Blueberry Cheesecake

Blueberry Cheesecake

Do you crave cheesecake? Growing up in New York, cheesecake was dense enough that you could stand up a fork in it. Now you can have that decadent, rich, silky, dense blueberry cheesecake without eggs. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

My mother used to make a marvelous marble cheesecake. And while I adored it, I hadn’t made it in about 40 years. Since most of the time it is just me and my husband – especially since the pandemic – making a cheesecake that serves 12 to 14 servings simply didn’t make sense. And even when I had guests, everyone was either watching their cholesterol, kept kosher or had a deathly egg allergy.

Then I came across this eggless cheesecake and it caught my eye. I had intended on making it for the Festival of Shavuot when it is traditional to eat dairy meals. However, didn’t quite get there. When I saw that it used a 6-inch springform pan I was really interested. Finally the perfect New York-style cheesecake that two people could reasonably consume in a few days! But did it taste good? Because at the end of the day, what’s the point in eating a rich dessert if it doesn’t taste great? It’s wonderful. Not too sweet and while dense and rich, it is surprisingly not super heavy. The cheesecake is creamy and has wonderful mouthfeel. And while it would be delicious with any or no topping, the blueberries add both visual appeal and a lovely counterpoint to the rich filling.

I made a few tweaks both to the instructions and to the ingredients. And while I did make the crust as directed, my husband and I decided that next time, I would likely halve the amount. There was nothing tricky about the process. I did have to purchase a 6-inch springform pan, which is easy to get online and was not expensive. But since I loved the resulting size which was perfect for 6 servings, I will definitely be using it over and over again.

The recipe called for frozen blueberries, but feel free to use fresh especially now that summer is here and they are so plentiful. You will note that the cheesecake itself uses no additional sugar beyond what is in the sweetened condensed milk. This is just the right amount of sweetness and you are left with a very clean taste that allows the creaminess of the cheesecake to shine.

If you are looking for a lighter cheesecake – also not overly sweet – try my Summer Ricotta Cheesecake or this Crostata di Ricotta.

Recipe

Blueberry Cheesecake

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Crust (This is the amount in the original recipe which makes a delicious but fairly thick crust)

250 g of crushed biscuits (Digestive or graham crackers) This is about 2.5 cups

1/2 cup (113 g) melted butter (salted or unsalted)

Filling

8 oz. (225 g) full-fat cream cheese in a block, softened

1/2 cup (120 g) heavy or double cream

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Zest of one large lemon

Zest of 1/2 an orange

14 oz. can (396 g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Topping

2 cups (380 g) of fresh or frozen blueberries

1/4 cup of granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Zest of half of a large lemon

2 teaspoons corn starch

3 Tablespoons (44g) cold water

Blueberry Cheesecake

Directions

Lightly grease the bottom of the springform pan and line it with a round of parchment. You don’t have to do this but it will make it easy to transfer the cake off of the bottom of the tin.

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. Do not wash the food processor. Just try to remove any excess crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix until all of the crumbs are moist. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 C.

Using a hand beater or the food processor (why dirty another utensil?) beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Blueberry Cheesecake

In a smallish bowl, whisk the heavy cream and corn starch until smooth. Add this to the cream cheese. Add the vanilla, sweetened condensed milk and citrus zest. Blitz until the batter is completely smooth. Pour the batter into the pan over the crumb base.

Wrap the bottom of the pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent any leakage. Set the pan in a baking dish large enough to hold it. I used a 9-inch square pan. Carefully add hot tap water to the pan until it comes up about half-way up the sides of the springform mold.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Place in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the center just slightly jiggles. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar with the cheesecake inside. Keep the pan in there until your oven fan turns off or the cheesecake cools down. This prevents the crust from cracking.

Remove the cooled cake to a wire rack and using a sharp, flat blade, just carefully run it around the circumference of the cake. Cool the cake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

Meanwhile make the topping. Place the blueberries, sugar, zest and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed pan. On medium heat, cook until the sugar dissolves. Make a slurry of the cornstarch and water (that just means that you mix the two until there is a milky, smooth liquid). Add this to the blueberry mixture and bring it to a boil. Cook until the mixture thickens up. It doesn’t have to be totally solid as it will continue thickening in the fridge, but should be the consistency of a good jam. Allow the mixture to cool.

Add the cool mixture to the top of the cheesecake. I did it in the mold, but the original had you unmold the cheesecake and then add it. Your preference.

