Posts tagged nuts
Friday, June 25, 2010

carrot and chickpea salad

spicy carrot and chickpea salad

My mother recently said to me that she isn’t the least bit surprised that cooking is such a big part of my life. She said she could see it when I was a wee little thing getting overly excited to go to the market, or picking berries, or foraging for mushrooms. She recalled that she didn’t know any kids my age who would have rather been digging in the garden for vegetables than playing with other kids. I have a hazy recollection of accompanying my grandmother to the market where I could walk among farmers and booths and be seduced by all the smells and sights. My favorite find was a stand with the red currants in hand-made newspaper cones. So much for playing with dolls and a game of tag. My heart belong to fruit and vegetables, and summer reigned as king of all seasons in my six-year-old brain.

stacked
golden brown

When I was even younger, I once ate so many carrots that I turned slightly orange. I remember looking at my palms thinking I should do the same with blueberries (unfortunately it didn’t work!). Mom likes to remember how the first thing I’d eat in chicken soup were pieces of cooked carrot, and how excited I would get to eat a fresh carrot from the farmers market, freshly dug up and cleaned. Growing up, a carrot was my favorite go-to snack, and my grandmother would hand-press for me carrot juice – a very special treat. It’s no wonder that my father used to affectionately refer to me as “rabbit”. I am, unabashedly, a fan of this humble root vegetable, and it is amazing to me that something that grows underground, sees no sunlight, and turns into something so lovely and festive-looking. You know well by now that I have quite a soft-spot for root vegetables in general. They’re totally under-appreciated and I’m on a mission to give them some love. When you pull a turnip or a carrot out of the ground, you get a rather dirty and downright unattractive vegetable, it is what’s hiding underneath, however, that is truly glorious and delicious. If you’ve never pulled out a carrot from the ground, washed it and eaten it right away, you really should – it’s quite an experience. And it’ll be the best-tasting carrot you’ve ever eaten!

the magical mix that made this salad so good

There’s been some carrot salad love shown lately when Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted a salad that made me want to get up from my office chair and immediately go home to make it. Luisa also waxed poetic about it, and I was all, “What’s taking me so long!” And then, right as I was about to make it, finally, I came upon this recipe and decided that since Deb’s salad deserved an honorable mention all its own, I wanted to give a bit of a spotlight to this one. There’s cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper in it. There’s cilantro, which I cannot resist (but those who loathe it can always sub in mint!). And because there are chickpeas and almonds in here, you have a meal in and of itself if you so desire. Or a side-dish, as I served it (though I managed to have the leftovers for breakfast (I know, right?) the very next morning.) Which brings me to a question, is it some kind of a grammar violation to have parenthesis inside a parenthesis?

spicy carrot and chickpea salad

This salad here packs some serious heat, so if you’re sensitive to it, dial down the cayenne, m’kay? Because I don’t want some of you to burn the roof of your mouth and then tell me I didn’t warn you! This is spicy, but I love my spice, so I kept the proportions the same. Also, this salad is very considerate of your time, which means this is a rather well-brought-up salad, if you ask me. If you have a picnic to attend, you can make this (even the day before) ahead of time and chill it, needing only to remember to bring this along. Translation: you should have as many picnics as this season allows, as you will miss them in the winter when you’re wearing fleece head to toe and eating tomato soup. This salad with its lemon and cilantro got this fantastic summer vibe to it, and is bound to please everyone, including your gluten-free, vegan, or low-carb friends. With a salad like this, I know that your next trip to the farmers market might be packed with as much excitement as mine are to this day. Who knew that something that has the word “salad” in it could be so exciting?

spicy carrot and chickpea salad

Continue reading carrot and chickpea salad.

Monday, June 14, 2010

carrot cake

carrot cake

Today, I have cake for you. Not just any cake – carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I know, it’s been all cake and sorbet and more cake around here lately, but we are entering picnic and barbecue season, and doesn’t carrot cake just makes you want to take a picnic blanket to the park along with lemonade and potato salad and slaw, and just sit under a tree for hours with friends, feasting and lounging away. My favorite weekend days is when your biggest accomplishment for the day is eating. There is nothing, and I mean, nothing wrong with that.

carrots!walnuts
dry ingredients mise

Saturday was that lovely kind of a day: my biggest accomplishment consisted of cooking some supper that involved a roast chicken, some guacamole and some pasta with tomato sauce and sausage – I know, lots of random things, but food had to be rescued and cooked. I also found excellent use for these plates – sliced kiwi looks amazing on them. When you start the day around noon, have brunch at 2pm and then for the rest of the day you resolve – no plans, no obligations – it is, I will tell you, an amazing day. Weekends like these are my favorite.

