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.

 

 

 

 

Minty Sweet and Sour Eggplant

The summer gardening frenzy is in full swing and once again I’m asking:  What am I going to do with all this eggplant/zucchini/chard, etc? I never learn.  I didn’t even learn after what my husband calls, “the summer of the eggplant.” Who knew three plants would produce so much eggplant we would be eating it EVERY DAY!? He revolted and refused to eat anymore eggplant, but fortunately not until just before the growing season was over. Actually, that was even a little too much eggplant for me, and it’s my favorite vegetable.

I think I’ve mentioned my 5-year rotation on recipes before. I just like to try a lot of new dishes, especially if there is a unique ingredient or cooking method involved. Not all of these experiments are successful. Creamed chard with xanthan gum comes to mind. I have never tasted something so gross. I think the recipe stated that the xanthan gum thickens the sauce without dulling the flavor. Trust me, stick with béchamel sauce or a cream reduction.

I do, however, have a few recipes that I make over and over again. One of my goals with this blog is to capture those go-to recipes in one location. Easy to share with friends and family, and I can access them easily. This eggplant is one of those go-to recipes. We eat a lot of Indian food, and this is the vegetable side dish I often turn to. The only negative is that this dish, like many made with eggplant, does not freeze well. So, if you make it, plan to eat all of it in the next few days. The good news is that it’s just as good warmed up the next day as the day you made it.

Minty Sweet and Sour Eggplant

6 Servings

This eggplant goes well with any Indian food. It’s combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavors are a great complement to curries as well as grilled meats. The best eggplant to use are the smaller thinner Asian types. If you must use the large globe eggplant, slice it in half lengthwise and then into half moon slices. The eggplant can be broiled and the casserole prepared several hours ahead of time.

2.5 pounds eggplant

6 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil

Coarse salt

Pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves, plus more fresh leaves for garnish

Position a rack in the top rack of the oven and preheat the broiler on high.

Brush a sheet pan with oil. Slice the eggplant 1/3 inch thick or slice into half moons as described above. Place the eggplant in a single layer in the sheet pan. (Note: you may need more than one pan.) Brush the eggplant on both sides with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the slices over and broil the other side, about 2 minutes. Eggplant should be cooked through in the middle, but not falling apart. Remove the pan of eggplant from the oven and set aside. Turn off the broiler and preheat the oven to 350.

Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan until they release their fragrance, about 1 minute. Place in a small bowl with the remaining ingredients.

Place the eggplant slices in a 9 x 12 baking dish, slightly overlapping as seen in the photos. After one layer is in place dribble about a third of the seasoning mixture over the eggplant. Repeat with two remain layers of eggplant and seasoning.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs by Julia Child

 

 

 

Mashed Potatoes – A Tribute

Mash 1

One of my favorite restaurants in the world is L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris. One of the principal reasons for that opinion is the mashed potatoes, which are heaven on a plate. I’m not sure what makes them so good – perfect seasoning, a silky texture like a cloud, or maybe it’s all that buttery, creamy goodness? Either way, they definitely rank way up there on my list of favorites. I have the recipe for those potatoes, and just can’t go there. A restaurant kitchen has an army of commis chefs to do all that peeling, mashing, and, most important, smashing through a strainer, to obtain just the right texture. Yeah, it would probably take my army of one about a week to achieve the same results.

Mash 2

Fortunately we have a solution. In 2004, Chef Anthony Bourdain wrote a French cookbook, Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking,containing French bistro recipes from the New York restaurant of the same name, where he was executive chef for several years. This saucy little book is Bourdain’s personality in print. But more importantly, the recipe for Pommes Pureé in the Les Hallesbook is the closest I’ve found to Robuchon’s potatoes, without all that work.

Mash 3

I followed Anthony Bourdain for almost his entire career – read his books and watched the television shows. I always liked the fact that he was a renegade in the food world. Then, when I bought the Les Hallesbook and made a few of the recipes, I realized that not only was he a great entertainer, but that he had some serious chef creds as well. Anthony Bourdain’s passing was a huge loss for the culinary world. The world will never know what would have been his next food adventure

Mash 4

Mashed Potatoes

8-10 Servings

Do not fear the fat in this recipe. If you are concerned about it, just eat less.  If you really love mashed potatoes, this recipe may yield only 8, or even 6, servings.  We love them too, but we have found that the richness of the dish makes it stretch a lot further than the 6 servings in the original recipe.

