Cinnamon-Date Sticky Buns with Vanilla Glaze

The photo of this special breakfast is on the cover of the April issue of Bon Appétit. I made it almost immediately after seeing the magazine! I really liked the idea of using dates in the filling to add a little bit of natural sweetness and fiber- and to reduce the amount of sugar. Yum.

This recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Molly Baz, Sohla El-Waylly, and Sarah Jampel. It was included in an article titled, “Butter, Sugar, Flour, Magic: A Basically Guide to Better Baking.” There are a lot of other delicious treats included in the article. 🙂 I made the dough and the date filling the day before assembling and baking.

It would be a lovely breakfast to serve on Easter morning.

Yield: 9 sticky buns

For the Dough:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk or whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 7 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4-oz (2 1/4 tsp) envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Filling and Assembly:

  • 1 cup (180 g) packed Medjool dates, halved, pitted
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (83 g) Confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 T buttermilk or plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

To Make the Dough:

  1. Combine the buttermilk and 6 tablespoons of oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. (It won’t get smooth.) Heat in the microwave in three 10-second intervals until just about body temperature, or when it registers 98°F with an instant-read thermometer. (Alternatively, the mixture can be heated in a small saucepan on medium-low for about 1 minute.)
  2. Whisk egg, brown sugar, and yeast in a liquid measuring cup to combine, then whisk in the buttermilk mixture.
  3. Pulse the flour, baking soda, and salt in a food processor to combine.
  4. With the motor running, stream in the buttermilk mixture. Process until about 80% of the dough comes together in a ball, about 2 minutes. (The mixture will look very wet at first, then the sides will begin to pull away.)
  5. Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto an unfloured surface. (It will be wet and sticky.)
  6. Knead, pushing it away from you, then pulling it back toward you, until a smooth ball forms, about 3 minutes. (You can lightly oil your hands if the dough is too sticky.) The dough will grow silkier, tighter, and easier to work with as you knead.
  7. Roll out the dough into a rough 8-inch square.
  8. Fold dough over onto itself to make and 8×4-inch rectangle, then flatten it slightly and fold over once more to make a 4-inch square.
  9. Roll dough back out into an 8-inch square.
  10. Repeat the folding process (Step 8); you will finish with a 4-inch square.
  11. Pour remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium bowl and add dough (still folded); turn to coat.
  12. Cover bowl tightly and chill dough until doubled in volume, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. (I refrigerated my dough overnight.)

To Make the Filling and Assemble:

  1. Place dates in a small bowl and pour in 1 1/2 cups hot water to cover. Let soak until softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain dates and transfer to a food processor; discard soaking liquid.
  3. Add cinnamon, salt, and 2 tablespoons of oil.
  4. Purée, scraping down sides as needed, until smooth, about 4 minutes. (You should have about 1/2 cup purée.)
  5. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  6. Transfer dough to a clean, unfloured surface and roll out to an 8-inch square.
  7. Fold in half into an 8×4-inch rectangle, then fold rectangle over itself to form a 4-inch square. If dough feels tough and uncooperative, let it sit for about 5 minutes to relax and try again.
  8. Roll out dough into a 12-inch square, about 1/4-inch thick.
  9. Dollop date purée all over. Using a small offset spatula, spread evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border without purée along edge farthest from you.
  10. Sprinkle brown sugar over purée.
  11. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll up dough into a tight log.
  12. Using a sharp serrated knife and long sawing motions, trim about 1/2-inch of dough from both ends. (These ends can be discarded, but I baked them in a separate small ramekin.)
  13. Slice log crosswise into 3 sections, wiping knife clean between cuts.
  14. Slice each section crosswise into 3 buns. (I used a ruler.) You should have 9 buns total that are each about 1-inch thick. Transfer buns to prepared pan as you go.
  15. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Place in a warm, dry spot. (I used plastic wrap so that I could monitor the rising process. I also placed the pan in a warming drawer.)
  16. Let buns rise until they’re doubled in volume and spring back when poked, leaving only a small indentation, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the humidity and warmth of your kitchen.
  17. Remove plastic wrap, if using, and cover pan with foil.
  18. Place a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  19. Bake buns, still covered, until puffed, pale, and mostly set, about 20 minutes. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces, covered with foil, at the same time.)
  20. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes if you prefer a soft and squishy bun and up to 25 minutes for a more toasted bun. Let cool slightly. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces at this point for about 5 minutes- uncovered.)
  21. Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla in a medium bowl to combine.
  22. Brush glaze over warm buns and serve in skillet.

Do Ahead: Purée can be made 3 days ahead. Place in an airtight container, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Lemony Spinach Soup with Farro

It is hard to relay deliciousness when looking at a bowl of “green!” This healthy soup was beyond delicious. Similar to the soup in my last post, this soup also gets its creaminess from puréed potatoes. I also loved that it was loaded with greens and herbs and also incorporated farro (one of my favorites) as a bonus.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used a combination of olive oil and butter, homemade turkey stock, and Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro. I also left the potato peels intact and increased the amount of garlic. Yum!

