Apple Pecan Cake

This is a dense cake that is great as a fall dessert or as part of a brunch.  It is chockfull of apple chunks and pecan pieces. It is very dense, really moist and completely addictive.

This is adapted just a bit from the wonderful recipe in the Silver Palate Cookbook and hte high altitude instructions are based on an elevation of 6500 ft.

Ingredients:

1/2 T. unsalted butter (at room temperature)

1 1/2 cups canola oil

2 cups sugar (HIGH ALTITUDE: 2 cups LESS 2T.)

3 large or extra large eggs (HIGH ALTITUDE: Use extra large eggs or, if not available, use 3 1/2 large eggs)

2 cups all-purpose flour (HIGH ALTITUDE: Add 3 more T. of flour)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1/8 t. ground cloves (optional)

1 t. baking soda (HIGH ALTITUDE:  use only 1/2 t. baking powder)

3/4 t. salt (rounded up a little if using kosher salt)

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans: 1 cup for cake, 1/2 cup for decoration

3 medium to large apples (preferably Honeycrisp), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

Glaze :

4 T. unsalted butter (1/2 stick) at room temperature

2 T. brown sugar

6 T. granulated sugar

3 T. Calvados or other apple brandy (or substitute 2 T. brandy and increase cider below to 5 T.,  or just use 8 T. cider if brandy is not available)

4 T. apple cider (see notes above)

2 T. orange juice

2 T. heavy cream

Preparation:

  1. Grease a 10 inch round cake pan  with the softened butter (1/2 T.).
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (high altitude 350 degrees)
  3. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the all-purpose flour with the spices then add the baking soda, salt, and whole wheat flour and again stir (using a fork if necessary) to thoroughly combine.
  4. Put the canola oil and the sugar in a large bowl and beat with a whisk until thick and pale (they will not combine the way butter does with sugar, but should be as emulsified as you can get in 3 or so minutes of beating).
  5. Add the flour mixture to the oil/sugar emulsion, and stir with a wooden spoon until it is fully blended.
  6. Add the Calvados and stir briefly.
  7. Add the apples and pecans and stir until they are distributed throughout.
  8. Scrape the cake into the greased pan.
  9. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly (this can be anywhere between 1 hour and 1 hour and 40 minutes depending on your oven. Begin checking at 1 hour). When cooked the top will appear a little cracked and craggy.
  10. Cool on a rack  until you can handle the pan (but it is still warm).
  11. Run a thin knife around the outside of the cake several times to loosen it (even with a buttered pan, this cake likes to hang on). Then place a plate or rack over the top of the pan and invert so the cake comes loose.
  12. Turn the cake back over to finish cooling.
  13. Make the glaze by melting the butter in a small pan and then adding all other ingredients and bringing to a simmer and cooking for 5 or so minutes.
  14. Cool the glaze until it just begins to thicken (this may require a little refrigeration).
  15. When cake is cool, pour glaze over the top and then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.

 

 

 

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

I looked at a number of recipes for an Indian style curry using sweet potatoes and spinach.  Most either used a lot of fat (I was hoping for a light, vegetarian or vegan dish) or had a Thai spin (good, but not what I was craving). Drawing a little from this one and a little from that, I put together this quick and pretty healthy version.  It is terrific served over basmati (or even jasmine) rice.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion

2 T. of canola or vegetable oil (olive oil can be used but adds its own flavor)

pinch of sugar

salt and pepper

2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

1/2 knob of fresh ginger, finely minced or grated

2 T of garam masala (mild curry powder)

1 T of vindaloo seasoning (hot curry powder)

1/2 T of cumin

1/2 t. crushed red pepper (or more to taste)

2 medium sweet potatoes

1  15 oz. can of chickpeas, preferable no salt added (if not, rinse very well)

1 bag or plastic container (not family-size) of baby spinach

1/2  or so of 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

PREPARATION:

