Baked apples with buckwheat-oatmeal crumble

IMG_1713I’ve been firmly falling for fall, tumbling down the rabbit hole of cozy sweaters, smoky fires, baked apples with cinnamon and copious cups of Kusmi tea.

And, really, wishing you the same because that’s one of the most enjoyable parts of this transition season, as the leaves start falling and the smell of apples baking is welcoming you home.

Tips: Reserve the lemon peels and a few of the apple peels to add to the baking pan – they will both flavor and thicken the fruit juices.

Baked apples with buckwheat-oatmeal crumble

You’ll need:

  • 6 semi-sweet large apples, halved, peeled and cored
  • 2 T maple syrup (I used Crown Maple light amber, in this case)
  • 4 T honey
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice + a few lemon peels
  • 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t allspice
  •  1 t vanilla sugar
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

1. Preheat oven to 365F. Prepare the apples – I find a melon baller to be particularly useful when coring the apples neatly and efficiently – and nestle them snugly into a baking dish. Reserve some of the apple peels.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the topping by crumbling the softened butter with the remaining dry ingredients. Add maple syrup at the very end, right before topping the apples with the crumble.

3. Mix honey, apple and lemon peels, and lemon juice with 2 cups hot water. Pour hot water carefully into the baking dish.

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4. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until apples are soft and the crumble topping is toasty. Top with extra maple syrup, if desired.

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Also great with a big scoop of real vanilla ice cream, of course.

Caramelized onion, squash and quince with farro

IMG_1700A twist on a classic and a lighter take on a fall ‘risotto’ made with farro. A faux risotto, if you will.

I always prefer roasting pumpkin or squash to any other method of preparation, in large part because it helps to softly caramelize the squash without overcooking it or losing its texture.

And roasting quince is a great workaround  to its usually long cooking time.

p.s. This one is for my friend Alicky – not only is she a risotto aficionado (if it’s pronounced correctly), but she is also an early adopter of farro. It has been a number of years since ‘unusual’ grains started coming back as a culinary trend, with people often trying to pass off pearl barley as farro, but our inside joke of “Is it farro?!” still continues to be funny, if, probably, only to us.

Anyway, I’m excited for your upcoming NYC visit and our trip to the risotteria!

In the meantime, hope you all enjoy this easy and satisfying weeknight dinner.

Caramelized onion, squash and quince with farro

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 Spanish onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 quince, cored
  • 1/3 t chili flakes
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • salt, pepper
  • parmesan (for topping)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking tray with foil, toss squash with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, 1/2 t cumin seeds and 1/3 t chili flakes (or more, if you’d like).

Place the quince on a separate tray – it will still go in the same temperature oven – adding honey into the core and scoring the fruit all around with a knife.

Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour. The quince will take closer to an hour, check it until it has the consistency of a baked apple.

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2. In the meantime, caramelize the onions in a large, deep pan with a mixture of olive oil and butter. Add in garlic closer to the end.

3. Add farro into the pan and toast lightly. Lower heat and add in the broth a ladle at a time – like you would if you were making risotto. You don’t have to stir it quite as often, but add in the broth every 5-10 minutes until the farro is cooked but still firm, about 40 minutes.

4. Stir in the butternut squash and the chopped quince, with another tablespoon of butter. Cook for a bit, stirring often, until all the flavors meld together.

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5. Top with shaved parmesan and serve immediately.

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Fall crafts: leafy candle

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My mom is the crafty one in the family, while I moonlight as the photographer/ stylist, but this is a pleasant and quick DIY project even I could handle so, I thought I would share.

Now, of course, I want to make a bunch of these in different sizes and colors to use as Thanksgiving centerpieces while the foliage is still bright and ruby-colored in New York.

DIY: Leafy candle

You’ll need:

  • 1 large candle
  • parchment paper
  • a selection of fall leaves of various sizes
  • rope, ribbon etc., for decoration
  • an iron
  • scissors

1. Measure and cut a piece of parchment large enough to wrap around the sides of your candle.

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2. Lay the parchment down on a table (cover the working area with some newspaper etc. Arrange the leaves you are using on the piece of parchment and wrap tightly around the candle.

3. Heat the iron to medium heat. Use only the top part/tip of the iron to press the parchment and leaves into the candle, going around and around a few times, as the wax melts.

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3. Turn off iron. Here, you can remove the parchment and go over the leaves quickly one more time with the iron cooling. Or keep the paper on – like on the smaller pillar candle below.

If you plan on doing that, make sure that the edges are lined up neatly.

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Decorate with a piece of rope or ribbon. Really, the creative opportunities are endless!

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Pumpkin-carrot muffins {for Halloween & beyond!}

IMG_1671Holding onto the golden autumn weather this weekend for dear life, my plans include: going to a Harvest Fest at Conklin Orchards, going to the pumpkin patch, and riding a tractor at the Fall Festival. Oh, and eating as much pumpkin pie, Macoun apples, and these pumpkin-carrot muffins as is considered… decent.

It seems that wherever you turn these days, there is pumpkin flavored something available (‘eh’ to the Oreos and coffees, for me), but there is pumpkin flavor and real pumpkin flavor, you know?

No tips and tricks here, just a melding of the truest flavors of the season into a satisfying fall treat. Make your own pumpkin puree after carving out those gourds or use a nice, unsweetened store-bought variety to save time.

Kids will love these too, not that adults (ahem, as I finish my second muffin..) don’t also love a wholesome breakfast or tea treat with a little chocolate chip surprise inside.

Tips: Grate the carrots finely and don’t skimp on the spices, especially if they’ve been standing around in your cupboard for a while!

