in a hazelnutshell column on the stands

If you’d like my recipe for the spiced rosemary hazelnuts with orange zest I served at Thanksgiving, check out my latest monthly column for the Eugene Weekly!  As for me, I’m going to take a food coma nap.

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Recipe reprinted from article:

Spicy Rosemary Hazelnuts with Orange Zest

Makes enough for a party.

  • 4 cups new crop raw hazelnuts
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped (do not use dried)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • Several healthy dashes of hot sauce (to taste), or a splash of vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an oblong glass baking dish with vegetable oil, and roast the raw nuts for 10 minutes. (Skip if you are using already roasted nuts.)

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, rosemary, salt and hot pepper sauce. Remove nuts from oven, then quickly fold the sugar mixture into the nuts in the pan. Return to oven and bake, stirring every 5 minutes, for 15 minutes or until the sugar melts and nuts are glazed. Keep nuts hot in oven when you stir, or else sugar may clump.

Cool completely. Break hazelnuts apart and store in airtight container at room temperature, or in the refrigerator if the nuts get sticky in humid weather.

thanksgiving menu

I don’t think I could have made this happen without the heroic hard work done by my husband before the feast.   He also did all the dishes.  Yes, there are many, many reasons to give thanks this year to my love, the man of many ways.

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And our dinner?  Well, it was just plain gluttony.  There’s no easy way to say it.  I can’t take credit for the whole menu, since we had significant contributions from our friends.  The food divine, the company even better.  And before the night was out, we had all improved our vocabularies.  Can you even imagine a better party?

~~~

Thanksgiving 2008
Menu

Warm-Up Acts

Two Oregon Cheeses
Noris Dairy Farmhouse and Tumalo Farms Nocciola, a hazelnut-studded goat cheese from Oregon’s newest dairy

Mixed Pickle
Leftovers from my garden

Rosemary and Orange-Glazed Willamette Valley Hazelnuts

Passed Phyllo Mouthfuls
Leeks, smoked salmon, goat cheese, brie

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Main Event

Shelton’s Turkey with Giblet and Celeriac Gravy

Squash Whip Queen of Hungary
The Western world’s first perfume, but in a squash purée:
Delicata, turban and acorn squashes soused with bourbon, thyme and rosemary oil

Creamed Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes & Lobster Mushrooms
Locally collected from Loop A, Campground X, Y Miles from Z, Oregon Coast

Chestnut, Bacon and Leek Stuffing

Brussels Sprout Endive Hash with Dukkha
Stirfried and dusted with an Egyptian hazelnut and sesame seed mix

Cucumber Salad Szmansky
Sweet and sour vinegar with onion

Green Salad with Pasta and Apples

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Afterglow

Cherry Cranberry Comp-oat
Hentze Farm sour cherries and Bandon cranberries with an oat crumble topping

L. A. Burdick Chocolates
Turkeys & Celebratory President-Elect Obama Collection

Cream Cheese Pie

Café Mam Mocho Blend coffee with Noris Dairy cream

Blackberry cordial, Carpano Antica Formula, V. Sattui Madeira

brussels sprouts hash with suffering

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I’ve never understood the moaning and groaning about brussels sprouts; then again, I noticed that there’s always plenty left over after Thanksgiving at my house.  I love brussels sprouts, so it’s ok by me.  I usually make them in a simple braise with chicken stock and butter, then add a handful of chopped, freshly roasted chestnuts.  I’ve always found that braising is better than roasting, since it infuses flavor throughout the sprout and softens it up a bit, whereas roasting makes for a more crunchy (tho’ pleasantly browned) sprout, slicked with oil.  It just isn’t, in my opinion, a vegetable that roasts well.  The only brassica that roasts well is cauliflower, and even that doesn’t have the water content to make a wonderful roast like, say, squash or asparagus.

This year, I’m going to try something new.  Since Retrogrouch is one of the millions of Americans who don’t eat brussels sprouts, I can experiment.  I’m going to stirfry up a brussels sprouts hash with dukkha, an Egyptian nut and spice mix that features Willamette Valley hazelnuts.  Even though it sounds strange, I think the flavors will match very well with the turkey and stuffing.

Dukkha is used as a dip for breakfast, snacks, and myriad other occasions in Egypt.  It is made of coarsely chopped hazelnuts, and a mix of ground toasted sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, black pepper and salt.  It’s really lovely just with bread dipped in olive oil, but you can also use it as a crust for fish, chicken or tofu, or mix it in coleslaw or roasted vegetables.  Or mix it in some absolutely incredible (I hope) brussels sprouts, thinly sliced, and fried with a bit of argan oil, chicken stock and…bacon.  Y’all can eat the turkey.

Needless to say, it’s a fantastic use of the hazelnuts that are in season right now and at our local farms.

