A Flavorful Metamorphosis

CookbooksEvery now and then I get the question “who is your favorite chef?” As of today, I would have to say one of my favorites is Yotam Ottolenghi. His insatiable curiosity for reinventing the traditional brings new vibrancy to seemingly banal ingredients. So while the internet has attenuated the need for physical cookbooks, three of the handful I own physical copies for are his. His recipes are also elaborate, and thus relegated to “special occasion” projects. The result is almost always the same: colorful, packed with flavor and a truly unique experience. The two recipes in this post – Pistachio and Pine Nut-Crusted Sea Bass with Wild Arugula and Parsley Vichyssoise and Caramelized Fennel Bulbs With Goat Cheese – are from the cookbooks Nopi and Plenty, respectively.

FennelGoatCheeseSome fun fennel facts (say that 5 times fast): fennel is a part of the carrot family, can grow up to 8-feet tall (2.5-meters) and has the same flavor compound as licorice – though the two are unrelated. This affinity means it’s a bit of an acquired taste, but this recipe may sway even the staunchest of naysayers. I’d been eager to try another dish from Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and came across this one. The goat cheese, caramelization and fresh dill bring a wholly new character to the vegetable; and make for a delectable side to any meal. Click HERE to see the recipe for this flavorful dish. 

Vichyssoise1The origins of vichyssoise are unknown, though the French claim seems to have more weight than the American one (albeit perpetuated by another culinary icon of mine, Julia Child). Regardless, the recipe is a summer icon: as it’s traditionally served cold. This particular vichyssoise was a nice upgrade – where traditional vichyssoise is a creamy ivory that is served cold, this was a vibrant emerald and served warm. The medley of greens also lent a nutritional punch to the dish. The trick to getting this recipe right is to buy really fresh greens, and to cook them just long enough so they retain their color.

NutCrust1The nut crust is the “crown jewel” of the dish – and fairly easy to make. You can use almost any medley of nuts, but the pine nut / pistachio combination is quite delicious. What’s even better is you can make the nut crust the day before (in fact, you can prepare this whole recipe in advance, with the exception of the fish). The original recipe calls for halibut, but our local market had a good sale for Chilean sea bass. In case neither is available, any flaky white fish will do the trick. You can bake or broil the fish, whichever works best based on your oven. Click HERE to see the recipe for this beautiful main course.

Fish1As I mentioned at the start of this post, Ottolenghi is a chef who brings new life to traditional foods. So for the musical pairing, I wanted to find a composer who followed a similar style. In the art world, one movement that captures this is Neoclassicism: effectively a wave of works that drew inspiration from the arts of classical antiquity. In classical music, there are a slew of composers who fall within this category. One of my favorites is Paul Hindemith. Born at the turn of the 20th century, Hindemith viewed his writing as “utility music” (or Gebrauchsmusik). This style was considered to be a reaction against the complexity and difficulty of 19th- to 20th-century music, and Hindemith took pride in composing works for the “everyday” amateur. Perhaps his most famous composition is Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, which premiered in 1944. Seven years prior, Hindemith and his wife had fled Berlin with the rise of the Third Reich, first taking refuge in Switzerland and then moving to the United States. It was here that he was approached by the choreographer Leonid Massine. Massine wanted to collaborate with Hindemith on a ballet that leveraged themes by Weber. The partnership ultimately fell through, but the music endured and was premiered on its own as Metamorphosis. The below recording (Movt I – Allegro) features the New York Philharmonic with Alan Gilbert. Enjoy!

To hear the whole piece, here are the links for Movements II, III and IV respectively.

Sources Cited:

 

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It’s Gravy, Baby

DSC_0449I have to say, the Pacific NW won me over this summer. Surrounded by mountainous vistas and cerulean waters, it’s a paradise for those who love the outdoors. Now that I’m back on the East Coast, I’ve been reminiscing about my travels over the last three months. Tom and I visited a lot of really cool places, and one of those getaways included a weekend stay on Hat Island. The above was the view just outside the house we stayed in – sipping hot coffee in hoodies and slippers while watching the sun rise – courtesy of some wonderful friends. It was a quick but memorable weekend, and we indulged in some fantastic dinners while there. Tom and I treated the group to a big Italian meal: a basic arugula salad and heaping plates of Sunday Gravy (basically extreme spaghetti and meatballs).

