Monday, December 30, 2013

Collard Greens with Pickled Pears

An abundance of winter greens lies ahead! Eating locally during the colder months doesn’t offer nearly the bounty of the warmer seasons, but fortunately we have a wide variety of hearty greens such as chard, kale and collards to keep us going.

Around now, after a bit (or rather, a lot) of indulgent eating during the holidays, I am usually craving crunchy fresh greens and lately this salad of Collard Greens with Pickled Pears has been topping my list.

Eating collard greens uncooked in a salad was new to me until introduced by my friend Deb, a truly talented cook. She made Collard Greens with Pickled Apples and I think I had at least three servings over the course of our dinner together! Pickled apples? I was shaking my head wondering why I hadn’t thought of doing this sooner. I’ve since made the salad on a few occasions and this last time decided to use pears in place of the apples.

The sliced pears are steeped in a warm bath of apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and water. When ready to eat, they are tossed with thin ribbons of grassy green collards, a drizzle of fruity olive oil and a scattering of toasted seeds or nuts.

A tempting wedge of blue Stilton cheese (always tasty with pears) was on the kitchen counter, so I crumbled some in for a luxurious touch.

This hearty salad is a bold one – sweet and tart, crunchy and creamy. It is virtuous eating at its best and will deliver you into the new year happy and satisfied.

Wishing you all a delicious 2014!

Collard Greens with Pickled Pears
Adapted from Epicurious. com
Serves 4-6

3 medium sized, firm pears (I used red and Bartlett)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and thinly sliced across into 1/4 inch ribbons
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper to taste
Small wedge of Stilton cheese, crumbled (optional)

Core and slice the pears into eighths and set aside in a heatproof bowl. In a medium sized saucepan, bring the cider vinegar, water, coconut sugar and salt to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears and return to a boil, then pour the whole mixture back into the heatproof bowl. Chill the pears uncovered for at least an hour. If using later, cover and keep cold for a day or two.

To assemble salad, drain the pears and reserve a few tablespoons of the pickling liquid. Gently toss the pears, seeds and greens together in a serving bowl. Drizzle on a little olive oil, add a couple tablespoons of pickling liquid, salt and pepper to taste and gently toss again. If using, crumble some Stilton cheese over the top and serve.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Stick Mousse

Christmas lights are twinkling around town, snow is falling, we’re going to see Little Women performed at the local theater and, best of all, Sam is home from college and our family is together for winter break! It’s a happy time and I’m delighted to be here in the valley for this festive season.

It’s also time for seasonal treats! Isaac’s girlfriend made incredible homemade eggnog for us and let me just say, it’s the best eggnog ever and I’m never going back to the carton stuff (I may have snuck spoonfuls of fresh cream off the top when no one was looking, too).

More indulgences that somehow make their way into my shopping basket during this time of year are peppermint bark and peppermint stick ice cream. I really can’t resist. Peppermint stick and chocolate are a classic combination no matter the season. When I was little my favorite ice cream cone at Brigham’s was always peppermint stick with chocolate jimmies. But in December they are especially tempting flavors, which led to this mousse.

Coconut cream has been my go-to dessert topping for some time. It whips up light and creamy, and (like many things!) when chocolate is added it becomes sensational. With peppermint on my mind, I blitzed some candy canes in the food processor, added chilled coconut cream, cocoa powder and maple syrup and gave them a whirl.

What emerged was billowy and downright decadent. This mousse also happens to be vegan, raw and gluten-free and would be especially nice as part of a holiday dessert buffet. Luscious and rich, with creamy chocolate and little hits of refreshing mint, it’s deeply satisfying and so easy to make. I spooned it into tiny bowls with a sprinkle of crushed candy cane and then dove in.

Wishing you all a warm, happy Christmas!

