Swiss Chard Gratin

Chard 1

Many years ago, well before I even knew I wanted to go to culinary school, I bought a book called Le Cordon Bleu At Home. It’s a huge book with a series of “lessons” that are supposed to take your cooking from simple to spectacular, Cordon Bleu style. I don’t know about that. Some of the recipes in the first couple of lessons are well above what I would define as beginner level, especially for someone who does not already know how to cook. But I’ve always loved Cordon Bleu cookbooks, for consistently reliable recipes and this one is no different. I make it every year and it has been delicious every time.

Chard 2

My husband often jokes about my 5-year recipe rotation. He’s right. I love experimenting with food and trying new recipes. However, once in awhile a recipe becomes a keeper, and I end up making it frequently.

This is one of those recipes. I grow chard every year and usually have an abundance of it. I’m always on the look out for a new recipe to take chard to the next level. In this case, chard leaves and stems are first blanched then mixed with a creamy béchamel sauce, topped with cheese, and baked until golden and bubbly. Yum, yum, yum!

Chard 3

Swiss Chard Gratin

6-8 Servings

I like to use rainbow chard for this recipe, but any chard will do. You could probably use kale if you prefer. I use a large oval 10-by-15 gratin dish for this, but you can also use a regular 9-by-13 dish. The recipe makes a lot, but it freezes well, so don’t worry about the leftovers.

Salt

2 pounds Swiss chard

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

white pepper

3/4 cup crème fraiche, divided

1/4 cup flour

1 3/4 cups milk

pinch ground nutmeg

1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425. Butter the dish you plan to use for the gratin.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the chard leaves from the stalks. Tear the leaves into pieces and set aside. Cut the stalks into 2-inch lengths and add to the boiling water. Return the water to a boil and cook the stalks 8 minutes. Add the chard leaves to the pot cook another 2-3 minutes. Drain the chard and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan over high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and it has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup crème fraiche and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a thick paste. Slowly add the milk a splash at a time, whisking the mixture after each addition. Add salt, pepper, and the nutmeg, and cook the béchamel sauce until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup crème fraiche.

Squeeze as much water out of the chard as possible, roughly chop it and place in a bowl with one half of the béchamel sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Spread half of the chard mixture in the gratin dish. Top with the mushrooms then the remaining chard mixture. Spread the remaining béchamel over the top and sprinkle with the Gruyere cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 10-15 minutes.

Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home by Le Cordon Bleu

 

 

 

Orange-Scented Baklava with Almonds and Hazelnuts

Baklava 1

In about 2 weeks, my husband and I will be departing for Athens, Greece, to explore cruising for the first time. We decided on a week-long cruise that begins in Athens and ends up in Venice, Italy. We’ve also added a few extra days at the beginning and end to extend the trip. It’s a vacation that we have been looking forward to for a long time.

With the Mediterranean on my mind, I’ve been reading a lot of Mediterranean cookbooks lately. The upcoming trip has definitely had an influence on my cooking as well.

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This baklava is a little different than what you typically find in a standard Greek restaurant. It includes the addition of cinnamon, cloves, and orange, which gives it an almost exotic flavor. Additionally, rather than the usual walnuts, it includes almonds and hazelnuts. Do not be put off by working with filo; yes, it can be a little tedious, but the end result is so worth it.

I used Flor di Sicilia in this dessert. It’s an orange and vanilla flavoring available from King Arthur Flour. It’s wonderful in this baklava, and I can’t wait to try it in other dishes. It’s pretty strong, so a little goes a long way.

Baklava 2

Orange-Scented Baklava with Almonds and Hazelnuts

18 Pieces

If you don’t have or can’t get the Flor di Sicilia, you can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of orange flower water. Allow frozen filo to thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator. It will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours to bring it to room temperature.

1 cup whole almonds

1 cup hazelnuts

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 pound filo, room temperature

6 tablespoon butter, melted

3/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon King Arthur Flour Flor di Sicilia

Place the nuts in a bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Take out 3 tablespoons of the nuts and set them aside to be used for garnish. Add the spices and the sugar to the nuts in the processor bowl and pulse to blend. Transfer the nut mixture to a medium size bowl.