Yield: 6 servings

  • 4 T unsalted butter or olive oil (I used 3 T butter & 1 T olive oil)
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 rosemary or thyme branches
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound tiny potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (unpeeled)
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (I used homemade turkey stock)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt or fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro)
  • 1 pound baby spinach (about 20 cups)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems (or use dill)
  • 1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more for serving
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • flaky sea salt, for serving
  • Aleppo, Urfa, Turkish or other red-pepper flakes, for serving
  • grated Parmesan or pecorino, optional, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Melt the butter and/or heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in the leeks and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, thyme/rosemary and bay leaves; cook 1 minute more.
  4. Stir in the potatoes, stock, 2 cups water, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, partly covered, until vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add farro and cook according to the timing on the package until just tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
  6. Discard thyme/rosemary branches and bay leaves from the soup pot.
  7. Add spinach, cilantro and parsley, and simmer uncovered until very soft, 5 to 8 minutes.
  8. Using an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth. (Alternatively, you can purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.)
  9. If necessary, adjust the consistency. If the soup is too thick, add a little water. If it’s too thin, let it simmer uncovered for another few minutes to thicken.
  10. Stir in lemon juice and more salt to taste.
  11. Stir in farro.
  12. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, flaky salt, red-pepper flakes and a little grated cheese, as desired.

Greens with Tomatoes, Creamed Mozzarella & Wild Rice

While my kids were away at sleep away camp over the summer (for one week), my sweet husband encouraged me to make dishes that were loaded with my favorite greens, etc. (dishes that may not have thrilled my kids!) Don’t worry, we also went out to eat. 🙂

I had wanted to make this dish after reading about how the recipe creates a faux burrata- genius! This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Abra Berens. I substituted my beautiful CSA chard for the kale. This dish would also be delicious using true burrata, of course. 😉 I used pre-sliced fresh mozzarella but would use torn pieces from a ball of fresh mozzarella next time. It would have improved the burrata hack. Any cooked grain could be substituted for the wild rice as well.

We ate this dish as a main course, but it would also be a nice side dish or salad course.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 as a main course

  • 1 small yellow onion or 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into thin slices
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine or rosé
  • 1 cup wild rice, soaked overnight in 4 cups water (can substitute farro, quinoa, brown rice, etc.)
  • 1 bunch (4 cups) red or rainbow chard or kale, midribs stripped, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
  • 1 ball (8 oz, 1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella
  • 4 T sour cream (or yogurt or creme fraiche)
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 pint (2 cups) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  1. Soak the wild rice overnight in 4 cups of water. (The soaking liquid is used to cook the rice.)
  2. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Sweat the onion and garlic with the salt until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine and reduce by half.
  4. Add the wild rice and the soaking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 45 minutes.
  5. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle the chard/kale with a pinch of salt. Massage until the greens are dark green, limp, and tender in mouthfeel.
  6. Tear the mozzarella into rough chunks.
  7. Combine with the sour cream, lemon zest and juice, a good pinch of salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper.
  8. When the wild rice is cooked, drain any residual liquid and let cool.
  9. Toss the tomatoes, kale, and wild rice together with a couple glugs of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
  10. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  11. Dot with the creamed mozzarella and serve.
Note: The amount of time it takes to tenderize raw greens will vary depending on the age of the plant. The tougher the leaves, the longer it will take. Along the way, taste an individual leaf—once it is easily chewable, you’re done.

Cauliflower Parmesan

I have made this wonderfully cheesy dish a couple of times already- just to get the proportions right. I knew that I had to increase the amount of simple and flavorful sauce after making it the first time.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I lightened the dish by baking the cauliflower after coating it instead of frying it. We ate it over linguini fini with sautéed broccoli rabe on the side. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red Chile flakes, optional
  • (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  1. In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. (I used an enameled cast iron pot with a glass lid.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden.
  3. Add chile flakes if desired and cook 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
  5. Bring sauce to a simmer, add the Parmesan rind, if using, and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. If using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down.
  6. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.

For the Cauliflower & To Finish the Dish:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups panko or plain unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 large or 2 small/medium heads cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2-inch florets (I used 1 small and 1 medium)
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
  • linguine fini or other pasta, optional, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place flour, eggs, and panko into three wide, shallow bowls. (I used glass pie dishes.) Season each generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Dip a cauliflower piece first in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.
  4. Place on 2 parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets. Roast coated florets for 22-24 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce.
  8. Scatter half cauliflower mixture over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella pieces.
  9. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
  10. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes. While the dish is baking, prepare the pasta, if desired.
  11. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Serve over prepared pasta, as desired.

Lighter Pear Crumble

By using maple syrup and brown sugar as sweeteners as well as whole wheat pastry flour, oats and almonds in the topping, this recipe succeeds as a lighter version of this classic comfort food dessert. We indulged a little and ate it with vanilla ice cream, of course. 😉 Without the ice cream, this dish could actually be served for breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from The Washington Post, contributed by nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger. Lovely.

