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Lemon Blueberry Sunshine Loaf

Some days we need a little sunshine. Heck, some years we need it. This would be one of those days in one of those years. This recipe is one I have been meaning to post since the day, in the depths of winter, a glorious box of Meyer lemons arrived from Cousin D in California. As if the lemons weren’t treat enough, they concealed some vintage lederhosen, which of course EVERYONE needs.

Similarly, everyone needs a bit if sunshine, and this loaf (easily Veganized) serves it up.  It comes straight from Cookie and Kate, and was the answer to many questions, like:

What can I make that uses every part of these luscious lemons?
What can I make that is easy and delish?
What can pass off as a homemade dessert when we have visitors, or a satisfying snack or breakfast when we don’t?
What’s going to hit the above and have some redeeming nutritional qualities?

This is the answer to all that! I hope you like it, and that it brings a little sunshine to your day. After seeing what lemon zest does to sugar you will never let your lemons go unzested again.

Lemon Blueberry Sunshine Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 2 medium lemons, preferably organic, to be zested and juiced
  • 1 cup sugar (organic cane sugar if you’re fancy)
  • ¾ cup plain whole-milk (full fat) yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 3 extra-large eggs (aquafaba works great too)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not defrost!)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Optional accompaniments: coconut whipped cream or regular whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously butter and flour a 8½ by 4¼ by 2½-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Pour the sugar into a separate medium-sized mixing bowl. Grate all the zest from the lemons. Rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is yellow and fragrant. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla to the sugar mixture. Whisk well, until the ingredients are combined.
  4. When the mixture is well blended, gently whisk in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Switch to a spatula and fold in the oil, making sure it’s all incorporated. The batter will be shiny. In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with about one teaspoon flour (this will help prevent them from sinking while the cake bakes.) Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the top is golden and the sides just start to pull away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons lemon juice and two teaspoons honey just long enough for you to whisk the honey into the juice. You can do this in your smallest saucepan over medium-low heat or in brief bursts in the microwave. Once the honey is mixed in, taste it—it should be pleasantly tart. If it’s too sour, mix in more honey. Using a pastry brush, brush the lemon-honey glaze on top of the warm cake. Repeat until you have no more liquid left.
  7. Run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan to loosen. Unmold the cake by placing a large plate or cutting board upside down over the loaf pan and carefully turning it over. Turn the cake back onto a flat surface to cool completely. Then slice and serve!

Bringing it:

This is the PERFECT offering to bring anywhere anytime. It’s portable, sturdy and easy to eat at any venue. Bring it on!

Pilgrim Pie: When cranberries get nutty

Here’s an idea. Since this Thanksgiving is going to be necessarily smaller, probably weird and definitely unique, maybe we take a different approach. Maybe we bag the turkey and the hassle of all those sides, cut to the chase and make it all about pie.

I know…ain’t gonna happen. Once everybody gets themselves swabbed for COVID before showing up, they’re going to deserve a proper feast for the effort.

But for some of us, it’s still all about pie. For a new take on it this year, I highly suggest Pilgrim Pie, AKA the cranberry curd tart that has been all over the Internet. It’s kind of like a lemon meringue pie but with cranberries and without the meringue. With the toasted nut crust it definitely becomes it’s own thing.

This version is a hybrid of the one that appeared recently in the New York Times and the one in the Hannaford flyer. It is the best of both recipes. As a bonus, I sifted through the hundreds of comments on the NY Times one (you’re welcome, and…damn those readers have a lot to say!) and assimilated the complaints and suggestions into hacks and options. Because it took me three pies to get a decent photo, I got a lot of practice with all my tweaks.

Bottom line: Make this pie! I know you need pumpkin and apple and pecan and maybe mincemeat for that one person who insists it is edible.  I feel your pain. But I urge you to dig deep. It’s Thanksgiving and we’re all hanging on by a thread. One thing you CAN handle is another pie.

Some notes: The nut crust is what really does it for me. I have tried it as written, with hazelnuts, and also with almonds and a mix of almonds and walnuts. Love the nut you’re with. For a healthier version the pecan coconut crust from knockout vegan pumpkin pie would also be divine, especially if you doubled it and made it super thick like this one.

The filling is strained through a sieve, and you will need a rubber spatula for this. Some rogue commenters didn’t bother straining the filling and said it was just fine that way, so if you’re the rustic type go for it. If you’re going for perfection, do scrape the sides of the pan periodically with that rubber spatula as it cooks, to keep the filling silky smooth .

