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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Colorful, classy, nutritious winter eating in a snap

Those of us living in the land of snows or far from the joy of California's year round farmers' vegetable laden markets need not despair. Winter brings some of the most colorful and heartwarming dishes to our lives. There's absolutely no need to encourage agribusiness by rushing after imported tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and other watery joys of summer. Now is the time, the perfect time, for braised red cabbage, orange winter squash, bright green broccolini/ rapini with pine nuts and pasta, gorgeous ocher rutabagas mashed, crispy sautéed potatoes with onions and dill, delicately pink cooked quince and a multicolored slaw of red/green cabbages, white daikon, purple and orange carrots, with pale green fennel. All those colors and tastes make a table as festive as the season.

Pumpkin Potato Fritatta
This burst of yellow sunshine is perfect for a brunch with the leftover holiday ham or for a vegetarian potluck and it won't crimp your holiday spending.
Cuts into 8-10 wedges

1 white onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
1 large potato (just under 1 lb)
1¼ lb sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
¼ c olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped, or 2 tsp dried
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper
8 eggs
1/2 c milk (skim is fine)
¼ c grated cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Gruyere, Jack—your choice)
pinch of nutmeg
fresh parsley for garnish

Peel the pumpkin or squash and cut it into thin rings or half rings or failing that, strips.
In a medium frying pan with a lid, heat olive oil with 1 tbsp butter and sauté onion for 2 minutes. Add the potato and pumpkin, stirring until each slice is glistening. Cover the pan, lower the heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally-- if sticking occurs, add a little water, until the vegetables are soft.  Add all but a pinch of the sage, rosemary, allspice, salt and pepper and cook uncovered another minute. Scrape the pan contents into a bowl.
Preheat oven to 375º.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Melt enough butter to fully and thickly cover the bottom of the pan you cooked the potatoes in. Pour the vegetables back into the pan, try to level them evenly, then pour the eggs over them. Cook the frittata over low heat about 10 minutes. As the edges start to set, use a spatula to ease them away from the pan sides back toward the center. Once the frittata is almost entirely set but still has a wobbly top, toss on the grated cheese. Remove from stove top and stick into the oven for 3-5 minutes, until cheese melts and egg top is firm. 
Remove from oven. Sprinkle the top with the remaining sage, a pinch of nutmeg and some chopped fresh parsley.  Cut in wedges to serve warm or at room temperature.

Broccolini/Rapini aka Broccoli Raab
Forget about those giant stalks of broccoli and think small: tasty and small-- the joy of broccolini (the youthful broccoli before it thickens with age) and rapini/broccoli raab (the original leafy form from which those gigantic florets were later developed). See that picture on the lower left and go get some. Bring home the vitamins--especially A, the estrogen, the iron and calcium, folate, potassium--it's got the whole shebang.
Think garlic, lots of it, toasted pine nuts and pasta, small like orechiette, farfalle and cavatelli. If you're not vegetarian, think a teeny taste of pepperoni, hot sausage or chorizo. Any which way, think delicious and super nutritious: a treat that doesn't pack calories or cholesterol.
What to do?
Chop it into bite sized pieces. Drop the rapini into rapidly boiling, heavily salted water for 1 minute to remove its bitterness, then drain well. Drop the broccolini into rapidly boiling salted water for 5-8 minutes until it's soft. Remove it with a slotted spoon or spatula to drain in a colander so you can save the water for cooking the pasta.
Cook the pasta according to the package just past al dente: softness is critical here.
Dice a small red onion and 1 large garlic clove for every person you are feeding. Garlic is the taste here--ideal for winter because garlic goes straight to the lungs and works like a janitor clearing them. If you are adding pepperoni or chorizon, one thin slice chorizo or two pepperoni per person cut into bits will do it.

Get out a sauté pan and heavily coat the bottom with olive oil. Get it warm over medium heat and stir in a few twists of freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, the meat and 1 tbsp pine nuts (use 2 if you're doing this for more than 4). Lower heat so nothing burns and stir in the diced onion. Cook until the onion softens and starts to look translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the drained broccolini or rapini along with 2 tbsp your best olive oil, the garlic and a good pinch of sea salt. Stir to blend, raise heat to medium and sauté, adding olive oil if the broccoli isn't glistening, until everything is soft. Reduce heat to simmer and wait for the pasta.

Before you drain the pasta, take 1 tbsp of the cooking water per person, up to 4, and stir it into the broccoli. Drain the pasta, add it to the pan and before you stir it in, salt it, drizzle 2-3 tbsp best olive oil and add a twist from the black pepper grinder. Optionally now you can add 1 tbsp coarse bread crumbs per person. Stir it all up over medium heat for a minute. The broccoli and pasta should be equally soft and merge nicely. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and satisfaction.

Quick Choucroute (Sauerkraut, aka fermented cabbage)
This is not going to have the total heft and subtlety of the magnificent slow braised dish from Alsace but it's hearty, heartwarming, nutritious (all that ferment, protein and vitamins) and traditional for the holiday season in northern France.
For 4
2 med white onions, peeled and cut into thin rings
2 garlic cloves, peeled, mashed and minced
2 sm tart crisp apples, diced
4 tennis ball size potatoes, cut into quarters
sm piece slab bacon or salt pork
1/4 lb pancetta or pork belly or smoked bacon, sliced
2 hot dogs (they can be beef if you like)
2 hot sausages
1/2 lb pork loin, cut into strips or chunks
1/2 tsp juniper berries
1 tsp celery seed
2 1/2 lbs fresh sauerkraut
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c fresh apple cider

Mustard for serving

Put the salt pork/slab bacon bit a large heavy gauge lidded casserole over medium heat and cook until it releases fat to cover the bottom of the pot. Add the pancetta/pork belly, bacon and cook until it starts to crisp, then flip it. Add the onions and cook until they are soft and translucent, 5 -8 minutes. Add the pork loin and brown it on both sides. Add the potatoes, some freshly ground black pepper and garlic. Cook another 2-3 minutes to flavor the potatoes. Add the hot dogs and sausages to the pot. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the sauerkraut, apples, juniper berries, celery seed and another twist of the pepper mill. Pour in the cider. Cook 2 -3 minutes until the sauerkraut gets warm, then cover the pan, reduce heat to low and cook 30 minutes or until everything is cooked through. Check from time to time that it isn't drying out and add cider or water if it is. The sauerkraut should be juicy.

Serve with mustard for the meats.

Winter Vegetable Timbale 
From Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, a glamorous "cake" of winter vegetables certain to be a conversation piece on any table. You can serve it atop steamed kale leaves for drama.

serves 8

1 parsnip, peeled and grated
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 small rutabaga, peeled and grated
1 small winter squash (e.g. red kuri, sugar pumpkin or butternut), peeled and grated
1 red onion, peeled and diced
4 tbsp butter
6 eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs, matzo meal or panko
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
2/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1cup heavy cream
Optional: ¼ tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter a Bundt pan, ring mold, or medium sized tube pan—any baking pan with a hole in the center.

Mix the grated vegetables. You will need 5 cups.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat melt butter. Add onion and sauté until slightly soft. Add 5 cups of the mixed grated vegetables and blend.  Sauté over medium heat until the vegetables are soft and start to cling together, 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.

In a large bowl whip eggs. Add cooked vegetables, stirring well to coat. Add salt, then cheeses, breadcrumbs, chives and parsley. Stir in cream, add optional smoked paprika and nutmeg and blend everything well.

Pour the mixture into the buttered pan or mold. Bake until a tester (a skewer, strand of spaghetti or cake tester) comes out clean. The ring mold will cook faster than pans with higher sides, so the cooking time will be between 35 and 45 minutes, faster in convection ovens. Let it cool at least 5 minutes before unmolding. 

Red Cabbage with potatoes, prunes and caraway
That bowl on the right in the photo at the top has red cabbage braised without the potatoes. The chopped prunes made it marvelously sweet, which played well against the hints of balsamic vinegar. For the holiday red and green, top it with a sprinkle of fresh dill.

 Serves 4-6
1 med red (aka purple) cabbage, cored and shredded
1 med/lg yellow onion, sliced in thin rings that are halved
1 tsp caraway seed
2 sm/med potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite size chunks
6 pitted prunes, chopped (if you prefer you can use 1/4 c dark raisins)
2 garlic cloves peeled and minced
1 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c fresh apple cider
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
1 tbsp freshly chopped dill or 1 tsp smashed dill seed.

