December 30, 2012

Winter Green Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette

Kale Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette

Winter salads require a little more imagination than their summer sisters. Really good tomatoes, cucumbers and delicate lettuces can be hard to find in the darker months, so I turn to hardier greens such as kale, spinach, frisee and mustard greens. Because they're sturdy and a little bitter, they can handle a strongly flavored vinaigrette such as this one, which incorporates smokey, spicy Mexican chorizo sausage.

I know it sounds strange, a meat vinaigrette, but think of it as a riff on a spinach salad with bacon dressing. Makes more sense now, yes? Homemade croutons round this out and really make a difference. If you have some good parmesan cheese, a few shavings are a great addition.

Winter Green Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette

Makes enough for 4

5-6 cups sturdy greens (whatever you like: frisee, kale, beet greens, spinach - any combination)
4 ounces bulk Mexican chorizo sausage, or one sausage with casing removed
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, shaved with vegetable peeler (optional)

Wash greens in ice-cold water (makes them crisp), dry thoroughly and cut into bite-sized pieces, discarding any tough stems. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo, breaking it up into very small pieces with a fork or potato masher, and sauté until cooked through. Remove sausage to a plate lined with paper towels and drain off excess fat from pan.

Return the pan to the heat and add vinegar, shallots and dijon mustard. Whisk to combine, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking to blend. Bring to a boil and let reduce for a minute, then turn heat down to a simmer and stir in chorizo, salt, and pepper. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Add croutons to greens. Spoon warm vinaigrette over salad, add parmesan shavings (optional) and serve immediately.

Note: Vinaigrette can be made ahead of time,  just heat until warmed through before serving.


Half loaf crusty bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375º.

Remove crust from bread and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Toss with oil, sprinkle with salt and lay out on a baking sheet (lined with parchment, if you like). Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. These are best for salad the day you make them, but you can store in an airtight container for a few days and use leftovers in soup.

December 24, 2012

Clementine Snowball Cookies

Clementine Snowball Cookies

"Really, Mom?" my daughter deadpanned. "Give them a chance!" I implored.

She was not pleased that I would take one of her favorite holiday cookies and... add orange flavor to it.

But not just orange, clementine! Sweet clementines with their bright citrus-floral flavor go so well with the walnuts, sugar and butter in this cookie. You just add zest and juice to a basic snowball recipe and, voilá, a modest and delicious variation on an all-time-great. Even my skeptical offspring had to agree.

Clementine Snowball Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups walnuts
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons clementine juice
1 tablespoon clementine zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325º. Finely chop walnuts. Put 1½ cups of powdered sugar in a shallow bowl or pie tin and set aside. Cream butter and remaining ½ cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add zest, juice and vanilla and beat to combine. Mix in walnuts and flour. Take teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into balls, Place on ungreased (or parchment lined) sheet pans. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until slightly brown on the edges. Remove from oven and put in powdered sugar pan. Roll gently and place on wire racks. When cool, sift more powdered sugar over the top.

Before baking - don't these look a bit like potatoes?

A frolic in the snow

Clementine Snowball Cookies
And ready to go

December 21, 2012

Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Peanut Noodles with Broccoli and Peppers

This is a dish that works well for busy times. It's easy, fast, healthy and vegetarian but tastes rich and indulgent. You can make it ahead of time and serve it hot or cold (it warms up well in the microwave). 

I've made several variations of peanut noodles over the years including one with 13 ingredients just for the sauce! I really like this one, a variation on a recipe given to me by a friend who has a knack for simplicity. Once you get the ingredients, they can sit on your shelf and in your refrigerator for a long time and be ready when you need them. The noodles can be soba, udon, spaghetti or whatever noodley taste and texture you like.

I blanch the broccoli in the pasta pot towards the end of the cooking time so they're a tad crispy, but not mushy or raw. The peppers and onions are bright and crunchy and so good. 

