Good Friday Dinner-Brooklyn Memories

My family very rarely ventured to Brooklyn when I was a kid, except for our annual Good Friday trip to Lundy Brother’s Restaurant in Sheepshead Bay for the “Shore Dinner”

Sitting on the side of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, New York

Every Good Friday, we’d venture over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to indulge in Lundy’s specialty, The Shore Dinner. And if we were lucky enough to have good weather, we’d make a stop at Coney Island to walk the boardwalk and take a ride on the Wonder Wheel,  an amusement ride that was part swing and part ferris wheel.

The famous Coney Island Wonder Wheel

I’m not sure how or when my family discovered Lundy’s, but it was the family tradition for Good Friday dinner. Our Good Friday dinner adventure always started with a pot of steamed clams, called “steamers”, and a platter of clams on the half shell. Next, we’d have a bowl of chowder. This clam chowder was unlike what most people think of as chowder, this chowder was made with tomatoes and not cream…..classic Manhattan chowder rarely found on menus, but a lot healthier than the cream-laden New England chowder (chowda).

After having what most people consider enough food for a meal, we moved on to the featured item of the day, the main event. As anticipation of the main event hit a fever pitch, the white-gloved waiters arrived to place bibs on each of us. Steaming pots of lobsters arrived after we were appropriately dressed, and silence encompassed the table, not a sound could be heard as we feverishly worked to dismantle our respective lobsters. As we ate our meal, baskets of freshly baked biscuits arrived at the table. And as the number of biscuits dwindled, new baskets, with fresh warm biscuits, miraculously appeared on the table. These biscuits weren’t ordinary at all, they were tiny half dollar sized biscuits that were easy to pop into the mouth.

While I remember the food with great detail, I also remember visiting the Ladies Room. You are probably asking yourself, “the Ladies Room deserves noting?” Every year I excused myself from the table, just after ordering my dinner, to go to the Ladies Room. I will never forget walking down the expansive stair case in the center of the restaurant, carrying my purse, to visit the Ladies Room. As I entered, I was always greeted by the friendly, older black woman who worked in the rest room. The woman was in charge of turning on the water for guests to wash their hands and offering hand towels. The reason I took my purse with me was so I good grab my change and leave her a tip. The scene is indelible in my memory.

We stopped going to the restaurant in the 70’s, after the owner was killed in his upstairs office in a Mafia shooting. Yes, we are talking New York City. The restaurant was shuttered and but the memories of all of the Good Friday dinners remained vivid.

The restaurant was reopened in 1995, by the Tam Restaurant group, after being closed for 20 years. The menu pretty much remained the same, but the restaurant was subdivided and the serving area decreased from 2400 people to 700. During the time the restaurant was closed, a cookbook and history of the restaurant was written Lundy’s : reminiscenses and recipes from Brooklyn’s legendary restaurant , with many of the original recipes, but not the famous biscuit recipe

Since the restaurant was such a big part of my childhood, I wanted to go back to see it again. On a trip back east with my daughter to visit my relatives in Jersey, I made reservations for lunch.  I wanted to share the experience with my daughter and share the good memories with my mother and sister. We drove over from Jersey, a trip that seemed much shorter than I remembered as a kid. As we approached Emmetts Boulevard, where the restaurant stood, I didn’t see any of the fishing boats that had always docked outside the restaurant to sell the day’s catch from Jamaica Bay or the Atlantic. There were no docks left for the fishing boats.

Walking into the restaurant was a walk down memory lane with the black and white tiled floor, the oyster bar that opened to the sidewalk, and the grand stair case to the Ladies Room.

We were there for lunch, my mom, sister, daughter and I. We didn’t want the gluttony of the Shore Dinner so we opted for a much more manageable amount of food, much more appropriate for lunch. The visit was a walk down memory lane in more ways than one, my mom’s memory was being ravaged by Alzheimer’s and we weren’t sure how much she would remember of our family feasts of the past. Not to worry, she accurately remembered her love of clams on the half shell and proudly ordered a platter of the locally caught, cherrystone bivalves. After devouring one platter of clams, topped with more freshly ground horseradish than most people eat in a lifetime, she ordered a second platter.

The food was just as I remembered, and the biscuits were as delicious as always. We talked with the waiter (who didn’t wear white gloves) about our family’s visits to the restaurant and told him about how we would devour the biscuits …and would sneak some into our purses for the long trip back to Jersey. When the bill arrived, so did the recipe for the biscuits. I was flabbergasted, I now had the famous Lundy Brother’s biscuit recipe with the secret ingredient that none of the posted Lundy recipes mention.

After we paid for the lunch, I headed down the grand staircase, with my purse, to the Ladies Room. As I entered, I was happy to see there wasn’t an old woman sitting there to serve me. The one negative memory of our annual trip was no longer there…a person to turn on the water and hand me towels. A smile came across my face and I realized that times have changed for the better.

The weather was beautiful that day we ventured to Brooklyn, and we finished our adventure with a stop at Coney Island…where my sister, daughter and I enjoyed a ride on the famous Wonder Wheel while my mother sat and watched us scream and laugh. My daughter fell in love with Coney Island…and Brooklyn..and this trip was the start of new traditions and memories.

So what’s the secret of the biscuits?
The recipe the waiter gave me revealed the secret of the biscuits…Lundy’s used White Lily Flour , not all purpose flour like the recipes that were developed to mimic the famous biscuits. White Lily Flour is made from soft winter wheat which is low in protein… a traditional flour used in southern biscuits. While I planned to share the recipe in this blog, I realized the recipe is in a cookbook I have stored elsewhere so sharing the secret recipe will have to wait.

I will share with you the classic Manhattan Clam Chowder…or as Lundy’s called it Brooklyn Red.  This recipe is from Lundy’s : reminiscenses and recipes from Brooklyn’s legendary restaurant

 Brooklyn Red a.k.a. Manhattan Clam Chowder

A delicious, hearty clam chowder

Ingredients

  1. 4 pounds quahog, or 6 pounds cherrystone clams,( or 4 cans clams with 2 bottles of clam juice)
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 2 large or 3 medium onions, cut into large dice
  4. 2 carrots, cut into large dice
  5. 2 stalks celery, cut into large dice
  6. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1 bay leaf
  8. 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
  9. One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  10. 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  11. 1 1/2 teaspoons dry thyme
  12. 1 1/2 teaspoons dry oregano
  13. Freshly ground black pepper
  14. Salt (optional)

Directions

  • Scrub the clams well to remove any external debris. Place the clams in a large pot with 8 cups water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.Reduce the heat and cook until the clams just open, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the broth into a large bowl and set aside. Separate the clams from their shells. Coarsely chop the clams and set aside; discard the shells.
  • Clean any sand from the bottom of the pot. Heat the butter over a moderately low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently to prevent browning,about 8 minutes, or until soft. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaf, potatoes, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, oregano and pepper, and stir to mix.
  • Add the reserved clam broth into the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. (If using bottled broth add it now) Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Add the clams (if using canned clams add them now) and cook another 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Taste for seasoning and serve piping hot.

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Celebrating with Food and Fun

Quite a bit of time has past since my last post, but my food experiences have continued.  I am now working in the food industry and the best part of my new job is getting paid to do what I love…experience food.

Last year I joined a group of food bloggers, I should say more accurately a group of foodies most of whom blog about food.  The group generally gets together once a month at Creative Culinary’s house to chat, discuss food, blogging, share food, and have a fun time.  A couple of weeks ago several of bloggers were invited to stop by, Fado Irish Pub and Restaurant in Denver.  The group was greeted by Glen Eastwood, the general manager.

Glen took us through a paired tasting of beer and food from the menu. We started with Smoked Salmon Bites, a traditional cold oak smoked salmon on a boxty blini with capers, onions, and a very light horseradish sauce. I had never heard of boxty…and Glen, who is from Dublin, confessed that he hadn’t heard of it until he started working at Fado. He explained that boxty is an Irish potato pancake that comes from the northern region of Ireland near Ulster. It makes sense that a country known for its potatoes would have potato pancakes! While I’ve never made boxty I’ve made many variations of potato pancakes, mainly Latkes. I provided a recipe below if you’d like to try boxty.

The salmon bites were paired with with Westmalle Trappest Ale, a golden ale. The light ale, with its subtle effervescence, complemented the rich almost buttery texture of the salmon. The beer cleansed the palate of the flavorful oiliness of the salmon.

Next came a traditional Shepherd’s Pie, with ground sirloin, diced veggies in a rich beef sauce topped with colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage).

The pie was paired with a beer from the famous Guinness brewery. The Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is a full-bodied stout is not available in Ireland but only in foreign markets. I’m always a fan of Guinness and this version did not disappoint.

Next up was a Bleu Cheese Slider from the appetizer menu. The slider was served with a side of broth for dipping…the sauce was good just by itself. The slider was made of tender, locally sourced, Colorado lamb. It was garnished with caramelized onions and bleu cheese. The paired beer was Celebration Double Bock Beer which is only seasonally available. Again the pairing worked wonderfully.

While originally Glen hadn’t planned to serve dessert he was excited to tell us about the Black & Tan Brownie with Guinness Ice Cream. The ice cream is made in house and the combination of the chocolate in the brownie married together nicely with the Guinness ice cream.

After our tasting, Glen talked about how Fado’s is a gathering place for people who support European Football. Many times, the restaurant stays open all night so fans can watch the live feeds from matches taking place in Europe. Glen did say the place gets rowdy, but what would you expect from football fans?

Recently, my daughter, Allison, traveled to Ireland for a few days, including New Year’s Eve. She blogs about her experiences while living in Europe and talks about her food and beer experience including her trip to the Guinness factory to learn to pull a Guinness. Check out her blog posting, My Adventures in Europe for a fun tour of Dublin.

So you want to make something traditional for St. Patrick’s Day? Here’s a recipe for boxty…an Irish potato pancake. As with many traditional foods there are hundreds of recipes with slight variations. Also try Bubble and Squeak with Wow Wow Sauce and a hearty version of Irish Soda Bread from my earlier posts.

Boxty recipe courtesy of Irish Traditional Cooking: Over 300 Recipes from Ireland’s Heritage by Darina Allen/Kyle Books, 2012.

An easy recipe for boxty

Irish potato pancakes

Ingredients

  1. 6 medium potatoes
  2. A handful of all-purpose flour
  3. Salt
  4. Butter
  5. Fresh herbs (optional)

Directions

  1. Scrub the potatoes well, but don’t peel. Line a bowl with a cloth. Grate the potatoes into it, then squeeze out the liquid into the bowl and let it sit for about 20 minutes until the starch settles. Set the potatoes aside.
  2. Drain off the water and leave the starch in the bottom of the bowl. Add the grated potato, a handful of flour and some salt.
  3. Melt a nice bit of butter on a heavy iron pan and pour in the potato mixture. It should be 3/4-1 inch thick. Cook on a medium heat. Let it brown nicely on one side before turning over and then on the other side, about 30 minutes in all depending on the heat. It’s much better to cook it too slowly rather than too fast. It should be crisp and golden on the outside. Cut the boxty into four wedges and serve.

