Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lucky Peas Time Again

In many corners of the globe, eating lucky peas this week is supposed to kick your New Year off to a flying start toward great good fortune.  Depending on where you are these two tone peas are Bodhi dhal (because they have the Buddha's third eye), cow peas, or black-eyed peas.

It's Hoppin' John time in the deep South, lucky peas twinned with collards the color of money and bits of ham--the meat of an animal that only roots forward, another omen of good luck. I made my first Hoppin' John for a vegetarian potluck and it disappeared so fast with so much lip-smacking, I never changed the recipe. You can of course serve it with ham--inside or by its side.  Here's the recipe I post annually.
Hoppin' John
For 6-8
½ lb. black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
2-3 tbsp corn oil, enough to cover the bottom of your pot
1 lg onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sm Poblano pepper, roasted and diced
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground cayenne
2 celery ribs, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
½-1 cup water
½ bunch collard greens, chopped
1-1½ cups rice (depending on how thick you want this)*
Salt and black pepper to your taste

*I find using short-grained paella rice better than long grain basmati for this dish.
Heat oil in a heavy gauge casserole or stock pot. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until onion is soft and translucent, maybe 5 minutes.
Add garlic and Poblano pepper, stirring to blend.  Sauté 1 minute.
Add spices and celery. Sauté 2 minutes. (Add oil if necessary)
Add broth, water and black-eyed peas. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes.
Add collard greens, rice, salt and pepper. Cover and continue to simmer another 20-25 minutes, checking from time to time that you have enough liquid. Add water by the ¼ cupful if you need it.
Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve with freshly chopped cilantro leaves.

If you prefer kale to collards, here are two recipes slightly different from each other for sausage, black-eyed peas and kale. One also has potatoes and lentils in the mix.

Black-eyed Peas with Sausage and Kale
Serves 4
¼ cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 lg garlic clove, minced
1 med/lg carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery rib, cleaned and diced
1 c tomatoes, chopped with their juice (canned or boxed is okay)
1 lb linguica or luganega or bratwurst, or other sweet sausage
1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked in boiling water for at least 1 hour
4 kale leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped
Salt and pepper to your taste
2 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat olive oil in a cast iron or enameled iron casserole. Add onion and sauté over medium low heat until onion is soft and golden. Add garlic and sauté 60 seconds. Add carrots and celery, blend well and cook about 5 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes with all their juice, lower heat to simmer and cook very slowly for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350º. Puncture the sausage skins with a fork in several places. Then slice the sausages into 1” pieces. Add to the pot and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas. Add to the pot and blend. Add the chopped kale and blend. Add 2 cups liquid (broth and water or all water) to cover everything. Cover and bring to a steady simmer on the top of the stove. Then put in the center of the oven and cook at 350º for 90 minutes or until the black-eyed peas are tender. Check from time to time to be sure there is enough liquid. Add ¼ cup of warm water at a time if needed.

If there is fat from the sausages on top, tip the pot over the sink to remove it. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as you like it. Stir in the chopped parsley to serve. This can be made ahead and reheated in the oven at 250º or on top of the stove on simmer.

Black-eyed Peas with Sausage, Kale, Potatoes and Lentils: a thick soup 

serves 6-8

¼ c olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried sage
¼ tsp crushed chili peppers
1 lb Kielbasa or mildly hot Italian sausage, sliced into ¼” disks*
15 oz (1 can) chopped tomatoes and juice
1 bunch Lacinto/Tuscan Kale, stems removed, greens cut into bite-sized pieces
4 c chicken or vegetable broth
3 c water
1 cup brown lentils
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into cubes
1 14 oz can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp sherry vinegar (don’t worry if you don’t have any)

