Sunday, December 24, 2017

Fruitcake Bars

(recipe from David Lebovitz)

6 Tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. packed, light or dark brown sugar
2 cups walnuts, almonds, or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups dates, pitted and coarsely chopped*
1 cup dried apricot halves, coarsely chopped*
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

*Use any combination of dried fruits that strikes your fancy.  The dates really do make the recipe, but I've tossed in a scoop of dried sour cherries or cranberries, or candied ginger as well, with great results.  Just stick with the total quantities listed above.

Line an 8-inch square pan across the bottom and up the sides with two sheets of aluminum foil, making a big criss-cross with the sides overhanging.

Preheat the oven to 325F and position the rack in the center of the oven.

In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the brown sugar, walnuts, dates, and apricots.  Use your fingers to mix the fruit, and separate any pieces sticking together.

Beat the egg and vanilla in a small bowl, then mix it with the fruit and nut mixture until everything's coated with the batter.  Spread the mixture in the baking pan and press gently to even it out.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top of the bars are golden brown and has pulled away just-slightly from the sides of the pan.  Cool the bars in the pan, then lift out.

To cut the cooled bars, use a heavy sharp knife, such as a bread knife, for ensuring neat, clean slices.

Storage: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

(I used 1 cup dates, 1 cup apricots, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries for my fruit combination.  For nuts, half walnuts, half pecans.  I also used coconut sugar instead of the brown sugar.  These bars are so good!  Not too sweet, like a little energy nugget.)

Warm Sweet Potato, Mushroom, and Spinach Salad

(recipe from Deliciously Ella)

1 large sweet potato
a dozen crimini mushrooms
200g fresh baby spinach
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (discard seeds)
a dozen cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
olive oil

Slice the sweet potato into bite-sized cubes and place them on a baking tray.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, paprika, and cinnamon.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350F, until they're deliciously soft.

Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms and gently stir fry them with olive oil, salt,  apple cider vinegar, and jalapenos.  This should take about 7 minutes.  Just before the end add the spinach and allow it to wilt.  This is a very quick process, it will only take two or three minutes to become perfectly soft.

Slice the tomatoes into quarters.

Mix everything together and serve.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Shaker Lemon Pie

(recipe from Saveur magazine)

For the filling:
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 large lemons, zested and thinly sliced, seeds discarded
4 eggs
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp. flour

For the crust:
1 3/4 cups flour, plus more
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (I used coconut oil)
1 tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbsp. ice-cold water

Start the filling:  Toss sugar, salt, and lemon zest and slices in a bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Make the crust:  Pulse flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a food processor into pea-size crumbles.  Add water; pulse until dough forms.  Divide dough in half and flatten into disks; wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

Finish the filling and bake the pie:  Heat oven to 425F.  Whisk eggs in a bowl until frothy.  Whisk in melted butter and 3 Tbsp. flour; stir into reserved lemon mixture.  On a lightly floured surface, roll one disk of dough into a 12" round; fit into a 9" pie plate.  Trim edges using a knife, leaving 1" of dough overhanging the edge of the plate; pour in filling.  Roll remaining disk of dough into a 12" round and place over top of pie.  Pinch top and bottom edges together and fold under; crimp edges and cut 5 steam vents into the top crust.  Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes.  Reduce oven to 350F; bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.

(I made this for Thanksgiving 2017 in Vermont with Sage and her family.  It's very different, with an intense lemon flavor.  Use a very sharp knife when cutting, as the lemon slices are not as tender as you'd like.)

Dried Cranberry, Apricot, and Fig Stuffing

(recipe from Bon Appetit magazine)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 cups chopped onions (about 1 pound)
2 cups chopped celery (4 to 5 stalks)
1 lb. Granny Smith apples (about 2 medium), peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh marjoram
1 cup (or more) vegetable broth
1/2 cup diced dried apricots
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup diced stemmed dried figs
6 cups (generous) 1-inch cubes day-old pain rustique or ciabatta bread with crust
6 cups (generous) 1-inch cubes day-old cornbread
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and celery.  Saute until tender, about 12 minutes.  Add apples and all herbs.  Saute until apples just begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  (DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead.  Transfer to medium bowl, cover, and chill.)

