I love cookbooks, whether they’re old or new and I’m always looking for those that offer recipes for what’s available from local farms and also using ingredients that I want to learn more about. And my friend Carrie Bachman sent me a cookbook that covers both. It’s by Tara “Teaspoon” Bench, a former Martha Stewart food editor and food stylist, and is titled “Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together.”
It offers new recipes for many of the fruits already available and soon to be: blueberries, grapes and apples as well as quinoa. I have several packages of Ancient Harvest’s Quinoa with Sea Salt, Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic, and Inca Red Quinoa so I was happy to find Tara Teaspoon’s Grape and Feta Quinoa recipe.
Bench offers complete meals in her new cookbook but also says that the menus are created so that home chefs can pick and choose singular recipes, just a few or all of them to create the meal they want. There are more than 120 recipes which are divided into four main sections: “Main Events,” “Serious Sides,” Breakfast and Brunch,” and “Baking and Sweets.”
“Bringing my cooking expertise to print and online articles taught me how to clearly share my recipes and knowledge with every kind of cook,” said Bench who also has a blog, tarateaspoon.com. “I know how to create recipes with easy steps so everyone at home can be successful in the kitchen.”
Waldorf Salad With Radicchio and Buttermilk Dressing
SERVES 6 TO 8
Makes ¾ Cups Dressing
Hands-On Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
“Really, the resemblance to classic Waldorf salad is just the combo of apples, celery, and grapes—but I just love that one of my favorite salads heralded from New York City, where I live. I’m paying a little homage to its history,” writes Bench. “With shaved apple, flavorful radicchio, and a light, savory buttermilk dressing, this updated version of Waldorf salad is elegant and welcoming. I made a tangy buttermilk herb dressing and opted for delicious, candied pecans instead of walnuts.”
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- ¾ cup (3 ounces) pecans
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch black pepper
- 1 small head or half a large head
- radicchio (10 ounces)
- 1 apple, cored and cut in half
- 3 ribs celery, sliced on the bias
- 1 ½ cups California red grapes, sliced in half
For the pecans: Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a small skillet over medium heat, bring maple syrup and cayenne to a boil. Boil 1 minute, and then add pecans. Stir to coat and cook another 30 seconds. Turn onto lined baking sheet and separate nuts. Set aside and let cool completely. When cool, coarsely chop.
For the dressing: Whisk together all ingredients and set aside in the refrigerator.
For the salad: Break or chop radicchio into pieces. Use a mandoline or slicer to thinly slice apple. Arrange radicchio, apple, celery, and grapes in a bowl, then top with chopped pecans. You can toss with the dressing and extra parsley at this point, or you can serve the salad with the dressing and parsley on the side so guests can dress their own salad.
Radicchio is a very strong, sometimes bitter leafy vegetable. I think it’s fantastic with tangy buttermilk and yogurt. But if you want a milder salad, opt for butter lettuce leaves.
Grape and Feta Quinoa
Serves: 6 To 8
Makes: 4 cups
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
“This is my favorite grain salad with all the crunchy nuts, salty feta, herbs, and juicy grapes,” Bench wrote about this recipe.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- Pinch salt
- 1 cup (6 ounces) grapes, halved
- 2/3 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta
- 1/3 cup (1 ounce) walnuts, toasted and broken up
- 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Grated zest from 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
To cook quinoa, rinse in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Transfer to a medium saucepan with water and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
While quinoa cooks, make dressing by whisking together all dressing ingredients. Set aside.
When quinoa is cool, add grapes, feta, walnuts, and parsley. Toss with dressing and serve. Quinoa can be refrigerated for up to a day.
Blueberry Bannock Scone
Makes: 8 servings, 1 (9-inch) scone
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
“Traditional Scottish Bannock cakes are baked on a griddle, but I make a simple one in the oven to serve the whole family. I’ve added wheat germ instead of whole wheat flour to give the quick bread a nutty but light texture, and finely chopped pecans add amazing flavor,” she wrote in the intro to this recipe. “I’ve stuffed my Bannock with blueberries, which takes an extra step to get them nestled in a layer, but it’s well worth it when you slice into a molten-berry middle! My biggest tip is to use a gentle hand and not overwork the dough.”
