A farmer's Thanksgiving feast

Farmer Patty Gentry of Early Girl Farm in

Farmer Patty Gentry of Early Girl Farm in East Moriches hosts a farm-to-table Thanksgiving dinner for friends at her mother's Remsenburg home. (Nov. 29, 2012) (Credit: Doug Young)

Once Patty Gentry has picked up her turkey, she barely needs a shopping basket for the rest of her Thanksgiving purchases. The owner of Early Girl Farm makes a meal almost entirely from what she raises on her 2 1/4-acre plot in East Moriches.

Gentry doesn't grow apples (yet), so those come from Briermere in Riverhead. Nor does Long Island's climate allow her to cultivate lemons, clementines, pomegranates or olives. But on a crisp autumn day, in the light-filled Remsenburg kitchen of her mother, Karen Stevens, the farmer hauls in basket after basket of glossy butternut squash, sturdy leeks, lush spinach, herbs in profusion, rock-hard radishes, spicy greens, pearlescent cauliflower. These are the undisputed stars of Gentry's table, and her approach is to stand back and let them shine. A little cream here, a little butter there, a good deal of extra-virgin olive oil almost everywhere.

Gentry grew up on the South Shore and spent 20 years as a chef in New York City before taking up the hoe in 2007. Now she puts her culinary energy into growing ingredients, not manipulating them. "Restraint is something I've learned as I've gotten older," she said. "In life, in communication and in cooking, I find that less is more. Good ingredients are good on their own."

If you're looking to make this year's Thanksgiving feast a locavore affair, most of Long Island's farmers markets are open through this weekend. But this menu will be perfectly delicious with fresh produce from the supermarket. Early Girl Farm stand, at 72 Woodlawn Ave., East Moriches, has its last day of business for 2012 on Saturday. Another thing for the busy farmer to be thankful for.

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CIDER-BRINED TURKEY

The drippings from the aromatic turkey make a particularly tasty gravy. Hard cider is available at beer distributors and some wine stores.

1 (20-pound) turkey

1 cup salt

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

2 sprigs rosemary

6 to 8 sprigs thyme

Peel of 1 lemon

Peel of 3 clementines

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 (22-ounce) bottles hard cider (2 quarts)

1 to 2 cups each coarsely chopped onion, carrot and celery

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1. To brine a turkey, you'll need an extra-large resealable plastic bag (both Reynolds and Ziploc make them) and a vessel that can accommodate the bagged bird -- a large stockpot or even one of the drawers from your refrigerator. Remove neck and giblets from turkey; cut off (and reserve) yellow tail fat.

2. In a saucepan, combine 1 quart (4 cups) water with the salt, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, lemon and clementine peel and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring, until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add another quart of water to cool down contents of saucepan. Drape the plastic bag inside your chosen vessel and pour in the brining liquid, then add the hard cider and a gallon of cold water. Place turkey carefully into brine, then squeeze as much air as possible out of the plastic bag before sealing it. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

3. Position a rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from brine; drain and pat dry. Loosely fill neck and body cavities with half the chopped vegetables. Tuck the ends of the drumsticks under the flap of skin or the plastic or metal "hock lock." (If none exists, tie ends together with kitchen twine.) Place turkey on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan. Smear with melted butter and sprinkle with pepper and coriander. Place remaining chopped vegetables in pan along with 1/2 cup water.

4. To ensure that turkey breast doesn't burn, make a "breast shield" by taking a piece of foil larger than the breast and placing it flush on the breast. Fold edges of the foil so the shield exactly conforms to the breast while leaving legs and wings exposed.

5. Roast turkey, basting after 1 hour and every 45 minutes thereafter (including area under foil), until an instant-read thermometer inserted in meaty part of the thigh (not touching a bone) registers 175 degrees, about 5 hours. During the last hour of roasting, remove and discard the foil. If the pan drippings start to scorch, add more water.

6. Transfer turkey to a platter, reserving the pan drippings for gravy. Let the turkey stand, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes (and up to 1 hour) before carving.

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SMASHED SQUASH AND SWEET POTATO WITH CANDIED WALNUTS AND LEMON ZEST

Any winter squash will work for this recipe, but Gentry uses butternuts because they are easiest to peel. The dish is perfectly satisfying without the candied walnut and lemon, but the garnish gives it a festive touch.

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt

Pepper

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter

Candied walnuts and lemon zest (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, toss squash and sweet potatoes with olive oil, coriander, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Place ingredients on 1 or 2 baking sheets (lined with parchment or a nonstick mat) and bake until soft and golden, about an hour.

2. Meanwhile, combine maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter melts. When vegetables are done, transfer to large bowl, pour maple-butter mixture over them and roughly smash with a large spoon. Taste for salt and pepper. Heap into ovenproof serving dish and keep warm. Just before serving, sprinkle on walnut-lemon topping. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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CANDIED WALNUTS AND LEMON ZEST

2 cup walnuts

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

Salt

Zest of 2 lemons

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts on baking sheet and toast until fragrant and lightly colored, about 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put 3/4 cup sugar and pinch of salt in a heavy, light-colored saucepan. Cook over medium heat and when sugar starts to melt, stir with a wooden spoon. Once sugar melts, it will begin to color quickly.

