Nutty Date Bark Bites

AKA, how to make every night date night.

Bark if you like dessert. Bark if you like healthy dessert. Bark if you like healthy, easy, ready-whenever-you-get-the-urge-because-it-hides-in-your-freezer dessert. We’re talking bark here, and not just any bark, but viral Instagram bark.

But first, a small apology. The entire reason I started this blog way back in 2013, was to have a place to keep my favorite go-to recipes in one place so I could a: share them and b: keep them all in one place to easily find them. When I find out that a recipe I have been making on repeat for nearly a year isn’t actually on the blog, that is a FOUL!

Case in point this easy, delicious not entirely unhealthy treat that has permanent real estate in my freezer. It is the ultimate aprés dinner sweet fix to put a hard stop to your day of eating. The recipe is similar to cocoa nutty balls in that it features the holy trinity of dates, nuts and chocolate. It is, however, way easier to pull off, because it involves no food processor and no rolling sticky stuff into balls.

This recipe came from Instagram, as do a few great things, many good things and shockingly many just ok things. It flashed into my feed often enough that I had to try it and can now say that this particular rabbit hole proved to be worthy.

This recipe is all about method, with basic proportions of three key ingredients that can be adjusted up or down, and an optional mid or top layer that lets you choose your own flavor/texture adventure.

Finally, it is the ultimate exercise in love-the-one-you’re-with. As in, use whatever nut butter and chocolate you have or like, and whatever optional add-ins inspire you. That said, don’t mess around with the dates. You need to go medjool (or a similar soft gooey date–not deglet) all the way for texture and malleability.

Ingredients

  • 24 ish medjool dates (room temperature for ease of smushing)
  • 1/2 cup drippy peanut butter or combo nut butter of choice
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate—chips or chopped
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (optional but it makes it smoother)
  • flaky salt
  • Optional: 1/3 cup or so crunchy stuff like chopped nuts or crushed potato chips or popcorn for the Hero layer

Method:

  • Make the date mat: Pit the dates and line them up like soldiers with their smooth sides down.
  • Pack them down as best you can, ideally by rolling them between two sheets of parchment but you can also do this by greasing the bottom of a greased glass to smush them. You’re going for a date mat or carpet type of thing, so put a little effort into this.
  • Pour the nut butter over the dates and spread it around. If your nut butter is thick, warm it up a bit in the microwave so you can spread it easily.
  • Sprinkle on the optional hero layer. I have never done this step and have no complaints on the finished product, but I am sure the hero layer would elevate it. In many iterations of this recipe the hero layer is a sprinkling of chopped peanuts or almonds. I’ve also seen crushed popcorn or potato chips for the win. Toasted coconut, dried fruit or pretzels would be right up there too.
  • Pour on the chocolate: Melt chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave for 45-60 sec, stirring after 30 seconds if you remember to. Stir until smooth and pour chocolate over your now impressive looking nut butter covered date mat. Smooth it all out. Sprinkle some flaky salt on top and put it into the freezer.
  • Try to forget about it for at least 30 minutes and then cut it into whatever size squares make you happy. The pre-cut pieces can be stored in the fridge but I prefer the texture and the out-of-sightness of the freezer.  

Note: chocolate should ideally be dark and high quality, but honestly that half bag of semisweet Nestle chips in your cupboard is just fine. When you open your freezer after dinner and see these at the ready you are going to be happy you were not so picky, and used what you had.

If you are looking for a date bark rabbit hole to go down, I recommend starting here with thathealthjunkie, one of the OG date bark masters. Her sesame snap date bark creation here looks epic.

Spring Cleaning Shamrock Shake

Red alert to early adopters: for some reason the first version of this listed milk twice in the ingredients. It’s fixed now, but I apologize for any sad thin shakes the mistake may have caused. May all your clovers be four-leafed.

If you’ve been on my train for any length of time, you know I have a thing about Shamrock Shakes. They are part of our family lore, from when I was a kid through when my now-grown kids were kids, to right now when we all are just looking for excuses to be kids. The truly devoted can read an excellent brief history of the Shamrock Shake right here. For obvious reasons—like seasonality and general health—Shamrock Shakes are more therapeutic tool than dietary staple.

That is, until now!

Yes folks, I have discovered how to drink Shamrock Shakes whenever the heck I want and feel good about it. It’s the perfect thing for spring when a lot of us are trying to clean up our acts after a winter of aprés ski. This DIY version is cool, creamy, refreshing and just sweet enough to feel fun, yet responsible. It’s also substantial enough to fill the cracks without being a calorie bomb that makes you feel sad in 20 minutes.

