. Most of all I resigned myself to the fact that I am part of this American tradition, and was manifesting fresh year after year. My single favorite thing about Thanksgiving meal is still the dessert & fresh whipped cream; but of course what would we be without the family we create to share it with.
~Peace Out~    

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pomegranate Toddy Pie

One of my favorite fruits of the season is the pomegranate. Great for adult beverages and adding to pies! Don't be surprised to find pomegranates and walnuts in your local farmers market of California at this time of year. The pomegranate was introduced into California by Spanish settlers in 1769, and is now cultivated in parts of California and Arizona for juice production. Humans had been harvesting pomegranates for several millennia  previously to the Spanish. The pomegranate is native to the region of Persia and the Himalayan ranges of India, and has been cultivated in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Mediterranean region. The pomegranate is so much part of our ancient human culture, it was mentioned in Europe as early as the Iron-Age Greek Mythology in the Homeric hymns. Nature has some amazing ways of spreading it's seed with this tart/sweet fruit, not to mention the wonderful health properties that the pomegranate has for the body. With those powerful anti-oxidants to fight free radicals in the body, makes this fruit dear to my heart. 

With all this in mind, I've created a Walnut Crusted Apples & Cheery Pie Infused with  Brandy & Pomegranate juice!  It's a "Pow & Wow" in your mouth as my husband said; and perfect for serving at the upcoming fall festivities. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4 Gala or Smith apples
1 pomegranate.
1 cup of walnuts
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 dried cherries
1/2 cup of brandy
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1  raw pie crust 

First simmer in a medium size pot the brandy and when comes to a low boil, turn off heat, and add dried cherries to brandy while other preparations are made.  
Juice and strain juice from pomegranate with first a hand held juicer then, then a strainer, to remove seeds. 1 pomegranate should yield 1/2 cup of juice.
Peel and cut apples into thin wedges. Chop walnuts into a fine chop that will be used as a crust.
Place pie crust in baking pie dish, and warm in oven for 5 minutes., and then remove.
Add a low heat to pot with cherries. Add pomegranate juice, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. Mixing and allowing the apples to absorb and also reduce juice. This last step should be done with much attention. Do not leave apples to cook, only a quick softening. Next place mixture into pie crust. I like to curl edges of pie shell in. Lastly, place an even layer of walnuts across the top of pie.
Place melted butter on top of walnuts. In order that top does not burn, a foil covering can help. If heat is low enough you do not have use foil.
Place in oven for 30-40 minutes. Pie serves 6 pieces. Enjoy with some lovely vanilla bean ice-cream.

Here's to your good health and a sweet life!