Monday, October 26, 2009

Matzo Ball Soup

I’ve missed you! Sorry I’ve been away for over a month—I was busy getting hitched! Now that I have solidified the deal with the love of my life, I return happily and nesting in my lil urban kitchen. Since I married a nice Jewish boy, I thought it only fitting to post my first recipe back as a married woman, his favorite, Matzo Ball Soup. It is so easy to make, and anyone can do it.

There are two kinds of matzo ball soup lovers, I’ve come to realize. The first kind is the “purist.” They like their soup simple and refined: a clear, fragrant chicken broth ladled lovingly over 2 or 3 light and fluffy matzo balls. The second group likes heavy, hockey puck-style matzo balls with lots of veggies in the soup. Just by the description I think you can see I am of the former camp (delicate broth, fluffy matzo balls).

Just between us, you can make this soup any night of the week in just a few minutes, but it is the same quality soup of the old-school grandma variety. Honest. For real. There is a secret...All you have to do is make a big old batch of stock (you can even make your stock in a crock pot) and keep it in the freezer in quart-sized bags. When you are ready for your soup, you heat up a bag o' broth, throw in the balls, and simmer. Voila, in just a half hour, your kitchen has been transported back in time to a grandma’s kitchen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, circa 1923. Flapper Food. :)

And flu season? Not a chance with this all-powerful defense in the house!


Matzo Balls
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chicken stock or seltzer

For soup
2 to 3 quarts prepared chicken stock (recipe below)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
A few sprigs of dill (optional)
[If you are in a time pinch, you can also use 2-3 quarts of stock in a box. I like Manischevitz brand low-sodium chicken broth]

With a fork, mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a medium sized pot.
Reduce the flame. Wet your hands. Roll 1-inch-balls of matzo dough in the palm of your hands loosely. Drop the balls into the simmering salt water one at a time. Lower the heat, cover the pot and let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

Meaniwhile, bring chicken stock and sliced carrot to a simmer in a separate pot.* When matzos are done cooking, you can spoon them into the stock.

With a slotted spoon, place 2-3 matzo balls into a serving bowl, and gently ladle the soup over that. Garnish with dill if you like. Eat it up and have then seconds!

*If you are fighting a cold or flu, throw in 2-3 whole, peeled garlic cloves along with the carrot slices. Feel free to eat the garlic cloves if you are particularly brave or particularly sick, or if you are a garlic lover like my husband. 

Chicken Stock

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds chicken necks, backs and wings
3 celery ribs, cut into big chunks
3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 parsnips, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 onions, unpeeled and quartered
1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4 quarts cold water

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large soup pot. Skim the top of any foam. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer peacefully for 2-3 hours.

Pour stock through a pasta strainer into a large bowl. Allow to cool, and fill quart-sized freezer bags and freeze for up to 6 months, or store the stock in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Chickie’s Linguini & Clam Sauce


My mom makes the best clam sauce in the whole wide world. (See for yourself--these are the mouthwatering pics of the actual dinner she made when I was visiting her this past week!) I love this sauce because it isn't white, and it isn't red. It's in between. She makes a basic white clam sauce but adds some chopped tomatoes to the sauce.

This is a slightly sweet sauce because of her secret ingredient: Marsala wine. A lot of white clam sauce recipes call for dry white wine, but she insists on Marsala and Marsala only, which gives the sauce a slight sweetness that offsets the garlic and clams. The chopped tomatoes (rather than puree) complement the Marsala, and when the alcohol reduces, thickens, and the basil works its magic, well, you've got yourself a bit of snack heaven on your hands. Crusty bread and a glass of your house red is a must!


CHICKIE’S LINGUINI & CLAM SAUCE


1 pound of linguini
¾-1 cup exrta-virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup Marsala wine
2 cans of 6.5-ounce chopped clams, 1 drained, 1 juice reserved
1 Tbs. dried basil
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
½ a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
Locatelli Romano cheese, grated

Boil water for pasta, and cook al dente, according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepot, heat olive oil over medium low. Add garlic, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, being sure garlic doesn’t burn.

Stir in wine, clams, basil, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper, tomatoes. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce to a very soft simmer, and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes. Toss sauce with hot pasta, and serve, passing grated cheese at the table.







Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quinoa Crunch

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!!!

Let me count the ways...

Cheap? Check. (Verrry cheap. As in, pennies, cheap. Check the bulk grains section in the healthfood store. You're covered.)