3. When the melted sugar is medium amber, take pan off heat, add walnuts and stir quickly to coat each nut. Turn nuts out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and try to spread them out into 1 layer. When cool, roughly chop to break nuts up. Makes 2 cups.

4. Toss lemon zest with 1 tablespoon sugar. Spread on parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven until sugar melts and zest turns lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Cool. Makes about 2 tablespoons.

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SPINACH WITH GARLIC CREAM AND PARMESAN

Gentry's lush spinach is one of the prides of Early Girl Farm. She never removes the stems, but if your spinach is very mature, consider trimming the stems. Or use baby spinach.

2 cups heavy cream

6 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed

1 sprig of fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Pinch nutmeg

Salt

Pepper

Rind of Parmesan cheese (optional)

2 pounds spinach

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a saucepan, combine cream with garlic, thyme, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper and rind, if using. Simmer over medium heat until cream is reduced by about half, 20 minutes. Pick out thyme and bay leaf but, if desired, mash garlic into cream.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Working in batches, immerse spinach in boiling water for about a minute, then remove and immerse immediately in a bath of ice water. (A clean kitchen sink is good for this operation.) Strain spinach and squeeze out as much liquid as you can so that you're left with a dense ball of spinach. Place on cutting board and roughly chop.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine spinach with reduced garlic cream. Add a cup of Parmesan and taste for salt and pepper. Turn spinach into baking dish, cover pan with foil and bake until heated, about 30 minutes. (Or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before baking, or increase baking time.) Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and continue to bake until it just begins to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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SAUTEED TURNIPS WITH THEIR GREENS

For this dish, look for small turnips with the greens still attached. Gentry likes to use red and white, but all white will work just fine.

2 pounds turnips with greens

5 cloves garlic

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

Pepper

1. Cut the greens off the turnips and tear or slice into big pieces. Wash and spin dry. Scrub and trim turnips. If they are big, peel them and cut in half through root end. Cut turnips into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Thinly slice garlic.

2. Film a very large skillet (or 2 smaller skillets) with olive oil and add garlic. Turn heat to medium and when garlic just starts to color, add sliced turnips, a big pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper. Turn heat to medium high and sauté until turnips are tender. Add greens and cover pan just until greens wilt. Remove from heat, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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STEAMED CAULIFLOWER WITH GREMOLATA

Gremolata is an Italian condiment composed of olive oil, minced garlic, parsley and lemon peel. Here it elevates simple steamed cauliflower.

1 cup chopped parsley

Zest of 4 lemons, chopped

2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 to 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

Pepper

2 heads of cauliflower

1. On a cutting board, combine parsley, lemon zest and garlic and, with a chef's knife, mince them all together to almost form a paste. Scrape into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir in enough olive oil to make a thick sauce.

2. Trim bases of cauliflower heads and break up into florets. Steam over boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Toss with gremolata and serve.

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CLEMENTINE-APPLE CRANBERRY SAUCE

This time of year Gentry likes to buy boxes of clementines and is always looking for ways to use them up. She loves the Macoun apples she buys from Briermere Farms in Riverhead, but you could also use McIntosh or Granny Smiths (in which case, you'll probably need more sugar, to taste).

10 clementines

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries

3 Macoun apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Remove zest from 2 or 3 clementines with a zester or vegetable peeler. If you use a peeler, cut zest into a fine julienne, reserving some for garnish. Juice all clementines (you'll have about a cup).

2. Combine zest and juice with remaining ingredients in medium saucepan and bring to boil. Turn heat to medium; simmer until cranberries burst and apples soften, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Adjust sugar and salt. Cool, garnish with reserved zest.

Makes about 2 cups.

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TURKEY GRAVY

Pan drippings from roast turkey

4 to 5 cups chicken broth or turkey stock (see note)

4 to 6 sprigs of thyme

Butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Turkey giblets, optional (see note)

1. After you have removed turkey from roasting pan, pour the pan drippings into a large (8-cup) heatproof glass bowl or measuring cup.

2. Pour a cup of chicken broth or turkey stock into the roasting pan, add the thyme, and place pan over 2 burners. Turn the heat to medium, and bring liquid to a boil, all the while scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or a spatula. When the bottom of the pan is clean, turn off the heat.

3. By now, the fat should have risen to the top of the drippings in the large bowl. Skim it off. You will need 1/2 cup fat; add butter if you don't have enough.

4. Add the liquid from the roasting pan to the skimmed drippings, and add enough chicken broth or turkey stock to make 6 cups total.

5. Place turkey fat and flour in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is nicely browned and begins to smell toasty.

6. Beat fat-flour mixture with a wire whisk while gradually adding the 6 cups of liquid. Simmer over medium heat, whisking often, until the gravy has thickened and no trace of flour taste remains, about 5 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Add salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, giblets. Makes about 6 cups gravy.

Note: To make stock, place turkey neck, heart and gizzard in a saucepan with 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped rib of celery, 2 sprigs of parsley, 1 bay leaf, several peppercorns, several coriander seeds and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 1 hour, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface. Add the liver during the last 5 minutes. Strain, cool and skim any fat that rises to the surface.