This version passed the husband test, the kid test, the friend test, the easy test and the healthy test. You can take it in whatever direction you choose: make it healthier by adding hempy, flaxy, seedy things; make it treatier by subbing frozen yogurt for the yogurt.   

Huge shout out and thanks to Andy’s East Coast Kitchen for this one. The only things I tweaked were trying with almond milk (yes!), and backing off on the mint extract because the pure stuff is high test (batch 1, of many, was a little harsh). But as ever, you do you.

I am now semi addicted to this version of Shamrock Shakes, and looking forward to the mint that takes over my garden every year.

Cheers to you, and to a happy, tasty spring!

Spring Cleaning Shamrock Shake

Lightly adapted from Andy’s East Coast Kitchen

Makes 1 very generous serving, or two for skeptics

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 cup plain greek lowfat yogurt (or thick yogurt of choice)
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup frozen banana (½ large banana)
  • ~15 mint leaves
  • ¼ tsp mint extract
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • shaved/grated chocolate for garnish (optional—never gone there but why not?)

Method:

Whir it all up in a blender until creamy and uniformly green. Pour into a glass/glasses and grate a little chocolate on top for the pro version.

Notes:

For max creaminess make sure the banana pieces are fully frozen. I keep a stash of cut up bananas in the freezer so they break up easily in the blender (and to remove the baking pressure of over-ripe bananas on the counter)

Don’t leave it blending forever or it’ll heat up and be more like shamrock milk. Not so lucky.

If you are light on bananas, or want an extra boost of creamy nutrition sub in or add some avocado. You may want to add more sweetener if you are replacing the banana.

Thanks to sister B, who pointed me to a super cool and easy-to-use recipe analyzer, this shake comes with nutritional stats. Sadly, I have not cracked the code (literally) to getting it to display on the site, but I’m working on it. In the meantime, some deets:

Spring Cleaning Shamrock Shake: 233 calories (211 with almond milk); 2.7 grams fat; 27 grams sugar.
VS
Mickey D’s small Shamrock Shake: 460 calories; 13 grams fat; 63 g sugar

All the heft and taste, none of the effort

Dirt Bread 2.0: Gluten-Free Cottage Cheese Bread

People who know me or have seen me cook know that I am the slacker queen. It’s not that I cut corners entirely out of laziness. I cut them to find an easier way to a just-as-good or better outcome. These it no victory quite like winning the short-cut.

Case in point: Slacker chile crisp, which takes a fraction of the time effort and ingredients of the original chile crisp (PS interesting article on how chili crisp took over America right here), and which I now prefer. And then there are funitella bruschetta and easiest tomato soup both of which I will always and unapologetically make with canned tomatoes. Don’t get me started on sourdough. Not a chance I am going through that when I can make easiest French bread ever with ~3 minutes of active time.

So that brings me to today’s recipe for a nut-free, gluten-free bread that is reminiscent of the famous lifechanging loaf of bread (AKA Dirt Bread); BUT it requires fewer (and more normal) ingredients, and half the effort. As with all things miraculous, it came from Instagram, from a fleeting place I have never re-found. Let’s say a little prayer for screen shots.

A word here about gluten. I am a fan. I am also a little over-glutened at the moment, having taken a class at Gesine Bullock Prado’s Sugar Glider Kitchen. Her classes sell out in minutes so there not a chance I would have gotten this opportunity had it not been for Suzi the Great, knower of all the best things in life and giver of same. I now know how to properly cream butter and sugar (it takes forever), why to use room temperature eggs, Baker’s math, the virtues of cheap disposable pie pans, how to make and use a proper Swiss buttercream and so much more. I can’t wait to deploy my knowledge bombs for deliciousness

But there are times when that heft and chew of a dense, seedy, substantial bread is needed. And there are times when your gluten-free, nut-free people need something homemade and yummy. You could make them rustic Everyone Crackers OR you could be hero with a fraction of the effort and make this. It gets its body from oats, cottage cheese and eggs and its texture/cha-cha from flax, sesame and sunflower seeds. We’re talking pretty basic ingredients, and no rising involved. You just mix everything up, shape it into a football as best you can and bake it for an hour.

If you like Dirt Bread you will love this. If you’ve never committed to Dirt Bread, ease into the concept by trying this first.

