Olive Oil Plum Cake

IMG_3775In a recent effort to eat healthier (which may or may not have something to do with having to wear a wedding dress in approximately nine months) I've been looking for alternatives to my beloved butter-filled cakes and pastries. I've always had a bit of a sweet tooth, but love the idea of being able to have a piece of cake that's healthy enough for breakfast too.IMG_3778 This cake swaps most of the usual butter for olive oil and has a healthy dose of whole wheat flour to boot. You could also use turbinado or demerara sugar instead of regular sugar--I didn't have any, but it would give the cake a lovely caramelized taste. If you can find decent plums (we're lucky to still have a few in California) then use that--but I would bet that this cake would be just as delicious with sliced pears or apples (though let's not neglect my favorite apple cake--which is pretty much the ideal thing to bring to a holiday party. I promise.)IMG_3786

Olive Oil Plum Cake (Adapted from The New York Times)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 pound firm plums or pluots, sliced (3-4 medium)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-inch springform pan or cake pan. Line with parchment and lightly butter the parchment. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.

Place the butter in a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the olive oil and beat at medium speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the bowl and beater. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed for 1 minute. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and beaters between each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extract and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed, until the mixture is very light.

Turn the speed to low and slowly add the flour. Beat just until incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread it out evenly using an offset spatula. Arrange the plums on top in concentric circles, pressing them down into the batter, then sprinkle with additional 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, until the edges of the plums are beginning to color and a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Remove from oven and let the cake cool for 10 minutes on a rack before releasing the sides of the springform or cake pan. Then let it cool completely before slicing.

Entertaining: The Perfect Cheese Plate

mg_9276Though I sometimes love making complicated appetizers, when hosting a dinner or holiday party you can't ask for an easier (or more crowd-pleasing) option than a cheese plate. Of course, cheese plates are nothing new, but putting a little thought into it can take a mediocre plate of cheddar and turn it into an impressive spread.mg_9273 mg_9270

For starters, choose a variety of cheeses (the advised amount is about 2 oz of cheese per person–unless you're just planning on having cheese for dinner, in which case, it's at your discretion. Not that I've ever done that.) I like to go with something soft (such as Camembert or the very lovely Jasper Hill Harbison), something hard like Manchego or Comte, and something funky or blue like Époisses or this super creamy Gorgonzola Cremificato. If you want more than three types, you can branch out from there–just try to keep a balance between textures and how strong the flavors are. (Note that this is in no way sponsored by Murray's, I just find them to be an excellent resource when looking for cheese.)mg_9268

After that, I like to add a few varieties of pickles and jams (I usually go for pepper jelly), like mini cornichons and if you're feeling ambitious, watermelon rind pickles. Then just add toasted baguette slices and a couple of kinds of crackers, and serve with wine (obviously). Perfect for holiday entertaining or a fancy night in.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 3.26.49 PM There are still a few (slightly sad) looking tomatoes at the farmer's market here in New York, but with snow in Minnesota this week, there's no doubt that winter will be here sooner than we know it. Tomato soup is possibly my favorite way to bridge the gap between summer and fall–you get the brightness and acidity of summer's best produce with the coziness of a warm fall soup. Make this weekend, and stock up in the freezer for a little taste of summer all through the cold months to come.

I didn't have a chance to photograph this the night I made it (curse you, Daylight Savings Time!) but did snap this picture at my desk the next day for lunch. Serve with grilled cheese  sandwiches, obviously (because let's be honest, who really wants tomato soup without grilled cheese?)

