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Vegetables Galore!

I’ve been on hiatus from the blog for the past two months. I know what you are thinking, how hard can it be to post a recipe and a couple of photographs once a month?  What can I say, I’m lazy.  Seriously though, once May hits, life turns into a chaotic mix of school functions and soccer parties. This year was no different. In addition to all that,  I thought it would be a great idea if my daughter and I took a trip to New York City. So, the day after the last day of school, Grace & I headed to NYC for a 3-day trip to visit my auntie and her friend.

We had an amazing time, despite it raining all three days. Normally, when I head to the city I spend much of the time eating. This trip was different though. It was more about introducing Grace to one of my favorite cities. I think she fell in love. Her favorite part of the trip, she told me, was exploring Chinatown. We topped off our Chinatown visit with a stop by the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory where we enjoyed flavors like black sesame, chocolate pandan, red bean & lychee. They were all delicious! We hoped to try the wasabi, but they were all out. Next time, I will try the durian (stinky Southeast Asian fruit)!  I am giddy to share with you that I will be headed back to The Big Apple in September to make one of my dreams come true. I will see Aretha Franklin live at Radio City Music Hall! I will also be eating my way around town with my sister. I cannot wait!  Momofuku steamed pork buns here I come!

I suppose I am overdue to post a new recipe. Well, with summer here, I’ve got the perfect one to share. I was exploring Chowhound the other day and stumbled across a thread titled “The best vegetable side – ever”. Well, how could I not be tempted?  A  fellow ‘hound had posted a recipe for a summer vegetable gratin – carmelized onions topped with rows of sliced zucchini, yellow squash & tomatoes and sprinkled with fresh thyme, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. What’s not to love, right? To me, it sounded like summer heaven in one dish. I’ve made it twice in two weeks and I’m not sick of it yet. It’s a great way to highlight all the different vegetables summer gardens are yielding these days. There are many different variations, but here is a link to a Fine Cooking article that offers up three recipes.  Here are before and after photographs of my tomato, zucchini & yellow squash gratin.  The link to the article details how to make it.  I made a few changes, including using Locatelli Romano cheese in place of the parmesan cheese.  The great thing about these gratins is that there is no hard fast rule.  Use what you have and make it with what you like. 

 

Summer vegetable gratin assembled and ready to bake.

Summer vegetable gratin assembled and ready to bake.

 

The finished dish - bon appetit!

The finished dish - bon appetit!

 

Yes, I’m still alive.  I went to sign on today and I couldn’t remember my password.  It’s been a long while and I should be ashamed of myself.  Save me the “tsk tsk’s”, I have berrated myself enough.  I have been a busy, and sometimes lazy, girl.  :)

I have so much to post about.  I took a girl’s food trip to NYC that was mind-blowing.  I planted a garden (well, my husband did much of the hard labor, but I was the CEO of the project).  I have been cooking some yummy stuff too.  I’m going to start back nice and easy and post about my cheese puffs to start.

These are not the Brooklyn Cheese Puffs that my mother made and I had immortalized in the cookbook (see other post).  These are the French cheese puffs, gourgères(pronounced goo-jhair), made with a choux pastry dough.  My friend Susan and I began our interest in food and wine together back in the early 1990′s.  We’d go out drinking, hitting the bars around our small city in central Pennsylvania.  The next morning we’d sit at her kitchen table nursing hangovers, and perusing cookbooks, food magazines, etc.  We found a new food magazine called Saveur and we just new we were cool to be hip to this new food rag – Gourmet and Bon Appetit were for newbies.  It was 1994, and we found a recipe for gourgeres and it was accompanied by the most charming little story about a woman named Colette (the pen name of a French novelist.  Ever heard of Gigi?) who was the inspiration for the birth of the magazine.  We didn’t know a gougères from a Pilsbury cresent roll, but they sounded delicious and the ingredient list was short and familiar, except for the Gruyère cheese.   We found ourselves a hunk of Gruyère and set to work.  Actually, to be honest, I think Susan did most of the stirring and work in general, and I probably sat at the table paging through her library books, smoking cigarettes and drinking tea.  In any case, OUR gougères turned out lovely and I have kept this recipe in my collection ever since.

