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Christmas Eve Thali

Posted: December 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

10 Perfect Little Dishes

Thali Plating

Getting ready to plate

My family really celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. We gather at my folks house in the suburbs, feast on a big meal, drink, and engage in merriment until midnight. At midnight we open gifts and engage in more merriment well into the night. We tumble into our guest beds and sleep off all that merriment. It’s perfect really.

The meal usually involves a roast and a collection of disparate pot luck dishes. All delicious, all in abundance x 2, but maybe a little disjointed. This year, my sister and I took over the family meal. We wanted to push our cooking limits, while having a restrained, balanced, and delightful meal. We settled on preparing a 10-dish thali. Thali is an Indian tradition of serving food in small dishes on a large round platter. Our thali was inspired by this tradition and the meals we’ve had at Jerry Traunfeld’s Poppy, here in Seattle.

Planning took a few weeks. We sat down one evening and perused towers of cookbooks and our favorite sites for dishes. We knew we wanted a main dish and 9 accompanying dishes: 4 hot and 5 cold. Of course there was resistance to the idea. Over the years many family favorites have developed, some were worried about not having their cherished favorites and others were skeptical of the small dish concept. But it was our goal to please and we made sure to include the favorites, while exploring new territory.


A complete thali serving

Here’s what we settled on:

Main Course

  • Prime rib with sauteed greens
  • Smoked mushroom lasagna

Hot Plates

  • Cauliflower gratin
  • Tomato soup with a cheese straw
  • Potato and pea samosa with fruit chutney
  • Seared scallop with a caramel orange sauce

Cold Plates

  • Curried grain salad
  • Fennel salad with pomegranate and sumac
  • Beet and goat cheese napoleon
  • Pickled raisins
  • Marinated carrots with cornichon, pickled red onion, and radish pickle


  • Tapioca with a pepparkakar cookie
  • Lemon tart
  • Buckeyes


  • Mulled cider
  • Champagne whiskey cocktail

We tested several recipes beforehand and made refinements for the final meal. (One lesson learned from testing: you should not bake a samosa.) Dishes and components that could be prepared ahead were started early in the week. I bought the thali settings at my local restaurant supply store: pizza pans for the platter and a collection of small saucers, soup spoons, metal condiment bowls, and small ramekins. We mapped out a detailed schedule for the week and an hour-by-hour schedule for Christmas Eve day. Our plan, the execution of the dishes, and the meal were a success!

Made and Ate This Week

Posted: September 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

A Week of Tomato Goodness

Harvested about six pounds of tomatoes from the garden, plus a few from the CSA which meant a lot of tomato processing this week.


Tomato Rainbow


Home-cooked goodness in no particular order

  • Homemade fettucini with homemade tomato sauce and sardines … the dismal, wet summer produce rather mealy tomatoes, but after a good stewing with carrots, celery, oregano, and garlic the sauce was perfect.
  • Kale chips seasoned with nanami togarashi
  • Whole rainbow trout roasted with lemon and herbs + roasted potatoes + sauteed haricot verts
  • Dill pickle chips … Dylan’s first pickle-making adventure was a success!
  • Slow roasted cherry tomatoes … in red, black, orange, and yellow
  • Buckwheat pancakes … the batter reminds me of a dark chocolate milkshake with a healthy dose of coffee grounds, but tastes like nothing of the sort. These are definitely a household favorite.
  • Savory biscotti … there will undoubtedly be more to say about these crunchy bits of wonderful.


Not a lot of restaurant action this week

  • Arancini (saffron risotto with a cheesy core of caccio cavolo), Sturgeon with lentils and a poached egg, and Grandma’s greens (stewed kale served in an amazingly rich anchovy broth) at La Medusa
  • Insalata Tricolore (arugula, cherry tomatoes, ricotta) at Via Tribunali … lordy that ricotta was sweet and rich
  • Nicoise Salad (smoked halibut, cherry tomatoes, butter lettuce, and baby fingerlings tossed with tapenade) at Spring Hill … it was good, but the halibut was slightly over salted for my taste
  • Broccoli melt + beet salad + chips at Homegrown … broccoli on a sandwich is a no brainer for me.

Made and Ate This Week

Posted: September 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

Notable eats both in and out this week

Pomodori al Forno

Pomodori al Forno


  • Escolar with avocado and speck from Anchovies & Olives … buttery and decadent; however, it was better the week before with the spicy coppa and watermelon salad.
  • Bigoli with anchovies and chilis from Anchovies & Olives … fishy, salty, spicy with big, hearty pasta in my favorite shape – long.
  • Huevos rancheros and spicy hashbrowns at Coastal Kitchen … not the usual soggy, gloppy mess that I’ve come to expect from huevos rancheros. Instead it was crisp, rich, and eggy with an earthy spiciness that reminded me of mole and just enough tang.
  • Tomato soup and potato roll from the Dahlia Bakery … I love this soup and the roll is pillowy heaven.
  • Petrus Aged Pale with frites at Brouwer’s Cafe … frites — enough said; but this beer was tangy, carbonated amazingness.


  • Pizza of course … three flavors: spicy broccoli; kale with smoked cheddar; and pesto with golden beets, goat cheese, and pomodori al forno (slow roasted tomatoes).
  • Pomodori al forno … having harvested a modest supply of tomatoes from my garden, I was anxious to try this recipes I’ve been dreaming about since 2008.
  • Oatmeal peanut butter sandwich cookies … I’ve been obsessed with a similar cookie from the Dahlia Bakery, but at $2 a piece, I’m looking for a good recipe I can make myself.
  • Kale chips … I freakin love kale and I love chips, so what could be better? Add to that I have a bounty of kale this year, so thank goodness for kale chips. A huge bunch of kale can be easily reduced to a crispy, salty, seaweed-like snack.