Thanksgiving menu prep

Good god, I am not feeling at all ready for Thanksgiving this year. It sort of snuck up on me in this crazy whirlpool of everything else to do (mainly work and moving/packing) that does not include making Thanksgiving menu lists as efficiently as I normally would.. The warm weather has not helped things either – it certainly does not feel like late November outside.

However, the triple apple cake is ready to be made! The Russ & Daughters treats and the heritage turkey have been ordered. And there is a plethora of tried and tested exciting options to choose from for all your other Thanksgiving appetizing needs.

I hope that these seasonal favorites provide some holiday table inspiration for all of you too. Now let’s get to planning that Thanksgiving menu!

To Start


Acorn squash with chili-tarragon butter (serve with a little labneh or rich yogurt)

Carrot risotto

Butternut squash hummus (serve with homemade pita or vegetable chips)

Market salad

In the middle

IMG_0582Roast chicken with lemon and endive

Parsnip & sage puree

Whole roasted duck

Multicultural turkey meatballs

IMG_0736Roasted brussels sprouts (with pear and tarragon mustard)

Dad’s mashed potatoes



Triple apple cake


Almond-coconut peach crumble


Pumpkin quatre quarts cake

Thanksgiving triple apple cake


{this recipe originally appeared in the November issue of VRAI magazine}

Yes, I have more apple recipes – ‘tis the season, after all – but this one is really special. It’s a Thanksgiving triple apple cake with double the apples inside and whole lady apples on top!

Can you believe that it’s time to start making plans for your Thanksgiving table already? So far, all I’ve done is order the turkey and make this cake a few times.

It is not too sweet, which lets the fruit really shine, but you can also dress it up and sweeten it more with a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar or maple sugar on top.

This apple cake makes a perfect Thanksgiving table centerpiece, but the recipe is actually a variation on an apple charlotte cake my mom used to make all the time when I was younger. Because, although it is lovely to start new traditions and add “dishes with a twist” to your holiday repertoire, this time of year is still all about family.


Triple apple cake

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup applesauce (homemade or storebought)
  • 1/2 cup stewed lady apples
  • 4 lady apples, peeled, cored, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 5 whole lady apples
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar + 1 tablespoon for topping
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch of cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Optional: maple sugar or confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling on top
  1. Make the applesauce first, if you are making your own. The recipe is basically the same as for the stewed apples below, except you would not use lady apples for the applesauce, as their flesh doesn’t fall apart as easily as that of regular apples, and omit the water.
  2. On low-medium heat, cook the chopped apples in water with lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon until the apples are fragrant and there is little to no liquid in the pot.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F and butter a 12 inch cake pan (preferably, with a removable bottom). In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar.
  4. Slowly whisk in the oil, then add vanilla, baking soda, salt and spices. Fold in the flour, apple sauce, and the stewed apples. Stir together gently.
  5. Pour batter into the pan and shake a little to even out the edges. Place the whole lady apples on top and let them sink into the batter. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar before placing into the oven.
  6. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cake is baked through and firm in the middle. Let cool before removing from pan.


Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or maple sugar (I get mine from Crown Maple here in New York) before serving.


Simple suppers: multicultural turkey meatballs


Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of cuisines vaguely classified as “fusion,” but a melding of cultures in food can be a beautiful thing, if it happens organically.

These turkey meatballs – already a standby of some favorite suppers – are made extra special by a subtle nod to my Russian culture. Buckwheat, or kasha, makes the meatballs tender and ever so delicate, as this recipe doesn’t use any other binder.

Add a little tomato sauce, warmed up with sage, to scoop up with each spoonful, and you have one of my favorite simple weeknight meals, ready in just about half an hour.

Comfort food makes for the best simple supper.

{p.s} For more in the Simple Suppers series, search under the tag, or click here, here, or here.

Tip: Serve warm, with extra arugula salad and a scattering of grated cheddar.


Multicultural turkey meatballs

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 2/3 cups kasha (cooked according to package instructions and cooled)
  • 1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 T fresh sage, chopped
  • cheddar cheese, for topping (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 450F. Chop 1/2 cup of arugula and reserve the other 1/2 cup.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine ground turkey, chopped arugula, and kasha. Season lightly.
  3. Empty a can of diced or crushed tomatoes into a warmed baking dish (use something about 4 x 10 inches), add a pinch of salt, pepper, and sage. Add in remaining arugula.
  4. Use your hands to form golf ball sized meatballs out of the turkey mixture. Drop them right on top of the sauce in the baking dish. They will be nestled fairly closely together and that is completely okay.
  5. Cook the meatballs in the oven until sauce is bubbling hot and meatballs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes.


