Tarte Citron Mama

Tarte Citron Mama appeared in the June, 1979 Bon Appetit magazine. It was described as a 14th century French dessert and wasn’t quite like any other dessert I had ever seen or tasted – then or since. I have not been able to find anything like it online, although it does sound as if it may be similar to a recipe found in The Lutece Cookbook. Thankfully I wrote the recipe down years ago because I can no longer locate the magazine in my bookcase….

This is a lemon and almond tarte but without conventional pastry or custard. And while I am not normally a huge fan of meringue, when it is mixed with the ground almonds, I found it transformed. The resulting tarte is just a little bit sticky, a little bit chewy, incredibly moist, bright and light with the fresh taste and fragrance of citrus and almonds. Tarte Citron Mama is the perfect ending to a rich meal.

While it is easy to come by ground almonds these days, I like to grind my own for this recipe. The almonds won’t be quite as fine when I do it, but that is part of their charm. Making this dessert takes a bit of patience, but the steps are easy to follow. And unlike a lemon meringue pie, the meringue here is a relatively thin layer. On the day I made it, there is a little crispness to the meringue and each of the layers is easily discernible, whereas on the second day some magical alchemy takes place and all of the layers meld together. However you enjoy it, this luscious tarte won’t last long.

And while I made use of 21st century appliances, since this dates back to the 14th century it can be made entirely by hand – and with a LOT of elbow grease! So when you have a little time and you want to give your friends or family a delightful and totally surprising dessert, try this 14th century tarte.

I don’t know what lemons were like in the 14th century, but I find that most lemons these days – even organic ones – tend to have thick skins, a lot of pits and pith and not a great deal of fruit. Meyer lemons are sweeter, thinner skinned and less acidic, which is perfect for this recipe. It’s seeking them out if you plan to try this. And I encourage you to do so.

Recipe slightly tweaked by me

Yield: One 9-inch tarte (about 6 generous portions)

Ingredients

3 extra large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar

grated zest of one lemon

1.75 cups raw almonds with skins, finely ground with 2 teaspoons of the sugar

1 Tablespoon of flour

Generous pinch of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Approximately 6 lemons (Meyer lemons work best, in my opinion), with all of the skins and pits removed and cut into thin slices

2 extra large egg whites (Use the left-over yolks in your next omelette)

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

For garnish (Optional but really nice)

Strips of lemon peel with all of the white pith removed (I use a boning knife to achieve this) from 1/2 a lemon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons granulated or castor sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. VERY generously grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Pay special attention to the inside rim.

Combine the 3 yolks and 3/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl and whisk until the yolks become very pale and will “ribbon” when you lift up the whisk. Add the lemon zest, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and mix through.

Blend in 1 cup of the ground almonds and the Tablespoon of flour.

Beat the 3 egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of the whites into the yolk and almond mixture to loosen things up. Then carefully fold in the remainder of the whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned.

Remove the base of the tarte from the oven, but leave the oven on to maintain the temperature.

Cover the top of the tarte base with the lemon slices, overlapping them slightly.

Beat the remaining 2 egg whites until soft peaks form, Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the remaining ground almonds.

Using a spatula dipped in cold water, carefully spread meringue evenly over the top, covering the lemon slices completely.

Return the tarte to the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the meringue becomes golden.

Remove the tarte from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before trying to remove it from the tart ring. Don’t worry if the meringue cracks. When completely cooled you can add the garnish to the tarte.

For Garnish

Make a simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water in a small pot on a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the thin strips of lemon peel and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes. The peel should have softened.

Remove the peel from the syrup and roll the pieces in the granulated or castor sugar. Spread the sugared peel on a piece of waxed paper to dry. This same process can be used to candy orange peel. The remaining flavored simple syrup can be refrigerated to use later in a variety of mixed drinks or even added to homemade lemonade.

