Categories
Recipes

Pumpkin Cream Pie

There is so much to be thankful for.

Many kids love the gifts that Christmas brings, but from a young age, I found myself enchanted with Thanksgiving. It quickly became my favorite holiday. This might have had something to do with the food. It might have had something to do with family. It might have had something to do with giving thanks. And on several occasions it had to do with friends from college joining our family table. My aunts regularly hosted the holiday at their different homes and I remember early mornings awoken by the smell of turkey roasting in the oven. Hours sitting at the table and the card games that transpired the evening before with my cousin are delicately carved in my memory too. Then there were the years we had family from Mexico join us, which was such a special occasion. Every year gave me new reasons to look forward to Thanksgiving.

Being a newlywed, we had the delight of venturing up north to be with Nathan’s family on Wednesday night. My second year with them, I have enjoyed my role of sous chef to his mom’s executive chef. Thursday morning, we set a cheerful table with gourds running the gamut of the table’s spine and handwritten table cards with everyone’s names. We set out red wine glasses that sparkled alongside dessert wine glasses. In the kitchen, we prepped Brussels sprouts and rinsed the salted turkey.

Nathan and I took a mid-morning walk around town, taking in the crisp November air that has recently fallen on the Bay Area in the form of a cold snap. Arm-in-arm we traipsed over railroad tracks and past the one open grocery store. We walked past the sun high in the sky illuminating the yellow-bleached ginkgo leaves flapping like small flags in the wind. Our first Thanksgiving as an old married couple was shaping up to be something spectacular.

This year, I had the pleasure of dessert duty and made two pies. I love being responsible for dessert because it’s done ahead of time and gives me time to help out with other items best suited day-of, and as described above. I had seen the Pumpkin Cream Pie recipe on Shutterbean’s blog last week and found it intriguing. Despite my love of pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie has never been one that holds me rapt with attention. I get that it’s a tradition and thus like opportunities to riff on that tradition. I would say this is a keeper of a recipe and of course, leave it to Martha Stewart to get it right. My aunt B’s pecan pie- this is what always brought me to the dessert table. Perhaps it’s because I’m from the Southwest where we name rivers “Nueces” and such, pecans run in our blood. I hunted around online for an acceptable Pecan Pie recipe and happily found the one that will be my go-to from here on out at Simply Recipes. As Elise describes it there, “it’s not too sweet” and while I do love the Pecan Pie, they can sometimes taste cloyingly sweet. Beck’s sister brought a cheesecake with raisin crust which was tasty. As you can see, we had a dearth of treats.

We noshed on hors d’oeuvres of shrimp and rosemary marcona almonds, an array of crackers and a parmesan artichoke heart dip with olive tapenade. We started our festivities sipping leftover champagne from the wedding- as if extending that one party into this celebration- fantastic. One of Nathan’s sister’s prepared a salad with pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts, dressed in a pomegranate reduction sauce. Onto the bird, her husband skillfully carved it with the help of the iphone. It sat alongside mashed root vegetables with garlic panko breading, a sourdough dried fruit & fig stuffing, a sweet potato banana side dish made famous by Tyler Florence for a reason and our Brussels Sprouts. With a three mushroom gravy and two kinds of cranberry- orange relish and brandied berries, we were set!  Shared with new family and friends, what a feast it was.Their tradition of going around the table and sharing what each person is thankful for after the meal and before dessert is a tradition I look forward to continuing with my family. We wined and dined well into the evening, our time drunk with laughter, stories, jokes and the ribbing of siblings and family members.

When you lose someone you love, pausing to remember those you love who are no longer with you is normal and good. Giving thanks for them is even better. And after you’ve allowed yourself to go there, you can come back to present day thankfulness for people who are still with you. I am incredibly grateful for new family coalescing with my consanguineal.  Our first Thanksgiving married, it remains a day to look forward to. After all,

There is so much to be thankful for.

DESSERT RECIPES- Pumpkin Cream Pie

 

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PUMPKIN CREAM PIE
Adapted from Martha Stewart

FOR THE PUMPKIN CREAM FILLING

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin (from one 15-ounce can)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whisked to medium peaks
  • Frozen whole wheat pie crust
  • Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Bake pie crust.
  2. While pie crust bakes, make the pumpkin cream filling: Bring milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, 1/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks with cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl.
  4. Gradually whisk about 1/2 cup milk mixture into yolk mixture. Gradually whisk in remaining milk mixture. Return entire mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbling in center, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately whisk in pumpkin. Whisk in butter.
  5. Strain filling through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Pour into baked pie crust, smoothing the top with an offset spatula. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, top with whipped cream, and garnish with nutmeg.

