Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter Break

Just posting to say I have not forgotten to post or stopped coming up with ideas. I am away from home and therefore unable to cook and photograph. Please be patient. Fabulous midwinter cooking ideas next week: pasta with walnut sauce, meatballs with chickpeas and potatoes and a plethora of potpies...I'm researching....

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Warm up winter

Now's the time to defeat those winter blahs by bringing something hot, glamorous and tasty to the table.
Coming soon an array of potpies. But for now, while I am traveling, here are a few special recipes to get you going. Apologies for lack of photos this post.
Leek Dill Pie
serves 6

4 lg leeks
3 tbsp olive or other vegetable oil
2 med yellow onions, peeled and minced
2 lg eggs, lightly beaten
1 c lg curd cottage cheese
1/2 c coarsely grated Muenster or Havarti cheese
1/3 c grated parmesan cheese
1 heaping tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
salt to your taste
1/4 tsp cayenne or Aleppo or chili pepper
1/2 c whole milk plain yogurt
1 tsp dried mint leaves
1 tbsp fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 350º.
Clean the leeks carefully. Cut them into 1/8" thick rings.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and leeks.
Sauté until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a med/lg bowl, combine the cottage cheese, other cheeses, eggs, dill, salt and hot pepper. Stir in the leeks and onions and blend well.
Coat a 9" pie plate (glass preferable) with oil. Pour in the leek batter and level it. Bake in center of the oven about 45 minutes, until the center is firm when pierced with a tester. Remove from the oven.
Whisk together the yogurt, mint leaves and lime juice. Serve beside the pie.

Roasted Pork Chops with Apples and Sunchokes or Potatoes
serves 4
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 c olive oil
2 lbs sunchokes or small Yukon gold potatoes,
4 pork rib chops, weight about 2 1/2 lbs
juice of one lemon
2 lbs apples
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1 c apple juice

 Preheat the oven to 400º.
In a large covered heavy gauge casserole, warm the butter and olive oil over med/low heat.
Season the pork with salt and black pepper to your taste. Brown them on both sides lightly in the hot butter/oil.Remove the meat to a plate.
Peel the sunchokes or potatoes. Put them in the oil/butter and sauté 5 minutes until they color.
Cut the apples in quarters, core and seed, then cut the quarters in half lengthwise. Add them to the pot and sauté just until they begin to brown. Add the whole garlic cloves. Pour in the vinegar, let it sizzle and scrap up anything crispy on the bottom of the pan. Add the apple juice and pork chops on top. Cover the pot.

Bake for an hour until the pork and artichokes or potatoes are tender. Serve the chops with the artichokes/potatoes and apples, checking the liquor for seasoning and spooning it over the chops.

Roman Rice Croquettes

Supplì alla romana– Roman rice croquettes

Makes 20
1 onion
1 stick of celery, with leaves
1 carrot, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp rosemary or thyme, finely chopped
2/3 lb minced pork or sausage meat
1/4 lb chicken livers
2 c simple tomato sauce, or passata
2 c water/vegetable or meat broth
2 c risotto (carnaroli) rice
1/2 c white wine
2 eggs
1/2 c parmesan or pecorino, grated
1/2 c mozzarella, cut into 20 small batons
Coarse breadcrumbs
Oil for frying (peanut or sunflower)

Finely chop the onion, celery and carrot. In a large, deep frying pan or casserole, warm the olive oil and fry the vegetables with the herbs and a pinch of salt until soft. Add the pork and chicken livers and cook until the meat is browned.
Put the tomato sauce and broth/water in two pans, on a low heat at the back of the stove.
Add the rice to the frying pan and stir until it is slightly toasted, then add the wine and stir until it evaporates. Add alternate ladles of broth and tomato sauce to the rice, stirring continuously and giving time between additions until the rice is al dente and all the liquid absorbed – about 16 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, wait 5 minutes then add one egg and all the parmesan to the mixture. Mix to combine. Leave to cool for at least an hour.
 Shape the croquettes by taking a small handful of the rice mix, then make small football in your palm. Press a piece of mozzarella into the center and squeeze your palm slightly to mold the rice around the cheese until it is enclosed. Let the croquettes rest on a baking tray lined with parchment.
 Prepare a bowl of beaten egg, and another of seasoned breadcrumbs. Dip each croquette in the egg, then the crumbs, letting any excess fall away. In a heavy skillet or frying pan, heat 2 tbsp oil to sizzling.  Fry the croquettes in batches of 4 for 2 minutes, then lift out to rest for 45 secs, before returning to the oil for another 45 seconds. Blot on kitchen towel, sprinkle with salt and serve hot.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Catalans can cook! What food they have!

