Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Apple Cake #10: Apple Chestnut Cake

You will be sick of my apple cakes come the first of the year. There are so many gorgeous apple cakes I still want to try. I think this is apple cake #10!

I know it's strange to post another cake right before Thanksgiving, but you might have leftover chestnuts this weekend, and I wanted to be helpful!

This one is a luxurious apple cake, made better by the creaminess of chestnuts, chestnut puree and creme fraiche.
You know the results are going to be moist and wonderful.

Whenever in Paris, I bring back products in my luggage that are hard to find at home.

Over the years, I would pack my suitcase with bubble wrap, hoping these specialty items wouldn't break, (or be stopped by customs!).
I've learned that most of these hard to find products can be easily found on in their grocery department, though sometimes the shipping costs more than the product!

This chestnut spread (creme de Marron) goes a long way.

Once opened, it stays in the fridge for months.
I LOVE it mixed with vanilla or plain yogurt for breakfast. I often buy Chestnut yogurt when I can find it in Paris.


This is a great cake to make if you have leftover chestnuts (which I always do) from your Thanksgiving stuffing.

Apple Chestnut Cake:

1 stick butter, melted
2 large apples, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup of currants or raisins soaked in Cognac
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup French chestnut puree or paste
1/4 cup of creme fraiche or sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup chestnuts, chopped
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Mix wet ingredients together in a large bowl and slowly add in the dried ingredients.

Pour batter into a 9" well buttered springform pan and bake in a 350F oven for one hour.

Let rest in the pan a few more minutes before unmolding the sides.

Dust with powdered sugar or make a simple icing of powdered sugar and a tablespoon of milk to drizzle.


Have a happy Thanksgiving!
See you on Friday with leftovers. :)

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Better Late than Never: Carrot & Fennel Soup w/ Maple Creme & Chestnuts

I apologize that I am posting this recipe so close to Thanksgiving (which is two days away!).
I know you already have your menu laid out and probably are cooking right now!

I decided at the last minute that I needed a soup this year, which I never do on turkey day. But since I bought a lot of French chestnuts, I thought I would use them here (and a chestnut apple cake is coming tomorrow, so stay tuned).

You can pin this recipe for next week, there is no law that says you have to use chestnuts only on Thanksgiving!

A few notes about this lovely soup.

I read some of the readers' comments over at Bon Appetit, and some said the soup was a bit flat.

I would agree.
If you don't make the fantastic maple creme fraiche and the chestnuts, then it is just a boring old pureed vegetable soup.

Also, I used some of my freezer bank of homemade stock, so this soup was extra good.

I cut down on the butter in the recipe and used a bit of olive oil along with the butter to cook down the vegetables.
(Trying to save calories where I can).

Once again, I am sorry this is so late.......but better late than never!

Carrot & Fennel Soup w/ Maple Creme Fraiche & Chestnuts: (adapted from Bon Appetit)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
1 small Yukon Gold potato, peeled, halved
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (I used homemade chicken stock)

For the garnish: (don't skip this! I have spoken!)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts from a jar
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy pot over medium.

Add the sliced fennel, onion, carrots, potato, thyme, and bay leaf; season with salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed, until vegetables are soft but not browned and have released their moisture, about 45 minutes (this will give them deep flavor).

Add broth, bring to a boil, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer until potato is falling apart, 8–10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Remove herbs.

Working in batches, purée in a blender or with a hand immersion blender until smooth. Strain into a clean pot; season with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium. Add chestnuts and cook, stirring often, until butter is browned and chestnuts are toasted, about 2 minutes.

Mix the creme fraiche w/ the maple syrup in a small bowl.

Serve soup in bowls drizzled w/ maple creme and topped with buttered chestnuts.

The second day I had it for lunch with Greek yogurt and harissa on top. So good.

Enjoy and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Veg Sides: Quinoa w/ Roasted Squash, Spinach & Walnuts

So many people have dietary restrictions these days. More so than ever.

You used to have the token vegetarian at the table, who would be satisfied w/ brown rice and some vegetables.
Now it's a vegan, which is a whole 'nother animal (no pun intended).

There are gluten free guests (or ones that think they have celiac disease); carb free friends (most of my gal pals in their 40's); and dairy free guests who are lactose intolerant.

Don't forget the kosher peeps and the pescatarians........

I can't keep up with it anymore.

My sister, who never ate any red meat as a kid (or now) was a special case at my grandmother's house (who always served meat as a main dish).

My grandmother would make my sister her very own special baked potato on holidays and call it a day.
Needless to say, she was more than satisfied with that lonely spud.

I always post a hearty vegetarian side for your Thanksgiving table.
These days, I would almost rather eat the vegetables than the turkey anyway.

You can make this as a main dish too and everyone will be happy.