What this is:

  • Easy
  • Quick (for bread)
  • Delicious
  • Gluten- and nut-free
  • High-protein
  • Cheapish

What this is not

  • Vegan
  • Yeasted
  • Shelf-stable: Store it in the fridge or sliced in the freezer

I am so sorry Vegans. Between the cottage cheese and the eggs, I’m seeing a lot of high risk substitutions, but please do let me know if you crack the code! Also, the mystery poster of this was a Brit, so all measurements are in grams. I approximated volume measurements, but live a little! Putting a bowl on a scale (<$20 people), adding each ingredient and zeroing it out after each addition is way easier and more accurate.

Dirt Bread 2.0: Gluten-Free Cottage Cheese Bread

Preheat oven to 360

Ingredients

500 grams cottage cheese (about 2 cups)
3 eggs
300 grams oats (about 3 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
50 grams flaxseed, heaping ¼ cup
50 grams sunflower seeds,  1/3 cup
50 grams pumpkin seeds, scant ½  cup.

Method

  • Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well, making sure everything is completely mushed together (no yellow yolk streaks and break down the big chunks of cottage cheese).  Dump it onto a parchment-lined pan and use your hands to shape it the into your best, well-packed loaf like shape.
  • Bake 1 hour

Cool completely before slicing. This is key to it holding it’s shape so…patience! Store in fridge or (my fave) slice and store, wrapped tightly, in freezer so you can grab a slice or two and toast it up as needed.

The pre-baked, nice, tight football-like loaf

 

 

 

Happy Day Noodles

This started out yesterday as a sad pathetic post about life and lemons and fresh starts, a post that was killing my will to live as I wrote it. And then today…it snowed! The instant mood shift makes me realize how closely snow is connected to my psyche. I suspect everyone has a natural Prozac. Snow is mine.

I grew up loving March because it meant sun and snow and spring skiing and friends. It was the cap-off to a good winter or a bad winter but a winter in any case. This year, by the time March rolled around in these parts, it felt like winter never really started and then decided to throw in the towel early. I did the same, giving up on winter entirely in the beginning of March. Just looking at my weather app made everything feel so wrong, so sad, so hopeless. So I stopped.

But then, this snow storm comes out of nowhere, entirely burying cars (unheard of in this hood), and delivering a proper snow day—one that stops everything and everyone from doing whatever they were doing and going wherever they were going.

It took me back to the “Storm of 82” which featured a whopper late March snowstorm that coincided with my 16th birthday amidst a houseful of older ski racers. By then we’d been snowbound for nearly a week, so supplies were running low while boredom was peaking. When someone put peppermint schnapps in his hot chocolate at breakfast, it just made sense.

This recipe pays homage to great snow days, that are all about hunkering in with whoever you’re with, and eating whatever you’ve got. It requires ingredients that are likely to persist in even the leanest, picked-over kitchen.

Officially, they are known as Eric Kim’s peanut butter noodles, and also midnight noodles, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone stumbling home late and hungry.

There are so many things I like about this recipe:

  • First, it hits the trifecta of being easy, cheap and tasty.
  • It uses ingredients most people would have in their kitchen at any given time.
  • You can dress it up or dress it down. Did I stir in some chile crisp? Hell yes! Would it welcome a protein or veggies? Hell yes again! It is also just right nekkid, as is.  
  • It’s versatile. It works with ramen and spaghetti and I’ll wager with any pasta type thing you can scare up in your pantry. Vegan or gluten-free adaptations? Child’s play!
  • Finally, I love that it is deemed a single serving, so if you do manage to plow through the whole bowl, which would be impressive, you can take some comfort in knowing it was pre-ordained.

I’m here to tell you that you need not wait until a late night or a snow day to make this. Make this whenever the heck you need something quick and tasty and satisfying. Here’s hoping you enjoy your Sunday, or Snow Day or whatever day you’ve got.

Happy Day Noodles

AKA Eric Kim’s Peanut Butter Noodles
Makes 1 very generous serving

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 4 ounces spaghetti or 1 individual package instant ramen (seasoning packet saved for another use)
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (low-budget recommended, but I used the chunky good stuff and it was just fine)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Method:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil (and salt it, if using spaghetti). Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the noodles and return to the pot. Turn off the heat.
  2. Add the peanut butter, butter, Parmesan and soy sauce. Vigorously stir the noodles for a minute, adding some reserved cooking water, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the sauce is glossy and clings to the noodles. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Top with more cheese, if you’d like, and serve immediately

Note: I made this for the first time and it got six thumbs up (from three people). Two more unexpected visitors arrived later that day and I made another batch, earning it four more thumbs up. So, that’s two batches and seven thumbs up, with no extra ingredients. It does the job!

Coo Coo for Koulourakia

Today I am getting my Greek on. I have exactly zero Mediterranean blood in my veins, but I have some in my heart. This thanks to my favorite Greek friends, who are warm and sometimes fiery; they are generous in spirit, passionate in their beliefs and above all FUN.