 

 

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Gordon Ramsay At The London and a Special Birthday Dinner

Birthday Dinner at Maze, a Gordon Ramsay Restaurant

21st Birthday Dinner at Gordon Ramsay at London Hotel in New York City

My daughter, Allison, has always been foodie.  As a child, she watched Julia Child reruns on the local PBS station and was always interested in putting on her little apron and helping cook.  Her interest in food continued and she worked in two restaurant kitchens during high school and  college.  Somewhere along the way, Allison decided to become a vegetarian but that didn’t hinder her love of cooking and she isn’t against cooking meat for the carnivores in the family, she just doesn’t want eat meat.

Somewhere along the line, Allison started watching Hell’s Kitchen, the show Gordon Ramsay brought to the US in 2004, and she became a fan of all of the yelling and bleeping (due to profanity) the show offers.  I personally find the show offensive and don’t watch it.

Many years ago, while Allison was still in her teens, she announced she wanted to go to New York City to celebrate her 21st birthday and have dinner at Gordon Ramsay At The London Hotel in mid-town Manhattan.  Allison decided to celebrate her birthday with a fixed price, multi-course dinner with wine pairings…just like Mom and Dad have enjoyed. I wasn’t very excited about her choice in restaurants,  I thought Gordon was all show with little substance and figured his attitude rubbed off on his restaurants.  I tried to talk her into choosing another restaurant like Per Se, the sister restaurant of The French Laundry at which I’ve eaten and enjoyed.  Allison wouldn’t accept any other restaurants…she wanted Gordon Ramsay’s Maze!

Allison's Vegetarian Dinner

Jane's Carnivore Dinner

The restaurant offers “menu prestige”, a seven course tasting menu that has a vegetarian option, perfect for Allison.  We made reservations for the restaurant and planned our trip to NYC to celebrate her birthday, one-half year later than her actual birthday.

As we were getting ready for dinner we  realized the restaurant was just 2 blocks from our hotel, definitely an easy walk.  I could see the excitement in Allison’s face as we left the hotel and walked to the restaurant.  Upon entering the busy restaurant, our coats were checked and we were whisked past the large number of patrons dining in the Maze Restaurant to a private, very well appointed, dining room with about 15 tables.  The tables were nicely spaced so we did not hear the conversations from the other guests

As soon as we sat down, the hostess and waiter wished Allison a happy birthday, thankfully, they read the note I sent them when I made the reservation on Open Table.  The wine steward arrived and asked if we would like to celebrate with glasses of Champagne…and he offered several different brands and varieties,  I opted for one I’ve enjoyed in the past, Roederer Brut Champagne.  Allison and I toasted her birthday…and the fact that  she can legally consume wine (YEA!!).

As we sipped our Champagne, the evening’s extravaganza began.  At fixed price dinners the number of courses specified on the menu always seems to multiply… as courses not on the menu just arrive at the table and tonight’s dinner would not be an exception.  The amuse bouche was an onion soup with a Meyer lemon walnut crisp for Allison and salmon with crème fraiche garnished with capers for me.

Fois Gras from the Hudson Valley

My next course was an unctuous, sautéed Hudson Valley foie gras with spiced plums, truffle vinaigrette served with a well balanced glass of Riesling.  Allison noshed on artichoke “barigoule” , a traditional Provencal dish of braised artichokes that was served with a glass of Gruner Veltliner.  It seemed that braised artichokes were an “in” dish in New York that week because we saw them on several other menus and Allison had a similar dish at Eataly.

Artichoke Barigoule

Rutabaga Soup

Maine diver scallops with curried cauliflower, pressed mango and spiced chick peas was next on the menu and was served with a nice crisp Albarino.  I love scallops, especially fresh sea scallops.  The scallops on my plate were so fresh and sweet they must have been plucked from the sea that day!  An intense soup made from roasted rutabaga, roasted patty pan squash, honey, and aged parmesan was served to Allison, along with a glass of Soave Classico.  During the service we were enticed with numerous varieties of bread…every course had a new bread offering and of course we couldn’t resist the bread served with sweet cream butter from local cream.

By now we were wishing we could take a break from eating and take a walk around NYC.  We were both getting full, maybe it was the bread, or maybe the tasting plates had more food than we expected.  The next two vegetarian courses were Allison’s favorites.  The first was a ratatouille made with sautéed baby artichokes, tomatoes and parmesan cheese.

Ratatouille with Baby Artichokes and a Tuile of Parmesan

The flavor was so intense we could tell the ingredients had been slow roasting for a long time.  This course was served with a Burgundy, and this evening may have been the first time Allison had tried a true Burgundy…she loved it (uh, oh, the kid has expensive tastes). While the dish was delicious with intense flavors some of it was left on the plate…way too much for a tasting plate.

Risotto--Look at all of the Truffle Shavings on Top!

The next dish, I’m pretty sure, put Allison into culinary heaven (or as sometimes I say, a culinary orgasm, where words can’t describe the experience). The carnaroli risotto with wild mushrooms, mascarpone cheese and black truffles shaved over the top was to die for. The aroma was intoxicating, and the dish announced it’s arrival with the fantastic aroma wafting into the dining room as the waiter entered the room.  Risotto is a frequent dish in our house but we’ve never made it as heavenly as this dish was prepared.   I’m sure it was the truffles that made the dish, they were so fresh and aromatic.  The Sangiovese/Cabernet blend served with the risotto had just the right amount of earthiness to complement the dish.  Not a morsel of rice was left in the dish and Allison wished she could have asked for seconds.

Filet of Turbot

My next two courses included a filet of turbot with organic egg, New Zealand spinach (not sure why the spinach from NZ is better than the locally grown variety) and candied pumpkin seed.  I think this was the weakest dish of the evening.  Perhaps, I was a little jealous after trying Allison’s ratatouille with intense flavors, but I thought the turbot was too mild for my tastes.  The accompanying Chablis went well with the delicate flavors of the fish.

Moving on to the next course, I was back in my comfort zone with Colorado lamb roasted in goat’s butter, served with a fava bean tapenade, confit of potatoes, and lamb vinaigrette.

Colorado Lamb-is easier to find outside of Colorado!

I was impressed that the lamb was cooked as I requested, rare.  I love lamb and regularly cook it at home so I normally don’t order it in restaurants.  The chef’s preparation was excellent and the dish went well with the glass of Merlot from Friuli.

We moved on to the home stretch…first came a lime sorbet served with Pimms No.1, a British gin, mint and orange cake.  While this treat acted as the palate cleanser, it could have been another course…not just a taste, but a servings worth.

Finally, we arrived at the dessert course….or should I say dessert courses.  We couldn’t decide which of the offerings we wanted for dessert so the waiter brought all of them for us!  The three desserts were:  Concord grape cream with pistachio dacquoise, calamansi line, and yogurt sorbet, Pont L’Eveque (a cheese from Normandy) served with olive caramel on truffled toast, and a plate of aged cheddar served with fig and walnut bread.  The dessert was served with my favorite ice wine, Inniskillin, from the Niagara Peninsula in Canada.

Pont l'Eveque with Olive Caramel and Truffled Toast

Whew, we were stuffed and looking forward to heading out for a walk around Manhattan.  But wait!  We weren’t done.  A cart of sweets arrived with so many options I lost track of all of the choices.  The homemade honeycomb candy was outstanding and the rest of the treats were also delicious.  But neither of us could finish what we had…so the waiter placed the remainder of our sweet course in boxes for us to take with us.  (I’m pretty sure “doggy bags” don’t exist at this restaurant!)

A selection of sweets, the honeycomb was outstanding.

After paying the bill (and let me say it was rather large!), the restaurant manager came to our table to ask Allison if she was ready to go into the kitchen because the chef wanted to meet her and give her a tour.  She was smiling throughout the evening as she experienced her dream dinner, but when asked to go back to the kitchen she lit up the whole room with her smiling face.  She looked at me and asked if I had planned this…of course I had…an excellent surprise for the foodie who loves all things food.

Executive Chef Markus Glocker and Allison

We were graciously introduced to the Executive Chef, Markus Glocker, who spent time talking with Allison about his career in the food industry, where he learned his trade and how he worked his way up the executive chef position. He also introduced her to a few of the 47 chefs (yes, they are all chefs) that work for him and showed her all of the stations in the kitchen explaining the function of each as it related to our dinner.  An unbelievable kitchen!!

I have to admit the dinner exceeded my expectations and I place the restaurant in the same league as The French Laundry and the restaurant at Domaine Chandon.  Guess I should trust the three Michelin stars it has received. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again for a special dinner.

Allison and I were so full we couldn’t go back to the hotel so we walked around mid-town for at least 2 hours before heading back to the hotel.  It was a magical evening that neither of us will forget, Allison’s dream 21st birthday dinner.

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Chile Rellenos Stuffed with Chicken and Goat Cheese for a Cinco de Mayo Celebration

Chile Rellenos stuffed with chicken and goat cheese and served with cabbage salad

This week is Cinco de Mayo (May 5th), a Mexican holiday that is celebrated here in the Rocky Mountain states due to the influence Mexico has historically had on the region and our large population of Mexican immigrants.  While many people think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day the holiday doesn’t have anything to do with Mexican independence.  Cinco de Mayo is a regional holiday primarily celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla commemorating the victory the Mexican Army had over the French Army during the 1862 Battle of Puebla.  Mexico’s Independence Day is on September 16 when the entire country of Mexico celebrates it’s Independence.  The best way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo is with a native dish from Puebla….Chile Rellenos stuffed with ground chicken and goat cheese.

I developed this recipe one afternoon after buying some ground chicken that I had planned to use for a pot of green chile, aka, chile verde. My goal was to alleviate my craving for the sweet taste of green chiles that afternoon.  After realizing I had many different variations of green chile stored in the freezer I decided to try something different, but what would could I make?

My friend, Susie, makes great Enchilada Suizas that she shared with me while I was recuperating from knee surgery.   I really liked the tomatillo sauce that was on top of the suizas but I didn’t have any tortillas on hand so I couldn’t make suizas.  Sitting in the pantry was a large can of whole chiles and the thought of chile rellenos came to mind.  Wanting to use the ground chicken and some left over goat cheese  that was sitting in the fridge this recipe was born.  I decided to develop a sauce similar to the suiza sauce and use it on the rellenos.

The recipe for the rellenos sounds complicated but don’t worry, it isn’t.  I guarantee you your work will be rewarded with a delicious dinner!