6 Idaho Potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups heavy cream

6 tablespoons butter

freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, while the potatoes are cooking, combine the cream and the butter in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, just enough to heat the cream and melt and combine the butter.  Cream goes from steaming a little bit to boiling over very easily (I know from personal experience), so keep a close watch on it.

When the potatoes are done, drain them and return to the pot. Mash them with a potato masher, or whatever tool you use for mashing potatoes ¾ricer, fork, etc.  Whatever tool you use, do not put the potatoes in a blender or food processor unless you want to make glue. Mashing the potates really well at this stage, results in fewer lumps in the finished dish. It depends on the effect you are after. Sometimes I like them a little more “rustic.”

Begin adding the cream mixture 1/4-1/2 cup at a time, mixing in well and mashing between additions. The potatoes are done when they are creamy and smooth.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking by Anthony Bourdain

 

Skillet Cornbread – The 10-Year Rotation

Cornbread 1

Cornbread is a side dish that’s part of our New Year’s Day dinner table every year. That’s because it goes so well with black-eyed peas, which I have been eating almost every New Year’s Day since I was old enough to hold a spoon. Hoppin’ John, the iconic dish that is supposed to bring you good luck throughout the year if you eat it on New Year’s Day, is a family tradition with my family. I can’t speak to how much good luck it brings – on the few occasions I have not had black-yes on New Year’s Day, I have not noticed that much difference. However, black-eyed peas cooked with a lot of pork are pretty tasty.

Cornbread 2

It’s no secret among my friends and family that I love trying out new recipes. We finally settled on a black-eyed pea recipe several years ago – 1 pound of black-eyed peas, an onion or two, and two pork knuckles cooked together in water until falling apart. This year, however, I decided to mix things up and made something called Hoppin’ Juan from the Local Palate magazine instead. Once in awhile I make a dish that, although it might turn out really good, you’ll never see on this blog. That’s because they take ALL DAY or even longer to prepare. If I don’t have time to do that I know you don’t. The Local Palate is a beautiful magazine that I subscribed to until I realized that almost all of the recipes are the “cheffy” type (and this coming from someone who went to culinary school – life happens) that take too long or that require scores of meticulously prepped ingredients you probably don’t have in your kitchen and will never use again. Well, Hoppin’ Juan was all of that and more. It was composed of Sea Island Red peas (ordered from Anson Mills), cooked with chorizo and Carolina gold rice, and served with a home-made salsa verde. It was delicious. Would I make it again? Probably not, because it was so labor intensive. We’ll be back to our usual next year.

Cornbread 3

I’m still working on finding the perfect cornbread recipe.  My husband jokes about the 10-year rotation we have on recipes. Okay, everyone needs a hobby. One of mine happens to be trying new recipes. This cornbread is pretty close to becoming “the one.” It’s made in a smoking hot cast iron pan greased up with plenty of lard or bacon grease before adding the cornbread batter. The result is a crispy shell with delicious corny cornbread taste. (That sentence would never get past our editors at work, but one of the things I love about blogging is that I can write what I’m thinking, even if it’s not perfectly, grammatically correct.)

Cornbread 4

Skillet Cornbread

6 Servings

I make this this recipe with lard because I always have it on hand. However, you can also use bacon grease, butter, or even shortening. You could also bake it in an 8-inch square pyrex dish if you don’t have a cast iron skillet with good results, but you will not get the crunchy crust on the outside

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 large egg

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons fat of choice (lard, bacon grease, butter, or shortening)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to mix.

Place the egg and buttermilk in a separate small bowl and beat to combine. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. If the mixture looks a little dry add up to 1/4 cup of more buttermilk.

Heat a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet on high heat. Add the lard to the pan and melt. Add the batter to the pan, spread evenly and immediately place the pan in the hot oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Adapted from Saveur Cooks Authentic American by the Editors of Saveur Magazine

 

 

 

Swedish Ginger Cookies

Ginger Cookies 1

Merry Christmas!  It might be a little late in the season for another cookie recipe, but these are so good, you might want to consider making them for a Boxing Day or New Years get together, which is what I did.  Or, there is always next year.

