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Melissa Clark's Roasted Squash and Radicchio Salad with Buttermilk Dressing


I am in Boston right now, visiting my family, and it is Thanksgiving, of course, and we are invited to my father's second cousin Bob's house, where Bob's daughter Julia and her newborn daughter Sylvia will be present, so if you're doing the math, Hugo gets to meet his fourth cousin today, and how many of us can claim to have ever met our fourth cousin? Hugo has been "writing" shopping lists for the baby all week. We are all very excited.

My stepmother Susan and I have made two pies to bring - her fantastic apple tart, which, according to her notes, she's been making at least since the 1970s (it's a tarte sucrée shell filled with freshly made applesauce and topped with thin slices of apples decoratively arranged, then run under the broiler and glazed), and an experiment of sorts, a free-form galette filled with spiced, sliced persimmons (nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar, orange peel). 


What I'm really writing to you about today is salad. And while I understand that following the description of two Thanksgiving pies with a post about salad might seem, what's the word, unfair, bear with me. This is no regular salad.

I'm talking about Melissa Clark's recent recipe for a tangle of radicchio and arugula dressed with a tangy, garlicky, creamy dressing (buttermilk! tarragon! lemon juice!) and tossed with slices of delicata squash that have been roasted with honey and chile (or smoked paprika, as I used, in case you have small eaters in your home who don't want to eat 'picy things) until sweet and fudgy.

Sounds good, right? I am here to tell you it is even BETTER than you think it will be. We had it for lunch today (incidentally, it's sort of the perfect pre-Thanksgiving lunch, since it's fresh and satisfying without being too heavy) and basically spent most of lunch exclaiming, out loud, to each other, about how good it was. Bitter greens, sweet-spicy squash, creamy-sour dressing…you see what I mean? Oh, and roasted pecans, too! Soft, crunchy, cool, delicious.

I happen to think delicata squash might be the most delicious squash, sweet and nutty, and it's definitely the easiest to deal with. If you can't find it, I would substitute slices of kabocha squash (or hokkaido, for you Europeans). Melissa calls for smoky chile powder (like New Mexico or chipotle), which will give the squash some lovely heat. I substituted sweet smoked paprika, for that same smoky flavor, but no heat. Whatever you do, make sure you don't skip the dressing, which ties the slightly unwieldy and boisterous greens together with the squash wedges just beautifully. And the roasted pecans! If you don't have them, I guess you could use walnuts, too. Just don't skip the nuts entirely.

And with that, friends, I'm off to have a cup of tea and go give thanks, for, well, everything. For you too. xo

Melissa Clark's Roasted Squash and Radicchio Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Serves 3-4

2 delicata squashes (10 ounces/280 grams each), halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon smoky chile powder or smoked sweet paprika
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup/80 ml buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 small head radicchio, cored and shredded
4 cups arugula
⅔ cup/85 grams chopped toasted pecans (see note)

1. Heat oven to 425 F/220 C degrees. In a large bowl, toss squash with honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, chile powder or paprika and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, lemon juice, tarragon, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the garlic. Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) oil.

3. In a large bowl, combine radicchio, arugula, squash and pecans. Toss in buttermilk dressing; taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Note: To toast pecans, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until they deepen in color and turn fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Cool before chopping.

Fortnum & Mason's Wooden Tea Advent Calendar

Friends! Do you need some pretty distractions from the endless onslaught of unbearable news? I do. I feel like I am drowning in anxiety and doom. In order to give us all a break and to do my very, very small part in focusing on what is good and nice in the world, let's talk about pretty things. Okay? Like this epic wooden Advent calendar from Fortnum & Mason. It is handcrafted and beautiful and filled with all sorts of rare teas and costs a whopping £125. Tea calender

It is decadent and absurd. But looking at it, for some reason, makes me feel better. Then I go back to reading the news, even though I know I shouldn't, and my heart breaks all over again. But maybe for a few minutes looking at this will make you feel better too. 

(Also: One of the teas is called Ding Dong Oolong.)

Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin

Chicken gratin

I have, in my old age, become a real stickler about chicken. Neither of us wants to buy or eat factory-farmed chickens anymore, but free-range, organic ones are expensive, running about €23 for a smallish bird. I just assume that is the cost of responsibly farming animals and don't give it much further thought - we aren't passionate meat-eaters. So we keep mostly vegetarian at home and every once in a blue moon (maybe a handful of times a year?), I splurge on one of those fancy chickens.

