Friday, December 31, 2010

Gooey Prune Cake

Happy Birthday To Me!

Yep. I'm the big 3-2 today. An unremarkable birthday indeed, but still worthy of a cake, right? Maybe even an ooey-gooey subtly-spiced melt-in-your-mouth Americanized (and dare I say improved) version of sticky toffee pudding, every anglophile sweet-tooth's nirvana? Well, fortunately I get to answer my own questions here (it's my birthday after all) and my answer in oversized capital letters is: YES.

This is basically an adaptation of The Pioneer Women's Prune Cake recipe from a couple of Christmases ago. For a handful of reasons which I am about to describe, I was reluctant to share this recipe (and in fact documented the endeavor photographically only just in case, well aware the whole time that I was perhaps being overly ambitious). For the same about-to-be-described reasons, I encourage you to go ahead and just make The Pioneer Women's version without even consulting my recipe, since you probably aren't as super keen on buying and experimenting with alternative sweeteners as I am. And I'm sure the original recipe is perfect as is. I knew that when I read the recipe, and that's why I knew it would hold up against the experimentation I was contemplating when I made it. The experimentation involved using brown rice syrup instead of sugar to sweeten the cake. And being the skilled and dedicated researcher that I am, I learned that brown rice syrup is only about half as sweet as sugar, which means you need to use a good deal more of it to get a cake that will actually satisfy an anglophile sweet-tooth. I also read that the substitution of brown rice syrup for sugar requires an adjustment in leavening agents and a reduced amount of wet ingredients, and it might make the edges of your cake crispier than you'd like. I also used whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular flour. Needless to say, when I tasted the batter I was apprehensive - it tasted earthy and not especially sweet. And yet I plowed on, committed to an exploration of the world without sugar. Until I ran out of brown rice syrup, right before I made the caramel glaze (that soaks through the entire thing and makes it the amazing ooey-gooey cake that it is). The result: a perfectly not-too-sweet cake drenched in perfectly sweet caramel. Yes. I'm going to go ahead and call this cake perfect. I'm sure the Pioneer Woman's is awesome, but I might just find it too sweet after tasting this more subtle, subdued, gloriously gooey version. And that's why I'm posting about it, despite the fact that the recipe is totally weird. Sometimes weird makes for perfect. And anyway there are loads of weird recipes out there that pique my interest on a daily basis. I'm just joining the club by posting one myself.

Also it's my birthday.

prune cake ingredients
piece of gooey deliciousness

Do you see all that shiny magical gooeyness? It's PERFECT. Irresistible really. So freaking delicious. You should seriously make this. Brown rice syrup and all.

Gooey Prune Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Yield: a 13X9" pan's worth - 12-20 servings?

For the cake
1 cup prunes (I'm sure dates would work fine too)
1 1/4 cups brown rice syrup
3 eggs
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the caramel
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13" baking dish.

Place the prunes in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until soft and mashable, about ten minutes. Remove from heat, drain water, mash the prunes and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, brown rice syrup, and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir a bit, until most of the flour is incorporated. Add buttermilk and vanilla and stir gently until just combined. Add the mashed prunes and stir gently to combine.

Pour batter into buttered baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes.

After the cake has been baking for about 30 minutes, combine all the caramel ingredients in a medium saucepan placed over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Boil without stirring for 5 to 7 minutes - this is scary but it will be fine, just keep an eye on it and don't let it boil over - or until caramel starts to darken. As soon as the caramel gets to be a golden brown and thickens a bit but is still v. pourable, remove from heat. You ideally will have timed this to happen right when the cake is done.