In a med/lg lidded pot, heat the ghee/butter and olive oil over medium. Add the onions, stir to coat them and sauté lowering heat if necessary so they don't burn until soft and translucent, maybe 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, caraway seed and prunes/raisins. Stir to blend and coat. If it looks dry add 1 tbsp butter/ghee. Sauté  3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar and cider, salt and pepper. Continue to cook until everything in the pot is hot, then cover, lower heat to low/simmer and cook 30 minutes,  stirring from time to time and checking that it isn't drying out. Add cider or water if it is. Add the dill. Put the lid back on and simmer another 15 minutes. Everything should now be soft. Taste for seasonings and adjust.

Winter Squash stuffed with Red Beans, and Coconut Rice

Another recipe from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, modified here by the addition of meat if you want it. It cries out for jerk flavored chicken because the red beans and coconut rice is Jamaican. You can substitute small orange or buttercup squashes for the acorn.

serves 8
 NOTE: If you want to put in the chicken, get one boneless thigh per person, marinate it for at least 30 minutes in lime juice with jerk spices. Cover the bottom of a frying pan with 1/4" corn oil, get it hot and carefully put the chicken in skin side down. Fry 10 minutes, then flip and fry 5 minutes. Cut up the meat and put it in with the rice before stuffing the squash. Or just serve it along side.

8 small acorn or dumpling winter squash
2 tbsp unsalted butter, in bits
1 tbsp olive or corn oil
1 cup long grain rice
1 15 oz can pinto or red kidney beans, drained
1 cup coconut milk (lite is okay)
1 small hot red pepper, seeded and minced
1 med/lg onion, peeled and finely diced
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh or coarse ground black pepper
¼ cup (4 tbsp apple cider or pure apple juice)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinches of salt
½ bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish

Slice the point off the bottom of each squash to flatten it so it sits steady on its own. Put the squashes in a microwave on medium for 1 min 30 seconds to slightly soften. (Microwave times vary with the machine’s strength so the goal is to produce squash that isn’t rock hard.) Let sit 5 minutes. Neatly cut about ¼” off the top. Scoop out any remaining pulp at the top to get to the cavity. Clean out the seeds and strings.  Preheat the oven to 350º.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan that has a cover. Add the onion and sauté on med heat until soft and golden.  Add the thyme, hot red pepper, allspice, black pepper and rice and stir to blend.

Add the coconut milk. Now add enough water to cover the rice by 1 inch. Add the salt and beans. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 20 minutes, checking that it doesn’t burn and adding ¼ cup of water at a time to prevent that.

Put a bit of butter and 1/2 tbsp apple cider/juice in the bottom of each hollowed out squash. Add a pinch of ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Swirl the seasoned liquid around so it reaches all the squash. Fill the squash to the top with the rice and beans--and optional chicken, heaping it no more than ¼-½ inch from the top.

Fill a half-sheet baking pan with ½ inch water and arrange the squash in it.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees until squash is tender, 40-50 minutes. Garnish the top of each squash with a few chopped cilantro leaves to serve.

And finally, a recipe I hope to try this week--my version of someone's else's. I will confirm results next post.
Moroccan Chicken with Quince

Serves 6
¼ c vegetable oil
2 lbs chicken thighs
2 onions, finely diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
 ½ tsp paprika
 ¼ tsp chili, Aleppo or cayenne pepper
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
a pinch of saffron
½ tsp ground ginger 
sm stick of cinnamon
 2 tbsp raisins or 8 pitted fresh dates
1 lb quince, cut in half and cored, then the pieces cut in half again
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
butter or ghee 60g
Season the chicken with the paprika, chili and black pepper. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the seasoned chicken, skin side down, and brown it. Flip it and sauté another 5 minutes. Remove from the pot, add the onions and soften them in the oil. Do not burn or brown them.
Put the chicken and onions in a large casserole pot. Season with salt and pepper. Add 3 cups chicken stock to the pot—or enough to cover the chicken. Add the saffron, ginger, cinnamon stick and fresh cilantro. Add the raisins or dates. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Cover the pot and simmer 30-40 minutes. The chicken should be falling off its bones.
While that’s happening, melt the butter or ghee on low heat in a small sauté or frying pan. Add the quince and sauté five minutes.  Once the chicken has been in the pot ½ hour, add the quince and lemon juice. Cook until the quince is tender.
Serve with couscous or fregola.