Roasted Tomato Soup (adapted from Ina Garten, courtesy of my mom)

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise 1/8 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 2 cups chopped yellow or white onions 6 garlic cloves, minced 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with juice 2teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/8 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade, or blend until relatively smooth in a blender. Taste for seasonings.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

_MG_7459Brussels sprouts were one of those vegetables I stayed away from as a kid because someone told me they were gross, and once I finally tried them as a teenager, made me kick myself for missing out all those years. _MG_7469We eat them all the time in the winter, usually simply roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper until they are super crispy, but when I came across this salad from one of my favorite little restaurants in NYC, I knew I had to give it a try. I made do with what I had, but since you only need a few ingredients, the salad comes together in minutes and is a study in simplicity. It goes perfectly with roast chicken or short ribs, and makes a great alternative to traditional winter roasted vegetables. _MG_7465

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad (adapted from the New York Times)

24 brussels sprouts

½ cup raw walnut halves (I only had almonds, so I used that instead)

¼ cup fork-crumbled parmiggiano reggiano

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more to taste

Kosher salt, to taste

Trim bottoms of brussels sprouts and discard any discolored or loose outer leaves. Using a mandoline, the slicing attachment on a food processor or a very sharp knife, shave sprouts into the thinnest of slices.

In a large bowl, combine shaved sprouts with the other ingredients, mixing roughly by hand so that the greens begin to wilt a little. Season to taste with salt and add a little more olive oil and lemon juice if necessary.

 

Apple Cake

_MG_7490It's definitely getting to be the time of year when curling up with a hot cup of coffee and a good book sounds most appealing. I've stated my love for summer many a time, but there's something about the crisp air coming in through windows cracked open, when you can wear sweaters and ballet flats but don't need to worry about a heavy coat just yet. _MG_7472

 

_MG_7491This cake, which I actually made to celebrate Rosh Hashana weeks ago when Ari's mom was in town, was the perfect way to usher in fall. I love cakes that only use one bowl, and this still feels special enough to serve at a dinner party–but it tastes even better for breakfast the next day.

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Apple Cake (Adapted from the New York Times)

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 ⅓ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 Gala or other flavorful apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 8 slices
1 teaspoon Calvados or apple brandy
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan or regular cake pan, and set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, combine remaining 8 ounces butter, 1 1/3 cups sugar and the salt. Mix until blended. Add eggs and whisk until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour and baking powder until thoroughly mixed. Fold in a few of the apples, and spread batter evenly in pan.
  3. In large bowl, toss remaining apples with Calvados, ginger and cinnamon. Arrange apple slices in closely fitting concentric circles on top of dough; all the slices may not be needed. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over apples.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake dough comes out clean and apples are golden and tender, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

White Bean & Chorizo Soup

_MG_7448 It's been a tough couple of weeks around here, hence the lack of posting. But things are slowly starting to feel more normal (booking flights to Paris for early next spring definitely helped), and I always find that in times of stress or heartache, cooking makes me feel better. Something about the routine of chopping onions, simmering broth and de-stemming kale lets me know that things will be all right, and that sometimes, a bowl of hot soup really can help._MG_7449

Maybe it's the definite smell of fall in the air, but I've been wanting chorizo in everything lately. Versions of this soup have been on almost weekly rotation for the past month or so, and I think it makes a perfect, hearty meal that you'll be able to make through the winter. _MG_7455

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White Bean & Chorizo Soup (adapted from Condé Nast Traveler)

3 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and medium diced 2 medium carrots, peeled and medium diced 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 1 tablespoon tomato paste 6 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced 1 medium Russet potato, peeled and medium diced 3 cans (15-ounce each) cannellini beans, drained

1/2 bunch kale or chard, de-stemmed and chopped 4 cups chicken stock Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat a medium cast-iron pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion and carrot. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the tomato paste, chorizo, and potato and stir to incorporate all flavors. Add the drained beans, kale and chicken stock, then stir and bring liquid to a simmer over high heat. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Corn, Chicken & Butternut Squash Soup