Serve with grated cheddar cheese and extra arugula, if desired.


Apple chips with everything good


I really subscribe to the ‘keep it simple’ mantra, particularly in my cooking, though I am trying to make sure that it spreads to the rest of my life, as well.

This healthy seasonal snack is as simple as it comes. But peak season fruit does not need much else, just a little slow heat.

Sharpen your chef’s knives and pick up some of the sweetest of this fall’s crop of apples. Honey crisps or Pink Ladies or Galas will suit.

That, and any mix of delicious seed, nut, or chocolate toppings, plus a little honey, are all you need to make these apple chips.

Pick whatever toppings you prefer, but remember: keep it simple. Lighter seeds and nuts will bake and stick better to the delicate chips.

ps. {If you want more ideas for healthy snacks – for kids and adults alike! – click here.

Apple chips

You’ll need:

  • 2 large apples
  • 3 T light honey
  • sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts
  • chocolate chips or chunks (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 225F and line a baking sheet with wax/baking paper.
  2. There is no need to core or peel the apples. Turn each apple on the side and use a chef’s knife to cut thin rounds – as thin as you can make them.
  3. Lay the apple slices out on the baking sheet. They can be placed fairly close together since they will shrink as they bake.
  4. If you’re using toppings, chop up the chocolate and any larger nuts into smaller pieces. Then pour about 1/2 T of honey onto half of an apple slice and place the nuts or seeds etc. on top. Don’t overload the chips – they should still be thin and crisp!IMG_2441
  5. Bake for about an hour. Check on the apple chips about 40-45 mins into baking and flip some of them, if necessary, for even color.IMG_2439

Apple caramel pudding

apple pudding

{this recipe originally appeared in the October issue of VRAI magazine}

I love falling for fall.

At first, I felt a little resentment about the end of summer but then… it’s apple season, and Halloween party season, and crispy, colorful foliage season, and I am excited all over again.

To celebrate fall, here is a fresh new take on a tarte tatin. The caramelized apples – hopefully, from your local orchard, particularly if you’re here in the Northeast – get a gooey, warm caramel pudding-like topping that finishes baking in the oven.

And what’s not to love about that.

Apple caramel pudding

You’ll need:

  • about 5 tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
    1/2 cup raw sugar
    1 stick butter, plus a little extra for greasing baking dish
    1¼ cups AP flour
    1/2 cup + 1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 cup milk
    1 egg
    5 T Lyle’s golden syrup
    1 tablespoon cornflour
    1 tablespoon almond flour
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/3 teaspoon allspice
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. This starts off similarly to a classic tatin. Cook the apples with raw sugar and 1/3 stick of butter on medium-high heat in a pan until caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. You’ll be able to smell the beautiful caramel and the apples will be fork tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Preheat oven to 360F. Butter a baking dish and spoon the apple mixture into the dish.

3. Melt the remaining 2/3 stick of butter. In a mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, flour, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, milk, egg, vanilla, 2 T golden syrup, and all the spices until smooth.

4. Pour and smooth the batter over the apples. Mix together remaining brown sugar, cornflour, and almond flour and sprinkle over the batter.

5. In a bowl, combine remaining 3 T golden syrup with about 1/3 cup boiling water. Pour carefully – you can pour over an upside down spoon – over the topping.

6. Bake for about 40 minutes. The filling will be bubbly and the topping will be a little like a sponge cake. Serve with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

Menu planning + what I am cooking this week

callie biscuitsI think that people sometimes think that food bloggers, chefs, and proficient home cooks prepare elaborate meals every day.

The most frequent question I get asked is this: “How do you have time for this?”

My knee jerk response is that it doesn’t take that long at all. But that, of course, depends on a variety of factors like your comfort level in the kitchen when working with certain ingredients, work and family obligations, schedules etc.

And I definitely don’t cook “elaborately” – whatever you would take that word to mean – every day.

So I thought that it would be interesting to keep a menu planning and cooking diary to give you more insight into my week:

{p.s} For more, follow my weekly adventures on instagram.



Not enough time to eat breakfast (bad!), but I grabbed an almond latte at Ground Support.

Picked up some strawberries, blackberries, and the last smaller heirloom tomatoes at the market.