I’ve been on a Scandinavian kick lately.  Maybe it’s our planned summer trip to Denmark and Norway.  Maybe it’s because it is now winter, and I’ve fallen in love with all things hygge, the Danish and Norwegian word for cozy. You know – sheepskin rugs, wooly blankets, steaming hot mugs of coffee served with cardamom sweet buns… Then I wake up and realize it’s just a dream.  Make these cookies and curl up in front of the fire with a cup of tea or coffee, a critter or two and you can live the dream too.

Ginger Cookies 2

The key ingredient in this recipe is the bacon fat.  Make the cookies with butter if you must, but you will be missing out on the vague smokiness that makes this cookie something different.  There is a nice little kick from the ginger and molasses too.  The first time I made these, I realized they were going to have to go into my annual Christmas baking rotation.

Ginger Cookies 3

Swedish Ginger Cookies

3 Dozen

Fry up a pound of good quality bacon, and save the fat for these cookies. Serve with a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea.

3/4 cup bacon fat

1 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup extra for rolling the cookies

4 tablespoons molasses

1 egg

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the bacon fat and the sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a paddle. The fat mixture will stick to the sides of the bowl.  Just use a spatula to push it back down before adding the molasses and egg and mixing it in. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Ginger Cookies 4

Shape the dough into walnut-size balls and roll in the sugar. Place the cookies on baking sheets covered in parchment and use the palm of your hand to flatten them.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden brown and cracked around the edges. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Adapted from Christmas with Martha Stewart Living

 

 

 

 

Savory Oatmeal with Kale and Mushrooms

Savory Oatmeal 2

Breakfast – for some people it’s as easy as opening a box of cereal and pouring on the milk. For me, it’s never been that simple. For all you cereal lovers out there, I’m sorry, but I just can’t stand cold cereal. It was the breakfast of choice for my busy parents to feed us as kids, but somewhere on the way to growing up, I liked it less and less until it reached the point that I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I decided to rebel.

Savory Oatmeal 4

 

My father and I always enjoyed something else for breakfast on the weekends after watching Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, our favorite cartoon. Breakfast might be Pop Tarts, or toast with peanut butter or Cheese Whiz. It was NEVER cereal. So, that fateful morning I told my mother I was not going to eat cereal, that I wanted something else for breakfast instead. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: my mother told me I would sit at that table until I finished my cereal, “or else.” Well, my dislike for cereal was certainly stronger than my desire to go to school. Duh! So hours later, well after school had started, there I sat in front of a bowl of really soggy cereal. I never ate cold cereal again.

Savory Oatmeal 3

These days I’m always on the lookout for decent dishes to make for breakfast that are relatively healthy and don’t take a ton of work. I still dislike cold cereal, but have gradually started to add hot cereal or grain bowls to my breakfast selections. I’ve always been more about savory than sweet, and breakfast is no different. So when I came across a recipe for savory oatmeal, I had to try it.

This oatmeal is delicious. It really tastes more like a rice bowl than oatmeal. I made it even more so by adding some soy sauce and a splash of Siracha sauce. Yes, I’m weird that way.

Savory Oatmeal 1

Savory Oatmeal with Kale and Mushrooms

4 Servings

The only drawback to this dish is that steel cut oats take a little time to cook. I made this the day before I planned to eat it and it warmed up in the microwave just fine. Oats are supposedly easier to digest if they are soaked even for a short time before cooking them, if not overnight. I soaked them for the time it took me to chop and sauté the vegetables. Place the oats in a bowl, cover with water, add a tablespoon of cider vinegar and soak for the length of time you have available, up to over night. Gomasio is a dry Asian condiment made of sesame seeds, seaweed, and salt. You can substitute sesame seeds of you don’t have it.

1 cup steel cut oats

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

pinch of red pepper flakes

1 bunch kale, stems stripped and discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps sliced

1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted

Gomasio or sesame seeds for sprinkling

Place the oats in a large saucepan (preferably non-stick) with 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Add the kale and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté 6–8 minutes, until tender.

Divide the oats between four bowls. Top with the sautéed vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with toasted walnuts and sprinkle with Gomasio.

Adapted from Kitchen Matters by Pamela Salzman

Props used in the photos courtesy of Brian & Herma Leak