Tag Archives: apples

Kale Salad with Squash, Apples and Country Ham Croutons

The latest edition of Bon Appetit is all about The South, declaring this region as the next big food trend. Well, duh, everyone says. Whether it means black-eye peas, fish fried with cornmeal or country ham, it appears the masses are turning their heads to low-country cuisine.

One ingredient I surely never saw at the Safeways of the Pacific Northwest is country ham. The super-salty cured pork steak that is so sodium-soaked that it almost burns. In fact, the packages aren’t even refrigerated!

I typically enjoy country ham added to cooking beans or something that allows the salt and strong porkiness to distribute. But this Bon Appetit recipe uses it as a little crouton (my title) on top of a salad made from thick kale, tart apple, sweet squash and a simple vinaigrette. Oh, and buttermilk drizzled over the top. Just for effect … and more.

I must admit that I am trying so hard to like squash, and I simply don’t. Still, you can see why roasted butternut squash is great in this medley – the acid of the lemon vinaigrette, the heartiness of the kale, the saltiness of the ham, the crunch of the apple and the creamy tang of the buttermilk. It all works and is full of good vitamins and minerals.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, which used mustard greens and a few other details I changed.

Kale Salad with Squash, Apples and Country Ham Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 10 c. fresh kale, stems and ribs removed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 2 cups 1″ cubes peeled butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced country ham, chopped
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
Method:
  • Gently rub greens with 2 Tbsp. salt in a large bowl. Let stand, checking often, until the greens begin to release water and soften, about 15 minutes. Rinse in two changes of cold water. Squeeze greens dry and pat with a kitchen towel; transfer to a clean bowl.
  • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss squash with 1 Tbsp. olive oil on prepared sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast squash, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and tender, 20–25 minutes. Let cool.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add ham and cook until crisp, 1–2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  • Add squash, apple, shallot, lemon juice, and remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil to greens.
  • Toss to combine; season to taste with salt. Divide evenly among plates. Drizzle with buttermilk. Arrange fried ham over. Season with cracked pepper.

Bon Appetit tells me that one whole salad contains less than 300 calories and less than 3 grams of saturated fat. Nevermind the sodium. 🙂

I’ve never had kale like this before and I think I had trouble getting used to its tough texture. But a bite that consisted of ham, the apple, the kale and the squash had a really sophisticated balance to it.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo
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Apple Butter, Brie and Prosciutto Toasts

Apple butter makes me think of the Fruit Loop in Oregon – a stretch of winding country roads that takes visitors through apple and pear orchards, vineyards and pumpkin patches. One stop along the way makes great BBQ, but what I remember more than the thick smoke hanging in the cool air is the giant cauldron of apple butter that a poor soul stirs and stirs over coals.

Now that I’ve made my own apple butter, I can really appreciate the labor of love. You literally need to commit a whole afternoon to stirring and reducing and checking for burning, etc. But I don’t have that kind of patience, so I took my butter to just under the butter stage (where the sauce becomes thick and spreadable). It still had the caramelized apple flavor, just wasn’t quite as thick as it should be.

Apple Cider Butter

  • 6 lbs apples, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 c. apple cider
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

In large saucepan, combine apples and cider. Bring to boil over medium, then reduce and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about 30 min.

In batches, transfer apple mixture to food processor and puree until a uniform texture is reached.

In clean big saucepan, combine apple puree, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil over medium, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring, until mixture thickens and holds its shape on a spoon – I did it for about 45 min.

Transfer to clean jars and let cool, then store in the fridge or give away!

I used mine on a yummy appetizer.

Apple Butter, Brie and Prosciutto Toasts

  • 1/2 c. apple butter
  • 1 baguette, cut into slices
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 lb. thin prosciutto slices
  • Thinly sliced apple
  • 8 oz. brie cheese

Toast baguette slices drizzled in olive oil, salt and pepper, then rub the warm slices on one side with a garlic clove.

Top each slice with a dollop of apple butter, then prosciutto, then a slice of apple (or pear if you have it!) and finally the brie.

Broil the toasts until the brie is melted. Finish with another drizzle of oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

The garlic is a nice touch, underneath the sweet apple butter, gamey ham and buttery brie. You will love it.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Baked Apples

My dad used to make baked apples. As the grateful recipient of my mother’s daily meal planning, dad never cooked much around the house. So I guess that’s why I remember the few times he owned the kitchen, when he wasn’t warming milk to help his little daughters  sleep or making the morning coffee.

Baked apples were a mystery when I was little. Dad would hollow out an apple, fill it with sugar and butter, pop it in the microwave and out came my favorite fall snack.

There’s something uniquely seasonal about apples roasting in sugar, butter and spices. The culinary equivalent of running through leaves when the sunlight gets a warmer shade of golden, and the air takes on that distinctive tinge of falling foliage.

