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Roasted Carrot Finger Sandwiches

Roasted Carrot Finger Sandwiches - anneliesz

I’m psyching myself into making this year the best! year! ever! And, yet. In the first week of the New Year, a dear friend of mine called late enough one evening that her name flashing on my phone was foreboding. We’ve been swapping texts, doctor diagnoses, and the emojis that speak into the places we don’t want to go for several days. It’s day six of the New Year. (Update: good news! She’s in the clear.)

A neighbor wrestles with the ever-real possibility that her landlord will attempt to evict her. I’ve been feeding her, shuttling over an extra smoothie, extra tagine, extra food as if somehow giving food will figure out the future that can seem awfully untenable at times.

Roasted Carrot Finger Sandwiches - anneliesz

Today, I spoke with a woman representing Amnesty International and we had a candid conversation about the travesty that’s been going on in Syria for far too long and that doesn’t always make front page news. Some problems seem so big and can make us feel so small.

Here’s the thing, I tend to be an optimistic realist. And, I’m of the mind usually that we have to choose the positive in a situation for our own well-being. But sometimes, it’s equally as important to get dirty, go down in the trenches of life with someone else who is languishing. Equally as important, laughing with those who laugh and celebrating those who are succeeding.

One of my favorite things about tea (and there are many) is the notion that the act of brewing tea forcibly slows us down in a world that’s all go-go-go. If I make a resolution in 2017, it’s one that started late last fall when a rumbling for change reverberated through me, and a desire to let this idea take root: to make time for the people in my life is to water the stuff that makes life good. I awaken thinking of my friend, the hospital- my neighbor, the shelter in question- my smallness, the big problem- and they become smoke, an offering, a prayer.

Roasted Carrot Finger Sandwiches - anneliesz

Roasted Carrot Finger Sandwiches

MAKES 10

5 medium carrots, peeled
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 leek, whites only, rinsed and halved
1/2 block cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
7 Castelvetrano green olives, pitted
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon caper juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
1 1-inch long lemon zest peel
10 slices honey wheat sandwich bread, crusts cut off
2 radicchio leaves, cut into 10 small pieces

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper. Slice the carrots into 3 sections. Cut 1/4-inch planks from each section. Toss the carrots in the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Place the carrots on the lined roasting pan. Pat the leek halves dry. Rub the leek halves in the remaining oil coating the carrot bowl. Place the leek segments onto the roasting pan– if you need a second pan, line one up and go for it– you want to make sure the carrots and leeks have room to roast. Roast for 25 minutes or until the carrots are fork tender and the leeks are golden brown. Cool the carrots. Toss the leeks, cream cheese, creme fraiche, olives, capers, caper juice, black pepper, remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, cilantro, and lemon zest into a food processor. Pulse until mostly smooth with a hint of chunkiness. Slice each bread slice into long fingers. Coat one finger with one tablespoon of the olive leek spread. Lay a slender slice of radicchio on the leek olive spread. Tile carrots on top. Complete the sandwich with another finger of bread and serve.

 

PS- I love make-ahead recipes. If you do too, roast the carrots and make the spread the day before. Assemble them right before serving.

PPS- Wondering what to do with the bread crusts? Feed them to ducks. Toast them and make Toast Croutons. Or, use the toasted crusts and blitz them into tiny crumbs to use in meatballs, meatloaf, or atop mac and cheese (they’d be good especially tossed with some butter and chopped herbs).

Roasted Carrot Finger Sandwiches - anneliesz

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Recipes

Borscht Toast (Beet Caramelized Onion Toasties)

Borscht Toast

Gone are the days when I diligently jotted a note here letting you know about writerly goings-on elsewhere. But! My fondness for cabbage took an interesting foray into a letter I penned to that cruciferous vegetable, printed in Volume V of the New Guard. And so, I recently began musing about how wonderful Borscht never makes it into the food headlines. It should. Something about the sweet earthiness of beets with enough cabbage to keep it grounded and a touch of dill to lift it up into a heady high-tail into the clouds makes it a soup for the ages.

I haven’t had enough of open-faced finger sandwiches just yet and am enamored of the soup, Borscht. It doesn’t get quite the attention of other soups, but makes a marvelous spread on bread in Borscht Toast. These bright pink bites are the stuff of Valentine’s miracles. Let it be known the bread can be ejected from the scenario and the beet caramelized onion topping can easily sub as a dip with crudités. We find it particularly good with carrots or shoveling it into endive leaves with a few snips of dill or chives on top would be good too. I have a hunch that even ham would play well with this bright pink dip that’s savory and a cheery addition to a winter spread.

