Seasonal Cooking, Holiday Baking

26 12 2012

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!  I hope you’ve already had a lovely long weekend with family and friends, and that you’ll have a few more occasions to celebrate the end of this year, the Winter Solstice, or anything else that gives you a chance to eat and drink with your loved ones.

I feel like I haven’t been doing as much cooking as I normally do this time of year – in lieu of planning elaborate meals, I’ve been focused on relaxing and reflecting, simmering big pots of stew to be eaten over several days.  Oh, I’ve baked some cookies and whipped up some eggnog, but instead of my customary Christmas foie gras, I got a capon roast from the butcher, neatly tied with a chestnut-and-liver-sausage filling.  All I had to do was sear it on the stove and let it finish roasting in the oven for a nearly effortless Christmas Eve meal.

And yet, that doesn’t mean I haven’t scored some hits all the same.  I’ve been noodling around with the McCormick Flavor Forecast, and found a couple of great ways to incorporate my very favorite of their proposed flavor combinations: Cider, Sage, and Molasses.  Of all the options, this one seemed to me the most supremely seasonal, with its earthy-herbal sage, bittersweet molasses, and tangy apple cider.  I toyed around with some pear cider ideas, but the apple ideas came out on top.

So I have two recipes to share with you today. One a lentil salad – we ate it once with pan-fried sausages, and finished it off with our capon roast on Christmas Eve; the other an indulgent bar cookie whose touch of sage and dark molasses make it distinctly grown-up (there are plenty of other cookies for the kids, anyway).

Here’s to a year-end filled with love, happiness, and delectable eats!


Warm Lentil Salad with Sage-Roasted Beets
and Cider-Molasses Vinaigrette

In this twist on a French classic, the earthy notes of the lentils and beets are deepened by the addistion of sage, and brightened by sweet molasses and tangy cider vinegar. A hearty winter salad, this is equally good as a side to roasted meats, on its own with some crusty bread for lunch, or as part of a holiday buffet spread.

1 large or 2 small beets
2 Tbsp. fresh sage, minced (from about 2 stems)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup French green lentils (215 g)

1 shallot, minced (or about 1 Tbsp. minced red onion)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
¼ c. grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil (60 ml)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Peel and dice the beets and place in a medium ovenproof dish. Toss with oil and sage and season with a good pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper. Roast until beets are tender and browned, about 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and place them in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, add a healthy pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and return to pot.
  3. For the dressing, combine the shallot, mustard, molasses, cider vinegar, and oil in a small jar with a tightly sealed cap and shake to emulsify. Alternatively, mix everything but the oil in a bowl and drizzle the oil in , whisking vigorously.
  4. Pour the dressing over the still-warm lentils and stir to coat. Add the beets and toss once more. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 4 as a significant side, fewer as a main dish, more on a buffet.

* * * * *


Cider-Molasses Caramel Bars with Sage Shortbread

Quite simply, a decadent treat, perfect for holiday parties and cookie swaps. The caramel requires a little vigilance, but the reward is great. If you’re unsure, it’s probably best to err on the side of undercooking it, as it will finish the process of becoming chewy and satisfying in the oven.

5 oz. / 140 g unsalted butter, softened (10 Tbsp.)
1¾ oz. / 50 g granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage (from about 2 stems, or use 1 Tbsp. rubbed sage)
¼ tsp. coarse sea salt
5 oz. / 145 g all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp.)
3 Tbsp. rolled oats

2 Tbsp. / 35 g dark brown sugar
2 tsp. molasses
4 oz. / 110 g sweetened condensed milk (1/3 cup)
5 fl. oz. / 140 ml apple cider

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C. Grease an 8” / 20 cm square baking dish, line it with foil, and grease the foil.
  2. Beat 4 oz. / 115 g of the butter with the granulated sugar, chopped sage, and salt until smooth. Add the flour and mix until a crumbly dough forms. Press about ¾ of the dough into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake about 15 minutes, until just starting to turn golden.
  3. Rub the rolled oats into the remaining dough and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, make the caramel: Combine the remaining 1 oz. / 25 g of butter, brown sugar, molasses, sweetened condensed milk, and apple cider in a medium (2 qt. / 2 l) saucepan. (The caramel will boil up quite a bit, so the pan should be big enough to accommodate this.) Cook at a vigorous simmer over medium-high heat 12-15 minutes, stirring frequently. When it’s ready, the bubbles will get larger and slower, the color of the foam will darken a bit, and the mixture will thicken slightly. Allow the caramel to cool down to not-boiling before pouring it over the shortbread base.
  5. Make sure the caramel is spread evenly over the shortbread, then crumble the remaining oat-sage dough over the top. Return to the oven and continue baking until the caramel is bubbling and the crumble topping is golden, about 30 minutes.
  6. Cool completely and cut into small bars.

Makes 20-24 cookie bars.

Note: For a double batch, use a 13×9” pan (33x22cm or thereabouts). Baking time may increase, but only a little.


Originally published on Croque-Camille.

This post was sponsored by McCormick, but the opinions are my own.




9 responses

27 12 2012

I adore the use of typically “savoury” herbs in desserts! These bars look wonderful. Merry Christmas, dear Camille! xoxo

27 12 2012
Heather Stimmler-Hall

Those photos make me actually want to attempt this, despite my retarded baking skills…stay tuned, you may hear of a flat in the 13th burning down tomorrow afternoon. 😉

28 12 2012

Hannah – So do I! Yet another thing we share…

Heather- Ha ha! I hope you do try it, and that the pompiers won’t be necessary (though they are always welcome). 😉

30 12 2012

Your lentil salad looks and sounds very good. I think lentils are great as a salad but also is a great accompaniment to many main course proteins.

1 01 2013
Needful Things

Happy 2013, Camille! Your lentil salad looks delicious. I’m going to check my crisper for beets (which I love) and fix this for my lunch today.

3 01 2013

Happy New Year!!! Hope you rung the new year with some good food and bubbly! And maybe even those scrumptious sounding cookies!

3 01 2013

Michel – I agree, they’re so versatile!

Needful Things – I hope you enjoy it, and Happy New Year to you, too!

Jessica – Happy New Year! I actually made a croquembouche for the stroke of midnight!

3 01 2013
Inger Wilkerson

Glad to see you back blogging again! I checked periodically but I figured getting a new restaurant established had to be pretty consuming! I have soooo many beets left from my CSA, so I’m really excited about the lentil recipe!

3 01 2013

Inger – Beets can be a challenge, but I’ve taught myself to like them through recipes like this. Glad I can help others use their CSA extras, too!

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