Amaretti-Mascarpone Pancakes

amaretti pancakes

My wonderful husband of more than 31 years has recently taken to making me Sunday brunch. This is a man who never did any cooking during our marriage but has now become a master pancake maker. I saw this recipe one day when I was trolling food blogs and I brought it home thinking it sounded interesting. He had recently made ricotta lemon pancakes very successfully so I knew that he now had the confidence to try these. The only problem is that the original recipe made 12 large pancakes and no matter how delicious that was way more than we could consume. I didn’t mind having some left-overs but we really felt that it made sense to cutthe recipe down to a more manageable size. These were without a doubt THE most delicious pancakes – EVER. I think I will keep him for another 31 years!

Perhaps when Matthew and Frances come to visit we will make the full amount, although their next visit falls during Pesach, so it will have to wait for another time.

Amaretti-Mascarpone Pancakes adapted from Mario Batali

Yield: 7 large pancakes (2 per person is plenty, but someone might eat only one or possibly 3)

Ingredients

1.5 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

7 fluid ounces fat-free milk

1/4 cup mascarpone

8 teaspoons (2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) buttermilk

1/2 Tablespoon melted unsalted butter plus more for the pan

3/4 teaspoon amaretto (optional – I had this so the small amount wasn’t a deterrant; however most of the flavor comes from the amaretti cookies)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

3 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup crushed amaretti cookies plus more for garnish (optional – we didn’t use for garnish)

Maple syrup for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to about 225 degrees F and set a baking pan in the oven lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until incorporated and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, mascarpone, buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg yolks until smooth.
  4. Using an electric hand mixer or standing mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Take about 1/4 cup of the egg whites and mix through the batter thoroughly to lossen up the batter. Then fold the remaining egg whites carefully into the batter with the crushed amaretti cookies.
  5. In a medium, non-stick skillet, heat 1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of the batter to the pan and cook, flipping once, until golden brown and fluffy – about 1 minute per side). Add more butter as needed when cooking the remaining pancakes. As a pancake finishes cooking, place it in the oven to keep warm. Do not try to more than one at a time unless using a long griddle pan.
  6. If desired (we didn’t) you can serve with crushed amaretti cookies on top and warm maple syrup on the side.

Orange Flan

I have been making this recipe for at least 30 years and it never fails. About that time, I treated myself to some wonderful French glazed custard cups that look a bit like little flower pots. I don’t recall where I got them, but I have loved them from the moment I saw them. However, this recipe will work perfectly well in any oven-safe custard cups. I generally make this with dark rum, but today decided to use an orange liqueur. You can make it without the alcohol, but it does add something special and the alcohol actually burns off during the cooking, so it is just the flavoring that you are left with. The trickiest part about making these is carmelizing the sugar. It only really requires a little bit of patience and then the ability to work quickly. This recipe is for two and I believe originated in an old Bon Appetit article on “Cooking for Two” however it easily can be doubled or tripled.

Orange Flan flan5

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons

1 cup half & half

2 large egg yolks

1 large egg

2 teaspoons dark rum or orange liqueur

Grated zest of one navel orange

Directions

  1. In a small pan (like an omelette pan) pour 1/4 cup of sugar and set over medium heat. Watching it carefully – BUT DO NOT STIR! – heat the sugar until the edges begin to turn a lovely caramel color. This can take 10 minutes or even a little more. If you get impatient and turn your heat too high, the sugar will burn. If you stir the sugar, it won’t caramelize. Once it looks like this photo, you can then carefully stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it is completely liquified. If you go too far and burn the sugar, just throw it out and start again. It cannot really be salvaged, Thankfully sugar is your least costly imgredient.caramelized sugar2
  2. As soon as the sugar is completely liquified, quickly and carefully (sugar can cause terrible burns) divide the liquid between your custard cups and immediately swirl the sugar around to coat the bottom and partially up the sides of the cups. You must work quickly since it hardens almost immediately. caramelized sugar3
  3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  4. In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine all of the other ingredients and beat it well with a wire whisk to break up the egg and yolks and to distribute the orange zest.
  5. Evenly divide the liquid over the now hardened caramel. You should have enough to go to the top of each 1 cup-size custard dish.
  6. Place the dishes in a pan and fill the pan with boiling water to about half-way up the sides of the custard cups. This is a bain Marie.
  7. Place the pan with the custard cups and water into the oven and bake for about 55 minutes.flan ready for ovenDo not overbake. There should just be the slightest jiggle of the custard. It will continue to set after it cools. If you overbake it, the top will split and the custard will still taste good but it won’t be silky and a crust may develop around the edges.
  8. Cool slightly and then place in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  9. When you are ready to serve, take a thin knife and carefully slide it around the edge and down the side of the custard mold. Place a dish over the top, flip it over, give it one good shake and it should come right out. The caramel will drip down the sides. Depending on the dish you bake it in, there will be a disk of caramel left in the bottom. You can either crack it out and eat it, or dissolve it with hot water.