Remove cake from oven and drizzle the caramel on top immediately. (Even though the cake didn't look particularly "sunken", my caramel pooled in the middle at first, but it soaked into the cake so promptly that I just put on my oven mits, grabbed both handles on the pan, and tilted it every which way until the caramel was evenly distributed.) Allow cake to cool and caramel to soak in for about a half hour before cutting it. Nice warm but no less nice cold. We are still enjoying it on day 4, unrefrigerated. I'll probably put what's left in the freezer tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Damn Good Chili

Not much of a preface today. Just some chili. Some damn good chili, that is. Which doesn't need much of an intro, you know? There is nothing terribly unique or special about this chili except that it is exactly what you want chili to taste like and/or hope chili will taste like any time you order it on a menu or go to a chili cook-off (these do exist, although I've never been to one). Super traditional. Of the thick, sticks-to-yer-ribs variety. Moderately spicy (but easy to adjust in either direction on the spice-o-meter). Delicious on day 1 but improves (and gets spicier) with age. Great for a crowd: easily doubled or tripled (if you have a pot big enough). Perfect in snowy winters. Good over white rice, which is how I always ate chili growing up but I've since learned that this is not really the normal way to have chili. My mom is Colombian though, and Colombians like rice. Colombians are also v. good-looking.

chili spices
chili brewing
bowl o chili

The trick to damn good chili: a lot of damn good spices.

Damn Good Chili
Serves 4-5
From yours truly, heavily influenced by mi madre

1 tablespoon olive oil
About 2 cups finely chopped white or yellow onion (1 large or 2 small onions)
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 heaping tablespoons chili powder
1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin (or more)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to alter spice profile)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to alter spice profile)
1 pound ground beef (or turkey or bison or whatever)
2 cups cooked, drained beans (kidney would be traditional option (2 cans); I like pinto beans and some hominy)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 12-ounce bottle of beer (I've used EPA lately, but any beer will do)
Juice from one lime (2-3 tablespoons)

To serve: quartered limes, grated cheddar or jack cheese or queso fresco, avocado, Saltines, sour cream, fresh cilantro, minced red onion or shallot or scallion, plain cooked rice, corn bread, etc.

Whisk together all your spices in a mini prep bowl. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic, spices and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef. (If you are doubling or tripling the recipe, just brown one pound at a time - that will make it go more quickly and smoothly and will prevent any burning of the spices.) Cook, breaking up the pieces with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon, until there is no pink left and the meat is browning nicely (about 3 minutes).

Add the beans, tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, and beer. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for an hour. Remove the lid and simmer for an hour more. If the chili seems to dry out at all during the two hours of simmering, add a little water. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with any of the above-mentioned condiments.

Notes: Freezes well. Stays good in refrigerator for at least five days. Reheat thawed chili in microwave or on stove. Add a little water or beer to thin it out if necessary - the flavor will withstand this and it won't taste watered down at all. Promise.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Peppermint Chocolate Crinkles

I'd be a horrible food blogger if I didn't squeeze in a Christmas cookie, wouldn't I? I mean, we foodies pride ourselves on the myriad things we can accomplish with some flour, sugar, and butter (or oil, on occasion - the occasion described herein, for instance), and what better time to do that than Christmas? Baby Jesus wouldn't have it any way. Right?

And with that food for thought...

(oh the puns I would try to make right about now if I were punny!) ...

I will just jump right into the description and adaptation of one of my favorite (definitely top three anyway) Christmas cookies. A cookie my mom made just about every holiday season and sometimes off-season as well, because she had five children and a mom has to choose her battles.

Allow me to introduce you to THE CHOCOLATE CRINKLE.


Or perhaps you've already met. She's cute, eh? Chocolatey. Cakey. Festive. Gooey if you do it right. An American favorite, really. From Betty Crocker's kitchen to yours. With love.

cooky book

(Btw, that there Cooky Book is just about the best cookbook ever if you're up for a cookie-baking frenzy. Some others might be more popular or more contemporary, they might not use eggs in their bar cookies that require chilling rather than baking, they might not glorify the shortcut called "boxed cake mix", but they're also not what you and me and everyone we know grew up on. And I prefer a cookie that brings me back a bit. Especially around the holidays.)

So what could I add to these little morsels of nostalgia?

