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Thanksgiving dinner can be the most intimidating meal all year to cook.  There is a lot going on from all of the sides and desserts, not to mention cooking a giant turkey.  I hope to demystify this dinner, at least a little, starting with the turkey.

Turkey is surprisingly easy to cook; you just need a roasting pan or any pan big enough to hold it.  You can also use an oven bag to cook the turkey, just be sure to follow the directions on it.  You can cook a turkey of any size, or just a turkey breast, following this basic rule: 325° Fahrenheit for 20 minutes per pound of bird.  Also you want to make sure the meat has reached 165° by checking it with a meat thermometer.  The little button thermometers that come with the birds cannot be trusted and often pop pre-maturely.

When it comes to the seasonings, you want to use enough to evenly sprinkle them over the whole bird.  Since bird and breasts can vary in size significantly I did not list measurements.  Use your best judgment as to how much to use.  When in doubt more is probably better than less.  Otherwise cooking a turkey is as simple as the instructions below.

 

Basic Turkey – 2 Knives

Ingredients:

  • One turkey or turkey breast, thawed
  • 1½ cups orange juice (2 cups for a whole turkey)
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Salt (for whole turkey only)
  • Room temperature butter (for whole turkey only)

Prep:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit.
  2. Rinse the turkey in water, removing anything inside, like organ packets.
  3. If cooking a whole turkey rub the skin with the butter.
  4. Place the turkey in the roasting pan breast-side up.
  5. Pour the OJ over the turkey, allowing some to get inside the cavity.
  6. Sprinkle the paprika, garlic powder and black pepper over the bird so that it’s evenly covered.  If using a whole turkey also use salt.

Cook:

  1. Place the turkey in the oven.
  2. Baste every 30 minutes by pouring the bird’s drippings back over it.  If you don’t own a baster you can use a large spoon.
  3. When you have reached the approximate time that the bird should cook, check the temperature using a meat thermometer.
  4. When finished remove the bird from the pan and place on a cutting board to rest for about 20 minutes before carving.  While the meat is resting it’s a good time to prepare gravy with the drippings or save them to serve as is.
  5. Carve the turkey, serve and enjoy!
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I have a confession to make.  I don’t cook hamburgers.  I just don’t.  I don’t know why this is, but never once at home have I ever wanted to make a beefy, juicy burger.  I only ever order them at bars.  I do however make the occasional turkey burger.  The other night my friend Kate and I made really great burgers for my mom and I thought I would share what we did.

First, a note on turkey burgers.  Like all poultry these have to be cooked 100%.  That means absolutely NO pink in the middle of the burgers.  For this I recommend thinner patties, but also putting a lid on the pan they’re cooking in to help accelerate the cooking process.  Also you should cut into them to check doneness when they are almost complete.   No one wants to get sick from an undercooked burger.

Also because poultry comes with all kinds of nasty germs I’ve intentionally ordered the steps so you touch everything in your kitchen but the meat first.  It’s important to be safe around poultry.  So if you are touching other items in your kitchen while working with the uncooked meat make sure to wash your hands.  Spreading germs around is bad news all around.

 

Turkey Burgers – 2 Knives

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil

Optional toppings:

  • Cheese
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Sautéed onions
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Condiments like ketchup and any kind of mustard

Prep:

  1. Remove the peel from the garlic and chop into a fine mince, or use a garlic press to mince the garlic.  Place in the bowl you plan to mix the burgers in.
  2. In a small bowl separate the egg white from the rest of the egg and discard the yolk and shell.  Add the egg white to the bowl with the garlic.
  3. If you are not using pre-shredded cheddar, shred the cheese and place in the bowl with the garlic and eggs.

Cook:

  1. In the bowl with the garlic and egg white add the bread crumbs, cheddar (if not already added), salt and pepper.
  2. Add to the bowl the turkey meat.  Mix well until all of the ingredients are well incorporated.  This may mean using your hands. 
  3. Place a large pan (that has a well fitting lid) on medium heat and add the oil to warm it up.
  4. Form the meat into four even patties and add them to the hot pan.
  5. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes with the lid on, checking on them part way to make sure they aren’t sticking to the pan.  If they are sticking carefully loosen the bottoms with a spatula.
  6. Flip the burgers to allow them to brown on the other side and cook for another five minutes with the lid on until the burgers are cooked all the way through.  If you are unsure if they are done cut into one to make sure the center is not pink.
  7. Once the burgers are finished place on a bun, top as you like and enjoy!

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The peach harvest this summer is off the hook. They are at the farmers market every single week, no exceptions.  They smell and taste amazing, are juicy and just perfect. One of my favorite recipes for peaches combines them with another summer staple: basil.  While they may not seem like a natural combination the two together are mind-blowing.

For this recipe I wrote it for one whole peach.  I like to save the extra juice/sauce to pour over vanilla ice cream.  The goop is that good it really is worth saving.  I also think you could serve vanilla ice cream with the peaches themselves.   They can be served hot, room temperature or cold – totally up to you.  If saving the peaches in the fridge make sure to cover them with plastic wrap.

