Maple-Mustard Roasted Veggies + a post-Thanksgiving playlist

THE DISH
Maple roasted carrots, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts

THE INSPIRATION
I’ve said this before, but it certainly bears repeating: I am obsessed with the circle of friends I’ve found myself in in New York. And I was thrilled to learn that most of them — all of us transplants to the city, mostly from Michigan — would also be in town for Thanksgiving weekend, because obviously that meant it was yet another excuse to spend time together, making tons of food and eating (and drinking) ourselves silly. I’ll save my ramblings about how much I love them for a post I have coming up in a couple weeks, and instead I’ll share my contribution to our Thanksgiving feast: a simple mix of roasted veggies that, of course, I made way too much of. It has absolutely nothing to do with music, but I’m giving it to you anyway, along with a playlist of some songs I’m thankful for this year — not a best of 2011, as a few of them aren’t from the past 11 months, but songs that, for various reasons, have made my life just a little bit better this year.

THE PLAYLIST
Listen on Spotify here; tracklisting (and recipe) below!

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Stuffed Acorn Squash with The Loom

Every month or so, I partner with one of my favorite local sites, Brooklyn Based, to bring you an exclusive song by a Brooklyn band, recorded at Nadim Issa’s state-of-the-art recording studio in Gowanus, Let ‘Em In Music. Then, I create a recipe with — or inspired by — the featured artist. This month’s mp3 is The Loom, performing their previously unreleased track “The Devil You Know” (get the free mp3 and read my feature on them here), and here is the stuffed acorn squash I made with the band. All photos by Evan Daniels.

THE DISH
Acorn squash stuffed with rice and veggies (recipe at the bottom)

THE INSPIRATION
I’m excited that we were able to time this post with Thanksgiving, because the Loom’s music is perfect for sitting around a big table with friends, and so is this dish. I first heard the Brooklyn-based folk-rock band last year, and it was their communal energy — shared vocals, two bandmembers playing percussion, and a song about having all your friends over to watch fireworks — that drew me to their music. Their songs are also very autumnal, with plenty lines that mention the changing of the seasons (there’s a gorgeous song on the band’s debut LP, Teeth, called “The First Freeze”). So when the band — John Fanning (guitar, vocals), Sarah Renfro (keyboard, vocals, percussion), Lis Rubard (trumpet, French horn), Dan DeSloover (bass, vocals) and Jon Alvarez (drums, vocals) — took over my kitchen last month, I wanted our meal to reflected that. We roasted acorn squash halves and used them as a bowl for a mix of veggies and wild rice (OK, technically it wasn’t “wild rice,” but the closest I could find at Trader Joe’s), and chowed down.

At least a few of the bandmembers are avid cooks: When they got together to hear the test-pressing of Teeth, Lis made baked eggs over portabella mushrooms and tomatoes, with waffles, and pimento cheese; Jon told me about how he learned how to can tomatoes after working on a farm for a summer.

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Apple Spice Upside-Down Cake (Inspired by Thousands)

THE DISH
Apple spice upside-down cake (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Thousands are the Seattle-based duo of Kristian Garrard and Luke Bergman who write gorgeous, barebones folk songs, mostly comprised of delicate dueling guitars over hushed vocals, occasionally with a harmonium or pedal steel. Their album The Sound of Everything was recorded in abandoned barns and other unconventional spots (like silos and state parks). One of my favorite tracks, “Everything Turned Upside Down,” starts with what sounds like waves in the background, and has a line that goes, “You should’ve seen the fall leaves blow up/ They never fell at all.” Of course I had to make some kind of upside-down cake, but I went with apple instead of the traditional pineapple, and added fall spices to make it even more appropriate for the season. Aesthetically, it’s also very rustic-looking and kind of reminds me of a tart with the way the caramel-soaked apples sink into the cake.

https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F12366501 Thousands – Everything Turned Upside Down by Republic of Music

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Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese (Inspired by Joni Mitchell)

THE DISH
Tomato soup with an apple-cheddar grilled cheese sandwich (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Joni Mitchell will forever be one of my all-time favorite artists, and while there is always at least one song of hers that’s fitting for any given season or mood, I associate her most closely with fall and winter (and not only because of the song “River”). In “Urge for Going,” a song she wrote in 1966, she sings about the year’s first frost swallowing up the summer (“I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town/ It hovered in a frozen sky and it gobbled summer down”).

It’s sorta perfect for New York’s weather right now, since we’ve had small tastes of winter throughout the last couple weeks, and now we have what I expect is our final run of nice weather before winter swallows it up for good. And when that happens, I’ll want to crawl under my covers and escape. But since I won’t actually be able to do that (I’m going to Chicago next month; certainly not a warm-weather getaway), sitting at home with a warm bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich will have to serve as my “escape” for now, or at least my way to make the weather more bearable. In college, my friend Julie and I would stop at The Dairy Store for lunch in between classes, which was particularly rewarding in the winter: On Mondays we could get a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup for just $2.10, and it instantly made us forget about the slush we had just trekked through.

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Celery & Sunflower Butter (Inspired by the Beach Boys)

THE DISH
Celery with homemade sunflower butter and golden raisins (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
So, the Beach Boys’ Smile came out last week… Kind of a big deal! (I recommend reading this if you don’t know the story behind it.) There’s a fun little song on there called “Vege-Tables,” and — a little bit of trivia — some of the “percussion” in it is made by Paul McCartney chewing celery. So, I made one of my childhood favorites (OK, I still pack this in my lunch sometimes), the delightful snack known as ants on a log: celery sticks for the same crunch in the song, topped with sunflower butter and sweet golden raisins for the Beach Boys’ infamous California harmonies.

I couldn’t find the version of “Vege-Tables” from The Smile Sessions, but you should be able to listen to it on Spotify here.

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Hot Pumpkin Soup (Inspired by Mirah)

THE DISH
Spicy pumpkin soup (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Last Saturday after a super-short trip to Michigan, I was welcomed back to LaGuardia with snow. Snow! On October 29! Of course, it was the kind of snow that hit the ground and instantly turned to slush. And I couldn’t help but think of Mirah‘s song “Make It Hot” because of the lyric “The snow falls/ The snow’s all ugly/ When it hits the street,” and also “While We Have The Sun” (“Let’s take the time to walk together while we have the sun/ You never know when temperamental weather’s gonna come”). So, I made a spicy pumpkin soup to warm up from this grossness (thankfully, it’s mostly gone now); the peppers are to “make it hot” and the base is pumpkin because the snow came right in time for Halloween. There’s also some coconut milk in there for the sweetness in Mirah’s voice and her music in general.


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