What could make them more decidedly festive and delicious than real chocolate, two cups of sugar, four eggs, and a final coat of powdered sugar?

crinkles batter

Well, not much, I assure you. But my in-laws have a thing for all things mint + chocolate, and I've kind of jumped on the bandwagon over the years. Plus I was out of all-purpose flour. So what I have to contribute to Betty Crocker's legacy today are the following: (a) whole wheat pastry flour; and (b) peppermint extract. They both worked out quite nicely.

peppermint extract

The result is something akin to the hypothetical offspring of your mom's chocolate crinkles and some After Eights. And now I am spending my Christmas Eve Eve sorting through years of intercontinental reminiscence.

crinkles prebaked
baked crinkles

With the help of my little bite-sized enablers, of course.

Anyway. I think you'll really like these. Happy Christmas, darlings.

Peppermint Chocolate Crinkles
Yield: 5 dozen (if you actually make them bite-sized, per directions below)

1/2 cup grapeseed oil, or other mild-flavored vegetable oil
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oil, unsweetened chocolate, and sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each. Stir in the peppermint extract. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until everything is well-mixed. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper or a silpat. Using one teaspoon of dough at a time (this is small - like a walnut), form balls with your hands and roll in the powdered sugar until thoroughly coated. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool as long as you can and then devour, remembering all your Christmases past with a little happy tear in your eye.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Savory Carrot Pie

Well, hello! And sorry for the gap. I don't even have a good excuse. I was snowed in for 24 hours and still didn't manage to share any of my recent foodie updates with you. I have a kind of lame excuse though, in lieu of a good one: I was waiting to make and document something sweet to be the topic of this post, as I thought we were due for a treat after two savories, a breakfast item, and a recycled post. (I am methodical, you see. I have a vision. I am quite inclined to be organized when there's an occasion for it.) To that end, I actually did make two sweet things. But here's the deal: the first one was a pineapple upside-down cake for a bridal shower that I had to leave early, so I never got to try it and felt accordingly ill-equipped to write about how awesome it was (even though it did look and smell quite nice). The second one was absolutely, indescribably, addictively wonderful, but it's already appeared several places on the internet - here and here, for instance - and I didn't feel I had anything to add to the movement, though joining was extremely edifying. (I encourage you all to make it. But heed what was said at the Smitten Kitchen site: it is like crack. Knowing my own weakness for a well-done sweet + salty treat, I made a quarter batch and am so glad I had such foresight. It came in handy where self-restraint eluded me.)

carrot prep
carrot pie slice

So here we are. I'm the one talking about savory carrot pie and you're the one wishing I'd had a slice of the pineapple upside-down cake.

The good news is this: this dish is so great! It's really quite hearty, definitely suitable for a dinner main, probably with a side salad or cup of soup, like you'd get with quiche at a restaurant. It's fairly easy to make, particularly if you have a food processor. (I love my food processors. And yes, I mean "processors", plural, because I have two: a small and a huge one. The small one was used here.) The pie crust involved my first foray into the world of yeast (I had to start easy because I have a phobia) and it went v. well! In fact, I made pizza last night with a different crust recipe (a comparably easy one) and, while that one will do for thin-crust pizzas in the future, the one described herein is much fluffier, and I am going to use it for pizza crust the next time I make pizza, because I sometimes really like a thicker crust and because it was really great in the carrot pie and I'm eager to see how it would hold up elsewhere. Other positives: it's healthy (lots of nutrients, a decent amount of protein for a vegetarian meal, and less than 600 calories in a serving equivalent to a quarter of the pie - which would be a big slice; we ate sixths); it's unique (kind of sweet, yet just savory enough to be aforementioned "dinner main"); it's seemingly adaptable (I suspect broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, or winter squash could easily replace the carrots); it's attractive (in a rustic kind of way); and babies like it (at least mine did).

rolled crust
unbaked carrot pie
baked carrot pie

One quick tip before I get to the recipe, for those of you with a food processor: grate your parmesan in the food processor!

cuisinarted cheese

I shred vegetables and potatoes and fruit all the time using the grater blade, but was always afraid of trying cheese... until recently I was complaining about the length of time it took me to shred mozzarella for FOUR lasagnas I was making for a bridal shower (I know a lot of brides) and the victim of my rant, after listening patiently and nodding in empathy, suggested that I use a food processor. I took her advice and IT TOOK FIVE SECONDS. Literally. And then I just put the bowl and blade on the top rack of the dishwasher, so I can't even argue that the cleaning time cut against any saved grating time. (Go ahead and judge me. The blade hasn't dulled noticeably in 6.5 years.) I would suggest, however, if grating a softer cheese (like, say, mozzarella), placing it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before putting it in the food processor.