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Hat Island is a very unique place. Housing more than 200 families (permanently or as a vacation stay), it is a private island that’s just over 1-mile in length and overrun with bunnies. Tom’s good high school friends’ have a property there, and they generously invited us for a two-day getaway from Seattle. One of the great things about cooking at a summer house is consistent access to natural light. As Serious Eats points out, “a shady spot on a sunny day is the holy grail of natural lighting conditions” (when it comes to food photography). I’m no professional, but photos with natural light versus those without are like night and day…pun intended! The below photo, of a basic arugula salad with fruits and goat cheese and walnuts, shows just that.

ArugulaSaladSo, about that gravy: one of our favorite TV shows is The Sopranos. Many believe this series launched the genre of quality storytelling outside of the movie theater (read: paved the way for GoT). Whether you’ve seen the show or not, its cultural impact still resonates today. Those who watched it finally understand that spaghetti sauce should actually be called gravy…when done the Italian way. This recipe takes hours to make, and is sourced from The Sopranos Family Cookbook: “written” by Artie Bucco (the chef of the show’s Vesuvio restaurant). The book stays in character, voicing the opinions and anecdotes of our favorite cast members. Despite the tongue-in-cheek writing, the recipes are genuine, having been written by actual chef Michele Scicolone. The easy-to-follow instructions result in some fantastic dinners.

SundayGravy_1The recipe can be adjusted up or down to yield your desired serving size. I’d say my two key pieces of advice for this recipe are 1) don’t sacrifice on time – be prepared to invest an afternoon in making this – and 2) don’t go crazy with side dishes, since this is a filling main course. If you do make way too much food, however, the leftovers are still pretty great. We served ours with whole wheat spaghetti, but you can choose any noodle. Take some inspiration from The Sopranos’ Paulie: “Can I just get some macaroni and gravy?!” Click HERE to see the recipe for this mouthwatering classic. 

SundayGravy_2Like I said, a small serving of this goes a long way – thanks to the rich and filling gravy. For the musical pairing, I was looking for two key qualities. The first being a piece that exudes depth in a “serving size” length, and the second being a musical excerpt that was featured on the show The Sopranos: in homage to the cookbook. Fortunately, there was an aria that fit the bill: “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta” from Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Rondine. The aria is short, but – like any great Puccini aria – takes your breath away with a few stanzas. Yet the work is a deviation from Puccini’s canon, as it is essentially an “operetta”: a compositional style more akin to musicals than classical opera. Puccini initially eschewed the form, claiming “An operetta is something I will never do.” Yet geopolitical circumstances (WWI) led to a loyalty contract which ultimately resulted in the premiere of La Rondine: which by the way is Italian for “the swallow.” As for The Sopranos, the aria appears twice in the series: once in the pilot episode, and then again in the finale of Season 5. In both instances, Tony Soprano (our protagonist) comes to understand his own mortality – and how trivial daily annoyances can be. My opera geek friends may see the irony in a (real life) soprano narrating a (fictional) Soprano’s brush with death…the following recording is the same that was used in the show, featuring the singer Luba Orgonasova. Enjoy!

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Opus M.B.A

18527267_625593649807_4939594507671330445_oAfter 2 roller coaster years, I now have an M.B.A. from the NYU Stern School of Business. It feels a bit like a 180, since I assumed a flute performance degree would be my first and final tryst with higher education. Sitting here today, however, the transition from music to marketing feels perfectly organic. My two alma-maters, NEC and NYU, have given me more opportunities than I can count: and they complemented one another in surprising ways. The “return on investment” (we M.B.A’s can’t get enough of this phrase) from NYU includes a better understanding of strategic planning, five trips around the globe, ample space to exercise leadership skills, and a wealth of talented and generous friends. What comes next will be a combination of the exciting and the unknown, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. Not surprisingly, this 2-year degree pushed me to neglect this blog  – so now that I have some room to breathe, I am finally back to sharing some of my favorite recipes and music. And to show my renewed commitment, I’ll be sharing four delicious features:

Apple-Raspberry Crisp with Pecan Crunch Topping
Cole Slaw with Gorgonzola
Smoky Oven-Roasted Spareribs
Sour Cream Cornbread

