thanksgiving 2014

IMG_0025For the first time in as long as I can remember, I traveled during Thanksgiving week.  It was my first time in the south, and a very, very happy reunion in Atlanta hosted by my friends Ryan and Ashley Stotz, whom you may remember just as fondly from Marché Provisions or (in Ryan’s case) our dearly departed radio show, Food for Thought.  They’re doing very well in the South!

They showed me the city, market by market and restaurant by restaurant and grocery store by grocery store. We visited some of the best little local joints for breakfasts of fried everything and sliders, the massive international grocery store called the Buford Highway Farmers Market (where we spent four — FOUR — hours), and some pretty wonderful bars and restaurants.  We drank icy orange frosty beverages at the Varsity drive-in and ate foie gras duck soup dumplings at The Porter.

And dinner, of course, was fabulous. We cooked and drank and ate and laughed and stayed up all night playing Cards Against Humanity.  Then we watched this, which is seriously messed up and will worm into your brain — warning, so we suffered the song in about a thousand different jokes.

I hope your celebrations were as warm and lovely and filled with good company as mine were.

IMG_7006 IMG_0057 IMG_0019 IMG_0039 IMG_0017From top to bottom:  pumpkin pie infused with bay, fried chicken on a biscuit with cream gravy at Homegrown, some cheap swill with dinner, breakfast of vermouth-scented scrambled eggs with chicken livers, radicchio salad prep, collard overflow at the Piggly Wiggly (dba IGA).


eugene restaurants open on thanksgiving 2014

IMG_6828It’s that time again!  If you forgot the turkey, or these magnificent fellows from Boondockers Farm managed to intimidate you, you might be interested in Eugene restaurants open on Thanksgiving, a range for every taste:

  • Marché (brunch)
  • Oregon Electric Station (dinner)
  • Keystone Café (breakfast/lunch)
  • King Estate (family style dinner)
  • Govinda’s (vegan buffet dinner)
  • Excelsior (buffet dinner)
  • All Shari’s locations
  • Hacienda Amigo Mio (Gateway)
  • Amici (Holiday Inn-Eugene/Springfield)
  • Kung Fu Bistro (lunch and dinner, 11-3:00 and 5-9:30)

This link has more details on the offerings at some of these restaurants.  It would be highly advised to call and reserve a table, as I’ve noticed some places are quickly filling up.

Did I miss your favorite Thanksgiving spot?  Let me know (with as many details as possible, including contact information) what else is on offer for Thanksgiving in Lane County.

happy thanksgiving from my family to yours

My sister, who lives in Helena, Montana, is as different from me as this turkey is from this hat.  But she recently judged a chili cook-off competition, and made these treats out of cookies and candy with her twin boys.  Could we be expecting a Culinaria Helena spin-off blog soon?

Hope you all find the day sweet, filled with creative glories, and full of family and laughter.


thanksgiving in eugene 2012

In addition to the Fill-Your-Pantry event with local beans, grains, and produce available for bulk sale in Eugene (deadline to order ahead is today, event on Nov. 18), and the Holiday Farmers Market at the Fairgrounds beginning this weekend, you might be wondering what else is available for a local Thanksgiving supper in Lane County.  Well, wonder no more, and make your plans soon!

Poultry and Other Meats

  • Biancalana Pork Growers have their own turkeys and chickens this year, although I can’t find anything on their Facebook page.  Great sausage (try the apple-rosemary) for stuffing, too.  Email
  • Boondockers Farm has succulent ducks and chickens.  More information on their website.  They might be able to make one more delivery run to Eugene?
  • Long Tom Grazing Company has pastured turkeys at $6.25 a pound. Every turkey comes with a bonus — free vegetables!  5 lbs. potatoes and onion and decorative gourds! All organically grown. Email

Need help with your turkey preparation?  Call the annual Oregon Statewide Holiday Food Safety Hotline at 1-800-354-7319.  November 13 – 16; Tuesday thru Friday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm; November 19 – 21; Monday thru Wednesday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  Staffed by Master Food Preserver volunteers from Douglas and Lane Counties.