And now to the recipe!

Savory Carrot Pie
Adapted from Almost Vegetarian, an odd little cookbook gifted to me by my mother when I left for college, at which time I was, fittingly, almost vegetarian
Yield: 4-6 servings

Pie Crust
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons buttermilk (or sour cream or plain yogurt)

3/4 pound carrots, scrubbed clean and sliced into 1/2" chunks
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or jarred)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I used this dried kind) (optional)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 oranges for me)
2 cups water (approximately)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup grated Parmesan (about 2.5 ounces)

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the yeast and water. In a larger bowl, combine the sugar, flours, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the egg, buttermilk, and yeast-water mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (just about a minute or two). Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with a light towel, and place in the warmest spot in your kitchen until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes.

While the dough is rising, start making the filling. First, juice your oranges. In a large saucepan, combine the carrots, bay leaves, ginger, lemon zest, orange juice, and salt. Add enough water so that the carrots are fully submerged. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, turn the heat down and simmer until the carrots are almost mushy, but not quite, about 20 minutes.

Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Pick out the bay leaves, strain the carrots, and place them in the work bowl of your food processor. Puree in pulses so it doesn't become watery (you don't want the consistency of baby food, you want some chunks). Transfer carrots to a large mixing bowl and stir in the cinnamon, marjoram, nutmeg, egg, ricotta, and Parmesan. Stir until thoroughly combined. Set mixture aside, covered if the dough or your oven needs some time.

Once the pie dough has risen, roll out the dough until it is about 11-12" in diameter. It will be quite thin. Gently center the dough over a lightly greased pie dish (mine is 9" in diameter) and pile the filling inside. Fold the edges of the crust over and crimp them with your fingers (like in the above pictures). Place the pie in the oven and bake until the crust is deep golden and the filling is set, about 40 minutes. If the crust browns before the filling has set (as mine did), cover loosely with foil, lower the heat to 300 degrees, and continue to bake, checking on it every 5-10 minutes or so.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with parsley or a little more freshly grated nutmeg.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ten Posts of Pumpkin: (10) Pumpkin Mac + Cheese

I wanted to make this post the last of my ten pumpkin posts because there is something momentous and meaningful about being last, something that suggests "you've been waiting for this" and screams, "this is the best!" And, well, in a word, the recipe herein is... (drum roll)... the... (escalating drum roll)... BEST. (And that's saying a lot, right? The others weren't half bad.)

plated Pumpkin Mac n Cheese

This recipe is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. So wonderful that is has been really really really hard for me to hold out on your guys while we worked our way through the nine other posts of pumpkin. Seriously this is so, absolutely, worthy-of-expletives-of-the-favorable-complimentary-variety DELICIOUS. The only thing that kept me going - kept me restlessly mum, rather - was my foresightedness and dedication to making this post all it can be. By which I mean: I froze some and tested out some different thawing methods so that I can offer you not only the best mac & cheese recipe ever, but also a surefire way to freeze and reheat it in the event that you, like me and my husband and baby daughter and fetus, can't eat a giant pan of rich, decadent, super cheesy, delightfully pumpkiny mac & cheese all by ourselves, and accordingly have to freeze it before getting on a plane the next morning.

Man, I go the distance for you people. Or for my bottomless pit of a stomach anyway.

pumpkin mac n cheese prep
Pumpkin Mac n Cheese

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
Adapted (generously) from Lottie & Doof
Yield: about 8 servings

2 tablespoons bacon fat (or butter)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped (these will wilt down to about half original amount)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk (or a combination of cream and milk)
1 1/2 cups homemade pumpkin purée (or a 16-ounce can of pumpkin)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (optional)
3 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 slices whole wheat bread, pulsed in food processor or blender to make breadcrumbs
1/2 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (approximately one bunch)
1 pound fusilli or penne or other comparably sized pasta

Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain well.

