Monday, November 29, 2010

ingredient: CAULIFLOWER

Something is wrong with America. Tell me in what other country the Wikipedia page on cauliflower would read “Cauliflower is often served with a cheese sauce, as in the dish cauliflower cheese.” Cauliflower cheese? Seriously?

America, we're behind. Though cauliflower originated in Cyprus, it has spread to cuisines around the world. The obvious reason for its global popularity is that when you break apart the head each floret looks like a little tree. Amazing!

Other secondary explanations include its flexibility; cauliflower is good eaten raw- it’s a crudité tray champion- and pickled- it's a favorite on the Italian antipasti plate, or as a Southeast Asian side dish. I prefer it cooked, like when the French make a velvety purée or Indians a luscious curry. Cauliflower is hearty. Literally. It has fire-truck levels of anti-inflammatory Vitamin-K, Glucoraphanin and omega 3s, all which protect your heart. It’s also hearty in the filling sense, because just 200 calories worth of cauliflower gives you half your daily fiber. Of course, you can still buy that expensive Metamucil if you want.

To reiterate, hiding this beautiful white vegetable under cheese is wrong. I don’t care what pseudo celebrity is doing just that. Even if she's doing it on Oprah. Who, by the way, should use her influence more responsibly, like supporting these guys. Cauliflower doesn’t need a cheese sauce. This is a vegetable which was a centerpiece on the feast tables of Louis the XIV. The original food bible Théâtre d'Agriculture (1600) praised the cauliflower as a “delicate vegetable.” It's a close cousin of kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts, all of which are treated like adults. So eat them as such.

Mark Twain wrote that cauliflower is “cabbage with a college education.” I’d say it’s more like broccoli that has gone to finishing school. Cauliflower is elegant and soft spoken. It’s considerate: see how it’s wearing white so it won’t clash with anything on your plate? And most importantly, if it gets stuck in your teeth your friends are much less likely to see. Cauliflower wants you to save face and waist. Though of course if your friends did notice, they wouldn’t be so crude as to mention it. What kind of party do you think this is? One with cauliflower cheese?

Curried Cauliflower Soup

I fulfilled my patriotic duties and ate way too much at Thanksgiving (and the following days, thanks to an expanded stomach). The leftovers are finally, thankfully, almost gone because I can’t handle one more plate of a stuffing-sauce-sprouts-sweet potato collage. Give me simplicity. Give me health.

To restore my post-holiday balance, at least until Christmas cookie decorating, I decided to make this, the anti-Thanksgiving dish. It’s made in just one pot. It’s vegetarian—actually vegan if you don’t add the yogurt topping. It’s healthy and it’s Indian, but not the Native American kind. Curried cauliflower soup, heal my buttery soul.

This recipe is adapted from Moosewood, one of the first vegetarian restaurants in the States. Any recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook is very special to me, as it was one of the first cookbooks I ever personally owned (the other was a spiral bound Fat Free cookbook I received in the mail. Oh the nineties.) Moosewood helped guide me when I was eleven and decided to become the only vegetarian I knew. Now it can help you as you navigate the holiday feasts ahead.


2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp fresh chilies or dried red chilies, minced (and OK fine, red pepper flakes if that's what you've got)

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 cups cubed red potatoes

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 cups)

4 cups vegetable stock


1/4 cup basmati rice

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (more if you're like me and like a heavy cilantro garnish)

black pepper

greek yogurt (optional, but recommended, to dollop on top. Its cold creaminess plays against the warm curry flavor. yum!)


Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilis and a tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and cinnamon to the pot. Stir constantly for a minute or two to let the spices get fragrant.

Add the potatoes, cauliflower, stock, and another teaspoon of salt to the pot.

Cover the pot and bring the broth to a boil. Add the rice and cover the pot again. Let simmer for 15 minutes, when veggies should be tender.

The recipe says to puree 2 cups of the soup in a blender. I used my immersion blender (the turmeric stained the bottom... whoops) and just blended until it was the consistency I wanted. Frankly, you don't need to blend this soup at all if you think it's a bother. You'll just have a very chunky soup. I pureed enough to make the broth noticeably thicker and creamier, but left nice pieces of cauliflower and potatoes floating like icebergs in a curry sea.

