Saturday, December 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The evening before the celebration we sat around the table enjoying Marinara and the loaf of my mother’s garlic bread I’d prepared go with it. Almira said, “You know your garlic bread is famous in my home town.” Bella followed up, “It sure is! It was a huge hit at the spaghetti supper at Almira’s church.” Almira chortled, “Yeah, it never made it out of the kitchen.” I looked at Almira quizzically and she explained further, “The kitchen helpers liked your garlic bread so much that they ate all of it before it could make it to the dining room. Yup, your garlic bread was a huge hit!” When I told Bella and Almira that I planned on blogging my garlic bread, they chimed together, “Oh, great!” Bella said, “Almira, you’ll be able to send the link to everyone in your home town.” Almira nodded and smiled and helped herself to another slice of garlic bread.
Bella related another story about her study-abroad time in Italy. One night the students were planning a potluck supper. Everyone was yelling out what they would bring. Before Bella could chime in, the young man organizing the event turned to her and said, “And you can bring the Garlic Bread.” Bella said, "Yeah, Amma's garlic bread is world famous!"
My mother’s prowess in the kitchen was admired by many, and her skill as a caterer was frequently put to use at our church. At least once a year she produced a spaghetti supper as a church fundraiser. These were popular events and required massive amounts of sauce, pasta and...garlic bread. My mother’s garlic bread was famous. I sincerely believe that many people attended the spaghetti suppers just for a slice of her delicious garlic bread.
Notes for this recipe: The bread: Good quality bread is not required. The standard American-style Italian bread in the white paper wrapper will do quite nicely for this recipe.
Mom’s World Famous Garlic Bread
Place the loaf of bread on a cutting board with the aluminum foil next to it. Cut the bread into 1-inch pieces. As it is cut, place each piece on the aluminum foil, reconstructing the loaf.
Pull the aluminum foil up around the bread, and fold the ends together to secure them. Tuck up the ends to make a tidy packet around the bread.
Preheat oven to 350 and bake bread for approximately 45 minutes or until the bread is heated through and the crust is crisp. Line a basket with a towel and set aside. When the bread is ready, cut open the foil and place the slices in the prepared basket. Bring the towel up to help keep the bread warm. Serve immediately.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
The goal for the last few years has been to rework recipes reducing or eliminating sugar. It’s been an interesting journey, and one that had to include baked apples. It’s taken a time or two to figure out how to replace sugar and retain the flavor of this dish, but it was worth the tinkering. The reduction in sugar allows the flavor of the apples to really come through, with the apple cider adding natural sugars and the brown sugar further enhancing the taste bud experience and giving the dessert additional depth. The side benefit, a wonderfully delicious sauce to spoon over the Baked Apples when they are served. Oh, yum! (Bake extras it saves time!)
Notes for this recipe: Apples: I like to cook with Empires, which are a wonderfully crisp and flavorful apple. They are also a decent keeper. But, any crisp, firm apple can be used. Do not substitute apple juice for the apple cider—the flavor of the dish will suffer. Up to half of the apple cider can be replaced with water, but the sauce will not be as thick or as flavorful. Coring apples: There's a handy gadget I've had for years--a hollow tube with a wooden plunger--I use to core apples. Works perfectly and blissfully low-tech! You can see it pictured below in the photo to the right of the ingredients list. Doing an on-line search will turn up similar gadgets with the wood now replaced by plastic.
6 fairly large apples
Select a non-reactive baking pan large enough to comfortably hold the apples without them touching and set it aside. Preheat oven to 350.
Wash and core the apples. Cut a strip of peel from around the middle of each apple and set inside the selected pan. Gently pack the core cavities with raisins to about ¼ inch from the top of the apple. Press brown sugar on top of the raisins so that it is flush with the top of the apple. Cut a slice of butter equal to approx. 1 tsp. and set on top of brown sugar. Give each apple a sprinkle of cinnamon and then a grate of fresh nutmeg.
Pour apple cider into the pan until it is halfway up the cut away strip. Put the apples into the oven and bake for 60 minutes or until tender. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool slightly. Serve warm or cold.
To serve: Select some large dessert bowls and have them handy. Select a serving spoon with a bowl large enough to scoop up an entire apple. Use the spoon to move the apples into the selected dessert bowls. Divide the sauce among the dishes and serve. In the unlikely event of leftovers, store any remaining apples in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Years after I had left the town of my childhood, these Hermits lived large in my memory. With the bakery long out of business it was impossible to sample these particular Hermits again. All others paled in comparison. Most failed and wound up in the trash bin. All recipes were found lacking. And resignation took hold. The disappointment was palpable.
One day while sitting in a waiting room flipping through some magazines a recipe captured my eye. Hmmmmm, now that looked intriguing. For the first time in years I felt hope that I might actually once again bite into the Hermit of my childhood. I copied the recipe out and made it within a day or two. It did not disappoint.
Although there is no blue and white box to signal a particular treat, these cookies have become a family favorite. And, disappear almost as quickly as those from the blue and white box.
