COOK THIS: Now & Again by Julia Turshen - Modern Farmer

COOK THIS: Now & Again by Julia Turshen

This week we launch our twice-monthly cookbook reviews, where our writer cooks from the book and decides if these farm-to-table recipes are worth the investment.

Photography David Loftus / Reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018

As we head into the holiday season, Julia Turshen’s new book, Now & Again (Chronicle Books; $35) is ready to rescue you from the questions “What do I make?” and just as importantly, “What do I do with the leftovers?” Twenty seasonal, multi-course menus will cover you from a casual lunch with friends through to Thanksgiving dinner itself. At the end of each menu you’ll find “It’s Me Again” – a round-up of ideas for using up the extra bits and bobs that end up in Tupperware at the bottom of your fridge. Each menu sports a handy timeline for preparing elements ahead of time, and trickier recipes come complete with instructional photos. The book ends off with very useful lists including “Seven Things to Do with Not-So-New Produce,” as well as less useful ones like “Seven Things to Do with Leftover Wine” which we have never heard of in our house.

I made the Sheet Pan Bread Stuffing with Sausage + Spinach for Canadian Thanksgiving last month (recipe below). Crumbled chunks of Italian sausage are cooked until crisp, with celery, onion and garlic then cooked in the rendered fat before adding stock and sage. Spinach, parsley and rustic chunks of bread are stirred through along with a few eggs. The whole lot is baked on a sheet pan after being dotted with butter. I wish I could tell you that we used Turshen’s suggestion for transforming the leftovers (crisp them up, top with an egg and serve for breakfast), but that would be a lie because we demolished every crumb of it.

Turshen’s head-cheerleader levels of encouragement make this a great book for those panic-stricken by the idea of having people over for dinner, never mind cooking the Christmas turkey. But her well-balanced, thoughtful recipes mean that even a well-seasoned cook will get plenty from Now & Again.  

Sheet Pan Bread Stuffing with Sausage + Spinach

Servings: 12

Since stuffing rarely appears separate from Thanksgiving, it’s an inherently nostalgic and meaningful dish. I bake my stuffing on a sheet pan so the crispy-to-soft ratio is basically one to one. If you prefer it softer, bake it in a smaller vessel like a baking dish.

*Reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018

  • 1¼ lb [570 g] country bread or sourdough bread, torn into bite-size pieces (about 9 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb [455 g] Italian fennel
  • sausages, casings removed
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 large fresh sage leaves, tough stems discarded, minced
  • 1½ cups [360 ml] chicken or turkey stock
  • One 10-oz [280-g] package frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry, and roughly chopped
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh Italian parsley leaves (a little bit of stem is fine!), finely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, finely diced

Preheat your oven to 400°F [200°C].

Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and toast, stirring now and then, until lightly browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Set the bread aside to cool. You can skip this step if you use stale bread.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil into a large pot over medium-high heat. Crumble in the sausage and cook, stirring now and then, until all of the fat is rendered and the meat is crisp and browned, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, celery, garlic, and 1 tsp salt to the pot and turn down the heat to medium. Cook the vegetables, stirring now and then, until slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and stock and turn the heat to high. Once it is at a boil, turn off the heat. Stir in the spinach, parsley, and reserved bread. Taste the mixture and season with salt if more is needed. Add the eggs and give everything one good final stir.

Line the sheet pan you toasted the bread on with parchment paper. Transfer the stuffing mixture to the pan and spread it out in an even layer. Dot the top with the butter. Bake until the top is browned and the edges are nice and crispy, about 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Beet Salad with Poppy Seed + Chive Dressing

Servings: 8-10

I always like making unfussy vegetable dishes as part of more elaborate holiday menus. They add color and variety to your spread, and you can also rest assured your guests can fill their plates with something healthy. This beet salad is one of my go-to vegetable dishes because it’s a little unexpected yet totally easy to make, and you can whip up the dressing and cook and slice the beets ahead of time and easily assemble the whole thing at the last minute. Also, it’s best served barely warm or at room temperature, which makes it especially perfect for a big dinner.
If you can’t find poppy seeds, just leave them out. The beet salad will be just as good without them. I like adding them because I love how they look and I also love the little crunch they add, plus I think of them as a nod to poppy seed bagels, which were an integral part of my gastronomic-Jewish upbringing.

*Reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018

  • Kosher salt
  • 2½ lbs [1.2 kg] red beets, scrubbed
  • 2 Tbsp plain yogurt or mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh chives (or a thinly sliced scallion minus the tough ends)

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the beets (the water should cover the beets; if it doesn’t, add more). Cook the beets, turning them every so often, until they’re tender (test with a paring knife), about 45 minutes (it may be a bit less or a bit longer depend­ing on the size and age of the beets, so start testing at 30 minutes).

Drain the beets, transfer to a paper towel–lined cutting board, and use the paper towels to rub off the skins. Trim off and discard the root ends.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, mustard, vinegar, pepper, poppy seeds, 2 Tbsp of the chives, and ½ tsp salt.

Slice the warm beets into thin bite-size wedges or thin rounds (whatever you prefer) and transfer them to a large serving bowl or platter. Season them lightly with salt and then drizzle the dressing evenly over them. Sprinkle with minced chives.

Grilled Beef + Zucchini Meatballs with Tahini Dressing

Servings: 6

I make these often for Grace because they’ve got no bread crumbs or other carb binders, which is great if you have type 1 diabetes like she does. That means they are also gluten free, if that’s important to you. Plus, they’re not boring, which is great no matter what you eat. If you don’t have a grill, you can broil the meatballs (using roughly the same timing) or you can roast them on a parchment paper–lined sheet pan in a 425°F [220°C] oven until they’re firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. If you weren’t serving these with a tomato salad, you could absolutely finish them in a tomato sauce. Throw an extra pinch of ground cumin and a cinnamon stick into the sauce.

  • 2 zucchini, ends trimmed and coarsely grated
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red onion, coarsely grated or finely chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp nigella seeds (optional)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 lb [910 g] ground beef
  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup [120 ml] boiling water, or as needed
  • A small handful of chopped fresh soft herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, and/or chives all work well)

Get your outdoor grill going (gas or charcoal) with high heat and make sure the grate is superclean.

Place the grated zucchini in the center of a kitchen towel and gather the towel around it to form a tight bundle. Wring out the zucchini over the sink, really squeezing it as tightly as you can to release all of its excess water. Transfer the zucchini to a large bowl and add the garlic, onion, egg, cumin, nigella seeds (if using), coriander, and 1 Tbsp salt.

Mix everything together well, then add the beef and mix until well combined (your hands are the best tools for this job). Form the mixture into golf ball–size meatballs (it will make about 30 meatballs; feel free to make them whatever size you want, really, keeping in mind they will shrink a little as they cook). The mixture will be sticky, so wet your hands with a bit of water to help prevent the meat from sticking to them. Transfer the meatballs to a sheet pan or something else that will hold them in a single layer and then carry them out to your grill.

If your grill needs it, brush the grate with some neutral oil (I like to fold up a paper towel and drizzle it with oil and then use tongs to rub it on the grate). If your grill grate has particularly wide bars, you can put a wire baking rack, a mesh grill topper, or a sheet of aluminum foil on the grate so you don’t lose any meatballs through the bars. Grill the meatballs, turning them a few times as they cook, until browned all over and just firm to the touch, about 10 minutes all together.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, and boiling water. The mixture should run off of your spoon. If it doesn’t, add a splash more boiling water (the amount you need will depend on how thick your tahini is). Season the mixture to taste with salt.

When the meatballs are ready, transfer them to a serving platter and drizzle them with the tahini mixture. Sprinkle with the herbs and serve immediately.

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