Friday, October 31, 2014

Pear And Hazelnut Frangipane Tart

Pear and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart 
This is a dessert that I often prepared for my dinner parties and also when I was asked to bring a dessert.  Since pears are in season I thought I would repeat a recipe I posted July 7, 2007.  The recipe calls for Bosc pears which do not soften when cooked.  I prefer a Bartlett pear.  This tart looks so delectable like one from a European bakery.
Tart Crust:
1 3/4 cup flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut into 8 pieces
3 - 5 Tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, salt and butter until it resembles corn meal. Add ice water only until a small handful squeezed holds together. Pat into a 10 inch tart pan. I use the bowl of a serving spoon to even and smooth the bottom.
1 cup hazelnuts, skins rubbed off and cooled
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 firm ripe Bosc pears (I prefer Bartlett)
1/4 cup apricot preserves, heated and strained
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and heat in oven for 12 to 15 minutes. The skins will crack and loosen. Remove from oven and place in a towel and roll up to allow steam to loosen skins more. When cool rub between layers of the towel to remove the loosened skins.
Place the cool hazelnits and 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour in a food processor and pulse to chop the hazelnuts.
In a mixer bowl add the butter and 1/4 cup sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs and extract flavorings and fold in the nut mixture. Spread on the crust.
Peel the 3 Bosc pears. Cut each pear in half and slice lengthwise in 1/4" strips being careful not to cut all of the way through at the blossom end. This will allow you to fan out the pears. Arrange the blossom end of pear to the center of the tart. I have already sliced the pears through and arranged the slices in a decorative design of the tart.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Heat and strain the apricot preserves. When the tart has cooled spread the strained preserves on the pears only.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spinach, Apple And Walnut Salad With Maple Dressing

Spinach, Apple And Walnut
Salad With Maple Dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (dark)
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup grape seed oil or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1- 6 oz bag baby spinach leaves
3 large apples, peeled and julienned
   (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Fuji, or 
    Golden Delicious)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or 
    dried tart cherries.   
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Whisk mayonnaise, maple syrup, and vinegar in a medium bowl rot blend.  Gradually whisk in the oil until mixture thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dressing can be prepared and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead.
Toss spinach, apples, cranberries, and half the walnuts in a large bowl.  Toss with enough dressing to coat well.  Divide the salad equally among plates and sprinkle with remaining walnuts, serve immediately.  Suggestion of Phillis, use
crumbled feta cheese.

Tips shared by Phillis:
Honeycrisp are juicy apples.
D'Anjou pears never soften Bosc 
    pears are softer
To keep fruit from discoloring use an 
    equal amount of vinegar and sugar 
   (about 1 teaspoon each) in water.
Walnuts toasted in oven 7 minutes at 350.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup With Apples and Bacon

Butternut Squash Soup With 
Apples and Bacon
This is a recipe from a cooking class my friend Ann and I took with our favorite instructor, Phillis Carey.  I know this recipe will become a family favorite.

4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4" strips
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, (about 1 med.)
   peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" dice
1 small Fugi or other tart-sweet apple, 
   peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2" dice
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot set over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.

Increase heat to medium high.  Add the shallots and squash to the pot with the bacon fat and cook until lightly browned, 4 minutes (resist the urge to stir or it won't brown).  Stir in the apple, curry, salt, and pepper and cook for about 4 minutes.  Add the broth, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the squash and apples are very soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

Puree soup with an emersion blender until almost smooth.  Stir in the thyme anad half of the bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reheat the soup and garnish each serving with remaining bacon.

Tips shared in class;  
Fruit prepared ahead that can turn dark will retain its natural color if soaked up to 4 hours in regular Sprite soda.   

Herbs used in cooking: dried herbs need to be added earlier in preparation to be hydrated and flavor imparted.  Fresh herbs should be added at the end of cooking as they should not be "cooked".  

