Guacamole Salad

Picture this: a clarion afternoon where the sun glimmers through the leaves of green, summer trees and a warm breeze whispers through the grass like a secret. There’s hardly a care and friends are supping during a picnic lunch, which wanes to a sleepy lull of harmless gossip.

Although this description may be too idealistic for a humdrum summer day, I feel it fitting for a dish such as Ina Garten’s idyllic Guacamole Salad. Below is the recipe…

Ingredients

1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and ½ inch diced
1 (15 oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup small-diced red onion
2 Tbs. minced jalapeño peppers, seeded (2 peppers)*
½ tsp. lime zest
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup good olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper*
2 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled, and ½ inch diced*
1-2 cups fresh or frozen corn (optional)

*This recipe can easily be altered to your individual tastes and preferences. When I made this salad for the Lise Davidsen/Jonas Kaufmann Walküre concert, it was to be served to ladies of elegant deportment, and so, I significantly cut down on the spicy ingredients.
Depending on availability, substitutions can be made with the bell peppers (any color will do) as well as the avocados. Ina Garten is an advocate for Hass avocados, but the large, green Florida ones work just as well in this recipe.
I also like to add corn kernels to this salad for yet another dimension in texture, color, and flavor. Use what you like and can readily find in your area.

Instructions

Place the tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, jalapeño peppers, (corn, if you are using), and lime zest in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables and beans. Toss well.

Just before you’re ready to serve the salad, fold the avocados into the salad. Check the seasoning and serve at room temperature.

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Whether for a quiet lunch or a fiery fiesta, this salad is a hit ! It can be doubled and served to a crowd (the original recipe indicates that it serves 6) and can also be made ahead of time.

Enjoy !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies ─ No White Flour, No White Sugar

Perhaps even more classic than chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin cookies have long been a staple in my life and are my dad’s undisputed favorite cookie. However, when I was no longer able to indulge in one of my favorite treats, innovation occurred, and a new mode of baking emerged.

This recipe is my “No White Flour, No White Sugar” adaption of Ina Garten’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies, which were the final touch to the Bayerische Staatsoper concert with Lise Davidsen and Jonas Kaufmann. Unlike the Barefoot Contessa, I didn’t sift any of my dry ingredients, nor did I add the eggs one at a time. Call it heresy, but the exacting methods of baking do not matter so much for this recipe.

Ingredients:

1½ cups pecans
2 sticks (½ lb.) softened butter
1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used Einkorn whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3 cups rolled oats
1½ cups raisins

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Chop pecans very coarsely and spread evenly on a sheet pan to bake for 5-10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly brown. Set aside to cool.

Cream the butter, coconut sugar, and maple syrup together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Don’t worry if it doesn’t go into solution ! If your maple syrup is cold, it will solidify the butter somewhat. Here’s what my batter looked like after mixing:

Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt) and add to the bowl. Then add the oats, raisins, and pecans and mix until combined.

Using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

That’s it ! These cookies come out with a crisp outer edge and a softer inside. They will soften even more if left out overnight. Although devoid of the usual cane sugar and all-purpose flour, these cookies have the taste and texture of the original recipe and would fool even the most persnickety palate.

Enjoy !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Bavarian Apple Torte

Shoved deep in my mother’s old decoupage recipe box is a brown splattered index card with instructions written on front and back. In the time leading up to fancy dinner parties or special occasions, the card was always sought with expediency. That prized recipe was for Bavarian Apple Torte and originally came from my great grandmother, who was of direct German descent.

My great-grandmother, Claire

When the occasion arose for Jonas Kaufmann’s concert in Bavaria, there was no better choice than the regionally appropriate dessert for our small watch party. And now I’m sharing the favorite recipe below in case you need a simply elegant dessert to impress your guests or have an insatiable hankering to visit Bavaria.

Ingredients

Crust:
½ C butter
¼ tsp. vanilla
1/3 C sugar
1 C flour

Filling:
1- 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
¼ C sugar
1 egg
½ tsp. vanilla

Topping:
1/3 C sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon (or more — ¾ – 1 tsp.)
4 C peeled apple slices (any kind)
¼ C sliced almonds

Instructions

Cream butter, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of sugar. Blend in flour. Spread dough onto bottom and sides of springform pan.
(*For easier cleanup, I place a sheet of parchment paper over the bottom of the springform pan and secure it with the metal ring that goes on top. This helps the torte slide off the pan if you do not want the metal bottom of the pan going to an event or if you are giving the torte as a gift.)