Quick? Check. (As in, I threw this in the oven while my coffee brewed and I showered for work.)

Easy? Check. (As in mix, spread, bake. Done!)

Oh and there are so many wonderful ways this is the perfect snack:

Quinoa is the highest and only complete-protein grain out there.
It's versatile; tasty in savory and sweet recipes. You can use this quinoa crunch anyway you would granola - on yogurt, baked into Blueberry Crunch Muffins, or mixed into Fig Scones, or poured into a bowl with cold milk.

This would be a fab grain to add to my old stand-by, Mix & Match Granola. Remember this one?
(CLICK HERE, if you don't remember.) ;)
Quinoa Crunch is close to perfection in a snack.
Snack heaven. Snack love.
Perfect to eat while watching eye candy on the old cable TV. And also for watching version two of eye candy on the old cable TV. (Indulge me for a moment. Thanks.)


QUINOA CRUNCH
adapted from Body & Soul Magazine

1 cup quinoa
1 Tbs. agave or organic maple syrup
1 Tbs. safflower oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or so, till golden brown. Cool completely on the sheet and store leftovers in an airtight container.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cranberry & Blood Orange Bread


Fear! Fear! Fear! Swine flu! War! Danger! Apocalypse! Terror! Lewd dudes on the Subway!

Sigh...I've decided I will not be terrorized by my television, and have decided NO MORE NEWS! Even the cooks on the cooking shows seem strung out. So I've made a hard and fast decision: I have chosen to allow from my TV and into my home ONLY fiction, fantasy, animals running around in the woods, and cute people. Lots of cute people. Especially cute people.

It's time to take back my TV. Thousands of digital channels at my fingertips, and somehow the *real terrorists* (newscasters) sneak their way in, spreading the disease of fear within seconds (while wearing a swanky satin blouse and a smile). No more swine swiggity swak for me, thank you very much.

My dad used to always say "Why fret about something you can't control?"

Well, Dad, I heard what you said. I can and will control my TV, and filter what comes into my home. And I choose to filter out the blood and fear and filter in only cute people.

Well, let me be a little clearer...The only blood or fear I will see on my TV will involve very good-looking Vampires in the deep south with great haircuts. (Yeah, you know what I'm sayin'. :))

In honor of those sexy, bloody cutie pies on HBO, I give you something I'd love to bring over to their next uh, community...meeting...

Blood Orange & Cranberry Bread
(adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

Ingredients:
2 cups flour (I used a combo of millet and spelt)
3/4 cups to 1 cup sugar (I used 6 packets of Stevia sweetener)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 t salt
zest from 3 oranges
3/4 cups blood orange juice (about 3 oranges)
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 c cranberries, coarsely chopped (I used 2/3 cup of dried organic cranberries)
2 Tbs. flax seeds (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a loaf tin (I used two mini loaf pans).

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest.

In another bowl, combine the orange juice, egg and melted butter together.

Add in the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Add cranberries and stir just until blended. Pour batter into tin(s), sprinkle with optional flax seeds, and bake for about 1 hour (30 minutes for mini loaves) or until cake tester comes out clean. Just check with a toothpick at 30 minutes to be safe. Let cool on a wire rack.

Summertime Picnic Feast

I love snacks. I love them more than elaborate meals with huge portions. The Spanish have it spot on with tapas.

Over the weekend, we had a hankering for a snack smorgasbord. It was the perfect meal for a hot summer afternoon. I also think these dishes would be great for a summer eve cocktail party with sangria. You can make all of the dishes ahead of time, and are all delicious served at room temperature. Don't forget to scatter the platter with lots of fresh, raw vegetables and crusty bread sticks or crackers for dipping.

BABA GHANOUSH
(Eggplant & Tahini Dip):
Courtesy of Karen Srour of Food Network

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice

Directions:
Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and put upside down on a greased foil lined pan. Put under a broiler until the outside skin is charred black and the pulp inside is soft (15 to 30 minutes). Scrape out eggplant and put in bowl to cool, preferably in refrigerator for several hours. Pour off extra liquid before using.

In a food processor, mince garlic, and scrape down sides. Add eggplant, salt, and 1/4 cup tahini. Pulse the food processor to mix. Slowly add lemon juice. Taste. Adjust salt and lemon or tahini.

Serve on a shallow platter and garnish with chopped parsley, miniature eggplant, tomato or radish roses. Serve with warm pita bread or crackers.

