Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry Salad

To borrow a sentiment from Teen Angst, “what the world needs now is another kale salad like I need a hole in my head” And yet, here you have it. This came out of the Cooking Light archives—an actual print version that was hanging around my cluttered pantry of angst. It was the answer to my prayers when my garden of tomatoes died back enough to reveal a whole lot of kabocha (buttercup) and delicata squash. I’ve made this with both types of squash and it was fantastic. I suspect it’d be grand with butternut as well.

To make this meal-worthy salad you’re basically massaging up a bed of kale with a touch of olive oil. Now don’t be coy—we’re no strangers to massaging kale. Roasted squash goes on top of that, followed by thinly sliced red onion for sass and plumped up dried cranberries for a little sweet and same fall color.

It took all my will NOT add nuts to this bed of goodness, but I resisted and did not miss them a bit. Neither did my nut-weary family.

  • Bonus: This can be made ahead and hang out until dinner is served.
  • Double Bonus: It travels like a champ and is easily assembled on site.
  • Triple bonus: The leftovers are excellent, because we all know dressed kale can survive the apocalypse.

I hate to sounds bossy, but please make this now, so if you like it as much as I do you can sign up to bring it to Thanksgiving. I know…we’re not even at Halloween. But what can I say? Squash turns my crank. And now, on to pomegranates. Oh…yeah…baby! Happy Fall

Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry Salad

From Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large unpeeled green or orange kabocha squash (about 5 lb.), cut into 12 (1/2-in.-thick) wedges (or delicata squash, seeded and cut in 1/2″ rounds)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 6 tablespoons dried cranberries (or dried cherries to be tart and fancy)
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly vertically sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (7 1/2-oz.) bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into 3/4-in.-wide strips (curly kale works fine too)

Method:

Preheat oven to 375°F

Combine squash, 1 tablespoon olive oil, coriander seeds, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, tossing gently with hands to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cover with foil. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Remove foil; bake 15 more minutes or until pumpkin is tender and browned, turning once.

While pumpkin roasts, combine cranberries, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. Steep 15 minutes or until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.

Place onion in a bowl of ice-cold water; let stand 10 minutes. Drain

Toss lemon juice, kale, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, massaging kale with hands to soften. Transfer kale to a large serving platter; top with pumpkin and onion. Sprinkle with cranberries.

Bringing it:  Roast the squash, prep onions and cranberries and massage the kale in the privacy of your own home. Bring them all separately and assemble on a platter when you get to your destination. It can hang out until you’re ready to eat.

Tomato Overload

Guess what didn’t take Labor Day off? The tomatoes in your garden. It’s hard to keep up with the crop, though I’m trying my darndest, and probably headed for whatever toxic event occurs from too many tomatoes. I swear those suckers ripen by the hour. It’s all good though, except that there’s this one doctor out there on the interwebs who gets really bad on tomatoes. I just have to ignore his advice for the next couple of weeks. Same with the corn haters. Now is NOT the time.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s just revisit some of our all-time tomato season favorites. Purists of course will go no further than the white bread and mayo tomato sandwich. Solid. But it uses exactly one tomato. Not helpful. When you’re looking for mass consumption of the bounty, I suggest a batch or two of sweet and spicy tomato jam. For the easiest dinner on the planet, totally appropriate for hands off entertaining, go for Best of Summer Simmer Chicken. If your job is to bring a side, embrace the heat with Summer Perfection Watermelon Tomato Feta Salad, or just go straight for Most Popular with THE Panzanella.

If those don’t use up your tomato backlog, here is an easy way to give your tomatoes (and the taste of summer) a little more staying power.

If nothing else you should go to Smitten Kitchen just to look at the picture of the pre-roasting tomato rainbow. Impressive. Mine do not look like that. BUT I assure you they taste darned good, and they are perfect to throw on a pizza, spoon on bruschetta, toss into a salad, smoosh on bread, mix in pasta, etc. You get the picture.

Slow roasted tomatoes, just hanging with the fresh crowd.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
  • Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about 3 hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes. When they are done, you can remove the cloves of garlic and save them for another use. They’re a delish side bennie.

