Tag Archives: Fine Cooking Mag

Banana Split Brownies

Banana Split Brownies

Today is a happy day, because it just so happens to be my sister’s birthday! Happy, happy birthday, Megan! I went through my queue of the recipes I have lined up to share with you, hoping to find something like a cake in there, but alas, there were no cakes or cupcakes to be found. These brownies were the closest I could come to birthday cake. But…

making banana split brownies

banana split brownies

Then I realized…. that after over a year of blogging at this little url, I have yet to post a brownie recipe!! I couldn’t believe it! How utterly tragic. So Megan’s birthday marks as good an occasion as any to rectify that misstep. These brownies are not just any ol’ brownie, either; they are sooooo special and delicious, and possibly very fitting for a special birthday celebration (especially if you don’t have any cake).

Banana Split Brownies

The banana part is two-fold: there are bananas mashed into the batter, and there’s banana flavor in the chocolate ganache on top. Then you get those toasted marshmallows that just melt in your mouth, and it’s just heaven. We loved these so much.

Banana split brownies

Hopefully you would love them too, Megan. Happy birthday!!!

Banana split brownies

{One year ago: Peanut-Butter Chocolate Stuffed French Toast}

Source: slightly adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, February/March 2011

1 cup unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 medium overripe banana, peeled and mashed to a smooth consistency
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup plus 2 tbs heavy cream
1 medium banana, peeled and sliced
7 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups mini marshmallows
¼ cup sliced almonds

First, make the brownies. Preheat the oven to 350 F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line a 9-inch square metal baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides for easy removal of the brownies. Grease the foil. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Once it’s melted, let it cool for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and salt, and whisk to combine. Then add the eggs, banana, and vanilla. Whisk in the cocoa powder and flour, mixing slowly at first, then more vigorously until the batter is combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it and making sure it fills in to the edges of the pan. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the brownies cool in the pan.
Now make the topping. While the brownies cool, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as it boils, remove the cream from the heat. Add the banana slices to the cream and let steep for 1 hour.
Put the chopped chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Bring the cream back to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as it boils, remove from the heat and pour the cream through a strainer over the chopped chocolate. Discard the banana. Let the chocolate mixture stand 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Pour the ganache evenly over the top of the cooled brownies.
Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high. Cover the ganache with the marshmallows and almonds. Broil, rotating as necessary, until browned. Try to brown them evenly, but if you don’t, it will still be delicious.
Using a knife, free the marshmallow topping from the sides of the pan. Let the brownies cool in the pan a few minutes. Using the foil overhang, remove the brownies from the pan and cut into squares. You can wet the knife to help prevent the marshmallows from sticking and making a mess.

Fish, Fennel and Saffron Stew

fish, fennel and saffron stew

Happy No-It’s-Not-Quite-Friday-Yet, where we continue our theme of Winter Stew! Today is a seafood stew, a somewhat new concoction according to Julie’s unadventurous childhood palate. We just didn’t eat much seafood, and I always, repeat always, associated stew with beef. But, I think I’m at least a little bit validated, because in researching seafood stews, they seem to mostly hail from Mediterranean Europe. I, on the other hand, did not.

fish, fennel and saffron stew

In fact, the stew I made for today has some Spanish inspiration, for sure. Saffron. Smoked paprika. Which of course made for an extremely flavorful pot of stew. After making this and eating off it for several days, I’m quite convinced that if you relegate stew to beef, as I did growing up, then you’re really missing out. Seafood stew is healthy, light, and the best part? It cooks quickly while tasting like it slow cooked all day.

Fish, Fennel and Saffron Stew

And, as with most soups and stews, leftovers only get better. And since my dear husband is of the firm belief that there’s a special place in hell for people who reheat fish in corporate break room microwaves, I’ve gotten to enjoy most of the leftovers! Yea for me! I hope y’all enjoy this one, we sure did. It’s especially wonderful with a cold glass of chardonnay to accompany it. Check back tomorrow – we’ll be concluding Winter Stew Week by eating our vegetables, like mom said we should!

