Monday, November 16, 2020

Eggplant Rollatini



I love eggplant;  parmigiana or rollatini, it is a dish I could happily eat once a week. Notice I didn't say I could COOK it once a week, but I will say it's become much easier since I began baking the eggplant instead of frying it. In addition to making a mess of my stove and kitchen, frying makes this dish unnecessarily high calorie. So now, instead of waiting for my brother-in-law to make it for me on holidays, I make the eggplant in the oven with no loss of flavor.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

3 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

1 lb ricotta (whole or part skim works)

3 tbs grated Pecorino Romano cheese

3 tbs chopped parsley

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided


3-4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)

OPTIONAL:  3 links of sweet Italian sausage; remove meet from casing and brown, breaking up into small pieces

Directions

Cut off both ends of the eggplant and peel it. Holding the eggplant upright, very carefully slice it long wise into 1/4 inch slices. Try to keep each slice even from top to bottom to make rolling easier. A large eggplant should yield 8-10 slices.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray or nonstick cooking spray.

Set up a breading station:  place the flour on one plate (I use paper plates); beat the two eggs in a shallow bowl; place the panko bread crumbs on a second plate.  Use one hand to dredge each slice in flour, then dip in the egg; use the other hand to coat the slice in bread crumbs. Place each slice on the prepared baking sheet. 

Bake the eggplant slices for 12-15 minutes, flip over and bake another 8-10 minutes. Bread crumbs should be nicely browned. Cool the eggplant while you make the ricotta mixture.

Place the ricotta, 1 egg, the grated cheese, the garlic powder, the parsley, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella in a medium bowl and combine thoroughly. Add the browned sausage crumbles to this step, if desired.

In a rectangular baking dish (like a lasagna dish or a casserole dish), ladle a few tablespoons of sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.

Lay out your eggplant slices on waxed paper and divide the ricotta mixture among them, placing a heap in the middle of each slice. Carefully roll up each slice, placing the seam on the bottom and using a tablespoon to tap the mixture into place. Place the rolls in the prepared baking dish.

Spoon over the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes. You can broil briefly (watch carefully) to brown the cheese if your dish permits high heat. Let sit for 5 minutes to set, then serve.

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TASTE NOTES

This dish gets even better--if you can believe it--when reheated, so I hope you have some leftovers. While it's very good as a vegetarian dish, I think it's even better with the sausage. No more waiting for holidays for me. This is a great week night dish.






Sunday, November 8, 2020

Fried Risotto Balls

 


The rice balls served in most pizza places are huge and dry and contain--yuk--peas in the center. The arancini I've ordered in fine dining restaurants often lack flavor. I wanted the creaminess of a freshly-made risotto, the crispiness of the breaded and fried rice ball, and the flavor that only good ingredients, like prosciutto and Fontina cheese, could impart.

Yield:  12-16 risotto balls

Ingredients

For the risotto:

5 cups low sodium beef broth

1 tbs EVOO

1 tbs unsalted butter

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 shallot, finely diced

1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese

For the risotto balls:

3 large eggs

1 cup grated Fontina cheese

3 oz prosciutto, chopped

vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup fine dry bread crumbs


Directions

Heat the stock in a medium saucepan; keep at a simmer.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a straight sided skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the rice and stir to coat, cooking about 4 minutes until the rice starts to color slightly. Add the wine and cook until completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Ladle in enough stock to just cover the rice (about 3/4 cup). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time and cook in the same manner until the risotto is creamy and al dente, 16-20 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Set the risotto aside to cool completely.

Once the risotto is cooled, scrape it into a large mixing bowl. Beat one egg and add to the bowl along with the prosciutto and Fontina cheese. Mix completely. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the mixture into your hands and roll into balls. Refrigerate until just firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, set up a breading station: beat the 2 eggs in a shallow bowl; place the flour on one plate; place the bread crumbs on another plate. Dredge each risotto ball in flour, dip in egg, then roll in bread crumbs.

While you are breading the risotto balls, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a medium Dutch oven. Fry the balls in small batches that are not crowded until deep, golden brown. You can keep them warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Serve warm or hot with your favorite marinara sauce or just plain.

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TASTE NOTES:

These little gems could serve as an entire meal for me. When your fry the risotto balls, the creaminess of the risotto combines with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the nutiness of the Fontina to create a perfect bite. I like mine plain, but you might enjoy yours with a dunk in the marinara sauce. Either way, these are perfection.


