Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup with fennel and chard is just what the doctor ordered. We actually had snow today! Fall can be the most beautiful time of year with all of its autumn reds and golds and crisp chill. However, it can also be damp and dreary as it is today. What’s my cure? Soup, of course.

This Creamy Chicken Gnocchi soup ticks all of my boxes for the perfect weeknight dinner. All it needs is some delicious crusty bread like the wonderful olive bread that I bought at Publican Meat Market and maybe a glass of wine. While I enjoy baking bread almost as much as I do eating it, my apartment oven just doesn’t reach the kinds of temperatures to make truly crusty sourdough, pizza or other kinds of artisanal breads. So while other women may dream of jewels and clothes, I dream of a bread oven.

I came across this recipe on the kitchn.com website and knew immediately that I wanted to make it but with a few modifications. Why is this soup so great? It’s just the ticket when you want something homemade and delicious but with minimal time and effort. Because unless you choose to complicate it by first making your own broth and gnocchi, and shredding carrots yourself, everything is easily available in convenience packages in your supermarket. You could even buy a rotisserie chicken, although as it happens, I had roasted a chicken for dinner on Friday, so had the leftovers I needed.

I chose to use Rainbow Chard and fennel bulb in place of the original celery and baby spinach. The chard and fennel give a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to the soup that the milder celery and spinach won’t. And despite the seemingly generous amount of half & half cream, the soup is not at all heavy or overly rich. Just satisfying and delicious with a slight peppery bite nestled in the creamy broth.

Homemade doesn’t have to mean hours spent slaving over a stove. But you do have to buy quality ingredients. Find a brand of chicken stock that you like (and I always try to buy unsalted stock) and make sure to keep it on hand. A good stock is the basis of many a wonderful meal. And while I do make my own stock on occasion, I simply don’t have the freezer space to have it available whenever I need it. I’m using a fresh gnocchi, but there are also shelf-stable gnocchi or tortellini that you can keep on hand.

Once you have the ingredients together, the soup can be made in well under an hour. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days and only requires a gentle reheating. So go ahead and make this Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup this week and beat the autumn drears.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

For other delicious chicken soups:

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with Rice

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Kalguksu (or Korean chicken noodle soup)

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Recipe

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup sliced fennel OR 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth (32 ounces), preferably unsalted or low sodium
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 pound refrigerated potato gnocchi (not frozen) Alternatively, you could use tortellini.
  • 4 cups of torn Swiss OR Rainbow Chard OR 5-ounces baby spinach or escarole
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Directions

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot (or larger) over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, fennel, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally until softened – about 5 to 8 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Stir in the broth, shredded chicken and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Up to this point, the soup can be made ahead, if you wish. Once you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is simmering. Add the gnocchi and chard and cook until the chard is just wilted and the gnocchi cooked through – about 3 minutes. Now add the cream and quickly mix it through, immediately turning off the heat. The original instructions had you add the cream with the gnocchi, which I did, but it breaks the cream as you can see from the photos. The taste is fine, but it doesn’t look as nice and smooth.

Okay, now serve. Yep, it’s that easy. You’re welcome!

Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread


Cranberry Orange Bread is sweet, tart, citrusy and nutty. Perfect for Thanksgiving! Cranberries are one of nature’s superfoods and they taste great. I love their bright tartness that is only enhanced with the addition of orange. And they are so pretty to look at – little scarlet jewels that add a dash of autumn color to any dish. When they are dried, I actually prefer them to raisins.

This recipe (with a few changes from me) comes from Beard On Bread and makes one large loaf. I have another recipe which I have been making for over 40 years and can be found hand-written in a book that I keep of favorite recipes. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it originated. It is substantially similar to the Beard recipe but fits a more conventional 9 X 5-inch pan. You can’t go wrong with either one.

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

A Note on Hoarding (Okay, a justification)

As it happens, I have the larger 10 X 5-inch pan called for in the James Beard version, so that is what I made this time. More Cranberry Orange Bread for me! However, I have given the proportions below for the smaller version as well since that is the size pan that most people will have on hand. Honestly, I don’t even know why I have the larger pan. It sat in the back of a cupboard rarely used and I have no recollection of ever buying it. Probably just one of those things I inherited or picked up over the years.

