Pasta Mornay with (or not) Ham

It all started innocently enough — I was doing some volunteer work at a store run by my church, Saint Peter’s Episcopal Cathedral in Helena, Montana. The church administrator walked by the desk where I was working, stopped dead in his tracks, and said, “You cook.” “Yeeeess.” was my reply. He then told me that he wanted to have a reception after each of two concerts the church was hosting to benefit Ukraine. Thinking he was referring to maybe about 50 guests, I agreed. Then the bomb dropped as he started talking about the 160 or so that the church would hold, plus the musicians, plus the video crew, plus… Realizing I might regret this, I ignored the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, mumbled something about checking with my sous chef, and left it at that. It’s always fun to go home and tell my husband about the latest adventure I’ve roped him into.

We really wanted to help with the reception and my husband can take credit for coming up with the idea of an elegant macaroni and cheese. Years ago, when I had a personal chef business, this dish was one of my clients’ absolute favorites. One client in particular requested this dish almost every time I cooked for her. 

We hitched up the buckboard and went into town to buy supplies. Just kidding — but living in the middle of a large valley outside of Helena, Montana, sometimes it seems that way. We decided to prepare 300 servings of the pasta dish in four enormous disposable aluminum roasting pans. My husband got busy grating 16 pounds of cheese while I began roasting 16 heads of garlic and mincing 32 shallots. We decided to prepare half the pasta on two separate days. It took us all day both days but dare I say it was kind of fun. Each batch of pasta tasted delicious, and we knew it was going to be a bit hit at the reception. 

So how did it go?  Well, we don’t know yet. We had just begun preparing the fourth and final 75 servings when the phone rang. It turned out that the concert was postponed for a month because some of the performers had come down with COVID. We didn’t have any choice but to freeze the pasta. We’ll know in a few days when the receptions actually take place. The adventure continues…

Pasta Mornay with (or not) Ham

6 Servings

Mornay sauce is a white sauce (béchamel) with grated cheese added. In this case it’s the “backbone” of the recipe. Use any smallish pasta you prefer. I like the medium shells because the sauce gets trapped inside, which makes for a nice bite. Ham is optional. We made the dish without it for the reception to appeal to the vegetarians in the group.

1 head of garlic

1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 large shallots, minced

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

salt

white pepper

1 pound medium shells (conchiglie), ditalini, or other small pasta

8 ounces ham, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (optional)

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top off the head of garlic so the cloves are exposed. Place the garlic cut side up on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil around the garlic to make a tight little package. Place the garlic on a small sheet pan, in case it leaks, and bake until garlic cloves are soft and tender, about 55 minutes. Allow the package to cool, then remove the garlic and squeeze the cloves out of their skins, chop into small bits, and place in a small bowl.  

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté 4 minutes, or until soft. Whisk in the milk, cream, thyme, lemon zest, roasted garlic and nutmeg. Simmer over medium heat until the mixture has thickened and reduced to about 2 and 3/4 cups, about 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and gradually add the cheeses, stirring until smooth and creamy. Taste the sauce and season to taste with salt and white pepper.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water, following package directions. You want it to be tender but still firm. I have found that cooking pasta 1 minute less than the lowest time on the package is perfect, but you may prefer it cooked a little more. 

Mix the cheese sauce, pasta, ham, and parsley in a large bowl, and serve. 

Chile Rellenos Casserole

The year 2021 was a trying one for my family, culminating in the loss of my mother in early December due to a variety of health reasons.  I’ve been thinking about writing a post in honor of my mother since then, but how to decide which recipe?  The lima bean stew with ham hocks that we ate almost every week when we were kids?  Nope.  The only way I could stand it was to douse it with ketchup.  Her beef stew with dumplings?  A family favorite, but there are a lot of stew recipes out there. 

My mother absolutely loved Mexican food, something I seem to have inherited from her; however, Mom was not a big fan of spending hours in the kitchen.  So, if there was an easy way to create a dish that would normally involve a whole lot of work, she was on it, and Chile Rellenos casserole was one of her favorites. 

If you asked me what my favorite Mexican dish is I would answer Chile Rellenos in about a half a second.  Fresh Anaheim chiles, stuffed with all the cheese, battered and deep fried until crispy. Yum!  At this stage in my life, however, consuming boats of deep fried anything is probably not the healthiest choice.  This casserole contains the chiles and the cheesy goodness without the deep frying.  Now that’s what I call a win. 