That’s all. Happy Baking!  

Size matters? Not so much. With pie it’s all good!

Pilgrim Pie

Ingredients

For the nut crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups raw hazelnuts or sliced almonds.
  • 1 cup flour (rice flour to go GF, sprouted wheat flour to be fancy)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter

For the cranberry curd:

  • 12 ounces cranberries (~3 cups)
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 8 chunks

Method

  1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. If using hazelnuts, roast them on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins darken and crack. Put roasted nuts in a clean towel and rub off skins. Discard skins and let nuts cool. For sliced almonds, 10 minutes of toasting ought to do it.
  2. In a food processor, grind nuts. Add the flour and salt and pulse together. Add the cut up butter and pulse until it hangs together when you squeeze a bit of it.
  3. Press dough evenly into the bottom and around sides of a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch pie dish; Prick bottom with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes (or several days if desired).
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chilled tart shell about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool.
  5. While the crust bakes and cools, make the cranberry curd: Put cranberries, sugar, water and lemon zest in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, about 10 minutes. Puree the cranberries in a food processor until smooth (careful here—they’re hot), wipe out the pan, then strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve back into the saucepan, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula. Discard solids (or sneak them on toast to bide your time). You can also use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, then strain it into another saucepan.
  6. Combine eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and beat lightly. Slowly whisk 1/3 cup of the warm cranberry liquid into the eggs to temper, then pour eggs into the saucepan and whisk together.
  7. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula until mixture has thickened and reaches 170 degrees (8-12 minutes if you, like me, can’t find that dang thermometer)
  8. Remove from heat, whisk in butter one chunk at a time until fully incorporated, then whisk in lemon juice.
  9.  If using immediately, let cool to room temperature-ish. If working ahead, cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (press wrap against curd) and refrigerate. (Curd may be cooked up to 1 day ahead.)
  10. Pour cooled cranberry curd into the cooled prebaked tart shell and smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to set curd. Cool on a rack. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  11. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Variations:

Healthy it up a bit with the pecan coconut crust from this Vegan pumpkin pie.

Sub in orange zest and juice for the lemon zest and juice.

Go nutty and switch out the nuts with whatever turns your crank

That’s about all I’m going to mess with here. It’s darned near perfect.

Squash Season with a side of Pumpkin Muffins

Those cute Halloween pumpkins?  Going, going…gone! It’s time to put them to work. It seems we skipped right over apple season. I know that we didn’t really skip over it. Pies and crisps were made, cider was chugged. But apples did not get their due on Bring It this year. Let’s just blame COVID and move on.

Move right along to squash.  The phrase “too many squash” is never uttered in my kitchen (by me at least). Butternut and denser, drier kabocha squash fill the void left by watermelon at summer’s end, finding their way into my cart every time I go to the grocery store.  This year, I hit the jackpot when a friend shared her bounty of homegrown butternut squash and sugar pumpkins (thank you Carole!), so we’re having a full-on Squashtacular.

To celebrate, I’m sharing a round up of my favorite winter squash recipes, with a bonus new pumpkin muffin recipe at the end. They are my faves by far after way too much experimenting. For me, pumpkin baked goods can be a tough sell, as they usually involve way too much sugar, oil and spice to overcompensate for being vegetable based. They’re like the macho player of baked goods.

BUT, put squash in the savory role, and it becomes something else entirely, something comfortable with itself that doesn’t have to try too hard. It adds body and nutrition and enough sweetness to become its own special treat without dressing itself up like dessert.

My go-to squash recipes start with the ever-satisfying Sugar and Spice Squash Soup, featuring the brilliant threesome of red curry paste, coconut milk and candied ginger. For an even simpler, an very similar version try almost instant Halloween Soup.

Almost instant squash soup, with pro toppings for extra credit.

For appetizers, you can’t go wrong when you invite caramelized onions into the mix with some butternut squash on toast. Work through your kale supply with the easily made ahead Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry salad.

If you’re willing to get a little weird on pizza (or pasta) night, try Butternut Squash Sauce, or an easy, outstanding creamy pumpkin pasta  (a little crumbled bacon on top shuts the doubters right up).

And finally, my baked goods comment notwithstanding, I’ve fallen back in love with Knockout Vegan Pumpkin Pie. It’s all about the crust, which I made with hazelnuts instead of pecans this time. Soooo good. 