Matthew and Frances will probably hate me when I die because I have collected so much stuff that they will have to sort through. But I’ve been married for over 36 years. So not only did I manage to buy things during that time, but my mother and some of her friends recognized a kindred entertaining spirit in me and gifted things to me.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some real treasures – beautiful silver serving pieces, antique hors d’oevres plates, some antique table linens that I picked up on a trip to Taormina, Italy. Decorations unique to each holiday. Well, you get the idea. It all seems kind of pointless now since there are no more large family gatherings. But the optimist in me hopes that maybe there will be a few more in my lifetime. Who knows? Maybe a grandchild or niece or nephew will want some of it. It could happen.

But I digress. This Cranberry Orange Bread is lovely on the Thanksgiving table but it’s also great anytime for brunch or an afternoon snack. I have even been known to cut a thick slice, lavishly butter it and stick it under the broiler briefly just to toast the top. OMG that is sooooooooooooooo good.

Since it is almost Thanksgiving, whether you are having any friends or family over, you also might look here for some inspiration:

Let’s Talk Turkey

Orange Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Orange Bread

Recipe

Yield: 10 X 5-inch Loaf (See below for 9 X 5-inch loaf)

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter

3/4 cup orange juice plus 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy is fine) (I actually used buttermilk)

Grated orange zest of 2 large navel oranges

1.25 cups fresh or frozen raw cranberries, cut in half (I find that freezing the cranberries first makes them less likely to “bleed” when mixed with the batter.)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 to 2 Tablespoons of crumbled brown sugar (Optional)

Cranberry Orange Bread

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (Baking spray with flour works well) a 10 X 5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer or hand beater, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended and fluffy. Stir in the melted butter, orange zest, milk and OJ. Add the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Do NOT over-mix.

Gently fold in the cranberries and nuts by hand. Don’t worry if the cranberries “bleed” a little into the dough. Carefully spread the thick batter into the pan so that it is even. If you are using the brown sugar, crumble some over the top and lightly press into the batter.

Bake for about 75 minutes or until the center of the bread springs back when lightly touched or a cake tester comes out clean. If it seems to be browning more than you like but isn’t finished baking, cover it lightly with foil and continue baking. Ovens vary so start checking after one hour and don’t worry if it takes longer.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes or until you can just handle the pan with your bare hands before turning the bread out onto a cooling rack. This is best made a day ahead of serving for all of the flavors to fully develop. Wrap it tightly once it is completely cooled.

Note

Because this is a “quick” bread made with baking soda and baking powder, it is normal for a crack down the top to develop during the baking. Why is it called a quick bread? Because it rises without yeast or a long fermentation process. The baking soda and baking powder make the bread rise as soon as it is mixed in and you pop it in the oven.

And because this is a particularly moist bread that will get even moister over time, it is best stored in the fridge or a very cool spot in your house. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

Measurements for 9 X 5-inch Cranberry Orange Bread or 3 Mini-Loaves

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1/4 melted, unsalted butter

3/4 cup orange juice

Grated zest of 1 large orange

1 cup raw fresh or frozen cranberries, cut in half

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Follow Directions as above

The baking time is about an hour for the 9 X 5-inch loaf and about 45 minutes if using the mini-loaf pans. Always check when you begin to really smell the baking since all ovens are different.

Red Lentil Soup With North African Spices

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

Red Lentil Soup redolent with North African spices – made ahead or on the table in under an hour. This easy and delicious soup has complex flavors but comes together quickly from pantry staples. Serve a cup as a starter or a big bowl with salad and your bread of choice for a complete but light and satisfying meal.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love lentils in all of their wonderful forms. Not only are these little nutrition powerhouses good for you but they are versatile and taste great. Red lentils come both whole and split. Either can be used in this soup but I mixed the two for exactly the texture I wanted – and because I always have both on hand. Generally split lentils (also called Masoor dal) are used in Indian cuisine. Now despite the name, when cooked, the lentils turn yellowish unless dyes have been added.

Because countries have different laws and food safety regulations, it’s best to buy certified organic lentils. There have been concerns about the presence of toxic chemicals found in high concentrations in lentils not certified 100% organic by the USDA. This has particularly been a problem in India. Since these superfoods can make up a large percentage of certain diets, it’s best to be safe. Thankfully, with very little effort, it is easy to obtain organic legumes of every variety.

I came across this recipe for Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices in my local newspaper. However, it originates with America’s Test Kitchen. While the original version is not vegan-friendly, it is easy enough to swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock and the butter for either EVOO or buttery vegan spread without sacrificing any flavor or texture.