Use the tomatoes right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge for the best summer condiment, ever.

Feel Good Zucchini Bread (and muffins)

It’s that time of year—time to figure out what to do with the zucchinis that have grown into something with the heft (and taste) of a Duraflame log. Enter zucchini bread, a brilliant use of the bounty. The only downside of zucchini bread and their muffin progeny, is that most of them also seem like a ploy to get rid of all the oil and white sugar in your house. Eat a piece of your standard zuke bread and your fingers look like you’ve just wrangled a basket of French fries. And the sugar that’s involved…oy!  

Quick breads and muffins exist on a taste/texture profile continuum from dirt to donuts.  Ever since hearing about the 800 calorie Costo muffin I’ve gravitated towards the dirt end of the spectrum. In fact I have a stalker-like attraction to the Earth Muffin at our local bakery, Lou’s. Upon studying the insanely lengthy and small fonted ingredient list I learned they are full of ground nuts, chopped nuts, seeds, dried fruit, maple syrup, grains, meals and every Vegan trick in the book. Even when Lou’s tries to pawn their day old Earth Muffins off as fresh (as if we dirt lovers can’t detect nuance), something about all that texture, heft and granular mystery still satisfies my need for weirdness. These muffins do feel like treats, but not irresponsibly so.

Feel Good Zucchini Muffins, with a whole lot of goodness

Perhaps you’re not up for the true grit experience in the morning, but you probably don’t fully enjoy walking away from breakfast knowing you’ve already used up your daily dessert quota. That’s where this recipe strikes the perfect balance, erring on the nutritious side of the muffin spectrum, but with enough sweetness and light to start your day with a smile. The recipe features white whole wheat flour, not a ton of sugar, a LOT of zucchini, and olive oil to make every heart beat a little faster. It’s a muffin/bread you can eat in the morning and feel good knowing that today, there’s still room for ice cream!

Feel Good Zucchini Bread

Poached with utmost respect from Food52, where there is also an excellent discussion on this topic.
Makes: 1 loaf or about 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup olive oil (143 grams), plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/3 cups white whole-wheat flour (170 grams), plus more for the pa
  • 2 1/3 cups grated zucchini (from about 11 ounces zucchini)*
  • 1/3 cup sugar (67 grams)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (71 grams)
  • 2 large eggs (Vegans, grab your flax meal or aquafaba)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup walnuts (75 grams)
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins (53 grams)
  • 1/3 cup oats (33 grams), plus more for topping

*If you’re scant on the zukes, or just feel like a little more color, you can add in some grated carrot.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan (muffin pans if using) )with some oil. Add some flour and tap around to distribute evenly. Gather the zucchini in a kitchen linen or paper towel and squeeze over the sink to get rid of any excess moisture. This step is KEY!
  2. Combine the sugars, eggs, and oil in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the zucchini to the bowl and use a rubber spatula to combine. Add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the flour, walnuts, raisins, and oats. Stir to combine.
  3. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle oats on top. Bake for about 1 hour until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If making muffins, start checking them at 15 minutes and take them out when they are set and slightly browned.
  4. Let cool in the pan for 15 or so minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

The zucchini army at rest

No Guilt Nutella: Chocolate for Breakfast Goes Legit

You say Nutella, I say…ain’t happening for breakfast in this house.

I grew up in a pre Nutella-For-Breakfast world. We had plenty of heinously unhealthy food, like pop tarts and cocoa puffs. But putting frosting on toast and calling it breakfast wasn’t a thing. Even if it happened (looking at you, chocolate Easter bunnies), it wasn’t sanctioned, let alone encouraged.

My kids grew up in a post NFB world, thanks to brilliant marketing from the Italians, who needed a real game-changer to dress up their melba toast and give their people a reason to get up for breakfast. Still, I did not serve Nutella to my kids. That may help explain why they so easily, dare I say eagerly, transitioned to sleepovers, camp and really any opportunity to leave home. There’s no need to get into my reasoning unless you really want a buzz-kill. I think we can all agree that commercial Nutella is not a solid foundation for the most important meal of the day.

