December 19, 2012

Rosemary Orange Cranberry 
Vegan Biscotti

No eggs? No butter? No problem. Make Biscotti, the twice baked Italian. No two biscotti are ever alike. Every home cook has his or her favorite family recipe. This one is light, crunchy and a little dry, perfect for dunking in sweet wine or strong coffee. It's made with olive oil, rosemary and orange, but feel free to vary the flavors -- lemon and thyme; lavender and vanilla; dry and crystalized ginger.

6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Grated rind of 1 medium orange
juice of 1 medium orange
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup flour, plus a little more if needed
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, baking powder, salt, sugar, orange zest and juice, and rosemary. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough adding a little more flour if needed. Then work in the cranberries.

Using your hands, work the dough into a log about 2 to 3 inches wide and about 8 inches long on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the log is lightly browned and firm, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and cool. With a sharp knife, cut the log into 1/2- to 1 inch slices. Arrange these on the baking sheet and return to the oven to bake until lightly browned and slightly crisp, about 5 to 10 minutes.

December 17, 2012

little bites

Nibbles ....and more

My Aunt Jane loved to throw parties. A bourbon drinking, chain smoking, pearl draped, buxom woman, she rose late (by my mother's standards), around 10:00, took a long, rose-scented bath, donned a loose, flowered "house dress" and, in the sunny kitchen alcove, sipped coffee and finished the crossword puzzle. Those mornings I biked over, she'd offer me chocolate, dark bitter-sweet chunks. On a square white pad, she'd sketch out a menu for her next party, and oh, those plans were grand, several courses each with a different wine. But on the morning of that big big night, she'd leave the pad behind,  and race to King's Market grab "some of this and some of that" then she'd scrub, vacuum, polish, set the table and arrange flowers. Before sunset, she'd fashion a feast far different than what she'd first had in mind -- poached salmon instead of a roast beaf; or rosemary marinated lamb instead of a crown roast of pork. The woman could cook. About fifteen minutes before the guests arrived, she'd pour herself a juice glass of bourbon (neat), light another cigarette, put her feet up on the kitchen chair, and, with Cheshire smile, she'd say, "Now who in the hell invited all these goddamned people anyway?" 

I learned from Aunt Jane, that planning is fun, but there's really no reason to stick to the plan. Thinking too far ahead always confuses me. It takes just a few little plates to make a party with a little help from my friends.

Stuffed Fingerling Potatoes
Makes 6 bites

6 Russian Fingerling or small red potatoes
1/4 cup sour cream
4 ounces smoked salmon, diced
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with about an inch of cold water and add about 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. Cut a pocket in each potato and fill with the sour cream, smoked salmon and then sprinkle with the parsley.

Sausage Stuffed Mushroom Caps
Makes 12 small bites

12 white mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
1 large Italian sausage, cut into 12 rings
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the mushroom caps on a baking sheet and put the sausage in the center of each cap. Bake the mushrooms until the sausage is fully cooked and no longer pink, about 20 minutes. Brush the top of each cap with just a little maple syrup. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve warm.

December 11, 2012

Best Biscotti - EVER

Christmas Biscotti!

Everyone needs a good cookie in the Christmas repertoire. Mine is biscotti. It is so easy to make it hardly requires a recipe. And, it's my excuse to call a friend so we can bake several batches for holiday gifts (no more scented soaps or candles). I'm always surprised by the delight such a simple present brings. For me, baking biscotti is a welcome pause in the season's hurly-burly, a chance to  gossip and chat, as the dusk dims its rosy light through the cinnamon-scented kitchen.

I started this tradition when our boys were little by trying to make Christmas cookies with their friends. But, frankly, all that mixing, chilling, rolling out and cutting, baking and decorating was too ambitious. (Rolling pins turned into swords, glue-like dough stuck to the ceiling.) Baking biscotti is a simple one-bowl process, clean-up is a cinch. 

No biscotti is ever the same. Using this recipe, I can toss in whatever ingredients I have on hand, my friend can bring what she likes, and we can dream up comb-o's on the fly. I don't feel pressured to give these cookies out right away, they keep well, and can be wrapped and distributed over time. They'll just get drier and crunchier. 

