napa fall harvest

napa fall harvest | A Brown Table

This year for Thanksgiving, I opted for several changes to our menu. I cooked a turkey breast and skipped the whole turkey (for 2 to 4 people this is the perfect option), I forgot to add cranberries to my cornbread stuffing (but added a tablespoon of sambal olek, which made it even better), I made my sweet potato pie (and sprinkled it with Persian saffron sugar crystals) and my beer and honey flavored pumpkin pie. And, before I forget, a green bean casserole with lots of crunchy fried onions and cashews. I've learned that if I can't find everything at the store, forget to add something to my list or run out of it at home, it's possible to make it through without panicking by either substituting or "faking it till I make it". 

Last weekend, amidst moving and a few last minute painting mishaps, we decided to drop it all and drive up to Napa for a fall harvest festival hosted by Tillamook Cheeese at the Charles Krug winery. I've been to Napa and Sonoma counties in almost every season of the year but autumn and if you're a fall person, it's probably one of the prettiest time to visit. The vines are changing color and the larger walnut and oak trees are all sorts of shades yellow, orange and red.

We learned how to taste cheese like the pros do at Tillamook (and M took active part in his cheese training, I think this is as fascinating as people who get to taste chocolate for a living). To start you take whiff of the cheese and then you use a cheese-borer to drill a hole deep into a humongous disc of cheese and then you get to characterize the flavor in terms of different features that you notice such as lactic acid, sweetness, umami etc. Cheese was included in every portion of our lunch menu (pumpkin mac and cheese, grilled cheese and pear sandwiches, etc.) and ice cream made from Tillamook's milk. M got the vanilla bean with caramel sauce while I got the marionberry. That meal made the thought of going back home to pack and move now seemed much more bearable.

Now obviously, if you're going to pass through Yountville, you have to make the mandatory stop by Bouchon Bakery. You need something sweet to get absorb all that cheese and wine! (Pictured are the sticky buns, hazelnut eclair, TKO cookie and pumpkin spice macroon.


napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
napa fall harvest | A Brown Table
Bouchon Baker, Yountville CA | A Brown Table
Bouchon Baker, Yountville CA | A Brown Table

pumpkin honey beer pie

pumpkin honey beer pie | A Brown Table

There are many things I love about the Thanksgiving dinner menu and, to be honest, because of the nature of my pastry loving heart, a huge portion of my affection is dessert-oriented. Yup, I’m referring to pies because those are the first things that cross my mind when I hear the words “Thanksgiving food”. Why do I love pies so much? It’s comfort food at its best. Simple and unapologetic yet still sophisticated enough to balance tradition with change.

A few months ago we thought about spending our Thanksgiving weekend in Portland but the house happened and the more I thought about it, it would be silly for me to not celebrate the holiday in our new home. So while I plan my menu, there is one addition this year that I’m confident will make it to my dinner feast. It’s going to be a sweet beer pumpkin honey pie that’s infused with a deep caramel malt lager from Negra Modelo.

This medium-bodied lager made by Negra Modelo is absolutely perfect, it’s got a delicious caramel flavor that’s built into the beer by subjecting the malt through a slow roasting process. Once you fold these caramel notes into the pumpkin purée and bake it, you will end up with a delicious smooth pumpkin pie that bursting with deep sweet malt flavors. 

A big slice of pumpkin pie and a chilled glass of Negra Modelo’s lager after Thanksgiving dinner or for that matter at any dinner sounds simply perfect! 

pumpkin honey beer pie | A Brown Table
pumpkin honey beer pie | A Brown Table
pumpkin honey beer pie | A Brown Table
pumpkin honey beer pie | A Brown Table
pumpkin honey beer pie | A Brown Table

Some kitchen tips that you might find useful when you prepare this pumpkin pie;

  • When reducing the beer, stir it constantly as the heat will cause the foam in the liquid to rise and it could spill out of the pan. 
  • Always use unsweetened pumpkin purée for this recipe as I’ve standardized the amounts of honey and sweetener accordingly.
  • Ginger is an optional spice in this recipe but do use turmeric, it will bump up the brightness of the pumpkin in the pie.
  • Use whatever pie crust you love the most!
pumpkin honey beer pie | A Brown Table

pumpkin honey beer pie

yields: serves 8

ingredients

1 bottle (335mL) Negra Modelo beer

15 ounces can unsweetened pumpkin purée

3 large eggs + 3 yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ginger powder (optional)