One of my faves recently enlisted my son in making a mega batch of traditional Greek cookies, Koulourakia. Seeing them in the kitchen together via Facetime, working on the cookie-production line, made me smile. It reminded me of being in the kitchen with my own mom.

As we have documented here on this blog, Nina was not invested in cooking unless the cooking was collateral necessity for some messy crafting or shenanigans that brought together kids or grandkids. Despite her own holiday baking ennui, she encouraged us to pursue our own culinary itches, which were usually things that bore little resemblance to the magazine pictures that had inspired us. Cases in point: rock-hard pretzels from ZOOM (the show not the app), a gloppy soft cheese “pine cone” flavored with bacon bits and studded with almonds, dentally challenging popcorn balls, and so, so many more.  

My point is….Nina had her priorities straight. Our holiday kitchen experiments brought us together in one place. The only really important part about the holidays are the people—the family you are born into and the family you grow into. If you’re living a rich life, that family ends up being big and varied and sprinkled all over the country, if not the globe.

That is why seeing the kitchen production half a country away inspired me to try out the Koulourakia recipe I’ve been eyeing (and trying to pronounce) for quite a while. The cookies did not disappoint and will be a holiday staple here. They are sturdy, keep well, travel well and as a bonus are both nut-free and Vegan. They’re low-key addictive—not quite as sweet as a cookie, and less of a commitment than a muffin, making them the perfect late morning or mid-afternoon accompaniment to a cup of something comforting. Book group? Cookie exchange? Hostess gift? Holiday snack arsenal for unexpected guests? Yes and yes on down the line.

There are admittedly many versions of Koulourakia, using seasonal flavors and sweeteners, or butter vs olive oil. I went with Mina Stone’s favorite orange- and cinnamon-flavored version, from her book Lemon, Love and Olive Oil, (purchased at the always magical Woody’s Mercantile). She does the pro option of brushing the tops with honey water and pressing the cookies in sesame seeds. Other versions skip the honey wash and simply roll the rope in sesame seeds before forming the cookies into a circle. You do you, preferably in a messy kitchen with good company and an excellent playlist!

       Koulourakia, Colorado version

Koulourakia

From Lemon, Love and Olive Oil

 Ingredients

The Wet Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup tahini (120 ml)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) orange juice
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

The Dry Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (480g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ½ cup water
  • ½  cup sesame seeds

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 °F, 180 °C

Line 2-3 baking trays with parchment paper.

Make the Cookie Dough:

  • Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together.
  • Combine all of the wet ingredients in a large bowl and whisk them together. Add the dry ingredients in 2-3 batches and whisk together. Switch to a spatula and mix until a smooth soft dough, adding another spoonful of flour if it’s too sticky. Cover loosely with a towel and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.

Make the Cookies:

  • Take about a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Roll the ball into a 5-inch (12-13 cm) long rope. Shape it into an S or into a circle.
  • Dissolve 1 Tbsp honey in 1 cup water. Form the cookies on the baking tray, brush tops with honey/water mixture then press each cookie into sesame seeds and replace on sheet. Alternatively, roll the rope in the sesame and then place on the prepared baking pan. 
  • Bake the cookies 13-15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom and lightly toasted on top). Cool on rack.
  • Transfer the cookies to cookie jars or to an airtight container and store at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

Serve with cozy bevvie of choice, or go full Greek and shake up a cold frappe. It’s totally a thing.

     Traditional yodeling marmots and Koulourakia unite!

Thanksgifting

As the rest of you are toiling away in the kitchen, taking or giving orders and wondering why every year it takes so much brainpower to figure out turkey math, I’ll be cooking…nothing. I’m not that happy about it. To me, a proper Thanksgiving involves an element of chaos. This from the second youngest of 12 grandchildren, whose clan always gathered en masse for Thanksgiving; that is, except for the rare occasion when Thanksgiving coincided with a powder day, in which case Thanksgiving was a do-over at Howard Johnsons on the drive home from the mountains Sunday. As I grew into personhood and became a ski racer, Thanksgiving was always an away game, taking place wherever we were training for the start of the season.  

Perhaps that is why, to me, Thanksgiving is less sacred than rogue. I love taking on too many cooking projects, making old favorites, enjoying the satisfaction of new recipes that are surprisingly good (Knock-Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie), and suffering the consequences of epic fails (pretzels that could break your teeth). Ideally, there’s a little bit of all that going on, and nobody really remembers the food anyway because of the chaos and the company.

