POMEGRANATE SALAD WINS THE HOLIDAY RIBBON!

Pomegranate Apple Salad5 copyPOMEGRANATE-APPLE SALAD WITH GINGER AND MINT

Taking full advantage of the fruits of the season, this sweet and tangy tart salad makes an eye-appealing side dish, adding diversity in flavor and texture. And, it’s so easy to assemble. You’ll quickly notice that with each bite of this zesty and flavorful fruit mélange, the plump, juice-filled pomegranate seeds release their rich, ambrosial juices, and deliver bracing sweetness with a pleasing crunch.

I’ve made this salad many times over the years and discovered it’s easy to vary its good looks by sometimes cutting the fruits into small dice, while on other days I make the salad much chunkier.whole-and-sliced-pomegranates

Unfortunately, this is not a salad you can make a day or two ahead because it rather dramatically loses its bright looks as well as fresh flavors. You CAN remove the seeds from the pomegranate a day or two ahead and refrigerate them.  If you make sure to have everything at hand, it’s a fairly quick assembly.

 POMEGRANATE-APPLE SALAD WITH GINGER AND MINT

 Yield: 6 servings

1 large pomegranate

2 sweet, crisp apples, unpeeled, choppedPomegranate Apple Salad5 copy

8 ounces edamame, cooked and shelled

1 navel orange, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 to 3 heaping teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

  1. Carefully following the handy directions below, remove the pomegranate seeds, drain them well and put them in a large bowl.
  1. Add the apples, edamame, orange, maple syrup, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar, ginger, and salt and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  1. Add half the mint leaves and mix well. Garnish the top of the salad with the remaining mint leaves. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Serve the salad within 2 hours to preserve the bright colors.

Two Techniques for Retrieving Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranate-seeds1Removing the pomegranate seeds from a fresh pomegranate is easy. Here’s one handy technique:

  1. Put on an apron. Pomegranate juice will most likely splatter a bit, so protect your clothing. Have a deep bowl handy. Wash the pomegranate and cut it in half crosswise. Put the cut sides up and make a couple of cris-cross cuts into each half.
  2. Take one half, turn it upside-down over the bowl, and use your fingers and thumbs to break up the sections. Some of the seeds will begin to fall out. Tap on the top to release more seeds.
  3. Continue to use your fingers and thumbs to loosen the seeds from the pith by pushing on them until all the seeds are in the bowl. Use them immediately or put them into a covered container and refrigerate them. They’ll keep well for up to a week.

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Here’s another method that involves releasing the pomegranate seeds in water:

Ripe pomegranate on the branch. The foliage on the background.

Ripe pomegranate on the branch. The foliage on the background.

  1. Place a colander into a very large, deep bowl and fill the bowl with enough water to submerge a large pomegranate. A salad spinner is the perfect bowl and colander set-up.
  2. Put the pomegranate on a cutting board and cut the top off. Carefully, cut the pomegranate vertically into six sections.
  3. Working with one section at a time, lower it into the water with the seeds facing downward. Use your fingers to release the seeds into the water.
  4. Most of the seeds will sink to the bottom, while the pith floats to the top for easy removal with a skimmer. Repeat the process with the other pomegranate sections. Then, simply lift the colander and shake off the excess water.

For convenience, remove the pomegranate seeds a day ahead, put them in a container, and refrigerate them until ready to use. To prevent the naturally bright colors of the pomegranate seeds and edamame from becoming muddy looking, assemble the salad an hour or two before serving, and the salad will look bright and cheery and very inviting.

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Ask Santa for Some Delicious Panforte for Christmas!

SANTA’S FAVORITE PANFORTE

Panforte giftsPanforte, pronounced pan for tay with an accent on the for, is an outrageously, delicious sweet and spicy fruit and nut confection that’s perfect for sharing any time of year, but it’s especially meaningful during the holiday season. Panforte originated in Italy where it became a Christmas tradition with a surprisingly long history.

Panforte in Italian means strong bread, but it isn’t bread at all–it’s actually an alluring Christmas confection with stunning eye appeal that matches its irresistible cinnamon-spiced Vegan Holidays highressweetness. Because of its seductive ability to bring extreme happiness to anyone who tastes its “nectar,” panforte seemed like a perfect addition to the Christmas chapter of Vegan for the Holidays.

Panforte, sometimes called Siena Cake, originated in the city of Siena, in the Northern Italian region known as Tuscany. Some consider Panforte a cross between fruitcake and confection. This heavenly sweet treat has been a long-standing holiday tradition in Italy that may date back to the 13th century. Originally it was made for Christmas but is now available year round.

