Friday, October 31, 2014

3:00 pm Apple Date-Nut Cake

Some people are famous for their chocolate chip cookies, I am famous for my date-nut bread.

Most people know that when you stop by my house for coffee at 3 pm, there is usually a loaf of date-nut bread on the counter, I make one weekly in the cooler months. I have even gotten Marie from Proud Italian Cook addicted!

I love dates, probably better than dried figs (shhhh, don't tell the figs).
My favorite are Deglet Noir from Tunisia.

I have found the best ones are at Costco, called Made in Nature (you can also order them on amazon grocery), and contain no sulfur dioxide, as do most dried fruits. They are absolutely the best, and the big bag is great for snacking and baking.
I can't live without them.

Here, I threw in an apple and it changed the loaf into more of an apple cake.

This is a healthy cake, it only uses 1/4 cup of olive oil, so go ahead and have another slice.

Apple Date-Nut Cake:

~ 1 cup pitted dates, chopped (I love Medjool or Deglet Noir dates)
~ 3/4 cup of chopped walnuts
~ 3/4 cup of boiling water
~ 1/4 cup of olive oil + 2 tbsp
~ zest of an orange
~ 1 apple of your choice, cut into chunks

~ 1 cup sugar
~ 2 eggs
~ tsp vanilla
~ 1 1/2 cup of flour
~ 1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
~ 1/2 tsp salt

Pour boiling water and oil over dates and walnuts in a bowl and let stand for 15 minutes. To this mixture add the rest of the ingredients, adding in the apple last.

Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan.

Bake 45-55 minutes at 350F degrees.

Let cool before releasing from pan.

This is also a great freezer cake.

3:00 never looked so good.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Leftover Love: Cauliflower Crostini

It's funny, the 3 vegetables that I hated the most growing up are the ones I love the most today.

Beets, Cauliflower & Brussels sprouts.
I dreaded seeing them on my plate, and they made an appearance often.

Most of our mothers ruined them.
Boiling vegetables are just not that appealing.

I think roasting changed my life.
Every vegetable, from a carrot to fennel, turns out beautiful and nutty after roasting them with some olive oil and kosher salt.

If you still don't like Brussels sprouts after roasting them and tossing them with some good Pecorino, then I just can't help you.

I would say cauliflower is my #1.

I make it weekly in the cooler months, and always seem to have leftovers for fritters, or recipes like this.

I especially love it served Sicilian style with golden raisins and capers (anchovies are invited too), tossed with some pasta.
My mouth is watering.

Why has it taken me so long to slather it on crostini?
If you are a cauliflower lover, then this one is for you.

I usually would make this and put a slice of anchovy on top of each toast, however I was horrified to find I had no tins of the little little oven roasted tomatoes would have to do.

Crostini di Cavolfiore: (Cauliflower Crostini)

1 head of cauliflower, boiled or roasted
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt & pepper
1/2 tsp pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
a few stems of kale, blanched for a few seconds only
anchovies for garnish (optional)
semi dried or roasted cherry tomatoes (I make my own oven roasted tomatoes from the leftovers on my plants, they stay for months)
garlic for rubbing the toasts

Whiz the cooked cauliflower w/ the olive oil (you may not need the whole 1/4 cup) in a food processor until it is pureed.
Season to taste w/ kosher salt, pepper and pimenton (smoked paprika or harissa).

Toast some bread slices and rub a cut side of garlic all over the warm bread so the oil is released and toast is nice and shiny.

Spread the cauliflower puree over the toast.
Top with a kale leaf and some roasted tomatoes (anchovy would be better in my book).

Eat for lunch or serve as a crostini idea.

Enjoy and eat your vegetables. :)

Next up will be public enemy #1: Lima Beans.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What's for Dinner? Pork Tenderloin w/ Apples, Fennel & Date Relish

Pork tenderloin has got to be the easiest and quickest dinner to prepare, however, it is also the easiest to ruin.

Because there is no skin or fat, it tends to dry out and get overcooked.

A sauce is a must when preparing this cut of pork, and though this looks like a major production, it was super easy.

You'd think it was a recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, with all its components, but it's not.

I made my old fashioned roast pork w/ apples, fennel and onions, and to gild the lily, I made this delicious date relish.

You can make the relish the day before, it gets better as it sits. It's so yummy, you can use it on roast chicken, a cheese platter (YES!) or roasted cauliflower, it is my new favorite.

Here's how:

Pork Tenderloin w/ Fennel, Apples & Onions:

2 lb. (usually comes in a 2 pack) pork tenderloin
kosher salt & pepper
1 large onion, sliced thick
1 large fennel bulb (also known as anise), sliced same size as onions
2 apples, sliced
a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary

Date Relish (adapted from Bon Appetit)

2/3 cup Medjool or Deglet Noor dates (about 4 oz.), cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus leaves for serving
1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp of grainy French mustard
3 tbsp cider vinegar

Make the date relish: Toss dates, orange juice, (some reserved pan drippings after your pork is done if you can spare some), chopped cilantro, and olive oil in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper and mix in cilantro. Let sit out at room temperature. Can be made hours ahead.

