Celery, Green Olive and Plumcot Salad

cropped closeIf you are anything at all like me, then there’s a pretty good chance that even though there’s not much to eat in your home, and you are in desperate need of a trip to the grocery store, there are always some olives and a few stalks of celery, albeit, a little limp and bendy, in your fridge. So you would be forgiven if the title of this post has you believing that this is one of those, “Clean out the Fridge” deals.

That is precisely what my husband thought when he discovered this salad on our dinner table last night. Au contraire, my dear husband. Although this salad does contain said limp celery and the dregs of the olive container, it is actually one of the most delicious flavour combinations I have come across in quite a while. Thanks to Chef Bonnie Reichert, for this inspired combo.

Instead of using plums in this salad, as in Bonnie’s original recipe, I substituted my fruit crush of the month, Plumcots. Can we just talk about plumcots for a minute please? A super sweet cross between a plum and an apricot, plumcots (sometimes called pluots) are consistently delicious. The sweet apricot cancels out any hints of sourness from the traditional plum. Plumcots are available June through late-October and each variety is only available for a few weeks. Seek them out. You will thank me later!plumcotsSweet juicy plumcots and fat salty green olives make such excellent playmates in the bowl. The crunch from the celery stalks add a very welcome crispness to this salad. The tender celery leaves, from the heart of the celery, which most people sadly discard, are chopped up and added to the salad and provide a lively hit of pale green freshness.mise en placeA simple vinaigrette, boosted by a dash of grainy mustard and dollop of sweet honey, make all the flavours of this salad start to hum. Toasted sliced almonds, scattered over top make this salad literally sing. Cleaning out your fridge has never been this delicious.

Click here to print recipe for Celery, Olive and Plumcot Salad.

with forks 2

Roasted Tomato and Carrot Soup with Cheddar Crisps

flat bowlI may get drummed out of the core for saying this, but even though the Farmer’s Markets are still full of beautiful ripe tomatoes, I find myself shunning fresh sliced tomatoes with a hefty pinch of malden sea salt and a chiffonade of basil. With October just around the corner, I am yearning to roast something.roastedRed ripe plum tomatoes are halved and combined with some sweet carrots, aromatic garlic, onions, thyme and rosemary. Salt, and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes woke everything up. I wanted a grown up tomato soup. Tossed with some olive oil until glistening, the veggies are roasted in a hot oven for 45 minutes.

I pureed it all in the blender and added some water to thin it out. I decided against using chicken stock as I really wanted the taste of the vegetables to shine through. A tiny bit of 35% cream stirred in just before serving really brings all the flavours together.

I decided to serve the soup with some cheddar crisps. This is what I imagine the childhood classic of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich would grow up to become!

If you have never made cheese crisps before, you need to try them. They can be made with almost any firm grating cheese (Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyere, Manchego, Asiago). They are delicious with a glass of wine, served on the side with a salad or even slipped onto a burger for some crunch.  Beautiful to look at, salty and crunchy, they are the perfect counterpoint for this velvety soup. tall bowl 1The crisps are quite simple to make. They can be flavoured with almost anything you like. I decided on fresh thyme leaves, a pinch of cayenne and some black pepper. cheddar crispsThe trick is to spread the cheese out into flat circles so that they are lacy when baked. They will be a bit soft when you remove them from the oven, but they will harden upon cooling. making cheddar crisps

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Tomato and Carrot Soup with Cheddar Crisps.

Baked Apple Spice Donuts with Maple Brown Butter Glaze

yeast donuts with milk 1F 625 sqSometimes, when I’m in the shower, belting out “My Man” from Funny Girl, there’s a little voice inside my head that tells me I could be Barbra’s vocal doppelgänger. But then the steam in the bathroom clears and I realize that, no, I can’t sing like Barbra Streisand. But that’s ok, because you know what I can do? I can bake donuts.

Yes, I said bake donuts, not fry. Who even knew such a thing was possible? Well, as it turns out, lots of people, particularly two of my favourite bloggers, Joy over at joythe baker, created Apple Cinnamon Baked Donuts with Brown Butter Glaze and Naomi over at bakersroyale crafted Baked Apple Donuts with Caramel Drizzle. 

Before I knew it, that bossy little voice in my head, ordered me to go online and get these baked donut pans from Amazon. Never mind that I had recently declared a moratorium on online shopping after my girlfriend Paula whispered to me that she was going cold turkey, especially with shoes. She sensibly pointed out “We only have two feet you know. How many pairs could we possibly wear?” The little voice in my head agreed with her and said, “Yeah, no more online shopping for me anymore either.” However, in my defense, I will say that these pans are way cheaper than my current shoe crush.

The big question was, should I make the yeast style donuts that Naomi crafted or the cake style ones that Joy featured? The Cake vs. Yeast Donut debate can get almost as heated as the New York vs. Montreal Style Bagel debate. Apparently, people are very passionate about their foods with holes in the middle.

Yeast style donuts rely on yeast to do the leavening work. They have a more open crumb structure and a chewier texture. Cake donuts, on the other hand, rely on baking powder and/or baking soda to do the heavy lifting. They result in a donut with a tighter crumb structure, and are denser and more crumbly than yeast donuts. Unable to decide which ones to try, I ended up making both. That way you don’t have to. You’re welcome!

Truthfully, I have no business making any variety of donut this week as there are more pressing matters at hand. Instead of baking donuts, I should be reading Chapter 12 in my Canadian Securities textbook, clearing all the food photography props off my dining room table so I can set it for the Rosh Hashanah lunch I am hosting later this week for 21 people, and watching the season premiere of Big Bang Theory. sifting dry ingredients for cake donutsgrating apples-2diced applesThe cake donut batter is quite loose and can be piped. The yeast donut batter needs to be formed by hand. They are really fun to make.piping cake donuts into panforming yeast donutsBoth varieties were delicious. My friends at yoga inhaled (deeply!) the cake variety and the staff at my hair salon quickly gobbled up the yeast ones. My personal preference was for the yeast donuts. I really liked the chewy heft of the dough. The yeast ones do take longer to make, but it is not hands on time, just dough resting time.