TUSCAN TUNA BOATS:
Ingredients:
2 or 3 celery stalks, halved
1 can of good Italian tuna, packed in olive oil
½ a lemon, juiced (and zested, optional)
Handful of fresh basil or mint leaves, coarsely chopped (or combo of both)
¼ cup fresh fennel, chopped
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Directions:
To a mixing bowl, add drained tuna, basil (or mint), fennel, olive oil, lemon juice (and optional zest). Stir, breaking up the tuna. Add salt & pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill/marinate in the fridge for an hour.

When ready to serve, pack tuna into celery stalks and place on a pretty platter.


SPICY BACK BEANS ON EGGPLANT WHEELS
Ingredients:
1 medium-sized eggplant
Salt & pepper
1/8-1/4 cup olive oil for cooking, plus olive oil for brushing eggplants
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ a roasted red pepper (pimiento), chopped
1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried cumin
¼ teaspoon dried cayenne pepper or hot sauce
½ lime, squeezed
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice a medium-sized eggplant into thick rounds. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place rounds on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or so, until eggplant is lightly browned. Flip the rounds and bake another 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized sauce pan, heat the 1/8-1/4 cup oilive oil. When pan is hot, sautee the onion till transluscent, about 4 minutes or so. Add garlic and spices and sauté for a couple minutes. Add red pepper, beans and lime juice. Cook until beans are heated through. Stir in cilantro.

Scoop the bean mix onto the eggplant rounds with an ice cream scooper (about ¼ cup). Return the baking sheet to the oven for about 10 minutes, so the beans become a little browned on top.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crunchy Carrot Pineapple Snack Cake


A cake with no butter? No dairy? No sugar? No refined flour? Only organic fruits, grains and nuts? That tastes good?

Did I just hear a "get the heck outta here?" Yeah, that’s what I said too...

Who wants to hear the words "cake" and "sugar-free" in the same sentence? But trust me on this one. It is delightfully and truly delicious, thanks to my favorite nutritionist in the whole wide world, Ann Louise Gittleman.

Believe me, I'm no anti-dessert, anti-fun, crotchety Miss Gulch of Food...As we all probably know by now, I've been known to get DOWN with a red velvet cake or some real-deal milk chocolate chip cookies. I admit I've a killer sweet tooth and I loooove to bake. But for every day eating, I really do try to limit my sugar and flour consumption. And hey, I honestly appreciate what comes out of Mother Nature's "oven" just the way it is, without it being transformed by complex cooking techniques. (A crunchy, cold apple is just so under-rated!) :)

This carrot cake tastes amazing spread with Stevia-sweetened cream cheese (soy for me) or a bit of honey drizzled on top, but it's also really delicious as is.


ALG'S CRUNCHY CARROT PINEAPPLE SNACK CAKE
Recipe courtesy of Ann Louise Gittleman
(serves 8 to 10 people)

3 large carrots
1 large egg
3/8 cup oil (like coconut or macadamia nut)
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple in own juice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (I used spelt & millet flours)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (or cloves)
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Scrub and grate the carrots on the small side of the grater. Measure 1 cup and set aside. Spray 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray (I don't have a square pan, so I used a Bundt cake pan and it worked out beautifully).

In blender, combine egg, oil, pineapple and juice, raisins, walnuts and vanilla. Process until raisins are finely chopped. (I don’t have a blender yet, so I just chopped the heck out of all of this on a cutting board, and it worked fine.)

Measure flour, spices, salt, and baking powder into large mixing bowl. Stir well. Add blended mixture and grated carrots to dry ingredients, mixing until batter is uniform.

Spread batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until toothpick comes out clean. [Test the cake at 30 MINUTES because that is all mine took to bake.] Cool and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roast Beef with Wine Sauce

Oh hello CROCK POT baby, you loyal, dependable, always-on-my-side Friend-O-Mine. Yeah.

I love that I can put you in the back of my cabinet, forget about you for months, but then when we see each other again, it’s like we were hanging out just yesterday. Nothing’s changed. I can count on you to always be the same. You never let me down. You are always there to help. You make my life easier. You don’t care if I have on make-up or not. You love to sit in my kitchen all darn day long, and you never make a mess. And I can call on you in any hour of need.

