Modern Cosmopolite

It’s impossible for me to throw food away.

I don’t say this to brag or as a point of pride, but by way of apology. If anything, it’s more of a character flaw than anything else. My stubborn belief that anything can be made delicious with the right treatment drives many of my most questionable creations, as I tell myself, “someone likes this stuff; I must simply be doing it wrong!” Granted, I don’t think that ketchup cookies are necessarily right but it certainly did transform a condiment I’m not fond of into a genuinely tasty dessert.

That’s where cranberry sauce comes in. Whether it’s spicy or citrus-y, raw or slow-cooked, I don’t want it on my Thanksgiving table. Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t think it fits with the other flavors. It’s either too sweet or too tart and nothing in between. Don’t even get me started on those jellied monstrosities, clearly imprinted with the rings of the tin can from which they emerged.

Regardless, I always find myself making a batch and thus, having leftovers to be disposed of. By “dispose,” I mean “repurposed,” of course. While I would typically think of cakes or muffins, I’m craving something cooler, quicker, and easier this year.

Enter: The Cranberry Cosmopolitan Smoothie

Inspired by the cocktail of the same name, otherwise known as “cosmo” for short, it works especially well for my usual approach simmering cranberries in orange juice to make the classic sauce. Add in a touch of lime and you have the full compliment of flavors. The original drink gets its punch from a shot of vodka and triple sec, but it’s easy to omit these for a healthy, non-alcoholic option. In fact, this blend is probably a good antidote to such a rich meal.

Tips and Tricks

If you’re not the sort to save everything or end up with excess cranberry sauce, I’ve got you covered. Substitutions are a snap!

  • Cranberry sauce: Use plain fresh or frozen cranberries, and consider adding a touch of agave or maple syrup to taste, since they’ll be much more astringent, especially raw.
  • Bananas: Some people can’t stand bananas in smoothies which is perfectly fine! For you lovely folx, might I suggest using frozen peeled and sliced pears instead? They’ll have a similar sweetness, creamy texture when blended, and more mild flavor.
  • Orange juice: If you want to keep the party going straight through to the new year, don’t let me dissuade you. Go ahead and replace 1/4 cup of the orange juice with triple sec.

Cheers, to Thanksgiving leftovers, and being thankful that nothing goes to waste!

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Get Lit This Hanukkah With A Babka Menorah

Thanksgiving may be in sharp focus with less than one week to go, but make no mistake: Hanukkah isn’t far behind.

Darkness descends earlier with every passing day and the nights grow longer, setting the stage for Hanukkah candles to light the way forward. It’s a time to bask in the warm glow of the menorah, flames flickering in the breeze, and indulge in the sweetest of traditions. For a fresh take on the traditional hanukkiah, I’ve got just the thing that’s full of the holiday spirit… And more importantly, chocolate. Enter the Babka Menorah, paying homage to the festival of lights in the most delicious way possible.

Embrace Tradition Through A Modern Lens

To truly appreciate the Babka Menorah, it’s essential to explore the rich tapestry of Jewish baking. The dough itself is a subtle adaptation of my essential challah recipe, slightly enriched with non-dairy milk to make an even more tender, buttery treat. While challah dough is then braided and lacquered with an egg wash, babka is a coiled, twisted masterpiece that weaves a different narrative. Its layers, intertwined with velvety chocolate chips and cocoa-spiked sugar, unfold with every delicate bite, placing it firmly on the dessert menu, rather than the dinner table.

Fashioned after the menorah, an essential centerpiece of Hanukkah, this is more than just a candelabrum. It symbolizes the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when there was only enough for one. In this spirit, the Menorah Babka merges tradition with a touch of contemporary whimsy. It stands as a celebration of resilience, innovation, and the sweet joy that comes from embracing change.

Look No Further For The Best Vegan Babka Recipe

Babka is a cult hit that’s transcended Jewish delis to become a viral hit at large. The appeal of bread and chocolate is universal, so this mainstream success should come as no surprise. Decadent chocolatey filling is interlaced throughout the whole loaf, melding and fusing with the bread for an end result greater than the sum of its parts. The decadence of chocolate is balanced by the soft, pillowy dough; altogether rich and sweet, yet still not too heavy, even after indulging in untold plates of latkes.