I recently pulled out the recipe and the picture of Colette, remembered our first attempt, and 15 years later set to work myself.  Here is the recipe and a picture of my finished product.  Light, airy and gorgeous to look at.  If you are a fan of Gruyère cheese with it’s salty and nutty qualities, be prepared to fall in love.  Gougères with a glass of red wine and a cooking magazine to page through - well, there’s nothing finer. 

 

 

My gougeres on the serving platter Susan gave us as a wedding gift.

My gougeres on the serving platter Susan gave us as a wedding gift.

 

 

Gougères

Courtesy of Saveur Magazine
5 Tbl. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
5 large eggs, at room temperature (very important)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Add butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to 1 cup water in medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  When butter melts, reduce heat to low.  Add flour to butter-water mixture all at once and cook over low heat, beating with a wooden spoon, for 1 minute, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan.  Remove pan from heat.  Add cheese to pan and beat in with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.  Add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating each egg into the batter until thoroughly absorbed.  Continue beating mixture until it is smooth, shiny, and firm.  Drop batter in small spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet to form gougères.  Beat remaining egg with 1/2 tbsp. water, then brush tops of uncooked gougeres with egg wash. 
Bake in upper third  of oven for 15-20 minutes or until gougères are golden and doubled in size.  Remove from oven and serve hot, or allow to cool to room temperature. 
Yield:  Approximately 3 dozen

Things have been crazy around our place these past few weeks.  My head is still spinning from all that’s been going on around here.  In addition to my husband’s travels overseas and the kids and their long list of extracurricular activities, I decided it was time for me to embark on a new journey:  I got an insulin pump. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this fun little gadget, let me fill you in.  An insuling pump is a beeper-sized computer that attaches to my body via a skinny tube that is inserted in my waist (or belly or thigh).  It’s programmed by my Endocrinologist and Certified Diabetes Educator to dose my insulin with the push of a few buttons.  It delivers a steady stream of insulin to manage my bloodsugar when I am not eating, this is called a basal rate.  Then, when I am ready to eat, I tell it how many carbohydrates I’m going to have and what my bloodsugar is and it calculates my needed insulin and delivers it.  The whole process has been mind-numbing what with all the doctor appointments, insurance issues, finger sticks, high &  low bloodsugars, etc.  I’ve had it on live, with insulin, for 3 days now and I’m finally adjusting.  It’ll take some time to get used to something attached to me 24/7 but in the end I hope it will improve my disease management and help me lead a more normal and healthy life.  As Martha says, “It’s a good thing”.  I hate Martha though. 

To celebrate getting the pump, a friend and I went out to breakfast to a fancy, shmancy French restaurant here in town.  We had perused their menu online and simply had to try their foie gras, truffle and Boursin cheese omelette with pear compote.  Doesn’t that sound like the most amazing thing ever?  I am an admitted egg and foie gras whore and the thought of these two glorious food things combined in one dish nearly sent me over the edge.  I told anyone and everyone about my upcoming breakfast.  They listened but didn’t understand the level of my obsession.  I think I built it up too much in my mind though.  Sadly, the omelette was a major disappointment.   I know, I could’ve cried too.  The omelette itself was cooked well, but there was too little foie gras and too much truffle.  The cheese was good but what they described as “pear compote” was more like three slices of cooked pears.  C’est la vie. 

While all this fun stuff was going on, my better half was in Switzerland for a week on business.  How jealous was I when he sent me photographs, taken with his cell phone camera, of the Matterhorn and phoned to tell me of the delicious cheeses and breads he was eating?  Very jealous.  He was in Lausanne, a French-speaking city that overlooks Lake Geneva and The Alps.    But enough about that, let’s get to the food.  He promised to bring us back lots of Swiss chocolates.  Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate blanche(white) and truffles.  While he was there I got to thinking about Gruyere cheese.  It’s a slightly sweet and salty hard, cow’s milk cheese, commonly used in Quiche Lorraine, French onion soup and fondue.  Well, I did some research and I found that you can bring hard cheeses through U.S. Customs – Yay!  I put in an order with my husband for a nice hunk of aged Gruyere.  Guess what?  More bad news.  The Swiss police confiscated it  when he passed through security!  A $35 hunk of cheese gone as quick as it was acquired.  They probably had it for lunch, the dirty bastards.  Why in the name of all that is tasty, would the Swiss care if you left with cheese?  I can understand them not wanting you to bring IN cheese or other food products, but carry out is bad?  Why?  I truly don’t understand and wish someone cold enlighten me.  Man, what  I wouldn’t give for that cheese.  Having been denied it makes me want it all the more.  So sad. 