Mix 1 cup broth and dried fruit in bowl.  Let soak at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Divide bread between 2 rimmed baking sheets.  Bake until bread is crusty but not hard, reversing sheets after 5 minutes, 10 to 12 minutes total.  Transfer to a very large bowl and cool.

Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking dish.  Stir vegetable mixture into bread.  Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper in a small bowl to blend; whisk in broth and dried fruit mixture.  Add egg misture to stuffing, tossing to combine evenly and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry.  Transfer stuffing to prepared baking dish.

Bake stuffing uncovered until cooked through and brown and crusty on top, 50 to 60 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

(I made this for Thanksgiving dinner 2017 in Vermont with Sage and her parents.  It was tasty, and a big hit!  You can make it using regular bread for all 12 cups, but the cornbread adds a bit of character.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup

(recipe from Pure Ella via Kris Carr)

2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 1/2 cups red split lentils, rinsed
6-8 cups of water
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tsp. ground cumin seeds
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp. sea salt (I used 1 tsp.)
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot.  Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and carrots and cook, stirring for a few minutes.  Add the lentils, water, sweet potatoes, spices and seasoning.  Stir and bring to a boil; reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Stir in the cilantro or parsley just before serving.

Potato, Zucchini, and Olive Stew with Garlic, Jalapenos and Tomatoes

(recipe from The Vegan Gourmet by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler & Mindy Toomay)

4 lbs. fresh tomatoes (about 8 medium) (I used fire-roasted canned diced tomatoes)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1/2 medium white onion
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/4 lbs. tiny red potatoes
1 lb. zucchini (about 3 medium)
1 cup whole pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained (I used jalapeno-stuffed green olives)
2 tsp. chopped pickled jalapenos (I omitted this, since my olives were stuffed with jalapenos)

Roast the whole tomatoes under a preheated broiler, turning frequently, until their skins are well charred.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.  When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, cut out the stem ends, peel away and discard most of the blackened skin, and place the tomates in a blender.  (I just put the canned diced tomatoes in the blender; did not drain.)

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed stockpot.  Add the garlic cloves and cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to turn golden brown.  This will take only a minute or two.  Watch carefully - if the garlic gets too dark, it will taste bitter.  Turn off the heat.  Remove the garlic cloves from the oil with a slotted spoon and add them to the tomatoes in the blender, along with the onion, stock, parsley, and salt.  Puree until smooth.

Pour the tomato puree into the pan in which the garlic was cooked.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce heat to very low, and simmer, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes.  The sauce will reduce and thicken considerably.

Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes but do not peel them.  Cook the whole potatoes in plenty of rapidly boiling water until they are barely fork-tender, about 10-15 minutes, depending on their size.  Drain and set aside.  [Alternately, cook the potatoes in the simmering tomato puree - it may take a little longer; just monitor for doneness (the potatoes can be cut to preferable size before cooking).]

Discard the stems and root ends of the succhini and slice crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds.

When the sauce has thickened, cut the potatoes in half and stir them into the sauce, along with the zucchini, olives (I sliced mine), and jalapenos.  Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, 20 minutes.  Serve very hot.

Sweet Red Pepper Strips with Artichoke and Caper Filling

(recipe from The Vegan Gourmet by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler & Mindy Toomay)

1 can (13 3/4 oz.) water-packed artichoke bottoms
1/3 cup minced red onion
2 Tbsp. capers, drained, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Several grinds black pepper
2 medium red bell peppers

Drain the artichoke bottoms and mince them finely.  Toss with the onion, capers, and parsley.  Stir together the mustard, olive oil, vinegar, basil, paprika, and black pepper.  Toss with the artichoke mixture until well combined.  Set aside.

Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise.  Discard the stems, seeds, and white membranes and cut each half pepper into 3 lengthwise strips, taking care to create strips with a cupped shape that can hold the filling.  Spoon the artichoke mixture along the length of each bell pepper strip.  Arrange the filled pepper strips in a pretty pattern on a serving dish.  Serve at room temperature.

(I made these for Gretchen's Christmas party, and they were a hit - and a healthy alternative to the other appetizers, namely cheese plates and the like.  I cut my strips much smaller than described, but made sure to preserve the cupped shape as best as possible.  With smaller, less cupped strips, just mush the mixture together along the length of the strip with your fingers, much like sushi - the mixture is wet enough that it can be molded in such a way.)