Monday, December 29, 2008


Like many foodies, I love to collect cookbooks. When I'm not actually cooking or eating some wonderful dish, I can spend hours flipping through the pages of a beautifully illustrated cookbook and dream of when I can make this dish or that and for whom. If there at least 3 recipes that I want to try immediately, I consider the money well-spent on my new volume. For the past several years, I have been buying used cookbooks online to add to my collection. I don't understand how someone doesn't put her name in a new book. The very minute I get a new book, either a bookplate or a scrawled name and date are added to the inside front cover. I also rate each recipe I try and make notes about any detours I may take (and I must confess to taking many). Finally, many of my cookbooks would qualify as "scratch and sniff" books since despite having a collection of cookbook stands, I seldom dig through the cabinets to find them. You're apt to find color washes left by sauces, the odd piece of dried dough, or fleck of spice. Personally, I think it adds to their authenticity.

A few weeks ago, one of my foodie friends mentioned a cookbook in a comment she left. I've searched through my deleted posts, but couldn't verify who it was. I'm fairly certain it was Gloria C.--I wanted to thank her--who mentioned the book Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini. Since I was ordering The Language of Baklava, our next read for Cook the Books, I went ahead and ordered Carmellini's book as well. I was not disappointed. I love the premise of his book. A professional chef for many years, Carmellini was awaiting the completion of his new restaurant and found himself, as the book jacket describes, "up against the harsh reality of life as a civilian cook: no prep cooks, no saucier, no daily deliveries--just him and his wife in their tiny Manhattan apartment kitchen."

Yes, I crowed, now let's see what he produces when he's stripped down to the bare bones as most of us foodies bloggers are! If there were a fat, juicy crow, I'd be digging in right now based on just the first recipe I've recreated. In addition to a wonderful Sunday dinner, I've enjoyed reading of his many cooking and eating experiences, one of them being his service as weekend executive chef to the Cuomo family in Albany.

The recipe I tried last night was for short ribs braciole. As Carmellini reveals upfront, the name of this dish makes no sense at all. Braciole in Italy are really slices of beef, pounded thin, and fried quickly. Italian Americans call involitini (beef rolls) by the name braciole. This dish was basically slow-cooked short ribs, but, what's in a name? The result was pure heaven. From the minute I began browning the short rib slices in a mixture of pancetta, onion, and garlic, to the time I opened the oven after a 2 1/4 hour slow cooking, the scent was incredible. The dish came together quickly and just needed to be checked every 20 minutes or so to make certain they weren't cooking too fast. I served them with some cavatappi pasta, a last minute decision when I tasted the rich, smoky sauce. I can hardly wait to eat the leftovers tonight! As usual, I've taken a few liberties with the original recipe--not too many--but below is exactly how I made the dish.

Serves 4
For the short ribs:
1/4 lb pancetta, roughly diced
2 1/2 lbs boneless beef short ribs, each rib sliced in thirds
1 tsp Kosher salt
freshly grated pepper
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
2 28 oz cans whole, peeled SAN MARZANO tomatoes, with their juice
1 tbs sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Cook the pancetta in a large, dry ovenproof pot over medium high heat until the fat renders (about 2 minutes)

Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper; add them to the pot and brown the meat (about 5 minutes)

Add the onion and cook until it softens (about 2 minutes)

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, mix well

Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to the pot along with their juices

Bring the mixture to a low boil

Remove the pot from the stove and place it in the oven, checking every 20 minutes or so to make certain it's not boiling too hard

Cook for 2 1/4 hours

For the topping:
1/4 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
dried oregano and parsley
salt and pepper
2 tbs freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

Toast the pine nuts in a dry saute pan over low heat (about 8 minutes)
Add the olive oil, mix well, continue cooking

Add the panko breadcrumbs; cook about 2 minutes, until toasty brown

Add the salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley

Remove from heat and stir in the cheese; set aside

To finish the dish:
Remove the pot from the oven and immediately remove the short ribs

Use a ladle to remove excess fat (by pressing chunky sauce away as you tip the pot so ladle fills with fat only)

Place a few slices of meat on each plate, spoon sauce over, sprinkle with nut-crumb mixture

Prepare for lots of yummy noises as you eat this dish!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


What a nice surprise to receive an award from a foodie friend. If you don't know Gloria C. from, please visit her blog for some great reviews of cookbooks and recipes and other blogs. Thank you, Gloria, for your Friendship Award. I'll display it proudly.

