Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)

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The French and Italians became adept at making elegant and delicious meals using cheaper cuts of meat as well as using smaller amounts of meat than we tend to do in the United States. One way to achieve this is by pounding meat or poultry very thin and stuffing and rolling it with all kinds of wonderful fillings that add flavor as well as satisfying heft to the dish. They have the added benefit of also making beautiful pinwheels of color, texture and taste when sliced that would make you proud to serve to any guest. The following recipe comes from a book called Italian Cooking by Mary Reynolds that I have used for over 30 years. Follow the directions exactly and you will have a wonderful result, but also feel free to use it as a jumping off point and source of inspiration, varying the fillings to suit your tastes. Just try to keep in mind flavor balance, textures and the property of the ingredients when they are cooked. So, if for instance, you want to add chopped spinach, you should blanch it first and squeeze out all of the liquid. And remember that a little goes a long way if you start out with flavorful ingredients.

When I was in my teens I read about the way calves were treated in order to produce tender veal. While it didn’t make me into a vegetarian, I swore off veal for over 25 years. With the rise of organic farming also came awareness about the more humane treatment of animals. I still rarely eat veal but when I do, it is sourced from veal calves in non-tethered, humane environments, where the calves are ethically raised on family farms. If you still won’t eat veal – either because of the cost or for ethical reasons – I have successfully made this dish using pounded chicken breasts. Make it for your family and turn any night into a special night. They don’t have to know how easy it was. You can accompany this with polenta or rice or make it even quicker and use a good commercial pasta. I used a butternut squash ravioli and roasted asparagus. With a small salad, my husband and I ate like royalty and I only used less than 4 ounces of veal/person.

Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)

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Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

8 scallops of veal, each weighing about 2 ounces

8 thin slices of prosciutto or jamon

2 slices of bread with crusts removed (I used a multi-grain bread because that was what I had on hand. Almost any bread would do; however, I wouldn’t use sour dough or corn bread here.)

3 Tablespoons seedless raisins (preferably Sultana or “white” raisins)

1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered blanched almonds

1/4 grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese

2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2/3 cup of dry(ish) white wine (Use what you plan on drinking)

Directions

  1. Lay the scallops of veal (or chicken breasts) between 2 pieces of parchment paper and beat until thin but unbroken. If you don’t own a flat meat tenderizer (DO NOT use the kind with spikes!) you can use a small but heavy frying pan. Remove the paper and lay a piece of prosciutto or jamon over each flattened scallop.
  2. Soak the bread in tap water for about a minute. Then drain and squeeze it to remove all excess moisture. Mix the wet, softened bread with the raisins, cheese, nuts, parsley, slat and pepper. Divide the stuffing among the veal scallops.
  3. Roll up each scallop from the shorter end and secure your packages with two toothpicks/roll. Don’t worry if you lose a little filling. I just throw it into the sauce so nothing is wasted here.
  4. Heat the EVOO in a pan with a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to hold the rolls in a single layer. Brown the rolls fairly quickly on medium high heat, turning as necessary. Tongs make this very easy.
  5. Pour the wine over the rolls and cover tightly. Simmer the rolls on a low heat, turning once, for about 20 minutes. This can also be done in a 350 degree F oven but why heat up your whole kitchen if you don’t have to?
  6. Transfer the rolls to a serving dish and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Boil the pan juices until reduced by about half. Remove the toothpicks and cut each roll in half on the diagonal, with the cut side facing up. Pour the pan juices over the top and serve.  IMG_3531

 

Plum Kuchen (Butter cake)

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If you have been following my blog then you know that I get REALLY excited when for a brief time each year Italian prune plums are available at the market. Check out the Caramelized Plum and Rosemary Polenta Pound Cake or my Italian Prune Plum Cake. I have been making this particular Plum Kuchen (basically a butter cake) for probably 50 years. YIKES! It is simple and wonderful and can easily be adapted to use apples or other stone fruits. It takes no time to whip up and is actually better the next day. It also can successfully be frozen, thawed and gently reheated just to freshen it up. Just leave off the powdered sugar until you are actually ready to serve it. But act fast – prune plums are only available for about 3 weeks and this year they came early.