I adapted Naomi’s recipe by adding cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to the dough and instead of topping them with a caramel drizzle, I crowned them with a Maple Brown Butter Glaze. You can either chop or grate the apples. If you chop them, you end up with little bits of apple poking out from the dough and they look quite rustic. I love it when my baking looks like it didn’t come out of a factory, but rather was made with love in my kitchen. If you prefer a tidier donut, grate the apples so they remain inside the dough.

The topping for the donuts can be made quite thick, so it needs to be spooned on or spread, or thin so you can dip them like a glaze. The main difference is the amount of liquid, in this case, maple syrup, that you add. The other liquid ingredient in the glaze is brown butter. This is a small extra step that makes a huge difference in flavour. If you have never made brown butter, give it a try. It is as simple as melting butter over medium heat until it browns. The nutty aroma and taste will astound you and you will soon be browning butter for everything. One of my favourite restaurants here in Ottawa makes brown butter and then lets it solidify, whips it and serves it with their house made bread. Genius!icing cake donuts 626 sq I don’t want to say goodbye to the summer, but Baked Apple Spice Donuts make saying hello to fall very sweet indeed.

Click here to print recipe for Baked Apple Spice Donuts with Maple Brown Butter Glaze.

Apple, Honey and Almond Tartine for Rosh Hashanah

half with almonds 2Apples and honey go together on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), like cookies and milk, every other day of the year! We dip apples in honey to symbolizes our wishes for a sweet year for family, friends and all the Jewish people. While this explanation makes sense, I have often wondered why specifically apples and honey?  Why not figs dipped into date syrup?

In researching this question, the interpretation I discovered on the website torah.org, resonated quite strongly with me. Their insight regarding the apple part of the equation, is explained this way:
“On most fruit trees the leaves appear before the fruit, thus providing a protective cover for the young fruit. The apple, however, makes a preemptive move by appearing before the leaves. The Jewish people are compared to an apple because we are willing to live out our Jewish lives even if this seems to leave us unprotected. “

The choice of honey was brilliantly explained with this insight:
“A bee can inflict pain by its sting, yet it also produces delicious honey.  Life has this same duality of potential. We pray that our choices will result in a sweet year.”

And so apples and honey it is again, this year on my holiday table. I usually place a big platter of apples on the table with a little knife and cutting board and a bowl of honey for dipping to start the meal. What results is a table littered with hacked up apples, band-aid wrappers (someone inevitablly cuts themself) apple cores and lots of gooey drippings everywhere.

Leave it to Martha to come up with a tidy, delicious and very beautiful solution to this sticky mess. It truly is a good thing. slice close up 625 sqMy take on Martha’s idea starts with my ultimate braided challah, sliced lengthwise into 1 inch thick planks. The slices of bread are lightly spread with honey and then covered with thinly sliced apples. A scattering of toasted sliced  almonds and a final drizzle of honey makes a very special start to your holiday meal. braidingbrushing with eggwith toppingThese open faced sandwiches really should be assembled just before serving. This is not usually a problem since there are always those guests who hang out in the kitchen, asking if they can help. Set up an assembly line and assign apple slicing, honey spreading and almond scattering. Your tartines will be ready in no time at all.

Wishing you all a sweet and healthy New Year.

Click here to print recipe for Rosh Hashanah Apple and Honey Tartine sliced 2

Rosh Hashanah Round Challah

a slice with honey 2FHaving baked over 1000 loaves of challah in my life, I think it’s fairly safe to say that I know a thing or two about this Friday night Shabbat dinner staple. 51 weeks of the year, I make a simple 3 strand braided challah covered with a crumble topping. (If you want to be really humbled, check out Rivka Malka Perlman’s you tube video, where she braids 6 strands! That is punching way above my weight!)  However, one week each year, for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) , I make a round challah. The round challah of this holiday symbolizes continuity and the endless cycle of life.

My challah recipe has not changed in over 8 years. The dough recipe comes from my friend Margo and the topping, crafted from sugar, flour and butter (or margarine), comes from my sister’s cousin’s friend, Elaine. As far as I know, Margo and Elaine do not know each other, but I am sure if they met, they would become great friends as the marriage of their recipes is a beautiful and delicious thing to behold.

The dough uses 2:1 ratio of white to whole wheat flour. I love the nuttiness that whole wheat adds to the finished bread. l make the dough on Wednesday or Thursday, cover it and put it in the fridge until Friday morning. The slow rise in the fridge really helps to develop the flavours of the bread. And, as a bonus, there is less to do on Friday! We always add raisins to our challah, you raisin haters can leave them out. mise en placemixing doughI remove the dough from the mixer and push the raisins in by hand. They are more evenly distributed this way.poking in raisinsThe dough will double in about 90 minutes on the counter at room temperature, or you can cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.proofing doughIf you are making a round challah, a kitchen scale will make your life much easier. if you have ever been on Weight Watchers, then you have a scale lurking in the back of a cabinet somewhere. use a scaledivide by 9assembleready for second rising

egg washsprinkling toppingA slice of this, drizzled with some honey is a very sweet start to the New Year. L’Shana Tova.round with apples 2 625 sq

Click here to print the recipe for Rosh Hashanah Round Challah.

Check back later this week for a clever, beautiful and very delicious new idea on how to serve apples and honey!