To cook the pork tenderloins: Season the pork liberally w/ kosher salt & pepper.
In a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven, heat some olive oil. Sear the tenderloins about 3 minutes on each side (it takes about 3 turns, 9 minutes total), until the pork has a nice golden crust. Remove the pork to a plate, so you can cook the vegetables.

In the same skillet as you seared the pork, cook the onions and fennel about 3 minutes until starting to soften. Push the vegetables to the side, and add in the apple slices and the pork back into the skillet (don't cook the apples w/ the fennel and onions, or it will be too mushy). Tuck some fresh thyme sprigs and rosemary sprigs around the pork in the skillet.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast in a 425F oven for 17 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 140F. By letting the pork rest a few minutes before slicing, the temperature should rise another 10 degrees to 150F. You want the pork to be a bit pink and still juicy.

Remove the pork and vegetables to a platter and tent w/ foil to keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with the cider vinegar and whisk in some mustard. Spoon this yummy sauce into a small container.

Slice the pork into slices and surround the fennel and apples around the platter.

Serve w/ the date relish and some mustard sauce.


Delicious cold the next day.
Spread some date relish on the cold slices of pork and make sandwiches for lunch!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Salad: Lentils & Roasted Root Vegetables

No more tomatoes till next year.

It's time for a colorful salad made with roasted fall vegetables.

If lentils are not your thing, feel free to use quinoa here.

I love my French lentils from the Auvergne. They are so earthy and pretty.

This is an easy salad to put together and makes a hearty healthy lunch.

Cook lentils in a pot of boiling water w/ an onion studded w/ 4 whole cloves, a carrot cut up and a bay leaf (you will discard these once the lentils are cooked). Cook about 30 minutes until lentils are to your liking.

Roast your vegetables:

Here I used golden beets, carrots, and delicata squash. Place all cut up veggies in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season liberally w/ kosher salt and pepper.

Roast at 400F for about 30 minutes, keep an eye (my squash was done first, so I took it out of the pan first).

I also used beet greens for some color.

Make a dressing of:

a few tablespoons of your favorite vinegar
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
a few tablespoons of good olive oil
1 tbsp honey
sea salt

Mix the warm roasted vegetables in with the lentils and dress the salad while still warm. Season to taste w/ sea salt and pepper.

Today I put a sliced avocado on top, but tomorrow I am sure there will be a poached egg in my future.

Enjoy at room temperature.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Low Carb Cauliflower Fried Rice (sans Rice)

This is a trick post.

I had half a head of orange cauliflower leftover, staring me in the face for days, asking to be used in something.

I also had leftover roast chicken from last night.

I googled chicken with cauliflower and Kevin's recipe came up.

Fried rice without rice?
How could this be?

Kevin says you "rice" the cauliflower.
How do I do that?

"Either on a grater, or in a food processor", he says.

Ok. I'll try it.

I like saving calories and carbs by using a vegetable instead of a starch, but how will this taste?
Will my husband notice the rice is missing?

I used a box grater and the little trees grated very easily.
They looked just like rice, however, since my head of cauliflower was orange, my "rice" looked more like a bowl of cheddar cheese.

I omitted the bacon in the recipe, because I felt the chicken would be enough protein.

This was DELICIOUS and the other eater had no idea that the rice was missing. :)

Cauliflower Fried Rice (sans rice): (adapted from Closet Cooking)

1/2 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup frozen defrosted peas
1/2 cup carrot, shredded or diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1/2 head cauliflower, riced by grating by hand or in a food processor
2 eggs, lightly scrambled

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce or balsamic vinegar
chili sauce such as sambal oelek or srircha to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 green onions, sliced

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat (I used coconut oil).

Add the chicken and stir-fry until cooked, about 5 minutes.

Add the onion and mushrooms, peas and carrots and peas and stir-fry for another 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Add the cauliflower rice, mix everything up and stir-fry for 3 more minutes.

Make a well in the middle of the pan, add the eggs and let them sit for a minute before mixing them into everything.

Add the sauce w/ the scallions and serve.

This was amazing, and I will always make it, even if I don't have leftover cauliflower (I will buy a head just for this recipe).

PS Henry had no idea that it was cauliflower, and he said it was the best fried rice I had ever made.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Apple Buttermilk Bread Pudding

This is the first of many bread puddings to be posted this season.
I usually don't post 2 dessert recipes in one week, but why not? It's apple time.

I love apple season, and we have a lot of nice varieties to pick right here in NJ.

This is a delicious apple bread pudding recipe, and it's made with buttermilk.

You don't have to use buttermilk (you can use whole milk), however, it makes this delectable treat even more moist and delicious.

I like to use challah bread, which is an egg bread made for the Sabbath.
Feel free to use any kind of bread, as long as it's stale, and any variety of apple.
You can't go wrong with Granny Smiths for baking.