Cornbread_1Let’s start with the cornbread: any Southern chef will insist that cast iron and cornbread and inseparable concepts…except when you don’t have one, in which case glass pans are an OK substitute. It worked for us, and was still enjoyed by all our guests (most of whom were Southern). The original recipe calls for a spice that is impossible to find in your local Kroger or Safeway, known as Aleppo. And while nutmeg is a suggested replacement, we just went ahead without – and served the bread warm with lots of butter. Click HERE for the recipe of this baked golden delight.
Cole Slaw_1This coleslaw was awesome; like “we ate this for days after” kind of awesome. The original recipe called for Blue cheese, but we bought a tub of Gorgonzola that was on sale. (Thank you grocery gods for introducing us to this better option). We made the coleslaw the day prior, and it’s fairly simple to throw together. Feel free to adjust the dressing to your taste. Click HERE to see the recipe of this easy-to-make side.
SpicesAnd now, les ribs. The spice rub is a medley of things that all look great on paper: paprika, different peppers, cumin, salt, and…mace. (It claims that nutmeg can replace this, but we were super curious to discover what mace would taste like). The recipe makes about 2 cups worth, which is plenty for this recipe and then some. The taste is oddly similar to Old Bay Seasoning: so if you’re not a fan, I’d recommend sticking with good ol’ fashioned BBQ sauce. Fun fact about Old Bay: it is nearly 80 years old, and is believed to have been a clever way crab restauranteurs would push patrons to purchase more beverages (due to its extra “salty” factor).
Ribs_2The ribs themselves were roasted in an oven, for 6 wonderful hours at the lowest possible heat. While cooking these on a grill is an option, the oven provides a lower maintenance one that still yields fantastic results. We coated the three racks with the rub, wrapped them tightly in aluminum foil, and then didn’t open the oven door once during the 6-hour haul. The result was fall-off-the-bone ribs with a smoky aroma. How tender, you ask? My stepdad carved these with a butter knife. Click HERE to see the recipe for these irresistible ribs. 
BerryAnd finally, the dessert: a simple crumble that had all of the things we love about summer: fruit, butter and ice cream. The recipe is simple, and can be assembled the night before – we plopped the crumble into the oven before the guests arrived, and warmed it back up for ~15 minutes at the end of dinner for serving. You can use any combination of fruits in this crumble, just know that some may take a bit longer to cook than others (great example: rhubarb). Click HERE to see the recipe for this colorful treat.
Berry_1It has been so long since I have paired a piece of classical music with a meal, that I had to invest considerable energy into this final section. So much so that I started drafting this blog over 1 month ago. And then the piece that came to mind was so simple and perfect: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor. It is arguably one of the world’s most famous symphonies, and thus feels like the perfect inflection from my musical roots to a marketing future.

Beethoven began working on the 5th symphony at the age of 33. It would take him 4 years to finish, in the midst of what many consider Beethoven-Mähler_1804_hiresto be the most fruitful period of his career. However, Beethoven was also battling the deterioration of his hearing faculties – a development for which he proclaimed “[I must] seize Fate by the throat; it shall not bend or crush me completely.” One of the main characters of this symphony is Fate herself, persistently “knocking” at the door with the ever-recognizable motif (“Da-da-da-dom”), as the symphony opens in an ominous C-minor. Yet Fate is held at bay, with the symphony closing in a triumphant C-Major. This structure, of man versus fate, lent itself to many a narrative, bringing the work and Beethoven to great celebrity over the years. As an example: the piece was used to dramatic effect at the end of World War II to symbolize victory for the allies. And Disney further commemorated the work in the feature film Fantasia 2000.

This is perhaps a bit of a cheesy pairing, but the symphony’s resonance beyond classical circles suggests it is an apt one as I start this new chapter in business. The following performance is with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, led by Leonard Bernstein. Enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Old Bay Seasoning.” Wikipedia.
“Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67”. NPR.

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A Tale of Turkey, Butter and Memories

thanksgivingdinner16Thanksgiving – a term that connotes joy and family to most, yet strikes fear into the hearts of every turkey in this country. And for good reason, considering Thanksgiving is the one holiday where we are willing to eat more of this particular meat than deemed humanly possible. Take my Thanksgiving, for instance. It was just Tom and me this year, and we still baked a monster of a bird (weighing in at 14 lbs) plus an absurdity of sides as though two people could conquer such a thing. One lost turkey, a neighborhood-wide power outage, 2 sticks of butter, and loads of Ziploc bags/Tupperware later – we did. I imagine that last sentence really confused (or intrigued) you, so here are the details of our Thanksgiving Feast: 2016 Edition. I will be featuring three recipes in this post:

(Also pictured: classic stuffing with pecans, corn muffins, and chocolate truffles). 

