Roasted Red Grape and Ricotta Crostini, Kale Avocado Salad, and Killer Romesco Sauce

IMG_4315It’s a day too cold to spend much time outside, so why not see a mid-day movie and then have an impromptu dinner party? For this type of relaxed dinner, I am one to look to a couple reliable favorites, a new recipe that looks foolproof, and crostini.

Here’s our menu:

Crostini with fresh ricotta and roasted red grapes
Kale and avocado salad with lemon-pecorino dressing
Roasted butternut squash with figs
Multicolor quinoa pilaf
Roasted shrimp with Romesco sauce (the new recipe that turned out to be foolproof)

Before our friends arrived, we did the prep—making the Romesco sauce, washing kale and stirring together the dressing, peeling and slicing butternut squash,  rinsing quinoa, and chopping onions for the pilaf and cilantro for a garnish.

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Cardamom Five-Seed Granola Recipe and Homemade Holiday Gifts

Granola BagsIt’s Cement Truck Kitchen’s favorite time of the year, because we are more indulgent than usual. We experiment with new granola recipes and other treats that can be put into labeled coffee bags or spooned into cellophane packages and secured with shiny bows.  And, it’s the time of year when some people appreciate a festive digestif on a cold night, so we’ve tried an experiment.Gifts

This year’s projects included a cardamom five-seed granola, roasted rosemary walnuts, and limoncello. Continue reading

Healthy honey almond flax granola recipe

The Cement Truck Kitchen was in full holiday gift manufacturing mode this month. We made triple batches of this granola, gearing up for all the bags to deliver from Chanukkah through the new year’s parties.

I’ve been auditioning granola recipes for years. My family has been happy about this and is at the ready to do batch comparisons and blind taste tests.

This recipe is a distant cousin to a long ago Martha Stewart recipe.

In Cement Truck Kitchen taste tests, it’s less sweet, but still tied with Melissa Clark’s olive oil granola and Molly Wizenberg’s granola. I encourage you to make this recipe your own–replace the almonds and pecans with other nuts that you like (pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts?), swap whole flax seeds or pumpkin seeds for the sesame seeds, and mix in your favorite dried fruits.
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Top picks for homemade holiday food gifts

My favorite part of this time of year is thinking about and making homemade treats for my friends and family. A gift that a friend makes with great care and thought says “hey, you are special,” as I can attest to, having just received these beautiful handknit cashmere socks.

Since you can’t touch them, I will tell you that they are as sumptuous as petting the world’s softest cat and are made from Ellie’s reclaimed cashmere. After having met Ellie and seeing a huge display of her yarns spun from recycled sweaters into gorgeous and subtle color combinations, and having spent many hours knitting a lone sock, I appreciate these socks even more. Continue reading

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.