A Very Retro Thanksgiving Recap


I’m so sorry all… I meant to post this recap on Friday but have been having some technical difficulties.  So please forgive me if turkey is but a memory and you’ve moved on to latkes.

cheese ball hors d'oeuvre

Somewhere between working and traveling and remembering that my roasting pan and gravy boat are still in storage, we had decided to take it easy this year.  And after a few conversations with my parents, where we all agreed that Stovetop Stuffing might just be the most delicious sodium-laden, chemical-laced creation to ever come from box,  ‘easy’ turned into ‘oldschool.’

pillsbury biscuits

The next thing we knew, my mother-in-law was making a jello mold (when was the last time you saw a jello mold?) and my step-dad jumped in with a cheese ball. Now, we’ve discussed my spreadable cheese ball aversion before, when making Auntie Jo’s Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball (check it out here). But I have to admit that his home-made creation wasn’t half bad.  Just some cream cheese, sharp cheddar, Monterrey jack, store-bought chutney, and chopped walnuts. Even better, though, were the pigs in a blanket.  Is there anyone who doesn’t love a pastry-wrapped hot dog? Stick ’em with a frizzle-topped toothpick and they are the height of sophistication. If you’re Bridget Jones’ mother, that is.

jellied sauce and orange sauceCanned jellied cranberry sauce stood proudly next to a delicate citrus cranberry chutney.  (As I’ve said before, multiple cranberry sauce variations are a must). So did sautéed brussels sprouts, and a huge plateful of biscuits (yep, from a can). We even broke out the retro dinnerware.  Platters from my mom’s bridal shower in 1972 held massive amounts of turkey, and my frilly serving apron fit right in.

fresh sprouts

But I can’t get over the jello mold.  What other food could be considered a salad, a side dish, a dessert or even just a decoration?  And, um, it was bright green.  That kinda seals the deal for me. There are a thousand variations on this gelatin/fruit theme (most of them neon) but here are a few to get you started on your way to retro gelatin bliss:

lime jello

CranApple Cheese Mold, Courtesy of the Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn

Grape Jello Mold With Peaches, Courtesy of the Food Librarian

Not Your Grandmother’s Jello Mold, Courtesy of Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Published in: on November 29, 2010 at 7:14 pm  Comments (11)  
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Pomegranate Week Finale: POM Wonderful Dinner Party

pomegranate tea lite

At Rosh Hashanah my dad would take us to the Middle Eastern grocer downtown to buy a pomegranate.  There in the parking lot he’d open the fruit with his pocket knife and we’d eat, red juice dripping from our chins and sticky on our fingers.  My dad would buy one every year because Jewish tradition dictates that pomegranates are a sacred fruit, said to have 613 seeds like the 613 mitzvot in the torah.

dinner party menu

So when the folks at POM Wonderful sent me supplies, I couldn’t wait to have a dinner party.  A themed dinner party of pomegranate-infused reinvented Jewish dishes from around the world.

A party is not a party without a pink drink, right? I already told you all about our beautiful pomegranate vodka (you can check it out here).  With Eastern European inspired hors d’oeuvres what better than vodka? The sweet, cold sharpness cut through the richness of the chopped liver and brought out the tartness of the pomegranate molasses. 

 Crisp dark Russian bread topped with liver, caramelized onions, and pomegranate molasses is exotic and homey all in one bite.  Everyone says that my great-grandfather made the most fantastic chopped liver.  Sadly, I never got to taste it.  And worse, the recipe died with him.  Which is why I don’t feel the least bit guilty about buying it instead of making my own!  I did saute the onion, that counts, right? Anyway, pomegranate molasses is a fantastic ingredient, available in Middle Eastern shops.  But if you can’t find it, you can easily substitute reduced pomegranate juice, just boil until syrupy.  We also munched on potato latkes along with pomegranate ketchup.  Remember that pomegranate ketchup I made last week (check it out here)?  Oh yeah, amazing on latkes! 


Fortified with vodka and latkes, Jeff mixed up another beautifully pink drink.  Pomegranate vodka, champagne and pomegranate juice… so glad I married a bartender!  And after a couple of drinks, I was finally feeling up to making my film debut.  OK, I’m being dramatic, but I am not a fan of seeing myself on video! I am, however, a big fan of pomegranates.  And if you are intimidated by the processes of opening them, or the potential for your kitchen to look like a scene from Texas Chain Saw Massacre, then this video is for you! Seriously, it is easy and mess-free.  So watch the video, and don’t laugh at the apron  – it was a gift from POM Wonderful. 

Of course, I put all of those pomegranates to good use as we moved on to Morocco, Persia and Syria for dinner.  Moroccan lamb meatballs flavored with pomegranate juice and cooked in a gravy of red wine, pomegranate juice and spicy mustard were the hit of the evening, and were even better leftover for lunch the next day! 

Along with the meatballs, the Persian jeweled rice studded with pomegranate arils soaked up the sweet, tart gravy.  And a big bowl of carrots and parsnips tossed with olive oil and Aleppo pepper and roasted until caramelized and brown at the edges added spiciness to the mix. 