My baked apples don’t taste quite as magical as those of my youth, but can anything capture those tastes from our memories?

Simple Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 4 apples, cored but not all the way through (I just used a mellon baller) and peeled around the top
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch cloves
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325. Place apples in baking dish. Combine sugar, salt and spices in a small bowl. Fill each apple cavity with spices. Top with 1 T butter. Squeeze lemon over everything and pour enough water into the pan to fill 1/2-inch up the apples. Cover with foil and bake until soft, 25-45 min (it will depend on your apple and your preference).

The apples should be soft, but not turning to applesauce.

To serve, place each apple on a plate and pour the pan juices over the apples. Great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or caramel syrup.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Easy French Apple Tart

Here follows the response to my craving for something apple-y. This simplified version of a French apple tart is so easy, you can do it if friends unexpectedly stop by for dessert.

Simply layer apple slices on a sheet of pastry, dot with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Then you bake, brush with preserves and slice! It’s a pretty elegant semi-homemade sweet.

Easy French Apple Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry, rolled out to 10×10-inch square
  • 2-3 apples (Granny Smith or Pink Lady are good), peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • Half stick unsalted butter, diced, chilled
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. apricot preserves mixed with 2 T water

Preheat oven to 400 and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay pastry on sheet, then layer with overlapping apple slices. Sprinkle sugar over, then a pinch of cinnamon. Dot with butter. Bake 35-45 min. until the apples are caramelized in spots (their sugary juices will leak out and burn, just to warn you!). If the pastry puffs up in one area, as mine did, just poke it with a knife.

Heat preserves with water in a small saucepan until melted, then brush over the entire tart.

When done, loosen pastry away from the sheet and cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wasn’t that easy? Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Spiced apple cake

For months, I’ve coveted a very special bundt pan at Williams-Sonoma. It’s a splurge, is smaller than normal bundt pans, and it called to me. I’ve never loved shaped loaf pans. I don’t like the traditional tube any more than I like the rose-patterned ones our mothers used. Until I saw this pan…which looks like some kind of smooth sea shell with sharp edges and clean lines.

So I finally bought this pan after finding an old recipe I clipped from Every Day With Rachael Ray three years ago. Don’t worry – if you are not an R-Ray fan, know that she did not write this recipe. I’ve found her magazine has better recipes because her editors are actually talented cooks who test recipes.

This will calm your craving for a comforting fall dish. Five big, tart apples sliced thin and added to a simple batter spiced with cinnamon. The apple-to-batter ratio is heavily in favor of the apples, making the cake oh so moist and soft. You’ll think there are too many apples, but they turn soft and smooth layers within the cake.

I brought leftovers to a breakfast meeting at work and everybody loved it.

Spiced Apple Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canola oil, plus more for greasing
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 Granny Smith apples (about 1¼ pounds)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt or tube pan. In a medium bowl, combine the 2-1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. In a large bowl, toss the apples with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup of oil with the eggs, orange juice, vanilla and the remaining 2 cups of sugar on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing until just combined. Add the apples and stir to combine. Transfer to the pan, leaving about an inch at the top, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1½ hours. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before unmolding it onto a rack to cool completely.

Enjoy this toasted for a morning breakfast or at room temperature for a nice treat throughout the day. It’s not too sweet or dense like a pound cake, but just as moist and flavorful. I think it’s a keeper.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Apple Muffins

My friends and I love to hate Martha Stewart and her team of annoyingly crafty people. Every month as I wait for my subscription, I think, “What new thing will she print that I MUST make? Homemade Peeps?”

A friend sent me this recipe a while ago and I baked it despite the fact that I try to save apple-cinnamon treats for fall and winter. But why deny bliss?

Chunks of tart apples dot the soft, moist muffins and cinnamon keeps it interesting. Next time, I might try to jazz these up with some nutmeg or chopped candied ginger. They don’t need much, but apples are fun to cook with interesting spices. I omitted the walnuts, but add if you like them.

Martha’s Chunky Apple Muffins

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and quartered
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup standard muffin tin with cooking spray; set aside. Cut 3 apple quarters into 1/4-inch dice; cut remaining apple quarter into 12 thin slices for garnish.
  2. Whisk together sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add diced apple and walnuts, if using; toss to coat.Whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and butter in a small bowl. Gently fold buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full.Top each with an apple slice. Bake until muffins are brown around edges and spring back when touched, 16 to 18 minutes. Let muffins cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before turning out of tin onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.

Enjoy these for breakfast or a snack – they go perfectly with a cup of coffee or a spicy tea. xoxo

Easy as apple pie

Apple pie is not easy. Working with two layers of crust that could be too crumbly or too soft, apples that could collapse when cooked and juices that could get soupy. Many things can and will go wrong when you first attempt this American icon.