Crock pot, would you like to come to my wedding? What? You don’t know anyone? Ah, not to worry, dear old Crocky, I am going to seat you next to my other BFF, Mr. Cast Iron Skillet.



HERE'S THE BEFORE SHOT AT 9AM BEFORE WORK:

AND HERE IS THE AFTER SHOT, 8 HOURS LATER:

ROAST BEEF WITH WINE SAUCE

3 pounds (or so) organic beef roast
5-8 shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 or 2 onions, sliced
2-3 carrots, cut into chunks
3-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
5-10 new potatoes
Sea salt & cracked black pepper
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
A teaspoon of horseradish powder or a tablespoon horseradish in a jar
2-3 Tbs. ketchup
2 Tbs. onion granules
2 cups broth (beef or vegetable)
Olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine

1. Place onions, carrots, garlic, mushrooms and potatoes in the crock pot.

2. Generously salt & pepper the roast on all sides. Heat a large skillet with olive oil, and when it’s hot, add the seasoned roast. Brown the heck out of it on all sides (because, as Chef Anne Burrell says, "brown food tastes good!"). Add the roast to the crock pot.

3. Turn the frying pan burner down to medium. Add wine, and stir and scrape up all the browned bits. When wine is reduced by half, add the stock and all the remaining seasonings. Stir it up. Pour all of this into the crock pot. Cover and turn on low. Fuggedabodit for 6-10 hours. Come home to a delightfully aromatic home and begin salivating.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies

In a temporary attempt to cut wheat, dairy and sugar from my diet (basically avoiding all white foods so that I look good in my white dress this fall ;-)), I adapted this cookie recipe -- using agave nectar and spelt flour instead of white flour and white sugar.

With furrowed brow and dour skepticism in my snack-loving heart, I put the baking sheets in the oven. Then I remembered my brand-new and full-on effort to try to find something positive in every experience (and remain focused on it!). I hoped for the best. And you know what? These lil' babies stepped up to the plate. My plate! They are delicious, chewy, 4th grader after-school snack-worthy. Serious. And I’m not talking “these aren’t not bad for health food.” Nope. I’m talking, “Damn child, these cookies taste GOOD! I should try to sell this thing to Nabisco!”

And of course, just like my white ingredient-laden nemesis, I ate way too many. But what’s the positive in that? Ah, let me count the ways…Fiber, low-glycemic index, they’re yummy, my dress will still fit, they make me smile, my house smells good while they bake, organic yummies, unprocessed yummies, happy snacking, I get to share my recipe with you, I love chocolate, chocolate makes me happy, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate…


SPELT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Adapted from Eat Right For Your Blood Type

Ingredients:
1/3 C. canola oil
½ C. maple syrup (I used agave nectar)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 organic egg
1 ½ C. flour (spelt, oat, brown, rice <--I used spelt)
¼ flax meal
1 tsp. baking soda
½ C. chocolate chips or unsweetened carob chips
Dash of allspice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven 375 degrees.

2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, syrup and vanilla. Beat in the egg.

3. Stir in the flour, baking soda and allspice. If mix seems to wet, add a little more flour, a few tablespoons at a time until it has a nice, thick cookie dough consistency.

4. Fold in chocolate or carob chips.

5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, 1 ½ inches apart, onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Eat them with an ice cold glass of milk (or soy milk). Paula Deen likes hers with ice cubes, and I tried it. She’s right—it rocks. :-)

Happy Birthday Pupcakes!

Everyone, this is Wilson. Wilson, this is everyone.

Wilson is the sweet and lovable doggy of my fiance’s sister. She is such a good doggy mommy and loves her pupster so much, that for her birthday, I decided to make her special cupcakes in the likeness of the cute little rumproast that is Wilson. Using my Hello, Cupcake! Cookbook as a guide, I came up with these “pupcakes.”

Hello, Cupcake! is an amazing book—it’s filled with ingenious cupcake decorating ideas that come out not even looking like cupcakes, but like, say, spaghetti & meatballs, a box of buttered popcorn, sharks, kitties, a TV dinner, Christmas ornaments, and bunnies digging in the dirt.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PUPCAKES!
Hello, Cupcake!

This cookbook has great cupcake recipes in addition to the decorating ideas. Adding four whopping eggs and the buttermilk makes the texture of these cakes soooo soft and creamy, but also firm enough on top so that they can take the weight of the decorations. This recipe surprised me, and I have to say these are some of the best tasting cupcakes ever!

