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Recipes and food musings for the global home cook.

"My Berlin Kitchen" by food blogger Luisa Weiss grew out of her food blog, The Wednesday Chef. (Whipped, The Blog)

A conversation with Luisa Weiss, The Wednesday Chef

By Whipped, The Blog / 10.21.12

In 2007, while visiting my friend Mav, she suggested that I start a blog. “What would I blog about?” I questioned. “Food, of course” she replied. Before I left the comfort of her Maine apartment, the name Whipped had popped into my head and I had begun searching the blogosphere to get my feet wet.

I clicked here and there, drawn in by photos, personable voices and recipes. So many delectable recipes. Some of my early favorites and regular reads were Pinch My Salt, Orangette, and The Wednesday Chef. It was such a new phenomenon to form a relationship with someone you never met. Sometimes e-mails were exchanged, we added links to each other’s sites and occasionally I wondered if we would ever meet in person. 

I’ve always had a particular affinity for Luisa who writes the blog The Wednesday Chef. As her many followers agree, Luisa’s honest, conversational voice is easy to read. She has a way of expressing and exploring her vulnerabilities that contradictorily leads you to admire her strength. There are some similarities in our lives that always led me to believe we were kindred spirits.

For the past months, I have anxiously awaited Luisa’s new book, My Berlin Kitchen. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy. For a week, I was short on sleep, staying up late to fit in just one or two more chapters.

In her new memoir, Luisa’s approachable style is intact but I think that her writing is even better. She guides us through the chapters of her life, sharing an unusual multi-cultural childhood and the story of a heart-swelling romance. In between, you’ll find heartache, triumph, sadness and discovery. At the end of each chapter, Luisa treats the reader to a recipe that is closely tied to the writing.

Truly, I can’t remember a book that I’ve read in recent years that gave me such warm feelings. Somehow, her stories make you feel hopeful and positive about the human condition, even with its hurdles and heartache.  I wrote to Luisa to congratulate her and share my excitement about her book. She was gracious enough to entertain some of my interview questions:

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. In your book, you don’t talk much about your breakfast preferences. Does it change depending on what country you are in?
 It does change! When I’m in the States, I eat cereal, because no one does cereal better than Americans do. Grape Nuts, Cheerios, Autumn Harvest, oh man, I love a good bowl of cold cereal. It’s one of the things I miss the most, foodwise, about living in the US. In Italy, I follow my mother’s lead and eat cookies for breakfast, dipped in my hot cup of tea. I don’t love cookies for breakfast – I can never shake the niggling feeling that I’ve started the day off on the wrong foot, but it’s only a few times a year, so I try to live a little. In Germany, it’s a few slices of dark, seeded bread with butter and honey or jam. And a bowl of nice, sour yogurt. Delicious.

Which cooking tool do you have the biggest love affair with? You know, the one that feels almost sensual in your hands, the one with which you couldn’t barely live without.
 I edited a few of Alton Brown’s cookbooks in my old job and as a thank you after finishing one of them, Alton sent me a Santoku knife from his knife line. I’d never used a Santoku before, I thought they were sort of a “trendy” knife that I wouldn’t have much use for, but, boy, was I in for a surprise. The knife has become the most important thing in my kitchen, along with a square lipped plastic cutting board that I’m obsessed with. The knife is the perfect size for my small hands, is incredibly sharp, has a wonderful warm wooden handle, chops and slices and dices like a dream. It really feels like an extension of my hands when I use it. No other knife comes close.

You speak three languages fluently? Or, more? What language do you speak with your husband?
 I actually speak four: English, German, Italian, and French. My husband and I speak German together, though he’s always telling me to speak more English with him, which I rarely do. Old habits die hard, I guess. But I’m in charge of teaching our son English, so now that Hugo’s around, I do speak a lot more English at home.

You grew up stretched between different cultures and countries. Have you thought about how you will expose your son to all of his rich heritage while offering him the sense of home and wholeness that you missed?
 I have thought about it a lot, actually! First of all, I hope his dad and I stay together, as I think that being happy parents is the most important part of providing stability and happiness for a child. Beyond that, I think it’s just a matter of making him realize through our actions every day that he is adored and beloved by us, whether we’re home in our apartment in Berlin or at my mother’s house in Italy or visiting my dad in the States. He’ll obviously be a well-traveled kid, but I hope he never associates the sadness that I feel when I travel – I want him to feel limitless excitement when he gets to the airport, not the sort of stomach-churning anxiety that I’ve never been able to shake, even all these years later.

