When Life Gives You Apples…

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Apples baked with cinnamon and star anise: smells almost as good as it tastes. photo by: Nancy Duran and beautiful handmade bowls by: Joe Darling

I love cookbooks. I guess that must come as no surprise but I think it warrants stating. Even though I rarely “cook from a book,” I love to while away the hours flipping through their pages. So when I recently bought a new bookcase for my kitchen, it was such a treat to rediscover the collection that had been buried in boxes in my basement. One of the greats that I dug out of those boxes was The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. While I’ve never eaten at this San Francisco institution, the recipes in this book are true classics that have inspired me for years. This recipe for baked applesauce is one such inspiration.

Because this applesauce is only slightly sweet, depending on the sweetness of the apples themselves and just two tablespoons of sugar added in, it can be utilized in so many different ways. It can be served hot next to pork chops, warm on top of oatmeal, cold with Greek yogurt and granola, or at room temperature as a snack all by itself. It’s versatile, delicious, and made from natural ingredients, everything a classic recipe ought to be.

Makes 3 cups

3 pounds eating apples (such as Braeburn, Fuji, Macintosh, etc), peeled, cored, and quartered
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 whole star anise
1 whole cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped
Ground cinnamon, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. While you are preparing the apples, squeeze the lemon juice over them and periodically toss to coat them. This will prevent them from browning as you work.
  3. Pour the lemon coated apples into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, add the water, sugar, star anise, and cinnamon stick, and stir to coat the apples. Dot with the chopped butter. Bake about 40 minutes, until very soft, stirring once or twice during baking time.
  4. Carefully remove the cinnamon stick and star anise and pour the apple mixture into a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash to the desired consistency. Serve, hot, room temperature, or cold. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon if you like.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 (1/2 cup) servings (does not include ground cinnamon for serving):
Calories 159, Fat 4g, Sodium 27mg, Carbohydrate 33g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 27g, Protein 1g

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You Say Frittata, I Say Tortilla

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An overabundance of eggs in my fridge were put to good use in this Americano take on the Spanish tortilla. photo by Nancy Duran

For some reason, last week every time I went to the market, I thought I needed more eggs, leaving me with 3 dozen eggs sitting in my fridge, taking up space. Annoying. But sometimes a silly mistake like that is all it takes for a recipe to be born. This is my take on what the Spaniards call a tortilla and the Italians call a frittata. Call it what you like. It was delicious.

The one tricky part to this recipe is the whole flipping nonsense which cooks the top of the tortilla. But fear not. If you just don’t have it in you to attempt this daring feat, you can always stick the pan under the broiler for a couple minutes to finish cooking the top layer. Just make sure you use an oven-proof frying pan if you choose to go that route.

This dish is equally at home on the breakfast table, as part of a fancy brunch spread or even for family night dinner (accompanied by a fresh green salad preferably). It really is anytime food.

Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound baby white potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3 ears corn, kernals cut from cobs
Pinch of dried oregano
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
6 large eggs
Salsa, to serve

  1. In a medium frying pan, heat the oil over low heat. Add the potato and onion and stir to coat. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through, stirring once or twice. When the potatoes and onions are almost softened, add the corn and oregano and stir to coat. Cover until corn is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a colander in the sink to drain excess oil.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using a fork, break up the egg yolks. Add the cooked and drained vegetables to the eggs and stir vigorously to incorporate. Season again with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the same frying pan back over medium-low heat. Pour the egg mixture in and, using a fork, push the edges of the batter into the center, letting the liquidy center drain toward the edges. Then, reduce the heat to low and leave it alone to cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the bottom is set and the top is still slightly wet. Take a dinner plate and place it upside down on top of the pan. Gently flip the pan over so that the tortilla falls onto the plate. Then, slide the tortilla back into the pan, this time with the wet top facing down. Return to the heat to set the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the pan, let sit 5 minutes then slice up to serve warm or at room temperature with dollops of tomato salsa on top.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste or salsa to serve):
Calories 237, Fat 14g, Sodium 76mg, Carbohydrate 21g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 2g, Protein 9g

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Latest Article in Westchester Magazine

Check out my most recent article on the pickling trend in the Westchester dining scene.