Dukkha is also Buddhist concept.  It describes the suffering in life that happens when you live and lust in the world.  Surely, the name is a coincidence and has nothing to do with the Middle Eastern spice that will be topping my brussels sprouts hash.  Still, I like the idea of my guests suffering through yet another Thanksgiving with me and my brussels sprouts.  Or partaking of suffering gladly, consuming dukkha like there’s no tomorrow.  Chacun à son goût.

All right, enough already.  Speaking of suffering, I’ve got to make a run to the store on this, the day before Thanksgiving, because — ugh — I think I lost my big roaster.

Everyone else can sit back, relax, maybe check out my new column in the Eugene Weekly?  I haven’t seen it yet.  And have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Willamette Valley Hazelnut Dukkha Spice Mix

1/2 cup roasted Willamette Valley hazelnuts

1/2 cup white sesame seeds (taste first — they go rancid quickly)

1 t. whole black peppercorns

1 t. whole coriander

1 t. whole cumin seeds, or 1/2 t. powder

1/2 coarse sea salt

In a stainless steel pan, so you can monitor the color, toast the whole spices over medium heat until lightly colored and smelling fragrant.  Remove and set aside for grinding. Then toast the sesame seeds, watching them very carefully so they don’t burn (and they burn quickly) until golden brown.  Grind the spices in a mortar or spice grinder into coarse pieces.  Combine the salt, ground spices, sesame seeds and hazelnuts in a food processor, and chop coarsely.  Don’t overprocess, or you will get a paste.  You want the mix to be sandy with bigger chunks of hazelnuts.

fork me

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I bought our set of flatware in the days preceding our wedding in 1998.  Those were the days in which *I* was gainfully employed and Retrogrouch was a graduate student, so I flung my money around, partying like it was 1999.  All right, I didn’t: I was a garage sale aficionado.  I found a practically new 12-place set of perfectly respectable but lower-end stainless Oneida flatware, plus all the relevant serving pieces, at a garage sale down the street from our house.  They were getting married, too, but had scored a better set in the gift frenzy.  It was $25, one of the best bargains of my garage sailing days.

So it was with a small twinge of regret that I realized, in the twilight of the next decade, that I had somehow lost half of my dinner forks and half of my salad forks, and quite a few spoons.  How does this happen?  My servants have background checks, or surely they’d nick such a valuable commodity.

But regardless of the cause, the six forks were a problem.  Could I combine the salad forks and dinner forks and have a dozen that way, assigning the small ones to my shorter friends?  Or women?  Would it be better to discriminate on appearance or retrench the patriarchy?  And let’s face it, thought I, we rarely have dinner parties for twelve.  If necessary, Retrogrouch and I could use the salad forks, martyrs for the cause of matching guests, and we could sneak one to one of the math people, since they don’t notice stuff like that.

(Concerns like these are precisely why I haven’t finished my dissertation.)

When I saw the sets of Dansk flatware, a much nicer grade than my old set, silvery and new, at our local reject home goods store, I knew I had to make my move.  Sure, I would have to pay $63 for 12 sets of five pieces (without the dessert spoons or serving pieces), and thereby acknowledge my bargain-hunting skills have softened in my old age, but it was time.  We all have to move on.

So now I have the shiny for Thanksgiving.  And I’m almost senselessly pleased.

another visit to belly

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1.  My perfectly good barfly-avec-Joycean Moment of Hope story was yanked from under me by my “friends” last night and turned into a discussion of short men, large breasts, and current Darwinian trends in behavioral psychology.

2.  This was nose deep into yet another Negroni and platefuls of succulent fried pork of many ways, so no one really minded, not the least of all me.

3.  Did I mention the pork?  Deep dishes of mahogany hunks pillowed by grilled apple slices and pomegranate seeds.  Chewy-skinned, buttery-fatted belly on lentils.  Bacon nuggets with a date and lozenge of Manchego cheese inside.  Duck so good it might as well have been pork.  Mild pork sausage as a chaser.  And then another dish of pork confit.

4.  Yes, we were at Belly, Eugene’s best restaurant, which was crowded, happy, warm, joyous, and porcine.  A passing train shakes the restaurant. The black waterworks pipe thing in the front says steam punk, the paintings say Goodwill, the menu says eat me, bitches.  Another dish of pork arrives.  Life does not get much better than this.  And I’m so happy the restaurant seems to be doing well.

5.  You, too, can have your stories lost in a pork-glutted frenzy if you visit them at 291 E. 5th Avenue.

potluck for days gone by

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It makes me kind of really very crazy upset that I missed this archival potluck featuring old recipes from OSU Extension in Corvallis last month (the image is from the news article).  I’m very interested in early-twentieth-century cuisine, and it would have been a pleasurable way to internalize a history lesson about rural PNW cooking.  I’m getting so used to RSS feeds and emailing lists that I forget to take the initiative to check local sites and print media.  Sigh.  Lesson learned.  At least I know where to find the recipe for cheese jelly.