Recipe: Chile Rellenos Stuffed with Chicken and Goat Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken (you can make your own by taking chicken meat and putting it in the food processor and pulsing until ground)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 8 ounces of plain soft goat cheese (I buy mine at Costco because it is less expensive than everywhere else)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 2 green onions or scallions chopped
  • ½ red pepper chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t use salt and pepper)
  • 27 ounce can whole green chiles (I use Hatch brand because I like them the best and they are “local” from New Mexico)
  • 1½ cups of shredded mild cheese (about 6 ounces) I used Manchego but you can use Swiss, Queso Blanco, Muenster, or Chihuahua. I don’t recommend using cheddar because it will over power the delicate flavor of the goat cheese.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put the oil in a skillet and turn on medium heat.
  3. Cook the garlic until just fragrant, not browned.
  4. Add the scallion, red pepper, and ground chicken.
  5. Cook until chicken just loses its pink color.
  6. Drain chicken (may not be anything to drain!) and let cool slightly.
  7. Put the goat cheese, yogurt and egg in the food processor, pulse until blended.
  8. Add in the oregano and basil and pulse to blend.
  9. Add the cooked ground chicken mixture and pulse to blend.
  10. Open the can of chiles and drain the liquid.  I use the liquid for making chile verde. Place the green chiles on a cutting board and slit the chile on the long side…do not cut all the way down to the bottom if possible. Remove any seeds.
  11. Using a 12x 9 or 13 x 10 pan (I use Pyrex glass pans for this)  spread a little of the tomatillo sauce on the bottom of the pan to lightly coat it.
  12. Take a zip lock bag and put ½ of the chicken mixture into the bottom of the bag and set the bag in a bowl or a glass.

    Make a piping bag out of a plastic bag

  13. Cut a small hole at in one of the corners of the plastic bag with the chicken mixture, you are making a piping bag to make it easier to put the mixture in the chiles. Take the bag and put the open corner into the chile and squeeze enough mixture to fill the chile.Do not over stuff, you should be able to “close” the chile by connecting the two sides.You may have some chiles that are split, you can stuff them and gently place them in the pan covering the filling with part of the split chile.

    Piping the filling into chiles

  14. Place the chile with the filling side up into the Pyrex pan. Continue with the rest of the chiles, placing the chiles in a single layer in the pan, adding more filling to the plastic bag as needed.
  15. When all of the filling is used and the chiles pour the remaining tomatillo sauce over the chiles and top with shredded cheese.
  16. Place in pan in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. If the top is not browned after 30 minutes turn the temperature up to 425 and bake an additional 5-7 minutes (or broil) until top is browned.
  17. Remove pan from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.
  18. After serving each  person can add salt and/or pepper.

    Hot out of the oven, this is 1/2 the recipe

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Recipe: Tomatillo Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 large can tomatillos (drained) or about 8-10 fresh tomatillos gently boiled until soft and drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno or Serrano chile (optional…if you don’t want heat leave this out)
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic, chopped (of course I use 2 cloves)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used non-fat, Greek yogurt because it is richer than regular yogurt and easier to cook with. Non-Greek yogurt tends to break down and get very watery when cooking with it so that’s why I use Greek Yogurt for cooking it doesn’t break as easily)
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Place the tomatillos and garlic in a food processor or blender. Blend until roughly chopped.
  2. Add the cumin and oregano and blend.
  3. Then add the yogurt and blend.
  4. Finally blend in the eggs.

Microformatting by hRecipe.

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Greek Hard Boiled Eggs–A great way to use those leftover Easter Eggs!

Greek Hard Boiled Eggs with Tomatoes and Olive Oil

How many of you have too many left over Easter eggs? I remember coloring loads of them only to suffer for the next week with egg salad sandwiches and the traditional deviled eggs.  I found the recipe for Greek Hard Boiled Eggs a while ago and decided to change up the traditional deviled eggs for something new.  This is an easy recipe to make and the eggs look elegant on the dish.  While I still love the traditional deviled eggs for picnics I make these for something different with hard boiled eggs and use as part of an appetizer tray.  Let me know what you think!

Recipe: Greek Hard Boiled Eggs with Tomatoes and Olive Oil

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs, hard boiled
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of very finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • Pepper to taste and salt if you want (I add pepper but not salt)
  • Fresh parsley chopped, basil, oregano or chive blossoms for garnish

Instructions

  1. Peel and halve the eggs being careful not to break the whites. Scoop out the yolks and mash with a fork.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the tomato paste, the mashed egg yolks, the olive oil, the onion, and the smoked paprika (optional). I use my hand mixer.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, and spoon or pipe the mixture back into the hollowed-out whites.
  4. Garnish with fresh chopped fresh herbs or chive blossoms

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Adapted from Meze-Small Plates to Savor and Share
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Celebrating National Garlic Day with a recipe using garlic… Parmesan Ice Cream

Parmesan Ice Cream a creamy, garlicy delight

What can I say…today is National Garlic Day and in my opinion a  day without garlic is like a day without sunshine.

I’ve always been a fan of garlic. When I was growing up I would never eat pizza without a good dose of granulated garlic on the top…and I was never one to turn down a piece of browned bread slathered in butter and garlic.  A favorite dish of mine was (and still is) shrimp scampi with the tender sweet shrimp gently simmered in butter and garlic.  Put garlic on anything and I will eat it.

I don’t know where I would be without garlic…you laugh, but that’s a true statement.  Never thinking about how my garlic consumption would impact my dating life I continued to consume mass quantities of garlic while in college.  Well one night before heading out on a date …after eating dinner with lots of garlic (of course) I realized I had a severe case of garlic breath.  I scrubbed my teeth and rinsed with mouthwash not sure how much the effort was helping…well my date asked if all that preparation was in anticipation of a kiss.   Who knew that the first kiss was a result of loving garlic?  And who knew that these many years later the relationship continues in spite of my continued mass consumption of garlic.  Almost every evening when my husband walks thru the door after work he gets the aroma of…you guessed it garlic.

Not all garlic is created equal.  The garlic found in most grocery stores is the softneck variety. This is because softneck garlic is easier to grow and plant mechanically and also keeps for longer than hardneck varieties of garlic. Softnecks have the common white papery skin and an abundance of cloves, often forming several layers around the central core.  It’s the softneck variety that you see braided too.  Almost 90% of the softneck garlic is grown in Califonia…but do watch out because China is now growing garlic and importing it into the US.

Hardneck Garlic---an heirloom variety

The other type is the hardneck garlic.  It is this garlic that you will frequently see at farmer’s markets.  The varieties of hardneck garlic are numerous and the flavor is great.  Hardneck garlic varieties have a “scape” – or stalk which coils from the top. On the top of this scape grow a number of bubils which are often mistakenly referred to as garlic flowers. There are fewer cloves with this type of garlic but the cloves are larger than the softneck variety.  There is also less wrapping or paper around the bulbs and sometimes none at all.  Hardneck garlic is much more sensitive to handling and has a shorter shelf life…that’s why you generally don’t see it in grocery stores.

Quite often early in the summer you’ll find garlic scapes at the farmer’s markets.  The scapes are cut from the hardneck garlic to increase the size of the bulbs.  Scapes can be used in stir fry and also make one heck of a good pesto!  Next time you see hardneck garlic buy a bulb and try it…they are so much more flavorful than the white ones from the grocery store.

This is the first year I’ve successfully planted garlic.  A few years ago I tried to plant some cloves from the garlic I bought at the grocery store.  For some reason this garlic did not grow and I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying it.  Last summer two of my farmer friends who grow phenomenal garlic, Larry Howell from Larry’s Family Farm in Mendon, Utah and Farmer Peter from Sandhill Farms Mountain Garlic in Eden, Utah gave me garlic bulbs to plant this past fall.  The cloves were planted on Columbus Day in October and I’m happy to report as of today the garlic plants are 12 inches tall and healthy.  I am so excited!!!

Hardneck garlic growing in my garden--April

So in honor of National Garlic Day I want to share a recipe with you…it is hard to choose which recipe but this is an easy recipe that I’ve wanted to share for a while and what better time than now.

Parmigiano-Rebbiano Cookbook

The recipe is adapted from The Seasons of Parmigiano-Reggiano , a cookbook published in 1998 by Tutela Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano (Consortium for the Preservation of Parmigiano-Reggiano) and the Italian Trade Commission.  Don’t be turned off by the name of the recipe…it isn’t really ice cream it just looks like ice cream when you scoop it onto the plate.

Recipe: Parmigiano Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 3 cloves of garlic roasted
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
  • 2 cups (160 grams) of freshly grated Parmesan cheese…I have also used aged Pecorino with much success whatever you do don’t use Kraft Parmesan cheese!
  • Balsamic vinegar for garnishing, the older the better (makes it the cheese look like it has chocolate sauce!

Instructions

  1. Start by roasting the garlic. Take 3 garlic cloves with the paper or skin still on and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in a small oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

    Roasted garlic

    Test to see if the cloves are roasted enough press on the foil and if you can smoosh the cloves they are ready, if not leave in the oven a little longer.

  2. Once the cloves are done, remove the paper or skin and mash the cloves to make a paste.

    Mashed garlic

  3. Bring the cream, the mashed garlic and nutmeg to a boil in a heavy medium sized saucepan. Make sure the cream doesn’t burn.
  4. Whisk the mixture and begin adding the cheese about ½ a cup at time continuing to whisk the cheese so it melts. Continue until all of the cheese is melted.
  5. Remove the cheese mixture from the heat and pour it into a shallow, heat resistant dish.
  6. Allow to cook at room temperature and then cover dish and place in refrigerator until the mixture stiffens.

    Parmesan ice cream ready to be scooped

  7. To serve, scoop portions of the mixture with an ice cream scoop or dough scoop into 6 portions. You can serve this for an appetizer with bread, grapes, sliced pears or apples, walnuts, or with a salad such as arugula or mizuna.

Oh,  before I forget do check out the movie “Garlic is like ten mothers”, a documentary about garlic directed by Les Blank.  My husband and I saw this movie when it was first released.  The premier, at the Ogden Theater in Denver, was in “smell around”…the theater’s personnel walked up and down the aisles carrying pans with sautéed garlic to fill the air with the aroma of garlic…just to get the patrons in the mood for the movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080776/

I hope you have a great National Garlic Day and now you know why I celebrate the holiday.  Enjoy!

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Mocha Sugar Cookies- Nice and Chewy

Mocha Sugar Cookies, chewy and yummy

Do you like chewy sugar cookies that don’t turn crisp or hard over night?  Then here is your recipe, a recipe for a yummy mocha sugar cookie that is chewy just great with a glass of milk or a cup of tea.   My family loves sugar cookies but the most of the recipes I have are good the first day then they turn crispy the next day….not like the sugar cookies I remember as a kid.  So back when the December 2010 issue of Cook’s Illustrated arrived there was an article on how to make classic sugar cookies.  Well I thought I had tried every “classic” recipe there was and I was never able to get the chewy softer cookies that I found in bakeries.

Leave it to Cook’s Illustrated to experiment with multiple variations before coming to what their testers think is best.  Their testing from other recipes indicated that the key to a truly chewy texture is in the fat…”for an optimal chew, a recipe must contain both saturated (like butter) and unsaturated fat (like oil).”  So a butter only cookie wouldn’t work and that’s what the recipes I made over the years called for.  What they came up with is a fool proof recipe using both baking soda and baking powder for leavening plus butter and cream cheese for the saturated fat along with vegetable oil for the unsaturated fat.

