Monday, November 29, 2010

Oatmeal Everything Cookies

In college, we had some amazing oatmeal cookies one day. I asked the girl who made them what she had done, and she said that she had just kept throwing in all sorts of cookie fillings. What had made them so special was that every bite was a little different.

I've never been able to recreate the cookie exactly, but I have come up with a formula that is close. You start with a basic oatmeal cookie recipe. Then, pick one flavor to dominate (I usually go for chocolate chips) and three or four accent flavors. It's a total of 2-1/2 or 3 cups of stuff in the dough, instead of the usual 2 cups in your standard batch of cookies. The fun part is mixing it up.

I divide the fillings into three main categories, and try to use no more than two from each one.

Chips: Semi-sweet, milk chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter
Fruit: Craisins, raisins, candied fruits (like for fruitcake), banana chips (cracked and briefly soaked in rum or brandy)
Nuts: cashews, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, coconut flakes, instant coffee (only use 2 Tb)

Spices do not add to this cookie's complexity because there are so many contrasting flavors. I tried cinnamon once, and it distracted you from the other flavors. A little vanilla is all this really needs.

3/4 C shortening
1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 C water
1 tsp vanilla
3 C quick oats, uncooked
1 C flour
1 tsp salt (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C primary flavoring
1/2 C each of up to 4 secondary flavorings

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease or line cookie sheets.

2. Beat together shortening, sugars, egg, water, and vanilla until creamy.

3. Combine oats, flour, salt, and soda and add to creamed ingredients. Mix well. Stir in flavorings until evenly distributed.

4. Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheets at least 2" apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned (for softer cookies, pull when browning begins). Cool slightly, then remove to racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen

Ideas for flavor combinations
semisweet chips, coconut, walnuts, craisins, butterscotch chips (my favorite)
white chocolate, candied pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts (Hawaiian)
Peanuts, butterscotch chips, banana chips, almonds

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey Divan

Thousands of households in America roast turkeys for Thanksgiving that are too big for their gathering just so there will be leftovers. And half of those families wake up the next morning wondering what to do with them. I divide them into one-pound portions and freeze them in ziplock bags. Always label and date your leftovers. There are pieces of meat at the bottom of Papa Smurf's chest freezer that are so ancient you can't tell what they are.

For those of you who read my first recipe post, this is my real favorite casserole. It's cheesy and gooey, but you get a good crunch out of the broccoli and breadcrumbs.

I actually bought a can of mushrooms. I ate a lot of salty foods this week and decided to make my own cream of mushroom sauce instead of the canned soup. (White Sauce base with salt, pepper, paprika, and a small amount of sautéed onions, then stir in 4 oz canned mushrooms.) Plus, there was some milk on the verge. Use it or lose it. You could also use a can of cheddar & broccoli soup, for extra cheesiness, but I decided to go with a slight contrast instead.

1 lb leftover turkey or chicken (no heavy seasoning), cut into bite-sized pieces or shredded
2 C broccoli cuts, cooked
1 can cream of mushroom condensed soup
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C plain breadcrumbs or 1 slice of bread torn into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Into an 8" x 8" square pan, layer meat, then broccoli. Pour condensed soup on top and allow to settle for 5 min.

2. Sprinkle cheese on top of soup, then breadcrumbs on top of cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through, about 15 min.

Difficulty rating  π

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

I was highly skeptical the first time I saw this recipe, but thought I'd give it a try anyway. Oh. My. God. it's good! If you like peanut butter at all, you are going to love it. A specialty of The Brewhouse in Santa Barbara, I wish I had known about this place when I lived up there. I would have been there every weekend. It's like peanut-butter fluff resting on a chocolate cookie.

I'm including the crust recipe, but I've always used a store-bought Oreo crust. The flavor of the filling is not intensely peanut-buttery, and having strong peanut butter in the crust may upset the balance. Plus, then I'd end up eating all the white stuff, since you don't put that in the crust.

As for measuring the peanut butter, I suggest one of those push-up adjustable measuring cups that Alton Brown is so fond of using. Those are good for measuring any sticky ingredient, and make clean-up easy. And you know that the amount you measured has actually made it into the product.

This is also an excellent last-minute dessert. If you buy a crust and use a 16 oz container of Cool Whip instead of whipped cream (decrease sugar to 1-1/4 C), it literally takes five minutes to make. You could put it in the crust as the first guest arrives, and it will be set by dessert time.

