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Entries in Thanksgiving (17)

Monday
Nov122012

An Italian Thanksgiving? Have Some Apple "Pie".

I'd like to discuss an oxymoron: Italian Thanksgiving.

As you know, Thanksgiving is an American Holiday. Italians have similar feast days of thanks, called Le Feste di Ringraziamento, but these are usually religious holidays, held at various times of the year.

Thanksgiving comes but once a year. And "thanks" be for that...there is only so much gin on the planet to appease Aunt Emily's tolerance for turkey. And speaking of turkeys, you most likely wouldn't find one on a table in Italy, as they are pretty hard to come by in that country.

Which brings me to my point: What we have here is an Italian-American Thanksgiving, and as such, it presents a challenge to John and myself. You see, our passion for Italian food extends to protecting the authenticity of its traditions....when and where is limoncello served? Why are rice dishes more popular in the North of Italy? And etcetera.

So where Thanksgiving is concerned, we really only have our Italian-American family traditions. However, many of these (except for serving Aunt Emily copious amounts of gin) are derived from actual Italian food and holiday traditions. And with Thanksgiving on the horizon, this is what we would like to focus on:

How to incorporate traditional Italian foods into your feast, giving your holiday some Italian flair.

And in true John and Elana fashion, I will begin with pizza.

I can't think of a dessert more American than apple pie, or more appropriate to Thanksgiving. Except when the "pie" in question is, in fact, a pizza pie. I think this is the beauty of pizza – its versatility. A traditional Southern Italian food, pizza has been adopted by American culture wholeheartedly (admittedly not always in the healthiest ways).

This particular "pie" is a true collision of Italian and American cultures. It combines an earthy whole wheat crust with farm fresh apples, thinly sliced gouda cheese, plump cranberries, fried sage and a smattering of honey.

This pie works as an appetizer, a wonderful addition to an antipasto plate, or as a sweet and savory dessert, to be served along side a selection of other cheeses and fruit.

Here's how you do it:

What You Need:

1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough (found here). This recipe makes 4-5 personal sized pizzas. You can also purchase uncooked pizza dough from your grocery store or local pizzeria.

3 apples, thinly sliced. Use what your local orchard is dishing out. I like Honey Crisp, but I also threw in some Golden Delicious and a tart Granny Smith.

1/4 Gouda cheese. You want something semi-soft.

1/4 cup dried cranberries

6-8 sage leaves, fried in olive oil and crumbled

honey - as much as you like

salt to taste

What To Do:

Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and heat to 500 degrees for at least a half hour prior to using it.

In the meantime, thinly slice the apples. I sliced mine to an 1/8" thickness. 

Next, slice the cheese.

You can also prepare the fried sage by heating tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, place in the sage leaves. They won't take long to fry, about 30 seconds or so. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to absorb the oil (like bacon!). You can crumble them with your hands, and once the pizza pops out of the oven, sprinkle them on top.

Sprinkle some semolina flour or cornmeal on a pizza peel and stretch out a pizza dough round to about 10-12" in diameter.

Place some of the apple slices down on the dough. Don't overload it with slices at this point, just about 8 should do it. 

Follow up with some slices of cheese, and then another layer of apples.

Don't make your pizza too heavy – save some toppings for the other pies! 

Sprinkle with a little salt and a handful of cranberries.

Drizzle with honey. 

Shimmy the pizza into the oven and bake for about 8 minutes. 

Using the pizza peel, remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with a little more honey and sprinkle with the crumbled, fried sage.

Buon Appetito!

What You Should Drink:

I politely begged Jameson Fink of Wine Without Worry to give me a pairing recommendation for this pizza. Here is what he suggested:

When Elana asked for my help picking a wine to pair with pizza, I said, “No problem.” Tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni? Have a Chianti. Boom. Done! Then I actually paid attention to what she told me: a pizza topped with apple, gouda, cranberries and fried sage. Gouda grief! I’d have to put on my thinking cap.