Celebratory lunch for dad’s birthday before he left for the airport – frisee salad with a poached egg on top, pan-fried calf liver with onions, mashed potatoes, and green beans (aka some of my favorite things). Espresso.

Dinner was roasted Alaskan salmon steaks with herbs (picked up on Sunday) and bok choy with a little soy sauce (bought Friday). Cooked both in the oven, at the same time, in less than 30 minutes.

Market strawberries for dessert.


Cheerios and almond milk for breakfast. English muffin (my weakness), toasted. Espresso.

Lunch was vegetable soup made over the weekend – it tastes even better with time, here is a similar recipe – and a cheese & salami sandwich with tarragon mustard.

Dinner was a salad of romaine with a simple vinaigrette, topped with some leftover salmon (from Monday). And a vegetable frittata, which is always easy to whip up on a whim.



Greek yogurt with honey and a few yellow plums that were getting too ripe (cooked quickly into a compote in the microwave), pistachios, and almonds. Latte.

Heirloom tomato and feta salad for lunch

Dinner at Houseman, celebrating this week’s 2 star review in the New York Times.



Contractor meetings with coffee and gluten free morning glory muffins from Amy’s Bread 

I didn’t actually have any muffins myself, so lunch was a very late Mediterranean breakfast with duck bacon at my local, Jack’s Wife Freda.

Late night event at the Brooklyn Museum followed by an extremely late-night pizza in the rain at Lucali. Worth it.


A rush of morning meetings so I snacked on two things that are always in my refrigerator: fruit and almond butter.

Did the weekend shop at Union Square greenmarket in the drizzling rain, and here is what I got:

– apples, pears, and the last of the plums to make easy, individual fruit crisps – topped with maple syrup, oatmeal, a little bit of allspice and butter – in the evenings (similar recipe here);

– fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and eggplant for my favorite tricolore salad for dinner (which also included roast chicken);

– more of the same + turkey mince for Sunday’s eggplant parm dinner;

– chorizo to fry up with the potatoes and mushrooms I already had at home;

– more fresh berries, cherry jam, and greek yogurt for easy breakfasts throughout the week;


menu planning prep

Yogurt and berries + english muffins and coffee for family breakfast over football

Chicken noodle soup for lunch

Fried chorizo, golden potatoes, onions, and mushrooms+ a light salad for dinner (yum)

Pear and apple crisp for dessert, topped with a little bit of vanilla ice cream which melts into something of a creme anglaise..


Same breakfast and lunch as the previous day, which never bothers me if it’s delicious.

and eggplant parm for dinner, trying out this recipe from Bon Appetit!

A weekend in Charleston


It was the perfect time of year for a trip to Charleston, South Carolina.

September’s end brings with it quite a bounty – “it’s fall, y’all!” was the prevalent feeling at the Saturday farmers’ market in Marion Square – though we, northerners, were still basking in the last of the defiant summer sun.

Charleston is both expected and unexpected. Its vistas are endlessly inspiring, its history considerable.

charleston library

The warmth of the sun and the people seems endless. I can’t thank all of our hosts and friends we made along the way enough for guiding us around their beautiful home.

Of course, a stroll down Rainbow Row is a must, but if you get the chance, do visit Angel Oak Park. It’s full of the kind of rare magic that’s hard to find just a few miles outside of a city.

angel oak

We even managed to squeeze in a trip to Folly Beach, which is surrounded by butterflies instead of seagulls.

(it was baking hot but worth the detour to see Morris Island lighthouse!)

folly beach

Built in 1876, the lighthouse was originally 1,200 feet (around 370 m) from the water’s edge. Now, following rapid shore erosion, building currents, and its participation in all of Charleston’s rich history, from the Civil War to Hurricane Hugo, you can see that the lighthouse is far out at sea.

callie biscuits

We spent a considerable amount of our time working through our list of restaurants in Charleston.

Here are some of my favorites places to eat & drink in Charleston (and there are many!):

  • Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit – self-explanatory, but see above for the breakfast biscuit!
  • Butcher & Bee – perfect little salads for a picnic at the beach
  • Leon’s Oyster Shop – there is a reason this is on all the “Best New” lists – the freshest oysters, sumptuous fried chicken, and a beautifully designed space
  • FIG  – sit at the communal table, make new friends, and have the amberjack, the crab linguine and a strong drink
  • St. Alban  – a French 30’s throwback cafe with a lovely atmosphere
  • Edmund’s Oast  – an impressive brewery/gastropub in N Charleston, serving inspired seasonal fare & peach (!) beer
  • Husk – a classic for a reason and worth the trip for the bread & pork and honey butter alone, though you should also have the pigs’ ears and the fried rice
  • Sugar Bakeshop – for those with a serious sweet tooth. I had a muscadine cupcake followed by lots of iced tea!


beer flight

Spicy corn chowder

spicy corn chowder

Even in my childhood, the scent of summer corn permeated holiday memories.