Most recipes I find seem to have too much salt and too small quantities of seasonings. Whenever possible, I use unsalted stock and up the ante on my spices. And when it comes to lemon – well, you can’t have too much. And not to get on my hobby horse, but I strongly encourage you to grind your own spices whenever you can. It takes seconds with an inexpensive coffee or spice grinder and the difference in flavor is enormous.

Below is my version of this delectable soup, but play around with it to get exactly the taste and texture you want. If made ahead, the soup will thicken some as it sits. If it is a bit thicker than you want, simply add some additional stock after you puree it and before reheating.

Because lentils break down so easily and quickly, you don’t have to puree the soup if you don’t wish. I have an immersion blender (a gift from Matthew and Frances) and so it is just a matter of seconds for me to get a smooth – ish consistency. You can control the texture and I always like a bit in my finished product.

So get your lentils on today! For some other delicious lentil dishes:

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentils with Ginger

Roasted Acorn and Delicata Squash, Lentils, Merguez and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Who knew that being frugal could taste this good?

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter or EVOO

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

rounded 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Aleppo pepper (my preference)

1 generous Tablespoon tomato paste (I LOVE the stuff in a tube – no waste!)

1 large or two smaller cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable, preferably unsalted)

2 cups water

1.75 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed

Zest of one largish or juicy lemon

Juice of one lemon

2 teaspoons dried mint, crumbled

1 rounded teaspoon paprika

Chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

Directions

Melt the butter or EVOO over medium heat in a 4 quart or larger stockpot. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stirring occasionally, cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the spices and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for 2 minute. Add the lentils, stock and water and stir through. Bring to a simmer, partially cover the pot and cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you cook it longer, the soup will just get thicker and creamier.

Add the lemon juice and zest. Turn off the heat and puree with an immersion blender.

In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter or EVOO. Remove from the heat and stir through the mint and paprika.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with some spiced butter (EVOO) and sprinkle with cilantro or parsley, if desired.

The soup can be made in advance. It will thicken some as it sits, but you can just add a little additional stock to get the desired consistency. Reheat gently.

Apple Bread Pudding

Apple Bread Pudding

Apple Bread Pudding – three of the most comforting words in the English language. I have always said that I could fairly easily live without meat, but not without bread. In recent years, bread became a symbol of the diet devil incarnate. Of course, the pandemic helped change that somewhat but many people still eschew this most essential of foods. Really good bread – not the stuff that is meant to last on store shelves for weeks and that has neither taste nor structure.

My husband and I bake bread every week and when we don’t bake, we search out great bread, walking or driving miles out of our way, to buy it. And who doesn’t love a good pudding, eggy, fragrant with vanilla, rich, but overall – comforting.

I make this bread pudding with leftover challah, but it could also be made with brioche or other rich, sweetened bread. Since we are now well into autumn, of course I want to add apples and raisins. And while I made this apple bread pudding with real milk and butter, you could use a good non-dairy milk and buttery vegan spread or refined coconut oil.

You can take your fancy desserts and desserts loaded with candy and covered with sprinkles. For me, nothing is more beautiful, yummy and comforting than a delicious bread pudding. It reminds me of childhood when I felt safe and yet appeals to my adult palate.

The genesis of this particular recipe is Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax. The version I have is out of print, although it can be found on the web. I have made a few modifications to suit our tastes.

Recipe

Apple Bread Pudding

Yield: 6 to 8 portions

Ingredients

3.5 to 4 cups (about 5 to 6 ounces), cubed day-old challah, crusts partially trimmed (I used Raisin Challah, but any would do)

5 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2/3 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups milk (I used 2% because that is what I had)

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Grated zest of one small orange (optional)

1/2 cup raisins or currants (optional – soak the raisins for at least 30 minutes in 2 Tablespoons Bourbon, Grand Marnier or Calvados)

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1.5 cups (about 1.5 apples) peeled, cored and coarsely chopped (I used a Golden Delicious and Pink Crispin, but almost any good baking apple would do)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with a rack in the middle. Use 2 Tablespoons of the butter to coat the pan. (I used a large, shallow oval gratin pan that holds 7 to 8 cups.)

Allow the bread cubes to sit out at room temperature to dry out some. Do not use fresh bread!

Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, zest and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Add the bread cubes and the raisins. (I drained the raisins somewhat but you could add the liquid. If you do, I would use vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract to cut down on the amount of liquid.) Use a spatula to gently mix everything through, trying not to break up the bread cubes. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the bread to become saturated.

Apple Bread Pudding

Meanwhile, add the remaining Tablespoon of butter to a large skillet and when it begins to sizzle, add the apple cubes and 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Toss for about 4 minutes, coating the apples well. Allow the apples to cool slightly and then add it to the bread and custard mixture.

Apple Bread Pudding

Pour the pudding mixture into the buttered baking dish and set into a roasting pan. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach about halfway up the sides of the baking dish. This is a bain marie.

Apple Bread Pudding

Bake for about 1 hour or until the center just barely jiggles. Depending on the depth of the baking dish and your oven, the time could vary slightly. Do not overbake. The custard will continue to cook somewhat after you remove it from the oven.

Apple Bread Pudding

Carefully remove the baking dish from the bain marie and allow to cool on a wire rack.

The bread pudding can be served slightly warm (the way my husband likes it), room temperature (the way I like it) or from the refrigerator. Any leftovers should be kept in a very cool spot or refrigerated.

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf is dense, dark, rich and satisfying with autumn flavors. When you bake this loaf, light a crackling fire and snuggle up with some loved ones – furry, children or adults. The house will smell so inviting that you just may have to turn your neighbors away.

I’m looking out on a dreary, rainy, chilly fall day. But inside, my husband and I (with our cat, Zoya) are snug and happy to be at home, waiting for this delicious Guiness Gingerbread Loaf to come out of the oven. I’ve recently started watching Laura in the Kitchen and when I saw this, I knew that I had to make it. It isn’t fancy and that is perfect. While I may enjoy the artistry of a beautifully sculpted and plated confection, generally I want something that is delicious without being precious or too fussy. And please, NO SPRINKLES!

This Guiness Gingerbread Loaf comes together fairly quickly and with easy- to-find ingredients. And even though the recipe uses Stout, the alcohol cooks away in the baking process leaving only that delicious molassesy, caramelly taste. The spicing is just right. My husband and I ate this still warm from the oven and after one bite we just looked at each other with these slightly silly grins. So, so good. There is just a bit of crust and then you sink into this dense, moist cake. Did I say that this was delicious?

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

I wouldn’t hesitate to give this to kids – as is or with a shmear of cream cheese or good butter. When my son was little, I would whip up gingerbread for him to eat when he got home from school. So even though many kids are schooling remotely from home, that doesn’t mean that wonderful treats shouldn’t await them when the school day ends.

There truly isn’t enough comfort in the world that we couldn’t use a bit more. Mix up this wonderfully comforting Gingerbread Loaf and take a breath. Let the autumn leaves fall and bring on the chill!

For other delicious gingerbread recipes try these:

Chocolate Stout Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread

Recipe

Yield: 8 to 12 slices

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Ingredients

  • 2-1/3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup of full flavor (robust) molasses or treacle (I actually used a combination of molasses and treacle since I didn’t have quite enough molasses on hand.)
  • 1 cup of Guiness Stout (or other Stout)
  • 2/3 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Leave a 2-inch overhang with the parchment. It isn’t essential to do this step but makes getting the loaf out of the pan a little easier, especially if you aren’t using a non-stick pan. Spray the parchment.

Combine the butter, Guiness Stout and molasses in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring once or twice to make sure that the butter melts. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes.

Mix the flour baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla nd brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Add the dry ingredients along with the Guiness mixture and stir until combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. I thought that my loaf was still a bit moist after one hour but didn’t want to overbake it. So I turned off the oven, cracked open the door and left it in for another 10 minutes. I allowed it to cool on a wire rack for about an additional 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

The bread can be cut while it is still slightly warm, but allow it to cool for about an hour first. You can sprinkle with powdered or icing sugar for presentation, if you like.

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie is dark, seductive, rich – an adult chocolate pie that we all need now. Just the other day my husband was enjoying a perfectly delicious dessert, but he said “This is great, but you know, it isn’t chocolate.” And sometimes nothing else quite will do. Chocolate Midnight Pie is for those times. It actually comes together quite easily. While it may not be the most visually stunning pie you will ever see, I have found that pies and cakes that have amazing decorations rarely taste as good as they look. Form over substance.