Fish Fennel Saffron Stew

{One year ago: Homemade Old Bay Seasoning}

Source: adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, February/March 2010

2 tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, tops removed, cored, and chopped (reserve a few fennel fronds for garnish, if desired)
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbs tomato paste
½ cup dry white wine
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large sprig of fresh thyme
¼ tsp smoked Spanish paprika
2 pinches saffron
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 lb. skinless thick white fish, such as cod or halibut, cut into 1-inch chunks

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, carrot, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add 3 ½ cups water, the beans, thyme, paprika, saffron, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender and the stew has thickened slightly, about 25 minutes.
Add the fish and stir to combine. Let the fish cook through; this only takes 2-4 minutes, so don’t walk away.
When the fish has cooked through, which you’ll know because it will start flaking apart, shut off the heat and season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve in bowls immediately.

Custard Tart with Wine-Poached Grapes

Custard Tart with Wine Poached Grapes

I’ve made it a point to not watch the news. Somewhere in early adulthood, I figured out how sensationalist and depressing those news programs are meant to be, and I just don’t need that. I have enormous respect for serious, ethical investigative journalism, just not exaggerated, dumbed-down shows where it leads if it bleeds.

custard tart before baking

wine poached grapes

But, it’s not like I’m an ostrich living in a barn. I do keep up. So this recent government shutdown is certainly not lost on me, and in many ways it underscores why I don’t watch news programs. It’s just sad and depressing to find out our Congress is run by a bunch of kindergartners. To any of you who are furloughed, or have a spouse or family member affected, my heart goes out to you. Be sure to check out my friend Dina’s post on how this shutdown will affect our food, it’s a great post with informative links.

ready to assemble tart

custard tart with wine poached grapes

In light of this head-shaking, nonsensical news we are all absorbing, I thought a post about pretty, happy, and boozy dessert was in order. I bought myself an oblong tart pan with recent birthday money; I’ve wanted one for a long time, I just think they are so cool and make a tart look so stunning.

Custard Tart with Wine Poached Grapes

This was my first use of it. A no-rolling-pin-needed, from-scratch tart shell, filled with smooth, luscious, spiked custard, baked off and then topped with fruity red grapes you have poached in a sweet wine mixture. It’s kind of amazing. The texture is just so fantastic. And if you don’t have an oblong tart, I’m sure you could easily adapt this to a round 9” tart pan. Enjoy!

custard tart with wine poached grapes

custard tart with wine poached grapes

{One year ago: Hot and Sour Soup}

Source: adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, Oct/Nov 2009

7 tbs chilled, unsalted butter
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
1 large egg yolk, chilled

2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
3 tbs fresh lime juice
3 tbs dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
½ cup heavy cream

½ cup dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
2 tbs honey
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 tbs fresh lime juice
33 seedless red grapes, plus a few more for snacking if you please

First, make the TART SHELL. Spray your tart shell with cooking spray or grease it with butter. Set aside.
Combine the flour, almonds, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Process until the almonds are finely ground, about 40 seconds. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 seconds. Add the egg yolk and process until moist clumps form. With lightly floured hands, press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared tart pan. Place in the refrigerator until very chilled, at least 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven, place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven, and preheat oven to 375 F. Bake the crust on the heated baking sheet until light golden on the bottom and golden brown on the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.
Make the CUSTARD FILLING. In a small to medium, heavy saucepot, whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, lime juice, salt, and white wine until blended. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking almost continuously, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 3 minutes. Do not walk away during this step, the mixture will go from thin and liquid-y to perfect in the blink of an eye. Transfer the filling to a medium bowl and let cool until warm.
Whisk the heavy cream into the filling and pour the mixture into the cooked and cooled tart shell. Bake at 375 F until the filling begins to slightly puff and slightly bubble at the edges, about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge if not using immediately.
Make the GRAPES TOPPING. In a medium heavy saucepan, boil the wine, honey, sugar, and lime juice over medium heat about 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly reduced. Reduce the heat to low, add the grapes, and poach gently until softened a little, about 3 minutes. Remove to a dinner plate with a slotted spoon. Continue to boil the poaching liquid until reduced and syrupy, about 4 to 5 minutes more. Shut off the heat.
To assemble the tart, line the tart with the grapes in rows of 3 all across. Lightly press the grapes into the custard. Gently brush the glaze over the grapes. Store in the refrigerator if not serving immediately.

