Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category
I created this pasta salad for the Spring Potluck for the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance. The theme was Back to the Beginning, to be interpreted any way we wished. So, in honor of spring, which is all about starting again, I made a completely green pasta salad. It was my first potluck with the NYWCA, so I wanted to impress. I don’t know if I did, but this salad got rave reviews the next day.
This pasta salad is open to many variations—you can add anything you want, as long as it’s green! It has several components to it, but if you’re willing to spend a little time on it, the result will truly be gorgeous, not mention delicious. Aside from the broccoli florets, I split the string beans in half, used only the green part of the zucchini, and garnished it with zucchini curls.
Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad
1 medium head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more
2 small zucchini, diced small
2 ½ cups cut string beans
2 cups peas (if frozen, thawed)
1 lb short pasta
½ lb arugula
¼ lb watercress
1 cup sliced scallions (white part only), divided
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium green bell pepper, diced small
½ cup chopped parsley
Garnish: zucchini, scallion greens, broccoli florets
1. Cut the broccoli into florets. Set aside as many “pretty” florets (they should be similarly sized). Chop the remaining florets, stems, and pieces. Blanch and shock the florets. Cook the remaining broccoli until crisp-tender; drain well.
To blanch and shock: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water on the counter. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for a minute or 2, until broccoli is slightly tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet; add the onion and salt, and sweat (cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Do not brown.)
3. Zucchini: Saute in 2 teaspoons just until tender. Transfer to a bowl; let cool.
4. String beans: Bring pot of salted water to a boil; add string beans and cook just until tender. Transfer to the ice water and let cool. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside ½ cup.
5. Peas: If fresh, cook in boiling water until just tender. If frozen, boil briefly. Drain well.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and let cool.
7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, watercress, ½ cup string beans that were set aside, ½ cup scallions, garlic, salt and pepper. With the machine processing, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil until a sauce forms.
8. When pasta has cooled but is still slightly warm, add the sauce and mix well. Add the green pepper, the chopped broccoli, onion, cooked zucchini, peas, remaining string beans, and remaining scallions. Mix well. Blend in parsley. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add whatever herbs or spices you like.
April 26 is National Pretzel Day and I wanted to share my recipe for traditional Italian
pretzels called taralli.
Just about anyone of Italian descent is familiar with taralli. Common all along the southern provinces of Italy, taralli are crunchy and pretzel-like and are eaten as bread or enjoyed as a snack.
These baked snacks are often referred to in English as biscotti, because technically it is cooked twice (the definition of biscotti). But the end product is nothing at all like a biscotti. In both appearance and texture, these are more like hard pretzels.
Believed by many to have originated in Puglia, where bread reigns supreme and bread-like products are abundant, taralli start off much the same way as other pretzels: they are shaped, boiled, and baked until hard and crisp. There is a subtle difference between taralli and pretzels, though. Pretzels are often made with eggs, which give them a “softer” crunch flakier texture than taralli, and the spices added to taralli make them the perfect accompaniment to meals.
I never had much of a sweet tooth, not even as a child. I got this trait from my mother, who would (and still does) pass up a slice of cake for a tasty cracker and some grapes anytime. This proclivity, plus a desire to avoid giving her family too many sweets, my mother has always made taralli for us to snack on.
The crunchy, pretzel-shaped treat and, fennel seeds give these biscuits their unique flavor and aroma, but sweeter versions can also be found.
Although taralli are eaten throughout the year, production by bakeries and home cooks alike ramps up around holidays. This Easter, I helped my mother make the taralli and here are some shots of the process, as well as her recipe, which appeared in my cookbook, What, No Meat? Traditional Italian Cooking the Vegetarian Way. Enjoy.
Biscotti di Mamma (My Mother’s Pretzels)
1 package active dry yeast
5 pounds all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
4 teaspoons fennel or anise seeds
5 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/3 cups corn oil
Sprinkle the yeast into 1 cup very warm water. Let it sit until it is murky, about 5 minutes. Stir until all the yeast is dissolved.