Since I’m “No Plain Jane “  I couldn’t just make a regular ordinary white sugar cookie.  No way! Instead I added cocoa powder and instant coffee or espresso for a mocha delight sugar cookie.   So here’s the recipe that I developed based on the one from Cooks Illustrated.  I think the recipe is very flexible so I’m going to be trying other variants of it such as a key lime sugar cookie.  The only problem with testing cookie recipes is my kids aren’t home to eat them so the honor goes to me and my husband…which we don’t need.

Recipe: Mocha Sugar Cookie

Summary: Mocha Sugar Cookie

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups (11.25 ounces) all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder (the original recipe had 1 teaspoon this is my altitude adjustment)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (I use fine grained kosher salt but you can use regular table salt)
  • 1 ½ cups (10.5 ounces) sugar plus ¼ cup for rolling the dough
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon for rolling the dough
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee or instant espresso powder (any brand)
  • 2 ounces cream cheese cut into 4 pieces (I used the 1/3 less fat or Neufchatel, I tried the low fat and didn’t think it worked out as well. Of course you can use the regular fat cream cheese too)
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces or ¾ of a stick) unsalted butter melted, not hot but just warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used low fat milk)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Get 2 cookie sheets prepped with either parchment paper or Silpats. I find that parchment paper works best for this recipe because the cookies spread out more with the Silpat. I haven’t tried making the cookies on just a greased cookie sheet…let me know if you do try it.
  3. Blend flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and instant coffee/espresso powder in a bowl.
  4. Place 1 ½ cups of sugar and the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and pour the warm butter over it and whisk to combine, it may still be a little lumpy but don’t worry about that.
  5. Whisk in the oil until it is incorporated.
  6. Then whisk in the egg, milk and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix to combine. Do not overwork the dough or the cookies will turn out  flat.
  7. Put the ¼ cup of sugar and the 1 tablespoon of cocoa for rolling onto a plate.
  8. I use a small cookie dough scoop that is about 1 tablespoon in size (a dough scoop looks like a smaller version of an ice cream scoop) to scoop out the dough…this way I get consistent size cookies. You can use any size scoop just adjust your baking time if using a larger scoop.
  9. Take each piece of dough and roll it in the sugar/cocoa mixture and place on the cookie sheet.
  10. Take a small glass like a juice glass and flatten the dough ball slightly.
  11. Put one pan at a time in the oven and bake until the edges are set about 10 to 12 minutes (may need longer if you use a larger scoop for your cookies.
  12. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minute.
  13. Then transfer them to a wire rack for cooling.
  14. Once cool…enjoy!!

Variations

You can omit the cocoa, instant coffee and 1 tablespoon of milk for a delicious regular sugar cookie.

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Do you like chewy sugar cookies that don’t turn crisp or hard over night?  Then here is your recipe, a recipe for a yummy mocha sugar cookie that is chewy just great with a glass of milk or a cup of tea.   My family loves sugar cookies but the most of the recipes I have are good the first day then they turn crispy the next day….not like the sugar cookies I remember as a kid.  So back when the December 2010 issue of Cook’s Illustrated arrived there was an article on how to make classic sugar cookies.  Well I thought I had tried every “classic” recipe there was and I was never able to get the chewy softer cookies that I found in bakeries.

Leave it to Cook’s Illustrated to experiment with multiple variations before coming to what their testers think is best.  Their testing from other recipes indicated that the key to a truly chewy texture is in the fat…”for an optimal chew, a recipe must contain both saturated (like butter) and unsaturated fat (like oil).”  So a butter only cookie wouldn’t work and that’s what the recipes I made over the years called for.  What they came up with is a fool proof recipe using both baking soda and baking powder for leavening plus butter and cream cheese for the saturated fat along with vegetable oil for the unsaturated fat.

Since I’m “No Plain Jane “  I couldn’t just make a regular ordinary white sugar cookie.  No way! Instead I added cocoa powder and instant coffee or espresso for a mocha delight sugar cookie.   So here’s the recipe that I developed based on the one from Cooks Illustrated.  I think the recipe is very flexible so I’m going to be trying other variants of it such as a key lime sugar cookie.  The only problem with testing cookie recipes is my kids aren’t home to eat them so the honor goes to me and my husband…which we don’t needJ.

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Bubble and Squeak with Wow Wow Sauce

Bubble and Squeak-Potatoes and Cabbage with Cheese

I’m not a fan of boiled cabbage and potatoes but I do like cabbage and potatoes prepared other ways, like Bubble and Squeak. The first time I had Bubble and Squeak was at The King’s Arm Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia when I was a kid. While I remember many of the special meals I’ve eaten during my life the reason why I remember this meal is because I had peanut soup (I love peanuts) and this strange named vegetable dish, Bubble and Squeak. So when it comes to a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner why not make this dish to go with your corned beef?
I adapted the recipe from a great cookbook I’ve had for many years, Tastes of Liberty, A Celebration of Our Ethnic Cooking which was published by the Chateau St. Michelle Winery in 1985. This book is a tribute to American ancestors who came through Ellis Island. This dedication is found on the opening pages of the book, “This book is dedicated to the memory of millions of immigrants who brought America a vivid, joyous appreciation of good food and fine wine” and the rest of the book has recipes from the immigrants. Every recipe I’ve made from the book has turned out perfectly. This book one of my favorite cookbooks!

Taste of Liberty Cookbook

So the name Bubble and Squeak supposedly comes from the sound it makes as it is cooking….it is bubbling and the cabbage is making a squeaking noise. It just sounds like a hot skillet to me…but let your imagination run wild. There are other dishes similar to this such as Colcannon which is an Irish dish with onions, cabbage, potatoes, and kale. Bubble and Squeak was/is a staple in England and Ireland because it is so economical and made with ingredients that are always available.
The basic recipe calls for mashed potatoes so if you have some leftover you can easily make this dish. Last week I didn’t have left over mashed potatoes so I cooked red Yukon gold (yes, you read that correctly red skinned, Yukon gold potatoes) in the same pot I was making my corned buffalo …which was simmering in Guinness Stout. I cut the potatoes in half so they could absorb some of the sumptuous broth of the meat and beer. I cut the cabbage into quarters and put it the pot with the corned buffalo for about 3 minutes until just slightly wilted.

The Red Cabbage Adds Color to the Dish

Now for the Wow Wow sauce. Not sure how that got its name but it is an old English recipe that was created by Dr. William Kitchiner (1775-1827) an optician and well known cook who authored several books on cooking. He wrote Cooks Oracle (1822), a book containing recipes and cooking information. The book was a “best seller” in England and America. The sauce is a basic roux with vinegar, broth, mustard and horseradish added. I also like this sauce on steak, pork chops, and baked potatoes!

Recipe: Bubble and Squeak

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound (approximately) cabbage, I use a combo of green and red, cut into quarters
  • 1 pound (approximately) potatoes, I recommend Red, or Yukon gold. (Or you can use leftover mashed potatoes
  • 2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Boil the potatoes if not using leftover mashed potatoes. I boiled mine in the pot with the corned buffalo which was being simmered in Guinness Stout.
  2. Place the cabbage quarters in the pot with the simmering meat. Cook for about 3 minutes until the cabbage is slightly wilted. Drain in a colander. Slice the cabbage into strips.
  3. (NOTE) If you aren’t making corned meat or boiled meat you can boil the potatoes in regular water and add the cabbage in during the last 3 minutes.
  4. Melt the butter in a skillet and add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cabbage and potatoes to the skillet stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add in the cheese and stir, pat down the  mixture. Let the pan remain on the heat for about 10 minutes so the bottom becomes brown.
  7. When done, invert the mixture onto a serving plate and cut into wedges. Serve with Wow Wow Sauce.

Variations

You can add in other vegetables such as carrots, peas, kale, brussel sprouts, etc. Also if you have leftover meat such as turkey, beef, pork you can add that in too. This is a very versatile dish!

Number of servings (yield): 6

Recipe: Wow Wow Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup broth (I used the broth from the corned buffalo I was making)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (you can use red wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard (try to use a Dijon or hearty mustard, regular yellow mustard is okay if you don’t have the others)
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until the onion is soft.
  2. Stir in the flour and cook for about 2 minutes. This mixture will be very thick so you’ll need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t burn.
  3. Add in the broth and whisk until smooth.
  4. Add in the remaining ingredients except the parsley. Boil the mixture until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Variations

You can use with meat, potatoes, fish, etc. This is a yummy sauce.

Mixing the cabbage, potatoes and cheese

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Irish Soda Bread–A Different Version

Irish Soda Bread with Butter and Jam

It’s time for St. Patrick’s Day and most people think of the traditional (American inspired) corned beef with boiled vegetables…cabbage, potatoes and carrots. After having this traditional dinner for St. Patrick’s Day for many years I decided it was time to change it up.  It really wasn’t only my decision the rest of the family didn’t like the traditional dinner either.   I don’t make the traditional fare anymore; instead I prefer to have corned buffalo (which I buy at Whole Foods), a dish called bubble and squeak that is made from potatoes and cabbage, or a stew made from stout beer, and a chocolate dessert made with stout…and definitely some stout to drink too!  I’ve got 2 posts for St. Patty’s Day with variations on some common food that people eat for the holiday.

Several years ago my family took a vacation to England and Ireland.   As is always the case with my family we sought out local eating establishments and even stopped at farmer’s markets along our routes.  We don’t eat in chain restaurants while we are home so why would we do it when we’re traveling?  I found Ireland to be absolutely beautiful with acres (or is it hectares there?) of green lush land with grazing animals, excellent cheeses, and local fish (in Cork). Not what I expected because Ireland has a reputation for bland food.  Not the case at all and I really enjoyed eating local products.

Bread can tell a lot about the culture and in Ireland there was a lot of bread.  While I know I shouldn’t eat as much bread as I do, restaurants setting a nice basket of warm bread on the table generally spells trouble for me…especially if it is freshly baked.  The bread in Ireland was excellent and had a common theme of being hearty with whole grains.  Not only was the bread great but the local butter was fantastic (well actually all of the dairy products were excellent). Getting a nice basket of warm bread along with local butter could have been a meal in itself…but it wasn’t.

My mom had a friend, Dorothy White, who was Irish (I know her name doesn’t sound Irish but trust me she was Irish)  and as a gift for St. Patrick’s Day she would make her r family’s recipe for Irish soda bread and deliver it to her friends.  When the nicely browned crust was cut it exposed the soft white bread studded with currents.  It was a treat to get the bread and my family always looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day and a visit from Mrs. White with a loaf of freshly baked bread.