Quinoa Salad w/ Roasted Squash, Spinach & Walnuts:

2 cups of quinoa, cooked as per package directions
1 lb. fresh spinach
1 large red onion, sliced
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
1/3 cup of walnuts, toasted and chopped

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp walnut oil
sea salt & pepper

Whisk dressing with a fork.

Cook the quinoa and add to a large bowl.

Cut the squash into cubes and drizzle w/ olive oil and kosher salt.

Roast the squash on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes in a 375F oven.

Remove to the bowl with the cooked quinoa.

In a skillet with some oil, saute the onion slices for only a few minutes, just until soft, you want them to have a bite left (or maybe you don't).

Saute or steam the spinach leaves for only a minute or two, until just wilted. You can also throw in baby spinach raw if you prefer (I will do that next time).

Add in the toasted walnuts.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss.
Feta cheese is welcome.

I liked this best warm, but it is also delicious at room temperature, and a good make ahead dish.


This Locavore has spoken.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Apple Cake #9: Russian Sharlotka

I think this is apple cake #9 for the season.

Oh, I'm not done yet.
I am going for the best one.

I think I have 2 more to make on my list and then the envelope, please.

This is a Russian apple cake called a Sharlotka.
I found the pretty recipe in Food & Wine's Thanksgiving issue.

It's very nice, and very simple, almost like an apple pie, just with flour.
There's no butter or oil, so you can have a second slice.

Best eaten warm and the day it's made.

Russian Apple Cake: (adapted from Food & Wine November 2014)

4 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of kosher salt
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease the bottom and side of an 8-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour with the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the almond extract and the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow and a ribbon forms when the beaters are lifted, 8 to 10 minutes. Gently fold in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.

Spread the apples in the prepared pan in an even layer, then pour the batter evenly over them. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the batter to sink in a little.

Bake the cake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, until it is golden and crisp on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer to a rack and let rest for 15 minutes. Unmold and transfer to a serving platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sweet Potato Biscuits for your Holiday Table

I always make extra sweet potatoes so I can have a cold one for lunch the next day (that didn't sound right).

Sometimes I toss them w/ beets, other times I stuff them with broccoli.
I love them, and they are so healthy for you. Considered a "super food", as long as you don't put butter and marshmallows on top!

I had 2 leftover roasted sweet potatoes, so decided to make biscuits.

These are like scones, but they don't dry out. They stay nice and moist even the next a.m.!

I made a maple glaze for them, but you don't have to. You can serve them with turkey dinner if you like (without the icing), however, I opted for having them with my morning coffee as a sweet treat.

The odd thing about this recipe compared to most biscuit or scone recipes is that there is no cutting in cold butter into the flour mixture. This uses 1/4 cup of vegetable oil instead, which usually I am not too fond of, but it works here.

The recipe also calls for pumpkin spice. What is that anyway? Is that like "poultry seasoning"?
Another gimmick to get you to buy unnecessary spices to crowd up your cabinet.

Make your own.

Just combine allspice, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, whatever you like.....there is no such thing as a "pumpkin" spice....except in the world of Starbucks.

Another nice thing about these little cuties is that they freeze beautifully! So make them now and freeze them for turkey day.

These are so simple to put together and really delicious.

Sweet Potato Biscuits: (adapted from Confections from Cody's Kitchen)

1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom

1 cup cooked sweet potato, peeled and mashed (2 baked sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and pumpkin spice into bowl. Set aside.

Stir together the mashed sweet potato, oil, milk, egg and brown sugar together in separate bowl. Stir flour mixture into sweet potato mixture to combine.

On a floured board, form a nice lump of dough and knead a few times. Flatten out to 3/4" thickness.

Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter and place on a paper or Silpat lined baking sheet.

Bake the biscuits for 17-19 minutes, until they are puffed and golden.

I made a glaze with 1 cup of confectioners sugar, a tbsp of maple syrup and a tablespoon of heavy cream.

Drizzle the glaze over the biscuits while they are cooling on a rack and eat warm.

Delicious! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spicy Roasted Squash w/ Feta & Herbs

T'is the season to cook squash.

There are so many ways to cook squash, and so many beautiful varieties.

Recently at a cooking class, I met a nice lady and she told me about a fantastic recipe that she was addicted to. She said I MUST MAKE IT.

She said it consisted of delicata squash, coconut oil, chili garlic paste and feta.

Sounded good to me, so I looked it up on google when I got home and this is what turned up. Sounded like the recipe she was talking about.

I have to confess I haven't cooked much with coconut oil.

A friend who recently lost a lot of weight had told me he was using coconut oil much more than olive oil in his cooking. It has a high smoking point and it was great for baking and so many savory dishes as well.

Well, so far I had only used it to season my cast iron skillets (which really does a great job!) and on my dry feet (also does a great job).

