"What’s a Hot Toddy?" my suite-mate asks. I look up from the cookbook I’m reading (Baking: from my home to yours). “I had one at the Edinburgh Christmas market,” I say, searching the memory for ingredients, then realizing any details are far too fogged by the mulled wine. (Bollocks? But oh well.) ”I remember liking it,” I add. My suite-mate nods as her fingers tap, tap away at her laptop. “Tea and whiskey. And honey,” she says. “We have tea, and whiskey. And honey,” I say. We smile at each other. We turn on the electric kettle. Because it’s almost finals. And it’s snowing. And it’s Tuesday. Because it’s Hot Toddy Tuesday. To celebrate the occasion our way, we used lavender tea, the last squeeze of our honey bottle, an orange I found in my backpack, plus a few cloves.
I’m reading a book called Steal like an Artist, which—as you may have guessed from the title—encourages creative thievery. Note: not plagiarism. Creative thievery. It’s totally different. Imagine… Pinterest, in the real world. Woah. (Non-virtual inspiration! Does it even exist?!) Instead of “pinning” tidbits you find on the internet, you (creative you) pin tidbits you notice during your day, and night. Anytime
something anything makes you look twice, feel inspired, feel intrigued, feel confused, “pin” it. Make a mental note. Make an actual note. Or, in my case, snap a picture, then post it on the web. (I guess my version isn’t all that far from Pinterest in the end, but whatever.) I like to think of Dourmet’s collection of travel posts as my own creative thievery. The meals I have in restaurants become meals I want to have again at home. I just have to figure out how.
When my mom and I were in Spain together, last December, we ate tapas at mostly every meal. And if there was any recurring trend amongst the tapas madness—okay, besides wine—it was romesco sauce. (My favorite rendition was served with—can you guess it?—asparagus.) This classic, roasted red pepper- and almond-based sauce is brightly colored, a bit spicy, lush, creamy, and completely vegan. For the recipe, the food processor does most of the work, and after you make it once, I suspect you’ll be finding excuses to put it on everything. Roasted asparagus and green beans. Broiled fish. Grilled steak. You name it—chances are, romesco will make a good addition. In this version, I swapped out almonds for pumpkin seeds (or should we say, pepitas) to add a Thanksgivukkah-twist, but you can easily swap almonds back in, if you want to give the classic version a try.
There’s a channel on YouTube called “Pronunciation Manual” that teaches viewers how (not) to pronounce words. Like, here’s how (not) to pronounce hors d’oeuvres. Or, croissant. Or, bolognese. Get it? It’s a sham. It’s funny! Unless you were actually trying to learn the correct pronunciation for hors d’oeuvres, or croissant, or bolognese…. Then, I fear, you’d sound like a real fool. Sort of like me, every time I (try to) pronounce autumnal. This British woman makes it seem easy, but the syllables always jumble in my mouth like orange seeds. Hence why I’m so glad that I can call this salad autumnal over the internet without having to embarrass myself. Autumnal! Autumnal autumnal autumnal. This salad is autumnal. For our 2013 Thanksgiving, I combined this year’s trendiest lettuce with sliced granny smith apples, toasted walnuts, and a tangy whole grain mustard vinaigrette. It worked as a light element to an otherwise heavy meal and, I imagine, will serve as a welcome side dish at any dinner party during the holiday season. Because even I crave a break from puff pastry, every now and then.
If you aren’t Jewish, I’m going to take a guess that, right about now, you’re wondering three things: 1) What is rugelach? 2) How do you pronounce rugelach? 3) How can I get me some rugelach? So: 1) It’s a crazy good, crescent style, classic Jewish cookie. 2) Ruh-guh-luh. 3) See the recipe below! (Why would you even ask?)
Now, just in case you were also wondering, what’s Dourmet’s favorite thing about rugelach? (Glad you asked!) That the filling can be whatever you (we!) want. Of course, there are traditional recipes: raisins, walnuts, jam. But when the concept (cream cheese dough + filling = magic) is so adaptable, why would we stop there? We’re not boring. We’re creative. We’re inventive. We’re breaking new frontiers. Let’s think of rugelach like pie, but bite-sized and cuter. You make the dough (or, ahem, you make your Jewish grandma make the dough), chill it, roll it into a (mildly-misshapen) circle, spread your heart’s deepest desires on top, cut that into triangles, roll up each cookie, and bake. Whew. Sounds like a mouthful. But a delicious one, right?
These made-for-Thanksgivukkah rugleach feature a pumpkin, sage, and walnut filling, and are sprinkled with grated parmesan before being baked. Whoever said cookies couldn’t be appetizers?
When I still looked like this, my grandma’s mushroom puffs were my favorite thing in the world. No hyperbole. She served them at every holiday and I—starkly aware of the trend—would (ready, set…) CHARGE the cloth-lined basket as soon as my family arrived at her house. I strategically (albeit obviously) sat wherever the mushroom puffs were—playing with my latest Barbie purchase be damned—and ate one puff after another, after another, after another, until one of my family members yelled out, “What do you have, a hollow leg?” (When I was little, everyone in my family seemed to think I have a hollow leg. Which I don’t.)
These anchovy puffs are a product of my mom and I trying to be “creative,” plus weasel our anchovy-love into something other than parsley tapenade. Instead of sautéed mushrooms, these pastry purses are filled with chopped anchovies, minced garlic, and capers, plus some sautéed onions to pull it all together. (Note: They still were made by my grandma, though—that’s why they look so pretty.) While my brother was a big fan of the results, the mushroom puff devotee in me wondered if something could be improved—and as soon as I typed “sautéed onions,” it hit me. Caramelize them instead, with butter. The sweetness will round out the salt and the extra fat will keep them moist, as the mushroom puffs always were.