With the kids gone on their own ski racing journeys, our Thanksgivings have become very small affairs. This year, my culinary responsibilities come down to making a mustard dill sauce for smoked salmon. This task takes all of three ingredients and five minutes, if you are a slow chopper.

It’s is a solid recipe, from one of my few remaining cookbooks, The Silver Palate Cookbook. I have the 1982 edition, with “Thys” penciled in my Mom’s handwriting on the inside cover. As the stains throughout attest, this baby has lived on the front lines for many a Thanksgiving.

Here is the recipe in its entirety, though I’ll be making ¼ recipe which will still be too much:

Dill Mustard Sauce

from the Silver Palate Cookbook

  • 1 cup sweet mustard (the really sweet honey ham stuff)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill

Mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

And that, my friends, is all am making for Thanksgiving; but it just feels wrong, so I’ll bring something else for sure. Bringing an unassigned dish to a small Thanksgiving, however, can be tricky. You don’t want to boss a new dish on everyone when the pressure is on to try it and enjoy it; or steal the host’s mojo by creating a direct competitor to a favorite dish.

It has to be something that can be easily served as a complement, and/or politely stored away for another occasion. If you happen to be in this situation, here are a few suggestions:

You’ll never go wrong with nuts, especially at the holidays. Honey thyme walnuts go well with any cheese spread, and anything from the Bring It nut anthology can stand alone. The app table can always use some substantial Everyone Crackers that accommodate most all special diets, except sesame allergies.

A jar of chili crisp will add a little sass to the turkey without stealing any cranberry thunder (they’re definitely different food groups). Homemade granola is a good call, especially if you are staying over. Press the Easy button with Tahini Granola (sorry again sesame allergy peeps), or super healthy Seed Bark Granola or my current fave Judson’s Crispy Granola from Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.

If you can’t cook, you also can’t come empty-handed. (Huge bonus points for anyone with vintage miniature Pilgrim candles btw). You’re never going to go wrong with flowers, a bag of good coffee, a box of chocolates or a bottle of something fun. Might I suggest Ancho Reyes, which can spice up any margarita or Bloody Mary, either of which may come in handy when the family’s been together for a few days.

That’s all I’ve got for now, because I must go chop my handful of dill and rest. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

For the host who has everything, rice krispy  turkey legs are just the thing.

Stick Season Plant Pâté

November in the east is full-on stick season, a term which, thanks to local boy turned massive celeb Noah Kahan, needs no further explanation. You could listen to the song or just look outside my window at the inspiring brown on brown on brown tableau. Despite the catchy song, it’s not hugely inspiring weather. BUT it is good for hunkering in with hearty fare, which is reason enough to add this fully Vegan and exceptionally delish “pâté” to your stick season repertoire.

This recipe has been on my “to-post” list for months because it multi tasks like a boss and is a hit with Vegans and carnivores alike. It’s worth reading the whole origin story here to see how this umami party came together. I have never been a fan of pâté, so an exact replication of it was never a huge priority. That said, I’m glad Alanna went the distance because this happens to be spot on in texture and, as far as I am concerned, as good or better in taste.

The one weird ingredient is umeboshi—pickled plum paste—which is not a deal killer to substitute (see notes), but worth tracking down. You don’t need much and it keeps as long as anything in my science project fridge. Stick season is also hunting season, which gets to feeling pretty meaty in these parts. Having a tub of this on hand is a brilliant way to fight back and get your veggies in at any meal.   

This is especially good with Everyone Crackers, (another gift from the Bojon Gourmet), but great as a sandwich spread or on any app platter with things like cornichons, baguette slices,  sturdy veggies, etc. Fergawdssakes don’t forget the chile crisp!

I hope you like this and you’re enjoying the hunkering wherever you are!

Lentil Walnut Vegan Pâté

From the Bojon Gourmet, Alanna Taylor-Tobin
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10 appetizer servings (makes about 3 cups—a LOT)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried green lentils** (lentils de puy)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
  • 1 small, yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 1/4 cups walnuts, lightly toasted (for 6 – 12 minutes at 350º) and cooled
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, basil or parsley, plus extra for garnish, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, oregano or marjoram, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons white or yellow miso paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons umeboshi paste*
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • extra olive oil, for drizzling

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very tender (but not falling apart), 20 – 30 minutes. Drain, discard the bay leaf, and cool completely (you can speed this up by spreading the lentils out on a plate and sticking them in the fridge).
  1. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring frequently and reducing the heat if necessary, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the mirin and remove from the heat. Cool completely (to speed up the process, see lentils, above).
  2. Place the toasted and cooled walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and puree until it looks like nut butter, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the cooled lentils and the onion mixture and puree smooth. Add in the herbs, miso, umeboshi, pepper, and remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and blend until smooth.
  3. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Drizzle with olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, and serve with crackers or sliced baguette and cornichons or olives.