On a kneading board, make a well of flour. Have about 2 cups warm water nearby. Sprinkle the salt and seeds over the flour. Place the remaining ingredients in the center of the well and begin mixing by working your way around the inside of the well with your hand and pulling in the dry ingredients, a little at a time. Mix all the ingredients well. If the dough is too dry, add a little water as you mix. Knead the dough for about 5 to 7 minutes. The dough should be firm but not tough. If it is too wet, add a little more flour and work it in. If it is too dry, add more water and work it in.
Cut the dough in half. Cover one half with a bowl until you are ready to use it. Cut off several 1-inch pieces from the other half and cover the rest with a bowl. Roll a piece out into a 1/4-inch-thick rope. Fold over the ends of the rope to make a criss-cross shape. Press the ends in firmly or they will come apart. Repeat this process with the remaining dough.
As you are shaping the last few pretzels, bring a large pot of water to boil. Place several pretzels into the boiling water (this will give them a flaky texture and a shiny exterior). When they rise to the surface, remove them immediately with a slotted spoon and place them on a clean cloth towel to dry. They should only take about 30 seconds to rise. If they don’t rise after a minute, nudge them a little with the spoon—they sometimes stick to the bottom of the pot. Boil the remaining pretzels and allow them to dry out, about 10 minutes.
As the pretzels are drying, preheat the oven to 375. When the pretzels are dry, lay them directly on the oven racks, about ½ inch apart, and bake them until the undersides are a golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn them over and bake until their undersides are deep golden brown, another 10 minutes. If they burn quickly, lower the oven to 350º. They will not all brown at the same rate so keep checking them. Remove the ones that are done and replace them with others.
Serve them as a snack or as an accompaniment to antipasto or dinner.
Store the pretzels in a tin or loosely covered in a basket up to 2 months.
Makes 70 to 80 pretzels.
I’m not calling this recipe Sauteed Valor Green Beans because it’s something you should eat as a reward for bravery. The word valor is actually the Indian name for these particular green beans.
I found these beans at Patel supermarket in Jackson Heights. It’s my favorite Indian market and I always find something in there that I’ve never tried. When I saw these beans, I thought they were odd looking. They looked like string beans but with thicker skin. I was curious how they would cook up, so I bought some.
Common sense would say to cook these beans with Indian spices and ingredients. But I decided to cook them a little more European style. So, I sautéed them with some sliced shallots, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (because I didn’t have any fresh garlic). My suspicions were right—the thicker skin meant that they needed longer cooking time and some liquid to keep them from burning. In this case, I used some water and a little bouillon.
After they beans had softened, I uncovered the pan and let the liquid dry up. Then, I veered back toward Indian because I decided to deglaze the pan with a splash of coconut balsamic vinegar. I had picked it up at F. Oliver’s oil shop in Ithaca last summer and I haven’t used it much. (It’s delicious but coconut balsamic does have limited uses. I mean, I’m not going to splash some into my marinara sauce, ya know?) Finally, I mixed in some toasted slivered almonds.
The result was kind of a sweet and sour flavor and the crunch of the almonds really made it texturally satisfying. I can’t say I enjoy them as much as regular green beans because they have a different flavor—kind of earthy, where really green beans are sweet-ish.
So, here’s my recipe for Sauteed Valor Green Beans. Unless you are somewhere near an F. Oliver’s, you probably won’t be able to get Creamy Coconut Balsamic Vinegar, so just use regular balsamic, or omit it altogether.
Sauteed Valor Green Beans
½ lb. valor green beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 or 4 shallots, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
½ cup vegetable broth
¼ cup almond slivers
2 tablespoons coconut or regular balsamic vinegar
Trim off the ends of the green beans, pull off any strings, and slice them open (this might be easier if you cut longer beans in half). Chop the beans into half-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a medium pan. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté just until they start to brown. Add the string beans and sauté over medium heat about 5 minutes. Add the broth, cover the pan, and cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet. Add the almonds and toast, stirring often, until lightly browned.