TLC FOR SANTA’S FAVORITE PANFORTE

If you decide not to eat the confection right away, wrap it well and store it in the refrigerator. You can easily keep it up to one year in the fridge, if you choose. For best flavor and ease of cutting into serving pieces, it’s best to bring it to room temperature before serving. At room temperature, the confection will keep for several weeks, if well wrapped. In time, though, it will become very dry and difficult to chew, so it’s best to keep it refrigerated until ready to enjoy.

Panforte dusted & unwrappedTo serve the Panforte, cut it into thin wedges or into one-inch cubes. Be sure to use a very firm, heavy-duty knife because you’ll need to apply more than a little elbow grease to cut through the firm texture.

Panforte is so special it makes a Panforte cut in piecesmuch appreciated holiday gift, too. Each recipe makes four delicious panfortes that can be prepared weeks or even months in advance, double-wrapped in plastic film, and stored in the refrigerator.

If ever there was an exceptional homemade gift to give at holiday time, it’s panforte, a confection that has won over anyone who has tasted its ambrosial sweetness. To make the panforte gift-ready, wrap each one in holiday ribbon and tuck a cluster of real or plastic holly into the center.

Santa's Favorite Panforte copySANTA’S FAVORITE PANFORTE

Baked into slabs, dusted with powdered sugar, and cut into bite-sized chunks or thin wedges, these crunchy, chewy nut-and-fruit-filled nuggets make joyful treats for gifting. For convenience, keep the Panforte well wrapped in plastic and refrigerated until you’re ready to box it, wrap it, or ship it across the country. While panforte keeps at room temperature for several weeks, it just might attract ants or other critters that will think they’ve discovered sweet nirvana.

Important!: You’ll need a candy thermometer for preparing the syrup.

Yield: Makes about 20 servings

PanforteSanta's Favorite Panforte copy

2 cups pecans

1 3/4 cups walnuts

1 1/4 cups almonds

1 cup dried apricots (preferably Turkish), diced

1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

2 tablespoons plus 1 12 teaspoons ground cinnamon

 

Syrup

1 cup agave nectar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line four 8-inch metal or aluminum foil pie pans, or 7-inch cake pans with enough parchment paper to drape over the sides
  2. TO MAKE THE PANFORTE, spread the pecans, walnuts, and almonds on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast them for 8 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to Panforte gift wrapped 3a large platter to cool and decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
  3. Combine the apricots, flour, sugar, raisins, dates, cranberries, and cinnamon in an extra-large bowl. Add the cooled nuts and toss well to coat all the ingredients. Set aside.
  4. TO MAKE THE SYRUP, combine the agave nectar and organic sugar in a 2-quart saucepan and mix well. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan and place the pan over medium-high heat. Boil until the temperature reaches 230 degrees F., about 5 minutes. (this can happen very quickly.) Do not stir.
  5. Immediately pour the syrup into the fruit-nut mixture and use a heavy-duty wooden spoon to stir and coat the ingredients well. The mixture quickly becomes extremely stiff, and you’ll need to apply muscle power to combine the syrup and fruit-nut mixture thoroughly.
  6. Distribute the mixture equally among the prepared pans, placing one spoonful of the mixture in the pan at a time and packing it down before adding another. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from the pans. Carefully remove the parchment paper from each slab and dust each one heavily with powdered sugar on both sides, using your hands to coat it completely. After dusting, wrap the panforte until ready to serve or gift-wrap.
  7. To serve, use a sharp, heavy-duty knife to cut the panforte into 1-inch pieces or slice into thin wedges. Wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap at room temperature, Santa’s Favorite Panforte will keep for 3 months, or for 1 year in the refrigerator.

Santa Put Candy Canes into My Salad!!!!

CANDY CANE SALAD

It doesn’t take much to inspire me into playing with my food. But there’s something curious about the holiday season –can’t quite put my finger on it– but I’m just plum nuts about this time of year and the brilliant colors I see everywhere–from holiday decorations, wrapping papers and ribbons to the dazzling foods I find at the farmers’ markets.

This season just makes me tingle with joy and urges me to spend extra time in my favorite niche, the kitchen, quietly creating a little of this or that. Sometimes I have an image in my mind about how a dish ought to look, or perhaps I focus on the flavor I’m aiming for.

Candy Cane Salad 2In the case of this cheery salad, the final dish didn’t even come close to what I had pictured. I was aiming for a salad of stripes just like a candy cane but found it absolutely didn’t work in a bowl.

I set that idea aside and will definitely take another stab at it, because it simply won’t let go of me.

In my next attempt, I created a bed of greens and then, aimed for the bright reds and whites of a candy cane. The salad is still a work in progress, but for now, it makes me smile and I can almost hear it singing “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa . . .” Next time, I just might crush one half of a candy cane and toss it in to get that nice, sweet, minty accent.

You can make the salad a day in advance (don’t toss it), cover it well with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. Bring it to the table before tossing it so you can show off it’s glistening colors.

