Canned pumpkin lends moisture, fiber to cake

The Whole Dish podcast: Canned pumpkin a convenient addition to baked goods

Winter-squash season is in full swing. But I’m holding off on cracking open the butternut and red kuri varieties I have on hand until I use up frozen chunks of last year’s squash. Soup it is!

That’s not to mention the can of pumpkin still biding its time on the pantry shelf. It always seems like such a good idea this time of year to pick up a can of Libby’s Pure Pumpkin when it’s priced at $1 or less for 29 ounces. I won’t be making that purchase again, though, until the can I’ve already got has found its way into recipes sweet or savory.

I intended to try the pumpkin as a sauce for breakfast pizza. As a lasagna filling with béchamel, rather than tomato, sauce. If all fails, I can stuff it into wonton wrappers for semi-homemade ravioli sauced in sage-infused brown butter.

Or I can make something my family would enjoy even more, another sweet treat, despite the specter of Halloween candy still lingering. Canned pumpkin gives this coffee cake a few more vitamins and fiber than the average recipe, not to mention moisture, which I always find lacking in traditional coffee cakes.

Make sure to use a pan that is 9 inches across the top and 1 1/2 inches deep. Serve the cake with a scoop of vanilla or pumpkin ice cream for even more indulgence.

Tribune News Service photo

Pumpkin-Pecan Streusel Coffee Cake

Cinnamon pecan streusel:

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1/2 to 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice

Pinch salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup chopped pecans


1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1 large egg

1 cup solid-pack canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla


1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso granules, optional

About 1 tablespoon milk or half-and-half

For the streusel, mix the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie-spice and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter. Use clean hands and your fingertips to blend butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the pecans. Use your hands to squeeze and gently clump streusel into small, shaggy clumps. (Mixture can be made a day in advance; leave covered at room temperature.)

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease or spray a deep, straight-sided 9-inch round (at least 1 1/2 inches deep) or square cake pan with cooking spray.

For the cake, mix the flour, pumpkin-pie spice, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Put the butter into a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer (or wooden spoon) until light and creamy in texture, for 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the sugar until incorporated; add the egg and beat it smooth. Add the pumpkin and vanilla; mix well. Dump in flour mixture; use gentle strokes with a rubber spatula just to incorporate flour into batter. (Be careful not to overmix or cake texture will be tough.)

Scrape batter into greased pan; smooth top. Evenly crumble all of streusel mixture over top of cake. Bake in center of preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center is withdrawn clean, for about 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack until warm.

Meanwhile, for the glaze, mix the confectioners’ sugar and coffee granules in a small bowl. Dribble in the milk until mixture forms a smooth, thick, drizzle-able glaze. Use tines of a fork to swirl glaze over cake. Let cool until glaze is set. Use a serrated knife to cut wedges of cake to serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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Dinnertime run-up is short for Jamaican Rundown

The Whole Dish podcast: Caribbean-inspired stew repurposes coconut milk

Quick-cooking curries have constituted meal solutions over the past couple of weeks at my house.

Featured in a recent podcast, a vegetarian chana masala paired chickpeas with some of the last garden vegetables. And shrimp curry highlighted flavors of coconut milk and tamarind. The former also served to revive a chicken curry that I pulled from the freezer for a virtually no-cook dinner before trick-or-treating.

The only downside was what to do with the leftover coconut milk after I’d used just a few ounces to thin the chicken curry as it reheated. This wouldn’t be a conundrum for some cooks, given that coconut products have enjoyed more widespread use in the United States over the past few years.

But I was stuck on just a couple of genres of cuisine: Indian or Thai. Sure, I could consign the coconut milk to a soup with butternut squash or sweet potato. Neither of those tempted my palate, though, so early in the season for both of those vegetables.

Then this Caribbean-inspired stew piqued my interest, with its balance of acid, spice and sweetness from the coconut milk. Chicago Tribune writer Leah Eskin advocates it as an ideal weeknight meal ready in short order, despite the origins of its name, referencing the traditionally long process of cracking open a coconut, hacking the flesh to chunks, grinding the chunks to slurry, straining the slurry to milk and boiling the milk to custard. In the third paragraph of instructions she pokes fun at how ridiculously easy this recipe is with canned coconut milk in the pantry.