If you still have some pumpkins hanging around, fergawdssakes get them into the oven! …and save a bit to try these healthyish whole grain muffins that are proud to be themselves—just sweet enough, moist but not greasy, and only mess up one bowl in your kitchen. Happy November…the countdown is on!

Proud Pumpkin Muffins

Based on these from Cookie and Kate

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • ⅓ extra-virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil 
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey (as if…maple all the way baby!)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature (or 6 Tbsp aquafaba)
  • 1 cup pumpkin (or winter squash) purée
  • ¼ cup milk of choice (plant, animal, whatev)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar for a sweet crunch

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease or line all 12 cups of your muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs or aquafaba, and beat well. Add the pumpkin purée, milk, pumpkin spice blend, baking soda, vanilla extract and salt.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now. (a heaping half cup chopped walnuts is outstanding)
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with about a tablespoon of oats, followed by a light sprinkle of raw sugar and/or pumpkin spice blend if you’d like. Bake muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. These muffins are delicate until they cool down. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan.
  6. These muffins taste even better after they have rested for a couple of hours! They’ll keep at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They keep well in the freezer in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months (just defrost individual muffins as needed).

 

Late Summer Zucchini Tian

The summer veggies are hanging in there, but we’re definitely bridging into squash and apple season. I’m looking to you, potatoes, to help us across that divide, by adding a little heft to the rest of the zukes and tomatoes.

Behold the tian, which is basically a whole lot of veggies layered over each other in sequence, each layer blessed with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The whole shebang is then topped with cherry or grape tomatoes and breadcrumbs and then melded together in the oven. It’s pretty brilliant in its simplicity and humble (until I bragged about it) elegance. 

This recipe has the clever touch of being assembled over a low burner so the potato base layers get a little head start cooking. I’m including the whole recipe—as written by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune fame—but also giving you the Cliffs Notes, because this is more technique than exact recipe.

You’re melting the butter in the bottom of a big pan, making a base of two layers of sliced potatoes, then covering that with successive concentric layers of onions, zukes, potatoes, onions, zukes and finally all the tomatoes and a sprinkling on breadcrumbs. Each veggie layer  gets its own drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt, and cooks along as you keep slicing away.

You can futz with amounts, but there are some key points to follow, starting with the your slicing. To get an A+ tian your potatoes, onions and zucchinis all need to be sliced thinly, hence the mandoline. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend springing for it. My $12 beauty is admittedly bare bones but it does the job and I still have all my fingers, so there’s that. On that note, do pay attention and use the protective pusher when you get anywhere near the end of your veggies. Those blades are sharp!

Also, the stove-top steaming step is key to cooking the potatoes. I got lazy and made a second  tian by layering everything in my baking dish (some of us only own 1 cast iron pan) then putting it in the oven. It was good, but not great, mostly because the potatoes were not as perfectly cooked. If you go that route, cover your vessel with foil for the first half hour of cooking and leave it in for an extra 15 minutes, uncovered.

I also distilled the comments from the New York Times version of this recipe, which are many. They separate into two camps, both pretty indignant. The “How can you possibly not include garlic and fresh herbs in this?” camp and the “Keep it simple and let the fresh ingredients sing” camp. The latter crowd reminds us that the dish originated from a nonna in Puglia, and Pugliese hate garlic. Who knew? Thankfully, pretty much everybody agrees that blanching the tomatoes is only for teacher’s pets, and quite unnecessary.

Anyway, the bottom line is that both camps like this dish a whole lot, and with a long potato season in our future, it seems like a good time to get comfy making tian.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 12 ounces)
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 zucchini (about 12 ounces), washed and wiped free of any clinging grit
  • 1 pint yellow Sungold cherry tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup coarse bread crumbs