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Pumpkin-carrot muffins (with chocolate chips!)

(makes about a dozen)

You’ll need:

  • 1 3/4 AP flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 3/4 t salt
  • spices: 1 t cinnamon, 1 t allspice, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/2 t ground cloves, 1/3 t ground cardamom
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shaved carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 35oF and prepare muffin cups.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add in the carrots, pumpkin puree, lemon juice, oil and eggs, one at a time. Mix well.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

3. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop an equal amount of batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

For a crunchier muffin top, turn the oven off, but leave the baked muffins in there for another 15-20 minutes.

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Decorate if you want, with chocolate and other seasonal sprinkles.

For another pumpkin favorite, check out this pumpkin and chestnut soup.

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{postcard from Phoenicia..}

IMG_0207With the unexpected Indian summer weather in New York City this week, I almost feel like I have just gotten back from a foreign country after a weekend getaway in the Catskills.

We were there for a visit to the Phoenicia Flea and a stay at the lovely Graham & Co.

The colder weather in the mountains provided plenty of cozy opportunities for hikes, bonfires, and rides along the historical railway to see the beautiful fall foliage.

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And if you know me, this, of course, also meant making s’mores, cuddling up in Mexican blankets, and sipping on adult versions of hot apple cider.

If you are in the area, do visit the lovingly renovated Phoenicia Diner (where Mike is doing great things, with plans for many more) for some locally-sourced comfort food classics. And take a ride up the Esopus Scenic Train where the conductor – who also happens to perform in the Slide Mountain String Band –  is sure to share some Phoenicia area folklore.

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Roasted romanesco with honey-mustard ricotta

IMG_1656I’ve heard people say that romanesco looks a bit intimidating but, if you’ve never tried it before, this broccoli and cauliflower cousin is absolutely delicious and – to me – resembles something like a magical castle. That’s a pretty fancy shape for a vegetable.

Roasting it whole is the easiest way to prepare it, though if you’re in a rush, you can always separate the romanesco into florets right away.

I prefer slicing pieces of the whole roasted head of romanesco and then topping it (while it’s still warm) with the z’aatar, chestnut honey, and wholegrain mustard flavored ricotta for some subtle richness.

Tips: If you cannot find fresh ricotta, make your own (it’s fairly simple!) or use store-bought – you may just need to “fluff” it up more and add some extra spices and flavorings to it, to taste.

Roasted romanesco with honey-mustard ricotta

You’ll need:

  • 1 head romanesco
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 T chestnut honey
  • 1 T wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 t z’aatar
  • salt, pepper
  • olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Rub the romanesco with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper and place on a piece of foil.

2. Roast for about 40-45 minutes until browned on top and just fork tender. You want the stems to retain a bit of a bite (also easier for cutting later!)

3. In the meantime, use a spoon to fold and mix in 1 T of olive oil, the honey, mustard, and z’aatar spices into the ricotta. Taste for salt.

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4. Once the romanesco is ready, serve it sliced and warm, topped with plenty of ricotta cheese and, perhaps, a little extra honey on top.

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checking in + {postcards from Moscow & Zurich}

IMG_9938The past few weeks have seen me stop in Moscow and in Zurich, for a few days each.

Moscow was full of autumnal feelings and colors, and family birthdays.

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… & those came with serious fun and serious birthday apple pies.

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Zurich was sparkling on a sunny day, with its own special brand of glimmer and shimmer.

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And its very own apple pie – strudel – no one does it better than the Cafe Schober. A visit there is a confectionary must.

The trip finished off with an as yet mysterious bike rally of chefs and maître d’s from The Savoy riding off into the sunset. They looked quite content!

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Jammy figs + ginger cookies

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While I am in France for a little while longer, head on over to read my post in VRAI Magazine on travel cravings and a recipe for jammy figs and soft ginger cookies.

And to continue getting the most out of the autumnal fig crop, sneak a peek at more recipes, including figs stuffed with chorizo & my favorite fig and chestnut tart.

So perfectly autumnal. Enjoy!~

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Apple season + recipe round-up

It is apple season in the Northeast and it is such a beautiful time.

The leaves are just beginning to turn, the air smells slightly like smoke and wood-burning ovens, and the apples are ripe for picking.

Here are some of my most favorite recipes for the season, both savory and sweet.

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Baked apples with cheese & honey

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Red Hawk and Apple Crisp grilled cheese

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Pink apple and yellow carrot slaw

IMG_0577Apple, apricot, and almond bread

Bon appetit xx

ham & cheese + late {late} summer picnics

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One of my favorite things to have in France is also one of the simplest: a crusty baguette with salted butter, ham and cheese.

No frills, just quality ingredients, each of which you can really taste individually.

I guess it also reminds me of the brown bag lunches my mom used to send me to school with- these triple-decker sandwiches filled to the brim with cheese, ham or turkey, and a bit of mustard.

The only difference being that now, as an adult, I like a lot of mustard.

This teasing mild late summer weather will be gone before we know it, so enjoy the sun, a sandwich, and a picnic, even if it just means taking your lunch outside.

Ham and cheese sandwiches

You’ll need:

  • French baguette or another crusty white bread
  • Gruyere cheese
  • Bayonne ham
  • wholegrain mustard
  • salted butter (Vermont Creamery makes a wonderful variety in the US)

1. Even a simple thing like a sandwich can be improved upon.

Use a crusty bread that gives you a nice bite and a good base for your sandwich.

2. Cut lengthwise and top with butter. Slice the cheese and ham as thinly as you can (or get that done at the cheese and meat counters).

3. Layer cheese, mustard and ham between slices of buttered bread.

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Tuck in!

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