My mother had an unquenchable zest for life that I try very hard to emulate.  Her life can best be summarized by her favorite saying she kept posted in the kitchen: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, Wow, what a ride!!!” She certainly accomplished that goal. This one is for you, Mom… 

Chile Rellenos Casserole

6 Servings

A delicious, filling casserole that captures all the flavors of chile rellenos without the frying.  You have a choice of pans to prepare this in.  I used a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet, but an 8-inch square or 6×10-inch baking pan will also work. 

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon salt, divided

black pepper, to taste

Two 4-ounce cans whole green chiles or 8 oz frozen Hatch green chiles, thawed

6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the beef and onion in a skillet, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper and cook on medium heat until the beef is cooked and begins to brown.  Set aside, or, if using the same skillet for the casserole, place the beef mixture in a bowl. 

Halve the chiles crosswise, spread out flat, and remove the seeds.  Place half of the chile pieces in the baking dish or the skillet you will be using.  Sprinkle with the cheese, then top with the meat mixture.  Arrange the remaining chile pieces over the meat. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then whisk in the milk, flour, remaining salt, hot sauce and pepper.  Pour the mixture over the chiles.  Bake the casserole 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes before serving. 

Cardamom Shortbread with Pistachios

When I think of Yotam Ottolenghi, it’s all about the vegetables. Many years ago I was blown away at his London restaurant, Nopi. Literally, that meal was a game changer for me. I discovered that vegetables, both raw and cooked, could be just as craveable as a plate of nachos!

Now Ottolenghi is one of if not my absolute favorite cookbook authors. One of my favorite ways to relax is to pour a glass of wine and curl up with one of his fantastic cookbooks. Jerusalem is probably my favorite – the colors, the food. However, the other books are a nice browse as well. 

I was recently looking for a quick recipe for cookies that I could take to the coffee fellowship that follows services at our church and came across this delicious cardamom shortbread in Ottolenghi’s namesake cookbook. The recipe was relatively easy, but the included cardamom was just different enough to make them interesting. Well, these cookies were a big hit at coffee that day. One individual even told me it was the best shortbread she had ever tasted, and she’s British. As promised to those that enjoyed the shortbread last week, I am now posting the recipe on Jeannine’s Cuisine.

Cardamom Shortbreads with Pistachios

Yield 2 Dozen Cookies

A couple of notes about ingredients – You could use about a quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom, but do try to find cardamom seed, and grind it yourself for the most flavor. Vanilla sugar is available online. Try to find one that is made with vanilla bean pods, that include the seeds rather than vanilla extract. Another option is to just place a couple of slit open vanilla beans in a plastic container with a cup of sugar and infuse the sugar as long as you like. You could also use turbinado sugar for sprinkling.

8 cardamom pods or 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

4 tablespoons ground rice

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

4 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 cup shelled toasted and salted pistachio nuts

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons vanilla or turbinado sugar

Crush the cardamom seeds either in a mortar and pestle or perhaps with a small hammer or the back of a knife. Remove the bits of cardamom peel and crush the tiny seeds into powder. A small electric coffee grinder is a good tool for this. You can then use the same coffee grinder to crush the rice and clean out the grinder at the same time. 

Place the cardamom, ground rice, butter, flour, salt, and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and use the paddle attachment to blend the mixture only until it forms into a paste. 

Flour your hands and your work surface and roll the paste into a log about 1.25 inches in diameter. Roll the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for one hour.

Using a nut grinder or a food processor, chop the pistachios. You don’t want them too finely chopped. A medium chop with some tiny bits and some that are a little bigger is the goal. Place the nuts into a shallow pan or tray large enough to hold the dough log. If you have to cut the log in half crosswise, that’s okay.

Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush the log with the blended egg. Roll the log in the pistachios, pressing them into place when necessary. Wrap the nut-covered log in plastic and refrigerate for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 300.

Prepare two cookie sheets or half-sheet pans with parchment. Remove the plastic wrap from the log and slice it crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Place the slices on the prepared sheet pans, about an inch apart. Sprinkle the slices with vanilla sugar or turbinado sugar. Bake until golden, but not brown, about 20 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing them. 

Adapted from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Tyrokafteri (Spicy Feta Dip)

It’s no secret that I love Greece and everything about it; especially the food. I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to live in Athens, Greece, for 3 years during my Army career. It was a life-changing experience that still affects me every day. I met my best friend there, who continues to be like a sister to me. I also fell in love with Mediterranean food, especially Greek food. It’s what I cook most often when I entertain. But, more important, of all the many diets and nutrition plans out there, it’s Mediterranean food (I refuse to say “diet”) that I turn to when I want to drop a few pounds or just feel my healthiest. Here’s looking at you, 2 January, after every holiday season.

