Gobble, Gobble & Gratitude

by Sarah Henry on November 24, 2009 · 14 comments

in comfort food,food events,food flotsam & jetsam,recipes

Hello peeps.  I know many of you are busy prepping for the annual American food fest, so I won’t keep you long.

First, full disclosure: I do not (heart) the holidays. And nothing announces the official start of the festive season than Thanksgiving. Well, I guess there’s also Halloween, the end of daylight savings, the beginning of cold & wet weather, but I digress.

Here’s my beef with end of year celebrations: Too much expectation and anticipation followed usually by, let’s be real here, disappointment. Throw in some cultural disconnect, a bit of family drama, a smidgen of self-diagnosed seasonal adjustment disorder, and meat-centric meals and, well, me and the holidays aren’t a good match.

But — wait — don’t go, this isn’t going to be a bummer blog post, promise.  When you have a kid in the picture you just have to get over yourself and any party pooper tendencies that set up shop in your psyche this time of year. I’ve learned ways to navigate this potentially challenging period (nothing like practice) and I’ll share some of them with you all. And recipes too! So stick around.

Think different. Who says you have to eat turkey and that weird Jell-O-canned-fruit-Cool-Whip concoction your relative brings every year?

The last TG I hosted I fed a hearty batch of Lentil Soup to six vegetarians on a cold winter’s night. An unconventional but popular choice.

Find more veggie fare for Thursday’s table at NPR’s Kitchen Window from San Francisco food blogger Nicole Spiridakis, along with gluten-free recipes for the big day by another local scribe Stephanie Stiavetti.

Pecan pie or pumpkin cheesecake not your kind of sweet note? I hear you, so try starting a new tradition for the end of the meal. This year, thanks to a prolific tree, I’m going to make the Meyer Lemon Tart  from the new My Nepenthe cookbook. (Recipe follows.)

Keep cool. If you suffer from last minuteitis, you’re likely scrambling to come up with a menu right now. Relax, you’ll find a great little guide over at Food News Journal, complete with hand-picked recipes for every course that should serve you well. I especially like the look of Brussels sprouts with buttered pecans courtesy of Gourmet (R.I.P).

Practice gratitude. Last year, my first solo TG in two decades, I received more than a dozen invites for dinner. A dozen. Now I know how the homeless feel: Everyone wants to feed you on Thanksgiving.  I attended three fun soirees — flirted with trouble at one, observed the raw anger of a recently divorced dad at a second (note to self: bitterness may be a key flavor but it does not make for good company at the dinner table), and plopped down for dessert & dish at a third. All that and dance class with my galpals, added up to a pretty stellar day in my mind. And while the food was good everywhere I went, it was the connection with friends that sustained me that day.

This year, my boy and I will visit with two families he’s known since birth.  We’ll take a hike and picnic with one, and then have a low-key meal and play highly-competitive games with the other. (Heard of the card game Spit? More fun than the name suggests and super addictive.)

The food will be good at both venues, natch; we all like to eat around here. But what’s likely to nourish me most on the day is the generosity, kindness, and friendship of the posse who have served as my surrogate family in the more than 20 years I’ve called this country home.

And that, from where I sit, makes for a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

Flickr photo by Road Fun used under the Creative Commons license.

Meyer Lemon Tart

—From My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur by Romney Steele

Serves 8 to 10.

Sweet Dough:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup flour

Lemon Curd:
5 or 6 Meyer lemons (1 cup juice)
3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
7/8 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
4 tablespoons butter

1. Beat the butter with the sugar, salt, and flour until just combined.

2. Press the dough evenly into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan.

3. Freeze the prepared tart shell for at least 30 minutes before baking.

4. Zest half the lemons (setting the zest aside), then extract the juice from all the lemons to make about 1 cup.

5. Whisk the eggs and sugar until well combined in a medium nonreactive, heatproof bowl, then whisk in the lemon juice.

6. Place the bowl over a gently simmering pot of water and whisk continuously until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

7. Whisk in the butter in pieces.

8. Cook, stirring frequently, until the curd coats the back of the spoon, another 5 minutes or so.

9. Taste and adjust the sweetness, as needed.

10. Strain the curd into a separate bowl, then whisk in the zest.

11. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface while cooling.

12. Bake the tart shell for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown in an oven preheated to 375°F.

13. Cool slightly, then spoon the lemon curd into the shell, spreading evenly with a spatula.

14. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until just set but still slightly jiggly in the middle.

15. Serve chilled with a dollop of lightly whipped cream or fresh berries.

Photo Meyer Lemon Tart: Sara Remington

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Shelley M November 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I have a very special place in my heart for the game of Spit – thank you for bringing back those memories! I can’t wait to try the brussels sprouts with buttered pecans!

Reply

Sarah Henry November 30, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Hi Shelley, Glad to hear from another Spit fan. And I hope you enjoy the Brussels sprouts. (Or is it brussels sprouts? there’s a bit of a copy-editing controversy doing the rounds on that one this holiday season.)

Reply

Cheryl@5secondrule November 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Next game you’ll have to try is “spoons.” Just don’t invite anyone super competitive or it’ll get ugly.

Sounds like you have all your priorities nicely lined up. I wish you, and your son, and your wonderful friends all a very happy holiday. And thank you, on behalf of my own Meyer lemon tree, for this lovely recipe.

Reply

Sarah Henry November 30, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Thank you, Cheryl, and happy holidays to you too.

As for “spoons” love that game and haven’t played it in an age. Good to dig out these classic games over the winter break.

Reply

chiotsrun November 24, 2009 at 3:13 pm

OOO, I’ll have to try this recipe with those lemons I bought.

Reply

Sarah Henry November 30, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Happy to hear I inspired you to bake.

And thank you again for your inspiring photos.

Reply

anonymous November 24, 2009 at 4:36 pm

I was going to try to make the Pumpkin Spice Cake from My Nepenthe for our Thanksgiving potluck and was wondering what to do with all the lemon juice I just squeezed from my last harvest… now I know. Thanks!

Reply

Sarah Henry November 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm

My pleasure. I hope the tart was a big hit!

Reply

Dianne Jacob November 24, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Yes, we food obsessed people have to remind ourselves that Thanksgiving isn’t only about the food, in fact the food isn’t even the most important part.

Sounds like a wonderful holiday weekend to me. I hope you enjoy every minute of it.

Reply

Sarah Henry November 30, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Thank you, Dianne. Well said.

Reply

anothermama November 25, 2009 at 9:08 am

Sounds like you have a lovely day lined up with a mix of pleasure. Way better than a cooped-up stuffathon. Enjoy, Sarah, and you’ve got me thinking renegade lemons. I was assigned pumpkin pie.

Reply

Sarah Henry November 30, 2009 at 8:37 pm

A cooped-up stuffathon? What a great image, anothermama.

I hope you avoided such a scenario yourself & found the courage to rebel with your renegade lemons.

Reply

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