Making it look like a menorah is more than just a fun visual trick. Those long branches transform the dough into an ideal pull-apart bread, perfect for sharing with loved ones, no knives required. Food you can eat with your hands is just more fun, right?

Tips For Success

For those inspired to try their hand at crafting this edible menorah, a few tips can make the process more enjoyable.

  1. Patience is key when coaxing the dough to rise, allowing the flavors to develop and the layers to intertwine.
  2. Embrace the messiness of the process; after all, the best stories are often written in the margins.
  3. Allow space for the full glory of your design, even if that means baking on an upside-down sheet pan to prevent raised edges from boxing you in.

Ideas For Adaptation

As with any good recipe, there’s ample room for personalization. The Menorah Babka, like the original concept, lends itself to a myriad of flavor variations, each as unique as the individuals celebrating Hanukkah. You can always add a pinch of spice or other crunchy mix-ins to the current filling, or go on a new flavor adventure with the following variations:

  • Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for a classic cinnamon-sugar blend, or incorporate ginger, cloves, all-spice, and cardamom for a more nuanced approach
  • Add 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, or pecans
  • Smear 1/2 – 3/4 cup peanut butter, jam, or hazelnut spread over the dough instead of melted vegan butter
  • Use vegan white chocolate chips, a dash of vanilla extract, and rainbow sprinkles to make something reminiscent of cake batter
  • Add crushed graham crackers, mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips for a s’mores-inspired delight

In a world that is constantly changing, the Babka Menorah invites us to enjoy the sweetness of cherished traditions with a twist. It’s not too early to plan for a truly happy Hanukkah, with warm wishes for season’s eatings.

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Charred Noodles for Char Kway Teow

Sizzling, hissing, and popping violently, char kway teow is a dish that truly does speak for itself. If you don’t hear it first, you’ll definitely smell it; heady plumes of smoke carry the intoxicating aroma of caramelized soy sauce through the air for at least a dozen city blocks. Though one of a million noodles, it’s the fine details that set this one apart as a worthy headliner on any Malaysian menu.

A Brief History of Char Kway Teow

Originating from Chinese cuisine, particularly Teochew and Hokkien traditions, the dish’s name itself is rooted in Hokkien language, with “char” signifying stir-frying, “kway” representing rice cakes, and “teow” meaning flat. As Chinese immigrants settled in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Singapore, they brought their culinary heritage with them.

Over time, these traditions merged with local ingredients and tastes, resulting in the evolution of char kway teow. It became a popular street food, served in hawker stalls across the region due to its affordability, hearty nature, and bold flavors. Though the exact date and place of its creation remains uncertain, char kway teow has established itself as an iconic and beloved Southeast Asian dish, celebrated for its unique flavor as much as its cultural significance.

Key Characteristics

Many other suspiciously similar stir fries share numerous elements with char kway teow. While undoubtedly delicious in their own rights, none can compare with this singular culinary feat. The essential factors that define the dish include:

  • Flat Rice Noodles: The star of the show, these wide, silky rice noodles provide a chewy foundation for the dish. They’re similar to pad thai noodles but wider. These noodles are known for their chewy texture and ability to absorb the flavors of the sauce.
  • Dark Soy Sauce: The primary seasoning for char kway teow is dark soy sauce, which gives the dish its signature dark color and a slightly sweet and savory flavor. The dark soy sauce used in char kway teow is thicker and richer than regular soy sauce, clinging better to the other ingredients as well.
  • High Heat Cooking: Char kway teow is traditionally cooked in a hot wok over high heat, which imparts a smoky “wok hei” flavor to the dish. This cooking technique adds depth and complexity like nothing else. This is the absolute most important part of the whole concept. Without that char, those subtly blackened edges and smoky finish, it’s just another bowl of generic noodles.

How It’s Made

Truth be told, technique is even more important than specific ingredients in this case. Intense heat ripples through the whole kitchen when the wok is set on full blast, smoldering and searing anything in seconds. Replicating the flavor and texture that creates through any other means is impossible, which is why it’s so hard to master at home. Few consumer stoves can get hot enough, and even if they do, most people don’t want to commit to setting off their smoke alarms for a weekday dinner. It’s such a popular street food for the same reason; open air markets pair better with live fire cooking than enclosed spaces.

