Kale & Apple Slaw

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We’re all trying to eat a little healthier in January, but you know what, it’s hard! It’s freezing in East Hampton and after a long day, all I want is a big glass of red wine and a bowl of pasta. Or maybe some kind of braised meat. Or maybe pasta with a braised meat sauce? See what I mean? 

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But vegetables don’t have to be a punishment. This Kale and Apple Slaw is one of my favorite winter salads because while it’s full of produce and relatively healthy (Parmesan is healthy, right?? ), it’s also totally satisfying. The slaw has lots of different textures and flavors that make it much more interesting and delicious than your average bowl of kale. With the crunchy, sweet apple,  sharp onion, toasted pecans and salty Parmesan, each bite is like a little meal in itself.

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If you’re looking for diet food, you might want to keep looking. But if you’re looking for a tasty salad that won’t leave you feeling hungry and a little sadder than you were before you ate it, you’ve come to the right place.

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This slaw is great either on its own for lunch or as a side to hearty winter main courses. I especially love it with roast chicken or turkey chili. The recipe makes a LOT of salad, but leftovers keep well if you aren’t feeding a crowd. (The pecans and apples will get a little bit soggy if the salad sits overnight, but not enough to keep me from eating this salad straight from the tupperware for lunch the next day.)

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Kale and Apple Slaw

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 bunch curly kale (12 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup very thinly sliced red onion (about ¼ onion)
  • 1 crisp, sweet apple, such as Fuji, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, see note (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pecans on a sheet pan and roast for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool, then roughly chop the pecans and set aside.

Wash the kale leaves and pat them dry with a paper towel. Lay the leaves flat on a cutting board and cut down both sides of the center rib, discarding the rib. Using a sharp knife, cut the leaves crosswise into thin strips, as you would for coleslaw.

In a small, glass measuring cup, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Whisk until smooth. Pour the dressing over the kale, and using tongs or two serving spoons, toss the kale for a full thirty seconds. Set aside to let the kale marinate for at least 20 minutes, or up to several hours in the fridge, covered, before serving.

Meanwhile, place the onions in a mesh strainer or colander and rinse under warm tap water for thirty seconds to remove some of their “bite.” Drain and set aside.

When ready to serve, add the pecans, onions, and apple to the kale and toss well to combine. Add the Parmesan, toss gently, and serve.

Note: I use a vegetable peeler to make big shavings of Parmesan.


Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs

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Did you ever notice that no matter what else you serve at a party, if you put out any kind of warm, melty cheese, it will be devoured in about thirty seconds? This Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs is no exception. It’s a serious crowd pleaser and a lighter alternative to baked Brie or Camembert. And with fresh rosemary, dried figs, chopped pistachios and a generous drizzle of honey, it’s the perfect festive appetizer for a holiday spread.

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I love fresh figs, but with their short season they can be hard to find. Dried figs, plumped up with balsamic vinegar, honey and fresh orange juice, are just as sweet and delicious.  I spoon them onto warm goat cheese flavored with rosemary and chili flakes for a spread that’s savory, sweet, and a little spicy. If you can find Mike’s Hot Honey or another spicy honey, it’s especially good drizzled over the goat cheese just before serving. 

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Serve this right from the oven (on a hotpad!) with plain crackers or crusty baguette slices. Then take a step back and watch it disappear before your eyes. In fact, you might as well make two while you’re at it! I’m making these for a Christmas brunch this weekend and am planning on doing exactly that. 

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Baked Goat Cheese with Balsamic Glazed Figs

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces plain, creamy goat cheese, softened at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dried Calimyrna figs
  • 1 tablespoon honey, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon shelled roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer) combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and salt. Beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed, until smooth and lightly whipped.

Transfer to a small (7 or 8-inch diameter) ovenproof skillet or shallow baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed and lightly browed around the edges.

Meanwhile, remove the hard stems from the figs and cut them into quarters. Combine the figs, honey, vinegar, and orange juice in a small saucepan. (The figs should fit snugly in one layer.) Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze, about 8-10 minutes.

Carefully spoon the figs and any remaining liquid onto the center of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle the pistachios over the figs, drizzle the cheese generously with honey, and serve hot directly from the baking dish with pita chips or thin slices of baguette.