My father was in the candy business, so I grew up early on knowing good chocolate from bad. And I developed a taste for quality dark Dutch-process cocoa as well. Don’t cheap out on these ingredients. Make something else if you don’t want to pay for quality bittersweet chocolate or cocoa. My father also taught me (long before celebrity chefs were touting it on TV) that adding coffee to chocolate enhanced the dark, earthy, rich flavors. This Chocolate Midnight Pie hits all of the right notes.

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Some have called it a chocolate chess pie and I think that may have been what initially caught my eye. I do love a great chess pie – chocolate or otherwise. This pie forms a crackly, crispy almost meringue-like chocolate crust. The filling is a deep chocolate truffle with coffee notes and the not too-sweet crust is a lovely counterpoint that melts as soon as it hits your tongue.

You can, of course, use any pie dough that you prefer, but I will say that the one in the recipe is very easy to handle. I made mine in a food processor and it probably took longer to clean the machine than it took to make the dough. It rolled out like a dream and I don’t often say that.

Orange and chocolate are a favorite combo of mine so I went with the Grand Marnier as the liqueur. When grinding chocolate, I always find that adding about a teaspoon of granulated sugar helps the process by adding just the right amount of friction, while preventing the blades from over-heating. Also be sure to pulse the blades rather than letting them run on. You don’t want to end up with chocolate paste although obviously the chocolate will melt in the end product.

If, however, for some reason you are not a chocolate lover (How is that possible? I can’t quite trust people who don’t like chocolate.) or you just want a non-chocolate dessert, try these wonderful chess pie recipes:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Amish Bob Andy Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Now while it’s true that I do love a great chocolate dessert, we are now in apple season. And the smell of apples, sugar, cinnamon and other warm winter spices makes me happy that fall is here and winter is coming. The house always smells so inviting. So in the coming weeks, expect to see lots of apple breads and cakes coming your way.

Recipe

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/4 cups (149g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (28g) confectioners’ or icing sugar

rounded 1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pats

1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder

3 to 5 tablespoons (43g to 71g) milk or cream (half & half, light, heavy, or whipping)

Filling

4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups (298g) granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1/4 cup (21g) Dutch-process cocoa

2 tablespoons (28g) coffee liqueur* (e.g., Kahlua), or substitute strong brewed coffee

1 tablespoon (14g) cold milk or cream (half-and-half, light, heavy, or whipping)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder,

2 tablespoons (18g) yellow or white cornmeal (Try to find one that is finely ground if you can.)

2/3 cup (113g) bittersweet chocolate chips

*Frangelico (hazelnut), Amaretto (almond), Grand Marnier (orange), Sabra or Framboise (raspberry) are all wonderful, in place of the coffee liqueur.

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Directions

To make the crust

Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt.

Work the butter into the dry ingredients (using your fingers, a pastry blender or fork, or a mixer) until the dough is unevenly crumbly.

Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tablespoon of the milk/cream. Sprinkle up to 5 tablespoons (I only needed 4 Tablespoons) of the milk into the dry ingredients (beginning with the tablespoon of espresso milk), continuing to mix until the dough is cohesive. Grab a handful; if it holds together willingly, and doesn’t seem at all dry or crumbly, you’ve added enough liquid. (If you are using a food processor, stop the machine as soon as the dough starts to come together. Don’t allow it to form a ball.)

Shape the dough into a disk. Roll its edges along a floured work surface (as though the disk were a wheel), in order to smooth them out. Pat the disk until it’s about 1″ thick, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

To make the filling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Allow it to warm a bit and become flexible, 15 to 30 minutes

Flour your work surface, and roll the dough into a 12″ circle. Transfer the dough to a regular (not deep-dish) 9″ pie pan that’s at least 1 1/4″ deep. Trim and crimp the edges. Place the crust in the refrigerator to chill, while you’re preparing the filling.

Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt until smooth.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly but thoroughly after each addition; you want to combine them with the butter and sugar, but not beat in a lot of air.

Stir in the cocoa, liqueur, milk, and vanilla.

Use a food processor (mini, if you have one) to grind together the espresso powder, cornmeal, and chocolate chips. Add to the batter. Pour the batter into the crust.

Bake the pie for 45 minutes, adding a crust shield after 20 minutes. The middle should just wobble as in a pumpkin or good custard. The pie does form a kind of crust on top. You want that.

If the temperature has reached 165°F right in the center, the pie is done. (I don’t use that method but feel free.) Note: If you’re baking in a stoneware or glass pan, the baking time will almost certainly be a bit longer. Go by how the pie looks, not by your timer, especially since all ovens are different. I like to allow the pie to sit in the oven with the temperature turned off and the door cracked open for 10 to 15 minutes before removing it to a cooling rack. It helps to cut down on cracks and will continue to solidify the center.

Remove the pie from the oven, cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Serve each slice topped with a layer of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate curls, if desired. It’s nice, but you don’t have to get crazy to enjoy this pie.

Note

Even if the pie is somewhat wobbly when you pull it out of the oven, don’t panic; an overnight rest in the refrigerator solidifies it and gives all the flavors a chance to mellow.

Cheesy Cornbread

Cheesy Cornbread is moist, flavorful and with a wonderful texture to accompany chili or soup. While many parts of the country – and world – are experiencing record heat waves, fall nevertheless has started. Cooler days and nights and trees turning golden turn my thoughts to earthy chili, stews and soups. And what better side than this delicious, Cheesy Cornbread.

Cheesy Cornbread

The addition of corn kernels give this cornbread a marvelous texture, With every bite you get a little pop from the kernel. I used canned corn, but you could use fresh or frozen. And while I didn’t put any cheese on top, go ahead if you want a bit of extra cheesiness.

I used a cheddar jack cheese, but for a more pronounced flavor, use the sharpest cheddar you can find. No matter which cheese you use, though, this cornbread comes together quickly and can be eaten right out of the oven. Since it is just my husband and me these days, I had left-overs which kept for several days, wrapped well and refrigerated.

Cheesy Cornbread is made with ingredients that are easy to keep in the pantry and fridge, so you can whip up a batch with very little notice. It is almost instant gratification and a wonderful thing for novice cooks or making with children.

While this recipe is clearly not vegan, you can check out my Vegan Corn Muffins for another delicious cornbread option. And here are some delicious ideas that would all benefit from Cheesy Cornbread as an accompaniment. So rather than dreading those long, chilly winter evenings, relish all of the rich and wonderful foods that make those months bearable.

Corn Muffins – Vegan

Lamb and White Bean Chili

Vegetable Chili Con Carne

Beef Stew

Crock-Pot Beef Stew

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Short Ribs with Brown Ale and Buckwheat Honey

Recipe

Yield: About 9 servings

Ingredients

1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

1 can (about 15 ounces) corn kernels, drained well or 1.5 cups of fresh or frozen kernels

1 cup buttermillk’2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 generous cup grated Cheddar cheese (4 ounces) or any grated cheese you prefer (Cheddar Jack, Pepper Jack or shredded cheese blends)

1/4 cup, seeded and finely chopped jalapeno, Serrano, Shishito or even bell pepper (how spicy you like things is up to you)

Directions

Grease a 9-inch square or round baking pan or 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Using a separate medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs and combine them with the corn, buttermilk, melted butter, cheese and peppers.

Heat the greased pan for about 5 minutes.

Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture just enough to combine the ingredients, but do not over mix. Pour the mixture into the hot pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the bread is golden and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You can eat this straight from the pan or turn it out onto a cutting board for presentation.

Persian Herbed Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi with Beef)

Ghormeh Sabzi

Persian Herbed Stew is aromatic, hearty and satisfying. Okay, it’s not the most beautiful dish and will never win any food-porn prizes. But close your eyes and smell the parsley, cilantro, mint and leek all vying with the rich beef, black-eyed peas and Persian dried limes. Come on – what’s not to love?

Persian Herbed Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi) is a quintessential Persian dish with many variations. The version that I’m using was a typical Friday night meal for a Jewish family that made their way from Tehran to Tenafly, New Jersey. I came across it while delving into the wonderful Jewish Food Society website. It is citrusy, peppery and herbaceous and sure to wake up any jaded palate.

Black-eyed peas are used here, but dark red kidney beans are a more common ingredient. You can’t go wrong with either, however. Many recipes include potatoes, some use lamb and apparently whether you use fenugreek says where your family came from in Iran originally. What you cannot skimp on, however, is the massive amount of fresh herbs or the Persian dried limes. It simply would not be Persian Herbed Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi) without them.

