November 23, 2010

3 Cozy Fall and Thanksgiving-Friendly Recipes


On Saturday night, I had a chicken in the oven, my sister on the couch, and a bottle of prosecco in the fridge. I was telling myself (and anyone who would listen) that it was my Jesus Take the Wheel dinner party. Sometimes when life doesn’t feel like it’s going your way, the best thing to do is give up the illusion that you are at all in control, cast your fate to the winds, and sit down at the dinner table with your family. And eat cake. You must eat cake.

sarah-saladMy sister, husband, and brother-in-law carried their chairs into the kitchen to keep me company while I chopped. Squeezed into the tiny space between the garbage can and the fridge, they were nibble garlicky olives and duck pâté with pistachios (it’s nice to have a sister who can be relied upon for a touch of luxury). And then we moved to the table, switched the Pandora stations to the Magnetic Fields, and toasted to something likely worthwhile and sweet and tender. I wish I could remember.


Roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food in my book. It makes me think of Sunday night dinners in cozy kitchens with a cat curled up on the windowsill and Nina Simone on the stereo.


Would you believe though, that the salad really stole the spotlight from the bird? We all (vegetable-phobic paramour not withstanding) flipped for the earthy, green salad of shredded Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard, sweetened ever-so-slightly with maple syrup. Who knew cruciferous vegetable could be such scene-stealers?

Autumn Greens Salad with Pumpkin Seeds
adapted from Whole Living
Serves 4

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced (3 cups)
4-6 leaves of leafy greens such as Swiss chard or kale (preferably lacinato), stemmed and thinly sliced (3 cups)

Stir mustard, lemon juice, salt, and maple syrup together in a small bowl; whisk in oil until emulsified (or shake in a jar). In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts, chard and/or kale together. Stir in pumpkin seeds and pour in dressing; toss to coat.


As for the gratin, this recipe had been in my to-make pile for years. I loved the idea of a sweet and savory gratin, but I’m not sure the end result was for me. I prefer my gratins, I think, to embrace richness, rather than transform themselves into a relatively healthful hotbed of vegetables. Lesson learned. You may love it, though!

Apple, Leek, and Butternut Squash Gratin
adapted from Whole Living
Serves 4

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium leeks, white part only, trimmed of roots and tough outer leaves, thinly sliced crosswise, well washed and dried
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus leaves for garnish
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 pound apples, such as Gala, Cortland, Baldwin, or Macoun, peeled, halved, cored, and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
1/2 cup freshly grated Gruy&eagrave;re

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a 10-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add leeks and 2 tablespoons water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add sherry and sage and cook until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 3 minutes; set aside.

In a 2-quart shallow baking dish, arrange squash in overlapping layers; season with salt and pepper. Spread leeks evenly over the squash.

Arrange apples in an overlapping layer over the leeks. Brush apples with remaining tablespoon oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 45 minutes.

Uncover and sprinkle cheese over the top. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees and bake 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown. The tip of a paring knife should easily pierce the gratin. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage leaves.


This cake is a fall gold star: it’s quick to come together and very simple. But the brown butter icing takes it to the realm of the divine. I’d like to just think of over things to coat with brown butter icing. Yum.

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing
from Martha Stewart
Serves 8 to 10

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup warm (110 degrees) milk
brown butter icing (recipe follows)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line pan with parchment, and butter the parchment. Coat pan with flour, and tap out any excess.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat until combined. Add pumpkin puree and milk; beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture; beat on low speed until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool. Let cake rest 20 minutes.

Unmold cake. Using an offset spatula, spread icing over top of cake.

Brown Butter Icing
frosts 1 nine-inch cake

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and pour butter into a bowl, leaving any burned sediment behind.

Add sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk; stir until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add the remaining tablespoon milk, a little at a time, until consistency is spreadable. Let cool 5 minutes. Use immediately.

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  • Kristina Strain: Oh dear, what’s up? You’ve been alluding to personal crises for going on two weeks now, and you’ve got me worried. I’m thinking of you, friend.5 years ago

  • Rebecca: OK… the cake pulled me in (pumpkin + brown butter=heaven), but I have to tell you that I’ve had a lot of success with Martha Rose Shulman’s gratin recipes… I love her series in the New York Times, and just got her cookbook (The best of recipes for health) from the library. They are fairly “healthy”, but taste super-yummy… I made a butternut squash gratin last week that was great. And I just roasted the squash whole… no fussing with peeling.
    Now I’m going to print the cake recipe off…
    thanks Sarah!
    Rebecca in TO5 years ago

  • Miss Petite Treat: Hang in there, girl! This too shall pass.5 years ago

  • Evelyn: I made the cake for breakfast this morning – I left off the frosting. It was delicious and we both loved it. Thanks for sharing. Happy Thanksgiving!5 years ago

  • Julie: 1. Brown Butter Icing OMG.

    2. Love that picture of you with your extra set of “hands”. So cute!5 years ago

  • Kristina, Oh man, I guess I have been alluding to a bunch of stuff lately! Though some of it were things friends were going through that only indirectly affected me. Oy. Here’s to this passing and brighter days (and holidays!) ahead!

    Miss Petite, Thanks lady!

    Evely, Yay! So glad you liked.

    Julie, 1. Yeah. It’s just as good as you think. 2. I’m think of starring in a movie called Edward Saladhands.5 years ago

  • Elizabeth: Both the salad recipe and pumpkin cake are blowing my mind right now. My dad is downstairs baking not one but FOUR desserts for Thanksviging (including a pumpkin cheesecake and rosemary pine not tart) and no small part of me wants to demand that he make the pumpkin cake as a fifth. I shall restrain myself. But, damn.
    Glad you had a fun dinner party, and I hope things look more up soon. In the meantime, I consider you the master of self-care! xo5 years ago

  • Aileen: I am also loving the salad recipe and the pumpkin cake. Can’t to try them!5 years ago

  • Kishori: not getting to cook these few months, and miss it – that salad sounds perfect! Will definitely make in the future.5 years ago

  • Beth: Wow- that salad looks and sounds ridiculously delicious. Can’t wait to make it! (Btw- love the recipes- the 5$ dinners are brilliant.)5 years ago

  • Hilary: Hi Sarah–
    On impulse, I decided to make the brussels sprout/kale salad for Thanksgiving dinner. I used some toasted walnuts in lieu of the pumpkin seeds, and just wanted to thank you for what was, quite possibly, my favorite side dish of meal (if I do say so myself)! Happy holidays!5 years ago

  • Woo-hoo, Hilary! So glad you liked!5 years ago

  • Tara: I made this salad and everyone loved it. It keeps very well in the fridge for a day and is actually even better on day 2!5 years ago

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That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.
- Henry David Thoreau