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Spanish Shrimp, Tomato, and Orzo Salad

spanish_orzo

Smoky Spanish paprika builds deep, soulful flavor in this pasta salad. photo by Nancy Duran

The kids are back in school, the pools are closed, and vacation is already a distant memory. But don’t even try telling summer that it’s over. It’s hot as Hades out there. And by the looks of the farmers’ markets, summer is still in full swing. Tomatoes are at their absolute peak. And while big beefsteak tomatoes are at the top of my list, I don’t like to overlook the humble cherry tomato. Right now, the flavor they’re packing is bigger than their diminutive size would suggest.

This warm pasta salad is the perfect bridging salad from summer to fall. It utilizes the beautiful produce still out and about but brings an earthy, deeper flavor to the front which works well with the cooler weather that is surely on the horizon. Smoky paprika, spicy chorizo, and garlicky shrimp come together with sweet plump cherry tomatoes and fresh pungent parsley. The result? A sophisticated pasta salad that can be served warm or at room temperature and is satisfying enough on its own to serve as a one dish meal on busy autumn evenings.

Serves 8 to 10

10 ounces orzo
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and halved crosswise
6 ounces smoked chorizo (spicy or mild), thinly sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Finely grated zest and juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons Amontillado sherry
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the orzo according to package instructions. Rinse, drain, and pour into a large serving bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large roasting pan, stir together the shrimp, chorizo, tomatoes, garlic, paprika, cumin, lemon zest, sherry, and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once during cooking time. The shrimp should be cooked through and the tomatoes should be beginning to burst.
  3. Scrape the shrimp mixture into the orzo bowl and add the lemon juice and parsley. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad and serve.

Analysis based on 8 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 317, Fat 14g, Sodium 331mg, Carbohydrate 30g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 2g, Protein 16g

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Noodles with Carrots and Asian Greens

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Farm fresh Asian greens, carrots, and cilantro in a light and flavorful summer noodle salad. photo by Nancy Duran

When I lived in Australia, I used to make salads like this one all the time. Asian greens of all stripes, from gai lan to choy sum, were available at every supermarket or green grocer. In the States, however, getting your hands on the lesser known Asian greens can be a little challenging. Unless, that is, it’s summer time and you choose to frequent farmers markets or you belong to a CSA.

This week, my CSA with Ironwood Farm brought me some truly exotic greens, tatsoi and komatsuna. So I dusted off my old repertoire and got to work on this refreshing salad. Flavored with the classic Southeast Asian combo of fish sauce, sugar, and lime, this bright, light noodle dish is just the side for a warm summer evening. And to be honest, it will work with just about any veggie that has a crunch. If you can’t find these greens, switch them out for bok choy, Napa cabbage, or even brocollini.

Serves 6 as a side

1/2 pound thin noodles (either rice vermicelli or capellini)
2 small carrots, thinly sliced into matchsticks
2 green onions, thinly sliced into matchsticks
6 cups roughly chopped Asian greens (your choice!)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup torn fresh cilantro leaves
Sesame seeds and Sriracha to serve

  1. If you are using rice vermicelli: Place in a large bowl with the carrots and green onions and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Let sit 5 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the chopped greens for 1 minutes, until just wilted. Drain and add to the drained vermicelli and vegetables.
  2. If you are using capellini: In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook for 4 minutes, until al dente. During the last minute of cooking time, add the carrots, green onions, and Asian greens. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  3. Place the drained and rinsed noodle and vegetable mixture in a large bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, make the dressing in a small bowl by whisking together the sesame oil, fish sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice.
  5. Pour the dressing over the noodles and toss to coat. Add the cilantro and mix through. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds and with Sriracha on the side for those who like it spicy. This dish can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 servings (does not include sesame seeds and Sriracha):
Calories 193, Fat 1g, Sodium 502 mg, Carbohydrate 39g, Fiber 4g, Sugar 8g, Protein 7g

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Italian-Style Grilled Zucchini and Squash

zuke_grilled

A full flavored zucchini and squash dish that takes minutes to prepare. photo by Nancy Duran

I’m still up to my ears in zucchini and squash. And so my quest to coax out their subtle flavor continues. This week’s recipe has got big flavor, is built for a crowd, and can be made well in advance of the meal. If you’re responsible for the side at a barbecue or picnic this weekend, this dish certainly ticks all the boxes.