Add the lemon juice, sugar, and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remember that this is a BIG pot of soup, so it will require liberal seasoning. Serve, with an added dollop of yogurt in each bowl if desired.

Friday, November 19, 2010

ingredient: MOLASSES

You’ve probably dismissed molasses as a second-rate honey substitute or as something some people might pour over their waffles instead of maple syrup (it’s not, they don’t). And OK, if pressed, you’d admit you’re not really sure what molasses is. You think it’s used in baking, but you’ve never used it yourself. In any case, it looks a bit too much like tar to give it a second thought, and it’s always next to the condensed milk, which you’ve never bought either (maybe once to donate to City Harvest? Or was that evaporated milk? Is there a difference?) The phrase “slow as molasses” comes to mind, and you’re bored just looking at this product. I don’t blame you because, at least in the North East, the only brand you’ll find in most stores is endorsed by this woman:

Well let me tell you, molasses isn’t your grandmother’s sweetener. In fact, molasses was involved in one of the craziest incidents in US history. Imagine an eight foot high wave of molasses rushing at you, killing twenty-one people and untold horses. This actually happened in Boston’s North End neighborhood in 1919 when a shoddily constructed tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst and flooded the surrounding neighborhood. Buildings were leveled. A Professor of Mechanical Engineering at M.I.T did the math, and due to the height of the column of liquid, the wave of molasses must have been moving at a speed of at least thirty five miles an hour. It was a molasses tsunami!

I can’t believe that Hollywood hasn’t made a motion picture out of this event. Drowning in molasses is terrifying. Interested parties should read this book, which I think I’ll personally forgo since I’ve definitely poured too much honey in my mouth at once, and the idea of suffocating in sugar hits a little too close to home.

Now that you know that molasses is a badass killing machine, you may be inclined to buy it. So let me answer those first questions, namely what is it and what does one use it for? Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar making process. After sugar cane is stripped and boiled, the sucrose starts to crystallize. To get refined sugar, a.k.a white sugar, you let the sucrose crystallize until it has separated from a brown liquid. This brown liquid is molasses. I’d like to take this moment to point out that brown sugar is simply sugar that hasn’t been totally removed of its “impurities.” So while it contains nominally more trace elements than white sugar, brown sugar is not better for you. It is not like wheat versus white bread. Sorry.

These marketing people deserve a raise.

Molasses, on the other hand, is better for you than refined sugar. More specifically, blackstrap molasses is better for you. Blackstrap is the grade of molasses that has been boiled three times until most of the sugar has been taken out. Just a tablespoon of this viscous liquid provides almost twenty percent of your daily iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. In general I'm not a proponent of agave syrup or stivia extracts. Only sugar really tastes like sugar; who cares about my glycemic index. But since I don't use molasses instead of sugar, I use molasses when I want a brown-sugar burnt caramel flavor, I feel confident in touting its nutritional advantages.

What do you use molasses for? Well, mostly, we use molasses to make rum. And barbeque sauce. See? Molasses is improving your life on possibly a daily basis and you didn’t even know it. Molasses is also great in baked goods because it provides a deeper, more complex flavor than regular sugar. I use molasses in a slightly unorthodox way; I put it in my oatmeal. Living in a house where you only get plain oatmeal, you learn interesting ways to jazz things up. Putting molasses in my oatmeal is a good way to get some iron and it gives my oatmeal a caramel flavor that isn't artificial.

The aftermath. Terrifying.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Ginger Frosting
bundt adapted from Gingerbread

You want to hear something shocking? The key ingredient in gingerbread isn’t ginger. It’s molasses! I feel incredibly misled and rather sorry for this under-appreciated ingredient.

I found this out the other day when I opened a cookbook which is entirely devoted to gingerbread. (It should be entirely devoted to molasses.) I was in a festive spirit because the holiday windows had just debuted in New York, and this year Barney’s theme is a foodie Christmas. The holiday flavor profile is one of my favorites; cinnamon, nutmeg, candied fruits, peppermint. It’s all spicy and warm and cozy and I couldn’t help getting a head start on my holiday baking.