When you are ready to serve, unlock the springform and carefully remove the ring. You can then either leave the cake on the bottom for serving or it should come off easily once the suction has been broken. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy.

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.

Amish Bob Andy Pie

If I have to choose between pie or cake, pie wins every time. So when I was looking for a pie to make this weekend, I went strolling through some favorite old cookbooks. And I found this recipe for Amish Bob Andy Pie. It’s roots are in the Midwestern Amish communities but the origins of the name may be somewhat apocryphal. Supposedly a farmer comes in from the field, tastes this delicious pie and declares it to be as good as his favorite plow horses, Bob and Andy! What’s not to love in a spiced custard pie named after two prized geldings?

Amish Bob Andy Pie is custardy (something my husband adores) with hints of warming winter spices. It’s not fussy to make and if you have neither the time nor the inclination to make your own pie dough, this recipe comes together in no time.

I happen to be an advocate for making your own pie dough and have never used store-bought. It’s not difficult – really. Find one recipe you like and stick with it. But as a realist, I understand that for a host of reasons, you may wish to purchase your dough. No judgement here.

Another great thing about the Bob Andy Pie is that you should have just about all of the ingredients already on hand. There are variations that use only cinnamon as a spice and in different quantities. I really enjoy the smell and essence of cloves in small doses, so was happy to see it in the recipe that I chose.

My Bob Andy Pie comes from Cooking from Quilt Country, Hearty Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by Marcia Adams. The spicy notes from the cinnamon and clove are winners and put me in mind of pumpkin pie. A warning, though, this pie is very sweet. If that isn’t your jam then this may not be your pie. I found that just a little bit of whipped cream actually balanced out the sweetness.

For some other delicious pies, check these out:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Amish Apple Pie

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Pie – and it’s vegan!

Classic Blueberry Pie

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 tesapoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

2 cups of whole milk

1 Tablespoon of butter, melted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll your dough out and place in a 9-inch pie pan (not deep-dish).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients. Using a separate bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the remaining liquid ingredients.

Blend the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Beat until incorporated. Then pour the combined mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for about 45 minutes. The filling should just be slightly jiggly when you remove it from the oven and the center will have puffed up. It levels off as the pie cools. If you feel that the crust is browning too much, you can cover the crust with a pie ring or a bit of foil.

I actually left my pie in the oven with the heat turned off and the door ajar for an additional 10 minutes because it was nowhere near set. That did the trick. However, everyone’s oven is different so definitely check it after 45 minutes.

Because the cinnamon rises to the top, the finished pie is a lovely brown. Allow the pie to cool and serve it at room temperature. When you cut into it, you will see that natural layers form. I don’t think that it requires ANY embellishment and it is unlikely that the Amish would decorate it. However, as a homemade whipped cream fan, a little fresh cream on top never goes amiss!

For more great pie ideas, check these out:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Amish Apple Pie

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Pie – and it’s vegan!

Classic Blueberry Pie

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Olives and Kale Salad with Lemon Anchovy Dressing

My Addiction

I love to watch cooking shows. Not the contests – I hate those. Just good old-fashioned cooking shows with a pleasant host and accessible recipes. Sometimes I watch things on YouTube, especially if they are for Middle Eastern or Indian cooking. The two dishes that I made for dinner tonight came from Valerie Bertinelli. They are perfect for a summer evening and the prep time is minimal with no crazy techniques. If you are really not a fan of olives, you could substitute mushrooms. While you could serve this chicken dish with an accompanying grain, I served it with some crusty bread. Dessert was fresh cantaloupe melon and ripe strawberries. Okay, there were also some dark chocolate caramels.

The Perfect Pan

A few months ago, Frances and Matthew gave me a gift certificate and I used it to buy this Staub multi-use braising pan that I had my eye on. It’s just the right size for so many dishes when you are cooking for 4-6 people. Staub makes very high quality cookware that will last forever if you take care of it and I definitely recommend making the investment. However, a heavy-duty, deep cast-iron pan will also work for this recipe and the Lodge cookware is very budget friendly.

Fads

I mentioned in a previous post that I am not into food fads. So while kale is no longer the “IT” vegetable, I still love it. This kale salad is easy to make especially because it actually is better if made a couple of hours ahead. It’s a great foil for the chicken but would be good with any grilled or roasted meat or fish. While I pretty much stuck to the recipe, my version is ever so slightly less fussy to make. And because I didn’t make any grain with the chicken, my husband and I polished off what easily could have been a salad for 4 to six people! And if you think that you are not an anchovy fan, you MUST give this a try. You won’t see the anchovy as it melts into the garlic but it gives a wonderful briny flavor that you don’t get from anything else.