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 cup honey

3/4 cup (150gm) packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2 tablespoons water

1 pre-made pie crust shell of your choice

  1. Pour the Negra Modelo into a medium-sized thick-bottomed saucepan. Heat on medium-high heat with constant stirring to bring the beer to a boil and then immediately reduce to medium-low heat. Reduce the volume of the beer to about 1/4 cup which should take about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool to room temperature before using.
  2. Place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat to 350F. 
  3. Place the reduced beer and all the ingredients from the pumpkin purée to the heavy cream in a large mixing bowl and whisk by hand until completely combined. Then prepare a slurry of the cornstarch with the water and whisk this into the liquid in the large mixing bowl. Transfer the pumpkin filling to a large thick bottomed saucepan and heat on medium-low heat, gently whisking it to prevent the formation of any lumps. Cook the liquid until it acquires the consistency of a thick custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon. The liquid should thicken after about 12 to 15 minutes. 
  4. Place a pie dish containing the pie crust on a baking sheet and pour the pie filling. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for at least 55 to 60 minutes, rotating it halfway through the baking process. The pie is done when the center of the filling barley jiggles. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool completely (about 4 hours) before serving. Serve with a little sweetened whipped cream and a bottle of chilled Negra Modelo.

 

This is a sponsored post, developed in partnership with Negra Modelo.  All thoughts, opinions and recipes are my own.

cinnamon spiced chocolate bark

Cinnamon Spiced Chocolate Bark | A Brown Table

November has been a month of change. For one, we had some big weather changes, it finally cooled down and we had a nice big shower of rain (a much needed one at that and I hope we get several more). Second, I learned that I can spend a lot of time at hardware stores as much as I do at kitchen stores and at the cookbook aisles in bookstores. And I dread the thought of packing and unpacking when it's a move that's only a few miles away. But as time proceeds and I see my ideas actually materialize, I find the stress of renovating worth it and exciting. The kitchen is painted and the garden fence is finally up and the move date moves closer and closer.

By the way, I feel that the holidays are making their appearances even faster than usual, I was hoping to catch a few horror flicks last weekend during Halloween but I found myself flipping through four or five different tv channels that were filled Christmas movies! Way too soon...

Chocolate bark is one of my favorite sweets to look forward to during the holidays. It's perhaps one of the easiest things to make and to be honest, it's versatility is understated, you can adapt it to whatever season or festivity that you want to and this time, I'm making a holiday version. This bark is scented and spiced with a little cinnamon with a few dried cranberries, pistachios and maldon salt flakes embedded to add sweet, tangy, nutty and salty flavors to each and every bite of chocolate you eat.

To get the recipe and learn how to make this chocolate bark, headover to West Elm's blog,Front + Main!

Kitchen #abrownhome | A Brown Table
Kitchen #abrownhome | A Brown Table
Cinnamon Spiced Chocolate Bark | A Brown Table

herbed goat cheese ball

Herbed Goat Cheese Ball | A Brown Table

After I painted the rooms in the last house in DC, I swore I'd never paint walls again but here I am now, knee deep in paint and stained. Not to say that it isn't fun and a good arm workout but a couple of hours through and I keep considering my sanity and life choices when it comes to painting. The prospect of cooking in the new kitchen has me very, very excited. It was one of the things that immediately blew me away when we looked at the house and I feel fortunate that we were able to get it. Snoopy on the other hand has found it to be an exhausting experience, he spends most of his time running around the house while we work but he makes sure he gets his nap time, in and out of the sun.