In honor of Elana’s family heritage, I’m sticking with my initial thought of an Italian wine. And in honor of my personal penchant, I’m selecting a rosé. Which gives me the opportunity to go on a mini-wine rant. You think rosé is just for summer sipping? Let me give you my best John McLaughlin: WRONG! My pick, the 2011 “Il Chiaretto” from producer Azienda Agricola San Giovanni, has year-round charm and appeal. It’s from the region of Lombardy, not far from the lovely shores of Lake Garda. A refreshingly unusual blend of four grapes (Groppello, Marzemino, Barbera, and Sangiovese), it is pizza-ready.

So let’s take a look at Elana’s culinary creation, starting with the cranberries. (Especially since Thanksgiving thoughts are turning in my head.) A dry rosé has a reminiscent tartness; a fine match whether cranberries are a side dish or atop a pizza. And rosés also have a savory, slightly herbaceous quality perfect with crispy fried sage. Plus the acidity in the Il Chiaretto will play nice with crisp apple, and cut through the rich gouda to get you ready for another dang slice.

Last but not least, it comes in a squat, stubby, attention-getting bottle. Turns out it’s a bottle with a purpose. I asked Birk O'Halloran, who is a manager for the company that imports the wine (A. I. Selections), about the bottle. Here’s what Birk had to say:

When I spoke with [owner/winemaker] Paolo, he told me that by his calculations about 70% of the total carbon footprint of wine comes from the glass. The bottles he uses are about 30-40 grams less than a conventional bottle. This has been one of many ways he tries to minimize the carbon footprint of his wine. If you look on the back label you can find amount of carbon produced by the production of the wine. Since he has started recording it he has lowered it every year.

I would also add that this design makes it less difficult to knock over on a table crowded with pizza and friends.

Monday
Nov282011

Highlights from a Iaciofano Thanksgiving 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Monday! How was everyone's holiday? Still recovering? I thought so. Before we wander too far away from the dinner table, I'd like to recap the Iaciofano Family Thanksgiving 2011.

As usual, Marmo made way too much food. John ate way too much apple pie. Aunt Emily drank way too much gin (thank goodness), The Box did way too much complaining about turkey being unpalatable. And I was generally good natured, pleasant, and fun to be around. I'm sure everyone would agree with that assessment.

Ahem! What follows below are the food-related highlights from our family Thanksgiving. These recipes can be used throughout your holiday season. Some of the (especially the featured cocktail) should be earmarked for use throughout the year....

I learned to make this drink at a Champagne Cocktail class given at the Astor Center. We made a lot of cocktails that night. At least I think we did.... This one is slightly sweet thanks to the Grand Marinier, delightfully citrusy, and fizz-tastic. It's fun, festive, and they go down rather easily.

The Moonwalk Champagne Cocktail

What You Need:
Makes 2 drink cocktails
A Cocktail Mixer, strainer, shot glass
Lots of ice cubes
Champagne - get one you would drink on its own, without additions
Grand Marinier
Grapefruit juice
1 orange
1 teaspoon sugar
2 champagne flutes

What You Do:
Fill your cocktail mixer with ice.

Pour two shot glasses worth of Grand Marinier into the mixer.

Pour one shot glass of grapefruit juice into the mixer.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of sugar into the mixer.

Seal the mixer and shake it well for about 10 seconds. Don't be afraid to make lots of noise - that's the fun part (aside from drinking the resulting cocktail, that is).

Fill the champagne flutes half full with the resulting mixture.

Top with champagne.

With a peeler, peel away a two small curls of orange rind. Twist, and plop into the filled champagne flutes.

Serve! Make more. Serve those too....

This soup was the clear winner of the meal. Is it weird for a soup to walk away with the crown? Maybe but this Roasted Chestnut and Hazelnut Soup had it all: creamy, nutty and smoky (bacon AND prosciutto!). Make this ALL WINTER LONG. Please.

What You Need:
Makes 6 servings - from the Silver Palette Cookbook
1 pound raw chestnuts in shells
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped bacon
3 tablespoons chopped prosciutto
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chervil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy
Creme Fraiche for garnish

What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roast the chestnuts according to this recipe.

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, prosciutto, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, chervil, salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and the stock. Stir in the chestnuts. Heat to boiling. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, toast the hazelnuts in the oven (or the toaster oven!) at 350 degrees until they begin to brown - about 15 minutes (less time in the toaster oven as it takes less time to heat up). Remove from the oven and rub the hazelnuts back and forth in a kitchen towel to remove the skins. Let them cool and then chop them coarsely by hand or in a food processor.

