Saturday, November 28, 2015


I know, turkey day is past and, once you finish the leftovers, you’ll probably forget about the bird for a year. But before you put turkey back in the coop until next Thanksgiving, I want to tout its versatility as a year-round dish for home entertaining.

Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Spain (although “Black Friday,” called by its American name, has come to be “celebrated” here), so we had our special meal Thursday evening, on a school night. (We get school holidays on December 6, Constitution Day, and December 8, Immaculate Conception holiday, with a "puente," or "bridge," so kids are off school the weekend plus Monday and Tuesday).

Turkey with all the trimmings for a small gathering.
With few Americans around to invite for dinner, a whole turkey was not on the bill of fare. Instead, I prepared boneless turkey breast rolled around a filling of chopped spinach and walnuts. With gravy and accompanying dishes of bread-mushroom stuffing, sweet potatoes with mandarin juice and Sherry and glazed onions we had a properly festive dinner. (Pumpkin tartlets for dessert were not so successful.) The turkey leftovers are made-to-order for sandwich fixings today.

With a swirl of green, the turkey breast is also good served cold.

That turkey breast roulade is equally good served cold. For a summer buffet meal, I roasted two of the rolls a day in advance and served them accompanied by a cold sauce.

This rolled and stuffed turkey breast looks elegant with its swirl of green in the center, but it’s ever so easy to prepare. The food processor makes short work of chopping the spinach, which needn’t be pre-cooked. One turkey breast half serves 6 to 8 persons as part of a buffet. If serving a larger group, you only need to double the stuffing ingredients and divide them between two half-breasts.

The turkey can be roasted as much as 24 hours before serving. Leave it tied, wrap in foil, and refrigerate. At least one hour before serving, remove from the refrigerator, remove the twine, and slice it while still cold. Arrange on a serving platter and allow to come to room temperature.

As the season for entertaining is just getting started, I suggest you keep turkey on call.

Turkey Breast Roulade with Spinach-Walnut Stuffing
Rulo de Pechuga de Pavo con Espinacas

Pomegranate molasses is a thick concentrate of pomegranate juice with a decidedly sweet-sour flavour. Here it makes a beautiful glaze on the roasted turkey. Look for pomegranate molasses in the Middle Eastern food section of the grocery store.

If possible, ask your butcher to open the turkey breast, slicing through the thickest parts to create a rectangular slab of meat of more or less even thickness.

Serves 6 to 8.

1 clove garlic   
4 ounces fresh spinach, washed and stems trimmed   
¼ cup walnuts     
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or fresh dill     
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
1 egg white   
¼  cup fresh bread crumbs    
2 tablespoons olive oil     
Salt and freshly-ground pepper     
1 (2 ½  -pound) boneless, skinless turkey breast half
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
¼ cup white wine
Chicken or turkey stock (optional)
Cornstarch (optional)
Pomegranate seeds, to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Mince the garlic in a food processor. Add the spinach leaves and process until they are chopped. Add the walnuts, parsley or dill, yogurt, egg white, bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon of oil and process until nuts are coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper.

Open up the turkey breast half by cutting horizontally through the thickest parts and folding open the meat to make a rectangle approximately 12 X 7 inches. 

Spread spinach-nut mix on the turkey.
Spread the spinach mixture on the turkey. Starting with a narrow end, roll up the turkey. Fasten with a skewer. Use kitchen twine to tie the roll at 2-inch intervals.

Place the turkey in an oiled baking pan. Brush the turkey with 1 tablespoon of oil and place in the oven. Lower oven temperature to 325ºF. Roast for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the pomegranate molasses and wine. Pour half of it over the turkey breast.

I roasted some drumsticks and onions with the breast. Pomegranate molasses makes a luscious glaze.

Roast 30 minutes more and spoon remaining pomegranate and wine over the turkey. (Take care that the juices don’t completely cook off and burn.) Roast until turkey is done (internal temperature of 160ºF), about 1 ½  hours total. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and spoon some of the thickened pan drippings over it.