And the quantities indicated are perfect for my leftover coconut milk, reserved from a 19-ounce can of coconut cream, which I prefer in most of my recipes. Feel free, of course, to use the standard 13.5-ounce can of coconut milk, as directed. And don’t hesitate to use any mild-flavored white fish. It’s the confluence of aromatics and spices that really shine here.

Tribune News Service photo

Jamaican Rundown

2 pounds cod loin (or fillet) cut into 2-inch squares

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Juice of 2 limes

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 small Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, whole

1 teaspoon (dried or fresh) thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

1 can (13.5-ounce) coconut milk

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

Settle the fish in a glass pan or bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Drizzle with the lime juice. Cover and let rest at room temperature.

In a wide cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Tumble in the onion, garlic, whole pepper, thyme, crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring, until onion softens to a golden brown, for about 6 minutes.

Crack open a coconut with a hammer, strain out water, cut flesh into chunks, blend to a pulp, strain and cook to a custard, 2 hours. Just kidding. Open the can of coconut milk, and pour over onions. Add the tomato paste, vinegar and sugar. Cook until thickened, for about 10 minutes.

Settle in fish chunks. Pour in any remaining marinade. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, turning fish once, until fish flakes easily, for 4 to 5 minutes. Taste. Add salt, a splash of vinegar or a pinch of sugar if need be. Pull out and discard whole pepper.

Scoop stew into shallow bowls. In Jamaica, this dish is served with dumplings and boiled bananas. I like crusty bread. Enjoy.

Makes 4 servings.

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Stock tamarind, curry paste for fast shrimp curry

Pantry staples transformed seasonal vegetables and canned chickpeas into a warming Indian curry, featured in my most recent podcast.

The meat-free dish was perfect for hosting a vegetarian friend for lunch. It also gave me the flexibility to use up some garden stragglers and other leftovers.

But what about those days when a bit more protein is in order? Like chana masala, this curry builds on the concept of using pantry staples and adapting to incorporate more vegetables. But it pumps up the flavor profile of shrimp with coconut milk and tamarind paste.

The latter is becoming more readily available. Find several types at Medford’s Asia Grocery Market. The slightly less concentrated tamarind liquid stocked there also is carried on the Asian-foods aisles of many supermarkets, including Medford’s Food 4 Less.

Tamarind adds a sweet-tart note that’s essential to many Thai and other Southeast Asian recipes. It’s also widely used in southern Indian cooking.

And as I suggested in my podcast, curry paste could be substituted for the roster of ground spices listed here. To heighten the flavor and texture of the finished dish, use a portion of the fresh garlic and ginger.

Coming together in mere minutes, this recipe requires more effort to clean shrimp than for any other task. If you buy shrimp that are already peeled and deveined, the dish almost makes itself. If, like me, you prefer to buy raw, shell-on shrimp, make sure to save the shells (stash them in the freezer) for distilling into homemade seafood stock.

Tribune News Service photo

Shrimp Curry

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a pulp

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated to a pulp

2 tablespoons coriander seeds (or 1 1/2 tablespoons ground)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk, well-stirred

3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon tamarind paste (or 2 tablespoons honey, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice)

1 pound peeled and deveined, medium-sized, uncooked shrimp

In a bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups water with the cayenne pepper, paprika, turmeric, garlic and ginger. Mix well. Grind the coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a spice grinder and add to mixture, or add ground coriander and cumin.

Place spice mixture into a pan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, salt, tamarind paste (or honey and lemon juice) and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and simmer, stirring occasionally, until they turn opaque and are just cooked through.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from “Flavors of India,” by Madhur Jaffrey.

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Roasted eggplant replaces cucumber in this raita

The Whole Dish podcast: Cooling condiment complements chickpea curry

Since garden eggplants started to outpace me in August, this blog and a recent podcast, have chronicled my ongoing efforts to roast and freeze them.