Red Delicious and McIntosh Apples turn mushy when cooked and do not hold up in the soup.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash And Apple Chowder

Roasted Butternut Squash 

And Apple Chowder

Serves 8
Puréed roasted butternut squash provides the creamy base for a hearty chowder. If making the chowder ahead, prepare the recipe through cooking until tender, draining and setting aside, then assemble and reheat just before serving.

2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks (6 cups), divided
3 medium apples, peeled and diced (3 cups), divided
2 large leeks, white parts cut into 1-inch chunks (1 cup), plus ½ cup thinly sliced leek greens, divided
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. pure maple syrup
1 lb. multicolored potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
½ cup apple juice
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine 5 cups butternut squash chunks, 2 cups diced apple, leek whites, oil, and maple syrup in large bowl, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Spread squash mixture in single layer on prepared baking sheet, and roast 30 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Cook potato chunks and remaining 1 cup butternut squash in boiling, salted water 5 to 7 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, and set aside.

Purée roasted vegetables in blender until smooth. Add purée and apple juice to large soup pot with 4 cups water. Whisk in vinegar, and heat over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Add boiled potatoes and squash, remaining 1 cup diced apple, and leek greens, and simmer 5 minutes, or until hot.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spinach And Ricotta Ravioli

Spinach And Ricotta Ravioli
Ravioli di Spinaci e Ricotta alla Sicilana
This is a two step preparation but so well worth the effort.
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup stone ground organic semolina
4 large free range eggs
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
For The Filling
1/2 small shallot, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh organic spinach
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta  
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 tablespoon ground nutmeg
Sea salt
Black Pepper
Making the Pasta;
Mound the flour and semolina in the center of a large wooden cutting board or bowl.  Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs, oil, and salt.  Using your hands, beat together the eggs and incorporate the flour starting with the outer rim of the well.  As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape.  The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated. 

Start kneading the dough with both hands.  Add more flour, in the 1/2 cup increments if the dough is too wet.  Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and leftover dry bits.  Lightly flour the board and continue kneading 3 mor minute.  The dough should be elastic and a little sticky.

Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes in the refrigerator to allow the dough to rest.

For the filling;
In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, sauté the shallot over low heat in the extra virgin olive oil.  When translucent, add the spinach and sauté until wilted.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Press spinach to thoroughly remove all excess water, then chop finely. Mix the spinach mixture with the ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano and nutmeg.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assembling the ravioli;
In a pasta machine or by hand, press roll the pasta twice using the 1 millimeter mark, in 12 X 4 inch sheets.

Place the pasta sheet on a wood cutting board.  Usind a small spoon, place approximately a tablespoon of the spinach filling three inches apart.

Gently cover the pasta with another pasta sheet.  The less space you leave around the edges, the better the ravioli.  If the edges are thick, the pasta can turn very chewy.  Very lightly brush the pasta with a mixture of water or egg whites. Using a pastry cutter or skall knife, cut and shape the ravioli.

To cook, fill a large pasta pot with water and heat to boiling.  Gently drop in ravioli and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Keep unused avioli refrigerated in a container, toss with flour to keep from sticking. 
Serves 6

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spiced Pear Liqueur

Spiced Pear Liqueur
This liqueur turned out to be one of the, "you made this" recipes.  I allowed mine recipe to steep 4 weeks.  Will make often!

A note about this recipe: homemade infusions are something of an inexact science. Your spices may be fresher; a higher proof spirit will lead to more flavor extraction. All of which to say is, check the progression of your pear project every day or two. Think you’ve got enough spice flavor? Take them out. Are you at peak pear intensity for your taste? Skip ahead to the straining step.

Homemade Spiced Pear Liqueur
2 Bosc or Bartlett pears, skin on, sliced into 
    wedges, core and seeds removed
2 ½ cups vodka (we used 80 proof vodka)
Peeled zest of 1/2 lemon (remove any of the 
   white pith, which will lead to bitter flavors.
2 whole cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
In a clean quart jar, add the pear wedges, lemon zest and whole spices, and top with vodka (add more to cover the pears if you need). Seal the jar and keep in a cool, dark place.