Meals in Greece usually start with a series of appetizers, or meze. Sometimes the meze are the entire meal. Other times, they’re just a precursor to a huge festive feast, such as Greek Easter. Meze can consist of just a few dishes or as many as 25. They can be as simple as a chunk of feta drizzled with some olive oil and oregano, or more elaborate dishes such as grape leaves stuffed with lamb and bulgur wheat.

Tyrokafteri is a spicy spread made with feta cheese and peppers that is typically spread on bread. It is one of my absolute favorites of the Greek meze. I actually discovered it long after I lived in Greece, when I returned on my honeymoon many years later, but I’ve certainly made up for lost time since then.

Tyrokafteri (Spicy Feta Spread) 

6-8 Servings

This dip is very quick, and it makes a lot. I used two whole cayenne chiles to make this spread. They are skinny red chiles about 3 inches long. You can also use one habanero chile, but make sure you remove the seeds and the membranes (where the heat is) or you’ll end up with more zip in your dip than you would like. Whichever chiles you choose, just make sure they are red or orange so you don’t change the color to an unappetizing gray. 

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper

1-2 red or orange chiles

1 pound feta cheese, crumbled

5 tablespoons Greek yogurt

Bread for serving

Clean the red pepper and the chiles by removing the membranes and seeds and cutting them into strips. You can just slice the chiles without cleaning them if you like a little more heat. 

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and sauté the pepper and the chiles until soft, about 15 minutes.

Place the contents of the skillet in a food processor with the feta and the yogurt and blend until smooth. Refrigerate the spread until serving.

Adapted from Modern Greek by Andy Harris

Black Bean Soup

I’ve been on a Mexican food kick since before Cinco de Mayo. I have always loved Mexican food, and at times it’s been a little difficult to come by.  Several years ago we lived in Herrenburg, Germany, located on the border of the Black Forest.  There actually was a Mexican restaurant in our small town.  It was called Los Zapatos, translated to “the shoes.”  However, when I discovered their idea of salsa was ketchup, and the entrees really did taste like shoes, it was back to my own kitchen for my Mexican food fix.  Now that I live in Montana, I still have not managed to find a Mexican restaurant that I really like. Once again I’m relying on my cookbooks and cooking skills for the Mexican food I love. 

Black bean soup is not strictly Mexican, as it’s popular all over Latin America. I’ve been making it for years, and not just when I lived in Latin America.  It was a frequent request from friends when I lived in Greece. So much so that when my best Greek friend traveled from London to Maryland to attend my wedding I served it at our rehearsal luncheon.

This black bean soup recipe takes some time, but most of it is hands off simmering.  You don’t need to soak the beans first.  Just bring them to a boil then set aside for an hour and get on with your day. I like a really smooth soup, so I use a high-speed blender to puree it.  The result is a delicious creamy soup that makes a great lunch or dinner with a green salad on the side.

Black Bean Soup

6 Servings

A delicious creamy soup for any time of the year.  Don’t forget the garnishes – cilantro, tortilla chips, hot sauce, avocado and lime wedges, especially lime wedges.  Pick one or do as I do and pile it on. Vegetarian?  No problem. Just eliminate the ham hocks.

1 pound black beans

10 cups water

2 ham hocks

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 white onions, chopped

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon beef or pork stock base (I used Better than Boullion)

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 cup dry red wine

Salt and pepper to taste

1 lime, cut into wedges

Garnishes – sour cream, tortilla chips, hot sauce, chopped avocado, and cilantro leaves

Place beans in a large soup pot, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside for 1 hour.

Add the ham hocks, celery, garlic, onions, allspice and stock base.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the beans are completely cooked.  This will take 2-3 hours, depending on how fresh your beans are.

Remove the ham hocks from the soup.  Add the tomato sauce and the wine and stir to combine.  Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender.  Alternatively, you could use a stick blender, but it won’t be as smooth.  Remove as much of the meat from the ham hocks as possible, chop it and add it to the pureed soup.  Reheat the soup and serve with as many garnishes as you like.  

