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Well, well, well… (remember me?)


This poor little blog has been neglected the last couple of months by yours truly.  Blame my new job!  I’ve been traveling like crazy and have hardly been home to cook.  So to talk you into sticking around…here’s as much of a post as I can get out there.

Let’s start with the most recent addition to our kitchen…

For my birthday, Woody gave me a baking steel, from Modernist Cuisine. Which is very cute and thoughtful…he really knows the way to my heart.  It’s through Pizza!  And a couple of nights ago…the first time, we’ve both been in town at the same time in weeks, we made one of these…

…actually we made two…and left only crumbs!

This is the closest we have come to making Neapolitan style pizzeria pizza, with a blistered crust, fresh buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil.  I can’t wait to have it again!

I recently taught a 10 day course in Chico, CA and during a free afternoon, found myself touring the Sierra Nevada Brewery, which of course finishes with a tasting.  The hoppier the beer the better!  I loved the Hoptimum – it has an IBU (International Bitterness Unit) 100.  And their dry hop cold storage room smelled amazing!

Their operation is impressive, even more so because of their emphasis on being green! (Large solar array, hydrogen fuel cells, water treatment plant, etc.)  I really enjoyed Chico…quite a fun little town.  Of particular note is Chico Chai, Avocado Peach Margaritas at this place, and breakfast at Cafe Coda.

Feeling like something on the lighter side…

I experimented with a cold Soba noodle salad with seared tofu, sautéed mushrooms, steamed broccoli and fresh snow peas with a carrot, ginger miso dressing.  It needs a little tweaking, but certainly filled our bellies!

In early May, I had a craving for Chicken Tortilla Soup and whipped this up!

Those are house-fried tortilla strips on top, and the bowl is not ready until you’ve squeezed some fresh lime juice over the top and added fresh avocado as well!

Woody ordered some chile powders from New Mexico and was intrigued by this Blue Corn Pancake Mix.  We threw a batch together one morning, and can now speak from experience…it’s delicious!

Reaching way back (like late April), we made this awesome salad with roasted golden beets, fresh hazelnuts from Oregon, bacon and goat cheese!

I’m about to hit the road again tomorrow and I’ll be gone until the end of June.  I’m SOOOOO looking forward to July, summer produce at the farmer’s market, time to cook, patio sitting and a few slow weeks!

Until July…

Cheers!

 

DLW: Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil


I have been obsessed with white beans as of late.  No explanation…I just want them, all the time.  Also, tuna.  No idea why.

Luckily, Smitten Kitchen delivered and we whipped up this dish for dinner last week.  She mentioned that it makes enough to feed a couple starving armies…so we halved the recipe and still had plenty of leftovers for lunches during the week!

Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil

½ medium onion, cut into big chunks
½ medium carrot, in big chunks
½ celery stalk, in big chunks
3 garlic cloves, 2 left whole, 1 finely chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
Coarse or kosh salt
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 15-ounce can small white beans (such as Great Northern or Cannelini), rinsed
½ pound short tube pasta we used Ditalini
½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Pulse onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and red pepper flakes (to taste) in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 4 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add vegetable mixture to pot. (Quickly rinse, but no need to fully wash, food processor as you’ll use it again shortly.) Season generously with salt. Cook, stirring from time to time, until vegetables take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook it into the vegetables for another minute. Add 1 cup water and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add beans and 2 more cups of water to the pot and simmer until the flavors meld, about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or still a little firm inside.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water from your drained pasta.

Transfer one cup of the bean mixture to your rinsed food processor and purée it until smooth, then stir it back into the sauce to thicken it. Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to bean sauce and cook the mixture together, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce coats the pasta, about 1 to 2 more minutes.

To serve: Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a tiny saucepan over medium-low heat with garlic and rosemary, until sizzling stops. Divide pasta between serving bowls and drizzle garlic-rosemary oil over each.

Next time we make this, we will wait until the very end to add in most of the beans as we found that we liked them a bit toothier and less mushy.  And please, don’t underestimate how critical the garlic rosemary oil is at the end.  I would even recommend making more of the oil for leftovers and dredging some crusty bread through it.

This is a great vegetarian hearty and filling dish despite looking a little bland.  Who knows, next time I might go crazy and throw some lightly dressed arugula on top!

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham


Oh, March…you don’t really belong to winter…and yet you’re not a full-fledged spring month either.  Sigh…

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I start craving all things spring.  Ramps, fiddleheads, greens, onions and asparagus, but there is one vegetable in particular that I look forward to the most.  Spring peas.  I think my devotion to the fresh-from-the-garden-spring-peas comes from disliking all peas that were placed in front of me before sometime in my mid-twenties…and is most likely related to the fact that 99% of those were of the frozen or canned variety.

Here’s a revelation.  This Spring Pea soup can be enjoyed any time of year.  Let me say that again, you can enjoy the delightful crisp and sweet taste of spring peas any time you feel like it.  Herein lies the genius of this Spanish Pea Soup with crispy ham and the Barefoot Contessa!  So even if it is still dumping snow in your neck of the woods…it can be springtime in your mouth!

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham

Good olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 pounds frozen peas, such as Bird’s Eye Sweet Garden
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 thin slices Spanish Serrano ham or Italian prosciutto

In a deep (8 x 5-inch) heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until coarsely pureed, season to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the ham in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp.

Reheat the soup and serve in shallow bowls with a slice of crispy ham on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve hot.

The ham is an integral part of this dish…a nice salty and crunchy complement to the sweet peas.  We opted to serve some crusty bread alongside and we couldn’t resist yet another Barefoot Contessa recipe for Garlic Roasted Cauliflower to make the dinner a bit heartier.

This is so simple, quick and fresh that it makes a perfect weeknight meal, and leftovers are wonderful, even served cold for lunch with a dollop of creme fraiche and of course the drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt!

What is your favorite spring craving?

 

 

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi


With record-breaking snowstorms back east, and some 35ºF mornings here…I’ve been in the mood for comfort food.  Spaghetti and meatballs has not been a go-to meal for me…probably because I don’t like spaghetti.  This, in and of itself seems silly…since pasta is pasta…but shapes make a rather large difference.

My problems with spaghetti start with the messy factor…I would like the sauce in my mouth and not splattered on my chin.  Also…I think the pasta shape should mirror the shape of whatever else is in the dish…and meatballs do not look like spaghetti.  Then there’s the fork issue…it seems like eating spaghetti with a fork should come with instructions like using chopsticks in a japanese restaurant – step 1: take a deep breath and prepare to stab your fork into the pile of innocent long thin noodles; step 2: Twist fork in circles with tines braced against the bottom of the dish until an appropriate bite-size amount of noodles are twirled around; step 3: Lift fork without noodles sliding, falling or unraveling off of the fork and insert into mouth; step 4: chew spaghetti and meatball bite and savor each delicious morsel…oh wait…you forgot the meatball.  See?  It’s complicated.

Let me simplify.  Don’t use spaghetti when you are making spaghetti and meatballs!

I based this recipe loosely on Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs & Spaghetti from her Family Style cookbook.  I halved the recipe for the meatballs as I only had 1 lb. of ground beef in the house, but made the full recipe for the sauce.  I deem it a very successful recipe and know that it will become a favorite!  (just my humble opinion)  :)

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi

Makes 10 golf-ball-size meatballs

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1½-2 tbsp of whole milk
¼ cup of minced onion
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 heavy tsp. of ketchup
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup of warm water
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 large shallot, chopped
1½ tsp. minced garlic
½ cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. of dried Italian herbs (like Penzey’s)
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsps. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Put the beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan, onion, garlic, ketchup into a bowl together.  Beat the egg and add the 1/4 cup of water and beat together a bit more.

Pour the egg/water mixture over the top of the beef et al., and mix together with your hands.  Mix gently and not for very long.  Overworking the mixture will cause the meatballs to be tough.  Once I get a sense of the consistency of the meat mixture, here’s where I decide how much of the milk I will add.  I used about 2 tablespoons of whole milk.  It’s a judgement call…not enough moisture or fat…and the meatballs will be dry…too much and they can fall apart or end up spongy.  Roll the mixture into balls…size is up to you…I went with golf-ball size…assuming two meatballs per person for portion size.

Heat olive and vegetable oil together in a pan on the stove top and place the meatballs in gently, making sure to not crowd them.  It’s better to cook them in batches than to squeeze them all in.  You want the meatballs to brown, not to steam.

Place the pan in the 400° oven for 25 minutes (less if they are smaller).  After 25 minutes, pull them out and give each meatball a turn, turn the oven up to 450° and then put them back in to brown a bit more for about 5 minutes.

Once browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.  Place the pan back on a burner…being highly aware that the pan is hotter than the sun…so don’t touch the handle!  I like to rest a hotpad on the handle as a reminder since I have a (small) history of burning myself when I ought to know better!

Now that you’ve got your pan back on the heat, pour in the tablespoon of olive oil and heat a bit before adding the chopped shallot and onion.  Cook until the onion and shallot are translucent, probably about 5 minutes.

Add in the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so.  While the onions were sautéing, I prepped my tomatoes.  I had a can of whole peeled tomatoes and I wanted them chopped…so I pull them out, gave them a rough chop, making sure not to lose any of their juice and put them back in the can, ready for use.

Next pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up all the delicious bits stuck on the pan from the meatballs and the onions.

Now it’s time to add the tomatoes and all of their liquid.

And it’s also time to add in the parsley, italian seasoning, salt and pepper and the dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Let the sauce come together for 10 minutes or so, before adding the meatballs back in and cooking for another 10-20 minutes.  The timing really depends on how quickly you want dinner on the table…as long as the meatballs are cooked through and warmed back up…you are good to go!

Serve over freshly cooked al dente cavatappi (we used De Cecco brand) and top with a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan and some minced parsley.  This goes amazingly well with a buttery slice of garlic bread! Just saying!

Buon Appetito!

(but seriously…am I alone in my lack of love for spaghetti…?)

Apple Tart with Salted Caramel


My January was packed and I am just now getting a chance to feel that urge to get organized and start the new year off on the right foot!  I cleared out my entire email inbox yesterday.  I’m going to repeat that!  I CLEARED OUT MY ENTIRE INBOX!  The last time that happened was two years ago.  So now, my inbox is nearly empty (less than 15 emails sitting in there just waiting to be archived), but it seems as though I’ve got some photos to sort through (yikes)!  In my sorting and organizing, there are a couple of dishes that were ignored and never made it into a post, so this is a Throwback Dish - as in I cooked it sometime in the last year…and am just now getting around to posting it!

Deb over at Smitten Kitchen posted this last fall while I was visiting my brother and his family in Portland, OR…it was too much to resist!  (disclosure – cell phone pics – please excuse!)

Mosaic Apple Tart with Salted Caramel

Tart base
14-ounce package puff pastry, defrosted in fridge overnight
3 large or 4 medium apples (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits

Salted caramel glaze
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or half as much table salt)
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the oven to 400°F.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and roll out your puff pastry dough to about the size of your sheet pan, use flour to prevent the pasty from sticking to your counter.

Peel your apples, core them and cut them in half.  Slice the apple halves thinly…a mandoline makes quick work of this…or slice thinly with a knife.  Now…the puzzle begins.  Starting on the outer edge, lay the apples around the border slightly overlapping each other, spiraling inward until you reach the center.  We  didn’t fit every apple slice in after circling in, so we went around and tucked in the extra slices wherever the tart needed them.  Sprinkle the apples with 2 tablespoons of butter and then dot with the butter.

Bake for 30 minutes, the edges of the tart should have started to brown a bit.  The tart will look dry – don’t worry…you’re fixing this problem with the salted caramel!  

About 10 minutes before the tart comes out of the oven, start the caramel.  In a saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of sugar over medium high heat, continue cooking it until it is coppery in color.  

 Off the heat, add the sea salt and butter and stir until the butter melts and is incorporated. Add the heavy cream and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until you have a lovely, bronzed caramel syrup, just another minute, two, tops. Set aside until needed. You may need to briefly rewarm it to thin the caramel before brushing it over the tart.

After the tart has baked, transfer it to a cooling rack, but leave the oven on. Using very short, gentle strokes, and brushing in the direction that the apples fan to mess up their design as little as possible, brush the entire tart, including the exposed pastry, with the salted caramel glaze. 

Return the apple tart to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the caramel glaze bubbles. You should let the tart cool completely before serving…but I won’t tell!  Serve it up plain or give it a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.  

Very delicious right after it came out of the oven topped with the salted caramel sauce…but equally good the next day, and the day after as well.  I may have had a slice whenever I walked through the kitchen.  It also tasted even sweeter since I had some little hands helping me lay out all the apples thanks to my niece!

Ina’s Winter Minestrone with Garlic Bruschetta


A few weeks ago, I proclaimed this soup one of the best (especially for a brothy soup) soups I’d ever put in my mouth.  I am not joking.  I almost licked the Tupperware clean a week later after I ate my 7th lunch of reheated soup.  The photos are not my finest work – straight from the iPhone as we had company over when I made it and I didn’t stop and take photos before serving.  However, the recipe was too good to just post as a ‘Dinner Last Week’ photo post.

When it comes to soup…I tend towards the creamy or puréed ones.  Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a minestrone that I had any interest in eating again.  I actually surprised myself AND Woody when I mentioned this was one of the recipes I wanted to make first out of my latest Barefoot Contessa cookbook – Foolproof.  The mixture of pasta, white beans, spinach added at the last second, a dollop of pesto, the richness of parmesan and the butternut squash is so savory and flavorful and perfect for a winter evening…even a mild California winter evening.

I made the recipe exactly as written and the only thing I might change is to add a bit more pancetta.  I thought for sure that the leftovers would be good…but expected the pasta to be blown out from continuing to soak up liquid and the wilted spinach to turn to mush…surprisingly, it held very well.  My mouth still waters thinking about this soup…I’d be surprised if I can wait another month to make it again.

Winter Minestrone with Garlic Bruschetta

from Ina Garten’s “Foolproof Barefoot Contessa”

Good olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, ½-inch-diced
1½ cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups (½-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)
2½ cups (½-inch) diced peeled butternut squash
1½ tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
26 ounces canned or boxed chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade 
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti (see note)
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
½ cup good dry white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Garlic Bruschetta (recipe follows)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste.

Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and serve hot.

Garlic Bruschetta

1 baguette
Good olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the baguette at a 45-degree angle in inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Take the slices out of the oven and rub the surface of each one with the cut clove of garlic.

 

ps:  This recipe is all over the internet, pinterest, etc.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks it is absolutely delicious.

 

 

Blackberry Scones


There are a lot of scone recipes out there.  I tend toward a more traditional cream scone, but I did not happen to have any cream in the house…so a little internet research turned up some alternatives, and a few seemed promising using evaporated milk.  After reading through them and finding some consistencies between them, I sort of made up my own recipe, fingers crossed that it would turn out.

Since it is the new year…and I’m sure you all have resolutions that you are trying to keep…many having to do with eating healthy, getting fit and watching your weight…here’s a little bonus!  Using evaporated milk makes these scones lower in fat.  You can substitute evaporated milk for heavy cream in many recipes, it provides the thickness and creaminess without the added fat.

Mini Blackberry Scones

2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 can evaporated fat-free milk
1 cup fresh blackberries

Mix your dry ingredients together, then dump in the cold chunked butter and cut it in using a pastry cutter or two forks.

Before adding the evaporated milk, toss in the blackberries.  This helps them to stay whole and forces you to barely mix the batter once the liquid is added.

Pour in the evaporated milk and mix very gently.  It’s okay if the berries break up a bit.

Spoon into a scone pan (we scored this one years ago from our wedding – but they are not really necessary), or dump batter onto a greased cookie sheet and spread into an approximate circle or square.  Then using a pastry scraper or a knife, divide the dough into scone shapes (wedges, squares, triangles…whatever you fancy).

Bake in oven set at 400° F for 12-20 minutes depending on the size of your scone.

You are looking for tops that are golden brown.

Once they’ve come out of the oven and cooled just a bit, serve them up with honey, clotted cream, lemon curd or butter and of course, a cup of tea!

 

 

 

A Toast to 2012! (and a happy new year!)


I’m sneaking in one last post of 2012!  There is too much to reflect on here in this moment, but for the next few hours, I am celebrating all of what 2012 had to offer…and truly looking forward to an amazing 2013!

Let’s be honest, this particular evening…there is a good chance you have a drink in your hand and you are surrounded by friends and family.  Of course we will be popping a bottle of bubbly at midnight, but we are starting off the evening with one as well, accompanied by some Homemade Cranberry Vodka!

This process began about a month ago, with no recipe but a lot of internet research and it is very simple.

Housemade Cranberry Infused Vodka

1.  Buy cheap vodka.  (seriously, no need to buy the good stuff…the flavors you’ll infuse it with make up for any harshness straight out of the bottle)

2.  Use the extra bags of cranberries you had leftover from an overly ambitious thanksgiving.

3.  Pick through the cranberries to remove any that are soft or squishy and rinse them well.

4.  Toss them in a ziplock bag and use something heavy to smash them and pop them open.  I didn’t bother making sure that every single one had popped.  I gave it a good couple whacks, shook the bag around and whacked them a few more times.

5.  Using a funnel, or parchment rolled into a cone, put all the smushed cranberries into a clean, washed out, old juice bottle.

6.  Pour vodka in the bottle all the way to the top.  Now stash it away in a cool and dark(ish) location.  Shake the bottle at least once a day for the first week or so and then leave to steep for at least 3 weeks.

7.  Once the vodka has turned a deep red color, strain out all the cranberries and any small pieces…cheesecloth or a coffee filter work very well…and pour into a clean bottles, mason jars, etc.  The vodka should keep very well, especially in the freezer.

Now it’s time for the exciting part!

I haven’t settled on an official title for this drink…perhaps a New Year’s Sunset?  I’m open to thoughts and ideas!

Pour 1 oz. of cranberry vodka into the bottom of a flute.

Add in one dropper full of bitters.  We’re currently using Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters, which was a gift from my brother’s in-laws a year or so ago.

Next…pop the champagne…which was actually a Cava from Trader Joe’s.  There are plenty of reviews out there…and they all say the same thing…a very good bubbly for the price-point.  In fact, the Carte Noire M. Chevalier Brut was recommended to me by a nice older gentleman in the aisle of TJ’s while searching for a decent bubbly for a party that wouldn’t break the bank.  He told a long story of a blind tasting, where everyone settled on this one as their favorite of the evening and were truly shocked when they revealed the bottle and saw the price of $6 a bottle!

Top with Cava and just a dash of simple syrup to even out the tannins in the cranberries.

Put a little twist of citrus on the rim of the glass and you are ready to start the celebrations!

Christmas Eve we created another festive cocktail with our homemade cranberry vodka.

Cranberry Pimm’s Cup
(for 2 short drinks)

2 oz. housemade cranberry vodka
1 oz. Pimm’s #1 Cup
1 dropper full of Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters
2-3 oz. of Sprite

Shake over ice and pour into two martini glasses!

Cheers to 2012!

Ready or not…Here comes 2013!

(please celebrate safely!)

Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti


Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti are an annual tradition for us. It would not be autumn without pumpkin cookies and my husband is a sucker for biscotti.  Also…I’m guessing that you’ve got an extra can or two of pumpkin lying around from Thanksgiving.  These biscotti are perfect as it seems just a teensy bit too early for christmas cookies – it’s barely December!

Full disclosure…original recipe comes from my family cookbook and stops a few steps short of making biscotti.   I love the original pumpkin cookie, which turn out a bit cakey and only get better the second and third day.  Feel free to make those as well – only difference is you spoon the batter into dollops on the sheet pan – they end up looking a bit like scones!  We came up with the biscotti idea as Woody prefers crunchy cookies…not cakey ones!

1½ cups brown sugar
½ solid shortening (crisco)
2 eggs
1 lb. canned pumpkin (I’ve gotten away with the 14.5 oz. can)
2¾ cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1 cup pecans, chopped (or more)

Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Mix sugar, shortening, eggs and pumpkin thoroughly.

Mix dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture; blend well.

Chop the pecans and fold in to combine.

I like my biscotti pretty nutty!

Pour and scrape the batter into two logs on a parchment lined half-sheet pan.

Using a spatula, flatten out the batter so the biscotti loaves will cook evenly.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tops are just beginning to brown.  You want the loaves to be cooked through, otherwise slicing them cleanly will be difficult and gooey, but not so cooked that they will burn when you put them back in the oven!

Once removed from the oven, let them cool completely (they will smell really good…and it will be very difficult to not nibble the edges)!

When the loaves are cool, gently lift onto a cutting board and slice in 1/3 to 1/2 inch slices.

Lay the slices sideways on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 325º for 25 to 35 minutes.  I know that is not very specific, however, this is the part of the recipe that takes a bit of experience to get it right.  You want to dry out the biscotti without toasting them too much – so think low temperature for longer.  Every oven is different and you could probably do this at 250º for much longer.  It is also important to note that they might not seem done when you remove them from the oven, but remember that as they cool…steam (i.e. moisture) is escaping and they will continue to dry as they cool.

Cool the finished biscotti completely before storing them in any airtight container.  Serve up with a steamy cup of coffee and enjoy at all hours of the day!

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-y8Bn8yy5wCo/Tuhhkg81j0I/AAAAAAAAOiQ/1T3fI8mVJMU/s504/IMG_7969.jpg

Okay…now it is on to the next holiday…Christmas, OF COURSE!

 

 

Sous Vide Turkey Breast (or Thanksgiving…Round Two!)


We had a wonderful thanksgiving…including our four cranberry sauces…with 15 friends at 3 different houses.  The evening was wonderful and the food delectable including two different turkeys (one smoked) and incredible sides and of course dessert!  Apparently, that just wasn’t enough for us.  Since we had quite a bit of cranberry sauce left…we decided to do Round Two (downsized a bit!) on Sunday.

First…let’s give credit where credit is due…

This is our official Thanksgiving feast.  Complete with turkey, brussels sprouts, beets, green beans, salad, two gravies, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, four cranberry sauces and of course, stuffing.  My plate looked like this…

I may have overdone it…but that is what thanksgiving is for!

Now for round two!

We purchased a (fairly) reasonably sized bone-in, skin-on turkey breast to sous vide.

We dried it off, seasoned it well with salt and pepper, placed it in a vacuum bag, added a few pats of butter and a bunch of fresh thyme, and sealed it up.

Before getting started, we turned on our thermal-immersion circulator to get it up to the temperature that we wanted – 149º F.  Once it was ready, we dropped the turkey in and set a timer for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

We were so taken by the stuffing that our friend Paul made…we just had to remake it.  I may have mentioned in the past my issue with soggy foods – and stuffing generally falls into this category…however, I had trouble resisting this one…it has green olives!  Let me repeat…it has GREEN OLIVES!  What’s not to love!  We had  no trouble finding the recipe since it was in one of the recent Bon Appétit and is all over the internet!  Since we followed the recipe exactly (making only a half batch), I won’t write out the entire recipe here…all you need to know is that it’s called Italian Mother-in-Law Dressing and is very good!

I cooked up some chard, then onions, dried out some bread, chopped some olives, toasted some pine nuts and tossed it altogether with some rosemary and thyme!

We had one lonely sweet potato on hand, so I diced it up, steamed it a bit and then added some butter and fresh thyme.

The stuffing went into a buttered casserole dish and had the final broth and egg mixture drizzled over the top before getting covered and placed into the oven.

Cleo tends to be very interested in what we’re doing in the kitchen and has become quite bold as of late and thinks this perch on the couch is just perfect for her.  I’m not sure I agree!

Apparently I did not take any photos…but we also had some mashed potatoes cooking.  Rather than mashing, we used a food mill that was handed down from my parents.  I’ll be honest, it has been a while since I have made mashed potatoes that good!  They were so smooth and of course, it doesn’t hurt that they are really just a vessel for butter, cream and salt!

Two and a half hours later, we pulled the turkey out of the water bath.

Once you open the bag, discard the thyme and remove the skin (we saved this and cooked it up a day or two later…it crisped up nicely!).  Once the breast was removed from the bone, I cut slices and drooled a bit.

We set the table and opened a lovely rosé from Frog’s Leap that we purchased on a visit in April to Napa.

And then it was time to plate it up…oh, we also had gravy…and don’t worry…all four cranberry sauces were on the table ready to be enjoyed!

The turkey was very moist, tender and flavorful.  Until we are serving more than just two of us at our house…the sous vide option is just too easy and dependable to not do.  This is definitely just the first of many sous vided turkey options!

Oh…I almost forgot.  Let’s discuss cranberry sauces!  I personally loved the chutney.  I think it has found a way into my recipe box for future thanksgivings…it is savory and a little different while still maintaining that tart flavor that you want from your cranberry sauce.

At our feast, the chutney and the raw orange relish (a Connelly family recipe) were the favorites.  The standard cranberry sauce (another Connelly family recipe – Thanks Dad!) also had its followers.   But I have to say, I know the Mama Stamberg’s recipe is beloved by many an NPR listener, but it was just not a hit.  Perhaps there were too many options!

I hope you all enjoyed an abundant Thanksgiving and were surrounded by friends and family.  Anyone else have more than one thanksgiving?

 

 

 

 

 

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