Recipe

For Chicken – 4-6 servings

Ingredients

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil 

3/4 cup dry white wine 

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved 

4 sprigs fresh thyme 

1 head garlic separated into cloves and peeled (about 10 cloves)

1 medium shallot, sliced into thin rings

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Season the chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a large, deep cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook, undisturbed, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and turn off the heat. Add the wine, then nestle the olives, thyme, garlic and shallot around the chicken. Return the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, then transfer to the oven and roast uncovered until the chicken is golden and cooked through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Discard the thyme.

Serve the chicken with some of the sauce, garlic cloves and olives. The garlic has become sweet and oozy with the long cooking so don’t be afraid to eat it.

For the Kale salad – best made 1 to 2 hours ahead

Ingredients

2 to 4 tablespoons pine nuts that have been lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

1 bunch purple or red kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces

1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces

2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons) 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

1/3 cup grated Parmesan 

Torn fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions

  1. Fill a large bowl or pot with very hot tap water. Add the kale and stir for a few seconds just to slightly soften the leaves. Drain and squeeze well to dry. [If you have a salad spinner, this will make this part a snap.] If you want to get fancy, gather and stack the kale leaves on top of each other on a cutting board, roll them up and thinly slice. [This is what is known as chiffonade.]
  2. Mash the anchovy and garlic to a paste on a cutting board with the flat side of a knife. Transfer to a small bowl and add the lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and about 25 grinds of pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.
  3. Toss the kale with the Parmesan and pine nuts in a salad bowl. Add the vinaigrette to coat, tossing well to combine. Top with the basil. Taste and add more Parmesan if desired.

Cider-Braised Duck Legs with Leeks, Prunes and Apple

A Wet Wintery Sunday

This past week in Chicago we went from a polar vortex to a spring thaw. In the span of seven days, there was snow, ice, rain, wind and slush. So the idea of spending Sunday snuggled at home with my husband while something delicious bubbled away on the stove seemed like the perfect antidote. While the duck slowly cooked, I happily needlepointed while my husband tinkered.

I came across this recipe in our local newspaper a few weeks ago and knew that it was something that I wanted to try. All I needed were the duck legs and leeks. Little did I know that I would not only get this wonderful meal, but I was able to render almost a quart of lovely golden duck fat to enjoy throughout the coming months. More on that later.

Chasing Away Those Blues

With a little bit of planning, this delicious recipe will yield four generous servings along with the aforementioned duck fat and cracklings. I served it with polenta, a green salad a lovely fruity red wine. Chase those winter blues away with this rich and flavorful duck stew. The duck falls off the bone and is juicy without being fatty. The apples and prunes are the perfect complement to the dark duck meat while the Calvados and cider cut through any overt sweetness of the fruit.

While the stew simmers, you can use that time to get those nasty little chores done around the house. Or better yet, take a long soak in a warm tub or curl up with a good book and a better companion.

Recipe from Chicago Tribune, Food and Dining January 16, 2019 and tweaked by me

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large duck legs, about 10-12 ounces each
  • 1.66 cups apple cider, preferably fresh
  • 2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 generous teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 dried or fresh bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 7-8 ounces of pitted prunes
  • 2 flavorful apples, cored and sliced with the skin left on (I used Honeycrisp. Fuji or Braeburn would also be good.)
  • 1/4 cup good quality apple brandy such as Calvados (If you don’t plan on actually drinking the brandy, you don’t have to buy the most expensive Calvados on the market. Any decent bottle will do and closed tightly, it will last for some time. It’s great to use with apple tarts, by the way.) 
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Trim the excess fat and skin from the duck legs. [Do NOT throw this away. At the end of the recipe are directions how to render the fat and make cracklings.]
  2. Prick the skin on the legs all over with a fork and season the legs generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven or covered braising pan over medium heat. When the pan is nice and hot, add the duck legs in a single layer, skin-side down. Cook until the skin is a lovely brown and the duck has given off excess fat. Turn over the legs and cook the underside until brown. The second side will cook much faster than the skin side so don’t walk away and leave it. Remove the browned legs to a platter and loosely cover with foil. Allow the fat to cool down slightly and then CAREFULLY pour the fat through a fine sieve into a clean glass jar. This is just the beginning of the duck fat that you will render.
  4. Deglaze the pan, using 2/3 cup of the cider, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the leeks, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are tender – about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the herbs and spices. Add the chicken broth and remaining 1 cup of cider. Stir through and then add back the duck legs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 2 hours, untouched, until the duck legs are very tender when pierced with a sharp knife. [The braise can be made ahead up to this point. It can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days, if desired. I didn’t do this, but it’s good to know that you can.]
  6. When you are ready to serve the duck, remove the legs from the pan and skim as much fat as you can from the braising liquid. [I actually didn’t have that much at this point, because of judicious trimming and pricking and browning the duck initially.] Add in the prunes and sliced apples and stir through. Add back the duck legs. Bring the mixture to a lively simmer and cover the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes and then add in the apple brandy. Cook for 5 minutes more. Serve over polenta or a sturdy noodle like a spaetzle so that you don’t lose a drop of that wonderful braising liquid.

