Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Festive Fall Salads, part 1

On Sunday the clocks went back an hour in Europe. I like fall, but I'm still getting used to darkness at 5pm. I never eat before 7pm, so I guess I'll just have to accept the fact that I'm going to have horrible, blurry, unnaturally lit food photos until March. Oh well.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about was salads.

Just because it's fall doesn't mean you have to give up interesting salads until spring rolls around. No. Fall salads are just as fun and flavourful as summer salads. And no, I'm not talking about cabbage and potato salads! There are so many wonderful fall fruits and vegetables that are just begging to be put into salads....apples, pears, cranberries, squash, chicory, pomegranates, citrus....

Anyway, for dinner tonight I had a tasty and colourful salad of mache, pears, and chickpeas with a pomegranate-green olive dressing. Yummy. I used mache because it's ridiculously cheap in Germany, but red leaf lettuce works beautifully too.

This combination of vegetables also works really well with dried cranberries and a balsamic vinaigrette.

I don't believe in measuring vegetables for salads, so I'll just give you approximations, because you should be experimenting with festive fall salads, too!

Mache, Pear and Chickpea Salad with Pomegranate-Green Olive Dressing

Mache - several large handfuls per person
Chickpeas - about 1 cup cooked chickpeas per person
Green olives with pimento - 10-12 olives per person
Pear - one small pear per person
Red onion
Other vegetables as desired - I used cucumber because I had to use some up
Pomegranate Dressing (recipe follows)

First things first: wash and dry the mache. Peel, core, and slice the pear. Slice the olives, red onion, and other vegetables, if using. In a large bowl toss the mache (only!) with most of the dressing. Put the dressed salad on dinner plates. Spread the chickpeas over the middle of the salad. Arrange the other ingredients on top, and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Enjoy!

Pomegranate-Green Olive Dressing

pomegranate molasses - about 2 tbsp
juice from the green olives - about 3 tbsp
water - about 2 tbsp
olive oil - about 2 tbsp

Mix all ingredients, adjusting to taste. You could also use unsweetened pomegranate juice instead of the pomegranate molasses and water.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend Eats

Well, some of them.

Cherry-Apple-Cardamom Roll

Mache Salad with Pink Grapefruit, Avocado, and Red Onion. So good!!

BBQ Pomegranate Tofu from Vegan With a Vengeance

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's Apple Pie Season!

One of the nicest things about autumn (besides colorful leaves and hot apple cider and all that stuff) is that suddenly you WANT to turn on your oven and start baking again. And apples are cheap (well, in Germany they aren't, but that's another story) and pies are fun, so...apple pie.

This pie crust is easy and really, really good. Flaky. Earth Balance softens much faster than dairy butter, so if you use EB you really have to keep it cold. Cut it up first and put it in the freezer until you need it. I'm not kidding.

I like my apple pies to taste like apples, so I used a lot less sugar than most recipes. Feel free to increase if you like, but I have a feeling that if you use really flavorful apples you won't need to. I used a mix of granny smith and jonagolds. But you can use whatever you like-- just not red delicious, please!

For a really excellent tutorial (with pictures) on how to roll out pie crusts, please click here.

Apple Pie (makes 1 9" pie)

2 cups flour
2/3 cup Earth Balance, cut into small cubes, and very very cold (I think I used 1/2 cup and it was still great)
pinch of salt
up to 1/2 cup ice water
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Mix the flour with the salt. Working quickly, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse cornmeal with some larger chunks of butter still left. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the vinegar and some of the water. Swiftly mix the water into the flour (I use a fork and then my hands) until it is just moistened. You don't want a gloopy dough-- some crumbly bits are quite ok. Divide the dough into two parts. Flatten each one into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least an hour.

When you are ready to proceed, turn your oven on to 400 F, and prepare the filling:

7 baking apples
1/4 cup brown/turbinado sugar
3 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Soymilk and more turbinado sugar for brushing the pie

Core, peel and slice the apples into 1/4" slices. Combine with the remaining ingredients.