eggs

But this post isn’t so much about lazy weekends, as it’s about carrot cake. A carrot cake for my friend Bill’s birthday. The very same Bill of the mascarpone cake fame, except this time, I’m not a year behind in writing about it.

cake battercream cheese frosting

For Bill’s cake, I looked through every baking book I had (surprisingly few feature carrot cake, actually) until I came across a recipe that made me do a double-take. The recipe was called “Big Bill’s Carrot Cake” – it was as if cake fates have led me straight to it. Now, Bill isn’t particularly big per se, but the title sounded so commanding and the recipe was so perfect, that I decided then and there that this was going to be the cake. Besides, with the recipe coming from the one and only Dorie Greenspan – how could you go wrong?

carrot cakecarrot cake

If you’re like me and believe in the universe speaking to you via baked goods (because when you’re looking for a cake for your friend Bill and you find a recipe with his name in the title – is that not the universe sending you a sign?), then you will put to rest all the other recipes. Dorie knows her cakes, and after you read through any book by her, you feel like she’s your fairy godmother of baking. You know her. You trust her. You’ve had conversations with her while you baked from her books. She has never steered you in the wrong direction. She has never, ever, let you down. Her recipes are detailed, exact, certain, full of the kind of instructions you want to have in so many other books. Few baking personas are as universally adored and revered as Dorie – perhaps because she makes us all feel competent, even if a recipe looks intimidating. She whispers softly to us, “You can do it.

carrot cake
i was tempted to reverse the candle order

Well, friends – meet my new favorite cake. It even outpaces the peanut-butter chocolate one I’ve been so enamoured of. This is a cake that’s got it all – spice, nuts, raisins, a tangy cream-cheese frosting. It’s not too sweet, the frosting doesn’t overpower. It’s a perfect picnic cake, after-dinner cake, Mad Men themed birthday cake. It is, despite that long list of ingredients and preparation instructions, is manageable and unfussy. And it’s a cake that is going to be made a few times over in my kitchen this summer season – and I hope in yours as well.

bill's piece

Continue reading carrot cake.

Monday, March 22, 2010

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberry puree

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

I don’t know about you, but Passover baked goods fail to excite me for the most part. The sponge-cake I’ve been used to eating for the holiday is dry and boring with barely any flavor to offer. And we are talking about dessert here, people. The period at the end of the sentence. Because that is what dessert is. Without it, a meal feels incomplete somehow, ending with an ellipsis, waiting for more.

egg shells
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

But before I get carried away about punctuation and how it relates to dessert, let me say this: my Passover dessert woes are over. Completely, totally, wholly over. This cake you see here below comes together fairly quickly and doesn’t need much fussing. The olive oil makes the cake moist, giving it a delicate crumb. It’s not a dry and boring sponge cake that I remember eating in the past. Instead of flour, you use almond meal, which, if you cannot find it in your grocery store, you can make at home by taking almonds and pulverizing them in a food processor until the mixture becomes a fine meal. Some lemon and orange zest brighten up the flavors – whispering, “Spring is here!” and if that’s not enough – a homemade fresh strawberry puree takes this cake to a whole new level. When I tasted it, the bright, clean berry flavors made me want to take a leap in celebration of the brand new season and the most amazing weather New York has enjoyed since autumn last year. Immediately, I decided this is what I’ll make for our family Passover Seder this week.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Baking for my family is a tricky proposition. My mother, who is diabetic, can’t eat most baked goods and so I almost never bake at my parents’ house, because I hate the idea of her not being able to partake in it. But this cake here, without flour and low on carbohydrates (did I just write the word “carbohydrates” or what?) and a moderate amount of sugar – this is something she can have a slice of along with the rest of the family. And it makes me very happy to know that this time around, she’ll be able to have dessert after the Seder.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Lastly, the recipe on the web advises a 10-inch spring-form pan, which I didn’t have. I had a 9-inch cake pan, left a bit of batter in the bowl and adjusted my baking time accordingly – it worked for me. Be carefully cooling the cake – it’s delicate and might sink if you move it around too much before it cools completely.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Continue reading almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberry puree.

Friday, March 19, 2010

haroset

haroset

All right folks, this will be short and sweet here. Work’s been crazy and I am actually writing this to you on my lunch break – the nerve. I keep trying to sit down and put my thoughts together, but there’s just so much to do during the day and after work, that by the time I get home, I’m a bit spent. I also need to apologize for these hideous photos. The night I took these – my photo mojo was seriously off. I tried so many different angles, lighting options, camera settings, and in the end, it just wasn’t happening. I had to accept the fact that on some nights, your photos will look disgusting. Like these.