Borscht Toast (Beet Caramelized Onion Toasties)

MAKES ABOUT 16

1 medium white onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup finely shredded cabbage

¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small Yukon Gold potato, quartered and cooked until fork tender

2 small beets, peeled and cooked until fork tender (about 3 1/2 – 4 ounces total)

¼ teaspoon dried dill or ¾ teaspoon fresh dill

16  white sandwich bread slices

Fresh thyme or dill sprigs

Create the bread rounds by placing a biscuit cutter dead center in the slices of bread. Reserve the leftover bread for another use.* Toast the bread. Drizzle and swirl the oil into a sauté pan set over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onions and salt. Saute them for about 10 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally. Stir the cabbage, thyme, and pepper into the pan. Saute for 2 minutes or until the cabbage softens. Cool the onion mixture for 10 minutes. Grate the potato pieces using the fine holes on a box grater—the potato skins will make it easier to grate the potato and you can toss the peels afterwards. You should have about ½ cup finely grated potato. Place the onion mixture, grated potato, beets, dill into a food processor. Pulse until almost smooth, but still a bit chunky. Scoop about 1 tablespoon onto the toasts.

PS- These open-faced toasts look pretty with a sprig of fresh dill or thyme for decor if desired.

PPS- If you go with thyme, it’s a pretty decoration. Thyme sprigs are woody after all and not quite so edible.

*PPPS- I like using the leftover bread slices missing their middles for egg in the hole at breakfast.

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Recipes

Acorn Squash Sliders with Blue Cheese & Fig Mustard

Acorn Squash Sliders with Blue Cheese & Fig Mustard
I have a quibble with pumpkin. Okay, maybe it’s aimed a little bit more at the legion of people who have taken the humble gourd and exalted it as god just as Labor Day splits into white jean permissible and white jean not permissible. But that will be a tiny rant for another day. Instead, go pick up an acorn squash. Resist the temptation to eat it stuffed or slathered in butter that will melt into its flesh, especially if that inclination includes brown sugar. The temptation is real for a route that is certainly delicious, but focus with me on Acorn Squash Sliders.

Teatime created or cross-pollinated a market for sandwiches cut into skinny fingers, to be eaten with one’s fingers. But at some point you might find you want to broaden the possibilities of what might pop up on the three tiered plate for teatime. Roasted acorn squash gets a bit of savory spicing to play off of sweet Hawaiian rolls, a smear of  fig mustard, peppery arugula and a mellow blue cheese. This mini sandwich brings several flavors of fall into one action-packed bite. All that’s left to do is put a kettle on. Portion out the black tea.

Acorn Squash Sliders with Blue Cheese & Fig Mustard

Acorn Squash Sliders with Blue Cheese & Fig Mustard

Makes 12 sliders // serves 6

1/2 acorn squash, seeded, halved and sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
2 tablespoons olive oil1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 cup fig jam
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 cups baby arugula, washed
6 ounce blue cheese wedge
12 Hawaiian sweet rolls

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the squash half moons with oil, salt, cinnamon, and Aleppo pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until soft but not falling apart. In a small saucepan, warm fig jam and mustard until warm, about a minute or two. Slice the rolls open. Spread fig mustard on half the roll. Layer with arugula. Tile several slices of acorn squash on the arugula. Top with a slice of blue cheese–if it crumbles, it’s okay. Blue cheese is crumbly and that’s what it does naturally. Serve the sliders immediately.

 

 

PS: Construct and serve the sandwiches warm or after the squash has cooled completely. Your pick. I like the warm condiment smearing the bread. You might find you like the condiment enough to smear some on the top bun. However you roll, don’t skimp on the blue cheese.

PPS: Working ahead? Prepare the fig mustard and roast the squash half moons in advance if you like. Assemble the squash sliders right before serving.