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

lentils de puyThe beauty of Lentils du Puy is that they just never seem to get mushy, which is wonderful if you want to serve them in a salad where they are the star. This is a classic French salad and is wonderful eaten at room temperature. I’m serving lamb chops tonight and lamb and lentils are a wonderful marriage of taste and texture. I also make this salad when I am serving a summer dinner of lamb merguez sausage or any other flavorful sausage. All it needs is a green salad with some ripe tomatoes, a nice Dijon mustard and a crisp wine. Well, okay, I have already admitted that my husband and I are bread people, so I would also serve this with a crusty baguette.

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

1.5 cups Lentils du Puy or other green lentils

6-7 small potatoes like a red baby Bliss or Yukon Gold or a mixture

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt or to taste

1.5 teaspoons dried tarragon or 1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon

6 Tablespoons EVOO

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

20 cracks of fresh black pepper

Directions

  1. Rinse your lentils in cold water and place in a medium pot with water to cover by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. If you are using Lentils du Puy, cook uncovered for about 23 minutes, immediately drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Regular green lentils may only take about 18 minutes. You want them tender but still holding their shape.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, add all of the other ingredients except for the potatoes to a large serving bowl. When the lentils have cooked and been cooled and drained, add them to the bowl with everything else and mix through.
  3. Cook the potatoes uncovered, whole and in their skins until tender but firm – about 14 minutes, but check if a sharp knife easily pierces the potato and pulls out easily. Once cooked, immediately drain them and run under cold water to stop the cooking. The potatoes should easily peel. Cut into large dice and add to the lentils. Adjust your seasonings and enjoy.

 

Blood Orange, Almond and Ricotta Cake

I’m hosting a dinner party in a few weeks, and this always means that I’m looking for delicious ideas for all the meal parts, but especially dessert.  This was so beautiful and different looking that I thought I might serve it, but being the naturally risk-averse person that I am, decided to “test” it first before finding out three hours before dinner that the recipe failed me or anything unexpected like that.

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THANK GOODNESS I did, since this ended up taking nearly twice the amount of time it claimed it would in baking, and I definitely needed an extra orange to get that amount of juice.  All in all, a delicious cake that is rapidly being devoured.

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Ingredients

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoon water
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
3 blood oranges
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (165 grams) ricotta
1/3 cup (45 grams) cornmeal
1 cup (135 grams) firm-packed almond flour or meal
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup apricot jam

Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

Stir brown sugar and water together so they form a thick slurry. Pour into prepared cake pan and spread thin. Set aside.

Whip egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until they hold thick peaks. Set aside.

Place granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl. Finely zest all 3 oranges over it.

Cut oranges in half. Cut one of the halves into paper-thin slices and arrange slices over brown sugar base in cake pan. Juice other 5 halves (to get about 1/3 cup juice) and set juice aside.

Add butter to zest and granulated sugar in large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer (you can use same beaters you just did for egg whites) until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat to combine. Add juice and ricotta; mix until smooth. Sprinkle salt over batter, then add almond flour and cornmeal and mix until just combined. Gently fold in egg whites.

Scoop batter in large dollops over prepared cake pan base. Gently spread batter flat, trying not to disturb orange slices underneath. Bake in heated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  (The original recipe calls for 35-40 minutes but my cake was waaaaaay undercooked at that point and had to keep cooking and cooking it!)

Cool cake in pan on rack for 5 minutes, and then run a knife around the side and invert onto a cake plate. If any orange slices don’t come out easily, just gently arrange them on the top of the cake. If desired, heat jam until loose and brush over cake top for a glossier finish. Let cool and cut into slices. Tastes good at room temperature or after being chilled.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Eggplant and Beef Albondigas

Recently I was at an Israeli restaurant in Manhattan where we ordered a dish with Japanese eggplant, thinly sliced and grilled with a wonderful sauce on it.  I was reminded of how much I love grilled and roasted eggplants, and so when I found this recipe was very excited to see that eggplants were a part of it.  And after all, who doesn’t love meatballs.  It was a homey comforting kind of meal, and would be good for a day with it’s cold out.

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Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water

For the meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or cilantro
  • oil for frying

Directions

1. Prepare the sauce Place the eggplants under a broiler and cook until charred.

2. Cool slightly and then peel the eggplants and scoop out the flesh.  Transfer to a colander and let it drain for about an hour.  Chop the flesh coarsely and set aside.

3. Place the bell peppers under the broiler as well and cook until charred, and then remove from oven, let cool slightly and remove the skins, seeds, and membranes.  Chop coarsely and set aside.