Okay, let’s move on to the pork and the yummy photographs.  I have this recipe for Slow-Braised Pork with Black Grapes and Shallots that I found in Bon Appetit a couple of years ago.  Every since we first tried it, it has become a winter staple for our family.  I’m a huge fan of the slow braise and the tough meats that are transformed into tender pull apart, silky goodness.  The rich, dark sauces that spoon so nicely over mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, polenta or egg noodles.  For me, it’s the perfect comfort food.  Here’s a brief slide show of the cooking process, which is quite easy.  All you need is patience for the slow, two-hour braise. 

 

Sear seasoned pork in a hot dutch oven.

Sear seasoned pork in a hot dutch oven.

 

Remove pork and saute shallots and black grapes in rendered fat.

Remove pork and saute shallots and black grapes in rendered fat.

 

After braising liquid has reduced, return pork to pot w/ fresh herbs and it's ready for the oven

After braising liquid has reduced, return pork to pot w/ fresh herbs and it's ready for the oven

 

Once you put it in the oven you forget about it for an hour.  Then, take it out of the oven and, using tongs, flip the pork over in the juices.  Replace the lid and return it to the oven for 45 minutes.  When it’s finished braising remove the pork from the pot, tent it w/ foil and boil the juices to reduce some more.  Remove herb stems, seaon the sauce and serve it over the pork.  Yum!
  
The finished product served over mashed potatoes with steamed French beans & broccoli

The finished product served over mashed potatoes with steamed French beans & broccoli

 

 

Slow-Braised Pork with Black Grapes and Balsamic

Bon Appétit | October 2005

 

1 3 1/4-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed, cut into 3 equal pieces
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 

 8 large shallots, halved, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
3 cups seedless black grapes (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 large fresh sage sprigs
4 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 large fresh rosemary sprigs

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add pork to pot and cook until browned on all sides, about 13 minutes total. Transfer pork to plate; discard fat in pot.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same pot over medium heat. Add shallots and grapes; sauté until shallots are golden, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add sugar; sauté 30 seconds. Add vinegar; bring mixture to boil and cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add broth, all herb sprigs, and pork with juices from plate. Bring to boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Braise pork 1 hour. Using tongs, turn pork over and continue braising until meat is very tender, about 45 minutes longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to platter; tent with foil.

Remove herb sprigs from pot and skim fat from surface of cooking liquid. Boil cooking liquid over high heat until thickened, about 7 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour over pork and serve.

Cookies & Chicken Feet

Again, I have neglected my blog. I’m a bad, bad Mama. I think I have a good excuse though. I am taking a photography class at The Light Factory in Charlotte and I’m having a big, big time. I have high hopes of improving my skills.

This past weekend we had our 2nd Charlotte Chowdown. It was a huge success and so much fun. We had lunch at Dim Sum Restaurant on Central Ave. in Charlotte. I had received a list of must try dishes from a local woman who is known about town as a dim sum “expert”. She was kind enough to email me suggestions and to speak to the restaurant owners to arrange for a group reservation for our 17 food lovers. I had never been to Dim Sum before and was eager to go because I had heard such good things about the food and experience.

The servers pushed metal carts loaded with dishes throughout the dining room. They would stop at your table and explain what dishes they had. Roast pork buns, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, leek dumplings, sticky rice w/ roast duck, etc. My favorites were the shrimp-stuffed eggplant and the baked roast pork buns. The buns were dessert to me. Tender pork in a sweet sauce on soft warm buns – yum. Chicken feet are a very common dim sum dish but oddly, they never offered any to us. When we asked for them, the server laughed and returned with a cart full of stainless pans loaded with chicken feet. I imagine they didn’t think they were to our liking. Wrong!  The chicken feet were batter-dipped and deep fried and then coated with a sweet sauce. This was my first experience with chicken feet and I had prepared myself the night before. I watched youtube videos so I would not only know how they would appear but also how to eat them. Yes, I’m a dork.  You bite off the toes at the knuckle and carefully spit out the bones. As expected, they tasted like chicken – although, there really wasn’t much to eat besides skin and cartilage.

