All posts tagged fall

  • carrot and polenta cake with marsala

    carrot cake with polenta and marsala

    “Let’s go for a walk”, Cory suggested and before I knew it, we were slipping on our shoes and heading out the door. We didn’t have a destination in mind, but our feet took us in the direction of Powell’s Bookstore, which is where we inevitably ended up. Powell’s is a large independent bookstore, taking up an entire city block and then some. It’s a labyrinth of a place and I hardly know where anything is, except for the cookbooks. They must have at least 3 aisles of cookbooks. It’s completely overwhelming and easy to lose an hour there, conjuring up future meals in my head. Despite how often I cook and how much I think about food, I only own a few cookbooks. After two cross country moves in less than 18 months, packing up box after books got old fast, so we ended up donating much of our book collection. Now that we’re in Portland and intend to stay here for at least a couple years, adding a couple cookbooks to the shelf here and there won’t be too painful when we pack up our stuff again, right? That’s what I tell myself, at least. A copy of Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Vegetables of Italy went home with me that night.

    I’ve been happily cooking my way through the book, making crostinis, baking polenta, roasting squash, pureeing soups, and most recently, baking a cake. This is definitely my kind of cake. No frosting, no fondant, no layers, and it doesn’t have to look pretty. While it may seem plain looking at first glance, this cake has a lot going on. The polenta gives the cake a nice coarse texture, it’s accented with a bit of citrus and hints of nutmeg, and your favorite olive oil really gets the chance to shine through here. After just a few minutes in the oven, our little apartment was filled with the scents of orange and marsala. It felt a little like Thanksgiving or Christmas, the days we always have a pot of mulled wine simmering on the stove. It’s the kind of cake I can’t wait to make for just about everyone I know. I have plans to bake it for a get together next week and I’m wondering how it might hold up in the mail with all the other Christmas treats I plan on sending to family. The cake is perfect for dessert, and hey, you could probably get away with having it for breakfast too.

    carrot cake with polenta and marsala 2

    Carrot Polenta Cake with Marsala
    (adapted from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy)
    I made a few minor tweaks to the cake based on what I had on hand. The original recipe calls for the zest of an orange and lemon, but I just used the zests from two oranges since I was out of lemons. I also used a 9″ springform pan, instead of an 8″ x 8″ cake pan. The cake was ready after 32 minutes for me, instead of 35.

    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup dry marsala wine
    zest of 2 oranges
    1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
    1/2 cup polenta
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    dash of freshly grated nutmeg
    2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 large carrots)
    powdered sugar, for dusting

    Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush an 8″ x 8″ cake pan with olive oil. Shred the carrots.

    In a large mixing bowl, mix together olive oil, sugar, eggs, marsala, and orange zest until blended.

    In another bowl, whisk together flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid the clumps. Stir in the carrots until thoroughly mixed in. Transfer the batter into an oil-lined cake pan.

    Bake the cake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick runs clean. Depending on your oven, it may help to check the cake a few minutes early. Once the cake is done, transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and set on the rack until warm or room temperature. Dust the cake with powdered sugar, and serve.

    Serves 8-10

  • roasted delicata squash with pearl couscous

    roasted delicata squash pearl couscous kale cranberries

    Persimmons, quinces, chestnuts, pomegranates, apples, and squash. I’m pretty much over the moon for fall produce. It’s a little like being reunited with old friends — except uh, I get to eat them. Squash has been a mainstay in our kitchen the last few weeks. My little kitchen cart has been overflowing with pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, and I can’t seem to get enough of delicata squash. Delicata squash is similar to butternut squash, but smaller and the skins are thinner. No need for peeling, just slice them in half, scoop out the seeds, let them roast for a half hour, and before you know it you’ll be eating creamy and delicious winter squash.

    For the most part, I’ve just been roasting squash with butter or olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Here though, I’ve roasted delicata squash into little crescents and tossed them with pearl couscous and chickpeas, all coated together in a fragrant slightly sweet and spicy olive oil dressing. It’s like autumn in a bowl. Kale can be tough to chew, so I massaged it with my hands with just a little olive oil for about 30 seconds until it softened.

    Roasted Delicata Squash with Pearl Couscous

    1 delicata squash, halved and sliced into 1/3″ crescents
    1 cup pearl couscous
    1 cup chickpeas
    8 kale leaves, torn into small pieces and massaged with olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon coriander
    1 teaspoon dried mint
    2 teaspoons harissa or hot sauce
    2 teaspoons maple syrup
    salt and pepper, to taste
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
    2 tablespoons cranberries

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and pat dry the squash, lay on a cutting board, cut in half, scrape out the seeds, and cut into crescents that are about 1/3″ thick. Lay on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper in place in the oven. Set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. It should take about 10 minutes for the pearl couscous to be ready, but will vary depending on the size of the couscous, so check the package directions. Once done, drain and set aside. Measure out one cup of cooked chickpeas and set aside.

    While the pearl couscous is draining in a colander, take the pot you boiled the couscous in, and add the kale. Drizzle just a little bit of olive oil over the kale and massage gently with your hands until the kale softens.

    Check on the delicata squash and turn the pieces over.

    Prepare the dressing by mixing together coriander, dried mint, harissa, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add the dressing to the pot with the kale, along with the chickpeas and couscous. Mix thoroughly.

    In a small frying pan, add walnuts over medium heat and turn a couple times, until browned. I don’t recommend leaving the kitchen when toasting nuts. Whenever I’m toasting nuts and leave the kitchen, even just for a moment, they burn. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, chop the walnuts into small pieces.

    Check on the delicata squash, and if it’s soft and beginning to brown on both sides, it’s ready. Add the squash, walnuts, and cranberries to the pot and mix thoroughly. Turn the heat on low, and serve when the mixture is warm.

    Serves 4

  • pomegranate walnut tabbouleh

    pomegranate tabbouli parsley walnuts

    My CSA share this week included a monstrous pile of parsley. Half of it was frozen into ice cubes for future soups, some of it went into a frittata, a handful was stirred into a tomato sauce that was served with polenta, but I wanted to make sure the rest of it a chance to shine on its own. I set out to make tabbouleh, but things did not go according to plan once I went shopping. I passed on the tomatoes for a gorgeous pomegranate and bulgur was nowhere to be found, so I went home and made something that wasn’t quite authentic tabbouleh, but sort of  a transition into fall tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a Lebanese salad, made primarily with parsley and a handful of mint, with flecks of bulgur (cracked wheat), chopped tomatoes, and coated with a lemon and olive oil dressing that begs to be sopped up with copious amounts of bread. It’s not uncommon to see tabbouleh recipes that use couscous, quinoa, or millet instead of bulgur, but I used crushed walnuts here. Since discovering pomegranate and walnut stew a few years ago, I’ve learned that pomegranates and walnuts make a great pair.

    This makes a good side dish to just about any Middle Eastern meal, but it’s especially delicious with a little tahini sauce or hummus rolled up in a piece of flat bread. I’d say this serves 6 to 8 as a side dish, but I keep sneaking into the kitchen several times a day to take bites out of it straight from the container, so who knows. It’s almost gone and I’m already itching to make another batch.

    Pomegranate Walnut Tabbouleh
    Note: to avoid soggy tabbouleh, let the parsley and mint dry before chopping. This can be done with a strainer and paper towels, but a salad spinner will be your best friend here.

    2 cups flat leaf parsley, chopped
    1/4 cup mint, chopped
    1/2 red onion, diced
    seeds (arils) of one pomegranate
    1/3 cup walnuts, crushed
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon sumac
    1/8 teaspoon allspice
    salt and pepper, to taste

    Chop the parsley, mint, and onions with your sharpest knife. De-seed pomegranate. Place the walnuts in a mortar and crush them with a pestle (or give them a whirl in your food processor). Juice lemon. In a large bowl, mix together the parsley, mint, pomegranate, walnuts, olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, sumac, allspice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper until fully incorporated. Give the mixture a taste and add more lemon juice and salt, if necessary. Serve with your favorite Middle Eastern dish or as part of a mezze. Delicious both at room temperature and cold.

    Serves about 6-8 as a side

  • ginger carrot and sweet potato soup

    It’s getting COLD in Michigan. Too cold for two former San Francisco wussies. And it’s going to get even colder. We’ve had no shortage of tea and hot chocolate on hand, and now I’ll be cooking up soups, stews, and chilis until the first sign of spring. I recently made a chicken soup and had a pound of leftover carrots that needed to be used and decided to make a soup around them based on what I had on hand. The result was a nourishing and slightly spicy and sweet soup perfect for chilly autumn days and nights.

    ginger sweet potato carrot red lentil soup

    Ginger Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

    1 pound of carrots, chopped
    1 pound of sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
    1 cup red lentils
    1 onion, chopped
    2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
    4 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
    3 cups water
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1 tablespoon honey
    cayenne pepper, to taste
    salt & pepper, to taste

    Ideas for optional garnishes: freshly chopped cilantro, parsley, chives, yogurt, creme fraiche, bread crumbs, heavy whipping cream

    Heat oil in a large stockpot. Add onion and cook until onions are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add ginger and cook for another few minutes. Add stock, sweet potatoes and carrots and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until carrots and potatoes are very tender. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Bonus points for using an immersion blender (less cleanup!). Return the soup back to the pot and season with curry powder, coriander, honey, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve.

    Serves 6-8