Enjoy it with your favorite dressing. Some have a preference for a light oil and vinegar dressing, but my favorite for this salad is a thick, creamy white, savory dressing!

Candy Cane SaladCANDY CANE SALAD

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

1 head romaine, torn into bite size pieces

1/2 head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size peices

3 leaves kale, torn into bite-size pieces

1 bunch mint, chopped

 

1 bunch green onions, chopped

 

1 small head cauliflower, finely chopped

1 small jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 bunch radishes, sliced

1 large pomegranate, seeded, 1/4 cup reserved for garnish

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, for garnish

  1. In an extra large salad bowl, combine the romaine, red leaf lettuce, kale, and mint. Set aside.
  2. Chop the green onions. Add the green portion to the lettuces and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Spread the lettuces to the edges of the bowl, creating a slight well in the center.
  3. Put the white portion of the green onions into another large bowl.
  4. Add the cauliflower, jicama, radishes, pomegranate, red bell pepper, and pine nuts to the white portion of chopped green onions and mix well.
  5. Spoon this colorful mixture into the center of the lettuces and garnish with the cherry tomatoes around the edges and reserved pomegranate seeds in the center.

Almond Nutloaf, a Gorgeous Holiday Choice

 ALMOND NUTLOAF WITH TOMATO HERB GRAVY

Almond NutloafALMOND NUTLOAF WITH TOMATO HERB GRAVY

Holiday dining in a non-vegan household can often feel like choices are extremely limited. Not so if you bring this scrumptious vegan-to-the-core nutloaf to the table. Even the non-veg family and friends will be tempted to start with a sliver.

My experience in non-veg situations is that the doubting Thomases will take a teeny tiny serving at first and taste it hesitantly, half expecting to not like it. Most are taken by surprise, because the darned nutloaf tastes amazing and they like it enough to head back for a realistic serving size. It’s often the very same experience when non-vegans come to my house for a holiday meal.

Plus, what’s not to like? It looks appealing, has an pleasing nutty, crunchy texture, and has a delicious combination of flavors from the medley of herbs and spices baked into it.

In spite of the long list of ingredients and lengthy directions, the nutloaf is actually a snap to assemble. Even better is that you can make the nutloaf up to two days ahead of the holiday frenzy. I’ve even served it cold, but it’s truly much tastier enjoyed nice and warm.

To reheat the nutloaf, remove it from the refrigerator about 2 hours ahead. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and cover the nutloaf with aluminum foil. Tuck it into the oven for about 15 to 25 minutes, or just until heated through.

It’s even terrific as leftovers! There are many times I’ll actually make an extra-large quantity of several dishes, just so I’ll have leftovers. Those leftovers are a blessing when you have out of town family visiting for the holidays and you’re on the run touring them all over the city. it’s so nice to come home to a meal that simply needs a few minutes to warm.

Almond Nutloaf 3I played with a little different way to garnish the nutloaf. It’s easy to make a tomato rose. All you need is a very sharp paring knife and a small tomato. Start by paring the tomato skin close to the stem end and work your way around and around cutting a thin layer of skin somewhat unevenly to create a more natural look. When you’ve pared the tomato completely, then start rolling the skin into a coil with the inner side facing outward. Secure it with a toothpick or two.

If you’re not up for the Tomato Herb Gravy, that’s OK. You don’t NEED it absolutely, but it’s really nice to have that extra little feature in a meal that adds the finishing touch. And, if you’re serving mashed potatoes, you’ll have the gravy all made.

Don’t have a springform pan? No problem. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with enough parchment to drape over the edge on two opposite sides. When it’s all baked, you can lift the nutloaf by the extended parchment and transfer it to a serving platter.

I hope you’ll make this dish and send me some comments. I’d love to read about your experience.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

1 pound Russet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and coarsely cut into chunks
2 onions, coarsely chopped, divided
3 cloves garlic, coarsely choppedAlmond Nutloaf 3
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
Water

2 cups whole raw almonds

1/3 cup raw walnuts
1/3 cup raw pecans

4 medium, fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup matzoh meal or bread crumbs
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 or 2 pinches cayenne (optional)

1 recipe Tomato Herb Gravy (below)

Garnish

1 or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
Fresh dill, parsley, or cilantro