Notes:

The unique flavor profile comes from a trifecta of Japanese ingredients—miso, mirin and umeboshi—all of which I can find EVEN in NH. Of the three, Umeboshi is least likely to be in your kitchen. It is described as sour, salty and slightly sweet.

*Teresa, my way-better-chef-than-me friend and neighbor used a sour plum jam mixed with some balsamic vinegar with great success.

** I have used regular brown lentils when I ran out of de puys and they were totally fine.

Love the One You’re With Plum Torte

Not to be bossy but, MAKE THIS DESSERT!

This recipe popped into my life just as I was looking for something purple to post in honor of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s (shameless plug and donation link here). Purple is the color of the cause. Both the cause and the color are dear to me because of my awesome mama Nina who happened to LOVE the color purple.

My first purple food efforts included braised red cabbage and some spiced beets. Both were pretty and delicious but felt a little more like weeknight homework than weekend fun. And who needs more homework in September?

Browned up, cinnamon sprinkled Purple Fantasia

Then, like magic, the New York Times offered up its most requested recipe of all time—Marian Burros’s Plum Torte, resplendent with purple plums.

There are many reasons why this recipe is brilliant. First off, it is easy, and infinitely flexible; hence, the name. In keeping with the Stillsian “love the one you’re with” sensibilities it can be made with really any kind of fruit you’d find in pie. It is made with regular ingredients (not many, and in totally memorizable quantities) you probably have on hand right now, and in whatever pan you’ve got, with a mixer or a fork. It travels like a champ, freezes easily, and is essentially un-messupable.

It’s even easier than Nina’s specialty margarita pie, and considering that the Times has printed it annually since 1983, Nina may have even made it in her day.

It took me a while to try it out because at first I couldn’t find the smaller Italian purple plums, and needed my larger black plums to ripen. They never really did, and still, it was delicious. Don’t let a lack of any specific fruit keep you from making it, because, as the recipe promises, it can be used with any seasonal fruit, from berries and stone fruit in summer to apples and pears in the fall, to cranberries and frozen berries in winter.

I literally road tested my first effort—sliced it in the pan, wrapped it whole then enjoyed it with friends from a tailgate after mountain biking. I made it again with frozen blueberries, and again with the proper, and much smaller, Italian plums. And then again with fresh raspberries. All good! Next up (obviously in this neck of the woods) apples.

An international crew of testers, albeit young and hungry, gave a unanimous thumbs up. They voiced a slight preference for leaving the plums halved, as in the original vs sliced, as suggested in some of the 2,125 comments.

So, make it with anything you’ve got, and share it with anyone you love. Or just share it with whoever you’re with because, you never know.

Love the One You’re With Plum Torte
originally by Marian Burros for the New York Times

Ingredients:

Yield: 8 servings

  • ¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (120 grams) unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums
  • Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping

Method:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.

Spoon the batter into a lightly greased and floured spring-form pan of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon. (I like 1 Tbsp sugar mixed with ½ tsp cinnamon, then sprinkled together on top)

Bake 1 hour, approximately, checking at 45 minutes. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream or, duh, ice cream. (To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.)

Tips

Here is where I’ll guide you to the highpoints of the rabbit hole that is the comment section at the end of  this and every NYT recipe. As proof of this recipe’s brilliance, the notes are far less snarky/judgemental and more contributory/helpful than the usual NYT comment fare.

  • To freeze securely for the apocalypse wrap the torte in plastic, then double wrap in foil.
  • For some of the most popular variations, including flour combos, its best to go to this easy guide.
  • Use whatever pan you’ve got, but DO grease and flour it—the original recipe does not mention that step, but that is a subtle plot from the baking elite to undermine the rest of us baking hacks.

AND NOW, MY PURPLE SPIEL

Today just happens to be GO PURPLE DAY. If you’re still with me, here is my purple pitch, for how to support the Alzheimer’s Association and/or the Walk. Everyone is welcome to join the walks that happen in 600 plus towns across the country. In our hood it’s on Saturday Sept 30 starting at 9:30 at Hanover High School. Sign up right here! Catch the incomparable Cindy Pierce turn her comic genius to Alzheimer’s at Sawtooth on Sept 28, or Go Purple—today or anytime leading up to the walks—to support the cause. Finally a HUGE THANK YOU to all you purple angels who have donated to this cause that means so much to me. Come by for some torte!

