Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting the lovely Krissy O’Shea of Cottage Farm at my house in NY for a holiday-inspired collaboration. Over an inspirational and fun-filled two days, we put together a cozy, inviting scene complete with a collection of recipes fit for an intimate holiday gathering.
Krissy and I initially connected over a shared love of old homes and food – a seemingly odd combination, but one that made sense to the two of us. We both spent the past year restoring our respective centuries-old homes – slowing peeling away layers and uncovering their histories. In doing so, we’ve both experienced the roller coaster that is home restoration. We’ve shared stories of the unbelievable highs: removing a false ceiling to reveal more space or tearing down walls to expose original hand-hewn beams. And, we’ve shared stories of the lows: the painstaking process of restoring original horsehair plaster walls, the seemingly endless lists of to-dos and parts needing fixing.
It’s a complicated process, restoring a house, but one that leads to simplicity. The act of peeling each layer away – the wallpaper, the linoleum, the false ceilings – reveals a home’s identity. People built homes for function in the 1700s and 1800s. Every beam bared a weight; every nook held a function. Restoration is about removing the redundancies that have accumulated over time and revealing a home’s “bones” – the parts that hold purpose and meaning. For me, and I think Krissy as well, there’s beauty in revealing a home’s purpose and connecting with those who built it. Carrying on a family’s legacy 230 years later is a rare gift, and one that I do not take lightly.
In a way, food holds a similar connective power. Across generations, through hardship and fortune, celebration and grief, meals have been shared. Food bridges divides. It connects us. In talking, Krissy and I discovered how much we both love the simple act of gathering loved ones around the table. Like the fundamental simplicity of the bones of an old house, sharing a meal with loved ones is something that we often take for granted, but that holds a powerful importance.
In that spirit, we decided to put our heads together to create an inviting table with an approachable menu – an attempt to inspire the same intimate gatherings that we both love so much. It’s our hope that this will inspire you to connect with your loved ones this holiday season, even just for a simple supper in between planned festivities. After all, the very act of gathering family and friends is what truly matters. Fussing over the details of the menu and table are the redundancies that we can all do without.
The dishes we created are simple and best shared over a casual, family-style setting. They highlight the flavors of the season – hearty root vegetables, squashes, and apples – and come together without fuss. You might recognize the soup from a few posts back here. Black futsu squash provide a beautiful, nutty flavor that really distinguishes the soup from a typical butternut or acorn version. We also garnished it simply with just a drizzle of coconut milk and some fennel fronds we had on hand, but you really could do anything here – kale chips and seeds (like I did when I first posted the recipe), crispy sage, a sprinkling of turmeric, you get the idea.
For the main dish, we braised lentils slowly in a homemade vegetable stock with fennel, shallots, and a touch of apple cider vinegar. Taking inspiration from Karen of Sunday Suppers, we roasted a collection of root vegetables with their greens still attached – some beautiful parsnips from Krissy’s garden, carrots, turnips, and radishes – in cast iron skillets with just olive oil and salt until the vegetables were tender and their greens crisp. The vegetables require only a quick wash, otherwise there is really no prep needed. (As noted in the recipe, make sure to remove the greens from the parsnips before roasting as they can be poisonous. All of the other greens are safe and delicious, though).
Inspired by Aran (of Canelle et Vanille) and her beautiful, rustic tarts, we wanted to create a dessert that highlighted the sweet, flavorful apples of the season. In our tart, we filled a shortbread crust with thinly sliced, crisp apples and topped them with an oat crumble topping, full of holiday-inspired flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Both the crust and the crumb topping can be made in advance, making for a quick assembly whenever you’re ready to bake.
And, what dinner table would be complete without a delicious assortment of cheeses? For ours, we used a collection of Vermont Creamery cheeses – some cow’s milk, some goat’s – and tucked a few crackers and Concord grapes alongside them.
While the dishes work beautifully together as a full menu, they each would also make for delicious contributions to a Thanksgiving dinner or other larger event. And, for those trying to satisfy a range of diets, the soup is vegan and the lentils can easily be adapted to be (just omit the tablespoon of butter).
