november golden pear cake

“Because it was cozy, simple, and delicious,” she said.

I get giddy when people think of me when they discover a new recipe, so you can imagine my delight when my friend Jillian wrote to me about her experience in the kitchen making October Apple Cake. We agreed that the possibilities for variations on this recipe were ripe, and this is how the November Golden Pear Cake came to be.

I changed up the modest ingredient list to make my own perfectly sweet & gluten free autumnal cake with pears, substituting oat flour with rice flour and swapping out the chocolate chunks with cubes of buttery caramel. Can I describe a dessert cake as both delicate and hearty? I hope so, because this recipe seems to fit those descriptions, and when sliced in wedges, it radiates like the golden November sunshine.

Enjoy, serve, or gift the November Golden Pear Cake at any time of day. It’s amiable to eat with a fork and cup of tea at the breakfast table, as a handheld treat on a fall forest potluck picnic, or as appetizer pick-ed mini bites preceding a festive night’s cheese course. Happy Novembering.

Ingredients

1 cup rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
3 pears (I used D’Anjou)

optional: 1/2 cup caramel bits or 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Grease a pan with olive oil and dust with flour, set aside (I also lined the bottom with a circle of parchment paper).

2. In a small bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs for 10 minutes.

4. Peel the pears and chop them into chunks. Chop up caramel or chocolate into chunks.

5. Add the brown sugar and olive oil to the fluffy, fluffy eggs and continue to whip for another minute. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until combined.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then nestle the pear and caramel chunks until they are nice and snug in the batter.

7. Bake for about an hour, then if you can stand the wait, let it cool. Turn out the cake onto a plate and serve hot with drizzled caramel and sprinkled with sea salt, or cold with freshly whipped vanilla cream on top.

celery date salad

Last week my mom spent a day researching the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington at the library where I work, so we had a lunch date downtown!  We walked to a sit-down restaurant where I ordered a falafel with a side dish of celery salad. I enjoyed so much of that chunky crunch that I made up my own salad at home based on the combination of flavors on my lunch plate that day.  It’s a great dish to prepare on a night when you crave the catharsis that accompanies chopping vegetables, and now every time I eat it I will remember the intrigue of Mary Custis Lee and that fun lunch.

For the salad:

Chop up celery, dates, and red onions.
Whisk together apple cider vinegar and honey.
Toss it all real good.
Sprinkle crumbled feta over top.

Turn a side dish into a meal:

Add crispy bacon and/or roasted chickpeas to the pile.

roasted analogous roots

I unloaded my farmers market basket of root vegetables and realized that they made up a loose analogous color scheme: parsnips, beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes!  I liked them all together so much that I decided they should simply be roasted together.  Tossed up with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a 425-degree oven for about 30-40 minutes (longer for thicker), they ensued sweet folksy nourishment.

sunbutter crispy treat cups

A few months ago I stopped eating nuts (almost drove me nuts) as part of an anti-inflammatory diet. One of the best parts of that experience, in addition to assuaging frequent migraines, was discovering sunflower seed butter. I now prefer it to peanut butter, hazelnut butter, and even almond butter. So far I have tasted three different brands from the store and found that Sunbutter is the sweetest (I inevitably added honey to the other two).

The following recipe is a combination of several allergen-free “rice crispy” recipes that are made with sunflower butter. This time I decided to mold them into cups that could be easily wrapped up in cupcake papers for individual treats. They are easier to make (if that’s possible) than traditional marshmallow crispies, vegan-friendly, and taste a bit like Scotcheroos.

Makes 12 Sunbutter Crispy Cups

3 cups crisp rice cereal
1/2 cup sunflower butter
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

optional: 1/4 cup of mix-ins (chocolate covered sunflower seeds, dried fruit, etc.)

Grease muffin tins or pan with butter, oil, or spray.

Melt the sunflower butter and brown rice syrup over the stovetop, fire, or in the microwave. Add the vanilla & salt until well combined.

Mix in the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Press firmly into your pan or muffin cups with a spatula, icy fingers, or greasy spoon.

Place the dish in the freezer or on ice for 30 minutes or so. Pop out when ready to eat.