1-1/2 C Oreo cookie crumbs
1/4 C creamy peanut butter

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Combine cookie crumbs and peanut butter and mix well.

2. Press mixture into a 9" pie pan. Bake until set, 7 minutes. Cool completely.


8 oz cream cheese, softened
*1/2 C peanut butter
1-3/4 C powdered sugar
2 C whipping cream

1. Beat together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and powdered sugar until smooth. I recommend the paddle of a stand mixer, to make cleaning easier.

2. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Fold it into the peanut butter mixture until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Chill about 3 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

Serves 8

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cherry Trifle

Whoever named this dessert was being sarcastic. If you go the whole from-scratch route, this is going to take a couple of days. At the very least, you're looking at six hours. Fortunately, a bunch of cheats exist that can cut it down to about two hours, most of that waiting for the layers to set.

This is also the best reason to own a trifle bowl. The second-best reason is for displaying fruit salads. They can be found for very reasonable prices anywhere that sells cooking supplies. Here's Sur La Table's selections. Note the individual bowls. They are seriously cute, and allow you to serve it without smushing the layers. From a big bowl, you just have to scoop it out with a large serving spoon, which quickly creates a mess. Another serving option is to build it in wine goblets for individual servings. You could do it in a clear round bowl, but the straight sides of a trifle bowl really show the layers to advantage. You can see from the photo that I probably should have made a double recipe to fill the bowl. This recipe does not make a huge amount. The average dinner party of 8 to 10 people does not require a huge trifle bowl.

The recipes I have found call for macaroons for the cookie layer, and I get that the nuttiness adds contrast, but I prefer Nilla wafers. Graham crackers will get too soggy. As for the alcohol, yes it is added uncooked. This is an adult dessert. There isn't enough in one serving to get anybody tipsy, but it is definitely part of the flavoring. If this bothers you, cut the amount in half. You'll get the flavor without it being overpowering.

I'm going to post two versions of the method, one for from-scratch types, and one for people who have twenty other things to do before their holiday guests arrive. The proper recipe is from the Williamsburg Cookbook.

2 C Vanilla Cream Custard or one 4-serving box vanilla pudding, prepared
2 dozen ladyfingers or one 9" layer of spongecake cut into fingers (homemade or store-bought)
1 C cherry jam and 1 qt fresh cherries, pitted, or 1 can cherry pie filling, liquid drained and reserved
rind of 1 lemon, grated
1/2 C dry sherry
3 Tb brandy
1 dz macaroons, Nilla wafers, or other crunchy cookie, slightly crushed
1 C whipping cream and maraschino cherries for garnish

The Long Version

1. Prepare ladyfingers or spongecake. Store uncovered overnight to let them get a little stale. Prepare vanilla cream and store in fridge. Make jam and pit cherries.

2. Coat 1/2 of the ladyfingers/cake with 1/2 C of cherry jam; arrange evenly in bottom of trifle bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 of the lemon rind. Sprinkle with 1/4 C sherry and 1/2 of the brandy.

3. Cover with a layer of 1/2 of the cherries and 1/2 of the cookies. Allow to stand in fridge for 1 hour.

4. Pour 1/2 of the vanilla cream over the top, then repeat layers of ladyfingers with jam, lemon rind, sherry, brandy, cherries, and cookies. Chill for 1 hour, then top with rest of vanilla cream. Chill finished trifle for at least an hour.

5. To serve: decorate with whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Short Version

1. If using cake, cut into bite-sized pieces. Prepare vanilla pudding and let set (instant pudding is ok). Once cherry "goo" has drained from the pie filling, stir sherry and brandy into the cherries.

2. Coat half of ladyfingers/cake with cherry goo and arrange in bottom of trifle bowl. Sprinkle with half of lemon rind. Cover with half of the cherries and half of the cookies, and allow to chill 1/2 hour.

3. Spread half of the pudding on top, then repeat the layers of coated ladyfingers, lemon rind, cherries, and cookies. Chill 1/2 hour. Coat with rest of pudding and chill at least 1 hr.

4. Before serving, decorate with whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Serves 8-10

Difficulty rating  π or $@%!, your choice

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vanilla Cream Custard

Another all-purpose baking component is vanilla cream. Once set, it can be used for pie filling, pudding, or filling things like cream puffs and donuts. The ingredients are similar as for creme anglaise (ice cream base), but the addition of cornstarch makes it set up thick.

