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Holiday Baking: Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake

orange-olive-oil-cake-lynda-balslev

Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake
Almonds and Gran Marnier

This light and moist cake will carry you through the holidays. Redolent with orange, cardamom, and almonds, and slightly spiked with Gran Marnier, it’s delicious for tea and spiffy enough for dessert. The sea salt is optional in the glaze, but if you lean that way, go for it. The flavors of the cake will develop while it cools and the glaze will ensure long lasting moistness. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days, but it’s unlikely it will go uneaten that long.

Cake:
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest, from an untreated orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon salt

Glaze:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
Pinch of sea salt

Optionals:
Powdered sugar
Whipped cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light in color. Add the olive oil, orange juice, zest, vanilla and almond extract and stir to blend.
3. Combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring to blend without over-mixing. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes clean, about 45 minutes.
5. While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Combine the sugar and  orange juice in a small saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the liquid reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Gran Marnier and sea salt and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.
6. Transfer the cake from the oven to a wire rack. Brush the top with the glaze and cool 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan, then brush the cake on the sides with the glaze. Cool completely.
7. Serve dusted with confectioners sugar and/or with a dollop whipped cream. If desired, add a tablespoon of the (thoroughly cooled) glaze to the cream while whipping. .

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Apricots and Chickpeas

lamb tagine

This lamb stew is inspired by a traditional Moroccan meat and vegetable tagine and Mrouzia, a rich celebratory stew sweetened with fruit and honey. I have scaled the sweetness back, reducing the honey (or brown sugar in this case) and relying on dried apricots, which  melt into the stock while simmering to provide subtle sweetness. The meat can be rubbed with the spices and cooked straight away, but if you have the time, rub the meat the night before preparing and refrigerate. The longer the meat can sit with the spices, the deeper the flavor.

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Apricots and Chickpeas

This recipe includes ras el hanout, which is an important spice blend in North African cuisine. It means “top of the shop” and includes a laundry list of aromatic and piquant spices, a combination which will vary from kitchen to kitchen, cook to cook. You can purchase ras el hanout in specialty stores or well-stocked supermarkets. Serves 6.

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2  to 3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 (14-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
12 dried unsulphured apricots (or dried figs), halved
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
Harissa or red chili paste, optional
Fresh cilantro sprigs

1. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, the coriander, cumin, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl and mix to form a paste. Place the lamb in a large bowl and rub the paste all over the meat. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or oven proof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add the lamb in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer the lamb to a plate or bowl and repeat with remaining lamb.
3. Pour off the fat and add 1 tablespoon oil and the onion to the same pot. Sauté the onion over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes, stirring up the brown bits. Add the garlic, ginger, and red chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 2 cups chicken stock, the apricots, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Return the lamb and any collected juices to the pot and submerge in the stock. (Add more chicken stock to cover, if necessary.) Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven and cook until the lamb is tender, about 2 hours, stirring once or twice.
4. Transfer the pot to the stovetop and stir in the carrots and chickpeas. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the carrots are tender and the sauce reduces and thickens to a stew consistency, about 20 minutes, skimming the fat as much as possible. Stir in the brown sugar and taste for seasoning. If more heat is desired, stir in a few teaspoons of harissa.
5. Serve warm, ladled over couscous and garnish with cilantro.

Warm Wild Rice Salad with Dried Fruit and Nuts

Rice Stuffing

I am just going to come out and say it: I am not a fan of turkey stuffing (or dressing), and neither is my family. Whenever I make stuffing, it sits uneaten at the Thanksgiving table, before banishment to the refrigerator, labeled “leftover,” where it continues to sit for days, forlorn, neglected, and, frankly, wasteful. So, now I don’t make a stuffing for our turkey. Instead, I jam bunches of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, and sage, as well as wedges of lemon or orange in the cavity to provide aroma and moisture while the turkey roasts. For serving, I provide potatoes and a grain dish to balance and fill out the feast. This rice salad is always a hit. It’s a great gluten-free starch substitute for stuffing, and the dried fruit and nuts stud the rice like festive jewelry, providing a pretty addition to the holiday table. Feel free to mix up the fruit and nuts, substituting raisins, chopped prunes, dried figs, walnuts or hazelnuts. For a vegetarian option, substitute vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock.