Plum Kuchen (Butter Cake) 

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Yield: One 9-inch cake

Ingredients

10 – 12 Italian Prune Plums

1 scant cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup of unsalted butter at room temperature

Zest of one small lemon

1.5 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of Kosher or sea salt

2 large eggs

2 Tablespoons milk or cream

1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 Tablespoons of sliced raw almonds (optional)

About 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar for sprinkling on top

1-2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter

Powdered Sugar for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Butter and lightly flour (or better yet, use one of those sprays that already has flour in it) a 9-inch spring-form pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This can be done by hand, but unless you have powerful arms, you will achieve a better result with a standing mixer. Add the lemon zest and mix through.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well after each addition, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
  4. Add the baking powder, flour, salt and milk or cream and beat until fluffy. There is not tons of batter, but it is enough. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Cut the plums in half lengthwise and remove the pits. Sometimes this is very easy and other times the pits really are stuck in there. The irony is that the tastier and juicier the plum, the harder it is to nicely remove the pit. Work with a small sharp knife and make as clean a job of it as you can. (You can always sprinkle the almonds across where it isn’t so perfect.) 
  6. Place the plums, cut side up in concentric circles across the top of the batter. Get as many plum halves on top as you can manage and nibble any disasters! Sprinkle with sugar and scatter with the sliced almonds. Dot with butter.
  7. Bake for 60-75 minutes (In large part it depends on the fruit you use and the quirks of your particular oven) or until the fruit is bubbling and the parts of the cake you can see are nicely browned. It is really difficult to over-bake this when using the prune plums since the cake only gets moister over time. Remove the cake to a cooling rack and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, loosen the latch on the spring-form and carefully remove the ring. Finish cooling the cake completely on the rack. At this point you can either wrap the cake carefully for freezing or get it ready to serve. Plum Kuchen3
  8. When you are ready to serve the cake, remove it from the bottom of the spring-form and place on a cake plate. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. The sugar will absorb into the fruit the longer it sits.

Cauliflower and Peas (Ghobi Aur Matar)

Cauliflower and Edamame

I served this dish as a side to my Goan chicken (See previous recipe), but it would also be delicious over rice as part of a vegetarian or vegan meal. While it is traditionally made with peas, the fresh edamame looked so good at the store that I used them instead. This recipe came from a wonderful vegetarian Hindu cookbook that I have had for years called the Flavors of India.

Cauliflower and Peas (Ghobi Aur Matar) from the Flavors of India by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

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Ingredients

1 large cauliflower

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Kosher salt to taste

2 cups fresh or frozen, defrosted peas or edamame

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/3 cup of water

Juice of 1/2 large lemon

Directions

  1. Separate the cauliflower into smallish florets.
  2. In a frying pan or wok, place the cumin and mustard seeds in the oil over a moderate flame. When the seeds have all started to pop, add the cauliflower, turmeric and salt. IMG_3424
  3. Saute for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook covered for 3-5 minutes more. IMG_3428
  4. Uncover the pan and add the peas or edamame and the remaining spices. Mix well. Add the water, cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes more, depending on how tender you like your cauliflower. I tend to like my vegetables firm.
  5. Add the lemon juice, mix through and serve.

Goan-Style Chicken Moelho

Goan Chicken

Knowing how much I enjoy Indian food, Frances and Matthew sent me At Home with Madhur Jaffrey as a present last year. I have made several dishes from this cookbook and they have all been delicious and easy to follow, clearly written for the home cook. See Salmon in a Bengali Mustard Sauce for another recipe.

Goa is on the western coast of the Indian Peninsula and is, therefore, known for its seafood. However, meat and chicken dishes also abound. Its cuisine is heavy in Portuguese influences since it was a Portuguese colony for about 400 years. It was the Portuguese who introduced chilies to India in the late 15th century. Goan cuisine makes use of garlic, vinegar and hot chilies, all of which help preserve food and were part of the Portuguese culinary tradition. I served this chicken dish with a simple Basmati rice, cauliflower and peas (Ghobi Aur Matar) although I substituted edamame for the peas (See recipe which follows) and a cooling yogurt relish with cucumber, mint, garlic and dill. It sounds complicated by I was able to do the prep earlier in the day in under an hour and the actual cooking took about 30 minutes for everything. While not difficult, the key to the flavor lies in the spices. While I do buy pre-ground spices and even some spice mixes, there is definitely something to be said for grinding your own. With a small electric coffee grinder (which I actually never use for coffee) it takes just seconds to have freshly ground spices.

Goan-Style Chicken Moelho from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Rounded 1.5 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

Rounded 1 teaspoon whole brown or black mustard seeds

1.75 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces

3/4 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 rounded teaspoons of a sweet paprika (unless you like things really hot, in which case you could add hot paprika)

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1.25 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (I actually used apple cider vinegar)

