Kale, roasted squash, bacon, and date salad

There are some ingredient combinations that get the attention of the pleasure-seeking part of my brain. Dates and bacon, chickpeas and cumin, and harissa or cardamom with anything, and I’m ordering it or making the recipe.kale, bacon, date, and squash salad

It was exactly those combinations that played out in last night’s dinner. Lucky for me, my friend Josh likes making the entree and is happy to leave the sides to me. So when I told him that I wanted make a chickpea and date dish, barley pilaf, and a kale salad, he decided that coriander-spiced grilled lamb steaks would be just the thing. Continue reading

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Easy curried sweet pea dip

Party season is upon us, and so I’m sharing one of my favorite go-to party recipes, a curried pea dip that takes 10 minutes to prepare. It’s sweet and spicy and looks pretty in a white bowl.

This is one of my mom‘s recipes, from her book The Nut Gourmet. She drizzles it with pomegranate syrup and calls it hot karachi pea dip, because she’s much cooler than I am.

If you are serving it for a holiday appetizer, feel free to get crafty and form it into a tree or a wreath–with tiny red bell pepper pieces for ornaments! Serve it with crackers or celery sticks. You can even use it as a spread in a roasted vegetable sandwich, or as a topping on a flatbread pizza along with feta or goat cheese.

Even better, it’s a pantry recipe, if you keep a bag of peas in the freezer and have a lemon or a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge.

Curried Sweet Pea Dip
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup pistachio nuts
5 TBS water
1 TBS lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp cayenne, or more or less, depending on how spicy you want it

Put all ingredients in the food processor and mix until blended and creamy. Serve warm or room temperature with crackers and celery. Can be made up to 2 days before serving.

Roasted apple, root vegetable, and pumpkin-seed crusted goat cheese salad recipe

My California brother Chuck is visiting for the weekend, and it’s his birthday! We went to Boston to see the last bits of fall color in the Public Garden and admire the Newbury Street shoppers, outfitted in sumptuous boots and scarves, despite the near 60-degree temperature.

In honor of Chuck’s birthday, I combined his favorite foods–roasted vegetables, butternut squash, and goat cheese–into an entree salad. For a Californian who still has access to fresh tomatoes and corn, this salad seems kind of exotic and unusual. It was also inspired by Wednesday’s farmers’ market haul.

Much of this salad can be prepared in advance. I made the dressing, and peeled and chopped all the vegetables, except the apple and potatoes, earlier that day, so it came together quickly. Continue reading

Roasted squash salad with pomegranate vinaigrette + easy slow-cooker vegetarian chili

Hello! For all my west coast friends and family who have visions of me shivering in a snowsuit, just want you to know that we survived the Nor’easter of October ’11. We were not snowed in and trapped at home, but the frigid cold did not bekon me outdoors, so I stayed inside and made a roasted squash salad and a zesty slow cooker vegetarian sweet potato chili. Continue reading

How to Host an Oktoberfest Party

Want to have a fun, semi-traditional Oktoberfest party with traditional food and music? Ok, well, then how about an excuse to get together with people you like and drink beer with some good food?

Here’s how to host a successful Oktoberfest party in three easy steps. For more on traditional menus and recipes, I recommend this Oktoberfest food guide.

Step 1: Invite friends and neighbors who can walk or take public transportation to your party.
Step 2: Plan a menu (more on that below) that goes well with beer and assign your guests to bring a dish or beer. The point is not to spend all day in the kitchen, unless you are my neighbor Josh (more on that below).
Step 3: Download traditional music and be prepared to switch to something less polka-like after about an hour. Continue reading

My best lentil soup recipe

I started the search for the best hearty lentil soup recipe when a friend told me she had just had a major surgery and was recovering at home. What could I bring, I asked with trepidation, knowing that she’s a meat and potatoes gal, and that’s not my specialty.

But she wanted soup, so my mind turned to lentil soup, an easy and quick soup recipe that would be filling and satisfying and different from what other folks would be dropping off in containers on the doorstep.

For inspiration, I consulted my advisory panel. First my mom’s primer on lentils, and her lovely lentil vegetable soup. Then I found this lentil and sweet potato gem from Smitten Kitchen and this lively lentil soup recipe. Finally I went hard copy with Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Continue reading

Plum honey butter

Unexpected items are showing up at the Boston City Hall farmer’s market. Yesterday I spotted white Concord grapes and strawberry tomatillos (both of which had a pear overtone), and these prune plums.

I bought the plums with visions of a rustic tart, but it’s a rainy weeknight with no social prospects to share such a tart and husband prefers chocolate. The plums were too tart for eating as is, so I roasted them with honey to see what would happen.

Turns out what happened was plummy sweet tart goodness. Would have made a classy dessert paired with high-quality vanilla ice cream or some buttermilk ice cream. Not so classy, I would have been happy to eat these warm right off the pan. But I’m also a big fan of anything that can be put on toasted Nashoba Brook Bakery bread, so I decided to make a fruit spread. Let me know if you try this on ice cream, and what flavor.

Plum honey butter
10 small prune plums, washed, cut in half with pits removed
1 TBS honey, plus more added later to adjust sweetness
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1. Heat oven to 325. Put a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet, spread out the plum halves, and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

2. Roast until very soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool.

3. Put in blender, food processor, or large cup if you are using an immersion blender. Add balsamic vinegar and blend to the desired consistency. Taste and if it’s not sweet enough, add honey by the teaspoonful and blend, tasting and adjusting until it’s sweet.

4. Serve with toast or ice cream.