Winter. Salad. Not two words that always go together. But sometimes, no matter how cold it is outside or how many inches of snow are on the ground (or are in the forecast to be on the ground…), you just need a salad. I just read an article in Bon Appetit on Celery Root and winter salads, and it got me craving some greens (still trying to stick to that new years resolution of eating more vegetables, too!).

This particular winter salad recipe comes from with a few tweaks. If you like brussels sprouts, you’ll probably really like this dish. If you don’t, I would recommend checking out some of Bon Appetit’s winter salads instead.

What I liked about this particular salad is that it’s actually served warm, but the sprouts still had a good crunch to them. Plus the simple lemon juice dressing with salt and pepper made it incredibly simple.

Winter Salad: Brussels Sprouts with Fried Capers (serves 4, from
1 lb Brussels Sprouts, chopped
1/2 cup Almonds, sliced or slivered (pine nuts would also be great)
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/3 cup Capers, roughly chopped
Juice from 1 Lemon

Toast the nuts in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat, shaking and tossing regularly for a few minutes, or until the nuts are golden and fragrant. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in the skillet, and when it’s hot, add the capers. Fry the capers for a minute or two, then add the sprouts and almonds back into the pan. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir everything until evenly coated. Cook on medium-high, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes until the sprouts are warmed but not wilted.

Toss with S&P and serve!


One of my New Years Resolutions is to eat more vegetables, and more vegetable-based dishes. Why? Lots of reasons. Veggies are good for you. Eating veggies in place of meat is good for the planet, especially if you make a conscious effort to eat local, sustainable produce. (Hello, summer CSA!) And also, veggies are tasty! So, with that in mind, I set off for the first grocery trip of the year with a list full of veggie-friendly dishes.

First up was this creamy polenta and butternut squash dish. One of Food & Wine’s top 5 Vegetarian dishes of 2009! It was simple to make, although time consuming. It calls for refrigerating the dish for 3 hours prior to baking it, to allow the polenta to set. Frankly, I was too hungry to do that! So, at first the dish was a little… erm… ‘mushier’ than called for, but still tasty and definitely presentable! Suggested sides are mushrooms or tomato sauce. I went with a simple tomato and basil simmered sauce on top and it was the perfect complement. Squash and tomato? Who knew!

Polenta with Butternut Squash and Gouda (serves 6, from Food & Wine magazine, January 2010)
1 Butternut Squash—peeled, seeded, and chunked
2 Tbsp Olive Oil, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup Pine Nuts, aka Pignoles, coarsely chopped
1 Onion, chopped
1/2 tsp Dried Sage
6 cups Water
2 cups Coarse Polenta, or Corn Meal
Butter to spread on top
1 cup Smoked Gouda, shredded
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp Parmesan, grated

Roast the squash for 30 minutes in a glass dish at 375. (You could also steam it, or microwave it, until tender). Once it’s tender, mash it up. Toast the pine nuts by tossing them in a small pan over medium heat for 2-4 minutes, until fragrant.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the onion and sage until the onion is tender.

Boil the water in a large sauce pot and whisk in the polenta and a dash of salt. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 minutes. Stir in the onion and sage mixture, the pine nuts, the mashed squash, and the gouda and 1/4 cup parmesan. Pour into an oven-proof skillet (or cast iron) and flatten. Now you have a choice, you can refrigerate the whole thing until it firms up (about 2-3 hours) or you can bake it and eat it less firm. Either way, when you’re ready, bake at 375 for an hour, then let sit for 20 minutes before slicing to eat. Serve with sauteed mushrooms or tomato sauce.

The third and final thing I made for our New Year’s Eve party were these little puffs. Ham and cheese sandwiches for grown-ups. We served them with dijon mustard, even! They were great. You know how I get excited about piping things… I’ll take any chance I can get to use a pastry bag! I’ve never made gougères before, but in general they are a savory French choux pastry that contains grated cheese in the paste. Some use Gruyere, but this particular recipe calls for Parmesan. I’m sure both are delicious. They were relatively easy to make, and although I was worried about how they would travel, they were 100% fine. (Tip: If you want to take these to a party, make the paste up to a day ahead, then make the gougères the day of, and prick them to release the steam as soon as they come out of the oven. This prevents them from getting mushy inside. Store in an open container for travel – or one that’s not too air-tight, to prevent moisture from condensing in the warm puffs. Once you’re at your party, put them back in the oven for 5 minutes at 350 or so, and they’ll be ready to eat again.)