Makes about 4 cups. (For giblets, chop the heart, gizzard, liver and some of the meat from the neck.)

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LEEK AND HERB STUFFING

No sausage, no oysters. Just bread, leeks, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

12 cups cubed bread from white or whole-grain baguette or peasant loaf

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, divided

4 large (or 6 small) leeks

10 sage leaves

2 sprigs rosemary leaves, stripped

8 to 10 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 cups turkey stock or chicken broth

1. To dry out bread, either leave out on counter for 24 hours, or spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until dried and beginning to color, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Trim most of the green tops from the leeks. Cut each lengthwise into quarters and then slice 1/4-inch thick. Soak sliced leeks in cold water to remove dirt. Drain thoroughly.

3. Heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet; add leeks, sage, rosemary and thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, so leeks soften but do not brown, about 15 minutes. Add parsley and stir to combine. Pour contents of skillet into bowl containing bread and stir. Add stock, stir and taste for salt and pepper.

4. Butter or spray a 13-by-9- inch baking pan. Spread stuffing evenly in pan and top with little pieces of remaining butter. Cover tightly with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. (Or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before baking, or increase baking time.) Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown on top, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes and serve warm.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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SALAD OF BITTER GREENS WITH WATERMELON RADISH AND POMEGRANATE SEEDS

Gentry's vivid pink watermelon radishes make this a particularly beautiful dish, but regular radishes will work as well. For the dressing, she used a honey-ginger balsamic vinegar from Vines & Branches in Westhampton Beach, but regular balsamic is fine.

4 watermelon radishes or large regular radishes

1/4 cup honey-ginger balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

Pepper

1/2 pound bitter greens (arugula, watercress, baby mustard greens, tatsoi or mizuna)

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (see note)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted

1. Julienne the radishes: Slice as thinly as possible (you can use a mandoline), then stack slices and cut into thin matchsticks.

2. In a small bowl, whisk oil into vinegar slowly so it emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, combine radishes, greens and pomegranate seeds. Toss with dressing (start with about half and add as needed). Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: To extract pomegranate seeds, cut the fruit in half through its equator (not through the flower end). Place a large bowl of water in the sink. Hold the halved pomegranate in one hand so that the cut half is down, facing your palm. Now, with your other hand, use a wooden spoon to whack the skin side of the pomegranate all over. The seeds will fall out into your hand, and then into the water. Keep whacking until all the seeds are out. The white pith will be floating on top of the water; the seeds will sink. Skim off the pith, then strain out the seeds. Many greengrocers also sell plastic containers of pomegranate seeds.

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PIE CRUST

This recipe uses a food processor to make the dough, but it also can be made with a hand-held electric mixer or wire pastry blender. The dough can be made up to a month ahead and frozen. Defrost in the refrigerator the day before use.

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled

3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

1. Put flour, salt and sugar into bowl of food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture looks like course meal with some small lumps of butter visible.

2. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water and pulse until the dough just begins to come together. If the mixture looks very dry, add the other tablespoon of ice water. The dough should look somewhat crumbly but hold together if pinched with your fingers.

3. Bring the dough together on the work surface and form into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.

Makes enough dough for a 9- or 10-inch single-crust pie.

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PUMPKIN PIE

This classic recipe is from Newsday's archive. If you don't want to make your own pastry, you can use a store-bought crust. The refrigerated ones that you press into the pan yourself tend to be better than the frozen ones already in the aluminum pans.

Dough for 1 (9- to 10-inch) piecrust (see recipe above)

3 large eggs, at room

temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (15-ounce) can solid-packed pumpkin

3/4 cup light-brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

3/4 cup whole milk

11/2 cups heavy cream, divided

1. On lightly floured surface, roll out pie dough into a 13-inch circle. Transfer to 9- or 10-inch lightly buttered Pyrex pie plate. Trim the dough so only 3/4 inch hangs over side. Roll overhang under to make a rim of dough around the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the edge using the tines of a fork or your fingers.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs and vanilla in large bowl and add pumpkin. Mix until smooth. Mix sugar, salt and spices, then combine with pumpkin mixture. Slowly add the milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Blend all the ingredients together, taking care not to overmix.

3. Place the unfilled pie shell on a cookie sheet and pour in the pumpkin filling. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the pie is set in the center. Cool completely. To serve, whip the remaining cream and spoon a dollop, along with a little sprinkling of cinnamon, on each slice. Makes 8 servings.

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TURKEY 101

How much turkey?

For birds less than 16 pounds, each pound will feed one person. For larger birds, figure on 3/4 pound for each person.

How long to cook?

For unstuffed turkey roasted at 325 degrees: 8 to 12 pounds -- 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours

12 to 16 pounds -- 3 1/4 to 4 hours

16 to 20 pounds -- 4 to 4 1/2 hours

20 to 26 pounds -- 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours

For stuffed turkeys, increase overall cooking time by 20 to 40 minutes.

What's the right temperature?

Take a turkey's temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, near where it meets the drumstick. It should read 175 degrees and, if stuffed, so should the stuffing.

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