A savory pumpkin pie.

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Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is almost here!

I was impressed at how quickly holiday spirit happened this year. Only one day after Halloween, radio stations started to play Christmas music, candy canes showed up at the grocery store, and my email inbox bulged with the blogosphere’s proliferation of Thanksgiving recipes; I blame/thank all the people strung out on pumpkin spice lattes. The holidays are a happy time (come on, who doesn’t like an excuse to overindulge or to get presents) and, even after too many glasses of eggnog, I always wish they would stay around longer.

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Because the pumpkin spice latte craze and winter celebrations are here to stay, I’ve been experimenting with creative takes on traditional holiday fare to keep November interesting.

Consider the pumpkin pie. Creamy, cinnamon and nutmeg spiced, the pumpkin pie’s a Thanksgiving staple I want to like. But I can’t get over its often overly sweet filling or soggy, bland under-baked crust; most pumpkin pies are too disappointing to even call pies. So when I found a recipe for savory pumpkin pie from Nigel Slater, a Brit who most likely does not celebrate Thanksgiving and (thankfully) is not familiar with disgraceful American pumpkin pies, I got excited.

Nigel calls for puff pastry in place of pie dough, a choice that yields perfectly crisp, golden, anti-soggy crust, and I love how just a pinch of cinnamon and salt brings out pumpkin’s natural sweetness. In short, savory pumpkin pie actually tastes like pumpkin. (Yes!)  I’m thankful this pie will earn a annual spot on my Thanksgiving table.

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Savory Pumpkin Pie

From Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary with Recipes by Nigel Slater.

Serves six as a side.

  • 2 and 3/4 lbs peeled and seeded pumpkin
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Thick slice of butter
  • Generous pinch of cinnamon, salt, and pepper
  • 13 oz puff pastry
  • Egg, lightly beaten, for brushing
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Prepare two baking sheets, one with foil and the other with parchment.
  2. Cut pumpkin in to uniform, small cubes and steam for 15 to 20 minutes, or until flesh is tender.
  3. Remove from heat and transfer to foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with oil, butter, cinnamon, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 30 to forty minutes, until the pumpkin begins to lightly caramelize. Remove pumpkin from oven and mash with a fork. Maintain oven temperature.
  4. Lightly flour a cool surface, cut pastry in half, and roll out each piece to a 9 x 14 inch rectangle. Lay one rectangle on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Leaving a margin on the corners, pile pumpkin on the pastry. Brush pastry margins with egg. Lay second piece of pastry on top and press edges firmly to seal. To prevent splitting during cooking, make 3 slits on the top of the pastry. Brush pie with egg, then freeze for 20 minutes. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.
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Boozy baked apples, coming home.

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Friends, it has been waaay too long. Four months; four-ever. I wish I had a story-worthy excuse that sounds something like “so I was riding down this dark, coffee shop-lined alley on my fixie and these hipsters in jeggings and oversized knit hats kidnaped me” or “the ship I was working on as a fisherwoman didn’t have wifi.”

But, alas, I was not kidnapped by caffeine-hyped hipsters and I gave up my dreams of becoming a fisherwoman when I was thirteen and The Perfect Storm gave me reoccurring nightmares. Instead, my only excuse is that I have fallen helplessly and ridiculously in love with my new home.IMG_8356

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Seattle is beautiful. Most days are gray, but when afternoon sun nudges its way in to the street you can’t help but smile.  Ninety-two percent of the people I’ve met are introverts involved in either a start-up or a band, sometimes both, and who love their dogs, alcoholic drinks, REI membership status, bocce ball, composting, and good food. I live in an apartment above an espresso shop and incense emporium, and when my window is open I can hear the church down the street play hymns on the hour (and coincidentally the same church Macklemore features in “Same Love.”) At night, the air smells like salt and clouds.

Put Seattle on your bucket list; you will thank me forever, I promise. Where else can the sun make you automatically smile?

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The great state of Washington also happens to have incredibly wonderful apples. A couple weeks back, I went to a farm north of the city and picked 22 pounds of the sweet red things. Since then I’ve eaten one a day, and kept the doctor away, but I still feel a duty to my new homeplace to explore its apple horizons. So I pull out the old pyrex dishes and autumn spices, pour myself a cocktail, and get to work on these boozy baked apple babies. Oats and almonds give the apples a crisp, buttery core and amaretto reduces as the apples cook, absorbing their sweetness into a spicy, caramelized syrup that tastes like home. It’s a simple recipe that takes five to ten minutes to prep. Yet time in the oven highlights each apple’s creamy interior, its tart skin, its hint of harsh minerality and the soil where it once grew. I find there is no better way to honor Washington, to honor autumn, than by baking its apples.

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Baked Apples with Ginger and Amaretto

Serves three.

  • 3 medium, firm, flavorful apples, cored
  • 2 tbsp butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp quick oats
  • 1 tbsp sliced almonds
  • Pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  • 1 tbsp crystalized ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup amaretto
  • 1/2 cup apple cider

Preheat oven to 375º. Core apples with a small pairing knife or spoon.

In a small bowl combine butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, almonds, spices and ginger. Knead ingredients together with hands until combined. Spoon mixture into apples that you have nestles into in a small baking pan with sides. Pour amaretto and cider around apples and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with crème fraîche, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.

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