But WHAT IF Nutella was made with no added sweeteners, fat or scary ingredients? What if it was made with the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients—dates, nuts and cocoa—and nothing much else? Now that would be something I could get behind. And don’tcha know, I have. It’s not just for breakfast of course—it’s for any time you damn well please.

No Guilt Nutella soars past the teenage boy test, the teenage girl test, the man test and the “gimme that spoon I just need a chocolate fix ” test. If you are a Nutella connoisseur you will not be fooled by this, but the concept of a chocolate spread you can eat by the spoonful without a shred of guilt or secrecy may win you over nonetheless. Vegans, Paleos and Gluten-free peeps? Yeah, this is your jive too.

As with last week’s treats, your food processor earns its keep making these. It’s pretty foolproof though, as long as you make an honest attempt to skin the hazelnuts* and then process those babies until they really turn to butter. Be patient. It will happen.

No Guilt Nutella

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnuts (or a mix of hazelnuts and almonds)
  • 1 packed cup medjool dates, pitted (or more, see notes)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp flavorless oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup almond milk

Method:

  1. Roast hazelnuts at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Transfer onto a kitchen towel and roll with your hands to remove skins. (no need to remove skins on almonds, if using)
  2. Puree hazelnuts in a food processor for 8 to 10 minutes until a butter forms. Take the time to do it right! You’ll know when you’ve crossed from ground nuts to butter.
  3. Remove hazelnut butter, and scrape out food processor as best you can. Add dates and water. Puree until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add hazelnuts to date paste and pulse a few times.
  5. Add cocoa, vanilla, oil, and salt and blend. 
  6. With food processor running, slowly pour in almond milk. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few times to blend into creamy goodness.
  7.  

Notes

*To completely remove hazelnut skins (for the smoothest possible spread), boil nuts in a pot of water with few tablespoons of baking soda for 4 minutes. Immediately strain and place nuts in ice water for a minute or so, until the skins peel off easily. You still need to roast the nuts to loosen up all the oils and bring out the flavor. Google will not corroborate this, but I find this process takes a little mojo out of the nuts. I prefer the less perfect/more flavorful roasting and rolling technique. You will stain the dishtowel, but such are the sacrifices we make. See here for a THOROUGH demo.

If your dates are hard, or you are using Deglet dates, soak them in warm water for an hour or two before pureeing.

…and furthermore, depending on the sweetness of your dates and the strength of your cocoa, you may need to add more dates at the end to find your sweet spot. 

I swear the notes are done.

Store leftovers in the fridge, and put your guilt in the rear view mirror!

Breakfast in America, reimagined.

The real thing, at the breakfast table, on the dreaded melba toast, in its homeland.

Cocoa Nutty Balls

This is the first of two posts featuring the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients: dates, nuts and cocoa. Why so holy? If you can get your Vegan, Paleo and Gluten-free friends at the same table, eating the same thing and loving it, there’s some divine intervention going on.

I’m posting them separately so they each get full credit, and you can find them more easily when needed. Both recipes are quick, easy and 100 percent free of added sweeteners, dairy, or grains. This first one is slightly more labor intensive because, well, balls require some care. (sorry, couldn’t resist). Neither recipe requires one bit of cooking, but they both will give your food processor an honest workout.

First up, are these cocoa nutty balls. (If you do the highly recommended pro move and roll them in toasted coconut when you’re done you can call them coconutty balls. See how that works? ) These are well known and loved in the paleo world and for good reason. They get sweetness and smoothness from dates, heft and texture from walnuts and chocolatey goodness from cocoa. The pinch of salt gives them some sass and the optional coating lets you add your own customized cha-cha.

But wait there’s more! These can hang out in the freezer until you need them. They transport well for hiking, picnics, lunchboxes, road trips or any eating on the fly. I offered these to a bunch of burly ski racers between their runs and they inhaled them. Either the lodge had run out of cheeseburgers or they actually liked them. I hope you’ll like them too!

