; Supermarket Serenade: October 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat!

Happy Halloween!! (Favorite Food Find Friday will return next week-I'm just too excited about Halloween.)
Well it couldn't be a more beautiful day! A tad warmer would be nice-but it's a beautiful crisp day. I'm busy getting everything ready for trick or treat tonight.
Last night we carved our jack-o-lanterns. We found HUGE pumpkins to carve this year so it took a lot of elbow grease to get all the inards out and to get a knife through to cut off the top. Pampered Chef makes this great little paring knife that is perfect for carving the faces. I think they cost a dollar. I'm pretty sure I've only used them for pumpkin carving!

Now please tell me that you did not throw away the pumpkin seeds when you carved your jack-o-lanterns? You didn't did you? They make the most wonderful Halloween treat.

Salt and Pepper Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds
2-3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Remove pumpkin seeds from pumpkin and disconnect any pumpkin or "strings" from seeds. Rinse gently under water then pat dry with towels.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread dry seeds in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the oil over the seeds then sprinkle with the pepper and salt; toss to coat.

Bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Now that was my successful Halloween treat...here is my unsuccessful Halloween treat: Candy Corn Caramel Corn. I was pretty excited when I first put it together, but it just didn't quite get to the right texture; it was a bit soft for caramel corn-almost like a rice crispy treat, but not.
Look at it...it looks like something my jack-o-lantern threw up.

Oh well maybe when candy corn is 75 percent off at the supermarket next week I can experiment and come up with something better.
Enjoy your spooking night!! Don't eat too much candy. BOO!!

YUMMY!! It's our Halloween candy....I'm going to try hard not to eat any before the trick or treaters come...oops, too late I just ate a 100 Grand bar!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

After-Halloween Breakfast

I love that Halloween falls on a Friday this year. It means there will probably be a lot more trick or treaters. I just love seeing the costumes kids (usually moms) come up with each year. But even better (and my kids will agree) is that they don't have to worry about getting any homework done before rushing out the door and they can have their friends sleepover after a long hard night of trick or treating.

When the candy has all been counted and traded hopefully your ghosts and goblins (with a bit of nudging) will fade off to sleep. But the treats don't have to end when the porch light is shut off. Why not make a breakfast treat to greet them in the morning?

I'll be making Warm French Toast with Caramel Apple Topping. French toast is one of my favorite breakfast treats and it's one that my kids love too-in fact when they were little we would often make it together in the evenings for dinner if my H was going to be late. I would fill small bowls with milk, add food coloring to each then give the kids paintbrushes so they could "paint" their bread before dipping into the batter and frying.

They are not interested in painting the bread anymore but that doesn't mean they don't love French Toast. I have a few favorite breads to use for making the toast either Pepperidge Farm Italian Bread (try to buy it at the Pepperidge Farm outlet if you have one nearby as that tends to be a bit stale-perfect for French toast).I also like buying Texas Toast bread. In my supermarket the Texas Toast bread is located (oddly) in the deli section right under the deli case; it's a thick yellowish bread that makes fabulous French toast. If whole wheat bread is your preference I really like Arnold's Healthy Multigrain. But feel free to substitute your family's favorite bread.
Warm French Toast with Caramel Apple Topping

Caramel Apples:
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons half and half
2 medium apples, peeled and thinly sliced
French Toast:
1 cup skim milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
12 slices bread (your choice...I used the Pepperidge Farm Italian)
First make the caramel apple topping. In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until melted. Add the half and half, stirring until combined. Stir in the apples and completely coat with caramel. Keep warm while preparing the French Toast.
In a large bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and salt; whisk until well combined and frothy.
In a large skill melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over medium high heat. Dip a bread slice into the milk mixture coating both sides of the bread. Add to the hot pan. Cook the bread several slices at a time until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Keep the toasts warm on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven until all the toasts are prepared.
Serve the French Toast with the Caramel Apple Topping.
Yield: 12 toasts

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rigatoni with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta

Did you know that an entire box of Rigatoni is actually 8 servings? You probably did. Sadly in our house a box of Rigatoni often provides only 4 servings. Is this why Americans are fat? When I look at the box it doesn't look like that much. Even when the pasta is cooked, drained and covered with sauce it doesn't really look to me like it could feed 8. My 16 year old could easily polish off a half a box so that leaves just enough for my 14 year old forget about my 12 year old, my husband and me.