A historical note: Hermits are a very old cookie and are said to have originated on Cape Cod. An excellent keeper these cookies often went to sea stored in tins and packed into sea trunks.
Note: Rotating cookie sheets--for me this means moving the cookie sheets--the sheet on the top rack is moved to the bottom rack and the sheet on the bottom rack is moved to the top rack. The sheets are also turned 160 degrees in this process (a half turn--front to back or back to front). This allows for more even baking.
2 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cloves
1 c. brown sugar
½ c. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. molasses
1 c. raisins
1 c. pecans coarsely chopped and toasted
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two cookie sheets.
Measure dry ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine.
In another bowl beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses until well combined. Beat in egg. On low add flour and mix just until combined. Stir in raisins and pecans.
Divide dough into quarters.
With lightly floured hands, shape each quarter into a 12” x 1-1/2” log. On each sheet place 2 logs leaving 3 inches in between.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until logs flatten and edges are firm. Rotate sheets halfway between baking time. Cool 15 minutes on baking sheets. Place logs one at a time on cutting board and cut into cookies. Transfer slices to wire racks to cool completely.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Cannellini beans are an Italian white bean and are often referred to as “white kidney beans.” They retain their shape very well when cooked, and are firm with a wonderfully smooth texture and a slightly nutty flavor. Cannellini can be found in cans already processed or you may prepare them yourself. (Click for my instructions for preparing beans.) They double in size—1 cup of dry beans will result in approximately 2-1/2 cups of cooked beans.
The delicate flavor of the beans combined with the refreshing flavor of the dill makes this an especially tasty spread. It goes well with crackers and bread. For the best flavor make a day in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the spread to sit at room temperature 20 minutes before serving. This spread was a huge hit, and there's been lots of pestering for the recipe by everyone who enjoyed it. Finally, you may now spread this on your cracker and eat it!
Dilled Cannellini Bean Spread
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
½ of a red pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped dill
1 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic crushed & chopped
White pepper (freshly ground)
Fit a food processor with it’s chopping blade. In the work bowl place the cannellini beans through garlic. Using the pulse option, process just until ingredients are combined. With the machine running pour only enough olive oil through the feed tube to make the mixture smooth, but still thick and spreadable. Remove lid and add salt and pepper to taste, and more dill, if desired. Mix to combine. Allow to sit at room temperature for an hour before serving. Can be made the day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serve with crackers.
Monday, September 6, 2010
On her recent visit home I told Bella that I had finally written down the measurements and ingredients for Madame’s vinaigrette, but was struggling with the post. Bella suggested that I talk about how a visit to Madame required the best. Bella said, “You know, my best dress, my best shoes, and the socks with the lace ruffles. I had to wear a hat and gloves and carry my best purse.” And, most importantly, Bella remembers needing to be on her best behavior. (Some visits were quite short!) Then Bella said, “And I couldn’t chew gum. Remember the time we were standing on the steps and you looked down and I was chewing gum? You had already rung the bell and you looked at me and said, “Get rid of that gum! And, whatever you do don’t swallow it! It’ll be in your stomach for seven years!” So, I spit the gum into my purse just as Madame opened the door!”
Monday, August 23, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
I could go into some heady discussion about the history of blueberries, how they are native to North American and they have been a part of the culinary landscape here for centuries. That would only detract from the purpose of this article, which is to rave about this deliciously spectacular orb and the magnificent Blueberry Buckle. Many years ago while reading a science fiction novel’s description of some blue food the characters were eating I wondered what it would be like to eat something blue. Then it hit me! We have the blueberry! How could I have forgotten?! (Obviously, not one of my finer moments.)
Measure the topping ingredients into a small bowl. Using your fingers, blend the mixture completely. Set aside. Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside. Combine the milk and the vanilla and set aside.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
As the guest list for the 4th of July Ultimate Rib Extravaganza was falling into place, it became clear—appetizers were a must. I dipped into my “Recipes for a Hoard” file and pulled out the tried and true Black Bean Salsa. Many permutations of this recipe have been served at various events, and the 4th of July Ultimate Rib Extravaganza wasn’t going to be the exception. Celebrating the 4th was going to be a weekend long event, with houseguests, dinner guests, and then the big event on the 4th. Planning ahead was going to be essential if I was going to be prepared and not a frantic mess.
Saturday morning found us at the local Farmer’s Market. DH carved a straight line to his cousin’s stand, Gizmo’s Pickled Plus and settled in. The rest of us scattered taking in the ambiance and variety of the Market. A tap on my shoulder found Bella at my elbow with our good friend Jo in tow, a truly delightful surprise, which turned into two more for dinner. It had been far too long since we had enjoyed Jo and Angel’s company; they would be a welcome addition to our al fresco dinner party.
In addition to preparing for the 4th of July Ultimate Rib Extravaganza there were now additional preparations to make for dinner. Another pound of hamburg needed thawing, and I wondered if someone needed to go out for more sweet corn. I lingered on that for about two seconds before I was distracted and off in another direction. The kitchen was bustle of activity. My nephew Wort was making ice cream and sorbet, Adele was doing the ribs, I was making pies and lists, and Bella and Christy were in the dining room coloring and accusing each other of monopolizing crayons in between doing the dishes.