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

3 Tablespoons Canola or Grapeseed oil

1 large onion, peeled, cut in half and then sliced into thin half-moons

1/2 cup water

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions

  1. Put the cumin and mustard seed into the container of a coffee grinder and grind finely.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a non-reactive bowl or freezer bag along with the cumin-mustard seed mixture, cayenne, paprika, turmeric, salt, 1 Tablespoon of vinegar and the garlic. If using a plastic bag, as I did, seal the bag and then mush things around to coat all of the chicken pieces. Otherwise, use your hands to coat the chicken. This should be done at least 1 hour ahead, but can be done up to a day ahead. Refrigerate.
  3. When ready to eat, place the oil in a heavy-duty frying pan (I love my Lodge cast-iron) and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fry until the onions begin to brown – about 8 minutes. IMG_3421
  4. Add the marinated chicken and cook until the chicken turns opaque and begins to brown. Add the 1/2 cup of water mixed with the 1 Tablespoon of vinegar. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for another 5 minutes. Goan Chicken2Serve with your favorite rice – traditionally it is red rice, but I used plain Basmati, a vegetable and chutney or cooling yogurt relish. Garnish with cilantro. Yogurt relish2

Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies

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If you have only thought of tahini as an essential ingredient in hummus or as part of a savory sauce or dressing, you have been missing out on the delicate richness it can add to sweets. I have had it in ice cream and cookies and while a skeptic at first, I am now a believer.

For me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie has just the right balance between the sweet, unctuous dough and the bitter edge of the chocolate. Equally important, though, is that the outer skin of the cookie has a slight crackle to it and when you take a bite, your teeth sink into the slightly chewy center. These cookies come from David Lebovitz. The only change I made from his recipe was in the baking temperature and timing. Now some of that could be because of the vagaries of my particular oven, but it is also personal taste. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that you only need to bake up what you want to eat right then. And these are best eaten the same day. The dough, however, will last in the fridge for a week. I know – who allows cookie dough to go uneaten for an entire week?! Point taken.  The tahini flavor is delicate so for anyone who is unsure, give it a try, but use a really good quality tahini like Soom brand.

I made mine using a small cookie scoop so I will get between 2 and 3 dozen cookies out of this recipe. I would have used chocolate chunks that I made from some wonderful dark chocolate disks that I have, but since my pantry currently is holding about 10 pounds of chocolate chips, I thought I had better start using them up instead. How did I end up with so many chocolate chips, you ask? Well every time they were on sale, I bought a couple of bags thinking I would be making lots of my banana bread or ricotta rum cake completely forgetting that without Matthew at home, that wasn’t happening. After a year of doing this, I developed quite a stockpile. Fortunately, while dark chocolate may develop a bloom, it doesn’t actually go bad. Milk chocolate (which I personally dislike and never use) is another story. If you are using chocolate chips, please only use a very good quality chocolate chip – the darker the better and only real chocolate. For an incredible Tahina Shortbread Cookie check out Frances’ earlier post.

Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies by David Lebovitz

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Yield: 2- 3 dozen cookies depending on size

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup tahini, well stirred
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark or light brown sugar (I used dark since that is all I ever buy)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chunks, or chocolate chips
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
Directions
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, tahini, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy. (The dough can also be made in a large mixing bowl, stirred with a spatula.)
2. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Add the egg, the yolk, and vanilla, and continue to mix for another minute, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl during mixing, to make sure the eggs are getting incorporated.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and kosher or sea salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just combined, then add the chocolate chips. Do not over mix. Cover the dough and refrigerate overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. ( I found that mine baked better at 350 degrees F.) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (I only made 6 cookies at a time so used just one baking pan.)
5. Form the cookies into rounds using an ice cream or cookie scoop, or your hands. For small cookies make each 1 1/2-inch, for larger cookies, make them 2-inches round. Place them evenly spaced on the baking sheets, 3-inches apart). Bake one sheet at a time, so you can keep an eye on them, in the middle rack of the oven.
6. Bake the cookies, turning the baking sheet in the oven midway during baking, until the cookies are golden brown around the edges but still pale in the center. For small cookies, about 12 minutes, for larger cookies, about 14 to 15 minutes. (Here you will have to go by the visual and smell test since ovens really vary. My cookies took closer to 17 minutes at 350  degrees F…) Remove from the oven, sprinkle cookies with a bit of flaky sea salt, and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet until easily handled. Bake the remaining cookies the same way.
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Storage: These cookies will keep for two or three days at room temperature, but are definitely better the same day they’re baked. You will lose the crispy outer texture and chewiness; the cookie will be uniformly a soft cookie. The unbaked dough can be refrigerated for up to one week, and frozen for up to two months.

