Curried celery and apple soup

As we yearn for spring, the cold and drizzly days ahead are just a bit more tolerable with a bowl of homemade soup.

In most recipes celery hangs back like a timid wallflower, underpinning sauces and soups with its herbal minerality. But put it center stage, sweeten it with apples, and spike it with a little curry powder, and you will be rewarded with a delicate and soothing soup, made creamy by simmering it with a little rice in place of dairy.

Curried celery and apple soup
Serves 6

1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large leek, trimmed of green part, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 can (15 ounces) low-fat coconut milk
3 tablespoons rice
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 350°F. On a baking sheet, spread the almonds. Bake for 8 minutes, or until light brown. Cool.

2. In large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the celery, leeks, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the apples, curry powder, and turmeric. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, rice, and stock. Bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

3. In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return to the pot, and stir in the lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls, and sprinkle the celery leaves and toasted almonds on top.



Posted on February 24, 2016 .

Apple pumpkin muffins

These little treats (under 200 calories) are packed with good flavor, and you can enjoy them without too much guilt. Pumpkin, grated apples, honey, and almond flour all contribute to making the texture of these spicy muffins very moist and tender. If you can’t find almond flour, you can grind almonds in a food processor until very fine. A little crunch and sparkle from pumpkin seeds and turbinado sugar add a festive touch.
Apple pumpkin muffins
Makes 12

Butter for the muffin pan (or paper liners)
1 1/3 cups natural almond flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves3 eggs
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups coarsely grated apple (about 3 apples)
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan (or use muffin liners).

2. In a bowl, whisk the almond flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to blend them.

3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, honey, and oil until blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Fold in the apples.

4. With a 2 1/2 inch ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups (they will be full). Sprinkle each muffin with the pumpkin seeds and sugar.

5. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. 

Apple pumpkin muffins-029.jpg

 

Posted on February 22, 2016 .

Pot roast for a winter's day

 

For old-fashioned comfort on a cold winter’s night, look no further than Plain Jane pot roast. Like most comfort foods, tradition trumps exotic spices; you’ll find no fancy footwork here. The key to this braising technique is to roast the meat in a relatively small amount of liquid. A heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid is essential. You have a bit of work up front, but not much coddling. And if you add vegetables to the pot at the end of cooking, you will be rewarded with a one-dish meal.

Paramount to the success of pot roast is the right cut of meat. A chuck roast, which comes from the front part of the animal, is particularly suited to slow braising. The muscle fibers break down slowly during cooking and the marbling of fat between the fibers melts, giving the roast good flavor and a tender texture. Ask the butcher to tie it for you to keep if from falling apart while it cooks. Other leaner cuts of meat such as a bottom round roast or eye round roast may look appealing but they will be stringy enough to disappoint you. The braising pot is important, too. It should be large enough to accommodate the roast, but not so large as to leave the meat swimming in liquid. A six-quart pot or thereabouts is optimal.

Pot roast is even better the next day if you can resist diving in after so many hours of beefy aromas filling your kitchen. When the meat is tender, remove it from the pot and allow it to cool for about half an hour. Wrap it snugly in foil and refrigerate it for up to two days.  Refrigerate the sauce and vegetables separately. About an hour before serving, set the oven at 350 degrees. Skim and discard the fat from the sauce and heat it in a saucepan. Slice the meat and place it in a baking dish. Surround the slices with the vegetables and pour the sauce over them. Cover loosely with foil and heat in the oven until hot all the way through, from 20 to 30 minutes. Then sit down to a meal worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting.

 

Slow-cooked pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions
Serves 6

ROAST

3 1/2 to 4 pounds boneless chuck roast, tied with butcher twine
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste3 tablespoons flour

3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken stock

1. Set the oven at 300 degrees. Have on hand a large ovenproof casserole with a lid. Sprinkle the roast generously all over with salt and pepper.

2. In the casserole over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Brown the roast for 2 to 3 minutes on a side until browned all over (total browning time is 8 to 10 minutes). Resist the urge to turn too soon or often; the meat will release easily from the pot after a couple of minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the thyme, bay leaves, wine, stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Set the meat on top. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 3 1/2 hours, turning every hour. Remove the pot from the oven and add the vegetables.

VEGETABLES

1 pound (about 18) small waxy potatoes such as yellow or red creamers, halved
6 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
12 small boiling onions, peeled
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (for garnish)

1. Add the potatoes, carrots, and onions to the pot. Cover, and return it to the oven. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the vegetables are tender. (Total cooking time for meat and vegetables is about 4 1/2 hours.)

2. Transfer the roast to a carving board and cover it loosely with foil to keep warm. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes, onions, and carrots to a plate. Cover and keep warm.

3. Remove the thyme and bay leaves from the pot and allow the liquid to settle. With a large spoon, skim off and discard the fat that rises to the surface. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if you like.

4. Slice the roast, discarding the string as you slice, and transfer the meat to a platter. Surround it with the vegetables and pour some of the sauce over the meat. Sprinkle with parsley and pass extra sauce separately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on January 30, 2016 .

Recipe for shaved Brussels sprouts with mustard dressing

Winter rolls on. Those of us in the Northeast who were up to our necks in snow all season last year are getting a break. However, that doesn’t mean we’re seeing fresh asparagus in the market. In fact, vegetable weariness is already settling in (shut up, you Californians). It’s all root vegetables and cabbages and potatoes all the time.  On top of that, our excesses of the holidays have not slid off our hips like water flowing down a mountain. Some real effort is involved, but it doesn’t have to be dreary.

I’ve been considering winter salads, and frankly, I resist them. I gravitate to warm and cozy soups and stews this time of year. But when I overcome my mental bias against cold food, I discover that crunchy is quite refreshing and exhilarating. And boy, I need some exhilaration. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how I feel about winter, and I regret to report that has not changed since last year. Or the year before that, going back to when I popped out of the womb in June those many years ago. I still want to go into a bear cave and kindly request that you wake me when it’s over. Since that’s not going to happen, I am surrendering to salad, and finding that I like it.

Salads in winter need strong flavors to snap the taste buds to attention, and these thinly sliced Brussels sprouts dressed with plenty of lemon and mustard do the trick. You will need a mandoline type slicer, a food processor with a slicing blade, or a thin, sharp knife and plenty of patience to shave them. Toasted walnuts on top add richness and crunch.

Shaved Brussels sprouts with apples, walnuts, and mustard dressing
Serves 4
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or more, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil (you can cut back if you are on a 'nutritional plan"
1 pound large Brussels sprouts, discolored and loose outer leaves removed
1 Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apple, cored and coarsely grated

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, spread the walnuts. Toast for 8 minutes, or until aromatic.

2. In a bowl large enough to hold the salad, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil.

3. Using a mandoline or other slicer, thinly slice the Brussels sprouts by gripping the stem ends with your fingers and cutting them until the sprouts are too short to safely slice. (To use the slicing blade of a food processor, trim and discard the stems first.) Transfer to the bowl of dressing.

4. Add the apples to the bowl. Toss to coat the salad with the dressing. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

5. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.

p.s. rumor has it that Trader Joe's sells bags of shaved sprouts, making this an almost no-effort proposition



Posted on January 16, 2016 .

Ease into austerity season with these salmon cakes

It’s the second week of January, and who isn't  contemplating the “d-word” to make up for holiday excesses at the table? While a slab of fish on a plate with a salad might restore balance, that sort of meal will be about as much fun as landing in a snowstorm after a beach vacation in Hawaii. That’s where these salmon cakes come in: healthy, with a chance of comfort. They are the same size as a burger, and if you want to ease into austerity season, you could enjoy them on a bun.

Paired with mashed potatoes to stretch ingredients, fish cakes have a long history in New England, especially during lent in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s time for a change though; potatoes have been on the collective menu since Thanksgiving. These cakes rely on eggs and panko breadcrumbs to hold them together. Flaky, light, and delicate, panko crumbs are made from bread, but are crunchier and coarser than fine, white breadcrumbs.

To make the cakes, start by spiking the salmon with some smoky paprika, and then undercook it slightly in the oven. Once it’s cooled and flaked, mix it with finely chopped vegetables for color and taste, and add zesty mayonnaise, mustard, capers, and lemon for even more flavor. Eggs and panko bring it all together. Shaping these require a little patience. Press them gently but firmly into balls and then shape them into flat burger-like disks. Handle them lightly as you coat them with the crumbs, and use a spatula to transfer them to the skillet. After browning on one side on top of the stove, leave them in the pan and transfer it to the oven (without turning) to slowly broil in the middle of the oven away from direct intense heat. Broiler heat varies greatly from one oven to another, so keep an eye on them as they cook. You end up with a crunchy golden crust and a center that is hot but not overcooked. You also forgo the mess and fuss of stovetop frying, not to mention the copious amounts of oil required in that method. You’ll feel good starting the year off by eating well without sacrificing one iota of flavor.

This recipe is designed to lessen the frustration and excess amount of oil of frying them. The cakes are a bit fragile until cooked, so browning them on the bottom on top of the stove and then slipping them into the oven under the broiler, solves two problems. If you're so inclined, use olive oil spray in step 5 of the recipe.

Salmon cakes
Makes 4 good size "burgers"

Oil (for the baking dish)
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 1/4 pounds boneless salmon filet with skin
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
5 tablespoons olive oil (or 3 tablespoons oil plus olive oil spray)
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
4 scallions, finely sliced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (low fat is okay)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoon capers, coarsely chopped if large
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 whole egg, lightly beaten
1 egg white

1. Have on hand a lightly oiled baking dish, a large skillet with an ovenproof handle, and a large bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and sprinkle it with 1/2 cup of the panko.

2. In the baking dish, place the salmon. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the smoked paprika. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until slightly rare in the center. Cool in the pan.

3. In the skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the celery, pepper, and scallions. Cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Transfer to a large bowl. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.

4. With two forks, flake the salmon in the baking dish, discarding the skin and bones. Transfer it to the bowl of vegetables. Stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, capers, lemon rind, lemon juice, parsley, salt, pepper and eggs. Stir in 1/2 cup of the panko.

5. Divide the mixture into 4 portions. With your hands, firmly press each portion into a ball. Flatten and press the balls into 4-inch patties. Set them on top of the panko on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining panko, and gently coat the patties with crumbs, pressing lightly on them to hold their shape. With a pastry brush, dab the tops of the patties with 2 tablespoons of the oil (or spray with olive oil spray.)

6. Set an oven rack in the middle position and turn on the broiler.

7.  In the skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining oil. With a spatula, carefully transfer the cakes to the skillet and cook without moving for 2 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Slip the pan into the oven and broil for from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your broiler, or until golden on top. Remove the skillet from the oven and serve. 

This recipe was published in The Boston Globe on January 6, 2016.















Posted on January 8, 2016 .