Over the years I’ve made several loaves of Mrs. White’s bread and enjoyed them but not as much as I enjoyed the soda bread I had on my trip to Ireland.  It was much different than the common Irish soda bread we find in this county.  Instead of the white bread filled with either currants or raisins the bread was denser and full of whole grains and seeds.  Much more like the bread I’m used to eating on a regular basis; hearty full of flavor and brown.  So after trying the bread (and butter mind you) though out Ireland I decided I had to find a soda bread recipe that was more typical of the bread I had in Ireland and not the Americanized version I was used to.

Searching my cookbooks and the Internet proved to be somewhat frustrating.  I found hundreds of recipes for the white bread with dried fruit and various herbs.  I hit the jackpot when I found the recipe below on Epicurious.  It had the whole grains in the batter and when I baked it the first time I was transported back to Ireland.

The recipe below has been changed from the original recipe that appeared in A Baker’s Odyssey.  The recipe is very flexible so if you don’t have oat bran just increase the amount of wheat bran.  If you don’t have flax seeds or sesame seeds use other types of seeds and if you really want the raisins and currents found in the traditional soda bread go ahead and add them to the recipe.

Recipe: Hearty Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup wholewheat flour, (I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour because it is milder tasting than regular whole wheat flour), plus more for shaping
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces + 1-2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing finished bread
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda (no need to adjust for altitude)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt (I use either fine grained kosher salt or fine grained sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup milled or ground flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 large egg
  • About 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and put oven rack in middle of the oven.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour.
  3. Add the chunks butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the gravely looking.

    Mixing Butter into Flour Mixture Using Fingertips

  4. Stir into the flour mixture the baking soda, salt, sugar, wheat bran, oat bran, ground flax seed,  flax seed, and sesame seeds.
  5. Beat the egg lightly with a fork in a 2-cup glass measure and add enough buttermilk to come to the 2-cup line and stir with the fork to combine well.
  6. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the dough gathers into a thick, wet-looking mass. It will be very wet!
  7. Sprinkle a cutting board or the counter with whole wheat flour and scrape the dough onto it. I use a plastic bench scraper to do this. Again the dough will be very wet.
  8. Dust the dough with a bit more whole wheat flour and pat the dough into a circular shape about 7 inches across and 2 inches high. Don’t be concerned about evenness—the loaf should look rustic.
  9. Put the dough on a baking sheet that has parchment paper, silpat, or aluminum foil sprayed with pan spray.
  10. Bake the bread for about 40 minutes, until it is well browned and sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom. Do check to see if it is done by using an instant read thermometer which should register 195-200 degrees F.
  11. Pull the bread out of the over and onto a cooling rack.

    Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside

  12. Brush the top of the bread with melted butter.
  13. Cut with a sharp serrated knife. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter or jam.

Quick Notes

Storing: The loaf keeps well at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 2 to 3 days. The entire loaf or quarters of it can also be frozen when completely cool. Wrap in plastic wrap, place in heavy-duty resealable plastic bags, and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Thaw completely before unwrapping. If desired, refresh the bread in a preheated oven.

Recipe adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey, Wiley and Sons

Microformatting by hRecipe.

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Doughnut Plant – NYC

Doughnut Plant a NY Institution

I’ve never been a big fan of doughnuts.  It doesn’t matter whether doughnuts are cake or yeast  I just don’t stop for doughnuts or buy them in the grocery store.  Now that’s a much different story when it comes to my husband who could eat doughnuts regularly.  I do have to admit I used to have fruit filled doughnuts every once in a while when I was growing up and sometimes when we were “down the shore” (for anyone from NJ that statement definitely tells you I’m from New Jersey) there was a little store on the main drag that had a doughnut machine that plopped fresh balls of dough into hot oil and made delicious warm doughnuts.  Oh and the first place I stop at if I am in New Orleans is Café du Monde for a basket of beignets (fried squares of dough) with a café au lait.  But other than those few indiscretions I am not a doughnut fan.

Well I can say that was the case until last March when my husband and I were in NYC and were turned onto the most phenomenal doughnuts.  A foodie friend, Mitchell Davis from the James Beard Foundation, told us about Doughnut Plant . I had never heard of the place before yet the facility had been featured on the Food Network, Bon Appétit and many other foodie media.  Perhaps I never paid attention to the media articles because I wasn’t a fan of doughnuts.

The facility, baking operations in the back and retail in the front,  is located on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, a section of the city that is definitely seedier than other sections of town.  One, that as a kid, I was warned not to go to.  But our foodie informant told us it was safe to venture to the plant during the day.  Our trip was during Chinese New Year and after having seen what seemed like a thousand dragons dancing through the streets of Chinatown we decided to venture east and find the Doughnut Plant.  It was a good thing that part of town was crowded with revelers celebrating the Chinese New Year so we felt we could walk outside our comfort zone into a neighborhood that we didn’t know.

As we approached the address, we noticed a long line of people standing outside a store front.  It was a weekend morning and the line for freshly made doughnuts was out onto the sidewalk.  We had arrived…and quickly took our place in line with the dozens of other folks.

Simple Menu

I was surprised at how small the facility is…a very small storefront with the bakery operations in the back…which explained the long line outside.   A very small display case of doughnuts, which was frequently filled with fresh doughnuts coming from the plant in the backroom, displayed the entire inventory available.   Each shelf of the display had a small piece of cardboard with a description of the doughnuts on that shelf. One person stood behind the small counter handing out doughnuts, taking the money and replacing the doughnuts at the little window from the back room.

Yumminess--the daily doughnut selection at Doughnut Plant

The doughnuts were heavenly.  I had a peanut butter and jelly doughnut that was a square doughnut with the round hole in the middle filled with delicious homemade jam and the outside was glazed in peanut butter.  The jam is throughout the doughnut so every bite provided a nice sampling of jam.  I’m not sure how this is accomplished …getting the jam throughout the inside of a square with a hole in the middle. As a big fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches having this combination in a doughnut certainly worked for me.

Allison Enjoying a Tres Leche Doughnut While Sitting on the Window Sill

I was recently in NYC celebrating my daughter’s 21st birthday and our trip was quite the culinary extravaganza.  Of course the Doughnut Plant was on our list of places to stop especially since Allison had never tried their doughnuts.  I had timed our visit to get fresh doughnuts to take as a “Thank You”  gift to Mitchell who originally told us about the Doughnut Plant and to thank him for spending time with Allison giving her a private tour of the James Beard House and talking with her about his experiences in the food industry.  So Allison and I headed out of mid-town on a subway that got us to Chinatown and we walked the rest of the way as I had done the previous year.  This time there weren’t any long lines outside the store, just the poster board of flavors of the day.  The flavors of the day were just as delicious as the last time I was there.  I couldn’t resist getting the  peanut butter and jelly doughnut again and then I ventured to uncharted territory and bought the Valrhona chocolate delight for my second.  Allison also bought the peanut butter and jelly and a Tres Leche for her second.  I remembered Mitchell telling me his favorite was the Crème Brulee and luckily some had just come out of the plant…so we bought our “Thank You” doughnut.  We had already walked several miles that morning and were getting cold; a cup of coffee or hot chocolate was in order.  But the store doesn’t have a coffee machine so we opted for the Chai…which we were told is homemade every day.  That was the best Chai I have ever had ….and it is another reason to go to the plant.

The Daily Specials

Allison and I sat on the window sill (there aren’t any tables or seats in the plant) and ate one of our doughnuts and warmed up sipping our Chai.  After we were done we walked a few blocks to catch the subway over to Greenwich Village for our appointment with Mitchell at the James Beard House.  He was very happy with his gift… a gift from the heart for sure from one foodie to another!

I’ll be posting about the James Beard House soon.

Awards and Media Coverage

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Oatcakes or Scones? What have I been baking all these years?


Silly me.  As a kid my next door neighbor, who was from the southern coast of England, used to bake traditional British delights.  One of my favorites was a cake like cookie she used to call oat cakes, which had loads of oats, raisins, and nuts presented in a nice triangle that was easy to hold and eat.  Always enjoying the cakes with lots of jam I never thought twice about the name oat cake because that is what my neighbor called them and who am I to question a native Brit when it comes to baking traditional fare.  She never used recipes so  it was only by my memory of watching her bake that I was able to develop a recipe that was a good replica of what she used to make…or at least how I remembered her cakes.

I made my recipe for oat cakes the other day to take to a food blogger meeting to share with all of the other bloggers.  The consensus was they were very good and the bloggers were looking forward to this post so they could get the recipe. (Actually all the food was excellent and we all checked each others’ blogs to get the recipes for the sumptuous delights we enjoyed)  One person, and I can’t remember who it was, said my oat cakes tasted like scones.  Hmmm, that got me thinking, what is the difference between these oat cakes and scones?  This recipe results in a baked delight that is similar to a scone…and might even be called a scone.

The comment stuck in my head all weekend and as I was getting ready to share the recipe I thought to myself, what is the difference between an oat cake and a scone? And more importantly, what in the world was I baking, an oatcake or a scone?  So I decided to do some research into these two specialties from the British Isles.

I started with my own recipe box and found a recipe for Scottish oat cakes a friend from high school had given me.  I remember my friend Susan and her mother making this recipe and having the oat cakes sitting on the counter ready to be consumed while we were studying.  The recipe was pretty similar to the recipe I developed with oats, flour, butter, salt, sugar, and baking powder.  The raisins, Craisins, and nuts were missing from this recipe so it wasn’t quite the same as mine.  Nothing else in my recipe boxes helped me understand the difference between oat cakes and scones.

So I started perusing my cookbooks to do see if I could solve the mystery. I found many recipes for scones and only a few for oatcakes.  I noticed that none of the scone recipes had oats…all had just flour.  Maybe that was the difference.  It also looked like most of the recipes for oat cakes required using a griddle to cook the batter, similar to the way English muffins are made.  But not all of the oat cake recipes used the skillet; some were baked in the oven. So the cookbooks didn’t provide me the answer of what I was baking.

Not wanting to run over to the local university that has a top rated cookbook library I decided to take the easy way out and look on the Internet to see if I could uncover the difference between scones and oat cakes.  After checking out many sites with scone and oat cake recipes I stumbled upon a website that promotes food tourism in Scotland.  The site is a great source of recipes and information about traditional food from Scotland.  It was here that the secret of oat cakes and scones became apparent.  Consuming oat cakes goes way back in history because oats have been a staple in the diets for people in the British Isles.  The oat cakes were unleavened and cooked on griddles over fire.  Many years later when leavening became readily available the leavening was used for making cakes that used wheat flour, barley flour, and/or oats.  Ah ha, the baked cakes using baking powder were called scones.  So from my investigative search (quick and dirty mind you) I learned that oat cakes don’t have baking powder and scones do.  So silly me, I was wrong all these years.  I haven’t been making oat cakes after all, I’ve been making scones.  So thanks to a fellow blogger I found out the truth and I stand corrected.

