Satsuma GranitaThere is sense and order to the world.  Need proof?  The ripening of winter citrus.  It is the darkest days of the year that bring us the brightly colored, terrifically acidic oranges and lemons, limes and grapefruit, or at my house…  buckets upon buckets of satsuma mandarins.  Not familiar with satsumas?  They are a small orange with a sweet tart bite.  They are similar to the other easy-peel small citrus, such as clementines, that are sold in boxes at all the grocery stores right now.  In fact, this recipe could easily be used with those little cuties or even a standard orange variety.Satsumas cut in halfSatsuma Granita is the ultimate anti-winter.  Fresh-squeezed satsuma juice is mixed with a touch of lemon juice and bit of ginger-infused simple syrup.  The mixture is frozen and fluffed, then gently packed back into the peels of the satsumas.  Fun to look at, even more fun to eat, these balls of cool orangey ice will make you forget it is the middle of winter.  As my kids said, “They are like snow cones, only BETTER!”  They are also remarkably easy to make.  If you happen to have young children underfoot that have run out of engaging indoor activities, by all means put them to work!  My daughter happily monkeyed up the tree to pick the fruit before juicing the lug of fruit.  What delicious fun!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese Dip @ My Pantry ShelfOnce you fall in love with Brussels sprouts, it is impossible to get enough.  We eat them like candy at our house, or most of us do.  One child has chosen to shun these green meatballs for now- more for us!  While we enjoy them shaved in salads and sauteed with garlic, the best preparation in my opinion is to simply toss them in oil, season them with salt and pepper and roast in the oven.

Brussels Srouts and dip

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese Dip can be served as either an unexpected appetizer or a gratifying side dish.  The Brussels sprouts caramelize a bit in the oven and match beautifully with the blue cheese and yogurt dip.  The dish hits all the notes of a warm, savory, dippable treat, but without the guilt of fat and carbohydrates that so many appetizers carry.

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Fuyu Persimmon Salsa

December 30, 2012

Fuyu Persimmon Salsa from My Pantry ShelfSome people have all the luck, like a few weeks ago when I came home to a ginormous bag of Fuyu persimmons and Meyer lemons on my front porch.  I love each of these fruits and am lucky enough to have a friend who is happy to share the bounty from her trees.  Since then I have done my best to make a strong dent in the harvest, despite the fact that my family members have all opted out of the challenge.  After weeks of nibbling and a double batch of our long-time favorite Fuyu Persimmon Chutney failed to exhaust my fruit supply, I began to question my luck.  I cannot stand for food to go to waste, and yet there were just so many persimmons.  That is when it occurred to me that when life gives you just about any fruit, it is almost always a good idea to make salsa!

Fuyu Persimmon Salsa marries the slight sweetness of firm fleshed Fuyu persimmons with the savory goodness of garlic, a little heat from a spot of ginger, and a pop of acid from Meyer lemon.  While I would not turn down an opportunity to scoop this onto a crispy tortilla chip, this salsa is perhaps better paired with seared fish or roast chicken.  Its bright fresh flavors are just the thing to erase the memory of one (or more) too many Christmas cookies.

Do you have a favorite persimmon recipe?  If so, please share in the comments below!

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Thanksgiving is never at our home.  Each year we alternate between my and my husband’s parents’ homes.  This holiday is decidedly my favorite.  I love the cool weather, the rustling of leaves, the family crammed into the kitchen to gossip, stir, and sip.   And of course the food.  Each of the homes we visit have special dishes that we love, but since each year we miss one of the homes, I like to make our favorites ahead of time so we do not miss out.