Visit these local bakeries/shops for more information about varieties. Plus, you’ll be able to sample some of the goods.

  • Mom’s Pies (traditional pies from a venerable Eugene baker)
  • Noisette Pastry Kitchen (traditional pies from our newest, wonderful bakery)
  • PartyCart (traditional pies to order, all local ingredients)
  • Red Wagon Creamery (ice cream pies and a layered ice cream cake, local ingredients)
  • Vanilla Jill’s (ice cream, frozen yogurt, and traditional pumpkin pies with sugar-free, vegan, gluten-free options)

Prepared Dishes for Takeout/Order Ahead

  • Ivy’s Cookin’ (vegetarian meals? I don’t see their menu on their website yet)
  • Heidi Tunnell Catering (from her post on the Food for Thought on KLCC Facebook page: “We’ve got a list of Thanksgiving items that folks can purchase from us. Items are all available a la carte from appetizers to the whole turkey (brined or roasted), sides, bread and desserts. Menus are available by a link on our website. Or they can come pick one up at our kitchen in Creswell we can also email menus as well. Orders are due on Sunday, November 18th; pick up happens the day before Thanksgiving and items come complete with cooking instructions.”
  • Marché Provisions (Beaujolais Nouveau tasting and lots of other goodies)

Restaurants Open on Thanksgiving:

  • King Estate (full Thanksgiving spread)
  • Govinda’s (vegetarian)
  • Marché for breakfast
  • EDIT: Excelsior (see comments)
  • EDIT: The Barn Light after 7 p.m. (sandwiches, full bar, coffee downtown: see comments)

Did I miss your favorite place?  Let me know (with as many details as possible, including contact information) what else is on offer for Thanksgiving in Lane County!

turkey leftovers part two: united nations style

And since I’m on a roll with turkey leftovers…I’ve got a few more tricks in the bag.  Turkey is the traditional fowl in several brilliant and homey international dishes.

Check out this gorgeous version of fesejan, a Persian pomegranate-walnut sauce for turkey.  It features a homemade pomegranate reduction in lieu of the more modern pomegranate syrup.

Taiwanese Turkey Rice, which looks like rice stir-fried with turkey drippings and sometimes ground pork, is served with shredded turkey and a slice or two of bright yellow takuwan radish pickle on top.

And let’s not forget Sichuan cold chicken salad, a dish of shredded chicken with a bold dressing made from Sichuan peppercorns, scallions, and ginger.  I will often toss leftover chicken in the dressing, but it is terrific with turkey breast.  Here is a recipe adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop:

Hot-and-Numbing Sauce for Leftover Turkey 

6 scallions

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated

2 teaspoons of preserved red chiles* or chopped red peppers

2  tablespoons white sugar

4 tablespoons light soy sauce

4 tablespoons chili oil

4 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper

Shred your leftover turkey.  Slice the scallions on the diagonal thinly and chop ginger and jalapeño.

Thinly slice the green onions diagonally.

Mix together the ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and oils.

Toss shredded turkey with dressing immediately prior to serving, then add scallions on top.  Grate Sichuan pepper and add to taste with salt.

*Available in jars in Chinese markets with other condiments.  Mine are from Sichuan province but any will do, really.  Just be careful with the Thai ones, as they are much hotter.

skip the turkey dinner and head straight for the leftovers: mole verde

Thoroughly exhausting week, but many accomplishments.  Had a great time interviewing Hank Shaw on Sunday and Monday, then spent the week trying to catch up on some of the many things piled up awaiting my attention while life threw new dodgeballs at me for fun. So:

this is just to say

there’s no turkey in the icebox

and nothing I’m saving for breakfast

so forgive me for the lack of deliciousness

so tired and so old

Could this be the year we finally go out for Thanksgiving dinner?  I don’t think I can bring myself to do it. Tempting, but it just seems wrong. After all, we have a scrumptious chicken from Sweetwater Farm somewhere buried under a hundred or so pounds of beef, and good root vegetables from Open Oak. And now that I think of it, frozen sweet meat squash for a pie.  Somewhere.  And cranberry sauce I made a couple of weeks ago and froze.  Also somewhere.

