Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Homemade pumpkin pie!

 Thanksgiving: my favorite holiday

In my invitation, this is how I described Thanksgiving to my Israeli friends:

For those not especially familiar, Thanksgiving is a secular American holiday celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November.  We take a moment out of our lives and give thanks for all we have – and eat massive amounts of American food (hope you like green bean casserole and pumpkin-marshmallow bake).  In theory, we mark the date of the “first Thanksgiving” the Pilgrims shared with the Indians in Massachusetts in 1621 after having survived the first difficult year in the New World.  For a good overview of the history of Thanksgiving see: http://history1900s.about.com/od/1930s/a/thanksgiving.htm.  It’s like Passover, but for everyone and anyone.  I think it should be an international holiday.

They don’t quite get it, but it’s still important for me to do.  As for the meal, I never cease to be amazed at how disgusted everyday Israelis are of pumpkin pie.  I basically made a quintuple recipe – two double-stuff pies (one pictured above) and 2 dozen pie-cupcakes.  Three-quarters of one pie got eaten, along with a small handful of mini-pies.  Half of our twenty or so guests were American, so you can see how little and unadventurous the palates were.  The apple pie went over a bit better – the prettiest apple pie I’ve ever made, actually – and most people don’t seem to know it’s easy to make.  Well, almost all pies are easy, depending on the filling.  Just mix up whatever you want to cook and pour into the crust.  Apple pie, being made entirely of apple, is usually just made up of apple slices, a bit of sugar, and cinnamon.  Pumpkin pie, so easy to make in the US with canned pumpkin, is infinitely more difficult when you have to go out and buy your own pumpkin, core it, cut off the rind, boil large chunks, and then press and blend the cooked meat – all before mixing in the actual pie ingredients.  I will use the word homemade here quite frequently, because it truly was – nothing canned.

Surprisingly enough, my homemade sweet potato marshmallow casserole was a big hit, although they did not understand why it wasn’t in the dessert category.  I suppose nobody can say no to a dish covered in marshmallows.  The child in us all simply jumps out of our skins.  My family’s recipe calls for the sweet potato mash to be mixed with a large can of pineapple chunks (syrup removed first) and sprinkled heavily with cinnamon, before being topped by our preservative-packed confection.

The turkey was divine!  Again, Israelis are stunned and impressed at the buying and cooking of a whole turkey.  Now, Israelis, you must understand, eat a lot of turkey.  More than most countries.  But the form it takes is almost exclusively in cold cuts and schwarma, if you can believe it.  Even huge cuts of meat for roasting are pretty rare.  I’ve never seen a roast in Israel.  The closest is goulash with big chunks of meat.  So you can imagine the oddity of a whole bird.  I brined mine for about 15 hours (it was about a 16-17 pound bird) in homemade brine I improvised around an Alton Brown recipe.  My brine-broth contained crystallized ginger among other exotic things.  If you’ve never brined a bird – DO – it makes a huge difference in the juiciness, tenderness, and intensity of flavor.  Of course butter helps enormously too, and herbs under the skin along with it.  The stuffing was as usual Martha Stewart’s chestnut stuffing, a recipe my sister and I have favored for years.  Lots of butter, sage, cups and cups of chopped chestnut, and high quality bread.  I’m still eating the leftovers quite happily.

In any case, in any case.  Thanksgiving was a hit at our home – my sister and I are very proud of 2011’s feast.

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Despite the fact that I'm abstaining from meat, I love this photo from last year's Thanksgiving. Carving beautifully cooked turkey is a fabulous thing, indeed.

My favorite holiday is rather difficult to celebrate in Israel.  First, it’s not a holiday – it’s a workday.  Second – Israelis don’t really get it or think it’s amusing that we celebrate.  Third – the standard and necessary foods are difficult to find.  This year we have found it particularly difficult to find Brussels sprouts, fresh or frozen, so it’s off the list.  It’s also become prohibitively expensive to throw such a dinner for two single gals, so we’re having a cocktail party tonight with a few must-have Thanksgiving foods.  Pumpkin and apple pies will be thrown into the oven in a couple hours, mulled wine is on the agenda, and my sister is planning a green bean dish (thank you Martha for last year’s awesome recipe), a cranberry dish, and a spiced almond thingy.  I’ve got some of my winery’s best light young wines, the Galil Rose, and the Golan Gamay Nouveau, both chilling in the fridge.  As guests were instructed on the BYOB nature of the evening, there should probably be more than enough nibbles and alcohol to go around.  Now to get down to the housecleaning and cooking… Ugh!

In other news, grad school applications have taken on a lighter note.  Still intense, but I’ve realized as they’re the most important thing in my life right now, I’d better get over myself and put all my energy into them.  The fact that I found three incredible people who I respect immensely to write letters of recommendation for me and gave me words of encouragement has bolstered my confidence.  Whether I get in or not, some pretty amazing academics think that I belong in the academy.  It will happen sooner or later.

I will leave you with a picture-poem by Brian Andreas, my absolute favorite of his.  There is much to be thankful for this year.

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