- 1 ¼ cups (160 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
- ½ cup finely chopped pecans
- ½ cup wheat germ
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut up and chilled
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs, divided
- 1 ¼ cups fresh blueberries
- 1 teaspoon water
- ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
For the scone: Heat oven to 400.F. Use the top of a bowl to draw an 8- or 9-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper as a guide. Set aside on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, combine flour, pecans, wheat germ, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and 4 tablespoons sugar. Use a pastry blender to cut butter into flour mixture until mixture forms small crumbs with tiny bits of butter.
In another bowl, combine buttermilk and 1 egg. Add to flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Dough will seem wet and sticky but work it as little as possible.
Divide dough in half and use two spoons to dol lop half the dough around the circle marked on the prepared baking sheet. With floured hands, shape the dollops into one circle. Spread blueberries evenly over the scone, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
Using spoons again, dollop remaining dough over blueberries, then with floured hands press together to make a top layer, covering the berries.
Beat remaining egg with water and brush some on top of the scone. Score into 8 wedges on top. Bake until scone is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
For the icing: Stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk to make a thick icing. When scone is almost cool, drizzle with icing.
Spoon batter over blueberries, then gently press together to form the top of the scone, sealing the edges around the blueberries.
Apple Pudding Cake with Butter Sauce
Serves: 12 to 14
Hands-on time: 40 minutes
Total time: 2 hours, 55 minutes
“This rich cake, reminiscent of the dense steamed puddings my grandma used to make, is our family Christmas dessert—although we’ve been known to make it year-round, especially during peak apple season. It’s subtly spiced and full of the tart and sweet taste of apples, plus crunchy pecans. To make the cake even more special for the holidays, top with Apple Crisps.
“You may think adding the sauce is gilding the lily, as the cake on its own is delicious. But in my opinion, the sauce is essential and makes each bite of cake extra divine.”
Apple Pudding Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 4 cups grated apple, any variety, from 3 to 4 cored apples
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
- 2 cups granulated sugar, plus more for pan
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups (12-ounce can) evaporated milk
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
For the cake: Heat oven to 350.F. Brush a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan generously with extra butter. Sprinkle pan with extra sugar, then tap out excess. Set pan aside.
Stir together flour, pecans, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a food processor or with a box grater, shred apples with the skin on. You should have 4 cups grated apple.
In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar with the paddle attachment. Add eggs and beat until mixture is fluffy. Stir in apples (and any juice they produce) and flour mixture until completely combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and cake pulls slightly away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Tent cake with foil for the last half hour of baking to prevent overbrowning.
Let cool on a wire rack, about 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to remove from pan. Let cool completely.
For the butter sauce: In a saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer all butter sauce ingredients, stirring, for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve the sauce warm over slices of cake or serve sauce on the side and let guests add a generous amount of warm sauce to each slice of cake.
Garnish with apple crisps, if desired.
NOTE The cake and sauce can be made a day in advance. Allow both to cool completely before storing. Cover cake with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Refrigerate butter sauce and reheat in microwave or saucepan to serve.
I make this cake in a fun tube pan for the wow factor at the holidays, but it bakes perfectly in a 9-by-13- inch cake pan. Bake about 35 minutes.
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Heat oven to 250.F. Thinly slice apples using a mandoline. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat liner.
Use a sieve to lightly dust both sides of each slice with confectioners’ sugar.
Bake one to two hours, turning apples over once during baking. To test doneness, remove one slice and let it cool. It will be crispy when cooled, and the apples will be done.
Remove from oven and quickly transfer apples to a wire rack and let cool.
The recipes above are courtesy of ‘”Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together by Tara ‘Teaspoon’ Bench.” Photo by Ty Mecham.