Friday, October 26, 2012

Apple Cider Donut Bread Pudding

Yes, you read that right.

It's every bit as sinfully delicious as you're imagining.

By some fantastic turn of events, I ended up with two extra bags of homemade apple cider donuts after taking my class on a field trip to the apple orchard last week. It was a gorgeous day, and the donuts were still warm when we bit into them. They just screamed fall.

I could have eaten several of them. But I knew that really, rationally, I couldn't (shouldn't) eat all the donuts by myself.

I baked this bread pudding with a three-year-old with incredible self restraint. Her job was to help me crumble the donuts into pieces and spread them out on a pan.

She asked if she could try one right at the beginning, and I said, "Of course! Dig in."

Trouble was, I expected her to continue crumbling donuts and spreading them out without any additional snacking.

And boy, was she persistent.

After every few donut pieces made their way into the pan, I'd hear her little voice.

"Katie, can I try one?"

"Just one little bite?"

"Just a tiny little piece?"

"Now can I try one?"


Remarkably, all the rest of the donut pieces made their way into the pan, which we appreciated because this bread pudding was a real treat. It's got just the right amount of sweetness, and the apple flavor permeates the entire dish. With just a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream, we ate ourselves silly.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds

Last weekend I walked through the farmers' market with my friend Marie. The farmers' market had the last remnants of summer produce, and all the fall produce was already in. We meandered slowly through the stalls, taking it all in.

The apples kept catching my eye. We debated whether to buy them. They'll be there at the market all winter, holding on long after the grapes and leafy greens and heirloom tomatoes are gone. By February, I know I'll be sick of them.

But these were the fresh-picked apples. It had been 10 months since there were crisp, new apples available. They're fantastically different, almost unrecognizable from their counterparts that had graced farmers' market stands all summer.

I bought them (if you hadn't already guessed I was leaning that way). And they were fantastic.

Those apples and a beautiful bundle of kale inspired this salad. I wanted something that would showcase both ingredients. It comes together in minutes, and the individual flavors elevate when combined.

The salad keeps beautifully over night, so it's perfect to make ahead to bring to a early morning brunch (or mid-afternoon book club meeting). 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Polenta Rounds with Spinach Pesto and Garlic Shrimp

If you watched me while I was throwing a dinner party, you might get confused. You'd see me in the kitchen, back facing away from the crowd, while everyone else sat, drank and socialized.

You'd see me hold conversations that started these ways.

Can you dice up those onions?

Can you squeeze those last 10 lemons I didn't have time to squeeze for lemonade?

Can you slice that baguette, brush it with a bit of olive oil, run a clove of garlic across the top of each slice and then bake it for 5 or 6 minutes? Then can you take the bread off the baking sheet and put it on that cute white dish over there? Thanks.

You might get confused by my inability to hold an in-depth conversation, distracted by timers going off and pots boiling over on the stove. You'd wonder why I invited people over in the first place.

It's not that I want to be anti-social at my dinner parties. It's just that I need to have more realistic dinner party expectations. I can't, realistically, set out to make a homemade appetizer, entree, side dish and overly elaborate dessert on a weeknight.

I can't.

Please remind me of that the next time I try.

This appetizer is nowhere near as simple as the chickpea spread I gave you earlier this week. That was a less-than-five-minute, make way ahead dish.

These polenta rounds requires a bit more work, depending on how you do them. There's the much faster way to prepare them with store-bought pesto and store-bought tubed polenta.

Then there's the way I did it, which requires you to have some time the day before to make your own pesto, cook your own polenta and cut your own polenta rounds. Or if you just HAVE to make them the day of, adjust the rest of your menu accordingly.

You'll be happy whatever way you do it.

These little polenta rounds just look beautiful on the plate, and they're hard to resist. A seared polenta round forms the base. It's topped with a generous spread of spinach pesto, a single garlic shrimp, and some cherry tomato rounds.

It's a two or three bite appetizer, which is good because these fly off the plate.

PS. Blogger wants me to correct the spelling on polenta to tadpole. Really?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chickpea Spread

My doctor told me I should wear heels.

Or wedges, he quickly said, perhaps trying to wipe the frightened look of my face. It was the first time he had met me.

Heels? Really?

I own one pair of wedges that I've worn to nearly every wedding I've gone to. I wore them to work for half a day. It was all I could handle.

Heels are not exactly conducive to my lifestyle. I've got a mile walk to work every day, dozens of trips up to my third floor classroom, and I spend a good part of my day kneeling and squatting on the floor next to my students.

But unfortunately, I recently dropped a table on my ankle. Yes, it's a little hard to imagine, but I had disassembled my table to tighten the screws, and I decided to mop at the same time. The table smacked down on my ankle hard, and I sat on the floor in tears, gripping my ankle and putting a call through to a dear friend who advised I ice my ankle for as long as I could take it.

So I propped my foot up on my bed, covered it with ice, and leaned back in my chair to relax and watch an episode of Master Chef.

Little did I know, but I had unfortunately chosen the one broken chair in my apartment. Moments later, I was on the floor.

Needless to say, it was not my night, though the doctor did reassure me I was lucky that my ACL hadn't been split right in half. I walked away with a tiny tear in the outer edges of my tendon.

Three weeks later, my ankle still hurts, but I still see no room in my life for heels. I'm making a concession and wearing sneakers around the apartment (they have some lift in them, right?).

Luckily, there is a place in my life for appetizers so easy you can't make a mistake.

To make this chickpea spread throw some ingredients in a bowl, mash and serve. If you want to get fancy (and create too much work for yourself), you can make your own crackers. It's much healthier than my go-to favorite appetizer: smoked salmon dip. It's easily made vegan (just use your favorite mayonnaise substitute).

It's the kind of spread you enjoy while wearing your Birkenstocks.