In a medium stockpot, heat the oil. Add onion and garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Add spices. Stir and sauté 30 seconds. Add sausage, stirring to blend. Sauté 3-5 minutes until onions are soft and sausage starts to brown. Add tomatoes and stir to blend. Cook 30-60 seconds. Add kale, lentils, broth and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add potatoes, black-eyed peas and salt. Cook another 15 minutes. Add optional vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings and spices.
* If you are vegetarian, substitute 1 lb firm tofu, cut into cubes and fried in olive oil with a pinch of fennel or anise seed until brown and crisp. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Palestinian black-eyed peas and chard
Serves 4

For the beans

1 leek

1 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves

¼ tsp chilli powder or chopped dried chilli

2 cans black-eyed peas

1 cube vegetable soup powder

pinch of ground nutmeg

½ unwaxed lemon

½ lb bunch Swiss or rainbow chard

For the herb smash

;g bunch fresh cilantro

2 green chilis

2 garlic  cloves

¼ c shelled walnuts

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients together. Put a large saucepan on the stove.

Wash and finely slice the leek. Add to the saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil and cook for a couple of minutes until soft and sweet. Finely slice the garlic and add with the chili powder or dried chili and cook 2-3 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown. Add black-eyed peas with their liquid, the cube or powdered soup and 1 c boiling water from the kettle. Bring to a simmer. Add nutmeg, squeeze in the juice of half the lemon, add the squeezed lemon half to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, strip the leaves from the chard stalks. Finely slice the stalks and add them to the pan, then finely shred the leaves and put to one side.

Put all the ingredients for the herb smash into a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth grassy paste. Season well with salt and pepper. Once the peas are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick soup-like consistency, stir in the chard leaves, season well with salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Scoop into deep bowls and spoon over the herb smash.

And this black-eyed peas dhal recipe from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking:

Punjabi-style black-eyed peas  
serves 6

You can prepare this rich and pungent dhal rather quickly by using canned pre-cooked black-eyed peas instead of dried ones, so here is the recipe both ways.

Faster modern times way
2 15 oz. cans of cooked black-eyed peas
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
21/2 -3” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 tbsp butter or ghee
1 lg red onion, peeled and finely diced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander 1 tsp chili powder
2 cups chopped tomatoes with juice (boxed is fine)
1/3 cup plain yogurt, thicker is better, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp smoked paprika, optional but a nice touch
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, washed and chopped

Heat the oil and butter or ghee in a large heavy gauge saucepan or medium casserole over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes to soften. Mix in the cumin, coriander, chili and tomato. Lower to medium-low heat and continue to sauté another 2-3 minutes until the sauce is very warm. Slowly stir in the yogurt (yogurt that is too cold in a sauce that is too hot can come apart) and blend the pot contents into a smooth sauce. Continue to heat for another 2 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and salt. If there is not enough sauce to cover the beans, add ½ cup water or vegetable broth and blend in. Continue to simmer about 10-12 minutes, whatever it takes to get everything nice and hot without drying out the sauce. Test and adjust salt to your taste. Pour into a large serving bowl and garnish with the chopped cilantro.

Slower, Traditional Way 
1 ½ cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
6-7 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 1/2” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 tbsp olive, canola or mustard oil
2 tbsp ghee or butter
1 lg red onion, peeled and minced
3 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
2 med. tomatoes chopped
1/3 cup thick yogurt at room temperature
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, washed and chopped

Put the beans in a medium sized pot with 5 cups of water and 1/8 tsp salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat. In another medium sized pot, heat the oil and ghee or butter over medium heat. Add onion and stir-fry 3-5 minutes until slightly browned. Stir in the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and chili. Continue to cook over medium heat 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir-fry until the tomatoes are soft. Lower heat and continue to stir for another minute. Slowly stir in the yogurt and blend into a smooth sauce. Continue to cook another 2-3 minutes. Pour in the black-eyed peas and their cooking water. Add 1/8 tsp salt and blend all ingredients well. Cover and simmer until the black-eyed peas are tender, 40-50 minutes.

and finally, a hint for out of the ordinary hummus:
Black-eyed pea and chickpea hummus with capers