My cousin and I would run around someone’s corn fields – we treated them as communal – and the greenest taste of unripened corn is still filed away in my mind under “carefree summer vacation.”

Summer is rolling to a close and with it, sadly, is some of the freshest, sweetest corn in this part of the country.

By popular demand, here is the recipe for my current favorite version of spicy corn chowder.

It’s complex and substantial enough to see you through the end of September.

{p.s.} Make sure to also try these corn recipes, if you haven’t already: Smoky corn soupfresh corn and zucchini frittata, and za’atar and smoky chili corn.

Spicy corn chowder

You’ll need:

  • 4 ears fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh celery
  • 3-4 young potatoes, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 leeks (only the white part), diced
  • white wine
  • olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 t allspice
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t like spice)
  • fresh cilantro (garnish)

1. If possible, grill or roast the corn to impart that flavor into the soup. Once cooked, take the corn off the cobs and set aside – keep the husks!

2. Bring 3 1/2 cups water, with the corn husks and 2 bay leaves added, to a boil.

In the meantime, in a large pan, sauté the pepper, onions, celery, carrots, and leeks in olive oil and a little bit of butter. At the very end, add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan, then add the garlic and potatoes and cook for a few more minutes.

3. Take the husks out of the water (squeeze them out, if you can). Add corn and the sautéed vegetable mix. Add in all of the remaining dried seasonings and bring back up to boil.

4. Taste for salt and add salt and pepper – and maybe a few more red pepper flakes. Add in half and half and heat through. The soup should still be fairly thick though you can adjust this to your preference.

Serve topped with fresh cilantro.

Of Labor Day grilling and picnics


Labor Day weekend is always tinged with just a hint of bittersweetness.

But, I say, let’s not wave goodbye to summer just yet!

Enjoy the sunny days and late summer fruit (that’s peaches and apples here in NY and NJ).

Avoid to-do lists and grill as many things – including stone fruit – as possible.

… and look out for my post on VRAI on packing that perfect fall picnic coming up this week!

In the meantime, while you’re relaxing, here are some fun and easy ideas for your Labor Day grilling endeavors:


Grilled peach and cheddar sandwiches

Grilled endive with preserved lemons and za’taar yogurt

Tricolore salad with grilled eggplant


Spicy salmon burgers


Eggplant with tahini and meyer lemon dressing (I love some great grill marks!)


and finish it all of with some Almond-coconut peach crumble


You’ll find me by the lake with a good book (reading Tana French’s latest).

Summer fig trifle


You don’t need too many things to make this perfect summer dessert appear on your shady outdoor table this weekend.

Some sun-ripened fruit, a little crunch, a lot of punched up whipped cream, and a spoon – you’ll definitely want a big spoon for this summer fig trifle.

I cannot believe that it is almost September and summer, my beloved time of year, is almost over. Still, the whole “It’s Friday, let’s eat cake!” philosophy will help get me through the doldrums, I’m sure..


I used some cookies from France called navettes here – they are nice and tart, adding extra freshness to this dessert – but you can substitute in lemon tea cookies or simple biscuits. You can read more about the navettes de Marseilles, subtly flavored with lemon oil or orange blossom water, by clicking this link here.

Summer fig trifle

(serves 2)

  • 6 – 10 lemon cookies (depending on size)
  • 1/2 cup fresh black mission figs, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (cold!)
  • 2 T grenadine syrup
  • 3 T pistachios, shelled and lightly crushed

{and a spoon or two!}

1. First, grab some pretty glasses or jars for the trifles. You can, of course, also assemble this into one larger trifle in a bowl, but I find the individual servings to be simpler for serving.

2. Prepare the fruit by trimming and cutting the figs into halves or quarters, depending on size. Also depending on what cookies you are using, crumble them lightly with your hands or just break them in half.

3. Use a whisk to whip the cold (!) heavy cream until it is rich and thick. Gently fold in the grenadine.

4. Layer the cookies, figs, and big dollops of cream in whatever cup or jar you are using. Top with more fruit and crushed pistachios.


Enjoy immediately – these are so good at capturing that subtly sweet taste of summer. It couldn’t be easier.