I’ll admit that I was intending to write a post on ginger. And not to put molasses in the corner, I increased the ginger flavor of this cake by adding a ginger frosting. (I’m also just inclined to frost things.) The true star, however, is still molasses. There’s a whopping cup of it in this cake, versus only two teaspoons of ginger—and I actually increased the amount of ginger from the original recipe.

The recipe below makes one 8 cup bundt cake. When I made it, I doubled the recipe and filled one 10 cup bundt pan and one gingerbread man cake pan because I can hardly ever resist something that kitschy, and it’s the holidays so all bets are off.

Gingerbread gingerbread men!
Serves 8

For cake:

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup hot water


¾ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (ideally grated with a microplane so its really just ginger mush with juice)
1 pinch salt
1 tbsp candied ginger, chopped (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Butter and flour an 8 cup bundt pan (or a 9 inch square pan)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until it is smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the molasses and beat until smooth.

Mix in the vanilla extract and the egg.

Now alternate adding the flour and the hot water, mixing between each addition. NB: When you’re adding the water, be careful for back splash.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake it, you want a moist cake.

While the cake cools, make the frosting.

In a food processor, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.

Add the powdered sugar, ginger, and salt. Pulse until combined into a smooth, spreadable frosting.
If you’re making a bundt cake, I think it’s nice to just ice the top. Then I chopped up a tbsp worth of candied ginger and threw it on top, to make it look nice.

A frosting halo for the holidays

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ingredient: OLIVES

The olive tree has always been a sacred plant. In the Old Testament, Noah knew the great flood was over when a pigeon brought back a shiny silver olive leaf. I’m sure he would have preferred a bagel, but olive leaves are extremely pretty and admittedly a more appropriate symbol of peace. The Egyptians praised the olive tree as the tree of Isis, and thanked her for teaching them how to cultivate its fruit—a story which I almost believe because uncured olives are so bitter and awful that it’s a wonder anyone ever figured out how to eat them. The Prophet Mohammed also called the olive a blessed tree, and told his followers to massage themselves with its oil (a trick which works till this day- the early Muslims must have had great skin).

But personal predispositions not withstanding, it was obviously the Greeks who best incorporated the wonders of the olive into their mythology: Zeus promised to give the city of Athens to the God who proposed the most useful invention. Athena won with the olive tree. It must have been a landslide. The olive tree produces a hard, beautiful wood, a tasty, useful fruit, and a delicious, nutritious, and flammable oil. Olives are wonder trees which can live for hundreds of years. And they produce wonder fruits that are one of the cornerstones of Mediterranean cooking.

The trick is how to get olives from the tree to your plate. Olive skins have a high concentration of the glycoside oleuropein, which makes them very, very bitter. To make the fruit edible, olives must be cured, usually in water, salt, or brine for two weeks to three months. The brining process can change the appearance of the fruit. In true southern European fashion, they start their lives smooth, taught, and attractive, and then, as if overnight, become old and shriveled. When they cure, some olives even change colors, going from green or blonde to purple or black.

There are a wide variety of olives grown around the Mediterranean and, thanks to Spanish explorers, in California. Kalamata, Nicoise, Picholine, and Moroccan are popular selections. Each type of olive has its own unique flavor and texture. Perhaps because olives are in my Greek-Italian genes, I absolutely adore them all. But not only do I love the salty, briny taste of olives eaten every which way under the hot Aegean sun, I love what they are doing for my body. Olives have this magical combination of monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. The fats alone help protect your cells from inflammation and general damage. But it just so happens (or does it? Isis?) that vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant, meaning that olives are exponentially more healthy because they come in a tasty, fatty package.

In today's culture, olives are a sexy little fruit that go well with a martini and, if you're lucky, a view of the Mediterranean. Religious myths may come and go, but olives will never go out of style.

Panelle with Olive Tapenade

Panelle, or chickpea flour fritters, are a typical Sicilian snack. In Palermo, they are hawked on the street, and you’ll find it’s hard to say no to the freshly fried triangles glistening with hot oil and flaked with salt. Panelle are also served in Italian homes as a warm antipasto because they’re easy to make and immensely rewarding.

