Fall Panzanella Salad

Fall Panzanella Salad
The first day of fall felt more like the peak of summer. For a moment I was thinking September must be the new August, but I was relieved to see things will be back to normal in a couple days. I’ve been in a state of wardrobe and eating confusion. Despite the thick humid air and the high temperatures, I’ve been charging ahead with soup and root vegetables. I even bought a pumpkin.

I figured the best way to deal with this crazy weather was to revisit one of my summer staples. With a loaf of seedy multigrain bread, I made a fall panzanella salad with roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds. Since this autumn version didn’t have any juicy tomatoes, I relied on sherry vinaigrette to bring all the different ingredients together.
Fall Panzanella Salad
Fall Panzanella Salad

Serves 4

For salad

1/2 loaf seedy multigrain bread (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoons black pepper
2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds) peeled and diced
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 handful baby greens
2 tablespoons minced chives

For vinaigrette
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the bread, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper on a sheet pan and spread into a single layer. Bake for 12-15 minutes until toasted and golden brown.

Toss the sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Spread on 2 sheet pans, and roast for 25 minutes until the sprouts are browned at the edges and the sweet potatoes are tender.

Place the toasted bread, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds in a large bowl. Stir in the baby greens and chives.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil garlic, salt and pepper. Toss with the salad.

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Vegan Chocolate Tart

Vegan Chocolate Tart
I’ve been dipping my toe into fall. Not ready for the headfirst plunge into chunky sweaters and boots, I am easing my way into the new season. There is an unidentified orange squash on my counter next to a bowl of lingering cherry tomatoes that we just picked from our container garden. Last week I bought a half-gallon of apple cider at the farmers market. I’ll get there. Why rush into autumn?

When I first spotted this vegan chocolate tart, I knew I had to make it. With a touch of cinnamon in the salted oat crust, it felt like the right time to try it out. Thanks to the food processor, the crust came together in minutes, and then the silky chocolate filling, sweetened with agave syrup, followed right after. I loved the rich, smooth chocolate along with the crunchy toasted oats.
Vegan Chocolate Tart
Vegan Chocolate Tart
Adapted from Bon Appetit October 2015

For crust
1-1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted & slightly cooled
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For filling and assembly
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
3/4 cup very hot water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
7 ounces vegan dark chocolate, melted & slightly cooled
2/3 cup agave syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted & slightly cooled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. For the curst, pulse the oats, flour, coconut oil, agave syrup, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon until the mixture resembles wet sand. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and toasty. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling, dissolve the espresso powder in 3/4 cup very hot water in the bowl of a food processor. Stir in the cocoa powder and let sit for 5 minutes before adding the melted chocolate, agave syrup, vanilla extract, 2/3 cup coconut oil and salt. Process until smooth and thick, about 30 seconds. Pour the filling into the tart shell. (You may have a little extra which can be used for truffles). Gentle tap the pan on the bottom to remove any air bubbles.

Toast the oats and remaining 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in half the demerara sugar. Let it melt before removing from the heat and stirring in the remaining sugar. Cool the oat mixture and sprinkle over the tart. Chill the tart in the refrigerator until the filling is set, at least 1 hour. Slice the chilled tart with a hot dry knife. Let it sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving. Store covered in the refrigerator.

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Sesame Soba Noodles

Sesame Soba Noodles
Yesterday was all about improvising because I started Sunday stumped on what to cook, and I’m normally a total planner. At the farmers market in the morning, it was obvious that the corn and tomatoes were dwindling, so I needed to change my routine of focusing on shiny red and yellow things. I went green instead, but not just lettuce—that doesn’t count.

I found myself in unfamiliar territory reaching into bins with green beans and sugar snap peas. When I got home, I decided to make a simple noodle salad since we are in the middle of another round of hot summer weather. I sautéed my veggies and tossed them in a big bowl of sesame soba noodles dressed in a mixture of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce.
Sesame Soba Noodles
Sesame Soba Noodles

Serves 4

4 ounces, soba noodles
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 red finger pepper, thinly sliced
6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
6 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup shredded red cabbage
1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Cook the soba noodles following package instructions. Rinse with cold water, strain and transfer to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss with the noodles.

Heat the remaining canola oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sauté the white scallions, garlic, ginger and peppers until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar snap peas and green beans and sauté until bright green and cooked through but still crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir the vegetables into the noodles followed by the cabbage, cilantro, green scallions and sesame seeds. Serve cold or at room temerpature.

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Peanut and Jelly Blondies

Peanut Butter and Jelly Blondies
Our three-year-old just started preschool, and with the move from daycare to real school, comes a packed lunch. When I was a kid my mom packed a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, carrots (I only ate a few), and 2 Chips Ahoy cookies. These days such a lunch sounds scandalous from the peanuts to dessert! Of course I think I turned out just fine, and I always love a PBJ.

My son’s lunch has been a smorgasbord of snacks including hummus & pita chips, pineapple, watermelon, cucumbers and even homemade focaccia. It’s a little of this and that. Inspired by back-to-school, I baked peanut butter and jelly blondies that were salty & sweet with honey-roasted peanuts and strawberry jam. Don’t worry, I didn’t pack them in my son’s lunchbox!
Peanut Butter and Jelly Blondies
Peanut Butter & Jelly Blondies
Adapted from Bon Appetit February 2014

Makes 16 bars

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter melted, plus more for pan
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
1 tablespoon chopped honey-roasted peanuts
Flaky sea salt (I used Maldon.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and grease with butter.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, brown sugar, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Dollop the jam on top followed by the peanuts.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the bars comes out clean. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let the bars cool before slicing them into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container.

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