I am making an effort to be more serving size conscious (at least for me-I'm not going to worry too much about my 6 foot tall, skinny sons). That 1 serving with no additional ingredients added represents 210 calories, so if my serving is typically twice that, my starting point with just pasta would be 420 calories. Add to that oil or butter, cheeses or meats and I'm putting myself in dangerous calorie territory. So to be safe for this pasta dish I'm only cooking 1/2 of the box and I'll let everyone else fill up on salad and veggies and maybe bread.

The highlight of this dish I think is the ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese is a grainy cheese made from whey that is drained off during the process of making other cheeses such as mozzarella and provolone. Frequently used in Italian cooking-most notably lasagna-it has a texture similar to cottage cheese. It can be found in the cheese section of the supermarket usually near the sour cream and cream cheese. I usually buy the part skim ricotta-if you buy a good quality brand the part skim version can taste just as good as the whole milk version so be picky.
Rigatoni with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta

3 cups diced butternut squash
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 ounces Rigatoni pasta
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups fresh spinach, packed
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese, room temperature
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Arrange the butternut squash in an even layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the ground pepper. Roast in the oven until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water just until tender; drain.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat; stir in the garlic and the spinach.
Cook until the spinach wilts slightly. Stir in the cooked pasta and the butternut squash. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add the ricotta cheese a spoonful at a time and stir gently. Serve immediately with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spinach, Pear, Blue cheese Bacon Wraps

Apples are not the only delicious fruit in plentiful supply this time of year; Bosc pears can still be found gracing supermarket produce aisles.

There are few food combinations I love more than blue cheese and pear. I had it for the first time a few years ago at a party when not wanting to be rude I was too afraid to say to the hostess I didn't (think) I liked blue cheese when she was passing blue cheese and pear on toasts... well I loved it.

I love the blue cheese pear combination in salads, broiled on French bread slices as an appetizer and I love it in this quick and easy wrap. It makes a perfect lunch or slice each wrap into 6 bite-sized pieces, secure with toothpicks and serve as appetizers.

What is your favorite food combination? Does it change with the seasons?

Spinach, Pear, Blue cheese and Bacon Wraps

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 ounces Saga Blue cheese
3 slices center cut bacon, cooked until crispy then crumbled or thinly sliced
6 small flour tortillas, warmed
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, trimmed
2 Bosc pears, very thinly sliced

In a small bowl combine the cream cheese and blue cheese with a fork. Stir in the crumbled bacon.

Spread the cheese mixture over one side of each tortilla.
Divide the spinach between the tortillas arranging in an even layer on top of the cheese. Layer the pear slices over the spinach.
Roll the tortillas around the filling then cut diagonally to serve.

Yield: 6 wraps

I've been tagged!

How fun! I've been tagged by the lovely Lorie of Rice and Beans and Other Fine Things. Lorie is a talented blogger which I have had the good fortune to "meet" through cooking contests. Although we have yet to meet at a cook off I feel a kindred spirit with her and the other fine people with whom I have crossed paths through my fun hobby.

7 Things I did before:

1. Way back in my youth (which is rapidly becoming way, way back) I flipped burgers and took orders at McDonalds-which I loved. In fact I've often thought the title of my memoir will be Everything I Learned About Life I Learned Working at McDonalds...similar to the kindergarten theory Robert Fulghum gave us.
2. Worked for an advertising agency in New York
3. Worked as a research analyst for Ski Magazine and Golf Magazine
4. Loved kickboxing until it gave me tennis elbow and ruined my serve...so I stopped-I loved tennis more.
5. I was the president of my children's elementary school PTO.
6. I was the president of my town's Newcomer's club.
7. I Graduated from Fordham Universtiy