glazedturkey2Let’s start with the bird – I normally go nuts with brining, but this year we had a little hiccup known as Safeway. Our bird was accidentally sold to another client (or it ran off to Disney World to join its pardoned brethren) so our original plan to cook a 9-pound turkey was replaced with a plan to hastily find another one. Our search yielded a heavier bird, and, given its size, I simply salted the meat and refrigerated the bird in an uncovered roasting pan. The success of this simply trick guaranteed that I will never undertake a complicated brine again (I can almost hear my mom breathing a sigh of relief).
glazedturkey3I also glazed this bird, but since we had limited in tools (aka no brush) our turkey took on a bit of a tiger appearance – and Tom will tell you I had a 10-minute stress session as to whether I should even blog about it. But it was love at first bite. The skin was perfectly crispy, the meat itself was ridiculously flavorful, and the glaze’s remnant made one of the most delicious gravies I had have ever created. So our tiger bird just happened to be one of the best turkeys I have ever made. I kind of credit the power outage and runaway Safeway turkey for this one, but also know to give the recipe credit where it is due. You can find my modified version at THIS LINK.
mimosasAbout that power outage: which is why our corn muffins were so delayed. The turkey was sitting out, coming to “room temperature”, and the power cut out. We were also watching Episode 8 of West World – my newest obsession – and it cut out on a terrible cliffhanger (I can hardly describe the angst that followed). So anyways, it is in moments like these that Twitter becomes extremely useful. After a few hours and a tweet to the nice fella manning the SEA City Light account, the power came back on and we were good to go. It was during this brief respite that Tom and I also enjoyed some mimosas (Instagram post above…I don’t have any other photos from the outage since it was super dark inside of the apartment).
baconsproutsSo let’s talk about those brussels sprouts – they are fairly self-explanatory as the photo suggests. I said to Tom, “Let’s make these with bacon” and he heartily added “with blue cheese too!!” It was a healthy day. One of our secrets to great sprouts is roasting at high heat until crispy and cooked through. I can guarantee this will cure any aversion you have to the veggie, as roasting gives them a slightly nutty and almost sweet taste. But if you really want to kick it up a notch, follow our lead and toss them with blue cheese and bacon. You can find our recipe for these delicious veggies at THIS LINK.
roastedgarlicAnd finally – the Vegetable Mash. This might sound basic (not to be confused with #basic) but it is far from it – thanks to the addition of roasted garlic: the holy grail of mashed anything. The recipe itself is quite simple: the sweet potatoes and carrots are roasted, then puréed with salt, pepper, butter, thyme and roasted garlic. You can find the recipe for this lovely side at THIS LINK
rootsmashSo I wrote this blog with a taste of humor quite intentionally, considering current events – the past two months have been…rough, to put it lightly. And so we turn to the things we know and love: food, family, and humor. But perhaps what we should be discussing more is history, and looking to the wisdom of its lessons. After all, Thanksgiving itself is a bit of a history lesson: and, while it is not the most civil one, it reminds us of a time that we came together. What makes America great is not its ships or our flag or financial prosperity – it is the people who color the threads of this country’s rich, cultural tapestry.

So for my musical pairing, I chose a piece that commemorates the beauty of America: Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95: “From the New World.” While this was written by an Austrian, the piece itself celebrates the history and roots of the American culture, with spirituals and themes peppered throughout. Dvořák wrote the symphony during his brief sojourn in New York, and it has since become one of the hallmarks of the orchestral repertoire. The piece was premiered in December of 1893 at Carnegie Hall. The below video features the New York Philharmonic performing the piece – enjoy!

 

Celebrating a Milestone (in D Major)

