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I wanted to do something different on New Year’s Day instead of the traditional black-eyed peas and cabbage. I already shared the recipe for black-eyed pea falafel.

I found this recipe for Brussels sprouts, and substituted pecans for walnuts since that’s what I had in the cupboard. http://theshiksa.com/2013/11/12/roasted-brussels-sprouts-with-pomegranate-molasses I have store-bought pomegranate molasses, so I used that instead of making my own (recipe for pomegranate molasses: http://theshiksa.com/2011/09/07/pomegranate-molasses/).

The dish has a nice balance of sweet, tart and savory, and has layers of textures, from the crunchy nuts to the pop of the pomegranate kernels.

Here’s how I made it:

Brussels sprouts with pomegranate

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

1 cup toasted pecan halves (about 1/2 cup chopped)

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts in olive oil and place in a single layer in a large ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes. In the meantime, place pecans in a separate baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 5 minutes. Chop lightly. Toss Brussels sprouts and pecans in pomegranate molasses, then add pomegranate kernels and serve.

Black-eyed pea falafel

Black-eyed peas are a traditional Southern food, and if eaten – with cabbage – on New Year’s Day is supposed to bring luck. I made falafel from black-eyed peas yesterday to celebrate the new year, but this falafel is good any time of year.

They are a great source of protein, with 14 grams in 1 cup of cooked peas.

Black-eyed peas

Black-eyed pea falafel

8 ounces dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup cilantro, lightly chopped

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Soak peas overnight in 2-quart saucepan. Add salt. Bring to a boil, then let simmer 20 to 25 minutes until peas are done, being careful not to overcook. Skim off foam; drain well. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add peas and remaining ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until texture is fairly smooth and consistent. Add a little more flour if needed to firm it up enough to hold together. Form balls about 1 inch to 1 1/4 inch in diameter and place on ungreased ceramic baking dishes. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn falafel over and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with sprigs of fresh cilantro and tzatziki or tahini sauce.

This is the first fruit tart I ever made.

This is the first fruit tart I ever made.

I found a tart pan in a thrift store, and for $1 I couldn’t resist buying it. I have always dreamed of making a fruit tart of my own.

I have always admired the beautiful fruit tarts I’ve seen in bakeries. Some were beautiful pieces of art that tasted as good as they looked. Others? Well, let’s say they needed serious improvement.

Anyway, I brought home my new prized possession and in a few days I was able to get to work on making a fruit tart. They are much easier than they look, although there is a lot of time involved in the process.

I have made a couple of tarts, including one for a friend’s Christmas party, and they turned out beautifully. I plan to make more since I have gotten great feedback about the ones I’ve made so far.

Just a note: Before you begin making anything new, make sure you read through the recipe and make sure you understand it before you begin. If there is something that puzzles you, either contact the author or google the term to get clarification.

It is also a good idea to make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment before you get started. This recipe is designed for an 11-inch tart pan. If you use a smaller one or a different type of baking dish, you will have to adjust the recipe and cooking time up or down.

Back to the tarts … There are three components: the shortbread crust, the custard and the fruit. The shortbread and pastry cream can be made a day or two in advance. The fruit should always be added fresh.

Basic fruit tart

Shortbread crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons apple or plum jelly

Sift together flour and sugar. Pour into a  food processor container. Using plastic pastry attachment, cut in the butter with small pulses so you don’t over mix it. This should take about 15 to 20 seconds. It will look like a clumpy flour mixture. Lightly beat the egg yolks. Stir in the water. Slowly add the mixture to the dough, pulsing the food processor as you add it, until it is blended, being careful not to over blend. It should still look like a clumpy flour mixture, but holds together well when you squeeze some in your hand. Pour mixture onto a floured surface and flatten the dough into a circle. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it on a plate. Refrigerate for at least an hour. When ready to bake, roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until you have a 12- to 13-inch circle. Place in tart pan so it fills the bottom and the sides. Pierce in several places with a fork. Place tart pan on a large baking sheet (some of the butter will drip out). Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake another 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely. Brush cooled crust with jelly and let it dry before adding the custard. This helps keep the crust from getting soggy.

Custard

1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Slightly beat the egg yolks. Stir in the cornstarch until you have a smooth mixture. Heat milk and sugar in a small saucepan until it is just about to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat. Put a few tablespoons of the heated milk into the egg mixture, one at a time, stirring with a whisk as you add them so the egg yolks get heated but don’t cook. Return the milk mixture to the heat, then slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk, whisking continuously. Continue to stir until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and pour into a glass mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, placing the wrap directly on the custard so a skin does not form. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least one hour. When ready, spread the custard evenly across the cooled crust. Top with fresh fruit.

This is the second tart I made.

This is the second tart I made.

Fruit topping

4-5 cups fresh fruit, sliced (leave berries whole)

1/2 cup apple or plum jelly for glaze (optional)

Berries, bananas, pears, kiwi, mango, peaches or canned mandarin oranges will work. You can use any combination, and decorate the top however you like. Random placement works just as well as structured designs.

To glaze (optional): Heat the jelly slightly in a small saucepan until it is liquid and smooth. Let cool, then brush across fruit.