After 3 days, check the progression of the infusion and make any adjustments (see recipe note) and if it needs more time, reseal the jar and check again in a day or two.

When your infusion is almost ready (probably around 7 days), combine the sugar and water in a small saucepot and heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Let the sugar mixture cool, then add to the pear infusion. Reseal the jar and let the mixture rest for another day.  

Line a fine-grain strainer with two layers of cheesecloth and place it over a clean quart jar, then strain the pear infusion into the clean jar. Seal the jar with the strained infusion and let sit in a cool dark place until ready for use (either at home or to be re-bottled in clean jars as gifts.) 

The liqueur should conservatively last for around a month when stored in a cool, dark place. To make it last for up to three months, store it in the refrigerator.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Shrimp And Sausage Cioppino

Shrimp and Sausage Cioppino

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and 
    chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black   
   pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 pound spicy Italian turkey sausage 
   links, casings removed
2 cups white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and 
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, 
   rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 
Serving suggestion: crusty sourdough bread
In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. 
Add the fennel, garlic, shallots, 
1/2 teaspoon salt, and 
1/4 teaspoon pepper. 
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. 
Add the sausage and break into 1/2-inch pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until brown, about 5 minutes. 
Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the tomato paste, chicken broth, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Uncover the pan and add the shrimp, beans, basil, and thyme. 
Simmer, uncovered, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 4 minutes. 
Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. 
Ladle the cioppino into soup bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Friday, October 24, 2014

White Chicken Chili
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 4-ounce cans chopped green chiles
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 15-ounce cans Great Northern beans, rinsed
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 cups diced cooked skinless chicken
2 tablespoons cider vinegar


Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes.

Stir in chiles, oregano, cumin and cayenne.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.

Stir in beans and broth; bring to a simmer.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Add chicken and vinegar; cook for 5 minutes more. Serve.                      Makes 6 servings of 1 1/3 cups.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Onions And Walnuts

Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts
With Onions And Walnuts
8 cups (24 oz.) brussel sprouts, quartered
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450º F.
In a large bowl, combine brussel sprouts, garlic, shallots, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine and season everything.
Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until some brussel sprouts have become crispy.
In the meantime, toast your walnuts for 4-5 minutes, in a pan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently so they don’t burn.
Remove tray from oven, add walnuts and extra olive oil (and seasoning, if needed) and toss well. Serve hot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Caramelized Fig, Orange, And Feta Salad

Caramelized Fig, Orange, and Feta Salad
Another great recipe I want to preserve for the future growth and production of my newly planted fig tree. (if I can keep the gophers at bay!)
1/2 cup superfine sugar
16 ripe figs, cut in half lengthwise 
4 medium oranges, topped and tailed,
   peeled, and sliced into rounds 3/8" thick
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon anise flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup olive oil
7 ounces Feta, broken into 3/8" chunks
1 tablespoon oregano leaves, small one whole
   and larger ones chopped
3 cups arugula
Coarse sea salt and black pepper
Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add half of the sugar.  Leave for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it turn a golden caramel color, don't stir the sugar at this stage.  Once nice and golden, add half of the figs, cut side down.  Cook for two minutes, until starting to soften, before turning to cook for a minute more.  Remove from the pan anad add the second batch of the figs and repeat the cooking process.  You might need to add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan if the figs aren't very juicy.
Add the remaining sugar to the pan, return to the heat, and let the sugar start to caramelize before adding the oranges and leaving for one minute on each side.  They should take on a rich caramel color.  Remove and add to plate of figs.
Take the caramel off the heat and whisk in the lemon juice, liqueur, anise or fennel seeds, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, and a generous grind of black pepper.  Once combined, whisk in the olive oil and set aside.
Arrange the oranges  and figs on a large platter and dot with the feta pieces.  Drizzle any juices left on the fruit over the top followed by the dressing.  Sprinkle with the oregano and arugula and serve.
Serves Four

A Tour Of Little Italy

A Tour of Little Italy
I recently toured Little Italy and learned so much more about the city I live.  I was so amazed by the history preserved of this small enclave.  It still echoes the culture and daily habits of the homeland.  

