Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Caramelized Pistachio, Walnut, and Almond Tart

We always go with our traditional pies when Thanksgiving rolls around. Pumpkin? For sure. Apple? Most likely. Pecan? Sometimes.

This year will be much the same... with the exception of including this little number.

I've had the recipe for this "pie" for at least 10 years and, for whatever reason, it's remained carefully tucked away... until now. All I can say is it's better late than never!

Forget plain 'ol pecan pie. This one has three different nuts-- walnut, pistachio, and almond -- and is just so much more interesting and flavorful. After a light toasting and a quick mix with a simple caramel sauce, this three-nut medley gets poured into an easy, no-roll crust (tinged with orange zest) that comes together after just a quick zip in the food processor. Super simple and delicious.

Better late than never.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

White Bean & Kale Soup topped with Crispy Turkey Bacon and Shredded Parmesan Cheese

This is the third soup I've made in the past week. While I have openly confessed to being a soup girl, it's truly not something I always plan to make... necessarily. One could easily think that my penchant for soups might have something to do with the color of the sky, the feel of the air, or the fleeting nature of daylight this time of year. If so, then gray, damp, and oh-too-quick would be the reasons for this most recent trifecta of soups.

The far more simple explanation, and somewhat less-than-dramatic truth, is that I just... plain...love them. From September through the end of April (or May), soups are a constant to be expected in our home. My family has put up with this for years; happy with the outcome, or simply happy that someone is feeding them. In either case, it has worked well for all involved.

This particular soup was actually made two nights in a row! The first night for us... and the second night as a little takeaway dinner for some friends (so... technically that's four soups).

I love the fact that this soup comes together so quickly, is super tasty... and uses an entire bunch of my new favorite super food: kale. While I have to admit that it took awhile to warm up to this mega-nutritious leafy green, I found that a little time spent with prep and seasoning can make all the difference in taming its somewhat characteristically bitter behavior.

Seasoning is also important in working with white beans but for an entirely different reason: they can be a bit bland if not seasoned up correctly. Yet they're one of those legumes that shine when paired with the right partners... namely, garlic and onions! Cannellinis are particularly good in this soup as they hold their structure better than some of the smaller white beans.

Since many of my soups are kind of UN-recipes... a little of this and a little of that... here are the basic steps to getting this particular one on the table (for four, approximate one- to two-cup servings).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gourmet Chips... Curly Kale, Purple Potato & Sweet Garnet

Potato chips are a rare offering in our home. Though we might grab an occasional bag to enjoy along with a sandwich at a deli or café, it isn't often. And it has nothing to do with being highly disciplined. On the contrary, lack of discipline governs this choice.

That being said, I am a firm believer in the value of moderation, so making homemade chips to offer up as a nibble is a perfect compromise... with nibble being the operative word.

Given the recent popularity of kale chips (blogged and blogged about... and now bagged and in stores), I figured I'd toss these in with my favored tater variety. And, while you can go with traditional russets, the vibrant coloring and delicious flavor of purple potatoes and garnet sweet potatoes (also called red yams) make a far grander offering.

Though you can use any variety of kale, I selected curly kale thinking it might make a nicer looking chip. And while I do believe it does, it is also a variety that is slightly more bitter and earthy in flavor than others. As a result, the chips still retain some of this flavoring... not a bad thing necessarily, but one that might get me to substitute the sweeter lacinato kale the next time around.

The fun part of making kale chips is they are just so easy and require very little olive oil and salt. And they are baked not fried. Surprisingly, after just 20 minutes they are done and very crisp. They are also incredibly light and airy... almost fragile. So much so that they kind of just melt in your mouth.

While we "liked" the kale chips, they weren't a huge hit... and definitely would not trump a true potato chip. They are, however, a fun offering in a novel sort of way. They also keep really well stored in a zip-lock bag though I ended up crunching our leftovers into a kale seasoning which, according to one of the blogs I follow, tastes great on fresh popcorn. (This is, however, the same blog that touted kale chips as being insanely delicious so I'll reserve judgment, for now.)

The potatoes, on the other hand, were a big hit. First of all, they are beautiful. Both varieties I used fry up really well. Though there are varying opinions on the type of oil best for frying, I use canola oil and find it works just great. With slicing being the hardest part of this easy nibble, I'd highly recommend using a mandolin slicer. It powers through this chore and results in perfect, whisper-thin potato slices.

As far as seasoning goes, potato chips require a bit more generosity where salt is concerned. I happened to use a fleur de sel on my kale chips, but sparingly so. A little goes a long way and can easily overpower these delicate wafers. Unlike potato chips, kale chips get salted before going into the oven. Potato chips should get a good sprinkle right after they get pulled from the fry pot to drain. They'll accept the seasoning far better when they are still warm.

Though these chips were made as a nibble, we did have a few leftovers. Both kale chips and purple potato chips will keep well stored in a zip-locked bag... though I think best consumed in a day or two. Sweet potato chips, however, tend to lose their crunch once bagged (at least mine did) so they are best consumed at once. And if you lack any discipline, consider bagging leftovers for guests to take away... far, far away.