1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 lg garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves
juice of 1 large lemon and pinch of zest
salt and black pepper to your taste
1 c good quality olive oil, in increments
1 tbsp capers, drained

combine everything but the olive oil and capers in the bowl of a food processor or blender and start to whiz. Continue to process while pouring the olive oil in a thin stream until you have the consistency you desire. Remove to a serving bowl and stir in the capers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Eating for Midwinter

Nobody has to feel bad that summer and all those glorious, colorful vegetables are gone. Berries too. We have so many other veggies come at us right now at winter markets. There's much to be grateful for, plenty to cook. You don't need to buy what's imported from South America.  And since this is the season of merry and bright, we can even make seemingly ordinary winter bounty quite snazzy. There's glamour in carrots, pears, leeks and dried fruits. See here...

Kashmiri Dried Fruit Compote
This recipe is in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, but it's worth repeating because it's surprisingly pretty and tasty. And a healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth right now.  Serves 6

2 tbsp ghee or butter
¼ cup whole almonds
¼ cup cashews, lightly toasted
½ cup raisins
1/3 cup coconut, chopped or shredded
8 dried dates, pitted
10 dried small apricots
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
½ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated or turbinado sugar
½ tsp ground cardamom or 6 crushed pods
½ tsp saffron threads
1 tsp fresh orange peel, minced
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
optional garnishes: candied ginger, fresh mint leaves, fried cheese.

In a medium saucepan, heat ghee over medium flame. Add almonds, cashews, raisins, coconut, dates, apricots and peppercorns. Lightly sauté one minute. Add water, sugars, orange peel, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir until the water boils. Lower heat and cook for five minutes. Soak the saffron in 2 tsp of hot water, crush it and pour into the fruits. Stir in lemon juice and continue cooking another 5 minutes, until the juice has become syrupy. Remove from heat. Fish out the cinnamon stick. Serve warm plain or garnished. (Suggestion: serve over cornmeal pound cake, oatmeal or pancakes.)

Carrot Bread
This loaf, thick and rich with cream cheese, is great for breakfast and can even be used for a sandwich.
 Makes 1 lg 9x5" loaf or one medium 7 1/2x3 3/4" plus 1 mini 5 3/4x3 1/4" loaf.

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 oz cream cheese
1 c turbinado sugar or 1/2 c light brown and 1/2 c white sugar
3 extra large eggs
5 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c all purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c seedless dark raisins
1 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease of butter your loaf pan(s).
In the bowl of a mixer or food processor, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar(s).
One by one add the eggs, beating after each to make a smooth puree.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices.
Blend this quickly into the wet batter. Be careful you do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the buttered pans and shake to distribute it evenly. Level the top too.
Bake at 350º 40-60 minutes, depending on loaf size, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Orzo, Fennel and Clementine Salad
Serves 4-6 depending on how much you like it.

2 fennel bulbs, cleaned and chopped, greens too
1 2/3 cups orzo (about ½ lb)
3 seedless mandarins, or clementines, peeled and pulled apart
1 lemon
½ lime
16-20 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt to your taste

Put a few of the fennel fronts aside to chop for garnish. 
Cook the orzo according to package instructions, until just al dente. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small skillet and sauté the chopped fennel 4-5 minutes. Midway, add the garlic and blend. Pour the contents of the skillet into a salad bowl. Add the mandarins and prunes and blend. Remove the zest from half the lemon and dice it. Add to the salad. Juice the lemon and lime, mix and add to the salad. Drain the orzo. Salt them to your taste. Add to the salad Stir to blend everything. Chop the reserved fennel fronds and top the salad. Refrigerate an hour before serving.

 Winter Clafouti
This Provencal pudding/cake famously is made in summer with cherries. I make it with blackberries.
But you can actually use a lot of different fruits, especially pitted prunes, aka dried plums, marinated in brandy or orange flower water. Serves 6.