Method

  1. In a pot, boil 2 inches of water for blanching tomatoes (OR NOT). Place an 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet on a burner over low heat, and add butter to melt.
  2. Peel the potatoes, and slice on a Japanese mandoline into 1/4-inch-thick disks, then arrange in a single layer circle covering the bottom of the cast-iron skillet with its melted butter, keeping the skillet on the burner and leaving the heat on while you start to build the tian.
  3. Add a second layer of potato slices, and season with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of olive oil and cover with a lid to slightly steam while you slice the yellow onion.
  4. Peel the onion, then slice into even ¼-inch or thinner rounds. The Japanese mandoline is sometimes too narrow to use for this, so you may have to use a sharp knife and do it manually.
  5. Layer abundantly half the onion rings evenly around the pan on top of the steamed potatoes, season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, and recover the pan with a lid while you slice the zucchini.
  6. Slice the zucchini into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and layer half of them in concentric, just-overlapping shingled circles over the onions to create a neat layer. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil and recover with the lid while you blanch the tomatoes.
  7. (FOR OVERACHIEVERS ONLY) Season the now-boiling water with a few good pinches of salt, and drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. As soon as their skins split — about 30 seconds — retrieve the tomatoes and run under cold water to quickly cool enough to handle; set aside.
  8. Build another ring of potato around the tian on top of the now-steaming zucchini, this time just a single layer. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and recover with the lid to steam a bit while you slip the skins off the tomatoes (IF YOU MUST).
  9. Layer the other half of the onions as before, season and drizzle and replace the lid as before, while you split the tomatoes in half horizontally with a small sharp knife.
  10. Add final layer of zucchini to the tian, and season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover, and let steam while you heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  11. Place the tomatoes around the top of the tian evenly, and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top evenly. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.* (If your skillet threatens to bubble over, slip a sheet pan underneath to prevent any burned wreckage in the bottom of your oven.)
  12. With a spoon, baste, and drizzle the pan juices that accumulate in the tian over the top when you remove it from the oven at the end. Allow the tian to cool, settle and kind of meld for an hour before eating.

*I’m pretty sure this is meant to go in uncovered though none of the bazillion comments actually answered this. Mine goes in uncovered, and it’s darned good.

 

Lemonpalooza Part Deux and Lemon Almond Pudding Cake

Well hello spring! It finally warmed up enough to unclench the earth, and to make the outside inviting. On cue, enter the black flies. Thank you, New England! Back in the kitchen, the work of feeding the tribe something more than frozen pizza continues. As I was about to embark on finding something to make with the glorious box of lemons from last week, I got a King Arthur email full of pictures and recipes featuring their five favorite citrus recipes. We’re on the same page!

Here’s where we’ve been with my lemons. They’ve gone in tea, of course, and they’ve been thinly sliced to go atop slow baked salmon. They’ve gone in to this spring vegetable Israeli couscous  (hello asparagus and peas!), preserved lemons and for no reason other than flaunting my bounty, I made these candied lemon slices. (I have no idea what to do with them, but they’re hanging in my fridge, looking pretty and ready to roll.)

Come here, my pretty

Rocky Mountain correspondent Tania sent me this recipe for Lemon Tiramisu which looks amazing, but also has too many steps for this particular phase of quarantine. How has going nowhere become so time consuming?

For today’s recipe, I looked for something even easier than Lemon Beach Pie (don’t get me started on this beauty!), something easy and delish. This came from the quarantine recipe club—not the recipe chain letter you may fear, but a weekly newsletter with all kinds of recipes contributed from all kinds of people like us, who are wrassling up vittles for a houseful, with an ever changing list of available ingredients.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Now, THAT’S dessert, or maybe dinner.

Lemon Almond Pudding Cake

Ever so slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs separated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter  melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 cup milk the original recipe calls for skim, I used whole with good results
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • powdered sugar and sliced almonds for topping. Fresh berries wouldn’t hurt either!

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray liberally. Or brush it with melted butter!
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and melted butter. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice, almond extract and lemon zest until combined. Stir in the dry ingredients.
  4. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Slowly fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture, gently, until combined. Pour the batter into the pie plate.
  5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until set. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar and a handful of sliced almonds and serve.

Get more lemon inspiration at Lemonpalooza Part 1

 

A Box Full of Sunshine for Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! My gift came a day early, from California. My amazing Auntie Tina, who knows how much I covet her Meyer Lemon tree, sent a surprise care package straight from her tree and her kitchen.  It was the very best thing in the world to open on a snowy, windy May morning in New Hampshire. Money may not buy you happiness, but fresh lemon marmalade on toast sure will.

Tina makes me think of great moms and of the way they make you feel special on every day. My Nina was all that, and I’m really happy and excited that she’s getting some airtime in today’s New York Times. I hope you get a chance to read this, and that it brings a little peace to people who need it on Mother’s Day, or any day.

For kids out there, of any age, wondering if you can pull off making breakfast for your Mom, you CAN! And you can probably do it with what you have on hand. Might I suggest Dutch Bunny, Blueberry Dutch Bunny, Popovers or 3-3/2-2 crepes, all of which benefit from a squeeze of fresh lemon. Whatever you come up with, you know she’ll appreciate the effort, so here’s the only part of the recipe you truly need to follow: Serve it up with a whole lotta love!