Cocoa Nutty Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts (or a mix of walnuts and almonds or skinned hazelnuts*)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pitted dates (Medjool if you can. Deglet if you must)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • (Optional for pro version) Toasted unsweetened coconut—or whatever added crunch you like—for coating.

Method

Add walnuts and salt to a blender or food processor. Mix until the walnuts are finely ground.

Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder to the blender. Mix well until everything is combined. With the blender still running, add a couple drops of water at a time to make the mixture stick together. (If it really won’t stick together in a ball, add another date or two)

Slacker version: Using a spatula, transfer the mixture to a small (8″x 8″) pan and smoosh it flat, sprinkle optional topping/coating evenly on top and press it into the surface. (A layer of parchment paper makes this easy.) Let cool in the fridge and cut into whatever sized bites or bars you want. 

Semi Pro Version: Transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using your hands, form small round balls (I aim for walnut sized), rolling in your palms. They’ll come together and feel a little greasy, making them perfect for the…

Pro Version: Toast raw coconut flakes or shreds in a 350ish degree oven a few minutes (until just golden) and let them cool. If flakes, whirl them in the food processor until finely ground, but not yet buttery. Add a pinch of salt is that’s your jive (it’s mine).** Remove the blade from the bowl and drop in three or four balls at a time, rolling them around to coat.

You can store bars or balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for a looooong time.

*Skinning hazelnuts will be fully discussed in the next post. If you just can’t wait for this fascinating discussion (I know, you’re only human) check out this treatise on the topic.

**store leftover toasted coconut in a jar to sprinkle on yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, etc.

Just us fruits and nuts here, keeping our cool

 

The Aperol Spritz: Ciao Bella!

In case we missed the memo last week, summer has arrived, in all its sweaty glory. This does not bring out my A-Game, because I’m more St. Bernard than Whippet, more Clydesdale than Thoroughbred, more Thelma than Daphne. 

I also tend to gain weight in the summer, which—with all that necessarily exposed flesh—is just…plain…awesome. I’m ok with it, really, but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear the peak heat and humidity of an eastern summer.

So what do we do? We get out of the kitchen and onto the patio. And we help each other by sharing our favorite patio fare. Stay tuned this week for some simple easy classics to have on hand that will help you stay cool in every way.   

Today’s feature: The Aperol Spritz. These first caught my eye on a recent trip to Europe, where every sidewalk café featured what appeared to be glasses of orange wine, complete with little floating orange slices. For a moment, I thought Europe was a few years late on the orange wine trend 2015, the one that never breached the NH border.  But then I remembered where I was: European sidewalk cafes don’t do trends. They do classics.

Rigorous research enlightened me to the Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an Italian aperitif (that’s fancy talk for dry not sweet) made of oranges, roots, herbs and—let’s be honest here—some serious food coloring.

All you need for a classic, refreshing, “I’m- for-sure-as-cool-as-any-of-you” summer drink is to fill a glass with ice and layer in three parts prosecco, two parts Aperol and one part seltzer…in that order.  Toss in your little slice of orange and…Salute! Cin cin! Oooh baby!

For a no heat dinner, enjoy your spritz California style like Sister A and Cousin D did with this fine feast. Fully- loaded watermelon poke bowls? Alfresco dining? Avocados, pickled ginger, chopped peanuts? Check, check, check, check, check!

Bring It Summer All Stars

Summer is here my friends. Just in time, the good people of the webhosting universe have fixed my site so subscribers will actually get posts. What a great idea? Thank you Bring It loyals for your patience. And now, on to the weekend!

Before you head out for the Memorial Day shop with the rest of humanity, I picked out some all star classics that will help you slay this weekend. With a little prep you can head into summer looking like the master entertainer you are at heart.

First and foremost…

Bring on The Slaw:
If you have never made Hero Slaw, just trust me on this. It will make you famous. Go ahead and claim it as your own if it helps. Prep it, bag it, put it in the fridge and you can take on any invite that comes your way. Or just enjoy it yourself for a few days. If nothing else, make up the dressing to have on hand and turn kale into something the family might actually eat.