Cranberry Orange Waffles


I mentioned a few days ago that one of my scrumptious meals in New Orleans was, without doubt, the BEST buttermilk pancakes I have ever tasted in my entire life. They were so light! And fluffy! And moist! More so than any other pancakes I’ve tasted, even the many extremely well-executed pancakes I’ve eaten over the years. I really couldn’t get over it.


I briefly entertained the thought of going back into the kitchen, unannounced, and perhaps trying to pressure the chef to give up his secret; but I never do that kind of thing, and besides, all I had at my disposal was a butter knife. Then I thought maybe I could just charm the secret out of him, but it was first thing in the morning after a late night, and believe me, I did not look the least bit charming.


So I gave up and just went back to enjoying them and wondering what on earth made them so light and moist. Then last Sunday, I made these waffles for our brunch. We were both suitably impressed. And yes, I know it’s not really cranberry season right now, but I figure that if Mother Nature can send thirty degree temperatures and snow when it’s technically Spring, then I can used dried cranberries in March. 🙂


Anywho, these waffles’ texture reminded me of those pancakes, so fluffy and light and perfect. And these waffles have whipped egg whites in the batter. Which got me thinking that maybe that is the secret to those buttermilk pancakes – whipped egg whites! I have seen a lot of waffle recipes call for the whipped egg whites, but never a pancake recipe. Then again, I’ve never experienced pancakes so light and fluffy. So maybe that’s the secret. Any thoughts from my readers? Have you ever made pancakes with whipped egg whites? Or seen a recipe that calls for it? I am now thinking I may have to try it sometime!


Source: slightly adapted from The Best of Fine Cooking Breakfast & Brunch, Spring 2013

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk
6 tbs vegetable oil
1 large egg, separated
1 tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your waffle iron.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Measure the buttermilk, milk, and vegetable oil in a measuring cup; mix in the egg yolk and set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg white almost to soft peaks. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue to beat until the peaks are firm and glossy. Beat in the vanilla.
Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Drop the whipped egg white onto the batter in dollops. Also drop the orange zest and cranberries on top of the batter. Use a spatula to fold all of it in until just incorporated.
Working in batches, pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup batter at a time onto your waffle maker and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions. My waffle maker yielded 4 waffles.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Stuffed French Toast


I do think most of us love French toast. But, that being said, I think we can all agree that not all French toast is created equal. For instance, the bread you use really matters. French toast made with bakery-made artisanal challah is much better than say, French toast made with crusty whole-grain bread from the hippie health food grocer.


And then there’s the custard part. Of course, milk and eggs are the only real requirements, but if you add some vanilla extract, or some citrus zest, or a little bit of liquor, your taste buds will thank you later. And please, oh please, do not forget to add a pinch of salt to your custard. It really and truly makes a huge difference in the end. (One of my pet peeves, but anyways…).


This may be the French toast to end all French toast. Yes, it uses challah, in my humble opinion the BEST French toast bread. And the custard is flavorful. But you get two pieces of bread and they are stuffed with peanut butter and chocolate. OMG!!! It probably shouldn’t be legal. But it is. (Insert evil grin here).


You build this glorious dish by spreading each piece of challah with peanut butter, then sprinkling on chocolate chips, then topping with another piece of challah to close the sandwich. Once you have soaked both sides of the sandwich in the custard, you cook it on a hot, buttered griddle where it gets golden brown, and all crusty-on-the-outside-moist-on-the-inside. Are you drooling yet? Yeah, this thing is not messing around.


It’s quite rich, and I found I couldn’t even finish one sandwich myself. But I immensely enjoyed every single bite of it. It’s beautiful and insane and delicious and you should definitely try it sometime soon!