What do you crave when you are sick? Your ultimate comfort food.
 I don’t have much of an appetite when I’m sick! A bowl of Cheerios with cold milk will usually do – but now that I can’t have those anymore, it’s a bowl of pastina in broth. That’s what my mother used to make me when I was sick as a kid.

Would you rather give up cheese or chocolate for the rest of your life?
 Man, that’s a hard question! I can’t imagine never putting Parmigiano on my spaghetti again. But I think I eat a piece of chocolate almost every day. So. Cheese? Gah! No! Chocolate? Eep!

Use your own oven roasted pumpkin purée for a fresher pumpkin flavoring in baked goods, such as these pumpkin raisin muffins. (Kitchen Report)

Pumpkin raisin muffins

By Kitchen Report / 10.20.12

Every fall, a pumpkin turns up in our lobby with my name on it. It’s from the seller’s agent who sold me my condo years ago. The little sugar pumpkin usually appears bearing a recipe printed on orange paper rolled up in a scroll and rubber banded to its stem and a happy face penned in black marker.

Last year Miss Pumpkin even had a little Halloween bling with frilly black and orange ribbons. Fancy, Miss Pumpkin!

I decided I wanted to try making my own Miss Pumpkin purée for the attached recipe: Pumpkin and Raisin Muffins. 

My first batch of pumpkin raisin muffins was a little underwhelming in flavor. Maybe it’s because I had softened the pumpkin in the microwave like I have done for spaghetti squash in order to purée it. I still had half of Miss Pumpkin left. So for the second batch I tried roasting the pumpkin, based on the instructions from The Gourmand Mom.

I also thought a nutty flavor would add an interesting secondary note to an otherwise ordinary muffin. I didn’t have quite enough walnuts so I combined toasted walnuts and hazelnuts and then grated them until fine in my mini food processor.

The end result was delicious! Plump raisins in a pumpkin-y muffin with just a hint of toasted nuts.

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup firmly backed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted and chopped walnuts or hazelnuts
1 cup pumpkin purée*
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a muffin tin.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a large bowl. Stir in the raisins, set aside.

Toast the walnuts and hazelnuts in a pan on the stove top stirring frequently just a few minutes. Be careful not to burn the nuts. If using hazelnuts, rub toasted nuts in a tea towel to remove skins. Blend in a food processor until fine. Whisk into flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, eggs, milk, and butter. Fold into flour mixture until combined.

Divide among 12 muffin cups, filling each tin about 2/3 full. You may have enough for an additional muffin or two. Or just make giant muffins.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in the center of the oven until well risen and golden, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Leave in muffin tin for 1 to 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

*Pumpkin purée

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the pumpkin in half, remove stem, seeds and pulp. Turn the pumpkin face down in about 1/4 inch of water. Bake for 90 minutes. Scoop out the softened flesh and pass through a blender to purée.

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These mini bundts have a cake or donut texture to them. But the best part might be the browned butter glaze, which has a slight crunch of sugar. (Eat. Run. Read)

Pumpkin-ginger bundt cakes with browned butter glaze

By Eat. Run. Read / 10.19.12

This past weekend the pumpkin cravings hit me hard. It feels like everything good about fall here in D.C.: crisp cold morning, sunny warm afternoons, skirt and scarf and no jacket necessary kind of weather. Basically the perfect time of year for a hot cup of coffee accompanied by a spicy pumpkin-y baked good.

Saturday afternoon/evening I turned up some music, put on my apron, and made something delicious that I've been eyeing all week – pumpkin-ginger bundt cakes with browned butter glaze.

There’s something almost cake donut-y to the texture, and the slight crunch of sugar in the browned butter glaze might be my new favorite thing. I think the awesome light-but-dense texture of the cake (I know that’s a oxymoron, but if you try them you’ll know what I mean) can be attributed to all of the beating time – seriously, that butter and those eggs didn’t know what hit them! – and subsequent careful folding to keep it all from going flat and overmixed.

My love of all things pumpkin has been well-documented on Eat. Run. Read., but I think this is my favorite pumpkin cake/cupcake recipe to date!
As the original recipe warns, be sure to thoroughly grease and flour your pans! You don’t want to lose any of these babies to sticking. I have a silicone mini bundt pan, which makes it easier to push the cakes out.

