Flowers for Christmas dinner

Jeezie Louisie, I look up from digging myself out from under a pile of papers and computer tasks and find that in nine days we’ll be sitting down to the traditional pumpkin pie breakfast with a heap of wrappings burying the carpet.  How the hell did that happen?  What happened to the memo cancelling November?

I blame two of the women in my life: my editor, who deliberately chose to drop the proofs onto my desk the week before Thanksgiving, and my daughter, who dawdled overseas instead of coming in the door on December 1st  demanding that we set up the Christmas tree.  And since the tree is usually the thing that gets me moving (must be the smell that triggers the reaction of Fir tree=shopping impulse) and we’re not getting the tree until Monday (and I just don’t want to think about the Charlie Brown trees that’ll be available then) I’m only now turning my mind to the question of Christmas.

And to the Christmas meals.

delicata flowers

The night before Christmas, I like to keep the food light but festive.  Some years we’ve done crab or shrimp along with a soup that balances those flavors, but since I don’t much like seafood in general and shellfish in particular, I can now use an excuse a new Jewish family member to remove them from the options.  I may take another look at the take-away menu of the Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria (fabulous food, as are Gayle and Joe themselves) so I can join the festive and put off the work.

But for the 25th itself, my family is adamant: Christmas equals turkey.  Even if we’ve just managed to get the bones and leftovers out the door from Thanksgiving, we have to have turkey, a form of protein that rivals tofu on the boringometer.  Which means that I have taken to playing with all the peripheral elements of the meal.  One year I substituted celery root for some of the potatoes in the mashed potatoes.  I often start with a small serving of tart crunchy salad (again I often depend on celery root here) balanced by a tiny cup of sweet, rich soup (cream of carrot with a pear tossed in, perhaps, or something with chestnuts) just to set up the taste buds for dinner.  And although parsnips are not a part of our traditional family diet (my mother must not have liked them) I often make the yams roasted, tossed in a bag along with some cut up parsnips and a bit of oil and salt, and roasted high after the turkey comes out.

But I’m thinking this year of doing delicata flowers instead.

Delicata squash are one of the gifts of the modern foodie movement, that has brought us arugula and brown mushrooms.  They’re small and elongated, the perfect size if you want to split them lengthwise and fill them with anything—sauteed vegetables and ricotta cheese are a favorite here—but the great thing is, the skin is tender enough to eat.  So if you choose the delicatas with the most raised ridges to them, and just slice them crosswise, you end up with these very interesting rings.  Drop them into a plastic bag with a little olive oil, salt, and whatever spices go with the dinner you have planned—Chinese five spice powder, Mexican chili mix, Moroccan spices or just cinnamon and nutmeg—then roast them in a nice hot oven for twenty minutes or so, turning once on the cookie sheet.  Voila: delicata flowers.

Your family won’t even notice the turkey.

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  1. Roxanne on December 16, 2009 at 10:01 am


    I was I could be at your house for Christmas! Today’s blog entry is YUMMY — I am sitting here, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, drooling all over my computer keyboard.You must be a fantabulous cook.

    Maybe we should start a recipe page on the VBC where you could share some of these mouthwatering delights with us?

    (Do you think that delicata flowers will fit over the Internets to PA?)

  2. Jessica on December 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

    What kind of flavor/texture do they have – sweet, buttery, stringy? They sound very interesting. I’m trying to experiment a little with some of the sides for dinner, but my family is very traditional about holidays, so there is The Way Things are Done to contend with.

    I’m telling you, one of these days, brie soup with roasted apples WILL make it’s way to my holiday table. If I’m the only one who eats it, so be it.

    Roxanne – a recipe sharing thread would be fun!

  3. Erin on December 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    We’ve actually got a recipe thread somewhere in the VBC.

    There’s this one (which says it’s a chocolate recipe thread, but actually we ended up putting a lot of other recipes into it too):

    And I think maybe another one, but I’ll have to look again.