Adapted from my ancient copy of the Sunset Magazine Mexican Cookbook

Rhubarb Pie

One advantage to living in Montana is that we actually have a Spring here, unlike the Spring season in Virginia that lasted about a week before the heat and humidity set in. Granted, it’s a little chilly. The Farmers’ Almanac reported that the last freeze in Helena, Montana would take place on or around 20 May, and they were right. It snowed on 21 May. But the good thing is, with a longer spring season comes a longer season for spring fruits and vegetables. I’m looking at you, rhubarb.

I think it was about March when my sister told me that the rhubarb at my parents’ house was starting to come up. One month later my dad pointed out a huge bush with enormous leaves and told me to take all I wanted. I took him up on his offer, but also took note when he mentioned there was a specific rhubarb pie his mother made when he was young. He received a couple of those pies for Fathers’ Day this year.

In most parts of the country, rhubarb’s spring fling is long past, and everyone is harvesting the summer vegetables in their gardens. However, here in Montana, rhubarb is still very much in evidence at all the stands at the farmers’ market as well as in my dad’s garden. 

This is a pretty straight forward rhubarb pie. Although strawberry rhubarb pie is also a favorite, I like the taste of the rhubarb with no additions. I’ve left the choice of pie crust up to you on this one. My absolute go to pie crust is Martha Stewart’s Pâte Brisée from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. If you don’t have the book, you can find the recipe here. It comes together in the food processor in seconds, and you can make and cool your filling while the dough rests in the refrigerator. Although you do not need to bake the crust ahead of time, I like to brush the bottom crust with a coat of beaten egg and bake it for 5 minutes before filling it to avoid the fruit making the crust soggy.

Rhubarb Pie

One 8-inch Pie

This pie is delicious as just a stand-alone fruit pie, but it is even better with ice cream. Or, if you aren’t in the mood to make the crust, the filling is very good on its own as a sauce over ice cream, or even yogurt for breakfast. 

dough for a double crust for an 8-inch pie

1 egg

2 pounds fresh rhubarb

1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar

Prepare your choice of pie crust and place in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the pie filling. Wash the rhubarb stalks, and cut off the discard the woody ends. Slice the rhubarb stalks lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch chunks. Set aside 2 cups of the sliced rhubarb and place the remainder in a medium size saucepan. 

Add the brown sugar to the pan, cover, and turn on the stove to medium-low. This step will get the rhubarb to begin releasing its juices. Cook covered for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium and cook another 15 minutes, stirring often. The rhubarb is done when it is completely broken down, and a spoon leaves a clean trail across the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining rhubarb chunks to the pan and give it a good stir. Place the rhubarb filling on a plate or sheet pan and set aside to cool. 

While the rhubarb is cooling prepare your pie crust. Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator. Divide the dough in two, roll out the bottom crust and place in an 8-inch pie pan, trimming to fit if necessary. Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush the bottom crust with just enough egg to cover. Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes. Prepare the top crust by rolling it out or preparing a lattice. Add the rhubarb filling to the bottom crust and top with the crust of your choice, crimping the edges together. 

Place the pie pan on a sheet pan. Bake the pie for 1 hour until the filling is bubbly. Take care that the crust does not get too brown. You might need to cover the pie loosely with foil if it is browning too rapidly. Remove the pie pan to a rack and cool completely before serving.  

Pie filling adapted from Good to the Grain, Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce

Just In Time for Cinco de Mayo – Guacamole

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since my last blog post, and what a year it’s been.  A global pandemic, a retirement, a cross-country move, going back to the Department of State Office of Inspector General as a retired annuitant leading inspections of Department programs and hopefully, next year, embassies overseas.  

A lot has changed in the past year. You’ll see that Jeannine’s Cuisine has a new look that reflects some of those changes. We now live in Helena, Montana!  We had previously purchased some land here and planned to build a home.  However, when our builder wanted to charge us more than $800,000 for a pretty basic 2,600-square foot home, we decided to go a different route instead.  We found a one-story rancher with the spectacular mountain views you see in the photo at the top of this post.  We’re still working on making it home, but we’re getting there. I’m down to three boxes. Yeah!

Before I went back to work I enrolled in a food photography course taught my Kimberly Espinel, a former Saveur magazine food photographer of the year and a wonderful instructor. It was a little difficult juggling work and photography homework, but it was so worth it. You can check out Kimberly’s blog here. The photos in this blog post were my final project for the class. I think you’ll agree I learned a lot in the class.