I like to serve the fritters with an olive tapenade to make them a little fancier for a party or, alongside a green salad, a little more substantial for dinner. This tapenade recipe makes more than enough for the fritters, a fact which I know but never change, because the next few days will find me tearing off a hunk of bread, sticking my arm into the fridge, scooping up a mound of tapenade, and stuffing it into my mouth. If you’re feeling classy, or you’re throwing a party with limited time or money, put some of this tapenade on toasted bread and serve it as an elegent crostini.

A final note: when I’m making these panelle at home, I don’t deep fry them. I’m not really a believer in the fried-is-better philosophy (and once spit out a deep-fried oreo onto the street at a fair crying “Too much! Too much!”). Instead I pan fry the fritters in a thin layer of oil, and with the chickpea flour (gluten free and a good source of protein) and the olives (health benefits as mentioned above), I can almost believe that these are good for me. A nice feeling, though honestly they’re so good that I wouldn’t really care either way.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer

For panelle (adapted from Cooking with Italian Grandmothers):

3 ¼ cups water
½ pound chickpea flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp minced parsley
1 tbsp minced oregano
olive oil for pan-frying

In a medium sized saucepan, add the water and the chickpea flour.

Whisk the chickpea flour into the water until it is incorporated without lumps

Add the salt and the pepper. Put the saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened—it should start to give resistance to your spoon and become the same consistency as polenta—about 8 minutes. Stir in the herbs.

Take the mixture off the heat. Spread the dough over a large, flat baking sheet. Try to shape it in a rectangle which is about 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. Let the dough cool (feel free to pop it in the fridge if you have room).

*While the dough is cooling, make the tapenade*

When the dough has cooled, cut the dough into long, thin triangles. Heat a good layer of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Fry the triangles in batches, turning them over so that each side is browned. The panelle are done when each side is golden brown and they’ve puffed up.

Top with tapenade and serve HOT.

For tapenade:

1 ¼ cups olives (I used kalamata, as they are my olive of choice. Not all olive types would work here (ex: Moroccan olives are too bitter) but most will, so if you have a mix, or just some green olives, that’s fine too.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp capers
3 anchovies (you know, from a can)
olive oil, about ¼ cup
zest of one lemon (try to get a normal sized lemon. No GMO giants)
juice of one lemon
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp parsley (optional but nice)

Put the olives, garlic, capers, and anchovies in the food processor. Pulse five or so times, until the olives have become bits.
Add the olive oil and pulse in the processor until the tapenade is chunky but spreadable. NB: Especially because many olives are already packed in oil, you may want to add a little less olive oil to start and see how it comes together.

Put the tapenade in a small bowl. Mix in the lemon juice, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and parsley.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

ingredient: SOY SAUCE

I shouldn’t be surprised that the Chinese developed a condiment as awesome as soy sauce 2,500 years ago, given the fact that they produced this at the same time:

They also solved mathematical problems I still can’t get my head around, including providing mathematical proof for the Pythagorean theorem, finding accurate approximations for pi, and using Gaussian elimination to solve linear equations. I have to admit, however, that while I appreciate that some people out there can thank the Han Dynasty for decimal fractions, the creation of soy sauce impacts my life in a far more significant way.

Soy sauce was made as a preservative or jiang. Of the many types of jiang on the ancient market, soy sauce became one of the most popular because it was made from relatively inexpensive soybeans. To make soy sauce, a farmer would mix fermented soy beans with a grain such as rice, then he would add mold and some salt to the mixture. The sauce was left to age for several months before being strained into a smooth brown liquid and served with everything from rice to turtle (sad). Soy sauce was quite the invention: delicious, cheap, great as a preservative, and a good way to get as much salt for your buck as possible.

Japan hopped on the soy sauce train in the 17th century. Kikkoman opened its first soy sauce sales base in the US in 1957. I don’t know when they started packaging soy sauce in easy to transport ketchup packets, but that was a good day too.