This variation is from the Williamsburg Cookbook, but I only use 4 egg yolks instead of their 5. Holiday season or not, I had to draw the line somewhere.

4 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
2 Tb cornstarch
2 C milk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Beat together egg yolks and sugar. Set aside.

2. Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 C milk. Combine that and remainder of milk in a saucepan. Add vanilla and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. It will start to thicken as it approaches the boil.

3. Temper the egg yolks with about 1/4 of the hot milk. Whisk thoroughly and add to milk in saucepan. Stir and return to a boil. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring to avoid curdling the eggs. Do not boil too long, or the cornstarch will start to lose its thickening power.

4. Strain, if needed, and chill until ready to use.

Makes about 2 cups

For creme mousseline: Once custard is cool, beat 1 C whipping cream to soft peaks and fold into custard.

Difficulty rating π

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I don't find a simple spongecake all that interesting, but I'm not really a cake person. Mainly, these fine-grained cakes are a blank slate on which to build other desserts. They are ideal for petit-fours, jelly rolls, and desserts requiring cut-up or leftover cake bits.

One cool part about this cake is that it is leavened entirely by eggs. I highly recommend a stand mixer, but electric beaters will work just as well. You will have to hold the electric beaters a long time. Still much easier than trying to do it by hand. This recipe is from the Williamsburg Cookbook, and I can't imagine trying to make this in a time before even hand-crank egg beaters.

I prepare cake pans differently than this recipe suggests. Gently grease the pan with butter or shortening, then cut a piece of waxed paper to fit the bottom and a tiny bit up the sides. When you press it in, it will stick to the shortening. Grease it again, and flour if necessary. When you turn out the cake, the waxed paper comes with it, and you gently peel it off. Just make sure the cake is still a little warm when you turn it out, or the wax will harden and the trick won't help you at all.

3 eggs, separated
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of cream of tartar
2/3 C cake flour, measured after sifting
4 Tb butter, melted and cooled slightly

1. Grease well and lightly flour the bottom and sides of a 9" round cake pan or jelly-roll pan. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. Beat the egg yolks for 1 minute, then gradually add the sugar and beat for 4 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.

3. Beat the egg whites until foamy, add the pinch of cream of tartar, and beat on high speed until they form very stiff peaks.

4. Lightly and delicately fold the whites and flour into the yolk mixture, alternating and adding in 3 parts. Add the butter, folding just enough to mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Do not tap out bubbles; that will deflate the egg whites.

5. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes if using the round, 12-15 for a jelly roll. Cake is done when it is light brown and springs back to the touch. Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack. When cool, frost or use in recipes.

Makes one 9" layer

Difficulty rating :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


As long as I was opening a package of phyllo, I decided to make some spanakopitas. I used to make these so often that I had the recipe memorized, but it's easier to buy frozen ones nowadays. The phyllo package has a picture of them on it, which is probably where I got the idea.

Since I actually had to open the cookbook this time, I found that the Bible's recipe uses parmesan cheese. I'm fairly certain I used to sub in feta, which is much more authentic. Remember, this cookbook is from the early 1980's, when feta was not readily available. I was buying parmesan for something else, so I went ahead and used it this time. It tastes good, but not as cheesy as a 4 oz block of feta. Let's call them interchangeable.

2 Tb olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 egg
1/3 C grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp pepper
about 1/3 lb phyllo
1/2 C butter or margarine, melted

1. In saucepan, cook onion in oil over medium heat until tender. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, egg, cheese, and pepper.

2. With a sharp knife, cut phyllo lengthwise into 2"-wide strips. Place strips on waxed paper and cover with a slightly damp towel until needed.

3. Brush top of one strip of phyllo with melted butter. Place 1 tsp of filling at short end of strip. Fold one corner over filling to make a right triangle. Continue folding at right angles until you reach the other end of the strip to make a triangular package. Repeat with remaining strips and filling.

4. Preheat oven to 425º. Place packages, seam side down, on cookie sheets. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake triangles 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot.