Pungent garlic, soy sauce, and sometimes chili paste season those blistered noodles in a literal flash in the pan. Traditional recipes may include prawns, sausages, or other meat, but vegetarian versions are just as common, omitting or replacing the protein with fried tofu. Vegetables are used sparingly, leaning heavily on bean sprouts to add a fresh, crunchy contrast to the savory medley.

(Side note: I can’t help myself and tend to go overboard with zucchini, mushrooms, bok choy, and anything else that happens to be in the fridge, as seen here. In this case, do as I say, not as I do!)

Never A Bad Time For Noodles

Unlike the standard American diet that normalizes only certain dishes as “breakfast foods,” savvy Malay people will happily enjoy noodles throughout the day. Whether as a hearty breakfast, a quick lunch, or a comforting dinner, it never fails to satisfy. You’ll find char kway teow everywhere, on the menus of street stalls, hawker centers, and even upscale restaurants, as a testament to its enduring popularity.

Like any noteworthy noodles, char kway teow is more than just a dish; it’s a testament to the vibrant tapestry of Southeast Asian culinary traditions. With its broad appeal, dynamic flavors, and endless possibilities for adaptation, it’s a safe bet for a winning meal.

Pavé the Way Forward

This may be a hot take, but I think it’s perfectly fine to skip the Thanksgiving roast, as long as there are potatoes on the table. Mashed, roasted, sauteed, or fried; it’s simply not a harvest feast without some form of spuds. In fact, go ahead and invite more than one to the party. There’s always room for another starchy side.

What Is Potato Pavé?

Some call them “thousand layer potatoes” or “15 hour potatoes” thanks to TikTok, but their roots go much deeper than that. Similar to hasselback, accordion, and tornado potatoes with their endless crispy layers, potato pavé have been around for centuries. These golden bricks of pressed, creamy potato, take their name from the French word for cobblestone. Historically reserved for the tables of fine dining establishments, their time-consuming preparation is too demanding for any old weeknight dinner, but well within reach for a special occasion.

How It’s Made

To create this masterpiece, you’ll layer these paper-thin potato slices in a meticulous mosaic, infusing each crevice with rich coconut milk and sriracha-spiked bee-free honey. The whole assembly is baked, then weighted down to compress and bind the strata into compact tiers, still delicate but stable enough to slice. Traditionally, it’s then fried or seared in hot oil, but I prefer the ease of the air fryer, browning the edges to a crispy, grease-free finish.

If all goes according to plan, you get the best of all worlds: A buttery interior with sheets of silky-smooth potato puree, and crunchy sides that could put breakfast hash browns to shame. Mixed within that textural symphony, the sweet-heat flavor contrast hits all the high notes.


This is definitely a more advanced recipe, best prepared ahead of time and practiced before the big event, if possible. It all comes down to technique, with a pinch of food science.

Can I use sweet potatoes or purple potatoes instead?

  • No, I’m afraid not. They’ll become completely smooth in the center, which is also lovely, but not the same experience as you’d get from a multitude of distinct layers.

Can I make potato pavé without a mandolin?

  • You can, in the sense that it’s physically possible and I can’t stop you, but I absolutely do NOT recommend it. Unless you’re a master chef or sword-fighting ninja, there’s no way to ensure completely consistent, wafer-thin slices across three pounds of potatoes. This is absolutely critical for success. To be honest, I should have cut mine even thinner than what’s pictured too.

What do you do with the scraps?

  • If you’re not satisfied by simply eating them as snacks while you work, the excess trimmings can be added to soups or stews, mixed into stuffing, or even sprinkled on top of salads.

Serving Suggestions

Naturally, potato pave would be right at home with the other side dishes, but they could also be served as a starter before the main meal. Include a garlicky aioli for dipping and think of them as bundles of crispy French fries! For a more elegant serving, use them as a separate first course, surrounded by a pool of chestnut puree, gravy, or herbed vegan butter.

If there’s one dish you invest concerted time and effort on this Thanksgiving, make it the potatoes.

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