If meat is to be served hot, let it rest 10 minutes before removing string and carving. 

For gravy, add about 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock to the roasting pan and heat, stirring up all of the drippings. Combine cornstarch with a little cold water and stir into the stock. Cook, stirring, until thickened and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish the sliced turkey with pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Rest the turkey roll before slicing.

With onions, sweet potatoes and dressing for a holiday meal.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Last year we had a bumper crop of small pumpkins and butternut squashes. I’ve only just finished the last of the frozen puree from that harvest. This year we didn’t plant pumpkin at all.

A friend gave me a giant pumpkin from her garden, the kind with deeply ridged green skin and pale orange flesh. Once broached, it needs to be kept refrigerated and cooked promptly. I had just about finished it off (see below for links to other pumpkin recipes), when another one landed in my kitchen!

With such abundance, it seems only fitting that that New World squash make an appearance for the Thanksgiving feast. But, instead of the usual pumpkin pie, I’m making an easy pastry with a pumpkin filling. 

Squares of flaky pastry are filled with spiced pumpkin custard.

Pastry squares are easy to serve on a buffet table.

Serve the pastries with ice cream, if you like.

Little Mickeys” 
(Pastry Squares with Pumpkin Custard Filling)
Miguelitos con Crema de Calabaza

The little town of La Roda (Albacete province in La Mancha) is renowned for these delectable flaky pastry squares with a custard filling. They were invented by a local baker who named them after his appreciative friend, Miguelito, a name that translates as “little Mickey”. The original puff pastry is made, not with butter, but with lard, which produces a wonderfully flaky pastry. Easier is frozen puff pastry. I’ve changed the custard filling for one with spiced pumpkin.

You will need 2 ½ to 3 pounds of pumpkin or butternut squash to make 2 cups of puree. Steam, microwave or roast the pumpkin until tender, drain,  then puree it in a blender. Or, substitute a 29-ounce can of unsweetened pumpkin puree.

The usual flavoring for Spanish custards and creams is lemon zest and cinnamon, certainly good with pumpkin. Or you could use pumpkin pie spice. But, I’m on a cardamom kick, so I’ve used ground cardamom and powdered ginger.
Unfold the pastry dough, but don't roll it out.

The frozen puff pastry I’m using here is rectangular, so I cut each sheet into 8 rectangular pieces. In the US, you may find square sheets, which can be cut in 3-inch squares, making 9 pieces.

The pumpkin custard filling can be prepared a day or two in advance. The flaky pastry can be baked a day in advance. Split them and fill them only a few hours before serving.

Makes 16 to 18 pastry squares.

½ cup milk
¼ cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 cups pumpkin puree
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 (17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Make the pumpkin custard filling. Combine ¼ cup milk with cornstarch in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Stir egg yolks in a bowl. Add milk and cornstarch mixture to the yolks.

Combine remaining ¼ cup milk, pumpkin puree, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the mixture begins to bubble.

Stir some of the hot pumpkin mixture into the egg and cornstarch mixture, then whisk the egg into the pan with pumpkin.

Place the pan over boiling water and cook, stirring, until the custard thickens and is smooth, 5 minutes. Add the cardamom, ginger and lemon zest.

Thick pumpkin custard.

Cool to room temperature. (The cream can be prepared up to a day in advance and kept, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before spreading.)

Prepare the pastry squares. Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut each sheet of puff pastry into 9 (3-inch) squares. Place them 1-inch apart on baking sheet and bake 5 minutes. Lower heat to 375ºF and bake until pastry is golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove pastries to a rack to cool.

Split pastries, spread filling, close sandwiches.
When cool, split the pastries in half, using the tip of a knife to separate layers. Spread bottoms thickly with pumpkin cream and press tops lightly to sandwich the cream.

Sift powdered sugar over the tops of the pastries.

Need more pumpkin recipes? Follow these links for both sweet and savory ways with pumpkin.

And, if you’re making a more-or-less traditional pumpkin pie, try this recipe for an olive oil pie crust. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!