 

Basil Poached Peaches – 1 Knife

Ingredients:

  • 1 peach
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 sprig of basil (about 10 leaves)

Prep:

  1. Cut the peach in half and discard the pit.
  2. Wash the basil and remove the leaves from the stem.

Cook:

  1. In a wide bottom sauce pan combine the sugar, wine and water over medium-high heat.
  2. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add to the mixture the basil leaves and the peaches cut-side down.
  4. Cook for 3 minutes, and then using a slotted spoon turn the peaches and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  5. Remove the peaches and place in bowls.
  6. Let the syrup to cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  7. Allow the peaches to cool a little and then using spoons, a fork or your hands carefully remove the peach’s skin.  Discard the skin.
  8. Using a slotted spoon remove the basil leaves from the syrup and discard.
  9. Drizzle the syrup over the peaches, serve and enjoy!

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My friend Sara recently brought over a great dinner idea – a white pizza with Mediterranean inspired toppings.  I made a slight modification to get to this recipe, and it turned out wonderfully.  This is one of those meals that are easy to make on the fly on a weeknight.  You can even add to if you are so inspired.

I put a smaller amount of cheese on the pizza; however you like a really cheesy pizza you can certainly add to it.  I also sized this for a personal pizza, but you can expand everything for a larger pizza.  Just be sure to follow the baking directions on the crust you use.

 

White Pizza with Dried Tomatoes, Artichokes and Olives – 1 Knife

 Ingredients:

  • 8 inch pizza dough (I used Boboli’s but you can use any or make it yourself)
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3 sun dried tomatoes (or use the recipe posted on this site for dried tomatoes)
  • 6 artichoke heart quarters
  • half 4.25 oz can of sliced or chopped black olives
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional if you want some heat)

Prep:

  1. Preheat the oven according to the directions with the pizza dough.
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half or in slices depending on how large they are.
  3. If the artichoke hearts are whole or halves, cut them down into quarters to yield six (or more if you really like artichokes).

Cook:

  1. Place the dough on a baking sheet.
  2. Spread ¾ of the cheese onto the dough evenly.
  3. Arrange on the dough the artichokes, tomatoes and olives.
  4. Sprinkle the oregano and red pepper flakes evenly across the pizza.
  5. Top with the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake according to the dough’s directions.
  7. When finished allow to cool for a few minutes, serve and enjoy!

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I don’t know why, but I absolutely love tabouli, sometimes also spelled tabouleh.  I find it to be a very refreshing salad, and enjoy piling it up on pita with hummus.  The one thing about tabouli though, is that I have found a big difference among the tabouli you buy at the grocery store, are served in restaurants and what you make at home. The grocery store and restaurant varieties have more parsley and less bulgur wheat, whereas the homemade version features the bulgur more.  This version features more bulgur, but it’s not totally overwhelming.

This recipe is written as I make it – with a food processor.  If you do not have one, all of the ingredients that go into the food processor can be chopped into a fine mince.  This will require just cutting the parsley, mint, scallions and garlic to smithereens.  It is totally doable; it just takes a bit more work.

I also made one special substitution in this batch that I really liked.  Instead of garlic cloves I used one garlic scape in the recipe.  It added the delicious garlic flavor without the harsh garlic punch.  If you have access to garlic scape I highly recommend using it instead.

 

Tabouli Salad– 2 Knives

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dry bulgur wheat (#1 or #2 bulgur)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tomato
  • ½ cucumber
  • 4 scallions (green onions)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch curly parsley
  • 10 mint leaves (about 1 sprig)
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Prep:

  1. In a medium pot bring the water to a boil.  Once boiling, pour in the bulgur wheat and turn off the burner.
  2. Allow the bulgur wheat to sit in the water for 30 minutes to hydrate.
  3. While the bulgur is hydrating wash and peel the cucumber.  Remove the seeds and cut the cucumber into a small dice using the method in this video and set aside.  I recommend cutting the cucumber into smaller sticks then done in the video.
  4. Wash the tomato and cut into quarters.  Remove the seeds and then cut the quarter into slices, then chop the slices to create a dice.  Set aside.
  5. Peel the garlic cloves and set aside.
  6. Squeeze the lemon juice into a small bowl, removing any seeds that fall in and set aside.
  7. Wash the scallions and chop off the white roots and discard them.  Then chop the scallions into 1 inch pieces.  Set these aside.
  8. Chop the tough stems off the bottom of the parsley.  It is ok to keep the small stems at the top by the leaves.

Cook:

  1. Strain the bulgur from the water and pour the bulgur into a large bowl.  Splash with one tablespoon of the olive oil and stir to coat.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cucumbers to the bowl with the bulgur.
  3. Add to the food processor the garlic and scallions.  Pulse until pulverized.  Add this to the bowl with the bulgur and veggies.
  4. Add the mint and the parsley to the food processor.  Pulse until the leaves and stems are chopped down significantly.  If you cannot fit all of the parsley into the food processor bowl at once you can do this in batches.
  5. Pour the parsley and mint into the bowl with the bulgur and stir well.
  6. In the small bowl with the lemon juice add the salt and the remaining olive oil.  Stir well and then pour over the tabouli in the larger bowl.
  7. Stir the salad well so that it is evenly coated, serve and enjoy!