Whether or not cooking is happening, let’s give it up for our mom’s today. And when life gives you lemons, say “Thank you!” 

 Thank you for the sunshine Tina!

Easiest Tomato Soup: Beating the lunch curve

Gluten has made a serious comeback in our house, mostly out of desperation. Baking, once a rarity, is now a daily or twice daily thing, as the little darlings (read locusts) can work through two loaves of Easiest French Bread Ever in a day. To keep everyone fed, I’m turning to old favorites I can crank out with minimal effort. I’d love to try new recipes, but now is not the time to gamble precious ingredients—especially flour, the new toilet paper—on anything that might not work out.

I’m also trying to make mornings more pleasant by getting ahead of the breakfast curve the night before: making granola; mixing up batter for popovers, blueberry muffins, victory bran muffins; or stirring together the dough for Maple Oat Breakfast Bread.  

All those freshly baked goods may earn you some peace and joy in the morning, but by lunchtime—just when the coffee is worn off—it turns out you also need something to go with the carbs.

Fortunately, for inspiration we have the chain letter of favorite recipes that’s pin-balled through everyone’s inbox a few times already during lockdown. If you want a deep dive into why we do these chain letters, here you go  (Thanks NoPo, for being on the pulse with this analysis). I went looking through the emails for a soup that could be ready in less than an hour, without adding to the kitchen mess.

A lot of favorite recipes are labeled as “best” and “easiest,” tall claims that make it hard to choose what to try first: Best, easiest, best, easiest. It will surprise nobody that I opted for the one, from cousin Michelle, entitled “Easiest Tomato Soup.”

A quick look at the ingredient list confirmed that this would satisfy the recipe trifecta, by being: easy, cheap and requiring no trip to the store. I’ve been burned by minimalist recipes that taste like they are missing ingredients and steps, so I wanted to see just how good this was, exactly as written. I resisted every urge to add a little bit of this or that, things like: Maple syrup; a glug of sherry; a squeeze of basil from those yummy herb tubes; a splash of cream.

For a serial recipe tweaker this abstinence was tough, but I did it. I am so glad I did, because I can now attest that this soup over delivers on its promise. Maybe the simplicity is why it is so good, though it must also have to do with cooking time. Don’t cheat on the 40 minute simmer—that’s where the magic happens. Confession: It was not until writing that line that I realized this is essentially a pureed version of Marcella Hazan’s pasta sauce but with garlic and broth. Mystery solved. Of course it’s good!

As further endorsement, I barely had time to stage a photo of this before my family ate the shot and then the entire batch. The next day, I doubled it, amortizing the minimal effort over even more servings.  

Enjoy a bowl of this with a grilled cheese, or any of the aforementioned carbs, and consider yourself comforted…at least until dinner.

Really Truly Easiest Tomato Soup

from Michelle Prioleau

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • Butter (4 tbsp)*
  • White onion (1 half)
  • Garlic (1 large clove)
  • Canned tomatoes (2 cans)
  • Chicken stock (1.5 cups)*

Method:

  1. Finely chop onions and mince garlic
  2. Melt butter in large pot. Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are softened
  3. Add canned tomatoes and chicken stock to pot, and cook uncovered for ~40 minutes
  4. When done cooking, pour soup into blender and blend until smooth (an immersion blender works beautifully too.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste
  6. That’s it!

*Edie’s note here. Don’t tell my family (God knows they will never ever read a food blog), but I used fake butter and veggie “Better than Bouillon.” So, yes it can be Veganized if you like, and the carnivores won’t even notice.

Italian Breakfast Biscotti

Well hello! What say we spend a quiet weekend at home with family? I know, bad joke. But really, at any other point in time that probably sounded like a comforting luxury, so let’s enjoy it. And, how better to enjoy it than with cookies? But, wait, it gets better. How about breakfast cookies? NOW we’re talking.

This recipe come from “A Blissful Feast” the book I mentioned a couple of posts ago, after going to a reading at the Norwich Book Store. The author, the supremely talented Teresa Lust, is my neighbor in bustling Hanover Center, and the reading happened to be that last social event before we all scurried into our holes for the duration. Teresa’s first book, Pass the Polenta got a shout-out from none other than Julia Child, so I knew this chronicle of her culinary journey—through Italian culture, history and family—would be entertaining, informative and well written. As a bonus, it’s full of unfussy recipes that I wanted to try pronto!