  1. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into cubes of about 1 inch.
  2. Place into a steamer and cook just until barely tender. Set aside.
  3. Wash the spinach and remove any long stems from the leaves.
  4. Place 2 t. of oil in a large sauté or fry pan with a cover and heat over medium low heat.
  5. Add the spinach (it is fine if there are still drops of water clinging to the leaves) and cover.  Steam the spinach until just wilted.  Remove from pan and cool.
  6. Thoroughly drain the chickpeas and set aside.
  7. Slice the onion very thinly.
  8. Place remaining 1+ T. of oil in a fry pan over low heat, add the sliced onions and cover until the onion is wilted.
  9. Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium-high and add a pinch of big pinch of salt and a big pinch of sugar and stir.  Watch the onion, stirring often, until it is just beginning to caramelize.
  10. Lower the heat to medium and add the minced garlic and ginger to the onion, and the garam masala, vindaloo, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Stir to thoroughly combine all ingredients and sauté for a minute or two until the mixture is very fragrant.  Turn off the heat.
  11. Squeeze the cooled spinach in your hands over a sink to extract as much excess water as possible.  Place the clumped spinach on a plate or cutting board and use two forks to tease it apart.
  12. Add the sweet potatoes, chick peas, and the half can of crushed tomatoes to the onion and spice mixture and gently stir to combine, then add the spinach last and warm over low heat just until hot.  Check seasonings and add more salt, pepper, garam or vindaloo if needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Cauliflower and Figs

This is a great side dish when figs are in abundance. For us, that is in late summer and early fall.  You can use any type of cauliflower (white, orange, etc., but don’t substitute broccoli because it will get mushy)

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:

2- 3 T. good quality olive oil

1 small to medium head of cauliflower

6 (or more if you choose) ripe figs

3 – 4 T. grated parmesan

2 – 3 scallions

2 T. capers

1/2 lemon or fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper

PREPARATION:

1. Remove outer leaves from cauliflower and separate the head into large florets with up to 2 inches of the stem attached (see picture above).

2.  Gently wash the figs and cut off the stem end.  Slice the figs in half from stem to bottom and set aside.  Thinly slice the scallions and set aside.

3. Wash and gently (but pretty thoroughly) dry the florets and place them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (and which is large enough to later accommodate the figs, as well). Toss with 1 – 2 T. of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Preheat the oven to 450°F, using the convection setting if you have it.  When hot, add the cauliflower and cook for 10 minutes or until the tops begin to have brown spots and the underside is nicely golden brown.

4. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and carefully turn the florets making room to add the figs.

5.  Using tongs, place the figs cut side up on the pan with the cauliflower, and sprinkle both with the parmesan, keeping as much on the cauliflower and figs as possible.

6.  Return to the oven for 3-5 minutes until the figs are hot and beginning to sag a bit and the cauliflower is nicely browned.

7.  Meanwhile, heat just under  1 T. of olive oil in a small fry pan over medium heat. Drain the capers on a paper towel (the drier they are the less they will splatter when fried). Fry the capers for 1 – 2 minutes until they begin to crisp.

8.  Place the cauliflower and figs on a platter and scatter the fried capers and scallions over them. Top with a grinding of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Creamy Corn Pasta

There is nothing more delicious than perfectly velvety essence of corn, which is exactly what this sauce for pasta delivers. Adapted from a Melissa Clark offering in the NY Times, it is a perfect dish for late summer.

Makes 5-6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 ears of corn (very fresh–the best way to tell is to feel the tassels at the end, if they have dried out the corn is getting old), taken off the cob.

2 shallots, very finely chopped

1 T of olive oil

1 T of butter (can substitute 1 T. of olive oil, if vegan or out of butter)

hot sauce (whatever brand you like)

Salt and pepper

1 cup of water (or, if you prefer, chicken stock)

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of small to medium shaped pasta (penne regatta, orechiette, farfelle, etc.)

fresh basil leaves for garnish (you can substitute fried sage leaves as autumn is approaching)

grated parmesan for serving (optional)

PREPARATION:

  1.  Heat the 1 T of olive oil in a large skillet (that has a lid) or similar wide somewhat deep pan with lid over medium low heat.
  2. Add the shallots and saute until quite soft, stirring often (3-5 minutes).
  3. Add 3/4 or a  bit more of the corn to the pan along with 2/3 cup of the water (or stock) and a generous pinch of salt.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and cover.  The corn will cook very quickly and so you should check and stir every minute or two until the corn is just tender. Remove from the heat.
  5. Place the corn/shallot mixture, along with some of the pan liquid into a blender.  You will need to do this in batches. Remove the clear cap on the lid of the blender and instead hold a folded up paper towel over the hole as you work (so the lid doesn’t blow off from the heat).
  6. Puree the mixture on your blender’s highest setting for several minutes–turning the blender off periodically so you don’t overheat the motor. Test the puree to make sure it is really smooth–this will take longer to accomplish than you think.
  7. Put each batch of pureed corn into pan that can be reused for reheating when ready to serve.
  8. Taste the puree to check for thickness.  It should be thick enough to coat the pasta but not so think it seems like grits. If it is too thick, add more of the remaining liquid.  (An alternative is to add a small amount of the pasta cooking water just before you serve.)
  9. Add salt, if needed and a few shakes of a few shakes of hot sauce and stir to mix.
  10. When all the cooked corn has been pureed, wipe out the pan and add the T of butter, and melt over low heat. Add the remaining corn kernels and saute until they are cooked (2-3 minutes). If you want them to look a bit charred, turn up the heat to high briefly at the very end, but watch carefully as they brown quickly.
  11. Add the corn kernels to the sauce.
  12. When ready to serve, heat a large pot of salted water to cook the pasta, according to the package directions.
  13. When done, place the pasta in a large bowl and top with the sauce, mixing thoroughly.
  14. Thinly slice the basil by rolling it up like a cigar and cutting crosswise, and sprinkle over the pasta.
  15. Finish with a generous grinding of black pepper and parmesan (if you wish).

 

Turkey and Black Bean Chili

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 T. olive oil

1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (breast, thigh, or a combination – preferably a coarser grind like the one available from Whole Foods meat counter but any ground turkey will work)

1 to 2 yellow onions (chopped) the number you need depends on the size of the onion

3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 T. good quality chili powder (I like Penzy’s)

1 t. ground cumin

2 t. ancho chili powder, optional

hot sauce to taste, optional

cayenne pepper to taste,  optional (depending on how much heat you like)

26 oz. crushed tomatoes (I use the San Marzano box but you can substitute an equal amount of canned crushed tomatoes)

12 oz. warm water or chicken stock

2  15 oz. cans of black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed

Salt and black pepper to taste

Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish

Thinly sliced hot peppers, for garnish0–wear dsiposable gloves when handling chilis if you can

Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, for garnish

Sour cream, for garnish

PREPARATION:

  1. Place 1 T. of olive oil in a large heavy pot (big enough to hold the chili) over medium heat.  When heated, add the ground turkey and break up as needed with a wooden spoon.  Cook, stirring often until the turkey is fully cooked.
  2. Line a large bowl with paper towels and using a slotted spoon remove the ground turkey from the pan into the bowl to drain. Do not wipe out the pan.
  3. Add 1/2 T. of olive oil and the chopped onions and stir briefly. Lower heat and saute until the onions begin to wilt (about 2 minutes).  Add the garlic and stir occasionally until the onions are translucent and you can smell the garlic (another 3-4 minutes).
  4. Add the chili powder, the ground cumin and the ancho powder (if using) and stir to coat the onions and garlic.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes and the water and stir to thoroughly combine.
  6. Raise the heat to medium and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until the spices meld with the tomatoes.
  7. Add the turkey and the drained black beans and stir to combine.
  8. Simmer for a minute or two and taste adjusting the seasonings as needed with salt pepper and hot sauce and cayenne pepper.
  9. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or so partially covered until the chili is the thickness you  desire.
  10. Turkey chili can be served over white or brown rise or as a dish by itself.
  11. Typical garnishes include sliced scallions, sliced hot peppers (jalapeno), hot sauce, shredded Monterrey Jack cheese and sour cream, but you can include anything you want.

