The Busy Season: Some Food, Some Fun, Some Pots

I’ve been cooking, I’ve been hiking, I’ve been working…a lot, I’ve been making clay pots, and I’ve been traveling some. And then suddenly, it’s NOVEMBER!!!

Here’s what’s been going on (click the red links for more info and recipes:

RibollitaThere was a batch Ina Garten’s fantastic Ribolitta pictured above, to warm up the cold evenings.

There was a lovely hike to Raven Cliffs Falls in the North GA mountains. Spectacular leaves that weekend.

spooktacularchiliThere was some Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili made for Halloween!

And Punkitties were carved for the big event!

There was a lovely gathering of cousins in town that called for an early batch of my most favorite gratin and holiday potato dish, Potato and Fennel Gratin. It takes a little effort, but the flavor is show stopping.

And this week I’ve been carving some clay pots for a friend’s new lifestyle website…more on that later.

And then there was work…happily lots and lots of it! So that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you? Are you having a fun autumn so far? Happy Weekend!

A is for Apples: A Savory Bread Pudding and an Apple Oat Walnut Bar

Fall isn’t Fall without apple bars, breads, cakes, cookies, crisps, bread puddings, salads and soups!

Do you have seasonal favorite dishes that you like to make? As each year rolls around, I look forward with great anticipation to tasting some favorite dishes once more, and it seems like periodically they are due for a wee makeover. Not that there was anything wrong with them the first time around, but just because I think…’Wow, wouldn’t this be good with this or that added to it?’ Or, ‘What if I tried making that into something else?’ Here are two new dishes, not quite the same as the old dishes—and both involve one of my favorite seasonal ingredients, apples! Continue reading

Falling for Salad: Baby Kale with Fall Fruits, Pecans and Candied Ginger

I’d love to take credit for the simply brilliant idea of using candied (crystallized) ginger in a salad…but I can’t.

I was at The Porter in Atlanta recently meeting some friends and sharing some craft beers, when a salad on their menu caught my eye…it mentioned candied ginger. Candied ginger! What a fabulous addition to a salad with fruit in it…why didn’t I think of that? I didn’t order it because it wasn’t what I wanted to have with beer that night, but the friend sitting next to me did, and kindly offered me a bite. I had just that one bite…and I knew I had to make my own version the moment the leaves touched my lips! It was a baby kale salad with fruits, nuts and ginger, and I told my friend I was absolutely going to try and recreate this fall salad. And I think my version tastes even better than the bite I remember…full of festive flavors.

Baby kale, which is a bit bitter in its raw state, becomes something quite different when tossed with a cooked hard apple cider and shallot vinaigrette. Then add in some sweet toasted local pecans and crisp local Fuji apples, a Bartlett pear, a bit of candied ginger and this salad really comes alive. I’m not usually one to toss my salads because I don’t like for my greens to wilt under the dressing or to be overly dressed. But I have to say that this fall salad must be tossed to really enjoy the full flavor and to achieve a perfect bond between the ingredients. As the slightly warm and tart vinaigrette coats the sturdy kale leaves it begins to permeate them, creating a wonderful balance to the bitterness, turning it into bittersweet. The candied ginger is a perfect foil for the kale and is a spice match with the apple vinaigrette, fresh apple, pear and pecans.

And yes, if you don’t like kale, you can absolutely use your favorite greens in this salad. In fact, I think you’ll find that my hard cider vinaigrette is a wonderful dressing for any green salad that utilizes fresh or dried fruits, root veggies or nuts. We’ve really, well…fallen for for this salad, and I hope you will, too!

Baby Kale Salad with Fall Fruits, Pecans, Candied Ginger and Hard Apple Cider Vinaigrettte
Makes 4 servings

For the Hard Cider Vinaigrette:
2 large shallots, peeled and minced, about 1/2 cup
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup hard apple cider (such as Crispin)
1 teaspoon honey
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
8 cups fresh raw baby kale leaves, washed and dried, trim off long stems
20 pecan halves, lightly toasted and broken into pieces
1 Tablespoon finely chopped candied (crystallized) ginger
1 fresh Bartlett or other favorite pear, cored and cut into thin slices
1 fresh Fuji or other favorite apple, cored and cut into thin slices

Heat the 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring until they begin to soften and are just about to start turning brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the hard apple cider and the honey, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring, until the mixture has reduced by about a quarter. Remove from the heat and pour into a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified.

In a large bowl, combine the kale leaves, pecans, ginger, pear and apple. Pour over about 1/3 cup of the warm dressing and toss to coat well. Add a bit more dressing if needed to ensure that everything has a light coating of the dressing. Serve alongside your favorite dish or some roasted vegetable soup! The remaining dressing will keep for several days stored in an airtight jar in the fridge.

Super Soup Supper

Fresh ingredients on hand inspired a terrific tasting soup!

A busy Monday work day and no time to get groceries for dinner…so what is for dinner?

Gotta pull out whatever I have and make up something good, but simple. Okay, I have butternut squash, onions, apples…sounds like a seasonal soup. What’s in the pantry? One carton of chicken stock, some light coconut milk…hey, now we’re talking. What else? Some Chinese Five Spice, some cayenne…some fresh ginger. Hmmm, an Asian-Inspired Butternut Squash Soup, that’s the ticket! Continue reading

Chill Chaser: Chicken and Black Bean Stew

An autumn colored stew for an autumn colored day. Mmm. Is there anything chicken stew can't do?

Sunset filtering through the trees in our back yard...the last of autumn's color.

It’s the end of another cool, clear and gorgeous fall day—a perfect time for some homemade soup or stew! This one’s a perennial fave at our house, a flavorful and delicious dish that freezes really well, too.

There are so many things to love about this stew that I can’t stop singing it’s praises.

It’s easy.
It makes it’s own broth so it’s kind of thrifty.
It uses lots of veggies and it’s good for you.
It’s practically a meal in a bowl and it smells so terrific cooking you just know it’s going to taste even better!
I believe it may even prevent colds and has more curative mojo in it than your average chicken soup. Even if I’m wrong about that, it sure makes your tummy feel good.

Continue reading