There are innumerous types of soy sauce produced around the world. Thin and thick, regular and low sodium, naturally brewed and chemically produced, made with wheat versus rice versus barely, and on and on. In America, we tend to shy away from “dark soy sauce” which has a richer, more pungent flavor and a much more viscous texture. However more varieties of soy sauce, like mushroom, tuong (Vietnamese soy sauce), ponzu (soy sauce with citrus), and tamari (Japanese soy sauce made from miso), are becoming easier to find, and if you want to have fun, purchase a few and do a soy sauce tasting. It’s a good excuse to buy a boat load of dumplings!

Soba with Mixed Vegetables and Wasabi-Ponzu Sauce
(served with Salmon with Soy-Honey sauce, see below)

I was lucky enough to visit Japan this summer, where people are a bit obsessed with soba. Soba are noodles made from buckwheat flower, and they are nutty, toothsome, and versatile. You can eat them hot or cold, plain, in a soup or with tempura, or in a soup with tempura. In Japan, you’ll basically find them on planes, trains, and automobiles. People slurp them in the fanciest restaurants and the lowliest izakaya (a bar with food). Though they claim that “it will take you one year to learn about soba” you’d do well to start with this dish, which comes together easily and saves beautifully.


2 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 knob ginger root, finely shredded (I blitzed it in the food processor)
2 larges carrot, coarsely grated, or 20ish baby carrots, finely chopped
1 cup snow peas
10 crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon wasabi paste (more or less to taste)
1 cup ponzu sauce (substitute soy sauce and 1/4 cup lemon juice)
6 portions buckwheat soba

Note: In my choice of vegetables, I was acting on a desire to use some of the shocking amount of broccoli I bought at the farmer's market. And I saw snow peas at Whole Foods, which is a destination-shop, and went, ooh, well, how often am I here? And I love mushrooms. And I always have a bag of baby carrots hanging around. But if you don't like mushrooms, or you love bell pepper, feel free to switch it up. Next time I'll add some edamame. Why not?

Put some water on to boil for the noodles. Prepare all your veggies.

Sauté the veggies in a large pan with the sesame oil. The sesame oil will give them a nice, nutty flavor which compliments the soba, so I’d really encourage you to use this instead of olive or canola oil. Sauté the veggies until they’re soft, about 10 minutes.

When they’re almost done, plunk in the noodles and cook according to the package, which should be for about 6 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix the ponzu sauce and the wasabi paste.

Drain the noodles and put in a large bowl.

Toss the noodles with the wasabi-ponzu sauce, then mix in the veggies. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold!

Salmon with Soy-Honey Sauce

This salmon dish was inspired by a dinner I had a few years ago. It was one of the nights- which thankfully still happen with abundance- when I get together with my friends from home and do a pot-luck style dinner. These girls can cook. My friend Miyoko was in charge of the main, and she made some salmon ginger dish that was very delicious and pops into my head now and then with a resounding mmm. Given that she’s been super busy lately saving the world, I didn’t call to ask for the recipe, but rather used my taste-memory and my preference for all things with honey. The result was a salmon which marinates in and then is covered with a spicy-salty-sweet sauce made from soy sauce, ginger, scallions, rice wine vinegar, and honey. P.S. the salmon marinates in only 15 minutes! Much faster than meat!

Serves 6


2 scallions, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (preferably something a little more mild, and definitely not raw: I used a wild flower honey)
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
3 pounds salmon fillet, cut into 6 pieces


Put all of the ingredients (except the salmon) together in a small bowl. Whisk together until the honey has dissolved.

Put 4 tablespoons of the sauce in a ziplock bag and add the salmon (or you can put the salmon and sauce in a bowl, I just like having one less thing to wash). Squish everything around to coat the salmon and let it marinate for 15 minutes. Keep the rest of the sauce to the side.

You could really cook the salmon however you like; stovetop, grill, oven. I did it on the stove top and it was a bit of a mess, so I tried again in the oven, and that’s what I suggest. If you’re doing it in the oven, then preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take the salmon out of the fridge and add it to an oven safe dish, discarding the marinade. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through. NB: cooking time will depend on how thick your fillet is. James Beard says allow ten minutes per inch of fish, no matter how you cook it. So there you go.