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Our Pecan Pie

 

Categories
Poetry

Giving Thanks & an Elegy by Yehuda Amichai

Many people give up on poetry.

They think it does not have anything to say to them after high school English class. Perhaps, they think, it is for a certain social tier or for people who have time. I’m not sure of the why, but one of the when’s of their return to poetry can often involve death. People hobble their way back to poetry when a loss has occurred. Maybe it’s to find that one poem to be read at the Memorial service that will speak a syllable of the shock and awe and numbness in which they have found themselves of late.

There are several forms of poems that evoke loss through content and style. Style-wise, it’s something that fascinates me- it’s the show without needing to tell. Then there’s the lovely elegy. An elegy is defined as “a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead.” Mary Jo Bang writes a strong poem to convince the reader of “The Role of Elegy.”

Thanksgiving approaches stealthily this year. There is so much to be thankful for. I tell myself that when I’m feeling it down to the marrow of my bones. I tell myself that when I’m hunkering down in solitude, alone with my thoughts in a room full of people, a dissonant note.

I went to a class two Sundays ago at church on spiritual perspectives of depression. For weeks, I’d seen the blurb out of the corner of my eye and toyed around with the possibility of attending. Maybe I’d learn something. But maybe I’d moved on and didn’t need to go to a class like that. After all, my Jewish grief support group is buoy and rope for all of us involved. Maybe depression was a phase of grief I had graduated from entirely. I had begun feeling invigorated and alive after the wedding, excited about the future and more excited about the present. But then it hit me again.

Thud.

His laugh, that trill his voice took when he called my name in a sing-song tone. The koala face he would make when he held his breath, puffed his cheeks, pulled on his ears and kind of went cross-eyed. The sage words. The secure steel of his arms wrapped around me. Nothing to replace that…

And the thing is you can try but nothing will replace them. After someone you love dies, you get to live through many firsts without them. Nothing diminishes that ache of loss, though I hear love, time and in my case, God sure make it better. In that class on depression, the speaker a Dr. Sullender, charged that often people encountering depression find themselves uplifted by gratitude. It’s an interesting idea and makes sense really. Thinking of the things you are thankful for, said another way, “what you have” turns your back on (what you don’t have) the things bogging you down.

He countered the idea of depression as being particularly special by citing numerous people who were depressed for a stint of time caused by loss, not just those instances where depression requires medicinal assistance. Did you know it’s the second most cited mental affliction in the United States today, second to addiction? Did you know three Saturdays ago was National Survivors of Suicide day? Grief tends to find a friend in depression, at least for a time.

Last year I didn’t go home for the holiday. Maybe I did the year before that, memory is time’s fool. I found myself visiting Beck’s parent’s house for the first time. I found myself ensconced in the guest room for a pocket of time describing the kind of Thanksgiving we were about to embark on to my dad. I found myself saying I love you right before hitting the end button on the call.

You can never say I love you enough.

I remember making a salad one year for Thanksgiving, trying to share a bit of that part of me so enthralled by taste and flavor with him. He had tried the pomegranate seeds floating between leaves of arugula and liked it. The “rabbit food” he usually abhorred, had this time tasted delightful…

I received word that my Dad’s half-brother Oom Kees passed away a week ago today. Upon reading those words in my email inbox, I promptly sought to bury my head in the sand and be an ostrich for a day. The news made me increasingly tired but found me up late that night with insomnia. It may seem odd, but I processed this information through a lens of how my Dad might. I knew he would be deeply saddened. It really made the pang of wanting to talk with him sharp. That desire to talk doesn’t go away. Instead, often what you get is a gnawing sense of something not quite right with the world anymore. Even in the best and most dizzyingly high moments, you can’t quite put your finger on what might be casting a pallor making the great good. And then it hits you anew.

Sometimes you want to hear that things are going to be okay, even though you now know they don’t go back to the way they looked beforehand, which doesn’t mean they can’t be good. They just won’t be the same and frankly neither will you. I would charge you to be gentle and kind and patient with yourself as you sort out what you are all about after a major death. Take it as my from me to you.

Taking the idea brought on by Dr. Sullender, I’ve crafted my thankfulness list. What would yours include?

To be thankful in the loss and thankful for the living before it and that which comes after.

To be thankful for an engagement and thankful for the wedding nine months hence.

To be thankful of embracing old family and thankful to say ours not yours or mine.

To be thankful for the strangers cum friends, friends cum family, thankful for arms, sound, silence.