Lunch was served in Po Pazzo Restaurant, 1917 India St.  Ph. 619-238-1917, with Chef Joe Busalacchi presenting a cooking demonstration with the dishes we were served.  Italian Food is fresh and simple but so tasty.
We were served bread with a choice of butter or a tomato topping.  It is my opinion that the recommended brand of tomatoes used are canned with a seasoning or were fire roasted.  Chef Joe graciously shared his creations:

Tomato Topping For Bread or Bruschetta
Alta Puccino brand Roma Tomatoes, 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chopped garlic (very light)
Joe showed how he takes a canned Roma tomato and with his finger makes one slit top to bottom and with a squeeze removes the seeds.  Chop the tomatoes into a small dice.  Save the juice.

Joe suggested slicing a baguette and toasting the slices for a delicious bruschetta.  When removing from the oven rub a fresh garlic clove to infuse the garlic flavor.

Joe prepared the salad by mixing his oil and vinegar using a two to one ratio, first in the bottom of the salad bowl, and whisking to incorporate.  He then added his greens and condiments,, tossed, plated, and added some shaved Parmesan Cheese.

Pasta Course  
Rigatoni with Pommadero and Italian Sausage Sauce:
Rigatoni pasta, cooked al dente 
Italian sausage, browned
canned tomatoes, deseeded, save the juice and chop.
garlic, crushed and left whole
black olives cured in oil chopped
Parmesan Cheese
Fry sausage rendering fat.  Pour fat from skillet and build sauce adding the ingredients.  Cook until tomatoes have released some of their juice.  Be sure to scrape the brown bits from the skillet bottom for the added flavor.  You may add the juice saved but not the seeds. Top with Parmesan cheese.

 Entree: Chicken Picata
Heat skillet with a high heat.  Add butter and when melted reduce heat.   Use a seasoned with salt and pepper flour coating on a breast of chicken.  Use small breasts as they cook most evenly.  Brown both sides cooking in skillet.   
Remove chicken from skillet to warm plate.  Add white wine to skillet.  Chef Joe used Pinot Grigio but any light white wine will do.  You now have a roux.  
To the roux squeeze lemon juice, 
add capers, 
Shiitake mushrooms, (which were sautéed), 
salt and white pepper.  
Served topped with sautéed mixed vegetables cut in strips.

Dessert was Cassata Cake.
Wine served was Cusumano  Nero D'Avaola

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

Serves 4-6
2 sweet potatoes
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 cup carrots, grated
1 1/4 cups whole oats
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 egg
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400º F.

Cut sweet potatoes in half and place them cut side down on a baking sheet. Place in oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.

Once cool, remove skins from potatoes, chop into pieces and set aside.

In a food processor, blend oats until they are a fine powder. Remove and set aside.

Add kidney beans, onion, sweet potatoes, carrots and cilantro, and pulse for 10 seconds. Then add in spices and salt and pepper.

Add egg and pulse for another 5 seconds, until semi-smooth.

Slowly pour in ground oats until mixture holds together.

Divide mixture into 4-6 burger patties.

Heat vegetable oil in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, place burger patties in pan and cook each side for 3-4 minutes, or until golden and warmed through.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tomato And Roasted Lemon Salad

Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad
2 medium lemons, halved crosswise, seeds 
   removed and cut in paper thin slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
8 sage leaves, finely shredded
2 2/3 cups baby tomatoes (cherry or grape)
   yellow or red or both, halved *see note 
Scant 1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
seeds of 1 small pomegranate (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 325 F.

Bring a small pan of water to a boil, add the lemon slices and blanche them for 2 minutes.  Drain well and place the lemon in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the sugar, and the sage.  Gently mix and spread the mixture out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in the oven and bake for twenty minutes until the lemons have dried out a little.  Remove and set aside to cool.
In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, allspice, parsley, mint, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate molasses, onion, and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground pepper.  Add the lemon slices, and gently stir and serve.