On to the recipe – I’ve always wanted to do a post for Cinco de Mayo. When I was looking for ideas for my final project for my photography class, I decided on guacamole. It’s delicious and healthy, and it’s not just for tortilla chips anymore, although some chips and guacamole with a frosty margarita sounds like a perfect combo to me.  Serve it with tacos or anything else you are preparing for Cinco de Mayo.  Pile it on toast, an omelet, or over fresh greens for a salad.  I just love avocados and anything made with them. After doing the photographs for this post, however, and going through two of the big bags of avocados from Costco, I’m going to take a little break from eating them for a while.  

Guacamole

Yield 1 1/2 Cups

You can make this guacamole as simple or elaborate as you choose.  Some purists just mix avocado with salt and pepper and call it a day.  Don’t like tomatoes?  Skip them.  If you only have lemons instead of lime, use lemon juice instead.  I love the taste of cilantro, but some people really detest it.  You do you!  

2 avocados

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro

Juice from 1/2 lime

Chopped hot chile to taste (I like to use one serrano, but you can also use jalapeno, habanero or skip it altogether)

1/4 white onion, finely chopped

1/2 tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

Remove the seed from the avocados and place the flesh in a bowl.  Smash the avocado with a fork or a potato masher.  Add salt to taste and any remaining ingredients you choose.  Mix to combine and serve immediately.  

You can extend the life of the guacamole by squeezing lime juice over the top and pressing plastic wrap on the surface to keep out the air.  Just stir the lime juice in before serving.  

Adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Tea Cake

 

Tea Bread 1

I truly hope all of you are staying healthy during these challenging times. There are some silver linings in the quarantine clouds.  Many people are baking more and conducting experiments in the kitchen, and I’m right along there with them. At least, so far, my clothes still fit.

Tea Bread 4

One new habit I’ve picked up recently is afternoon tea served with some sort of baked good.  This week it’s this Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip tea cake, a recipe that I’ve been baking for years.  We had some elderly bananas to use up, I thought of this, and I’m so glad I did. The bananas make the cake super moist. If you warm it up, the chocolate chips become a little gooey, and it makes for a yummy snack with a cup of tea.

One important note – the first time I made this, it glued itself to the pan. That’s how I also know this cake makes a great trifle.  After chiseling cake chunks out of the pan, I realized that it was just too good to throw away, so I layered them in a glass bowl with some pastry cream. Now when I make this, I grease the pan, cover it with parchment and grease that as well.

Tea Bread 3

The original recipe also calls for sifting the dry ingredients.  I usually just use a whisk and you can do that too. However, the last time I was in Helena, Montana, I found this really cool old sifter at a place called Golden Girls Antiques Mall. Wow! What a store —­ it’s huge and they have anything old that you can possibly imagine. I’ve got my eye on their huge selection of Fiesta Ware in every color imaginable.  This could be a problem for my pocketbook as well as kitchen storage after we move there.

Tea Bread 2

I especially love that this sifter says Acme. My favorite cartoon as a child (and even now) was Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Acme was frequently seen as the brand of choice for all the tools the coyote used to try to capture the Road Runner. Now I’m reliving my cartoon-watching childhood by using an Acme sifter for baking.

 

Tea Bread 5

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Tea Cake

Yield: 1 9-inch Loaf

I swapped out half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat to give this cake a little more fiber, but that’s totally optional. If you use very ripe bananas, no need to mash them first; just toss them into the mixer bowl while it’s running. This cake freezes really well. Just warm up individual frozen slices in the microwave.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) butter

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 small (1 cup) very ripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan, cover in parchment, and grease again.

Sift the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper or whisk in a bowl. Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl and mix with one teaspoon of the flour mixture.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the sugar in two additions, beating for 2 minutes after each addition.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each one.  Add the vanilla extract and bananas and mix well, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Switch the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture in two batches mixing just until the flour is mixed in.  Be careful not to overmix. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 1 hour or longer, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the hot pan on a rack for 10 minutes then remove the cake from the pan and place on a rack until completely cool.

Adapted from Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson

 

 

 

Cranberry Compote – Not Just for Thanksgiving Any More

Cranberry 1

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I always look at the holiday season as a time for traditions, especially when it comes to food. This year was a little different. We had our usual oyster stew for Christmas Eve. I baked stollen, this time for the entire family, and made cookies. Our Christmas dinner this year, however, was outside the norm.

For some reason, we bought a huge pork rib roast a while back and put it in the freezer, where it languished for months. In the heat and humidity of a Virginia summer the last thing I want to cook is a huge pork roast. But as our move to Montana looms closer, we realize it’s time to start emptying the freezer, and the pork roast was no exception. We decided to cook it for Christmas dinner rather than our usual beef roast or Christmas goose. For Christmas dinner, we served the pork with classic Michigan Cheesy Potatoes (recipe coming soon), red cabbage, and this Cranberry Compote.