But as ambivalent as I am about making Thanksgiving dinner, I am not hesitant to give you a delicious recipe for the leftovers: turkey with mole verde, a pumpkin seed-green tomato sauce from our neighbors to the south. I made a bunch and froze it about a month ago (are you sensing a theme here?).  You can see it above, served with a yucky sprouted tortilla, but rather surprisingly appetizing tempeh, crookneck squash, and cauliflower à la Retrogrouch.

Mine is a rather traditional mole verde recipe, but it uses the rest of our stubborn Northwest green tomatoes instead of tomatillos, and garden herbs.  Since tomatillos are more acidic than green tomatoes, I’ve added a slug of fermented chile juice to mine.  You might try lemon or lime juice.  Or you might just like the mild nuttiness of the sauce.  The lettuce leaf and herbs are added for color as well as flavor, as the green tomatoes and green pumpkin seeds will turn the palest chartreuse.

Can’t be bothered to cook any more?  Cheat shamelessly with a local product I bought on a whim at Market of Choice, Enrique and Dolores Riquelme’s Barcelona’s Finishing Sauces out of Bend, OR.  Haven’t tried the red mole yet, but it looks great.  They also have a seasonal green pipian sauce, similar to the mole verde, and a nogada sauce.  Yum.

Mole Verde

Makes several cups, good for freezing.

  • 2 lbs green tomatoes, cut in half or quarters if especially large (substitute tomatillos if you have them, either canned or fresh)
  • 1 cup pepitas (Mexican unsalted, shelled, green pumpkin or squash seeds)
  • 1 handful of new crop filberts if you’re from Oregon and proud (WV represent!)
  • 3-4  cloves garlic, left whole
  • 1 small white onion, sliced thickly
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable or a nut oil
  • 1 romaine lettuce or green mild chicory leaf
  • handfuls of parsley, epazote (lamb’s quarters), wild arugula, marjoram, fennel, tarragon or whatever leafy green herbs you have left in your garden.  If you don’t have a garden, try 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, a half of a small fennel bulb with the fennel greens, and a half-cup of parsley.
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • fresh lemon juice or pepper vinegar or green, vinegar-based hot sauce
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Place the onions, garlic, green tomatoes or fresh tomatillos on a baking sheet and toss with the oil.  Roast until softened and the skin is deep brown in places and the onions and garlic have a bit of char.  This isn’t an exact science; it’s just to add more flavor.  If you’ve opted for canned tomatillos, dry char the onion pieces and garlic in a cast iron pan to lend the flavor.

While roasting, toast the pepitas over medium heat in a cast iron pan until they lighten in color and start to smell toasty.  Be very careful not to let them burn.  Low and slow is preferable to higher heat.

Let cool a bit, then pulse the pepitas in a food processor with the herbs and lettuce.  Use a bit of the chicken stock to thin enough to process effectively.

Add the softened, charred green tomatoes, onions, and garlic to the food processor.  Add enough chicken stock to make a consistency you like.  Add an acid (lemon juice or fermented pepper juice) if you are using tomatoes instead of tomatillos, and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, heat about a cup of the sauce with a bit more oil and chicken stock, then add about the same amount of cooked shredded chicken, turkey, or tempeh.  Serve the stew with fresh, soft corn tortillas.  You might garnish with more cilantro and pico de gallo.

Freezes beautifully, too.

restaurants open for thanksgiving in eugene 2011

This post is from 2011.  Interested in 2012’s list of restaurants and other shops offering Thanksgiving delights in Eugene? Click here.