 

Slow Cooker Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

 


Short ribs are a favorite fall and winter dish, one that I most often make in the Dutch oven. I decided since they are cooked low and slow anyway, I would do them in the slow cooker so I wouldn't be tied to the oven for hours.


Serves 4

1 large Vidalia onion, diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 - 3 1/2 lbs bone-in English-style short ribs

3 tsp Kosher salt, divided

1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper

2  tbs vegetable oil, divided

1 cup low sodium beef broth

2 bay leaves

4 fresh thyme sprigs

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 tbs tomato paste 

3cups dry red wine


Instructions

Pat the short ribs dry. Season all over with 2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Heat 1 tbs vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat until shimmering. Sear the short ribs on all sides, doing it in 2 batches if necessary. Transfer the short ribs to a 6 quart or larger slow cooker using tongs. Add the beef broth, the bay leaves, and the thyme sprigs.

Heat the remaining 1 tbs vegetable oil in the Dutch oven and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes, until darkened. Pour in the red wines and stir to combine, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer about 5 minutes until thickened.

Pour the hot liquid and vegetables into the slow cooker over the ribs. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

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TASTE NOTES

Short ribs are a fatty meat, part of the reason they cook to perfection low and slow. I prefer to make them the night before and refrigerate them. The next day, I will scoop off the layer of congealed fat (leaving a tiny little bit) before reheating them. These short ribs were luscious. The red wine braise lifted them from a humble dish to a restaurant worthy one. Served with incredible fried rice balls, this was a feast with a lot of leftovers.



Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Chicken Noodle Casserole for 2



I don't think I've ever received a copy of Cook's Country where several recipes didn't just call out for me to try them. That was certainly the case with the June/July 2020 issue which I set aside for fall. Some foods, casseroles and soups among them, are best served when there's a chill in the air and the smell of turning leaves.

I made my fair share of Campbell soup recipes in my younger years, so this made-from-scratch casserole sounded like pure comfort food. The added benefit was that it makes just 2 servings, though I must warn you they'd be enormous servings. We got 2 good-sized dinner servings with enough left over for one lunch tomorrow.

Ingredients

3 Tbs olive oil, divided

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

salt and pepper

3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

8 oz white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thinly ( I doubled the mushrooms from the original recipe)

1 large shallot, chopped

8 oz skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes

4 tsp all purpose flour

1 cup half and half ( I used fat free half and half)

1 cup chicken broth

3 oz dry wide egg noodles

2 oz shredded cheddar cheese (1/2 cup)

 1/2 cup frozen peas (I hate them, so put them in Larry's serving only)


Directions:

Heat remaining 2 Tbs oil in now empty skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and shallots and cook until moisture has evaporated and mushrooms are golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Add chicken and flour and stir until no dry flour remains. Cook about 1 minutes. Stir in the half and half and the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in noodles, submerging them as much as possible, and cook, uncovered, until noodles are tender and sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.

Stir in shredded cheese and stir until thoroughly melted. Stir in peas (if you like them; I don't) and warm another 2 minutes. Off heat, top with the panko mixture and serve.

**********************************************

TASTE NOTES

Oh, my, goodness! What a decadent bowl of pure comfort this was! I could not believe how large the serving sizes would have been had I not left a lunch-sized portion in the pan. I was a bit worried about using the fat free half and half, but it worked perfectly and the texture and taste was spot on. I was thinking that this recipe could be bulked up with the addition of broccoli. I ran it through the WW recipe builder and a full serving is a whopping 23 points. I could have made this into 4 servings instead of 3, but it was worth every delicious calorie.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

One Pot Hamburger Helper Knockoff



Let me begin by saying I have never eaten Hamburger Helper, not ever. I've heard of it, of course, and Larry has extolled its praises to me. I had intended to make tacos with the ground beef I'd defrosted, but decided to surprise him with a homemade version I'd found on the web.

Serves 4 (smallish portions) or 2-3 entree-sized portions

Ingredients

1 lb. ground beef

1 tbs ketchup

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Frank's hot sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1 1/2 cup pasta (like elbows)

3 1/2 cups broth (beef or chicken, low sodium)

1/2 cup sour cream

2 cups shredded cheddar


Directions

In a large skillet, brown the beef until no pink remains. Drain completely, wipe out skillet, then return beef to the skillet.

Add the ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper, pasta, and broth and bring to a boil, stirring to combine ingredients completely. 

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until pasta is cooked.