Makes about 40

Note: You can make them bigger to serve as side dishes. To make a pie, spread 4 sheets of phyllo in an oven-proof skillet with rounded sides, brushing each layer with butter. Fill with all of the spinach, then fold overhanging phyllo to seal top. If the ends don't meet, use another sheet of phyllo to cover it. Brush with butter and bake 25 minutes. Invert onto serving platter.

Difficulty rating :-0

Monday, November 15, 2010


My first experience with Moroccan food was at my friend (and follower) Laura's 16th birthday dinner. I fell in love with the cuisine immediately. It's hard not to, when one of the first things they bring you is bastella, a pastry filled with cinnamon chicken and almonds.

I am not a fan of working with phyllo, and really shouldn't have tried when the humidity was under 30%, but it didn't disintegrate completely. It's also a shame that you have to use the whole package immediately, or throw out the rest. Puff pastry just doesn't give you the same crunchy layers.

This recipe from Mideast & Mediterranean Cuisines makes enough for 6 to 8 as a main dish. I'm posting my four-serving version, which also works for parties up to 8 as an appetizer. You're supposed to eat it with your fingers, but it's very crumbly and eating it hot results in burned fingertips. I have no problem with handing out forks.

1 lb boneless chicken breast, skin optional
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tb olive oil, optional
1/2 onion, chopped
1 C chicken broth or water
pinch of saffron, optional
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 C fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 C ground almonds
2 Tb sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon, plus more for dusting
4 phyllo sheets
2 Tb butter, melted
powdered sugar for dusting
whole almonds for garnish

1. Place chicken, onion, salt, pepper, oil, saffron, cinnamon stick, and broth in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until very tender, at least 1 hr. Let chicken cool slightly. Remove from juices, remove skin and any stray bones or gristle, and chop chicken finely. Set aside. Reserve 1/2 C of cooking liquid and discard the rest.

2. Combine almonds, sugar, and cinnamon. Add chicken to nut mixture.

3. Bring remaining broth to a low boil. Add parsley and cook 5 minutes, until herbs are wilted. Add egg and cook until egg is scrambled and liquid is absorbed. Toss into chicken mixture.

4. Preheat oven to 350º. Butter an oven-proof 6" skillet with rounded sides. Layer on 4 phyllo sheets, brushing each with melted butter as you go, and covering the ones not in use with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Add filling to skillet, then carefully fold overhanging edges of phyllo on top of mixture, to make a sealed pie. Brush top with melted butter.

5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Invert onto serving platter. You can't really move the pie once it is out of the pan, so try to center it. Dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon and decorate with almonds. Serve hot.

Difficulty rating $@%!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chocolate Coconut Hedgies

This is another entry in the L.A. Times contest, by a woman named Nika. Her picture was gorgeous, and the cookies sounded great, so I gave them a try.

They are very good, but I think I baked them too long. They came out of the oven soft. When they cooled, they turned biscotti-level hard. I can suggest two ways to remedy this. 1: bake them for a shorter period of time. 2: eat with a hot cup of coffee in the other hand. I'm going to guess that 15 minutes is the correct bake time (the original was 25). If I figure it out, I'll come back and fix it here. It's just really hard to tell when a chocolate cookie is done. There's no subtle browning to tell you what's going on.

Oh, and the hedgie part is because she thinks that the coconut prickling out looks like a hedgehog.

1-1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C butter (one stick)
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C cocoa powder
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
*1-1/3 C shredded coconut
powdered sugar for coating

1. Mix flour, soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and cocoa and mix well. Add flour slowly. Knead in coconut (or, if using a stand mixer, use the paddle). Wrap in waxed paper and chill in fridge.

3. Preheat oven to 325º. Make golf-ball sized dough balls and place on parchment-lined sheet. They may be dredged in coconut or powdered sugar before baking. Bake for 15 minutes.

4. When cool, dust with powdered sugar and drizzle on chocolate sauce:

1/4 C cocoa powder
1 drop vanilla
1/2 cap Kahlua liqueur
2 Tb sugar
boiling water for thinning.

Stir together cocoa, vanilla, kahlua, and sugar. Slowly add boiling water to thin to desired consistency.

Makes 2 dozen

December 2, 2010

I made another batch yesterday. Definitely bake them 15 minutes. I also tried substituting 1/2 C cake flour for 1/2 C of regular flour. They came out soft and how I expected, but the cake flour made the dough too soft to mold into balls. It was more like drop-cookie texture. You couldn't roll them in powdered sugar or coconut before baking, so they didn't develop the crackly texture, but the taste was not affected.

