Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Apple Hazelnut Stuffing

Thanksgiving really snuck up on me this year. Until about a week before the holiday, we had no idea who in the family would be hosting, or who would be coming. As it turns out, most of us went our separate ways to various branches of the family, and we hosted my in-laws. It was a small, very manageable feast for seven (including the baby). I must say, while there is something to be said for large holiday meals, they can also be very stressful, and this meal was not so. It came together easily, from start to finish, in the course of 3 days.

Although Christmas dinner doesn't happen in my house, I can imagine that this stuffing might be a very welcome addition to such a holiday feast, especially at one that includes those of vegetarian persuasion. So, perhaps it isn't too late to post it. It also happens that one of the key ingredients, ghee, also makes this recipe quite appropriate to enter into the Pure Indian Foods Ghee Recipe Contest. And that is another reason to post it. Incidentally, (and this endorsement is not at all required for the sake of the contest), this is the brand of ghee that I use. It is locally made (to me), it is made from grass-fed, organic milk, and it saves me the trouble of making my own ghee. It also happens to be OK for my milk-allergic son to eat. Apparently, ghee, being absent of milk solids, is also lacking lactose and casein. Let me stress that I am not and cannot give medical advice on this (or any) subject, and I do not recommend that anyone with a dairy allergy or intolerance eat ghee without consulting his/her health care provider first. For us, it was very freeing to discover that we are able to use ghee, instead of oil, to cook and flavor the foods we eat. That buttery aroma was well-missed in this household!

Apple Hazelnut Stuffing
4 cups whole grain fresh bread (wheat, spelt, rice), cubed
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup ghee + 3 Tbsps.
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 apple, peeled & chopped
3 Tbsps. fresh sage, chopped
1 - 1 1/2 cups low-sodium veggie stock (depending on how moist you like your stuffing)
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425F. If the bread is fresh, toast the bread in the oven on a dry cookie sheet for 10 minutes. If it's stale, skip this step. Toast the hazelnuts on a dry cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the bread cubes and hazelnuts to a large bowl. Reduce oven temperature to 350F.

In a saute pan, melt the 1/4 cup of ghee over medium heat. Sweat the onions and garlic in the ghee until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, sauteing an additional 5 minutes. Season the onion mixture with salt and pepper. Pour the onion mixture over the bread cubes and hazelnuts, and toss well. To the bowl, add the apples and sage, tossing once again.

Warm the veggie stock, and add in small increments to the bread mixture, tossing after each addition, until you reach the desired consistency (the oven will dry it out somewhat, so aim for a bit more moistness than is your preference). Season with salt & pepper.

Using 1 Tbsp. of ghee, grease a large casserole. Transfer the stuffing mixture to the prepared casserole. Using the remaining 2 Tbsps. of ghee, dot the top of the stuffing with small fingerfuls. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Serves 8-10.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cashew Icing

On Halloween, my family got together to celebrate the sweetest day of the year, but we also took the opportunity to mark my brother's and my birthdays, which fall in late October and early November. I made the cake for the occasion (and my brother made lunch). This is the cake that I came up with. A little something for everyone - chocolate for those who think every dessert needs chocolate (my husband), pumpkin spice cake for those who like to taste and smell the season (my brother and me), and sticky sweetness to please the Halloween palate.

Although this is no health food cake, it is much more redeeming than most store-bought (or even homemade) cakes, so a little less guilt is in order. The recipe is very loosely based on this one. Enjoy!

Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cashew Icing
1 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, plus 1/3 cup more
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1 1/2 tsps. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup vanilla unsweetened hemp milk
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (for fresh pumpkin, steam the pumpkin and then puree in a blender with a small amount of water)
3/4 cup sucanat
2 large eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed until liquified
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Cashew Icing (recipe below)

Grease two 9" round cake pans. Line the bottom of each with parchment paper and then dust the sides with flour. Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Combine the white flour, 3/4 cup of the whole wheat flour, turbinado, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. Divide the dry mixture equally (by weight) into two bowls. Into one bowl, add the cocoa and whisk to combine. Into the second bowl, add the 1/3 cup of whole wheat pastry flour, and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup hempmilk, pumpkin puree, and sucanat. Beat in the eggs. Then add the oil, agave, and vanilla, beating just to combine. Divide the liquid mixture evenly (by weight) into two bowls. To one bowl, add the cocoa mixture, stirring until just combined. To the second bowl, add the second dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Do not overmix!

Transfer batter to the prepared pans (the contents of one bowl into one pan and the contents of the other bowl into the other pan). Bake about 40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Invert onto a work surface and remove the parchment papers carefully. Cool the cakes completely before proceeding.

Slice each cake horizontally to create four layers in total (to guide your knife in evenly cutting the cakes, place toothpicks just below the midpoint of the cake all around the cake, and cut using a serrated knife just above the toothpicks, as illustrated here).

Place a pumpkin layer at the bottom of your cake dish. Apply a thin layer of icing on top using a frosting spatula. If the icing is too thick, it will move to the edges and drip down the sides. The icing will seep into the cake somewhat, and that's fine. Add a chocolate layer, and top with a layer of icing. Repeat with the remaining layers of cake and icing. On the top layer, add a thicker layer of icing. Add a thin layer of icing to the sides of the cake.

