Holiday

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

I often get inspired by dishes I have out at restaurants. Sometimes it is because the dish was so fantastic that I dream about it day and night. I develop an obsessive nonstop craving for it and must recreate it myself to satisfy this craving. Sometimes the dish wasn’t all that great, but in theory it sounded amazing. That is when I know I must recreate it to help the dish live up to its potential. The later was the case with this salad. A spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts. The minute I saw it written on the menu my mouth started watering.

I have an affinity for goat cheese with its creamy texture and tangy taste so the thought of adding a crispy exterior had me over the moon with delight. Then adding pears for sweetness balanced by the toasted walnuts for crunch and an earthiness? Genius workings of a perfect salad in my eyes. But then it came to the table and the first bite was a serious letdown. The dressing was bland and the fried goat cheese was overpowered by breading. I knew the salad was meant to be amazing so a week later I set out to help it reach its full potential.

This spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts with a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette exceeds expectations beyond what my wildest dreams had imagined. The fried goat cheese has a very light yet crunchy exterior which pairs perfectly with the refreshing spinach, pears and toasted walnuts, but what really makes this salad sing is the pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Sweet and tangy this dressing packs a punch and is anything but bland. You only need a small amount so make sure you don’t overdress the spinach.

Typically, a salad is the last meal choice on my list, but that week I ate this salad every day, oftentimes for lunch and dinner. Now if that testament isn’t enough to get you to make this salad right this minute, then I’m not sure what is.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
 
Yield: 4 servings, 1 cup dressing
Ingredients
for the fried goat cheese
  • 8 ounces goat cheese or goat cheese with honey
  • 2 egg whites
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
for the dressing
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
for the salad
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 pears
Directions
for the fried goat cheese
  1. Place a small cooling rack over a baking sheet small enough to fit in your fridge then set aside.
  2. Beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the goat cheese into ½” thick slices. The best way to cleanly cut goat cheese is with a small piece of dental floss.
  4. Carefully dip each slice of goat cheese into the egg white mixture then the breadcrumbs before placing on the cooling rack. After all the pieces have been dipped let them chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  5. When the goat cheese rounds have chilled, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. Cook 2-3 minutes per side then remove from the heat.
for the dressing
  1. Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, mustard and honey until combined. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
for the salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Evenly place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  2. Thinly slice the pears.
  3. Toss the spinach with some of the salad dressing. Divide dressed spinach onto 4 plates then top each plate with the ¼ of the toasted walnuts, ½ of the sliced pears and 2 pieces of warm fried goat cheese.

Vinaigrette from Bobby Flay.
Fried goat cheese from Ina Garten.

Roast Chicken with a Pomegranate Molasses and Apricot Glaze

The first time I made a whole roast chicken was all due to a happy accident. Vehicle-less and not wanting to lug groceries on the T, my college roommates and I decided to test out Peapod online grocery delivery service. After the roommates and I added all our items, Matt added a couple of his own before completing the order. When it arrived a couple days later I pulled out an entire ten pound chicken. What college student buys a ten pound chicken? Especially in an apartment where we were living on grilled cheeses, frittatas and pasta! Turns out in his haste Matt accidentally ordered a whole chicken instead of chicken breasts. So we stuck it in the freezer until we could work up the courage to tackle the bird.

But when we finally did and took the first bite out of our labor of love we had seasoned, buttered and basted for hours, it was absolutely glorious. There is something so delicious about a roast chicken. It could be that the anticipation goes to your head while you’re waiting for it to cook. It might be that you get overwhelmed by a sense of accomplishment at having completed such a monumental task.

But if I was to really try and put my finger on it I’d have to keep it simple: from the juicy white meat to the tender thighs to the crispy skin a whole roast chicken is just damn tasty. This pomegranate molasses and apricot roast chicken is certainly no exception. The meat is moist, flavorful and fragrant, while the exterior is sweet and sticky. Finger-lickin’ great chicken.