Ingredients:
1 box (18.25 oz) cake mix (vanilla, devil’s food, or yellow—I used devil’s food)
1 cup buttermilk (in place of water called for on the box)
Vegetable oil (the amount on the box)
4 eggs (in place of the number called for on the box)

Frosting:
1 container of Duncan Hines French vanilla frosting

For Decorations:
Per cupcake:
½ a pink Starburst chew
2 mini chocolate M&Ms
1 small black jelly bean OR 2 chocolate chips
Multi-colored sprinkle dots
1 Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie or any thin wafer cookie

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Follow the box instructions, putting all the ingredients in a large bowl and using the buttermilk in place of the water specified on the box, using the amount of vegetable oil that is called for, and adding the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes longer.

3. Fill paper liners two-thirds full. The book recommends filling a ziplock bag with half the batter, snipping off ¼-inch of the corner, and piping the batter into the muffin tins. Repeat with the second half of the batter.

4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To decorate:


NOTE: BE SURE CUPCAKES ARE COMPLETELY COOL (as in, not even a little bit warm!) or else the frosting will ooze off into a drooling, sappy mess!!

1. Frost a cupcake with the vanilla frosting, as you normally would.

2. Next, fill a ziplock bag with a big scoop of vanilla frosting. Snip off 1/8-inch of a corner.

3. Pipe the outline of the dog's muzzle as in the picture above. Pipe two kidney-shaped eye sockets.

4. Cut the cookie or Thin Mint straight in half with a paring knife to create ears. Frost each ear with frosting and place them in the cupcake.

5. Place the M&Ms for eyes and the jelly bean for the nose on the cupcake. If you don’t have jelly beans, you can microwave two Nestle chocolate chips at 9-second intervals to soften a bit, and shape them into nose shapes with your fingers.

6. Place the sprinkles on the face for whiskers.

7. Cut one Starburst chew in half lengthwise with a paring knife. Press the candy half with your thumb to shape like a tear drop. Score a line down the center with a paring knife to create the likeness of a tongue. Place the tongue on the cupcake to finish the sweet little Wilson face. Feel tempted to scratch behind his ears, but don't do it for fear of smearing his frosting fur.

8. Place the cupcakes in a box – I bought a cupcake box from my local bakery. Place a pretty note or card on top and give your pupcakes to someone special. :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dandelion Green Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese

Oven Schmoven. It's about 100 degrees out there and humid...so there will be no baking of hot stuff until I get about 10 less degrees out of my day!

That said, I found a cool, summer salad recipe in my brand-spankin-new Dave Lieberman cookbook (thank you, T-family!). This salad would be lovely paired with some grilled meat, fish, or as an appetizer to pasta.

Dave's recipe calls for the beets directly in the dressing via blender, resulting in a sweet, brilliant, magenta-colored dressing drizzled over the crisp and bitter greens and cool, creamy goat cheese. I don't have a blender or food processor (I know, I know, disgrazie for a cook!!), but if/when I do acquire one, I will follow Dave's recipe and add the pics. The bright red dressing is quite striking in his book photos, and it would be an impressive dinner party salad.

In the meantime, this dish is just as scrumptious (and still very pretty to look at) with beets in solid form. :)
DANDELION GREENS WITH BEET DRESSING AND GOAT GOUDA

Adapted from Dave's Dinners
(this book is awesome)

For the Salad:

1/3 cup sliced, toasted almonds (I used pecans)
2 bunches dandelion greens *tip - see below
1/4 pound goat Gouda, shaved (I used french honey goat cheese, crumbled)

For the Dressing:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pound boiled beets
Salt

Wash and trim the greens.

Combine dressing ingredients in a blender container and blend until perfectly smooth. Spoon a generous amount onto serving plate. Top with a small bunch of greens, then top with a small handful of toasted nuts and cheese.

If you are doing the no-blender version, then whisk all dressing ingredients (except beets) in a glass measuring cup. Drizzle the dressing over the sliced cooked beets and let marinate in the fridge for an hour or so.

When ready to serve, spoon the beets and dressing over the greens, nuts and cheese.

*TIP:
Fresh dandelion greens come with a LOT of grit on them. The most effective and easiest way to clean them is to soak them in cold water, lift them out, drain, and repeat 2 or 3 times. I do this in a big bowl or in the kitchen sink. Store the greens in large ziplock bags lined with paper towel--they will stay crisp and fresh and ready to eat! 