I’ve been getting blog hits inquiring about Eugene restaurants open for Thanksgiving, so I asked around.  Here’s what I’ve found so far.  Do you know of others?  Only recommended places, please.

  • Excelsior Inn buffet (reportedly the dessert is worth the trip alone)
  • King Estate buffet (also check out the winery events for the entire weekend)
  • A reader on my Facebook page says the Hilton’s Big River Grill is usually open, but I can’t find any information on that for 2011.
  • Red Wagon Creamery tells me that they’re doing holiday pies for delivery, including Thanksgiving morning.

thanksgiving action shots

Since I’m not furiously cleaning the house for guests for the first time in a while, I’m very happily available for photo opportunities, so I thought I’d share some of my No Turkey But None of that Vegetarian Crap Thanksgiving For Two preparations.

This blog, unlike my kitchen, is a no schmaltz zone.

Brining chicken with lemon and herbs de Provence that are actually de Langedoc (thanks, Rama!)

My counter after the brine bag opened and spilled all over it, necessitating an emergency clear and bleach and reoiling of the cutting board (o what tasks can be tasked if you aren’t having guests on Thanksgiving!).  Hm, maybe we should consider a vegetarian No-Turkey Day after all…

Freezer yields reserves for the gravy stock.

Counter back in business, guest-starring two ruby pears picked and delivered by my neighbor, who requested only a sheet of parchment paper, four cloves, and 1/2 cup of corn oil in return.  Vinaigrette by Retrogrouch.  Defrosting fresh cranberry juice for my Thanksgiving vodka-cran…come to Mama.

Oven in action: wild rice stuffing with wild mushrooms, chicken leg confit, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and wild mushrooms; bratwurst that I am pretending is kielbasa, and butternut squash with truffle butter.

Eating kabocha wild rice soup for lunch.

Spinning mesclun mix.

Masses of Brussels sprouts yearning to be free.

Bread and wild rice stuffing with local dried cranberries, chicken confit, and leeks waiting for the oven.

Testing pumpkin pie.

Thank you for your participation in our Thanksgiving meal, and hope yours was delightful!

cranburied: juice of the gods

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was the delighted recipient of 20 lbs. of freshly harvested Oregon cranberries this year.  At a dollar a pound, plus a few bucks for gas, how could I resist?

But cranberries are nothing but ill-timed for the academic.  I am plumb out of energy at the end of the term.  This is the first year in many we won’t be having a big Thanksgiving party, and my husband’s new diet means he won’t be wanting his favorite stuffing and mashed potatoes, so the chances of me making a Thanksgivingish dinner for us are slim.  Yes, a lean year chez Levin.

This means my old standby, punchy cranberry sauce, a long-cooked version treasured by me, myself, and I, may not make it to the table this year.

Going into my crazy cranberry glut, I had figured on that.  I planned to turn most of the little darlings into dried cranberries for year-round use in salads and sweets.   Which I did, making a holy mess in the process.  They stubbornly refused to dehydrate and I stubbornly refused to cut each of them in half, so we battled for several days until some were sort of dry, then I boiled me up some simple syrup (a 1.5:1 ratio of sugar:water) and plunged the Rebels in to meet their sweet maker.  I had received the advice from someone who had achieved “perfect Craisins” from this method, but whomever she was, she forgot to tell me that it also made sticky, drippy, half-smushed berries that had to be pried off the drying mats not once but twice.  And I am almost positive she hadn’t battled with 10 lbs. of cranberries when achieving such perfection.  My stove looked like something alive had exploded all over it.  Something syrupy and gluey and alive.  Bah.

And you can see from the above picture that my judgment was seriously off when I decided to make cranberry juice out of another 4 lbs. of berries.  It would be a tight squeeze, I had thought, but I could make a double recipe of kissel, a Russian cranberry juice inspired by that made by Vitaly Paley’s grandma, in my biggest stockpot. I was so taken by the lovely image of kissel in a crystal pitcher nestled among bottles of vodka on the Paley family holiday table, I didn’t calculate the volume properly.