I’ve found that the key to success when grilling or broiling zucchini and squash is a healthy dose of olive oil, and a good quality oil at that. The vegetables will soak up the oil and hold its flavor throughout the cooking process. While you can flavor that oil with just about anything (or nothing if you decide to take a purist route), here I’ve borrowed from Southern Italy in my approach. I’ve infused the oil with a mix of garlic, herbs, and chile flakes, taking subtle, to sublime. The veggies turned out sweetly caramelized, boldly spicy, and deeply pungent. The salty feta and sticky balsamic glaze were just the finish they needed, giving the dish the complexity to stand up tall next to the smoky grilled steaks with which they were paired.

Serves 8

1/2 cup good quality olive oil
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil
3 1/2 pounds of zucchini and squash (because that’s how much had collected in my fridge), trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
Fresh mint and basil leaves for garnish

  1. In a measuring jug, combine the oil, garlic, chile flakes, and chopped mint and basil. Stir to combine thoroughly.
  2. Place the zucchini and squash slices on two large baking sheets and brush each side with the flavored oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a barbecue to medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and squash in batches and cook about 2 minutes per side, until tender and lightly charred. Place the vegetables on a serving platter, scatter over the cheese, drizzle with balsamic, and garnish with mint and basil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutritional analysis based on 8 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste or balsamic for drizzling):
Calories 165, Fat 15g, Sodium 73mg, Carbohydrate 7g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 3g

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Tomato and Nectarine Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

tomato_nectarine

A savory fruit salad for summer barbecues. photo by Nancy Duran

Technically speaking, it’s a fruit salad. But practically speaking, it’s a sweet and savory accompaniment to any main course you may be grilling up this summer. Tomatoes and nectarines make beautiful music together in a dish that is truly a celebration of summer. If you’re looking for something a little more exotic than the ubiquitous Caprese salad, this is the recipe you’ve been searching for.

Makes about 1/2 cup vinaigrette / Serves 4

Basil Vinaigrette
1 small shallot, chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Tomato and Nectarine Salad
5 small tomatoes,thinly sliced into rounds
3 small nectarines, sliced into wedges
A handful of mixed salad greens
A handful of yellow teardrop tomatoes

  1. To make the Basil Vinaigrette: In the bowl of a small food processor, place the shallot and basil leaves. Process until chopped. Add the mustard, vinegar, and oil and process until smooth.
  2. To assemble the Tomato and Nectarine Salad: On a large platter, fan out the tomato rounds. Top with the nectarine wedges and mound the salad greens on top. Scatter over the teardrop tomatoes and drizzle with about half the Basil Vinaigrette.

Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings:
Calories 230, Fat 18g, Sodium 33mg, Carbohydrate 17mg, Fiber 4g, Sugar 11g,
Protein 3g

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Pea Shoot and Squash Salad with Sweet Parsley Dressing

 

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Pea shoots and squash are in perfect harmony in this summer salad. photo by Nancy Duran

I fully recognize that some time in the next few weeks, squash and zucchini fatigue will begin to set in. But for now, I’m feeling super inspired by all they have to offer. I especially love baby yellow squash. Because it’s a wonderful flavor absorber, I find tossing it in a blend of dried spices is the way to go. For this salad, I tossed the squash in a Middle Eastern-style blend of sumac and cumin. Then I pan-fried it in a little olive oil just until it was lightly browned and tender, but still snappy. The parsley dressing is sweetened with a good quality white balsamic, which softens the strong taste of the pea shoots. All in all, this is a simple and lovely summer salad that makes use of ingredients that are at their absolute peak right now.

Dressing makes about 1/2 cup / Salad serves 4

Sweet Parsley Dressing
1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
1 small garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Pea Shoot and Squash Salad
4 baby yellow squash (about 1 pound), trimmed and sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups pea shoots

  1. First, make the Sweet Parsley Dressing: Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. To make the Pea Shoot and Squash Salad: In a medium bowl, toss the squash with the sumac, cumin, salt, and pepper.
  3. In a medium frying pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. When hot, add the squash and cook, stirring and flipping occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes depending on how thick or thin you sliced the squash. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the pea shoots with the squash. Drizzle with the Sweet Parsley Dressing and pass any extra dressing around at the table.

