This year’s Thanksgiving feast could only have been more low key if we’d gone the TV dinner route. My mother-in-law wasn’t able to visit, so I planned to simply roast a chicken and serve a few veggies for the two of us, but ended up doing even less than that when our neighbors invited us to share dinner with them. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve lived here for four years as of this weekend (which reminds me, this blog just turned three!) and haven’t managed to get to know them yet. I blame Gil for not introducing me around when I moved.

Not wanting to go empty-handed, I pulled out the bag of almost-overripe persimmons I’d been storing for a couple of weeks and got to work on an upside-down cake that sounded like a perfect ending to a Thanksgiving meal — with two sticks of butter, it was possibly the most indulgent cake I’ve ever made.

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I did a quick google search when the idea for the cake hit me (my standard approach, since very few ideas are truly new), and found only a couple of recipes. Joanne Weir‘s parmesan flan has been one of the highlights of my summer for the past two years, so I opted for her version of the cake and came away very, very happy indeed.

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Her secret for keeping things light and airy in such a rich cake? Whipping the egg whites, then folding them into the rest of the batter. Even so, the cake was much more soufflé-like in the pan than I expected:

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Anyway, we had a wonderful time with the Edwards family and I feel like I finally have friends in the neighborhood, which is no small thing. They’re a creative family, into drawing, painting, photography, music, fashion…so you can imagine how much I enjoyed myself. Oh, AND I finally got a house tour with details of the major renovation they did last year! So we have lots of inspiration for our own house project, whenever we start.

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The next day, I roasted the Zuni chicken (with bittersweet pimenton added to the salt & pepper rub) originally intended for Thanksgiving and made a bread-based dressing with roasted acorn squash on the side. Nothing terribly exciting, but repurposed as breakfast this morning, I fell in love:

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I pan-fried some of the leftover dressing, served it atop a thin drizzle of gravy and topped it with a fried egg. “X + egg = heaven” is undefined for Gil, so I waited till he was running an errand to work it up. (How anyone can snub a runny egg yolk over just about anything is beyond me, but hey, in sickness & in [mental] health, etc…)

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For Saturday’s dinner, there wasn’t a hint of Thanksgiving left over in the leftovers, though I forced myself to use the contents of my fridge and pantry in a stab at eating down the house. We ended up with a North African-inspired couscous dish that took maybe 30 minutes to make, but had a great depth of flavor mainly because it relied so heavily on leftovers.

To start, I made a quick harissa paste and set it aside for the flavors to develop while I worked on the rest of the meal. I hit the freezer for a package of caramelized onions, which I browned in some olive oil, then added two thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and reinforced the warm spices from the harissa — ground cumin, caraway seeds and ground coriander — in the sizzling oil. When the spices were fragrant, I added a package of Israeli couscous, bite-sized pieces of dark chicken, chopped roasted acorn squash, leftover chicken stock and two tablespoons of harissa paste. Only 15 minutes later, we were sitting down to a meal I wouldn’t even mind making from scratch someday.

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I hope you add had a filling and fun-filled Thanksgiving. Now I need to figure out a way to work from home, because the last four days spent with all of my boys has been too good to miss again for 13 hours a day or more.

recipes and sweet doggy pictures after the jump

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake by Joanne Weir

16 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 pound fresh Fuju persimmons, peeled, halved and pitted
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Place the pan over medium heat and melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and brown sugar in the bottom of the pan. Overlap the persimmon slices on top of the melted butter and brown sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350F. For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Cream the remaining 12 tablespoons butter and granulated white sugar together in a bowl until light. Separate the eggs and add the yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and mix well. Add the milk and the dry ingredients alternately to the batter, folding well after each addition.

Beat the egg whites to form soft peaks. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Spread the batter over the persimmons and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes.

Cool the cake for 10 to 15 minutes and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen it. Turn the cake over onto a serving platter and let it sit another 5 minutes. Remove the pan.

To serve, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks are formed. Sift the confectioners’ sugar on top of the cream, add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and fold together. Serve with the cake.

Serves 8 to 10

Harissa adapted from Global Gourmet

3 1/2 tablespoons dried chili flakes, soaked in the same amount of hot water
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons caraway seed
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground
1 teaspoon salt

Place ingredients in small food processor and blend or grind in mortar until a paste is formed.

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When we were leaving the adoption fair with Otis last weekend, the representatives from Greyhound Friends of NJ told us to be sure to keep the boys muzzled on the drive home because they might get aggressive. Clearly, we have our work cut out for us, because they’ll never get along:

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Honestly, we didn’t pose them.

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They both love to sleep and don’t seem to mind if another creature is nearby, though sometimes they’ll change position and nap apart.

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Turns out, it’s a lot easier to get a picture of awake-Otis than of awake-Rufus. His prey instinct is so strong that he’ll stand at the window staring at something in the yard (or in the tree, or across the street, or down the street just out of sight) for minutes at a time.

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Bless his heart — he’s a pain in the ass to walk, but so much fun to photograph.

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