Cranberry 2

I love cranberry sauce, and I’ve experimented with many many recipes for it. A few years ago I discovered this one in Clean Eating magazine, and it has become our hands down favorite. With only two ingredients plus some water, it allows the cranberry flavor to really shine, and it’s totally natural.

Cranberry 3

I’ve got recipes tucked away in several different locations, and once we decided on the Christmas menu it was time to collect the recipes and get cooking. The only problem was I could not find the recipe. After searching high and low, I finally located it in a file of Christmas recipes and decided to post it on Jeannine’s Cuisine so we don’t repeat the same activity again next year. I’ve discovered not only is this blog a great way to share recipes with friends and family, but it’s also a way to locate recipes I use frequently without turning the house upside down or going through a stack of cookbooks looking for them.

Cranberry 4

Cranberry Compote

Yield 1 Cup

This sauce is delicious with anything typically served with a fruit sauce – pork, chicken, turkey (of course) or even on a sandwich.  It also makes a festive appetizer when dolloped over cream cheese and served with crackers. The water in this recipe keeps the sauce from burning until the desired consistency is reached.  You may need to cook the sauce longer to get it to the “sauciness” that you prefer or you may need to add more water. The sauce freezes well. Just thaw overnight in the refrigerator before you use it. 

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

2/3 cup real maple syrup

1/2 cup or more water

Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook approximately 30 minutes until the cranberries have burst and the sauce has reached a syrupy consistency. Transfer to a storage container and chill until ready to serve.

Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine, November/December 2016

 

Swedish Rye Bread

Rye Bread 1

I learned to bake bread while living in El Salvador, from my supervisor’s wife, who learned the skill out of necessity when they lived in Nepal. It’s a small world, isn’t it?  She hosted some of the Embassy personnel at her house for bread baking workshops.  We would get all the bread doughs ready in the morning, then hang out at the pool drinking ice cold Presidente beer until it was time to bake.  Somehow the bread got made in spite of the copious amount of beer that was consumed.

Rye Bread 2

I came across this recipe while sorting through my card file of old favorites.  I used to make it all the time in El Salvador, and realized I had not made it in many years. I lived in a high rise apartment building along with a lot of the other military personnel who were assigned to the U.S. Embassy at the time.  Since I got off work before my Army buddies, I became the defacto cook for all of us. They bought the groceries, and I did the cooking.  I thought it was a pretty good deal.

Rye Bread 3

When the commissary started carrying frozen corned beef briskets, we decided it was time for Reuben sandwiches, one of my favorites to this day. Somehow we managed to locate almost all of the necessary ingredients. The only problem was where to find the rye bread for the sandwiches.  Well, I’ve never been the type to shrink from a culinary challenge, and rye bread was no different. This is the rye bread recipe I used.

Rye Bread 4

Swedish Rye Bread

2 Loaves

This Rye Bread is a little on the sweet side, but it goes with everything from corned beef to just butter and jam or smoked salmon, Scandi style. I’ve provided the baking time; however the best way to tell if the bread is done is to use an instant read thermometer.  You want the bread to be between 205 and 210 degrees. Always let freshly baked bread cool completely before slicing into it.

1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1/4 cup warm water, 105-110 degrees

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons shortening

1 1/2 cups hot, but not boiling, water

2 1/2 cups rye flour

3 tablespoons caraway seed

3 1/2 – 4 cups all purpose flour

Soften the yeast by placing it in a small bowl with 1/4  cup water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir and set aside until foamy.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and shortening with the paddle attachment. Add hot water and stir until sugar dissolves. Note: the shortening will not completely dissolve in the liquid. Cool until lukewarm to touch, then add the rye flour and beat well. Add the yeast mixture and the caraway seed and mix well. Switch out the paddle with the dough hook. Start adding all purpose flour about a half a cup at a time and mixing it in before adding more. Add enough of the flour to make a moderately stiff dough. The dough will be sticky but not so stiff that the hook cannot get through it. Continue kneading the bread dough in the mixer until the surface is smooth and satiny.  This should take about 5 minutes or a little less. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, turning it over once to oil the surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it into two portions and shape each into a smooth round loaf. Place both loaves on a half sheet pan, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Bake at 375 degrees 25-30 minutes. Place foil loosely over the tops for the last 10 minutes to avoid over baking. Cool on a wire rack.