_MG_5428Soup isn't the most glamorous of meals – not nearly as exciting as, say, foie gras, or steak, or even pizza. And yet, there is something so inherently comforting about a bowl of warm soup, filled with hearty vegetables and diced chicken, with a little honey-drizzled cornbread on the side for good measure. Soup like this makes me long for a fireplace, for a cabin somewhere in the woods with snow falling outside the window and no honking horns of the city. I can't promise that this soup will take you there, but it will make you warm on a cold night no matter where you are, and give you your daily serving of vegetables to boot. And sometimes, that's good enough._MG_5431

 

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Corn, Chicken & Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from Epicurious)

Word of warning: this recipe makes A LOT of soup. So be sure to have plenty of tupperware for leftovers, or make it for a lot of people (i.e. more than two)

2 tablespoon butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup all purpose flour
9 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (cut from one 1 3/4-pound squash)
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 16-ounce bags frozen corn kernels
1 cup milk
4 cups diced skinned roast chicken (2-3 chicken breasts)
2 cups chopped green onions
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and 1 cup bell peppers. Sauté until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Mix in broth, then squash, potatoes, and thyme; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until squash and potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Add corn, cream, and 1 cup bell peppers. Simmer until corn is tender, about 10 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring to simmer before continuing.) Add chicken, 1 cup green onions, and 1/2 cup cilantro; simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle chowder into bowls; sprinkle with remaining 1 cup green onions and 2 tablespoons cilantro.

Baked Apple Pancake

_MG_5183 _MG_5208For many people, autumn is the best season of all. (Apple cider! Plaid! Falling leaves!) Summer will always have my heart, but I must say that I do love the beginnings of fall – the first night when you really need a blanket, those first crisp apples and pears, and being in the Northeast, the beautiful autumn colors. Since it seems like now it is officially the end of summer, I have decided to embrace it –and what better way than with apples?

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_MG_5200Pancakes aren't my favorite (I've always been more of a french toast kind of girl), but since Ari loves them I try to make them every now and again. I had picked up a few apples last weekend at the farmer's market, and while I love eating them sliced with a little peanut butter, how can you say no to adding a little butter and sugar? This baked "pancake" tastes indulgent and yet is surprisingly healthy, thanks to very little sugar and the addition of whole-wheat flour. A perfect fall breakfast (or dessert)._MG_5210

On a side note, does anyone else only like sliced apples? I can never eat them whole. Or is it just me?

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Baked Apple Pancake (adapted from Food & Wine)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2  apples, halved, peeled, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick (I used Honeycrisp) 3 tablespoons brown sugar 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, plus warmed syrup for serving 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour 1 teaspoon baking powder Pinch of salt 4 large eggs, separated 1 cup milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the apples, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the lemon juice and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden, about 6 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup of maple syrup and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 1 minute. Spread the apples in an even layer and remove the pan from the heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flours with the baking powder and salt. In a measuring cup, whisk the egg yolks with the milk and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk the liquid into the dry ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until firm peaks form, about 2 minutes. Fold the beaten whites into the batter and scrape it over the apples; spread the batter to the edge.
  4. Bake the pancake in the upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes, until it is golden, puffed and set. Let the pancake cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen the pancake, then invert it onto a serving plate. Replace any apples that may have stuck to the pan. Cut the pancake into wedges and serve at once with the warmed maple syrup.

Peach Cake Tatin

_MG_5093 _MG_5076As you probably have noticed, I'm kind of obsessed with peaches. How many desserts can you really come up with that contain them, you might ask? Well, if you're me, a lot. Most of the time, I buy a dozen and eat them plain, but every now and then I like to do a little something special with them. This cake, from the inimitable Barefoot Contessa, combines two of my favorite dessert ideas -- a "tatin", which involves cooking the fruit in a rich caramel sauce until they are juicy and golden and delicious, and a lemony cake recipe which nicely offsets the fruit. Though I love traditional Tarte Tatin and will probably be making it sometime in the next few months, it takes a bit more work and fiddling to make a more complicated caramel and roll out tart dough. This cake, on the other hand, comes together in half an hour and is the perfect way to use up those end-of-season stone fruits -- you could also try it with plums, nectarines, apples, or pears if you are embracing fall produce._MG_5084

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It definitely doesn't feel like summer any more in New York, but as long as there are still a few peaches and tomatoes at the market, I'm going to enjoy it for as long as I can._MG_5124

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Peach Cake Tatin (adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the dish 4-5 yellow or white peaches, pitted and quartered 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature 1/3 cup sour cream 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt Crème fraîche (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan and arrange the peaches in the dish, cut side down.

Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don't stir. Pour evenly over the peaches.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and, with the mixer on low speed, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.

Pour the cake batter evenly over the peaches and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then carefully invert the cake onto a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown-Butter Balsamic Sauce

I'm going to guess that most of you have your Thanksgiving meals all planned out by now. Turkey is defrosting, breadcrumbs are drying for stuffing, and pies are made. (I'm not cooking, so actually none of the above is true for me). If, however, you do not -- or you would like an excellent vegetarian entrée for your Thanksgiving (or other fall) meal, I would highly recommend these gnocchi. I actually found this recipe on Pinterest, which usually I shy away from (I've seen far too many of those "Pinterest Fail" pictures, which while hilarious, are usually not what I look for in a recipe), but when I saw that this recipe was from the amazing Aida Mollenkamp, I knew it would be good. And it doesn't fail to disappoint. I obviously love gnocchi in all forms, and you pretty much only have to mention the words "brown butter" to guarantee that I will want to try it.

On another note, happy Thanksgiving to you all! I hope you all have plans to eat and hang out with family and friends and eat your weight in turkey and mashed potatoes on this most wonderful of holidays. Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown-Butter Balsamic Sauce (adapted from aidamollenkamp.com)

For the gnocchi:

3  sweet potatoes (yams), halved lengthwise 1 Russet potato, halved lengthwise 1 tablespoon olive oil Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1 egg, lightly beaten 2tablespoons honey 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 1/2 to 2 cups all purpose or white whole wheat flour

For the sauce:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter 12 to 15 fresh sage leaves 2 shallots, quartered and thinly sliced 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cups arugula, spinach, or chard Freshly shaved parmesan, for garnish Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

Instructions

For the gnocchi:

(Gnocchi can be made through this step up to 1 month ahead. To store, place on a flat surface and freeze until frozen through. Transfer to an airtight container and keep frozen up to 1 month before using.)

Heat an oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil, season with a few good pinches of salt and a few cranks of pepper, place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast until fork tender, about 30 minutes.

Set aside until cool enough to handle. Scoop flesh out of skins then pass flesh through a potato ricer (or mash with back of a fork) and stir in egg and honey. Mix in salt and flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms. Taste and add additional salt, as needed. You’ve added flour when you touch the back of the dough and it is damp but not sticking to your hand.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into a square. Divide into 16 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into a rope (about 1/2 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. However, don’t add too much additional flour as too much will make for heavy gnocchi. Cut each rope into 1/2 -inch pieces.

Bring large pot of heavily salted water to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, simmer gnocchi until tender and they begin to rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Reserve 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water and drain the rest.

For the sauce:

This is enough sauce for half of the gnocchi. If you want to cook off all the gnocchi, go ahead and double the recipe. Just a note that I’d recommend you make this sauce through twice as doing twice this amount in one pan would be unwieldy.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it foams, add sage and cook until crisp and fragrant.  Add shallot and, watching it carefully and stirring often,  allow the milk solids begin to brown and the butter becomes fragrant and nutty. Scrape along the bottom to prevent the solids from sticking and burning.

When the butter is brown, immediately remove from heat, and carefully stir in the vinegar (it may sting your eyes). Stir in gnocchi and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, return to heat, and boil until sauce is thickened, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the arugula, spinach, or chard until greens are wilted. Add a lot of freshly ground black pepper, taste for seasoning and finish with additional pasta water, salt, black pepper, and freshly shaved parmesan.