Between wall painting and backyard cleaning, there was a mini blogger reunion last weekend and I got to spend some time with the lovely Molly and Lindsey who were visiting the San Francisco Bay on a quick trip for work. Oddly enough, it was also a reunion of sorts for those of us that live in the Bay but don't get a chance to meet each other as often as we'd like to. Our little party also included my local fellow bloggers and pals, Michelle, Phyllis, Todd and Phi, we met up for drinks at Prizefighter

Speaking of bars and drinks, I'm a huge fan of serving drinks with a few small bites. Cheese is usually a good accompaniment to most drinks and with so many varieties to choose from it makes it an ideal pairing option. There are cheese slices and cheese balls, and cheese balls are an amazing invention. The first time I tasted a cheese ball, was several years ago during an Easter dinner in Virginia. We were visiting M's family and his mother made two large cheese balls coated with all sorts of delicious things. She prepares them in the afternoon, the first one disappears by the time its made, the second one disappears by dinner. Taking some inspiration from her, I've made a fall themed, herbed coated cheeseball that has sweet cranberries and pumpkin seeds and a dash of hot sriracha sauce for a kick. http://blog.westelm.com/2015/10/30/herbed-goat-cheese-balls/

To get the recipe and learn how to make this cheeseball, headover to West Elm's blog,Front + Main!

herbed goat cheese ball | A Brown Table
Herbed Goat Cheese Ball | A Brown Table

Disclaimer: Thank you to West Elm for sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed are purely my own.

sweet potato panini with sriracha mayo

sweet potato panini with sriracha mayo | A Brown Table

This week has been busy, we've been trying to get contractors lined up for all the different projects for our new house. Apparently, all contractors in the Bay are busy until next year so there's that but we finally managed to rope a few people in after a lot of googling, yelp research and asking people. With all the chaos that is to ensue, I'm super excited about the prospect of all the fun aspects of working on a home and making it my own. 

My first cover in print just came out last week. Every issue of the Edible Silicon Valley magazine features the work of one local artist (from the food industry) and this time the lovely folks at Edible SV did a little feature on my work and also asked me to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. You can find this issue at most stores in the San Francisco Bay Area and also online at their website

Edible Silicon Valley Fall 2015| Cover by Nik Sharma Photography

A lot can be said about a sandwich, in many ways I think of it as a gateway to my heart because a good sandwich can take me to my happy place. I like mine toasted and grilled, stuffed pretty full, yet pressed down and to compact and hold everything inside together. Most of the time, my sandwiches have cheese and if there's cheese, there'd better be some amount of heat involved to melt it.

These sandwiches have two stages of grilling. The first is when big, fat thick slices of garam masala seasoned sweet potatoes go on the grates and the second time it's the panini stuffed with kale leaves,cheese and crispy bacon. And along with this panini there's a hot and spicy Sriracha flavored mayo to dip and enjoy every bite! I also like to top each sandwich off with a fresh fried egg which also works perfect for a weekend brunch item.

To get the recipe and learn how to make this panini, headover to West Elm's blog,Front + Main!


sweet potato panini with sriracha mayo | A Brown Table
sweet potato panini with sriracha mayo | A Brown Table

Disclaimer: Thank you to West Elm for sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed are purely my own.

caramelized apple and coconut sticky buns

caramelized apple sticky buns |A Brown Table

Before we get to these delicious caramelized apple and coconut sticky buns, I need to announce the winner of the giveaway for the Smitten with Squash cookbook by Amanda Paa. Kelli who made a fall themed strudel with butternut squash, caramelized onions and kale is the winner of this giveaway. Kelli, please shoot me an email with your details so I can have your book sent out to you at abrowntable [at] gmail [dot] com.  

caramelized apple and coconut sticky buns |A Brown Tablecaramelized apple and coconut sticky buns |A Brown Table

As a kid, when I thought I would someday enroll in culinary school, I also harbored a not-so-secret desire to become a pastry chef. Pastry chefs are like magicians (or more appropriately culinary scientists) in my head. They come up with wondrous edible marvels that require a good knowledge of chemistry and food both of which make the inner geek in me rather happy. That desire didn't pan out as I would have wished but then this blog came about and now I find myself baking sticky buns at home! 

caramelized apple and coconut sticky buns |A Brown Table

Sticky buns are definitely an indulgent treat however, if I am going to make a batch at home, I like to have them stuffed up with something other than cinnamon and sugar. I decided to fill the swirls in these buns with little bits of apple and golden raisins enveloped with the delicious flavor of coconut. There's a little bit of applesauce to bring all the flavors together in the filling with a hint of cinnamon, all in all I think these are great to serve at a fall inspired brunch or breakfast.

caramelized apple and coconut sticky buns |A Brown Table

I got the basic dough recipe for the sticky buns from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book.