Remove skillet from the heat to stir in the sour cream. Return the skillet to low heat and stir in the cheese, combining completely. 

*********************************************

TASTE NOTES

I can't compare this to Hamburger Helper since I've never tasted it, but this one pot meal was quick, filling, and, yes, I'll admit it, tasty and comforting. While I don't think the portion is particularly large for an entree, it is ideal for 2-3 people. I will definitely make this again when time is short and I'm looking for simple comfort food.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Cauliflower Fried Rice



I have been meaning to add this recipe to my blog for a while. I've been making it on a regular basis with my orange chicken or, recently with my char siu. There's a bit of prep, which I generally do early in the day, but the dish itself comes together easily and can be on the table in under 20 minutes.

Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 4 as a side

INGREDIENTS

1 medium head, about 24 oz cauliflower, rinsed

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 eggs


pinch of salt

cooking spray

1/2 small onion, diced fine

1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 scallions, diced, whites and greens separated

3 tbsp soy sauce, or more to taste 

OPTIONAL:  chopped water chestnuts


INSTRUCTIONS

Remove the core and let the cauliflower dry completely.

Coarsely chop into florets, then place half of the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is small and has the texture of rice or couscous – don't over process or it will get mushy. Set aside and repeat with the remaining cauliflower.

Combine eggs in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Season with salt.

Heat a large saute pan or wok over medium heat and spray with oil.

Add the eggs and cook like an omelet until set; cool, then slice in ribbons

Add the sesame oil and saute onions, scallion whites, peas and carrots and garlic about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft.Raise the heat to medium-high.

Add the cauliflower "rice" to the saute pan along with soy sauce. Mix, cover and cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside.

 Add the egg then remove from heat and mix in scallion greens.

 ****************************

TASTE NOTES

This cauliflower rice is excellent as is, but I love mixing any leftovers with cooked chicken or shrimp or beef or, my favorite, diced char siu (see recipe here). I do not eat fried rice from Chinese restaurants. It's flavor is one note and I wouldn't waste the calories. This dish, however, is so good I can make it once a week. And, the leftovers are even better, if there are any.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Oven Fried Chicken with Honey Garlic Sauce

 

Serves 4-6

For The Chicken:

  • 6 skinless chicken thighs, bone in*
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoky)
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

For The Honey Garlic Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (or white or apple cider)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 390°F . Line a baking sheet with baking / parchment paper and set aside.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper. Set up a work station with 3 shallow bowls. To one bowl, add the flour and set aside. In the second bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, garlic powder, the 3/4 teaspoon of salt and paprika. In the third bowl, mix the Panko with the vegetable oil.
  • Working one by one, evenly coat the chicken in the flour, then dip into the egg mixture, then dredge in the Panko mixture, pressing to coat. Place onto prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining chicken thighs.
  • Lightly spray each chicken thigh over the top with cooking oil spray (this is optional, but I have found it to crisp the chicken even more). Bake for 25 minutes then rotate tray and place back into the oven to cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. the crust is crispy and golden brown. 
  • While the chicken is in the oven, prepare the Honey Garlic Sauce: In a small saucepan, combine honey soy sauce, vinegar (if using) and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and quickly reduce heat to low. Pour the prepared cornstarch mixture into the saucepan and stir through until sauce thickens (about 2 minutes). Set aside and allow to cool. Serve immediately with the honey garlic sauce.
*******************************
TASTE NOTES
This chicken is even better than chicken fried in oil. The honey garlic sauce puts it over the top and I can never help drizzling a bit on my side of rice. The chicken is juicy on the inside and incredibly crispy on the outside. The sweet and tangy sauce is so flavorful, it just requires a drizzle to make this a chicken dish you will want to make again and again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)


Char Siu is a kind of Chinese roast meat. You've probably seen it or eaten it, remarking on its signature red outer coloring. It's very flavorful, a combination of sweet and salty with a hint of spice. 