The end result is most often baba ghanoush, hummus’ milder, silkier kin. Then there’s pepper spread, particularly handy when I have lots of peppers to roast, too. Just when I thought I’d all but reached my exploration of cooked and frozen eggplant with a couple of casserole recipes, I ran across an iteration of Indian raita that was just right for a meal of vegetarian curry, rice and naan bread.

I had intended to add a few puny eggplants directly to the curry. But it already was a fall-into-winter melange of zucchini, tomato, butternut squash and onion, with chickpeas for protein and heft.

Idly browsing some Indian recipes to inform myself on spices, I saw the following recipe, courtesy of Tribune News Service. It neatly solved the problem of how to make raita in the absence of garden cucumbers. And I already had all the other ingredients on hand, even fresh mint, which has started to proliferate again in the cooler weather.

To top it all off, of all the dishes at the table, this one was gobbled up. My husband, who typically does not favor Indian food nor eggplant in many cases, heartily praised it and helped himself to seconds, thirds and fourths!

Try it with the last of the season’s eggplants or your freezer stash of roasted flesh.

Tribune News Service photos

Roasted Eggplant Raita

1 large (1-pound) eggplant, skin on

1 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (not nonfat or low-fat)

1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, white and tender green parts only

1/2 teaspoon peeled and finely chopped, fresh ginger

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño chili (optional)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro or 1 teaspoon dried mint

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pierce the eggplant all over with a knife or fork. Place eggplant on prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until eggplant is shriveled and appears to be very mushy. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Peel eggplant with your fingers and discard peel and stem. Place eggplant in a large bowl and mash flesh with a large fork or potato masher, or finely chop with a knife.

Place the cumin seeds, if using, in a small frying pan on high heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir cumin for 1 to 2 minutes, or until dark brown. Immediately add seeds to eggplant. If using ground cumin, add to eggplant without toasting first.

Add the yogurt, scallions, ginger, coriander, salt, jalapeño, if using, and cilantro or mint. Stir with a spoon, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 to 3 days (in an airtight container) before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Vij’s at Home,” by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij.

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Saffron intensifies golden-hued butternut squash

A recent photo on my Instagram page celebrated the return of butternut-squash season with a mushroom-laden risotto.

If the golden-hued vegetable wasn’t enough eye candy, its pairing with saffron is as striking as photos viewed through the social-media platform’s “filters.” And coincidentally, it’s also saffron season, in my garden at least. While I always think of crocuses as some of spring’s first harbingers, the stamens of this blossom are almost ready to harvest in gardens at this latitude.

High-quality, dried saffron threads are widely available these days and not nearly so costly as in decades past. Happily, an ounce of this spice long considered more valuable than gold goes a long way. Steep it in a few tablespoons of hot water to get extra mileage from saffron in a variety of recipes, such as this one from Tribune News Service. Add both the threads and infused water to your dish.

Tribune News Service photo

Saffron Risotto With Butternut Squash and Fried Sage

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 cups chicken stock

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

2 shallots, peeled and finely minced

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup hard cider

1 teaspoon saffron threads

20 fresh sage leaves

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove seeds, and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. Place squash on a sheet pan and toss it with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Place in a bowl and set aside.

While squash is roasting, heat the chicken stock in a small, covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes until translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat grains with butter. Add the cider and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup stock to rice along with the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Stir and simmer until stock is absorbed, for 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring every few minutes. Continue until rice is cooked through but still al dente, for about 30 minutes total.

While risotto is cooking, fry the sage. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add sage, toss to coat, and fry until leaves are darker green and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-covered plate and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.

When risotto is done cooking (it will be creamy and slightly firm to the bite), add roasted squash and the Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve at once in warm bowls topped with fried sage leaves.

Makes 6 servings.

— Recipe adapted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from

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Sliced eggplant lays foundation for moussaka

The Whole Dish podcast: Eggplant shines in simplified moussaka

Early fall may end with roasting peppers, but it begins by roasting eggplant.