Melt 2 tablespoons bacon fat or butter in a large pot (I used a dutch oven) over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until tender, about ten minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Stir in 2 more tablespoons butter, allow to melt, and then add the flour and stir for a minute. Gradually whisk in milk and then pumpkin. Simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 cups of cheddar, the Parmesan, and the ricotta cheese. Stir in worcestershire sauce and dijon; taste, smile and be impressed with yourself, and season sauce with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter one 13X9" glass baking dish, or a similarly sized gratin or casserole dish, or two 8X8" or 9X9" dishes (you can freeze one of them*).

In a large nonstick skillet, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and scallions and stir until bread smells and looks toasty, and scallions are crunching up a bit, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Toss the pasta with the pumpkin-cheese sauce and transfer mixture into prepared baking dish(es). Top with remaining cup of cheddar cheese and the breadcrumb-scallion mixture. (You can follow freezing instructions below at this point, if you'd like.) Bake for about 30 minutes uncovered, until the meal is hot all the way through and the topping is golden brown and bubbling. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

* To freeze, allow mac & cheese to cool. If you have a sealed lid for your pan, go ahead and just cover it with that and stick it in the freezer. If you don't, either cover the pan with plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, or transfer the mac & cheese into a freezer-safe container with a sealed lid.
To reheat pasta, whether or not it's been baked already, remove lid or plastic wrap and replace with a sheet of aluminum foil. Place in 400-degree oven (or 375-degree, using convection bake setting) and cook for about an hour. Check halfway through and if the mac & cheese looks dry, add enough milk to fill any crevices - I used about a half a cup of milk for my 8X8" pan's worth of pasta - re-cover with foil and continue baking. Once heated through, remove the foil and broil for 5-10 minutes, to recrisp the top. At all stages, keep a close eye on it. Note that the reheated mac & cheese won't be quite as attractive as the freshly baked one, but it will taste just as good. (And it's not that unattractive. Could be served to people you love, easily.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ten Posts of Pumpkin: (9) Warm Pumpkin, Pomegranate and Kamut Salad

Kamut? What the heck is kamut?

Well. Let me just tell you: Kamut is a brand of wheat. Literally, it's been branded by an organization called Kamut International Ltd. In addition to being brand-name wheat, it's also organic and allegedly ancient, and when prepared in its whole-grain form, it's higher in protein, complex carbohydrates, and certain minerals (selenium, zinc, and magnesium) than the wheat we consume more regularly. We buy cereal made with kamut and I sometimes grind kamut grains into flour for my daughter's super baby porridge, but this time around, I actually prepared it as a whole grain. Doing so is quite a process, v. similar to cooking dried beans. (I've described the process at the end of the actual recipe - note that you have to start the day before you want to eat the salad.) It resembles farro or brown rice when dry, but then more than doubles in size when cooked.

kamut before and after

I ended up making two different meals with my pot o' kamut, and all in all I'm quite pleased with this little brand-name grain. It's mild in flavor, which makes it quite versatile, but its texture is interesting enough to make it distinctive. It's sort of chewy, in a good way - chewy delicious. And it's v. filling. This salad could easily be a main course, served with a simple green salad or curried soup on the side. I've included a few ideas for substitutions in the notes preceding the actual recipe, in the event that this post does not sufficiently inspire you to find your way to the health food store and get yourself some kamut.

salad in serving bowl

Did I mention this salad is also quite pretty? Well, it is. I wish I had a party to bring it to.

Final pre-recipe notes:

1. There are good instructions for how to cut and seed a pomegranate here. Be sure to wear an apron and have your computer reasonably far away from you and the pomegranate. Once you remove the seeds you will understand why pomegranate juice and pre-packaged pomegranate seeds are so pricey.