One of those tactical mistakes that you realize immediately after it’s done: cranberries float.

Cue more red, dribbly juice all over everything.

But the juice is absolutely wonderful: dense and crisp and crimson and silky.  The pectin in the berries and unfiltered pulp make it slightly thick and filling.  I doctored my juice with a couple of cups of unsweetened quince juice (frozen last year) and a healthy sprig of rose geranium.  There was enough to freeze (or can, had I not fled town for that conference immediately after making the juice).  I highly recommend making cranberry juice if you have never done it.  Just use a big enough pot.

The recipe below was inspired by The Paley’s Place Cookbook recipe and another in the Ball Blue Book.  It is so safe to can the BBB doesn’t even bother with exact measurements over a 1:1 ratio of cranberries:water, noting you can add sugar if you like.  Cranberries are highly acidic little monsters, so no need to worry about botulism.

And because the juice is so lovely and pectin-rich from the cranberries and quince, I may just make a cranberry jelly after all.  I think my stovetop still has a couple of clean places left.  And if I hit the vodka-cran hard enough, the bloodshed won’t bother me a bit!

Important note: you might want to add more sugar to the recipe below.  I wanted to keep it as low sugar as possible for my husband’s diet and flexibility with cocktails.  You also might choose to add a few teaspoons of simple syrup to the juice before drinking if you like it sweeter.  Serve it ice-cold, preferably with vodka and a thick slice of orange peel whose oils have been urged along with a quick flame from a match.

Fresh Cranberry Juice (Kissel) with Quince and Rose Geranium

(makes 2.5-3 quarts)

  • 2 lbs. fresh cranberries (9-10 cups), sorted
  • 4 quarts cold water
  • 2 cups unsweetened quince juice (optional, substitute orange juice)
  • 1 sprig rose geranium leaves (optional)
  • 1 cup sugar (original recipe has 1.5 cups)
In a very large, non-reactive stockpot, combine all ingredients and bring to boil.  Decrease heat to medium low and simmer about 30 minutes until berries burst and release their juicy goodness into the liquid.* (You might use a potato masher to extract more pulp, but beware: this will prevent any possibility of having a clear, thin juice later.)

Strain juice through a colander to remove the pulp. Discard rose geranium sprig, if using.  Solids can be frozen, turned into a cranberry sauce of sorts, and/or spread thickly on a drying sheet with your drying cranberries, dripping juice all over the dehydrator and making even more of a mess that will result in a delicious cranberry fruit rollup to eat with cheese.

Taste juice and add more sugar as necessary.

Strain again (and yet again depending on your patience) through double-layered cheesecloth or a jelly bag to remove remaining solids.

If you have hopes of clear juice, place juice in refrigerator overnight and let sediment settle to the bottom of the bowl.  Carefully ladle only the top layers from the bowl.

Juice will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks or frozen for 12 months.

To can juice instead of freezing:  prepare pint or quart jars and lids and heat jars.   Heat juice for 5 minutes at 190 degrees (don’t boil).  Ladle hot juice into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Wipe rims carefully and adjust lids and rings, turning rings until finger-tight.  Process pints/quarts 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.

*I had a note about the possibility of gelling, but I haven’t successfully boiled the juice to a gel set, so took it out. I have canned quarts of the finished product, and did not achieve a gel in 15 minutes, so perhaps this instruction was too cautious or relied on using more sugar.

thanksgiving 2009

We had 21 people over for what could be called an “orchestrated potluck” this year on a rainy, cold evening.  My dear friends brought appetizers, side dishes, and desserts to supplement what I had made, and thus we had a wide range of choices for all the guests.