4. Prepare the meatballs  Combine the meat, bread crumbs, eggs, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley in a large bowl.  Knead thoroughly with your hands and refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 300 F

6. Wet you hands or rub them with oil and form meatballs a little smaller than the size of a golf ball.

7. Heat the oil in a large skillet (I had to use a 10″ and a 12″ skillet to get everything to fit).  Add the meatballs and brown for 1-2 minutes.  Shake the skillets to roll the meatballs in the oil.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

8. In a large bowl, combine the reserved eggplants, reserved bell peppers, the garlic, lemon juice, sugar, salt, tomato paste, water and mix well.

9. Arrange the meatballs in one layer in a shallow ovenproof saucepan and pour over the sauce.

10. Bring to a boil on medium heat, cover, and transfer to the oven for 1 hour.  Serve hot over rice or couscous.

Serves 6-8 (or 3-4 very hungry people)

Adapted from Jewish Soul Food by Janna Gur.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

After making French toast challah and some variation on an egg scramble for brunch for the last few weekends, and after finding some ricotta leftover from making a blood orange ricotta cake, I decided to try this recipe for lemon ricotta pancakes.  We’re usually always whole wheat pancake types of people, but the preface for this recipe claimed that these would result in very fluffy pancakes, or more elegantly put, “ricotta cheese lends a delicate, airy texture.”  They turned out so fluffy and just melted in our mouths.  Plus they were mini sized so it felt fine to eat them all!

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups blackberries (or raspberries)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 7 oz ricotta cheese (or 15 oz – I halved the ricotta only because I only had 7 oz lying around my fridge, but I’m pretty sure these would turn out better with all 15 oz)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • canola oil or butter for cooking.

Directions

1. Combine the berries and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, sitrring occasionally, just until the berries begin to release some juices, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, flour, egg *yolks*, sugar, melted butter, lemon zest and vanilla.  In another bowl, using a clean whisk or handheld mixer (I use a standing mixer) on high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form.  Scoop the whites onto the batter, and using the whisk or a spatula, fold them in evenly.

3. Place a griddle over medium heat until hot.  Lightly oil the griddle and pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Flip the pancakes and cook until the other sides are golden, about another minute.  Repeat until all the batter is used.

4. Serve with the warm berry compote poured on top.

_MG_6486.JPG(Note on servings – the recipe claims it makes enough for 4 servings, but Matt ate them all in one sitting… so if you have a big eater, make sure to scale the recipe accordingly.)

From Breakfast Comforts, Williams Sonoma.

Crock-Pot Beef Stew

beef stew1

There are few dinners that are homier or easier to make than a good beef stew. Whenever possible I buy chuck roast and I cut my own stew meat. It really doesn’t take that long and chuck roast is just the best quality meat for beef stew, instead of the odds and ends of all kinds of beef that are sold as “stew” meat in the grocery. Stew only takes about 30 minutes to assemble and then you put it in a low slow oven or slow cooker and leave it alone. I picked up the knack of using instant tapioca to make a wonderful thick gravy from an Amish cookbook. It requires no messing with making a roux and adding it slowly to avoid lumps. The tapioca goes in the mix at the beginning and when the stew is ready, the gravy is silky, coats a spoon and is delicious. No muss; no fuss. I have always made this in my Dutch oven, but I decided today to use a crock-pot. I usually forget that I have one since it is stored out of sight, but I know how useful they can be. Hopefully, I won’t mess it up!

I make this for Sunday night dinner and then have delicious left-overs for the week. This can also be frozen. The only change you will see when re-heating the stew is that the vibrant green of the peas will fade. No taste is lost. Be sure to serve a good bread or roll to wipe up all of that flavorful gravy!

Crock-Pot Beef Stew

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

4 pounds of chuck roast cut into large chunks (about 3-inch pieces)

1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced OR a 1 pound bag of baby carrots

1 pound of cippolini onions peeled OR if you are feeling lazy a bag of frozen pearl onions

10 ounces of frozen peas

About 12 red baby bliss or small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and left whole unless larger (then cut them in half)

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced thickly or left whole if small (try to use a Cremini or Baby Bella) optional

1 cup red wine like a Cabernet or Zinfandel, but even a Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc would work. Use either what you have left-over or what you will be drinking with the stew.

1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juice (I like fire roasted)

1-2 cups of beef broth or water

1/2 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

5 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca

Directions

  1. I read somewhere that we should be preheating our crock-pots so I preheated mine on high while I prepared my stew ingredients.
  2. I layered in all of my ingredients, except for the frozen peas and parsley and then stirred everything through to distribute them well. I covered the slow-cooker and put it on high for 1 hour.
  3. After 1 hour, I turned the slow-cooker down to “low” but did not touch anything inside the pot. I set the timer for 4 more hours.
  4. After four hours, I stirred in the peas and parsley, adjusted the seasonings and left the slow-cooker on “warm” until I was ready to serve it.

Beef stew