This biscotti recipe is easily doubled, or tripled without any adjustments, unlike most cookie batters. So make a few batches to last into the new year. Then call that friend back, set out a plate, and brew a pot of coffee or open that bottle of wine.

Christmas Biscotti 
Makes about 4 dozen

"Biscotti" means twice baked in Italian. This original recipe has been tweaked with just a little butter to make a tender cookie, that doesn't dry out quite as quickly. See the variations and dream up your own.

4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 all purpose flour, plus more if needed
See ADDITIONS below !

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly butter. Cream together the butter and sugar, beat in the eggs, and then the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, baking powder and flour. Add it to the batter a little at a time to make a stiff dough. (Add a little more flour if it is too wet.) Stir in the ADDITIONS (see list below).

Divide the dough in half and shape each into a loaf about 2-inches wide. Place each log onto one of the baking sheets. Bake until the loaves are golden and cracked on top. Lower the temperature to 250 degrees F. Remove and cool, then slice the logs 1/2-inch thick with a serrated knife. Place the slices on the baking sheet and continue baking until crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool before storing in airtight containers.


Cranberry Almond: 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds plus 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Chocolate Chip: 1 cup mini-chocolate chips
Orange-Walnut: 1 tablespoon grated orange zest and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Triple Ginger: Substitute light brown sugar for the white sugar, add 1/4 cup diced crystallized ginger, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon dried ginger
Rosemary-Lemon: 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped rosemary and 1 tablespoon grated orange zest.

December 5, 2012

FOOD FIGHT! Beth Dooley tosses back pizza

Peace of Pizza!

What's in a name? 
Who really owns a recipe? 

To the asshole who bought my domain name (for no apparent reason):
OK BITCH!  Give it back. You may have bought "" (and that swell recipe for the apple cake and the terrific turkey soup with Raghavan's curry). But what you will never own is Beth. Why would you want to be me anyway?

I am hungry. Always.  

You see, cooking and writing are born of hunger and loneliness. Every day, when I'm at this screen, or stirring a pot, I'm just trying to make things right, the instructions exact, nail the details down as a way into my own hearth -- that mythical place of wonderful smells and camaraderie. I'm not doing this alone, for every dish I make and every recipe I write is a conversation with the writers and cooks I admire, with the spirit of my grandmother, with my distant friends.  I want to smell the sizzling onions, whiffs of ginger, see windows glazed against the frosty black night.

Several years ago, when I taught Junior High English, one of my students refused to come to school on time. Her mother tried every morning to get this kid out of bed, her father yelled and threatened. Sometimes they just left her at home and she was absent for the day. She was an odd and distant creature, always wore a hoddie zipped up, her neon pink and green bangs flopped over her forehead. She hardly ever spoke, to the other students or me. 

One lunch break, as she unwrapped the peanut butter on white bread sandwich she brought each day, I asked her if she liked pizza and she nodded yes. I'd been working with an after school group on a cooking project and so I nipped off a little bit of the bread dough we had rising in the back and fashioned a small focaccia, showing her how to roll it to drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and coarse salt. She ate every last scrap. I told her that if she came early the next day, we could make some dough together in time to bake up a real pizza at lunch. She came in 30 minutes early with sauce and cheese, too. On Friday, we made enough pizza for the class (30 kids). When I bake this pizza, I think of her. I no longer teach but I heard that she graduated from high school.

Cooking isn't suppose to be easy. It's messy -- all those pots, all the compost. It takes time, you have to use your hands and your nose and you have to taste things. You have to be OK when your 13 year old says, "not that turkey soup, again?" or your husband tells you he's giving up bread (as you pull a fresh loaf out of the oven). These seem like such little things, but nothing is little in my life anymore. You have to be OK with failure and rejection. You have to clean up.

So go ahead, take "" ... guess what ... I'm not full yet. And for all my readers, don't worry: Beth Dooley is back .. and its .org, by the way.