Proscuitto and Parmesan stuffed Gougères (adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Christmas, makes 24-34 gougères)
6 Tbsp Butter, salted
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 cup Flour
4 Eggs
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 Egg, beaten
3 oz Prosciutto, thinly sliced
3-4 oz Parmesan, shaved into thin pieces

Preheat to 425 and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat combine the butter, pepper, cayenne and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil until all the butter is melted in. Whisk in the flour a bit at a time until all the flour is incorporated. The mixture should pull away from the sides of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and make a well in the center of the dough. Crack the eggs into the dough and mix with a wooden spoon, one at a time. With the fourth and final egg, add the grated Parmesan. The mixture should be paste-like.

Put the paste into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip and pipe the dough onto the prepared sheets into rounds that are about 1 1/2 inch round and 1/2 inch high. You should have 24-34 rounds. Using pastry brush, lightly coat the tops with the fifth, beaten, egg so that they turn golden when baked.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 for another 15 minutes. When the gougères are golden and crunchy, turn off the oven and pierce each gougères with a toothpick to allow the steam to escape. Return to the oven (off) for another 10 minutes to dry out.

Using a serrated knife, cut each gougère in half and stuff with sliced proscuitto and shaved parmesan.

These little toasts are perfect for snacking, appetizers, cocktail parties, Superbowl parties, breakfast, or any time really! You can freeze them for up to two weeks, and pop them in the oven as needed, or you can whip up a whole batch at once and please even the most gourmet of house guests. Ruth Reichl tweeted about these a couple weeks ago, and if they’re good enough for her, they’re good enough for me!

These couldn’t have been easier to make. I made the topping in about 10 minutes, the night before, and spreading it on the bread slices takes just a few more minutes. Bacon cooks, cheese melts, and bread toasts all at the same time in the oven! Very hands off.

The secret boost to these is the horseradish in the topping, and the only thing I might change about this recipe is to increase the amount of it.

Cheddar Bacon Toasts (adapted from Gourmet Today, makes ~30 toasts)
2 cups Coursely Grated White Cheddar – as sharp as you can get it
1/2 lb Bacon, finely chopped
1/2 cup Onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Bottled Horseradish (original recipe says to drain, but I liked it un-drained)
12-17 Slices of White Bread (thinly sliced sandwich bread works best. don’t use anything too dense or dry or it will over-toast)

Mix together everything except the bread. Slice the crusts off of each bread slice and spread the topping over each piece – use 1-2 Tbsp topping per slice.

At this point, you can either freeze the toasts (in a single layer, up to two weeks), or pop them in the oven to eat right away. When you are ready, preheat the oven to 375 and place the slices (frozen or not) on parchment paper (or silpat) on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is done and the edges begin to brown. Cut diagonally down the center and serve!

Well. One over-ambitious cake recipe, two attempts at homemade corn syrup, one attempt at homemade peppermint schnapps, one buttercream adaptation substitution, and eight hours later… and I have this beauty, all ready for New Years Eve!

I won’t show you what it looks like after I tried ‘decorating’ it. I’ll just say… I could use a class in cake decoration. But let’s just keep this image in mind, because it’s much prettier here.

I won’t lie, this cake is involved and time consuming. But if you’re like me and you love a challenge, or a kitchen project, then you will like this. I made it over the course of two nights, then refrigerated overnight for at least 6 hours before takingo out to come to room temp to serve. I made the (homemade) peppermint schnapps and meringues the first night (thats 3-4 hours in the oven right there), and the frosting and cake the second night. And then I assembled everything.

The recipe is the cover recipe for the December 2009 Bon Appetit. However, I’m not a big fan of corn syrup, nor did I want to buy any specifically for this recipe, so I made some changes. Same goes for Peppermint Schnapps — didn’t have any and didn’t want to buy $30 worth for 3 drops. I also made a completely different recipe for the buttercream, which I adapted from Ina Garten. And by adapted I mean I used half as much butter. Not trying to channel Paula Deen here, people. OH, and also – I only made half a cake! I figured there would be other desserts at New Years so I didn’t need to go overboard. Besides, it turned out way cuter in miniature. So for my version of this half-a-cake from Bon Appetit, please read on!