Yield: 8 servings

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup canola oil or other neutral-tasting oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 T almond meal or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (whole wheat flour may be substituted)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt

For the Filling:

  • 3 pounds ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used 6 Bartlett pears)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 10×9-inch (can also use an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch) baking dish with cooking oil spray, or brush lightly with oil.

To Make the Topping:

  1. If using slivered almonds, process them in a food processor until finely ground; alternatively use almond meal. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Add the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt to the ground almonds.
  3. Drizzle the mixture with 1/4 canola oil; stir until well incorporated. Set aside.

To Make the Filling & Finish the Dish:

  1. Combine the pears, maple syrup and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the fruit mixture with the cornstarch, cinnamon and ginger; stir until the pears are evenly coated.
  3. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  4. Crumble the topping over the pears.
  5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until bubbling and the topping is lightly browned.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Roasted Shrimp with Salsa Calabrese

Did I mention that I met Bobby Flay this summer? It’s true! It was fun but really not that exciting. 😉 He came to our mall for the 10th anniversary of his first “Bobby’s Burger Palace” restaurant. I stood outside in a huge line in 90+ degree heat with my kids and friends for the opportunity to meet him. I think that I waited so long to share this news because the photo of me with Mr. Flay is terrible. I was also too shy to ask him to write to “the brook cook” in my new Bobby Flay cookbook. Ugh. Overall, we all had good time, I bought a great cookbook, and we got free milkshakes. 🙂

Now seems like the time to share this dish because it’s from his “Fit” cookbook, healthy and tasty. Perfect for the season of resolutions and dietary changes.

The recipe is adapted from Bobby Flay Fit: 200 Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson. I used graffiti eggplant instead of Japanese, grape tomatoes instead of plum, and increased the garlic. I made the dish a little more caloric by serving it over brown Basmati rice. Cauliflower rice would also be a nice option- or without rice as in the original recipe.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 2 graffiti eggplants or 4 Japanese eggplants, about 1 pound, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 grape tomatoes or 2 seeded plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste, preferably Calabrian
  • 5 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 21-25 count)
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • brown Basmati rice or cauliflower rice, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. Spread the vegetables on a large, parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring a few times, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and purée until almost smooth. Add the vinegar and 1/4 cup of water, and continue processing until smooth.
  5. Add the basil and the parsley and pulse a few times to incorporate while still leaving flecks of herbs. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer to a bowl.
  6. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the fennel and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Spread the shrimp in an even layer on a large, parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning once, until pink and firm and just cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  8. To serve, spoon sauce over prepared rice, if desired, or in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with about 5 shrimp and garnish with whole basil leaves.

Note: The vegetable sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Beet & Dill Roasted Salmon with Potatoes

I was initially drawn to this recipe because of the “jewel-like” color of the salmon in the finished dish. The beet and dill marinade gives it the lovely color as well as a wonderful layer of flavor. My husband was completely sold when I told him that the salmon is roasted over a bed of sliced potatoes. 🙂

I served this dish on Easter weekend, on Easter Eve, along with zucchini baba ghanoush as an appetizer and carrot cake for dessert. I would serve this menu again next year and serve it on Easter Eve- it was nice to have our larger and more labor-intensive meal the night before all of the Easter festivities. We had a spring pasta dish for lunch on Easter after having challah and Easter eggs (and Easter candy!) for breakfast. Perfect.

This lovely recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I decreased the horseradish and left the skin on the potatoes. I also used a mandoline to slice the potatoes. I served it with steamed beet greens, roasted beets, and roasted asparagus on the side. Healthy and delicious.

 Yield: Serves 6
  • 1 small red beet, peeled and coarsely grated (1/2 cup)(wear gloves!)
  • 1 cup dill fronds, chopped, plus more for serving
  • 3 to 4 T freshly grated horseradish (from a 2-inch piece), or 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • grated zest of 1 lemon, plus lemon half for serving
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 side salmon, preferably wild, (1 3/4 to 2 pounds; about 1 inch thick at thickest part), skin removed
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices (preferably with a mandoline)
  1. Combine beet, dill, horseradish, zest, and 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Season both sides of salmon generously with salt and pepper; transfer to sheet. Spread beet mixture on top. Let stand 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss potatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Shingle potatoes in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, in a single layer. Bake until tender, about 35 minutes; remove from oven.
  5. Remove beet mixture from top of salmon with a spoon; spread over center of potatoes.
  6. Top beet mixture with fish (you may need to tuck part of tail end under fish to fit in pan), drizzle with oil (I omitted the additional oil), and bake until salmon is medium-rare, 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Squeeze with lemon, garnish with dill fronds, and serve.

Note: Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. For salmon that is 1/2 inch thick, start checking at 8 minutes. For 1 1/2 inches, start checking around 14 minutes.

One Year Ago: Swedish Meatloaf with Caramelized Cabbage (Kalpudding)

Two Years Ago: Chicken Paprikash

Three Years Ago: Pork & Ricotta Meatballs in Parmesan Broth

Four Years Ago: Pork Chops with Shiitake Mushrooms & Mustard Vinaigrette

Five Years Ago: Italian Braised Pork

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