Friday, December 26, 2008


With visions of icy roads and traffic jams, Larry and I decided to stay home for dinner on Christmas Eve which gave me a chance to try another recipe from one of my newly acquired cookbooks, Tyler's Ultimate. We both love crab cakes, but generally eat them out. This recipe proved that this is a weeknight meal, if you so choose. The crab cakes went together easily and, after a few hours in the refrigerator, were sauteed in under 10 minutes. I served them with spaghetti alio e olio, but will do them again with risotto or garlic mashed potatoes.

Tyler's recipe called for fresh, jumbo lump crabmeat. I had to use the jumbo lump in the can, but it was delicious nonetheless. I did not prepare the chile mayonnaise. We prefer our crabcake au naturel or with remoulade sauce. I used the extra virgin olive oil, but will not do so again. You really don't want anything to take away from the crab and olive oil does impart its own flavor. DO use fresh breadcrumbs; they make a huge difference, I'm sure. I would imagine commercial bread crumbs would dry out the cakes. Instead, you have big juicy lumps of crab and little else.

Serves 4 - 8
vegetable oil (the recipe calls for extra virgin olive oil; use vegetable)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 onion, finely minced
1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (made from 3-4 slices white bread)
2 tbs mayonnaise
1 large egg white
juice of 1 lemon (his recipe called for lime; I prefer lemon)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(I left out the 1/4 cup chopped cilantro)

Heat a 2-count of oil in a frying pan over medium heat

Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes until kind of carmelized

Place onion-garlic mixture in a bowl and add crabmeat, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, egg white, lemon juice and mix until well blended

Season with salt and pepper

Shape into 6 fat crab cakes

Put crab cakes on a plate, cover, and refrigerate at least until chilled

Heat a 2-count of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the crab cakes and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until they're nice and crispy. Garnish and enjoy.

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 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.

The butter produces a somewhat different texture than the lard and they're less dry. I use a small amount of coconut, actually about half what the recipe calls for. The addition of the chocolate in the middle was pronounced a "good thing."

Ingredients - Yield 2 1/2 - 3 dozen
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate bits
more confectioners' sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Cream the butter and confectioners' sugar
Blend in the flour
Fold in the coconut
Break off walnut-sized pieces
Stuff 4-6 chocolate bits into middle
Roll dough around chocolate, covering completely
Roll balls in confectioners' sugar
Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets
Bake 18-20 minutes
Roll in sugar again and place on racks to cool

I had to show off the Christmas table runner I made this year and the new candy-cane candles I found.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Despite being retired for over 4 years, I still get the calls when school is closed since Larry works for the same school district. No matter that he leaves for work between 4 and 5 AM. As always, it's impossible to get back to sleep once you've gotten that early morning call, so I turned my thoughts to what I was going to make for dinner. Having been sick all week, the larder was looking a little empty. We'd already done the only take-out our small community has to offer, so I had to be a little creative. Then I remembered the lovely piece of Gruyere I'd had Larry purchase when he took over shopping duties last weekend when this cold first hit. Fingers flying over the keyboard, I searched for a meal worthy of an evening in the woods in front of a roaring fire. A bin filled with yellow onions, my wonderful piece of cheese, enough flour and butter to get through the holiday season. An SOS to Larry to pick up a carton of half and half at our deli outpost in town and it was settled: French onion soup gratinee a la the Barefoot Contessa and a spinach, Canadian bacon quiche.

By noon, we were in the middle of a white out. The storm came on suddenly and was relentless until almost 9 PM. But I digress. Although both Larry and I adore a good, rich onion soup cloaked in gooey cheese, I'd never actually made onion soup. The larder had no lard (sorry, former English teachers do love their play on words), so I had to make a butter crust.

I'm pleased to announce that making onion soup is a snap. As has always been my experience, actually carmelizing onions takes 2 to 3 times longer than any recipe states. Making pastry on my wonderful new silicone Food Network pastry mat is a snap and leaves my kitchen relatively free of the flourstorm that used to characterize any baking. I got mine on sale at Kohl's for less than $25. I love it because I just throw it in the sink to clean, then roll it up and store it between the oven and the microwave.

French Onion Soup Gratinee - Serves 4 - 6

2 1/2 lbs yellow onions, halved then sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 lb unsalted butter (this IS an Ina recipe)

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup sherry*

1/4 cup brandy*

1/2 cup dry white wine*

6 cups beef stock**

2 cups chicken stock**

Kosher salt to taste

*I reduced the amount of alcohol in Ina's recipe; hers called for 1/2 cup each of sherry and brandy and 1 1/2 cups of white wine

**in the best of times, I don't have veal stock in the larder; her recipe called for 4 cups each of beef and veal stock

In a large stockpot (my LeCreuset again) on medium high heat, carmelize the onions with the butter and bay leaf. It took me 45 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry and brandy and simmer uncovered about 5 minutes. Then, add the wine and simmer another 15 minutes.