7 Things I do now:

1. I am painting the entire interior of our house...not fun.
2. Enter cooking contests-while I have been distracted lately and haven't entered much, I do have a winning recipe in this month's issue of Cook's Country and I will have a winning entry appearing in January's Simple and Delicious magazine.
3. I spend a great deal of time chauffeuring one or more of my kids to Irish dance, feis (Irish dance competitions), baseball and karate.
4. I cook for a woman's shelter housed in our church.
5. I'm trying really hard to either go to the gym or play tennis every day.
6. I Write this blog.
7. I Christmas shop (one of my friends has gotten me obsessed with finishing Christmas shopping before Halloween that way it's possible to actually enjoy the holidays without running around).

7 things I would like to do:

1. Go to Ireland and stay in a castle.
2. Start playing the guitar again.
3. Invent something.
4. Write something.
5. Visit every state in the United States. (I have a long way to go)
6. Make an apple pie as perfectly as my mother used to make-I lost my mother unexpectedly this year and among the many things I will miss are her delicious pies...seems silly probably, but true.
7. Make sure that when my children leave home for college and life that they know that what you become is not nearly as important as the kind of person you become.

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:

1. He's not afraid to wear a pink shirt. When I met my husband he was wearing a pink shirt-he looked incredibly handsome in it and I love it when he wears pink now.
2. He has a good sense of humor. (But seriously Honey, you know the joke about the tuna fish stuffed Twinkies? The kids and I are kind of done with it. Yeah. Thanks.)
3. He is not afraid to show people he loves them.
4. He is a patient teacher and a passionate learner.
5. He's not afraid to "play hooky" sometimes-leave the household whatnot and just hop in the car, just me and him, and get butter drenched Lobster Rolls at Abbott's Lobster in the Rough.
6. He respects peoples differences.
7. He's loving with his(our) children.
(And how lucky am I that I married someone who is all those things?)

7 foods I love:

1. Eggplant Rollatini
2. Summer tomatoes with just a sprinkling of salt
3. BLTs
4. Grilled boneless ribeye steak seasoned with cracked pepper and salt cooked medium rare
5. New York pizza (Umbertos on Jericho Turnpike comes to mind)
6. Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting
7. Soup

7 things I say most often:

1. It's all fun and games 'til someone loses an eye.
2. Are you kidding me?
3. te amo
4. Did you finish your homework?
5. Do you have your cellphone?
6. Where are my keys?
7. Please don't fool around while you are eating, Amy N. choked on a grape I don't want that to happen to you.


Now the fun part...I get to pass it along! Please understand that you do not have to do the whole shebang-especially if you've done it before...just accept the award as a token of my gratitude for providing me with late-night reading pleasure!

Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks - also a cooking contest friend of mine and one with whom I have cooked along side at several cook-offs. She is a talented cook and blogger and a really nice person!
Cat from Cat's Pajamas - I enjoy reading about her soldier's wife life perhaps because for a few years when my husband and I were first married I was a military wife myself.
Julie from Peanut Butter and Julie - another contest cooking friend who is extraordinarily talented.
Mary from One Perfect Bite - sorry for the trend here, but another contesting colleague with a pretty blog!
And last but by no means least Robin Sue from The Big Red Kitchen whose delicious recipes and occasional video clips have me always coming back for more.

See you later with a tasty recipe!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Favorite Food Find Friday

Sometimes I find something at the supermarket that I think is so wonderful that I must share it with everyone I know. Since you know me now...you're in on it...I'm going to share the wealth. From now on (or as often as I can anyway) Fridays are going to be Favorite Food Find Friday. You'll be able to stop in and read about (and see) something I think is so good I just can't keep it to myself.

Here's what you can expect:

It will be something I found in the supermarket.
It will be something fabulous-maybe a sweet food, maybe not.
There might be a recipe using the fabulous something.
Or Maybe just an idea of how to use the fabulous something in some special way.

And so without further adieu...the very first Favorite Food Find Friday item is (I can just feel the excitement):
Ben and Jerry's individual portion ice cream cups!