I’ve added this recipe to my list of no-bake sweet treats to make while camping!

sesame sauce 2x

There’s a sauce I’ve been digging, and it goes like this: whisk together equal parts tahini (sesame paste), maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar / season with salt and pepper to taste / toss with your favorite noodles or use as a dip for your favorite prepared veggies. This combo is simple, perky, nutty, and just sweet enough (I think I wouldn’t mind being described that way – ha).

Lately I have enjoyed the sauce on sweet potato/buckwheat noodles with toasted sesame seeds and over brown rice noodles and steamed broccoli (the latter I enjoy most as a cold noodle dish; it’s toothy and all the more flavorful after fridging overnight). If you are using this sauce with noodles, be sure to first anoint the noodles with a little olive oil before mixing in the sauce. An 8 oz. package of noodles needs about 2 tablespoons of each sauce ingredient.

cherries & chickpeas

Those two! I cannot imagine my life without those women. Sometimes it’s funny to call them women, because we met right around the time we turned into teens. I am usually the one to bring up the fact that we are aging, but this time when we reunited, I felt completely opposite. Maybe it has something to do with happy and healthy futures? I am encouraged and just generally glad to have these special relationships.

So what do you snack on in the hot summer air? We had produce munchies and these totally addictive roasted chickpeas that Mary makes. I told her that I even prefer them to Chex Mix! Light summertime eating in the backyard is a fresh way to spend time chewing the fat without literally chewing the fat.

honeyed fig & onion dessert socca

Socca, wha??? Oblivious to this simple pleasure until recently, it is now here to stay in my eating life. Socca is a sort of flatbread made from chickpea flour. Chickpea flour is a dream, whether you have a gluten intolerance or not. I have found it in bulk at natural groceries, and in Bob’s Red Mill brand packaging at bigger stores. It’s one of the less-costly wheat flour alternatives and packs a protein punch.

Socca is nutty in flavor, crunchy in parts, springy in others, and an altogether savory pancake. Good olive oil is key to the flavor, which is certainly at the ready in Nice where you can buy socca on the street (add that to my South of France daydream). Though traditionally eaten hot out of a cast iron skillet and sprinkled with crushed black pepper, I eat it all kinds of ways. The other night, topped with with figs, onions, and honey, it was dessert.

How did this dish come together? My friend Mary introduced me to the cookbook Bean by Bean, which I have been wearing out since I checked it out of the library, and my friend Drew got me thinking about roasted fresh figs after posting a FB photo of a mean looking peach prosciutto pizza made by his talented girlfriend. Which reminds me, this socca could also be an incredible main course: just add arugula, prosciutto, and cheese (taleggio, chèvre, or gorgonzola) to the onions and figs.

Caramelized Cinnamon Onion Spread

Slice one onion and place the raw onion rings in a pan on medium heat with a few tablespoons olive oil.
Sprinkle with a teaspoon of cinnamon.
After a few minutes of cooking and stirring, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan.
Let the onions caramelize for about 20 minutes (they will become translucent and some will turn brown and crispy).
Puree the onions in a food processor or blender to make a spread (you may need to add a bit of olive oil).

Socca Adapted from Crescent Dragonwagon’s recipe in Bean by Bean
1 cup chickpea flour (aka garbanzo bean flour, besan, gram, cici, chana flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450-degrees (be sure the oven is up to temp. before putting the socca in to bake).

Sift together the flour & salt and whisk in 1 2/3 cups water and 1 tablespoon olive oil until smooth. The batter is thin and a bit bubbly.

Place a cast iron skillet on medium heat. When it’s hot, pour 1/4 cup olive oil on the bottom. The oil should ripple with heat but not smoke.

Give the batter one last whisk and pour into the skillet of hot olive oil (it will pop and sizzle!). Using a pot holder, place the skillet in the oven.

Bake until the edges pull away from the pan and the bread is golden and the top is firm, 25 minutes. Spread onions over the socca and place sliced figs on the top. Bake for about 5 more minutes in the oven.

To remove the socca, run a knife around the edge between bread and pan, and it will slide right out. Slice or break apart and serve with drizzled honey.