I didn't like it with my eggs too much, and I didn't love the flavor using it to cook meats.
I needed to make friends with this healthy oil.

I know many of you bake with coconut oil and other new fangled products (actually they are old products, just new to me), but I am an old school. I usually use butter or olive oil (never canola and rarely vegetable oil).

This recipe specifically calls for 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil.
Ok, this was the recipe that would make me finally like it.

Not only did I like this way of cooking squash, I loved it.

The sweet and spicy flavors were so good with the cool feta and mellowness of the herbs and the coconut oil did something to the squash too.

The house smelled like I was baking a cake and I am now a new fan of coconut oil.

The spiciness will depend on the brand of chili sauce you use. I used the Asian Sambal Oelek sauce with the rooster on the jar.

The original recipe calls for acorn squash, which worked nicely, however, I like to eat the skin on the delicata squash, so next time I will use that. Use what you can find (except butternut).

This is a great holiday side dish and I took the liberty of adding pomegranate seeds because they are so festive.

Spicy Roasted Squash w/ Feta & Herbs: (adapted from How Sweet it is)

2 large acorn or delicata squash, seeded and cut into slices
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoons chili garlic sauce of your choice
kosher salt & pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro or basil
pomegranate seeds for garnish

Whisk the melted coconut oil w/ the brown sugar and chili sauce.

Lay the squash slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the sauce on the vegetables with a pastry brush.

Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and roast at 400F for about 30 minutes total, turning the slices over after 15 minutes.

Remove the roasted squash to a platter and sprinkle w/ feta and fresh herbs.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

These are addictive! SO GOOD!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Henry Hates Mushrooms Quiche

This beautiful crustless quiche was a giveaway.
Meaning, since my husband despises mushrooms, I gave it away to neighbors after eating 2 slices.

Mushrooms are a craving thing for me, I never buy them, but I want to when I see them at the market, especially this time of year.

I have dreams of frying them in butter and adding them to my morning eggs or toast, but I never do.

I decided a creamy quiche is what I would make with the funghi, and maybe disguise them with some beautiful fresh spinach. Maybe he wouldn't notice.

One night I had a girls' night here and I made this quiche, with ONLY mushrooms and leeks and boy, was it good! I am reminiscing about the good old mushroom days.

Quiches are wonderful on a weeknight, it is a great way to clean out your fridge and make an easy dinner.
You can add anything to eggs and with a big handful of cheese thrown in, who wouldn't be happy.

Here is today's recipe for a jumbo, delicious mushroom & spinach quiche: It was yummy.

Mushroom & Spinach Crustless Quiche:

big handful of mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 red onion, sliced
big bunch of fresh spinach (I use regular spinach, not baby spinach)
salt & pepper
5 eggs
1 cup of whole milk
2 cups of a mix of cheddar, mozzarella & feta cheese (you can use any cheese you like)
butter and dried breadcrumbs for the side of the pie dish

I made my quiche in a 9" cast iron skillet, but a Pyrex glass pie dish works too.

Spread cold butter all around the dish you are using and shake some dried breadcrumbs around the sides and bottom. This will be like a nice crust. (for extra goodness, I mix grated parmesan cheese into the breadcrumbs).

In a skillet, heat the butter and cook the mushrooms and onions until the shrooms are starting to brown and the onions are soft but not brown. Remove to a bowl.

In the same pan, add your washed spinach leaves to the dry pan. Splash in a tablespoon of water on the leaves and cover the pan. This will steam the leaves quickly. No need to submerge them in water. This is the quickest way to cook fresh spinach for recipes. Remove the wilted spinach to a cutting board and chop. Add to the bowl w/ the mushrooms and onions. Season liberally w/ salt & pepper.

Mix eggs and milk and cheeses in a bowl and pour over the vegetables. Pour into the breadcrumbed prepared dish you are cooking in.

Bake for 35 minutes at 350F. Quiche will be puffed and golden. Let rest 5 minutes before running a knife around the edges to loosen.

Cut into slices and serve with a salad. I loved this and so did my neighbors. Oh well, can't please everyone.

Henry doesn't know what he's missing!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes w/ Broccoli

I am not a vegetarian by any means, but meals like this make me want to be.

I love vegetables as much as I love cake (now that's a bold statement), and I love a sweet potato more than a russet potato (another bold statement).

I saw a photo of a twice baked sweet potato with broccoli in Cooking Light Magazine and I cut it out to remind me to try this combination.

Of course I changed the rules. I did not twice bake it, I omitted any cheese, butter or sour cream, and added an anchovy and a delicious harissa yogurt topping.

I used my baby broccoli (aka broccolini) from the garden, and added some garlic.

Remember, sweet potatoes are a GREAT source of vitamin A (one of the highest) and an excellent source of fiber and need no sugar, butter or sour cream. Considered a super food, they are sweet on their own and contain natural sugars.