Source: adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, May 2008

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
8 slices challah bread
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
1-2 tbs unsalted butter
Honey, for serving
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving

Spread 1 tablespoon on each bread slice. Divide the chocolate chips evenly among 4 slices of bread. Top with the remaining bread slices, peanut butter side down, to make 4 sandwiches.
In a shallow bowl (I like to use a pie plate), whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Soak each sandwich in the custard mixture until saturated, about 30 seconds per side.
Heat your griddle over medium heat and melt 1/4 to 1/2 a tablespoon of butter per sandwich. You may need to make your sandwiches in batches depending on the side of your griddle. Add the sandwiches, being careful not to crowd them, and cook until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side.
Serve each sandwich dusted with confectioners’ sugar and drizzled with honey.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I’m trying to get our Thanksgiving menu blogged as much as I can. And by that I mean, what I managed to get pictures of. Which unfortunately, wasn’t everything.  Meet the second of our two desserts!

This was pronounced by more than one person as “the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.” The pumpkin flavor was deep and rich, but not at all too sweet or cloying. The texture was what really put it over the top, though. It was just perfect. I do not care for cheesecake that is too thick or too chewy. I don’t like to feel like I’m cutting through mildly softened butter or cream cheese. Cheesecake should have its own unique texture. It should be soft, rich and creamy with a slight crunch of the cookie crust. This one most assuredly lives up to its billing. Thank you for the terrific instructions, Fine Cooking magazine!

It can be tough to determine exactly when cheesecake is done, because ideally you want to pull it out of the oven before it’s completely done and let it finish via carryover cooking. So it can be hard to know exactly when it’s too soon to take it out. I’ve figured out that cheesecake is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 165 F. So take your cheesecake out when the temperature reads 155 F. Only for best results, you don’t actually take the cake out of the oven. You just shut the oven off, then leave the cake in the oven with the door left ajar for one hour. This way, the carryover cooking finishes the cheesecake gently, and this lessens any chances of the dreaded cheesecake cracks.

So go and make this before the holiday season is up! You’ll love it and your guests will go crazy for it.

Source: adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, April/May 2010

2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
3 tbs granulate sugar
7 tbs unsalted butter, melted
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling
2 tbs flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 375 F.
In a medium bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs and sugar. Mix in the melted butter with a rubber spatula until the crumbs are evenly moistened and clump together slightly.
Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides. I like to use a flat-bottomed drinking glass for this.
Bake until the crust is fragrant and slightly darkened, 9 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a cooling rack.
Lower the oven temperature to 325 F.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, pumpkin, flour and salt on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make sure the cheese has no lumps. Add the sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth.
Add the vanilla and all the spices. Beat until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just blended. Be careful not to overbeat or the cheesecake will puff too much and crack as it cools.
Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.
Place aluminum foil in the bottom of a baking dish or roasting pan. You want enough foil to cover the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Place the cheesecake pan in the middle of the foil and gather the foil up and around the sides of the pan, but do not actually cover the top of the cheesecake. Trim as necessary. Make sure the foil is tightly fitting the pan.
Carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan so that it comes up barely halfway around the springform pan. Now very cautiously transfer the entire thing into the oven, being very careful not to slosh.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the cheesecake reads 155 F. When it’s done baking, shut off the oven, leave the cheesecake in the oven and leave the oven door ajar for 60 minutes. Carefully remove the cake, remove the foil and let cool completely on the counter on a cooling rack or trivet. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
Note: If you are worried about any water having seeped under your foil lining, you can remove the cheesecake from the water bath before letting it sit in the oven for the one hour.

Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Bourbon Brown Sugar Glaze

I must confess, I am more of a pie person than a cake person. I love both sweet and savory pies with equal fervor. I can leave cake or cupcakes sitting around and not be too tempted to overindulge; but pie left around doesn’t stand a chance. Perhaps this is why Thanksgiving has always been far and away my favorite holiday. Because pie is usually what’s for dessert! And pumpkin pie, my personal favorite, always made an appearance on our Thanksgiving table growing up. I can only imagine the heartbreak I would have felt had it ever not graced our presence.

I’ve been eating and adoring pumpkin pie since I was a little girl. But, in my quest to offer up ideas for Thanksgiving recipes into the blogosphere, I thought I would shake things up a little and do a pumpkin cake instead of a pie. I realize that many people are not as enamored with pumpkin pie as I am, so some fresh ideas certainly can’t hurt anything.

This cake was really wonderful. It’s moist and earthy from the pumpkin and spices, with a slight crunch from pecans. Also, it gave me a great excuse to bust out my tube cake pan, which is something that doesn’t see the light of day all that often.