Monday, July 27, 2009

Whole Wheat Poppy Seed Cookies

I know, I know, I just featured a recipe with poppy seeds. I’m like that. I get into something, and it’s go-time till it’s gone. The same thing happened with my cousin Karen’s amazing pasta recipe -- I made it for dinner twice last week and had the leftovers for lunch…So my latest craze is poppy seeds. They make things look so pretty and cute, and they add the same kind of sensual crunch to baked foods that figs do (which are, incidentally, my all-time favorite, mother-nature-made snack in the whole wide world.)

These cookies are simple, buttery, delicate and just-right. Biting into a cookie like this, with all these little seeds making that happy “pop-crunch-snap” in the mouth is one of the simplest, smilingest joys not to be guffawed at. Sesame seeds in place of the poppy seeds in this recipe are also highly recommended, and will induce an equal state of general goodwill. I think that if snacks and little bites of sweets containing crunchy things were consumed by all world-leaders on a daily basis, there might be no more war.


WHOLE WHEAT POPPY SEED COOKIES
Adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

Ingredients:
1/2 c. soft butter
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
2 beaten Large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon rind
1/3 c. poppy seeds
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. white flour (I used a combo of spelt & soy flour)
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
1. With a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat till light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.

2. Add in lemon rind and poppy seeds. Beat another five min.

3. Sift together dry ingredients. Add in to first mix and mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

4. Refrigerate the dough about an hour (important step, or the cutouts won't do their thing!). Roll to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into your favorite shapes. Bake on a lightly greased tray 10-12 min at 375 degrees.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil & Brie

My cousin Karen hooked me up! She is an amazing cook, especially of Italian cuisine: she makes her own homemade pasta and has a wonderfully fresh style of cooking. I'd like to officially announce that Karen rocks. I love this dish so much, I've already made it for dinner twice this week!

This is light, summer cooking at its very BEST. It's a celebration of summer's bounty: juicy, sweet tomatoes, bright green basil leaves, and sharp, glorious garlic. The sauce does not even get cooked--the ingredients just macerate in a bowl on the counter. If you aren't a fan of brie, smoked mozzerella makes a fantastic substitution. I tried it and it was delicious!

I have not yet attemped making my own pasta, but I did buy fresh whole wheat fettucini from my local grocer. It makes a huge difference to buy fresh, I think. The texture is so lovely and succulent with the sauce.

The lighting was a little low for my evening food photo session, but I promise you, the colors, texture and taste of this dish are vibrant times one hundred.

Thanks cous! xo
Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil
adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook

4 ripe large tomatoes, cubed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup clean basil leaves, torn in strips
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (but Karen & I both think a 1/2 cup is plenty!)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 lb Brie, rind removed and torn into pieces (good brie substitutions: smoked mozzerella or regular mozzerella)
1 ½ lbs linguine
freshly grated parmesean (optional)

Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl and set aside covered at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

Cook linguine and drain. Add pasta to the bowl of tomato mixture, and toss to combine. Serve at once - and pass the peppermill and parmesean at the table.

Could a delicious, fresh, gorgeous dinner come any easier than this??

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Poppy Seed Bread


Before I begin, I’d like to ask that you put on the [soundtrack to this post by playing this. ] Ah, nice and soft volume….good…the mood is set...


Dear Tony the Tiger, Boo Berry, Sugar Bear, and of course my beloved, Sonny the Cuckoo,

It is with wistful nostalgia that I share my news with you today.

Alas, it is time to say goodbye.

We both saw it coming. I think we just need a little time apart. I’ve grown and changed. You haven’t. It’s not your fault. I didn’t mean to change; it just…happened. I suppose moving to this town, reading more books, or taking that cooking class had something to do with it. Who can say why the caged bird sings?

I guess what I’m trying to say Sonny, Tony, Boo and Sugar Bear, is that as much as I love you, and will always love you, I can no longer have you in my life as part of this nutritious breakfast.

I’ve fallen for another. Her name is Poppy Seed Bread. I know what you’re thinking. But I’m not a snob, and you know it. Sure, my poppy’s more sophisticated and complex than what I’ve shared with you, but we have fun together. And I feel, well, complete now.

I’m sorry it had to end this way. But it’s over. One day you’ll look back and know this was the best thing that could’ve happened to us. I only hope we can be friends.