I love apple pie for the spices: fresh nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. The lemon zest and juice adds a special kick to the filling. And the crust. Making the pie crust yourself is critical. Unfortunately, I always seem to have trouble with my crusts. Either they are too sticky or too crumbly. Very frustrating.

I turned to my Best Recipes companion, but even then, the pie had some issues. The taste was perfect. The texture of the dough was wonderful (even if it was too wet when I made it) – buttery and flaky.

My problem was the apples. Granny Smith and McIntosh. I think the McIntosh became too soft and resulted in the pie collapsing after it cooled. Maybe next time I will go with an equally sweet but less soft apple – any recommendations?

Sincerely,

Not The Apple of Your Eye

Apple tart and autumn

Trail near our house - Bethabara Park

Why does it feel like autumn is over when all the leaves finally fall off the trees? We still have quite a few leaves hanging on down here, but this rain/wind storm is doing its best to remove them. This post is dedicated to some of the foliage I’ve enjoyed in my first fall in NC.

Yes, Ellie, this is the "scary trail"

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Now, for the food. I made this apple tart a few weeks ago, adapting it from a Martha Stewart recipe. I made my own applesace, even, and it was pretty tasty. I think it would be even better with home-made crust. Here’s how it goes.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out one thawed sheet of puff pastry. Smooth on a scant 3/4 c. good applesauce, leaving room for the crust. Fold up the edges to create said crust.

Layer thinly sliced apples over the top. Pick a firm, tart apple because they hold up better.

Brush the whole thing with melted butter and then sprinkle on sugar. Bake until the pastry is puffed and the apples are caramelized, roughly 25-30 min. for me, but check it at 20.

Once finished, brush on some melted jam, apricot or fig or whatever you have. Slice into pieces and serve warm.

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Enjoy the end of your fall, friends! xoxo

Sausage and Gruyere egg bake

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One of the virtues of being home more often is the ability to watch a Food Network show, become inspired and make whatever you witnessed. Yesterday was such a day. I watched Giada on “Everyday Italian” make what she called an omelet but what I would call an egg bake. If it were cooked on the stove first, I would call it a frittata. If it had bread in it, it would be a strata. So I guess it is an oven-omelet? Whatever.

Oh my GOODNESS I love Gruyere. It has to be my favorite cheese to cook with. Melts perfectly, has a nice nutty flavor, mmmmm. The Gruyere makes this dish, although Jesse says that each ingredient was a star, like you can really taste each in every bite. Instead of following Giada’s recipe exactly (I don’t like bell peppers), I made it my own.

I used spicy Italian chicken sausage instead of turkey sausage and I used tomatoes instead of bell pepper. I also used more cheese (oops!) because the Gruyere only comes in 8 0z. packages and she called for 6 oz. Oh wells!

Ingredients:

Italian sausage

parsley

2 tomatoes

1 small onion

Gruyere cheese

eggs

milk

S&P

butter

olive oil

Here’s what I did:

Preheat the oven to 425 and butter a glass baking dish (mine is 8-inches square).

Heat 2 T EVOO in a large skillet and sautee one chopped yellow onion until translucent. Add in 1/2 lb. sausage, casings removed, and brown. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat seven eggs (she called for eight, I had seven) with 1/3 c. milk (I used 1 percent). Add a large pinch of salt and some cracked pepper to taste. Stir in two tomatoes, seeded and chopped, 1 c. shredded Gruyere and 1/4 c. parsley. Stir in the onion mixture.

Pour that into the buttered pan and cover with more cheese. Bake until the center is set, about 25-30 min. and the cheese is amber and bubbling. Just make sure the center is set – these things can take forever to bake! If your cheese is getting too brown and the middle still isn’t set, put the whole thing in the microwave for a couple minutes, or put foil over the top and keep baking until done.

While that bakes, make some toast and spiced apples. I peeled and sliced two gala apples and added them to a pan with 2 T. melted butter, over medium heat. Then I added a few shakes of cinnamon and some freshly grated nutmeg. Then the juice from one lemon and two tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir and cook until thick and bubbly.

A sweet side dish

A sweet side dish

For the toaste, I just sliced the rest of our ciabatta bread and toasted it with garlic-olive oil.

When the bake is done, let it rest a few minutes and then cut into wedges, sprinkling with more parsley. In my opinion, the corners are the best because they have all that crusty cheese…

Baked cheesy goodness

Baked cheesy goodness

Turns out, this meal was wonderful for dinner, but of course works for breakfast and brunch. You could even make it ahead and bake it off in the morning, although it really doesn’t take that long to prepare. I thought I didn’t like strata-type baked egg dishes, but this one proved me wrong. And it was dirt cheap – eggs go a lot farther if you mix them with vegetables, meat and cheese, then bake them. Nummy.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo