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Archive for the ‘Holiday dishes’ Category

saffronbuns1

Note: I had to repost this again today since yesterday’s post seemed to have gone corrupt. I blame the pranks of Lussi!

In Sweden, Dec. 13 marks St. Lucia Day, a day traditionally when the oldest daughter of the family wears a white robe, a red sash, and a wreath of lit candles on her head as she delivers coffee and saffron buns to the rest of the family still huddled in bed against the cold and dark morning.

St. Lucia is one of the very few saints honored by Lutheran Scandinavians (Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, and Danes) and in some parts of Italy. I’m not exactly clear who St. Lucia was, except that she did some self-sacrificing behavior for the good of others. The legends and stories differ depending on the region of the world.

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stew1

You may have vague memories of learning about the origins of Thanksgiving Dinner in elementary school as you cut out Pilgrim hats and turkeys from construction paper. You probably learned that the first feast of gratitude occurred between the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock and some friendly “Indians” or native Americans who showed up with corn to go along with the prepared turkey. Or something like that.

According to the historic records at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, there is only one written record of that meal in 1621 and it is, at best, a passing reference to the feast that occurred sometime between September 21 and November 9, which was the time of harvest observed by the native Wampanoag People. The English town called Plymouth was right smack in the middle of the Wampanoag homeland. (And let’s not call them Pilgrims, since they didn’t use that term themselves until much later. They were “Separatists” who had separated from the Church of England. You can find the difference between Puritans and Pilgrims here.)

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SalmonPotatoes

When most people hear the words “New England dinner” their first thoughts usually run toward a lobster dinner, a clambake, or an oyster shuck. But there is another kind of seafood that has a long association with the Fourth of July, and that is poached salmon with egg sauce.

The legend has it that Abigail Adams served Atlantic salmon, fresh garden peas, and new potatoes to John Adams on the first Fourth of July in 1776. And while many New Englanders admit to eating salmon on the Fourth of July, finding strong ties to Abigail Adams remains, well, fishy.

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Strawberry sugar pop

Remember Pop Rocks and how fun it was to have a little explosion taking over your tongue?

Molecule-R, which makes molecular gastronomy kits for the “amateur chef” to make edible and unusal delights in your own humble kitchen, has packaged popping sugar in 2.8-ounce canisters. I thought popping sugar would be a great treat for the Fourth of July – fireworks in your mouth!

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Red, white, and blue shortcakes are a standard Fourth of July treat in our family. Just a simple, warm shortcake topped with red strawberries or raspberries and blueberries with whipped cream. This year I got to dreaming a bit. What if I kicked up the flavors a notch? And that is how candied ginger shortcakes with strawberry rhubarb sauce came to be.

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Hot spiced cider with a hint of orange is the perfect way to warm up in between dashing to and fro holiday errands and parties.

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At warm-up Thanksgiving this year, the annual pot luck my friend Jenna hosts a few days before Thanksgiving, I brought a butternut and kale side dish that was a hit. The butternut squash is tossed with spices and olive oil before it is roasted, and then sautéed onions, dried cranberries, and toasted pumpkin seeds are added to a bed of leafy green kale.

Not only does it look pretty on the table, it tastes delicious! This dish quickly emptied out at our pre-Thanksgiving meal.

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On most American Thanksgiving tables, pumpkin pie is as much a presence as the turkey centerpiece. In modern forms it may appear as a flan, a cheesecake, or a frozen whipped delight.

In a Victorian-era cookbook, “The Art of Cookery: A Manual for Home and Schools” by Emma P Ewing, I found a recipe for a pumpkin pie that surprised me for two reasons: the heavy use of molasses and no cinnamon.

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My Grandma Ruth’s birthday fell on the Fourth of July and hardly a year went by that she wasn’t presented with a sheet cake made to look like a flag with a blueberry-studded square in the upper left corner and rows of slivered strawberries marching across white frosting. Sometimes the sugary Old Glory was topped with sparklers.

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The Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky., falls on May 4-5, 2012. I’m not really swept up in the culture around the Derby, even though my mom lived in Lexington for nearly two decades. In my most cynical moments, I can’t understand the big to-do around a 2 minute race.

But I admit, I cried through “Seabiscuit,” “Secretariat,” and “War Horse.” There is something about these majestic, beautiful, intelligent creatures in motion that stirs the human spirit, no matter how intellectual one becomes about the trappings and heartbreak of betting on a horse.

What I do love without question is a Kentucky Pie That Shall Not Be Named – gooey pecans and chocolate over a buttery crust and smothered in a dollop of fresh whipped cream. With the Derby falling on Cinco de Mayo this year, I got to thinking about the perfect marriage: Mexican chocolate and buttery pecans.

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