Peace Pizza
Makes one 12 inch loaf

1 teaspoon dried yeast
3 cups bread or all-purpose flour or more as needed
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 to 1-1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl, stir together the yeast, flour and salt. Slowly add the water to make a stiff dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead the dough by hands until it's smooth. Grease a bowl with a little of the oil and put the dough into it. Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm, draft free area until it doubles, about 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board to make a 12 to 14-inch pizza. Lift the dough onto a baking sheet, top with your favorite sauce, cheese, pepperoni, vegetables, etc. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and bake until browned and bubbly, about 8 to 15 minutes. 

November 28, 2012

Just a Spoonful of Curry!

Curry Turkey Soup

Whether you love them or hate them, you're still probably faced with leftovers from last week ... or at least the stock you made with the turkey bones. (You did make stock, didn't you?).  No? Neither did I. No matter. I forgot. I am DONE with turkey sandwiches; pot pies; and baked anything with a stuffing crust. In an effort to spice things up, I rely on curry master and author Raghavan Iyer, creator of Turmeric Trail Spice Blends. Check out the website, it's chock-a-block with ideas for spicing up the most ordinary fare. I'm not getting to Mumbai anytime soon (does the yoga studio count?), but just a whiff of these curries transports me from my kitchen to warmer shores.

Curried Turkey Soup with Coconut
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4-cup shallots, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder, to taste
4 cups chicken or turkey stock
½ cup long grain white rice
1 carrot peeled and cut into 1/2 –inch pieces
1 celery stick, but into ½-inch pieces
1/2 cup apple cider
1 cup coconut milk*
1 cup cooked, diced turkey meat
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped cilantro for garnish
¼ cup toasted shredded** coconut for garnish
            Film a large deep pot with the oil and set over medium heat and sauté the shallots until just tender, about 1 minute. Stir in the curry powder to coat. Stir in the stock, rice, carrot and celery. Increase the heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
            Stir in the cider, coconut milk and turkey. Season with the lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with the chopped cilantro and shredded coconut.

·      Use canned, unsweetened coconut milk, not the coconut milk in the dairy case.
·      *To toast the coconut, spread it out on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until it is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes, watching closely. It goes quickly.

November 23, 2012

Remains of the Day

Coddled Eggs

What's left behind Thanksgiving dinner? Too much stuffing for one, a few links of sausage that didn't make it into the recipe and, if you're lucky, some eggs. While it's simple enough to finish off the turkey piled high in sandwiches or simmered into a broth for soup, it's the stuffing that stumps me. After all the  chopping of celery, onions, carrots and the peeling of chestnuts, I hate to through the stuff out. Here's the easiest brunch dish ever -- stuffing coddled eggs. After the feast, eggs are not the only thing to coddled. Serve them up then snuggle in with a book or a ball game. The best of Thanksgiving is the remains of the day.

Check out this link for more leftover Thanksgiving Day recipes and relax!

Stuffing Coddled Eggs
Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
2 Italian sausage links, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups leftover stuffing
4 eggs

Set a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and film with oil or melt the butter. Cook the sausage pieces until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and spread evenly over the pan. Cover to heat through, about 2 minutes. Crack the eggs over the sausage, cover and cook until the yolks are set, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve the eggs with the sausage and stuffing.

November 20, 2012

It's in the Sauce

When it came to Thanksgiving, my grandmother didn't mess around. She set the long table with a lace table cloth, used every last dish, glass, plate, spoon and fork in the cupboard. Weeks ahead, she polished silver to a soft luster, lifted the felt-wrapped turkey platter from the linen closet at the top of the stairs that opened with a whiff of cedar and brown soap. As a child, I helped her with every last detail, from writing names on the place cards and folding the napkins she ironed a week in advance. 

The day before, we made pie crusts then baked sweet potatoes to mash for the pie. She sprinkled leftover scraps of dough with sugar to bake into cookie crisps.  In the whirl of cinnamon and clove, the rhythm of chopping and whisking, there was purpose and love.

