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Spicy Green Apple and Cabbage Salad with Cashews

17 Jan

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Salads have a bad reputation, and I understand why. Let’s be honest: salad is, to many people, the food of punishment. You ate too many slices of pie over the holidays, so now it’s time to face a few weeks of salad while you get the house back in order. Faced with limp pieces of lettuce, sad slices of random vegetables, and some terrible bottled salad dressing, I wouldn’t be excited about eating salad either, if that was the way I had to face it. Luckily, I don’t consider salad a last resort, and that is why I can look at it as an opportunity to really build something that is more enticing than disciplinary.

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My first order of business with a salad is always texture. I like lots of satisfying crunch, so I try to use a variety of sturdier greens whenever possible. Then I turn to a variation in flavors, aiming to end up with a nice mix of tart, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter elements all thrown together. In this salad, super crisp napa cabbage gets combined with crunchy, tart Granny Smith apples and zesty fresh mint, then topped with savory toasted cashews. The third building block of a salad, the dressing—in this case, a super spicy chile and garlic dressing with lots of fresh lime juice—ties everything together, making each bite a fantastic mix of different flavors and sensations.

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Sometimes I think there is an art to building a salad. While it is certainly not the type of art that would warrant a solo gallery show or a major grant, you are at least awarded the opportunity to eat your work of art when you are done with it, and that, to me, is pretty much the best prize there is.

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Last Year: Chicken Biryani–one of my favorite dishes of all time–and Shallot and Herb Biscuits

Napa Cabbage and Green Apple Salad with Cashews

There are a lot of great textures going on in this salad, but I think you could get away with adding even more. Adding a cup or two of finely shredded or chopped purple cabbage would provide a lovely burst of color and flavor, and, if it’s in season, a handful of finely chopped fennel ribs would be borderline magical in here. Also, a note on the dressing: it is hot. I like a lot of spiciness, so I used an entire super hot chile pepper (ribs, seeds, and all), but, if you are not as tolerant of spiciness, you could certainly use just half of a chile, ribs and seeds removed.

Dressing:

1 serrano chile

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

pinch of sea salt

pinch of sugar

Salad:

4 cups finely shredded napa cabbage

1 small Granny Smith apple, cored, then cut into thin matchsticks

¼ cup roughly torn mint leaves

1 cup toasted cashews

Using a microplane zester or a fine grater, very finely grate the chile pepper and garlic into a small bowl. Alternately, you could use a mortar and pestle to pound the chile and garlic together. Using the back of a spoon, mash the chile and garlic together until they form a bit of a paste. Add the fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice, salt, and sugar, then whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, apple slices, and mint. Pour over the dressing and toss to combine. Add the toasted cashews. Taste for seasoning. You may decide you want more salt (some fish sauces are much saltier than others, so personal judgment is in order here). If you do add more salt, sprinkle it on sparingly, then toss thoroughly to combine.

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish.

Almond Flour and Roasted Apple Scones

7 Jan

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There has been an internal debate going on in my head over what to call this particular baked good. Introduced to me over the holidays as a recipe for gluten-free Irish soda bread, the batch I originally tasted was very texturally different than the version seen here. More cakey than bready, and containing raisins instead of roasted apples, the delicious bread, slathered with strawberry preserves, was devoured in the span of a late morning.

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What is seen in these pictures is my own version of the bread, made with a very old—and, I suspect, somewhat dehydrated—batch of almond flour that I had sitting around in the refrigerator. The texture of the bread I made was a lot less cake-like than the original, so, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel as though I can’t really call this bread a bread or a cake. Therefore, scones it is!

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All that aside, the recipe is also quite delicious. Given to me by a friend who is avoiding gluten consumption, it is not the type of baked good one eats and immediately pinpoints as trying to be something that it is not. Wonderfully nutty, lightly sweetened, and quite toothsome, it is not lacking anything in the way of desirability. If you use fresh almond flour in this recipe, you’ll end up with a treat that has the crumb of a sturdy cake; if you use almond flour that is, ahem, a bit older, the dryness of the flour will result in a drier, though certainly no less tasty, crumb. Truth be told, I loved both versions of this bread/cake/scone. The batch I made was meant specifically for a friend of mine who is diabetic, and therefore has to maintain strict control of her carbohydrate intake. Though she is often deprived of sweets in general, I’d like to think that her enthusiasm over these scones was based more on upfront taste, rather than on relief over finally being able to eat a baked good. In either case, I’ll take it as a good sign that, though I can eat gluten and carbohydrates, I find this recipe wonderful enough to make any time I am craving something warm from the oven.