Deep-friend chicken feet

Deep-friend chicken feet

We really had a terrific time. This group is expanding quickly and it’s amazing how well we get along with one another. We all met on Chowhound, a foodie messageboard, and it’s been great fun matching the online personalities with the real people. We are anxious to begin planning our next lunch. Vietnamese? Malaysian? Indian? Who knows!

I made a batch of cookies a couple of days ago. I had a log of frozen cookie dough in the freezer from a batch I had made a month or so ago. I don’t know what prompted me to want to make chocolate snickerdoodles, but that’s what I had. They’re actually good and remind me of Mexican chocolate with the cocoa powder, cinnamon and sugar. You roll the dough into 1-inch balls, roll them in cinnamon sugar and bake. The finished product is a thick, crackled cookie that is not too sweet but very comforting.

Chocolate snickerdoodles

Chocolate snickerdoodles

Chocolate Snickerdoodles

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs. Mix well. Stir in flour, cocoa, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Blend well. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.

Roll dough in sugar/cinnamon mixture and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets. Yield: 3 dozen

A Sunny Birthday

It’s my birthday today! The sun is shining and I couldn’t be happier. We have had many rainy days lately and it was beginning to wear on me. Reminding me of the long winters in Pennsylvania that I have never missed. Not today, however, because Mister Sun is high in the sky and Meyer lemons are in season. 

A few rainy days ago I was chatting with my dear friend Mary about Meyer lemons. She was given an ornamental tree as a gift and it produced one glorious lemon. She was on the hunt for a special recipe where she could showcase her precious bounty. I wasn’t much help to her. I was drained of ideas and I had very little knowledge or experience with Meyer lemons. Not dissuaded, Mary set out on an internet search for a recipe. A day or two later, she arrived on my doorstep carrying a box of cookies. Meyer lemon butter cookies. These little jewels were so tasty, creamy yet light with a nice pop of citrus. I fell in love instantly. I later went to the grocery store where, low and behold, there was a stand of gorgeous golden Meyer lemons on sale. I scooped up a bunch and skipped through the check-out line wondering what I was going to do with them(Okay, I didn’t really “skip”).

Mary was kind enough to send me the link to the recipe she used.  The recipe for Sablés au Citron from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan is the perfect butter cookie recipe.  I perused many recipes online and none compared to this one.  What’s not to love about a recipe that calls for, not one but, two sticks of butter?  The recipe had all the right elements for me but it was still missing something.  As Emeril says, I wanted to “kick it up a notch” (for the record, I’m not an Emeril fan).  I thought of my herb garden and what was left out there: Italian parsley, thyme & rosemary.  I thought, “Rosemary!  That’s it!”  Meyer Lemon & Rosemary Butter Cookies!  How sexy does that sound?  This revelation prompted another internet search.  I do wish I could stay focused.  I am so easily side-tracked and so I was on the internet for hours, reading and salivating over many recipes.  I did learn, however, that Meyer lemons are thought to be a hybrid of lemons and Mandarin oranges, developed in China 100 years ago.  They are less acidic than other lemons and sweeter too.  Their color is that of an egg yolk, another reason to love them.

I tweaked the recipe a bit and decided on two teaspoons of chopped rosemary.  Some folks used one teaspoon while others called for one tablespoon.  I wanted the rosemary to pair with the lemon, not overwhelm it.    Also, the Greenspan recipe only called for using the zest.  That wasn’t enough for me.  I stripped these gorgeous lemons of their zest, what about the sweet, tangy juice?  I decided to add a couple teaspoons of the juice to the batter as well.  Below is a photograph of the resulting cookies and the recipe with my adjustments.  Some of the cookies came out browner than is ideal.  You want little to no color.  They browner cookies still taste fabulous, but they aren’t as pretty as the nude ones. 

 

 

Meyer Lemon & Rosemary Butter Cookies

Meyer Lemon & Rosemary Butter Cookies

 

Meyer Lemon & Rosemary Butter Cookies

Adapted from Sablés au Citron recipe from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan

 

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (measured then sifted)

2 large egg yolks, divided 

pinch of salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed

3-4 tsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest (to taste)

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

approximately 1/2 cup granulated sugar (for coating)

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed until smooth, add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in 1 egg yolk, followed by salt, vanilla, juice and lemon zest.