Actually, I’ve been roasting and freezing eggplant flesh for months now, since my garden started producing more than I could incorporate in the week’s meals. In years past, I’ve earmarked this roasted pulp for making baba ghanoush.

But since blogging about a Provencal-style casserole that quickly became a family favorite, I decided to preserve one of its primary ingredients for future use. In anticipation of making the casserole this winter, I simply peeled and diced an eggplant, sautéed it in about 1/4 cup olive oil, transferred the pieces to a Ziploc bag and laid them away in the freezer.

Although the pieces most certainly will be mushy, that’s the desired texture in Casserole of Lamb and Eggplant With Garlic, as well as a couple of other much-loved dishes. I haven’t tried freezing eggplant for the classic Parmesan preparation, only because it’s such a chore to bread the slices, which I consider essential to the recipe. But for eggplant slices that are fried naked, I’m willing to freeze it afterward.

Sliced and sautéed eggplant is an essential component for Greek moussaka, a heavenly marriage of lamb and eggplant under a rich bechamel sauce. This one, courtesy of Tribune News Service, is more involved than the recipe I’ve prepared over the years. It also incorporates a layer of potato. But regardless of which nightshades come into play, the sweet spices have won my family’s approval, particularly with dried currants.

Tribune News Service photo


1/4 cup dried currants

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound ground lamb

1 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Salt and black pepper, to taste

6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored and finely chopped

1 cup red wine

1 1/2 cups canola oil

1 1/2 pound eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices

1 large russet potato, about 1 pound, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cups milk

1 bay leaf

Freshly ground nutmeg, to taste

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

3 egg yolks

1 cup grated Parmesan

Put the currants into a small bowl and cover with boiling water; let soften for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. Purée the tomatoes in a blender and set aside.

In a 6-quart pot over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the lamb, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring to break up meat, until browned, for about 5 minutes. Transfer lamb to a large strainer set over a bowl and drain; discard any liquid left in pot.

Return pot to heat and add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, along with the garlic, onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, for about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, for 10 to 15 minutes. Add reserved tomatoes, currants and lamb; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, heat the canola oil. Working in batches, add the eggplant slices and fry, turning occasionally, until tender, for about 5 minutes. Transfer slices to paper towels. Working in batches, add the potatoes and cook until tender, for about 5 minutes, and transfer to paper towels.

To make béchamel, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking continuously, until pale and smooth, for about 2 minutes. Whisking continuously, add the milk in a steady stream until incorporated; add the bay leaf and cook, whisking often, until reduced to 2 cups, for about 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and the nutmeg, and discard bay leaf. Let sauce cool for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and egg yolks and whisk into sauce until smooth.

Heat oven to 400 F. Place reserved potato slices in bottom of a 3-quart baking dish (or two 1 1/2-quart baking dishes) and season with salt and pepper. Put the eggplant slices on top, season with salt and pepper, then cover with meat sauce. Pour béchamel over top of meat sauce and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over top and bake in preheated oven until browned and bubbly, for 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe by Jim Botsacos of Molyvos restaurant, via Saveur

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Pepper-roasting season is time to make romesco

Returning home this week from a trip to Southern California, I was feeling chilled to the bone, although evening temperatures hadn’t dipped into freezing.

The threat of frost had spurred my mother-in-law, our garden guru, from pulling any numbers of peppers from the plants and depositing them in our fridge. I knew she would. I even sanctioned the refrigerator stash.

Now I have to get busy roasting the peppers and bundling them into freezer bags for use throughout the winter. If I’m feeling energetic, I’ll skin some of the spot and either layer them into a casserole for chilies rellenos or blend them into romesco sauce — basically to peppers and almonds what pesto is to basil and pine nuts. Like pesto, romesco freezes exceptionally well and can brighten up winter dishes long after the warm weather’s departure.

This version of romesco, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, suggests yet another pepper, the mild and much-touted shishito, for dipping. But romesco is delicious with any raw or cooked vegetable, crackers or bread, tossed with pasta or as an accompaniment to meat and seafood.