Thai Pork_1After a crazy 11 months of nonstop action and studying, my first year as an MBA student is officially done! It was an extraordinary year, and I’ve learned a great deal about both business and myself. I’ll be starting my internship at Colgate-Palmolive very soon, but in the meantime thought I could catch up on blogging about my culinary adventures in my little corner of Brooklyn. Tom and I have been cooking a great deal, but between term papers and B-school life I was hard pressed to find the energy for taking photos. We decided celebrate the end of finals by cooking Pork Tenderloin with Thai Spices and Peanut Sauce.
Thai Pork_3Thanks to some Thai classics such as lemongrass, ginger and lime, the chicken could have stood on its own. The marinade is essentially a puree of aromatics that then translates to a beautiful coating in the final product. The original recipe calls for skewers (to make an actual “satay”) but I just thinly sliced the pork and arranged them on a baking tray – for ease of a quick weeknight meal. I imagine chicken could be an apt substitute, but I highly recommend the tenderloin.
Thai Pork_9Add in the rich peanut sauce and cucumber relish, and you’ve got yourself an incredible meal. The peanut sauce was perhaps my favorite. The coconut milk and sesame pair beautifully with the chicken, and the texture can be adjusted to taste (smooth like butter, or a rougher blend for added crunch). The salsa, while simple, was a phenomenal addition. I cut back the sugar in both the peanut sauce and the salsa, but you are welcome to add more (or less!) to taste. I made the sauce the night before, which definitely enhanced the flavors, and the cucumber salsa while the pork was cooking. Overall, this was a fantastic meal and one that we’ll be making again. Click HERE for this fantastic recipe!
Thai Pork_7In considering a pairing for this piece, I wanted something that recognized the richness of this dish while also celebrating my first year as an MBA student. This led me to arguably one of my favorite symphonies, Sibelius Symphony No. 2 in D. Written in 1902, this work is a tour de force, with Sibelius himself claiming it to be “a confession of the soul.” The symphony has personal resonance for me, as it was one of the last symphonies I performed before the start of my undergraduate degree at the New England Conservatory in Boston. And (as you will see) it leaves quite the impression – the finale particularly. Sibelius’s own words frame the symphony’s inspiration:

“Music is for me like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.”

As was standard for works of the time, the symphony consists of 4 movements. However, its architecture was audacious – defying the norms of the “sonata-like” form that so many composers had followed before. That being said, the turn of the century was ushering in a new era of symphonies, with composers such as Mahler and Wagner having disrupted the scene decades prior. Yet what made this symphony unique was its ability to capture the hearts of audiences from the outset. The pastoral opening flows through a series of personalities, taking the listener on an impassioned journey of climactic highs and dulcet lows. In a word, this piece is eternal – having stood the test of time. The following video features Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic, performing the symphony in its entirety – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Symphony No. 2 (Sibelius).” Wikipedia.com
Sibelius Quote: Jean Sibelius, quoted by Jalmari Finne to Anna Sarlin, 28th June 1905. Goodreads.com

Welcoming a New Day

Lamb Stuffed Peppers 6It is officially SPRING! After the winter we’ve endured (looking at you, Boston) it’s about time we were able to see the sidewalks again. While this miserable weather was partially to blame for my extended hiatus from blogging, I’ve been mostly getting ready for a “new chapter” in my life: New York City! I started this blog back in 2011 to share my music and food with friends and loved ones, and my love of Boston can be read between every line. Now I’m taking ClassicalKitchen to a new town. Though I will likely be posting less frequently, know that I’ll still be cooking up a storm (in what is likely to be a closet-sized kitchen). To celebrate the onset of warmer days and this exciting/crazy news, I want to share these delicious Lamb Stuffed Peppers.
Lamb Stuffed Peppers 4Bell peppers are nature’s edible bowls. Fun fact: the fruit was named “pepper” by none other than Christopher Columbus, who brought the plant back to Europe following his expedition to “the new world”. Though this variety is sweet and mild, it is related to the spicier chilies we know and love (such as jalapeños and habañeros) as a member of the Capsicum genus. In fact, the bell pepper is the ONLY one of this genus that does not produce capsaicin, which is the chemical that creates a “burning” sensation in the spicier varieties. SO long story short, Columbus named these fruits “peppers” because they were spicy like peppercorns, which was a popular (and expensive) spice at the time in Europe. God I love history…
Mediterranean Filling 2This is one of Tom’s specialties. We’ve made these peppers on several occasions, and often switch up the fillings. However, we often vie for a Mediterranean mix of olives, anchovies, basil, capers, sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, and artichokes. We quite literally “pack” these peppers with as much flavor as possible. You can also use any meat, or even make it vegetarian…though I don’t think I could ever convince Tom to go for the latter. Click HERE to learn how to make these beautiful peppers.
Lamb Stuffed Peppers 2Spring is a very coy season – you’re never really sure if it’s here to stay, until the forecast shows nothing but sun for more than a week (at least). It certainly took its sweet time this season, but it seems as though it is finally here – in thinking of a work that could illustrate the onset of springtime, I came across Boccherini’s Cello Concerto in B-flat No. 9, G 842. The opening Boston Springmovement resounds with majesty, and each subsequent movement seems to drift between the joy of what’s to come and a wistfulness over what had been. I may be stretching this to fit my “spring is ahead, winter is behind us” outlook, but the spirit of the concerto still fits quite well with a “springtime” spirit. Written around the year 1770, the work as it appear today is known to have been dramatically altered by Friedrich Grützmacher – a virtuosic cellist who lived nearly a century later than Boccherini. Grützmacher made extensive cuts, incorporated passages from previous Boccherini concertos, and even ventured to write his own cadenzas. The work thus presents only vestiges of the original manuscript, and yet stands as one of Boccherini’s most popular works. The recording below features the magnificent Jacqueline du Pré – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Chili Pepper,” Wikipedia.com
“Cello Concerto No. 9 (Boccherini),” Wikipedia.com