Parchment paper covering the pan

Combine softened cream cheese and ¼ cup of sugar; mix well. Add egg and ½ tsp vanilla. Mix and pour into pastry lined pan.

The crust and the filling

Combine 1/3 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Toss apple slices in sugar and cinnamon mixture. Spoon apple mixture over cream cheese layer. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake 10 minutes at 450°F. Reduce heat to 400°F. Continue baking for 25 minutes. Note: Cover with foil if needed so almonds don’t burn too much, about 10-15 minutes before done.
Cool. Remove rim of pan and slide onto serving plate, leaving bottom of springform underneath torte.
Top with whipped cream, whipped with a little sugar.

Enjoy !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Sirupsnipper Cookies ─ No White Flour, No White Sugar

I haven’t consumed white flour or white sugar since 2009 when a medical condition forced me to change my lifestyle. And while there have been moments of deprivation and longing for conventional flour and sugar-laden treats, my sweet tooth has been mostly satiated since my refined baked goods breakup. Over the years, I have fiddled with adapting regular recipes of breads and sweets with questionable results. However, this cookie was a winner !

I have included a “no white flour/no white sugar” version of the original Sirupsnipper recipe from Sons of Norway The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients

9 Tbsp. cream
½ cup + 2½ Tbsp. maple syrup
½ cup + 2½ Tbsp. coconut sugar
7 Tbsp. butter
3¾ cups rye flour
1½ tsp. pepper*
1½ tsp. ginger*
½ tsp. anise*
1½ tsp. cinnamon*
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
blanched almonds for decorating

*Note: I came to these measurements based on trial and taste. They are on the spicy side this way, but the spices can certainly be adjusted down if they are too “hot” for the palate. Also, I ground half of a pod of star anise instead of using jarred spice. The freshly ground half pod came to a scant ½ tsp.

Instructions

1. Boil cream, maple syrup, and coconut sugar together. Stir in butter and let mixture cool until lukewarm.

2. Combine flour and dry ingredients and whisk together.

3. Sift in dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill overnight.

4. Roll dough out as thin as possible and cut diagonal lines to make diamond shapes (or use cookie cutters in various shapes).

5. Place cookies on greased baking sheet or parchment paper covered baking sheet. These cookies barely spread so you’re safe to crowd them rather tightly on the pan.

6. Place a blanched almond in the middle of each cookie.
7. Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes (or until crispy).

*An optional egg wash may be used if you desire a shiny appearance. This, I omitted.

These Christmas cookies were a delicious treat for our Norwegian food spread fêting Lise Davidsen’s Met concert from Oscarshall Palace in Norway. Isn’t the forest of trees a lovely sight next to spiky coconut macaroons ?

Because of the exceptional outcome of this recipe adaptation, I plan to bake these for years to come. File this one under ‘Success’ in the No White Flour/No White Sugar recipe box !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Provençal Potato Salad

The recipe that played a starring role in the Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna concert from Èze, France is listed here. This salad is packed full of summer flavors ! With its inherent freshness and chic, Mediterranean appeal, it’s no wonder that the recipe was featured on the cover of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook in 1999.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Copyright: Ina Garten, 1999)

(Adaptions and notes made from Ina Garten’s original Provençal Potato Salad recipe are marked by asterisks* and italics)

Ingredients:

1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
(or any combination of small red, white, or yellow potatoes)
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar works fine)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill (or more)
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley (or more)
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
1/2 pound haricots verts, stems removed (or green beans)
1 6-ounce can Italian tuna, drained and flaked (two cans of a good, chunky American tuna will work just as well)
1/2 cup capers, drained
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered, optional
6 anchovy fillets, optional*

*I chop 2-4 anchovy fillets for the vinaigrette and do not add additional fillets for garnish.

Instructions

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. (I steam my potatoes in a large pot for the same amount of time) Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (and chopped anchovies) and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss.

In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the haricots verts for 3 to 5 minutes, until barely tender. Drain and immerse into ice water for 5 minutes. Drain again.*

*I steam the green beans at the same time as I’m steaming the eggs, removing the greens beans after the specified time while continuing to steam the eggs.

In a large bowl, combine the haricot verts with potato salad, tuna, capers, tomatoes, onions, olives, eggs, and anchovy fillets.* Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Be careful when tossing the quartered eggs with the rest of the ingredients ─ I found that the yolks separated all too easily when combining the mixture. Another option would be to arrange the eggs on top in a serving bowl.

Just look at all those colors !

Enjoy !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha