Nachos Grande

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Nachos For Everyone!

Nachos For Everyone!

OK people… a short while ago I posted a picture from Belize of our dinner – nachos grande.  Several of you wrote and wanted the recipe.  Recipe?  Really?!?  You actually asked me to quantify this?

Of course, I did.  Making nachos is like making a pizza, except the bottom layer is made from local, freshly baked tortilla chips instead of dough.  Here is what we did:

Nachos Grande

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Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and turn on the broiler.

Layer in the following order:

  • Tortilla chips to cover the bottom – pile them on so there is almost a double layer
  • 1 ⅓  cups drained but cooked black beans
  • 2 small ripe tomatoes, diced
  • ⅓ cup diced sweet pickles
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ½ cups raw chicken sausage (taken out of the casings, torn into ¼ inch pieces)
  • ¼ cup grated Edam cheese
  • Hot (picante) sauce

Put the assembled tray of ingredients (except hot sauce) under a broiler in the oven just until the cheese is melted and the meat is cooked.

After it is cooked, I add about ½ tsp very hot (picante) sauce such as Marie Sharps – shake evenly over top

Enjoy!

Note: you can use ground beef in place of chicken sausage, add black olives, sauteed onion…let your imagination go wild.

Leftovers can be warmed on foil in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and are darned good!

 

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Dukkah, Duqqa…I Almost Forgot About You

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Roasted Root Vegetables with Dukkah

Roasted Root Vegetables with Dukkah

The other week, at the last minute, I spotted a cooking class at one of my favorite haunts in Seattle, The Book Larder.  There is a new instructor/chef and he presented a vegetarian menu…a dinner class actually.  I roped a couple of friends and my girlfriend’s daughter into accompanying me too.

Kerry, Toby, me and Lauren

Kerry, Toby, me and Lauren

The “recipes” were just lists of ingredients, although we were told along the way the approximate amounts of each item that was used.  For me, I don’t mind winging it … unless I am baking, of course.   Once I know the ingredients, I can guesstimate pretty well how much or how little of each ingredient I need to use.

We made and tasted a raw vegetable salad with pomegranate syrup and walnut dressing, roasted garlic and bread soup, roasted carrot/parsnip with harissa, lime and yogurt and Bay Leaf Ice cream with spiced nuts.  A great menu, in my opinion and I’ll be trying, modifying and posting a recipe or two once I get myself in gear.

The roasted carrot and parsnip dish especially tickled my fancy, and the presentation was perfect: a shmear of whole milk plain yogurt, the roasted vegetables, harissa sauce and a sprinkle of dukkah.  Duck what, you ask?  Dukkah!  This Egyptian mix of toasted spices, nuts and seasoning transported me back to my New Zealand travels from 2006!

The chef gave us a verbal recipe which wasn’t even part of the class – and on my first try I modified it a bit but pretty much stuck to the ingredients and quantities he suggested: a cup of hazelnuts, spices and ⅓ cup of salt.  All was well until I tasted my final product…WAY too salty, even as a sprinkle on top of veggies.  WAY TOO MUCH!  Back to the drawing board… I found notes I’d taken from a winery in Napier, New Zealand — the first place I ever tasted dukkah.  My next try I hit a good, basic mix that is now in my fridge, ready for daily use.

Many dukkah recipes call for black peppercorns, roasted then pounded or processed with everything else.  Some of my family members are very sensitive to black pepper for some reason so I omitted this step – but go ahead and add this if you adore black pepper.

A Dish of Dukkah

A Dish of Dukkah

Dukkah

Makes 1 ½ cups

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Ingredients
  • ½ cup whole raw almonds with skins
  • ½  cup hazelnuts, skin removed (Note: I bought some that were already roasted and skinned-I suggest you use these if you can find them)
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the hazelnuts on one baking tray (if you don’t already buy them toasted and skinned; if you get them already roasted and skinned, don’t put them in the oven at all).

Place the almonds and cumin, coriander, fennel and sesame seeds on another tray and place both trays in oven about 10 minutes or until nuts and seeds are toasted. If you had to roast the hazelnuts, transfer them to a clean tea towel and rub nuts in tea towel to remove as much of the hazelnut skin as possible; cool.

Once cooled, place all ingredients from the recipe into a food processor and pulse to form fine crumbs. Don’t overdo this or it starts to clump together.

This mixture stays in an airtight jar for a long time in the refrigerator (because of the nuts I refrigerate mine unless I plan to use it within a week).

Get a crusty rustic loaf of warm bread and a bowl of olive oil, then a dish of dukkah so you can tear pieces of bread, dip into olive oil and then coat it a bit with dukkah.  Mix some of this into bread crumbs you use to saute fish or chicken.  Use a teaspoon to top salads, to garnish roasted vegetables, or sprinkle on eggs.  In my humble opinion, dukkah should become a  staple in every kitchen!

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Rustic Carrot Soup

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Colorful Carrot Soup

Colorful Carrot Soup

Whenever I’m preparing to leave town for a length of time, one of the hardest tasks for me is to somehow cook all the produce and perishables that cannot be frozen.  I don’t like wasting fresh vegetables and fruits, or dairy products for that matter. It’s a fine dance and my meals become very creative … and often a little weird.

The other week I opened the vegetable drawer and realized I had a lot of organic, beautiful carrots that needed a home.  I also had a quart of homemade chicken stock, although you could use canned stock or even “better than bouillon” too.  It was cold outside so I immediately thought of carrot soup, more the vegetable-only, forget-the-meat variety.  But for whatever reason I did not fancy a pureed, smooth or blended soup. I wanted something more chunky – something with some texture.

And voila!  I basically took one of my pureed carrot soup recipes and took out the “blend with a stick blender” step.  This was so yummy and a little different spin on carrot soup.  FYI – I am going to try it next time with a cup of coconut milk and cilantro in lieu of dill.  You could dollop some crème fraîche or greek yogurt to serve it, but I wanted it simple and plain.

This is one of those “cannot fail” type recipes – just minimal chopping and 45 minutes on the stovetop.  The sweetness of the slowly cooked onion and carrots provide a delicate balance with the chicken broth.  My husband gave it a huge thumbs up, but don’t trust his judgment because he is a huge fan of my creations.  Go for it!

Rustic Carrot Soup

4 large servings

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Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons regular (salted)  butter or oil
  • 1 large onion diced ½ inch
  • 1 teaspoon dry dill weed
  • 1 ½  pounds carrots, peeled and sliced ⅛ inch
  • 1 teaspoon salt (more or less as you wish)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • A few sprigs of fresh dill or fronds of fennel to garnish
Instructions

Heat a 4-quart sauce pan and add the butter. Once it melts, add the diced onions and dry dill and let them 

cook on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Add the carrots and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the chicken broth and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low simmer, add the salt, and simmer for a half hour. Leave the pot uncovered during the cooking process.

Serve with a few dill fronds or chopped herbs.  Enjoy!

 

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Coconut Cream Pie For Jakey Boy!

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A Sinful Slice

A Sinful Slice

My youngest son celebrated his 29th birthday at the end of February – the 21st to be exact.  Each year I ask him what kind of cake or pie he’d like.  I’ve told you before how much I adore birthdays, how loved I always felt as a child when my birthday rolled around, and so I try to make the day extra special for my kids and grandkids.  Since Jake is the only one of my three children living in Seattle right now, he gets the added bonus of a birthday dessert of his choosing.

It always tickles me to hear his requests because he’s not a chocolate fan …hardly even a sweets fan. Granted, he does like an occasional warm homemade chocolate chip cookie or a slice of lemon bread but most often he passes on dessert.  When forced to choose, Jakey Boy tends to like creamy, comforting types of pies or desserts: tapioca, banana cream pie (last year’s request) and such.  This year, he asked for a coconut cream pie fashioned after Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas’s creation.

The Perfect Pie

The Perfect Pie

So I got to it.  I started with a quick internet search and bingo…I found the transcript of a local TV cook’s show that included this recipe.  Of course I decided to make it a bit easier by eliminating anything I would have to buy for the sole purpose of the recipe;  for instance, I didn’t use large coconut shreds to garnish and I did not even consider making white chocolate curls (in my mind, white chocolate isn’t chocolate but just overly sweet goop!).  And 2½ cups of cream to whip for the topping?  That is so excessive for me. I used a lot less – with less sugar too.  By the way, the original recipe says it serves 6-8; in my world I could no more eat an entire slice of this pie than kiss the tip of my elbow.  I’d say it serves 10 easily… 10 normal eaters who don’t gorge themselves.  In case you are interested, here is the link to the original recipe I found online.

Despite the intricacies of the original, I must admit that this just wasn’t that hard to make.  The crust was easy for me – I had to practice patience by sticking around and waiting to roll it out, then wait another hour or so to bake it.  The bottom line is that I would make this coconut pie again – it’s not as time consuming as other desserts I’ve mastered. I’d put bittersweet chocolate curls on top but that wouldn’t be very authentic, would it?

And as the youngest (by 6 ½ years) of my three children, Jakey Boy tagged along to baseball games, attended high school and college graduations, fixed numerous computer glitches, and he’s been an on call babysitter and ski instructor for his nephews and niece…so it’s about time he gets what he desires.  Cheers to my Jakey Boy.  I’ll always make him the dessert of his dreams on his birthday!

Coconut Cream Pie

Original Recipe by Tom Douglas; Updated by Yours Truly

Serves 10

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Ingredients

1 Pre-baked and cooled 9-inch Deep Dish Coconut Pie Shell (See recipe below)

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, shake well before opening
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise (substitute 1 tsp pure vanilla extract if you must)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 10 tablespoons (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients
  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 ½ Tbsp granulated  sugar
  • ½  teaspoon vanilla extract
Garnish Ingredients
  • ¾  cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted until lightly brown in the oven  (300 degrees for 10 minutes or so.  Watch carefully!)
Instructions

To make the Coconut Pastry Cream, combine milk, coconut milk and shredded coconut in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add both scrapings and pod to milk mixture. (Note if you don’t have a vanilla bean, add one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract).  Stir occasionally until mixture almost comes to a boil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and flour until well-combined. Temper eggs by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 cup) of scalded milk from the mixture you are cooking stovetop into egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until mixture is very thick, four to five minutes more.

Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard vanilla pod. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and place it over another bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until pastry cream is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools. When pastry cream is cold and you are within a few hours of eating this dessert, fill cooled pastry shell, smoothing the surface with a rubber spatula.

To prepare Whipped Cream Topping, in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Spread on top of pastry cream, and sprinkle top with cooled toasted coconut.  Refrigerate until serving.

Cook’s Notes:

A step ahead: If not serving immediately, keep the pie refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap. The finished pie should be used within a day.

The coconut pastry cream can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap as described above.

Coconut Pie Shell Instructions

Serves 8 – 10

Note: You will need to ‘blind-bake’ the pie shell, which means bake the unfilled pastry-lined pan. Use dried beans to weight the bottom of the crust and keep it from puffing up during baking. You can store your ‘pie beans’ in a jar and use them over and over. Very cold butter will give you a flakier crust. If your butter is not very cold, you could set the diced butter in the freezer for 10 minutes before making your dough.

Baking Beans!

Baking Beans!

Pie Shell Ingredients
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
  • ½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup ice water, or more as needed
Instructions

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, coconut, diced butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse to form coarse crumbs. Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing each time. Use only as much water as need for the dough to hold together when gently pressed between your fingers. Don’t work the dough with your hands, just test to see if it is holding. The dough will not form a ball or even clump together in the processor, it will still be quite loose.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull the plastic wrap around the dough, forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.

To roll the dough, unwrap the round of coconut dough and put it on a lightly floured board. Flour the rolling pin and your hands. Roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Occasionally lift the dough with a board scraper to check that it is not sticking and add more flour if it seems like it’s about to stick. Trim to a 12 to 13-inch circle. Transfer the rolled dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Ease the dough loosely and gently into the pan. You don’t want to stretch dough at this point because it will shrink when it is baked. Trim any excess dough to a 1- to 1 ½-inch overhang. Turn the dough under along the rim of the pie pan and use your finger to flute the edge. Chill the unbaked pie shell at least an hour before baking. (This step prevents the dough from shrinking in the oven.)

Coconut Crust

Coconut Crust

When you are ready to bake the pie crust, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a piece of foil or parchment in the pie shell and fill with dried beans. (This step prevents the bottom of the shell from puffing up during baking.) Bake the pie crust for 20 minutes, or until the pastry rim is golden. Remove the pie pan from the oven. Remove the foil and beans and return the pie crust to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom of crust has golden brown patches. Remove pie crust from the oven and allow to cool. completely.

Cooks Notes:

The dough can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen for a few weeks. Also the dough can be rolled out and fitted into a pie pan, and the unbaked pie shell can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or frozen for the same amounts of time. Frozen pie shells can be baked directly out of the freezer.

 

 

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Thanksgiving in February – Mid-Winter Root Vegetable Salad

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Wintery Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Wintery Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Don’t laugh…we really did have another Thanksgiving in February… the day after Valentine’s Day if you must know.  My family in Seattle (eight adults) always attend the real Thanksgiving weekend at Kal’s Cabin.  However, we inevitably prepare for all the out of town family and never end up with enough leftover turkey and stuffing and gravy…I mean with 25 eaters all weekend, not much remains.

So it came to pass that we organized a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this month.  We all agreed we had a lot to be thankful for – so much so that celebrating our bounty once a year was simply not sufficient. My older brother arrived at our condominium Sunday morning to begin preparing  the turkey and stuffing and gravy and cranberries in my kitchen at 9:30 am!  His condo is smaller than mine and his kitchen is smaller than mine so I let him work his magic in my unit.  Yes, the room filled with smoke from the turkey fat splattering all over the inside of my oven.  Yes, the smells were incredible.  Yes, the next day I had to clean my oven and exhaust fan hood and oven racks and floors..but it was totally worth it.

I played adult and set the table with fine china and silver and real napkins, and we put everything on beautiful platters. I am going to askUncle Tim to teach the next generation how he makes his turkey, stuffing and gravy.  To round everything out, Jake brought perfect Yukon gold mashed potatoes, I provided black bottom pie, wine, spinach salad and roasted vegetables with a twist.  I must say, the food was divine.  The company was even better.

My Black Bottom Pie

My Black Bottom Pie

Kal brought the following delicious roasted yam and beet salad with a kale dressing.  Drum roll for this one.  And do feel free to make the kale-buttermilk dressing a little on the thick side and use it to dip fresh vegetables or to spread on crusty bread.

I think we’ll try for a second repeat February Thanksgiving in 2016 too.  I highly recommend replicating this special day for all of you.  Please be forewarned, however, that in February it is impossible to find pomegranates and fresh chestnuts (at least in Seattle).

Roasted Vegetables With Kale-Buttermilk Dressing

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From Kal from Food and Wine Magazine and tweaked by me.

Prep time:   30 minutes

Roasting time:  45 minutes

Servings:  10

Dressing or Dip Ingredients
  • ½ bunch (4 oz) green kale, stemmed  (I use lacinato)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ small serrano or jalapeno chili with seeds, chopped-more or less to your taste
  • 1 anchovy fillet with some oil
  • ¼ cup plain unflavored yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced white onion
  • ⅛ teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup olive oil (more if you want it thinner and less if you are making this as a dip)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper 
Dressing Instructions

In a medium sauce pan, with ¼ inch water, add kale and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook until wilted and softened, 3-5 minutes.  Drain and dry the kale.  Puree this with the rest of the dressing ingredients, adding oil last of all until it’s the right consistency.  Make it thicker if you want a dip, and thin it out more if you use it as a salad dressing.

Salad Ingredients
  • 4-6 Garnet yams
  • 1 large bunch red beets with green tops
Salad Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 and adjust the rack to mid oven.

Remove the tops from the red beets and set aside.

Peel and cube beets and yams into 1-inch pieces, toss each vegetable individually with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Keeping the yams and beets separate, place onto a parchment-lined, rimmed cookie sheet at 425 degrees, for 30-45 minutes.  The beets take longer to soften, so if the yams finish cooking first,  remove them to a plate and continue roasting the beets.

Chop the beet greens and sauté over medium heat in a bit of olive oil (add spinach or chard if you want more greens). Toss with the root veggies to serve.

Everything can be served at room temperature.  I think it looks pretty spread out on a platter!  Place dressing on the side.

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Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

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Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

I don’t know about you, but when I have houseguests I like to make a little extra food to have around  so I can enjoy my company and not be tied to the kitchen.  Many recipes I prepare ahead are munchy type eats, maybe some soup, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and salad stuff … and always breakfast food.  Most of my friends and family are sick of bagels and many are not into eggs or pancakes, so I end up making a batch of these scones.

They aren’t that bad for you… really.  Yes, there is some white flour but I put in whole wheat flour too, and oatmeal along with barely sweetened dried fruit, and just a titch of brown sugar.  These are barely sweet, chewy and perfect for a little something to have with a cup of coffee in the morning before a walk or heading out.

The original recipe for these scones came from an older cookbook and I switched out a lot of the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour.  I cut the scones smaller so I end up with eight perfect sized scones.  Although best an hour after baking, who has time to get up in the morning and start in  before breakfast?  Not me!  So I cool these and stick them in the freezer, then defrost and rewarm them as needed.

I don’t put butter or cream cheese on these when I eat them – I like them as is.  I think you could use dried cranberries or even dried dates or prunes cut into raisin-sized pieces and soaked as per the directions if you want to switch out the types of fruit.

Do follow the instructions of how to make this dough carefully – it’s a little unusual not to stir things together and not to work the dough, but it does make a difference.  Happy winter baking!

Oatmeal Fruit Scones

Makes eight scones

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Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup dried sour cherries
  • 2 dried apricot halves, cut into small pieces (mine have no sulfur or sweetener added)
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated orange zest
  • 1 cup + 3 Tbsp flour (I use 1 cup white whole wheat pastry flour + the rest white flour but you can use ½ regular white flour and ½ white whole wheat pastry flour if you prefer a lighter scone)
  • 2 ½ Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbsp (½ stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Soak fruit in hot tap water 15 minutes and then drain well.

Put buttermilk and egg in bowl, sprinkle oatmeal on top and don’t stir.  Let it sit for 15 minutes, then add the drained dried fruit.

In a food processor add flour through butter until very well blended.  Gently fold into rest of the ingredients and do not overstir.  Turn onto a floured surface and pat into a one-inch thick circle.  The dough is sticky – don’t knead and don’t stir.  Handle as little as possible. Cut eight wedges, place on the parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle the tops with one tablespoon (total) of granulated sugar. Bake them 25-30 minutes on the  middle shelf of the oven.

When cool you might want to drizzle these with a maple glaze because they are on the bland, non-sweet side. Just mix together a half cup of sifted powdered sugar with three tablespoons of maple syrup for the drizzle.

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Ann’s Poppy Seed Cookies

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Crispy & Citrusy Poppy Seed Cookies

Crispy & Citrusy Poppy Seed Cookies

When it comes to dessert or something sweet, I choose either (A) chocolate, the darker the better or (B) a bland, slightly sweet type of crisp cookie.  So you won’t be shocked that I dream about these barely-sweet-filled-with-poppy-seeds cookies.  My husband loves to tell the story of how, when he was a boy in Waterloo, Iowa, his parents’ friend Ann always kept a Folgers coffee can with these cookies on top of her refrigerator.  Always.  And whenever he would go to Ann’s house, he’d help himself to several of these delicious homemade cookies.  They are like potato chips though: addicting, crispy, you can’t eat just one.

Anyway, I found a recipe card recently with for poppy seed or “Mohn” cookies tucked among my old fashioned recipe file (the kind where things are actually written out) and decided to make them just because.  Mohn means poppyseed in German and Yiddish as well.  It took a couple of run throughs, adding a bit more sugar, not refrigerating the raw dough, baking them longer and B-I-N-G-O.  These little cookies are amazing.

I always keep homemade cookies around, but I switch up the varieties and these are my new favorites. I cannot wait to have a cup of jasmine green tea or pour a glass of cold milk to sip alongside these orange-scented gems.

If you have a grocery store that carries bulk poppy seeds, like I do, you’ll be way ahead of the game.  The cost here in Seattle was a tenth the price in bulk as it would be in a spice jar.  And a third of a cup of poppy seeds is a LOT… probably an entire spice jar.  The orange zest and fresh orange juice here are key and what sets this apart from similar cookie recipes.

Let me know if you can only eat one, because throughout the day I usually consume three or four, as a bare minimum.  They put a smile on my face!

Ann Lipkin’s Poppy Seed Sugar Cookies

Yield: 7-8 dozen  2-2 1/4 inch diameter cookies

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Ingredients
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½  cup peanut oil
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Grated zest of one large orange
  • ¾  cups white sugar plus 2 Tbsp
  • ⅓ cup poppy seeds
  • 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • ¼ cup sugar (approximately) for rolling the cookiesInstructions

Preheat the oven to 350.   Zest the orange and combine the zest with the sugar to absorb the oil while you finish getting everything else ready.  Squeeze the orange juice from the zested orange and measure out 1/4 cup.  Beat eggs with oil, juice and sugar/zest, blending well. Stir in poppy seeds . .  Combine dry ingredients (flour, soda and salt) together and add to the wet mixture to make a soft dough. Mix lightly with a spatula or with your hands.

Use teaspoon-size pieces of dough to form balls; if the dough is too sticky dust your hands with flour. Roll each cookie in granulated sugar.   I usually place all the balls on a tray.  Once they are made into balls, start to put them on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Place them two inches apart, 15 per sheet.  Take a flat glass (I actually use a flat meat pounder), dip it in sugar and press down hard so that the rounds are about ⅛ inch thick, (or you can pat them flat with your fingers) and bake 15-20 minutes until lightly brown on top and around the edges.  Leave them  on the cookie sheet  for one minute then put on a rack to cool completely.

These cookies freeze well for up to three months and keep, covered at room temperature, for two weeks at least.

 

 

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Savory Spanish Green Beans

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Spanish Green Beans

Spanish Green Beans

My cousin-by-marriage called me in January and wanted to visit Seattle for a few days; she desperately needed a break from caring for my wheelchair-bound cousin Michael and from her piano students.  “Sure,” I replied and assured her that I would cook for her, let her sleep in, take her on walks and just let her hang out at Hotel Marilyn.

I stocked the house with all kinds of goodies and cooked vegetarian dishes that she could eat.  To be honest, it is always hard for me to make things I love when my eaters have a lot of dietary restrictions.  In this case, I had to provide strictly kosher, non-dairy, no oatmeal, no chamomile type of food.  Alrighty then…

From her wonderful comments, I’d like to think Jessica loved Hotel Marilyn enough to rate it five stars.  We didn’t do much really, but she truly seemed revived by the time she flew back home.  We rented a terrific documentary Friday night called “Finding Vivian Meier”  – a movie we chose out of the blue and truly enjoyed.  Of course we ate ourselves silly: fish, lentil soup, challah and butter, brie and crostini and pears. And throughout her stay, music from her piano practice wafted down the back stairwell of the building.  I hope my neighbors realized it was not me making the music!  I only wish I could play half that beautifully…

In the midst of one of my grocery runs, she began telling me about a green bean dish that had Spanish overtones of shallots, smoky paprika and marcona almonds.  I Googled and happily found the recipe and decided to make and take this to my brother’s for our family Saturday night dinner.  It was easy, pretty and SOOOO GOOD!  Honestly, I could have had this with leftover challah and been a happy camper.  Before I left my house Jakey Boy came up to borrow baking soda and tasted a forkful of these beans, then another, and I had to stop him.  He demanded to know if and when I was going to post the recipe.

My Family!

My Family!

This is my new favorite winter vegetable dish, a little different from my usual blast-in-the-oven-at-high-heat cauliflower or brussels sprouts.  And let’s be clear: Marcona almonds, smoky paprika and shallots are three flavors that call my name.  These savory elements enhance the green beans, provide a little texture difference and marry perfectly.  I know it will be fantastic with any slightly sweet preparation of chicken or fish too.  In fact, I am going to make a similar version with multi-colored, tiny potatoes, eliminating the nuts.  How good will that be?!?

Spanish Green Beans

Via Jessica and adopted from Fine Cooking

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients
  • 1 ½ lb. green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup peeled shallots, cloves sliced into ⅛ inch pieces (I used about 3 very large ones)
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped Marcona almonds (also called Spanish Valencian Almonds).  The ones I bought were salted
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika (Paprika Ahumada)
Instructions

Put about three inches of water into a three-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the beans to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, without covering, for about three minutes or until just tender.   Remove to an ice bath until cold, then drain them and dry well with a towel.  Set aside.

Put the shallots and olive oil in a cold 12-inch saute pan and place the pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the shallots begin to turn golden, stirring to break them into rings, about three to five minutes. Turn to low and sprinkle the sugar over the shallots and stir constantly until the shallots are golden all over, about 45 seconds. Quickly add the almonds, stir well, and immediately add the beans and smoked paprika. Cook, stirring, until heated through, two to three minutes. Taste and add salt if you wish – I love salt but my salted almonds gave enough punch to the beans.  Let this sit at room temperature if you wish or serve immediately while warm.

PS: My entire Seattle family agreed that this was a wonderful vegetable side dish!