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these guys;

  • Make sure your yeast hasn't expired or else the dough will not ferment and rise properly. 
  • Use fresh cinnamon and firm and ripe Granny Smith apples. Cut those apple bits into small bits so the dough will fold over easily during rolling. Granny Smith apples hold their texture well during baking but they also have a little tartness to them which balances the sweetness of the filling.
  • Personally, I don't like too much of a sugar glaze, so I made a very small amount of glaze for these buns. You can easily increase the amount of glaze by doubling the quantities of the ingredients listed for the glaze below. 
  • I used sliced almonds to top the buns but you can use pecans, walnuts, pistachios and probably any other type of your favorite nut.
caramelized apple and coconut sticky buns |A Brown Table

caramelized apple sticky buns (adapted from The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book)

yields: 12 buns

ingredients 

filling

1 lb granny smith apples

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 

1/2 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder, freshly ground 

dough

3 larges eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) brown sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons instant/rapid-rise yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher sea salt

4 1/4 cups (21 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour + extra for dusting

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled + 1 tablespoon for brushing the dough and greasing the pan (*you can also use a neutral vegetable oil spray to coat the pan, but don't use olive oil)

1/2 cup sliced raw almonds

glaze (if you want more glaze, double the quantity)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground

1. Wash the apples, peel and cored them. Chop the apples into very tiny pieces (the smaller the better as it will be easier to handle when wrapping the dough). 

2. Heat a thick bottomed medium-sized saucepan on a medium-high flame. Melt the butter in the saucepan and then add the apples along with the lemon juice, apple sauce, coconut, raisins, sugar and cinnamon. Mix evenly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for about 8-10 minutes with occasional stirring to prevent any burning. Remove and keep aside until ready to use.

3. Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer whisk the eggs on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes. Add the buttermilk and whisk for about 1 minute. Then add the brown sugar, yeast and salt and combine for about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix with the paddle attachment until combined. Then remove and replace the paddle attachment with the dough blade. Add the next 2 cups of flour and the 6 tablespoons of melted butter, mix until the dough comes together for about 5 minutes. 

4. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly floured surface. Knead with hands for about 5 minutes adding the remaining 1/4 cup flour as needed to bring the dough together. The dough should not be sticky but should be soft and pliable. (You might need to add a little more flour if the 1/4 cup isn't enough, avoid adding too much flour). Once the dough has come together, transfer it to a well-oiled bowl, place it in there and brush lightly with a little oil (a neutral vegetable oil spray would work too). Cover the bowl with cling film and keep it in a warm place. Allow the dough to double in size for about 2 1/2 hours. 

5. Transfer the risen dough to a clean and lightly floured surface and shape it into a small rectangle with your hands. Using a rolling pan, roll out the dough into a 16 X 12 inch rectangle, dusting lightly with flour as needed. Brush the dough with the remaining tablespoon of butter, leaving a half inch border along the top edge. 

6. Using a large flat spoon or silicone spatula, transfer and spread the apple filling over the dough. Smooth with your hand or the spoon. Lightly grease your hands before you handle the dough. Starting with the longer side, begin to lift the dough and roll, pressing tightly but gently to form a cylinder. Pinch the ends firmly to seal the cylinder. Using your hands, gently shape the cylinder to an even diameter. The cylinder should be around 18 inches in length. Using a sharp serrated bread knife, gently cut through the center of the cylinder with a sawing motion. Cut each half similarly into 6 equal parts. Line a rectangular baking (13 X 11 inch) dish with parchment paper, grease lightly with a little butter (or spray lightly with an oil spray). Place each of the 12 buns in the pan cut side down, arranged next to each other. Cover and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm spot. 