Pumpkin-Ginger Bundt Cakes with Brown Butter Glaze
Adapted from Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine

Yield: 6 mini bundt cakes plus about 12 medium-sized cupcakes (or one large bundt cake) – I tend to make very small cupcakes, so I ended up with 6 mini bundts and 18 cupcakes.
Printable recipe3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2-1/2 cups cake flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger  
1-1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs, separate the yolks and the whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups dark brown sugar 
1-1/2 cup unsweetened pumpkin pureé 
1/4 cup of canola oil

For the glaze:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar 
2 tablespoons whole milk (or half & half) 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 6-well mini bundt pan, and line a 12-muffin/cupcake pan.  

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside.

3. In a large bowl with a beater (or a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment), beat the butter on medium speed until creamy (about three minutes). In 1/2 cup increments add the brown sugar, beating well after each addition and scrapping down the bowl as necessary. Once all the sugar has been added, beat everything together on medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes.

4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolks and beat on low until incorporated. Add the pumpkin pureé and oil, and vanilla, and beat until smooth.

5. In a separate medium-sized bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form (if you’re using the same eggbeater, wash it before doing the egg whites, otherwise they won’t work). 

6. Now switch to a large rubber spatula. Fold in about 1/3 of the flour mixture. (How to fold: Cut down through the center and bring the heavier mixture back up to the top. Think down-across-up-and-over. Turn the bowl as you are doing this. Do not stir!) Keep folding until the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour. 

7. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

8. Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan and muffin/cupcake tins. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake pan from the oven and place onto a cooling rack. Let the cakes sit in the pan for 10-15 minutes, before inverting onto a cookie rack to finish cooling. 

9. Cool completely before adding the glaze. 

For the glaze: 

1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once melted, increase the heat to med-high and cook until the butter turns brown (about 5-8 minutes). You will know when the butter is ready by it's nutty fragrance and brown-tinged bubbles. (Do not walk away! There is a fine line between browned and burnt!) 

2. Pour the butter into a bowl and add the powdered sugar, salt, and milk. Quickly whisk until blended and smooth (it hardens fast). Immediately drizzle the glaze over the cakes and muffins. 

Related post from Eat. Run. Read: Pumpkin streusel pancakes

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Bake these easy pumpkin poppers in a mini muffin tin. Then dip them in butter and roll them in cinnamon sugar. (The Pastry Chef's Baking)

Pumpkin poppers

By The Pastry Chef's Baking / 10.18.12

This is one of those recipes I saw on Pinterest where the picture alone sucks me in and gets pinned immediately so I don't lose sight of the source and can make the recipe when it feels like the right time. And it's time. These poppers are reminiscent of the Apple Cinnamon Bites I've made before that I thought were delicious. Because anything dipped in melted butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar has some serious game.

Pumpkin poppers are super easy to throw together – you can mix up the recipe while your oven is preheating and be ready to put the first batch in soon after. I skipped the ground cloves and allspice called for in the recipe, as I don't like to have too many spices in my pumpkin baked goods; cinnamon and nutmeg are all I mostly prefer. 

For the first batch, I only dipped the tops in the melted butter and rolled them in the cinnamon sugar mixture. You can roll the whole thing but I prefer the coating in moderation. These are really good, especially when eaten warm. It's like eating little pumpkin donut holes dusted with cinnamon sugar without the fuss of a yeasted dough and deep frying.

Pumpkin poppers
From Just the Little Thing 

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup milk

Sugar coating
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (I used less, about 1/2 stick)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl and whisk until combined.

3. In another bowl, mix oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin, and milk. Pour in flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fill mini muffin tins until almost full and bake 10-12 minutes. 

4. Melt butter in small bowl. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a separate small bowl. After poppers have cooled for a few minutes, dip them in the butter and roll them in the sugar mixture.

Related post from The Pastry Chef's Baking: Apple cinnamon bites

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This dish plays with the flavors and textures of fall vegetables. Enjoy the taste and the color contrast on your plate. (We Are Never Full)

Travel: Iceland and pan-seared salmon

By We Are Never Full / 10.17.12

My guidebook assured me that three out of five Icelanders believe that faeries, mischievous sprites and trolls are real. Many, it continues, actively take precautions against them, refusing to set foot in the spots they are thought to inhabit. My first introduction to the country, the drive from the airport into Reykjavik, past a giant aluminum smelting factory set in a jet black lava field against gun-metal clouds, felt more like Bladerunner than the redoubt of spirits.