I've not quit, not changed course. I've just been away on vacation, eating chickpeas to collect recipes for a book about the little black dress of the kitchen. I'll pick up the regular info sharing shortly. Meanwhile here's a look at the food in Spain:
special extra juicy tomatoes for Pan de Tomate (rub the juicy tomato all over a slice of bread)

Catalan sausage and chickpeas

Catalan chickpeas with chorizo

Santa Caterina Mercado, Barcelona

Catalan take-out food  

Traditional chickpeas with spinach and chorizo

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Part 8: Chickpeas, winter warmth and glamour

This is when I normally post the annual Lucky peas recipe or recipes because eating black-eyed peas on the first day of the New Year is supposed to bring wealth and other good fortune in the year ahead. You can dig back to late Decembers past to find the recipes because right now I want to share some really awesome chickpea recipes from all over the world that will warm your kitchen, your body and your heart.  These are tasty, colorful and absolutely yummy to the max. Some are also quite gala, in case you are celebrating New Year's Day or Epiphany on January 6 or a birthday or whatever you want to fete.

Chickpea, Frisee and Fish Salad

Look at that photo and ask yourself if there's a more colorful, mouthwatering, exotic winter salad to bring to the table right now. It's lunch, brunch perfection. You can use what fish you prefer: sardines, jarred or canned tuna, roasted salmon, smoked whitefish or, as I did in this pic, smoked mackerel broken into bits.

Serves 4

¼ c olive oil

2 tsp harissa

tbsp lemon juice

Salt and black pepper

½ red onion, peeled and finely sliced in thin rings

4 large eggs

1 medium frisee, trimmed, leaves separated and cut into bite size pieces

2 tins of sardines in olive oil, drained, the fish broken into 1” pieces OR

   1 smoked mackerel, skinned and cut into pieces OR 2 cans/jars oil based tuna

1 15 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp small capers,

1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put 3 tbsp olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk in the harissa, lemon juice, ¼ tsp salt and plenty of pepper, then stir in the onion. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, and boil the eggs for 8 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, peel and set aside.

Not quite dressed yet...
Put the remaining tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl, add the frisee with a pinch of salt, and toss gently to coat. Arrange the moist frisee on a large platter or divide between four plates.

In bowl the frisee was in, gently mix the fish, chickpeas, capers and parsley, then scatter over the lettuce. Spoon all but two tbsp of the onion and dressing over the to.

Carefully quarter the eggs, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and arrange on the salad. Give a good grind of pepper over the top of everything and drizzle the remaining dressing on top.

Ethiopian Chickpea Stew with Berbere Spice
I cannot stop recommending the Berbere spice mix from Ethiopia. It's addictively delicious because it wakes up everything including your tongue. It's not hot, just merry and bright. Because it takes a few minutes, I make up a batch, about 1/2 c, and store it in a jar in the fridge for up to 4 months. By then it's definitely gone. I posted the recipe earlier this year as well as in years before as my gift to you, dear readers. At the bottom of this recipe, I am posting it one more time because, as I said, I cannot recommend it enough. 
 serves 6-8

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium red onion, diced
1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 c vegetable broth
1 lb red potatoes (about 3 medium) cut into 1” chunks
4 orange carrots, cut into ½” thick disks.
2 tbsp Berbere spice mix*
fistful of chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 450°.
Make the spice mix if you don’t already have it. (It’s so sensational, you should always have some around.)
In a medium bowl, toss chickpeas with 2 tbsp of olive oil, then pour them into a single layer on a large rimmed baking/cookie sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until just starting to turn golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes. Take 5-6 off the top and set aside for garnish.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot, heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and chopped ginger. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Stir in the Berbere spice mix and cook, stirring constantly about 2 minutes to make the spices fragrant and toasted. Stir in tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes so they are hot.

Stir in broth, potatoes, carrots and chickpeas. Bring the pot to a boil. reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 20 minutes until carrots and potatoes are tender. Uncover the pot and simmer another 15-20 minutes so the stew thickens. The potatoes and carrots should be almost mushy tender. Serve with the set aside chickpeas on top and a fistful of chopped fresh cilantro leaves.


2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
12 tsp. black peppercorns
14 tsp. whole allspice
6 white cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
12 cup dried onion flakes (optional, I don't use them)
5 dried Arbol chilies, stemmed, seeded,
and broken into small pieces
3 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. kosher salt
12 tsp. ground nutmeg
12 tsp. ground ginger
12 tsp. ground cinnamon
1. In a small skillet, combine coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, allspice, cardamom pods, and cloves. Toast spices over medium heat, swirling skillet constantly, until fragrant, about 4 minutes.
2. Let cool slightly; transfer to a spice grinder along with onion flakes and grind until fine. Add chilies, and grind with the other spices until fine.
3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in paprika, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. Store in an airtight container.

Gala Turkish Dessert: Ashure or Noah's Ark
The legend of this gala dessert from Anatolia is that when his ark washed ashore, Noah made it from whatever had survived the great flood, thus the curious combination of grains, beans and fruits. Yet that weirdness yields a uniquely vivid, nourishing and tasty dish. There are many moving parts so it takes a bit of time to assemble but the good news is that every one of them is very simple so it's hard to fail. Other good news is it can be made with stuff stashed on the pantry shelf.

serves 5-6 (double it for a crowd)
1 oz dried navy (white) beans, soaked overnight
1 oz dried chickpeas soaked overnight
1 oz canned cooked fava beans, drained and rinsed (my shortcut because dried favas can be harder to find)
2 oz buckwheat groats/kasha
1 oz (about 3 heaping tbsp) short grain rice, rinsed clear
1/2 c dried apricots, chopped
3 tbsp golden raisins
1 tbsp dried currants
scant 1/2 c sugar
3 tbsp confectioners/ powdered sugar (or pure cornstarch if you have it)
1/3 c rose water (not optional as this is the flavor base)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
For the Topping
4 dried figs, sliced
6 dried apricots, sliced
1 tbsp golden raisins plumped 10 minutes in warm water and drained)
 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 tbsp unsalted pistachio nutmeats
1/4 c pomegranate seeds
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Drain the soaked beans, put them in separate pots, add 3 times the amount of water and cook until tender. The white beans will be first at about 50 minutes, the chickpeas at 1 hour.  Drain.

In a large pot, cook the buckwheat groats in 3 times the amount of water until tender, about 1/2 hour, Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and add water if necessary. When it's tender, add all the beans and the rice. Be sure everything is covered by 1" of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 15 minutes until the rice is soft. The beans may start to look mushy which is ok.

While this is cooking soak the dried fruits not for the topping in boiling water for 10 minutes to plump. Drain.  Add to the grain pot with the sugar. Stir to blend and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the mixture starts to thicken. Stir in the powdered sugar/cornstarch along the way to speed it up. As it thickens add the rose water and simmer until the mixture is very thick, like the pudding it is supposed to be. see photo here,
Transfer the pudding into a serving bowl that still gives another 1" of room on top and level it. Decorate with the topping fruits and nuts. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Cazuela de Garbanzos con Chorizo 
(Catalan chickpea and sausage stew with spinach)
This is a best bet for a fast, fresh, flavorful and friendly winter night dinner,
serves 4

6  6 tbsp olive oil
1/ 2 lb Spanish chorizo, sliced thin
2  2 garlic cloves, minced
2  15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2  2 tsp sweet paprika
¾ 3/4 lb spinach, chopped
ju  juice and zest of 1 lemon
s  salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a large nonstick skillet or cast iron paella pan (see below) over medium flame. Add the olive oil. When it starts shimmer, add chorizo and lightly brown, stirring occasionally 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add chickpeas and paprika. Stir to coat chickpeas with oil and paprika and cook until chickpeas are just heated through, stirring frequently, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach [in batches, if necessary], tossing to coat it with oil and wilt it. When the spinach has just wilted, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest. Season to your taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Chilean Chickpeas with Rice and Pumpkin
serves 4
½ lb or 1 c. dried chickpeas
1/2 c rice
¼ lb pumpkin or butternut squash cut into cubes
1 garlic clove minced
1 med onion finely chopped
1/4 red pepper like Fresno (mildly warm) or a bell pepper, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
4 c veg broth or water
Salt to your taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Soak the chickpeas in a bowl overnight. Drain, rinse and put them with the bay leaf in a pot covered with 2” of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 1 hour until they are tender. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Rinse the chickpeas.

Coat the bottom of a medium heavy gauge pot with the olive oil. Get it hot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper and sauté 5-7 minutes until soft. Add the chickpeas, rice, pumpkin/squash, salt and broth. Be sure everything is buried in the broth and there is at least 1” liquid above. If not add more broth or water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the pumpkin is soft and the rice plump. Season with black pepper to serve.

Colombian Cream of Chickpea Soup
Cream soups are quite common in Colombia I am told and this is one of the most popular.
Serves 4-6

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, diced
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 lb dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
6 c beef broth
2 c heavy cream
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Warm a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add the butter, onions, scallions, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add to the pot with the beef broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer about 2 hrs stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are tender. Take 8 chickpeas out of the pot and set aside.
Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup to a chunky texture, and return to the pot.
Stir in the heavy cream and warm the soup over low heat. If it is too thick, thin it with water. Ladle into bowls and garnish each bowl with cilantro and reserved chickpeas.

And yes there are more chickpea recipes to come!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Persian Solstice Celebration of Pomegranates and Walnuts

The Persians have a special festive dish for this dark time of year they celebrate as Shab-e Yalda, the winter solstice: Fesinjan, spelled many different ways in English, and cooked many different ways in the Middle East. Sometimes it's made with pheasant, more frequently with duck and usually nowadays with chicken. I've even come across a modern vegetarian version featuring winter vegetables. So you can vary the meat if you wish. What's never negotiable are pomegranates, walnuts and cinnamon--providers of the heartwarming, heart stopping flavor this dish brings to the table. Plus the red pomegranates and a touch of chopped cilantro in the end give it the right colors for right now. It's also easily made in quantity for family celebrations. So herewith several versions of the beloved winter solstice special Persians bring to the table.

Persian Fisinjon (Duck in Walnut Sauce)
 It's often recommended to make this a day ahead so the flavor gets really rich. It's served with fluffy steamed basmati rice and further trimmings of your choice such as green vegetables, salad or pickles.
Serves 8 but you can cut it in half

2 ducklings (close to 5 lbs), backbone removed and each cut into pieces
1 1/2 c ground walnuts
1 1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts (walnut pieces in the bag will work)
4 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
1 lg yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 c pomegranate molasses
4 tbsp sugar
3-4 c chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Preheat oven to 400º. Place ducks in a racked baking dish (so the fat drips off) and bake 30 minutes until the pieces are brown.
Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and melt 1 tbsp butter. Add walnuts (both) and pan roast stirring continually with a wooden spoon to toast them, about 8 minutes.
In a heavy gauge casserole pot, melt the rest of the butter. Add the onion and sauté 5-8 minutes until it's translucent and soft. Lower heat to low. Add the walnuts, pomegranate molasses, sugar, cinnamon, salt, pepper and 3 c chicken broth. Blend everything and simmer 10 minutes. Add the duck, stir to coat it well with the sauce. If more sauce is needed slowly add the remaining chicken broth a drizzle at a time to not get too much. Cover the pot and cook over low heat 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and add broth if necessary.
Serve garnished with pomegranate seeds and a fistful of chopped fresh cilantro for color.

Turkish Version: Acem Yahnisi.
From the western part of Turkey that borders on Persia. It's home-cooked stew once made with pheasant but now mostly with chicken.
Serves 4
3 pomegranates (or 1 pomegranate and 1 c pomegranate juice
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
2 yellow onions, finely diced
1 medium (3-4) lb chicken, cut into its natural parts
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 c walnuts, finely chopped or crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
a few chopped fresh mint leaves for garnish

Halve the pomegranates. Remove the seeds from one of the halves and set aside for garnish.
To get pomegranate juice you can either squeeze the remaining halves over a strainer or you can remove all the seeds and put them in a food processor and blitz them. Or you can buy pomegranate juice!

In a heavy gauge casserole, melt the butter/ghee over medium heat. Stir in the onions and sauté 5 minutes so they turn golden. Add the chicken pieces and brown them lightly, 7-8 minutes. Pour over the pomegranate and lemon juice. Stir in the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low/simmer. Cover the pot and cook 35-40 minutes. Check every so often and stir to see if it needs more liquid. Add water if so.

While the chicken is cooking, preheat the oven to 400º. When ready, remove the lid from the casserole pot, sprinkle the walnuts over the chicken and bake 10 minutes until the walnuts are roasted and golden.
Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish. Stir the walnuts into the sauce in the pot and then spoon them over and around the chicken. Top with the reserved pomegranate seeds and mint leaves to serve.

Winter Vegetable Fesenjan

This is a British take on the Persian flavors. Vegan if you don't garnish with yogurt.

1/2 lb walnuts
1 lg sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/2" chunks
1 lg baking potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/2" chunks
1/2 med/sm celeriac bulb, peeled and cut into 1 1/2" chunks
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
6 tbsp good quality olive oil (that's 1/3 c more or less)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
1 lg yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 1/4 c pomegranate juice
2 tbsp honey
2 c veg broth
1 tsp dried mint leaves
juice of a lemon
To Serve:
Plain Greek yogurt
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Heat the oven to 375º. Spread the walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast 6-7 minutes until golden and crisp. Set aside in a processor bowl to cool. Turn oven to 425º. Put the sweet potato, baking potato, celeriac and Brussels sprouts on the cookie sheet spread out. Toss with 3 tbsp olive oil, then season with the thyme. Roast 20-25 minutes until they are golden and crisp at the edges.

While they roast, grind or process the walnuts to the texture of breadcrumbs or meal. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large heavy gauge pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt 5 minutes to soften. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg plus 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Cook 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, molasses, pomegranate juice, honey, veg broth, mint and the ground up walnuts. Add 1 tsp salt. Simmer 25 min stirring regularly until the mixture thickens. It should be loose like heavy cream and smell fabulous. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and taste for the sweet sour effect. Add more lemon juice if necessary.

Put the sauce in the bottom of a shallow serving bowl. Pile the roasted vegetables on top. Put dollops of yogurt all around and sprinkle with the remaining pomegranate seeds. 

Serve with saffron rice to be gala.

Another Persian Fesenjan as stewed chicken
serves 6
2 lg yellow onions, peeled and diced
3 tbsp unsalted butter or ghree
2 -3 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 lb walnut halves or pieces
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, patted dry
2 c chicken broth
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Salt to your taste
Seeds of 1/2 a small pomegranate
fistful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat the oven to 350º. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them  8-10 minutes. Allow to cool and then grind them finely in a processor.
In a large heavy casserole pot, heat 2 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat to melt the butter. Add the chicken, don't crowed the pan, work in batches of you must, and cook until its golden brown on both sides, Sprinkle the chicken with salt. Using tongs, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to the pan, reduce heat to low and add the onions. Sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally to get the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
    Put the chicken back in the pan. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover the pan and simmer 30 minutes.
    Stir in the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, sugar and spices. Cover and simmer (very low heat) 1 hour, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Add a bit of chicken broth of necessary.
   Steam rice and pour it into a shallow bowl. Top with the chicken stew and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Smart Cookie

This is for all the kids and Nanas who have or want to have a tradition of holiday cookie baking because warm memories of virtuous activity are the gift of a lifetime, the real joy of Christmas. I've put together a few easy, very different cookie recipes that will fill tins, plates and hearts during this cold, dark time of year.

Snowy Almond Butter Balls
Sometimes called Greek cookies or Mexican wedding cookies, these elegant little butter balls melt in your mouth and stay a long time in a tin.
Makes 5 dozen

1lb sweet (unsalted) butter
3 1/2 c confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1 egg yolk
1 jigger cognac or brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 c chopped almonds
4+ c flour

 Preheat the oven to 300º. Heavily butter a cookie sheet or two or line with parchment or silicone matting.
In a mixer or food processor cream the butter and 1/2 c powdered sugar. Add the yolk, brandy, vanilla and almond extracts, and chopped almonds. Process until the almonds are paste and the mixture is well blended.
Gradually add the flour to make a soft dough. It should be firm, no crumbly or sticky. Use flour to adjust.

Flour your hands and roll the dough into walnut size balls. Place them on a prepared cookie sheet 1" apart. Work as fast as you can so the butter stays firm. Otherwise the cookies melt and lose shape. Refrigerate 10 minutes if you want to.  Bake at 300º 20 minutes or until the cookies are lightly brown.
Cool them 10 minutes on a rack. Then put 3 c confectioners sugar in a medium bowl and roll each cookie to coat it as if with snow. Shake over the bowl.  Cool completely and store in airtight tins.

Gingerbread Angels or whatever mold you have
Tis the season for the spices known to heat the body and ginger is tops among them. Ergo gingerbread houses and cookies for Christmas. You can cut this dough into any shape. It's not sweet, a bit chewy and thus perfect with tea or breakfast on the run.

How many cookies this makes depends on the size of the cutters you choose to use. If you use the large ones, count on getting 12-14, small ones 30-34.