I was so excited when I recently spied these a-lot-less-than-pint-size treats in my supermarket's freezer aisle. What could be more perfect than a perfect portion sized container of ice cream?

The naysayers might say "Well, ah...couldn't you just buy the large container and measure out a perfect portion?" And to that I would expeditiously but somewhat shamefully respond "Well, ah...yeah, but you are assuming I have the self control to limit myself to one perfect portion."

So for that reason I think the Ben and Jerry's 3.6 fluid ounce containters are a fabulous find.
For my daughter's recent birthday I used the mini cups as "flower pots" of sorts. I skewered fresh fruit cut into the shape of flowers then arranged the skewers in the pots on the table in leiu of cake. I would have a photo, but in the excitement of singing Happy Birthday, the photos came out rather blurry and the ice cream and fruit skewers were eaten too quickly to try for retakes...so I must ask you to take my word for it they were really cute.

For the record Haagen Dazs also has mini ice cream cups and while I'm sure they are equally fabulous...I usually opt for the Ben and Jerry's. Oh and one more fabulous thing about the cups I almost forgot to mention: they come complete with a small plastic spoon nestled in the lid. Can you say convenient? I'm going to eat the last Chocolate Fudge Brownie cup I hid in the freezer just for me!
Doesn't that look like a scary monster in the bottom of the cup?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barefoot Thursday-Vegetable Pie or is it?

It’s Barefoot Thursday!! Barefoot Thursday is the day when barefoot bloggers across the blogosphere whip up a recipe created by Ina Garten the Barefoot Contessa. Why don’t you find out more about it by visiting the Barefoot Bloggers…maybe you would even like to join in (I’ll bet you would like it).

Thank you to Deb from Kahakai Kitchen for her wonderful selection of The Barefoot Contessa’s Vegetable Pie…what a decadent treat-vegetables in a creamy rich sauce topped with a buttery, flakey crust; what is not to love?

Well this week’s recipe became a “what can I substitute so I don’t have to run out to the Supermarket, yet again” recipe...I love the supermarket, but seriously I’ve been there every day this week. So this is what I came up with:
Butter? I only had 2 sticks and I needed some for the crust, so I cut the butter in half.
Checked the veggie crisper and guess what? All out of fennel-so I just left it out.
Onions? Replaced them with shallots.
Butternut Squash? Sorry all out, we’re using sweet potatoes.
Potatoes? I have a few white and a few purple-I diced them up and tossed them in.
Asparagus? Ahh, no. How about just adding extra carrots? (Oh and I only have the little individual bagged mini kind for lunchboxes so I just used those)
Black pepper? Used white-I'm on a white pepper kick lately
Parsley? Unavailable sorry, used dried thyme
Heavy cream? Half and half will have to do
Pernod? Yeah right, I’m lucky I have white wine in the house…I just skipped it.
Frozen small onions? I added a few more shallots and called it good.

I actually had some saffron leftover from making the Barefoot Butternut Squash Risotto, but I opted to not use it. But I did have the chicken stock (homemade...applause here would be appropriate) and I did use the flour. Oh and one more change (is this the same recipe?) I added some leftover parmesan coated chicken diced. So what I’m saying basically is that I did not make a vegetable pie, but rather a chicken pot pie loosely based on a vegetable pie. Did you follow all that?

The result? We loved it!

Vegetable Pie
Recipe by Ina Garten-from The Barefoot Contessa Parties

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Carnival and Acorn Squash Soup

Check out this squash! I love all the different squash in the supermarket in the fall. This one that I found is called Carnival Squash. Named for its fabulous colors, this pumpkin shaped squash has orange colored flesh and a taste very similar to butternut squash.
With the weather getting cooler by the second, I had a hankering for some warm soup and my beautiful squash find seemed like the perfect starting point. I diced the squash to roast it, but in retrospect (given the fact that I nearly severed my fingers several times) I probably should have just halved it, drizzled it with the oil, syrup, salt and pepper and roasted it, because it was a devil to cut....it was hard...it made cutting butternut squash seem like slicing butter. But I do prefer getting a "crusty" caramelized texture on the squash so I suppose it was worth the extra effort and risk of injury. (Sadly, unlike butternut squash, I could not find precut carnival or acorn squash at the supermarket)