I love them, but hey, that's me.

This was absolutely delicious, and enough for a meal. I was nervous that the other eater would not approve of a stuffed sweet potato for dinner, but he approved.

Enough said.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes w/ Broccoli and other stuff....... for 2 people

2 sweet potatoes
4 oz. (about 1/2 cup or a big handful) broccoli or baby broccoli (broccolini)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
salt & pepper
6 oz. container plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage 2%)
1 tsp. harissa paste (a yummy Middle Eastern spicy condiment that I am addicted to lately)

Here we go:

Prick the potatoes w/ a fork and roast in a 400F oven for 1 hour.

While the sweets are baking, prepare the broccolini (much sweeter than regular broccoli, FYI).

Blanch the broccolini in boiling salted water for 4 minutes (you can do this way ahead of time).

Drain the water and add some olive oil and chopped garlic to the broccoli in the pan..
Saute the broccoli for a few minutes on medium heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Season with salt & pepper and set aside.

Transfer to a cutting board and chop the broccoli, reserving some pieces whole.

Remove the cooked sweet potatoes to a cutting board (careful! they are hot!).

While they are still hot, but ok to handle, cut a slit down the middle of each potato (careful not to ruin the skins, you need them to hold the filling...) and spoon out the sweet potatoes. Place in a bowl and mash with a fork. Season with salt & pepper.

Mix the chopped broccoli with the mashed sweet potatoes. Spoon this filling back into the potato shells.

Top with the reserved larger broccoli pieces.

I make a sauce with a container of Greek yogurt mixed with a tsp of harissa paste.

Top the stuffed potatoes w/ some yogurt sauce and top each one with an anchovy slice.

Voila! Dinner is served.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Butternut Squash Kugel Pie

What's a kugel, you ask?

"kugel" is a German word, meaning ball or sphere, but when referring to a kugel in Jewish cooking (Yiddish, a dialect descended from German), we are referring to a baked pudding or casserole, sweet or savory.

When I was a kid, my grandmother made a delicious carrot kugel for the holidays (think sformato in Italian).
A beautiful orange colored pudding made in a ring mold. I loved it.

She also made a potato kugel, a squash kugel and a noodle kugel.

Just to confuse you more, we had kugelhopf, a round cake studded with raisins.

Then she made an apple kuchen.
That's not a kugel, that's a kuchen. That's another story, for another day.

Here, I made her butternut squash kugel. A simple baked vegetable pudding, nice and sweet, light and fluffy like a souffle, but it could also be called a pie or a cake, because there is flour in the mix, just to make it more confusing.

Call it what you like, but I call it GOOD.

If you are still confused, think sweet potato pie.

Butternut Squash Kugel Pie: (my grandmother's recipe)

2 cups of cubed butternut squash (about 1 large butternut squash)
4 tbsp butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup of flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/3 cup of golden raisins

In a large, heavy skillet, cook the butternut squash on low heat in the half stick of butter for about 15 minutes with lid on, until softened.

Remove to a bowl and mash until pureed.

Add in the rest of the ingredients and pour into a buttered Pyrex 9" pie plate.

Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes until top is cracking and golden.

This would be a great Thanksgiving dessert!

My grandmother would've been proud. Enjoy!

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kale Salad w/ Apple, Bacon & Frank's Crispy Egg

What's the big deal about a super crispy fried egg and a fluffy souffle like white?
Try it and you'll see.

Smitten Kitchen posted Frank Prisinzano's recipe for his fried egg, and I knew I had to try it.

I'm already a fan of his lower east side restaurants L'il Frankies and Sauce, and I follow the guy on instagram, so why not?

The first time I made the egg and posted it on instagram on this salad, he personally wrote on my instagram page "NOT HOT ENOUGH! MAKE THE PAN SMOKE!".

So, I listened.

The second time I made it, it was perfection.
See, I do know how to listen.

Here, I used my baby kale in the garden and some local farm bacon. No real dressing needed, because the runny egg mixes everything up with the Parmigiano cheese.

Good stuff.

Kale Salad w/ Apples, Bacon & Crispy Egg:

Mix together kale (I massaged mine to break it down), with some sliced apple, crispy bacon pieces and some shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Squeeze fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil over the bowl and set aside.

Prepare the egg: (here is Frank's video on instagram)

Get your pan as hot as you can and then add in the olive oil. You want the pan to smoke! (disconnect smoke alarm).

Drop the egg in and watch it spatter at you. Sprinkle w/ salt & pepper and dried herbs.
The white should souffle around the yolk. The bottom should be nice and crispy.

Lift out with a fish spatula and place on top of the salad.

Break yolk. Serve and eat immediately.

My kind of lunch.