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Caramelized Corn and Tomato Tarte Tatin

After seeing four separate blog posts come up on my Google feed for Tomato Tarte Tatin, I figured I had to try one of them. The caramelized corn and tomato tarte tatin simply was too pretty not to try it. And as farmer’s markets and grocery stores are stocking a bounty of tomatoes and corn, this recipe seemed a natural to make.

The most difficult part of the recipe for me was lifting the heavy cast iron pan to turn out the finished tarte. My husband had to perform that task. But everything else really only took minutes to prepare and none of the ingredients is hard to find. Of course, I had to tweak it to my tastes. This particular version called for Everything Bagel Spice and I preferred to use Za’atar. You can make your own or buy very good ready-made versions online and in many grocery stores. It is a Middle Eastern spice mix that can be used in so many ways that I really recommend keeping it on hand. Lately I have been having farmer’s cheese on brown rice cakes with halved grape tomatoes liberally sprinkled with za’atar for breakfast and I’m not tired of it yet.

Next time you have pita or naan, brush it with some EVOO and sprinkle on za’atar. Pop in the oven for a couple of minutes and enjoy. It’s also great on grilled meats, over eggs and on yogurt.

The tarte is best eaten warm from the oven. And if it sits too long, the pastry will get a bit soggy from the tomato juices. It makes a great appetizer or summer luncheon or dinner with a green salad. The flavor is both sweet from the corn and tomatoes and savory from the cheese and spices. The corn lends a nice bite to each mouthful. This simple preparation is loaded with umami.

My husband and I did get distracted and we left my tarte in the pan too long before inverting so the tomatoes continued to cook. If you turn it out after only 5 minutes the result will be brighter looking than my finished product. It was, however, still delicious.

If you are looking for another wonderful use of summer’s bounty, check out the tomato and plum galette. This recipe seemed like a surprising combination to me and yet it worked perfectly. After all, tomatoes are fruits.

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 portions

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon EVOOl
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved if large
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or Pomegranate Molasses
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ears yellow corn, kernels removed from cob
  • 1/2 cup shredded Havarti or provolone cheese
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons Za’atar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a 10-inch heavy duty oven-proof skillet set over medium heat, add olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the tomatoes, shallots, thyme, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes begin to pop, about 4-5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and honey and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and gently push the tomatoes into an even layer, covering the surface of the skillet. Sprinkle the corn over the tomatoes and then add the cheese. 

Place the pastry over the top of everything and press down gently to secure, tucking the sides of the pastry under the tomatoes as best you can. Brush the top of the pastry lightly with water and sprinkle with Za’atar spice. Using a sharp knife, make 3 small cuts in the center of the pastry.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes and then place a serving plate over the skillet. Carefully invert the skillet and allow the tarte tatin to fall out onto the plate.  Garnish with thyme. Slice, and serve warm. Enjoy! 

Blueberry Galette

So what’s a galette, you say? Very simply, it is a free-form tart. It can have a sweet or savory filling and is usually referred to as “rustic.” The galette is unfussy. But my favorite aspect of a galette is the lovely filling that gets hidden under the part of the crust that is folded over. So when I take that bite, I get all of the luscious, fruity filling nestled into the buttery, sugary crust. It’s kind of like a pop-tart – if it were made by the goddess Hestia.

Now nothing says summer like fresh, gorgeous, purpley blueberries. I have been using them in my yogurt, on cereal or right out of the box. So, of course, it followed that the next dessert I made would include them. And since I recently discovered this wonderful and easy to work with pastry dough, a galette was the perfect response. It’s the same dough that I used for my apricot frangipane tart. This dough was a revelation.

I have been making pie dough for decades. Now don’t get me wrong. My Crisco vegan crust still makes a wonderful pie crust – but it is a bit temperamental. A LOT of patching is frequently involved and occasionally a few tears.

But this all-butter crust is tender and crispy with sugar crystals on top and just plain yummy. And BEST of all – it is fool-proof. I have made it several times this summer and it works out perfectly each time. The dough comes together easily and rolls out beautifully – no patching involved! Valerie Bertinelli deserves all of the credit and I am happy to give it to her.