Stuffed Winter Squash with Rice and Sausage recipe is a take on my family’s traditional Thanksgiving stuffing.  My parents have hosted Thanksgiving every year for my entire life (and longer). Each year they put on an impressive spread with many mouth-watering dishes, but my favorite is by far the rice stuffing.   Inspired by their once neighbors and long-time friends, my parents early on shunned the bread stuffings they were raised on and adopted a rice version of the dish.  Wild rice baked along with flavorful Italian sausage, fresh vegetables and herbs to make a tasty, toothsome (not to mention gluten-free) side dish.  This stuffing is delicious baked in the bird or baked in a greased casserole dish, but love the look and taste of baking it in delicata squash halves.  It also makes for very tidy serving.  The stuffing can be made ahead a day or two and kept covered in the refrigerator or a couple of weeks ahead and kept in the freezer.  Wait to stuff the squash halves until the day of baking.  One of the squash boats is a generous serving, perfect if it is your main side dish. If you are serving it with many side dishes, such as on Thanksgiving, they neatly cut in half.

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LIfe is busy, no matter what, but this week everything seemed to be in turbo-drive.  It was the kind of week that left me yearning for more quick meals.  Meals that take only minutes to prepare, but still contain enough substance and flavor intensity to make an impact.  More meals like this one.

Penne with Kale, Feta and Olives is no ho-hum vegetarian pasta dish.  Kale itself is a flavorful green, but combining it with the briny olives and pungent feta make this dish a powerhouse.  Parsley, garlic, and lemon zest scatter over the top adding even more dimension to this simple dish. The recipe entered our rotation a few years ago when it was featured in Bon Appetit.  Any kind of kale works here, but I prefer Dinosaur or Lacinto Kale.  I reduced the oil recommended in the original recipe.  Feel free to drizzle olive oil over the top if you so desire.

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Curried Cauliflower Pickles

January 10, 2012

Wandering through the produce market, it is easy to become entranced.  I most recently succumbed to cauliflower.  The big snowy globes of pure veggie power were calling my name.  They may just be the most versatile winter vegetable, ready to adapt to any flavor profile or dish in which they are called to serve. I filled my basket with four huge heads and began dreaming of the possibilities.  Two heads went straight into a double-batch of pickles.

Curried Cauliflower Pickles are a crunchy, intensely flavored Indian condiment.  Serve them on the side of any Indian-inspired dish or nibble on them as an appetizer.  They are not too bad straight from the jar either.  Awaken the flavors by toasting the spices in a dry pan before adding them to the jars.  The cauliflower, ginger, and garlic all pack into the jars while raw.  After pouring the boiled brine into the jar, submerge the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes to seal the jars.  In this time the cauliflower cooks to a perfect tenderness.  While the pickles are ready to eat in a week, they will continue to become more flavorful with time.  Shake the jars periodically to distribute the spices that have settled to the bottom.

T, my good friend and canning comrade, turned me on to this recipe from Alton Brown.  The original recipe did not give directions for how to can the pickles, so I cross-referenced with my other canning materials to determine the processing time.  I altered the spices a bit to suit my taste.  The curry is fairly mild.  Increase the amount of spice if you want more intensity.  Adding some chile flakes or hot peppers would be a nice touch as well.

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This has been a cleansing week.  No work for me and no school for the kids means that we had a lot (too much?) time around the house.  Complications outside our control kept us from adventuring in the way we might otherwise.  The upside is that the floors are swept, the drawers organized, and the piles of recipes are neatly filed away.  This house is clean. Most importantly, the last of the holiday cookies and sweets have happily made their way (on way or another) into a better place, out of my reach.  I mean, who really wants to be looking at a cookie on January 5th?  Not me.

Though I am not swearing on to a year of clean eating, or anything as drastically healthy as that, I do find that the foods I crave are those which lack the butter, bacon, and sugar indulgences of the holidays.  This recipe I share with you today is probably the complete opposite of the holiday foods which filled my gut (and yours?) the last couple of months.  Fresh, mostly raw, brightly colored, acidic.  This salad is exactly what I want to eat right now (which works out well since our Satsuma tree is going gangbusters and someone has to eat all that fruit!)

Orange and Beet Winter Salad pairs bright juicy orange with paper thin slices of roasted beet, creamy avocado, and crunchy toasted sunflower seeds.  The greens are an accent instead of the foundation of this dish.  Eat this now and enjoy it, I know I am.

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