So here it is my recipe for Oat Scones (formerly known as Oat Cakes).  I use pastry flour in this recipe.  Pastry flour has a lower protein and gluten content which results in a less chewy, softer baked product.  Excuse me for getting technical but not all wheat or all flour is the same and I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post.  Low protein flour is used for cakes, biscuits, pastry crusts, and many cookies.  You can use all purpose flour if you’d like, the result will be a little chewier.

Many times I use a scale to measure my ingredients instead of cups, etc.  A scale never lies!  12 ounces of flour is always 12 ounces where the weight of a cup of flour varies depending on how you put the flour into the cup.  Since baking is nothing but a big chemistry project I find using a scale more accurate.  So please excuse this little habit of mine.

Oat Scones…a.k.a Jane’s Oat Cakes

Ingredients

  • • 13.25 ounces pastry flour (about 3 cups)
  • • 1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • • 1/3 teaspoon salt (I use granulated kosher salt)
  • • 2.5 ounces brown sugar (about 1/3 cup)
  • • 6.5 ounces oats (about 2 cups)
  • • 12 ounces raisins
  • • 6 ounces dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries,  or Craisins (I used Craisins this time)
  • • 4 ounces ground or milled flax seed
  • • 4 ounces pecans, roughly chopped
  • • 8 ounces butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
  • • 3/4 cup half and half

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. You’ll need 2 cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda, sugar and oats.
  3. Stir in currants, raisins, cherries, flax seed and pecans.
  4. Toss to coat.
  5. Add butter in chunks and combine until mixture resembles a coarse meal. I use my fingers to combine the mixture.  Take some of the mixture in each hand and crumble it with your fingers. This is a light quick motion. Make sure not to melt the butter.
  6. Stir in the half and half until the mixture comes together in the bowl.
  7. Divide the mixture in half and work with each half separately.
  8. Take one half of the mixture and form into a 1-inch thick rectangle about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide.
  9. Cut width wise into 8 portions then cut each portion into 2 triangles.
  10. Place the triangles on one of the cookie sheets. I use parchment paper but you can use a Silpat or just put the triangles directly onto the cookie sheet.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes rotating the pan after 10 minutes to provide even baking. The cakes will not brown, the may just start turning a light golden color.
  12. Remove from oven and place cakes onto a cooling rack.
  13. Bake remaining cakes.
  14. Store in an airtight container.
  15. I serve the cakes with some homemade jam…but any fruit jam will work.

Microformatting by hRecipe.

The recipe can easily be halved if you don’t want so many scones.

Enjoy!!

Measuring the dough

Triangles ready to bake

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Carnegie Deli..and The Vegetarian

You'll use lots of napkins when eating at the Carnegie Deli

New York City has always been a food mecca for me.  I’m like a kid in the candy store when it comes to food in the city because there are more varieties of food and cuisines than I can count.  As a kid it was always a treat when my family would go to the
Carnegie Deli (just across the street from Carnegie Concert Hall). The ubiquitous tin bucket of pickles, both sour and fresh,  sitting on the stark table tops always prepped my taste buds for the humongous meal that was about to pass through my lips. The meal was usually pastrami on rye with massive amounts of dark mustard or my all time favorite a Reuben with piles of corned beef, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and Swiss cheese all on pumpernickel bread.    When our sky high sandwiches would arrive my mom would immediately take at least ¾ of the meat from all of our sandwiches and place it in a takeout container along with the pickles…that would be our lunch meat for the week! I think she was afraid we would eat all of the meat and not save any for lunches.

Sandwich being composed with mega amounts of meat

Not much has changed at the deli. The tables haven’t changed and still have stark Formica tops with vinyl chairs.  Sharing tables is common when the deli gets crowded. The pickles no longer sit out in a bucket on the table, probably due to health concerns, but they now arrive in bowl as soon as you sit at the table.  Perhaps there are more celebrity pictures on the wall than before.  I wonder how they decide where to put the pictures…and which ones to remove as new ones come in.  The food hasn’t changed either, gargantuan portions of good quality East Coast deli food.

The deli is a destination restaurant for many tourists and is easily accessible to Broadway theatre goers.  My family stays at the Park Central Hotel right next to the restaurant…generally because we get good rates and is very conveniently located…but sometimes I wonder if we stay there because it is easy to run over to the deli and pick up a quick meal or dessert.

I’m not sure how or when the deli became a favorite of my vegetarian daughter. …maybe it was the cheesecake or potato pancakes, or the potato knishes (we don’t want to know what type of grease they use in the fryer…because that could ruin it for a vegetarian).  All I know is every time she is in NYC the first stop is “The Carnegie”.  She was very disappointed when her high school drama group went to the city and she couldn’t get anyone to go to the deli with her.  The kids all wanted to eat at the chain restaurants such as Bubba Gumps but not Allison (we brought her up right…don’t eat at chain restaurants!)  So Allison had to venture out on her own to get her deli fix.

Potato knish...seasoned mashed potatoes wrapped in puff pastry and fried

Now that I think about it the cheesecake is what keeps Allison going back. The rich, creamy, dense, and slightly sweet with cookie crust that almost as tall as a fork. It is a classic New York style cheesecake. Several restaurants in NYC promote their cheesecake as the original. I don’t which one is correct but the Carnegie’s can’t be beat…and they even publish the recipe for their cheesecake.

Yummy New York style cheesecake

On our recent trip to the city, to celebrate Allison’s 21st birthday, the first stop after we dropped our bags off at the hotel was the deli.  Instead of eating the large sandwiches I had grown up with I now opt for saner portions and quite often get a bowl of the homemade chicken broth soup either with matzah balls or kreplach (triangle pasta filled with ground meat).  The soup comes with a side of bread and the pickles…making it a very full meal for only $7.95.

Homemade chicken broth with kreplach

Allison used to get the plate of potato pancakes, 3 large (about 8 inches in diameter) potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream. While the pancakes are gut busters she would only eat one and take the rest back to the hotel to eat later.  But on this day the waiter asked if she wanted just one pancake, a great idea.  So for $4.95 Allison had her 1 pancake with sour cream and applesauce, bread and pickles…then dessert…the sky high cheesecake ($9.95).  The kid was a happy camper!

Digging into a potato pancake

During the five days we were in the city we went to the deli 3 more times….one time to pick up dessert to eat in our hotel room.  The classic black and white cookie for me and, you guessed it, cheesecake for Allison.  Then on the morning we were leaving we had breakfast there…an omelet and bagel for Allison and great homemade corned beef hash (made with the pits and pieces of homemade corned beef) and eggs for me.

The final trip to the deli was just as we were hailing the taxi to take us to the airport.  Allison had planned for months to buy a cheesecake for her good friend, Katelyn’s birthday.  Katelyn accompanied us on a trip to NYC 2 years ago and also fell in love with the deli and the cheesecake.  I was stunned at how Katelyn, as thin and in shape as she was, could eat a whole piece of cheesecake!  The deli quickly became a favorite stop for Katelyn on that trip and Allison knew Katelyn would love to have another bite of that sumptuous cheesecake…and share some with her friends and relatives.  Allison made sure to save room in her carry-on bag for the whole cheesecake … a delicious birthday treat for her friend.

Big smile for the cheesecake with strawberries

What I like most about sharing the deli with Allison is all of the good childhood memories it brings back to me of sharing the deli with my family.  Now I’m passing the fun, good food, and memories.

The Vegetarian and The Deli

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Salsa Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Dressing on lettuce with turkey

If you want a healthy salad dressing here’s a quick one to make, a salsa vinaigrette. The flavors remind me of late summer when tomatoes are plentiful…a nice memory since we are in the throws of winter. Making salad dressing is easy and it allows you to cut out the preservatives and salt that commercially made dressings include. This dressing is thick and can even be used as a sauce on chicken or fish!

I use fresh salsa that is found in the refrigerator case, not the jar variety. I could just eat this type of salsa with a spoon  since the tomatoes and peppers are fresh and not cooked. It is like a salad in a container! I’d rather have the salsa and not the chips. You can also use home made salsa dressing.  Be sure you pick your favorite level of heat…I like medium for this dressing.

Fresh salsa from the refrigerator case...or use homemade salsa

One important note, the recipe calls for cider vinegar and I’ve found that not all vinegar labeled as cider vinegar is made from apple cider. So read the label on the vinegar to make sure it isn’t a white vinegar with apple juice added. An excellent cider, although expensive, is Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. It has an excellent taste.

Recipe: Salsa Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh salsa
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Instructions

  1. Option 1 – for a thick dressing this is the version I made
  2. Drain liquid from the salsa and make sure you have 1 cup of packed salsa.
  3. Place the liquid ingredients in food processor or use an immersion blender.
  4. Blend ingredients then add pepper and paprika and bland until smooth.
  1. Option 2 – for a chunky dressing
  2. Mix apple cider and olive oil and pepper with a whisk or immersion blender.
  3. Add salsa and mix with whisk.
  4. Whisk in paprika.


Diet (other): Reduced fat, Gluten free, Raw

Microformatting by hRecipe.

I use an immersion blender to blend the dressing

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A Fun Morning Volunteering—Bottling Whiskey

On a recent afternoon my daughter and I decided to head over to a small, local Colorado distillery for a tour.  Stranahans Colorado Whiskey had donated to several charitable events I’d attended so I wanted to learn more about them.  The whiskey is made from local Colorado products in small batches at a warehouse just outside of downtown Denver.

The head distiller, Jake Noris and his small team of distillers are busy 24×7 checking on their product to ensure it meets their strict specifications.  The whiskey is made from Colorado barley and is high in alcohol for whiskey, 94 proof to be exact!  While I’m not a whiskey fan I have learned to appreciate its nuances after sampling several batches of High West Whiskey in Park City, Utah and now several batches of Stranahans.

Stranahans only has a few employees and when it comes time to bottle a batch of whiskey they depend on a long list of volunteers to work the “assembly line”…a bunch of banquet tables set up in their warehouse.  There is a bottling party once a month…and I had the opportunity to join the fun this week.  Twenty volunteers per shift for two shifts work approximately 4 hours and then are treated to very good pizza (or was it I was just hungry from hand labeling hundreds of bottles?), a taste of the whiskey just bottled, and some local beer.  Oh, and I almost forgot…each volunteer gets a bottle of the batch.  Nice treatment for a fun volunteer job. My group bottled 2600 bottles and by the end of the day 5104 bottles would be filled and boxed.

I chose the morning shift which started at 8:30 a.m.  Surprisingly everyone was there ahead of time and ready to get working.  The first task was to mark each label with the batch number and latest date the whiskey was distilled.  Batch 67 and 12/30/08…I think I’ll have those numbers forever etched in my head.   Each label has the signature of one of the distillers and some notes from the distiller…usually what music they were listening to while working.  Quite a diverse mix of music!

Whiskey Labels Each Hand Written

After all of the labels were marked with the batch number and the date distilled we moved to the assembly line.  The bottles were on pallets in the same boxes that would be used to ship the whiskey so there isn’t extra waste.  One volunteer grabbed a box and put the bottles on one of the tables to the side of the filling machine.  An employee ran the gravity flow bottle fillers.