For the table, Krissy worked her serious magic. Again, simplicity really was the focus. A natural linen made for an unassuming blank canvas, over which she placed seasonal decorations – a few black futsu squash (left over from our soup), some walnuts and almonds in their shells, and an arrangement of eucalyptus buds. She peppered the table with candles – both votive candles in smoky-hued water glasses, as well as white pillar candles. And, for each place setting she used beautiful white plates and bowls from Bartōn Crōft. It felt comfortable and relaxed – a table meant to be enjoyed, not just admired from afar.
A sincere thank you to Bartōn Crōft for sharing her stunningly beautiful ceramics with us, which we used to set our table, as well as Vermont Creamery for generously providing us with a delicious collection of their cheeses and butters, which never ever disappoint.
Most importantly of all, thank you Krissy for coming down and sharing your incredible talents with me. It was a genuine pleasure.
black futsu squash soup
braised lentils with roasted root vegetables
black futsu squash soup
4 pounds (about 2) black futsu squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
4 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 vidalia onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1½ cups whole coconut milk, plus more for garnish
Fennel fronds (or other fresh herb), for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut each half of squash into approximate 1-inch wedges and arrange in one layer on 2 (or 1 large) baking sheets. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the coconut oil over top and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Massage the oil into the squash until every wedge is completely coated. Roast in the oven until very soft when pierced with a fork, about 30 – 35 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
In a large pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat, add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent and very soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic, turmeric, and coriander and cook for 3 – 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Using a spoon or your hands, scoop the cooled squash flesh from the skin and add to the pot. Discard the skin. Add the coconut milk and 1½ cups of water and stir to combine. Return the pot to high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes to reheat and meld the flavors.
Working in batches, blend the soup in a high-powered blender until completely smooth. Once smooth, return the soup to the pot. At this point, you can adjust the thickness of your soup with water to your liking (we added 1 cup of water). Reheat the soup if needed and adjust the salt as necessary.
Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Drizzle coconut milk over top and top with fennel fronds to garnish.
braised lentils with roasted root vegetables
for the vegetables:
4 – 6 small parsnips, greens trimmed
1 bunch small carrots, greens attached
1 bunch radishes and/or small turnips, greens attached
¼ cup olive oil
salt, to taste
for the lentils:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
½ fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups French lentils
5 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade), plus more if needed
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Halve any larger vegetables lengthwise, if needed, so they are all roughly the same thickness. On a large sheet pan, or several large cast iron skillets, toss the vegetables with the olive oil and salt to taste. Arrange in a single layer and roast, tossing once halfway through, until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife and their greens are crisp, about 25 – 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped shallots and fennel and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer until the liquid has almost completely reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the lentils and the vegetable stock and bring to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have absorbed most of the broth and are tender, about 45 to 50 minutes, adding more broth throughout the cooking process if necessary.
Once cooked, spoon the lentils onto a platter and top with the roasted vegetables. Serve family style.
serves 4 – 6
note: both the crust and crumb topping can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until you’re ready to assemble the tart.
for the crust:
1 cup flour, plus more for rolling the dough
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 stick (115g) unsalted chilled butter, cut into cubes
2 – 3 tablespoons ice water
for the filling:
3 – 4 small, crisp apples (such as empire or gala)
1 tablespoon sugar
for the crumb topping:
½ cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
sprinkle of nutmeg
¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
confectioner’s sugar, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Set aside a 14 x 4 ½-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom.
To prepare the crust: in a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter or your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix until the dough just comes together, taking care not to overwork your dough. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, halve and core the apples and thinly slice into half moons on a mandolin. Add the apple slices to a large bowl and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the top. Toss to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, and spices. Add the butter and use your hands to work into the oat mixture. Set aside.
To assemble the tart: on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an approximate 16 x 6-inch rectangle, or until about 1/8-inch-thick. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll over the tart pan, allowing the excess dough to fall over the sides. Using your hands, gently push the dough into the tart pan and up the sides. Take care to not stretch the dough while you do this – if there are areas that are not covered by dough, just rip small excess pieces off the edges of the dough and press them into these areas as necessary. Use your rolling pin to gently roll over the top of the tart pan to trim the excess dough.
Fill the tart with the apple slices and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top. Sprinkle with the crumb topping and the chopped walnuts.
Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the apples are soft and the crumb topping and crust are golden, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes. Once cooled enough to handle, carefully remove the tart from the pan and transfer to a serving platter. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and cut into wedges to serve.