On low speed, add the flour and rosemary and mix just until flour is incorporated. 

Gather dough into a ball, divide in half, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Chill dough for 30 minutes in refrigerator.

Form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches in diameter.  Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill dough for 2 hours in refrigerator. (Dough logs can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in freezer for up to 1 month.)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or utilize a silicone mat or baking stone.

If you are coating your cookies with sugar, whisk the remaining egg yolk until it’s smooth and liquid enough to use as a glaze. Spread granulated sugar out on a piece of waxed paper. One log at a time, unwrap your chilled dough log and brush lightly with the egg yolk. Roll the log in sugar, pressing gently to help the sugar stick.

Slice each log into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Place on baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch between the cookies.

Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes until they are set but not browned. (It’s okay if the yolk-sugar edges brown slightly.) Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

Yield:  50 cookies

Note:  I didn’t do the yolk & sugar glaze.  The resulting cookie is pretty, but who needs the extra sugar?  Not I. 

 

I just ate another cookie.  They are “Slap yo Mama” good, really they are.  Lemon and rosemary just go together like Sonny & Cher, Peaches & Herb, Tony Orlando & Dawn… good God, you’d think I was a child of the seventies. 

Anyway… so then I had several Meyer lemons stripped of their zest.  What to do with the juice?  Then it hit me: cocktails!  I brainstormed again and decided to make a rosemary simple syrup.  1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of water and 4 5-inch stems of fresh rosemary, needles stripped from the stem and roughly chopped.  Throw all three ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.  Cool.  Strain into a Tupperware cup and refrigerate.  You can use this syrup for cocktails or to flavor and sweeten homemade lemonade.  Here’s what I did with it:

 

Winter Sunshine

1.5 ounce Bacardi Limon rum

Juice of half a Meyer lemon

a sprinkle of chopped rosemary

2 teaspoons rosemary simple syrup

Club soda

*crushed ice & a stemless wine glass (tumbler)

In the wine tumbler squeeze the lemon and drop it into the glass.  Add the rosemary and the simple syrup and muddle until the lemon is juiced.  Fill 2/3 with crushed ice.  Add rum and top off with club soda.  Give it a stir and voila!

 

I am sufficiently full of sunshine, fresh sweet & tangy lemons, and love and birthday wishes from my family and friends.  It’s a great day.

I’ve been away too long.  It’s been over a month since my last post.  To be honest, the holidays and me don’t really get along.  I love all the food associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but all the other stuff (i.e. shopping, parties, school programs) really annoys me.  Yea, I know, bah humbug.  I do love Thanksgiving cooking though.  All the home-cooked foods that remind me of my childhood, the gluttony and over-indulgence… isn’t it grand?  I suppose that big meal, and all the leftovers, serve as a “last meal” of sorts because after Thanksgiving the shopping frenzy inevitably ensues.  

We had a lovely Thanksgiving with just my family and my niece.  Small and intimate and, like Lionel Richie sang, “easy like Sunday morning”.  For turkey day, I kept things traditional.  Candied sweet potatoes (no marshamallows, please, but definitely a splash of dark rum), Tina’s stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (the good kind thanks to Ms. Purvis at The Charlotte Observer), gravy and cranberry sauce out of a can – schhhllomp!  And the turkey, roasted at high heat, stuffed with Tina’s stuffing – mm, mm, good. 

I’ve got my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals planned and will start cooking tomorrow.  Christmas Eve has always been spent at a friend’s house, with a ton of other neighbors, for cocktails, cookies and caroling.  So, for dinner beforehand, we’re having spaghetti and meatballs.  Click on this link for my favorite meatball recipe which, interestingly enough, includes currants and pine nuts.  It sounds crazy, I know, but they are remarkably moist and I like that they are baked, not fried.  The sauce recipe included in the link is similiar to mine, but I always add a teaspoon or two of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and we have never used parmesan cheese.  In our house it’s always been Locatelli Romano.  This morning I phoned Vic, my butcher, and ordered our standing rib roast for the big day.  I’ll keep it simple and have it with mashed potatoes, a Dijon mustard & horseradish cream sauce and sauteed broccolini with garlic.   

