"I think it's nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks. I think eating is nice." – Albert from Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell C. Hoban
Yes, it’s late but I didn’t want to forget to report on our pie making experiences of Thanksgiving. Here, in Israel, many enjoy Thanksgiving, perhaps on Friday night if they can’t manage Thursday with work and all, or like my brother, they might celebrate eventually, usually on Hannukah, this year conveniently close to Thanksgiving (and not, Xmas, which always annoys me – meaning, don’t need any more association with Xmas than it already has) or not at all, as they’ve just sort of forgotten about it. But when you mention that you’re having Thanksgiving dinner with friends, even the most ‘Israeli’ized Americans’ I know, will stop and say ‘Really? Gee, I used to love Thanksgiving.’
We had a lovely dinner with friends, Alan and Lisa, my parents, studious yeshiva scholar Gella and her friend, Adam. It was fairly traditional fare with a few Israeli twists.
Cornbread -made by Natan. It was nice and lightly dry with a good crumble.
Sauteed Pears and Onions with Arugula. That was really good. It kind of needed some cheese but it was a meat meal. Easy, easy. Just saute the onions forever (cover a bit to let them break down and begin to carmelize) and then add the pears, S&P, Chinese 5-spice powder, or, I used ‘Hawaij for Coffee’ a spice mix not disimiliar to what you’d use in chai tea (not to be confused with Hawaiij for Soup) some red wine, pinch of balsamic vinegar at the end to ‘bring it up a notch.’
Mango Salsa. Lisa’s favorite right now, in the waning moments of mango season here. Simply, chopped mangoes, tomatoes, cilantro, onion or scallion and juice, with a touch of oil. Perfect alongside the richer pear salad.
Turkey. Lisa’s department.
Corned Beef. Ditto. I stuck to the side dishes for this lavish meal but everyone tucked into the meats happily.
Aunt Nora’s Sweet Potatoes with some adaptations. Smooth and lovely, spiced the way they should be, a dab of melted margarine (oh well, but it had to be non-dairy) and fresh lemon zest, orange zest and orange juice (I used some sharply flavored clementines).
Butternut Squash Bread Pudding. Our stuffing.
Cranberries with Quince and Pomengranate. I liked this but remained unconvinced about the quince despite the almost intoxicating fragrance. The cranberries were specially imported for us, fresh and tart.
Tomato Salad. Lisa’s fave. Halved, sweet cherry tomatoes, simply dressed.
Was there anything else? Maybe, can’t remember
Dessert – here’s where the pies come in:
I used to make the Cooks Illustrated pumpkin pie which shockingly used canned filling, which when heated and spiced, suddenly became delicous. Then of course, there was always the decision of what kind of pastry crust to use, which Cooks added more the mix this year with coming up with a daring new idea – vodka in the crust instead of other liquids – alcohol bakes off better, less moisture, better crust, etc..
Spice-kissed Pumpkin Pie – This is a great recipe off of a blog that I really like. A few comments. I didn’t think the hazlenut base (I used toasted pecans) did that much. The filling though, was stupendous – creamy and unctuous with a fabulous mouthfeel. I used an oil based crust as a way of avoiding the whole margarine thing as margarine is, to me, unpleasant tasting and a completely unhealthy food, although at least buy a trans-fat free marg if you must. I combined spelt and rye flours which gave a nice savory note but I think in the future, I’d add my ground nuts into the crust where the flavor would shine more.
Note: I/we made a bunch of these pies and the one that was baked in a deep dish stoneware pie plate was the best – most filling and therefore the richest in flavor.
Shaker-Lemon Pie – this is a recipe with alot of history when I looked it up online later. Too bad I didn’t look it up beforehand. I remembered it fondly from eating it with Iris Katzner and I could have sworn that I had made it successfully. The recipe is simplicity itself. You slice lemons paper thin, macerate in sugar, beat in eggs and then load into a prepared crust and top with another crust and bake. The inside sort of forms its own lemon curd that is punctuated by the sharper rind.
Well, not for me. Granted I don’t shop at the food coop anymore where I could have used Meyer Lemons which have a very thin rind but I did slice thinly. From my analysis, it seems that macerating for a longer time is called for – as much as 36 hours – and that some retakes of the recipe have you zest the lemons, then slice them thinly and then macerate. That would be more successful, I think because you wouldn’t be fighting with each slice when you eat it, which is what happened here, between the rind and the membranes of the fruit, etc. Also, just too much crust for me – top and bottom – although others did not feel that way and it did get eaten.
Lisa made a tasty, traditional apple cake which was also enjoyed.