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Recipes

Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

Green Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

It almost happened. In my haste to go, go, go, I almost missed throwing a round of confetti and blowing out a candle. Six years ago I restarted something begun in poetry school, though back then, my blog’s purpose lay somewhere between chronicling adventures in studying for my MFA and reminders of what restaurants I needed to revisit on future culinary work trips. Before I restarted the blog as the food poet, I called it La Vie en Route, chronicling a life lived en route. Try as I might now to imagine it all again, I traveled far more often and widely then than I do now. My goals have tapered a bit toward wanting to grasp a slower life. Except here’s the little secret, the one I only tell my close friends: I want to do it all. My Dad passed down to me his love of projects and keen organizational skills, his ear for music and linguistics and a workaholic tendency that I know too well. My Mom passed down to me a reminding of not missing the people for the projects, something that is a gauge for recalibration when I can feel myself scaling the wall and not looking back. My husband matches my intensity but also is able to relax. He lets loose. Plays the guitar on a school night. He’s a brilliant man whose actions sometimes spark my actions in call-and-response. Last night, after a flurry of texts from one worried neighbor, I stopped working, walked downstairs, and we talked about her questions. Another neighbor entered the conversation and what ensued was this magical moment of connection and kindred movement toward a common goal of living well, together. Their choice words, spoken lovingly upon my ears like an arrow finding its mark, and equated to this: self-care is not selfish.

So, here we are, making apple tartines for the fall. Stopping to write on this blog on a Wednesday evening when I could be working or sleeping. When you visit a blog over a long time, it changes as the blogger changes. Sometimes, they blog less frequently. Sometimes, they stop blogging on that site and start a new one. Sometimes they stop blogging. I’ve noticed a small trend in a few blogs where once a book is published, the blog goes radio-silent. To blogging friends, at conferences where I’ve spoken and audited blogs, in conversations on Snapchat, and private messages on Facebook, I’ve asked a single question: is your blog your happy place and if not, how can you make it a place YOU want to visit? Six years ago, I started the food poet in my desire to bring my shared loves of poetry and food to the same table because I know something universal to my life, and maybe it’s universal to yours too: poetry easily gets drowned out by other louder voices. Food is ever-consuming. Its voracious appetite is a road running east to west. I may speak here less often, but I’m here. I’m committed. If you get my newsletter, I send those out with more frequency. I’m over on Instagram, playing around with Instagram Stories and on Snapchat occasionally too. But, here we are, now. Shall I pour you a cup of tea? Black tea is what we’re drinking now that the sun’s been socked away until spring. And, I have just the sandwiches for us to munch on.

Green Apple Tartines with Ginger Cinnamon Cream Cheese

Apple Tartines with Cinnamon Ginger Cream Cheese

This recipe was developed for a cooking demo I taught several times this fall in Seattle. Participants in the class ate them up delightfully and I have since tweaked two things: the bread used here is full of texture that I think makes the finger sandwich more interesting than plain white bread, and the cut on the apples ended up being prettier and easier to eat as rounds. Now my obsession for good wild yeasted bread goes deep, see exhibits A and B, but for these tiny apple tartines, I opted for bagged grocery store bread because of its malleability. If you have Steeped, you can find various tartines and toasts using an array of wild yeasted breads. While these apple tartines are open-faced, you could always double the bread and smear the cream cheese on top and bottom if you want a closed sandwich. If you have a tomato spoon (that little red handled spoon with teeth in the photo above) or a grapefruit spoon, it can help you dislodge any apple seeds. Do you own a mandolin? That will make your apple slices even easier, prettier and thinner.

Makes 12 / Serves 6

1/2 block (4-ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 small Granny Smith green apples, seeded and 1/4-inch sliced width-wise (12 rounds)
12 pieces of oat and nut bagged bread

Combine the cream cheese with the ginger, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. Mix well. Stamp a biscuit cutter into the middle of each slice of bread, cutting out a bread circle. Spread the cream cheese on the bread. Top with an apple slice and serve.

 

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PS: Wondering what to do with the crusts? I hate food waste and am guessing you do too, so here are a few ideas: feed the ducks! dry out the bread crusts in the oven and then pulverize into breadcrumbs for salad, macaroni and cheese, or meatballs and meatloaf!

PPS: Want to get a headstart? You can mix the cream cheese the day before to chill in the refrigerator. Slice the bread in advance and store in a zip-sealed bag. You can even slice the apples in advance, just make sure to give them a good douse of lemon juice so they don’t brown. I would suggest against putting them together in advance, but you can pull together all the components to make your a la minute tartine assembly easy.