Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Last-minute Thanksgiving Dishes!

 

Cranberry Chutney getting ready to simmer!

Chances are you have your Thanksgiving menu all planned and shopped, but in case you’re still casting about looking for a terrific side dish, I highly recommend David Lebovitz’s cranberry chutney. It is, hands down, the best cranberry side dish I’ve ever had. I’ve made it several times now and it never disappoints. The combination of the tart cranberries with some sweet dried fruit (raisins, cherries, cranberries, candied ginger), crisp apple, and fall spices, is a definite winner. And just wait until you add it to a turkey sandwich the next day!


Chutney ready to plate


And to add to your dessert table ('cause, you know my motto: you can never have too many desserts!), you may want to think about these little babies. No baking involved; just toss the ingredients into a food processor, then roll the 1” balls in a graham cracker crumb-shredded coconut mixture and set in the fridge for an hour. Yes, it is officially the holiday season where we throw caution to the wind when it comes to eating and drinking (at least I do), but for any friends or family trying to watch their calorie intake, these Cranberry Crumble Bites (from SkinnyMs) clock in at only 162 calories. Also, there’s no white sugar in here - maple syrup and orange juice sweeten the base. 


Cranberry Crumble Bites


Later today I’ll also be making this Maple-Vanilla Pumpkin Loaf from Bake From Scratch so I’ll post about it later this week. It sounds like the perfect Thanksgiving/fall/holiday cake! It can be served with just a sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar, or gussied up with some fresh whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup. 


Wishing you and yours a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving!


Eat well, stay warm, be happy.


Friday, November 12, 2021

Italian Night!


I finally made the famous Marcella Hazan tomato sauce with onion and butter that has been written up by every food writer and blogger from NYC to Milano. Wow. What the heck was I waiting for? This couldn’t have been easier or more delicious. With only three ingredients (four, if you count the salt), and only three steps, within an hour you will have a bright, clean, delicious tomato sauce perfect for a host of dishes.


The three (four) ingredients:


Fresh, ripe tomatoes or 1 can (28 oz) imported Italian tomatoes

5 TB butter

1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

Salt to taste

Full recipe below.


You may be thinking, “butter, and an onion just cut in half and thrown in??” Yes. And, whatever you do, do not discard that onion post-cooking. It is the sweetest, most delicious onion you’ll ever eat! A couple of commenters on Food52 suggested using a stick blender and whirling it back into the sauce. Another suggested just eating the onion outright (I did this, it was fabulous). No wrong answers.


simmering


The day I made the sauce, I ladled it over a twirl of linguini, added a few torn basil leaves, and showered it with freshly grated Parmigiana Reggiano (that gorgeous image at the top). Simple perfection!


On day two, I had a “voglia” (Italian slang for a craving - pronounced “wool-lea,” depending on the region) for chicken parm. Don’t ask me why, I just did. I almost never crave red sauce-type Italian-American dishes, but this week I did. I found a pretty low-intensity (read: not a million steps) recipe, used the leftover Marcella sauce, and used Panko instead of breadcrumbs to produce a crispier, crunchier coating. It was terrific. I didn’t go totally old school and serve it over spaghetti, but I did enjoy a crusty Italian bread alongside the parm.






Old school chicken parm


I didn’t have any Italian reds in the house so I used a hearty zin, which worked just fine.


And, finally, to complete Italian night, I made the easiest dessert possible (if you have the means to make espresso): affogato. In Italian, affogato means “drowned.” You literally drown cold ice cream in hot espresso. 


I recently treated myself to a starter espresso machine (made by Capresso and purchased on sale) and I am loving it. Two cappuccinos in the morning and, sometimes, a decaf espresso in the afternoon, and I’m good to go. 



Affogato is a divine little treat. What could be better than ice cold ice cream (in my case, coffee), drowned in dark, delicious espresso? My go-to ice cream of late is Enlightened’s cold brew coffee. At only 90 calories for 2/3 cup, it is all indulgence and zero guilt. I honestly don’t know how they make such a rich, creamy ice cream that clocks in at that caloric rate. But, whatever, I’m on board. The picture of my affogato was sub-par so I’ve included a stock image so you get the gist of what it “should” look like.


