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Tag Archives: apples

Super Crunchy Fennel, Apple, and Celery Salad

6 Mar

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I am neck-deep in a rather large project right now (nothing exciting or surprising, unfortunately), but, as I sit at my desk and worry about work, my thoughts keep wandering back to this excellent salad I made last week. The salad had pretty much every element that I love a salad to have: great texture, lots of crunch, a subtle yet tasty dressing, and a nice dash of protein thrown in. Thinking about this salad keeps me from slowly losing my mind about my current work project, which is interesting. Who gets calmed down by a salad?

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Perhaps I should be talking instead about how this salad, while soothing to me, was also rather exciting. Not that calling a salad exciting is any less questionable than calling a salad soothing, but hear me out on this one. Every week or so, we’ve been experiencing a day of relative dryness, when the rain stops, the sun comes out, and everyone who has been trapped inside for months on end by the grayness and the rain comes outside and soaks up the brightness. Some of us, making the correlation between warmer weather and a change in available produce, rush out to find whatever is available to make a fresh, new meal. I love polenta and soup, but when the weather gets warmer, I want light, crisp, fresh meals, not warm, hearty meals that will warm me from the inside. The weather may not stay warmish for long, but I like to make the tiny bit of warmth as meaningful as possible.

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So, I had the idea for a great, crisp salad, loaded with fresh fennel and crisp apples. I had celery on hand, so I threw some in. The tops of the fennel were chopped up at the last minute and sprinkled about, and the result was nothing short of phenomenal. With a super light dressing of just lemon juice and olive oil, followed by a handful of raw pepitas, the salad came to life, earning a spot on my list of top five most favorite salads. Super crisp, wonderfully flavorful, and a reminder of warm days to come, it’s definitely going to make a few repeat appearances around here.

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Last Year: Quinoa, Arugula, and Roasted Beet Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing and Beet Greens and Chèvre Quiche–look at me, using every part of the beet.

Super Crunchy Fennel, Apple, and Celery Salad

One of the great things about this salad is the fact that the vegetables and fruit are sliced incredibly thin—we’re talking whip-out-the-mandoline-slicer thin—allowing each bite to cram in as much of each salad element as possible. As mentioned, I used a mandolin to slice everything as thin as possible, but you could also just use a super sharp knife and slice away.

2 cups fresh fennel, sliced super thin (about 1 large bulb), core removed, leaves set aside

2 cups super thin apple slices (about 2 small apples)

1 cup super thin celery slices (sliced across, not lengthwise, obviously)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil (using extra virgin olive oil will result in a much more punchy dressing, and using a lighter olive oil will give you a milder background of dressing)

big pinch of sea salt

big pinch of freshly ground black pepper

handful of fresh fennel leaves, roughly chopped

¼ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

In a large bowl, combine fennel, apple, and celery.

In a smaller bowl, add lemon juice, then slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is thick and emulsified (this shouldn’t take more than about 30 seconds). Whisk in salt and pepper, taste for more seasoning, and adjust as you see fit.

Pour dressing over fennel, apple, and celery. Toss to combine. Add chopped fennel leaves and pepitas, toss just a couple of times, then serve.

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

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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.

Easiest Skillet Fruit Pie

12 Nov

Are you familiar with the concept of a skillet pie? Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was not. In fact, until the moment when I found myself with a huge box of fast-ripening pears and one single layer pie crust, it had never really occurred to me to bake a pie with only one crust. Oh, sure, I like single crust pies and tarts, but a baked fruit pie with only one crust? Why would I do that? One of the most enjoyable things about a fruit pie is the fact that it bakes into one big juicy mass of fruit that melts into its cozy pocket of crust. What’s the point of taking away one of those crusts?

To be honest, I don’t really think you need to take away one of those crusts, but, if you want to know how to make a dead simple pie out of nothing more than some fresh fruit, a tiny amount of sugar, and only a single layer of pie crust, well, you’ve come to the right place.