As many of you know, Christmas for Italian Americans is not Christmas without pizzelles.  These thin, waffle-like cookies are a traditional treat this time of year and I figured I was long overdue to make them.  I’ve never tackled them before.  Typically, they are made in a pizzelle press and are anise or vanilla flavored.  I’m not a huge anise flavor lover, so I opted to make hazelnut pizzelles.  I bought my press at Bed, Bath & Beyond ($40 bucks) and grabbed a bag of  hazelnuts at Trader Joe’s.  They really are quite easy to make and are so tasty.  Better yet, you can curl a hot pizzelle, fresh off the iron, around a wooden rod and make cannoli shells.  Oh yea!  I’ve made several batches now and I strongly suggest you toast/roast your hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes first.  Remove from the oven and immediately transfer them to a towel and rub them to remove the skins (you won’t remove all the skins, but some).  Then process them in your food processor until finely chopped.  Here is the end result.  Pizzelles, fresh off the press.  Aren’t they pretty?

 

cookie20can_1_0   

pizzelles_1_0

 

You’ll notice that my pizzelles are in a tall tin can.  My mother always kept her holiday cookies in a Charles Chips can.  I’m carrying on that tradition as well.  We used to get Charles Chips potato chips and had to save the tins for mom’s cookies.  That is where she kept her prized, paper thin sand tarts.  Making those sand tarts was a long and laborious endeavor and Mom was careful to make sure they were stored properly with the slice of sandwich bread atop to prolong their life.  

 

Hazelnut Pizzelles

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 oz finely ground roasted blanched hazelnuts (1/2 cup)

2 tsp. baking powder

3 large eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbl. Frangelico liqueur

2 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Preheat Pizzelle press on setting 3 1/2 while preparing batter.  Place flour, ground nuts and baking powder in a small bowl and stir with a whisk to combine; reserve.  Place eggs and sugar in a medium bowl and beat with mixer on medium speed for one minute.  On low speed, add the melted butter, vanilla and Frangelico in a steady stream and mix until combined, about 15 seconds.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 10-15 seconds.  Do not overmix. 

Open pizzelle press and brush grids with a little vegetable oil.  Do not use cooking spray or butter.  Place approximately two teaspoons just slightly north of center on the grid.  Repeat on second grid.  Close and press and lock lid.  Light will turn red and then green when pizzelles are done.  Open lid and remove pizzelles to rack to cool.  Can be served dusted with powdered sugar OR spread with Nutella and sandwiched. 

Yield:  30 pizzelles

 

Happy Holidays, Y’all!

Make Like A Tree & Leave!

I love all things Autumn!  The cooler weather, the colorful leaves, football, apples, squash and warm, stick-to-your-ribs foods.  My two most favorite cold weather foods: chili & short ribs.  I’ve already cooked both of these dishes and I’m ready for more. 

A few weeks ago I visited my favorite butcher, Vic, at What’s Your Beef butcher shop in Waxhaw.  I went in, not knowing what I wanted, and poked around to see if anything inspired me.  Vic was giving me a hard time, the way only upstate New Yorkers can, and then he mentioned those two lovely words: short ribs.  A light bulb illuminated and I knew that I was having short ribs and polenta that night.  He sent me on my way with my short ribs and his house-made breakfast sausages and I was a happy, happy girl. 

Once home, I got online and logged onto Chowhound (this links to my thread) and started a thread asking for help from my Chowhound friends for braised short ribs recipes.  I have plenty of recipes in my personal archives, but I wanted to try something new.  I got many of good suggestions but one stood out above the rest:  John Besh’s Red Wine Braised Short Ribs.  John Besh is a restaurant owner and executive chef in New Orleans.  He’s a C.I.A. grad and a  James Beard award winner.  This recipe probably produces the best short ribs you can possibly imagine.  They are, of course, fall off the bone tender and the richness balanced with a touch of sweetness is just, well, orgasmic.  IT IS!  Serve it over a creamy polenta and you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven.  Here’s a photograph of the dish.  FYI, the plate is hand made by well known potter Bill Campbell who has a large studio/gallery in northwest Pennsylvania.  I have been collecting his pieces for years and have found a gallery here in Waxhaw that sells his wares – Stewart’s Village Gallery.  Incidentally, I took a pottery class at Stewart’s last spring and I learned something – I suck at pottery.  I’ll stick to cooking and taking photographs. 

 

short-ribs

 

John Besh’s Braised Beef Short Ribs

Your grandparents might have made this braised short ribs recipe. Some recipes age well.

