30 December 2011

Beef Stew - An Old-Fashioned Comfort Classic


Beef stew, the old-fashioned kind, is the perfect wintertime comfort food meal. Well-browned organic grass-fed beef gives it a depth of flavor that requires nothing more than the simplest ingredients to make a soul-satisfying stew.

Rod at Rocky Mountain Organic Meats kindly sent* me a chuck roast that I decided to make into a stew. I had thought I might make Boeuf Bourguignon, and I always cut up the meat for that myself. If I had known I was going to be more in the mood for an old-fashioned stew, I might have used their precut stew meat instead. The beef was, as my husband said, so much better than conventional (supermarket) beef, very tender and flavorful. 

*And, in case you are new to Delightful Repast, I always mention when a product was given to me and I always give my true and honest opinion of any products I mention in my blog. I turn down far more product offers than I accept, usually because the product is not something I would ever use or recommend. 

The beef and lamb from Rocky Mountain Organic Meats are 100% grass-fed, grass-finished and certified organic. No hormones. No antibiotics. No grain. No GMO feed. No irradiation. No feedlots where deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria thrive. Rod is dedicated to environmentally friendly agriculture practices, healthy land stewardship and--most important to me--the ethical treatment of animals. The animals are allowed to roam free and are treated humanely.

Notice the photo is of a plate of stew. All my life I had a bowl of stew. But my husband, being neither English nor Southern, is not an "it's all about the gravy" kind of guy and prefers to have stew on a plate. Where do you stand on this important issue: bowl or plate?! 

Beef Stew

(Serves 8 to 10)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 to 3 1/2 pounds lean beef chuck, cut into 1.5-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large onion, chopped (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef or chicken broth
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups drinkable dry red wine or water
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 medium carrots (1 pound), peeled, cut into 1-inch slices
4 stalks celery (8 ounces), sliced diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 1/2 to 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 In 5.5-quart Dutch oven (I use a Le Creuset 5.5-quart enameled cast-iron French oven), heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. You will brown the beef in 4 batches.

2 Dry the beef cubes a batch at a time with paper towels, add to hot oil and brown very well in single layer, sprinkling with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Transfer browned beef to large bowl. Repeat three times.

3 Adding another teaspoon of olive oil if needed, sauté chopped onion until soft. Add to browned beef in bowl.

4 Over medium heat, heat butter and whisk in flour, cooking about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Whisk in broth. Simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir in tomato paste. Add browned beef and onions to Dutch oven.

5 Add wine, water, ketchup (I know, I know, but I promise it adds a certain something and doesn't taste at all ketchupy), marjoram, crushed red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper to Dutch oven. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes.

Note: And, since you have a few minutes before you need to prepare the carrots and celery, you can read my stew-related story, Life Lesson in a Flame-Colored Pot.

6 Add carrots and celery. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

7 Add the potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. During last 10 minutes, thicken with a mixture of 1 tablespoon flour and 1/4 cup water; taste and adjust seasoning.

23 December 2011

Eggnog Ice Cream


Eggnog ice cream was coming. It was just a matter of time. Since I finally got an ice cream maker last spring, I've been making ice cream year-round, but trying to be "seasonal" about it. And winter is eggnog season, so there you go.

Be warned, this ice cream is delectable and has the most perfect texture of any ice cream I've ever had, homemade or store-bought (UK: shop bought); it could be addictive! A guest I served it to called it "the best ice cream I've ever had in my life" and wanted to pay me to make a gallon of it for him!

This is the first ice cream recipe I've developed with a custard base, and I'm going to be developing other flavors in the coming months. It will be fun to conduct taste tests comparing cooked and uncooked versions of the same flavor. So stay tuned!

Eggnog Ice Cream

(Makes about 5 cups)

3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot milk (I use Organic Valley 2%)
3/4 cup cold milk
2 tablespoons brandy or rum, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 In bottom pan of double boiler, heat an inch of water to a gentle simmer. In top pan of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.

2 Gradually whisk in hot milk and cook over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers between 160 and 170 degrees* (but do not boil). Just pull a tall stool up to the stove like I do 'cause it's gonna take a while, perhaps 10 minutes.

*Here's where my new Super-Fast Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer really comes in handy. My old non-digital thermometer was so hard to read, I had to stick my head in the pan to see it; and it was so slow, if I wasn't really careful the custard would curdle (scrambled eggs!) while I was trying to get a reading!

3 Stir in cold milk. Strain custard into a medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure to make pouring into the machine easier); whisk in brandy or rum, vanilla, nutmeg and cream. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

4 Assemble the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbert Maker; turn it on. While it is running, pour the chilled mixture through the spout. Let mix until thickened, about 20 minutes. Or follow the directions for whichever brand ice cream maker you have. If you have a KitchenAid, you can use their KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment.

5 Transfer the soft ice cream to a freezer-safe airtight container, and place in freezer for at least 4 hours. Even after days in the freezer, this ice cream was very scoopable and did not need to be left out for 15 minutes before serving.

16 December 2011

Eggnog and Equipment Review - Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen


Eggnog gets a bad rap. If you think you don't like it, keep reading. You've probably only ever had the store-bought kind, and it can never be the best and is usually much worse! And if you like the store-bought, you're going to love homemade.

Often associated with the winter holidays, eggnog was just a winter drink in our family. We usually had it whenever my English grandmother came for a winter visit. My mother always made two batches--one with, and one without, alcohol. Eggnog is the classic winter drink that makes any winter day feel like a party! 

Lots of people have no qualms about raw eggs, but I do. So I make my eggnog with a cooked custard base. Though I avoid buying eggs from battery-cage operations and always buy the best organic, free-range (pastured and local, if possible) eggs available, I'm just not willing to take a chance with salmonella. Besides, I think the cooked custard makes for an all-around better eggnog. And I always check the temperature.

Thermapen colors | Photo courtesy of ThermoWorks

Thermapen has been on my wish list for years. I've been making do with a vastly inferior thermometer; but since becoming "a woman of a certain age," it's just too hard to read, besides being far too slow. So when the Utah (US)-based company behind the English-made Thermapen sent me a shiny red Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer for review, I was thrilled. The large, easy-to-read digital readout (Fahrenheit or Celsius) is just one of many advantages of the Thermapen. I don't have to stick my head in the pan to read it! I like the fact that it has auto on/off--no buttons. With a 1,500-hour battery life, I may never need to replace the battery.

(12/19/15 Update: That model has now been replaced by the Thermapen Mk4, the same great thermometer with a few added benefits!)

And the Thermapen is faster and more accurate than any other cooking thermometer. With speedy 3-second readings, my custard won't curdle while I'm trying to get a reading! I like the fact that it's water-resistent because I can get a little splashy in the kitchen! But I use it for a lot of things besides custard. It's the best way to tell if meat is done to your liking, if bread is thoroughly baked, if oil is hot enough for deep frying. Grilling and barbecue enthusiasts swear by it. Besides, using it just makes you feel like a better cook! 

ThermoWorks makes another product (at a lower price point) that also gets rave reviews from cooks: ChefAlarm by ThermoWorks. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm intrigued by the combination thermometer/timer. 

I hope you'll give my recipe a try and let me know how you liked it!  

Eggnog

(Makes about 2 quarts, sixteen 1/2-cup servings)

6 large egg yolks (Make a batch of meringues with the whites!)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot milk (I use Organic Valley milk and cream)
2 cups cold milk
3 tablespoons to 1/2 cup or more brandy or rum, optional
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg plus more for garnish
1 cup whipping cream

1 At least nine, or up to 24, hours before serving time: In bottom pan of double boiler, heat an inch of water to a gentle simmer. In top pan of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.

2 Gradually whisk in hot milk and cook over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers between 160 and 170 degrees (but do not boil). Just pull a tall stool up to the stove like I do 'cause it's gonna take a while, perhaps 10 minutes.

3 Stir in cold milk. Strain custard into a two-quart bowl; stir in brandy* or rum, vanilla and nutmeg. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours.

*Actually, you could leave out the alcohol and let each person add his own favorite tipple or have it alcohol-free. I just use 3 tablespoons of brandy as a flavoring.

4 To serve: Whip cream until soft peaks form. With wire whisk, gently fold whipped cream into custard. Pour eggnog into chilled 2- or 2 1/2-quart punch bowl or pitcher; sprinkle with nutmeg.

14 December 2011

How to Make a Proper Scone




Scones - for Afternoon Tea or Elevenses or Your Morning Cuppa

As The Resident Tea Snob over at that wonderful Britophile blog Smitten by Britain, I've taken it upon myself to point out the necessity of every self-respecting Britophile knowing How to Make a Proper Scone as well as a proper cup of tea! Of course, you'll find my Classic Scones recipe right here at Delightful Repast, but I've shared a different version of it in the guest post. I think you'll like it!

09 December 2011

10 Favorite Kitchen Gadgets


Kitchen equipment and gadgets make me happy. I have some gadgets I never use, and I knew when I bought them I would never use them! But they don't take up much space, so ... But, like most of us, I don't have room in the kitchen for big items I don't use. Deciding what I really need and want to keep and what is simply taking up space and might be actually needed by someone else is a good thing to do once a year.

A massive garage purging, some of it excess kitchen stuff, inspired this list of 10 Favorite Pieces of Kitchen Equipment. First on the list, of course, is my tea "equipage"--all things tea, from kettles to sugar tongs. After that, the items are in no particular order.

And since the photo above is of whisks, and whisks aren't even on the list, I should tell you about them. Left to right: OXO Good Grips Nylon Balloon Whisk, a stainless steel balloon whisk, 15-inch Danish dough whisk from King Arthur Flour and an English cake whisk I got in England long ago. These are all frequently used items. 

10 Favorite Pieces of Kitchen Equipment

Tea Equipage: Love my 1.8-quart white Chantal Enamel-On-Steel Classic Teakettle with two-tone Hohner harmonica whistle! For large parties (or even office use) there's my Zojirushi CV-DYC40 Super VE 4-Liter Vacuum Electric Dispensing Pot. Read my equipment review for more details.

Knives: I don't think most of us really need as many knives as a lot of us have. A good chef's knife, paring knife and bread/serrated slicer take care of most tasks quite nicely. My current favorite is the Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife. Read my equipment review for more details. 

Salad Spinner: I can't believe the number of people who still don't have a salad spinner. I've had the same one for decades and can't imagine life without it. I don't even know what brand it is, but when it breaks I'm getting this one: OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner.

Manual Can Opener: OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener. This is THE best can opener, manual or electric, I've ever had. Works so smoothly, there's just no need to have an electric one taking up valuable counter space.

Roasting Pan: I made-do for years with a series of flimsy, handle-less, barely big enough roasting pans until I got fed-up one day and decided to invest in a "real" roasting pan that would not irritate me every time I used it and would last my entire life and beyond. I got the 16x13x4-inch Calphalon stainless roaster with nonstick roasting rack and never looked back!  

Half-Sheet Pan: I use these, Sheet Pan Half Size - 12-7/8'' x 17-3/4'' Heavy Duty, 13 Gauge, for everything from cookies and hand pies to sheet cakes that will feed a crowd. They can also be pressed into service whenever you need an extra tray.

Dutch Oven: A Dutch oven (or French oven, as my favorite brand calls it) is a must. I have three, all enameled cast-iron: a 5-quart round Dutch oven, a 5.5-quart Le Creuset round French oven and a 6.75-quart oval French oven.  

Scoop/Disher: You need a few different sizes for cookies and meatballs, as well as ice cream. This is my favorite for cookies and meatballs: 7/8 Ounce Size 40 Stainless Steel Round Squeeze Disher (13-0638) Category: Dishers. (I've never actually heard anyone say "disher;" have you?)

Ice Cream Maker: I love, love, love my Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbet Maker. If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, you can get the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

12-Inch Skillet: My All-Clad 5112 Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan (flared sides) is probably the most frequently used skillet and takes the place of a 10-inch straight-sided skillet I used to have (you don't need both). If you already have that, a 12-inch straight-sided skillet is a good thing to have.

Of course, this list is far from comprehensive. What do you consider essential in your kitchen? And what do you love so much you keep it around even though you never actually use it?

Update 11/27/14: 10 Favorite Kitchen Essentials

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from Amazon through one of my links, I receive a small commission, at no cost to you, which I use toward the expenses of running this blog. Thank you!

02 December 2011

Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls


Homemade dinner rolls simply "make" a comfort food meal. Back in the day, when I was better at multi-tasking, I baked my dinner rolls at the last minute. But these days I bake them as much as a month ahead and freeze them until 2 1/2 hours before serving time. Of course, you can just go ahead and serve these the day you bake them; but I've included instructions for freezing, thawing and reheating.

Sometimes I make other kinds of rolls. I love them all; but these big, fluffy, pull-apart rolls have been my go-to roll for decades. And I think the fact that they have butter, oil, sugar and egg is what makes them stand up to freezing so well.

If, unlike poor little me, you have a heavy-duty stand mixer (I know it must be shocking to find a food blogger who does not!), you can easily adapt my recipe for the mixer. I make all my bread by hand, though I am beginning to think I might need to break down and get a mixer for those days when I'm feeling a little less insistent on doing things the traditional way.

When it's warm, and my house is warm, I let bread dough rise on the counter. In fall and winter, I keep a cooler house than many people do and find that dough takes much longer to rise. So the old slightly-warm-oven method helps hurry things along. Are you a breadaholic like me? Please comment; I'd love to hear about your bread preferences and experiences.


Make-Ahead Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls

(Makes 15 really big rolls)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups water, room temperature
1/4 cup organic canola oil
5 1/2 packed cups (27.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten

1 If your kitchen is cold and you want to speed up the rising time, preheat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. (If you have a really old pre-electronic ignition gas oven, just the heat from the pilot light will be sufficient.) Grease large bowl* with 1 tablespoon of softened butter (for first rise). Grease 13x9x2-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of softened butter. *Using a straight-sided 4-quart bowl makes it easy to tell when dough has doubled.

2 Put water, oil and 3 tablespoons butter in 1-quart glass measure. Microwave on high power until water is warm (110 to 120 degrees), about 2 minutes, depending on your oven. Stir until all the butter is melted.

3 In another large bowl, whisk together 4 1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour, then add water mixture and egg to the well. With dough whisk or large wooden spoon, slowly stir until soft, shaggy dough comes together.

4 Spread 1/2 cup of flour onto work surface, and reserve 1/2 cup to use as needed. Turn the dough out onto floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if needed, until the dough forms a smooth ball. Place smooth ball of dough in buttered bowl and turn to coat all sides of dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in oven until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour. If the oven rack feels quite hot, put a potholder between it and the bowl.

5 Punch dough down (by pressing down in center and folding in edges), turn out on lightly floured surface. Divide* the dough into 15 equal pieces by first dividing it into 3 equal pieces then rolling each piece into a thick log and cutting each log into 5 equal pieces. Keep dough pieces covered with plastic wrap or overturned bowl as you shape each piece into a ball, pulling edges under and pinching them together on the bottom. I also give them a little roll on the unfloured counter, a motion sort of like moving a computer mouse around. Place in 3 rows of 5 in buttered baking dish. Spray the same piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray, cover dish lightly and return to turned-off oven until rolls have doubled in size, about 1 hour.

6 Remove dish from oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover rolls and bake for 25 minutes, or until well browned. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Keeping rolls together, remove rolls from baking dish and cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Double-wrap with foil (probably one layer of heavy-duty would be sufficient); freeze for up to 1 month.

7 Remove from freezer 2 1/2 hours before serving time. Defrost, wrapped, at room temperature for 2 hours. During last 15 minutes, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place foil-wrapped rolls on a cookie sheet and bake about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

*The best tool for dividing the dough (and doing a lot of other jobs) is a bench scraper. If you don't have one, order the OXO Good Grips Multi-Purpose Pastry Scraper/Chopper. I've had a few others, and this one is the best, has THE best handle!

25 November 2011

Classic Macaroni Salad - and Tuna Macaroni Salad, If You Must


Macaroni salad is not the same as pasta salad. I'll post my more fashionable, vegetable-heavy, vinaigrette-dressed pasta salad another time. This is old-fashioned (retro) macaroni salad, comfort food from way before anyone ever thought of pasta salad, though I did make this batch with mezze penne instead of my usual salad macaroni. I definitely prefer the salad macaroni, but that would have meant another trip to the store! 

Classic macaroni salad is a hit at any picnic, potluck or barbecue (Notice I said "barbecue," not "BBQ," which is one of those things I just hate!). It's great for Game Days, too, if you're into that sort of thing. I made this batch for friends who were going camping over Thanksgiving week.

After all these years, my husband and I have simply agreed to disagree about macaroni salad. He grew up with tuna macaroni salad, and I'm sorry, but that's just crazy! But I'll let him contaminate half a batch with tuna, and I'll keep half a batch as it should be. So, tell me, whose side are you on?

Macaroni Salad for Her / Tuna Salad For Him

(Makes 12 Servings)

8 large eggs
1 1-pound package salad macaroni
2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
3/4 cup finely chopped sweet pickles or sweet relish
3/4 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup or more finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped onion, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup or more finely chopped red bell pepper, patted dry
1 3/4 cup real mayonnaise, divided
1 tablespoon coarse Dijon mustard

Options for the half with tuna:
1 5-ounce can tuna, drained and flaked
1 cup frozen peas, thawed but not cooked
12 pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped

1 To hard-cook eggs, place eggs in 3-quart saucepan and cover with cold water to at least one inch above eggs. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to keep water just simmering. Cover; cook eggs 20 minutes. Cool at once in cold water. (Notice that the egg yolks are yellow and velvety, not orange and shiny-gooey!)  

2 Cook macaroni al dente according to package directions in 5-quart Dutch oven. Put in colander. Rinse repeatedly with cold water until macaroni is cool. Drain thoroughly. Put back in pan.

3 Sprinkle pickle juice, salt, pepper and parsley flakes over cooked and cooled macaroni. (Sure, you can use fresh parsley if you have it; but I didn't. Dill can be good, too.) Stir in pickles, carrot, celery, onion, red bell pepper, 1 1/4 cups of the mayonnaise, and the mustard.

4 When ready to add eggs to salad, use egg slicer to slice eggs. Reserve 7 slices for garnish (14, if using 2 bowls); cover and refrigerate. Roughly chop remaining slices and add to salad. Transfer salad to 3-quart serving dish (or two 1.5-quart bowls), cover and refrigerate. Chill for at least 4 hours; but making it a day ahead is best.

5 Before serving, stir in the reserved mayonnaise (perhaps not all of it, or perhaps a bit more), as the macaroni will have absorbed the first portion and will likely be rather dry. (And this would be the case no matter how much you put in the first time!) Garnish with reserved egg slices and perhaps a bit of chopped fresh parsley or dill, if you have it.

The Tuna Option: Divide salad between two 1.5-quart bowls; add tuna, peas and olives to just one of them.

18 November 2011

Pumpkin Tea Cakes - An Alternative to Sugary Petits Fours

Pumpkin Tea Cakes / www.delightfulrepast.com

For afternoon tea (one of my favorite forms of comfort food), the only cake that will do is one that can be served neatly in bite-size pieces and eaten without any utensils. That means a thin cake, sturdy enough to be picked up with one's fingers and moist enough to not require any gooey frosting. Petits fours might meet the requirements, but they are more icing than cake and so toothachingly sweet that I really don't like them. I want to like them because they're so pretty, but I just don't!

Instead, I prefer a plain-jane little square of cake not more than an inch thick with perhaps a dusting of powdered sugar or a tiny piped flower (but not both). To achieve the proper thickness, pan size is crucial; this recipe requires a 13x9x2-inch pan. If you just want a regular cake, you could use an 8x8x2-inch square pan and increase the baking time a bit.

The recipe calls for 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, so I simply had to make it in order to use up that precise amount of canned pumpkin left after making my pumpkin pie ice cream, which calls for 1 cup. I hate waste! Actually, I developed the recipe just so the leftover pumpkin wouldn't go to waste. What do you like to make with pumpkin? 

It's at this time of year that we find articles about the autumn harvest feast shared by the Plymouth colonists (Pilgrims) and the Wampanoags in 1621. And I am reminded of my dear cousin Charlotte, an avid genealogist and member of the Mayflower Society, who learned a few years before she died that we had not one but several ancestors aboard the Mayflower!

Pumpkin Tea Cakes / www.delightfulrepast.com

Pumpkin Tea Cakes


(Makes 60 1.25-inch squares)

1 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (7.5 ounces/213 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces/198 grams) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Spray 13x9x2-inch baking dish or pan with vegetable cooking spray. In small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In cup, combine milk and vanilla. This will make a thin cake, perfect for cutting into tiny squares or diamonds for the tea table. (For a cake of the usual thickness, use an 8-inch square.)

2 In bowl of standing mixer, beat butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and beat on high speed until light, about 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in egg. Then add pumpkin puree and beat on low speed just until blended.

3 Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the liquid in 2 parts, beating on low speed or stirring until smooth.

4 Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (a bit longer for the thicker cake).

5 Cool in pan on wire rack. When completely cool, cover until ready to serve. Just before serving, trim away edges and cut into squares or diamonds, or use a cookie cutter to cut out other shapes. Dust with powdered sugar.

Note: The pedestal in the photo is super tiny. If you don't have a collection of various sizes as I do, I would suggest you start with a more versatile 8- or 9-inch one, such as this 9-Inch White Pedestal

16 November 2011

Tea - How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea

Tea. Every self-respecting Anglophile or Britophile needs to know all about tea. So I've written a guest post at that wonderful Britophile blog Smitten by Britain, where I'll be The Resident Tea Snob. Hop on over and read my How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea. Of course, once you have that down, you'll want to whip up a batch of Scones to have with your tea.

11 November 2011

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream - The Perfect Ice Cream for Autumn


Pumpkin pie says "Autumn" like no other dessert. But the weather in many places is still warm (and, after six months, I'm still sooo stoked about my Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbet Maker), so I thought, Why not make some pumpkin pie ice cream?

The recipe I developed is a simple, no-egg, uncooked ice cream. I haven't bothered to even try making custard-style ice creams because I'm such a fan of custard that it would never make it into the ice cream maker!

I use all organic ingredients. If you can't get organic milk and cream, at least get a brand that doesn't have hormones. Of course, it's tasty without the pie crust, but then it would just be pumpkin ice cream! The pie crust takes it over the top--it is so good! Tastes just like pumpkin pie, only colder.

If you use canned pumpkin, you'll have 3/4 cup left over (a 15-ounce can equals 1 3/4 cups); my next post will tell you what to do with it! What's your favorite way with pumpkin? 

Simple Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

(Makes about 5 cups)

The Ice Cream

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 packed cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups milk (I used 2%)

The Pie Crust

2/3 packed cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
3 tablespoons ice water

1 In medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure to make pouring into the machine easier), whisk together pumpkin, sugars, vanilla, spices and salt until the mixture is well blended. Whisk in the cream and milk. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

2 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In small mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in just enough ice water to make dough come together. Place ball of dough on parchment-lined rimless baking sheet and roll out to about 1/8-inch thick--size and shape don't matter. If your rolling pin isn't handy, just press it out with your hand. If you like, cut out a few shapes for a garnish. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool. Then roughly break into pieces. I made six 2.5-inch-wide hearts and had enough crust left to make about 1 cup of crumbled crust.

3 Assemble the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbet Maker; turn it on. While it is running, pour the chilled mixture through the spout. Let mix until thickened, about 15 minutes. Or follow the directions for whichever brand ice cream maker you have. 

4 Transfer the soft ice cream to a freezer-safe airtight container, layering in the crumbled crust as you go, and place in freezer for at least 4 hours. If it is super hard when you're ready to use it, remove it from the freezer 15 minutes before serving. Garnish each serving with a pastry heart (or whatever shape you prefer).

04 November 2011

Homemade Granola - and Granola Parfaits


Homemade granola is the only way to go if, like me, you find all the store-bought granolas far too sweet. And, I must say, making homemade granola makes me feel like I'm "back in the day" ... of bell bottoms, peasant blouses and hair past my waist (I do miss the hair). This granola is even-textured, great for parfaits, doesn't make clusters. Making clusters takes sugar, and quite a bit of it. I like a granola that can be a real meal rather than a sugary dessert.

For "everyday" breakfast, a half cup of granola with some organic rice milk is fine. But for a special occasion breakfast, I like to make granola parfaits with yogurt and fruit--fresh organic berries when they're available. Store-bought vanilla yogurt is much too sweet for my taste, so I buy organic plain nonfat yogurt and lightly sweeten it with 2 teaspoons real maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract per cup of yogurt.

An 8-ounce glass not filled to the rim holds about a 3/4-cup serving, which is just about right for most people. Depending on the size and shape of your glasses, allow perhaps 1/4 cup each of granola, yogurt and fruit for each serving. If the glass is taller than it is wide, you can probably make 2 layers of each. Garnish each with several strips of orange zest or a mint leaf. Would love to hear from you, so do leave a comment!

Homemade Granola

(Makes 5 cups / 10 servings)

1/4 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats (Bob's Red Mill organic extra thick)
1 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts and seeds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried currants or other dried fruit

1 Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In small saucepan, heat canola oil and maple syrup just to a simmer. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

2 Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt. Stir in heated oil and syrup. Spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet you've oiled or sprayed with cooking spray. A 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan is the bare minimum size, but I prefer to use my 18x13x1-inch half-sheet pan.

3 Bake at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes for even browning. Watch closely during the last 10 minutes if you have any doubts about the accuracy of your oven temperature. Remove from oven. Stir in dried fruit. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Transfer to sealed container and store in refrigerator.

28 October 2011

Celery Root Remoulade - Céleri Rémoulade


The French classic that makes a silk purse out of a sow's ear

Celery root, also called celeriac, is a very unattractive fall and winter root vegetable that can be prepared many ways. The French bistro classic celery root remoulade, a raw salad, is my favorite. I had seen celery root in the produce markets for years, but never tried it. If you've seen it, you know why! It's probably the ugliest vegetable you'll ever see, sort of like a hairy turnip with tumors. After all the ugliness is trimmed away, you're left with about three-quarters, even two-thirds, the weight you started with.

Celery root remoulade is something I first made years ago after seeing Julia Child* make it on television. Of course, I made up my own recipe to suit myself; and here it is. It can be tricky to follow a recipe when celery roots come in such a wide range of sizes. Just adjust the dressing amounts to the weight of the celery root. The one I bought this week at my local health food store was only 3/4 pound, and there was just the one. After all the strange stuff was trimmed away, it was down to 1/2 pound, just right for two people.

If you've been passing over celery root just because of its appearance, as I did for so long (I feel so shallow!), quickly pop one or two in a bag next shopping trip. You'll be sorry you didn't give the odd little things a chance sooner!

Celery Root Remoulade

(Serves 2)

3/4 pound celery root
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish or finely minced sweet pickle
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed and drained, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Garnish: minced fresh parsley or julienned green apple

1 Cut off the leaves and root end, then scrub. Trim, peel and halve lengthwise the celery root. Cut each half lengthwise into 2 or more pieces, whatever will fit into the feed tube of your food processor. With shredding disk in place, coarsely shred the celery root. In 1-quart bowl, toss the shredded celery root with salt and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Cover and set aside to soften for 30 to 60 minutes.

2 In small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. Stir the dressing into the celery root and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

3 Spoon each serving into a small bowl or on a small leaf of butter lettuce on a plate. Garnish.

* See Vegetable Quiche post for one of my Julia Child stories.

21 October 2011

Oatmeal Cookies


Oatmeal cookies were my favorite as a child, and they still are. Maybe because I can feel perfectly fine about eating them for breakfast. After all, the primary ingredient is oats and I use all organic ingredients. My recipe is pretty much the same one my mother used when I was a child. Even though shortening was called for in those days and margarine was considered a healthful alternative to butter, my mother was way ahead of her time and suspected that those man-made ingredients couldn't be good for you.

She and I made these cookies together most times, such as on the day in second grade when I refused to go to school because she had cut my bangs too short. She knew there was no use fighting it when I drew myself up to my full height (how tall could I have been) and informed her that "Tall people don't look good in short bangs." Was I a hoot or what?! It was so typical of me that I wouldn't even remember that incident if she hadn't told me the story several times in my life.

But back to the cookies ... You can bake right away, but I refrigerate the dough for about an hour. This gives the very hearty oats I use (Bob's Red Mill organic extra thick rolled oats) time to absorb a bit of moisture before the cookies are baked. You must try those oats; they give the cookies a certain something! You can refrigerate the dough for a few days or even freeze the unbaked cookies (see instructions below) and enjoy warm cookies another day.

So tell me about your favorite cookie. But don't tell me if you put chocolate chips in your oatmeal cookies. Well, do tell me, but don't expect me to like it!

Oatmeal Cookies

(Makes 3 1/2 dozen)

1 1/2 packed cups (7.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (Bob's Red Mill organic extra thick)

1 In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

2 In another small bowl, combine chopped walnuts and raisins with 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture, making sure all the raisin pieces are separated.

3 In large bowl of electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, water and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, then oats, raisins and nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to a few days. (Very cold dough will need to sit at room temperature for a bit to become more scoopable.)

4 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop #40 scoops* (0.8 ounces or approximately 1.5 tablespoons) of dough 3 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. With a glass (I use a 2 1/4-inch diameter 1/3-cup flat-bottomed metal measuring cup), press each scoop into a 2 1/4-inch round. Bake for about 13 to 15 minutes, or until brown around the edges but still a little soft in the center.

5 Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

* If you don't have one of these 7/8 Ounce Size 40 Stainless Steel Round Squeeze Disher (13-0638) Category: Dishers, you need to get one now! How do people make cookies without it!

To freeze dough: Drop scoops of dough on foil-lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly, as directed above. Freeze, then wrap.

To bake frozen dough: Preheat oven to 350. Place raw cookies 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes.

14 October 2011

Italian Meatball Sandwiches - Comfort Food on a Roll


Italian meatball sandwiches make a great cool-weather meal. Meatballs and sauce freeze well, so make a double batch whenever you have time and freeze half for another cool evening when you want something warm and comforting but don't have the time or energy to cook. If you're like me, you might have the energy to cook but not to clean up (My husband sometimes calls me The Black Tornado - a reference to an old commercial for a cleaning product nicknamed The White Tornado).

BTW - I know, I know ... meatballs two weeks in a row. What can I say, I'm on a meatball kick. But Italian meatballs are entirely different from Mexican meatball soup!

I like to use fresh herbs when I have them, but developed this recipe with dried herbs so that it could be what I call a Pantry Meal - a meal I can make from what's always on hand rather than having to make a grocery run.

How many sandwiches this recipe makes depends on what size rolls you get. Today the bakery had some crusty French rolls that were just under four inches, so I put two meatballs on each one; so I could make eleven sandwiches. If they'd had the rolls that are just under six inches, I would have put three meatballs on each and made seven sandwiches. (Ooh, the math, my brain is smokin'!) Though I usually aim for perfectly round meatballs, when making them for a sandwich I like to flatten them out slightly.

Some people put the meatballs straight into the sauce, but I like to brown them first, get a nice crust on them before simmering them in the sauce. But if you do it the other way, that's okay too.  

Italian Meatball Sandwiches

(Serves 4)

The Meatballs (Makes 22)

2 slices good white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1 1/2 teaspoons very finely minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound very lean ground beef
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

The Sauce

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup very finely shredded carrot
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen organic fire roasted)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
3/4 teaspoon basil
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

The Sandwich

Crusty French rolls or homemade buns
Thinly-sliced Provolone cheese

1 In medium bowl, combine bread and milk and let stand a few minutes before mashing to a paste with a fork. Add remaining meatball ingredients, except ground beef and olive oil, in the order given. Using hands, mix in the ground beef until everything is well combined. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour, or in freezer for 5 minutes or so, to make mixture easier to handle.

2 Roll #40 scoops of meatball mixture with both hands to form meatballs. (First I scoop all of the meatball mixture and then roll all the meatballs.)

3 In 12-inch skillet*, heat olive oil. Brown the meatballs in two batches, rolling them around, browning on all sides. Remove to a plate or bowl.

4 In same skillet, cook onion for a few minutes, add in shredded carrot, and then stir in crushed tomatoes, scraping up brown bits in the pan. Add remaining sauce ingredients. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat. Add meatballs to sauce. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Sauce should be quite thick; you don't want a soggy sandwich.

5 Split rolls and line each with thin slices of Provolone. That's another thing that will prevent sogginess. Much better than putting the cheese on top. Heat the sandwiches in preheated oven, toaster oven or broiler just enough to melt the cheese.

* I love my All-Clad 5112 Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan!

07 October 2011

Albondigas Soup - Sopa de Albondigas


Albondigas soup has been on my mind for a while and I just had to make some. The albondigas (meatballs) traditionally have rice in them, which reminded me of my funny little self when I was in elementary school. Though I was only seven years old, I very clearly remember my horror the day the school lunch menus for the week were passed out and I saw that the next day's main dish was to be something I couldn't begin to wrap my mind around.

I worried about it for the rest of the day, then went rushing in the door after school, eager to tell my mother the horrifying news. I started out by simply announcing that I had to take my lunch the next day. She tried valiantly to keep a straight face as I stood there wide-eyed and grim-faced and solemnly delivered the reason, "They are ... having ... (dramatic pause, sharp intake of breath) por ... cu ... pine ... meatballs!"

She tried, but there was nothing she could say to convince me that porcupine meatballs were just ground beef with rice and that no quilled rodents would be harmed in the course of lunch preparations. So how is it that porcupine meatballs have always been such a "kid-pleaser" kind of dish? Was I the only child who suspected the worst?

Which reminds me ... If you are dealing with a picky eater, you need to read these 10 Tips for Dining (or Not) With Picky Eaters, something I just happened to come across the other day and thought was the best thing I've ever read on dealing with that problem! I think Melanie Rehak is a genius on the subject!

But back to the soup ... A bowl of this with a side of Mexican rice and a couple of warm tortillas makes a hearty meal. Are you gearing up for Soup Weather? I hope you'll try this one. As always, I look forward to reading your comments.

Albondigas Soup - Sopa de Albondigas

(Makes 4 main-dish servings)

The Albondigas (meatballs, makes 20)

1 pound very lean ground beef (Rocky Mountain Organic Meats)
1 large egg
1/3 cup uncooked long grain white rice (Lundberg organic long grain)
1/4 cup very finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 8-ounce can tomato sauce (Muir Glen organic)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

The Caldo (broth)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium zucchini, sliced
2 6-ounce Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 In medium bowl, combine all albondigas ingredients except olive oil. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to make mixture easier to handle.

2 In 5-quart pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Over medium heat, cook onion and bell pepper for about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes (or as long as it takes to shape meatballs).

3 Roll #40 scoops of meatball mixture with both hands to form meatballs. (First I scoop all of the meatball mixture and then roll all the meatballs.) 

4 Let broth continue to simmer. In 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Brown the meatballs in two batches, rolling them around, browning on all sides. Add meatballs to broth. Simmer for 10 minutes (or as long as it takes to slice the carrots and celery).

5 Deglaze the skillet with the 2 cups of water; add to soup. Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper, marjoram and crushed red pepper to soup. Simmer for 10 minutes.

6 Add zucchini, potato and cilantro. Simmer 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish (if you're not in a hurry to eat, as I was!) with avocado, cilantro and/or a wedge of lime. Maybe fry up some crispy little strips of corn tortilla.  

30 September 2011

Cinnamon Babka - Not A Lesser Babka!


Wouldn't you know it--my two favorite episodes of Seinfeld are about bread! (My name is Jean, and I'm a breadaholic.) Marble rye and babka. If you recall, Jerry and Elaine stopped at a bakery on the way to a dinner party to pick up a babka, but the people in front of them got the last chocolate babka and Elaine was not pleased to have to settle for a cinnamon babka. But I agree with Jerry: "[Cinnamon a] lesser babka? I think not!" Not a huge fan of chocolate anything, I much prefer the cinnamon and always intended to make one.

Well, years went by. Then I read the post The Cake that Makes Our Family by Lila Byock on Gilt Taste. She tells the heartwarming story of her grandfather Sy's babka. And you know how I feel about family food stories. She doesn't make it herself, considering it her mother's job for now. My own family is not a babka-making family, but I was so taken with Lila's that I sent her the message: You can be sure that when this shiksa gets around to making one, it will be Sy's! (Thought of calling the post Shiksa Babka but was afraid too many people would be expecting skewered meat!)

But I can never make anything strictly by a recipe. Not even if it's my first attempt at something I've never even eaten! I took so many liberties with the recipe, it can no longer be called Sy's. But he was my inspiration, and I will think of him and his granddaughter Lila every time I make it. And I will be making it again! It goes wonderfully well with a cup of tea (which seems to be a requirement for everything I make!). 

So tell me, do you have strong opinions about babka? Chocolate or cinnamon? Or both? Nuts? Raisins? Streusel topping or glaze? Is there a particular food that "makes" your family? 

Cinnamon Babka


The Dough

3 1/2 packed cups (17.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant (RapidRise) yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk (I use 2%)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

The Filling

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

The Glaze

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons very hot water
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 In 2-quart bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

2 In heavy-bottomed 1-quart saucepan, scald milk, which simply means to heat the milk just until bubbles appear at the edge; do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until it is all melted.

3 In large bowl, beat egg and stir in vanilla and milk-butter mixture. With dough whisk or wooden spoon, stir in half the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in remaining flour about a half cup at a time. As the dough forms into a ball, work it against the sides of the bowl to get off all the dry flour. Rub a tiny bit of softened butter in a 2-quart bowl and place the ball of dough in it, rolling it around to coat it lightly with butter. Cover bowl tightly and refrigerate for anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days.

4 On the day you want to make the babka, set aside the butter to soften. Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 3 1/2 hours before you want it to go into the oven. In 1-quart bowl, combine chopped walnuts and chopped raisins with flour, making sure all the raisin pieces are separated. You might need to use 1 tablespoon of the flour while chopping the raisins. Stir in sugar and cinnamon.

5 On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half. Turn the bowl upside down and cover the two pieces of dough (or cover them with plastic wrap); let stand for 20 minutes. Butter well a 10-cup, 4-inch high, 8.5-inch diameter kugelhopf pan or a 3.75-inch high, 10-inch diameter Bundt or other fluted tube pan.

6 Roll one piece of dough into a 12x16-inch rectangle, with long edge toward you. Spread on half the softened butter and half the filling mixture. Starting with long edge, roll rather tightly and pinch the edge closed. Repeat with other half of dough. With the two rolls side by side, twist like a braid. Form a circle and pinch the ends together. Place in prepared pan, pressing it firmly into place. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

7 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn babka out onto wire rack and continue cooling for about 1 hour before slicing. In small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and hot water until smooth, then stir in other ingredients for glaze and drizzle over the babka while it is still warm. 
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