Can you believe we actually made it to dessert?  Of course we did.  Dessert is the best part.  Traditional honey cake is dense and dark.  This version is just a bit fluffier, and lightened with sliced apples.  Pomegranate cranberry compote is great with cake, but would also be awesome on your Thanksgiving turkey.  Check out the recipe here.

The cake was good. But the chocolate covered arils? Those were amazing.  Those were the treat I couldn’t stop eating.  And they were so, so easy.  Melt some dark chocolate, and dip pomegranate arils that have been patted dry, and then spread them out on wax paper to harden. That’s it!  The snap of the chocolate followed by the burst of juice makes for a truly unique taste and texture experience.

Moroccan Pomegranate Meatballs

Serves 8

2 lbs ground lamb

3/4 cup chick pea flour

2 eggs

1 cup pomegranate juice, divided

1 tbsp lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup dry red wine

3 tbsp Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together the lamb, chick pea flour, eggs, 1/4 cup juice, zest, oregano, cinnamon, and salt.Form into 2 inch balls and bake in a large greased roasting pan for 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring the remaining juice to a boil and simmer about 5 minutes.  Stir in the red wine and mustard and simmer 5 more minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste and then pour over the meatballs and return to the oven until cooked through, about 10 minutes more.

Persian Jeweled Rice With Pomegranate Arils

Serves 8

2 cups basmati rice

2 tbsp butter

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons cardamom pods

1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pomegranate arils

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the rice for 10 minutes and then drain.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large heavy pot.  Add the spices and stir.  Add half the drained rice, the fruit, and then remaining rice.  With the handle of a wooden spoon make three holes all the way to the bottom of the pot.  Cover and cook on low 35-40 minutes.  Spoon the rice onto a platter, remove the cardamom pods, top with the almonds, and serve.

Published in: on November 18, 2010 at 9:59 pm  Comments (16)  
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Another Pomegranate Week Recipe: Pomegranate Cranberry Compote

cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce has been a serious point of contention in our house for years.  My mom is deeply wedded to the jellied version directly from the can.  As far as she is concerned, if it’s not sickeningly sweet and in the shape of a can, it’s not cranberry sauce.  I like my cranberry sauce sweet, but my opposition to all foods that wiggle prevents me from taking her side in the great cranberry debate.  Jellied cranberry sauce is only one step removed from my dreaded nemesis: raspberry gelatin.  Ick.   My step-dad, on the other hand, is a big fan of cranberry chutney; chunky and spicy and a bit sour. Chutney, compete with caramelized onions, garlic, and raisins, is awesome on grilled cheese as well as turkey dinner.  But my brother, who hates onions in any form, turns his nose up at this chutney.

Which is why, every year, we have at least two, and sometimes three different versions of cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table.

thanksgiving cranberry sauceBut this year will be different.  I think I have finally found the common ground.  Sweet, but not too sweet.  Chunky, onion free, and complex.  This is a cranberry compote to please them all. If you haven’t encountered the combination of cranberry and pomegranate you’re in for a treat.  Not only is the color deep, rich and beautiful on the holiday table, but the taste is succulent and fresh. The pomegranate arils pop in your mouth for an extra layer of texture.

And while certainly lovely in a pretty bowl next to the mashed potatoes and stuffing and pumpkin pie, I’m a big fan of cranberry sauce as an all-purpose condiment.  Particularly this cranberry compote.  Try it mixed with a bit of mayonnaise as a cranberry spread for roast beef sandwiches.  Layer with plain yogurt and sprinkle with granola for a breakfast parfait.  Or serve it with apple honey cake as a fantastic dessert, as I will be doing tomorrow evening at my POM Wonderful dinner party.     

Pomegranate week is almost over!  But I promise to give you all the details on my big dinner party tomorrow, with all the components put together.

Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce 

1 cup pomegranate juice

1 small apple, diced

1 ½ cups fresh cranberries

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup pomegranate seeds (also called arils)

In a large saucepan, heat the pomegranate juice, apple, cranberries, sugar and ginger over medium-low heat. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until thickened and most of the liquid is evaporated.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pomegranate arils.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

pomegranate seeds

Published in: on November 13, 2010 at 3:32 pm  Comments (13)  
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A Pomegranate Week Quickie: POM Ketchup

pomegranate ketchup

I almost didn’t post this recipe.  It’s too easy, too simple.  It has just two ingredients and takes just a few minutes.  But the thing is, it’s good.  It’s really, really good.  It uses up the ketchup in that bottle you’ve had on the fridge door for a year. And I would venture a guess that you haven’t tried it. 

POM ketchup is seriously wonderful stuff.  Add reduced pomegranate juice to ketchup and a miracle occurs.  In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that I actually do not like ketchup.  Not at all.  Not on fries, not on eggs, not on anything.  But I like this recipe very, very much. Sure, you could just spread it on a burger, but here are some more fun suggestions:

-Use POM ketchup to baste grilled chicken, like BBQ sauce

-Mix with mayo and spread it on a turkey and havarti panini for a sweet twist

-Spread over meatloaf and bake uncovered for a caramelized crust

-Spoon onto pizza dough, top with blue cheese and crumbled bacon, and bake until bubbly, top with fresh arugula

-Serve with potato latkes, as I will be doing this weekend at my pomegranate themed dinner party

Oh and one quick word to the wise: use 100% pomegranate juice for this ketchup.  We had an unfortunate experience with some cherry pomegranate juice, and I wouldn’t want such a mishap to turn you off to POM ketchup!