The homogeneity of the Icelandic population is such that, I, a tall, fair-haired white man, was always addressed in English. This was possibly for the best since Icelandic sounds like an even more inscrutable version of the Elvish tongues lisped so cloyingly in the Lord of the Rings. Happily, though, for students of this, the original Norse, there are no regional accents, slang or dialects of Icelandic to contend with. That there are less than 250,000 native speakers helps keep the number of foreign students limited to either the truly committed or the mildly eccentric.

However, spending my week there with an Icelandic family meant that my exposure to the language was greater than the average tourist, and so it was that by its end, I could both write and pronounce “Hej, hvað segir Þu?” (Hi, how are you?) and “Fint, takk fyrir!” (Fine, thanks very much!”) well enough that everyone still responded in English.

On my final, gorgeously sunny evening, with the light dancing off the twinkling wake, I took a boat across Reykjavik harbor to dinner on the island of Viðey with a consequent degree of pessimism about my prospects for a decent meal. The summer though, is an inversion of everything that is awful about Icelandic winters, from the weather to the cuisine, and I was delighted by everything on offer, that is, until the arrival of the almost preposterously enormous bill.

On my plate that night was a gloriously simple pan-fried arctic char of the most luminous orange over a cauliflower mousse that the chef had sculpted to resemble a ski-jump, surrounded by some tiny, inky-hued Siberian tomatoes, greenhoused locally. The combination of fish, snow and black boulders felt like a distillate of the country itself, in microcosm. Perhaps only a sprinkling of pixie dust was missing.

Recreating that dish some years later, I opted for salmon over char, cauliflower mash over mousse, and a purple basil pesto in place of the dusky tomatoes. As we edge into fall, all these vegetables are at their peak, and the contrasts they offer are as interesting texturally and aromatically as much as they are visually.

Pan-Seared Salmon, Cauliflower Mash and Purple Basil Pesto 

1-pound salmon (or trout or arctic char) fillets
1/2 large head cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 medium floury potatoes, peeled and cut into inch cubes
abundant boiling water
1/4 cup whole milk
2-4 ounces unsalted butter
salt and black pepper
1 large bunch purple basil, stalks removed
1/4 cup best olive oil
handful of pine nuts
2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar

1. In a large pot, boil potatoes and cauliflower until very tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain and return to pot.

2. Add milk, butter, salt and pepper, and mash until smooth. Then beat with a spoon until it has a whipped texture.

3. In a blender, pulverize basil leaves with olive oil and a pinch of salt until you have a lovely purple puree. Add pine nuts and blend until smooth. Add lemon juice and correct seasoning.

4. Heat a large saute pan to medium high, add 1-2 tablespoons neutral flavored oil like grapeseed. Season salmon fillets on both sides. Cook skin side down first for three or four minutes, or until skin releases from pan and you can turn them without tearing it.

5. Cook for another one or two minutes on flesh side or until medium inside. Remove from pan and allow to rest.

6. Assemble all on a plate, marvel at the color contrast and enjoy.

Related post from We Are Never Full: Black cod with morels and minty pea puree

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Oven roasted butternut squash tossed with toasted pumpkin seeds, kale, onions, and dried cranberries makes a festive fall side dish. (Courtesy of Westside Market)

Two recipes for pumpkin seeds

By Kendra Nordin / 10.16.12

Carving pumpkins kicks off the holiday season in my mind. Before giving thanks, or crossing off names on your holiday gift list, scooping out the gloppy, messy seeds from a pumpkin to create a smiling jack-o'-lantern is just plain fun. But this year – wait before you toss out those "guts"! 

Westside Market in New York City wrote to Stir It Up! sharing ideas for using "the whole pumpkin." Westside Market in New York City was founded by the Zoitas family, who arrived in the United States from Greece more than 45 years ago and set up their neighborhood store based on a love of fresh-grown produce and authentic cooking. Maria Zoitas, creator of “Maria’s Homemade,” a line of prepared food, created these pumpkin seed recipes for the fall dinner table. 

Sure, you can take the traditional route of just roasting pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas, and eating them straight from the bowl as a snack. But oven roasted butternut squash with roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed crusted chicken also sound delicious. These recipes bring the humble pumpkin seed onto a sophisticated culinary stage – and demand dexterity from the cook. 