Roll one of the dough disks into a circle large enough to fit the bottom of the pie pan. Place the dough in the bottom of the pan. Don't add the filling yet. Roll the second disk into another circle. Now you can add the filling. Place the second dough circle on top of the pie, and crimp the crusts together. Cut a few artistic slashes in the top of the pie, then brush with the soymilk and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake for 60 - 70 minutes. You'll probably need to cover the crust with foil to prevent it from getting too brown at some point, so keep an eye on your pie. Let cool before serving.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pale Green Avocado on Triangular Bread

German bread really is amazing. Now I need a triangular loaf pan, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hello Again

Hello from Germany again! Italy was wonderful-- warm, sunny, blue skies, terracotta roofs, lots of olives, tomatoes, basil, pasta. My favourite food highlight of the trip was a really, really incredibly delicious pasta puttanesca. But there was a grapefruit sorbet that was really good too... Oh, and I got to see how Italians make pesto, and crostini and bruschetta, and gnocchi, and a sort of vegetable-bread soup. All of this was very tasty, too.

Needless to say, I took hundreds of photos. I'll post a few here once I sort through all of them.

But for tonight I'll just post a part of my super-simple dinner from tonight. I don't really have a recipe, but if I did it would go something like this: take 6 or so nectarines (never mind if they're slightly tired looking from sitting in the fridge for a week), and slice them. Heat a bit of "butter" in a frying pan, and add a little raw sugar and a pinch of salt. Let the sugar melt into the butter for a minute. Toss in the nectarines and sautee for a few minutes. Done!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Heirloom Tomato Tart with Capers, Olives, and Caramelized Onions

This is another recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table. It's SO GOOD; really one of the best things I've made in a long time. The original recipe called for anchovies, but I just added a few more capers and everything worked out fine.

Also, I, um, didn't have puff pastry on hand (and I couldn't go out and buy any because German stores are all closed on Sunday), so I whipped up a simple pizza dough with 1 1/2 cups flour. I'm partial to rectangular tarts, but of course you can make a round tart if you really want.

I also forgot to buy arugula, so I didn't make the salad that Suzanne Goin suggests. I made a balsamic reduction instead. (Boil balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half, but not more, or else it will taste burnt.) But arugula salad would go really, really well, so make that to go with this!

Unfortunately it was night by the time I finished this, so the pictures are blurry and dark. Oh well.

Tomato Tart with Capers, Olives, and Caramelized Onions (makes 2-3 main dish servings or 6 appetizer portions)

1 tbsp olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions (6 onions)
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or add 1 tsp dry)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
soymilk for brushing said pastry
3 medium heirloom tomatoes, mixed colors
4 tsp capers
1/4 cups Nicoise olives, pitted and cut in half
basil leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the onions, thyme, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Turn the head down to medium and cook for 15 more minutes, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until the onions are a deep golden brown. Let cook completely before you made the tart, so they don't melt the pastry.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Place the defrosted puff pastry on a parchment lines baking sheet. Use a paring knife to score an 1/4 inch thick border around the edge of the pastry. Brush the border with soymilk, and spread the carmelized onions evenly within the border.

Core the tomatoes. Hold each tomato on its side and slice it into 1/4 inch thick round slices. Place the tomato slices, just touching but not overlapping, on top of the caramelized onions. If necessary, cut some of the slices in half so they fit, placing the cut side of the slices flush with the border. Season the tomatoes with salt a a few grindings of black pepper.

Arrange the olives and capers over the tomatoes and onions.

Bake the tart 10 minutes. Turn the sheet pan, and bake another 10 to 12 minutes, until the crust is deep golden brown.

Garnish with the basil leaves to serve.

Monday Morning

Leftover apple pie makes it a lot better. So does knowing that you're going to Italy (Tuscany) for a week tomorrow. Three cheers for cheap European airlines-- you can't beat 40 EUR round trip, taxes included. Stay tuned for the VV Tuscany edition!