A Simple Fall Salad


Smoked Salmon, Fennel, and Apple Salad

1 package of good quality smoked salmon
1 apple (I used Fuji)
1 fennel bulb
arugula or spinach

Mustard and Yogurt Dressing-
2 tbs plain yogurt
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp grainy mustard
juice from one lemon
pinch of salt

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.

Quarter the fennel bulb and remove the core. Slice thinly. Core the apple and slice thinly. 

Arrange the arugula or spinach, smoked salmon, fennel, and apple slices in a bowl or plate. Arrange a few 1/4 tsp dollops of the mustard dressing around the salad and garnish with fennel fronds. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked pepper.

If not plating immediately, place the sliced apples in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice to prevent turning brown.

Butternut Squash and Collard Green Empanadas


I know, I know. This is probably the longest list of instructions I've ever given. These little guys are certainly a labor of love, but are well worth the effort, especially on a chilly fall day (which, I might add, we've yet to have in Texas).

Serve these as an appetizer or a main with a side salad. Or you can stretch your laborious feat by freezing unbaked empanadas to have on hand for an impromptu craving.

Recipe (Makes 18 empanadas)

Dough adapted from  Smitten Kitchen 

4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar


1 large butternut squash
1-2 bunches of collard greens (about 12 leaves)
1.5 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

Tomato Chutney

1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs fresh ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 cardamom pods
1 can tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 tbs honey

Egg wash- 1 egg, lightly beaten, with 1 tbs water

 Make dough- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a food processor until the mixture resembles wet sand or has pea-size butter lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour over the flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.) Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form the dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

Make filling- Pre-heat the oven to 400°. Peel the butternut squash and cut into roughly a one inch dice. Spread onto a baking pan, drizzle with about a tbs of olive oil and sprinkle over the spices. Toss well to coat. Roast for about 25-30 minutes or until very soft.

While the squash is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut out the thick rib in the center of the collard greens and discard. Season the boiling water with one tbs of salt and add the greens. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until they have softened. Have a bowl of ice water ready to cool the collard greens when they are done. Once cooled, stack the greens and roll into a cigar-like shape as you would when cutting basil. Cut the collards into thin strips and add to a medium sized bowl.

Once the butternut squash is done, mash well with a fork or press through a potato ricer. Combine the squash and collards and taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Place in the fridge to cool until ready to use.

 Prepare tomato chutney- Heat 1/2 tbs olive oil in a small saucepan to medium heat. Cut the onion into a small dice and saute for about 3 minutes or until it begins to soften. Dice the garlic and ginger and add. Saute for another 2 minutes. Add all the spices and stir around for about 30 seconds to toast. Pour in the tomatoes, water, and honey. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes until it has reduced and thickened. Make sure to stir occasionally to avoid burning on the bottom. Remove the cardamom pods when done.

Assemble the empanadas- Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into 18 equal pices. Roll each piece into about a 5 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick.  

Spoon about 2 tbs of filling onto the center and fold over the dough to enclose the filling. Press edges down with your fingers and then crimp with a fork or fold over decoratively how you desire. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Make 17 more empanadas this way, arranging on 2 baking sheets.

Lightly brush empanadas with egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with tomato chutney.

If freezing, make sure to freeze them unbaked on a parchment lined baking sheet so that they aren't touching. Freeze until solid and then place into a freezer bag. They will last in the freezer for up to 3 months and can be baked straight from the freezer. Add a few more minutes to the cooking time.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds


Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

1 large onion
3 carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs fresh ginger
2 sweet potatoes
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
water, vegetable, or chicken stock
2 cardamom pods

1/4 cup coconut milk

Heat about one tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized pot. Roughly chop the onions and add to the pot. While the onions are cooking, roughly chop the carrots and add. Mince the garlic and ginger, add to the vegetables, and sweat for about three minutes. Meanwhile, peel and chop the sweet potato into about a one inch dice. Add to the pot along with curry powder and cayenne. Add enough water or stock just to come about an inch above the vegetables. Add one teaspoon of salt and the cardamom pods. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft.

In batches, blend the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add back to the same pot it was cooked in. Pour in coconut milk and add salt to taste.

To serve, add a spoonful more of coconut milk, the spiced pumpkin seeds, and fresh cilantro.

Pumpkin seeds
1 tbs coconut oil
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Melt the coconut oil in a small sauce pan. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir to coat. Add all of the spices and toss until evenly coated. Spread onto a baking pan and bake for 10 minutes or until browned and crisp, but not burned.