Then, though, the pressure of what to do with that expensive chicken descends upon me. After all, I want to eke out every last bit of meat and value from the chicken, but just making chicken soup each time doesn't feel celebratory enough. And there's only so many meals of poached chicken that my family will tolerate. (Although, of course, a baggie of frozen shredded chicken to dole out over several weeks is valuable indeed.) Roasting the chicken is great, but here my competing desire for a crisp-skinned, juicy bird and a clean oven (or a home that doesn't smell like scorched chicken fat) means that I never end up doing it anymore. The slow-roasted method is brilliant for those of us with this dilemma, but its 2-3 hour cooking time means that it can only be a weekend project. You see what I mean? The last thing I want is to be the owner of an expensive chicken and then feel paralyzed about what to do with it.

But! I stumbled upon this wonderful Richard Olney recipe on Food52 last week, which has you brown chicken pieces, fit them into a baking dish and then douse them with an eggy, cheesy custard and cubes of bread crisped in chicken fat before getting baked in the oven until bronzed and let me tell you, if you want to really honor your fancy bird, this is the way to do it. Not only does the recipe result in what is by far the very best gravy/sauce I have ever tasted (AND DID I MENTION THE CHICKEN-FAT-CRISPED BREAD CUBES), but it's actually a surprisingly easy dish for weeknights and an impressive one for dinner parties. The chicken stays juicy and crisp-skinned, and the lemon juice and white wine keep things from getting too greasy. It's no wonder it was featured in Food52's brilliant Genius Recipes column. It is all that and more.

Bonus! This recipe uses a whopping three egg yolks. I don't know about you, but I'm always on the hunt for recipes to use up egg yolks. Savory recipes if possible, because after baking a batch of meringue or macaroons or whatever, the last thing I want to do is make ice cream or chocolate pudding or crème brûlée. There's mayo of course, but there's only so much mayonnaise that a family of three can consume. So on top of being delicious and easy and perfect for these dark fall evenings, this dish will also help you feel virtuous by emptying your fridge of leftover yolks (if you're the kind of person who has them lurking behind the jam jars, like me).

A warning: if you are appalled by curdled things, you may not be a fan of the way the sauce looks. But if you can get over your aversion and simply trust me, I promise that its flavor more than makes up for its looks. If you are not troubled or are even a little enchanted by rustic sauces, then carry on, friend. Good food awaits you.

Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin
Serves 4-6

For the chicken:
One 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-pound/1.1-1.5 kg chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons/30 grams butter
1 large handful stale bread, crusts removed, crumbled or cubed
1/3 cup/80 ml white wine

For the cheese custard:
3/4 cup/180 ml heavy cream
3 egg yolks
Salt, pepper
3 ounces/85 grams freshly grated Gruyère
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F/200° C. Salt the chicken pieces. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Place the chicken pieces (working in batches, if necessary) in the hot pan and cook until golden-brown on both sides - about 20 minutes, adding the breasts only after the first 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a gratin dish of a size to just hold them, arranged side by side.

2. Put the pieces of bread in the pan and sauté in the cooking fat until slightly crisp and only slightly colored. Remove them from the pan and set aside, leaving behind as much of the cooking fat as possible, and deglaze the pan with the white wine, reducing it by about half.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream, egg yolks, seasonings, and cheese, then whisk in the lemon juice and the deglazing liquid. Spoon or pour this mixture evenly over the chicken pieces, sprinkle the surface with the bread, and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the surface is nicely colored. Serve immediately.

Rachel Roddy's Peperonata


Rachel has a new column in the Guardian and if the first two are any indication, it is going to be a treasure trove for us home cooks. I read about her vinegar-spiked peperonata as soon as the link was up and was at the stove and cooking it not more than an hour later, if my memory serves correctly. Rachel has all kinds of nice suggestions for how to eat it (with a piece of frittata, for example, or dolloped next to boiled potatoes), but I was most taken with the thought of it on a sandwich. The day after I made it, since it gets better as it sits, I piled it onto a round of soft Turkish bread studded with sesame and nigella seeds, and added in a few pieces of feta here and there for good measure. Some sharp-tasting parsley leaves gave the sandwich a bit of pep and texture. Silky, salty, creamy, chewy - it was a very nice thing indeed.

The day after that, I steamed some cubed zucchini and mixed them with more peperonata, warmed up this time. Hey presto, we had our Sunday lunch pasta sauce. Predictably, Hugo turned his nose up at the cooked strips of peppers at first, but gobbled them up soon enough.

So often, my workday lunches at home are on the grim side: cold leftovers, because I'm too lazy (or busy) to heat them up, the long-lamented cheese sandwich, a plate of day-old rice with ketchup on top. (Proof.) But having a pot of peperonata to play with made me feel downright rich. Thanks, Rach.

Peperonata sandwich

Be forewarned: this is a messy sandwich. Two hands are needed to contain it as you eat and both will be dirty by the end of lunch. Still. Worth it.