2 c pitted prunes (dried plums)
3/4 c brandy or orange flower water
1 tsp butter to grease the baking pan
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 c milk
3 extra lg eggs
1/8 tsp salt
scant 2/3 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or nutmeg (depending on your favorite flavor)
In a medium bowl combine the prunes and brandy or orange flower water and macerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 7-8 cup pie plate or baking dish. Put all ingredients except prunes in a blender or food processor and make into batter. Drain prunes and spread them around the buttered baking dish. Pour the batter evenly over them. Bake 35-40 minutes or until the clafouti is puffy and brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool slightly before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve. Eat the leftovers for breakfast.

Persian Braised Leeks
Serves 4-6
8 leeks, about 1" in diameter
1/4 c olive oil
1 med onion
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped or 2/3 c boxed/canned diced tomatoes
1 c chicken or vegetable broth
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Cut off leek root ends and greens 2" above the white stem. Slit the stems 2/3 lengthwise but not all the way through to sever. Rinse the leeks to thoroughly clean. There will be dirt coming out of that slit. Half the onion and slice it thinly. Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a cover. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add leeks and turn them to coat in the oil. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until leeks are tender. Arrange on a serving dish, pour the cooking liquid over, and serve. Can also be served at room temperature. Lovely with a pork roast, lamb, turkey or wild rice and dhal.

Super easy Pear Sour Cream Pie
 Preheat the oven to 350º.
To make the crust, you mush the following into a dough and press it  into a  9" pie dish:
1 2/3 c graham cracker OR vanilla OR shortbread cookie crumbs
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp white sugar
1/3 c softened unsalted butter

For the filling you mix together in a large bowl:
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 c turbinado sugar or 1/4 c light brown and 1/4 c white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

In a separate bowl combine:
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 c sour cream

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and blend until smooth.

4 lg barlett pears, peeled, seeded and sliced lengthwise
Squirt the pears with fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with a pinch of ground ginger.
Add the pears to the pie filling.
Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 350º for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

There's a lot of food going on right now, most of it rich and heavy. Tis the season. And tiz chilly to boot. So twice in less than two weeks, I've made pots of my three favorite comfort foods, all colorful and very tasty soups so thick I can eat them with a fork. Also very healthy, nutritious and easy to make: tributes to the lauded Mediterranean diet. So if you need a time out, and a little something extra for the freezer, here are three recipes for joy to the body and soul.

Greek Island Chickpea and Brown Rice Soup

A rustic soup from Rhodes for 4-6
½ c top quality olive oil

1 lg onion, minced

½ c dry white wine

2 tsp Aleppo pepper*

4 c hearty vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups chickpeas, drained (a 15 oz can is the least you can do)

1 c chopped boxed or canned tomatoes

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried oregano

1 c short grain brown rice (if you use white rice cook it only 20 minutes)

Salt to your taste

½ c crumbled feta cheese

½ bunch flat leaf parsley minced for garnish

*Ground Aleppo pepper is a moderately hot Syrian chili. Substitutes would be ground chipotle pepper or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes.

NB: do not use Basmati or any other long grain rice. Short grain rice is for soaking up flavors and you need that here.

In a medium heavy pot, heat olive oil, add onion and sauté over medium heat until soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Stir in wine and Aleppo or other hot pepper alternative. Raise heat and cook briskly 45-60 seconds until most liquid is gone.

 Add 2 cups broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and oregano. Bring to simmering, cover and cook on low heat 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and 2 cups broth. Cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.

 Season with salt. Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir in feta, cover, remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Serve in bowls garnished with minced parsley. Optionally you can double garnish with pinches of fresh mint.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup 
  Serves 4-6

3 tbsp olive oil

1 lg onion, diced

2 lg garlic cloves, minced

1 fresh red chili, seeded and minced

1/8 tsp ground chili powder

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 tsp fenugreek

1 tsp celery seeds

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 ¼ cup split red lentils

5 cups vegetable stock and water

½ tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper

½ tsp salt or more to your taste

for garnish

 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped

 1 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves only, chopped

 juice of ½ fresh lemon (or lemon wedges for each bowl)

In a heavy gauge medium size lidded casserole or other such pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, chili, chili powder, cumin seed and ground coriander, stirring to blend. Sauté over medium heat until onion is soft, 3-5 minutes. 