An Extravagant Feast

Thanksgiving 1Tis the season to spend time with loved ones while eating lots of food! It’s also the time of year that I find it extremely difficult to keep up with my blog, between holiday parties and travel. Thanksgiving is always a big project…but it’s also one of my favorites to blog since the memories and recipes are worth cherishing. I flew down to Atlanta for the second year in a row to celebrate Thanksgiving with my mother’s side of the family, my sister Sarah and her boyfriend, and my boyfriend Tom.
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Aside from being way warmer than Boston, the trip was filled with lots of family moments and holiday cheer. While I spearheaded most of the cooking, my sister made a ton of food (two of her recipes are featured below) and the rest of the family helped out with odds and ends: peeling potatoes, lifting heavy pans, etc. When planning something for a party of 12, there is often the fear that there won’t be enough food. In my world, this translates into overcompensating and creating way more food than is actually necessary. See the below photo…
Thanksgiving 2The main meal turned out really well, and there was plenty of food to spare. Since it was such a sizable spread, I decided to highlight a few of my personal favorites for this post:

Sweet Potato Rounds with Pecans and Goat Cheese
Cool, Creamy, Cheesy Corn Dip
– Roasted Turkey, prepared with a Citrus and Peppercorn Dry Brine
Baked Ham with Brown Sugar-Whiskey Glaze
Arugula Salad with Roasted Squash and Pomegranate Ginger Vinaigrette
Pumpkin Pie with Buttermilk Crust and Candied Pecans

Sweet Potato RoundsTo start, we had several great appetizers to keep people occupied while the turkey and ham were finishing up. The above appetizer was courtesy of Smitten Kitchen (one of my favorite blogs) – it is healthy, picturesque, and delicious. Tom made the topping, and changed the recipe by doubling the pecans and parsley and omitting the celery altogether. It was a hit. Those who know me know that I’m a bit of a sweet potato addict…so I polished off quite a few of these in between my cooking bouts.
Cheese Dip 2The next starter was my sister’s contribution, a cheesy corn dip. It’s one of those appetizers that you have no idea what it’s going to taste like until you try it. Sarah insisted on making it, and I’m happy she did – that bowl of tortilla chips had to be refilled at least twice, which is why this is a recipe worth sharing. It will probably be something I add to my hosting repertoire, and would be perfect for a Superbowl spread.
Citrus Turkey Brine 1Now let’s talk about the turkey: this is the second time I’ve prepared the bird using a dry brine, and I’ve come to believe that it yields a better result than a wet brine. While both produce a tender meat, a dry brine guarantees a deeper flavor, and the meat’s texture will be juicy instead of “watery”. Every family has a different method, and it really comes down to preferred tastes and comfort with preparation. It’s a tough bird to cook, especially considering most people get one shot at making it per year.
Citrus Turkey 2Thankfully my family is an easy crowd, and they all loved it. The preparation and roasting was fairly similar to what I’ve done in past years (Check out my first, second, and third turkey attempts), and I can always rely on my trusty All-Clad roaster. There are two things things I did differently that are worth mentioning: first, I tented the bird for most of the cooking process, and second I flipped it with the backbone facing up so the juices would keep the breast meat from drying out. It’s not as elegant a presentation as the traditional, but it did the trick!
Honey-Baked HamBack to the overcompensation bit, we decided to throw in a ham for some extra protein – it was my sister’s recipe, and she’s got this down to a science. Ham, similar to turkey, is a meat that’s typically served only during the holidays. Granted, people enjoy ham sandwiches or breakfast slices any time…but an entire ham is a rare thing to see. The glaze was fantastic, and kept the meat perfectly moist. Overall, it’s a wonderful complement to a Thanksgiving spread (and made for amazing leftovers!)
Pomegranate SaladThe salad was the “wild card” on the menu. The original recipe has you whisk together all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette…but I decided to emulsify the dressing with a hand blender instead. The result looked somewhat like Pepto Bismol but the flavor profile was (of course) far from it: it was fruity and bright with a bit of an edge (thanks to the ginger). Tossed with the roasted squash, peppery arugula, sparkling pomegranates, crunchy almonds, this salad and vinaigrette make for one hell of a side dish.
Pumpkin Pie 1The pie was a bit of an experiment. While the filling was fairly straightforward, the crust itself used buttermilk. The result was a flaky crust with a slight tang, but also a profound buttery taste. The filling was creamy and filled with spices. In an effort to add a decorative flair, I made some candied pecans for garnish – I couldn’t help but notice my relatives picking the pecans off of the uneaten pie…which means it was worth the extra effort. Overall, it was a truly memorable Thanksgiving, and I feel both thankful and fortunate to have such an awesome family.
Pumpkin Pie 2Given my love for cooking (and fear of having too little to eat!) every Thanksgiving feels like a banquet – the food is plentiful, the wine is flowing, and the laughter is endless. In describing the meal to my coworker Emilio, he suggested I turn to the 15th century for my musical inspiration, and to look at the Feast of Pheasant: a banquet hosted by Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy in 1454, renowned for its excessive luxury. It’s sole purpose was both to celebrate and officiate an anticipated crusade against the Turks to regain sovereignty of Constantinople.
1280px-'Le_voeu_du_faisan'_Rijksmuseum_SK-A-4212The extravagant feast included a tradition practiced across Medieval France called the voeux du faisan, where nobles would take oaths upon a living bird – in this case, it was a pheasant. Aside from these formalities, the guests was lavished with food, wine, minstrels, theater, and live music…Guillaume Dufay, a highly renowned composer of the French Renaissance, was one of many invited to write original works for the celebration. While chronicles of the actual musical program are vague, there are three works commonly believed to have been included: Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (“Lament of the Holy Mother Church of Constantinople“), Alma redemptoris Mater (“Loving Mother of the Redeemer”), and Je ne vis oncques la pareille (“I Have Never Seen the Equal”)…though some ascribe this last work to Dufay’s contemporary, Gilles Binchois. While discrepancies are present, for the sake of this post I will stand by the assertion that these are all connected to Dufay. To give a sense of what the music was like for such a feast, I thought I would showcase all three of the pieces. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!!!