Gravity Fed Bottling Machine

Two volunteers corked the bottles and pushed them down to the labelers.  We were instructed that the labels needed to be like “Miss America’s” banner, not like a tie (vertical) or like a belt (horizontal) but diagonal on the bottle.  No air bubbles or folds allowed on the labels.

Making sure the labels are diagonal on the bottles, like "Miss America's" banner

Next the tin shot glass emblazoned with Stranahans name and a piece of plastic was placed over the cork.  When I had taken the tour a few weeks earlier I couldn’t figure out what the tin cup (shot glass) was for and several of the guests told me they are used when camping or hiking…hmmm didn’t think about that.

Tin shot glasses are in the box along with a plastic sleeve.

The tin shot glasses needed to be lined up so the Stranahans name was just above the barrel on the label or the bottle would be rejected.  Once the name was lined up the bottles were handed over to the heating crew.  These people used heat guns to warm the plastic so it would shrink and seal the shot glass to the bottle and seal the bottle.  The heating crew sat the whole time…and while most people switched on and off with other people to experience the whole process these people wouldn’t budge!  Not sure why, it didn’t seem like a very exciting job to me.

Heat guns are used to shrink the plasitc sleeve and seal the tin shot glass to the bottle

Now the bottles were ready for the hang tags that explain how Shanahans Colorado Whiskey is made.  Finally the bottles were inspected a last time by an employee (all along the way all of the volunteers were inspecting the bottles and any rejections were sent back to be fixed) and the employees put the filled bottles back into the original boxes, palletized and shrink wrapped.

There are many distilleries popping up all over the country, most making regional products with local ingredients.  Park City has an excellent distillery, High West Distillery that makes excellent rye whiskey and vodka. Colorado has several including Leopold Brothers Distillery and Downslope Distilling .

Jake Noris, head distiller discussing the process to make the barley whiskey.

Jake Noris, head distiller, explaining the process...barley to whiskey

Distilling machines…aka the still

The Still, used to evaporate the water and concentrate the flavors

New American White Oak barrels from Missouri

American White Oak barrels are used, same as for wine. These impart a vanilla flavor into the whiskey.

Once the barrels are made the insides are charred or burned to what is called a medium char.  This pulls the sugars of the wood closer to the inner surface and provides additional complexity.  This is the same process used for wine barrels.  Shanahans uses the barrels once then sells them to Colorado breweries where thee barrels are used for oak cask conditioned beer.

Medium char on the oak stays

The whiskey is aged a maximum of 5 years.  Stranahans has an interesting whiskey named Snow Flake Whiskey which is hand chosen from individual casks then aged for a few months in wine barrels.  I haven’ t had this but the demand is so high for this product that it is only sold at the distillery and sells out within a few hours…there are lines of people waiting outside for the distillery to open!

Whiskey aging room. Each barrel is labeled with the batch number and the distilling date.

Promotional poster for Stranahans Colorado Whiskey

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French Onion Soup-Warm and Inviting on a Winter Day

A luscious bowl of French Onion Soup topped with toasted bread and baked Gruyere cheese

French Onion Soup is  luscious with its deep, sweet caramelized onion flavors and browned Gruyere cheese topping.  I’ve made several batches this winter and find the soup so satisfying during the cold Rocky Mountain winters.

This weekend  several of my foodie friends came to visit and not knowing what time their flights would ultimately arrive I decided to make something that could stay warming on the stove and be ready when everyone arrived. My favorite go to recipe for French Onion Soup uses lots of onions that are slowly cooked in the oven to intensify the sweetness of the onions.  Then the onions are finished on top of the stove to concentrate the liquid with some added water and sherry to deglaze the pot.  The broth or stock is added to the onions along with herbs and set on the stove to simmer.  The recipe is easy to make and the resulting soup is always the hit of the meal.

My regular supply of frozen homemade stock comes in handy for the soup…that along with the ample supply of local onions I always buy at the end of the season from local farmers…means I always have the ingredients on hand to make the soup.  Add in a toasted piece of bread and some shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese and a sumptuous meal is served.

Now for a little secret….I use swim goggles when I cut onions.  See the picture below…those are the goggles I wear so I don’t cry through the entire process.  A friend of mine, and fellow blogger, uses an old pair of ski goggles to do the same.  Trust me these work and will make you much happier after cutting 5 pounds of onions.

Using goggle when cutting onions prevents tears!

Recipe: French Onion Soup

Summary: A rich French Onion Soup especially when topped with toasted bread and baked Gruyere cheese

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 large onions (5 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Sea salt or kosher salt (table salt as a last resort)
  • 1 cup water for deglazing
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry (use cheap sherry)
  • 6 Cups low sodium chicken or beef broth or mushroom broth for vegetarian version, I use homemade stock if available otherwise I use boxed broth from Pacific Natural Foods
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 slices day old crusted bread such as French, Focaccia, Italian or any baguette
  • 6 ounces shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese for topping

Instructions

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered on the stove on low to medium heat for 10 minutes to just start the cooking process. The onions will be moist.
  3. Put the pot in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown, about 2 hours longer, stirring the onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour. Onions will be reduced in volume and may start to be browning.
  4. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat on the stove. Cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions start to brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a light brown crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
  5. Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the broth, thyme, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.
  7. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.
  8. While soup is simmering place the slices of bread in the oven to toast, about 5 minutes
  9. Ladle soup into individual bowls and add the one slice of bread, top with shredded cheese.
  10. Place soup under broiler until the cheese is melted and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  11. Serve and enjoy!

Variations

To make a full flavored vegetarian variety I use Pacific Natural Foods Mushroom Broth (I buy it at Whole Foods or Sunflower Farmer’s Market). My daughter turned me on to this broth for vegetarian cooking. The broth has a rich flavor which is almost meaty in flavor.*

Makes 8 Servings


*http://www.pacificfoods.com/our-foods/broths/organic-mushroom-broth

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Braised Veal Shanks with Porcini Mushrooms and Sundried Tomatoes served over Butternut Squash Gnocchi

The snow continued to pile up.

Oh the weather outside is frightful…about 36 inches of new snow.  I’d like to think we are snowed in but we really never get snowed in here in Park City because the plows come through very regularly and can handle every storm.  But it’s nice to dream and think we can’t get out, isn’t it?

Even though we can get out….we really rather just sit by the fireplace and watch the snow pile up.  Three rounds of blowing the snow off of the driveway and two rounds of shoveling snow off of our deck makes for a very hungry family.  So what to make for dinner???  No problem at my house.  While many people in Utah have food storage facilities in case of a real disaster I don’t have one but I do think we could live for weeks on gourmet food from our freezer and home canned goods from the pantry.  When I find good deals at the store I stock up and during the summer produce season I can and freeze fruits and vegetables.

When I realized we wouldn’t be driving to Colorado because of the blizzard raging on our travel route through Wyoming I looked in the freezer to see what was available and what would taste great on this very cold and snowy day.  The veal shanks won the contest.  A dinner of nice, unctuous veal shanks with a hearty sauce will make a delicious and heart warming dinner.

I defrosted two shanks, wiped them dry with a paper towel and dusted them with a mixture of flour, pepper, and a little smoked salt.  I put my skillet on the stove and added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then raised the heat to medium to high.  Once the oil got hot I added the veal chops to brown.  The way I tell if the chop is ready to turn is by listening to the pan….when you first put the chop into the hot pan you will hear lots of sizzling but when the meat and flour start to brown nicely the sizzling will slow down and almost stop.  At that point turn the meat over.  This is an easy trick for browning meat so you don’t have to keep picking up the meat to see if it is brown enough…just use your ears instead of your eyes.

Browning the veal shanks.

Once browned on all sides I put the shanks in my enameled cast iron skillet and added about 2 cups of beef broth along with 1/3 a cup of dried porcini mushrooms which I had let soak in the beef broth while I was browning the meat (you can use any other type of mushrooms except the black oriental ones) and about 10 sun dried tomatoes to the liquid. I also added 2 smashed cloves of garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano.  I put the covered Dutch oven into a 350 oven and let the meat braise for about 3 hours.  The aroma in the house was fantastic and made sitting by the fire and watching the snow fall even more enjoyable.

While exploring the freezer I also found some butternut squash gnocchi that I had made back in the fall when butternut squash was plentiful at the farmer’s market (I’ll post gnocchi recipes in the future).  Add to the meal some brussel sprouts from the refrigerator which were quickly parboiled and then roasted with olive oil and salt and great meal was completed…all from what was already in the house.

A great dinner for a snowy evening.

Oh, I did forget to mention the wine. Anyone who knows my family knows that wine is a big part of our food celebrations.  A trip to the wine cellar by my husband resulted in a perfect wine for the food.

It is so nice to have a well stocked wine cellar!

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Two Very Different Sauces for Ham

Christmas is quickly approaching and while I won’t be having ham this year, because I just finished a very good spiral cut ham, I do want to share with you two very different sauces I made for the ham.  The first one is a mustard sauce that my family has been making as long as I can remember.  It is so easy to make and tastes great with leftovers or on sandwiches.

Mustard Sauce is great with ham and also on sandwiches.

The second is a recipe I found in an old cookbook named “how I cook” by Virginia McDonald  that I bought at a second hand book store while on a trip to visit my daughter in Kansas.   The book was published in 1949 and has very intriguing recipes with amazing ingredients that are pretty contemporary.  The book’s introduction was written by Duncan Hines (and that isn’t the cake mix!)  The recipe for Banana Horseradish Sauce just sounded too weird not to try…so I made the recipe as printed in the book.  I found the sauce to be too bland so I added more horseradish to it.  The result is a very subtle horseradish sauce with sweetness from the banana.  A very unusual combination.

This cookbook is from 1949. Duncan Hines wrote the introduction.

I think the sauce would be a better combination with a roasted chicken or in a chicken salad.  It wasn’t that the sauce didn’t go with the ham, it’s just I am so spoiled by my family’s mustard sauce that I’m not sure I can find another sauce that would be as good of a substitute.

Here's the original recipe for the Banana Horseradish Sauce

So if you are having a holiday ham please try the recipes and let me know what you think and how you like them.  I’ve got several variations on the mustard sauce recipe that I’ll post at the next ham eating holiday…Easter!

I hope you all have a great holiday…Christmas, Kwanzaa, or whatever holiday you are celebrating.  If you are wondering what my family will be eating for Christmas dinner…we’ll be having a Southwestern/Mexican dinner with chile verde, enchiladas, maybe some tamales, flan, and local beer .  We’ll be celebrating the holiday with very dear friends.

Ham dinner with mustard sauce, steamed broccoli and home made mac and cheese. Yum!