Remove the filo from the box and trim it so that all the sheets fit in an 8-inch square baking pan. (I used a standard Pyrex one.) Use one of the filo sheets to check the size of your pan. You don’t want it creeping up the sides of the pan. Cover the stack of filo with plastic wrap and a damp towel. You’ll need to make sure you keep it covered as you are working with it, so avoid having it dry out and break.

Place a sheet of filo in the bottom of the pan and brush it lightly with melted butter. The six tablespoons should be just enough butter to assemble the baklava, without it becoming a greasy, soggy mess. Add another layer of filo and brush with butter. Continue until you have six sheets of filo in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the filo with 1/3 cup of the nut mixture. Top with three more sheets of buttered filo, then another 1/3 cup nut mixture. Continue with the three sheets of filo and 1/3 cup nuts until you have used all the nuts. Ideally you will have seven layers of nut filling. Top the last layer of nuts with 6 more sheets of buttered filo as you did in the beginning. Place the pan of baklava in the freezer for 30 minutes. This will make it easier to cut.

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat it to 350 degrees. Remove the baklava from the freezer. The butter is now cold enough to cut the baklava without smashing it or having it bounce out of the pan. If a piece does come out, just place it back where it belongs. Using a long thin serrated knife (a steak knife or a tomato knife is good for this) cut the baklava into thirds all the way through to the bottom. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and cut it into thirds again. You should have nine squares. Cut each square in half on the diagonal. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes more. Allow the baklava to cool.

When the baklava is almost cool, make the syrup by heating the honey in a saucepan on the stove until it begins to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the Flor de Sicilia or orange water. Pour this mixture over the cooled baklava and sprinkle with the remaining nuts. Allow the baklava to sit uncovered at room temperature for at least 2–3 hours; however, 8 hours is best.

To serve run a knife along the cut marks and gently lift the baklava out of the pan. Allow one to two triangles per serving. You can store the baklava loosely covered at room temperature for 5 days. You can also double-wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it.

Adapted from Desserts – Mediterranean Flavors, California Style by Cindy Mushet

Kirsch Kuchen (Sour Cherry Cake)

Cherry Cake 1

While I was shooting the photos for this post, my production assistant, Cloudy had a few ideas of his own.  I didn’t even realize he made it into this photo until I started processing.

Cherry Cake 3

This is what I would call a tea cake. It’s the perfect snack on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. I’ll be having mine with a cup of tea while I thumb through a couple of new books and procrastinate about doing the laundry. Perfect!

Cherry Cake 2

This is a very popular cake in Germany. It’s made with a variety of different fruits, depending on the season. The first time I had this cake was at a café in downtown Stuttgart in the fall. It was made with the same small dark plums that grew in our backyard in Herrenberg.

Cherry Cake 4

Many German pastries are not very sweet, this one included. If you are looking for something really sweet and rich, you would be better off with Black Forest Cherry Torte, one of my personal favorites. It consists of layers of decadent chocolate cake filled with whipped cream and cherries and topped off with more cherries and chocolate shavings. I love German pastries, so I was thrilled when I received a copy of Luisa Weiss’ “Classic German Baking,” for Christmas. The book contains all of my favorites, including the Black Forest Cherry Torte. A tour through the book is not quite a trip to Germany, but a close substitute.

Served plain, the cake is especially good for breakfast with a cup of coffee. You can also dust it with powdered sugar or top it with a dollop of whipped cream.

Cherry Cake 5

Kirsch Kuchen

8 Servings

I made this with canned sour cherries. However, you can also use fresh pitted sour or sweet cherries. Feel free to experiment with the fruit. Chunks of fresh plum are good as are any of the summer stone fruits. I am providing both metric and U.S. measurements. However, if you have a kitchen scale, I recommend using the metric measurements.

130 grams/9 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon butter, room temperature

180 grams/1 cup minus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

3 eggs

Zest of 1 lemon

180 grams/1 1/2 cups minus 1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

500 grams/2 cups fresh or canned sour cherries,

powdered sugar for dusting or whipped cream for serving

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Pit the cherries if fresh or drain them if canned. Set aside.

Place the butter and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula when necessary. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the lemon zest.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the cherries. The batter will be fairly thick.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes until golden brown and starting to pull from the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then release the sides of the pan and place the cake on a rack to finish cooling. Dust with powdered sugar when completely cool or serve with whipped cream.

Adapted from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss

 

Linzer Star Cookies

cookies-1

 

Happy Holidays!

montana

We arrived in Montana yesterday to find plenty of snow and some pretty frigid temperatures. Well, frigid to me at least. 26 degrees probably felt like a heat wave to the poor folks who were dealing with 30 below temperatures the previous week. Ouch! We don’t get much chance to see a white Christmas in the Washington, DC area, so I’m hoping the snow sticks around, at least through Sunday.

It’s five days until Christmas. That’s five more days to bake, bake, bake. So let’s get busy, and make some cookies.

cookies-2

I first tasted Linzer Tart when I was in culinary school. I loved the nutty, buttery crust with the contrasting sweet and sour raspberry jam inside. During a two-year stint living in Germany a few years ago I tried every Linzer Tart I could find in Germany, and in neighboring countries as well.

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Fast-forward to a few years later, and I discovered Linzer Cookies in a Food and Wine Christmas cookbook. Where have these cookies been all my life? They have all the great taste of the tart, but in one tidy, cookie-size package.

Have fun baking or doing what ever brings you and your family joy during this Holiday season. Merry Christmas from Jeannine’s Cuisine.

Adapted from Food and Wine magazine

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Linzer Star Cookies

3 Dozen

Feel free to adjust the type of nuts and the flavor of jam you use for these cookies. They won’t be a traditional Linzer, but give them your own spin. I’m thinking you could do a mixture of macadamia nuts and pineapple jam for a tropical spin on the cookie. Or how about almonds with an orange marmalade or cherry jam?

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3 large egg yolks

Zest from 1 lemon

1 1/4 cups hazelnuts

1 1/2 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

1/4 teaspoon anise seeds, ground

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

Powdered sugar for dusting cookiesCream the butter with the sugar for about 5 minutes in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle. With the mixer running add the egg yolks one-at-a time and then add the lemon zest. In a food processor, combine the hazelnuts with the bread flour and process until finely ground. Add the cinnamon and cloves to the food processor and pulse until mixed. Add the nut mixture to the ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix on low until fully combined. Separate this dough into two discs. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two sheet pans or cookie sheets by covering them with parchment or silicone mats. Working in batches, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a 2-inch round cookie cutter. Use another smaller star-shaped cutter to cut stars out of the center of half of the 2-inch rounds. Place the round cookies on one pan and the cut out cookies on another. Chill any dough scraps and reroll and cut as before. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, rotating the pans at the halfway point. Let the cookies cool in the pans.

cookies-4

In a small bowl, mix the raspberry jam with the anise and coriander. Use a small strainer to dust the tops of the cut out cookies with powdered sugar. Use a small spatula to spread a thick layer of jam on the cookie rounds and top with a cut out cookie.

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Puerto Rican Cilantro Sauce

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Cilantro, or fresh coriander, is a plant that is popular in Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines.  Various parts of the plant have different uses and tastes.  The seeds, when dried, are used for pickling or ground and used for flavoring dishes.  The leaves and stems are usually chopped fine and used as a fresh note to add final flavor to a dish.  People who like cilantro love the fresh lemony, lime taste it adds to foods.  But there is another group of people who can’t stand it, saying it tastes soapy or rotten.  I saw this first hand when I lived in Colombia, and believe me, the people who don’t like cilantro really, really don’t like it.  That’s rough for someone who has just been assigned to Bogota, where they put it on just about everything.  But, if like me, you like cilantro, you will love this sauce that I adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking.

sauce-2 

I discovered cookbook author Steven Raichlen long before he became the barbecue and grilling guru he is today.  In his former life he wrote cookbooks about “healthy low fat” (remember those days?) cooking with a lot of spice and flavor. I’m not a fan of low fat cooking; however, his recipes are so flavorful, I still have a couple of his older books and still use them.  He has also traveled the world extensively and the knowledge he has gained is put to good use in his cookbooks.

This sauce is one of those recipes that can be used in many different ways.  The first night I made it, I spooned it over some pan-fried salmon.  It’s great with tortilla chips, especially for dinner when you are too tired to cook, as I discovered one evening.  Later that week I added a splash more olive oil and vinegar to create a salad dressing.  I used what was left to marinate some chicken thighs that I cooked on the grill.  That’s just what I did with it.  I’m sure there are more possibilities.

sauce-3

Puerto Rican Cilantro Sauce

This sauce will keep up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, so you have plenty of opportunity to experiment with it. I made this in the food processor, but it can be made in a blender.  Place all the ingredients into the blender container at once and blend to desired consistency.  Because the sauce is pureed, you don’t have to meticulously pick off each cilantro leaf.  Just chop the stems off at the base of the leaves and discard them.

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

3/4 red bell pepper, cut into 1” chunks

1/2 green pepper, cut into 1” chunks

2 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch cilantro, stemmed

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine the onion, peppers scallions, garlic, cilantro and oregano in a food processor and chop.

2. Add the oil, vinegar, and water and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. Transfer to glass jar for storage.

Adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking

 

Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

soup-1

It’s that time of the year again – the last few weeks of summer.  Today it’s not so bad; however, yesterday it was in the 90s outside with humidity to match. My husband was watching Michigan playing football on television.  Wait a minute, isn’t football watching weather supposed to be somewhat cool?  Something like it was a few weeks ago when we were in the Scottish highlands? 

highlands 

Well, even though the weather is not cooperating with my current frame of mind, summer’s end is absolutely the best time for tomatoes.  However, since I got sick with a nasty bug while in Scotland, soup seemed more appropriate for my situation than another salad.

soup-2

One of the things I love to do when I travel is go to a local bookstore and see what sort of cookbooks written by local chefs are available.  Note:  Scotland was no different.  Recipes for baked goods with lots of oats will be seen on Jeannine’s Cuisine in the future.

soup-3 

When my husband and I went to Traverse City, Michigan, at the beginning of the summer I went on my usual cookbook scavenger hunt and found a winner.  It’s a beautiful little book called “Fork in the Road,” written by Okemos, Michigan chef, Eric Villegas.  The recipes make great use of the local produce, none are too time consuming and “restauranty,” but they all have a little twist to make them interesting.

tomatoes

This tomato soup is great made with seasonal summer tomatoes.  And don’t limit yourself to just the standard supermarket variety.  I imagine you could make this with any variety of heirloom tomato as well.  Just be careful when mixing colors so as not to end up with something weird.  It will still taste great, but the final color could be a little distasteful looking.  Sadly, I do not recommend this soup with anything but the ripest, freshest tomatoes, so you are pretty much limited to making it in the summertime.  Think of it this way – those tomatoes are what makes all this heat we’ve been withstanding worthwhile.

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Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

4-6 Servings

Unlike traditional tomato soup, the color of this one turns out as a pastel version of whatever tomato you are using. Don’t begin to think that lack of a vibrant color means lack of tomato taste.  It’s smoky and delicious.

5 pounds of ripe Summer tomatoes, type your choice

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste

2 cups heavy cream

Preheat your grill.

Place the tomatoes on the grill core side up and grill until they turn black, turning once.  Use tongs to remove the tomatoes from the grill, placing them and any charred bits you can peel off the grill in a large saucepan.

Use a spoon to break up the tomatoes as much as possible.  Season with a little salt, pepper, and hot sauce.  Continue to taste and season while preparing the soup.

Bring the tomatoes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are reduced to a thick puree, about 20 minutes, but adjust cooking time as needed. 

Puree the soup in batches in a blender.  Note: a Vitamix is great for this, but any blender will do.  Be very careful when blending hot liquids so as not to splatter the kitchen and yourself with molten tomatoes.  Fill the blender container no more than two thirds full at a time and take out the removable center of the lid and cover with a towel with your hand firmly on top.  The towel will keep the liquid in the blender, but allow the steam to escape. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the soup, but the texture won’t be as smooth.

Return the soup to the pan, add the cream and cook until warm, about 5 minutes.  Check seasoning one more time and serve.

Adapted from Fork in the Road, by Eric Villegas

Kitchen Basics – Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Vinaigrette 1

It’s almost the end of January. How is everyone doing on those resolutions? I actually decided to do something different this year and just not make any. Bring on the cookies! Actually, I decided that rather than set specific goals, I would just try to live each day in as healthy a manner as possible. I know… all those diet gurus with their intentions and affirmations would totally disagree, and I’m sure writing down goals works for some, just not for me. And, you know, my definition of “healthy” differs from day-to-day depending on what is going on in my life. Lately it’s been a lot of intense, all-day snow shoveling resulting in ravenous hunger. In that case I think it’s okay for a treat or two. Other days, rather than tackling that plank workout, some restorative yoga may be a better choice.

One thing we don’t neglect, however, is our commitment to what we consider a healthy diet. For us that means pretty much no processed food, as much as possible prepared from scratch, and a LOT of vegetables. I’m here to tell you that’s not easy sometimes, especially after a long day at work. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and there are days that I just can’t face it. I cook extra so there is always something in the freezer, but sometimes even that is not enough. That’s when we say “oh well,” and pull out the Chinese take out menu or order wings or pizza. The tomatoes in the pizza sauce count as a vegetable, right?

Vinaigrette 2

Actually, I’m okay with ordering out on occasion, especially if I’ve had my usual huge salad for lunch. One thing that is super easy to make and keep on hand and takes your salad to a whole new level is homemade salad dressing. I use bottled dressing too, but much prefer to make my own, when I remember to do so. I usually have a vinaigrette of some type in the fridge as well as a creamy mayonnaise and buttermilk based one.

I’ve decided to start doing a section on Jeannine’s Cuisine called Kitchen Basics. These will be recipes that everyone should have in their hip pocket. These are foods that are the building blocks of how I cook. Vinaigrette seemed like the ideal choice for the first one.

The proper ratio for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid. For one cup that means 3/4 cup of oil to 1/4 cup of vinegar, lemon juice, etc. I have seen countless salad dressing recipes that call for half oil and half acid. In some cases, when someone is trying to produce a low fat salad dressing, the ratio is even switched – pucker up! Just don’t go there. I almost always add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for flavor and to help with emulsifying, and then I add herbs and other extra flavors. For this recipe I decided to go with strictly dried herbs. That might have something to do with the fact that my fresh herb garden is currently buried under about 3 feet of snow, but I also wanted to see how it would taste. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think you will be too.

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Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

1 to 1 1/2 Cups Dressing

The amount of dressing will depend on if you use dried or fresh herbs, or even a combination. I generally allow one teaspoon of dried herbs for a tablespoon of freshly chopped herbs. The red pepper flakes add a bit of a bite and some nice color to this dressing. Feel free to decrease the amount or leave them out.

3/4 cup olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon (approx. 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 4 teaspoons dried

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a 1 1/2-2 cup mason jar and screw on the lid tightly. Shake the jar vigorously to blend the ingredients. If using dried herbs allow the dressing to sit for 15 minutes and shake again.

Note: You will have to shake the dressing to blend it each time you want to use it. Alternatively you can place the acids and the mustard in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil a bit at a time before adding the remaining ingredients. This will better emulsify the dressing and prevent it from separating as quickly; however, it does take more time.

Adapted from The Homemade Pantry:  101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila

 

Indian Shortbread Cookies

Saffron Cookies 1

Merry Christmas friends, family, and blog followers. It’s been a busy season. We have a new addition to our menagerie, a Jack Russell we named Ginger, so we’ve been pretty busy getting her adjusted to life with us.

Ginger

I cannot believe Christmas has come and gone. It seems like I just put the decorations up, and now it’s almost time to put them away again. I love this time of year; it just seems so magical to me — the lights, the carols, the cookies, the cookies… Speaking of which, let’s bake some. It’s never too late for more Christmas cookies. The season isn’t over yet, and January, with its resolutions and diets and good intentions, will be here soon enough.

Saffron Cookies 4

About a week ago I prepared a pretty substantial Indian meal — pakhoras, samosas, curry, basmati rice, eggplant, and the chutneys and pickles to go with it. I was cooking for guests and I wanted to prepare a dessert, but what would go with Indian food?

Saffron Cookies 2

I subscribe to “The Local Palate” magazine, a cooking periodical that covers the food scene in the South. Through the magazine’s website I discovered a chef named Maneet Chauhan, executive chef of Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, Tennessee, and a judge on Food Network’s “Chopped.” Hmm, I just might have to make a trip to Nashville someday.

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The magazine posted a link to a recipe for Indian Shortbread Cookies. They sounded amazing and different and they were. I served these with ice cream flavored with ginger and cardamom and it was a wonderful dessert that complemented the Indian meal beautifully.

Don’t think you have to serve these cookies with an Indian meal. They can easily stand alone or make a great addition to a platter or basket of a variety of cookies. They are also great with a cup of tea or Chai on a rainy afternoon. For some reason they disappear quite quickly — at least they did in our house — so you might want to make a double batch.

Saffron Cookies recipe

Indian Shortbread Cookies

Approximately 24

You can use clarified butter or even regular butter for this recipe but the results will not be the same. What really makes these cookies is the nutty ghee flavor. The dough for these cookies is very crumbly, but it will come together into small balls with a little work. It’s best to use your hands for this rather than a spoon or other tool. I rolled the dough into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball, about an inch and a half in diameter.

1 teaspoon milk

1/4 teaspoon saffron strands

1 cup semolina flour

1 cup all purpose flour

4 1/2 ounces (9 tablespoons) ghee or clarified butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom

1/4 teaspoon powdered nutmeg (grated fresh if possible)

1 teaspoon yogurt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Warm the milk, add the saffron to it to dissolve and set aside.

Place the semolina and AP flour in a bowl and whisk to sift. Cream the ghee and sugar using a mixer. You will know when it’s ready when it loses its graininess and becomes the consistency of smooth peanut butter. Add the cardamom and nutmeg to the mixer bowl and mix in, then add the yogurt and baking soda and mix again. Add the flour mixture to the ghee mixture a little at a time.

Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and knead by hand to combine. Roll the dough into balls and place them on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Adapted from The Local Palate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arugula Salad with Persimmon and Stilton

Persimmon Salad 1

Can you believe Thanksgiving is here already? I shudder to think of how little time remains before Christmas. I tend to get so overwhelmed with stuff to do I end up not doing anything. Or, I jump from task to task and never finish anything. Not a great way to get things done. So, I’m trying the “three big rocks” method of time management…pick three things and don’t do anything else until you get those three things done. It sounds great on paper, doesn’t it?

Persimmons top down 1

The problem is, although I can stay laser focused at work, at home I am easily distracted. And there are a lot of distractions – the dog, the cats, a stack of cooking magazines to go through, cook books to rearrange, a birthday present for my husband to buy…

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This is the time of year that I really want to take the time to enjoy. I want to sit in front of that fire and read a book, or get outside and enjoy the fall crispness in the air. Experiment with some ingredients I don’t always cook with.

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Persimmons are one of those beautiful fall fruits that I’m always telling myself I should play around with, but never seem to get around to. I’m not a fan of eating them by themselves, but when I saw this recipe I had to try it. I had a bag of Meyer lemons in the fridge and loved the idea of a side salad that was more than our usual Romaine lettuce and vinaigrette.

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For those of you still looking to add one more side dish to the Thanksgiving table, this salad is it. Healthy, but definitely not boring – slightly bitter greens are paired with sweet persimmons, zinged with some Meyer lemon, and finally given a note of decadence with some creamy Stilton cheese. The variety of flavors in this salad will go with any fall meal. And it’s incredibly easy and fast to make. That’s a win win for the busy holiday season.

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Arugula Salad with Persimmons and Stilton

Serves 4

If you can’t find Meyer lemons, regular lemons will work just fine. Meyer lemons are sweeter, so if you use regular lemons add an additional half a tablespoon or so of honey to the dressing. This salad is best served right after making it. But if you want to prepare it ahead, make the dressing separately and dress the salad right before serving.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 Meyer lemon finely diced with peel

2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice (from 1 Meyer lemon)

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced radicchio (1 large head or 2 small)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 quarts baby arugula

2 ripe Fuyu persimmons, top removed, halved and sliced into half-rounds

1/2 cup crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese (2 ounces)

Whisk the olive oil, diced lemon, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl you intend to serve the salad in.

Add the radicchio, arugula, and persimmons and toss with the dressing.

Divide the salad among four plates and top with the Stilton.

Adapted from Sunset Magazine, November 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer’s Final Days – Caponata

Caponata Bowl 1

I hope everyone has enjoyed this summer. We have been particularly busy this year but have still had time to enjoy all the wonderful produce that is at the markets this time of year. It will be gone before we know it.

Caponata Veg 1

We’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling, culminating in a 2-week trip to Washington and Montana. This is the one time of the year that I put work and the frantic pace of daily life in Virginia behind me. NO TRAFFIC – Ahhh! There is a reason they call Montana “Big Sky.”

Montana

My first experience with caponata was years ago, when a colleague who was living in Rome at the time asked if I would send some coffee to him from Bogota, Colombia, where I was living. I agreed if he would send me a box of Italian pantry items in return. He did not disappoint; what a haul! Years later, I’ve never forgotten it. One of the items in the box was a can of caponata. Even the Italian canned version was delicious and I resolved to make a fresh version at home.

Caponata toast 1

I’ve tried many versions of caponata over the years, but this one surpassed all the others. Maybe it’s the capers. My husband is always giving me a hard time about my extreme love of capers. Honestly, I could eat them on almost anything – well, maybe not ice cream…hmmm.

Caponata Bowl 2

Caponata is a sweet and sour cooked vegetable dish that originated in Sicily as a side for fish dishes. It was originally made with eggplant and celery, but today there are numerous versions that can contain everything from pine nuts to octopus.

Caponata Veg 2

Caponata is a wonderful way to use up some of that extra summer produce from the garden or the farmers market. It can be used in a variety of ways – as a side with virtually any meat, or as part of an antipasto platter. I’ve even seen it whirred in a blender with olive oil and vinegar and made into salad dressing. However, my favorite way to enjoy it is for lunch as a topping on crusty bread with a nice schmear of fresh ricotta or goat cheese.

Caponata toast 2

Eggplant Caponata

6 Cups

Caponata can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to substitute zucchini for the summer squash or even use one of each. Serve as a side dish, as a dip for pita crisps or crackers or on bread with ricotta or goat cheese.

1 eggplant, about 14 ounces, trimmed and sliced crosswise, 1/2 inch thick

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons salt, divided

2 yellow summer squash

5 white mushrooms, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons red wine

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 large tomato, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 ounces tomato sauce

1 roasted red pepper, chopped, or 1 4-ounce can chopped pimento

1 tablespoon drained capers

6 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the eggplant slices on an oiled sheet pan and brush with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly then chop and set aside.

Slice the summer squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Chop into 1/2-inch dice and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large wide saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat until the surface is shimmering and you can smell the oil, 1-2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, onions and chopped squash to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute.

Stir in the red wine and vinegar. Add the tomato, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the tomato softens, 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the tomato sauce, roasted red pepper, capers, olives, basil, parsley, and the chopped eggplant. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Adapted from Pacific Northwest the Beautiful by Kathy Casey