2. I used "2 cups" of pumpkin, which was about half a small pumpkin. I think a small butternut squash, or half a medium or large butternut squash, or a whole acorn squash, would work just as well. While I steamed my pumpkin, roasting it would probably add even more autumnal flavor to the salad. (Next time.)

3. In place of kamut, cooked farro, wild rice, or wheat berries could be used, or even chickpeas. You could also go side-salad with this and just toss the pumpkin, pomegranate, dressing, etc. with some fresh, torn spinach, or some barely-wilted kale or chard, instead of a grain or legume.

4. There's no substitution for the pomegranate molasses if you go ahead with the dressing recipe. It is an especially unique, complex, sweet, wonderful component to this concoction, and it smells like candy. But a homemade or purchased tahini dressing (like Annie's Goddess dressing) or an orange vinaigrette of some kind would probably be a decent substitution for the pomegranate molasses dressing in its entirety. You'll want to use about 1/3 cup of dressing to start with.

pumpkin kamut salad
single serving of salad

Warm Pumpkin, Pomegranate and Kamut Salad
From yours truly, inspired by this
Yield: about 3-4 cups; 4 main course servings

2 cups cooked kamut*
2 cups pumpkin or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
Seeds from one pomegranate (about 1 cup)
2 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

4 tablespoons good quality olive oil
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup (or honey or maple syrup)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)

Start out by either steaming or roasting your pumpkin until it's al dente. (About 15 minutes of steaming on the stove; or tossed with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and roasted in a 425-degree oven for 20-25 minutes.) In the meantime, whisk together all the dressing ingredients until emulsified.

Place kamut in serving bowl. Evenly distribute warm pumpkin on top of kamut, followed by the pomegranate seeds. Drizzle about half the dressing over the salad and finish by crumbling the feta cheese and then sprinkling the parsley on top. Toss just before serving. Serve at room temperature with the remainder of the dressing on the side.

* To cook kamut: Place 1/2 cup dried kamut in a saucepan. Cover with water and soak overnight, or at least 8 hours. When ready to cook the kamut, which you can do a couple days before making the salad (just keep it in the refrigerator until you start cooking your pumpkin, then remove it and allow it to come to room temp), drain the kamut and rinse it well. Place pre-soaked kamut in the saucepan again and cover with 2" of water. Bring to boil and then simmer, uncovered, for 50-60 minutes, until kamut is cooked through, but a little chewy.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ten Posts of Pumpkin: (8) Pumpkin Waffles

Every time I make waffles I wish I made waffles more often. Maybe you have felt that way too. If you haven't, it's probably because you haven't gotten over the impulse to thoroughly clean your waffle iron after every use. I got over that about two years ago and it was v. liberating. Cleaning? Bah! What a waffle iron needs is seasoning. And I think the definition of "seasoning" is something like: cleaning as best as you can without hurting yourself, using obscenities, or experimenting with tools stolen from your dental hygienest, and then stopping. It was a process, I'm not going to lie. Where kitchen cleanliness is concerned, I'm generally my mother's daughter. But then I got knocked up and everything changed. (It didn't for her though. And she had lots of kids.)

Anyway, these waffles are super awesome, because they're only ever-so-slightly adapted from my second favorite cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance, which includes only super awesome recipes. And they're vegan, if you don't swap out the non-dairy beverage for milk.

I only got this one picture because (a) I made them on a weekday morning, so we were a bit rushed, and (b) they were promptly devoured. We ate them with some decidedly non-vegan Apple Cider Syrup, and it was a nice, albeit morally ambiguous, combo.

Oh. If you make these waffles and they are not as super awesome as I imply, perhaps your waffle iron isn't quite seasoned enough.

Pumpkin Waffles
Yield: 12 4X4" waffles (three full-size sheets)

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger*
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg*
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup soy milk (or oat milk or rice milk or regular milk or whatever)
1 cup homemade pumpkin purée or canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

*You could just use 2 or 3 teaspoons of pumpkin pie or apple pie spice, if you have either on hand.