Throw the dough together in the morning or the night before and bake up this luscious galette for dinner.

Note: Yes, that is an apricot in the middle of the galette. I discovered it in my fruit drawer as a left-over from my Apricot Frangipane Galette. It was past the point of eating fresh so I decided to throw it on top so it wouldn’t go to waste. It is NOT essential to the tart although the color contrast was nice and the apricot was delicious when baked. That dark brown on top is simply caramelized butter and sugar.

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

For dough

1.5 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 stick (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon distilled or apple cider vinegar

4-5 Tablespoons ice water (I used 5 T every time)

For filling

18 ounces blueberries, washed and dried

1 apricot cut into quarters (Optional)

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon (About 2 Tablespoons)

pinch of kosher salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons

1 rounded Tablespoon berry jam

2 slightly rounded Tablespoons cornstarch

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup crushed amarettini cookies

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking pan or sheet with parchment.

For the dough

  1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter cubes and give 10 quick pulses. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs with some lumps of butter.
  2. Drizzle in the vinegar and 4 Tablespoons of the water. Pulse just until the dough comes together and begins to ball up. If necessary, add up to 1 more tablespoon of the water but use as little as possible. [I used 5 T every time.] Gather the dough into a ball on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Flatten into a thick disk and refrigerate for at least one hour but up to 3 days.
  3. When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12″ round. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet or pan lined with parchment.

For the filling

  1. Gently toss the blueberries with the zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, salt, jam and 1/3 cup of sugar just before you are ready to fill the pastry.
  2. Scatter the crushed amarettini cookies over the dough leaving about a 2-inch border. Carefully pour the blueberries over the crushed cookies. If you are using an apricot, place the quarters in the middle of the blueberries. Dot with 2 Tablespoons of the butter.
  3. Fold up the edges of the dough, gently pleating them where necessary to close the “circle.” Melt the remaining Tablespoon of butter and brush it all over the pastry edges. Sprinkle liberally with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar. If you have a coarser-grained sugar, you can use that.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before cutting. This gives the juices time to be absorbed. It’s wonderful on its own or with a little vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Apricot Frangipane Tart

Summer Fruits

I enjoy fruits in whatever season, but there is just something about summer fruits that sets my baking heart singing. These gorgeous apricots were in the market and immediately I knew what I was going to make for Shabbat dessert.

Apricots pair beautifully with almonds – as do many fruits. And having always been a sucker for marzipan and frangipane, I knew what I had to do. So I looked up a few different recipes and then came up with this lovely tart.

Putting a Recipe Together

The pastry comes from Valerie Bertinelli and is an all-butter crust. It is very easy to prepare and even easier to work with. While you could use this dough any time you are making a pie, sweet tart or galette, feel free to use any favorite pastry crust you prefer, including a vegan crust. There is no need to be afraid of making your own pastry, but if you must, you can use a good store-bought pie dough.

Almond paste (which is different from marzipan) can be purchased and used instead of the frangipane here. However, the frangipane will give you more of a custardy filling. I have several frangipane recipes, and lots of almond flour in my freezer. In the lead-up to Passover, I always go a bit overboard in stocking up and then search for ways to use up the extra nut flours for months! After checking out David Lebovitz for a summer galette, I tweaked his frangipane recipe, which didn’t have enough oomph for me after trying it out with a blueberry galette.

Don’t get scared off by the length of the recipe. The different pieces can be made ahead or at different times. No single piece of the recipe is difficult. And the actual assemblage is fairly quick. The frangipane prevents even juicy fruits from reducing your crust to a soggy mess.

Changing it up

This Apricot Frangipane Tart is perfect. But use it as a jumping off point to experiment. Switch out the apricots for cherries or blueberries or apples or pears in the fall and winter. Make a free-form galette instead of the slightly more fussy tart. The point is that you too can learn to look at recipes to create your own signature desserts.