Directions

How to Render Duck Fat and Be Happy All Year

Duck fat is possibly the eighth wonder of the world. Okay, I exaggerate. But it is a slow-burning fat that makes a humble pot of beans or potatoes or simple scrambled eggs into something truly special. Stored in the fridge or freezer it lasts almost indefinitely and a little goes a long way. It’s easy to prepare and while it takes a bit of time, it requires little effort and supervision. Here’s how:

Remember all of those trimmings of excess skin and fat? Coarsely chop them and place them in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add 1/2 cup of tap water. Cook low and slow, allowing the trimmings to render the fat (liquefy) while the water evaporates. Any bits of skin will turn toasty, crunchy brown and these cracklings can be used in salads or however you like. Don’t be impatient. This takes about an hour or more. Once all of the fat has liquefied and the skin has browned, carefully remove the cracklings to a paper towel using a slotted spoon. Allow the duck fat to cool slightly. Then carefully pour it through the fine-meshed sieve into the bottle with the other reserved fat. Cover the jar. Once the jar cools, it should be refrigerated.

Onion Turbans

I am a true advocate for eating bread. There is nothing that beats the aroma or taste of bread that has just come from the oven. The entire house just smells delicious and warm and safe. As soon as the temperature outside begins to cool down, I turn my thoughts to cooking big pots of soup, stews and fragrant bean dishes. I love to make these things and to eat them. And best of all, they only improve with rewarming so that I always make enough for left-overs during the week ahead. This relatively simple but hearty fare really only needs some good bread to soak up the pot liquor and to fill my home with the most wonderful smells.

I own several books on artisan bread baking but a book that I often return to is a slim volume called Betty Crocker’s Breads. I have owned this cookbook for decades and it is completely unpretentious with zero snob appeal. It also is entirely accessible and when the simple instructions are followed, the result is always a perfect loaf of bread. This is a perfect book for the novice or anyone who wants to bake without intimidation. Unfortunately, it appears to be out of print with only ridiculously priced copies available online. However, if you manage to come across a copy in a used bookstore – grab it!

Try this bread for a family Sunday supper or surprise your guests for Thanksgiving. No one has to know how easy it is to make.

Onion Turbans

Yield: Two 8-inch round loaves  Onion Turbans

Ingredients

4.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast (2 packets if using packets)

2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F. or simply water that feels quite warm but not hot to your fingertips)

1 envelope onion soup mix (about 1.5 ounces)

1/4 cup additional fried onions (the kind from a can) (Optional)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsulphured molasses

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large egg

1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) solid shortening

About 6 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

About 4-6 Tablespoons of melted butter

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in the bowl of a large standing mixer with the dough hook attachment. Add soup mix and stir to dissolve. Add the sugar, molasses, salt, egg, shortening, fried onions (if used) and 3 cups of the flour. Beat for about 1 minute on the lowest speed, scraping down where necessary in order to mix.
  2. Add 3 cups more of flour. Increase the speed to 2 (or the next lowest speed up) and continue beating with the dough hook, scraping down the dough as necessary, for about 7 to 8 minutes more. I did not require any additional flour, but if your dough seems too sticky, add up to another 1/2 cup, a Tablespoon at a time until the dough no longer sticks. The dough should be gathering up on the dough hook and will be smooth and supple (elastic) to the touch. [You can, of course, make this by hand, in which case you will have to knead the dough for 10 to 12 minutes.] Turn the dough into a greased bowl and roll it around to cover all of the surfaces. Cover the dough and allow it to rise until doubled in a warm, draft-free spot. (I use my oven, turned off, of course.) This takes just about an hour. The dough is ready if an indentation made with two fingers remains.
  3. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll each half into a rectangles that is 24 x 5 inches. Tightly roll up each rectangle (I do them one at a time.) from the long side. You want to end up with a long, even log.
  4. Grease two 8-inch cake or pie pans. Beginning at the outside edge of the inside of the pan with the seam facing down, coil the rope of dough ending in the center of the pan. Brush each coil with melted butter. Allow to rise uncovered on a draft-free counter for 50 minutes or until doubled. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. while the dough rises to ensure a nicely heated oven.
  5. At the end of the rising, bake the turbans for about 40 minutes or until they are well-browned and sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. Remove the breads from the pans to a cooling rack and brush with additional melted butter if desired.