Chocolate Peppermint Stick Mousse
Serves 4-6

3 candy canes, wrappers removed
1-14 ounce can thick, unsweetened coconut cream (I find it at Trader Joe’s) or 2-14 ounce cans whole, unsweetened coconut milk, chilled overnight in the fridge
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Break two of the candy canes into smaller pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz the candy canes until they form a fine powder. Dump the peppermint powder into a small bowl and set aside. Break the remaining candy cane into pieces and pulse it in the food processor a few times until smaller rough pieces form (this is for garnish). Dump this into another small bowl and set aside.

Open the can of chilled coconut cream and scrape it into the bowl of the food processor (no need to clean after the candy canes). If using coconut milk, open the 2 cans and carefully scoop out the solid coconut cream from each into the food processor. Reserve the clear liquid to use in smoothies.  Add the remaining ingredients and whiz until smooth and creamy. Stop a couple of times to scrape down the sides and make sure any chunks of coconut are blended. Sprinkle in the powdered candy canes and pulse a few times to mix in.

Spoon the mousse into small bowls. It can be eaten right away or kept covered in the fridge overnight. When ready to eat, sprinkle with the crushed candy cane pieces to garnish (if you do this too early the candy canes start to soften and cause red streaks).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cranberry Malabi

December slipped in when I wasn’t looking. Last week, Thanksgiving was a cozy blur of happy times with Sam home from college, football, good food, and celebrating with family and friends. And now we’re nearing the end of another festive holiday, Hanukkah. I can’t keep up!

Before I flip my calendar page to December, I want to share with you what we were cooking with for Tasting Jerusalem in November. Pistachios! Pistachios are quite popular in Middle Eastern cooking and baking. The best baklava I ever tasted was a version with green pistachios at the Abulafia Bakery in Tel Aviv. Truly a decadent treat. Another delicious sweet that I enjoyed while in Israel was malabi, a milk-based pudding. There are several names for this luscious custard, including muhallabieh (as it’s called in Jerusalem), sutlaj or sutlach. No matter what it’s called, it’s creamy and wonderful and I can eat it by the bowlful.

When I spotted the recipe in Jerusalem, I knew I had to make it. Traditionally, malabi is flavored with rose water and topped with a drizzle of sweet syrup and pistachios. Since I had Thanksgiving flavors on my mind when I was dreaming about a dish of malabi, I came up with a variation using cranberries and maple syrup as a topping and swapped out the rose water for vanilla. I also used cream in place of water with the milk, making it rather like a rich panna cotta. The pudding here is made with milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and cornstarch and whisked together over heat until smooth and custardy (this happens quickly, so be sure to remove from heat the moment it thickens to avoid lumps).

For the topping, I stirred together fresh cranberries (such pretty little jewels!) and maple syrup over medium heat until the berries were bursting and bubbling away. Both the pudding and topping can be made ahead and chilled before layering. I spooned the pudding into wine and champagne glasses for an elegant dessert and then topped each with a smooth layer of the cranberries and a scatter of chopped pistachios.

The bright, tart flavor of the cranberries contrasts nicely with the creamy sweetness of the pudding, while the pistachios add crunchy texture. The cheery red and white colors make this a merry dessert for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, too.  And with the frigid cold we’re having outside now, I don’t need any reminders that December has indeed arrived!

Cranberry Malabi
Serves 6
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
By Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

For the pudding, whisk the cornstarch together with 6 tablespoons of the milk until it forms a paste. In a saucepan, stir together the rest of the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla and warm it over medium heat until it begins to steam. Whisk in the milk/cornstarch paste and keep stirring until it turns to custard. I found this happened very quickly, so be ready to pull it off the heat. Pour the pudding into 6 pretty glasses or dishes. It’s nice to use clear glass so you can see the contrast in colors. Cover and place in the fridge to chill.

For the topping, stir the cranberries and maple syrup together in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes. The berries will start popping, so stir often to prevent sticking and mash them gently against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. When the sauce has thickened, remove from heat and chill.

Both the pudding and sauce can be made the day before. When ready to serve, divide the sauce between the 6 custards and gently smooth. Garnish each with a sprinkle of chopped pistachios and serve.