She had the courage to create a gleaming stage for any number of family dramas that like Dickens, played out year after year -- my uncles divorces, the new girlfriends, the tipsy brother-in-law, the curlish teenagers. No matter what -- late arrivals, no shows, and unexpected additions -- the meal would go on, again and again. After we snuffed out the candles, scraped and washed plates by hand, and tucked away leftovers for soup, she'd stand and take in the now empty kitchen and say, "now didn't that go well?" 

As I pour those bouncy tart cranberries into a pot, I can hear her reminders. "Don't add the sugar until they've popped open, it will make the berries tough." I've lived in Minnesota, for the past 30 + years, and these cranberries are a touchstone to the yellow Victorian kitchen of my Maplewood, New Jersey childhood. I stir them into the sauce as my grandmother taught me with thanks, determination and hope. 

Elizabeth Flower's
Perfect Cranberry Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

My grandmother never measured and this recipe is so very easy, you needn't either. I've added fresh ginger to taste, but that's completely optional. A cinnamon stick or some cloves will work nicely, too.

2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup fresh apple cider
2 apples, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, or more to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar or honey to taste

Put the cranberries, cider, apples and ginger into a pot set over low heat and cook until the cranberries just begin to pop open. Add sugar to taste.

Fresh Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

This bright, fresh tasting sauce is terrific with chips and great swirled into mayonnaise for a sandwich spread.

2 cups cranberries
1 small orange, cut into chunks
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped.

November 6, 2012

SOUP it Up

Curried Squash Soup

"A good soup maker must be a good taster," my Aunt Rose told me as she'd stir up our hungers with some warming, creamy concoction. She had the soup making gene, a talent for transforming leftover potatoes and the ends of an onion into a simple potato bisque or a fragrant curried potage. Here's the formula she used -- 1 part onion, 1 part diced potato, 3 parts vegetable of your choice, and 5 parts liquid (which can be a mix of stock, wine, milk, whatever)... She'd start all soups by sauteing onion with butter, then add the rest of the vegetables to "sweat" out their juices before stirring in the liquid along with herbs and spices. "Always taste as you go, and especially just before serving." 

Here are two recipes that put the basic formula into play. There are few things in life as simple or as satisfying as soup making. Given the dank weather and these uncertain times, making soup is a good thing to know.

Irish Potato Soup
Serves 6

4 tablespoons butter
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup diced onions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup cream
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped dill or marjoram

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over medium heat then toss in the potatoes and onions and stir to coat. Season with salt and a little pepper. Cover and "sweat" the onions so they release their liquid for about 5 to 10 minutes. 

When the potatoes are tender, stir in the stock and wine and continue to cook until the potatoes are very tender. Puree the soup and stir in the cream along with the fresh chopped herbs. Taste and adjust the seasonings. 

Curried Squash Soup with Apples & Coconut
Serves 4 to 6

1 medium red kuri, butternut, or 2 small delicata squash (about 2 lbs) cut in half and seeded
2 to 3 tablespoons sunflower of vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tart apples, cored and chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cups vegetable stock
1 cup fresh apple cider
1 cup coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Shredded coconut, toasted for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the cut sides of the squash with the oil, turn it cut side down on a baking sheet and bake until it's soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
While the squash is baking, film a heavy soup pot with the remaining oil and set it over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, apples and curry powder. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and cider, and simmer until the ingredients are very tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven, scoop the meat from the skin, and add it to the pot.

For a smooth soup, puree the mixture using an immersion blender or process it in a blender in batches. For a chunky soup, mash all the ingredients together. Stir in the coconut milk. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper and a little more curry if you'd like. Serve garnished with the cilantro and toasted coconut.

October 29, 2012

Bread Pudding Comfort by Another Name

Bread Pudding

When I think of comfort food, bread pudding is the first to come to mind. Warm and soothing, it's a childishly easy concoction of eggs and milk. A dish of innocence and assurance, it's one of the first recipes I learned to make with my grandmother. We'd toss in a handful plump raisins and dust it with cinnamon sugar to make a crackly crust. She'd pull it from the oven, all puffy and golden; cut with a long handled spoon, it released steamy, satisfied sigh. On dreary nights, we'd eat it for dinner, especially on Sunday after we were all stuffed with the big midday family meal. (She called it supper; today we'd say lunch.) Leftovers were the best at breakfast, a thick slice fried in butter and drizzled with syrup, like French Toast.