To toast your pumpkin seeds, simply rinse off the seeds and spread them out on a baking sheet coated with a little olive oil in a 400 degrees F. oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Shelling pumpkins can be a bit of work, but if you don't like chewing on the shells the extra effort is worth it to get to the nutty flavored seeds inside. Once you've freed the seeds you can add them to all kinds of dishes – sprinkle them over salad, add them as a topping to baked apples, or use them as a garnish for your favorite pumpkin soup.

Roasted butternut squash with toasted pumpkin seeds
By Maria Zoitas of “Maria’s Homemade” 

1 medium size butternut squash – about 2 lbs. peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt (kosher)
1/2 teaspoon clove powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
8 cups of water
1 bunch of kale, remove stems and slice into one inch wide pieces
1 medium size white onion peeled and 1/4-inch diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted and shelled pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, toss the butternut squash with salt, clove, nutmeg and 1/4 cup olive oil.

Place the butternut squash in a 9"x8" sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees F. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, bring the water to a boil and blanch the kale for 3-4 minutes. Remove the kale with a slotted spoon or tongs and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat the remaining oil and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the cranberries and auté for 2 minutes, then add the pumpkin seeds, and stir over heat for an additional minute.

Combine the roasted butternut squash, kale, onion mixture in a large bowl or serving dish and serve.

Pumpkin seed crusted chicken
By Maria Zoitas of “Maria’s Homemade”  

2 chicken breasts**
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 whole eggs, beaten
2 cups of Panko breadcrumbs 
2 cups of pumpkin toasted and shelled pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon salt (kosher)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fine chopped oregano leaves
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup sunflower oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice chicken breasts in half and pound them down lightly until they are 1-/4-inch thick.

In three separate bowls set up as follows: one bowl of flour; one bowl of beaten eggs; combine the Panko breadcumbs, pumpkin seeds, salt, black pepper, chopped oregano and orange zest in the third bowl.

Coast the chicken breast with flour, then dip into beaten eggs, and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture.

In a sauté pan, heat up the oil at medium heat. Lightly sauté the coated chicken breast until it reaches a golden color – about 1 minute on each side.

Place the chicken breast onto a sheet pan and cook it for 10-15 minutes.

** Note: You can also use your favorite fish fillet instead of chicken. Either reduce the oven cooking time, or cook through in the sauté pan.

RELATED: Are you a real foodie? Take our quiz!

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Reduce cream, chicken broth, and apple cider vinegar and add cooked apple slices to make a sauce for the chicken. Serve with rice to soak up all the sauce. (The Garden of Eating)

Apple chicken from a favorite cookbook

By The Garden of Eating / 10.16.12

The Silver Palate was the first cookbook I ever bought for myself. I was living in Boston, stumbling through my first year out of college and feeling rather lost, in general, when I came across it in the Brookline Booksmith. My friend, Ali, whom I'd lived with the previous three years at Wesleyan, and who is both a great cook and the daughter of a great cook, had told me good things about it so I decided to splurge.

At that point in my life, a $15 cookbook definitely counted as a splurge as I was positively raking in the cash at my $14 an hour research assistant job. And that was a big step up from my previous job where I'd made a whopping $11 an hour as a medical assistant in an OB/GYN office in order to see if nurse midwifery might be right for me.

I liked the book so much that, a few years later, after I'd ruled out both midwifery and research as careers, I bought Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins' much-expanded tome, The New Basics Cookbook. This chicken and apple dish was one of the first recipes I tried, drawn by its combination of caramelized onions, sweet apples, apple cider vinegar and cream. I've since made it many more times as I am a sucker for the combination of creamy, sweet, and piquant that it offers. 

It's been several years since I've made it but I happily dusted it off last week after a field trip with my son's class to the Stone Ridge Orchard. It was a surprisingly glorious fall day that may be the last warm spell we get until 2013 or, maybe not, given the craziness of the weather nowadays.

The weather has since turned decidedly nippier – it seems that real fall is upon us now. But the chilly air and falling leaves are a perfect backdrop for a warm, hearty dish like this. I love the way that caramelizing the apples turns them wonderfully creamy and sweet.

It's easy to make and goes well with rice – the lovely sauce needs something to soak it up. Try it with some cider-glazed delicata squash or baked sweet potatoes. The slightly adapted recipe follows – I've simplified it a tiny bit to make it less fussy and a little less time-consuming.