You will wish you had five ovens so you could whip up a whole bunch of these bad boys at once. If you have never made roast chicken before don’t be shy! I promise you that if a couple of grilled cheese making college kids can do it then so can you. And if you have made a whole roast chicken before then you will regret not giving this one a shot. So go ahead, use some of that precious pomegranate molasses and tackle that bird.

Roast Chicken with a Pomegranate Molasses and Apricot Glaze
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 4-6 pound chicken, giblets removed
  • 1 orange, cut in slices
  • 1 lemon, cut in slices
  • ½ onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Rinse the chicken inside and out and dry thoroughly.
  3. Salt and pepper then inside of the chicken the stuff the cavity with the orange slices, lemon slices, onion pieces and garlic cloves.
  4. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together, tucking the wings under the body of the chicken. Place the chicken breast-side down on the roasting rack in a deep roasting pan.
  5. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes. Use the melted butter to baste the chicken allover. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and continue to cook for 45 minutes. After 20 minutes baste the chicken again with butter.
  6. While the chicken is in the oven make the glaze. Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, orange juice, apricot jam and lemon juice until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. After the 45 minutes are up flip the chicken so the breasts are up then coat allover with the glaze. Cook for 30 minutes, basting with the glaze again after 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or when the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh.

Recipe adapted from The Global Jewish Kitchen.

Raspberries and Cream Sponge Cake Jelly Roll

The item on the top of my 50 recipes I want to conquer in the kitchen list was a jellyroll. I have no idea why, but I could not wait to try one out myself. Maybe it’s because they always look so beautiful. Maybe it’s because the possibilities are seemingly infinite. As soon as I got my hands on a half sheet pan, courtesy of Matt, I knew I was going to christen it with a homemade jelly roll. I quickly sat down and scribbled out two pages of cake-filling combination ideas.

My mind was on overdrive! Classics like pumpkin with cream cheese filling and sponge cake filled with jam. Chocolate dipped strawberry, banana split and chocolate chip cookie dough. Peaches and cream, Oreos and cream and lemon cream pie. I was busy wiping the drool from my lips while I contemplated exactly which one to create first. Raspberries and cream sponge cake jelly roll. Classic, yet updated. Moist and airy with the perfect amount of sweetness. And of course, visually beautiful with an ideal Valentine’s Day treat coloring. Also there was already a container of raspberries in my fridge, but that tidbit spoils the poetic description of it all.

My favorite part of making this raspberries and cream jelly roll sponge cake, more so than eating it, which is saying a lot since it’s divine, was discovering just how simple it is to make a jelly roll cake. You really can do it! All of you! The key is to pay attention to the small details in the recipe, such as cooling time, being gentle with the cake and coating the proper tea towel. You will surprise yourself at how easy it all really is. The whole time I kept looking over at Matt and saying, “Look! I’m doing it! The jelly roll cake is working!” So put aside your baking bashfulness and impress everyone with this gorgeous raspberries and cream jelly roll sponge cake.

Raspberries and Cream Sponge Cake Jelly Roll
 
Yield: about 10 servings
Ingredients
for the cake
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
for the filling
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup mashed raspberries
  • Raspberries and powdered sugar for serving
Directions
for the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a half sheet pan (18" x 13") then line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper then sprinkle flour on the greased sheet and shake to coat.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer whip the eggs with the whisk attachment at medium high speed while slowly adding the sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip until the mixture is thick, about 5-8 minutes.
  5. Sift the flour mixture into the egg mixture and combine with a spatula until just incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and carefully spread it into an even layer.
  7. Bake for 12-17 minutes or until the cake feels firm, but springs back when you touch it. Make sure to rotate the pan halfway through the baking time.
  8. While the cake is cooking, lay a clean tea towel on a flat surface and lightly dust with powdered sugar.
for the filling
  1. Place a metal bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer.
  2. Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and lemon extract in stand mixer until combined. Set aside.
  3. Using the chilled metal bowl and whisk attachment beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Do not over mix or the cream will collapse. Gently fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream. Then gently fold the mashed raspberries into the frosting until just combined.
for assembly
  1. When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately run a knife around the edge of the pan then flip the cake onto the towel. Discard the parchment paper that the cake baked on. Beginning at 1 short end of the cake, carefully roll the cake and towel along with it into a tight log. It is important to do this step while the cake is still hot. Leave the cake seam side down and let cool for 15 minutes.
  2. Carefully unroll the cake. Add the filling making sure to leave a ½" border at the edges. There may be some filling leftover, you don't want to over-stuff the cake.
  3. Gently roll the cake bake up into a snug log, this time leaving the towel behind. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. When ready to serve cut off the ends, transfer to a serving plater and top with an additional dusting of powdered sugar and fresh raspberries.