Around 5 o’clock everyone was starving, and dinner was still a ways off. Out came the ingredients for Black Bean Salsa. I whipped together this and some Dilled White Bean Spread, arranged everything in a cloth-lined basket and brought it to the porch. Wort opened a growler of beer and everyone settled in for a good gnosh. It was all delicious, but what the blazing sun would be served for appetizers tomorrow?!
Notes for this recipe: The Salsa will be best when made ahead of time giving the flavors time to develop and meld. More or less cilantro, garlic, and cumin can be added to suit your palate. The avocado can be omitted. The picture shows Black Bean & Corn Salsa from our Saturday night festivities. Click on "cooked corn" below for the link on this blog for cooking corn how to.
In a larger bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Add the avocado & lime juice mixture. Stir gently to combine. Season with salt to taste. Scrape into a serving bowl and set aside for an hour. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Line a basket with a towel. Set the serving bowl in the basket and surround with chips and serve.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
This year DH and I were able to make the pilgrimage together. It was a glorious mid-June Vermont day—cloudless blue sky with a brilliant sun. We arrived at Norris Berry Farm mid-morning, and checked in. We blocked up, donned our sun hats, grabbed our flats (the large rectangular cartons to hold the picked strawberries), and headed to our designated patch where we each selected a row and got busy.
We toiled for hours in the hot sun picking our rows while others came and went. The person who most captured our attention was the young woman carrying a latte in one hand and a quart basket in the other. Miss Latte wore a mini-shirt and a pair of designer sandals. As DH and I scooted along on our butts this young woman hopped from row to row looking for the biggest and most beautiful berries. She was what we call a top grazer. Miss Latte ignored strawberry picking etiquette--you select a row and pick it, placing the flag for that row where you stop. No silly rules or etiquette for Miss Latte! DH and I chuckled and exchanged a knowing look. Go ahead, Miss Latte, pick the biggest, most perfect berries! We are quite content with the smaller ones. As strawberry devotees, we know that the smaller berries pack the most flavor. Miss Latte was not the only picker obsessed with finding the largest berries, which makes me ask, "What is the obsession with big berries?!"
The answer must be Clamshell strawberries, those tasteless monstrosities available for purchase year round in supermarkets. I’ve concluded that this product appeals to our cultural training that bigger must be better, even if it tastes terrible. If shoppers knew how these crops were grown and the environmental impact of the agricultural methods used, would it make a difference in their purchasing habits? Clamshells are cultivated using a form of modern commercial production called the “plasticulture” system. Which means lots of plastic is used.The plants are covered with plastic to prevent weeds from growing and pests from invading. The plants are “fumigated,” which is a less frightening way of referring to the pesticides used to kill pests and weeds. Talk about toxic! This is not a product I purchase, period. We eat strawberries when they are in season and pick or purchase them from a local grower. This year we picked four flats of these tasty morsels, which were turned into jam or frozen. Come January this little bit of summer will be most welcome.
One of our favorite summer desserts is Strawberry Shortcake. A tender, slightly sweet biscuit doused with strawberries and bathed in whipped cream. But here’s the burning question--"Why is Shortcake called shortcake?" I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t because the biscuits are short in stature! Shortcake’s name derives from the ratio of fat to flour and how this affects the length of the gluten strands. Gluten strands are “shortened” by increasing the ratio of fat to flour resulting in a much more tender product. Hence the name shortcake. By adding sugar, milk and baking powder the chemical reaction is complete creating a tender, moist biscuit.
Notes for this recipe: Our preference is for unsugared strawberries, but it can be added. A tablespoon or two would be sufficient. Although many shortcake biscuits call for eggs, this one does not. Why? I prefer them without. Whipping cream--don’t over whip or it will turn to butter, and confectioner’s sugar can be increased to 1 tablespoon if you prefer yours a little sweeter.
1 qt. strawberries
Hull strawberries. In a separate bowl mash approximately 1/3 of the berries. Halve the remaining strawberries into a larger bowl. Add the mashed berries. With a rubber spatula, gently mix to combine. Set aside.
While the strawberries are resting, make the biscuits.
2 c. flour
4 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 tsp. baking power
1 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 c. milk
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with shortening or canola oil and set aside. Into a bowl measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Thoroughly cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two table knives. Add the milk. Stir with a fork to combine. Using two spoons drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet to make 8 biscuits.
Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are a light golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely.
While the biscuits are cooling give the strawberries a gentle stir, and then make the whipped cream.
1/2 c. heavy cream
½ tsp. vanilla
½ Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
In small bowl beat the whipped cream until it is thickened. Gently stir in the vanilla and confectioner’s sugar.
To assemble the Strawberry Shortcakes: Cut a biscuit in half horizontally. Place the lower half of the biscuit in a dessert-sized bowl. Fill a one cup solid measuring cup with strawberries. Pour them on top of the biscuit. Add a good dollop of whipped cream and cover with the top of the biscuit. Serve.