To be thankful for the time given and thankful to ungrip when the going needs to be let.

To be thankful for a mom, a dad, cousins, aunts, thankful for love spoken in three languages.

There is so much to be thankful for.

I picked up my dog-eared tome of Yehuda Amichai given to me by one of my poetry mentors. My dad would have liked the earthiness, the lust for life of this Israeli poet. Maybe he would have seen the magical realism of the one culture speaking and informing the other. The us instead of the them. I miss my Dad this Thanksgiving but I will choose to give thanks for his rich life and that I got to share part of it.

So here’s a poem from Amichai with a bit of an elegiac timbre to it, in honor of my Dad. In it, Amichai’s resolution to the loss of the beloved is personal and direct. It is a one-sided conversation of letting go and remembrance entertwined.

In the Middle of This Century

Yehuda Amichai
Translated, Stephen Mitchell

In the middle of this century we turned to each other
with half face and full eyes
like an ancient Egyptian painting
and for a short time.

I stroked your hair in a direction opposite to your journey,
we called out to each other
As people call out the names of the cities they don’t stop in
along the road.

Beautiful is the world that wakes up early for evil,
beautiful is the world that falls asleep to sin and mercy,
in the profanity of our being together, you and I.
Beautiful is the world.

The earth drinks people and their loves
like wine, in order to forget. It won’t be able to.
And like the contours of the Judean mountains,
we also won’t find a resting-place.

In the middle of this century we turned to each other.
I saw your body, casting the shadow, waiting for me.
The leather straps of a long journey
had long since been tightened crisscross on my chest.
I spoke in praise of your mortal loins,

you spoke in praise of my transient face,
I stroked your hair in the direction of your journey,
I touched the tidings of your last day,
I touched your hand that has never slept,
I touched your mouth that now, perhaps, will sing.

Desert dust covered the table
we hadn’t eaten from.
But with my finger I wrote in it the letters of your name.

Categories
Recipes

Chicken Sausage with Lentils and Salami

SAUSAGE RECIPES- Meaty Lentils

Two weeks before the time my finger would find a circlet of white gold wrapped around it, the chaos and nervous jitters had come and been communicated through. What remained were the small embellishments for the party celebrating a newly cemented us. Weddings often bring people together in unexpected ways and one of the pieces of wisdom I have received this year is if someone reaches out, reach back.

I don’t possess a superwoman complex though I will be the first to admit sometimes you want things done a certain way. Just so. Tie the green ribbon so it faces the front of the wedding program so guests can see words to sing along inside on the back page. I call it detailed. Nathan calls it perfectionist. That’s pretty true too. Going into planning a wedding, I decided to act as if this was the biggest tradeshow, event or party I’d ever planned. It helped a bunch *and saved a mint.* Early on, the devil kept me company in those details I obsessed over and slowly I found them drift away. The details that remained were the ones I knew were manageable with help. As a wise woman told me in grief support group this year, if someone reaches out, reach back.

Nathan’s sister has a way with a pen and when she asked if she could help, I quickly responded. With my workdays at full throttle and the wedding tasks acting as evening projects, I knew whatever I made needed to be quick, filling but also energizing.

Enter chicken sausage with lentils and salami and apple radish relish.

We cut and tied ribbons for the wedding programs in the span of an hour while Nathan’s sister wrote in her elegant script, penning names on all our table place cards. Dinner satisfied and our project was easily completed. I think one of the best things about having people help you is the shared experience. A memory to file away in the memory bank for later. I will remember with fondness Nathan’s sister, all the spools of sage green ribbon and her clever cursive script on mango colored place cards.

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Chicken Sausage with Lentils and Salami

  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 2 ¼ cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 chicken apple sausage
  • 1/4 cup salami

Set the water on high heat. Once it reaches a rolling boil, add the sage, garlic powder, onion powder, and lentils and cover. Turn heat down to simmer for 15 minutes. Don’t add salt yet. While the lentils are cooking, chop the chicken sausage and salami. When you have about five minutes left on the lentils, begin to heat up the sausage in a separate pan. Once the lentils are done and the sausage is cooked, combine in a separate dish with the salami. Serve with a side of brown rice for a hearty dish.

Apple Radish Relish

1 honeycrisp apple, diced
3 radishes, diced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fig vinaigrette
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dice the apple and radishes. Mix together the fig vinaigrette with Dijon mustard and olive oil. Drizzle vinaigrette over the slaw and toss to combine. Serve atop Meaty Lentils as a slightly sweet, piquant condiment.

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