Cake from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.
Frosting adapted from allrecipes.com
.

Crab Dip Puffs

It seems as though New Year’s Eve menus are just classier versions of Christmas meals. Since it’s only a few days later all the same winter and holiday flavors are still relevant. But you want to look festive ringing in the new year so you bust out the champagne flutes, 2014 flashing glasses and the kazoos. See? Classy. I’m here to help you take your regular tasty traditions to the next level. Introducing flaky and creamy crab dip puffs.

The original cheesy and addictive crab dip has been elevated to proper New Year’s Eve fanciness. Serve these for any party or gathering and your guests will be both impressed and satisfied. The best part is that they don’t have to know how simple it all was. Squares of pre-made puff pastry are pressed into a muffin tin before being topped with a quick one-bowl dip.

The little squares of puff pastry serve as a vessels for the dip and provide a perfect flaky and buttery complement. Topped with chopped scallions for some nice color, crunch and enhanced flavor, everyone will be going back for thirds and fourths. The crab dip puffs can also be made ahead, frozen and reheated in the oven giving you less to do and more time to hang with your guests. So at your next gathering get fancy with these simple delicious crab dip puffs and remember, pinkies up!

Crab Dip Puffs
 
Yield: 48 puffs
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 8 ounces lump crab
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 package puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
  • 1 green onion, chopped
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, sour cream, crab, mayonnaise and seasonings. Set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface unfold the first puff pastry sheet. Roll into a rectangle about 10" by 15".
  4. Cut the rectangle of puff pastry into 24 squares. Press each square into a cup of the prepared mini muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven.
  5. Spoon a small tablespoon of the prepared crab dip into each puff pastry cup then top with half of the reserved cheddar cheese. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  6. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry sheet, crab dip and cheddar cheese.
  7. Remove from the pan and top with the chopped green onions. Serve hot.
Notes
To reheat frozen crab dip puffs place on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until hot.

Recipe adapted from Pepperidge Farms.

Egg Nog Ice Cream

There are some flavors we really only see around the holiday season like gingerbread and pumpkin. Another one of those flavors is egg nog. Now I think I could really enjoy a moist spiced gingerbread loaf or some smooth pumpkin hummus anytime during the cooler months, but it takes a special time of the year to be in the mood for egg nog.

The first time I had egg nog was in the form of a dining hall carton that we spiked with Captain Morgan’s in a college dorm room. I have definitely come a long way since then. This egg nog ice cream is spiced and sophisticated. But one thing hasn’t changed- this ice cream is boozy. An adult-table-only-make-you-go-woah kind of treat. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Especially on days when your whole family is together from sun-up to sun-down and you’re starting to find yourself going a little kooky. One bite of this ice cream will slap your tastebuds back to reality. Best served to adults alongside a warm slice of gingerbread cake or a pumpkin bread pudding to add a little liquored up sophistication to your holiday desserts.

Egg Nog Ice Cream
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and place a mesh strainer on top.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat warm the milk, sugar and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks. Whisking constantly carefully pour the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks then pour the mixture with the egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir constantly over medium heat, making sure to scrap the bottom, until the mixture is thick enough that it coats the spatula.
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for a couple minutes. Then pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the bowl with the heavy cream. Stir to combine then add the nutmeg, brandy, rum and vanilla.
  6. Stir until cool over an ice bath then chill the mixture completely in the refrigerator. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Recipe from The Perfect Scoop.