Have Some Balls:
Buffalo chicken meatballs are back on my regular rotation (thank you Neely for reminding me!) until I master the perfect veggie balls. Stay tuned for that. Until then, make up a lot of these (ahead if needed) and know they will disappear fast.

Brush up on Your Bruschetta Fixin’s:
You will never be sorry to have a Funitella bruschetta stashed in the fridge. With the miracle that is petite diced canned tomatoes it take all of about 5 minutes. If you want to get more ideas, take a gander at bruschetta deconstructed, and the consider toppings like pickled fig, creamy cheese and crunchy nut crostini, strawberries and goat cheese, and Sicilian caponata.

Get Your Guac On:
You’ve got to have it, and it hardly requires a recipe. BUT if you want to go the extra distance this crazy one with apples and tequila is my new fave. Mango jicama guacamole is another solid contender. Both add crunch and assert that this is not your first guac fiesta.

Think (of drinking) Ahead:
You know you’re a pro when…You’ve got your Frosé and Sandy’s daquiris in the freezer, and fixins for some fancy lemonades. You bridge into genius status when you also have watermelon juice at the ready to whip up watermelonade, spicy watermelon margaritas and watermelon sangria.

Watermelon Sangria. Summer in a glass.

Watermelon Up:
While we’re on the topic of watermelon, cut up some watermelon and prep it for watermelon poke bowls and you are set for fresh weekend lunches for Vegans and non Vegans alike. If you double up on the feta you get for Funitella Bruschetta, and make summer perfection watermelon feta salad, I promise you won’t be sorry.

Sweet Endings:
Oh where do we begin on these? Well, summery Lemon Beach Pie, a whole mess of Rubble or Loosey Brucey Rhubarb crisp are a good place to start. As Bruce would say, nobody ever complained about to many good recipe ideas.

New recipes next time, but of now let’s go with what we know and get this summer party started.

Must…eat…more…pie. Sweet, salty, sweet, salty, and oh yeah—creamy, crunchy, cool and tart.

Double Down Derby Day Guacamole

Some days we have difficult choices. Saturday will be one such day. Do you wear a fine hat and celebrate the first Saturday in May according to Kentucky tradition, or do you scarf down some tacos and join the Cinco de Mayo party?

Or, do you do the sensible thing and celebrate both? Well duh! I do not normally do this, but I am posting two untried recipes. Whyyyyyy? Because it’s important! Because it’s Kentucky Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo AND its almost summer. That means it’s high time to get your guac on.

I am a wing it kind of guac maker. As a Californian that is my birthright. That said, you can always improve. These two new takes on guac are both from Mexican food jefe Roberto Santibañez by way of Food52.  The first is unique in approach but features totally classic ingredients. It hits all the must haves and nothing more: lime, cilantro, jalapeño, onion are all pulverized FIRST then added to avocados. As Santibañez says, “There is a very important textural thing to guacamole — we never really mush up the avocado.” I knew I liked this guy. I really felt the love though when I read about his second creation, which is totally wacky. It involves a splash of tequila (he had me there), apples (hello New England) and pecans (a nod to the America south and more weirdness). My awesome neighbor just came back from Georgia bearing two bags of pecans that she harvested and shelled herself. Fate. Kismet. Weird guacamole.

Anyway, here are the recipes. I will be making and testing them both on Saturday, celebrating both occasions of course.  If you do the same please tell me what you think and we can discuss. Whatever you choose to celebrate, have a fantabulous weekend!

P.S. Post time is 6:12. For the worst odds and the best name I’m taking Patrona Margarita, with 50-1.