Makes four servings. This recipe can be doubled, or tripled if you want to serve a crowd.

 

Red Lentil and Pumpkin Soup

This is a very quick but warming and filling soup to have as a main course. Red lentils are critical because they are split and quick much faster than other lentils.  They are also sold under the name Masoor Dal.

In the photo, it is served with avocado toast made with naan and sprinkled with curry.

Makes 3-4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 1″ piece of ginger, peeled and very finely minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 T. canola or other neutral vegetable oil

1 t. cumin

1/2 t. turmeric

1 T. double strength tomato paste (regular tomato paste can be substituted, just add 1 1/2 T.)

1 t. kosher salt (or more to taste)

freshly ground black pepper

1 cup red split lentils, rinsed

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock plus 1/2 cup water or 2 1/2 cups water

1 cup of canned pumpkin (this should not be sweetened or have any ingredients except pumpkin)

3-4 shakes of hot sauce (more to taste)

1 T. red wine vinegar

2 scallions and sour cream to garnish

PREPARATION:

  1. Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy pot.
  2. Add the onion and ginger and saute for 3-4 minutes until the onion is beginning to become translucent.
  3. Add the garlic to the pot and saute for 1 minute more until you can smell the scent of the cooking garlic.
  4. Add the cumin and turmeric and stir to combine all the ingredients.
  5. Add tomato paste, salt, and pepper and stir to combine (it will now be a lumpy paste on the bottom of the pot).
  6. Add the lentils, pumpkin and the chicken stock or water to the pot and stir to combine.
  7. Raise the heat to medium, partially cover the soup and bring to a simmer.
  8. Adjust heat to keep the soup gently simmering and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally so the bottom does not burn.
  9. Reduce the heat to low and vigorously whisk the soup by hand.  This will break up the lentils and leave the soup with texture but not whole lentils. [For a smoother soup you can use a stick blender, but I like some texture.]
  10. Thinly slice the scallions.
  11. Place the soup in bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and scallion slices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy Peanut Noodles

This is a combination of recipes I have tried over the years including ones from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Joanne Chang, and Saveur magazine. In the end, though, it is different from each of them because it reflects our family’s tastes.  You can make it with or without meat added (this recipe uses ground pork, but ground turkey or shredded chicken would work equally well and vegetarian is also fine) and you can adjust the heat to your own taste.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. ground pork (optional)

2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

3/4″ piece of ginger, very finely minced or grated

1/4 c. smooth peanut butter

1/8 c. miso, preferably white

1/8 c. rice wine vinegar

3 T. soy sauce

1 t. toasted sesame oil or more to taste (you can also substitute regular sesame oil if that is what you have)

1 T. honey or brown sugar

1/2 to 1 t. chili paste with garlic or more(Lan Chi brand is good)

chopped peanuts (you can use either salted or unsalted depending on what you like)

2 scallions

1/2 lime, cut into four wedges

10 oz. package of Chinese noodles (in a pinch you can substitute pasta, such as thin spaghetti, but the curliness of Chinese noodles make for a better dish)

Preparation:

  1. In a large fry pan, brown the ground pork, if using.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  2. Place a large pot of water, salted, on to boil for the noodles.
  3. In a large bowl (you will be adding the noodles to this so it needs to be large), mix the garlic, ginger, peanut butter, miso, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil,  and honey/brown sugar.
  4. Add the chili paste with garlic 1/4 t. at a time until the sauce is just a little hotter than you want the dish (the noodles will dilute the heat a bit).
  5. Mix the drained pork (if using) into the sauce.  If it seems too thick you can add a little hot water to thin it out a bit, although the moisture sticking to the noodles will also do this.
  6. If the peanuts are not already chopped, chop them and place in a small bowl and set aside.
  7. Slice the white and about 1/2 of the green of the scallions and set aside.
  8. Place the noodles in the boiling water and use tongs or two forks to pull them apart so they cook evenly.
  9. When noodles are just cooked, drain them thoroughly and add them to the bowl with the sauce and toss well.
  10. Serve noodles topped with a sprinkling of peanuts and scallions and a wedge of lime on the side.