Forgive me,
Flappergirl


POPPY SEED BREAD
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients:
1 ½ Cups Flour (I used 1 cup spelt, 1 cup soy flour , and ½ cup whole wheat)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 ¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ¼ cups sugar (I used 1 cup agave nectar)
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup milk
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
¼ cup poppy seeds

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease & flour a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan.

2. In large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and sea salt. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, beat oil and sugar (or agave nectar) till smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

4. To the egg mix, add the evaporated milk, regular milk and vanilla.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix well. Stir in poppy seeds.

6. Pour into baking pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs attached to it.

7. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cordially Uninvited (aka Calzones & Ice Cream Day!)

Once a year or so, I have one of those days where I just stay in. And I don’t mean “stay in” as in forego drinks on Saturday night. I mean “stay in” as in “Honeys, I’ll see y'all in 24 hours, ok?”

It’s really a lot of fun and a necessary annual event for me. I turn off the cell phone, unplug the computer, remain in my house in my favorite soft shirt and fuzzy pink socks, and really just decompress. Relax. Chill. Just once a year or so. We all have some sort of list of day-to-day, taxing nonsense we experience and we all have a need to get away from it every so often.

Here is my list:
the grind,
living in a large city,
over-stimulation,
honking horns,
noise,
electronics,
people,
vibrations,
commerce,
ads,
and as Sting sang, “too much information, running through my brain.”

Don't get me wrong, mine is a stimulating life that I love and have chosen. But once in a blue moon, I just love to say, “Thank you for coming, World, I had a fabulous time with you. Now please leave, and don’t let the door hit you’re a$s on the way out. See you tomorrow.”

And you know what? It's a great feeling to totally do it and give yourself permission. Just once! Allow the kids a sleepover night at their friends' house, schedule one personal day off from work, or have your partner go run the errands and do the laundry this once. Hang out in your fuzzy socks.

That’s just what I did last Saturday. After I sighed, I smiled. It was a glorious day of well-deserved quiet, lounging, staring at the clouds, spacing out…Oh and I baked some calzones and made homemade ice cream…and had a little indoor pizza party with my fiancé. We ate dessert first. :) I recommend this.
While we all know how amazing it can feel to vacation far, far, away, I must fully and wholly sing the praises of the random vacation that’s close, close, inside...


SPINACH & CHEESE CALZONES

Dough:
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1 cup lukewarm (wrist temp) water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2-3 cups whole wheat flour (or combo of flours totalling this amount)
Olive oil

Filling:
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 sprig of thyme leaves
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 small sliced onion
1 lb. fresh spinach (or kale, or collards, or chard), washed and chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tbs. dried sweet basil
2 cups grated mozzerella
½ cup grated parmesan
Sea salt & fresh-cracked pepper
½ jar of your favorite tomato sauce

MAKE DOUGH:
Soften together yeast, water and honey.

Add salt and flour to make a soft dough. With floured hands and floured board, knead 10 minutes, or till smooth and elastic, adding flour if necessary to keep from being too sticky.

Place the dough ball into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic or a tea towl, and let rise till doubled (about 1 hour).

While dough is rising, prepare the filling (see below for directions)

Punch down. Divide into six sections and roll out in rounds 1/4 inch thick.

Fill with 1/2-3/4 cup the greens/cheese filling, placing the filling on one half of the circle, leaving a 1/2 inch rim. Add a tablespoonful of tomato sauce on top of filling.

Moisten the rim with a little water, fold the empty side over, and crimp the edges.

Prick here and there with a fork to allow steam to escape.

Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet lined with cornmeal (or an oiled tray, or a baking stone) in a preheated 450 oven for 15-20 minutes or till crisp and lightly browned.

Serve hot, with a little extra tomato sauce on the side for dipping.

MAKE FILLING:
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, thyme and onions. Stir and cook 10 minutes or so, until onions are slightly caramelized. Stir often.

2. Add greens and red pepper flakes and stir, cooking until greens are wilted. Remove from heat.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, basil and salt & pepper. Stir in the warm greens mixture, and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

EASY VANILLA CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM

Ingredients:

* 1 cup heavy cream
* 1 cup light cream* (half and half)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 pinch salt
* 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (or chocolate shavings)

Whisk all ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a large mixing bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add to ice cream maker and freeze according to machine's directions. Stir in chips 5 minutes before ice cream maker time is up.

