Kale Salad with Artichokes, Chèvre, and Cranberries

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Kale is one of my favorite leafy greens, especially in the colder months. It is very nutritious, cabbagey, and is a rather sturdy plant as it is one of the few ones that can grow well into the cold.


It is perhaps also fitting for the colder weather that the other ingredients in this salad are preserved in one form or another: goat cheese, dried cranberries, and marinated artichoke hearts.

The flavors are strong too. I have only recently began to appreciate the complexities afforded by the goat cheese, which can be quite pungent. But in this salad, the gentle, buttery flavor of the artichokes help offset it, as does the kale, tenderized by the lemon and salt. And cranberries add a requisite mild sweetness to the plate.


The salad came together one evening as I was going around a grocery store, inspired by my mom who always combines goat cheese with some sort of berries in salads. And with December just around the corner (I don't know about you, but right now the Christmas music seems as absurd as the smell of coffee in the evening, or perhaps I'm just in a time warp), the combination of ingredients seemed appropriate.

Kale Salad with Artichokes, Chèvre, and Cranberries
Serves 6

You will need:
2 cups red kale, middle stem removed, chopped
2 cups lacinato kale, middle stem removed, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 marinated artichoke hearts
1 oz goat cheese, or to taste
2 tbsp dried cranberries
Pepper to taste

Place the kale into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Rub the leaves with your fingers until they become moist. Mix in the lemon juice. Then add artichoke hearts, goat cheese and cranberries. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.


Roasted Acorn Squash with Mushroom Stuffing

Sunday, November 18, 2012


The idea for this recipe has been in the works for some time in one form or another. I've been wanting to make a stuffed roasted vegetable dish for a while. As we entered November, I started mulling over stuffing recipes for Thanksgiving. And now that we are three days away (a fact which I am still trying to process) I settled on acorn squash stuffed with bird stuffing.


The stuffing I used here one of my favorite stuffing recipes which I've adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is a favorite because it's flavorful, it provides some variety from the ordinary stuffing recipes (it is heavy on the mushrooms rather than bread), and it makes good use of the organ meat from the bird which is sometimes discarded.


I am a proponent of the idea that if you are buying a whole bird, you should find a way to use everything that comes with it, including the liver, gizzard, and the neck, the latter of which I usually use for stock. As I mentioned in this duck recipe, liver can be used to make a wonderful pâté which you can serve as an appetizer for hungry guests. Or, as here, you can use the liver along with any other organ meat in the stuffing itself, providing a nice compliment to the bird.


Acorn squash comes in a variety of sizes. For this recipe my intention was to serve them as an appetizer, or something you can put on your plate along with the bird carvings and a side. As a result, I used the smallest acorn squash I could find, and the ones I used here were about the size of a tennis ball. The stuffing amount was perfect to stuff eight halves of the squash that size.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Mushroom Stuffing
(Makes 8 stuffed acorn squash halves)
Recipe for the mushroom stuffing adapted from Julia Child

You will need:
4 small acorn squash (10-14 oz each)
3 tbsp canola oil, divided
gizzard and liver from 1 bird, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
10 oz button mushrooms, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2.5 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sage leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
4 tbsp sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil. Slice each squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves on the baking sheet and use about 2 tbsp canola oil to lightly rub the inside of each half with it. Place in the oven and roast until softened, about 20 minutes.
2. In the meantime, heat the remaining 1 tbsp canola oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the gizzard and the liver, and sauté until no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium high and sauté until the wine is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes more. Place in a bowl, reserving any liquids in the pan.
3. In the same pan, sauté mushrooms and the shallot until the water from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add to the bowl with the gizzard and liver along with parsley, sage, bread crumbs and sour cream. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Remove the squash from the oven, let cool slightly and stuff each half with the mushroom stuffing. Increase the oven to 400ºF, and roast for 10-15 minutes, until the top of the stuffing is crisp and golden brown. Serve and enjoy.


Apple Charlotte: Easy Spice Apple Cake

Monday, November 12, 2012


When making this dish I was sure I was making an authentic Russian dessert. I had grown up hearing about it and eating it only at Russian tables. In Russian this dish is called Charlotka (phonetic: Sharlotka) which is the "familiar" version of the female name Charlotte. But upon further research I learned that, as with a number of dishes, its origins are a little more complicated.


According to the Wikipedia page on the dessert Charlotte, it is of vaguely Franco-Anglican origins. Presumably the dessert originally referred to some actual Charlotte or another. According to the same source, it was either Queen Charlotte, Queen consort of King George III or the daughter of King George IV, Princess Charlotte. There is also an old English word "charlyt" which refers to a custard-based dish.

There is a French version of this dessert, called "Charlotte Russe" (which translates to Russian Charlotte) that is made with ladyfingers and sweet custard or cream.


The way it is made varies. According to my mom, in Russia a more traditional older version involves bread that is soaked in an egg and sugar mixture, then mixed with chopped apples, baked and inverted onto a serving plate. However later versions are sometimes made with flour rather than bread.

Charlottes in general can be made with soaked bread, with a sponge cake base, or even a biscuit base along with fruit or cream, such as apples.