Part history, part story and all great recipes

This was the first recipe I wanted to make, and it did not disappoint. I love that these call for olive oil instead of butter, which helps when cooking with heart health in mind, and means you don’t have to soften butter. I also love that they use lemon zest because the only things I have hoarded are Meyer lemons. And I love that I now have a new creation that impresses my kids and makes everyone happy at any time of day. When Teresa graciously encouraged me to share the recipe here, she warned me that it was possible to eat half the batch in one sitting. She was not wrong.

As I prepare to make them again, I need to time production so I have some left for tomorrow’s Easter festivities which include…cookies for breakfast and not much else. I’m saving A Blissful Feast for bedtime reading, going through it slowly, imagining a trip to Italy and enjoying it like a long family meal. 

A few notes: This is the recipe exactly as it is written in the book, but with a few *notes where Teresa provided some extra guidance and assurance for the baking impaired (like me). I suspected these would be great with other fruit/nut combos, and Teresa gives that a big thumbs up, especially dried cherries or cranberries and almonds, pistachios. or hazelnuts. I say any combo that speaks to you (ideally from your pantry).

Cantucci: Breakfast Biscotti

Makes about 4 dozen

These twice baked cookies are traditionally served with a sweet dessert wine at the end of the meal. The addition of dried apricots, almonds and oats gives them all the ingredients you need for breakfast, too, served with an espresso or steaming cup of caffelatte.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour, plus 1 Tbsp for tossing with apricot pieces
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, (whole or slivered)
  • ½ cup old fashioned oats (not instant)

Combine 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Place sugar, eggs and olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until smooth. Add lemon zest, vanilla and almond extract, and continue mixing, until combined.

In a small bowl, toss remaining tablespoon of flour with dried apricots to keep the pieces from sticking and set aside.

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring just until blended and make sure to scrape bottom and sides of bowl with a spatula to thoroughly incorporate dough.

Stir in chopped apricots, almonds, and oats. Covered though and refrigerate 30 minutes (or up to several hours or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a baking sheet or lined with parchment paper. Divide dough in half, roll into logs (about 12 x 2 inches) and place on baking sheet a few inches apart.*

Flatten the logs into loaves about 1 inch high. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Let loaves cool slightly, then cut into 1/2 inch slices.** Arrange cut side down on baking sheet and return to oven until biscotti start to harden and turn golden (they’ll still feel a bit soft, but will continue to harden as they cool), 15 to 20 minutes.

Teresa’s guidance:

*I roll them out on the counter—I don’t dust the counter with flour, but if they are sticky you could do that. (There’s a lot of variation in different types/brands of flour, also humidity and freshness of flour can affect things.) Then I transfer them  to a baking sheet.

**I cut them on a cutting board, while they are still warm, but cool enough to handle, I’ve used both a chef’s knife and a serrated bread knife, which works better if you’ve forgotten about them and let them cool down all the way.

Partially baked, sliced and ready for the final act.

and then there’s this option

New Year’s Resolution Vegetables with Pomegranate Cha-Cha

Hey! You there by the last swig of eggnog. This is your year. It’s your year to be the one who brings vegetables to the party with your head held high, and your hand held up for a high five. This recipe is your first mission. 

It comes to us from Here and Now’s resident chef Kathy Gunst.  I first made it for this past Thanksgiving. Since then, it’s made a lot of appearances, thanks in large part to the pomegranate de-seeding savvy that can be yours in one quick video tutorial.

As Kathy notes this is a mix and match dish. There is no magic formula, so clean out the veggie drawer, grab the rogue pomegranate that is still hanging in the fruit bowl looking for a purpose, and prepare to impress. The main things to remember here are:

  • Roast vs steam the vegetables. As in, give them their space, and…
  • Group them by type so you can remove veggies that roast quicker and let the others get their due.

Other than that, this recipe is pretty loose, though I’d say Brussels sprouts, some kind of winter squash and red onion are kind of key. This recipe makes tons of dressing, so go ahead and overdo the vegetables if that’s your thing, or just be psyched to have extra pomegranate vinaigrette in your arsenal.

And as if this healthy, beautiful, tasty dish needed another bonus, the veggies can be roasted earlier in the day and the vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time. Assemble it all just before serving, hot or at room temperature.

