Monday, December 29, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I've been baking cookies here and there and waiting until Larry finishes up one batch before I make the next. As I was blog-hopping the other day I discovered Emily of http://backtothecuttingboard.com/ and her chocolate-filled Mexican wedding cakes. Although I make Mexican wedding cakes and their close cousin Russian teacakes, I decided I'd try out Emily's idea with my butterballs. The essential difference among these 3 cookies is that the wedding cakes and tea cakes are made with nuts and lard and the butterballs are made with butter, coconut, and no nuts.
Roll dough around chocolate, covering completely
Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets
Saturday, December 20, 2008
French Onion Soup Gratinee - Serves 4 - 6
Friday, December 19, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Beat together cream cheeses and butter; add confectioners sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat until smooth.
TO MAKE CINAMMON ROLLS
Friday, December 12, 2008
There's no doubt about it, Ina is shaking things up in my kitchen. A few posts back I wrote about trying her recipe for scampi after making my own version for years and years. Since that experiment was so tastefully successful, I decided to try again with another of my "revered" recipes, this one for Italian wedding soup. While I don't mind standing and rolling tiny meatballs, I draw the line at frying them and generally poach them in the broth. Ina's version calls for pre-baking the meatballs. My meatballs are beef-based. Hers were supposed to be chicken-based, but there's got to be a little wiggle room in a recipe, right? I used turkey and turkey sausage. Ina replaces my standard escarole with baby spinach.
The results were every bit as delicious as my original recipe. In fact, Larry prefers her version because he loves sausage. I made a vat of this soup and served it with homemade focaccia (from Carol Field's book Focaccia). Nothing smells as wonderful as a pot of soup simmering on the stove and a loaf of bread baking in the oven. There were no leftovers to freeze, but I'm quite certain that if you kept the pasta separate, this soup would freeze beautifully. The recipe that follows is my interpretation of the Ina Garten's recipe, though very little is changed except some methods and the omission of dill, which I really don't find very Italian.
Italian Wedding Soup - Serves 6 to 8
FOR THE MEATBALLS
3/4 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb Italian turkey sausage, casings removed (I used hot)
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tbs fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbs milk
1 egg, beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE SOUP
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
3 carrots, 1/4 inch dice
2 stalks celery, 1/4 inch dice
10 cups chicken broth (I used ready-made low sodium)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup tubetini pasta
12 oz baby spinach, washed and trimmed
*place the ground turkey, turkey sausage, garlic, parsley, cheese, bread/milk mixture, egg, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper in a bowl and combine well
*shape mixture into approximately 40 meatballs, placing them on the parchment lined sheet
*bake for 30 minutes
*as the meatballs bake, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot
*add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery and saute for 5-6 minutes
*add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil
*add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook 6 - 8 minutes
*add the meatballs and simmer 2 minutes
*taste for salt and pepper
*stir in the fresh spinach and cook 1 minutemore, until the spinach is just wilted
*serve with extra grated cheeseBASIC FOCACCIA
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
3/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water ( 105 - 115 degrees F)
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 - 1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
TO MAKE THE SPONGE: Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large mixing bowl, whisk it in, and let stand about 10 minutes (until creamy). Stir in the flour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until very bubbly and doubled (about 45 minutes).
TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl, whisk it in, and let stand 5-10 minutes, until creamy. With a wooden spoon, stir the yeast mixture and olive oil into the sponge and mix well. Whisk in 1 cup of the flour, stir in the salt and remaining flour, and mix until the dough is well blended. Knead on a lightly floured surface until soft and velvety, 8 - 10 minutes.
FIRST RISE: Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise 1 1/4 hours, until doubled.