Wild Rice with Dried Fruit and Pecans

Serves 6.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 ½ cups wild rice or wild rice blend
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
½ cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the  dried fruit and pecans while fluffing the rice with a fork. Let stand, partially covered,  for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro and Walnuts

brussels-sprouts-grapes-farro-tastefood

This brussels sprouts recipe is perfect for the holiday table. Roasted grapes and a shellacking of caramelized pomegranate balsamic vinegar tame and complement the earthy crucifers. Farro and toasted walnuts add heft and heartiness to this side dish, while nicely providing a satisfying vegetarian option on a meat laden table. If you can’t find pomegranate balsamic vinegar, you can make your own by whisking together 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses.

Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

1 pound brussels sprouts, halved (or quartered if large)
12 ounces seedless red grapes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked farro
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the brussels sprouts, grapes, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle the pomegranate balsamic vinegar over, stirring to coat. Return to the oven and roast until the sprouts are tender and the grapes have begun to shrivel, about 15 minutes more, stirring once or twice. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add the farro and walnuts and toss to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe and Video #NationalSandwichDay

November 3rd is National Sandwich Day, and why not? The humble and satisfying sandwich, originally constructed as a vehicle for leftovers and efficient hands-on eating, has roots in nearly every culture. From classic American PB&J (peanut butter and jelly, for those of you who may ask), to hoagies and burgers, wraps and clubs, pockets and panini, and tartines and smørrebrød (which are fancier ways to say “open-face”), there is a version of a sandwich for every cuisine and appetite.

So, in honor of #NationalSandwichDay (and as a welcome diversion from the increasingly discordant politics and punditry in the last week of the Presidential campaign) I submit to you a delectable recipe and video for Chicken Banh Mi, guaranteed to whisk you away from the news cycle, at least for lunch. Banh Mi is the Vietnamese rendition of a sandwich with French sensibilities: French baguette, paté, and mayonnaise meet Asian spiced meats, chiles, pickles, and cilantro – a creation influenced by the lengthy colonization of Vietnam by France. (Even the origin of this sandwich can’t escape politics.) The key to a good banh mi is the perfect flavor balance of spicy, salty, sweet, and piquant, matched by a satisfying blend of textures – crusty tender baguette, bright herbs, crunchy pickles, and a creamy sweet-spicy mayo sauce.

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Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich

The meat fillings in banh mi can vary from pork to chicken, duck, tofu, paté, or sausage. For a quick and light preparation, I often use chicken. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Marinade:
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each about 6 ounces, pounded to an even thickness, about 1/2-inch thick.

Pickled Vegetables:
1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 (4-inch) daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 (4-inch) English cucumber, seeded, cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

Spicy Mayo:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 small hero rolls or 1 large soft baguette, cut into four (4-inch) sections, split
4 Boston lettuce leaves
1 to 2 jalapeños, sliced
1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh cilantro

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place the chicken in a small baking dish, pour the marinade over and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours).
2. Combine the pickled vegetable ingredients in a bowl. Using your fingers, rub the vegetables until the sugar and salt dissolve, and the vegetables release their juices and begin to soften. Pour in the vinegar and let stand for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Drain before using.
3. Whisk the spicy mayo ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until use.
4. Preheat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil to the skillet. Remove the chicken from the marinade, place in the skillet and cook until browned on both sides and thoroughly cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest while you toast the bread, then thinly slice.
4. In the same skillet (do not wipe it out), toast the rolls, cut-side down until lightly marked and crusty, about 2 minutes, without turning, adding a little oil if necessary.
5. To assemble, spread about 1 tablespoon mayo on each cut side of each roll. Lay a lettuce leaf on the bottom half, then top with chicken, the pickled vegetables, jalapeños, mint leaves, and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

Video produced by Food Guru Channel and TasteFood

Autumn Chopped Salad with Cauliflower, Kale, and Carrots

kale-chopped-salad-tastefood

It’s getting chilly outside, and while warm and comforting food is high on the crave-list, it’s more important than ever to keep eating salads, brimming with healthy nutrient-rich veggies and grains. The good news is that cooler weather enables us to fortify our salad bowls, transforming the light and wispy summer salad into a hearty healthy autumn bowl.

You can treat your salad just like your winter wardrobe, and pile on the layers. Mix and match your favorite winter greens, such as kale, spinach, and chicories, and layer them with chopped root vegetables and crucifers, and a shower of grains, such as quinoa, wheat berries or rice. These salads hold up well, and don’t mind a little standing while fully dressed, either – which is great for do-ahead assembly.

Chopped Cauliflower, Kale, and Carrot Salad

Serves 4 to 6

1 bunch curly green kale, tough ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 carrots, peeled, coarsely grated
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/2 head medium cauliflower, florets finely chopped
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds

Dressing:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, rub the kale leaves with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt until thoroughly coated. Add the remaining salad ingredients.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle over the salad and toss to combine.