NOTE  Place ("sandwich") tomatoes between two lids.  I use Cool Whip lids as they have a flat surface with a lip.  Place the bottom lid top side down and the top lid top side up.  Lay the knife horizontal and slice horizontally through the lids.  All tomatoes are sliced.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Easy One Pot Ratatouille

Easy One Pot Ratatouille

Easy French Ratatouille
My grandson Phil gave the dish, "it was really good" endorsement.  Phil has always loved his vegetables!
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2 large eggplants
2 yellow onions
3 bell peppers
6-8 medium zucchini
4 large tomatoes
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
1/4 cup loosely packed basil, sliced into ribbons
Extra basil for garnishing
Salt and pepper

Peel the eggplants, if desired, and chop them into bite-sized cubes. Transfer them to a strainer set over a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of salt. Let the eggplant sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Dice the onions and roughly chop the peppers, zucchinis, and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Mince the garlic. The vegetables will be cooked in batches, so keep each one in a separate bowl.
Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a large (at least 5 1/2 quart) Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions have softened and are just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the peppers and continue cooking until the peppers have also softened, about another 5 minutes. Transfer the onions and peppers to a clean bowl.
Add another teaspoon of oil to the pot and sauté the zucchini with a generous pinch of salt until the zucchini has softened and is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the zucchini to the bowl with the onions and peppers.
Rinse the eggplant under running water and squeeze the cubes gently with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Warm two teaspoons of oil in the pan and sauté the eggplant until it has softened and has begun to turn translucent, about 10 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to the bowl with the other vegetables.
During cooking, a brown glaze will gradually build on the bottom of the pan. If it looks like this glaze is beginning to turn black and burn, turn down the heat to medium. You can also dissolve the glaze between batches by pouring 1/4 cup of water or wine into the pan and scraping up the glaze. Pour the deglazing liquid into the bowl with the vegetables.
Warm another teaspoon of olive oil in the pan and sauté the garlic until it is fragrant and just starting to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, whole sprigs of thyme. As the tomato juices begin to bubble, scrape up the brown glaze on the bottom of the pan.
Add all of the vegetables back into the pan and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Bring the stew to a simmer, then turn down the heat to low. Stirring occasionally, simmer for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 1/2 hours. Shorter cooking time will leave the vegetables in larger, more distinct pieces; longer cooking times will break the vegetables down into a silky stew.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Just before taking the ratatouille off the heat, stir in the basil. Sprinkle the extra basil and a glug of good olive oil over each bowl as you serve.
Leftovers can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to three months. Ratatouille is often better the second day, and it can be eaten cold, room temperature, or warmed.
• Making a Smaller Batch: This recipe can be cut in half and adapted to use whatever vegetables you have.

• Flavor Extras: For something different try adding a tablespoon of smoked paprika, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a quarter cup of red wine, or a splash of vinegar to the ratatouille.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Baked Potatoes Three Ways

Baked Potatoes Three Ways

Baked Potatoes

By Sam Sifton

Twice-Baked Potatoes With Cauliflower and Cheese

By Sam Sifton

Baked Potatoes With Crab, Jalapeño and Mint

By Sam Sifton

The nights are coming faster now, and dead leaves rustle across grass and sidewalk. “Look at that moon,” Thornton Wilder wrote in “Our Town.” “Potato weather, for sure.”

Baked-potato weather, for sure. Slide a rack of russets into a hot oven for 45 minutes while you sort mail or pay bills, check email or help someone with homework. Set up a fixings bar of butter and bacon and Cheddar, chives and sour cream. The reward is one of the great, undervalued actors in all dinner theater: Mr. Split-Top himself, dressed in finery.

A recipe for basic baked potatoes follows. The key instructions are to pierce the jackets of the potatoes in a number of places to allow them to exhale steam as they cook; to lightly grease their exteriors with oil, so that they crisp; and to salt them a little, just because.

Be patient as they cook, and feel absolutely no pressure to accompany them with anything but toppings. If bacon and Cheddar do not appeal, you can try a combination of thyme, chervil and chives. The hedge-fund set may prefer a heaping tablespoon of caviar.