  4. Laraine on December 16, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Laurie, I sez, after the year or two or three you’ve had, have the feast YOUR way! The delicata flowers look delicious, and are a new idea for me, who like all things squash and enjoys the innovations. Maybe I should send you my old friend Laurel’s pumpkin soup recipe–made right in the pumpkin (keep the cap as lid!!). Or, not, since it can probably be found online by now. In any event, have a wonderful holiday, Laurie, and enjoy the daylights out of your family, with or without magnificent (or Charlie Brown-ish) tree.

  5. La Donna on December 17, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Well if we are going to have recipes I need carbohydrate counts and vitamin K amounts. The family (1 from LA, 1 from NYC, 2 from Tennessee) descends on Saturday and I have a week of cooking (in a small kitchen [in a parsonage (so I have to watch my language)] with everyone trying to be helpful) for a heart patient, a diabetic, an evangelistic vegetarian, a vegetarian-when-his-sister-the-evangelistic-vegetarian-is-looking vegetarian, 2 adults who will eat whatever is on the table, and two teenagers. Four more arrive on Tuesday for family Christmas dinner (but they haven’t said — are they staying overnight??). Supposed to start snowing on Saturday, did I mention that? and dad-in-law with his hearing aids in the box in the drawer at home. And I don’t care what they say we will have brussels sprouts and mince pies because *I* want them. Get over it.

    Perhaps I need to have a cup of tea and a quick lie down.

  6. Deb Morrissey on December 17, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    **is smug**

    My family’s traditional Christmas dinner is filet mignon (which, when you buy the whole filet and then slice into 20 portions, is not that expensive). Accompanied by all the sides that people associate with turkey. The perfect menu.

  7. Athena on December 18, 2009 at 7:45 am

    I love delicata! We actually went so far as to grow them in our garden this summer. They are so delicious, very sweet. My mom does the Christmas day turkey dinner, but I’m doing Christmas eve ham. Its dessert I love though- I’m making a gingerbread trifle!

  8. La Donna on December 18, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Just back from the grocers where I looked for delicata — are they a summer-type squash (zucchini et al) or a winter-type squash (pumpkin et al)? I bought acorn squash which I can fix the same way. Bought the brussels sprouts and made the mincemeat last night so have to whump up (getting ready to talk to the Tennesseans) the shortcrust pastry for the mince pies. Ready to roll!! Gingerbread trifle? Mmmmm.

  9. annburns on December 18, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Christmas means summer downunder -despite the heat there are always recipes for roast turkey, ham etc. Madness! Way too hot to even think of turning on an oven. We head to the beach with prawns and pesto mayonnaise, salads and fresh cherries which are a bumper crop this year. Large tarp for shade and lots of books… happy holidays to all who make this such a interesting blog to visit!

  10. Meredith on December 19, 2009 at 1:25 am

    Holy tamales. If the mystery thing doesn’t work out, Laurie, you have a great future in food writing. I’m not as much of a foodie as some in the family but I do think arugula is a contribution to civilization (as well as a great word to say). Very best to you and the family. 🙂 Meredith

  11. Sara on December 19, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I have three words for you Ms. King: deep fried turkey!
    Alton Brown, of T.V.’s Good Eats, has what appears to be a safe way to fry, avoiding the need for skin transplants afterwards.
    My own family’s meal is pretty basic, roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, acorn squash, apple pie, and meat rice. “Meat rice” is stuffed pepper stuffing without the pepper and a family favorite.

  12. Diane Dudley on December 21, 2009 at 9:34 am

    I have eaten at Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria in Capitola 2.5 years ago. A great restaurant and the desserts are beautiful. Lovely neighborhood area too.

    I think both of my trips to Californa were a feast for the stomach as much for the eyes!

    Diane in Williamburg, VA. “Oh no, William and Mary won’t do.” Steely Dan

  13. Gail Lelyveld on December 29, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    The desert I really loved this year was made for Thanksgiving. Gingerbread, chocolate pecan pie. mmmm! For Christmas we had turkey and stuffing which we made with day old bagels; so people were surprised with a cinnamon raison taste. That was terrific. There was a nice assortment of wines. I loved the sweet one the best. Sorry I didn’t catch the name of it, but it was good. Happy New Year Everybody.

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