I grew up on the Bayou and never strayed far because New Orleans has always been, and still is, a hell of a place to cook. Food has more cultural significance here. No matter where in the world early settlers came from — Italy, Spain, Senegal, Haiti — and whether free or enslaved, they assimilated into the Creole culture, embracing everything from language to cooking. That’s why dishes like gumbo and jambalaya have so many ingredients — every culture stirred a bit into the pot.

I try to deliver some of that complexity in this one-pot meal while keeping the ingredient list short by using a reduction of naturally spicy zinfandel with a touch of sugar, a combo that adds backbone and works wonders with the fattiness of the meat. There was a time when you couldn’t give short ribs away in American restaurants. It was fillet of beef this and lobster that. But as we’ve grown more comfortable — culinarily speaking — we’ve begun to identify with peasant-style cooking, the kind of food our grandparents might have made. This is one of those dishes. The ribs come from the chuck section, where the meat contains a lot of connective tissue and needs slow, moist cooking. –John Besh

Serves: 4

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About two hours (with little labor)

 

  • 4 lbs beef short ribs, cut flanken style (across the bone) or English style (parallel to the bone). Flanken are easier to deal with but slightly more fatty.
  • Coarse salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups zinfandel
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 oz canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, picked off stem
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 oz canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (1/2 cup)
  • 2 oz dried mushrooms, preferably porcini

1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper; be rather generous. In a mixing bowl, whisk together zinfandel, sugar, tomatoes, beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt.

2. Pour canola oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven (at least 5 quarts) and place over high heat. When oil is hot, working in small batches, brown the meat. Turn each piece to brown on all sides before removing from the pot.

Tip: A sturdy pot that conducts heat well has a lot to do with the success of this dish. Get yourself a cast-iron pot. It’ll outlast you.

3. When all beef is browned and removed from pot, add onion, carrots, and celery, allowing onion to cook until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Return beef to the pot along with wine mixture. Allow wine to come to a boil before reducing heat, skimming fat from surface.

5. After simmering for several minutes, add mushrooms. Cover and simmer over very low heat until meat is fork tender and nearly falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

6. Once the beef has cooked, remove from pot and keep warm. Turn up heat and reduce the pot liquids until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Transfer ribs to four shallow bowls, spooning liquid over top.

John Besh is the chef and owner of August in New Orleans.

**Taken from Esquire Magazine, 10/22/07

 

In addition to making chili and short ribs, I finally tried my hand at canning Italian peppers.  This is an old tradition common back home in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Many Italian families buy up bushels of banana peppers to make their canned Italian peppers.  Locals engage in friendly debates arguing who has the best bread peppers (Italian peppers).  They are a very simple concoction; banana peppers sliced into rings, salted and tossed in canning jars with smashed fresh garlic and oregano.  Some folks add canned mushrooms or olives but I always preferred just the peppers.  All the mom & pop Italian restaurants serve them with Italian bread and butter before your meal arrives.  They are also eaten on hoagies, pizzas and salads.  The best Italian restaurant back home, The Columbia Hotel, was owned by Leo & Vicky Taddeo who were good friends of my parents (Leo & Vicky have since retired and sold the place).  We went to The Columbia weekly for dinner.  Leo always checked my sisters’ and my hands for clean finger nails.  If they were clean we were awarded with a Reese’s peanut butter cup.  My Dad would sometimes take me there on Saturday afternoons.  He would have a beer (or two) and chat with Leo, who would often let me go behind the bar and wash glasses.  I loved washing the bar glasses and pouring sodas from the soda gun.  Uncle Patsy, a bar regular, would give me a quarter and teach me Italian words. 

Vicky Taddeo was kind enough to share her Italian peppers recipe with me several years ago.  I never had the patience or the peppers to make them before now.  Fortunately, another dear friend of mine had a huge garden this summer which produced an over abundance of banana peppers.  Here is what I did with the bounty (the jars are a tad cloudy because I used table salt rather than canning salt):

 

peppers

 

If you are interested in knowing how to make these crunchy, tangy beauties let me know.  I won’t give you any of mine, but maybe I’ll share the recipe with you – if you beg <wink>.  I’ve got a homemade Italian boule I picked up at the farmers market and it’s lunch time, so I think it’s bread and peppers for me.  Ciao!

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