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, with gusto, whisk together soy milk, pumpkin, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla until well blended and slightly frothy. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix. A few lumps are okay. Cook the waffles according to the manufacturer's instructions.

I put four cooled waffles into a freezer bag and reheated them in the toaster for myself and my daughter later in the week. Worked super great. Naturally.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ten Posts of Pumpkin: (7) Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies

(My last repost, from exactly a year and a day ago.)

Are you ready for these? Because they are good. They are pumpkin plus chocolate plus cream cheese good.

It all started like this: as I began my pumpkin recipe quest, I started with one of my favorite food blogs, er - one of everyone's favorite food blogs - Smitten Kitchen. It didn't let me down. Deb, its hostess-with-the-mostest, had a Martha Stewart Living recipe for Pumpkin Swirl Brownies. They looked delicious. A big change from my previous ideas of what a pumpkiny dessert should be -- i.e. Beth's frosted pumpkin cookies and Alta Cafe's pumpkin bar back in the no-nuts-or-raisins days -- but still yummy-sounding. Deb stated the following in her blog, however: "[E]very time I try a bite of one, I find myself wishing they were either all pumpkin bars or all brownies. Oh, and I'd like either version to have a cream cheese swirl." Did this deter me from trying the recipe? Heck no at all. But it certainly inspired me to add a cream cheese swirl. So... marrying and adapting Deb's recipe + this recipe from David Lebovitz, I did just that. And then I ate almost the whole pan.

pumpkin cream cheese brownies in pan
close up

I know Thanksgiving is over and now we are shifting from pumpkin to peppermint... but maybe you can bookmark this page and make these next fall. Or maybe you can somehow add peppermint.

Here's me grating nutmeg with care:

Oh my heavens what a flattering photo!

(12/1/10 comment: I have a lot less hair and a lot more belly presently.)


Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Swirled Brownies
Adapted (and quite improved!) from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: one 13X9" pan - about 20 good-sized brownies, more if you're a dainty eater

1 stick unsalted butter (8 ounces)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional, but nice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin or canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

8 ounces cream cheese (I only had 6 oz and it worked fine)
1 egg yolk
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

*I used a cayenne-orange spiced chocolate bar and it was perfect. But I'm sure chocolate chips would be good too in the event that you don't happen to have a cayenne-orange spiced chocolate bar lying around.

[NOTE: Because I was adding the cream cheese swirl and because the Smitten Kitchen notes said that even without the cream cheese swirl these brownies were really huge in an 8X8" pan, I used an 11X7" pan. Next time I will use 13X9" pan because they were still huge.]

1. Line a 13X9" pan with criss-crossed sheets of foil and butter the foil well. (Don't spray. BUTTER. It tastes so much better.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt bittersweet chocolate and stick of butter in double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in large bowl and set aside. In separate bowl (your KitchenAid Mixer bowl if you have one), beat together brown sugar and eggs (adding one at a time) until fluffy. Add 1 T vanilla. Slowly beat in flour mixture.

4. Scoop two cups of this batter into a separate bowl and stir in chocolate-butter mixture. Once well-combined, add semisweet chocolate chunks or chips. Pour chocolate batter into pan.

5. Stir pumpkin, olive oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg into remaining batter. Once combined, pour on top of chocolate batter. Using the wide edge of a butter knife, swirl the batters together.

6. With hand-mixer, beat cream cheese, egg yolk, regular sugar and 1 t vanilla until well-combined. (Maybe your baby is sleeping at this point, and her bedroom is right next to the kitchen. Maybe you will learn that hand-mixers work just as well in the bathroom as they do in the kitchen. So do blenders, for that matter.) Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of pumpkin batter in eight dollops. Using knife, swirl in same manner as above.

cream cheese dollops


7. Bake 40-45 minutes (or a little less if you are like us and you like your brownies gooey).

8. Smile at your baby. Or my baby.*

(Goodness gracious, she's so much bigger than that now!)
9. Enjoy.

10. Share with your friends.

11. Tell your friends that your friend Edith-Nicole w/ a Child gave you this genius of a recipe.

*My baby looks a little more like this lately.