Uncover the pan with the beans and continue cooking until liquid had evaporated. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir; when the balsamic has evaporated, toss in the almonds and mix well.
Serve as a side dish or over brown or white basmati rice.
Makes 2 servings.
Yes, I said deliciousness. No other nut makes me as happy as pecans. In fact, when I travel down South, I try to find a place to buy pecans in bulk to take home. The problem with pecans, you see, is that they’re also one of the most expensive nuts around (I think the most expensive ones are macadamias and pignolis). But they are cheaper in the South, where they are grown and harvested. When I’m in the vicinity of Montgomery, AL, I stop by Priester’s Pecans, on I-65 South, in Fort Deposit, AL, and get myself a 5-pound bag.
The word “pecan” comes from an Algonquin word meaning “nuts that require a stone to crack.” Pecan trees are native to North America and planting began as early as the 1600s. By the 1700s, pecans played an important part in American commerce, and were exported to various parts of the world. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to love pecans.
Pecans are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. In terms of vitamins, they are an excellent source of vitamin E and B vitamins (such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid), vitamin B-6, and folates. They also contain manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
March 25 is National Pecan Day, so in honor of this most excellent of nuts, here’s my recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Pecan Dressing. Enjoy!
|Roasted Cauliflower with Pecan-Breadcrumb Dressing|
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons of the oil,* and salt and pepper. Combine well. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast until tender and lightly browned.
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining oil; add the breadcrumbs and pecans and toast over medium-low heat, stirring often, until lightly browned. Be careful not to burn them. Add the cauliflower, mix well, and cook 1 minute longer.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
*If you find that not all the cauliflower is coated in oil, add a bit more.
As you might suspect, it’s believed that oatmeal cookies got their beginning in Scotland, where oats are an integral part of life. They began as oat cakes and eventually evolved into the cookie we know today. The first written oatmea- raisin cookie recipe appeared in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook in 1896, in which Fannie Merritt Farmer referred to them as “health food.” Quaker Oats began putting a recipe for oatmeal-raisin cookies on their boxes of oat,s and by the early 1900s, it was a household dessert.
So, in honor of National Oatmeal Cookie Day, March 18, here’s a basic recipe for oatmeal-raisin cookies.
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup quick oats
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a couple of large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- Using a mixer, cream together the butter with the 2 sugars. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well. Add the flour mixture and blend well. Finally, stir in the oats and raisins.
- Place the dough by the tablespoonful on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.
As you may have guessed, the main components of the sandwich are French inspired: brie and tapenade. All you need after that is a little tomato, onion, and lettuce and you’re good to go. Oh, and don’t forget the good quality bread.
(In case you’re wondering about the fancy schmancy name, I created it for a grilled cheese contest, so I had to name it something appropriates.)
Let me know what you think. Enjoy!
- 3 oz. brie
- 2 slices ciabatta or other rustic bread
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 leaf green or red leaf lettuce
- 2-3 tablespoons tapenade
- 3 thin slices plum tomato
- Few thin rings of red onion
- Remove the top rind of the brie and cut the brie into pieces.
- Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Heat a skillet and toast one side of each slice.
- Flip over the bread; lower the heat. Place the brie on one slice of bread, then the lettuce, tapenade, tomato, and red onion.
- Flip over the other slice of bread onto the filling and lightly press. Keep on the heat until the brie melts. Flip the sandwich over, if necessary.
This panini is Italian style, with broccoli rabe, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, and Asiago cheese. Slice the bread thinly so that’s easy to eat. Enjoy!
|Broccoli Rabe-Provolone Panini|
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, 1 sliced, 1 cut in half
- 3 cups chopped broccoli rabe
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 oz. cremini mushrooms
- 4 slices rustic Italian bread
- 4 slices provolone cheese (deli sliced)
- 2 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 oz. Asiago cheese, thinly shaved
- Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add broccoli rabe; lower the heat and cook until tender, about 5 minutes (add a little water if the pan dries out). Remove from the pan. Mix in the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
- In the same pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil; add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan.
- Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil; rub with garlic and sprinkle with salt. Toast in a skillet (preferably cast iron). Turn them over. On one piece, place a slice of provolone, half the broccoli rabe, half the mushrooms, half the tomatoes, another slice of provolone, and half the asiago. Turn the other piece over onto the filling. Press down and cook until cheese melts.
I had the original recipe for this porridge in my collection for a while but never gave it a try.
Not because it didn’t appeal to me (otherwise, I wouldn’t have clipped it) but because I so rarely make homemade porridge for breakfast. During the week, I never eat breakfast at home; on weekends, I never have time and so usually just grab leftovers. I still don’t often
have time, but I’ve been trying, whenever I can, to make a healthy, energy-inducing breakfast. So, I made some modifications, based on what I had on hand and my personal preferences. The good thing is that this stays well in the fridge for a few days, so I can make a big batch and just reheat it.
Mulitgrain Morning Porridge
Adapted from “Multigrain Breakfast Porridge” by
Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, Cooking Light, Oct. 2007
½ cup wheat berries, rinsed
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup steel-cut oats
3 tablespoons regular grits
¼ cup amaranth
¾ cup coconut or almond milk
¼ maple syrup
¼ cup dried blueberries or other dried fruit
½ cup chopped walnuts or other nuts
Bring 5 cups water to a boil. Add the wheat berries and salt; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered until almost tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Add the oats, grits, and amaranth and stir. Continue simmering until all grains are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in coconut milk, maple syrup, and fruit and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in nuts. Serve hot.
This porridge will keep for several days in the refrigerator. To reheat, stir in a little more coconut milk or water until it reaches the desired consistency. Heat over medium-low heat or in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.
Although blond brownies, or blondies, aren’t as popular as brownies, it is believed that they may have predated brownies. Foodtimeline.org states:
According to old cookbooks, blonde brownies (also known as “Blondies”) predated chocolate brownies, though under different names. The primary ingredients of blondies (brown sugar/molasses and butter) compose butterscotch, a candy that was popular in America in the mid-19th century. Some 19th century American cookbooks contain recipes that combined traditional butterscotch ingredients with flour and a leavening agent (baking powder or soda). Presumably, these recipes would have produced something similar to the blonde brownies we enjoy today.
I’ve made some pretty good blondies, rivaling the many brownies I’ve made and tasted. I’ve
also been experimenting a lot with making gluten-free/wheat-free baked goods because I’ve been getting a lot of requests for them and I tried my hand at blondies. For people who have a wheat allergy but not Celiac Disease, I found that a 1:1 substitution of spelt flour works very well.
Also, generally speaking, blondies can be boring to look at. Unlike a brownie, with its dark, alluring, chocolaty sheen, blondies don’t exactly draw you in with their plain-jane appearance. Topping are how you will appeal where blondies are concerned. I don’t think frosting is a good idea, because they can easily be mistaken for one of those Entenmann’s-type cakes in a box (not that I have anything against Entenmann’s). Plus, frosting is boring. Toppings give the blondies some zip. You can try chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, etc.
This is my version of blondies, with spelt flour and walnut-chocolate chip topping.
|Nut-Chocolate Chip Blondies|
- ½ cup butter, room temperature
- 2 cups packed brown sugar
- 2 cups spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup milk (regular, soy, almond, or coconut)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Using a mixer, mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and blend well. Add vanilla, milk, and egg and blend until smooth.
- Pour into baking pan and smooth it out. Spread the nuts and chocolate chips evenly across the top.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Blondies can be a blank canvas for many different flavor profiles. Try using different chips, like white chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, or cinnamon, or adding coconut, dried fruit, sesame seeds, or M&Ms.