Mustard Sauce for Ham

This mustard sauce can be used for ham dinner and on  sandwiches.  Make sure you refrigerate any leftovers

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. In a sauce pan, whisk the flour and dry mustard together, then add in the brown sugar and mix.
  2. Slightly beat the egg yolks and add to the vinegar/water mixture.
  3. Heat the saucepan with the mustard mixture on low temperature and slowly add in the vinegar while constantly whisking.
  4. Continue to stir the mixture until thickened an covers the back of a spoon. Be careful because the mixture easily burns…the original recipe calls for using a double boiler but I find if you constantly stir with low heat you can make the sauce on direct heat.
  5. Serve warm with ham or you can use on bread for a ham sandwich.  Refrigerate leftovers (if you have any!)
Banana Horseradish Sauce

This sweet and tangy sauce goes goes with ham…but I’d try it with chicken on a sandwich or as an ingredient for chicken salad.  Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish (grated, not horseradish sauce)

Instructions

  1. Slice the banana and mash with fork until smooth and creamy. Add the cream and beat with a mixer until the mixture is stiff. Fold in the mayonnaise, salt and horseradish until thoroughly blended. Put into serving dish and cover. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour to let flavors meld.

Gluten free

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Hummus-Four Different Varieties

Hummus served with baby carrots

I’m not sure the first time I had hummus, I’m sure it was when I was a child.  Growing up in the New York Metro area provided my family with the opportunity to try a variety of cuisines and Middle Eastern cuisine was on our list.

Hummus is a go-to dish for me to take to parties or when I have guests over for wine.  I always have the ingredients on hand so I can make it even when surprise company arrives. This time of year I find myself making it to take to all of the holiday parties I go to.  No only is it inexpensive to make but it is easy to make, it’s versatile and it is a lot healthier than many dips. The dip is high in protein, fiber, vitamin C and is gluten and dairy free so what more can you ask for?

The main ingredient in hummus is chickpeas also called garbanzo beans.  This legume has been a staple of most Middle Eastern diets for over 10,000 years.  The earliest recorded example of hummus is in a 13th century Arabic cookbook.  The early Arabic recipe used vinegar instead of lemon juice and also added nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pistachio nuts.  Today, this Middle Eastern staple is found and loved all over the world.

Over the years I tried to make my hummus as smooth in texture as found in restaurants and delis.  But just taking the beans and putting them into the food processor with lemon juice, tahini, and garlic resulted in a coarse, dense dip that wasn’t like the dip found in restaurants.  A few years ago our friends at Cook’s Illustrated Magazine published the ultimate restaurant style hummus recipe in their May 1, 2008 edition.  One try and this recipe became my base recipe for hummus and all of the variations I make and I’m sure you will agree once you try it.

Hummus with Four Variations: Regular, Artichoke Hearts, Avocado,  Roasted Red Peppers
Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated, May 2008

Summary: Hummus is a quick and easy dip to make

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chick peas, drained with 1/4 cup reserved (important to use canned chickpeas)
  • 1/4 cup reserved chickpea liquid
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice from either fresh lemons or bottled juice 6 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for drizzling at the end
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil (or if you don’t have sesame seed oil use an additional 1/2 teaspoon olive oil)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Cilantro or parsley leaves minced for garnish Optional: 1/2 cup artichoke hearts or 1 avocado, or 1/3 cup roasted red peppers

Instructions

  1. Combine lemon juice and chickpea liquid in a small bowl or glass.
  2. Combine tahini and oil and mix until smooth in a small bowl or glass.
  3. Put the chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne into a food processor and process until fairly smooth about 30 seconds. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. With processor running slowly add the lemon juice/chickpea liquid mixture. Process for about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. With processor running slowly add in the tahini-oil mixture in a steady stream. Process for about 1 minute until mixture is very smooth and creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  6. Optional ingredients. Divide chickpea mixture in half. Add artichoke hearts or avocado or roasted red peppers to one half of the chickpea mixture and process until very smooth and creamy. With other half of mixture either use as regular hummus or add in other optional ingredient.
  7. Transfer hummus to serving bowl(s) and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for one half hour to let flavors come together. When ready to serve uncover bowls, make a swirl on top of mixture and add a drizzle of olive oil and garnish with cilantro or parsley leaves. Serve with cut up vegetables, pita bread, crackers, on top of bagels, on fish, etc.
  8. Enjoy

Variations

Optional ingredients: artichoke hearts, avocado, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic

Diet type: Vegetarian

Diet (other): High protein

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Middle Eastern

My rating: 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

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Cheese Crisps

Easy to make Cheese Crisps

This time of year I think about the recipes my family made when I was growing up.  Food was such a big part of any holiday celebration in my family.  I decided to recreate some of the recipes that were a part of my family celebrations over the next few weeks and the first, Cheese Crisps,  was a favorite of mine.  I don’t know how many batches my mom used to make because as soon as they came out of the oven I was popping them in my mouth.

I made a batch yesterday to serve to friends who were coming over for wine.  The crisps went perfectly with the wine and are a nice alternative to crackers.  Think about them as cheese and crackers all in one.

The recipe is very easy and quick to make.  The crisps are fragile when they first come out of the oven but they do set up as they cool.  These are great for a cocktail party or holiday buffet.  I think you will find these addicting just like I do.

Recipe: Cheese Crisps

Summary: Savory Cheddar Cheese Crisps

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese about 7 ounces.
  • 8 ounces, (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 Cups Rice Krispies
  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Soften the cheese and butter in the microwave but don’t let the mixture melt. I put the mixture in for 30 seconds at 50% power.  Mix the cheese and butter together using a fork.
  3. Mix the flour, Rice Krispies, salt and cayenne together.
  4. Add the flour mixture into the cheese/butter mixture and mix together with a fork or your hands.
  5. Form 1 1/2 inch balls of the mixture and place  2 inches apart on cookie sheet lined with parchment or Silpat.  Press slightly with fork.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes and let set on cookie sheet for 5 minutes after taking out of oven. Remove from tray and set on cooling rack.
  7. Enjoy!

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Soft butter and soft cheese mixed using a fork

Ready for oven, dough has been flattened slightly with a fork.

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Disaster – Cookies Need Altitude Adjustment

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Sometimes I go on autopilot and forget to think about what I’m doing.  I’m sure most of you can relate to this predicament.  It happened this weekend and the results were….well not what I expected. I thought for sure I wouldn’t write about the mistake…how embarrassing. But after thinking about the mistake, and realizing famous people like Julia Child frequently made public mistakes, I decided to share the experience with you.  I’m sure I’m not alone with making cooking mistakes!

I’ve been living at altitude for a long time…more than half my life.  You would think I’d remember this fact after all of these years. As a child growing up on the east coast I remember looking at the cake mixes my mom would buy and reading the directions….”High Altitude (3500-6500  feet) add 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour” Growing up on the east coast no one could tell me why people at altitude had to add flour.  Just the same way that people couldn’t explain why Hellman’s Mayonnaise isn’t called Hellman’s west of the Rockies but is called Best Foods (I found out that story goes back to 1932).  As a child I just didn’t need to worry myself about people in the Rocky Mountains.

Fast forward and I found myself living in the Mile High City of Denver.  Remembering the back of cake mix boxes I realized I would need to learn to cook at altitude or at least I would need to add 2 tablespoons of flour to all of my baking.  Luckily the extension service provides excellent explanations of how to adjust recipes.

While I should remember to adjust recipes I don’t always remember to it which at times results in tasty…put not great looking food.   I find that many people just give up baking when they move up to the mountains and the common retort is “none of my recipes work anymore”.  When I’m in the grocery store in Park City during ski season and talk with people many question cooking at altitude and what can be done, if anything.

After many years of baking, loads of cooking classes, reading up on the chemistry surrounding baking I have an easy rule of thumb…cut the leavening in a recipe by one half.  That means any recipe that uses yeast, baking powder and baking soda should have those ingredients cut in half as a starting point.  That’s what I tell people in line at the grocery store and that’s what I normally do when I use a new recipe. Generally that recommendation works well and that’s the only adjustment that is needed.

While these simple adjustments work I’ve found that many people, even culinary professionals don’t know the trick.  I was an assistant instructor at a local cooking school and one evening I worked with a local, well-known “celebrity” TV chef.  As we prepped for the class and read the recipe for cupcakes I realized the recipe was developed for sea level because the leavening to flour ratio was not correct. I asked the chef if he wanted me to adjust the recipe by cutting down the leavening. He looked at me and said that wasn’t the way to adjust recipes for altitude and hadn’t I read the back of cake boxes…all we needed to do was add in 2 tablespoons of flour.  The students made the cupcakes using the additional 2 tablespoons of flour and each cupcake came out looking like a moonscape with with a large crater in the middle of it (great for having a lot of frosting, that’s for sure).  The students asked the chef why it happened and he confessed that he doesn’t bake so he didn’t know why it happened.  Since that time I’ve made the recipe and decreasing the baking powder by 1/2 worked perfectly.

This past weekend we ran out of cookies and I asked my husband what type he wanted me to make….Snickerdoodles.  As a kid, Snickerdoodles cookies were my sister’s favorite cookies and my family made them often so I’m pretty experienced at making them.

The interesting part of the cookie is the interaction of the cream of tartar and baking soda.  The cream of tartar, which is obtained from the sediment produced in the process of aging wine,  provides the tart flavor in the cookies and also reacts with the baking soda.  When the cream of tartar reacts with the baking soda the cookies puff up and then as they cook they fall slightly and the top of the cookie has a crinkly or crackled texture on top…a classic for Snickerdoodles.  The cookies are thought to be German in heritage and the American name could be a take on the German word “Schneckennudin” which is loosely translated to mean “crinkly noodles”…an appropriate description of the top of the cookies.

So below is the recipe I used, it works well at sea level.  But I didn’t make the adjustments for altitude so my cookies turned out like crackers….very flat, but tasty.  I’m going to make another batch when these are all eaten and I will make several adjustments.  Instead of the 1 teaspoon of baking soda I’m only going to use 1/2 teaspoon (remember, cut leavening in half for altitude) and I may decrease the sugar in the cookie dough by 2 tablespoons (another adjustment for altitude which I haven’t discussed).  I’ll let you know how the next batch turns out.

Snickerdoodle Cookies (recipe not adjusted for altitude)

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350, get cookie sheets ready by lining with parchment, Silpat or greasing them.
  2. Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Cream the sugar and butter together until fluffy with an electric mixer.  Slowly add one egg at a time and blend until smooth.
  4. Turn mixer to slow setting and add in the flour mixture.  Blend until just mixed.
  5. Mix the 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon together is a small bowl
  6. Pull pieces of the dough and roll in your palms to make a 1 1/2 inch ball.  Roll the ball in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  7. Place balls on cookie sheet about 3 inches apart and bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking.  Cookies should be golden.
  8. Take pans out of over and place on wire racks for 1 minute to let cookies set up.  Remove cookies from pans and let cool on wire racks.
  9. When cookies are completely cooled you can serve or store them in an airtight container.

Great tasting, but a littlethin. A big glass of milk would be great with these.

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