Tribune News Service photo

Shishito Peppers and Romesco Sauce

8 ounces fresh shishito peppers

1/3 cup roasted, salted marcona or regular almonds

2 large roasted red peppers, stems and seeds discarded

4 sun-dried tomato halves, packed in oil, drained

2 garlic cloves, degermed (halve and pull out any green shoot)

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Kosher salt, to taste

Flaky salt, for garnish

If you would like to seed the shishito peppers while retaining their handy stems, use kitchen scissors to snip a T into each pepper. The T’s top sits ¼ inch from stem and runs halfway around circumference of pepper. Stem of T runs about an inch long. Fold flaps open and pull out seeds. Rinse. Dry thoroughly.

Drop the almonds into bowl of a food processor. Pulse until largest chunks are about split pea-sized. Scrape from bowl and set aside.

Drop the red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and 1 tablespoon of chopped almonds into bowl of food processor. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Process again, slowly pouring in the 1/4 cup oil. Scrape into a small bowl. Stir in the vinegar, paprika, cayenne and reserved almonds. Season this sauce generously with the kosher salt.

Set a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in 1 teaspoon oil. When hot, drop in half of shishito peppers. Cook, tossing, until fragrant, blistered and browned, for 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining oil and peppers.

Smooth romesco sauce onto a platter. Scatter peppers over sauce. Sprinkle with flaky salt. Dig in.

Makes 4 servings.

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Multi-cookers can ‘bake’ custard-like desserts

Tribune News Service photo

A recent conversation with Master Food Preserver Michele Pryse wasn’t the first time we’d dished on the Instant Pot.

Coordinator of ACCESS’ Cooking Skills Education Program, Michele has supported my volunteer efforts to teach cooking classes for the past four years. I’ve joined her during that time in sharing plenty of “Kitchen Wisdom,” including how savvy cooks can press both slow cookers and multi-cookers into service.

That “robot-looking thing,” as Michele is wont to call the Instant Pot, is really good at cooking a frozen-solid block of food in about two hours or less, as this week’s story in A la Carte explained. Although her Oct. 16 class won’t cover preparation of yogurt and other much-touted methods, it’s also true that the Instant Pot is really good at “baking” creamy desserts that would require a water bath in a standard oven. Think custards and cheesecakes, for which recipes abound in multi-cooker cookbooks.

This is an example of one, courtesy of Tribune News Service. It’s still something of a process, hardly like waving a magic wand over the appliance. Do the results justify its purchase? Doubtful. But for anyone who already owns an Instant Pot, it’s a delicious way to make the most of its capabilities.

Meyer Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

7 graham cracker sheets

1/4 cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese

1/2 cup organic cane sugar

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon

1/4 cup heavy cream

Lemon curd, as needed

Confectioner’s sugar, as needed

Line base of a 7-inch-by-3-inch, round springform pan with an 8-inch round of parchment paper. Secure collar on springform pan, closing it onto base so parchment round is clamped in. Lightly grease sides of pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.

To make crust, in bowl of a food processor, process the graham crackers and almonds into fine crumbs. You should have 3/4 cup. Add the butter and almond extract, and, using one-second pulses, process mixture until it resembles coarse sand.

Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan and press firmly in an even layer onto bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides of pan. Place pan in freezer to allow crust to firm up a bit while you make filling.

In empty food processor bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients — ricotta cheese through heavy cream — and process for about 2 minutes, until filling is well-blended and smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl halfway through blending if necessary.

Pour filling into prepared crust. Tap pan firmly against countertop a few times to remove any air bubbles in filling.

Fold a 20-inch-long sheet of aluminum foil in half lengthwise twice to create a 3-inch-wide strip. Center it underneath pan to act as a sling for lifting pan in and out of Instant Pot. Pour 1 1/2 cups water into pot and place trivet in pot.

Holding ends of foil sling, lift cake pan and lower it into Instant Pot. Fold over ends of sling so they fit inside pot. Secure lid and set Pressure Release to Sealing. Select Manual setting and set cooking time for 35 minutes at high pressure.