Chocolate Peppermint Meringue Layer Cake (adapted from Bon Appetit and Ina Garten, makes one 4x6x4 cake)

Day one:
Meringues – store in single layer in airtight containers up to 2 days ahead
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
3 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
Pinch of salt
2 small-medium Egg Whites, at room temp (reserve yolks for cake)
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/3 tsp Peppermint Extract (or a little less than 1/4 tsp)
Homemade Peppermint Syrup – store in fridge up to 2 days ahead
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water
1 Tbsp Vodka
1/8 tsp Peppermint Extract

Day two:
Buttercream Frosting – Make this before the cake so it has time to cool while the cake bakes
14 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate
3 medium Egg Whites, at room temp
3/4 cup Sugar
1/8 tsp Cream of Tartar
Pinch of Salt
2 sticks of Butter, unsalted (1 cup or 1/2 lb), at room temp!
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Peppermint Extract
Cake – Make this the day you want to assemble the cake (one night prior to serving)
1/4 cup Flour
1/3 cup Cocoa
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 small-medium egg yolks (or 1 1/2 large yolks)
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

Garnishes – Optional
Mint leaves

For the Meringues (4 hours): preheat your oven to 175. Trace three 4×6 inch rectangles onto parchment paper, flip the paper over (you can see the lines through it) and place on a cooking sheet. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium (in a stand mixer if you have one, otherwise use a hand-held mixer. My $5 one worked just fine.) until soft peaks form when you lift the beaters. Increase speed to high and add the dry ingredients. Beat until peaks are stiff and glossy, then beat in the peppermint and vanilla. Using a spatula, divide the batter amongst the rectangles you drew, and try to spread evenly within the lines. The batter won’t run, so get it right on the lines. Tip #1: If you go over the lines, that’s ok. You can shave baked meringues using a carrot peeler later! Bake meringues for three hours at 175. DON’T PEEK!! After 3 hours, turn off the heat and let the meringues cool in the oven. DON’T PEEK OR OPEN THE DOOR! After 30-45 minutes of cooling, they should be ready to seal up and package away. They’ll stay up to 1 week.

For the Syrup (20 minutes): While the meringues are baking, you can get the peppermint syrup ready. Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until syrupy, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vodka and peppermint extract. You can’t really taste the vodka anyway, but if you don’t want it or don’t have it, you can probably use more water instead (try 1/2 Tbsp). Store in a container in the fridge up to 1 week.

For the Chocolate Buttercream (1 hour): Place a small saucepan of water on the stove to simmer. Put the chocolate in a bowl over the saucepan (creating a double boiler). Watch closely and stir as the steam melts the chocolate. Just before it’s completely melted, remove from the heat and stir until completely melted. Allow to cool. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar. Place over the simmering pan of water and watch and stir. Once the egg whites are warm to the touch (about 5 min), remove from heat and continue to beat. Once stiff peaks form, add the butter one Tbsp at a time, and continue to beat on medium-high. When all butter has been incorporated, add the extracts. Then slowly stir in the chocolate! Set aside to cool while you make and bake the cake layers, ~30 mins.

For the Cake (1 hour): Preheat to 350. Line a 2-qt glass dish (approx 6.5 in x 9.5 in) with parchment paper and spritz with non-stick spray (or butter it). Beat the egg, yolks, sugar and vanilla on medium-high until light and foamy and somewhat syrupy-thick. Sift together the dry ingredients and fold into the egg mixture. Fold in until just incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove and cool for 20-30 minutes on a rack. Flip onto another piece of parchment paper (Tip #2: not a silpat!) and peel off paper from bottom. Trim cake into two 4×6 inch pieces, to match the meringues. Finish cooling completely.

Assembly! To assemble the cake, begin by lining a platter with tin foil as shown below. This will help give you a nice clean presentation; after you’ve frosted the cake you just remove the foil with all the frosting splatters! Put 1/2-1/3 cup frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a small or medium star tip. Pipe a little onto the plate, as shown, to secure the bottom layer to the plate.