Note: Broccolette are long slender stems of broccoli. If you shop at Costco, you've probably seen them. I think they're great because the stalks are tender and quite edible. 

Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Serves 4

8 ounces soba noodles (or thin spaghetti)
2 cups broccoli or 8 stems broccolette (see note)
4-6 scallions
1 red pepper

Peanut Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar*
2 tablespoons Mirin (rice wine)*
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (spicy, delicious stuff)
1 teaspoon minced/grated ginger

* you can substitute 1/4 cup of rice vinegar for these

1. Put all sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Chop broccolette or broccoli into small florets. Chop stem into tiny pieces (so they cook in same amount of time as florets)  If you're using broccoli you may need to shave off the tough top layer with a vegetable peeler before you dice it. Cut red pepper into thin strips, discarding stem and seeds. Trim root off scallions and slice thinly. I use both white and green parts.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add noodles. Cook according to package instructions, adding broccoli for the last minute or two. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water to thin sauce if needed. Drain briefly in colander, then dump into a big bowl, add sauce and gently mix (initially it may seem like a lot of sauce but the noodles will absorb it). Add peppers and scallions and toss again. Serve hot, room temperature or cold.

If you chop the stems small (especially with broccolette)
 there's no reason not to use them.
Blanching the broccoli with the noodles makes  this so easy.
Great to have on hand in your refrigerator

December 17, 2012

Chopped Salad with Green Vinaigrette

Chopped salad with green vinaigrette

Is there anything better than a salad loaded with all the ingredients of a great sandwich? Salami, cheese, peppers, mushrooms, hummus (OK, garbanzo beans), basil and arugula...great between two slices of bread and great in a bowl topped with creamy white balsamic vinaigrette (that happens to be green).

Feels healthy and makes everyone happy. Even kind husbands who just shoveled us out of the first "I hope school is closed tomorrow" winter whopper.

This is adapted from the Marshall Field's (now Macy's) cookbook. I tell you - those department store restaurants really knew what they were doing. The hard-boiled egg in the dressing is a secret weapon. You don't taste egg, but it boosts the depth and creaminess and you don't have to worry about those scary "if salmonella is a problem in your area" warnings that you see with raw eggs.

Chopped Salad

Makes enough for 4 servings

½ lb. salami, sliced thick and cut into matchstick size strips
½ lb. Provolone cheese, cut into matchstick size strips
1 pepper (orange or red), cut into (you guessed it) strips
1 package (8 oz.) white mushrooms, caps sliced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
8 cups arugula or other lettuce of your choice cut into bite-sized pieces
Parmesan cheese, shaved with your vegetable peeler 

Green Vinaigrette

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 hard boiled egg, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Put everything in the blender except oil. Flip it on and blend to combine, then add oil in a few additions and process until it pulls together and is smooth.

December 14, 2012

Pretzel Gingersnap Cheesecake Bars

Pretzel Gingersnap Cheesecake Bars

These are unbelievably easy and tasty. The only hard part is you must wait for HOURS and HOURS for them to set-up before you can eat. But it's worth the wait. The pretzel flavor is subtle - a little toasty and salty to accompany the spicy-sweet gingersnaps. You can cut them into large squares and eat with a fork like a civilized human being or into smaller pieces (like tiny skyscrapers) and eat with your fingers on-the-go as you dash around making everything merry and bright.

Pretzel Gingersnap Cheesecake Bars

Makes 9 large or 18 small

8 oz. gingersnaps (about half a bag/box or 40 small cookies)
1 cup pretzels (look for ones with no added sugar/corn syrup)
1 stick butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350º

2. Butter and paper an 8 x 8 baking dish

3. Grind pretzels in a food processor until they resemble a rough flour (think cornmeal). Dump into a bowl. Put gingersnaps in the food processor and grind until fine. Add ground pretzels back in and pulse a few times to combine. Drizzle in melted butter while processor is running until everything comes together. Pat firmly into prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

3 packages cream cheese (light or regular), room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Reduce oven to 325º

2. Clean out the bowl of your food processor and add cream cheese and sugar. Process until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, then flour and vanilla. Process until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides of bowl.