POM Ketchup

1/2 cup 100% pomegranate juice

1/4 cup tomato ketchup

In a small sauce pan heat the pomegranate juice over medium heat.  Simmer the juice until reduced to just 1/8 cup.  Cool 1-2 minutes.  Stir the juice into the ketchup.

Published in: on November 10, 2010 at 8:08 pm  Comments (18)  
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Pomegranate Week Begins: Pomegranate Vodka

pomegranate vodka

Thanks to the folks at POM Wonderful I am swimming in pomegranates!  Next weekend I’m hosting a pomegranate-themed dinner party, so not to worry, these four dozen (yes!  four dozen!) beautiful crimson fruits will get gobbled up.  But since I’m all about relaxed entertaining, the cooking will get done bit by bit all week long.  So welcome to pomegranate week!

pomegranate vodkaAs far as I’m concerned, a good party starts with a great drink. Around here we tend to think of vodka as a blank canvas.  Remember back over the summer when we made martinis with watermelon juice and basil infused vodka? (If not, check out the recipe here) Well, basil isn’t the only thing we’ve stuck in a bottle of vodka – cinnamon sticks, chili peppers, citrus peels, coffee beans.  You name it, we’ve tried it. 

But the bright pink color of this pomegranate vodka makes it by far the most fun of all our creations.  Pomegranate vodka makes an awesome martini and is fantastic with a splash of orange juice. But I’m thinking that come Saturday evening we’ll just be sipping it chilled from tiny little glasses. In any case, it’s also a beautiful holiday gift.  A nice glass bottle, maybe a little ribbon, you get the idea.

pomegranate vodkaDon’t waste your money on pricey vodka for this.  Actually, I’m not one for pricey vodka period.  In grad school I had a marketing professor who used vodka to prove a point. As if her miniskirts and Russian accent weren’t enough, in-class vodka drinking certainly guaranteed attendance among my mostly male classmates.  We did a blind taste test of more than a dozen brands at various price points and among 150 students not one of us could separate the top shelf from the bottom of the barrel.  All of which is to say that cheap vodka plus pomegranate arils makes for a lovely libation. 

Pomegranate Vodka

2 large pomegranates

250 ml Vodka

Seed one of the pomegranates: slice off the ends of the fruit, score the skin in wedges, and over a bowl of water, open the pomegranate and remove the arils (the seeds).  The arils will sink and the pith will float, making them easy to separate.  Combine the arils with the vodka in a bottle.  Let sit 5-7 days, turning upside down every so often.  Strain the vodka, seed the remaining pomegranate, and combine the arils with the strained vodka.  Let sit again for at least 3 days before straining and serving.

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 9:02 pm  Comments (16)  
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Meatball Stuffed Apples

turkey meatbal in a gala apple

Fact: You can’t subsist on sugar alone.

Fact: The most nutritious things you ate yesterday were the peanuts in that fun size snickers.

gala applesIf your weekend was anything like mine, you probably should scrounge up some real food on the double.  These stuffed apples are simple, tasty, forgiving, and even reheat well.  They are hearty enough to counteract all that candy, but not too heavy for a pre-gym meal.  I love them alongside a bowl of pumpkin soup and a green salad, but if you want to make these meatball stuffed apples the star, you might choose to serve two per person.

The folks at Home Market Foods, makers of Cooked Perfect Meatballs, have selected me and my meatball stuffed apple recipe to appear, with nine other finalists, on TV Diner on NECN next week.  So fun!  I’m really excited to see what the other finalists have up their sleeves.  But I have to say, I love these stuffed apples.  The sweet and tangy sauce on the meatballs is just fantastic (in fact, a big batch of these meatballs in sauce makes a great party dish all on its own). But all together, the turkey meatball, cranberry sauce, and apple make for a kind of mini, portable Thanksgiving dish that works all through November.

apple stuffed with turkey meatball

Meatball Stuffed Apples

4 medium-sized apples

4 Cooked Perfect Turkey Meatballs, thawed

1/2 cup canned jellied cranberry sauce

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Sweetened dried cranberries (for garnish, optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop out the stem and core of each apple, making a round space big enough for a meatball.  Leave the bottom of each apple intact. Arrange the apples, standing up, in a baking dish.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly soft, but still sturdy.

While the apples are baking, in a saucepan over medium heat stir together the cranberry sauce, wine and mustard.  Simmer for five minutes, until slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the meatballs to the sauce and toss to coat. Reduce heat to low and cook the meatballs in sauce for five minutes. Remove apples from the oven and sprinkle a bit of cheese into each apple. Add one meatball with a bit of sauce into each apple. Top each apple with remaining cheese. Return the apples to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly, about ten minutes. Sprinkle the meatball stuffed apples with cranberries if desired, and enjoy!

Published in: on November 1, 2010 at 5:26 am  Comments (27)  
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