When the soup has simmered for 45 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the milk, cream and brandy.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, adding a handful of hazelnuts to each batch. Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot, taste and adjust the seasonings if you like.

Gently reheat the soup until it is hot. Ladle it into small bowls and garnish each with a dollop of Creme Fraiche.

For the turkey (seen above), there was much debate. Initially, we were going to fry one. All poultry puns aside, we chickened out. Instead, we decided on a Maple Glazed Turkey, based on this recipe from Martha Stewart. We even made The Box go to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day to pick up the Riesling. We are nothing if not compassionate.

For side dishes, we did a little experimentation. Usually, we got for a Cauliflower Gratinee – a creamy, baked perfection of a dish that just happens to be vegetable based.

This time, we decided to ditch the cream (I really don't know why) and try out the Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins and Breadcrumbs recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine. The combination of raisins and capers was my favorite part of this dish, as it provided that salty sweet flavor combination that I enjoy so much. It was a touch dry, and I prefer the gut-busting cream option (it's the holidays, after all, people).

For dessert the clear winner was the Apple Pie. Every year Marmo claims that this is the best pie she's made yet. She wonders if it's a new kind of butter she used.

To be honest, the pie tastes the same to me every year - AMAZING. It really is, hands down, the best apple pie I have ever had. EVER. The pie was gone by the end of the night. Can you guess who ate the whole thing? It wasn't me this time.

Seriously.

Wednesday
Nov232011

Make Pizza with Thanksgiving Leftovers!

I have come to the conclusion that there are an infinite number of pleasing pizza toppings and combinations. I'm not saying that everything you throw on a pizza is going to taste good, but I will say that your Thanksgiving leftovers will. Taste good on a pizza. And how.

Seriously, I've tried it. Now, I know you like diving into the fridge in the dead of night when you think no one is watching, quietly rolling back the foil on that picked over bird and pulling just a few more cold, roasted chucks from the turkey carcass.

I'm guilty, I do it too. And I may use leftover cranberry sauce for dipping.

But what if, just WHAT IF, you saved some of that turkey and put it on a pizza? For the pizza pictured above, I used pan fried mini potatoes, turkey sausage (but you can use your leftover bird), a slightly firm and nutty goat's milk cheese, lemon olive oil, cranberries and fresh herbs.

I also used a whole wheat crust, because let's face it, you just gorged yourself on a smorgasbord of tasty treats drenched in various amounts of butter. Some dietary fiber might be a good idea at this juncture. Just saying.

OK, so let's see how it all goes down. First the whole wheat pizza recipe:

What You Need
1 envelope dried yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cup all purpose flour or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

What You Do:
In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water…stir in ½ cup of the flour.  Cover and let stand for about 30 minutes

Then add the other ½ cup of warm water salt and olive oil.  Slowly begin to add the remaining flour.  When all of the flour is incorporated knead the dough until it is smooth.  It may take about 10 minutes….

Then dust the dough lightly all over with flour and place in a bowl – covered with a cloth  to rise for about 1 hour.

When it has doubled in size, punch down the dough and divide into 4 parts.  Form each fourth into a smooth ball and let rise covered on a floured board for 30 minutes.  In the meantime heat the oven to 500 degrees for 30 minutes

Now for the assembly and toppings.

What You Need:
Makes 4 personal sized pizzas
1/4 lb goats milk cheese. I used "Midnight Moon" from Cypress Grove
Lemon olive oil (you can use this recipe)
4 turkey sausage links OR strips of leftover Thanksgiving turkey, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup chicken or turkey stock
1 small bag of mini roasting potatoes cut into very thin slices
Fresh thyme and rosemary
1/2 cup of fresh cranberries
salt and pepper
olive oil

What You Do:
Place a pizza stone in your oven and heat it up to 500 degrees. You will want to make sure that pizza stone has been heating for at least a half an hour before you cook your pizza.