Add the stock and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

At this point, I put soup in a crock, topped with thin slices of baguette, covered the bread with copious amounts of shredded gruyere, then broiled until it reached a lovely shade of brown.

What's in the Larder Quiche - Serves 4

For the Crust:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup iced water

flour for dusting

Egg Mixture:

4 eggs

1 cup half and half

pinch black pepper

pinch dry mustard

For the Filling:

4 slices Canadian bacon, diced small

1 box frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry

1/3 cup diced onion, sauteed until translucent

4 oz Gruyere, grated

2 oz shredded mozzarella

Make the Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Cut in the butter. Add water to bring the dough together. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out on a floured surface and place and shape in your favorite deep dish pie plate.

Assemble and Bake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the Canadian bacon, spinach, onion, and cheeses over the crust. Slowly pour over the egg mixture. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My larder is now somewhat increased with 3/4 of a lovely quiche--guess what's for breakfast?--and 4 quarts of onion soup. When the going gets tough, the tough start cooking.

Friday, December 19, 2008


If you've been blog-hopping recently, you can't help but have noticed that there are many posts dedicated to mom's or grandma's or Aunt Marie's favorite Italian or Mexican or Greek butter cookie. What's more, they all sound suspiciously like the same recipe. In an effort to bring you something new (ahem!), I decided to share my favorite recipe for basic French sables. Oh, all right, French sables are butter cookies, too, but they're are tres chic and tres petite.

A few words of warning here. If your household is populated by several of the male species, you may want to hide these. Men don't get the concept of petite, They operate from the "more is better" variety. When you see your beautifully decorated little coins being grabbed by the handful and tossed into the mouth, you may get a sudden urge to resurrect the guillotine. Let me assure you that if you do manage to salvage some of these treasures, they are quite delicious and look rather festive.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white, beaten
OPTIONAL: colored sugar, chopped nuts, melted chocolate, non-pareils
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar.
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat thoroughly.
Combine the flour and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and blend until the dough is smooth.
Shape the dough into cylinders about 1-2 inches in diameter on a lightly floured surface.
Wrap the cyliners in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
Brush refrigerated logs with beaten egg white and roll in decoration of choice.
Slice the dough with a sharp knife into 1/3 inch disks.
Place 1 inch apart on parchment or silicone mat covered baking sheets.
Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are slightly colored.
You may freeze the shaped, but uncooked dough for baking at a later time.
There are many variations to be made from this simple, but delicious, dough. You may, for example:
tint the dough
substitute 1/4 cup cocoa poweder for flour for chocolate butter cookies
substitute 1/2 tsp of the vanilla with mint, rum, walnut, or any other flavoring
make sandwich cookies by spreading one cookie with ganache
mold a log of dough into squares, ovals, hearts, or other simple shapes
roll and cut the dough with cookie cutters
While the first batch of these cookies is a distant memory, they are so easy they can be made in a snap. Joyeus Noel.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I don't know about you, but the first thing I notice when I walk into a mall are the smells, and what smell is more distinctive than the smell of cinammon buns baking? A few weeks ago I tried a recipe on the side of a box of baking mix. The result was more of a biscuit than a cinammon roll. I began to hunt through my recipe collection in search of a cinammon roll that did not require hours of preparation.

Not only did I find a very simple recipe, but the result is a clone of your favorite mall shop cinammon roll. I love to mix and knead by hand, so the recipe was a double success. I'm guessing Larry will be asking for these a lot.

YIELD - 12 rolls

1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F)
1 pkg. active dry yeast
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar

Dissolve the sugar in the milk, then add the yeast. Let foam (about 10 minutes), then add the eggs and butter, then add the flour, salt, and sugar. Knead (about 8 minutes). Spray a bowl with cooking spray, place dough in the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size (30-45 minutes).

1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tbs ground cinammon
1/3 cup butter, softened

Combine filling ingredients

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Beat together cream cheeses and butter; add confectioners sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat until smooth.

Roll dough into a 16 X 21 inch rectangle. Spread the dough with 1/3 cup btter and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9 X 13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled (about 30 minutes).

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Spread icing on warm rolls before serving.

These rolls reheat well in the microwave. The next time I make them, I'm going to freeze a few unbaked for a quick treat.

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

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

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 cheese


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
Sponge (above)

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

salt, pepper

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

Christmas Stollen

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.

Serves 2

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 ).