Loosen your belts, cause this is not a light dessert.
You can make a hard sauce for the bread pudding, but do I really need those extra calories?
Some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream is fine, you be the judge.

Apple Buttermilk Bread Pudding: (adapted from TBD)

1 loaf of stale bread (I used a loaf of challah), cut into 1” cubes or pieces
4 eggs
2 3/4 c. buttermilk (or whole milk)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp bourbon (optional)
3 tbsp. light brown sugar

Apple mixture:
4 large apples (peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" cubes)
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup pecans
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Whisk eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the bread, mixing, well to ensure proper absorption. Cover and let it sit in the fridge while you do the rest.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and butter a 9 x 9” metal or glass, baking dish or loaf pan.

In a pan over medium heat melt the butter and sugar. Then add the apples, nuts and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Set aside to cool.

Take your bread mixture out of the fridge and add half of the cooled apples to it. Pour this mixture into your baking dish.Top the mixture with the remaining apples and cover with foil. Place in the oven for 30 minutes.

Take off the foil and bake for another 30 minutes, until it is puffy and golden.

This is SO good! It freezes well too!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts w/ Honeyed Peanuts

This has to be my new favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts!

It's like eating a Planter's Peanut Brittle with your vegetables (that may not sound good to you, but I promise, it's amazing, and not too sweet).

After roasting the little green cabbages, you swirl some honey and butter in a cast iron skillet and cook the vegetables and nuts in this glaze.

Even Brussels Sprouts haters will love this recipe (are there still any out there????).

I think I will add some cayenne pepper the next time, and I will definitely be serving this for Thanksgiving because I can roast the sprouts ahead of time. :)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts w/ Honeyed Peanuts: (adapted from Souvlaki for the Soul)

500 grams Brussels sprouts (about 2 cups), outer darker leaves removed, stems removed and cut in half
3 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to season
25 grams butter (2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, lightly chopped and dry roasted in a hot pan
splash of balsamic vinegar

Lay out the Brussels sprout halves on a heavy large sheet pan and drizzle w/ the olive oil and season w/ kosher salt & pepper.

Roast in a 375F oven for 20 minutes, checking on them so they are not burning.

Roast the peanuts in a large hot cast iron skillet just until fragrant and set aside (I cheated and did everything in the same pan at the same time and it was fine).

Heat the butter in the cast iron skillet and add in the honey. Once it starts bubbling, add in the roasted Brussels sprouts and stir for a minute or two until coated w/ the nice syrupy sauce.

Add a quick splash of balsamic vinegar to the pan and the chopped peanuts.

Serve immediately.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Greek Cauliflower Stifado w/ Kale & Olives (Fall Vegetable Stew)

This is a great vegetarian recipe for a cool fall night.

A hearty dish, sans meat, just delicious veggies w/ some Greek oregano (much stronger than regular dried oregano), along with some potatoes and Kalamata olives.

This is my friend Peter's recipe, and I have had the pleasure of eating his delicious Greek food in person.
You can't miss with his recipes.

Cauliflower wins for my favorite vegetable.
Here, I used orange cauliflower because I thought it was pretty!

If you are doing the no carbs thing, then omit the couscous.

This is the perfect vegetarian meal.

Cauliflower Stifado (adapted from Kalofagas):

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
6 small new potatoes, skin on (skins scrubbed/washed well), cut in half
3-4 cups hot vegetable stock
kosher salt and pepper to taste
3 cups of washed kale (or other leafy greens), stems removed
1 cup of Kalamata olives
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
red wine vinegar to finish

You will need a large Dutch oven for this, I used my 7 quart Le Creuset.

Heat the olive oil in the pot and saute the cauliflower a few minutes until getting some golden color on the crowns.

Add in the onions and garlic with the tomato paste and saute until the onion is soft.
Next, add in the potatoes and red peppers and cook this mixture for another minute or two.

Add in the stock, bay leaves, rosemary and olives and simmer the pot for about 25 minutes until your potatoes are tender. Add the kale in last, it only needs 10 minutes in the pot to wilt.

Before serving, add in a pinch of Greek oregano and a splash of red wine vinegar.

I served this on couscous and we loved it.

It's even better the next day for lunch.

Thank you Peter!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Apple Desserts: Ozark Pudding Cake

Give me an apple, and I will bake you a cake.

I buy a few apples every week during the fall so when I need a quick apple dessert, I am ready.

This one wins for easiest.

Not sure why they call this Ozark PUDDING? There is nothing pudding about it.
It's a skillet cake in my book.

Some Ozark pudding recipes use butter, but this one does not, and it's still super moist and yummy.
The brown sugar and pecans make this a nice sticky apple dessert.

Vanilla ice-cream optional, but I highly recommend it.

Ozark Pudding Cake (adapted from Southern Food)

1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup finely chopped peeled apples

Mix the first 3 ingredients in a bowl.

In another bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla and sugar.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix well.
Next goes in the apples and nuts. A nice batter will form.

Spread into a 9" well buttered cast iron skillet and bake for 30 minutes at 350F.

Good right out of the pan, or the next day.