Think of this as a last minute pie, the type of thing you throw together when you find yourself with unexpected company or a zero-hour request that you provide a dinner party dessert. The entire thing comes together in no time at all, and you use the same pan to both sauté the fruit and bake the pie. All of the great caramelized juices from the pears stay in the pan, allowing everything to mingle and get cozy while the top crust bakes. It’s a great pie for new bakers, for people short on time, one just for people who love pie. Really, it’s just a great pie, period.

Last Year: Butternut Squash Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

Easiest Skillet Fruit Pie Recipe

I use a 12-inch skillet to make this pie, as it provides a good amount of surface area in which to cook the fruit. If you only have a smaller skillet, say, a 10-inch one, you may have to divide your fruit into more batches when you cook it initially.

4 pounds ripe pears or apples

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 single layer pie crust (my favorite pie crust recipe is below)

Flaky Tart and Pie Dough Recipe

From Tartine

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup (5 ½ ounces) very cold ice water

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (1 pound) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (10 ½ ounces) very cold unsalted butter

pinch of sea salt

In a small bowl, add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve.  Place in the freezer to keep super cold until ready to use.

Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor, or in a large bowl.  Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces, then scatter over the flour.  If using a food processor, pulse the mixture briefly until it forms into large crumbs and some of the pieces of butter remain pea-sized.  If making the dough by hand, cut the butter into the dough using a pastry cutter.  You will want the dough to have the same crumb-like look with some large pea-sized chunks of butter throughout.

Drizzle the salt and water mixture over the dough and, if using a food processor, pulse until the dough comes together into a ball but is not completely smooth.  You should still see visible butter chunks.  If mixing the dough by hand, drizzle the salt and water mixture over the dough while tossing with a fork.  The dough should come together in a shaggy mass.  Gently mix the dough together until it comes together in a ball but is not completely smooth.  As with the food processor dough, you should still see visible butter chunks.

Divide the dough into 2 equal balls on a lightly floured surface.  Shape each ball into a disk about 1 inch thick.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Makes 2 9-inch or 10-inch tart or pie shells, enough for 2 single-crust pies or tarts, or 1 double-crust pie.

To make the pie:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peel and core the pears or apples. If your fruit is super fresh (meaning, if it is in season and has spent only a handful of weeks in between being on a tree and being in  your kitchen) you don’t even need to peel the fruit, as the skin should be very thin and flavorful. Cut the pears or apples in half, then in quarters.

In a large cast iron skillet set over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Sprinkle over 1 tablespoon of the dark brown sugar, and allow it to melt into the butter just slightly (about 30 seconds to 1 minute). Add a small pinch of sea salt. Add half of the quartered fruit, making sure that the fruit is laying in a single layer. Sauté fruit until it is just starting to caramelize on one side. For the pears I used, which were super ripe, this only took about 3 minutes since the juices were just flowing out of them once they hit the hot pan. For less ripe pears, or for firm apples, it could take up to 7 or 8 minutes. Carefully turn the fruit over and caramelize on the other side (again, this could take anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes). Pour cooked fruit into a large bowl, scraping out the caramelized sugar along with it. Add the second tablespoon of butter, the second tablespoon of sugar, a small pinch of sea salt, then the rest of the fruit, and cook in the same manner as you did the first batch. If the sugar and butter start to brown too quickly, turn the heat down to low. When the fruit has cooked, remove the pan from the heat, add in the first batch of fruit, stir gently to combine, and set aside.

On a floured surface, roll out the single-layer pie crust into a circle roughly 1 inch larger than the size of your pan. Gently place the round of dough over the fruit in the skillet, then tuck under any overhanging edges. Slice air vents in the crust. If you want, you can sprinkle a little turbinado sugar over the top of the crust, or brush the crust with a beaten egg, but you certainly don’t have to do either.

Bake the pie in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the top crust is dark golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before eating. The filling will be molten hot.

Serve with freshly whipped cream, whipped with just a pinch of cinnamon.

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