Now start layering! Meringue, with the topside up, then frosting, then cake layer, with the topside down. Then spread the cake layer with 2-4 Tbsp of the peppermint syrup – should be very moist! More frosting, then repeat. Top lay should be meringue. Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting around the edges, evening out the bumps and crevices, and on top. Use the reserved frosting in the pastry bag to decorate the top, along with the raspberries and mint leaves! Refrigerate for at least 6 hours so the flavers meld and the moisture saturates. Remove two hours before serving to allow to come to room temp. Tip #3: if your frosting becomes crusty or clumpy, microwave for 5 seconds, then whisk. Max. 10 seconds.

PS – Please excuse my ridiculous amount of photos in this recipe, as I’m still loving on my new camera!

Back to work after the Christmas break… This week is always the least productive week of the year for me. Hardly anyone else is in at the office, and no one outside the office responds to emails. So, I can relax, clean up my desk and tie up loose ends before the New Year! And show you this recipe for crackers. It never really occured to me that crackers are something you can make in your kitchen. The thought just never crossed my mind, until I read another great post over at Joy The Baker! I made a double batch and packaged some up to give away — after eating what was left, it took all my willpower not to crack into the jar reserved for gifting! They are great plain, or with a little slice of cheese, by the handfuls or one at a time. Savory, salty, crispy, delicious!

Poppyseed Crackers (adapted from Joy The Baker, originally from The Complete Book of Cookies, makes 100+ crackers)
2 cups Flour
1 tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp Butter, cold, cut into small chunks
3 tbsp Poppyseeds
3/4 cup Half & Half
Sea Salt
more Half & Half, for brushing on

Preheat to 300-325 depending on how browned your want your crackers (325 for darker). Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl, and add the butter. Using your hands and fingers, rub the butter into the flour mix until it’s absorbed and crumbly. This is easier than it sounds! Just put a chunk of butter and some flour in your hands and rub back and forth like you’re trying to warm your hands up. When the butter is incorporated, add the poppyseeds and stir. Add the half & half, a couple tablespoons at a time until the dough clumps together:

The dough will be stiff but you should be able to gather it into one big ball. Next, divide the ball into 4 pieces, and roll out one of them to a piece about 10 in x 10 in. I aimed to roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. The original recipe calls for thicker crackers, but I really liked how mine turned out — thinner, more crispy. Brush with half and half (just to moisten, don’t soak!) and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Using a pizza cutter or large knife, cut dough into squares 1-2 inches on a side. Size is up to you! Transfer the squares to a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes (peek in at 20 or 25), or until the crackers have ‘puffed’ slightly, and are golden brown. Mine took 26-28 minutes at 315. Cool for a moment on the sheet, then transfer to a wire rack. Once crackers are completely cool, store in an air-tight container up to two weeks.

Merry Berries!


Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that you all are having a wonderful day with family or friends (or both!) My family is gathered in the North Country of the Adirondacks snuggled down in the house, with a fire roaring and gift wrappings everywhere. The cat and the dog are passed out on the couch, having both endured an all-morning photo shoot after Santa brought me a fancy-pants new camera! (Thanks, Santa!) Anyway, Merry Christmas to everyone and in the spirit, here are some Merry Berries!

Note: start this recipe the night before, as the first step involves soaking overnight!

Merry Berries (makes 6-8 cups, adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
2 packages Fresh Cranberries
2 cups Sugar
More sugar for rolling

Pick over the cranberries and remove any that are mushy or have soft or brown spots. Discard and put the remaining cranberries in a large bowl.

Make a simple syrup by boiling two cups of water and whisking in the 2 cups of sugar. Return to a boil briefly then remove from heat and let cool almost completely. When the simple syrup is cooled, pour over the cranberries in the bowl, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, stir the cranberries again, then drain and spread out into a single layer on plates or a cookie sheet or two. Sprinkle sugar over top until berries are covered:

Allow two dry for another hour or two (longer is better). Stir and sprinkle sugar over the top. Continue the drying, stirring, and sprinkling of sugar until there are no more visible sticky/wet spots on the berries, and all are covered with sugar! Leave out to finish drying, then serve with a cheese plate or in champagne… or any time you feel like a tart snack!