Because I try to be conscious of what I eat, particularly during the week, I decided to try to make char siu with a lean piece of pork, a pork tenderloin. While I knew I would be sacrificing some of the characteristic flavor--pork tenderloin has no fat--I wanted something to go with my cauliflower fried rice that had good flavor, but was low in fat and calories.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1/8 cup granulated white sugar 
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon five spice powder
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • teaspoons molasses
  • 1/8 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
  • cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon hot water

Instructions

  • Cut the pork into chunks about 3 inches thick. 
  • Combine the sugar, salt, five spice powder, white pepper, sesame oil, wine, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, molasses, food coloring (if using), and garlic in a bowl to make the marinade (i.e. the BBQ sauce).
  • Reserve about 2 tablespoons of marinade and set it aside. Rub the pork with the rest of the marinade in a large bowl or baking dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours. Cover and store the reserved marinade in the fridge as well.
  • Preheat your oven to the highest setting (475-550 degrees F or 250-290 degrees C) with a rack positioned in the upper third of the oven.
  • Line a sheet pan with foil and place a metal rack on top. Using the metal rack keeps the pork off of the pan and allows it to roast more evenly, like it does in commercial ovens described above. Place the pork on the rack, leaving as much space as possible between pieces. Pour 1 ½ cups water into the pan below the rack. This prevents any drippings from burning or smoking.
  • Transfer the pork to your preheated oven and roast for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, flip the pork. If the bottom of the pan is dry, add another cup of water. Turn the pan 180 degrees to ensure even roasting. Roast another 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine the reserved marinade with 1 tablespoon hot water. This will be the sauce you’ll use for basting the pork.
  • After 25 minutes of total roasting time, baste the pork, flip it, and baste the other side as well. Roast for a final 5 minutes.
  • By now, the pork has cooked for 30 minutes total. It should be cooked through and caramelized on top. If it’s not caramelized to your liking, you can turn the broiler on for a couple minutes to crisp the outside and add some color/flavor. Be sure not to walk away during this process, since the sweet char siu BBQ sauce can burn if left unattended. 
  • Remove from the oven and baste with the last bit of reserved BBQ sauce. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing, and enjoy.
**********************************************
TASTE NOTES
I marinated the pork tenderloin overnight.  You might want to use a thermometer to make sure you don't overcook the pork; the times listed above worked perfectly with my oven. This fragrant version of char siu was very satisfying. The 5 spice powder combined with soy sauce and hoisin sauce gave the meat a rich flavor, the perfect contrast to my cauliflower fried rice . Of course I will make this again with a fattier version of pork roast, but I enjoyed every bite of my meal and combined the leftover cauliflower fried rice with leftover, cubed char siu for what will be a yummy lunch.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Maple Blueberry Scones



Last month I perused a cookbook by Joanne Chang whose Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston has been an unqualified success. When I saw this recipe in Friday's New York Times, I knew I had to try it. I've been on a quest for the perfect scone for some months now. While I love blueberries, I'm not fond of the color they tend to impart to scones, but the taste more than makes up for that muddied appearance. Since I didn't have creme fraiche or buttermilk on hand, I improvised. A shot of white vinegar in the milk will, after a few minutes, give a reasonable facsimile of buttermilk. Sour cream stood in for the creme fraiche with no one the wiser. Finally, and you may not want to hear this, I don't like real maple syrup, but I love Mrs. Buttersworth's lite maple syrup, so that's what I used. These scones went together quickly and after an hour's rest in the refrigerator, were scooped onto a parchment covered baking sheet and done in 45 minutes.

Makes 8 scones.

For the scones:

  • 1 ⅔ cups/240 grams whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup/130 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup/170 grams unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup/120 grams crème fraîche, Greek yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
  • ½ cup/120 milliliters maple syrup
  •  cup/80 milliliters buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup/125 grams fresh blueberries

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup/60 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup

PREPARATION


  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, briefly mix both flours, the baking powder, baking soda and salt on low speed. Add half the butter and paddle until fully mixed into the flour, 2 to 3 minutes. (This will coat the flour with butter so the scones are tender.)
  1. Add the remaining butter to the bowl of the stand mixer. Pulse the mixer three or four times to mix the pieces into the dough while keeping them whole. (This step will give you small pieces of butter in the dough, which will help the scones be a bit flaky.)
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, maple syrup, buttermilk and yolk until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the blueberries. With the mixer on low, pour the blueberry mixture into the flour mixture, and paddle on low for about 10 seconds to get some of the liquid mixed into the flour. Stop the mixer, and mix the rest of the loose flour into the dough by hand: Gather and lift the dough with your hands and turn it over in the bowl several times until all the loose flour is mixed in. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 1 day. (This gives the flour time to fully absorb the liquid.)
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and position a rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  1. Using a 1/2-cup measuring cup or ice cream scoop, scoop out 8 mounds of chilled dough, and place them on the baking sheet a few inches apart. Bake scones for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway through the baking time, until the scones are evenly golden brown and firm when you press them.
  1. While the scones are baking, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and enough maple syrup to make a thick, spreadable glaze. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Rewhisk before using.
  1. As soon as you remove the scones from the oven, use a pastry brush to brush them with the glaze while they’re warm. Let cool on the baking sheet for 30 minutes, then serve.
  2. ************************************************************************************
  3. TASTE NOTES
  4. The two-step method of incorporating the butter results in a flaky exterior and cake-like interior, making this a win-win scone. No one would ever call it healthy, but the addition of the whole wheat flour adds a dimension to the taste. I loved the sticky glaze and the sweetness imparted by the maple syrup. These were very, very good and will, hopefully, freeze well since I have half of them left for next weekend.