 Add carrot and cook another 2 minutes. Add fenugreek, celery seeds and tomato paste, pepper and salt. Stir in the lentils, blending everything.

 Pour in the stock and water in any combination you prefer. Bring to a boil.

Immediately cut heat to low, partially cover the pot and simmer 35-40 minutes.

The lentils should now be mushy and the soup thick.

 Serve garnished with chopped scallions and parsley and lemon juice or wedges.

Pasta e Fagioli (Macaroni and Beans)
The traditional Tuscan favorite that some say is not a soup at all. I say it's a miracle of Italian cooking to get this much flavor without garlic.  NB: you can speed this up significantly if you use canned white beans, a 15 oz can drained and rinsed will do it. AND you can ratchet the flavor up ten notches by throwing in a Parmesan rind while cooking the dried beans. Just saying....

Serves 6
1 cup dried white beans (Great Northern, Cranberry, Cannellini) 
1 sm yellow onion, diced 
¼ tsp dried rosemary leaves 
1/8 tsp fresh cracked black pepper 
2 sm or 1 lg carrot, peeled and diced 
1 lg celery stalk, diced 
1 tsp dried oregano 
1/2 tsp dried sage leaves 
1 cup chopped tomatoes in their juice (canned or boxed is okay) 
4 cups vegetable or beef broth 
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp black pepper 
pinch of red pepper flakes 
¾ cup tubellini, ditalini, or macaroni (a very small pasta)
handful arugula, chopped 
½ cup freshly minced flat leaf parsley 
Parmesan cheese grated for garnish

Soak the beans either overnight or in boiling water for 90 minutes.
Cover the bottom of a heavy gauge soup pot with olive oil and heat it. Add the onion, rosemary, carrot, celery, oregano and sage. Sauté over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper and chili flakes. Stir to blend and cook 1 minute. Add the beans, then the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 1 hr until beans are tender. (If you are using canned beans, cook the onion mix 12 minutes and now the beans only 3-5.) 
When the beans are soft and ready to eat, bring the soup to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until pasta is done--maybe 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Check seasonings and adjust especially salt. Stir in a handful of arugula and the chopped parsley.  Serve with grated Parmesan for garnish.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Annual Holiday Gifts of Season's Eatings

Except for the children, everybody has more than enough stuff. And if perchance they don't, nowadays they are probably so finicky, you won't be giving them anything they want or need.  But food is always welcome. Everybody has to eat and not everybody wants to cook. Homemade from the heart is usually the most treasured gift. After 40 years, I still have friends who eagerly wait for my December care package. And a little heat is welcome in the kitchen right now.

What's normally it it? Happy and healthy ho ho ho
1. homemade jams: strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, wild blueberry, peach, peach raspberry, apricot with cardamom, plum and quince (spectacular with goat cheese as a baguette sandwich). Some of these fruits, like quince and strawberry, you can still get now so it's not too too late. Or you can make apple butter.

2. spiced nuts: usually vanilla walnuts (a profound favorite) but sometimes cocoa covered pecans. There are also available recipes for curried walnuts. Package in elegant tea canisters or cookie tins. These glamorize oatmeal, salads, yogurt and puddings besides being a most welcome cocktail nosh or snack. Walnuts are significantly medicinal, a boost for your energy level.

3. Hot spiced roasted pumpkin seeds: the healthiest snack and crunchy salad ingredient. Nowadays I sprinkle the seed with corn oil, lots of salt and berbere spice (an Ethiopian mix that's savory and slightly hot) before roasting them at 325º until they're colorful and crisp--maybe 60 min. You can use curry powder or just chili powder. Distribute in tea canisters.

4. Date bars or chocolate bark: depends on what ingredients I get. The recipe for Berber Date Bars in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, is a winner for sure. To make chocolate bark, you need a pound of really high quality dark/semisweet chocolate and then 2 c roasted almonds and/or pistachios and maybe a handful of dried cherries or cranberries.  In a double boiler you melt the chocolate, stir in the nuts and fruits and a pinch of cinnamon if you like that, then pour it onto a butter greased parchment on a cookie sheet. It will harden in a few hours so you can break it up and box it. Here's another option:
Chocolate Pecan Squares   (this makes 15)
1 c plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 c firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
2 c all purpose flour
4 oz semisweet chocolate
3 extra lg eggs
1 tsp vanilla exteact
1 1/2 c pecan halves
1 1/2 c shredded cocolut
1 c Karo syrup
Preheat oven to 350º. Line a 9x13" cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly butter it.
In food processor or mixer, cream 1 c butter with 1/3 c brown sugar and molasses. Add flour and mix only until batter is crumbly. Dump it into the pan and press it evenly to fit the entire bottom in a thin layer. Bake at 350º 20 min or until lightly browned.

In the top of a double boiler, melt 1 tbsp butter with the chocolate. Immediately remove from heat and whisk in vanilla, Karo syrup and 1/3 c brown sugar. One by one whisk in the eggs. Stir in pecans and coconut. Pour this mix over the cooked crust and put back in the oven at 350º 35-40 min or until the top is puffy.  Cool in the pan, then in the refrigerator before cutting into squares while very cold.

5. Pan de higos, Spanish fig cake: this is how the Catalans preserve figs and almonds for the winter. Think of it as the ultimate fig newton filling: a large disk of compressed dried figs with almonds, anise seed and a pinch of spice. Great with cheese or tea and perfect to carry around. It couldn't be easier: you remove the stems from a lb of dried figs and put them in a food processor with 1 tsp of anise seed, pinches of ground cloves and cinnamon. Optionally also a tbsp of honey and tsp of brandy. Whiz until figs break up. Then toss in 8-10 raw almonds and whiz until the mixture congeals into a paste. Remove, roll into a ball and flatten slightly. Line a shallow 5" baking dish or pot or bowl with parchment and fit the fig mix in, flattening it into a disk. Cover with parchment, top with a heavy weight and let it sit 24 hours. Unmold, wrap and give!
P.s. You can also do this with dried apricots, pistachios and cardamom.

6. Dilly beans or asparagus: the beans are a kid favorite, asparagus dazzles adults. Couldn't be easier. Or more welcome. Recipe in How to Fix a Leek...on the asparagus page. Works for green beans too.

7. Chutney: usually blueberry/apple which enhances chicken and turkey like nothing else, or this year everybody's new favorite, rhubarb/date, which is sensational on a cheese plate. Fermented foods with vinegar are very nutritious and can supply much needed winter vitamins. Blueberry apple recipe is in How to Fix a Leek.....  Rhubarb doesn't seem to be available right now but if you have some, I posted the recipe earlier on this blog.

8. Cookies or Quickbreads
Cookies are either buttery to the max or gingerbread.  The seasonal quickbread options are carrot/cream cheese/raisin, banana and lemon/cranberry. But here is an old recipe I recently found for a lovely Danish Cardamom Coffee Cake.
1/2 lb unsalted butter
1 c sugar
1 c dried currants
zest of 1 lemon, grated
zest of 1 orange, grated
1 tbsp ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla
2 c all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
6 eggs
2 tbsp cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a loaf pan.
Cream butter and sugar. Add the grated zests, currants, cardamom and vanilla. Blend.
Beat in the eggs one by one. Mix flour and baking powder, then slowly add to the dough.
Fill the buttered pan evenly, level the top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool and remove from pan. Wrap in decorative tin foil and tie with ribbon.

Be prepared to feel the love.