We had several vegetarians and one non-dairy guest, and a range of tastes from traditionalist to foodie, so I am so very pleased we were able to accommodate them all.  I’ve been sick, with laryngitis most of the week, and under the pressure of several deadlines, so the potluck option really saved me from peril.  Plus, I liked seeing the family specialties that people contributed, and I like to think that they enjoyed being a part of the preparation.  Everything was delicious; honestly, not a single dish misfired.

OK, let’s talk turkey.  This year, I made Cook’s Illustrated‘s herb roast turkey.  It appeared in the magazine a couple of years ago, and I see from my friend Google that it appeared on their TV program this year.  The recipe is rather simple.  I pulverized about two cups of mixed garden herbs — parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme — with Dijon mustard, garlic, shallot, and olive oil.

The problem is that it’s incredibly messy to rub the herb paste under the skin of a slippery, unwieldy, wet bird.  But manage it we did, and the miracle was all the more miraculous because it was the biggest turkey I had ever cooked: 22.5 lbs. of turkey goodness.  Not sure if I’ll do that again, but it sure was pretty.

The photo is of the turkey about an hour into the cooking process, just before we flipped it and turned the oven way down to finish the cooking.  The bird was so large that it didn’t fit into my roasting pan — or any other pan — so we improvised a rack in a roaster with a cookie sheet underneath it.  The drippings mostly dripped into the roaster…mostly.  There was a small incident when oven floor met drippings, and smoke ensued, but we like to think that the smoked flavor just contributed something to the whole.

The benefits of buying a bigger bird are really the fat content, I think.  That sucker drained off about 6 cups of fat, and the roasted bird, with absolutely no basting and only a very little bit of oil in the herb paste, had a perfectly browned, crisp skin with just the mildest hint of grease crisping everything up and keeping the breast meat tender.  Our slow, weak brine, as usual, yielded terrifically moist, slightly salty meat.

As a hostess, I do wish my house was bigger and could more gracefully seat a large group.  Is it too much to ask for a dining room table that seats 20 comfortably, haha?  I am really, strongly pro-seated dinners, instead of asking people to perch their plates on their laps or inappropriate furniture, and even with all our tables and chairs and a massive table extended well past the dining room divide and into the living room, we still had a couple of people sitting on the couch.  I’m also not a big fan of the dinner buffet (sorry, Mom), but we just didn’t have room to pass around dishes.  When you see the menu below, you’ll understand why.

Anyway…Retrogrouch urges me not to worry about these things, and it seems everyone left happy and sated, but I’m not sure what to do about next Thanksgiving.  We might have a smaller group, or maybe stack people in bunk beds.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Menu 2009

(stuff I made is preceded by an asterisk; everything else was made with love and graciously contributed by guests)

Crudité Platters with Sour Cream Dip
Pickled local Italian Prunes
*Relish Tray with Homemade Garden Cornichons and Pickled Cauliflower
Manchego with *Quince Paste Nostradamus (local quinces, cardamom, lemon zest, clove)
Pesto baguette

Act One
*Herb-rubbed Roast Turkey with Caramelized Onion Gravy
*Polska Kielbasa
Tempeh with Charmoula and Grains

Act Two
*Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream
*Biancalana Pork Bacon and Local Hazelnut Leek Dressing
Apple and Sausage Dressing
Vegetarian Dressing with Onion Gravy

Act Three
*Three Sisters Sauté (Local Corn, Yellow-Eye Beans, and Local Delicata Squash with Cream)
Updated Green Bean Casserole
Spaghetti Squash Bake with Blue Cheese and Ham
Warm Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustardseed

*Long-Cooked Oregon Coast Cranberry Sauce with Star Anise
Cranberry Relish with Meyer Lemon
Caesar and Raspberry-Feta Tossed Salads
*Cucumber and Vinegar Salad (pictured)
Wheat and White Rolls

Apple Pie
*Pumpkin Pie (two different kinds)
Baked Cheesecake
Lemon Zest Whipped Cream
Cookies & Chocolate
Coffee, Tea, Ice Wine