Blueberry Muffins

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I don’t obsess about too many things, but I can be quietly dogged over a long period of time in search of something that I want. And I want the perfect blueberry muffin. So far I haven’t found it, but these are coming a LOT closer. I started with the blueberry muffin recipe from that venerable Boston department store, Jordan Marsh, that was published on the New York Times website by Marion Burros. And then I moved on from there. My muffins have the tang of lemon zest (a natural with blueberries, in my opinion) and the addition of pure almond extract as well as some sliced almonds on top, mixed with the sugar of the original recipe. (You can leave out the almond extract and they will still be delicious. You definitely don’t want to overwhelm the pure blueberry flavor with almond here, but the amount I used was pretty gentle in its over all effect.) I also increased the amount of blueberries I used by half a cup based on reader comments. I reduced the amount of salt since I generally find that these recipes have too much salt for my taste. And while I used some beautiful organic blueberries, I knew from past experience that the blueberry flavor needed an extra boost to really achieve the result I wanted. The original recipe had you mash 1/2 cup of the fresh blueberries, but I decided to add some wild blueberry all-natural preserves from France to 1/4 cup of mashed blueberries instead. I’m sure that there are some equally wonderful American brands – this was simply what I had on hand. (Just don’t use jelly, which is too thin and try to buy the brand that has the fewest ingredients, with blueberries listed first.) These muffins are best eaten the day they are made but can be frozen, defrosted and warmed in a 325 degree F oven when you are ready to eat them. If you make them the night before, just don’t cover them or they will be too moist the next day. I did actually store additional leftovers in a glass container and briefly microwaved them to serve. While not perfect, they were still remarkably delicious. These are THE most blueberry-y muffins I have personally ever tasted.

Blueberry Muffins  

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Yield: About 1 dozen regular-sized muffins (I actually got 15 muffins but could have mounded them a bit higher.)

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) of room temperature unsalted butter

1.25 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Generous 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract (Depends on how much almond flavor you want. I used only 1/4 teaspoon and probably could have used a bit more. You can also leave this out if you don’t want any almond flavor.)

Zest of one small lemon

1/4 teaspoon Kosher or fine sea salt

2 large eggs

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk (the recipe called for whole milk but I used skim plus some heavy cream which I happened to have)

2.5 cups of fresh blueberries, washed, well drained and picked over; mash 1/4 cup of berries and set aside

2 Tablespoons wild blueberry preserves (I used St. Dalfour brand)

3 teaspoons of granulated or raw sugar (I used raw for this to give a little extra texture)

Sliced raw almonds for sprinkling over the tops

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a standard-sized muffin tin with paper liners. (You really need to do this if you don’t want the muffins to stick since they are so moist.)
  2. Cream the butter, 1.25 cups of sugar and the lemon zest. This should be done by hand. Over-working muffin batter will make them tough. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla, blueberry preserve and mashed blueberries and almond extract. Gently mix through.
  3. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside a couple of tablespoons to toss with the berries.
  4. Add the flour mixture and milk to the creamed butter and egg mixture. Alternate the flour and milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Just mix enough until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over-mix.
  5. Gently toss the whole blueberries with the flour mixture you had set aside. Be careful not to break them up. Coating them with the flour prevents them sinking to the bottom of the muffins. Fold the mixture through the batter very gently trying not to break up more berries than absolutely necessary.
  6. Generously line the muffin cups. You can even mound them slightly over the tops. I did not, which is why I ended up with 15 muffins instead of 12. They will be delicious either way.
  7. Sprinkle sugar and sliced raw almonds over the tops of the muffins and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Ovens vary so go by looks and smell as much as by timing.
  8. Remove the tin from the oven and carefully remove the muffins from the tin onto a cooling rack. I used a very thin metal spatula to help me lift the muffins out. Do not dump them or they will squish since they are so moist and laden with berries. If you leave them in the tin, the bottoms will steam. Just be careful. It takes a bit of practice but is really not difficult. If you can discipline yourself, try to wait about 30 minutes before eating. It won’t be easy!  Blueberry Muffins4

 

 

Carrot and Harissa Soup

I’m always on the hunt for easy soup recipes, especially ones that are hearty and can last through the week as a side or main when in a rush for weekday dinner. I stumbled across this one recently and was reminded how much I love harissa. Adding a dollop to this soup really kicked up the flavor and an otherwise basic soup ended up bursting with flavor!

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Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, finely sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 (2-inch) knob of ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or if you’re like me and lazy you can buy pre-chopped ginger in a little jar that ends up saving so much time!)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 quarts low-sodium homemade or store bought vegetable or chicken broth (I used chicken stock)
  • kosher salt
  • lemon juice and lemon zest

Directions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering.
  2. Add leeks, onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add cumin, coriander, and harissa paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots and stir to coat in spice mixture.
  4. Add broth, season with a pinch of salt, bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are completely tender, about 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Let cool for a few moments, then stir in parsley, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.
  6. Using an immersion blender, blend it all together, serve with parsley and a little harissa (careful, it’s spicy!)

From Epicurious Carrot and Ginger Harissa Soup