After your fish is cooked through, spoon some of the reserved sauce over each piece.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ingredient: APPLES

Apples are the James Madison of fruit. If presidents were fruit (“if”) then apples would be the 4th president, the man of whom was said, “No man could do everything for the country. Madison did more than most, and did some things better than any. That was quite enough.” If we were playing fruit Mad Libs, we'd see that “no fruit could do everything for everyone. Apples do more than most, and do some things better than any. That is quite enough.” What am I getting at, other than bringing back an awesome game you probably haven't played since the 6th grade? I’m saying that apples are a reliable and delicious, versatile yet traditional fruit which I love dearly. If apples could write the constitution, I’d let them. Instead, I’ll let them write my bill of health, on which they’ll give me an A.

How do apples do more than most fruit? It's simple. They are just as good eaten raw as cooked in pies and cakes and muffins, as made into sauce, or turned into cider (of both the alcoholic and dry varieties). They may just be the most dependable fruit out there. In fact, it's unclear to me how, of all the fruit, apples became the poster child for the fall of man. A pomegranate, a peach, even a banana seem much more fitting to serve as a symbol of sin. If Eve ate an apple, her brain would have actually started working better (apples are shown to help prevent Alzheimers by protecting an essential neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine) and I'm sure she would have found a way to stay in Paradise.

But maybe Eve just wanted a great source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. Maybe the snake said, "an apple a day..." and doctors were scarce in the Garden. Or she knew that apples are more effective than most other fruits in preventing the growth of cancerous cells. In fact, Cornell University found that apples inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells by forty-three percent. In similar trials, the consumption of apples was linked to a fifty percent decrease in lung cancer cells. Potentially cutting your risk of cancer in half seems like reason enough to put down that mango and rethink the old lunch-bag staple.

In fact, now more than ever, apples are re-branding. They're shedding their association with oranges and bananas as part of the underwhelming fruit trifecta. Farmers have begun to grow heirloom varieties, many of which you may have seen at your local farmer’s market. Popular heirlooms include the Esopus Spitzenburg (apparently a favorite of another president: Thomas Jefferson), the Winesap (best eaten raw or make into cider), or the Northern Spy (great for pies). Heirloom apples tend to have much more interesting characteristics and more intense flavors than your run of the mill Granny Smith or Red Delicious. They're also typically smaller, probably truer in size to apples as Mother Earth intended, and therefore the perfect size for snacks. Forget 100-calorie packs! Look to nature! We’ve also been cross breading apples (in a not scary GMO way), and creating new varieties like the Honeycrisp, which is my personal all-time favorite. The Honeycrisp was released in 1991 by the University of Minnesota, probably in a secret deal with Wisconsin, because this type pairs really well with cheese. But I might actually prefer it on its own because it’s sweet with a tart finish and so crisp you might want close your eyes during the first bite.

Bottom line? You can't go wrong with an apple. Such a well rounded fruit! Their farmers should be proud.

Apple Cake with Hot Caramel Sauce

I bet I had you at hot caramel sauce.

It’s true; this sauce is so good, so luxuriously caramel-y, that you could make it, slice up a fresh apple, dip the slices in the sauce, and call it a day. But if this is more than just an after-work snack, you may want to make the cake too (though I wouldn’t judge you for eating cake as a snack, I bet you work hard). It’s a pretty simple cake. It’s moist with a nice apple flavor, but relatively mild, so eaten plain it’s something you might serve at tea or eat for breakfast. With the caramel sauce oozing over the cake, giving it a sticky, toffee flavor, well, it’s lick your plate good (but let the sauce cool first, trust me). My mother makes this cake for New Years Day. I say make it to celebrate the new day, whichever day that is.

For Cake:

3 Granny smith apples peeled, cored, quartered
¾ cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1¾ c all purpose flour

For Sauce:

½ cup butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

To make cake:

Chop apples into bite sized bits. In a bowl whisk butter, sugar, eggs, to smooth cream. Beat in vanilla, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add flour and stir with spoon until just blended. Mix in apples. Pour batter into oiled 9 inch spring form pan.

Bake 1 hour or until tester comes out clean. Let cake cool on rack.

To make caramel sauce:
Melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in brown sugar. Bring to a full boil, stirring.

Add salt and heavy cream, and bring to boil once again.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Pour caramel sauce over cake and serve.