Note: Fresh fruit tarts do not keep very well, so are best served the same day you assemble them. I have had moderate success with freezing them, but I recommend finishing the tart the same day. Makes 12 or more servings.

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20131005-045347.jpgWhen I get hungry, who knows what will happen. I went to the refrigerator late last night with an empty stomach, looking for something that would satisfy that hunger that had been lingering all day.

I had soaked some fava beans, so I knew they would be good to go, but what to serve with them? I had planned to make falafel, but wasn’t in the mood all of a sudden so I thought I would serve them plain.

Kale … sweet potatoesparsnips … the ideas were popping into my head.

I put the beans on to boil — it’s a two-step process, then got the parsnips and sweet potatoes in the oven to roast. I had found a kale and parsnip soup recipe that I had been wanting to try. Instead, I took its seasoning profile — garlic, ginger and rosemary — and used it throughout the dishes.

What I ended up with was a healthy meal that was full of flavor. The trio of dishes: Sauteed kale, sweet potato and parsnip hash, fava bean puree.

Fava bean puree

1 pound dried fava beans

Water for boiling

Salt to taste

2 cloves garlic, halved

2 small slices fresh ginger

Fresh rosemary garnish

Soak fava beans overnight. Rinse and place in a large saucepan and fill with water to about two inches over the beans. Let boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and drain water. Let cool for a few minutes, then squeeze beans out of skin. Put beans back in saucepan and cover with water again. Add salt, garlic and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until beans are cooked through. Drain beans, reserving some of the liquid. Place in a bowl and use an immersion blender to puree the beans, adding some of the liquid a little at at a time, until the beans are pureed thoroughly and forms a creamy texture. Garnish with a few fresh rosemary leaves.

Sweet potato and parsnip hash

1 pound parsnips, cubed

2 pounds sweet potatoes, cubed

4 cloves garlic, sliced

6 small slices ginger

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2-3 springs fresh rosemary

Note: To peel or not to peel your vegetables is up to you. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  Also, I like my parsnips a little on the crunchy side, but if you like yours soft, you might want to roast them about five to ten minutes before adding the sweet potatoes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place parsnips, sweet potatoes, garlic and ginger in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes, then place sprigs on top and roast for five to ten minutes longer — until potatoes are fork tender.

Sauteed Kale

1 medium onion, diced

3 stalks celery, chopped

4 slices fresh ginger, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 sprigs rosemary, stems removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 pounds kale, chopped

Saute onion and celery in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, ginger and rosemary, and continue to saute for a few minutes longer. Add kale and toss lightly every few minutes until kale is wilted.

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Risotto isn’t something I make often because it is loaded with calories, carbs, fat — you know, all the stuff that isn’t quite so healthy. It also is a very involved dish — a lot of effort goes into making it.

I was home most of the day, and didn’t know what to make for lunch until I spotted the lonely bag of arborio rice in the cupboard. Arborio rice is very starchy — there’s no doubt where the carbs come from.

Then I had to find something to put in the risotto. Mushrooms immediately come to mind, but I also wanted a taste of something salty, so I pulled out the capers and pitted Kalamata olives. I know it’s not very Mediterranean, but I wanted something sweet to balance out the salty, so I got out the coconut flakes, too. Sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts were right in front of my face, so I grabbed them as well.

That was starting to feel like the kitchen sink, so I closed the cupboard and got the rest of the ingredients together so I would be ready to start the process. I have seen on a lot of the TV cooking shows that they recommend you get all of your ingredients out and ready before you start to cook. That is definitely true when making risotto. Although it doesn’t take a long time to cook, there isn’t time to stop and look for things. It all has to be cooked right then and there, and it moves very quickly.

Mushroom and coconut risotto

1 cup arborio rice

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cups water

Coconut milk (as needed)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)

A sprig or two of fresh thyme, stems removed

Salt and pepper to taste

(Additional ingredients: capers, sun-dried tomatoes,pitted  kalamata olives, walnuts, parsley and crushed cardamom seeds)

Heat vegetable stock and water to boiling, pour into a stainless steel (or other heat-resistant) pitcher and set aside. In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil, adding in mushrooms as the onion becomes translucent. Stir in coconut and rice, and saute for a few minutes longer. Stir often to keep the coconut and rice from burning. When the rice is heated through, stir in thyme and salt and pepper. Begin adding the liquid a little at a time, stirring constantly. Let the rice somewhat absorb the liquid before adding more. Continue adding liquid a little at a time and stirring mixture until rice is al dente*. This will take 20 to 30 minutes. If you run out of liquid before rice is done, stir in some coconut milk, a little at a time, as needed. When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and stir in capers, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and walnuts. I don’t measure these ingredients. I just toss a few in at a time until it looks like I have the right combination. Garnish with cardamom and minced parsley. It adds a lightness to an otherwise heavy dish.

*It’s really difficult to describe al dente! It is the point just before the rice is cooked through. If it is not cooked enough, the flavor doesn’t pop and the texture is unpleasant. If it’s cooked too much, you will have a sticky, gooey mess.