Fennel Apple Salad with Fresh Chickpeas and Honey Walnut Dressing

rosh hashanah side dish

Of all holiday food traditions, apples and honey may just be my favorite.  Crisp, sweet apple slices drizzled with rich, floral honey – what could be better? Oh sure, I love Hanukkah latkes and Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, but the simplicity of apples and honey is just so fresh, compelling and versatile.

These Apples ‘N Honey Pancakes, that I shared with you last year, make a nice Rosh Hashanah breakfast. But this year I was searching for the perfect holiday dinner side, something to go with the brisket.  A rich, meaty dinner calls for something light but flavorful, and this salad fits the bill.  I love the incredible crunch of the apples and fennel, especially served with tender, juicy meat.

fennel apple salad

I was lucky enough to find green chickpeas at the market yesterday.  If you’ve never used fresh green chickpeas, they are a wonderful, rare treat.  It does take a few minutes to shell them , but the slightly crunchy bite is worth the effort.  If you can’t find green chickpeas, I wouldn’t suggest canned or dried chickpeas here.  Edamame would actually be a better substitute.  Either way, this healthy salad also makes a great, quick lunch, in case a big brisket dinner isn’t on your menu this week.

green chickpeas

Fennel Apple Salad with Fresh Chickpeas and Honey Walnut Dressing

Serves 6

2 apples ( I used Fuji)

1 bulb fennel, fronds attached

1/2 cup shelled fresh green chickpeas (or cooked shelled edamame)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons walnut oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

salt and pepper to taste

Slice the apples into match sticks. Remove the fennel fronds, chop two tablespoons of the leafy green fronds and discard the rest. Thinly slice the fennel bulb. Place the apples, fennel fronds, fennel bulb, parsley, and chickpeas in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, wisk together the walnut oil, lemon juice and honey. Toss the salad with the dressing.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm  Comments (12)  
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Coffee Cake Muffins

coffee cake

My grandmother’s coffee cake was iconic, a symbol of her vigilant hospitality. Nannie never failed to have a sweet treat available, fresh from the oven, any time of day. She would bake, not just because she loved to bake, but just in case a friend, a grandchild, or one of her sisters just happened to stop by. Like a boy scout, she was always prepared! And more often than not, it was her famed sour cream coffee cake that sat, cooling, on her kitchen counter.

I loved sitting at Nannie’s sunny kitchen table, my legs sticking to her white vinyl chairs as I sipped instant French vanilla cafe coffee and munched on cake.   Nannie usually served coffee cake as an afternoon treat; a little something to nibble while socializing with the ladies, an afterschool snack or a bribe for a juicy tidbit of good gossip.

sour cream coffee cake

But I haven’t made coffee cake in years.  Putting aside for a moment the fact that I don’t actually own a bunt pan, how often am I free midafternoon for a coffee and cake break anyway?  When was the last time I sat down at 4:00 p.m. to enjoy a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and a bit of gossip?  I just put “invite girlfriends over for coffee and cake” on my to-do list, but the reality is that most of my mid-afternoon snacks are a granola bars scarfed down at my desk in between conference calls. 

And while coffee cake makes a lovely breakfast, the guilt associated with eating “cake” for breakfast is usually more than I can handle.  A big old slice of cake with my morning coffee doesn’t actually make for a greater sugar high than that muffin I bought yesterday morning, but it’s a mental block. So I stuck Nannie’s sour cream coffee cake batter in some muffin tins and the guilt disappeared! 

You could certainly add a cup of blueberries or a few chocolate chips to this batter.  But I like the pure, sweet simplicity of the naked cake and the texture of the nutty topping.

coffee cake muffin with nuts

Nannie’s Coffee Cake Muffins

Makes 12 large muffins

Cake:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

21/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 cup sour cream

1 cup chopped walnuts

Topping:

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut in cubes

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (don’t skip the sifting step, Nannie was big on sifting for a nice light crumb!) Stir half of the dry mixture into the wet mixture, add in the sour cream, and then the rest of the dry mixture.  Combine well. 

In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients with your fingers, rubbing the butter until it comes together and becomes crumbly. 

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray. Fill each muffin cup to almost half way, then  add about a tablespoon of the topping mixture, and then add more batter to fill each cup 3/4 full. Top the muffins with the remaining topping mixture.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 6:39 pm  Comments (15)  
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Pumpkin Yogurt Breakfast Parfait

breakfast parfait

Labor Day is behind us, which means no more white pants, but lots more pumpkin goodness. 

I love this time of year.  Sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes are still abundant, but the homey scents of winter squash and cinnamon fill the kitchen.  And let’s be honest, white pants are totally still in the wardrobe! But so are lightweight sweaters and corduroy pants. 

I’m not quite ready to dive into a from-scratch pumpkin pie, but breakfast is a great way to ease into the season.  Pumpkin also happens to be super healthy, although most pumpkin-laced treats are filled with enough lovely butter and sugar to mask all those vitamins and fiber. But this not-too-sweet breakfast is decadent and beautiful despite the lack of butter.  And the best part is that is takes just five minutes – yes, five minutes!  Which means that even weekday breakfasts can be exciting, healthy, and pumpkin-filled.

Pumpkin Yogurt Breakfast Parfait

Serves 2

12 oz plain low fat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of allspice

2 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts, plus extra for garnish

4 tablespoons sweetened dried cranberries

In a small bowl, combine half of the yogurt with the pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice and  honey. Spoon a dollop of pumpkin yogurt into each of two glasses.  Top with a sprinkle of walnuts and dried cranberries.  Top with the plain yogurt, then the remaining walnuts and cranberries, and the remaining pumpkin yogurt. Garnish with additional walnuts if desired.

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 6:29 pm  Comments (24)  
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