Photo by Sarah li from Pexels


Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter


Serves 6, enough to sauce 1 to 1-1/2 lb pasta

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes for the sauce


2 lb fresh tomatoes, prepared as described below, or 2 C canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

5 TB butter

1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

Salt to taste


  1. Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato.
  2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Taste and correct for salt. Before tossing with pasta, you may remove the onion (as Hazan recommended) and save for another use, but many opt to leave it in. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the table.


Food52 editor’s note: Marcella called for 2 cups of tomatoes when using canned, but feel free to use a whole 28 oz can (closer to 3 cups), if you like. You can scale up the butter and onion, if you like, or don’t - it’s genius either way.


Making Fresh Tomatoes Ready for Sauce


The blanching method: Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or less. Drain them and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin them, and cut them into coarse pieces.


The freezing method (from David Tanis, via The Kitchn): Freeze tomatoes on a baking sheet until hard. Thaw again, either on the counter or under running water. Skin them and cut them into coarse pieces.


The food mill method: Wash the tomatoes in cold water, cut them lengthwise in half, and put them in a covered saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Set a food mill fitted with the disk with the largest holes over a bowl. Transfer the tomatoes with any of their juices to the mill and puree.





Sunday, October 31, 2021

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake


If you haven’t got a fall season apple cake in your baking files (what?!), add this one! I made it a couple of weeks ago to bring to a friend who I was visiting for the weekend (you know who you are!). I thought it would be the perfect Sunday morning coffee-and- newspaper treat. And it was. Maybe a little too good, as I couldn’t resist eating a piece the next two mornings! Then I cut the rest into individual squares and froze them for a future “I need cake!” emergency.


It's got all the fall feels - apples, cinnamon, walnuts; it's fabulously delicious and so moist!


This comes from In the Kitchen with Matt. The only thing I changed was to add chopped walnuts to the streusel, because in my mind, streusel needs nuts! Make it & let me know how you like it.


Just out of the oven - look at that streusel!


Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from In the Kitchen with Matt


Ingredients:


1 large egg

1/2 C buttermilk or use normal milk (I used buttermilk)

1/2 C granulated sugar

1/4 C butter or oil (I used butter)

1-1/2 C cake flour or AP flour (I used AP)

1/4 t baking soda (leave it out if using normal milk)

1 t baking powder (double it if using normal milk)

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

3 medium apples or 2 large apples (I used granny smith, but you could use fuji, gala, etc)


Streusel:


3 TB butter, softened

1/2 C granulated sugar

1/3 C AP flour

1 t cinnamon

1/4 C chopped walnuts


Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F/205 C. Wash, peel, core, and slice the apples into small chunks.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, sugar, and melted butter. Melt the butter in the microwave or stovetop, until barely melted and not hot.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and add it to the bowl of wet ingredients. You can whisk them together if you don't have a sifter.
  • Mix the dry ingredient in with the wet using a whisk. Then stir in the chopped apples. The batter is ready to go. Pour the batter into an 8x8 inch baking pan, or use a 10-inch round or even a springform pan that has been greased with shortening and floured or sprayed with cooking spray. Spread it out evenly with a spatula.
  • In a small bowl mix together softened butter, flour, sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon with a fork until it is crumbly and resembles small chunks of damp sand.
  • Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the cake and bake it in the oven, middle rack position, for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when poked in the center. Once it comes out of the oven allow it to cool for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Serve the cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Note: You can use normal milk if you like. If you do, leave out the baking soda, and double the amount of baking powder. 


You can also make a simple buttermilk substitute, by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice or white distilled vinegar to the half cup of milk. Stir it, then allow it to sit for about 10 minutes. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting


In my culinary calendar, after Italian prune plum season, next up is pumpkin. I love pumpkin as much as the next gal, but (just like Halloween and Christmas), online and brick-and-mortar stores start advertising EVERYTHING pumpkin way too early, so by the time actual fall rolls around, I am sick of it. But that doesn’t deter me from baking at least one pumpkin-y goodie. Because, as you know, I am all about the baked goods!


This recipe is from gimmesomeoven.com & it’s a good one. To begin with, it is chock-full of the de rigueur fall spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice; next, they are soft and chewy (which I love); and finally, they have a luscious cream cheese frosting which, just literally, is the icing on the cake. They keep well in the fridge for about a week, if you have any left over.



Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from gimmesomeoven.com 

Yields about 3 dozen cookies


Cookie Ingredients:

2-1/2 C AP flour

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 TB pumpkin pie spice (see below)

1/2 t salt

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened

1 C granulated sugar

1/2 C brown sugar

1-1/4 C canned pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 t vanilla extract


Frosting Ingredients*:

8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese, room temp

3 TB butter, room temp

1 t vanilla extract

1 C confectioners’ sugar (approximately)

Chopped walnuts (optional)


* The original recipe calls for low-fat cream cheese. Also, I reduced the amount of confectioners’ sugar to 1 cup, as I thought 2 cups was too much.


Pumpkin pie spice (gimmesomeoven.com):

1/4 C ground cinnamon

2 TB ground ginger

4 t ground nutmeg

2 t ground allspice

2 t ground cloves


Whisk all spice ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Transfer to a sealed spice jar, where it will keep for up to 2 years.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt, until combined. Set aside.


In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Add in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat on medium speed until just combined. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.


Drop on cookie sheet by heaping tablespoons, then use your fingers or a spoon to flatten slightly (these cookies tend to poof up slightly rather than flatten during baking, so shape them beforehand however you like. They won’t rise much).


Bake 15-20 minutes, or until baked through and bounce back slightly when you touch them. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool until they reach room temp. Then frost or drizzle with frosting. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts (optional) or a pinch of cinnamon or the pumpkin pie spice. Refrigerate in sealed container.


Frosting:

With electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together on medium-high speed until smooth. Gradually add in confectioners’ sugar until it is well combined and the frosting is smooth. If it is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk (or water) until it reaches your desired consistency. If it is too thin, add a bit more confectioners’ sugar.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

I Just Can't Quit You.


As much as I try, I can’t tear myself away. I meet others, but they’re just, just not the same. They don’t live up to the (probably) impossibly high standard set previously. That’s why I come back again and again…


I’m not talking about a human love interest here. The obsession I’m talking about is the OG Viennese Plum Cake I’ve been making for over 20 years. It was my late mother-in-law’s recipe that she made every September. After she passed away, I became the keeper/baker of this family treasure. A mantle I was happy to carry. No one is sure where the recipe came from; Freda clipped it from a newspaper oh, so many years ago.



Like I said, I’ve tried others, but they’re missing “something.” Don’t get me wrong, almost any baked good that combines Italian prune plums with cinnamon and sugar, in a yeasty or non-yeast-risen form, will be tasty. But none of them have that, shall we say, je ne sais quoi, that this cake has. I love the deep, dark caramelization of the plums. Maybe it’s that the arrival of these plum babies signal the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Or maybe it’s nostalgia for old-world traditions? Who knows? I could be analyzing it way too much. Maybe it’s just a damn good cake. I’m gonna go with that.


All I know is that I keep returning to it. And I am never disappointed. 



Bakers in Austria and Germany have been making plum cakes (plum kuchen) for years after the fall harvest, and with good reason. It combines the delicious sweetness of these dark little fall-season-only plums with a rich buttery cinnamon-sugary cake, which is the perfect accompaniment to afternoon coffee. I typically shower it with some confectioners’ sugar just before serving. But you could serve it after dinner and gild the lily with a dollop of whipped cream and it would certainly not be frowned upon. Maybe offer your guests a small glass of port with the cake? Who could turn that down? Not me.


While you still have time, get your hands on some sweet Italian prune plums and make this cake. The season is short, make the most of it. I think after your first encounter with this love, you won’t be able to quit it either.


Freda’s Viennese Plum Cake


Ingredients:


For pan:

1 t butter, softened

1 t flour

For cake:

1/2 C butter, room temp

1/2 C granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/4 t salt

1 C AP flour

1 t baking powder

16 medium-sized Italian prune plums, washed, halved, and pitted


For topping:

1/2 C sugar

2 t cinnamon

1 T butter, cut in small pieces


Directions:


Preheat oven to 350°F


Butter and flour 8” square pan, and set aside.


Using electric stand or hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.


In small bowl, blend together flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine flour mixture with creamed butter mixture, until well blended.


Spread dough evenly in prepared pan. Place plums, skin side down, on top of dough.


Mix together cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over plums, dot with the butter. Bake 45 minutes or until top is golden.


Let cake cool completely. Serve at room temp. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Fall Plum Pound Cake



It’s that time of year, friends, when the Italian prune plums arrive! They have a very short season so we must make the most of it.







In previous years, I have made one of my very favorite prune plum recipes, but this year I wanted something more like a pound or loaf cake. I found it in this recipe from a New Zealand food site, and it is terrific. 