However, what’s exciting is that Passover is right around the corner. I like to think of Passover as sort of a Jewish Thanksgiving of sorts. Done right – you have amazing food, memorable meals with family and friends and an opportunity to get a little creative in the kitchen with all the holiday dietary restrictions. It’s a challenge to get so creative that you wind up not missing chametz, or the “forbidden” foods. And with all the cooking to be done for the holiday week, this dish should be the least of your worries. It practically makes itself and it’s also incredibly delicious. Make lots because everyone will want to spoon some on the side of the plate and kids will be eating double that. Allowed to sit overnight, the flavor meld better and develop. Ideally, you’d make this ahead.

haroset

The traditional Ashkenazi haroset is little more than apples, walnuts and honey with a few other ingredients, all mixed together. Apples and honey are nothing new in the Jewish tradition – it’s the thing to eat on Rosh Hashana – for a sweet and prosperous New Year. As for the haroset preparation, there’s really nothing to it – you simply toast some walnuts for a few minutes until they’re fragrant and crunchy, and chop them up finely. You then peel a couple of apples, core them and chop those as well. Some folks prefer their haroset minced, but I like mine on a chunkier side. That way you can really taste the apple texture. And while a lot of versions like to add a few glugs of Manishewitz, or a fortified kosher wine, I prefer to add pomegranate molasses, which gives my otherwise Ashkenazi haroset a Middle Eastern twist. A pinch or two of cinnamon and your haroset is done – provided, of course, you let it sit in your fridge overnight.

haroset

And with that, I shall return to my spreadsheets and Power Point slides. I know what you’re thinking – lucky duck! Don’t be jealous now – sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Continue reading haroset.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

pine-nut tart with rosemary

pinenut rosemary tart

TS Eliot once said April is the cruelest month, but I’d like to take his April and raise him a January. Clearly, the man hasn’t lived though a “new-year-new-you” era – he’d be singing a different tune if he had, and the prologue to his canonical work might have started out a tad differently.

pinenut rosemary tartpinenut rosemary tart
pinenut rosemary tartpinenut rosemary tart

Generally, I am no friend of January. It’s just too much pressure: the resolutions, the feeling of obligation to be better, do better, think better; the pressure of salads in a month when brown food accented with butter and a rich sauce is what I want to eat. Somehow a plate full of lettuce leaves me feeling cold and dejected. Were you to put a salad in front of me, I’d simply poke about with a fork and shove it to the side. Unless we’re talking about this salad here and that one there. But for the most part, I’m all about devouring stuffed cabbage and merguez burgers and braised short ribs. I make a terrible vegetarian in the month of January and my resolutions last about as long as it takes me to drink a cup of tea. Thus I rarely make resolutions outright. Instead, I aspire. To aspire just sounds so much more open than resolve, softer, more lenient, more forgiving. It’s not that I don’t like to set goals, but just not in January, okay? The cold is just too much for me to bear. I prefer dreaming about hibernation and fleece and flannel and soup. Or visiting sunnier cities with gracious hosts and friendly dogs. On occasion, I will daydream about walking around this cold, cloudy city, armed with a cup of coffee in my hand and a camera. But mostly, I think about palm trees and chewed up monkey toys and day hikes. I’d like more of those in my life.

pinenut rosemary tart
pinenut rosemary tart

The sheer pressure of January with its new beginnings and clean pages is so daunting, it can be overwhelming and downright depressing, right? Plus as we’re coming off the holiday season high, we might just come crashing down. There are no more festive parties, no more champagne cocktails, no festive cupcakes adorned with tiny little silver dragées. It’s back to the grind; back to reality. Work picks up almost overnight and after a 15 hour workday as you get home at 10:30 o’clock at night, you want a little indulgence and a lot more sleep. And that indulgence does not come in the form of a salad.

pinenut rosemary tart

And this is where I am not helpful. At all. I say to you, “It’s winter, indulge a bit, comfort thyself. And when spring comes around with its verdant, lush produce, then transition to salads!” Won’t that be so much more fun? Great, in-season produce when it’s warmer and you’re feeling lighter just because you’re not wearing eight layers. But for now, this tart should get you through the colder months. It’s the kind of thing you want to have company for and because this is so wonderfully rich, smaller slivers will do just fine – you won’t want a big piece on your plate. Rosemary, the quintessential herb in savory winter cooking, is the star here, with its soft fragrance accenting the caramel and pine nuts. This is very classically-Italian flavor combination here, and so perfectly wintry, you’ll feel perhaps a bit gladder it’s not summer yet.

