Oats+almonds+maple syrup=

Almond GranolaI’m a huge fan of Cook’s Illustrated .. how fun would it be to work in America’s Test Kitchen??!!  Kind of a long story as to how I ultimately became a fan – next time we’re cooking together in my kitchen I’ll share it with you.  Anyhow, my husband and I were hosting his Foundation co-workers for an all-day strategy meeting and I wanted to pull out all the stops with breakfast.  Check out this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for homemade granola.  It was a huge hit, and is super easy to make.

simple ingredientsAlmond Granola with Dried Fruit

Store-bought granola suffers from many shortcomings. It’s often loose and gravelly and/or infuriatingly expensive (right??!!). We wanted to make our own granola at home, with big, satisfying clusters and crisp texture. The secret was to firmly pack the granola mixture into a rimmed baking sheet before bakbaseing. Once it was baked, we had a granola “bark” that we could break into crunchy clumps of any size.  Makes about 9 cups.

Chopping the almonds by hand is the first choice for superior texture and crunch. If you prefer not to hand chop, substitute an equal quantity of slivered or sliced almonds. (A food processor does a lousy job of chopping whole nuts evenly.) Use a single type of your favorite dried fruit or a combination. Do not use quick oats.

hand-chop almonds

1/3 cup maple syrup 
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups raw almonds, chopped coarse
2 cups raisins or other dried fruit, chopped (I used cranberries, banana chips, dried figs and raisins)

stir togetherAdjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in large bowl. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and almonds until thoroughly coated.

Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer (about 3/8 inch thick). Using stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact.

press firmly in panBake until lightly browned, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove granola from oven and cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break cooled granola into pieces of desired size. Stir in dried fruit. Granola can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Crab Towers & Smoked Miso Salmon

Crab TowersI’m always so ready for fall .. glad to say goodbye to long, hot summer days, and welcome the harvest season.  Last weekend I had a few extra avocados perfectly ripened and ready to go, so what to make? My idea of a perfect Sunday night dinner (while watching just one more football game!) .. crab towers and smoked salmon with a healthy stir fry.  Check this out ..

viniagretteCrab Towers with Avocado & Gazpacho Salsas
Serves 6
I found this recipe on Cooks Illustrated a few years back, and have made it numerous times .. super fresh and the flavors work well together. You can prepare the crabmeat salad and gazpacho salsa several hours ahead of serving, but the avocado salsa should be prepared just before assembly.

Crabmeat Salad
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon table saltavocado
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
12 ounces lump crabmeat (or backfin), preferably Atlantic blue crabmeat, carefully picked over for shell fragmentsgazpacho salsa

Gazpacho Salsa
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium plum tomato, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 small cucumber, peeled if desired, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 small rib celery, cut into 1/8-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 small red onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 small jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

avocadoAvocado Salsa
3 avocados (ripe), cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice from 1 lime

1 cup frisée
2 oranges, peeled using a paring knife and segmented

1. FOR THE CRABMEAT SALAD: Whisk the olive oil, champagne vinegar,
lemon zest, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Measure 3
tablespoons of the vinaigrette into a medium bowl and mix with the
mayonnaise. Add the crabmeat to the mayonnaise mixture and toss to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Set the remaining
vinaigrette aside.

2. FOR THE GAZPACHO SALSA: Toss the yellow bell pepper, cucumber,
tomato, celery, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, salt, pepper, olive oil, and
sherry vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. FOR THE AVOCADO SALSA: Toss the avocado, coriander, salt, pepper,
and lime juice in a medium bowl and set aside.

building the towers4. TO ASSEMBLE: Place a 3-inch-wide round biscuit cutter in the center of an individual plate. Use a slotted spoon to press 1/3 cup of the Avocado Salsa into the bottom of the cutter using the back of a soup spoon. Lift the cutter off the plate slightly to reveal some but not all of the avocado. Holding the cutter aloft, press 1/3 cup of the Crabmeat Salad evenly into the cutter on top of the avocado. Lift the cutter farther to reveal some but not all of the crab salad. Holding the cutter aloft, use a slotted spoon to press 1/3 cup of the Gazpacho Salsa evenly into the cutter on top of the crab. Gently lift the cutter up and away from the plate to reveal the crab tower. Repeat the procedure five more times with the remaining ingredients.

Miso SalmonThis recipe was on the cover of Food and Wine magazine a few months ago .. really easy to make.  If you have a smoker in your backyard, this recipe can be adapted – just soak a cedar plank in water, place the salmon filets on the plan, and smoke until done.

coalsSmoky Salmon with Miso-Dressed Vegetables

1/4 cup white miso (I used yellow since they sell it at Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons mirin
apple wood chips2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
3/4 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
1/4 teaspoon finely grated garlic
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
Four 6-ounce skinless center-cut salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
Kosher salt
Piment d’Espelette
1/4 cup small hardwood chips, such as hickory or applewood
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 baby turnips or large radishes, thinly sliced
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach

miso sauceIn a saucepan, cook the miso, chicken stock, mirin, vinegar, ginger and garlic over moderate heat, whisking until hot, 3 minutes. Whisk in the soy sauce and move off the heat.In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the salmon with salt and piment d’Espelette; add to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned, 2 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

miso sauceWorking in a well-ventilated kitchen, wipe out the skillet and add the hardwood chips. Cook the chips over high heat until they start to smoke, 5 minutes. Place a wire rack over the skillet and set the salmon on it. Tent the salmon with a large sheet of heavy-duty foil and smoke for 5 minutes, until the salmon is medium within. Transfer the salmon to a plate. Alternatively, place the salmon on a cedar plank in your smoker and smoke until done (white bubbles will appear).smoked salmon

Meanwhile, in another large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the shiitake and onion andshiitake mushrooms cook over moderately high heat, tossing, until browned in spots and just starting to soften, 4 minutes. Add the fennel and carrots and cook, tossing, until crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Add the turnips and spinach and cook, tossing, until the spinach is just wilted, 1 minute. veggiesSeason with salt and sprinkle lightly with piment d’Espelette; add 1 tablespoon of the miso dressing and toss well. Transfer to plates. Flake the salmon, scatter it over the salad and serve, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

stir fryNotes Piment d’Espelette, a mildly spicy red pepper, is available at specialty food shops and lepicerie.com.

Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

It’s funny how people think pork is dry.  It just needs a little extra time and love.  I’ve made several pork dishes from Alton Brown’s collection, Epicurious and Cook’s Illustrated and have learned how important it is to brine pork.  Don’t skip this step!  After brining the roast for 24 hours, I prepared a fruit-based filling with leftover dried fruit from the pantry.  Next time I think I’ll try adding cashews.

Serves 6-8

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (4- to 4 1/2-lb) boneless pork loin roast, trimmed

Combine all ingredients except roast in a large pot; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the salt is dissolved.  Cool completely, then immerse roast in brine and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.


  • 1/3 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried bing cherries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup carmelized onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch ground cumin
  • pinch ground coriander
  • pinch ground cinnamon


Remove the roast from the brine, and rinse thoroughly; pat dry; butterfly (check out this YouTube if you need a refresher on how to butterfly a roast).  Sprinkle flattened roast with salt and pepper.  Combine remaining filling ingredients, then spread over the roast.

Roll tightly in the shape of a log, then use kitchen string to tie together in 2″ intervals.  Place in a roasting pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 1/4 hours, until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.  Remove from oven, and tent with foil for 5 minutes.  Slice, and serve!