Numero Uno:

Roberto Santibañez Classic Guacamole

Adapted slightly from Truly Mexican (Wiley, 2011)

Makes: about 1 3/4 cups

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh serrano or jalapeno chile, including seeds, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon fine salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe Mexican Hass avocados, halved and pitted
  • A squeeze of lime, if desired
  1. Mash the onion, chile, salt (the coarseness of kosher salt helps you make the paste), and half of the cilantro to a paste in a molcajete or other mortar. You can also mince and mash the ingredients together on a cutting board with a large knife or a fork, and then transfer the paste to a bowl.
  2. Score the flesh in the avocado halves in a crosshatch pattern (not through the skin) with a knife and then scoop it with a spoon into the mortar or bowl. Toss well (it should be like salad properly dressed in vinaigrette), then add the rest of the cilantro and mash very coarsely with a pestle or a fork. Season to taste with lime juice (if you’d like) and additional chile and salt.
  3. Guac Uno, as made beautiful on Food52

Numero Dos:

Roberto Santibañez’ Guacamole with Tequila & Apples

Author Notes: Roberto says:” The apple needs to be sweet and crunchy (not Granny Smith-tart) and diced not too fine, to contrast just vocally enough with the guac’s salty heat and richness. The pecans should be tossed in butter after toasting, not before, so you get fresh, unbrowned butter flavor, too. Adapted slightly from Truly Mexican (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011).

Makes: 2 cups
For the apples & pecans

  • 1 large crisp, sweet apple, such as Gala or Macintosh, peeled, cored, and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon silver (blanco) tequila
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup pecan halves, sliced crosswise or coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt, or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

For the guacamole

  • 1 fresh serrano or jalapeño chile, stemmed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe Mexican Hass avocados, halved and pitted
  1. Toss the apple with the tequila and lime juice in a bowl and let the mixture stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Heat the oven or toaster oven to 350° F. Spread the pecans on a small baking pan and bake until golden and fragrant, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the butter to the pan and toss to melt the butter and coat the pecans. Sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat.
  3. Heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-low heat and roast the chile, turning it over with tongs once or twice, until tender, blistered all over, and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the chile (you might have to use a paring knife).
  4. Mash the chile, onion, salt (the coarseness of the kosher salt will help you make the paste), and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro to a paste in a molcajete or other mortar. You can also mince and mash the ingredients together on a cutting board with a large knife, and then transfer the paste to a bowl.
  5. Score the flesh in the avocado halves in a crosshatch pattern (not through the skin) with a knife and then scoop it with the spoon into the mortar or bowl. Toss well, mashing the avocado coarsely with a pestle or fork, taking care to keep the avocado chunky.
  6. Gently stir in the apple mixture and most of the pecans just until it holds together. Garnish with the remaining pecans and cilantro. Serve right away with tortilla chips.

 

 

Lamb Meatballs: a twist on the Easter feast

 
Yes, the day before Easter is a little late to be making menu decisions, not to mention those that definitely require a trip to the grocery store. That said, you might want to live on the edge and make that store run because these are just plain tremendous.
 
Lamb and mint are familiar players at the Easter table, but not in meatball form. When you
taste these, however, you’ll wonder, “Why the hell not?” Even better than being delicious, these are beyond easy, requiring only one semi weird ingredient. I’m talking about you, harissa. Much as I love you, however, you can be replaced. The only change I made to the original recipe was to scale it up slightly. I also made them easier and healthier (you’re welcome) by baking them instead of frying them. This technique comes straight from our favorite buffalo chicken meatball recipe. 
 
There’s not much else to say about these. If you can’t make them for Easter I strongly suggest making them for some other occasion. I suspect they will go very well with leftover Easter candy.

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

Adapted from Matt Jennings Homegrown
 

Ingredients:

For the yogurt sauce:
  • 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt 
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced 
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill 
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
For the meatballs:
  • 2 pounds ground lamb 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 3/4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs 
  • 1 large shallot, minced 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon harissa (or sambal oelek, siracha or another red chile paste) 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
 For garnish (totally extra credit but totally worth it):
  • Toasted sunflower seeds
  • Pickled chiles, homemade or store-bought

Method:

Preheat oven to 400.

Make the yogurt sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the dill, and 1 tablespoon of the mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine the lamb, egg, bread crumbs, shallot, harissa, salt, cumin, and pepper and mix well with your hands. Shape into golf ball sized meatballs, dipping your hands in cold water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking.

