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Blackberry Ginger Beet Salad with Pecans

Blackberry Ginger Beet Salad with Pecans

I’ve never been much of a pecan fan. Growing up, I didn’t like any nuts at all, but I’ve learned to enjoy almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts. Peanuts are still on my yucky list and pecans are somewhere in-between. Or at least they were until I met Alfred De La Houssaye of Sweetwater Pecan Orchard at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

Alfred is, uh, enthusiastic about pecans. If you wander by his booth at the market, he’ll use his special pecan cracker and give you a sample. At first I tried to resist, but the CompostMaster’s oohing and aahing made me relent. This pecan was actually good!

We toasted the pecans and tossed them into a salad featuring greens, beets and goat cheese that we also picked up at the farmers’ market. We added a dressing made from blackberry ginger balsamic vinegar, olive oil and grainy mustard. The smoky, sweet and sour flavors plus the creaminess of the goat cheese made for one great salad.

Blackberry Ginger Beet Salad with Pecans

Blackberry Ginger Beet Salad with Pecans
1 pound fresh beets, washed and trimmed
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling on beets before roasting
1 cup whole pecans
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons blackberry ginger balsamic vinegar (or any other fruity balsamic)
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
6 cups mixed salad greens
coarse kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces fresh goat cheese

Roast beets: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place beets on a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and tightly wrap. Place packet onto a small baking pan and roast for 1 hour or until beets are tender when poked with a fork. Let cool.

Toast pecans: In the meantime, heat a dry nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add pecans and toss or stir frequently until they are toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool.

Make dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and the mustard. Slowly drizzle in 1/3 cup olive oil, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened.

Prep beets: In another medium bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Peel beets, cut them into thick slices and then cut the slices in half. Add to the vinegar/olive oil mixture.

Put it together: Toss salad greens with some of the dressing (you’ll have some leftover) and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the greens on 4 individual serving plates. Add beets, goat cheese and toasted pecans.

Makes 6 servings
Per serving: 373 calories, 35g fat (7g sat), 9mg cholesterol, 348mg sodium, 13g carb, 4g fiber, 8g sugar, 7g protein

NOTE: The nutritional information, especially the fat count, is a little bit misleading because you won’t use all of the dressing.

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Baked Eggs with Butternut Squash and Kale

Baked Eggs with Butternut Squash and Kale

In a breakfast rut? I was.

Then I saw this Serious Eats recipe for Baked Eggs with Butternut Squash and Kale. The CompostMaster had just picked a couple of small squash from our garden and we had bought some Toscano kale at the farmers’ market. I had all of the other ingredients except for the jalapeño.

I made a few modifications to the original recipe (click link above to see recipe):

  • The recipe says it makes 2 to 3 servings, but I halved it for two people and had leftovers. I used an 8-inch skillet instead of a 12-inch.
  • I used red bell pepper instead of the jalapeño because it’s what I had available.
  • I forgot to halve the amount of dried red chile flakes and our version made the CompostMaster’s head sweat. It was right on the edge of being too spicy.
  • I used 3 eggs.
  • I skipped the avocado mainly because I forgot about it.

This was the perfect fall Sunday brunch dish. How often can you say before lunchtime that you’ve already had leafy greens and vegetables?

Makes 3 servings
Per serving (includes avocado): 324 calories, 18g fat (4g sat), 217mg cholesterol, 567mg sodium, 31g carb, 8g fiber, 4g sugar, 14g protein

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Squash Bisque with Mascarpone and Apple-Cheese Crostini

Squash Bisque with Mascarpone and Apple-Cheese Crostini

I haven’t felt much like eating for about a month now. Not having an appetite is quite a new experience for me. For the most part, it’s been saltines, chicken soup and diet ginger ale.

When I started flipping through my copy of Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast, my appetite started to return. There were recipes for pizza with country ham and figs, shrimp with lemongrass and lots of potato recipes. When I’ve strayed from the chicken soup diet, it’s usually been towards potatoes of some kind.