Sources Cited:
“Feast of the Pheasant,” Wikipedia.org
Douglass, David. “The Newberry Consort’s performance of ‘The Feast of the Oath of the Pheasant'”, The Newberry. February 2, 2014

South of the Orient: Part VI

Dhansak 4What a crazy, wonderful, insane summer it’s been! I visited Canada for the first time, went backpacking through the White Mountains, cycled who knows how many miles, and cooked a ridiculous amount of food…which I’ve been terribly remiss in sharing on this blog. Blame the summer weather, but I’ve hardly had a moment to compose (much less edit) photos and text. I’ve documented a TON of creations over the summer, filing them away with a goal of having them posted at some point in the future…so I’m finally back at it with Lamb Dhansak in continuation of the South of the Orient Series, featuring my boyfriend’s amazing recipes (influenced by his travels in Southeast Asia).
Dhansak 2Dhansak is of Parsi origin, with influences from both Persian and Gujarati cuisine. The name itself is from the state of Gujarat (in west India), where dhan stands for “grain” and sak for “stewed vegetables”. The dish has a place in Parsi tradition, often served in honor of a loved one’s passing. Parsi households will abstain from eating meat for three whole days following the death of a family member. On the fourth day, this “fast” is commonly ended with a meal of dhansak. Traditionally made with goat or mutton, Parsi households will often modify the ingredients to merit the dish’s enjoyment year-round.
Dhansak 3This dish was intense – lots of flavor, tons of ingredients, and hearty to boot. You can omit the lamb if you’re seeking a vegan-friendly option, just be sure to use another filler in its stead. My favorite part of the recipe is the use of roasted vegetables. It’s a first (for me) in Indian cuisine, and works extremely well in the setting. Spinach adds a shock of color, while the spices and lentils imbue the entire dish with a golden hue. Aside from being absolutely delicious, it is chock-full of nutrients and makes for great leftovers. Click HERE to see the recipe!
Dhansak 1While Dhansak is far from having ominous implications in the Parsi culture, it is rarely served around or during felicitous occasions. It thus seems appropriate to draw a connection to its tradition for the musical pairing. Death can be a powerful force in any context, to which classical music can lend a responsive and passionate voice. From Mozart’s Requiem to Barber’s Adagio for Strings, music often expresses that which words cannot. The emotional intensity provides an unspoken solace and understanding to the bereaved, whether or not the work was written with said intention. Such music is a reminder of life’s wonders and inexhaustible beauty.