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Comforting Chicken Marsala

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Chicken Marsala Accompanied by Ruby Beets, Steamed Green Beans and Oven-Roasted Carrots & Parsnips

Chicken Marsala Accompanied by Ruby Beets, Steamed Green Beans and Oven-Roasted Carrots & Parsnips

Want an easy main dish both kids and adults adore?  Ta-da! I give you Chicken Marsala.  I love this recipe both for the taste and the make-ahead attributes and it is definitely in my “favorites” section of recipes.  I’ve made this for years and years and years, but I never grow tired of it.

Most of the seasonings and other ingredients will already be in your pantry, so I most often prepare Chicken Marsala in the winter – when fresh veggies can be scarce.

Chicken Marsala

Serves 4-6

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Ingredients
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried basil or dried tarragon
  • 1 ½ lbs chicken “tenders” or chicken breasts, cut in large bite sized pieces
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp butter or peanut oil
  • ½ pound crimini mushrooms, stems trimmed, thickly sliced and mushroom caps cut into six pie-shaped wedges.
  • 1 cup or more sweet marsala wine
Instructions

Oil a 9 x 12 or oval baking dish and set aside.

Combine flour salt and basil/tarragon in a heavy zip lock bag, add chicken pieces and shake to coat. Reserve the leftover flour mix for later.

Warm two tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat and brown breast pieces with garlic about five minutes.  Remove everything from the sauté pan to the oiled casserole dish.  wipe out the saute pan.

Heat two tablespoons of butter or oil in the cleaned pan with two tablespoons of flour mixture, and add mushrooms to and sauté them for two to three minutes.  Add marsala wine and stir to make a thick gravy.  Add more marsala wine or chicken broth as needed if it looks too thick – I usually need at least a half a cup more.

Pour this mushroom sauce all over the cooked chicken in the casserole before finishing everything in the oven.

Bake covered at 350 for twenty minutes.  This happens to be great over brown rice pilaf or cooked whole grain bow tie noodles – both nice vehicles for the gravy.  Be sure to put something colorful on the plate – cooked carrots and sautéed green beans are perfect.  I always garnish this chicken dish with slices of orange to compliment the marsala flavor.

Note: You can make everything up to the baking in the oven in the morning, then refrigerate it for later.   About an hour before finishing the dish, bring the cooked chicken dish  to room temperature and continue with baking the chicken.  This makes Chicken Marsala a nice “company” make-ahead dish!

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Kay’s Kale Salad

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Colorful Kale Salad

Colorful Kale Salad

You’ll have to wait until right before Thanksgiving in 2015 to get a full rundown of this year’s family weekend and excellent adventures.  Yet I cannot in all good conscience wait that long to share with you this wonderful, different and timely recipe that is a delicious accompaniment for your holiday dinners. And yes, it’s yet another Kale salad… BUT this one features beautiful, seasonal additions of pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and roasted squash.  And anything with white miso piques my interest.  Intrigued?  You should be.

This is a wonderful light salad that can sit, dressed, overnight if you wish. For me, this is key when feeding a huge crowd – it just makes the final meal less stressful.

My sister Kay made this singlehandedly and everybody loved the flavors.  The recipe came from a friend of hers via a restaurant… not really sure about the origin.  I switched out pecans for the pine nuts just because.

Kay’s Kale Salad

Feeds 6-8

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Ingredients for the salad
  • 1 large bunch lacinato (also called dinosaur) kale, stems removed and leaves cut into a fine chiffonade
  • 1 ½ cups roasted butternut squash (ours were cut into ½  inch cubes before roasting) or roasted beets cut the same size
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries (I use dried cherries as they are a tad less sweet)
  • ½ cup toasted chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 avocado, cubed into ½ inch pieces
Ingredients for the dressing
  • ¼ cup room temperature white miso paste
  • ¼ cup honey or pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh peeled and grated ginger (less if you are not a ginger fan)
Instructions

For the salad: in a large bowl combine all ingredients except the avocado and toss well.  Leave on the counter.

For the dressing: combine all ingredients except the grapeseed oil and ginger and whisk together.  Add in the ginger and then drizzle in the oil.  A hand blender works great for this dressing.  Store in a glass jar.  You can make this dressing up to 24 hours ahead which allows the ginger to mellow.

Up to a day before and at least  an  hour ahead of the meal, slowly add the dressing to the kale salad and toss to coat.  Sometimes it doesn’t take the full amount of dressing for this amount of kale.  Let the dressed salad  sit for a half hour to an hour or even overnight to allow the kale to soften. Right before serving, add the avocado cubes.

 

 

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