Difficulty level  π

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Growing up, we would have fondue every few months. My dad's big threat was that, if we didn't finish the beef, we would have stew the next day. It never came to pass, and I don't remember my mother ever serving us stew.

I came across this recipe in the L.A. Times as a Passover dish. (Served without rice or couscous on the side.) It's similar to tzimmes, with a distinctly north-African influence. Halfway through making it the first time, I realized it was a lamb stew. Once I tasted it, I decided it wasn't just stew, it was stoo. The real name is Lamb Tajine with Apricots, Saffron, and Ginger.

Saffron is the world's most expensive spice, on a par with many illegal drugs. Since you only use a pinch, there isn't much taste imparted. You can substitute a pinch of turmeric for the same color.

The sauce is fairly thin if you're serving it all at once, but it gets thicker for leftovers. You can also skim off the fat the next day. Like a brisket, leftovers are often better than the day it was made.

I'm listing the ingredients as they appeared, but the method is how I make it. This saves almost an hour of cooking time and cuts down on the number of dishes you have to wash.

2-1/2 lbs lamb shoulder chops (bone-in) or 2 lbs lamb stew meat
1-2 Tb olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
dash saffron threads (about 1/8 tsp)
salt to taste
ground pepper to taste
1-1/2 C water
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 3/4" dice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
3/4 C dried apricots
1 C pitted prunes
1 Tb honey
1/3 C sliced almonds, toasted

1. Heat oil in large pot. Sautée onions until they begin to soften, 5 minutes. Add lamb and cook until browned, another 5 minutes. Add water, saffron, salt, and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, until lamb is tender.

2. If using bone-in lamb, remove lamb to a plate. Remove and discard bones and cut meat into stew-sized pieces. Return to pot. Add sweet potatoes, apricots, prunes, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until sweet potatoes are cooked.

3. Stir in honey and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with the toasted almonds.

Serves 6

Difficulty rating :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Croissants are quite a project, and by the time I admit to something like that, you know it's complicated. There are only six ingredients, the same six I use in most of my breads. It's the process that makes croissants take at least an hour longer than any other bread. (To be fair, Danish dough takes almost as long.) You certainly come out of the experience with a new appreciation for every croissant you buy at a bakery, and even some respect for the whack-a-can variety.

Up until now, I have used the term "butter" to refer to either butter or margarine. It's just easier to type butter, and most people understand they're interchangeable. For croissants, you should spring for the good stuff for two reasons. First, you're making croissants. And second, the melting point of butter is different, and it hardens up better into the flat sheet you need to make. Margarine never really becomes completely solid.

This is actually my own recipe. I came up with it using techniques I learned from various sources, but it's mostly using the proportions I have devised for every bread I make. Reading the recipe card (I haven't made these in a couple of years), I realized how poorly I wrote the instructions. Well, I knew what I was talking about. I'll try to make this a little more precise.

This is also a half-recipe because, at the time, I hadn't bought my big bread board. A half was all that would fit on my old one. To use a full package of yeast, just double this and hope you have a big enough work space.

1 tsp yeast
1 C milk
1 tsp sugar
2 C flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
4oz unsalted sweet butter (1 stick, 1/2 C)

1. Warm milk and sugar to 100ºF. Dissolve yeast in milk and let sit until foamy, 5-10 minutes.

2. Sift together salt and 1 C flour. Stir milk into flour mix. Beat into a batter for 2 minutes.

3. Add 1 C flour and beat to make a very soft dough. Turn out onto kneading surface and knead until smooth, adding as little flour as possible. Round, place in greased bowl, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Let the stick of butter come to room temperature. Roll out butter into a 7"x12" (approx) rectangle between two sheets of plastic wrap. Place on a flat surface and chill in refrigerator, at least half an hour.

5. Punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes. Roll into a rectangle approx 8"x18", or big enough that the sheet of butter will cover 2/3 of it with a little room around the edges. Place butter on the dough:

6. Fold the left side towards the right, like closing a book, but stop halfway across the buttered side. Then fold the right towards the left, until you get an aligned rectangle. Think of a tri-fold takeout menu. Roll the dough out to full size and do it again, which will be the other way. Try to line up the edges, but it's OK if they aren't perfect. Place dough in refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes.