Nutritional analysis for dressing based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste)
Calories 172, Fat 18g, Sodium 11mg, Carbohydrate 3g, Fiber 1g, Sugar 1g, Protein 1g

Nutritional analysis for salad based on 4 servings:
Calories 68, Fat 5g, Sodium 306mg, Carbohydrate 6g, Fiber 1g, Sugar 2g, Protein 3g

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Beet Tabbouleh

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Beets take the place of tomatoes in this summer tabbouleh. photo Nancy Duran

Herbs are everywhere you look at this time of year. Farmers’ markets and CSA baskets are brimming with them and gardens are positively taken over with the lush likes of parsley, mint, and basil. Seems like a good time to serve a salad that features parsley prominently. I give you, tabbouleh.

However, the other lead character in this salad is tomatoes, which are not quite at their peak as of yet. That gave me the idea to replace them with another sweet treat from the earth. Beets, which have all the sweetness of tomatoes, happen to be very much in season right now. Turns out they make a stellar stand-in for said tomatoes. Sweet, pungent, and zinging, this side works with just about any meat or fish. In fact, I found it hearty enough on its own and chose to skip meat in my meal altogether. Instead, I toasted up sourdough bread slices, smeared them with Greek yogurt, and piled the salad on top.

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup medium coarse grain bulghur*
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup firmly packed, finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 green onions, white and light green parts finely chopped, dark green tops thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cooked medium beets (To roast, preheat the oven to 400°F, wrap each beet individually in foil and place in a pan. Roast for about 1 hour for medium beets)
Greek yogurt, for serving

  1. Place the bulghur in a medium bowl. Pour over boiling water so that the bulghur is completely covered. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes. Uncover, drain well and return to the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix well to coat the bulghur grains. Stir in the parsley, celery, green onion, and mint. Then add the remaining lemon juice and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir well then let sit for about 20 minutes for the flavors to soak in.
  2. Slice the beets into rounds and serve layered with the bulghur mixture. Season with more salt and pepper if you like and serve with dollops of yoghurt.

*Whole Foods sells bulghur in the bulk grains and nuts section.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste or yogurt to serve):
Calories 165, Fat 9g, Sodium 79mg, Carbohydrate 19g, Fiber 5g, Sugar 6g, Protein 3g

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Green and Golden Snap Peas with Poached Chicken

snap_pea

Elegant summer dining al fresco. photo by Nancy Duran

It’s not often that I come across a vegetable I haven’t tried. But last week at the TaSH Farmer’s Market, I did just that. Purdy’s Farmer and the Fish based out of North Salem were featuring golden sugar snap peas, the first I’ve ever heard of them. So I snapped them up and created this lovely summer salad. If you haven’t had them before, golden snap peas are like a mellow version of their greener cousins, certainly not as sweet. For that reason, I recommend pairing them with green sugar snaps, as I do here. If you can’t lay your hands on the golden variety, fear not. This salad will work beautifully with green alone.

Serves 4

3/4 pound mixed green and golden snap peas, strings removed
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
1/2 small red onion (or 1/4 medium red onion), very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups firmly packed baby arugula
Handful fresh baby mint leaves
Handful fresh baby basil leaves
Sea salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)

  1. Prepare an ice bath for the snap peas by placing a handful of ice in a medium bowl and filling the bowl with cold water. This will stop the snap peas from cooking after you’ve removed them from the pot of boiling water.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil over high heat. Add the snap peas and cook about 11/2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove with a slotted spoon to the ice bath. Add the chicken to the pot. Bring back to the boil, reduce heat slightly to simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat and let the chicken sit in the pot while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  3. Meanwhile, place the onion in a screw-top jar. Add the oil and lemon juice, seal, and shake well to combine. This will lightly pickle the red onion.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pot and thickly slice.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, drained snap peas, mint, basil, and sliced chicken. Pour the onion and dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine and coat. Season to taste with sea salt and sprinkle over the chile flakes (if you are using).

Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings (does not include sea salt to taste):
Calories 233, Fat 8g, Sodium 82g, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 8g, Protein 29g

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