For the broth I used a new Swanson cooking stock (which quite honestly I found there to be little difference in taste from regular Swanson chicken broth, but whatever...I can say I've tried it now.)
For seasoning, I went Indian (and for those who know me that's really exotic for me). Garam Masala which is a warm and peppery combination of cloves, cardomom, peppers and nutmeg is popular in Indian foods. It is, I think, a perfect blend with the earthy flavors of the squash. Curry powder would be a natural addition here, but I'm not going to get too exotic all at once. I bought my Garam Masala at the Penzey's Spices in Grand Central Station, but I found a great recipe to make your own right here.

Carnival and Acorn Squash Soup

1 Carnival Squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced
1 Acorn Squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced
1 medium carrot, large diced
1 celery stalk, large diced
4 shallots, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons Garam Masala

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spread vegetables in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the vegetables with the oil and the syrup and sprinkle with the pepper and salt; stir to completely coat the vegetables. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and tender.

Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and process until smooth adding some of the broth if needed to smooth. Spoon the pureed mixture into a medium saucepan, stir in the remaining broth and the white wine; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the half and half and the Garam Masala. Season with additional salt to taste.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Happy Birthday to my baby!! I can't believe she is 12...where have all the years gone? She actually liked my soup even though it had squash in it...ewww.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bird of Paradise

I always remember my mother telling me that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and if my 18 years (today!!) of marriage have shown anything, it would indeed be that. Not that my husband doesn’t love me for who I am, but I sometimes wonder if I closed the doors to the kitchen so to speak and prepared nothing but frozen dinners if he would still love me as much.

When my husband and I were first dating I decided that I wanted to cook him dinner-no small challenge for someone who subsisted on lunches of microwave popcorn and dinners of frozen vegetables. I scoured my meager cookbook collection-which at the time consisted of little more than the Better Homes and Garden red plaid tome and a few spiral bound community cookbooks. I settled on “Bird of Paradise” a main dish favorite in the St. Mary’s of Wappinger’s Falls Mother’s Guild Cookbook- I thought it sounded exotic. I learned my first lesson of recipe preparation: it’s all about the title. There was really nothing at all exotic about it; unless you consider Parmesan coated chicken cooked in a stick of butter a trip to paradise. (Wait a minute that might actually be paradise.) Really though, it was that simple. Not surprisingly the chicken melted in your mouth. I still remember the fragrant smell of the butter and Parmesan coated chicken after all these years. I had learned a second important lesson about recipe preparation: simple can be very satisfying.

As my future husband finished his hearty meal he had a happy and satisfied look on his face and his bright hazel eyes glistened. He took my hand and said he loved me for the first time and with that I learned the final lesson of recipe preparation: he who cooks with butter will never be lonely.

Happy Anniversary to the love of my life!

Bird of Paradise
From The St. Mary’s of Wappinger’s Falls Mother’s Guild Cookbook as submitted by Jane Larsen

1/2 teaspoon salt
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
3 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup margarine (I always used butter)
1 cup sherry (the original recipe calls for cooking sherry, but I always advise against using the sherry designated “cooking” sherry)

Sprinkle the salt over the chicken breasts, then dredge in the flour. Whisk together the eggs and the milk. Dip chicken in the egg mixture and then roll in grated cheese. Heat the butter in an electric skillet at 300 degrees (electric skillet very popular in the 70’s when this cookbook was put together…I just cooked chicken in a regular skillet over medium heat). Brown the chicken on both sides for 15 minutes. Then add the cooking sherry. Cover and cook at 225 degrees for 45 minutes (if using a regular skillet reduce heat to medium low, cover and continue as directed.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Ultimate Fall Salad

Beautiful ruby red jewels have started to appear in my supermarket's produce aisle...it's pomegranate season.

