Tag Archives: winter

Orange, Pancetta, and baby kale salad with honey-Pancetta vinaigrette

Orange, Pancetta, and baby kale salad with honey-Pancetta vinaigrette

Honey Pancetta Salad 2
As we ease into these cooler months, we tend to crave warm, heartwarming comfort foods like roasts, stews, casseroles and soups. Though it probably doesn’t first come to mind when thinking of autumn and winter foods, salad certainly shouldn’t be an option that’s taken off the (dinner) table. Sure, iceberg with Ranch dressing will be a little out of season to serve, but there are many other roughage and topping ingredients that are plentiful in the produce aisle during these next two seasons. Apples, avocado, citrus, beets, figs, and grapes, are great fruit and vegetable options, while arugula, spinach, escarole, baby kale, and endive all make great lettuce bases.

A great example of a salad that’s fit to serve in fall or winter is the following recipe that features citrus, crisp and salty Pancetta, hearty baby kale greens and a tangy, salty, sweet vinaigrette. Best of all, this salad can be served warm, as the vinaigrette is essentially cooked and and be rewarmed on the stove top just before serving if need be.
Read the rest of this entry

Soup for Dummies: Warm up with this easy-to-make curried cauliflower-apple soup

Soup for Dummies: Warm up with this easy-to-make curried cauliflower-apple soup

Cauliflower Soup 1 logo

When the temperatures start to take a nose dive and it’s finally time to dig out the sweaters, I have one thing on my mind (besides keeping warm): soup! Synonymous with warmth and comfort, no wonder it’s such a popular dish this time of year.

The best part about soup is that it’s so darn easy to make. Seriously. You throw everything into a pot, bring it to a boil, lower it to a simmer, then let it ride for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours (depending on what you put in it).

With most soup recipes, especially those that need to simmer for a long period of time, a lid is required during cooking to prevent the liquid from evaporating (or else you’ll just have a pot of soggy vegetables). Also, you’ll notice that soup is always cooked in a pot or saucepan with high sides instead of in a sauté pan with low sides. Why? The high sides prevent some of the moisture from leaving the pot and evaporating, while pans with low sides are designed to help wick moisture away — which is why they are great for making pan sauces and reductions.

Curried Cauliflower and Apple Soup is a creamy, dreamy dish using currently abundant seasonal produce. Cauliflower is a great base for a pureed soup because, when blended, it acquires a creamed consistency; hence no cream (or the added calorie count) is needed. The Madras curry gives the recipe an Eastern twist and a pop of flavor, but feel free to omit it or change it up with your favorite curry blend.

Cauliflower Soup logo
Read the rest of this entry

No beans about it: Deep in the heart of Texas, the chili is all beef

No beans about it: Deep in the heart of Texas, the chili is all beef

Now that winter is officially here, there’s nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of stew to warm the body and the soul. My go-to is chili. It’s hearty, comforting and just about foolproof to make.

I had always been a fan of chili with beans, as those little legumes add nice texture and have a fair amount of fiber in them (yes, I care about these things). But since moving to Texas, I’d been meaning to give the state’s signature bean-less style of chili (aka “chili con carne”) a try in the kitchen.

Texans take much pride in their “bowl o’ red,” hence rules number one and two for Texas chili: absolutely no beans included, and it must have a tomato base, be it from the addition of tomato paste and/or canned tomatoes. No white, green or bean-laden types can be called true Tex chili here. Typically you’ll see Texas chili made with beef chuck or brisket, but if you don’t have all day to wait for it to cook, use ground beef (and don’t even think about using that lean stuff).