Roasted Vegetables with Pomegranate Cha-Cha

Ingredients

  • 8 new potatoes, scrubbed and left whole (if large, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed, and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1 small Acorn or Carousel winter squash, peeled, cut in half, deribbed, deseeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and outer leaves removed, left whole
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 3/4-inch wide strips
  • 1 whole garlic, 1/4-inch sliced off top and left whole
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 1 sweet white Vidalia onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup baby turnips, ends trimmed and left whole (if turnips are bigger than a golf ball, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 8 ounces carrots — about 8 small carrots or 3 to 4 larger ones — peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

The Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds and 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (from 2 fresh pomegranates, or use 1 cups preseeded pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup bottled pomegranate juice)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic or white or red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare all the vegetables as described above. Place the vegetables a row at a time (keeping all the carrots together, all the onions together in row, etc.) on a large sheet pan or two pans or a shallow roasting pan. You don’t want to use a pan with high sides or it will steam the vegetables rather than let them roast and turn golden brown. Drizzle the olive oil on top and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and drizzle vinegar on Brussels sprouts. Flip vegetables over and then return the pan(s) to oven for 20 minutes. Check to see if vegetables are done by piercing with a small sharp knife. Remove any vegetables that are tender and continue cooking the others until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. The vegetables can be roasted a day ahead of time; cover and refrigerate.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or Mason jar, mix half the pomegranate seeds and juice (if using), salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. Taste for seasoning. The dressing can be made a day or two ahead of time.
  5. If you made the vegetables a day ahead of time, remove from the refrigerator. After you remove the turkey from the oven, place the vegetables in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.
  6. Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter and drizzle with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and the remaining 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds. Serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.

California Dreamin’ Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

Sister B served me this salad on my last trip to CA, and I loved everything about it. It’s beautiful, interesting in taste and texture, healthy, and—most of all—it looked totally, easily replicable. We grew up with a persimmon tree in our backyard, but they were the acorn-shaped ones that turn your mouth to cotton when they are even slightly firm, and only become edible when they are the texture of ectoplasm. Suffice to say, I was not a fan.

In the intervening years, “Fuyu” persimmons—smaller, squat looking numbers that are delicious when eaten in their firm state—became readily available.

When my sister dug up this recipe, she did it as if playing a casual game of Google darts because in California (where every ingredient in this salad is something you might encounter underfoot on a sidewalk), needing a recipe for this salad is like needing a recipe for avocado toast. In the Yankee wilds, however, it qualifies as a fancy feast.

I approached this salad in the casual way one approaches non-toxic events, assuming that whatever persimmon I tracked down in NH would be the edible kind. Surely that old variety, if it appeared at all, would be sold with something akin to a skull and crossbones sign.

WRONG! One bite of my first-acquired persimmon brought back so many memories, none of them good. And so I returned to our groovy Coop and found the precious little Fuyus, which should have been sold in a velvet case. While I was paying $8 for my two small persimmons the cashier chuckled, having grown up in N. Carolina’s persimmon belt, where $8 would have gotten me the persimmons and, say, dinner.

Anyway, I got the goods, and armed with the pomegranate liberating technique in Pomegranates Unplugged, I was good to go. You’re basically tossing arugula with a bright, simple dressing, then laying on the goods—thinly sliced persimmons, avocado slices and pomegranate seeds. I hope you can find your Fuyu persimmons and try this yourself. I’ll try my best to get you some more Thanksgiving inspiration before T-Day. In the meantime, enjoy the season!

Callifornia Dreamin’ Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

From Crumb, a food blog

Feel free to riff on this, with your own favorite dressing, baby spinach and blood oranges or grapefruit if you can’t find persimmons. Love the one you’re with, baby.

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 8 cups baby arugula
  • 1 firm-ripe Fuyu persimmon, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate aril
  • Handful of toasted pistachios or nuts of choice (optional)

Instructions

Prepare the Dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegars and mustard until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble the Salad:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss arugula with dressing until well coated. Distribute between four individual salad bowls, or transfer to a single large salad bowl.
  2. Arrange persimmon and avocado slices on the arugula, then scatter with pomegranate and pistachios (if using). Serve immediately.

Bringing It:

In addition to being healthy, beautiful and delicious, this is very easy to bring to a group feast. Slice up the persimmons, prep your pomegranates and dressing and jar them each up separately. Bring the arugula and the whole avocado and assemble on site. Then take a victory lap in your fancy pants.