Dressed to your tastes, a baked potato makes a nice accompaniment to a slice of prime rib or a steak, even a roasted chicken. It is also quite nice served with a tart salad.

But a baked potato can be a meal too. This is particularly the case when you start making additions to the starch — cauliflower and cheese in the case of the second recipe, and crab meat, jalapeño and mint (cheese, too!) in the case of the third.

For the cauliflower version, abide by the teachings of the great British home cook and writer Nigel Slater, and cook the florets in milk scented with bay leaves as you bake the tubers. You’ll be rewarded with a sweet pairing for the starchy potato flesh, beautifully countered by the salty nuttiness of Parmesan at the end. For the crab, be very gentle with the meat, tossing it lightly with lemon, mint and jalapeño. The idea is to have a topping to the mashed potatoes that is pillowlike in its delicacy.

These potatoes are sometimes called twice-baked. That is a misnomer, but still an excellent name. They’re baked, then disassembled, then heated through with a cheese hat that melts across their surface. The amount of time added to the overall process is neither negligible nor problematic. The result is a simple, elegant one-plate dinner, an old-school pleasure best consumed with friends.

Be patient as they cook, and feel absolutely no pressure to accompany them with anything but toppings. If bacon and Cheddar do not appeal, you can try a combination of thyme, chervil and chives,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Potato Focaccia

Potato Focaccia
1 3/4 cups water
1 envelope active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 1/4 cup
    for baking pan
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon flakey sea salt
2 potatoes (approximately 1 pound)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Warm 1/3 cup water to 110F.  Dissolve the dry yeast into the water and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Add the rest of the water and the flour., and mix until the dough comes together.  Add salt and 1/4 cup olive oil and continue kneading until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. (approximately 15 minutes if mixed by hand.)  Pt the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to raise until it doubles in volumn, approximately 2 hours.

Oil a 11 x 17 baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Scrape dough out of the bowl and onto the pan and pat and press the dough into the pan to fill it completely.  If the dough resists, wait a few minutes and continue.  With the fingertips, make impressions in the dough at 2 inch intervals.  Drizzle dough with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.  Peel and slice the potatoes very thinly and arrange them over the top of the dough covering it completely.  Drizzle more olive oil on the top and sprinkle with salt and rosemary.  Allow the dough to rise again until double in bulk, about 45 minutes.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 450 degrees and set the rack in the lower third of the oven.  When dough has risen, bake until deep golden, about 25 minutes.  Check the bottom of the crust about half way through the baking time by lifting the side of the focaccia with a spatula.  If it is coloring deeply, slide pan onto another pan to insulate bottom.  Once baked, slide the focaccia off the pan onto the rack to cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature in narrow slices.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pistachio Crusted Salmon Fillets With Apricot Glaze

Glaze: Serves 4.
8 dried apricots, quartered
3/4 cup canned apricot nectar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp. Asian chili sauce (Sriracha) 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. minced shallots

4 (5 to 6 oz.) salmon fillets, 1 inch thick
Sea salt and pepper to taste
3 T. grapeseed or vegetable oil, divided use 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 T. chopped chives
1/2 cup toasted chopped pistachio nuts

1. To make the sauce, place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth—return to saucepan simmer to thicken, if desired, or simmer to warm through. (Keeps 3 weeks in refrigerator.)

2. For salmon, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season fish well with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick pan. Sear fish 1 minute per side and then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

3. Toss remaining 1 tablespoon oil with parsley, chives and pistachio nuts. Brush fish lightly with the Apricot Glaze. Spread pistachio mixture on the fish and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until just cooked through. Serve drizzled with more Apricot Glaze. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oatmeal Waffles