As for the cooking vessel, cast iron is the way to go. Its even heat distribution means everything inside gets cooked evenly — no scorched bottom and lukewarm surface. If you don’t have a cast iron, don’t fret; just make sure you stir your chili occasionally so that the bottom of the batch doesn’t burn. To finish off the dish, fresh cilantro, shredded cheese and onions are great options. I used a smoked cheddar to top mine and it added a smoky kick that nicely complemented the toasted chiles and spices in the dish. A side of cornbread or warm, soft tortillas to dip in the chili also make tasty accompaniments.
Read the rest of this entry

Freakin’ adorable: Apple-pecan-bourbon hand pies

Freakin’ adorable: Apple-pecan-bourbon hand pies

Autumn and winter are the only times of the year when you’ll catch me baking. I’ve been known to over-bake, over-whisk and over-mix many a dessert, and I have little to no patience for exactly measuring out ingredients. But the chillier months surrounding the holidays always get me in the mood to bake cookies and pies utilizing the bounty of fruits and spices available at this time of year.

A self-proclaimed “anti-pastry chef,” when I do take on the oven and create sweets I opt for simple baking recipes. I weaned myself off boxed mixes (it’s just plain cheating), but I’m still a fan of pre-made pie crusts and dough found in the freezer aisle at the grocery store. They’re very versatile, and defrosting them makes a smaller mess than making it from scratch — though more power to you if you’re into that.

My newest baked concoction (created with the help of a friend) is a play on the traditional apple pie that many folks enjoy during the holidays. These mini apple-pecan hand pies are a cinch to throw together and a great (and easier) alternative to making one huge pie.

The hand pie recipe uses puff pastry dough — often used in turnover pastries, strudel and for covering Beef Wellington — which can be found in your grocer’s freezer and creates a light, flaky crust when baked. The apple filling is sautéed in a pan first for a softer filling, but feel free to leave your apples raw if you want a crunchier texture. Just remember: If you don’t cook your apple filling first, you can’t pour bourbon in it and set it on fire (aka: flambéing) — which is the best part about making these.

As for apples, take your pick and go with your taste preference. I love the sweet taste of Galas and Comice apples, so that’s what I used in this recipe. For a tangier filling, opt for Granny Smiths.

Feel free to get creative with this recipe, and play with different spices, use an alternate filling — pears, chocolate, berries — or add mix-ins to your crust, like grated sharp cheddar, ground spices and nuts.
Read the rest of this entry

Purée genius: Kabocha squash and apple soup

Purée genius: Kabocha squash and apple soup

The onset of fall brings an array of gorgeous items to our local farmers’ markets and produce aisles, and that bounty includes squash. The orange, yellow and green-hued vegetable makes for great eats during the autumn and winter months and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Baked, braised, sauteed, steamed — you name the cooking technique and it can be applied to these members of the genus Cucurbita.

Squash is also a great addition to a healthy diet, as it’s a good source of fiber, vitamins A, B and C, iron and beta carotene, and is low in calories. It also makes an excellent lower-carb replacement for starches on your dinner plate.

The most common squashes used in cooking during this time of year are butternut and pumpkin. But c’mon folks, get a little more creative here — there are so many other types of squash to try!

That’s why I went with the kabocha (aka “Japanese pumpkin”) for the following soup recipe. The kabocha squash looks like a small green version of the common pumpkin. It’s a pain in the ass to peel, but definitely worth the effort as its meat is a bit sweeter than that of a pumpkin or butternut squash.

The kabocha squash pairs well with the flavor of apples (another fab fall fruit) so I decided to add some Gala apples, hard apple cider and Calvados (apple brandy) to the mix — because everything tastes better with booze.

Typically, you’ll see cinnamon used in this type of soup, but the often overlooked coriander and nutmeg make excellent flavor enhancers, balancing out the sweet notes with touches of savory ones.

As for garnish, I quickly caramelized some chopped Gala apples with brown sugar and cinnamon in a pan and sprinkled them on top. And forget drizzling cream or creme fraiche to finish it off (which is so overdone); sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese, like Maytag, on top. It pairs well with all of the warm flavors in this soup and lends it a tangy kick.

Get creative and experiment with different squashes in your cooking this season. From buttercup to delicata, from “Cinderella” to “Lunch Lady” varieties, there’s a world of flavors waiting for you in your produce aisle.
Read the rest of this entry