When I first moved to Minneapolis from my home in NJ, I worked in a warehouse office building across the street from the old New French Cafe. On Friday my partners and I would feast on bread pudding made of left-over croissants; quite beautiful thing - so airy, so rich, so right with bowls of foamy cafe au lait.

Bread Pudding can be sweet or savory; serve it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, snack or dessert, it's a sure bet, any time of day. It makes luscious use of the artisan bread I hate to throw away, muffins, croissants, whatever. To turn it savory, use herb breads and add a handful of shredded cheese, chopped meat and left over vegetables. It comes together in a wink and bakes up on it's own in about an hour, leaving me to attend to other tasks (maybe even read the paper). What more can a tired cook ask?

Classic Bread Pudding
Serves 6 to 8

About 5 cups bread (use a mix of any good bakery bread)
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups whole milk
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

Butter casserole or deep baking dish. In a medium bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour this over the bread. Set aside and allow to soak at least 1 hour or cover and refrigerate over night. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If the dish has been refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake until the edges are firm but the inside is still soft and moist,  about 40 to 45 minutes.

Savory Bread Pudding
Follow the directions for Classic, but make the following changes:

- Omit the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg
- Add 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
- Add 1/2 cup chopped ham or turkey, optional
- Add 1/2 cup chopped cooked vegetables (broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, etc.)
- Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Add 2 teaspoons chopped marjoram or rosemary

October 9, 2012

A Good Roast Chicken ...

A Good
Roast Chicken
Will Never Let You Down!

"A good roast chicken will never let you down," grandmother told me. To this day, it's the easiest dinner I know.  The aromas -- sizzling onions, carrots, thyme and garlic -- stir up hungers while the chicken does its thing, unattended, and you're free to go about your business. Yesterday, I slathered a nice fat roaster with butter, salt and pepper, shoved it in the oven and took off for two hours. When I got home, dinner was done. It felt as though my dear grandmother had snuck into my kitchen and left me a gift. To complete the meal, I tossed a salad, sliced some crusty bread, and poured a little wine in the bottom of the pan for a velvety sauce, then we finished the rest of the bottle when we all sat down.

The only thing you really need to know about roasting chicken is to pick the best bird. Look for a "roaster",  a chicken that weighs in around 5 to 7 pounds; larger than a broiler or fryer, that weighs in less than 6 pounds (usually between 3 and 4). The older the chicken, the more flavor it will have, and the firmer its meat is likely to be. Look for free range chickens that have spent most of their lives outside pecking and scratching bugs, grass and kitchen scraps in the sun. I won't detail the horrors that chickens suffer on conventional farms. (If you are reading this, you probably already know). Just remember that all chickens are not raised the same. Without getting too detailed, if you're not buying directly from a farmer at market, look for chickens labeled "Certified Humane Organic." These free range birds are also higher in Omega-3's and CLA and lower in cholesterol.

This fall, I keep going back to the things I know like this trusty roast chicken and my grandmother's wisdom ...  "Keep it simple: as simple as possible, but no simpler," she once told me (and she told Einstein that, as well).

Serves 4 to 6

1 big roasting chicken, about 5 to 7 pounds
3 to 4 tablespoons softened butter
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
bunch of parsley
several sprigs fresh thyme
1 onion thickly sliced
3 to 4 whole carrots
2 ribs celery
4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup wine or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the chicken thoroughly then pat dry. Rub the butter all over the chicken and work some under the skin of the breast. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the parsley and thyme. Put the onion, carrots, celery and garlic in a roasting pan and set the chicken on top. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue roasting until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. 

Remove the chicken and allow to rest. Discard the vegetables and herbs.  Pour the wine into the roasting pan and set on top of the stove. Scrape up any of the brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the juices and the wine form a thick sauce.

Carve the chicken and serve drizzled with the pan juices.

