Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Salad

I am indebted for this recipe to an unknown guest at an unknown party, with an unnamed salad....and yet she definitely knew her flavor and texture combinations! The sweet with the salty, the crisp with the crunchy, the red with the green.... a delightful salad, worthy of it's name! When asked the name of her inspired salad, the creator replied, "I don't know...let's call it Holiday Salad". The original recipe called for golden Sultana raisins...I use dried cranberries in a salute to the season which gives the combo more of a festive twist.

Holiday Salad
  • 3 cups shredded Napa cabbage (or savoy cabbage)
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 large red bell pepper, large dice
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and slivered
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cups crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 bottle Briana brand poppyseed dressing
  • 1 small can sliced water chestnuts

-Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Chill salad. Before serving, toss with dressing. Serves 8 - 12.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Caramel Popcorn

I suppose I should feel guilty but I didn't intentionally lure one of my closest friends by way of caramel sauce to a deadly sin. My particular dalliance with this intoxicating taste sensation started in my childhood at the feet of my mother, near the largest Tupperware bowl filled with caramel popcorn every Christmas...laughing at the new white fuzz ball of a puppy pulling a popcorn bowl across the floor....with buttered hands shaping the warm, velvety confection into balls. Doing as my mother had done, I tutored my own children in the craft. They took the experience to new literary heights with the creation of a simple rhyme to help them remember the ingredients of the basic recipe, the words to which went: "1/2 Cup, Cup, Cup, Can, Squirt ...I believe there was even a dance that went with it to a Latin Calypso beat. 

This recipe not only creates the caramel for popcorn, but is the basis for a sauce for ice cream and cake, and for caramel toffee or pecan turtles. But back to my friend; she recognized in it other, more deadly possibilities. Featured as the sauce for a moist gingerbread cake for refreshments for a theatrical production she took home a pitcher of leftover sauce. Then in a frenzy of creativity, boredom or desperation (perhaps we will never know exactly what drove her to this) she found that the caramel sauce served equally well as a beverage, which did indeed eliminate the nuisance of utensils or cake and ice cream as a conduit. To Trina, I apologize. I should have applied a warning label, "May be injurious to your health if consumed in large quantities." But oh, what a way to go! Whether served as loose unformed clumps or as balls the popcorn purrs to this soft, creamy and intoxicating did Trina.

Ruthie's Caramel Sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white karo syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
(for salted caramel, add 1/2 tsp. coarse salt or fleur de sel)
10 cups popped corn

-In a heavy bottomed, large saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in karo syrup, brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk.  Over medium-high heat, stir ingredients until sugar is melted and mixture is smooth.  Continue stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil.  Lower heat slightly to medium and continue cooking and stirring until sauce reaches 232 degrees on a candy thermometer, just shy of soft-ball stage (it will take 10 - 12 minutes at a boil to reach this stage.).  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt if used.

-Pour caramel sauce over the popped corn in a large bowl.  Stir until the sauce is well distributed.  Let the caramel corn sit for 5 minutes then pour out onto a sheet of waxed paper.  Break clumps apart or with buttered hands, take a baseball size portion of caramel corn and press into a firm, solid ball.  Set on paper and allow to cool completely, about 1 hour.  Place each popcorn ball in a sandwich bag or wrap each in a square of waxed paper.  Tie packaged balls with ribbon.

-Makes about 20 popcorn balls.

***For sauce for ice cream or for fondue, cook sauce until
      slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
***For caramel candies, cook sauce to 246 degrees, firm
      ball stage.  Stir in nuts and pour into buttered 9x13 inch
      pan.  Allow to set at least 8 hours.  Cut into 1 inch squares
      and wrap each in square of waxed paper.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Halloween was a challenge in the Middle East.  First of all, no random trick-or-treating allowed for fear of startling the neighbors.  Instead, we had to arrange a round-robin sort of progressive trick-or-treating with Halloween savvy Americans.  Secondly, costumes were eyed suspiciously- one of our Hungarian guests at a Halloween party saw me working in the kitchen in my Palestinian costume and assumed I was a village woman we had hired to make dinner. Consorting with witches, goblins and ghosts just seemed weird to them - it does to us at times!  The biggest challenge was finding the pumpkin for the Jack-O-Lantern.  

One year I had to use various melons which we found don't carve well.  But being determined to have a jack-o-lantern for our poor culturally deprived children, we eventually found a pumpkin. Yes, they had them but they were large, the wrong color and grown exclusively for their meaty flesh to be used in stews and ragouts.  Tunisians used them like we use a hubbard squash and hadn't visualized them as lanterns with scowling, grinning features.  At least the vegetable merchant didn't get it and we had to repeat several times that yes, we wanted the whole thing. which necessitated a jaunt to the meat market where the scale was big enough to weigh "the whole thing."  ("Crazy Americans!").  

This, the smallest of the pumpkins, 2 feet in diameter, weighed in at 50 pounds. One of my favorite images is that of my husband hauling it to the car, with Tunisians watching curiously after him.  But there was carving fun for all and it held several pillar candles.  Another perk - I cooked down the 4 inch flesh the next day to use as pumpkin pie filling - something else we couldn't find there, so it took care of two holiday traditions!  The soft, cakey cookies that follow are my husband's favorite: the combination of pumpkin with all the right spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice- bespeak autumn holidays. And then consorting with chocolate chips and walnuts... no tricks involved, just plenty of treats!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2  cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
3 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
5 cups flour
1 tab. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. soda
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 - 1 cup chopped walnuts
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
crumbled toffee bits

-Mix butter and shortening in mixer with both sugars, until creamed together.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.  Stir in pumpkin.

-Add flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, soda and vanilla extract to pumpkin mixture and gently stir together until smooth on low speed of mixer.  Add chocolate chips and walnuts and stir.  Chill dough for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

-Place dough by heaping tablespoons on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until just starting to golden around edges.  Remove and let cool.

-Melt bittersweet chocolate in microwave oven for about 1 minute.  Stir and allow to cool about 5 minutes.  Drizzle chocolate over tops of cooled cookies from a spoon or place in a plastic bag with a small hole cut in the corner and squeeze chocolate ribbons over cookies.  Sprinkle tops of cookies with toffee bits.  Makes about 50 cookies.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Banana Cinnamon Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce

Bananas and I have a long and complicated relationship, one of unrequited affection on my part. This wasn't due to the heartlessness of the banana itself, but more particularly to circumstance, not so much the wrong time as the wrong place. Tunisia for starters....bananas did not exist in this North African clime, but we had already dallied with the banana enough to know what Tunisians were missing. And apparently, we weren't the only residents to have had experience lingering enraptured over a banana split, for when the banana boat came in, maybe twice a year, bananas were hawked from every city corner to avid customers who consumed their yearly requirement of potassium in a matter of a few days! And for a short time, we dined in banana heaven with banana milkshakes, banana pudding, banana cream pie and eventually banana bread which we froze to dole out in the banana-less months to follow.

Our only respite being when visitors came from Europe - at our request they would bring bananas and avocados as the gift I wanted most from home. From Tunisia, we moved to Jordan, where the banana existed, their water gorging trees quenched by the waters of the Jordan River, but alas, they were short, stubby, things often green and reluctant to ripen; no Chiquita worthy specimens these. But the flavor was right and after all, that is what we fell in love with in the first place. In the following recipe, I step aside to let caramel sauce take my place in this love affair with the banana. I can not imagine a more perfectly suited couple....and the cinnamon topping dresses the dish up for a night on the dessert table!

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Topping:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 ripe medium bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tab. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
4 tab. butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tab. flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch square or 10 inch round baking pan.

-Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, bananas, eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, baking soda, salt and vanilla extract in mixing bowl and mix well, until batter is smooth - 3 - 4 minutes.  Stir in walnuts if used.  Pour batter into prepared pan. 

-Combine melted butter, brown sugar,  2 tab. flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Sprinkle on top of batter in pan.  Bake in preheated oven until top is golden brown and splits slightly, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Test with knife to insure doneness. 

-Cut cake into squares and serve warm or at room temperature with caramel sauce.

(Optional Cream topping:  Place 1/2 cup whipping cream in mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.  In another bowl combine 4 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth.  Fold cream cheese mixture by hand into whipped cream.  Top squares of banana cake with spoonfuls of cream mixture and then drizzle with caramel sauce.)

The Caramel Sauce  (here's another love story....)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tab. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coarse salt (for salted caramel)

-In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. 
Stir in corn syrup, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk. 
Slowly bring to a boil, over medium heat stirring frequently
(constantly if you have the patience...if stirring constantly, you
can edge the heat up a bit.) Once mixture begins to bubble,
continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly for
another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla
extract and salt. Let cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Adas - Lentil Soup

"A Mess of Potage" is what my husband calls it and yes, sometimes it looks like a mess, or at least my kitchen utensils do after preparing it! My husband maintains that this earthy, humble lentil soup from Jordan (the land of the Bible) must have been similar to what the Biblical Esau sold his birthright for, to his brother Jacob. Even hungry modern-day nomads, after a day of unfruitful hunting and surviving the wilds of suburbia might be inclined to do the same for this satisfying bowl of sustenance. If Jacob's version included the fried bread croutons and lemon juice of this recipe, he might have had his pick of birthrights from those lined up outside his tent drooling for a "mess" from the "potage" pot!

Adas - Lentil Soup:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 cups brown lentils
1 tab. ground cumin
1 lemon, cut in wedges
3 pita loaves, cut into 1 inch squares
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tab. ground sumac
salt and pepper to taste
finely minced fresh parsley

-Rinse lentils then soak in large bowl of cold water
for 1 hour.  Drain and set aside.

-In large saucepan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil.  Add
the chopped onion and cook over medium heat
until onions are soft and golden, stirring
frequently (about 20 minutes.)

-Add carrots and garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes

-Add lentils, cumin and 4 cups water to the pot.
Cover and cook over medium-high heat until
contents come to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low
simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until
lentils are very tender, stirring occasionally.

-Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup olive oil in medium sauté
pan.  Add bread squares and cook over medium-high
heat until browned and crispy, stirring frequently.
Remove bread squares from oil and drain.  Salt
lightly while warm.

-Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 - 15
minutes.  Place soup in blender and blend until
smooth (or if you prefer to keep some of the lentils
whole, for a coarser soup, puree just half of the
lentils.)  Return soup to pot.  Season to taste with
generous salt and pepper and ground sumac.

-Ladle into soup bowls.  On top of each serving,
sprinkle bread squares, a squirt of lemon juice,
minced parsley and additional sumac. 
Serve with lemon wedges.

**(for a richer broth, add chicken bouillon paste to
     liquid when cooking lentils)

-Serves 6 - 8

Monday, October 21, 2013

Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Sauce

Here it is - our #1 favorite, most excellent and sumptuous autumn dessert! We first encountered this heavenly pastry enrobed sweet from another time and place, amidst sword -swallowers, madrigal singers, and Renaissance garb and weapons, next to the turkey drumstick booth.  This medieval version was served with a warm cinnamon sauce and vanilla ice cream.  Inspired, I set out on an momentous quest to re-create the Renaissance Fair Apple Dumpling. My daughter champions the Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Dumplings sold in Reading Terminal in Philly as an able opponent to my version below - a worthy rival, I will concede. But the cinnamon sauce of the Fair version, a slightly thickened simple syrup, buttered and cinnamonized, tips the battle in my favor.  A duel between recipes in my kitchen might lead to fighting words - or at least some sword play in defense!  Be sure to cook only until a knife pierces the apple with just a hint of resistance.

Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Sauce:

         4 medium Granny Smith apples
         1/2 cup sugar
         1 1/2 tab. ground cinnamon
         1/4 tsp. ground cloves
         1/4 tsp. ground allspice
         1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
         1/2 tsp. salt
         1 tab. flour
         finely chopped walnuts (optional)
         2 tab. butter

             2 cups flour
             1 tsp. salt
             3/4 cup shortening
             4 - 6 tab. cold water

          Cinnamon Sauce:
             1 cup brown sugar
             1/2 cup white corn syrup
             1 tab. ground cinnamon
             1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
             3 tab. butter
             1 1/2 tab. flour
             1/2 cup water.
             dash of salt
             2 tsp. vanilla extract

    Prepare Cinnamon Sauce:
        -Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in flour and stir with wire whip over heat for 1 minute or until incorporated into butter.  Add water, brown sugar, corn syrup, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently and let bubble until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Set aside.

   Prepare Apples:
       -Peel apples.  Remove the core with a sharp paring knife or apple corer enlarging, the hole to about 1 1/2 inch in diameter.  Be careful not to cut all the way through the bottom of the apple.   Leave about 1/2 inch of flesh in the bottom of the hole created so the filling doesn't ooze out during baking.
      -Combine sugar, 1 1/2 tab. ground cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, salt and flour in mixing bowl.  Add walnuts if used.   Fill the center of each cored apple half full with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place 1/2 tab. butter in the hole.  Continue filling to the top with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

    To Prepare the Pastry: 
        -Place flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl or in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the shortening, mixing well by hand or with the food processor, until the shortening is incorporated and the mixture is the consistency of damp sand.  Handling or processing as little as possible, sprinkle the cold water over the dough and mix just until it will ball together.  Cover the pastry with plastic wrap and chill until needed, or at least 20 minutes.

        -Follow directions below to create dumplings.  Place dumplings 2 to 3 inches apart on well-greased cookie sheet or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Dumplings should be lightly golden and the flesh of the apple just barely done.  Test with a sharp knife - the apple should offer just a bit of resistance.  It is easy to over-bake the dumplings which may cause them to explode and fall apart!

        -Remove from oven and let cool at least 15 minutes.  They are good served warm or cold with cinnamon sauce and vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/4 of the pastry into a 10-inch round. 
Place the filled apple in the center of the pastry round.

 Gently pull up an edge of the pastry and press up the side of the apple
 and over the top as far as it will reach.  Holding on
with one hand, pull up another section of pastry and overlap it over the first section, pressing
the pastry into place - this will create pleats around the apple.
The pastry should create 5 - 6 pleats to enfold the apple.  Pinch the pastry
firmly at the top of the apple to enclose all the filling, and press against the seams so none of the apple or the filling is visible. 

 Roll out a small circle of pastry scraps and with a paring knife, cut out leaves, scoring a vein
down the center of the leaf -  3 or 4 leaves per dumpling.

 Wet the pastry at the top of the apple with a bit of cream applied with a pastry brush and arrange the leaves, pressing the surfaces of the pastry together so the leaves stay in place..

Make a dimple in the top of the apple and push a whole cloves into the dimple to create a stem.  Brush the surface of the pastry with cream.

Apple Cream Cake:

How many apples are in nine bushels of apples?  (Have you ever wondered how many pickled peppers Peter Piper picked? - a similar question).  A lot - as we discovered one fall apple-picking day when the harvest was obscenely abundant, the branches on the trees hanging low with fruit, all too accessible for the busy hands of our children.  After several days of peeling - developing the skill of paring the peel in one long rolling strip - and transforming the tart and the sweet flesh into applesauce, pie filling, cider, dumplings (look for this apple favorite in a future blog) I was stumped. When February came the final survivors had to go and were finely thrown out of the vegetable crisper. Following is the recipe for a lovely apple alternative in the form of a rich, dense, buttery cake that enfolds a spiced apple filling.

Apple Cream Cake:
     1 cup butter, softened
     1 1/2 cups sugar
     2 eggs
     1 cup sour cream
     1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
     2 cups flour
     1 tsp. baking powder
     1/4 tsp. baking soda
     pinch of salt
     1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans,walnuts)
     1 tab. ground cinnamon
     1/2 cup sugar

     Apple Filling:
     Peel and core 2 large Granny Smith apples and cut into 
     small chunks.  Melt 3 tab. butter in a medium saucepan
     and add apples.  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.  
     Add 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. 
     ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. ground 
     allspice, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Cook and stir frequently over 
     medium heat until apples are soft and mixture is bubbly,
     about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1/2 cup
     finely chopped nuts. Set aside and let cool 15 minutes or 
     until ready to use.

  • In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each at high speed.  Stir in sour cream and vanilla.  Gently stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Generously grease and flour a bundt pan or angel food cake pan.  Spread in half of the batter.  Spoon apple filling over the batter and smooth.  Spread the remaining batter over the top of the apple filling.
  • Bake 50 - 60 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10-15 minutes and then invert on to a serving platter.

(This is also excellent with cherry or blueberry filling.)

Baked Ratatouille

Harvest the best your garden has to offer, or select the most vigorous candidates in your farmer's market, to include the long thin ones, the rosy, round, plump ones, the pungent, layered alliums and the leafy, licorice flavored one which sophisticates the humdrum kitchen.  An easy baked version of ratatouille (rats are optional) simply slice, then layer the ingredients, sprinkle with salt and pepper and minced basil.  Top with strips of raw bacon whose juices will enrich the flavors of the whole.  Though going against the Italian grain, add a strong, grated cheddar cheese, an offense that should be embraced for the sake of flavor.  This recipe was one of Mom's before she knew to call it ratatouille, back in the day when it was just a zucchini casserole and a way to employ those monstrous squash that covered the kitchen counter.  Little did she know if would become chic and sophisticated!

Baked Ratatouille

4 medium zucchini squash, washed and stems removed
4 - 6 medium ripe tomatoes, washed and stem removed
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 pound bacon strips
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tab. finely minced fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

  • Generously butter an 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Slice squash and tomatoes into 3/4 inch thick slices. Separate onion slices into rings.
  • Layer zucchini slices on the bottom of the buttered baking dish to cover.  Lay tomatoes over zucchini slices.  Sprinkle the tomato layer with 1 tab. minced basil and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Layer onion rings over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle half the cheddar cheese over the onion layer.
  • Repeat layers one more time, ending with cheddar cheese. Lay the strips of bacon over the top of the assembled casserole. Cover with foil and bake in the oven until the zucchini is soft and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.  Remove the ratatouille from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Lift the foil at one corner of the pan and working with oven mitts, to hold the foil over the ingredients (I often use a large pot lid also to help hold the ingredients in place) drain the accumulated liquid from the ratatouille.
  • Heat the broiler to high and place the ratatouille under the heat until the bacon is crisped.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh cracked pepper. Serves 8 - 10.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Musakhan Rolls

A memory of a unique, rich eating experience led me to exclaim, "This is it!" when I tasted it again, many years later. What had been to me the Holy Grail of Arab Cuisine led me once again on this pilgrimage to a platter of rice, onion, sumac and chicken dish of my early Middle Eastern years. Once the name was retrieved, I went in search of those who knew the ritual that created this long cherished tasting experience. Musakhan, (not to be confused with the Greek Mousaka) owes its deep, rich flavor to piles of slivered onions, gilded with olive oil and fried to a rich, deep brown, that which we call caramelized today. 

This humble Palestinian Bedouin dish belies its heritage, so rich and deep are the flavors of the chicken braised and infused with onion. It is then elevated to sophisticate with the subtle bite of citrus provided by the granular sumac. The chicken mixture is then piled on a crust of thin towel like bread called "shrak" in Syria, or when not available, split pita and served on a large platter in the middle of the table, family style. An ingredient which might give some pause is the generous amount of oil required which makes for a slippery, finger-licking mess. Not one that I'm opposed to wallowing in but this version is lighter and the ingredients wrapped in a neat and crispy wrap of Arab bread. And I thought I was so clever. On my recent trip to Jerusalem a wonderful café on the Via Delarosa served my musakhan rolls. I was outraged to think they had stolen my recipe but then decided to let it go as they have proprietary rights to anything Palestinian!

Mousakhan Rolls:
  • 6 skinned and boned chicken breasts 3 tab. sumak
  • Freshly ground black pepper salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil shrak – dish towel bread
  • 3 medium onions, slivered 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. allspice & cinnamon, combined

-Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon. Brown in 1/3 cup olive oil then place in oven dish with oil, cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until chicken is tender.

-Saute onions in 1/3 cup olive oil until browned and soft (almost caramelized). Chop cooked chicken into small pieces and mix with onions. Sprinkle with 3 tab. sumac. Allow to sit for at least 1 hour.

-Drain mixture of oil and season with salt and pepper.

-Cut bread into 8-inch long and 4-inch wide strips. Place chicken filling at end of each strip and roll securely, not folding in edges.

-Slightly brown each roll in small amount of oil in frying pan, pressing with spatula. Cut in half at a diagonal and serve.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Pasta Aria

Bowties, alfredo sauce, bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts - what a pleasure that they joined together to play this song!  And we have Magleby's, a restaurant in Provo, Utah to thank for conducting the original version of this symphony of flavors.  When vacationing from the Middle East we always topped our list of "Places we have to eat" with this little known Utah Valley jewel.  Lured in by their fresh, hot cheesy biscuits and soups, not much appetite was left when the entrees arrived.  But this one's aroma insisted that we sit up and take notice!  This Pasta Aria is a creamy, nutty, soul-soothing, dish for a cold winter's night accompanied by clarion notes of sophistication.

Bowtie Pasta Alfredo

1/4 cup butter
3 tab. flour
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
6 strips bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
2 tab. butter
3/4 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large tomato, seeded and peeled, cut into julienne strips
1/2 pound fresh mushroom slices
1 pound bowtie pasta
2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes 
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
additional grated parmesan to sprinkle on top.

-In medium saucepan, melt butter.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Stir in flour and combine well.

- let roux cook for about one minute stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add milk: blend with wire whip until smooth.  Add chicken broth and then cream and combine. Return to medium/high heat and stir with whip until mixture thickens and bubbles.  Add nutmeg and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese until melted.

-Melt 2 tab. butter, in medium sauté pan and add chicken pieces.  Cook over medium high heat just until chicken becomes opaque, stirring frequently.  Remove chicken from pan.

-Add tomatoes strips, red pepper flakes and fresh mushrooms to the same pan and continue cooking until mushrooms are soft. Stir in spinach, cover with lid and simmer over low heat until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.

-Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente in large pot.  Drain and return to pot and mix pasta with warm alfredo sauce.  Stir in
the chicken, bacon and tomato-mushroom-spinach mixture. Mix all together and heat over low heat until hot. Check for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

-Place in serving bowl.  Garnish with toasted
pine nuts and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

-Serves 6 - 8

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ice Cream Cake Roll

"Roll, roll, roll your cake, create a perfect wrap for ice creams, puddings, berries and cream.  In fact, this is something of a family size ice cream wrap!  Once you've mastered the trick of rolling and not freaking out at a crack or two, this is an easy dessert that is yet unique enough to dazzle your guests.  "Mother knows best" and filled her cake with ice cream, sauced with hot fudge and crowned with sweetened whipped cream.  I have added peppermint extract and chips for a festive crunch.  A chocolate cake roll filled with vanilla cream is the base of the luscious and truly spectacular French gateau, Buche de Noel which I make every Christmas.  Based on the jelly roll that was popular in my mother's mother's day, progressive and savvy cooks have since improved it, though jelly might still woo an appetite or two!  Berries, bananas and cream in a vanilla rolled cake is a spring themed variation.

Things I wish  my mother told me: 

 -line rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray to ease the releasing of the cake from the pan

-place a rolling pin sprayed with cooking spray on the long edge of the cake and roll the cake and paper around it.  Let sit 10 minutes or until ready to fill

-you may need to use cans or heavy pans to prop cake to stay in rolled position until it cools.

Ice Cream Cake Roll
3/4 cup flour                            3 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa                          1 cup sugar
1 ts. baking powder                 3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt                              1 tsp. vanilla

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 15 x 10 inch rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  • In small mixer bowl, beat eggs about 5 minutes until very thick and lemon colored.  Pour eggs into large bowl and gradually beat in sugar.  On low speed, blend in water and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, beating just until batter is smooth.  Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter to edges.
  • Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Loosen cake from edges of pan, invert onto parchment paper or waxed paper, sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. Carefully remove paper; trim off stiff edges of cake if necessary so cake edges are pliable.
  • Let sit 10 minutes then roll cake and paper together from long end. Cool completely on wire rack.
Ice Cream Filling:
For filling, set out 1/2 gallon of peppermint
ice cream, 15-20 minutes at room temperature. Spoon into large mixing bowl and stir until smooth.  (Do not let ice cream melt, just soften). If peppermint ice cream is not available, soften 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream until you are just barely able to stir it then stir in 1 tsp. peppermint extract, 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies and red or green food coloring.

To Assemble:  

  • Unroll cooled cake and spread the softened ice cream to within 1 inch of the edges. Beginning at one long edge, roll the cake up again with the ice cream inside, peeling back the parchment paper as you go.
  • Place the filled cake, seam-side down on a cookie sheet with the paper covering the exposed surfaces and place immediately into the freezer.  Freeze at least 8 hours of overnight.
  • Cut cake into 1-2 inch slices and serve with hot fudge sauce. (You may also serve with whipped cream, chopped nuts, cherries, etc.)
Hot Fudge Sauce:
2 tab. butter, 2  squares unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup evaporated milk 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract

-In medium saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat.
-Stir in sugar then add evaporated milk.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly, about 5 - 8 minutes.
-Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Serve warm for hot fudge or cool as chocolate sauce.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Marinated Pepper Ribbons

Curling ribbons of red and green tangle atop a bed of creamy mild cheese, dressed in a perky marinade of olive oil and garlic.  How playfully delicious!  Unravel one or an entire knot and place  on crostini for a smoky pizazz of flavor tempered by the velvet of the cheese.  The vibrant colors speak to us before taste confirms satisfaction to the palette, and this appetizer of  Spanish tapas  origin, is a super dipper for crackers, or a crowning jewel to crostini .  The process of roasting and peeling the peppers is a skill that once you've tried and seen how easy it is, will spare you the necessity of purchasing jarred red peppers.  Place the peppers on an oven rack, high in the oven with the heat on broil and char the skins - yes absolutely char them -  until they are bubbly, scorched and blackened, then rotate peppers to another side.  When peppers are charred on all sides, remove them from the oven and place in a plastic bag or into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit and cool about 15  minutes as the skins loosen.  Some recipes recommend peeling the skins off over a bowl to collect any juices that run out to use in your recipe, but if you are not interested in saving the juices, it is much easier to slide the skins off under cold running water.

Marinated Pepper Ribbons
2 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
1/4 cup olive oil 
2 tab. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. fresh oregano or marjoram, finely minced
      (or 1/2 tsp. dried and crushed)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
pinch of sugar
1 tsp. capers
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 oz. softened goat or cream cheese 

-Wash and dry peppers.  Place on on oven rack under the broiler and broil on all sides until skins are charred and bubbly.  Remove from the oven and place roasted peppers into a plastic bag or into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rest 15 minutes.

-Under cold running water, rub the skins off the peppers, split open and wash out the pulp and seeds.  Slice pepper flesh into long 1/2 inch wide strips.  Place in a medium bowl.

-Mix all remaining ingredients and pour over pepper slices in  bowl.  Chill 30 minutes or longer.

-Mound softened cheese (cream cheese if you prefer a milder taste) in the middle of a serving platter.  Form into a round disc about 1/2 inch think.  Drain excess marinade off of peppers and place the peppers on top of the cheese.  Serve with crackers or crostini.

-To prepare crostini:  slice a baguette crosswise thinly and place slices on a cookie sheet.  Brush each side with olive oil and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until they are dried and golden.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Spanish Pastry

Yes, these members of the bar-cookie family are as beautiful and delicious as the picture suggests! Spanish Pastry bears a resemblance to a Spanish torte, has the airy crunch of a French cream puff and yet the cream cheese frosting is as one would expect, uniquely American! A culinary hybrid perhaps? Regardless of its origin, this is a gem of a recipe and has been a party favorite (and a closet - last feast before the famine goody before starting a diet) choice for many years. My brother once said he would eat anything frosted with cream cheese frosting (we didn't put him to the test) but his wife rode a bicycle 2 miles to purchase the cream cheese for this recipe. Shared with me many years ago by a European woman who may have had her recipe cards clearly marked with the country of origin, these pastries are comprised of a unique pate choux body, layered on a shortbread crust, baked in 6 inch wide strips, cut into finger-sized cuttings, frosted and finally, garnished with almonds. Add some dried cranberries if you want a festive pop of color for either Christmas or Valentine's. Makes 36 servings.

Spanish Pastry
1 cup soft butter
11/2 cups flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
3 eggs
1 - 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tab. vanilla extract
sliced almonds

-(Shortbread) In medium mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup soft butter and 1 1/2 cups flour.  Blend until smooth (add 1 - 2 tab. water if mixture is not smooth.) On cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, pat shortbread into two, 12 by 6 inch strips.

-(Cream Puff Pastry/Pate a Choux) In medium sauce pan, pour water and add 1/2 cup butter and salt.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat until butter is melted.  All at once, pour in flour and stir over heat for 2 - 3 minutes until mixture pulls away from the sides and balls around the spoon as you stir.

-Remove pate a choux dough from heat and place in electric mixture.  Mix for about 2 minutes at medium speed, allowing some of the heat to escape.

-Stir in 1 egg at a time, beating well after each (for about 1 minute on medium-high speed).

-Mound half of pate a choux mixture down the center of each strip and using a knife or cake spreader, cover the entire surface of the shortbread layer with the choux mixture.  Sculpt into peaks.

-Bake in 380 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until puffed and golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. (The pate a choux layer may collapse some upon cooling.)

-In a mixing bowl, combine butter and cream cheese until smooth and well blended.  Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Frost cooled pastry and garnish with almonds.  Allow to sit for an hour or so or chill, then cut crosswise into finger length strips.  Makes 36 servings.