Makes 1 quart (that should cover a campy 60s double feature for two on cable TV)

*1/2 cream and 1/2 milk may be substituted for light cream

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lemon Taralli Biscuits (Biscotti Taralli al Limone)

Many years ago I was enjoying the San Genarro Festival in Little Italy in New York City, when I spotted a local baker selling these donut-like cookies on the street. I think he charged me a dollar, and he tucked 3 or 4 of them into a small paper bag. I walked away with my treat thinking not a whole lot about them until I got home. And when I dunked one of them into a hot cup of coffee, I felt instantly transported to a sunny little café near a lemon tree orchard, somewhere deep in the hills of Sicily.

Taralli biscuits are common throughout all of Sicily, and some provinces flavor them with anise, or with orange. This version is lemon-flavored, with lots of bright, fresh lemon zest and juice in the cookie and the glaze. These crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside biscuits can also be enjoyed with espresso, or even a glass of wine (sometimes they are called Wine Biscuits). I say go all European style on these cookies, and enjoy them with a glass (or two) of wine after a long and leisurely late afternoon lunch.

LEMON TARALLI BISCUITS
(Biscotti Taralli al Limone)

INGREDIENTS:


For the Dough:
4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
¼ lb. or 1 stick of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
4 medium eggs
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon
flour for dusting

For the Icing:
1 cup confectionary sugar
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of water

DIRECTIONS:

The Dough

Make a well with the flour, place in it and combine sugar and butter.
Add eggs, salt, baking powder, baking soda and lemon zest. Mix all ingredients with the help of a fork and then using your hands knead to bring dough together.
Do not over mix. Do not handle dough more than necessary. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
Prepare pan: grease and dust a cookie sheet with flour.

The Biscuits
Cut dough in 2 pieces and each pieces in 2 parts. Knead dough and make each piece compact, shape each piece into an elongated roll 1½ inch in diameter. Cut it into 6 pieces and roll each piece to form a stick about 6 inches long. Seal the ends together to form a circle, place each piece into a greased pan, 2 inches apart.

The Baking
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until cookies are a light golden color.

The Icing
Place the confectionary sugar, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of water and the zest of lemon in a bowl and whip it until it becomes creamy. If needed, add a bit more confectioner’s sugar to achieve the creamy consistency.

When taralli are cooled, using a pastry brush, glaze the taralli. When biscuits are completely dry, store them in an airtight cookie jar or container.







 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fig Scones

Sometimes when I pull baking sheets out of the oven I talk to the items sitting atop of them. “Hello scones. Oh you lovely little breakfast babies. I love you. Yes I do. You did a good job there in the oven. I’m proud of all your hard work.”

These crumbly little cuties are a bit of heaven if you ask me. Oh and the figs? Forget it, I'm convinced God was just in a really good mood when he invented them. Both fresh and dried are perfect foods to me. Fresh figs are aphrodisiacally delicious, like, oh say, poached in port and served warm over vanilla ice creammmm. And dried figs are to-die-for in baked foods, ever-reminiscent of one of the best cookies of childhood and maybe ever: the almighty Fig Newton.

You can use either fresh or dried figs in this recipe, but I chose dried because the raisin-like chewiness of the fig flesh, along with that little crunchy pop of the inner seeds just seemed like it needed to be nestled inside the flaky loveliness of a buttery scone.

This is another very easy and fun-to-make quick bread. I sit happy and reassured at the fact I’ll never again have to spend 5 bucks on a cold, hard scone from my local corporate coffee conveyor belt, when I can have my home smelling like a sweet Irish lass’s B&B in minutes. And no one's going to be afraid when I fuss and coo at my beautiful baked babies.
FIG SCONES
adapted from Whole Foods Market

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats or (i used red winter wheat)
3 tablespoons flax seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces and well chilled
3/4 cup chopped dried figs
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk, divided
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but adds a lot of flavor and aroma!)
1 to 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (optional)
Method

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Put flour, oats, flax seeds, baking powder and salt into a food processor and pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse again mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add apricots and repeat process.

In a small bowl, whisk together honey, 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, eggs and almond extract then pour in a constant stream into food processor while pulsing just until mixture is blended. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and form into a 9-inch circle. Using a floured knife, cut dough into 12 wedges and transfer to a large baking sheet, arranging the scones 1 to 2 inches apart.

Brush scones with remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk then sprinkle with sugar. Bake until cooked through and golden brown around the edges, about 25 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

 
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