If using turkey sausage: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan. Add your turkey sausage, removed from the casings. As it cooks, break it up into small chunks with a wooden spoon. Add the 1/2 cup of chicken or turkey stock and let the sausage simmer until cooked, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

In another small pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the lemon oil (from this recipe). Add your sliced potatoes and some fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Fry 'em up until they are tender and also a little crispy and brown on the edges. Set aside.

Sprinkle some semolina flour on a pizza peel and stretch out your dough.

Drizzle some of the lemon oil on top of the stretched out dough and smooth it over the top.

Distribute the roasted potatoes over the surface of the dough.

Add small slices of the goats milk cheese on top of the potatoes.

Sprinkle the turkey sausage or the leftover turkey on top of the potatoes and cheese.

Drizzle a bit more lemon oil over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Now would be an excellent time to add some more thyme and rosemary.

Place the 1/2 cup of cranberries in a microwave safe bowl. Add water to the bowl - enough to cover the berries. Place the cup of water and berries in the microwave and heat on high for about 45 seconds, just enough to pop the cranberries (you will actually hear them pop). Remove the cup from the microwave and drain the water out of the cup.

Place the popped cranberries along the top of the pizza. They will add a nice tang to the the smooth, lemony and salty pizza.

Slide your pizza onto the stone and into the oven. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven (using the pizza peel). You can add more fresh herbs or oil if you like.

Now, I know I'm slightly obsessed with pizza. I swear it's healthy... Regardless of the mental effects of this pizza preoccupation, I have started to compile quite a library of pizza recipes. The first of which are in our first cookbook, Top Your Pizza. You can see a preview of the book below. This book is available for purchase (click here), and in tune with the holiday season, most of the proceeds from the book sales go to the non-profit Just Food (which you can check out here). It's a win-win situation. Pizza for you, profits for a non-profit. Happiness all around.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

We wish you a healthy, festive, belt-loosening, gin-infused (ok, that might just be me) holiday.

Eat some turkey, watch some football, get into an immature name-calling argument with your siblings, and make sure to wear those safety goggles! We'll see you on Monday. With something .... um... cleansing.

Monday
Nov292010

Thanksgiving at the Iaciofano's 2010



How was everyone's Thanksgiving? John and I had the usual madness at Iaciofano HQ this year. I've recorded some highlights below: a few snippets of ridiculous conversations, some food photography and a recipe for Liver Pate in Cream Cheese Crust. The word "liver" may have just freaked some of you out. I happen to love it. And this recipe is amazing. It's a great option for holiday parties as an hors d'oeuvre (some day I'm going to learn to spell that word without looking it up).

First, the antipasto:



Marmo to John: Can you please get your hands out of the olives?

The Box to Me (under his breath): Let's get Aunt Emily a drink. Right now.

Aunt Emily to The Box: Did you put any Vermouth in this drink? You know, John, sometimes not enough is just as bad as too much.



Aunt Emily to John: You look like AC/DC (She thinks his hair is too long. I'm just impressed she knows who AC/DC is). Then to me: Elana, stop taking pictures of me, I'm going to break your camera!! To The Box: John, I love you, but you're getting fat.

The Box to Aunt Emily (describing the wine): It's BOW-JOO-LAY NOO-VOH!

Oh dear. Let's interject a quick recipe into this madness.



Crust - What You Need:
8 ounces of cream cheese
8 ounces of unsalted butter
¼ c sour cream or heavy cream
1 ¼ t salt
2 ½ cups of flour.

Crust - What To Do:
Combine cream cheese and butter and add sour cream and salt and pulse then add the flour.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Pate - What You Need:
¾ pound of chicken livers cut into chunks
1/3 c madiera wine
5 T butter
2 slices of bacon drained and chopped
3 cloves of garlic crushed
2 large shallots minced
2 T cognac
¾ pound smoked ham ground
¾ pound ground pork
2 t. thyme
1 t dried basil
1 cup fresh parsley minced
2 large eggs beaten
2 T heavy cream
salt and pepper
1 egg beaten with 1T milk for glaze

Pate - What To Do:
Soak chicken liver pieces in madiera wine for 30 minutes.  Drain.  Melt butter in fry pan and add liver pieces, bacon, garlic and shallots and cook until livers are cooked but still pink. Warm the cognac and add to livers.