The original recipe calls for regular black plums, but when prune plums are available, that’s my go-to. It also calls for a sugar icing, but I really don’t think it needs it. I did add a sprinkle of powdered sugar when I served it, just to gussy it up a bit. 


Enjoy!



The coffee's on, come on over!


Plum Pound Cake

Adapted from Claire Aldous, Dish


Ingredients:


10 Italian prune plums

3 TB brown sugar

1/4 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground Chinese 5 spice


Cake:


1 C butter at room temp

1 C granulated sugar

1 t vanilla extract

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1-3/4 C AP flour

1/2 t sea salt

1 t baking powder


Directions:


Grease a 9x5, 8C capacity, loaf pan and fully line with parchment paper. 


Preheat oven to 300°F.


Halve and stone the plums and set aside. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and 5 spice in a bowl and set aside.


Cake:


Beat the butter, granulated sugar and vanilla until pale and light. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a TB of the flour if they start to curdle.


Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder and gently mix into the butter mixture. Don’t over beat or the cake will be tough.


Spread half of the batter in the base of the pan, then scatter half of the plums over the batter. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture over the top. Repeat with the remaining batter, plums, sugar.


Bake for about 1 hr and 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover the top loosely with foil if getting too brown. Cool completely before removing from the tin.


To serve: dust with confectioners’ sugar, or drizzle with a glaze made by combining 1/2 C confectioners’ sugar with enough lemon juice to make a smooth, thick but pourable icing.


Makes 1 loaf.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Chicken Salmoriglio


From Christopher Kimball’s latest book, Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean, this is a delicious weeknight dinner. 


The book is broken up into three categories: fast, faster, fastest - which helps immensely when you are pressed for time and can’t figure out what to cook for dinner (again!). There are so many great recipes in this book that I have dozens of little post-it scraps stuck to the pages of fabulous sounding (and looking) recipes.



This one, in particular, caught my eye because a) I love chicken thighs, and b) the recipe originates in southern Italy, which holds a special place in my heart. You can’t beat the combination of chicken with garlic, lemon, and oregano roasted crisp in the oven! Served on a bed of arugula or watercress, it’s technically a salad, right? 


The recipe serves four and is from the “fast” section of the book (start to finish in 45 minutes). The name, “salmoriglio,” refers to the sauce/marinade, and you are definitely going to want some crusty Italian bread to sop it up with. I think a chilled Italian white would be perfect with this dish - the WSJ wine columnist has some good recommendations here and here.



Chicken Salmoriglio (Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean)


Ingredients:


1 TB grated lemon zest, plus 2 lemons halved crosswise

2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated

1 t dried oregano, crumbled

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

5 TB extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

1 TB honey

1 bunch watercress, trimmed, or 5 oz container baby arugula

1 TB finely chopped fresh oregano


Directions:


Don’t skip the step of cutting slashes into the chicken. The cuts allow the seasonings to get into the meat for better flavor throughout and also help speed the cooking.

  1. Heat oven to 475°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Grate 1 TB zest from the lemons, then halve the lemons and trim off the pointed ends so the halves sit stably with cut sides facing up; set the lemon halves aside. In a small bowl, stir together the zest, garlic, dried oregano, 1-1/2 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper. Measure 1 TB of the lemon-garlic mixture into a large bowl. Stir 4 TB of oil into the remaining mixture and set aside.
  2. To the large bowl, add the remaining 1 TB oil, the honey, 2 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper, then stir to combine. Using a sharp knife, cut parallel slashes about 1” apart all the way to the bone on both sides of each chicken thigh. Add the things to the bowl and turn to coat on all sides, rubbing the seasoning mixture into the slashes.
  3. Arrange the chicken, skin side up, and the lemon halves, cut sides up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the chicken is beginning to brown and the thickest part reaches 165°F to 170°F, about 20 minutes. Leaving the chicken in the oven, turn on the broiler. Continue to cook until the chicken is deep golden brown and the thickest part reaches about 175°F, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  4. Place the watercress on a serving platter, creating a bed for the chicken. Using tongs, place the chicken on top of the watercress. Squeeze 3 TB juice from 1 or 2 of the lemon halves, then stir the juice along with the fresh oregano into the lemon-garlic oil to make the salmoriglio. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve with the remaining lemon halves for squeezing.