Then I saw a recipe for Squash Bisque with Mascarpone and Apple-Cheese Crostini. Butternut squash soup was still soup, toast substituted nicely for saltines and apples are easy on the tummy too. I was so happy to be excited about food again! This very thick soup was great hot the first night and cold the next day for a picnic lunch at our nephew’s soccer game.
Roasting the butternut squash on cast iron baking pan
I made a few changes to the recipe, some of which make the dish more diabetic-friendly:

  • I used all butternut squash.
  • I peeled my onion before I roasted it.
  • I used 1/3 cup olive oil instead of the butter.
  • I substituted half and half for the heavy cream.
  • I used fresh-squeezed orange juice instead of store-bought (which often has added sugar).
  • I swapped a Gala apple for the Fuji.
  • I used a whole-grain baguette so my slices of bread were small.
  • I skipped the mint and used lemon thyme.
  • I reduced my serving size. 1/4 of the recipe is way too much for me to eat at a meal.
  • I used my brand-new Lodge 14-inch round baking pan instead of a skillet for roasting the vegetables. It worked beautifully! I have a new favorite roasting pan.

The secret ingredient in this recipe is the vanilla – you should not leave it out under any circumstances! It adds a type of sweetness without adding any sugar.

Make it Gluten-free: Use gluten-free bread for the crostini.

Disclaimer: I received a free 14-inch round cast iron baking pan and a copy of Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast, edited by Pam Hoenig from Lodge plus a second copy of the book and a 12-inch cast iron skillet to give away. All opinions are my own.

Squash Bisque with Mascarpone and Apple-Cheese Crostini

Reprinted with permission from Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast, edited by Pam Hoenig
Lodge Cast Iron Nation
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 medium acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 sweet onion, left unpeeled, cut in half
2 cinnamon sticks
5 allspice berries
2 star anise
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup orange juice
grated zest of 1 lime

1 Fuji apple, cored and thinly sliced
4 thin oval slices crusty bread
4 ounces cheese, preferably Asiago or Kashkavalo (an Israeli semihard cheese), thinly sliced
1/4 cup mascarpone, softened
leaves from 5 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 360°.
  2. Make the bisque: In a large bowl, toss both squashes, the onion, whole spices, salt, and pepper with the melted butter until well coated. Pour into a Lodge 15-inch cast iron skillet, arrange in a single layer, and bake until tender, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Discard the whole spices and let cool.
  3. While the vegetables roast, combine the cream and ginger in a small, heavy saucepan. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the mixture, and add the vanilla bean as well. Bring to boil, then immediately remove from the heat, and let cool; remove the vanilla bean.
  4. Peel the cooled onion, and put it in a food processor, along with the squash and pan drippings. Process until smooth. Add the cream, orange juice, and lime zest; pulse until the mixture is just smooth and uniform. (Be careful not to overblend or the cream will break.) Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Make the crostini: Preheat the broiler. Place a thin layer of sliced apple on each piece of bread, and top with the Asiago cheese. Set on a baking sheet, and place under the broiler until the cheese melts.
  6. To serve, pour the bisque into 4 Lodge 1-pint cast iron Country Kettles. Garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon mascarpone, swirled in the cetner of the bisque, and sprinkle with the mint and thyme. Serve with the crostini.

Note: Nutritional information was calculated by me and was not included in the book.
Makes 4 servings
Per serving (original recipe): 633 calories, 57g fat (39g sat), 206mg cholesterol, 173mg sodium, 28g carb, 3g fiber, 15g sugar, 2g protein

Makes 6 servings
Per serving (with modifications described above): 265 calories, 21g fat (8g sat), 30mg cholesterol, 121mg sodium, 17g carb, 2g fiber, 5g sugar, 4g protein

Makes 4 servings
Per serving (original recipe): 198 calories, 17g fat (11g sat), 48mg cholesterol, 432mg sodium, 12g carb, 2g fiber, 5g sugar, 11g protein

Today, members of Virtual Potluck are featuring recipes from Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast, edited by Pam Hoenig. We’ll EACH be giving away a copy of the book PLUS a 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillet. Also note that VPer Susan Benton of 30AEATS contributed recipes to the book!

Check out some of the other tasty recipes:

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