2 sticks plus 2 tbsp butter (18 tbsp butter)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses ( I have always used the brand called Grandma’s)
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
4 tbsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
7-7 1/2 cups King Arthur flour
1 1/8 c light cream ( you can’t buy light cream on the West Coast so you have to blend skim milk and heavy cream)
Soak 2 doz black raisins in rose or orange blossom water or plain water to plump slightly. These can be eyes or buttons on gingerbread people and angels. You can also used dried cranberries.
Cut tiny strips of orange zest and brush lightly with honey if you want lips. 
You can also buy white icing in tubes.

Preheat oven to 375º. Grease two cookie sheets or better yet line with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Cream butter and brown sugar. Add molasses and beat to blend.
Mix spices and baking soda with 4 cups of flour.
Add that to the wet mix and beat just enough to blend. Do not overbeat.
Add 1/2 cream and blend.
Add 3 c flour, the rest of the cream and quickly blend. If the dough is too crumbly to roll into a ball, add a bit more cream or milk.  If it is too wet, add a tbsp of flour at a time. The dough should not be sticky to the touch but moist enough to roll.

Cut a piece of waxed paper about 15" long. Lightly coat it with flour, roll the dough ball (you can make half the dough into a ball to start) in the flour, cover it with another piece of waxed paper (this saves cleanup) and with a rolling pin make the dough into an oval or circle 1/4" thick. It can be a little thicker if you like softer chewier cookies.  Cut out your chosen shapes and lay them on the cookie sheets, collecting the scraps and incorporating them into a new dough ball, starting again and again until all the dough is cut. Decorate the cookies if and as you choose. Press the raisins/cranberries/zest firmly into the dough. 

Bake at 375º 12-16 minutes until the cookies are hard enough not to accept your fingerprint when you test them. They bounce back. Cool on racks and store in tins or foil.
a 5 yr old's version

These are a special treat from southern Nepal where they're fried in ghee. I've found a way to make them like cookie cutter cookies, which is great news because these have unique flavors and very nutritious ingredients with no bad ones attached. They're buttery and not sweet.
Makes 12-14 cookies 

1¼ c whole-wheat flour plus 2 tbsp for rolling
6 tbsp turbinado or raw or brown sugar
½ tsp ground cardamom
¾ c plus 1 tsp ghee*
1 tbsp fennel seeds
¼ c shredded unsweetened coconut
*now available at Trader Joe’s as well as Middle Eastern and Indian markets and Whole Foods Markets for much more $$

Preheat oven to 350º.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (This makes cleanup a snap!)

In a medium bowl, using a spatula or wooden spoon, combine 1¼ c flour, 2 tbsp sugar, cardamom and ¾ c ghee into crumbly dough. (It won’t be perfect yet.)

In a small saucepan, combine 4 tbsp sugar,1 tsp ghee and 2 tbsp water. Bring to a boil and boil 3-5 minutes or until it just starts to thicken slightly. This caramelizes the sugar. Let this cool a bit.

Add 3 tbsp of sugar syrup to the dough mixture. Add fennel seed and shredded coconut and quickly blend into dough. If it is still too crumbly, add 1-2 tbsp. of the sugar liquid, saving some for the finale. Roll the dough into a ball and slightly flatten.

Sprinkle 1 tsp whole-wheat flour over a piece of wax paper twice the size of the dough disk. Sprinkle 1 tsp whole-wheat flour on top of the disk. Cover with waxed paper and either using your hands or a rolling pin, make a circle ¼” thick. (Err on the higher side.) Be sure it is level all around. Using a 1½” round biscuit/cookie cutter cut circles, remaking the scrap dough into a ball and rerolling and cutting until nothing’s left. You should get 14-15 cookies. Place the circles on the prepared cookie sheet in a single layer no closer than 1” apart.

Bake at 350º 15 minutes. Turn oven up to 425º. Remove cookies, lightly brush each with the remaining caramelized sugar and return to the oven 2-3 minutes.  Remove immediately, put the cookies on racks to cool. Enjoy! 

Jammy Thumbprint Cookies 
Another kids' favorite as you can see in the photo. They can be more delicate and pretty with a little adult care. They are a great way to show off homemade jam.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
3/4 c unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2/3 c sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod, or 1/8 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 c raspberry, cherry or strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 350º. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
In another bowl, whip the butter and the sugar with a hand-held mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing just until incorporated.
Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie or ice cream scoop and roll in sugar. Place about 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Slightly flatten each cookie, then press a thumbprint into the center of each  about 1/2" deep. Fill the indentations with jam. Put the cookies in the fridge for 15 minutes so the butter hardens a bit and the cookies won't lose shape so badly. 

Bake at 350º 12-15 minutes until the cookies are crisp and lightly browned. Cool on racks.