Ah, the weekend after Thanksgiving! I enjoy Thanksgiving and preparing Thanksgiving dinner, really, I do, but there’s something special about the weekend afterwards. The cooking marathon is over, and I can relax with my husband, Peter, and whichever of my kids and family are around.
Many folks like to hit the stores, taking pleasure in the hustle and bustle, and enjoying the crowds of shoppers hunting for bargains and perfect gifts for hard-to-please relatives. For me, it’s a time to sit back and spend time with my kids, family and friends that have come home. We might take a walk in the woods (although this year, chances are it’ll be raining) or we may just hang out with some hot cider, perhaps laced with a little rum, by the fireplace.
Whether you prefer the frenetic shopping scene or lazing around at home; whether you made Thanksgiving dinner, brought a dish, or just brought yourself, do you feel like cooking?
I sure don’t.
At least, not right away. It’s not because I won’t have had a lot of help and support. Too many cooks may spoil the broth – and the holiday – in some families, but not in mine. My mom makes my grandmother’s German creamed spinach better than anyone. She’ll bring that – as sacred a family tradition as the turkey – along with dill dip for the relish tray. Peter will compose the relish tray, which will include the pickles he’s been experimenting with lately. He’ll also make the sweet potatoes with chipotle. Daughter Ashley will have prepared her cranberry-black pepper relish, which is especially good on post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. Peter’s sister and her family will bring provisions from Chicago.
They don’t just help with the prep, either. This bunch doesn’t evaporate when it’s time to do the dishes and cleanup – even better, they insist that I take a break while they do the dirty work. It’s an offer I should refuse, but always end up taking.
On Friday, we may go out for lunch or nibble around leftovers. By Friday evening, and certainly by Saturday, we’ll be ready to think about making a meal again.
But not anything that’s complex or rich. We want to make something homey; something that doesn’t involve much fuss or long preparation.
One of our favorites consists of the soup and bread below, served with a green salad garnished with crisp pears or apples.
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Spicy tomato orange bisque
This tangy soup, with its bright and lively flavors, is a perfect antidote to holiday overindulgence, but it’s great any time. It takes little more than half an hour from start to finish, and there’s only about 10 minutes of actual prep involved: opening a can of tomatoes, chopping a pepper and onion, and blending the soup before serving. It somehow manages to have a rich mouth feel without being at all heavy. If you like chili heat, add the hot pepper; if not, it’ll taste just fine without it.
Spicy Tomato Orange Bisque is not only warm and welcoming on damp, cold days, but equally good served chilled during hot summer months.
- 1 T. butter
- 1 c. chopped onion, preferably red
- 1 chopped red bell pepper, about 1 c.
- 1 chopped hot red pepper, or more or less, or cayenne to taste, optional
- 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes in juice, preferably Italian
- 2 c. orange juice
- 1 c. chicken or vegetable stock or broth
- Pinch of one or more of the following ground spices: ginger, allspice, cinnamon, cloves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Plain yogurt
- Thinly seedless orange slices for garnish, optional
Melt the butter in a large saucepan or a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the chopped onion and peppers, stir to combine, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Let the vegetables “sweat” until they are softened, about five minutes.
Uncover the pan and raise the heat to high. Add the tomatoes, orange juice, stock or broth, and ground spices. Bring the mixture just to a boil, then reduce the heat until it barely simmers, then cover the pan and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Let the mixture stand for a few minutes, then purée with a hand-held immersion blender or in small batches in a regular blender. Be careful if using a stand blender; hot liquids can “explode” as the heat expands.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with the orange slices if desired. Pass a bowl of yogurt at the table for each diner to stir into the soup. Serves 4 - 6
Quick potato bread
- 1 1/2 lb. baking (russet) potatoes
- 1/2 c. warm (not hot) water
- reserved from cooking the potatoes
- 1 tsp. honey or sugar
- 1 T. active dry yeast (NOT fast-acting)
- 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 T. kosher or sea salt
- 4 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- Semolina or fine cornmeal
Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Steam or boil the potatoes until they are done, about 10 minutes (A knife should pierce them easily). Allow the potatoes to completely cool and dry in a single layer on parchment or waxed paper; this should take at least 30 minutes. (The potatoes can be cooked a day or more ahead of time and refrigerated until needed. Let them come to room temperature and warm the potato water before proceeding.)
Mix the honey and yeast and stir in the warm potato water. Let proof (bubble up and begin to expand and turn creamy) for 5 – 10 minutes. If the yeast mixture doesn’t begin to bubble, it is no longer good. Discard it, and use fresh yeast before proceeding.
When the potatoes are completely cool and dry, turn them into a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mash. On lowest speed, add the yeast mixture and olive oil and combine. Add the salt and flour, and mix for 2 or 3 minutes or until combined. Increase the speed to medium, and mix for 11 minutes.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30- 45 minutes. It will not have doubled in bulk, but will have begun to rise. Punch the dough down, and divide in half. Let rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375o F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle generously with semolina or cornmeal. Form each half into a rough oval, then roll into a torpedo shape. Place seam side up on the baking sheet. Spray plastic wrap with vegetable spray, then cover the breads. Let rise for 30-45 minutes. Open the oven door a crack and spray with water for about a minute. Quickly place the bread inside. After 2 minutes, spray the oven again with water. This makes a crisp crust. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the crust is well browned and the loaves sound hollow when thumped. Cool before eating. Makes 2 loaves.