October 4, 2012

An Honest Bowl of Soup

Lake Country Land School Photo
by Andy Gaertner

A Good Day for Soup

After the debates did you feel beat up, discouraged, let down? Did you pull the covers way over your head like me? Or is it the weather I'm huddling from?  This nasty election is racing towards us, the first in a series of winter storms, none of them kind. 

If the best defense is a good offense, then a big bowl of steaming squash soup is just the thing to fend off the demons. Spicy, comforting, goddamned honest, homemade soup from homegrown pumpkins and an onion or two. I start with stock made from vegetable scraps and roast a sweet pie pumpkin that's just out of the fields. These look like mini-Jack-O-Lanterns, but they are denser and tastier and the shells make a pretty little bowl you can serve the soup in. Any old squash -- butternut, acorn, turban, delicata -- will do. Right now, they're all especially tasty because they're so fresh. The skins are tender, they cook quickly and their flavors are sweet and true. This recipe is flexible and open to interpretation. If you're not fond of curry then season the soup with cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamon, or give it a Mexican twist with chile and cumin. It is easily doubled and can be frozen for later; best to have extra for when the election is over and we are calf-deep in snow.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, finely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons curry good quality curry powder, or more to taste
3 cups vegetable stock
1 sweet pie pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
½ cup coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh apple cider
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped scallions and cilantro

            In a deep heavy soup pot, warm the oil and cook the onion and celery until very soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and add the squash and cook until the squash is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk, cider and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve garnished with chopped scallions and cilantro.

September 18, 2012

Big Apples

Apple Cakes

It's apple season, the leaves are shimmering gold and red, and I'm restless in this sudden chill. How ominously the dark presses in right before dawn stirring an urgency to batten things down, put up pickles, can tomatoes, simmer those apples into sauce and butter. There's really no logical reason for any of this -- we have storm windows that are easily lowered over the screens; yesterday I turned the heat on; I doubt we'd ever starve. But fall scares me, pricks some latent ancient memory. I need to get ahead of the coming black, howling cold, the wolf at the back door. So, I seek the comfort of my kitchen drinking endless cups of tea and peel a trencher of just picked apples to make sauce that sends puffs of cinnamon through the dim afternoon. Picking apples is my childhood indulgence; it's a familiar thrill to climb the ladder into a tree's shaky gnarled limbs and prove to myself, that despite all that's fallen and rotting sweetly beneath me, I'm still not too old to reach into the sky.

I just can't help but pick too many apples, overfilling the crisper, bouncing out of the bowls on the counter. The solution is to make applesauce, several batches to eat, then the rest will simmer a long long time and become apple butter to slather on scones and pound cake ... add dried cranberries and spoon over vanilla ice cream ... season it with chopped sage for grilled pork ... or stir in curry powder to slather on sauteed chicken breasts ... 

Use tart, crisp apples like harlson and keepsake for applesauce. Simply peel, core, slice into a pot and add an inch or two of fresh cider. Set over a low flame, cover, and simmer until the apples soften. Remove the lid and simmer until very soft. The longer it simmers, the richer and more flavorful the sauce will be.

As long as you're chopping apples, make this cake, too.

Apple-Oat Bundt Cake with Cider Brandy Glaze
Makes 1 12-inch Bundt cake
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup oatmeal (not instant)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
3 tart apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon apple jack or brandy
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour a 12-cup bundt cake.
            In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy and smooth and beat in the sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, then beat in the vanilla.. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
            In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, oatmeal, baking powder and salt.
            Stir one third of the flour mixture into the egg mixture, then stir in one half of the yogurt. Continue adding the flour and yogurt alternately until everything is incorporated. Fold in the apples. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes up clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes.
            While the cake is baking, put the confectioners sugar, cider, butter, apple jack or brandy, and cinnamon into a saucepan set over low heat. Whisk until the ingredients are thoroughly combined, the glaze should be thick, but pourable. If too thick, thin with a little cider.
            When the cake is done, remove from the oven. Using a sharp knife, poke several holes in the top of the cake. Pour half of the glaze over the cake and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Invert the pan, remove the cake and cool on the rack completely, then drizzle the remaining glaze over the cake.