Add ground ham, pork, thyme and basil.  Mix and cook over medium heat stirring frequently.  About 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add parsley, eggs and cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.

Roll out 1/3 of the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 in thick.  Trim edges so they are even.  Spread one third of the pate on one half of the pastry leaving 1” border.  Fold over and press edges with a fork and brush with egg/milk glaze. Repeat.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven on a lightly buttered baking sheet for 25 minutes.

Note: You can freeze these for up to 3 weeks.  Do not defrost before baking but add 10 minutes to the baking time.



Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

John: This should be cold (my dad and brother are drinking Strega, an Italian after dinner drink)

The Box: No, the cold kills the aroma and flavor.

John: Nope, it should be cold.

Marmo (from the other room): [sigh...]

Me: [asleep on the couch...or am I?]

John to The Box: Wanna go hit golf balls?

The Box: Yeah, right now.



Marmo: Anyone want more turkey?

The Box: I don't want to see another turkey until November 2011.

Me to the Box: Can you stop clearing your throat every 5 seconds? You sound like a drippy faucet.

The Box: I liked you better when you were sleeping.





John to the Box: I think you'd like this Belgian beer called Leffe Blonde.

The Box: I don't like Belgian beer. Every one I've tried is bitter.

John: No, you'd like this one.

The Box: Wanna go hit balls?

John: Yup. [then:] Hey, don't change that channel, the Jets are coming on!

Me: There's a Jets game today?

John: In EIGHT MINUTES!





The Box to Me: Elana, do you really need to buy a road bike? I mean, is there anything you're going to use that for besides training and racing?

Me: Hey, Dad, is there anything you use those golf clubs for other than golfing? Seems like such a waste...

Marmo to the group: You people haven't moved for hours!!

Me: You got a problem with that?



Marmo: Who's been taking bites out of these chocolates?!

I hope you all had a very happy Thanksgiving. We have a lot of great stuff planned for this month (for example, tomorrow is all about Hot Dogs! And then there's going to be a fantastic pizza feature, AND a giveaway). The suggestion box is always open, and we are happy to listen to any you might have.

By the way, it was me taking bites out of the chocolates...

Wednesday
Nov242010

Giving Thanks John and Elana Style



John and I have a long list of animals, minerals and vegetables that we are thankful for this Thanksgiving and holiday season (although John is less enthused about the vegetables). We love our family and friends (even Aunt Emily!), and we're both really, REALLY thankful that we have the time, energy and resources to keep up this blogging madness.

I could go on in this manner, but instead I'm going to switch it up and offer you the John and Elana Talk About Food version of heartfelt thanks. Here we go...

Elana's List:

1. I am thankful for our readers that tolerate the nutty things I say and indulge my questionable sanity.

2. For Anfora Wine Bar, where they keep letting me in the door even though I drink all their wine and eat all their fabulous ricotta cheese every time I visit.

3. For the really cool vendors that actually like it when we feature them on the blog: Van Leeuwen, City Cakes, McClure's Pickles, Kelvin Slush and Astor Wines (check out Astor Wine's Thanksgiving Wine Guide here).

4. The smoke detectors in my apartment.

5. John and his endurance of my incessant rambling about what I'm planning for the blog and recurring demands for content (Me: So, I want to make a movie that involves little crockery owls making a turkey. Allllll in stop motion animation. Cool? John: uh-huh)

6. Pyrenees Brebis cheese from Murray's Cheese. It's off the hook.

John's Commentary: Elana - Half of the things you have mentioned involve you essentially pestering people for favors. It appears that little brother needs to keep an eye on you more often, so as not to scare anyone off.  Also, I don't use smoke detectors.  They kept going off every time I slipped on my new Sanchez jersey.
Nonetheless, I'm thankful for:

John's List:
1. My Pizza Stone

2. Truffle Oil

3. The unusually temperate weather for this time of year

4. The plethora of artisan pizzerias popping up in the area

5. Millionaire Matchmaker

6. My next culinary voyage to Italy in the spring of 2011

Elana's Commentary: I think it was actually your pants being on fire (liar, liar) rather than the combination of you and the Sanchez jersey that set off the smoke detectors. However, if you plan to "keep an eye on me," you may need to do better than the following (I'm on the green side):