Rather than delving further into historical details, which are for the most part inconsequential, more important are the cake's practical qualities.

It is remarkably easy to make. The Russian version of Charlotte is made with only four ingredients: either bread or flour, eggs, sugar, and apples. Because the holidays are fast approaching, I made it with seasonally appropriate spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and a little bit of cardamom. The latter I borrowed from Norwegian baked desserts, which are known to use healthy helpings of the spice, especially in the winter.


As a result, the cake is perfect for the upcoming holidays. The apples are chopped and the eggs beaten with sugar for two minutes. Afterwards everything is dumped into a springform pan and put in the oven for about one hour, during which you can be free to focus on more important matters.

The cake can easily double not only as a dessert, but also breakfast for the next day. It is just as delicious cold as it is when it's warm.


Apple Charlotte
Serves 6-8

Butter for greasing
5-6 Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9" springform pan with butter. Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to a bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent from browning.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and salt. In a separate  large bowl, place sugar and eggs and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is roughly doubled in size, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and gently whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture until well blended. Fold in the sliced apples. Scoop out the mixture into the springform pan; even out the top with a wooden spoon.
3. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the top of the crust is golden brown and the top springs back when pressed lightly. Place on a wire rack to cool slightly. Run a knife along the edges of the cake to help separate from the sides of the pan. Carefully release the springform band and lift to remove. Run a knife between the bottom of the cake and the base of the pan. Let cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes longer before removing from the bottom of the pan and removing the cake onto a serving platter. Serve warm or chilled.


Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes for Postponed Halloween

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The night before Hurricane Sandy arrived, the transit workers started shutting off the subway system in the city and the commuter rail lines. That's when I started to take this a little more seriously. That night, I was finishing up left over blog posts on pumpkins and making cupcakes. One thing that you should know about me if you don't already, I make cupcakes whenever I'm nervous or stressed. I find it calming.

Since it was the weekend before Halloween it seemed appropriate to make Halloween-themed cupcakes. And as we had just been to a pumpkin patch the week before, I decided to make pumpkin patch themed cupcakes.


I had lying around some miniature silicone pot-shaped containers, each about the size of a mini muffin, which were oven safe. So I figured, why not make mini-cupcakes in these pots, and then decorate them as pumpkin plants. Who wouldn't like to receive their own personal tiny pot filled with a chocolate mini cupcake, hazelnut crumbs, and a buttercream pumpkin plant on top?


So this is what I was doing before the storm. Then Monday came and everything was shut down, but nothing was happening weather-wise, the hurricane was still hundreds of miles away. Then, towards the evening, the wind started to pick up and that's when things got scary. We watched the news showing water levels rising, aided in part by the pull of the full moon. Then we lost power, as did most of everyone else in New Jersey and New York. We didn't regain it until late last night (just over 48 hours, which is extremely fortunate given that there are still thousands of people out of power).


For many work and school was cancelled. We got a few days off from technology as well and were forced to entertain ourselves without availment of the luxuries provided by electricity. So in case you're in need of any ideas of how to entertain yourself during a black-out, here is a recipe.

Stock up on items with a long shelf life, like beans and other canned food. Efficient flashlights can double as a light source when the sunlight starts receding and you realize how ineffective ten enormous candles can be in comparison to a single forty watt lightbulb. Then, come up with a list of activities. Ours were, in no particular order: a capella karaoke, reading a play out loud with funny accents and gender roles reversed, trying to make gourmet meals exclusively out of foods with shelf-life of one year or longer while holding a flash light, and charades.


Also, stuffing our faces with the mini cupcakes to prevent them from spoiling during said activities.

And so the blackout, while we made the most of it, swallowed Halloween whole. But it wasn't cancelled. Instead, in New Jersey Halloween got officially postponed to Monday, November 5th.


So folks, whether you've been affected by the hurricane or not, there is still time to make these cupcakes. Because cupcakes are bound to make things brighter, power or not.

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes
(makes 12 regular or 24 mini-cupcakes)

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup soy or regular milk
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 12 muffin pan, or two 12 mini-muffin pans with fluted liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl beat together butter and sugar until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low, add flour and milk in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until just combined. Fold in the nuts. Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
3. Bake the cupcakes 25-30 minutes (20-25 minutes for mini cupcakes), until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks butter, slightly softened
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
food coloring
1/2 cup hazelnuts

1. Beat together butter, confectioner's sugar and vanilla until creamy and stiff, about 3 minutes. Divide the frosting evenly among 3 bowls. Add orange food coloring to one, add greed food coloring to the second, and leave the third white. Cover each bowl with a moist paper towel (to prevent from drying) and plastic wrap until ready to frost.
2. In a food processor, process hazelnuts into crumbs.
3. To decorate the cupcakes, spread a bit of the white frosting on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle with hazelnut crumbs to cover the cupcake. Then pipe the orange frosting using a large rounded tip to form a small ball on top of each cupcake. With a tooth pick, draw lines to resemble segments of a pumpkin. Pipe leaves using the green frosting with a leaf tip. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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