pinenut rosemary tartpinenut rosemary tart

Gray, cold days are no time to make resolutions when our souls need comforting. Let’s make them on warmer days (if at all) and in the meantime let us have cake (or tarts) with bottomless cups of tea. It’ll pass the time quite perfectly.

pinenut rosemary tart
pinenut rosemary tart

Pine-nut Tart with Rosemary
Adapted from The Last Course, by Claudia Fleming (with Melissa Clark)

Almond Crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp almond flour
Pinch of salt

Pine-nut Rosemary Filling
1 cup pine nuts
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
Pinch of salt

Preparation:

To make the crust:

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in egg.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

3. Mix until the dough holds together, which you can test by pinching a small piece. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a disk, and wrap well. Chill until firm, for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch round. Fit it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim away any excess dough, then use a fork to prick the crust all over. Chill for 10 minutes. Bake the tart crust until it’s pale golden, 20-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. (The tart shell can be made 8 hours ahead of frozen for up to 3 months.)

To make the filling:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the nuts out in one layer on a baking sheet and toast them until fragrant and golden brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool, but keep the oven on.

2. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar, honey, and corn syrup. Stir the mixture occasionally over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to high and boil the mixture, stirring occasionally to keep the caramel from burning, until it turns a deep amber color, 12-14 minutes.

3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cream (stand back, the caramel may splatter). Place over low heat and whisk until the caramel is smooth. Turn off the heat and stir in the toasted pine nuts, vanilla, rosemary, and salt. Let the mixture infuse for 15 minutes.

4. Wrap the outside of the cooled tart shell (still in the pan) with aluminum foil. Remove the rosemary sprigs and pour the pine-nut mixture into the shell. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden russet brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

sugar-and-spice candied nuts

sweet & spicy nuts

Last year I got these as a gift from Deb who gave me a generous, pretty jar filled to the brim with these nuts. Not half an hour later, the jar was empty and I was peering inside it trying to figure out who ate all the nuts. Certainly, I couldn’t have done it in thirty minutes’ time. I even stuck my finger in the jar trying to pick up all the sweet bits and lick them off. It was better than nothing, but still, the nuts were gone and I had to face the music: portion control – epic fail.

sweet & spicy nuts

A week later, I sat my physician’s with a fever and found the recipe in a November issue of the New York Magazine. When the nurse called out my name, I, flustered and achy, accidentally (I swear!) shoved the magazine into my oversized bag, and thus brought it home at the end of the day. I figured the recipe called out to me so much, that maybe, subconsciously, I intended for this issue to be mine. I clipped the recipe and it promptly got lost in my towering recipe pile where it stayed lost until I moved to Brooklyn.

sweet & spicy nuts

A few months later, I was sitting at Hill Country and eating brisket. And ribs. And some serious sides. And drinking a beer. But I digress. Not a half an hour after the brisket was placed in front of me, it was gone. And I was, you guessed it, licking my fingers once again. Ladylike? Who, me? Believe it or not, my parents did raise me with table manners and taught me things like how to use a fork and knife, keeping elbows off the table, and not talking with a full mouth, just to name a few. And yet, here I was, licking my fingers. In public.

sweet & spicy nuts

I suspect my lapse in manners isn’t entirely my fault. I hold Elizabeth Karmel, the executive chef at Hill Country and creator of these nuts, partly responsible. Her food has a certain power over me (and I suspect over logs of others as also) in that I am compelled, whenever in the presence of her food, to lick my fingers and the plate the food came on. I consider it a very good thing, good, ladylike manners aside, that someone can consistently put out food that makes your forget your surroundings and it’s just you and your dinner. [Pan camera Matrix-style 360 degrees around you and the plate.]

sweet & spicy nuts

Let me be clear – these make an awesome holiday gift, be it Christmas or Hannukah (totally belated, I know, but I’m a delinquent gift-giver!), or any other holiday for that matter. And as an added bonus, during this crazy-busy holiday time when we constantly feel two steps behind, these nuts are also a cinch to make, requiring mere minutes of hands-on time and just a quick peek in the oven to stir and rotate your baking sheets. What comes out of the oven is so good, that I teetered on keeping these to myself instead of giving them away. But ‘tis the gift-giving season and I like presenting people with tiny cellophane bags with little red bows.

sweet & spicy nuts

Not that I haven’t ripped open a few for myself. I would never!

sweet & spicy nuts

Continue reading sugar-and-spice candied nuts.