7. Take out dough and roll out again. This will be the second "turn". Fold and place back in the fridge for 20 minutes. If you need a trick to keep count, make a single dent in the dough with a finger the first time you do it, two dents the second time, and yes, there will be a third. What you're doing is building flakey layers, and three turns seems to be the universally accepted number for a croissant.

8. After the third turn, the dough is ready. You can use it right away, or let it develop some character by letting it sit in the fridge at least four hours or overnight.
9. Roll the dough out 1/4" thick, which will be a rectangle approx. 7" x 16". Cut four rectangles 4" x 7", then cut each rectangle in half diagonally. Pull gently at the corners of the wide end, then roll up towards the point. Curve slightly, and place on greased (or silpat) cookie sheet with the point underneath. For filled croissants, cut each rectangle in half across the middle, making two rectangles. Place a tablespoon of filling (chocolate, cream cheese, pie filling) in the middle, then do your book fold again to make a new rectangle. Place seam-side down on cookie sheet.

10. Brush shaped croissants with melted butter or beaten egg. The butter adds flavor, the egg makes them darker. Your choice. Proof in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

11. Bake at 375º for 20 minutes, until golden.

Makes 8

Difficulty rating  $@%!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lemon Marmalade

I just had to post a photo of one of the lemons from the tree. That's a 6" ruler.

Marmalade is a type of jam which is made from citrus fruits. Unlike most jams, you leave the peel on. The citrus pulp is mostly water, so the only chewy part of the jam is the rind.

Lemon marmalade was something I made because you almost never see it in the market. It is very subtle, making it a great accompaniment for light pastries or scones. It's even good on pancakes. It does use a lot of sugar because it's a lemon. Orange marmalade doesn't use as much.

One normal, grocery store lemon slices to about one cup. Maybe buy a second one if they seem on the small side.

The recipe on the card in the box looks like it's from a newspaper, so it's probably from the L.A. Times, sometime in the 1970s.

1 C thinly sliced, unpeeled lemons
3 C water
2-1/4 C sugar

1. Combine lemon slices and water in a large pan. Cook rapidly until tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Drain fruit and measure liquid. Add enough water to make 3 cups. Add with sugar to lemons, mixing well. Boil rapidly, stirring frequently about 15 to 20 minutes or until mixture jells. Stir and skim a few times during cooking.

Makes about 1 pint

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rustic Spinach and Cornmeal Soup

I saw this recipe in the October issue of Bon Appetit. I wasn't too sure at first, but I do have a lot of cornmeal, so it wasn't like I was investing much in trying it.

You'll notice that the first ingredient is low-salt chicken broth. I cannot stress enough how important that is. We're talking 3-5% daily value per serving. Henry's has it for about the same price as regular no-name broth. I thought I could get away with reduced-salt, which runs about 24%. Plus, I followed the recipe's instructions to add salt as it cooked. Way too much. Although I'm copying the recipe more or less as it appeared in the magazine, I suggest you wait until all of the broth is incorporated before adding any salt. The soup will still cook long enough to absorb the flavor.

If you can't find baby spinach leaves, you can make a chiffonade of regular spinach, to cut the toughness.

Serve all of the soup as soon as it is ready. It does not reheat to the same consistency.

6 C (or more) low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
*3/4 C coarse cornmeal
3 Tb all-purpose flour
3 Tb butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
Kosher salt
8 oz baby spinach leaves

1. Bring 6 C broth to simmer in large saucepan; cover to keep warm.

2. In heavy large pot, whisk together polenta and flour. Add 1 C hot broth and whisk over medium-high heat until smooth.

3. Stir in butter and garlic. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Gradually add 5 C hot broth by cupfuls, whisking until smooth before each addition. Boil gently over medium heat until cornmeal is tender and soup is creamy and thickened, about 12 minutes. Add more broth to thin, if necessary.

4. Stir in spinach by handfuls. Simmer until wilted, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Season with more salt and black pepper to taste.

Serves 6

Difficulty rating  π

Update: 1/9/11

I gave it another shot, with low-salt broth and not seasoning until right before adding the spinach. MUCH better. I ended up adding about 1/4 tsp salt, which was just enough to bring it up from "kind of bland" to where it should be. I also garnished it with some grated parmesan. It was a nice accent, without hiding the flavor of the spinach.