For years I passed pomegranates by without giving much of a thought to them-always intimidated by the odd looking insides revealed when sliced open. But in a moment of bravery I sliced one open and actually tasted one of the little seeds and that's all she wrote-from September to January I can't get enough of them.

Truth be told, I don't love salads. Don't get me wrong I like them and I eat them all the time mostly because I know they are good for you. But you know what? I love this salad. I mean I really love it-I could eat it every day, love it. At the risk of sounding too superlative this is the ultimate fall salad. The crispness of the apples combined with the anise flavor of the fennel is perfectly complemented by the tartness of the pomegranate. I recommend using Cortland apples because they stay white longer than most apples and they are a perfect texture for salads.

The California Pomegranate Council offers some tips for no mess removal of the seeds here.

Apple, Fennel, Walnut and Pomegranate Salad with White Pepper Parmesan Vinaigrette

1 medium sized head of fennel, very thinly sliced
1 medium Cortland apple, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoon walnuts
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion (white part only)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1 Pom Wonderful Fresh Pomegranate
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the fennel, apple and walnuts in a medium sized bowl.

Combine the vinegar, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, scallion and pepper in a blender or small food processor; process until smooth.

Pour the vinaigrette over the fennel and apple and toss to coat. Divide the salad between two plates. Slice the pomegranate in half and remove arils. Garnish each salad with the pomegranate arils and season each salad with the salt.

Yield: 2 salads

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Moist Butterscotch Apple Pecan Bars

Hold on shoppers, don’t wheel your cart out of the produce aisle yet-I’ve got another apple recipe…a tasty snack cake.

In an effort to eat more fruit (and because they are just so good right now) I am trying to eat an apple a day for (at least) the next month. It’s what the doctor says we should be doing, right? Don’t worry; I’m not counting apples baked into a snack cake or biscuits as my apple for the day-that can just be a bonus. I am going to eat a sliced apple every day.

Are your kids picky about how you slice an apple? My kids never have been, but recently my daughter had a friend over who would not eat the apple the way I sliced it. For the better part of the last six years I have had one or more of my children in braces and I have been slicing my apples not into the (apparently) more popular wedges but rather into almost paper thin slices and although we are (temporarily) braces-free we all now prefer paper thin slices…of course I sliced some wedges for the friend, but geesh it’s not like she’s a toddler-she’s twelve!

Super tips for selecting and storing apples:

Choose firm apples free of bruises or brown spots

Not all tasty apples are red-just look for clear smooth coloring

Store apples in the crisper drawer in your refrigerator away from other strong smelling produce (like leeks or other onions) apples will pick up thier odors

While apples look lovely in a bowl on your table, just remember that they will not last as long-so eat or use them quickly

1 medium sized apple will equal about 1 cup diced

1 pound of apples yields about 3 cups of diced fruit

The Cook's Thesaurus had a great breakdown of the best apples for whatever you are making:

Best for eating out of hand: Gala, Fuji, Mutsu, Jonathan, Cameo, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Empire, Red Delicious, McIntosh, Braeburn, Winesap, Pink Lady, Sundowner
Best for pies: Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Rhode Island Greening, Pippin, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gravenstein
Best for applesauce: Pippin, Rhode Island Greening, McIntosh, Elstar, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Gravenstein
Best for baking: Rome, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Pippin, Gala, Braeburn, Northern Spy, Gravenstein, Rhode Island Greening, York Imperial, Cortland, Winesap
Best for making salads: Cortland, Golden Delicious, Empire, Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Winesap, Criterion, Pink Lady

Moist Butterscotch Apple Pecan Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup fat free milk
1 large egg
2 cups diced, peeled apple
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Butterscotch drizzle:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 13x9 inch baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer. In another small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter, beating just until combined. Mix in the vanilla, milk and egg. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Scatter the apple and pecans over the mixture, pressing down gently.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the butterscotch drizzle, melt the butter and the brown sugar in a skillet over medium high heat until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and cook for 30 seconds; drizzle over the warm cake; allow the cake to cool slightly before cutting into bars to serve.

You know you want a scoop of ice cream with it…go ahead wheel your cart over to the frozen food section for a pint of vanilla.