 

Vera’s Kale Salad

Kale is good for you. So are friends. But friends are a lot more fun. This is a repost of a recipe that has made a strong comeback in my repertoire and features kale in its most fun version. But it’s really a shout out to two friends who made a huge difference in the lives of everyone around them.

They are Vera and Nina. Last weekend we celebrated the life of Vera, who spread her unique brand of joy for 89 years. Today, her cousin and BFF Nina—my mother—would have turned 89.

Go to the original post for details on how and why to massage kale. Spoiler alert—it softens it into submission and makes it really, really tasty. The salad did what good recipes do, and transferred title of ownership as it gained a following. Once it landed on Bring It, it became Edie’s Kale Salad, and when my sister Anne brought it to Vera’s, where it played on repeat, it became “Anne’s Kale Salad.”

Vera’s home, an oyster shell’s throw from the harbor, was better known as “The Vortex” for its tendency to draw people in and prevent them from leaving. If you came for a night, Vera immediately campaigned for it to be a weekend, then a long weekend.  Vera’s place reminded me of the home where I grew up, on the other side of the country, where Nina’s smile made everyone feel relaxed, welcome and relevant.  

At Vera’s, this salad sat on the table at many a summer dinner, standing up to the heat and humbly letting the feast of lobster and clams and fresh corn take center stage. It sat there quietly, smiling, like Vera and Nina always did, just happy to be among the good company of friends and family.

This weekend, in honor of two friends who brought out the best in each other and everyone around them, I’m serving up some of Vera’s Kale Salad and Nina’s Margarita Pie. I hope you all have a delicious weekend!

Kale Salad with an egg makes it the main event. A beachy rhubarb spritz makes it a summer all star.

Massaged Kale Salad

Ingredients

1 large bunch kale (curly is best)
1 tsp kosher salt (use a little less if using regular salt)
1/4 medium-small red onion, thinly sliced or diced
1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds or nuts of choice
1/3 cup raisins, currants or dried fruit of choice
1/2 large avocado, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Method

Soak kale in water to loosen any dirt. Wash individual leaves as you de-stem them (pull leaf away from thickest parts of stem). Shake dry. Be fancy and chiffonade leaves (stack, roll and slice into thin ribbons) and put in a large bowl. Or, be more Edie than Martha and chop it or tear it. Sprinkle salt over kale and, using hands, massage kale for 3-4 minutes. After about a minute you’ll notice a big difference in the leaves – they’ll start to soften and turn a dark green almost as though you were steaming them. When done, drain off any liquid that collects on bottom of bowl (may or may not happen) and set kale aside.

If you are starting with raw nuts…Heat a small sauce pan, toss in whole nuts and toast until nuts start to brown slightly. Shake pan on occasion to brown nuts evenly and to keep from burning them. Walnuts, pecans, filberts or even sunflower seeds are great in this salad too. Remove nuts from pan and give them a rough chop on your cutting board. Add nuts to bowl of kale.

Add diced avocado, onions and raisins to bowl (again, raisins, currants, your fave dried fruit in raisin-sized pieces or whatever you have on hand). Pour olive oil and apple cider vinegar evenly over bowl of goodness, then toss until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

           Vera, always fabulous.

Bring It

One of the many beauties of kale is its indestructibility (if that’s a word). You can bring this anywhere in anything, store it wherever and it will not suffer. I have transported it in everything from ziploc bags to salad bowls to recycled takeout containers and it has survived in backpacks for hours before being enjoyed for lunch or aprés ski.

 

Salad Fix: A Healthyish Addiction

Maple creemees, Halyard ginger beer, Meyer lemons, chile crisp, Wordle. I don’t have many addictions, but the ones I have are strong. None of us go looking for more addictions, but they are wily. They sneak up and find you in places you’d least expect. Like, in your salad.

What we have here is a double header addiction—a sweet, creamy dressing and a salty crunchy topping that can be used on their own or together, on salad or on pretty much any veggie or side that needs a little cha-cha.

This particular addiction two-fer came from my young friend and culinary adventurer Mason McNulty. Mason moved to New York a few years back, and added foodie to her adulting repertoire. She recently started sending out a weekly newsletter with recipes she’s developed as a young professional with boundless energy, enthusiasm and creativity for cooking, but limited time, space and budget.

Mason’s recipes come with detailed instructions and touches that take new cooks by the hand and say, “get it together people–you can do this!” She separates out pantry, fridge and specialty ingredients; she lists necessary equipment; she includes the ingredient amounts measured in multiple ways, and those amounts in the ingredients as well as in the steps. She is the anti-slacker.