The glaze is what makes this cake though. It’s sweet but not cloying, with that lovely deep, dark molasses flavor from the brown sugar, yet superbly balanced with the sharp bite of the bourbon. The candied pecans are a very nice touch, and this recipe makes plenty left over for snacking if you wish. And why would you not wish for extra candied pecans? If you’re unlike me and you do get tired of pumpkin pie, well, I cannot ever empathize with you but I can respect the fact that you might like something different. And I’d highly recommend trying out this cake for a lovely twist on Thanksgiving dessert.

Source: Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2012


3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbs bourbon
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

2 tbs packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp honey
3/4 cup pecan halves

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tbs light corn syrup
1 1/2 tbs bourbon
Pinch of kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 350 F. Grease a tube pan (sometimes called angel food cake pans).
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, bourbon and vanilla.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the oil, beating until combined. Add the brown sugar. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well on medium-high speed after each addition. Beat in the pumpkin.
Reduce the speed to low, slowly pour in the buttermilk mixture, and mix until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter, mixing just until combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared tube pan, smooth the top, and tap the pan on the counter once or twice to settle the batter.
Bake until a wooden skewer or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 45-55 minutes. Leave the oven on. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the pan, and let cool completely, at least 3 hours.

Heat the brown sugar, honey, and 1 tbs water in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pecans and stir until coated. Spread the pecans curved side up on a greased baking sheet. Bake in the 350 F oven until fragrant an shiny, 7-10 minutes. Transfer the pecans with a metal spatula to parchment paper to crisp and cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Set the cake on a cooling rack over a parchment or foil lined baking sheet.
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, bourbon, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add the cream, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for exactly 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Gently whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla until completely smooth. Let stand until the glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still warm and pourable, 3-8 minutes. If a skin forms, gently stir it, but don’t overstir or it may crystallize.
Pour or spoon the glaze slowly and evenly over the cake. Decorate with the candied pecans while the glaze is still warm. When the glaze is set, about 15 minutes, transfer the cake to a serving plate and serve.

Apple Escarole Salad

A couple of weekends ago marked a first for me.  For the first time ever, this bona fide city girl picked an apple off of a tree.  Remarkable, right?!  Yeah, okay, not so much…

Matt and I ventured upstate to the Catskills area to a farm that allows the public to descend upon them every fall and ransack pick their orchards for all the apples you can possibly handle.  We chose a gorgeous Sunday and drove the 90 minutes past the city to a charming little farm.  They grilled us corn on the cob and hot dogs for lunch, after which we walked around the property admiring the chickens, rabbits, and sheep. Then we thud-thud-thudded our little sports car over a mercifully short gravel road to reach the orchards.  There, we walked through rows and rows of apple trees, picking at our leisure.  Apparently, the apples came about a week ahead of schedule this season, so we had to walk deep into the orchards to find any low hanging fruit, as it were.  But found it we did, to the tune of one and a half bushels of four different kinds of apples!

Thus, I’ve been on something of a tear lately, trying to use them up before they spoil.  Fortunately, apples have a long shelf life if stored properly, so we’re still going strong.  I knew I’d be making lots of dessert recipes with my stash, but I wanted plenty of savory dishes as well.  This salad seemed perfect.

And can I just tell you that this is one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten?  It was truly amazing and so satisfying.  The apples were simply sliced, not even peeled, so you could enjoy their tart and sweet crispness.  The escarole was slightly bitter, but buttery and clean tasting. And the bitterness was offset by the sweetness of the apples.  Hazelnuts, such an ideal pairing with apples anyway, lent a necessary crunch to the dish, and the blue cheese added a sour note to balance the whole dish out.  We both raved.  I can’t wait to make this again.  Hopefully you enjoy it as much as we did.

Source: adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2012

2 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs minced shallot
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and black pepper
6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz. whole, shelled, skinned hazelnuts
2 large apples, quartered, cored, and sliced thin
1 lb. escarole, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Add the hazelnuts to a small, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then coarsely chop.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallot, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream until incorporated.
In a large bowl, toss the apples with 1 tbs of the dressing. Add the escarole, cheese, parsley, and hazelnuts. Toss with the remaining dressing and serve.

6 side servings