Let pressure release naturally (this will take about 15 minutes). Open pot, taking care not to drip condensation from lid onto cheesecake. Wearing heat-resistant mitts, grasp ends of foil sling, lift springform pan out of Instant Pot and transfer cheesecake to a cooling rack. Use a paper towel to dab up any moisture that may have settled on top. Cake will be puffed up and jiggle a bit in center when it comes out of pot, but it will settle and set up as it cools. Let cheesecake cool on rack for 1 hour.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours before unmolding. To serve, unclasp collar on pan and lift it off, then use parchment border to tug cheesecake off base of pan onto a plate, where it can be sliced and served.

Just before serving, top cheesecake with a 1/4-inch-thick layer of lemon curd and dust curd with some of the confectioners’ sugar.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe from “The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook” by Coco Morante.

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Apple syrup concentrates fruit’s sweetness, tang

Apple cider can infuse fall’s flavor into numerous dishes, from baked goods to meat entrees to side dishes to sauces.

Several past posts to this this blog have shown the beverage’s versatility. Extending the flavor even farther is apple syrup, essentially cider that’s been reduced to a thick consistency that concentrates all the fruit’s sweetness and tang.

It’s easy to boil up a batch of apple syrup on your stovetop and keep it on hand for spooning over pancakes, waffles, yogurt, hot cereal or even roasted vegetables. I’d serve the syrup as a dipping sauce for sausages alongside a good-quality mustard, or drizzle it over ice cream cozied up to a baked apple.

This recipe, courtesy of Tribune News Service, gives instructions first for making apple syrup and then whisking it into a mustardy vinaigrette paired with oven-roasted winter squash.

Tribune News Service photo

Apple Cider-Roasted Squash

2 medium acorn squash

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 cup apple cider

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat oven to 400 F.

Peel the squash and cut into 1-inch pieces. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt. Roast squash in preheated oven until golden-brown and tender, for 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the cider to boil in a small non-reactive saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid has reduced to 1/4 cup, for 12 to 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk reduced cider with the vinegar, mustard, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley.

Transfer squash to a platter and drizzle with vinaigrette just before serving.

— Recipe from

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Hand-pressed cider isn’t your average apple juice

Usually nixing juice, I make an exception for cider.

Half the intrigue for my kids is helping to press the nectar-like beverage from apples picked at a local orchard. “Making cider is a lot of work,” my 5-year-old son commented after we climbed ladders, shook limbs, collected apples in 25-pound boxes, then schlepped the boxes to an old barn where the antique, hand-cranked press resides.

And that was before we employed plenty of elbow grease to start a stream of golden liquid flowing from the spout into our 5-gallon buckets. Whew!

So we consider this cider a “treat” and ration it accordingly. If it weren’t such a commodity, I’d allot some for cooking, including this recipe for sweet-savory beans, now that cold weather is upon us.

Recipe testers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette used half apple cider and half “hard” (aka alcoholic) cider. Because I prefer dishes that aren’t so sweet, I might use only the latter and save the former for my quaffing pleasure.

If you don’t have time — or the patience — for dried beans, substitute two 15-ounce cans cooked beans for every cup of dried beans.

Tribune News Service photo

Cider Baked Beans

3 cups dried great northern beans, picked over and rinsed

6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

1/3 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar

2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 dried bay leaves

3 to 4 cups apple cider and/or hard cider, as needed

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the beans in large bowl. Cover with water by several inches. Refrigerate, covered, overnight, then drain.

Preheat a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.

In large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, for  5 to 7 minutes, then drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet, reduce heat to medium-low and add the onion. Cook until translucent, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, then raise heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the Worcestershire, mustard, brown sugar, vinegar, cayenne, bay leaves and 3 cups cider. Stir well to combine and simmer until thickened slightly for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add soaked and drained beans to slow cooker and toss with cider sauce. Pour cider sauce over beans and stir to combine. If necessary, add up to 1 cup more cider to cover beans. Cover and cook on low until beans are tender, for 6 to 7 hours (or on high for 3 to 3 1/2 hours). Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

— Recipe from “Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker” from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living (Clarkson Potter, August 2017, $26)

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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