The Teacup Chronicles

Month: February, 2012

Ah is this not happiness? #11

Sometimes words are just not necessary.  Certain things in life, like a beautiful sunrise or a perfect starlit sky, are felt in a place deeper than language can penetrate – a place that unites us all in the universal experience of something extraordinary and beautiful.  We stood on the porch, one January morning, our mugs of tea warming our hands, and just gazed at this crimson and indigo sky in silence.  We, for those moments of colorful transformation, were like one beating heart rather than two, knowing and feeling the very same things. There wasn’t any reason, then, to speak of them.

Ah, is this not happiness?

Kale salad with apple, roasted beet and caraway

I never though I’d say so, but after a winter of nearly no snow and long stretches of mild sunny days, I’m happy tonight to hear the plow scraping up and down the road again, happy to see the snowflakes briefly exposed in his headlights. It’s a nice feeling. I thought I was ready to welcome an early spring and be done with winter, but now I know that I wasn’t. I need a few more days filled with the sort of quiet and stillness that only falling snow can create. Those days are golden. They are what winter is all about.

It’s been a very long week for me – a week of working those sorts of extra long days that make you almost collapse into bed by the time you finally arrive there.  Needless to say, there isn’t a whole lot of energy leftover when I get home to invest in cooking. The romanticism of a slowly simmering stew or a long, slow cooked joint of meat is quite lost on me on such days.  Instead, I want something easy to put together, something nourishing and satisfying that will keep my head above water (not like the box of cookies and carton of ice-cream that have so tempted me) . So it’s been a week of winter salads – chunks of brightly colored roots, tender greens, beans, nuts – you name it  (whatever I can find in the fridge or cabinet really) – tossed together and smothered in various dressings. I have to say, I’ve really been enjoying them.  Pairing those sweet earthy roots (which frankly have begun to lose some of their charm) with bright and fresh flavors, with the crisp bite of freshness, seems to reinvigorate the winter larder in a very necessary way.

Last night, I blessed my Sunday self for having the foresight to roast a batch of beets to have on hand throughout the week. Discovering them each wrapped up in their shiny coat of aluminum foil was like discovering a box of treasure hidden away as a child. Rarely do I feel so pleased with myself.  I sliced them up and tossed them with a crisp and juicy apple, tender Red Russian Kale, a scattering of toasted almonds and sharp, tangy cranberries, and topped the whole thing off with toasted caraway and a sweet-sour pomegranate dressing. Just looking at it seemed to make me feel better.

Kale salad with apple, roasted beet and caraway

I love the nutty earthy flavor of caraway and I think it pairs really nicely with the beets, kale and apple. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, however, so leave if out if you wish. The beets can be roasted ahead of time, as I have done, which makes the salad preparation much speedier. 

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch Red Russian kale
  • 3 smallish sized beets or 1 large beet
  • 1 apple (granny smith or another more tart variety would be a good choice), cut into matchsticks
  • 1 medium-sized or 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 good handful dried cranberries (about 1/3 -1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds

For the dressing:

  • 1/8 cup walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap each of your beets individually in aluminum foil (seems wasteful, but you can save the foil for future beet roasting) and place on a baking tray in the oven. Check them after about 40 minutes for doneness. When done, you should be able to easily pierce a knife through the center of the beet (which is rather like plunging a knife through a heart, if you are so morbidly inclined as I am). Set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use your thumb and forefinger and rub the outer skin off.

To toast your walnuts, place in a baking tray or dish in a single layer and put them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes. They should be fragrant and turning golden. Be sure to set a timer as there is nothing worse than discovering a tray of charcoal black nuts in the oven!

While your beets are roasting and your nuts are toasting, prepare the kale. De-stem the leaves and tear them roughly into bite sized pieces. Place them in a bowl and add a drizzle of walnut oil and a little salt and pepper, massaging the oil into the leaves to slightly wilt them.

Mix together the ingredients of your dressing in a small jar with a lid. Place the lid on and shake vigorously to incorporate the ingredients. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking.

Once all of your ingredients are prepared, assemble the salad. Add the sliced roasted beets, the shallots, apples, cranberries and dressing, and lightly toss a few times with your hands (which will turn them a lovely oily carmine). Place a good heap onto each plate and top with a scattering of walnuts and caraway.

Chocolate avocado love tart

I can hear the howling of coyotes coming from somewhere out in the darkness. It’s an eerie sound, one that makes you draw your sweater tighter around you and go and double-check the doors to make sure they are locked. But once I get over the initial hair-raising reaction and stop to listen, I think its sort of beautiful too – a desperate sounding song full of wildness and hunger and longing. In the next room, there is a roast in the oven – a pork loin sitting on a bed of apples and onions, and sprigs of thyme tucked in. The sounds of the oven clicking on and off are comforting against the back drop of coyote song.  There is a bouquet of pink and red tulips on the table, the table is set for two – and in the fridge sits the tart you see above.

This tart is one of those things that looks horribly sinful and decadent, but in reality is quite wholesome. It’s raw – meaning nothing is cooked and that everything is in its whole, unprocessed glory. Loaded with good fats from avocados and nuts, sweetened with honey and dates, and spiced with chocolate, vitality building “aphrodisiac” herbs and spices, it leaves you feeling absolutely radiant after you eat it – like you are just glowing. I can’t think of many other cakes that will do that. I think it’s the perfect  way to celebrate that sense of awakening we all start to feel about now (which is what I think Valentine’s is all about). I think that must be what the coyotes are singing about too, come to think of it.

Chocolate Avocado Love Tart

Feel free to leave the herbs out if you like – just add in 25g extra cocoa powder.

For the crust:

  • 150g each pecans and almonds
  • 100g pitted medjool dates, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp sea salt

For the filling:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 85g virgin coconut oil
  • 125g cocoa powder (raw if possible)
  • 10g maca powder
  • 10g muiri puama powder
  • 5g cardamom powder
  • 175 mls honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • powdered rose petals and whole rose petals for garnishing

Lightly grease a spring-form pan (a cake pan with a removable side) with coconut oil.

In a food processor, combine the nuts, dates and sea salt until they begin to clump up in the machine and form a ball.

Press the nut mixture into the base of the spring-form pan using your fingers or the back of a spoon so that it extends over the entire base and has a fairly even texture.

Combine all the filling ingredients (except the rose powder and petals) in the food processor and process until smooth. Taste and adjust for sweetness if desired – adding a tiny bit more honey if you like. I tend to like chocolate on the less sweet side. Scoop the filling on top of the nut mixture, and smooth evenly over the top, extending to the sides of the pan. Place in the fridge for at least one hour before serving to chill.

When ready to serve, remove from the springform pan – you may need to run a knife around the edge first. Dust the top with powdered rose petals (you could also use cardamom, cocoa powder or cinnamon if you can’t locate the rose powder) and then sprinkle dried rose petals over the top.