Oatmeal Waffles
This dish uses less sugar, salt, and fat.  Recipe uses Diabetic Exchanges.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.  In a small mixing bowl, stir together eggs, milk, melted butter and brown sugar.  Add to flour mixture; stir until blended.  Pour on grids of preheated and lightly greased waffle iron.  Close lid quickly; do not open during baking process.  Waffles are done when steam no longer comes from iron.  Use fork to remove baked waffle  Top with fresh fruit and yogurt.  Yield 12 waffles 4" square each, about 6 servings.
Diabetic exchanges:  One serving equals 1 bread, 2 fats; also 176 calories, 223mg. sodium, 65 mg. cholesterol, 21 gm. carbohydrate, 5 gm. protein, 8 mg. fat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fig And Blue Cheese Salad

Fig And Blue Cheese Salad
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Sea salt and pepper

6 slices bacon
1 1/2 tablespoon salted butter
1 crisp apple, such as Honeycrisp or Fugi,
    halved, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 cups mesclun greens
3 oz. Roquefort cheese, crumbled
1/2 lb. small seedless grapes, halved
4 fresh figs, cut into wedges
In a small bowl whisk the olive oil with the apple cider vinegar and whole grain mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large non-stick skillet, cook the bacon slices over moderate heat, turning until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel to drain.  Break the bacon into pieces.

In the same skillet, melt the butter.  Add the apple and cook over moderate heat until light golden, 3 to 4 minutes.  Stir in the hazelnuts and cook until deep golden, 1 to 2 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

Arrange the greens on a platter.  Top with the apple, hazelnuts, cheese, grapes, figs, and bacon.  Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Vegetable Farro Stew With Figs And Pine Nuts

Vegetable Farro Stew With 
Figs And Pine Nuts
2 rosemary sprigs
5 oregano sprigs
5 thyme sprigs
2 small artichokes
1 cup farro
1/4 cup extra-virgin, plus 
  more for drizzling
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
   more for seasoning
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 heads garlic, 1/4 cut off the tops
1 lemon, sliced 1/8" thick
1 Cubanelle pepper, sliced 1/3" thick
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced 1/3" thick
1/2 yellow pepper, sliced 1/3" thick
1 medium onion, quartered
1 large Japanese eggplant, 
   cut in 6 wedges
1 cup dried Black Mission figs, 
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and 
   cut in six wedges
1/2 lb. large cherry tomatoes, 
1 small green zucchini, cut 
   into 1/2" pieces
1 small yellow squash, cut into 
   2" pieces
6 oz. kale, stemmed and 
   leaves quartered 
Toasted pine nuts
Chopped fresh oregano
Lemon wedges 
Freshly grated Parmigiano-
Sherry vinegar for garnish
Using kitchen twine, tie the rosemary, oregano and thyme sprigs in a bundle.  Snap the small leaves off around the stem of the artichokes.  Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise.  With a spoon scrape out the hairy chokes, and discard them. 

Turn a 6 to 6 1/2 quart slow cooker to high and set the timer for 6 hours.  Add the artichokes and the next 17 ingredients, up to the cherry tomatoes, then add the herb bundle: spread the ingredients in even layers.  Cover the slow cooker and cook for four hours.

Srit the stew gently and add the zucchini, yellow squash and kale, stirring to submerge them in the liquid.  Cover and cook for 2 hours longer.

Discard the herb bundle, season the stew with salt and serve with the garnishes at the table.

Wine: Herb scented, light bodied Italian red.  (2012 Allegrini Valpolicella)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 large egg

2 tablespoons flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee grounds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick spray.

In a bowl, sift together flour, flaxseed, cocoa powder, coffee grounds, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, vanilla and egg(white)s together, on high speed, for 2-3 minutes.
Slowly add flour mixture to the egg mixture, 1/3 cup at a time. When all of dry ingredients are incorporated, fold in the hazelnuts.

Take your dough and divide it into 3 equal sections. Form or roll each portion into a log and flatten gently to 1-inch thickness.
Place logs on baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until firm.

Remove tray from oven and transfer rolls to a wire rack. Lower oven heat to 325º F. Cut cookies on the diagonal, 1/2-inch thick, and return to baking sheet, cut side down.

Bake biscotti for 6 minutes, then flip them onto the other side and bake for another 6-7 minutes.