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One of my summer favorites at the farmer’s market is the green tomatoes.  Last summer was the first time I started working with them, and I love their crisp, tart flavor.   Now one of my favorite movies is “Fried Green Tomatoes” (girl power!) so naturally frying the suckers up wasn’t even a question.

Since my first intrepid batch my fried green tomato skills have improved.  I’ve found for instance that if you don’t mind wasting little oil, having some depth – say ¼ inch of oil – can go a long way to an even browning.  I’ve also found that you should wait a minute to let them cool before shoving them in your face.  The alternative is a bad burn in your mouth.  Trust me on that one.

 

Fried Green Tomatoes  – 1 Knife

 Ingredients:

  • 1-2 green tomatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • ½ cup cornmeal (add more if you need more)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup flour
  • cooking oil like vegetable or canola

Prep:

  1. Add to a small bowl, but that is big enough to dredge (this means coat on both sides) tomato slices in, the egg and tobacco sauce. Stir well with a fork until the egg and tobacco are well mixed.
  2. Add to a second small bowl, that again an fit tomato, the cornmeal, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.
  3. Add to a third bowl the flour.
  4. Slice the tomato(es) across the entire tomato to create cross-sectional slices of the tomato, about ¼ inch thick.   Each slice should show off the entirety of the tomato.  I do not recommend using the end pieces.
  5. Set up an area to drain the tomatoes when they come out of the oil using a folded paper bag (like from the grocery store) and paper towel.  You can also use a plate and paper towel.

Cook:

  1. Dredge a slice of tomato in the flour and coat both sides.  I like to use a fork to move flour around to make sure it covers everything.
  2. Next dredge the slice of tomato in the egg mixture, making sure it completely coats.
  3. Finally, dredge the slice of tomato in the cornmeal mixture, turning to make sure both sides are evenly coated.
  4. Repeat this step with all of the tomato slices, and set them aside on a plate.
  5. Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add oil until about ¼ inch high (or less if you are more conservative, or more if you wish). Allow the oil to heat up, you will know it’s hot if a drop of water (do this carefully please, oil burns hurt) causes the oil to bubble.
  6. Add tomatoes to the pan, being careful not to crowd them.
  7. After 3-5 minutes once the tomatoes are brown but not burnt on the on side, carefully flip them with a spatula to cook the other side for an additional 3-5 minutes.
  8. Once cooked through remove from the pan and place on the drain bag/plate and blot with paper towel if you want to remove more oil.
  9. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then serve and enjoy!  I recommend serving with a fresh fruit chutney or relish.  Makes them delish!  

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Everyone has their 4th of July traditions.  Once I left home and was on my own, I created my own traditions and this macaroni salad is one of them.  My grandmother was given this recipe by her neighbor in Valley Stream, NY, Elaine Cohen.  If any recipe shows the power and importance of sharing it might be this one as it became a family staple over the decades.  I grew up this recipe whenever my father would make it as his mother made it for him growing up.  It was always so special – I loved it.  So as an adult I decided that every 4th I would make this salad.  Whether I bring it to a cookout or eat it all on my own varies year to year.

Now to be honest, if I saw this recipe in a cookbook I might overlook it as it is quite retro.  But don’t be turned off by the olives and pimentos.  This salad has all of the right flavors to compliment hot dogs, hamburgers, anything you can throw on a grill on a summer day.  It also holds well on its own as a lunch entrée.  The one quirk of this salad is that its best to make it the day before you plan to serve it to allow the flavors to come together.

 

Macaroni Salad with Olives and Pimentos– 1 Knife

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni (half a standard box)
  • 1 15 oz can of small black pitted olives
  • 1 15 oz can of green olives stuffed with pimentos
  • 1 small jar of pimentos
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Prep:

  1. Drain the cans of olives.  Chop the olives in half across the equator to create two short halves – one half with the top of the olive with the hole and then the bottom (not long, even halves).  Set aside.
  2. Drain the pimentos from the liquid.  Chop the pimentos into a fine dice, and set aside.
  3. Wash the carrots and grate them.  Set them aside.
  4. Wash the green pepper.  Cut out the core and discard all of the seeds.  Cut the green pepper into thin slices and then cut those slices into a small dice.  Set aside.
  5. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a small bowl, removing any seeds.

Cook:

  1. Place a pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil.  Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package.
  2. Meanwhile in a large bowl combine the black and green olives, pimentos, carrots and green peppers.
  3. When the pasta finishes cooking, strain and run under cold water until the past feels lukewarm.  Be sure the remove any access water.
  4. Add the pasta to the bowl and stir so that all of the ingredients are well mixed.
  5. Add the lemon juice to the pasta mixture and stir well.
  6. Add the mayonnaise to the pasta mixture and stir until it is evenly incorporated.  If you prefer more mayo in your salad, feel free to add a little more.
  7. Sprinkle the garlic powder evenly over the bowl and stir well.
  8. Cover the salad and place in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill, but preferably allow it to sit for a day.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

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