Rachel Roddy's Peperonata
Serves 8

1kg red peppers
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
Salt, to taste
450g peeled plum tomatoes
Red wine vinegar, to taste (optional)

1. Cut the peppers into strips, about 1cm wide and 6cm long, discarding the seeds, stalks and any pithy white bits.

2. In a heavy-based pan with a lid, warm the olive oil over a medium-low heat, then cook the onion and garlic until soft, translucent and fragrant (they should not brown), which usually takes about 10 minutes. Add the peppers and a pinch of salt, stir, then cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.

3. Add the tomatoes, stir and then leave, uncovered, at a lively simmer for 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally, gently pressing the tomatoes against the side of the pan, so they break up.

4. The peperonata is ready when the peppers are soft and everything has come together into a thick stew. Taste, season generously, and add a dash of vinegar to sharpen things up.

Heidi Swanson's Harira


So as not to bore you to tears, I will summarize my current mood with regards to technology as such: CROTCHETY ANGRY OLD LADY WITH COKE BOTTLE GLASSES SHAKING HER FIST AT THE RAINBOW SPINNING WHEEL OF DEATH WHILE CLUTCHING A WALKER WITH WIZENED KNUCKLES, the spinning wheel of death being a stand-in for several other things, in addition to the actual spinning wheel.

But! One does not want to dwell. One wants to remain positive in the face of adversity (although, really, Apple software updates, you are flirting dangerously with my blood pressure, you nasty little jerks). So I'd like to focus on someone who has always managed to make forward movement in work and technology seem effortless, Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. She was at the forefront of food blogging over a decade ago, of course, but her ongoing productivity and creativity as the field gets ever noisier and more crowded is awesome to behold.

Her latest cookbook, Near & Far, is an idiosyncratic collection of recipes that she assembled and developed on her travels throughout Japan, Morocco, Italy, France and India, with a lovely little chapter dedicated to food she makes for the actual traveling part, too (including savory chive dumplings and strongly flavored gingersnap cookies, against travel sickness - brilliant!). Settling in with Near & Far on the couch has been the most soothing time I've spent with myself lately, with those soft, smooth pages, the quietly luscious photography, and Heidi's calm, capable tone.

Heidi slips millet into madeleines, makes granola with nori and cashews and shichimi togarashi and bakes oatmeal with plums and kefir, but she also has a knack for simple soups that steal the show, like this vegetarian Moroccan harira, blazing with spices, nubby with lentils and chickpeas, and rib-sticking in the very best way. When I made the soup, it filled my biggest soup pot to the very top. After feeding a bunch of my girlfriends for dinner, I figured I'd have leftovers for lunch the next day. I had left out the angel hair noodles broken in at the end, and the dates, which I didn't have, and so I served it with slices of bread for wiping our plates. By the end of the evening, there was nothing left but a bare scraping of soup at the bottom of the pot.

I left out the cilantro, because I didn't have any, and the marjoram/oregano and celery leaves, because I forgot, but I'd urge you to make sure to include all of those, if only because these kinds of bright pops of additional flavor are part of what Heidi does so well.

And now I'm off to plump up my pantry with some of Heidi's brilliant inventions, like hazelnut spice (a blend of orange zest, salt, toasted hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon and poppy seeds), and the aforementioned nori granola. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Heidi Swanson's Harira
Adapted from Near & Far

1 bunch cilantro
Extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 medium onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced, leaves reserved
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
Pinch of saffron (about 30 threads)
2 1/2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups | 10 oz | 280 g cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 cups | 9 oz | 255 g dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups | 1.5 L water
4 to 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Scant 1/4 cup | 50 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 (28-oz | 795g) can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
3 oz | 55 g angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch | 2.5cm pieces
Chopped fresh dates, to serve

1. Chop the cilantro stems finely and set aside in a pile. Chop the leaves and reserve separately. Heat several spoonfuls of the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, crushed garlic, ginger, and cilantro stems, stir to coat, and cook until everything softens a bit, 5 minutes or so. Grind the saffron with the salt into a powder with a mortar and pestle and add to the pot along with the cinnamon, sweet paprika, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Stir well before adding the chickpeas and lentils. Stir in 4 cups (1 liter) of the water and bring to a simmer.

2. In a separate large bowl, gradually whisk the remaining 2 cups (500 ml) of water into the flour, a splash at a time to avoid lumps. Add the lemon juice, tomatoes with their juice, and most of the remaining cilantro. Stir well, breaking up the tomatoes somewhat. Add this mixture to the soup and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Once at a simmer, cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked through. When you have about 5 minutes left, stir in the marjoram and pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, adjust the seasoning and serve topped with dates, the remaining cilantro, and the reserved celery leaves. Drizzle each portion with some more olive oil and serve.