SHAPING AND SECOND RISE: The dough will be soft, delicate, and filled with air bubbles. Flatten it on an oiled 11 X 17-inch baking pan and press it out with oiled hands. The dough will be sticky and may not cover the bottom of the pan. Cover it with a towel and let it relax for 10 minutes, then stretch it again. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 mintues to an hour, until the dough is filled with air bubbles. Just before baking, dimple the vigorously with your knuckles, then drizzle olive oil over the dough , and sprinkle with the coarse sea salt.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a baking stone inside it. Place the focaccia pan directly on the stone and spray the walls and floor of the oven with cold water 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking. Bake about 20-25 minutes, until the crust is crisp and the top is golden. Remove to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Don't be afraid of yeast. Nothing is more calming than kneading dough. I love my food processor, but never use it to make bread.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Have you ever had an inexplicable craving for something? A craving so strong that it's all you can think about? A craving for something you almost never eat and seldom, if ever, make? Well, that's what happened to me. I hadn't reread Gone with the Wind or passed a Popeye's or heard The Battle Hymn of the Repubic, but out of nowhere I began to think it was the perfect weather for a piece of crispy fried chicken. I can't remember the last time I made fried chicken. In fact, it's been so long since I used my deep fryer that it's way in the back of the closet over the stove. The closet I can only reach by standing on a chair. Once the craving hit, nothing would do but to put it on the rotation. I happen to love buttermilk fried chicken and, since this was right after Thanksgiving, I already had a wonderful gravy. That, of course, meant that I had to make some more mashed potatoes. My craving was satisfied after a thigh and a leg, so Larry had plenty of leftovers for lunch and for dinner the night I ate out with friends.
Serves 4 - 6
1 - 3 lb chicken cut into 8 - 10 pieces
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
- place chicken pieces in a gallon-sized, ziplock bag; mix the buttermilk with 1 tbs salt and 1/2 tsp pepper; pour in buttermilk, seal, and refrigerate for 2 - 24 hours
- place the flour, 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper in a large brown paper bag and shake to combine
- lift half the pieces of chicken from the buttermilk mixture into the bag and shake to coat completely
- remove from bag and place on a large wire rack set over a baking sheet until you are ready to fry; do the other half of the chicken in like manner
- spoon enough shortening into a 12 inch skillet to measure about 1/2 inch; heat to 350 degrees
- drop chicken, skin side down, into hot oil; COVER and cook for 5 minutes; after 5 minutes, lift with tongs to make sure pieces are frying evenly, then cover and cook for another 5 minutes
- turn chicken over and cook, UNCOVERED, for another 10-12 minutes
- drain on paper towels and serve
Any kind of fried food is a rare treat. While most people think of fried chicken as a summer dish, I must tell you it tasted wonderful in the dead of winter with creamy mashed potatoes with my leftover turkey gravy. Giving in to one's cravings every once in a while is a wonderful treat.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
If you're fortunate enough to live in the Hudson Valley area, among the many perks is the close proximity to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park. I once hoped to attend as a full time student, but the school district I worked for "made me an offer I couldn't refuse," and so that was the road not taken. When I retired 4 years ago, one of my first adventures was to take one of their Saturday classes. I've since taken 5 more classes and hope to attend another in the near future. That first class was on appetizers and we ate our classwork. After that, the classes I took were all in the baking department, so in additon to bringing home armloads of baked goods, we were served a fabulous lunch in one of their beautiful halls. One of those classes was Christmas baking. We made cookies and tarts and breads from around the world. After your first class, you learn to bring lots of Tupperware and bags. I've been making this Christmas stollen every year since. Although it's supposed to "develop," I couldn't resist cutting into one of the loaves last night and sampling it with a cup of tea. It's still my favorite recipe for stollen. It's more cake-like than bread-like.
Like Panettone (Italy) and brioche (France) and Gugelhupf (Germany), stollen has a rich history. Its origins are in the 14th century when this delicious bread was given by the Bakers' Guild to the aristocracy and the ruling church in the form of a tax. The shape of the loaf alludes to the Christ Child, swaddled in white cloth. Stollen is very popular throughout central Europe during Christmas. It is often made days and weeks in advance of Christmas to allow the flavors and aromas to heighten. It's sweetened with sugar as well as candied fruits and raisins. My only deviation is to substitute regular raisins for sultanas. There's just something about the golden raisins that I don't find aesthetically pleasing.