So, as one would expect, when I fell in love with her latest recipe combo, I slackered them right up (or down) to my capabilities. I am delivering them to you, BUT I am also attaching Mason’s original instructions and pictures so you can choose your adventure. Get the bare bones version here, and then click on Mason’s step by step version with pretty pictures. But wait there’s more! If you want to get Mason’s recipe newsletters, along with a little vicarious whiff of NYC living, just email her at [email protected]

This recipe combo of Creamy Date and Shallot Dressing + Toasty, Crispy, Nutty Topping was entititled: “How to Make Any Salad or Vegetable Taste Great.” That says it all. The dressing is surprisingly simple and ridiculously good. As I was pondering what to use as an excuse for more dressing Mason suggested “a stick from the backyard” and I swear it would work. So there’s that.

And then comes the topping, which is like almond brittle and homemade croutons got into a brawl and ended in a shattered heap, as BFFs. It has it all—crunchy, salty, sweet, a touch of citrus, optional heat and herbs with juuuuuust enough grease to feel indulgent but not irresponsible. It’s Smartfood vs Cheetos, but way better than either. Mason shows it as a topping for roasted asparagus. I’ve used it to add crunch to everything from caprese salad to egg salad, and I’m seeing it on pretty much every soup in my future.

So here you go. Happy 4th, because apparently the 1st is the new 4th and we’re in it! Don’t forget to click on Mason’s instructions for better pics and the full experience.

Part 1: Creamy Date and Shallot Dressing

Yields 1.5 – 2 cups dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 ounces dried dates, measured without pits (~ scant ½ cup, loosely packed)
  • 1 small shallot (~1/4 cup)
  • 1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄3 cup +1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prep the ingredients: Pit the dates and roughly chop. Finely chop the shallot.
  2. Complete the initial blend: combine the chopped dates and shallots, the dijon (1 tablespoon), and the apple cider vinegar (1⁄2 cup) in a blender (a bullet blender works really well for this if you have one). Blend until well combined but still somewhat chunky
  3. Complete second blend: Add the olive oil (1⁄3 cup + one tablespoon), plus a big pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper and blend until very smooth and emulsified. It will look like tahini! Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary
  4. Store: This dressing thicken in the fridge, but you can re-warm it by running warm water on the sides and shaking the container.

The killer combo

Toasty, Crispy, Nutty Topping AKA Salad Granola AKA Salad Crack

Yields ~1 cup (Pro tip: no shame in doubling it)

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 cup (generous) sliced almonds*
  • 1⁄3 cup (generous) panko
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • ¾ tsp (or more, packed) lemon zest
  • 1 tsp (generous) honey
  • 1/2 clove garlic* grated or finely chopped
  • optional: Red pepper flakes, fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice

Method

  1. Prep the ingredients:  Zest 1 teaspoon of the lemon (should be a packed 1 teaspoon); Grate or chop garlic clove *(add the other half if you like extra garlic!
  2. Fry the almonds: Add the olive oil (2 tablespoons) to a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced almonds (heavy 1⁄2 cup) and cook until golden brown, stirring every so often with a rubber spatula (or whatever tool you want). This will take 5-8 minutes, depending on your stove. You will hear the nuts crackling and popping during the cooking process.

*Edie’s note here- I burned my first batch, so trust your eyes and nose more than the clock). Also, super slackers can start with Trader Joe’s sliced toasted almonds and get them hot before adding the panko.

  1. Add the panko: Still over medium heat, add the panko (heavy 1⁄3 cup) and mix. Cook until golden brown, an additional 45 seconds – 1 minute
  2. Optional: Add the garlic: Still over medium heat, add in the garlic (1⁄2 clove, now grated) and cook for just 45 seconds. Turn off the stove and remove the pan from the heat. Let cool for 5 minutes. Taste and feel free to add the other half of the clove if that’s your jam.
  3. Season the topping: In the same frying pan add in salt (a generous 3 finger pinch, or to taste), lemon zest (3⁄4 teaspoon, or more to taste), and honey (generous 1 teaspoon). Mix together thoroughly and add another pinch of salt if desired. Make this your own by adding red pepper flakes, fresh or dried herbs, lemon juice, etc.
  4. Store: Let the topping cool and then store in a room-temperature location. If you are a monk or have carb discipline it will last 3-5 days. Add however much you want on whatever dish you are serving it with. Some grated parmesan is delish too.

Did I mention the original recipe? Just testing you.  Get it here. To get on her list say hey to Mason at [email protected]