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Last Year: Cod and Leek Chowder

Almond Flour and Roasted Apple Scones

Let’s talk texture for a moment. There are a few different types of almond flour one can use in this recipe, and all of those flours will result in a slightly different baked good. Blanched almond flour (that is, almond flour made with almonds with the skins removed) will produce a more tender product, as will any fresh almond flour that you grind up yourself. Almond flour with the skins ground in will produce a more crumbly baked good, though one that is no less delicious. In regard to terminology, I have found that there is a 50/50 split between companies that refer to their product as either almond flour or almond meal. Without getting into a long discussion about it, the gist of it is, either almond flour or almond meal can be used in this recipe and things will still turn out beautifully.

1 large apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch chunks (you’ll end up with roughly ½ to ¾  of a cup—sometimes more, sometimes less—of apple chunks)

2 ¾ cups almond flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons agave nectar (you could also use honey, though be aware that honey will impart a much more pronounced flavor)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then arrange apple chunks on parchment and roast in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until the apple chunks feel fairly dry to the touch and are just tinged with a golden hue. Remove apples from baking sheet and allow to cool while you prep other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, agave or honey, apple cider vinegar, and lemon zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in roasted apple chunks.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, shape dough (it will be rather sticky) into an 8-inch round. Score the center of the round with a ½-inch deep X. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, then turn off oven and allow round to sit in oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing into triangles.

Makes 6-8 scones, depending on how you choose to slice.

Indian Cashew and Pistachio Nut Brittle

17 Dec

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If you’ve never attempted to make candy before, I think I’ve got the perfect recipe to get you started. I know, I know—you don’t have a candy thermometer, you’re afraid of burning things (including yourself), and why would anyone make candy when you can just buy candy? I get it, really I do. But I still think you should make this.

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Why? Because where else are you going to find a crisp nut brittle infused with Indian spices? A nut brittle made with pure clover honey instead of corn syrup? Or a super customized candy that contains only the nuts you want, being as though, if you’re not a cashew or pistachio fan, you can use peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pepitas, or whatever you feel like? Right here is where you’ll find it. And, as an added bonus, you don’t even need a candy thermometer to make this delicious treat happen. If you have one, by all means, bust it out. If you don’t, however, you still have no excuse to not make this candy.

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Crisp, wonderfully spiced, and absolutely jam packed with nuts, this is homemade candy at its finest. Because I like a high ratio of nuts to sweet stuff, I made this recipe specifically with that preference in mind. The sweetness of the brittle serves mainly as a lacy structure to hold the nuts together, making every bite a perfect balance of nutty and sweet. Because a lot about the recipe is customizable, you can, as mentioned previously, swap out the nuts you see here for any other nut you like. You can also swap the ginger extract for vanilla extract, the cardamom for cinnamon (or a smaller amount of cayenne pepper or chipotle powder, if you’re looking to make a sweet and spicy candy). It’s great for wrapping up and gifting to friends and family, and, if packed in an airtight container and padded against shattering, it can be shipped across the country and arrive perfectly fresh and tasty as the day it was made. Seriously, just give it a try. You don’t have to make it with gifting in mind, if that takes off any added pressure. You can make it and eat it all yourself, and if you do, I promise I won’t tell a soul.

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Last Year: Peppermint Mocha Crinkle Cookies

Indian Cashew and Pistachio Nut Brittle Recipe

As I mentioned earlier, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can still make this candy. Though gauging a candy’s doneness can be accomplished by temperature, it can also be accomplished by keeping a close eye on your candy’s color and scent. I’ve added instructions below that address both temperature as well as color and scent.

Heaping ¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup honey

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup raw pistachios

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ginger extract (if you can’t locate ginger extract in your local market, it can be ordered from a baking or spice shop, such as this one)

½ teaspoon baking soda

Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper, then set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over low heat, combine sugar, water, honey, and sea salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and, without stirring, allow the mixture to come to a boil. Boil the mixture for 5 to 8 minutes, without stirring, until the mixture reaches around 260 degrees on a candy thermometer, or, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the mixture turns a deep amber color. When the desired temperature or color are reached, immediately stir in the nuts and stir the mixture constantly until it reaches a temperature of 310 degrees or, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, when the mixture turns a deep golden shade of reddish brown and you can smell the nuts toasting and the sugar becoming deeply caramelized.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the butter, cardamom, and ginger extract until evenly incorporated. Add the baking soda (the mixture will bubble and foam for a bit, then reside) and stir until combined. Quickly pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, pouring it around as evenly as possible. Do not bother trying to scrap the last bits of the hot, sugary mixture from the sides of the pan. Gently push the mass of nuts around so it covers as much of the surface of the candy as possible.

Allow the candy to cool completely before breaking into bits and eating or packaging. If you want to speed up the cooling process, you an place the sheet of cooling candy in the freezer and cut your cooling time in half.

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