3. Pour into prepared crust and bake for 30-40 minutes or until center does not jiggle when shaken. Cool on rack for 20 minutes then in refrigerator for 4-6 hours until completely set. Carefully lift out of pan, remove paper, cut and enjoy. 

December 10, 2012

"It's Cauliflower, Dal(ing)!"

Red lentil cauliflower dal

Sorry about that, "dal"ing reader. Dal, as you may know, is a staple of Indian cooking. It's kind of like a stew made with legumes, often lentils. I love Indian food - it's rich and spicy and bright and just feels like home cooking. But I haven't made much of it except for a very time-intensive, somewhat authentic, Indian themed progressive dinner years ago. It took days to prepare and a trip to a sweet Indian market for a basketful of bags of spices and jars of curiosities. You know, the kind of meal that once you've prepared - you can hardly stand to look at?

So here I go again...but not really. I'm wiser and busier. I have some red lentils and a lovely head of cauliflower. You'll also need relatively fresh curry powder, canned tomatoes, an onion, garlic and a knob of ginger.  Yogurt and cilantro to put on at the end really pulls this together, so try not to skip it. Fresh lime juice and chopped peanuts are nice too, but not absolutely essential.

"Red" lentils...
not really red

Red Lentil Dal with Cauliflower

Serves 4

1 cup red lentils
Medium white onion
3 cups water (or chicken stock)
1 cup mini-diced tomatoes (from 14 oz. can), drained
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ginger root, grated
1 teaspoon salt
Cauliflower (3/4 head)

1 cup cilantro, chopped
Plain yogurt
Lime wedges
Peanuts, chopped
Hot cooked rice

Slice onion into thin rings. Mince garlic and grate ginger (a microplane works well). Wash cauliflower and break into bite-sized florets (I like mine tiny - easier to eat and more in scale with lentils). Rinse lentils well and pick out any small stones (I've never found any, but am told they might be in there). Put a large saucepan over medium heat and pour in a little olive oil. Add onion and saute for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook for another minute. Add lentils, water, tomatoes and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils are almost tender.

Remove 2 cups, puree in blender and return to pan. Add cauliflower and simmer for another 20-25 minutes or until tender. Serve over rice with fresh chopped cilantro, plain yogurt, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.

December 4, 2012

Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

I love donuts. Love 'em! It's wrong, I know. I shouldn't. My father-in-law reminds me at least once a quarter that they're one of those foods on the "never eat, ever" list he got from his Cardiologist. And yet.

My poison are the cake variety, plain, chocolate frosted, or coated with cinnamon sugar. I cannot eat just one. I know all the bakeries nearby who make them and can tell you in order of preference which I like best (Wuollet's). 

But I'm not crazy and didn't ever contemplate making them at home. I mean really, a hot pot of oil on the stove sending rivulets of grease onto every surface of the kitchen and beyond? It might put me off donuts and we have too much history for that. Then I saw a post by PJ Hamel for baked donuts at the King Arthur Flour site.  I spotted a kindred spirit and decided this, I have to try. You do need a special pan. I found mine on Amazon for about $9.

They are really good - not exactly a donut...but better than many I've had, without all the grease. Kind of a cross between a donut and fresh cinnamon toast.

Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 18 donuts

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
⅓ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup canola oil
2 eggs
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour 
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

5 tablespoons melted butter
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

1. Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl or plate and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425º

1. Lightly oil donut pan. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
2. Beat butter and sugars until creamy and light in color. Add oil and eggs, one at a time while beating, then add vanilla and applesauce and beat until combined.
3. Add dry ingredients, alternating buttermilk and dry mix, stirring well with wooden spoon until blended. Spoon into donut pan (you may need to use your finger to push the batter around the molds).
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes then turn out onto wire racks.
5. Brush with melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.

baked cinnamon sugar donuts

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