Assemble meatballs snugly in a lightly-oiled  13″ x 9″ baking dish (or any other combo of baking  dishes that work) so they touch each other. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they look yummy and done.

Spoon some yogurt sauce into the bottom of four bowls. Top with a few meatballs, and garnish with the remaining dill and mint, the sunflower seeds, and a few pickled chiles.

Serves 6 as a main course, our 4 with lotsa leftovers.

Spring Chicken Soup

 

This recipe is straight outta Steamboat from Tania, Bring It’s Rocky Mountain correspondent. Along with her husband, she invented this by merging three Thai recipes. As Tania  says,  “It can be tweaked anyway you want, but it is pretty amazing as written.” She also admits it’s a pain in the butt to make, but it’s really nothing more than a a few rounds of chopping sautéing and stirring. 

What I love about this soup, beyond it’s sheer freshness, is the way it builds in the pot, kind of like stone soup. I guess this is how Stone Soup would evolve in a community with really well stocked veggie drawers. It features a lot of greens, and can handle a lot of flexibility. That said, the first time I made it I was missing key ingredients—fish sauce, mint, red peppers—and used the wrong mushrooms and imposter jalapeños. (It’s New Hampshire. It happens).The result was ok but underwhelming. The next time I made it, with the right stuff, it got the kind of unsolicited rave reviews I NEVER get from soup.

There are no amounts listed for the fresh herbs, but be generous with them, according to your taste. If you want to freelance, I suggest doing it on the amount of oil and butter used at each phase, using whatever amount looks and feels right to you. It makes a lot, so as you reheat it during the week, give it fresh cha-cha  by adding more ginger, garlic and lime. 

Spring Chicken Soup

Courtesy of Chuck and Tania Coffey

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups of chicken stock
  • *olive oil
  • *butter
  • 1 ½ lb boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 3” ginger root peeled and minced
  • 2 red peppers sliced thinly
  • ¾ lb shitake mushrooms sliced
  • 3 limes (skin from one lime)
  • ¼ c fish sauce
  • fresh basil
  • fresh mint
  • fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
  • 3 jalapenos diced
  • 2 fresnos cut in rings (easterners, you are forgiven if you can’t track these downw)
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 T brown sugar
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 11 oz  baby spinach (1 entire plastic coffin)
  • i package straight cut rice noodles

Method:

Pour all the stock into a big pot and heat on medium high.

Grill chicken (or cook up however works for you) 8-10 minutes per side. The breasts are undercooked because they are going in the soup.  When cool enough to cut, cube into 1” pieces and add to soup.

In a nonstick pan heat 1 T butter and 1T olive oil and cook garlic and ginger until fragrant.  Pour into pot.

In a large nonstick pan heat 2 T butter and 1T olive oil (I used less here) and cook mushrooms until fragrant and starting to brown. Add a half cup or so water to the cooking mushrooms if they seem dry.  Add to soup.

Add 1-2 T butter to pan and cook red peppers until slightly soft. Add to soup. You’re done with that pan now.

Grate the skin of a lime into soup. Add juice of 3 limes and the fish sauce to soup.Cut stems of cilantro into ½” pieces and add to soup.
Slice fresnos and mince jalapenos and add to soup.
Add coconut milk, red pepper flakes to taste and  brown sugar.
Chop basil, cilantro and mint leaves and add to soup with all of the spinach (you really have to use a big spoon to get it all in there).
Cover soup partially and cook until the spinach wilts (this happens fast).
In another pot bring water to boil and cook rice noodles according to directions. (alternatively serve this over jasmine rice)
To serve put noodles in a bowl and cover with soup.  Add red pepper flakes to taste.
The soup gets better the next day especially if you add a bit more garlic, ginger and jalapeno.

Looking for other fresh spring recipes? How about minty snap pea salad, or of course Marcharitas. And because it’s the confluence of soup season and sugaring season—what we lack in peppers around here, we make up for in maple—don’t forget maple oat breakfast bread.