If you are not serving the cake right away, store in the freezer. This will keep the icing from either dripping too much or getting too absorbed into the cake. Defrost at room temperature 2-3 hours before serving.

Cashew Icing
1 1/2 cups cashew butter
4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. chocolate extract
1/2 cup vanilla unsweetened hemp milk

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and beat well with an electric mixer.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Pear Soup

One of the issues many people face in subscribing to a CSA is that they are left with produce that they would not normally buy, or that is unfamiliar to them. Enter soup - the greatest vessel for miscellaneous foods that have no home.

I make most vegetable soups vegan, but I thought this soup might do nicely with some meat flavors, and I think that was a good decision. This soup has a pork stock base, which marries particularly well with the pear, pumpkin, and beets. The pork stock adds not only flavor, but also lots of nutrients, most notably calcium. If you prefer to make this soup vegan, it would still be very tasty using a vegetable or onion stock, or even plain salted water.

This soup can be prepared as a puree or as a chunky soup. I think the latter is really the better option, but I made it as a puree so that my little guy could eat it more easily (and so he has!). The recipe below is written as a puree with noted adjustments to make it chunky instead.

Roasted Vegetable Pear Soup
2 lb. pumpkin (or other winter squash), seeded, peeled and cubed (small dice for chunky)
1 small rutabaga, peeled, trimmed of ends, and cubed (small dice for chunky)
12 small turnips, trimmed of ends and cubed (small dice for chunky)
3 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed of ends, and cut into thick slices (small dice for chunky)
2 medium beets, peeled, trimmed of ends, and cubed (small dice for chunky)
3 shallots, peeled and quartered (chopped for chunky)
2 stalks celery, cut into chunks (small dice for chunky)
2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 Tbsps. safflower oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lbs. pork neck bones (your local sustainable meat farmer will likely have this very inexpensive treat in the freezer)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 ripe pears, cored, peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
10 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds

Pre-heat the oven to 425F. Combine the pumpkin, rutabaga, turnips, carrots, beets, shallots, celery, and oils in a large covered baking dish. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover and roast for 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring twice along the way.

Transfer roasted vegetables to a large stock pot. Add the pork necks, vinegar, pears, bay leaves, water and additional salt and pepper. Bring to a bubble, and then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours.

Remove bones and bay leaves. Pick apart the meat from the bones, and set aside (roughly 1/2 - 1 cup).

Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), puree the soup (if you prefer a chunky soup, skip the pureeing). Return the meat to the pot. Add the fennel fronds. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Serves 10-12.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Almond Cod Cakes with Roasted Garlic Spread

This dish looks very sophisticated, if I do say so myself, but it's very simple. So simple, in fact, that my 15-month-old kept asking for more fish! It's even fairly simple to make, and is perfect for anyone who is not a big fan of chopping. The food processor does all the chopping for you.

Because my little one is allergic to half of the food web, I find myself making many adjustments that I wouldn't normally make, and sometimes the dish turns out better than it would have with traditional ingredients. In this case, instead of using bread crumbs (or wheat-free bread crumbs) in the fish cakes, I decided to use almonds (almond meal). The almonds give the cakes a much more interesting flavor, and because the cakes are pan-fried, the almonds were very aromatic, too. The downside to accommodating my son is that I could not use an egg to bind the cakes, and they would have benefited from some binding. Leaving the egg out leaves the fish cakes a bit crumbly. Fortuitously, the crumbliness was the perfect texture for my son, and the rest of us did fine. Even so, if you can have eggs, I would add one to the mix.

I served these fish cakes with forbidden rice with chopped cilantro and a simple green salad.

Almond Cod Cakes with Roasted Garlic Spread
1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds (or almond meal)
12 oz. cod fillets, cubed
2 Tbsps. fresh cilantro
2 Tbsps. fresh Italian parsley or celery greens
3 scallions, cut into 2" lengths
1 1/2 tsps. salt
pepper, to taste
1 egg (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
Roasted garlic spread (recipe below)

Process almonds in a food processor until they resemble coarse bread crumbs. Remove and set aside in a large bowl. Into the food processor, add the cod, cilantro, parsley, and scallions. Pulse to combine. Do not overprocess. Some small chunks of fish should remain. Add the fish mixture to the almonds, along with salt, pepper, and egg. Mix thoroughly, and form into patties.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Once hot, add half the olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Allow the oil to heat for a moment, then place the cakes in the hot pan. Turn the heat down to medium-high, and allow the cakes to cook 5-6 minutes on each side. Add additional oil, if necessary, when it's time to turn the cakes. Put the skillet in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking through.

Makes 4-5 large cod cakes.

Roasted Garlic Spread
1 head garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Pre -heat oven to 425F. Slice off the top of the garlic so that the top tips of the cloves are just showing. Wrap the whole head of garlic in foil and place on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes (can be done a couple days in advance, whenever you have the oven on). Allow to cool. Squeeze the garlic out of the papery skin. The roasted garlic should be very soft and fragrant.

In a small bowl, combine the roasted garlic with the olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. Whip the ingredients together with a fork until they become smooth and creamy. Stir in the cilantro. Top each of the cod cakes with a small dollop of the garlic spread.

Serves 4-5