June 16, 2010

Honey-nut Pears

There are some recipes that aren't recipes at all. Like this one. My aunt is a subscriber to a few magazines, and when I lived near her she would sometimes clean house and bestow her ageing collection of magazines on me. One of her subscriptions is a Martha Stewart publication, I think Everyday is the name. I would look forward to these the most for their beautiful photography and delicious recipes. When I saw the recipe card for this one I couldn't help but want to try it, even though I'm not a fan of pears.

Pears are strange for me. I only like them when they are at a specific stage of ripeness. They have to be not too firm but not too soft. When they're firm the texture is unpleasant, and when they're too soft I find them too juicy, and the flesh takes on a strange texture on my tongue. I also don't like how they brown and bruise so easily. But with this dish I find it's best to use a riper pear, because the juice mixes with the honey to form a sweet, syrupy sauce, and the flesh yields nicely against a spoon. The nuts are a wonderful, crunchy, contrast to the soft pear. It doesn't taste like pears and walnuts and honey, but a decadent dessert.

I find a bit of black pepper adds a nice compliment to the flavors, but that's certainly optional.

Honey-nut Pears

1 ripe pear

A handful of toasted walnuts or pecans


Black pepper (optional)

Cut the pear in half and scoop out the seeds and the vein that runs to the stem. Fill the indentation with toasted nuts and squeeze desired amount of honey over top. If desired, sprinkle with black pepper and accompany with a scoop of plain yogurt.

June 9, 2010

Shredded Carrot Salad

I'm a fan of carrots.  I like 'em raw, cooked, juiced, whatever, but mainly I just munch on them raw.  I don't even bother dipping them in anything because I'm simple like that (or maybe lazy).  But once in a while it's good to switch things up. 

I read about this salad on David Lebovitz's site a while back and meant to try it.  (Note: because David lives in Paris I couldn't resist using my Cafe Paris bowl). Months later, no years, now that I look at the recipe, I finally mustered up the energy to shred carrots and chop parsley and actually make a dressing, which, honestly?  Doesn't this seem decadent for the humble carrot?  For some reason I have no trouble stretching myself to make a simple dressing for other salads, but for carrots it was another story.  It's like when a close family member or familiar friend comes to dinner--you don't fuss over the meal, but if it's a stranger coming you go all out.   

Well, the results were worth it.  It was nice to eat raw carrots with a fork for a change. Besides being notably easier to chew, the dressing and parsley brought brightness and flavor.  I decided the salad wasn't complete, however.  It needed a bit of crunch and texture, so I added roasted and salted sunflower seeds to the salad.  That did it!  I may even have added raisins for sweetness, but I knew the others that were going to eat the salad wouldn't appreciate that. 

After raving about this salad, my best friend requested it for her Memorial Day barbeque, so I doubled the recipe and pulled out the food processor to do all the shredding for me, which I don't like to use because mine is so loud that I actually need to wear earphones while operating it.  Does anyone else have this problem with their processor? 

Carrot salad is not something everyone will love.  Some people will find it strange, which I don't really get.  It's carrots, shredded in a bowl.  But I loved it.  It reminds me of a carrot salad I once had with pineapple tidbits and raisins, but with more sophistication--and prettier.  At the barbeque, because some were not sure what to do with it, the carrot salad became an alternative to cole slaw and was piled on beef brisket sandwiches.  It was tasty that way too.  Who's kidding who?  My carrot salad had been upstaged by, ahem, hot cheesy artichoke dip and guacamole.  No contest, right?  My feelings were not hurt that it was only half eaten. More for me!

Shredded Carrot Salad

7 large carrots
half bunch of flat leaf parsley
juice of 2 small or one large lemon
2 tbl olive oil
1-2 tsp sugar or liquid sweetener of choice (maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, etc.)
salt and pepper, to taste
sunflower seeds, roasted and salted (optional)

Peel and finely shred carrots.  I only have one size to my shredder, so you see a short and fat shred to my carrots, but a true carrot salad should be thin and longer, so use a fine shred if you can.  Chop the parsley fine and add to the carrots. 

Make a dressing in a small bowl by whisking together the remaining ingredients.  Toss with carrots and give it a taste.  It may need a little more salt, pepper, juice or oil according to your taste.  Adjust seasonings.  David Lebovitz suggests that the salad should be moist and glistening, not swimming in dressing. 

Sausage and Egg Cups

I'm sure I'm not the first person to come up with this idea, although I'd like to think so.  But it did occur to me of my own merit, so I'll let myself think it. 

I have a husband who, outside of meat and cheese, has a very limited scope of food, and unless I intervene, breakfast will consist of a frozen burrito, leftover pizza, even Ramen noodles.  If it's processed or packaged it is, by his definition, a top choice for breakfast.  Oatmeal, cereal, fruit...these things do not in his mind constitute food, unless to feed to farm animals.  I guess opposites attract! 

I've learned over the years not to force him to breakfast on any of the "weird health foods" that I and our children enjoy (pancakes and waffles and oatmeal are weird foods? Really?) Instead I try to tweak his favorite foods as healthily as possible.  Call it stealthy healthy.  One thing we can both agree on for breakfast is eggs and sausage or bacon, using products that are as free from additives as possible. Though they probably shouldn't be eaten overly often, these foods contain protein, and they're filling enough to keep my husband going until lunch time.

The above concoction is something he can grab in the morning and heat up, which is of utmost importance to him on a work day, and it's portion controlled.  What's of utmost importance to me is that in order to help him avoid eating processed foods, I can be true to my non-morning person persona and not have to get up extra early to cook breakfast!

Use pastured eggs or local eggs if you can find them, which will be far healthier than your average store bought egg.  This recipe is also gluten and carbohydrate free for those of you to whom that's important.  I like this as well, because I feel Americans as a whole consume far too many foods consisting of flours, to the detriment of our health, and anything we can do to cut back is nice. 

Next time I'd like to sneak in some asparagus and shredded parmesan cheese between the sausage and egg layer.  Mmmm.  There is probably no end to how you can mix up this recipe, so go ahead and create your own version.

Sausage and Egg Cups

1/2 pound ground breakfast sausage
1 dozen eggs (large work best)
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Divide the sausage into 12 pieces and spread out over the bottom and slightly up the sides of 12 muffin cups.  Put in the oven and bake for five minutes.  Take out the muffin pan.  Crack one egg over the top of each sausage patty and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Return to the oven for ten or more minutes, until the egg whites are firm.  It's important that you don't bake it so long that the yolks are dried out, as the eggs will continue to cook after they're out of the oven.  Also they will cook a bit more when they're reheated, so leave them a bit soft at the center, unless you are eating them right away and prefer them firm.

Let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.