We’ll start off with Butternut Squash Hummus
with blue corn tortilla chips and carrot and celery sticks as dippers. I’ll make the dip and cut up the vegetables a day or two before the party. Submerged in cold water, the vegetables will stay fresh and crisp.
For a moist, tender, and ever so flavorful turkey, I dry-brine and then grill my holiday bird. I started doing this several years ago, when Russ Parsons, food editor for the Los Angeles Times, wrote about the excellent results he got using these two techniques. Not only is the turkey fabulous, once it’s on the grill, it needs next to no attention, so you are free to focus on the rest of the meal. And, the oven is available for everything else you’ll want to cook in it.
I use a Diestel American Heirloom Turkey
. These are organically raised Bronze turkeys, meaning they are a flavorful breed, free of antibiotics, growth stimulants, and hormones; as a result they deliver a pure, old-fashioned taste. I add hands full of fresh herbs to the salt rub, infusing the turkey with rosemary, thyme, and tarragon. With a dry rub, you get a better texture than with liquid brining, and there is no messy submerging a large bird in liquid and then trying to figure out how to keep it cold for several days.
To go with the turkey, I’ll be serving my Make-Ahead Gluten-Free Mushroom Gravy
. Stirring up the gravy at the last minute can be the most challenging part of pulling off the Thanksgiving feast, but not with this irresistible, Marsala
Richly flavored with Andouille sausage, ancho chile powder and oregano, and jam-packed with cubes of butternut squash and bell peppers, this chili is perfect for a nippy autumn evening, and I’ll be serving it at our Halloween party. I like to top the chili with a tart lime cream and serve it with the slightly sweet and gently spiced Pumpkin Cornbread, posted a few days ago.
We’ll start off the evening nibbling on crunchy toasted seeds from the squash, one of many good reasons to bother cutting up any winter squash. Roasting the seeds is so easy, I’ll describe the process here without a formal recipe: Scrape the seeds from the squash, along with the moist fibers that surround them, into a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil, coarse kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and then spread them out on a greased small baking sheet. Roast at 300°F until crispy, about 20 minutes. I love these hot from the oven, but they make a tasty snack at room temperature too.
In October, when the hot, dry, Santa Ana winds blow here in Los Angeles, I long for cool, crisp fall days, colorful foliage, and farm stands adorned with apple and pumpkin displays—spectacles I came to love during the years I lived in New England. We may not have many chilly days or crimson and gold leafed maples in Southern California, but I can get a taste of Vermont by placing several large pumpkins by our front door and cooking with pumpkin and other winter squash.
While the Santa Anas were gusting last week, I was inspired to create a pumpkin cornbread for my friend Kelly, a California girl who doesn’t crave New England autumnal pleasures but fancies anything made with pumpkin. The first loaf I baked was a little bland, begging for molasses and spices, so I stirred up a spiced molasses butter to spread on big squares of the bread. Delicious, but this triggered the idea to combine all the flavors in one, easy-to-make loaf.
When Steve and I were first introduced, we exchanged stories about our backpacking adventures (we are both retired backpackers), which led to our first date, which led to lots of hiking together, and eventually to our marriage.
We rent a comfortable cabin in the Sierras each year for a week of high-mountain exploring. Our days are more relaxed than when we used to rough it, and shape up like this: While I cook breakfast, Steve builds a campfire under the pines, we eat a leisurely breakfast and read by the fire before deciding on a hike, pack a lunch, and hit the trail around 11:30—just when I start to get hungry for lunch.
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