INGREDIENTS - makes 3 loaves
- 10 oz raisins
- 2 oz candied lemon peel
- 3.5 oz candied orange peel
- 3.5 oz toasted slivered almonds
- 2 oz rum
- 8 oz unsalted butter
- 5 1/2 oz granulated sugar
- 9 oz cream cheese
- 5 extra large eggs (4 oz)
- 1/3 oz pure vanilla or 1/2 vanilla bean
- 3 drops almond extract
- zest of 2 lemons
- 1 lb., 2 oz all purpose flour
- 1/2 oz baking powder
- 1/8 oz baking soda
- 1/4 oz salt
(1-2 sticks unsalted butter, melted)
OPTIONAL: almond paste, softened and rolled into 3 logs, roughly the length of each loaf
The Day Before You Bake: combine the almonds, raisins, lemon peel, orange peel, and rum and soak overnight.
The Day You Bake:
- cream the butter and cream cheese in mixer bowl; add sugar and continue to mix; add eggs one at a time and continue to mix; add the almond extract and lemon zest
- sift dry inrediens together and add to the butter mixture
- add the dried nuts and fruit mixture
- scale into 1 lb, 4 oz loaves; shape the dough by rolling or patting it into an oval, placing an almond log in the middle; seam on bottom
- bake immediately at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes
- brush the stollen with melted butter as soon as you take it out of the oven
- cool the stollen completely, then brush with butter again and roll in granulated sugar
Wrap the stollen in aluminum foil and store in a cool place. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if you wish, before serving.
I wrapped several pieces of cardboard with foil to place my wrapped loaves upon so they won't break in the middle. Whole loaves or slices of the loaves make a wonderful hostess gift.
Monday, December 1, 2008
You've no doubt heard the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix." Grammar aside, there's a certain truth to the saying. A case in point: I have been making scampi the same way for over 25 years. My recipe is delicious served hot for dinner or warm to room temperature as part of a buffet. However, I have such faith in my new cookbook, Back to Basics by Ina Garten, that I decided to try a new recipe. The Barefoot Contessa is batting 1000 because her recipe was fantastic! Larry's comment was that you couldn't get something this delicious in a restaurant. He thought it took a lot of work, but frankly, aside from a bit of chopping, it assembled easily and, better yet, would be a wonderful dinner party dish since it CAN be assembled ahead of time and takes under 15 minutes to bake. I couldn't get the 12-15 count shrimp called for in the recipe, so made do with the 9-12 count. I served the scampi with my microwave risotto--if you haven't tried it yet, you're missing out on a great, simple dish--and roasted brussel sprouts and carrots. I got the recipe for the roasted sprouts in this same cookbook and just added diagonally sliced carrots. I scaled the recipe down for the 2 of us.
1 lb shrimp in the shell
1 1/2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs dry white wine
6 tbs unsalted butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, chopped
2 tbs minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbs lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Kosher salt and pepper
lemon wedges, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
- Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp (leave tails on)
- Place shrimp in mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, wine, salt and pepper; allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the butter mixture
- In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the minced garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, salt and pepper until combined
- Arrange the shrimp in a single layer in a gratin dish, cut side down and tails toward the center of the dish. Pour remaining marinade over the shrimp. Divide the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until hot and bubbly; to brown the top, broil 1-3 minutes, watching carefully so as not to burn; garnish with lemon wedges
The only additon I would make to this dish is to add wonderful bread to sop up the butter mixture. I was unhappily out of bread, but will know better next time. I may serve the scampi over pasta next time.
Others have found this and other Contessa recipes to be the "bomb," too. Check out www.whatsonmyplate.wordpress.com ).