Herbs, Herbs and More Herbs

I admit that I was skeptical when I first ordered the limes and opened the bag. They do not look very promising, but oh, the aroma! Some people grind the dry limes up and use the powder to sprinkle on just about anything where a pop of citrus would brighten things up. While not a big drinker, I could imagine rimming a glass for a Margarita with ground up Persian limes.

This dish does take some preparation although no single element is that difficult. It would go faster in a pressure cooker, but I will freely admit that those things scare me; I don’t own one and have no plans to change that! It can be served simply over Basmati rice and with the typical Middle Eastern salads and dips for a truly remarkable meal fit for the Sabbath Bride.

Salatim

I’ve actually been wanting to make this dish for some time now, but it has been impossible during the pandemic to get all of the fresh herbs that I needed. Finally, my order arrived with everything that I needed so here we are.

Now while this dish is clearly made with meat, I could imagine it being made with tofu and more beans for a vegan version. Obviously the cooking time would be reduced and the tofu would be added after the beans had cooked and become tender. I would use firm or extra firm tofu and would press it under weights for 30 minutes before cutting it into chunks. It wouldn’t be authentic, but it would be delicious.

For more recipe ideas:

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Carrots and Spicy Harissa Yogurt

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Ghormeh Sabzi (Chicken and Kidney Bean Stew)

Recipe

Ghormeh Sabzi

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

12 small, dried Persian limes (Some limes are bigger than others, so you may use fewer.)

9 cups water, divided
1 cup black eyed peas, soaked overnight
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1½-inch pieces
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 bunches parsley (8 cups leaves and tender stems), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
3 bunches cilantro (8 cups leaves and tender stems), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 bunch mint (1½ cups leaves), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 leek, green part only, sliced into ⅛-inch strips and washed
3 tablespoons dried savory (I didn’t have savory, but I did have fenugreek, so used that instead since it was in so many other versions that I found.)
3 tablespoons dried mint
2.5 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 Tablespoon ground cumin

Directions

1. Place dried Persian limes in medium heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over the dried limes. Let sit until ready to use. After they soak, you should halve the limes around the middle and remove any seeds before adding to the stockpot. This prevents excessive bitterness.

2. In large stockpot, place the beef chunks and cover with the remaining 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim the foam off the top. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour, skimming the foam as needed.

3. Add the beans to the pot and increase the heat to a boil for 5 minutes, continuing to skim any foam off the top. Add the dried Persian limes with their soaking liquid and reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for another hour.

4. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook without any oil until they begin to sweat, 5 minutes. Add the canola oil and continue to cook until they begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Now add the greens and dried herbs and spices. Saute until they turn dark green in color, are tender and very fragrant, another 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Once the beans are tender, add the onion and herb mixture to the pot and stir to incorporate. Cover and continue to cook until the greens have wilted and the stew is fragrant, 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt as needed and serve.

Jerusalem Kugel

I am convinced that there are two camps of kugel followers – those who favor potato and those who favor noodles. Jerusalem Kugel is for lovers of a savory sweet noodle pudding and I am firmly in this camp.

In actuality there are many different types of kugel even within these two camps. A kugel can be sweet or savory, or, as in this case – both. So what is a kugel anyway? It is a baked “pudding” originating with Jews from Eastern Europe and Germany that is traditionally served on Friday nights (Shabbat) and holidays. It can be eaten hot, cold or at room temperature and is especially wonderful as an accompaniment to brisket and roast chicken. I have been known to even eat it for breakfast on Shabbat morning….

Jerusalem or  Yerushalmi Kugel is a specialty of Haredi Jews from the Mea She’arim neighborhood. Think Shtisel, that international phenomenon depicting a close knit community of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The kugel is sweet with a peppery bite that is irresistible. Most recipes don’t vary much, but there are small subtleties. The trick to a perfect Jerusalem Kugel is in caramelizing the sugar in the oil. You want to go just far enough to get a really good caramelization but no so far that you burn the sugar. It happens, though. If so, there is no saving it, so throw it out and start again. Once you have done it right once, the rest is a snap.

Some variations add caramelized onions, but I like mine without, which is the most common version. I put pudding in quotes because it isn’t a pudding in the sense that most people (Americans especially) think of. The finished result is solid and there is no dairy or dairy substitute – just eggs. And because it is meant to be eaten following the laws of kashrut, oil is used in place of butter.

Make sure that you use a big pot to caramelize your sugar and oil. When the noodles are added it can spatter and sugar burns are just the worst. I know. There is no special pan needed for the baking and you can use a square, rectangular or round pan. I have made it in a bundt (tube) pan which produces a very pretty finished product. This time I used an 8-inch spring-form pan. The smaller the pan, the higher the kugel. If you don’t have an 8-inch round pan, use a 9-inch. Your finished product will be a little thinner but just as delicious.

I used 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, but I have seen recipes with as little as 1/2 teaspoon and as much as 2 teaspoons. It all depends on your tolerance. Same goes for the amount of sugar. The proportions below make what I believe is the perfect balance between sweet and savory.

For another wonderful noodle kugel try my Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel.

Recipe

Yield: 8 Servings

Ingredients

1 pound (16 ounces) thin egg noodles (The thinner the better for the ultimate crust on the outside.)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup neutral oil such as Canola

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or more, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it well as you would for cooking any pasta. Cook the noodles to al dente according to the package directions. Drain well and set aside. My noodles said to cook for 4 minutes, so I did 3 minutes. Remember, they will bake in the oven.

Add the sugar and oil to a large pot on medium heat. Just stir the sugar through the oil and then don’t touch it. As the sugar melts, it will start to turn a lovely dark amber color. You need to watch this because nothing happens, nothing happens and then – boom, it’s too late. Once the sugar burns, it becomes bitter and is unusable.

As soon as the sugar gets to the right color, remove the pot from the heat and add the noodles. Don’t worry if they got a bit sticky. They will separate as you stir them through the sugar/oil mixture. I like to use either a wooden spoon or tongs for this. If the sugar hardened in a few spots, don’t worry. It will melt again in the oven.

Now mix through the salt and pepper. Allow the noodles to cool for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, lightly beat the eggs to break them up. Now add them to the noodles and stir through. If you added the eggs too soon to the hot mixture, the eggs might scramble which is not what you want.

Pour the mixture into a greased pan of your choosing and smooth out the top. Bake for one hour. The finished product should be a really rich brown and the noodles should look somewhat crisped. Allow to cool slightly and then it can be removed from the pan if using hot. The kugel will cut most easily if allowed to cool to room temperature, which is how I like my kugel.

Rosh HaShanah 5781

Rosh hashanah -traditional symbols: honey jar and fresh apples with  pomegranate and shofar- horn on white wooden. | Premium Photo

Rosh HaShanah 5781 begins at sundown on Friday, September 18th this year. Wherever Jews live, we will be celebrating the New Year. The Jewish People – my People – have survived intact for 5,781 years. Despite wars, the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust and the denial of Israel’s right to exist, we have survived. Its pretty remarkable by any measure. But this year with the Covid Pandemic, we will face another challenge.

While it is true that much of our rituals are home-based, we also require a community. We do not live in isolation from one another no matter how that community is counted by different streams of our religion or where our family originated. My husband and I had looked forward to sharing these High Holidays with our son, daughter-in-law and first grandchild. But alas that is not to be. They are in San Francisco and we are in Chicago.

The Days of Awe are a time for deep personal reflection and repentance. It is a time to review how we conducted ourselves during the past year and our goals for the coming year. This year, instead of taking part in our community services, we will be at home – just the two of us. I will miss the beloved liturgy and melodies that provide so much comfort each year. And I will miss the sense of community and the affirmation of our People.

Cooking has always been a way for me to connect with others and to express my love. I enjoy searching for recipes that reflect our People’s different traditions since we come from all across the globe. And I love to read the stories that go along with them.

So even though nothing is quite as it should be this year, I am still planning a special meal for Rosh HaShanah. Below are some recipe ideas for the holiday. And remember, it won’t just be a meal that you are sharing, but our heritage.

I wish all of you a Shana Tova U’Metuka – a sweet New Year! A year of good health and peace.

Rosh HaShanah Menu Ideas

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Lisa’s Challah Revisited

Lisa’s Vegan Challah

Gefilte Fish Loaf

Garlicky Beet Spread

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Fruit and Vegetable Tzimmes – a perfect introduction to autumn

Another Brisket

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

Apple Cake – Take 2

Lisa’s Vegan “Honey” Cake

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake

Vegan Apple Raisin Cake with Applejack Sauce

Plum Kuchen (Butter cake)

Italian Prune Plums Take Two