Stir It Up: Thanksgiving Prep & Quick Purple Kale & Truffled Fig Tartlet

21 Nov

Stephen and Penny go rock scuttling

Thanksgiving is an amazing opportunity to give your families that extra special something, and every year, I knock it out of the park.

Whether I’m the guest or the host at Thanksgiving, by now, the whole fam knows they can count on me. A handful of crying jags, five to 10 panicked phone calls instructing folks en route to pick up five pounds of butter (there’s never enough!!), bringing up the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with family members with whom I do not share kindred partisan views and finally, chugging a glass of merlot and waxing nonsensical about current events (this year: Occupy Wall Street!) just as everyone’s relaxing and beginning to enjoy themselves, is just par for the endless Thanksgiving course.

It gets me warmed up for Christmas, when I really like to go on a tear.

Instead of admitting that my outbursts are due to a personality disorder and consulting members of the medical establishment, I choose to believe that my unhinged holiday behavior is caused by lack of planning. Surely, if I made a list of duties and let other people cook too, everything would be as smooth and flawless as perfectly whipped mashed potatoes (I just have to make sure whoever’s mashin’ em uses a ricer, and not, God forbid, a mixer, because that would be a red button excessive glutton-causing crises, we’d be dead in the water).

This year, I’m turning over a new leaf. I will withstand the pressure of 1,002 TMI updates on the status of various family members’ overactive sebaceous glands, and 52 straight hours of Fox News at full blast. I started cooking this week and I’m outsourcing half the courses.

My version of getting organized in the kitchen -- all cabinets open, the counters covered

My mom is bringing a salad, cheese, nuts, a pecan pie. Stephen is making cranberry sauce, his specialty. My dad will whip the potatoes when the time comes, and I won’t say a word if and when he whips out the mixer (which will never happen, because I’m going to hide it). All I have to do is brine and roast a turkey, make the stuffing and some of the fixin’s, and … enjoy myself.

The monastery looks like an abandoned station in the Dharma Initiative, straight out of Lost, minus the menace.

This weekend, Stephen and I walked in the woods, tinkered with the house, checked out the monastery around the corner, found a new favorite restaurant (The Terrace Club in Mahopac) and cooked up a storm.

We saw dozens of types mosses and lichens blooming from rocks on our walk


Thursday, I’m going to make riffs on Ina Garten and Giada de Laurentiis’s recipes for stuffing, this one for the actual turkey; I started chopping veggies and itemizing shopping lists on Saturday.

On Sunday, I whipped up bases for my country gravy (using a fantastic recipe in my Culinary Institute of America cookbook), my pie filling (I love Grace Parisi’s recipe), sable cookie dough for my brother in law (I seal the dough in the fridge and I’ll roll it out on Thursday morning; I’ll use my mother in law’s cookie cutters to shape the cookies), a basic truffle aioli (for dip and breadsticks wrapped with prosciutto), to make Thursday easier. Plus, some Stir-Fried Purple Kale and Collard Greens and a Truffled Fig and Goat Cheese Tartlet, to keep our engines revved while we worked.

Click on for the greens and tart recipe!

The bacon cuts the bitterness of the collard greens and the quick stir-fry prevents them from becoming soggy

Purple Kale and Collard Green Stir Fry

Makes 2 generous servings


  • 4 slices of bacon (or 4 TBSP of olive oil for vegetarians)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6-8 cups of purple kale and collard greens (rip the leaves off the stems)
  • Stems of purple kale and collard greens (chopped into ¼-1/2 inch pieces)
  • ½ tsp cumin, coriander, cardamom each
  • Soy sauce, to taste
  • Oyster sauce, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Chop bacon into bite-size pieces and fry in a large, hot skillet until golden brown. Add the minced stems of the greens and sautee until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices, garlic, stir over heat quickly. Add leaves and cook until softened. (The leaves will leak water and cook down quite a bit).

Nutritional Breakdown of Stir Fried Purple Kale and Collard Greens: About 250 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving.

Cost Breakdown of Stir-Fried Purple Kale and Collard Greens: About $2.25 a serving.

Verdict / In the Future: You could reduce the bacon by about half for a healthier dish, but the bacon makes it almost main-dish worthy. Serve it with a cup of soup and a slice of crusty bread and you have dinner!

The pre-made puffs make this dish a snap to prep

Truffled Fig and Goat Cheese Tarts

Makes 6 servings


  • 8 ounces goat cheese at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A bit of cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 TBSP chopped fresh chives
  • 1-2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
  • 10 black mission figs, stemmed and quartered
  • 6 Puff Pastry shells (I use Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 TBSP truffle oil, for drizzling
  • 1 TBSP honey, for drizzling


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place frozen puff pastry shells on a baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
  • Mix cheese, eggs, cream, spices and herbs in a large bowl. Remove the tops of the cooked puff pastry shells and fill with the cheese mixture. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Garnish with figs and bake until golden and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Drizzle with truffle oil and honey and serve!

Nutritional Breakdown for Truffled Fig and Goat Cheese Tart: About 350 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Cost Breakdown of Truffled Fig and Goat Cheese Tart:  About $2.00 per serving.

Verdict / In the Future: These little numbers have you covered, no matter what you’re craving — sweet, savory, rich. Great for an appetizer; two servings will make a meal with a nice leafy salad.

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