Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Sides.

Two years ago, we were making Thanksgiving dinner when we discovered that one of my cousins didn't eat pork. We had to do a last minute menu overhaul because other than the salad and the cranberry sauce, there was precious little that was pork-free.

And that was while I was writing things here! This year, my mother invited two chicken-broth vegans, and we looked at the menu, shrugged, and left it as it was. There are going to be like five vegan dishes, seven if I get to count each kind of cranberry sauce and the turkey-basted stuffing. I don't know what happened to us.

 I hear this pie is not terrible, by the way. And seriously, cranberry sauce is two cups of cranberries (that is how big the packages are), like a quarter cup of sugar, and then like half a cup of port or orange juice or white wine or water or cranberry juice and maybe some cloves or lemon peel, your choice. Either you cook it together on the stove top for fifteen minutes - until all the berries burst - or you whirl it around in the food processor until it's a relish. Test the sugar, because I'm not good at remembering how much sugar goes in - it's totally fine to add more sugar at the end. Don't use the cloves if it's going in the food processor.

I am going to give you three quick vegetable sides, because I'm Californian and vegetable sides are the things that give you strength to eat more of the starches. None of them require oven time at the last minute, which is good, because otherwise I'd tell you to make this. They're all fine cold, or reheated in a microwave, or whatever.  

Green Beans with Pesto. Buy one and a half pounds of green beans. Good ones, mind you. Beautiful beans. Start a pot of water boiling - like a liter. I always hate boiling too much or too little water. A liter of water. Snap the stems and ends off of the beans, slice or snap them into 1 inch pieces, and throw them into the boiling water. Stare at them for about one minute, and then start fishing them out with a fork and tasting them to see if they're done enough. C likes things basically boiled yellow (a full minute in hot water), while I like them a reasonable amount of done (raw), so figure out what other people you are feeding also want to eat. The savages. When they are still bright green - look, like two minutes - dump the whole thing into a strainer and then run cold water over them. Take one half cup pesto - cilantro would be best, and kale would be worst. I've been making a lot of broccoli pesto lately; do not put broccoli pesto on green beans. Basil or parsley is good though. Take the pesto and juice from one half lemon and stir with the green beans in a mixing bowl. Taste. Did I lie about the amount of pesto? Does it need salt? Adjust. Put in the fridge.  

Broccoli Rabe with Red Bell Peppers and Garlic
I finally got Laurie Colwin's cookbook, and reading it after reading many other cookbooks is like reading Shakespeare after reading the rest of western literature. So many weird hang-ups and quirks make sense now! The fried chicken that makes people sing, the black cake, the low-key tea party for forty - all these weird tropes have a root! Anyway, the cookbook is lovely to read, if not particularly well tested. She does make the point that if someone does not like broccoli rabe, this recipe will not change that. She also suggests it be served hot. She is wrong. C does not like broccoli rabe much, and the entire dish is vastly superior when eaten cold off his plate. You can skip the spouse step and just let it sit out while you carve things and fuss.

Right. Take two red bell peppers and five cloves of garlic - get rid of the seeds and stems and garlic skins. Mince the garlic and dice the pepper. Saute both in half a cup of olive oil until the garlic is a little soft. Add a bit of salt. Take two pounds broccoli rabe, chop into bite-sized pieces, and blanch in boiling water - for like four minutes, until bright green. Drain the rabe and throw into the garlic/pepper pan. Continue to heat gently for two-odd minutes - until you've stirred the garlicky oild into basically everything. Let sit for at least half an hour, and maybe add a little lemon juice. It's better cold. It's no-leftovers-because-I-eat-it-out-of-the-pan-while-doing-dishes better. It's usually-I-leave-dishes-to-the-next-day,-but-this-is-worth-being-prompt better.  

Brussels Sprouts with bread crumbs
This was the winner of the birthday dinner for mother-in-law eight vegetable dish round robin; I still get carried away about in-law meal prep.  But it's good!  It's "pretend it's an old family recipe" good!

Take two pounds of Brussels sprouts and remove the tough outer leaves and bases. Cut into thin slices lengthwise- the recipe that this is very loosely based on suggested a mandoline, but those things are death traps. Like four slices per sprout. If you cut them in half crossways too, it works better. Blanch them! In boiling water! For two minutes! It's a trend! Dress with 1/4 cup olive oil, juice from one lemon, and a tablespoon, tablespoon and a half of soy sauce. Garnish generously with bread crumbs fried in duck fat or olive oil - it's good how or cold. 

Did you know the best way I've found to get bread crumbs from stale French bread is to put the bread in a plastic bag and hit is with a hammer? People say "food processor" or "chop it roughly", but when bread is not so stale that puny mortal engines and knives repel it, C eats it. C likes bread. Hammer, guys. It's relaxing, and if you're seen doing it, people treat you with more respect, somehow.

So there: three solid side dishes which involve blanching, and lemon juice, and olive oil, if you count the stuff in the pesto. I am a little set in my ways. My delicious, oily ways.