Beet Hummus

beet-hummus

You may have seen beet hummus before – that dip that transcends all dips, the upstager on the party table, flamboyantly fuscia in color, with FIESTA written all over it. Yep, that would be the beet hummus. Sure, the name is rather frumpy, but it makes up for any nomenclatural dowdiness with its captivating vibrance and sweet earthiness tinged with citrus and spice. It’s a looker, it tastes great – and it’s healthy, too.

beet-hummus-tastefood

Beet Hummus

This dip is not only delicious, it’s a nutrient bonanza when served with a kaleidoscope of raw carrots, watermelon radishes, and cucumber wedges for dipping. Eating all your veggies never tasted so good.

Makes about 2 cups

2 to 3 medium red beets, about 12 ounces, roasted until tender, skin removed
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or half lemon/half lime)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Add more oil to your desired consistency (it should be a little thick) and taste for seasoning.
2. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with finely grated lemon zest, chopped mint, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita and cruditees.

Easy Homemade Granola

Basic Granola TasteFood

Why spend money on boxed granola when you can easily make it in less than 30 minutes? Now that school is in session, try making this recipe to keep on hand for healthy breakfasts and snacks. This recipe follows a basic ratio of 2 cups oats to 1 cup coconut to 1 cup nuts to 1 cup dried fruit. To that I embellish, adding different grains and seeds such as flax, sunflower, or even wheat germ, depending on what I have in the cupboard. Use this recipe as a template and mix and match your favorite nuts, fruit, and seeds to your taste – and consider doubling the batch, because it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up.

Easy Homemade Granola

Be sure to add any of the fruit after the granola has cooked to prevent the fruit from burning. Makes about 5 cups.

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins, or more to your taste

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the syrup, sugar, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour over the oats and stir to thoroughly coat.

Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake until light golden, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and add the raisins, stirring to blend. Cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

Tomato, Corn, and Quinoa Bowl with Kale and Avocado

Corn Quinoa SaladTomato, Corn and Quinoa Bowl with Kale and Avocado

When it’s too hot to cook try a big bowl of salad for a meal. Not just a simple garden salad – but a satisfying bowl layered with crisp fresh veggies, grains, legumes, and herbs. This salad bowl is fortified with protein-rich quinoa, tumbled with the classic summer trio of sweet corn, tomato, and avocado. Whether you call it lunch or dinner, it’s guaranteed to hit the spot.

Tomato, Corn, and Quinoa Bowl with Kale and Avocado
Serves 4

Dressing:
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 small bunch Tuscan/Lacinato kale, ribs removed, torn into bite-size pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
2 ears of corn, husked, kernels cut from the cobs
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup tricolor or red quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 small handful Italian parsley leaves, chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 small handful cilantro leaves, chopped, about 1/2 cup

1. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients, except the oil, until blended. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
2. Place the kale in a large bowl. Lightly drizzle with oil and a sprinkle of salt. Rub the leaves until thoroughly coated, about 1 minute.
3. Combine all of the remaining salad ingredients, except the avocado, in a separate bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of the dressing over the salad and gently stir to combine. Mound the salad over the kale. (Or divide between individual serving bowls.) Top with avocado and drizzle with additional dressing to taste.

Blackberry Clafoutis

Blackberry Clafoutis TasteFood

Got berries? If you’re like me, it’s impossible to resist the baskets of fresh summer berries at the farmers’ market. If you have more restraint than me and you haven’t gobbled your berries up yet, here’s a great way to add them to a dessert. Clafoutis is a French flan-like dessert consisting of fresh fruit baked in a custardy batter. It’s light and elegant, gently sweet, and redolent with your favorite fruit. Berries work well because their juices seep into the clafoutis while it bakes. You can also use cherries, plums, and pears.

Blackberry Clafoutis
Makes 1 (9-inch) gratin or 2 (5-inch) gratins

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or almond flour)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 ounces fresh berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. (190 C.) Butter a 9-inch gratin dish.
2. Beat the sugar and eggs in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the cream, milk, flour, lemon zest, vanilla and cinnamon until blended..
3. Arrange the berries in the gratin dish and pour the custard over the fruit.
4. Transfer to the oven and bake until the filling is golden brown and set, about 35 minutes. (If using smaller dishes, the baking time will be slightly reduced).
5. Remove and cool slightly. Before serving, dust with confectioners sugar. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.