Apple Chicken  
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook
Serves 4

Ingredients
3 apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, or MacIntosh, or a combination) 
1/2 lemon (optional - see step 1 below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 whole, boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/4 cup chicken broth (I use my chicken "stock-sicles" for small amounts of broth like this)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions 
1. Core apples, peel them and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Rub them with the lemon to prevent discoloration. (You can skip this step if you're in a hurry – I usually do!) Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet and sauté the apples over medium-low heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle them with sugar, raise the heat, and cook over high-heat until lightly browned on all sides, shaking the pan constantly to prevent the apple slices from sticking. Set the apples aside.

2. Rinse the chicken well and pat it dry. Cut each chicken breast in half along the breastbone line. Flatten each breast half with a meat pounder until thin.

3. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Raise the heat, add the chicken, and cook until it is lightly colored, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

4. Add the onion to the skillet, cover and cook until it is tender and slightly caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to high, and add the vinegar. Cook the mixture down to a syrup, about 1 minute. Then whisk in the cream, stock, and salt.

5. Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer gently in the sauce, basting often, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the chicken is cooked, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

6. Remove the chicken breasts with a slotted spoon, and arrange them on heated plates (15 minutes in a 200 degrees F. oven, but not absolutely necessary). Add the apple slices to the skillet; cook over high heat until the sauce has reduced and the apples are thoroughly heated, about 1 minute. Spoon the apples around the chicken and pour the sauce over it. Serve immediately.

Related post from the Garden of Eating: Maple-glazed meatloaf with rolled oats and fresh thyme

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Stir white and dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and coconut into the blondie batter. (Kitchen Report)

White and dark chocolate chip blondies

By Kitchen Report / 10.15.12

This is a blondie recipe I put together while watching the vice presidential debates. I wanted to make something simple that wouldn’t have me babysitting the oven the way a batch of chocolate chip cookies would. I also needed to use up the miscellaneous ingredients I had in my pantry leftover from making Presidential Cookies with recipes from Michelle Obama and Ann Romney.

After poking around online, I found this recipe to serve as my base and then added white and dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and toasted coconut to make a blondie brownie bar. 

The two cups of brown sugar (and no white sugar) makes for a really chewy blondie. The walnuts and coconut add a subtle nutty flavor and pair perfectly with the white and dark chocolate. Even if you don’t like coconut, you’ll still like these blondies, the texture of the coconut gets lost in the mix while still bringing another layer of flavor.

I shared them at the office – the whole point was to get the goodies out of my pantry – and they were a hit! And no one was pressured to cast a vote.

White and dark chocolate chip blondies

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I used 1 stick butter, 1 stick margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cups white chocolate chips
3/4 cups dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Grease 13- x 9-inch baking pan. 

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat brown sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at time, combining well before adding the second egg; beat until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in flour mixture.

Stir in chocolate chips, walnuts, and coconut. Spread into prepared pan. 

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Related post on Kitchen Report: Fair trade brownies

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Use caramel sauce or dip, as well as cayenne pepper, onions, cinnamon, and nutmeg to flavor this sweet and savory soup. (The Gourmand Mom)

Roasted pumpkin caramel bisque

By The Gourmand Mom / 10.15.12

Comfort is good. It’s like a warm, cashmere sweater; one that’s three sizes too big so you can snuggle up within its soft embrace. Comfort is molten dark chocolate. It’s a warm, crackling fire. Comfort is this creamy roasted pumpkin caramel bisque. It’s slightly sweet, warm, and smooth. It smells like autumn and feels like a hug. Seriously…a great, big, warm hug.

Roasted Pumpkin Caramel Bisque

Ingredients
2 pie pumpkins (3-4 pounds each) or about 7-8 cups canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups half and half
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
salt (about 3 teaspoons)
1/2 cup prepared caramel sauce/dip
a few dashes of cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions

To roast the pumpkins – preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out all of the seeds and stringy pulp. Place the pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet. Fill the baking sheet with about 1/4-inch of water. Bake for about 90 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the tender insides. You should have about 8 cups of roasted pumpkin. Click HERE to see a photo guide on how to roast pumpkins.

To prepare the soup, heat butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Add the roasted pumpkin (or pumpkin puree) and vegetable stock to the pan.

Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until smooth or transfer the mixture in small batches to a blender or food processor to blend. Return the blended mixture to the saucepan and heat to a simmer. Stir in the half and half, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the salt gradually, to taste. Gradually stir most of the caramel into the soup, reserving a spoonful or two for garnish. (Taste as you go. The soup should be savory and slightly sweet.) Season with a few dashes of cayenne pepper, as desired.

Garnish with a drizzle of caramel and pumpkin seeds or top with crunchy croutons.

Makes a huge batch of soup…plenty for freezing!

Related post from The Gourmand Mom: October pumpkin round-up 

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'Lifescape' by Christine Turner is comprised of biscuit (cookie) tins that evoke memories of time and place, such as a mother's or grandmother's kitchen. (Courtesy the Artist and Brenda May Gallery, Sydney/Feasting On Art)

Humble food meets high art

By Feasting On Art / 10.13.12

The curated group exhibition "Art + Food: Beyond the Still Life" at Brenda May Gallery in Sydney, Australia, considers the representation of food within the visual arts and beyond the standard still life tableaux. The consumption of food is a universally shared experience, enabling people viewing the exhibition to connect with the issues surrounding consumerism, food production and cultural identity.

Some of the highlights include a large installation of biscuit tins amassed by the artist Christine Turner over a 15-year period as well as an installation by Sue Saxon and Jane Becker of hundreds of fragile eggshells on strands of lights. The show also includes a number of photographs featuring melting ice sculptures by Janet Tavener, the colourful remnants of meals by Vin Ryan and both a colourful and melting ice block by Will Nolan.

A sculpture composed of Murray River salt by Ken and Julia Yonetani will be offset by the artistic rendering of salt diffraction by Al Munro. The only traditional still life painting in the exhibition is by Michael Edwards who paints cement fruit which makes for a perfect pairing with the actual cast cement hamburgers by Will Coles.

The salt sculptures of Ken and Julia Yonetani consider the way food production affects the environment of the Murray River basin in southeast Australia, the origin of the salt used to construct the work. Likewise, Maz Dixon’s paintings and collages feature "The Big Things in Australia" highlighting the influence of the food industry on tourism by depicting some of the giant "sculptures" which litter the Australian landscape.

The beauty of some of the more traditional mediums of photography and sculpture is offset by works that leave the viewer feeling somewhat more uncomfortable. Claire Anna Watson’s film "Sortie" begins with a pair of tweezers plucking pips one at a time from a ripe strawberry. The film progresses to a dissection of the fruit that echoes the look and feel of a gory surgical scene. Sarah Field’s quaint tea set includes human hair and fur which recalls the surrealist Méret Oppenheim sculpture of a fur-covered tea set, "Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure)" made in 1936.

For "Lifescapes," artist Christine Turner says, "I have found that biscuit tins require a simple configuration when presented in artworks. Each tin provides a great deal of information of its own. Information about societal customs, the economy, consumerism and much more." Most people, when viewing the work, circle the parameter recognising tins from their own mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. The installation draws on people’s nostalgia for familiar things and a certain time or place. 

“In our house, the biscuit tin was only brought out on the weekends for afternoon tea. A humble suburban ‘high tea’. One that I relished," says Turner.  "Central to this ritual was the beautiful treasure trove … the Arnott’s biscuit tin. It came with a 3-pound ‘fancy assortment’ of our favourite biscuits, from the delicate Shortbread Cream, to the decadent Monte Carlo. We always ate the Monte Carlos first. Once the biscuit tins were empty they became ‘reliquaries’ for all manner of things. Needlework, gloves, letters, keepsakes of every kind.”

"Art + Food: Beyond the Still Life" is a Crave Sydney International Food Festival event. Artists include Senden Blackwood and Laura Mathias, Will Coles, Maz Dixon, Michael Edwards, Stuart Elliott (courtesy Turner Galleries, Perth), Sarah Field (courtesy Michael Reid at Elizabeth Bay), James Guppy, Irianna Kanellopoulou, Al Munro, Will Nolan, Vin Ryan (courtesy of Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne), Sue Saxon and Jane Becker, Robyn Stacey (courtesy of Stills Gallery, Sydney), Susanna Strati, Janet Tavener, Christine Turner, Claire Anna Watson, Elizabeth Willing and Ken + Julia Yonetani (courtesy Artereal Gallery, Sydney).

The exhibit is on display at Brenda May Gallery until Oct. 20.

Megan Fizell is the curator of "Art + Food: Beyond the Still Life." 

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