    Sunday, June 7, 2020

    Lemon Poppyseed Scones



    I love all things lemon and I love scones, so this is the perfect marriage of the two. Don't skimp on the lemon zest--if anything, add more. I'm sure you could substitute oranges if that's what you have on hand.

    INGREDIENTS - Makes 8 scones

    For the scones:

    2 cups all purpose flour
    3 tbs granulated sugar
    2 tbs poppy seeds
    2 large or 4 small lemons, zested then squeezed
    1 tbs baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 stick cold, unsalted butter
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

    For the glaze:

    1/2 cup confectioners sugar
    1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

    DIRECTIONS

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, poppy seeds, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Pour in the heavy cream the the lemon juice stirring just until dough forms.

    Using your hands, gather the dough together and gently press into a ball. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and shape into an 8 inch disk. Be careful not to overwork the dough.

    Cut the disk into 8 wedges and gently pull the wedges apart.

    Bake 12 - 14 minutes, until golden and  a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

    Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool for at least 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the confectioners sugar and 1 tbs lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled scones.
    *********************************************
    TASTE NOTES
    These scones were very lemony, had a delicate crispy exterior, and a wonderful crumb. I had planned to freeze some, but someone made short shrift of them. I'll be trying them with orange next time.

    Friday, June 5, 2020

    (My New Favorite) Pizza




     Is there anything better than pizza on Friday night? Only homemade pizza. Since King Arthur hasn't disappointed me yet, I decided to try another of the pizza dough recipes on the site. The recipe looks long, but it's very easy to put together. There are directions for making the dough the day before or for making it on the day you wish to serve it, which I did.

    Here is the link.

    I love that the dough is pre-baked and then toppings are added before the final bake. I used some marinara sauce I had in the freezer. I sauteed the meat from 2 links of Italian sausage with some chopped onion and bell peppers. I put a light coating of sauce on the baked crust, added the sausage and pepper and onion mixture, spread 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella over that, added some fresh basil and a sprinkle of olive oil and baked for 15 minutes.
    ************************************************8
    TASTE NOTES
    My very favorite pizza is usually a true Neopolitan thin-crusted pizza. This was slightly thicker, but the crispy chew of the crust was ethereal. Generally, I prefer sliced meatballs on my pizza, but the sausage and peppers and onions was a delicious break from the usual. Two slices was all I could eat, but I'm going to enjoy the rest for a few lunches. Pizza freezes beautifully.

    Friday, May 29, 2020

    (The Very Best) Lemon Bars


    I love lemon desserts--souffles, puddings, cookies, pies. I'm no stranger to a good lemon bar, but 
    sometimes I find the filling a bit too soft. This recipe for lemon bars combines a shortbread crust with a lemon filling that deliver a punch of flavor as it holds its own texture-wise. The crust is parbaked, but the bars come together quickly. They actually need more time to cool than it takes to make them. 

    INGREDIENTS

    For the crust:

    • Cooking spray or butter
    • cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    • teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed

    For the filling:

    • large eggs
    • large egg yolk
    • cup granulated sugar
    • tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
    • tablespoons finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 medium lemons)
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Prepare the baking dish. Lightly coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Line the dish with a parchment paper sling, leaving an overhang of about 2 inches on two opposite sides; set aside.
    2. Make the crust. Place the flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, zest, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse 5 times to combine. Sprinkle with the butter cubes and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
    3. Press the crust in and chill while the oven heats. Pour the crust mixture into the prepared baking dish. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or your fingers to press the crumbs into an even layer. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325°F.
    4. Parbake the crust. Bake the crust until light golden-brown, about 30 minutes.
    5. Make the filling. Place the whole eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, zest, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the lemon juice, and then the flour, until combined.
    6. Pour the filling onto the warm crust. Remove the parbaked crust from the oven. Pour the lemon filling onto the warm crust.
    7. Bake and cool the lemon bars. Return the pan to the oven and bake until light brown around the edges, set in the middle, and the top appears relatively dry, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour, before serving.
    8. Dust with powdered sugar. Using a fine-mesh strainer, generously dust the bars with more powdered sugar.
    9. Cut the lemon bars. Grasping the parchment sling, lift the lemon bar slab out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 16 bars. Dust with more powdered sugar, if desired, before serving. 
    10. *********************************
    11. TASTE NOTES
    12. The addition of confectioners' sugar and flour in the lemon filling made an incredible difference in the texture of these lemon bars. The ample lemon zest and juice in the recipe for both the shortbread and the filling makes these bars a lemon lover's delight.


    Tuesday, May 26, 2020

    Focaccia: No Fuss, KAF Blitz Bread


    If you're looking for a homemade bread that can be on the table in 2 hours, look no further. King Arthur Flour has many wonderful recipes on its site. This one ranks up there with the best.

    INGREDIENTS
    2 tbs olive oil (to drizzle into the pan)
    1 1/2 cups warm water
    3 tbs olive oil (for the dough)
    1 1/4 tsp salt
    3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
    1 tbs instant yeast
    4 tsp Italian seasoning

    olive oil
    rosemary (opt)

    Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick vegetable spray. Drizzle about 2 tbs olive oil atop the spray.

    Combine the remaining ingredients and beat at high speed for 60 seconds.

    Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan. Cover the pan and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes--it should be quite puffy, but not fragile looking.

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

    Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.

    Drizzle the dough lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary or other dried herbs of your choice

    Bake the bread 25-30 minutes or until it's golden brown.

    Remove bread from oven and wait 5 minutes. Turn bread out of pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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    TASTE NOTES
    I've made focaccia using other recipes, more labor intensive recipes, and now I wonder why. This bread was perfect, not to mention quick and easy. It had a slightly chewy exterior and was soft and yeasty on the inside. The Italian seasoning gave it a wonderful flavor, not to mention the fragrance. I will definitely make it again and next time I'll carmelize some shallots for the topping.  What a perfect accompaniment to pasta, though I can see it with antipasto, a side of marinara for dunking, some pesto....

    Portuguese Sweet Bread



    You know those incredible Hawaiian rolls that have been popular since the slider made its appearance on menus everywhere? Well, that's basically what Portuguese sweet bread is. This is bread you want to eat slathered in butter or as the base of a French toast that will have you wondering how you can ever wait for the bread to get stale.

    This recipe is from Peter Reihart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

    Makes 2 loaves

    SPONGE
    1/2 cup flour1(bread flour is best, but all purpose is fine
    1 tbs granulated sugar
    2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
    1/2 cup water at room temperature

    To make the sponge stir together the flour sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are hydrated and make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse.



    DOUGH
    6 tbs granulated sugar
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 cup powdered milk
    2 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 tbs vegetable shortening
    2 large eggs
    1 tsp orange extract
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3 cups flour (bread flour is best, but all purpose is fine)
    About 6 tbs water, at room temperature

    1 egg + 1 tsp water for egg wash

    To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter, and vegetable shortening in a 4 qt mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer). Cream together with a sturdy spoon or the paddle  attachment until smooth, then mix in the eggs and the extracts. Knead by hand or switch to the dough hook attachment and mix in the sponge and the flour.  Add the water, as needed, to make a very soft dough.  The finished dough should be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky.  It will take 10 to 12 minutes with the electric mixer and close to 15 minutes by hand to achieve this consistency. The finished dough should pass the windowpane test.

    Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.


    Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Form each of the pieces into a boule.  Lightly oil two 9-inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down, in each pan. Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size

    Very gently brush the loaves with an egg wash. .(1 egg whisked with 1 tsp water).

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

    Bake the loaves for 50 - 60 minutes or until they register 190 degrees in the center. Remove from the pie pans and place on a rack to cool completely--at least 90 minutes.
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    TASTE NOTES
    This might have been the longest 90 minutes of my life. Waiting for the loaves to cool so I could sneak a baker's reward was excruciating. That tiny end slice, slathered in Nutella, was incredible. What a delicate crumb! What a lovely melding of flavors! It was hard to freeze one loaf and harder still to save some slices for the weekend. The French toast made with those stale slices was probably the best I've ever eaten. A bit labor intensive, but so worth it.