Recipe

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch tart or galette

Ingredients

For the pastry

1.5 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon distilled or apple cider vinegar

4-5 Tablespoons of chilled water (I always have used 5 Tablespoons)

For the frangipane

3/4 almond flour

4 ounces room temperature almond paste (Left-overs can be wrapped well and stored for another use)

1/4 (4 Tablespoons) cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour

Generous pinch of kosher salt

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 large or extra large egg

For the topping

About 1.5 pounds of apricots, halved and pitted

3 Tablespoons apricot jam, melted

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon almond slices (optional)

Directions

For the pastry

Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter cubes and give 10 quick pulses. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs with some lumps of butter. Drizzle in the vinegar and 4 Tablespoons of the water. Pulse just until the dough comes together and begins to ball up. If necessary, add up to 1 more tablespoon of the water but use as little as possible. Gather the dough into a ball on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Flatten into a thick disk and refrigerate for at least one hour but up to 3 days.

For the frangipane

In a small bowl, using the back of a spoon, smush the almond paste until it is softened. Add the almond flour, 3 Tablespoons of the sugar, softened butter and the flour. Mix it as much as possible and then add the egg and almond extract. Mix through until you have a fluffy, creamy product. If you wish to make this ahead you can refrigerate it. Bring it to room temperature when you are ready to assemble the tart.

Assemblage

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment to catch any drips and to make clean-up easier.

If you are using a tart pan with a removable bottom, roll out the dough to about 1 to 2-inches larger than the pan. Roll the dough back onto the rolling pin and unroll it into the pan. Fold over about 3/4-inch of the excess dough and either smooth the top or slightly flute it. There are many places online where you can see how to prepare pie/tart dough if you have never done it before.

Using a spatula, spread the room temperature frangipane across the bottom of the tart shell. Then depending on the size of your apricots, either place halves, cut-side down nestled on top of the frangipane, or cut the halves into quarters or thickish slices. You want the fruit to pretty much completely cover the top of the frangipane. You can also add cherry halves in the spaces in between if you like.

Dot the apricots with the butter and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the fruit. 

Bake for about 50 minutes or until the pastry is browned and the fruit is cooked. Allow the tart to cool for about 10 minutes. Then using a pastry brush, carefully brush the fruit with the warmed apricot jam. Scatter the almond slices over the top, if using.

Financier Pastries

So What Is a Financier?

A financier is an almond and brown butter pastry baked in a small mold. These light and moist pastries have a crisp eggshell-like exterior and traditionally were baked in small rectangular molds that resemble gold bars. They became a favorite of bankers in the Paris financial district.

While popularized in nineteenth century France, these delectable little pastries date back to the Middle Ages. They were originally made by nuns of the Order of the Visitation and were called a visitandine.

Turning Flour Into Gold

When you bite into one of these delights, the combination of brown butter and almond flour explodes with an instant burst of caramelized deliciousness. Financiers are deceptively simple to make, but unlike the classic Madeleine, they don’t disappoint. Marcel Proust has A LOT to answer for!

I have looked at numerous recipes for the financiers and they are all pretty similar. By some wonderful alchemy, these simple ingredients bake into pure pastry gold. The following recipe comes from the Joy of Baking and makes 12 little pastries. Since the financiers are best warm from the oven, this number was perfect for me.

Recipe

Don’t worry if you don’t have rectangular or boat-shaped molds. These work out fine using small muffin cups.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter plus 2 Tablespoons melted for brushing the tins

1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 cup (55 grams) ground almonds (can use almond meal/flour)

3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners (powdered or confectioner’s) sugar sifted

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 large (90 grams) egg whites lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fresh berries (optional)

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) with oven rack in the center. Place 12 shallow, rectangular or boat-shaped tartlet molds (or mini-muffin cups) on a baking pan. Brush each tin with melted butter.

Place the 1/2 cup of butter in a small, light-colored saucepan over medium heat. [You need to be able to see the color of the butter change so please don’t use a dark pan.] Melt the butter and allow it to come to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally. As it boils, you will notice foam coming to the surface. Continue to cook the butter until it starts to look clear and the milk solids have dropped to the bottom of the pan. The butter will turn a golden brown. [This happens all of a sudden so do not walk away!]