7. While the buns are rising, prepare the glaze. In a small stockpot, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter on a medium-high flame. Add the sugar, honey, water, salt and cinnamon and stir until the mixture is smooth and the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook for another 5 minutes with constant stirring until it just begins to caramelize.  Immediately remove from stove and keep aside until ready to use. If the glaze begins to harden, warm it slightly before use to melt and add 2 -3 tablespoons of water to dissolve it. 

8. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and a pizza stone on it (if you don't have a pizza stone to bake with, just use the wire rack). Heat the oven to 350F. Once the oven is warm, sprinkle the almonds over the buns and bake the pan with the buns for about 20-25 minutes until just golden brown. Immediately remove from oven and carefully drizzle with the warm glaze all over the top of the buns. Transfer the buns back into the oven and bake for another 6-8 minutes until the glaze just begins to caramelize (watch it carefully to make sure it doesn't burn). Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Slide the buns out of the pan using the parchment paper onto a wire rack. Serve warm by pulling the buns apart or cutting through with a serrated knife. 

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup | A Brown Table

For some reason, squash seems to take the center stage during autumn in the kitchen. I should rephrase that, it becomes more visible, however, most of us, do eat all sorts of squash year round. My friend, Amanda of HeartBeet Kitchen addresses just this, in her wonderful and informative new cookbook, Smitten with Squash . Not only does she share a wonderful collection of recipes but she also discusses easier ways to prepare and cook different members of this delicious and diverse family.

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup | A Brown Table

When I received her book a few weeks ago, I was immediately drawn to the sheer amount of helpful information on the different types of squashes and maintaining them, from how to select the best kind, to best the way in preparing them to cook. 

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup | A Brown Table

Amanda has come up with a collection of unique recipes that all utilize squashes in some sort of tasty way in her book, from savory to sweet there's something to satisfy everyone tastebuds. But since the weather is cooling down, and in some places faster than others (though not as much here in Northern California), I thought it would be perfect to share this simple yet delicious warm and comforting acorn squash soup from Amanda's book. There's roasting, caramelizing, and puréeing followed by sessions of eager eating of copious amount of this vibrant and tasty soup. This acorn squash soup has mild notes of a gentle sweetness from the caramelized onions mixed in with the silky and buttery texture of the acorn squash and then there's the little topping of toasted nuts. The acorn squash recipe originally called for pecans but I ran out and ended up using salted pistachios instead, they worked perfectly!

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup |A Brown Table

Folks, Amanda is giving away a copy of her cookbook, Smitten with Squash to one lucky reader! Leave a comment below to tell me what's the most innovative dish you've made with squash and I will pick the best one! The giveaway is open to legal residents of the United States only and will end a week from now on October 22, 2014.

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup |A Brown Table

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup (from the Smitten with Squash Cookbook by Amanda Paa)

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1 lb acorn squash, halved, de-seeded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter 

2 (1 lb) medium yellow or white onions, halved and thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

2 cups low sodium vegetable (or chicken) stock 

3/4 cup buttermilk or whole milk

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/4 cup salted toasted pistachios (or pecans), coarsely chopped 

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400F. Remove any stringy material that might be present in the squash after it is deseeded. Brush the surface of the flesh of the squash halves with the vegetable oil. Place the squash halves on a baking sheet with cut side upwards, roast in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the flesh is tender and easily pierced by a fork. Remove the pulp with a spoon and keep aside until ready to use.

2. While the squash continues to roast in the oven, heat a wide, thick-bottomed stainless steel skillet (I used a cast-iron skillet) over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt. Scatter the onion slices evenly over the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, without stirring to brown, then stir and spread the onions to "sweat" and release their moisture content. After about 10 minutes, most of the released liquid should evaporate, add the salt and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring often to ensure the onions don't burn. When the onions are a uniform brown color, they are done.

3. Pour in 1 cup of the stock and scrape the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to release any bits and flavors from the onions. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend on medium speed for about a minute. Add the rest of the broth, half of the squash flesh and puree again for one minute. Then add the buttermilk and rest of the squash, purée until silky smooth. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Before serving garnish each bowl of warm soup with a tablespoon of the pistachios.