The problem is that in order to get a really good black cake, you have to begin the process at least several weeks in advance, and who’s thinking about Christmas in September? (Okay, well, many of you probably start your Christmas shopping in July, but the way my life has been going the past several years, my thoughts about Christmas have had me on the brink of nervous breakdowns trying to find gifts on Christmas Eve.)
But this year, I was determined to make a black cake, so I marked my calendar for September. That’s when I was going to initiate the process. And so I did.
Black cake/Christmas cake is also sometimes called plum pudding because it is derived from the traditional British Christmas cake of the same name. Plum pudding is basically fruit cake and the addition of brandy was to keep it fresh on long voyages across the seas (plus it tastes good). (Plum pudding is traditionally lit aflame at presentation time. I suspect that this was done the first time by accident as a result of someone getting a little too close to it with a candle or something.) When the British began trading through the Caribbean, the plum pudding went with them. But rum, rather than brandy, was the liquor available on the islands, and sugar and molasses became the sweeteners. The addition of allspice and nutmeg are more Island touches on the old recipe.
It is said that the original recipe for plum pudding dates to Medieval times, when it called for 13 ingredients—1 for Jesus Christ and 12 for his apostles—and was to be made on Christmas Eve. Since then, it’s become a more elaborate affair. As other fruit cakes, a black cake contains various dried fruits that are macerated in rum and, sometimes, port wine for weeks. The ideal time to bake it is a couple of weeks before Christmas, and as the days go by, it is occasionally basted with more booze.
So, in September, I put my fruit—raisins, golden raisins, plums, figs, dates, and cranberries—in a large container with a cover and poured in a wee bit of rum and port wine and let that sit until December. About a week before Christmas (I couldn’t get around to it before then), I baked the cake, basted it a few times, and brought it for Christmas Eve dinner. It came out fabulous. It was moist and incredibly flavorful, and even though it was loaded with alcohol, the rum and wine had mellowed into a fruity liqueur-like flavor. It’s not like any fruit cake you’ve ever had, I guarantee it. Normally, black cake is served as is, but I wanted it to look a little more festive so I iced it with a basic powdered sugar icing (which eventually melted). The only thing was that my cake was not as dark as it should be (it is called black cake, after all). So, I increased the browning in the recipe. Browning is also known as burnt sugar and can be found in West Indian markets.
I share this with you now so that you can prepare ahead of time for next Christmas. Enjoy!
|Jamaican Black Cake (aka Christmas Cake)|
- 4 cups mixed dried fruit (raisins, currents, prunes, citron, cherries, dates, figs, etc.)
- 1 cup white rum
- 1 pint port wine
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 cup butter
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 6 eggs
- 3 tablespoons browning*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup nuts
- Rinse the fruit under running water and drain well. Place in a sealable bowl and mix in the rum and port wine. Seal bowl and refrigerate and let sit for about 2 months. If the liquid gets completely soaked up, add more rum as needed.
- On the day of baking, drain the fruit over a bowl and reserve the liquid. Using a food processor or blender, grind half the fruit until it’s in small pieces (but not a paste).
- Grease a 10-inch cake pan; line it with parchment paper. (You can also use aluminum foil, but make sure to grease the foil.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder; set aside.
- Using a mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until batter is smooth.
- Add half the flour and mix in; add remaining flour and mix in.
- Add the browning, vanilla, almond, molasses, lemon juice, spices, and zest. Add 1 cup of the reserved liquid and beat until well blended.
- By hand, blend in all the fruit and nuts.
- Bake for one 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Begin checking it at 1 hour.
- When done, place pan on a cooking rack and let it sit for about an hour. Invert it and remove the paper. Let cool completely. Baste every now and then with leftover liquor until ready to serve.
Makes 1 10-inch cake.
* Browning, also known as burnt sugar, is available in Jamaican/West Indian markets and sometimes in markets that have a wide variety of ethnic products. It’s used mostly for coloring. If you can’t find it, double up on the molasses.