Immediately remove the butter from the heat and pour it through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Allow the now clarified brown butter to cool to room temperature. You will need 1/3 cup of brown butter for the recipe. I didn’t have any left over, but if you do you can use this to brush the tins.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Be sure to break up any lumps from the ground almonds.

Make a well in the center and fold in the lightly beaten egg whites, vanilla and the brown butter.

Fill each mold almost to the rim. Bake the pastries for 5 minutes or until the batter is set around the edges but still soft in the center. [I originally baked it for 4 minutes so my berries sunk a bit more than was perfect.]

Remove the pan from the oven and place raspberries or blueberries on top, if using, which I recommend. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until the financiers are golden brown and springy to the touch. Ovens vary but mine took an additional 7 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Once cool enough to easily handle, the financiers should easily pop out of the tins. These are best served warm, but they can be stored for a few days, covered, at room temperature.

Fresh Fig and Walnut Bread

About 10 years ago, I brought a group of Catholic High School teachers to Israel for a program that I created. Among the many wonderful things that we did during that visit was to travel to the Catholic Maronite Palestinian village of Fassuta on the Lebanon border in the Upper Galilee. We were given a tour of the village by the then mayor, who seemed to know everyone there. We were unable to move more than a few feet without someone greeting us and inviting us in for fruit or coffee or juice. One older woman had a small but beautiful garden with fig trees and grapes. We happened to be there at the exact moment of fig ripeness perfection and she immediately started plucking these plump beauties right off of the tree and passing them around. I probably ate six or eight of them before I had to cry “uncle.” I have been spoiled for fresh figs ever since and have never been able to find any in my market that even come close to tasting like those figs from a garden in Fassuta.

However, I was watching a video from POV Italian Cooking about making fig bread from slightly over-ripe fresh figs and decided that the figs that I could find in my market would probably work for this recipe. I made a couple of small changes, including adding toasted walnuts and the result is an AMAZING “tea” cake. If I close my eyes, it can make me conjure up that beautiful garden in the Galilee.

Fig and Walnut Bread8

Fresh Fig and Walnut Bread from POV Italian Cooking and tweaked by me

Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf

Ingredients

1 pint (2 cups) fresh, ripe figs

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature

2 large eggs, lightly whisked with the vanilla

1 cup plus 2 rounded Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour (or substitute 1/4 cup for whole wheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1 packet Lievito Pane Degli Angeli OR 1.5 teaspoons baking soda plus 1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 Tablespoon cognac (Even though there is vanilla in the Lievito Pane degli Angeli, I like to add additional vanilla.)

1 cup toasted and coarsely broken walnuts

Fig and Walnut Bread7

Directions

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. with the rack in the center. Lavishly butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan (preferably non-stick) and line the bottom with parchment or waxed paper which you then also butter. Pour 2 rounded Tablespoons of granulated sugar into the bottom. Carefully angle and tap the pan so that the sugar coats the bottom and sides. This gives a lovely sugary crust to the outside of the bread. Fig and Walnut Bread4
  2. Cut off the bottom and stem of each fig. Split the fig into quarters and cut the quarters into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the size of the fig. Place in a bowl and with the back of a fork, slightly mash the figs. Take 2 tablespoons of the flour you will measure out and toss it with the figs. This will prevent the fig pieces from all falling to the bottom. Set aside.
  3. In a standing mixer (or by hand) cream the softened butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix through.
  4. In a medium bowl, measure out the flour, salt and Lievito Pane degli Angeli or the baking soda and stir through to mix.
  5. In 2 or 3 additions, mix the dry ingredients with the butter, sugar and egg mixture until you have a fairly thick batter. Fold through the walnuts and figs by hand. Don’t worry too much about smushing the figs, although try not to over-do it!
  6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is a lovely dark brown and the smell is intoxicating. And yes, when a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean! Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a cooling rack. Fig and Walnut Bread3By then you should be able to handle the pan with your bare hands. Run a thin spatula or knife around the edges of the pan. Turn the bread out onto the rack, remove the parchment and allow it to cool completely (if you can wait that long.) The bread is then ready to eat.

Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake with Roasted Strawberries

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

I’m not into fussy foods or fads. I don’t want my dinner misted by my nose or constructed in such a way that to touch it is liking destroying the Mona Lisa. I appreciate the artistry but it just isn’t me. I enjoy dishes with ingredients I can identify and that I can dig into with joy and abandon. So when I saw this recipe for another olive oil cake with simple ingredients I knew that I wanted to try it. But don’t be fooled or misled by “simple.” It also means that you need to use the best quality ingredients because there is nothing masking the taste or distracting you from the elements. Only use a really good quality fruity olive oil here and preferably one like Sciabica’s Orange or Lemon-flavored Olive OilMaialino's Olive Oil Cake2

This recipe comes from one of my favorite food sites – Food52, although it really originates from the Maialino Restaurant in New York City. The Roasted Strawberries is from the forthcoming Genius Desserts Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, September 2018). The cake is so moist and fragrant that it is almost like eating a pudding and a cake. It is wonderful on its own, but the addition of the roasted strawberries and some freshly whipped cream does make it amazing. The roasted strawberries are wonderful and can be used in so many ways – on pancakes or waffles or over yogurt to name a few, and they store in the fridge for a couple of weeks. If you are new to olive oil cakes, you might also want to try the recipe for Olive Oil Cake with Orange, Pine Nuts and Rosemary. While I made the cake with orange juice, zest and Grand Marnier, I saw that readers successfully made it substituting lemon juice, zest and Limoncello for a lemony take. Either way you can’t go wrong.

Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake

Yield: One 9-inch round cake (at least 8 servings)

Ingredients

2 cups (250 gr.) all-purpose flour

1.75 (350 gr.) cups granulated sugar

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 package Lievito Pane Degli Angeli OR 1/2 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1.33 cups (285 gr.) fruity extra-virgin olive oil or flavored olive oil

1.25 cup (305 gr.) whole milk

3 large eggs at room temperature

Zest of two oranges

1/4 cup (60 gr.) fresh orange juice

1/4 cup (55 gr.) Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Powdered sugar (Confectioner’s Sugar) for dusting

Slow Pan Roasted Strawberries (See recipe which follows at the end of the post)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil, butter or spray a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2-inches deep (The batter will go almost to the top so they really mean “at least 2-inches deep!”) Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray or oil that as well.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt and Lievito Pane Degli Angeli. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, zest, juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid and whisk until just combined. Do this all by hand and do not over-whisk. Maialino's Olive Oil Cake3
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Maialino's Olive Oil Cake1
  4. Run a knife or thin spatula around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto the cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper and allow the cake to cool completely – about 2 hours. Re-invert the cake onto a cake stand or plate and dust with powdered sugar.  Maialino's Olive Oil Cake4

Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries

Yield: About 1.5 cups (450 gr.)

Ingredients

2 pounds (900 gr.) of fresh, ripe strawberries

1/2 cup (100 gr.) of granulated sugar (You can add 2 additional Tablespoons if the strawberries are not especially sweet on their own.)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Rinse and hull the berries. Leave any tiny ones whole and either quarter or halve the rest so the pieces are all about the same size.
  2. In a non-reactive pan (I used a stoneware baking dish) that will hold all of the berries closely packed in a single layer, gently toss the strawberries with the sugar.
  3. Roast slowly in the oven, uncovered for 3 to 6 hours, gently moving them around occasionally with a wide spatula. Mine took 5 hours. They are done when the juices have reduced to a syrup but not darkened into caramel and the berries are jammy. They can be stored in the fridge in an airtight jar or container for up to two weeks.