a hard nut to crack

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I’m shelling hazelnuts for next week’s Eugene Weekly column, and I’m as grumpy as can be.  Everything’s irritating me, from the grey sky to the too-umami taste of my soup to my lack of bagel to my cat short-sheeting me to my headache to not enough milk in my coffee to the endless grading I’ve been doing to the irresponsibly thin “article” on local food for Thanksgiving in this week’s Register Guard to my overfull and unreliable freezer to my crappy camera that can’t take pictures of hazelnuts worth a damn.  Why is it that other food bloggers smile dreamily into their lima beans and wax poetic about used napkins without a care in the world?  Hang it all.

So I thought I’d write about the ugly side of Thanksgiving — the week before.

The not-so-fun part: cleaning.  With the busy term, I’ve turned the cleaning largely over to my long-suffering husband, Retrogrouch.  He’s a crack ace at laundry and dishes, but he has a habit of leaving a trail of metaphorical breadcrumbs wherever he goes.  I’ll find a sock on the floor, a shirt on a doorknob, a canning jar and a plastic lid on the counter, fifty-seven cents on top of the TV, two rolls of tape on the washer, a vacuum cleaner in the middle of the living room, a receipt ambiguously autographed with a telephone number on the cutting board, one section of yesterday’s newspaper carefully folded and placed between two bowls on my display shelf.  (He’s going to be mad when he sees this, but my journalistic integrity obliges me to tell the truth, with only a hint of slant.)  So now, my house is bedecked with tidbits and loose ends and doodads, not to mention fear in a handful of dust.

A related task is cleaning out space in the refrigerator and freezer.  Here, I am the doodad whisperer.  A tiny bit of mustard vinaigrette in a Maille jar.  Seven containers full of still-pickling fermented green tomato pickles.  A butt end of gruyere.  A lone farm egg.  Some flat leaves of green sauerkraut awaiting stuffed cabbage experiments.  An Anderson Valley Brewing Company Christmas beer from last year.

The freezer, always stuffed, never working properly, is worse.  A single roll.  A hot dog bun.  An abandoned bag of Quorn.  Three abandoned boxes of fake bacon (and rightly so).  Four slightly freezer-burned t-bones.  A pork roast of dubious origin.  A single tiny tuna fillet.  Three containers of bacon grease.  Two more containers of sauerkraut.  Local black beans and lo! some frozen corn from last year.  Another bag of dried tomatoes.  Two bakery scones, which became my breakfast.  It’s going to be a marvelous dinner, that is, if I ever stop writing this blog post…

The fun part:  buying local foods.  I’ve been storing up winter squash from my CSA to make Squash Whip Queen of Hungary, a lovely purée inspired by medieval Queen of Hungary water (brandy, rosemary oil and sage).  Squashes are beautiful and plentiful this year, so local foodies should turn squashward.

I hope you’ve already ordered your turkey.  Wait…did I?  Oh yes, I did.  Whew.

And don’t forget those potatoes.  In a state that put the Ore in Ore-Ida, we have so many beautiful local tubers, and a variety for those allowed to experiment.  Potatoes were one of our very first white-man crops in Oregon, with records of planting dating back to 1795 near Cape Disappointment (surely named by someone on the Atkins diet) and culminating in the crowning of the “Potato King” in the Willamette Valley in the 1880s.  Can’t make this shit up.

Am I allowed to say ‘shit’ in a food blog?  Sorry.

Green beans.  Did you can or freeze yours?  It was a pretty good season for beans, as good as the corn season was poor.  I dehydrated all my green beans, in an experiment in trying to make a camping version of the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean classic green bean and tomato stew loubiyeh (sp?).  I won’t torture my guests with the results.  If you do have local frozen beans, you can cook them for about 60 seconds in a pressure cooker, and they won’t have that weird bouncy squeak to them when you eat them. A wonderfully simple way to serve them, of course, is with some sauteed local chanterelles or other specialty mushrooms, topped with fried local onions.  It’s almost like that casserole.  Almost.

Corn.  If you were able to freeze some, heat up a knob of salted butter in a frypan, brown a shallot or finely chopped slice of red onion, then add the frozen corn with no extra liquid and a bunch of freshly ground pepper.  The corn will shrivel a bit and brown in parts.  When it is heated through, pour in a glug of Noris Dairy whipping cream, stir well, and remove from the heat.

And pies.  Frozen fruit works well in pies.  I’m thinking of either using up my local boysenberries or my sour cherries.  And those hazelnuts sure would make a beautiful crust.  Then again, I have apples up the wazoo, including some local Cortlands, Empires, Rome Beauties, Melroses and a beautiful King.  Ah, choices.

It’s enough to make a girl stop complaining about being grumpy and go off to do her work!