Italian Braised Short Ribs

Short ribs are one of those dishes that is always fun to try a new recipe for. We’ve blogged some variations on this, but I recently saw this recipe that looked exciting and decided I had to try it.

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The long story is that I had originally seen a beautiful Staub baking dish that I thought was revolutionary and so different from anything else I already had in my (very full) kitchen, only to find upon delivery that it was basically the same as my trusty Lodge cast iron skillet – it just had a cool lid. One order of a lid from Amazon later, I was in business and decided to embark on recipes that were recommended for said fancier version of my baking dish. Ironically, this recipe ended up not fitting in the 12″ skillet (what is it they say about best laid plans…) so I had to resort to also using a medium size Dutch oven. Ergo the very odd picture below of… a lot of food.

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This is all to say, if you plan on only using the 12″ skillet, only get about 3-4 lb of short ribs. I was ambitious and thought “gee, 6 lb of short ribs means meals for weeks!” – which to be clear, is what I now have, and it’s all going to be delicious – just level setting for any of you who try this recipe and were scratching your heads thinking… no way 6 lb (!) of meat fits into a 12″ skillet.

The recipe also suggests adding gremolata, and I’m very happy that I did – something Lisa introduced me to and is a wonderful complement to any braised, rich meat dish.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 1/2 to 6 lb. (2.75 to 3 kg) bone-in beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) olive oil
  • 2 oz. (60 g) pancetta, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) dry red wine
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz./455 g) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) beef broth
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 Tbs. dried oregano

Directions:

  1. On a plate, stir together the flour, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Turn the ribs in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.
  2. In a large, heavy pot, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, sear the ribs, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the pancetta to the pot and sauté until mostly crisp, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the onions and sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add the carrots, tomato paste and sugar and cook, stirring often, until well blended, about 1 minute.
  7. Add the wine, bring to a boil and stir to scrape up any browned bits on the pan bottom.
  8. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil.
  9. Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).
  10. Return the ribs to the pot with the tomato mixture.
  11. Add the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme sprigs, and oregano.
  12. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook until the ribs are very tender, about 2 hours.
  13. Skim as much fat as possible from the cooking liquid and discard the bay leaves.
  14. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 6 to 8.Adapted from Williams-Sonoma One Pot of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2012)

Moussaka

Moussaka3 (2)

One of the highlights of our trip to Greece a few years ago was certainly the food. The smells from cooking Greek classics at home always conjures up memories of that fantastic trip, and so while a bit tedious, we enjoy making this meal for “events.” This time we were cooking for my parents in sunny LA. When I first took it out of the oven there were protestations of “oh my! So much food – it will be enough for leftovers for weeks!” But after seconds… and thirds… there really wasn’t much left. On the other hand, I like to think that when people get thirds, whatever the dish is is *really* good. We found this recipe after using a different one for moussaka, but when we saw this claim to be the “Best ever moussaka” we decided to put it to the test. And sure enough, this really was the best ever that we’ve had, especially when paired with the wine used to make it!

Ingredients

2 medium globe eggplants (or 3 small eggplants)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds ground lamb
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fines herbes
¼ cup minced parsley
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
¾ cup red wine
½ cup plain bread crumbs
¾ pound feta cheese

Sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk, beaten
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish: chopped parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut tops off eggplants and cut lengthwise in ¼-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and place on paper towels for 30 minutes to absorb the moisture. Rinse, wipe eggplant dry, and place in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, cook the lamb, onions, and garlic, crumbling the lamb with a fork and stirring frequently until browned.
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly in a strainer. Place meat mixture on paper towels and pat dry to further remove fat.
  4. Return the meat to the cleaned pan and add remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, fines herbes, parsley, and tomato paste. Stir well. Add wine and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Grease the bottom of a 9 X 13 ovenproof baking dish and dust with all but 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Reserve remaining bread crumbs for sauce.Sauce
  6. To make sauce, in a medium sauté pan over low-medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour. Stir in milk, nutmeg, and salt and stir until thickened. In a separate mixing bowl, spoon a little of the hot sauce into the egg yolk and add the 3 tablespoons of reserved bread crumbs. Then, blend the egg-bread crumb mixture into the sauce. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Layer dish first with eggplant, then meat, and then with a generous portion of feta cheese. Repeat layers and top with sauce.
  8. Lower oven heat to 350°F. Top the dish with Parmesan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top of cheese is golden brown. Cut into square servings. Garnish with chopped parsley. The Wine Lover’s Cookbook by Sid Goldstein  

     

Lamb and White Bean Chili

Lamb and white bean chili

Frances and Matthew arrived Sunday for the  Thanksgiving holiday. The weather was chilly and damp and I wanted to serve some comfort food that wouldn’t take me forever to make and also would not suffer if their flight were delayed. I came across this recipe on the New York Times website and it sounded perfect. Initially I was going to use a good canned cannellini bean, but I remembered I had some wonderful Rancho Gordo Heirloom dried beans that I could use instead. They were the giant Royal Corona Beans, an enormous, thick-skinned runner bean that cooks up to a creamy center. I had to soak them overnight and then cook them in my slow cooker for several hours, but frankly, it was worth it. However, if you are in a hurry, this recipe would still give you a good result using a quality canned bean. It might not be the prettiest dish you will ever come across, but it is the ultimate in comfort food.

Lamb and White Bean Chili by Melissa Clark and slightly modified by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 pounds ground lamb

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

3 large Poblano peppers, seeded and diced

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped

1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and chopped, including the stems

8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (If you want this to have more heat, do not remove the seeds.)

4 Tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

3 Tablespoons double-strength tomato paste

1 pound of dried beans, soaked and cooked or 4 cans of cannellini beans (If you are using homemade cooked beans, reserve the liquid to use in the recipe. If you are using canned beans, rinse the beans.)

For Serving

Plain whole milk yogurt, preferably sheep’s milk

Chopped cilantro

Sev (An Indian snack made from chickpea flour. It is a very, very fine cooked noodle-like food that adds protein and also can be used as a thickener. It can be found in Indian markets or online.) Optional

Directions

  1. If you are cooking your own beans, then soak them overnight and cook them until tender.
  2. Heat 2 Tablespoons of the EVOO in a Dutch Oven or large soup pot. Add the lamb and brown it, breaking up the pieces with a fork. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Transfer the cooked meat, using a slotted spoon, to a colander. Wipe out the pan.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon of EVOO and add the onions and Poblano peppers. Cook until the vegetables have softened – about 5-7 minutes. Add 4 Tablespoons of the chopped cilantro stems and stir. Add the chopped garlic and jalapeno peppers and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the chili powder, cumin and coriander an cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until everything is very fragrant.
  4. Return the lamb to the pot. Add 5 cups of water (or reserved bean liquid, if you cooked the beans yourself) and an additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add more water if the chili becomes too thick. You want this to have an almost soup-like consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. (I did not need to make any adjustments.) Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt. Garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves and the Sev, if using. I served this with a crusty bread, my Sunshine Kale Salad and a rich Zinfandel.

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw

So I had half of head of red cabbage leftover from my red cabbage, goat cheese and walnut salad and hated for it to go to waste. I was making some lovely grilled trout and corn on the cob for dinner and thought about what would go well alongside that would be fast, easy and didn’t require any ingredients that weren’t already in my fridge. I was able to throw this together in minutes in the morning and left it covered on my counter until dinner. I hadn’t planned on blogging about this since it seemed almost too simple. But when my husband saw how beautiful it looked he decided to take a photo. And then of course, it tasted great. So especially now that it is officially barbecue season, this is one side that goes with just about any grilled meat or fish. I don’t actually have a grill, but broiled or oven roasted foods work well too. The amounts are a guideline and can easily be doubled or tripled.

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw 

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 small head of red cabbage, cored and sliced thinly

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated with the large grate (or if you are REALLY lazy, you could use the bought julienned carrots)

Juice of 2 fresh limes

4 Tablespoons EVOO (I used a Meyer Lemon EVOO but you could use just a good quality plain EVOO)

1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Toss everything in a non-reactive bowl and cover for a few hours, tossing when you think of it.