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)

Passover Sephardic Wine Cookies

I do all of my own baking for Passover and the treats I make are not just “good for Passover stuff” but are delicious – period! I’m always looking for new cookies to try and am especially pleased when I find recipes that I don’t have to adapt to bake them without eggs, which our godson can’t eat. I came across these very easy-to-make cookies in one of my many cookbooks and am only sorry that I didn’t discover them sooner. They won’t replace my all-time favorite Passover Florentine Cookies or Passover Orange Ginger Spice Cookies or my son’s favorite Passover Vegan Chocolate Chip Buttons or Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons but why should we have to choose? Let’s make them all!

Passover Wine Cookies3 (2)

Sephardic Wine Cookies (Masas de Vino) by Gil Marks in The World of Jewish Entertaining

Yield: About 2 dozen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients

1.5 cups matza cake meal

3/4 cup ground almonds (with skins) or almond meal

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup (2 sticks) of non-dairy buttery sticks at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar plus about 1/8 cup for pressing cookies

1/2 cup sweet Kosher red wine

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets or pans with parchment or Silpat. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the matza cake meal, almond meal, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Cream the non-dairy buttery vegan sticks with the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. (I used a standing mixer but this can be made by hand.) Add the dry ingredients and the wine and mix well until everything is well combined and you have a moist dough.
  4. Form the dough into 1.5-inch balls. Place them on the ungreased parchment or Silpat. Place the remaining sugar in a bowl or shallow dish. Dip either the bottom of a large glass or a round meat tenderizer into the sugar and then use that to flatten each dough ball into a cookie that is about 3-inches in diameter.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges just barely begin to turn brown. Allow the cookies to stand for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing them to a cooling rack. You want these cookies to cool completely so they can firm up. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

 

 

Lisa’s Au Gratin Potatoes

Au Gratin Potatoes

Chicago has been experiencing bitter cold for the last couple of weeks. But that hasn’t stopped my husband and me from taking long walks. If you know how to dress properly, it can be rather invigorating and I’ll take it over the heavy snow that hit the East coast of the United States last week. The extreme cold, however, does make things very dry despite the use of humidifiers and lotions, so during this weather I allow my cooking to be a bit heavier on fats. This recipe (really more of a guideline than a hard and fast recipe) is pure comfort food. It’s fairly pliable, adapting well to personal tastes and ingredients on hand. Next time I might add some chopped chives and skip the prosciutto. Here is my version.

Lisa’s Au Gratin Potatoes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

5-7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes

3-4 ounces prosciutto, cut into large dice and crisped in a frying pan (You can use bacon, if you prefer. This is what I had on hand and it’s also less fatty than bacon.)

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar, grated

1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese

About 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1.75 cups of skim milk (You can use whole if you prefer or part skim and part half & half)

2 large eggs

2-3 Tablespoons butter (I used garlic butter because I had Amish garlic butter that we received as a gift from Frances’ parents.)

2 Tablespoons Panko bread crumbs

Hungarian Paprika

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter an oval or rectangular pan with 2-inch sides. I like my heavy Le Creuset oval gratin pan, but a glass pan will work as well. The pan should be big enough to fit the all of the ingredients. If you are making this for a crowd, you will need a bigger pan.
  2. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with 2-3 inches of water. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove the potatoes after 8 minutes and run under cold water to stop the cooking. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them about 1/4 inch thick. (I leave on the skins unless the skin starts to come off. In that case, just peel that extra skin away.) 
  3. Line the buttered pan with the potato slices, over-lapping them slightly. After you have one layer of potatoes, take half of the crisped prosciutto and scatter it across the top of the potatoes. Do the same with half of the cheese mixture. Repeat this entire process with one more layer.
  4. Mix the eggs with the milk and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk to mix well. Pour the mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle the top with the Panko bread crumbs and the paprika. Dot the top with more butter. Au Gratin Potatoes3
  5. Place the pan, uncovered in the oven and bake for about an hour. This can be made ahead and loosely covered. When you are ready to serve, uncover the pan and place it in a 350 degree F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Ovens vary but you want the top looking browned and crispy and the potatoes to be tender. Au Gratin Potatoes2