An example is the nine suites of the Bachianas Brasileiras, by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Written between 1930 and 1945, the suites are a beautiful fusion of Brazilian folk music with the contrapuntal and harmonic structures of the Baroque style. Villa-Lobos had a profound respect for Bach, and sought to pay homage to the composer through these suites. Two movements from the collection (in my opinion) present a remarkable degree of emotional depth, coalescent in their beautiful yet tragic milieu. The first is the “Prelùdio” of Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1. The below rendition, from the 2008 Verbier Festival, was performed in memoriam of the renowned cellist Mstislav Rostroprovich. The suite is scored for an orchestra of cellos, which is absolutely stunning:

The second is the “Aria (Cantilena)” from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 – the first time I heard this piece, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Similar to the first, this suite is scored for an orchestra of cellos, with the addition of soprano solo. The below recording features Kiri te Kanawa, Lynn Harrel, and Cello Ensemble:

Both pieces are absolutely breathtaking – I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sources Cited:
“Dhansak,” Wikipedia.com
“Dhansak,” My Indian Food
“Bachianas Brasileiras,” Wikipedia.com

Sugar and Spice

Cardamom Cheesecake 4Have I ever told you that cheesecake is my favorite dessert? There’s something about the creamy texture that I simply cannot turn down. And there are so many possible flavors! Chocolate, vanilla bean, triple berry – the list goes one. The dessert itself is unique, presenting a irresistible fusion of sugary and tart tastes. I  recently made what was possibly the BEST cheesecake recipe I’ve ever come across. My boyfriend and I were visiting his parents for dinner a few weeks back. He prepared a ridiculous meal of Indian specialties, which was loaded with ambrosial ingredients and potent spices. I was tasked with creating a complementary dessert, and this unique Cardamom and Saffron Cheesecake was the result. Cardamom Cheesecake 3 I like to consider cheesecake to be one of my “specialties,” and have developed a series of tricks over the years to create perfect results. I only recently discovered that cheesecake filling prepared in a food processor yields an unbeatable texture that is both smooth and fluffy. Stand or hand mixers can sometimes result in an inconsistent batter with chunks of cream cheese – the processor whips everything with precision, and creates a silky smooth filling that pours beautifully into your prepared pan. The original recipe is a Simply Recipes original…who to this day is one of my most trusted bloggers. This cake on its own is highly recommended, but the incorporation of cardamom and saffron sent this recipe over the top. These savory elements paired beautifully with the dessert’s sweeter side, adding a notable depth and character to this otherwise straightforward recipe.
Cardamom Cheesecake 2What I love about most cheesecake is the ability to make it days in advance, giving those of us with full-time schedules some peace of mind. On the day of, I topped the cheesecake with a layer of lightly sweetened mascarpone and garnished with crushed pistachios (unsalted). The result was an all-around awesome cheesecake: the irresistibly creamy texture, undeniably great flavor, and a gorgeous appearance. The meal had been a fairly spicy one (Tom likes food with a kick…heh) so this was the perfect balance. I guarantee that this will be a crowd-pleaser, for pretty much everyone at your dinner table: click HERE to make this lovely dessert.
Cardamom Cheesecake 1While cardamom and saffron are staples in savory recipes, they rarely play a role in sweeter ones – yet the combination works beautifully in this cheesecake. For the musical pairing, I wanted to complement both the uncommon while also paying homage to the East Asian spices of this dish. That led me to British composer Jonathan Harvey: a contemporary English composer and musicologist whose style explores the more subtle connections between spirituality and music. In Harvey’s case, Buddhism was the inspiration for his both his music and philosophies. The following comes from Harvey’s 2010 essay Buddhism and the Undecidability of Music:

“Music is in some sense a picture of wisdom. It is even an explanation, in that it shows rather more clearly than words can so, [the] will-o’-the-wisp quality of reality. Music shows us how mind works.”

This mindfulness can be found in Harvey’s work …towards a Pure Land: a work for full orchestra that portrays the journey that one must take to reach a state beyond suffering (or dukkha in buddhism). The understanding and cessation of dukkha is an extremely important element of Buddhist practice. The music vacillates between energetic highs and a breezy calm, with a flurry of emotions in between. The end of the piece finally brings the listener to that state of mind beyond suffering, which speaks to Harvey’s belief that music can and does provide insight to the human conscience.

Sources Cited:
Service, Tom. “Music and the Mind,” The Guardian. June 2010.
Buddhism, Wikipedia.com