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and remove the collar of a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of with parchment cut 2 inches larger than the pan. Snap the collar back on and lightly oil the sides. Use a scissors to cut away the excess parchment. Place the pan on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
  1. Put the potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan and add 1/4 of the onions. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and water to cover. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
  1. Meanwhile, put the remaining onions in a food processor and pulse-chop until they are finely minced. Transfer them to a large skillet and add about 1/4 cup of water. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened, adding 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
  1. Put the almonds in a food processor and process until they are finely ground, yet slightly textured. Transfer them to a large bowl.
  1. Process the walnuts and pecans in the food processor until finely ground, yet slightly textured. Add them to the bowl with the almonds.
  1. Thoroughly drain the onions and potatoes in a colander. Transfer them to a medium bowl and mash them well. Then, add them to the bowl with the nuts.
  1. Add the tomatoes, matzoh meal, tomato paste, garlic, the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil, thyme, marjoram, pepper, and cayenne, if using. Mix the ingredients thoroughly to distribute the seasonings evenly.
  1. Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan, packing it firmly with a spoon or your hands to avoid air pockets.
  1. Arrange the diced tomatoes over the top and press them into the surface lightly. Bake 60 to 70 minutes or until firm when gently pressed. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
  1. To Serve, place the springform pan on a large serving platter. Loosen the edges of the nutloaf with a knife and lift off the springform collar. Garnish the platter with fresh herbs. Use a serrated knife to cut the nutloaf into serving wedges and serve the Tomato Herb Gravy on the side.

Tomato Herb Gravy

3 cups water
3 medium size Roma tomatoes, diced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

  1. Combine the water, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, and onion powder in a 2-quart saucepan.
  2. Create a bouquet garni by placing the rosemary, thyme, and sage into the center of a small piece of cheesecloth. Then gather up the ends to enclose the herbs, and tie it securely with a string. Add the bouquet garni to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and simmer about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and discard it. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine the arrowroot and water in a small cup or bowl and stir it well to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the gently simmering tomato gravy a little at a time stirring with a wire whip for about 1 minute, or until the gravy is thickened to desired consistency. Cook one minute longer and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3 1/4 cups.

A Delicious Edible Wreath!

CHRISTMAS CARROT WREATH

Christmas Carrot Wreath2Something about the holiday season stirs up the creative juices and urges us to put extra energy into meals we prepare to celebrate with family and friends. On the one hand, we must admit we love the praise that comes when someone says, “Wow! That looks great!” It says others recognize  we’ve put a little extra love into the dish because we wanted to bring  something special to the table.

On the other hand, we simply love the process of creativity and thoroughly enjoy puttering in the kitchen to come up with a dish that’s our very own creation. And we don’t mind spending extra time to play with seasonings until our creation zings with flavor! Because I was so inspired by foods of the holiday season, I created my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook. This recipe is one of the tasty treasures.Vegan Holidays highres

Our final effort goes into making our masterpiece look as magnificent and enticing as it tastes–a little garnish of mint sprigs or a fluff of shredded purple cabbage, perhaps a sprinkle of ground nuts–and we’ve relished every moment spent in our favorite comfy niche, the kitchen.

The Christmas Carrot Wreath is one of those creations I envisioned. It definitely took a few tries before it came together, but it was time well spent. I learned lots in the process (we always do, don’t we?).

I’ll be playing more with the garnishing–I know that needs work. And I’ll re-post the new, enhanced photo as the season progresses. For now, enjoy the dish. It’s never failed to receive praise.

You’ll be tempted to sing “Deck the Halls” when this golden wreath comes to the table. Baked in a ring mold, this carrot dish makes a unique accompaniment to any entree. It’s deliciously moist, delicately sweet, and has a texture reminiscent of a light, airy muffin. Prepare it in advance and reheat it briefly by covering it with aluminum foil, and tucking it into a preheated 350-degree F. oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

CHRISTMAS CARROT WREATH

Yield: 6 servings

3/4 pound carrots (about 3 large), peeled and sliced

1/2 cup vanilla or plain soymilk

1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or distilled vinegar

1/3 cup organic canola oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon baking powderChristmas Carrot Wreath2

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Garnish

1 bunch parsley, cilantro, or mint

1/3 cup diced red bell pepper

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly oil a 4-cup metal ring mold. Set aside.
  2. Put the carrots in a covered 2-quart saucepan with enough water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil, immediately decrease the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the carrots are fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the soymilk and vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Stir in the oil, lemon juice, and almond extract; set aside.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, drain the carrots thoroughly and transfer them to a bowl. Mash them well with a fork or potato masher. Measure 1 cup of the mashed carrots and set aside. Use the remaining carrots for another recipe.
  5. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.
  6. Add the mashed carrots and wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spoon the carrot batter into the prepared mold and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Invert the mold onto a serving platter.
  7. To garnish, form a wreath of green herbs around the perimeter of the serving platter, if desired. Sprinkle with the diced red bell pepper and sliced almonds. Cut into portions and serve.

Note:

The ring mold I use is an old-fashioned aluminum jello mold made to look like copper. A Bundt pan or spring-form pan with a tube in the center would also work.  An angel-food cake pan might work, but it’s best to use a shallow metal mold for ease in unmolding the wreath.