English Toffee Shortbread

This recipe is so easy! You make it all in the food processor and dump it into a pan and pat it in and voila! I found this from Williams Sonoma’s blog which is a wealth of great recipes!
IMG_3859
1 cup (5 oz./155 g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbs. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) (4 oz./125 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) pecans
1/3 cup (2 oz./60 g) finely chopped chocolate-covered English toffee
Granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) square or round cake pan.

In a food processor, combine the flour, brown sugar, cornstarch and salt and process briefly until well mixed. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture, add the vanilla and, using rapid pulses, process until the mixture resembles fine meal. Add the pecans and process until finely chopped. Add the toffee and process just to incorporate.

Press the dough into the prepared pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until the shortbread just begins to color, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into 16 bars or wedges. Let cool completely before serving. Makes 16 cookies.

Pasta e Fagioli

This is a very easy soup that my mother found years ago in House Beautiful, I believe. I do not use dried beans but use one can of drained white cannelinni beans. It is nice to blend some of the soup mixture up before adding the pasta to give the soup some body. I only add **1/2 c. pasta-stars, dilatini or orzo all work well. Also if you have any parmesan rinds you are saving, wrap them in cheesecloth and simmer them in the soup-they add so much flavor!

Serves 10 as a first course or 6 as a main course
3 tablespoons pure olive oil

3 to 4 ounces pancetta, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 cups (about 14 ounces) dried cranberry, borlotti, cannellini, or other small white beans, soaked overnight in water to cover, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups diced canned plum tomatoes, with juices

8 cups water or chicken broth, or as needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound small shells, ditalini, or other small pasta shape
**
Extra virgin olive oil for finishing

Grated Parmesan for finishing

In a large soup kettle, warm the pure olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it renders its fat and is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the soaked beans, the tomatoes and their juices, the 8 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
To give the soup more body, remove 2 or 3 large spoonfuls of beans and vegetables, place in a food processor or blender, and purée until smooth. Return the purée to the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Although you can cook the pasta directly in the soup, there is a danger of the soup scorching if the beans have been puréed. To avoid this, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, stir well, and cook until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, add to the soup, and simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, and top each serving with a generous swirl of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmesan, and a liberal dusting of black pepper. Serve at once.

Prosciutto wrapped Herbed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Ina Garten has a newish book called Make It Ahead and this recipe and menu comes from this book. I love to cook in the morning for dinner. As much as I can do ahead is always a plus as I lose energy in the late afternoon. This is a perfect menu for a party or you can make one half of the recipes and just enjoy them for yourselves.
Pork menu
2 pork tenderloins (2½ to 3 pounds total)
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil
10 to 12 slices prosciutto
Apple Chutney (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the middle of the end of the tenderloin reads 140 degrees for medium rare and 145 degrees for medium. Cover the tenderloins tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice diagonally in thick slices and serve warm with the Apple Chutney.
Note: Pork can be cooked medium rare because there is no longer a concern about trichinosis. Overcooked pork will be dry and flavorless.

MAKE IT AHEAD: Assemble the pork completely, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Roast before serving.
Pork Tender menu

Apple chutney
Makes 5 cups
Of course, you can serve Herbed Pork Tenderloins with store-bought chutney but homemade apple chutney with fresh ginger and raisins is easy to make and delicious!

1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger (see note)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (4 oranges)
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and ½-inch-diced
3/4 cup raisins
Combine the onion, ginger, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, and salt in a medium-size saucepan. Add the apples, adding them as you chop to keep them from turning brown. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the raisins and serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Note: To mince ginger, I peel it, dice it, and process it in a mini food processor.

MAKE IT AHEAD: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
3 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 3/4-inch chunks
5 large garlic cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 to 8 ounces garlic and herb goat cheese, at room temperature, such as Montrachet
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
11/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the potatoes, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until very tender.

Drain the potatoes and garlic and process them together through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade set over a bowl. While the potatoes are still hot, stir in the goat cheese, butter, sour cream, half-and-half, 4 teaspoons salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper, until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a 9 × 12 × 2-inch oval baking dish, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve hot.
MAKE IT AHEAD: Assemble the dish, including the Parmesan, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bake before serving.

Eggplant with Lamb, Tomato and Pine Nuts

This is from a great new cookbook called Rose Water and Orange Blossoms that has wonderful recipes for Lebanese food. I love that the author is from Michigan, where I am from and also all of the joy she imparts about the family meals and sharing food with friends. You can make this recipe ahead and then reheat it for dinner to serve with rice. There is a great recipe for rice that goes with the eggplant but you should buy the book and make it. I am also making her mothers Romaine Salad! A perfect party menu! I love the combinations of flavors in the lamb and eggplant dishes, especially the toasted pine nuts!
Lamb and Pinenuts
2 large firm eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground lamb or beef (80 percent lean)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Black pepper
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup pine nuts
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 1/2 c. warm water for bain marie to cook casserole
Rosewater and Orange Blossom meal

Heat broiler and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
Brush both sides of eggplant slices with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Arrange slices on prepared baking sheet and broil in batches until they are deep mahogany brown, turning once halfway through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
Adjust the oven to 375 degrees with rack positioned in the center.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground lamb or beef, stirring frequently and breaking up meat into very small pieces with the side of a metal spoon. Season with remaining teaspoon salt, cinnamon and pepper. Sauté until meat is just cooked through. Taste and add more salt or pepper, or both, as needed.
In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add pine nuts and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir nuts to coat them with butter and continue stirring constantly until nuts are golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Keep a close watch over the nuts; they can burn quickly once they begin to brown. Transfer nuts to a bowl while still warm and salt them lightly.
Coat a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish. Lay 1/3 of the eggplant slices in a single layer over the sauce, covering as much surface area of the bottom of the dish as possible. Spoon half the meat evenly over eggplant. Pour 1/3 of the remaining tomato sauce evenly over meat. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the pine nuts. Layer again with eggplant, meat, tomato sauce and pine nuts. Finish with a layer of eggplant and cover with more tomato sauce, sprinkling top with pine nuts.
Pour 1 cup warm water around the perimeter of the baking dish. (Sauce will thicken as it bakes.) Cover pan with foil and bake for 90 minutes. Remove foil and top eggplant evenly with mozzarella. Bake for 15 minutes longer, uncovered, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Serve eggplant warm, over rice.

Chocolate Silk

This recipe comes from Emily Luchetti, a famous pastry chef from San Francisco who I originally discovered at Stars, the incredible restaurant in SF in the 80’s. She has written numerous cookbooks and this recipe comes from Stars Desserts. I used to have a bakery and made almost every recipe in the book. The chocolate silk pie was a regular at my bakery and once it was returned for being ‘too chocolatey”!. It is decadent and rich and serve only to those that love chocolate. A thin slice goes a long way! You can vary the nuts in the crust-I tried hazelnuts and pecans today although the recipe calls for walnuts and pecans. The recipe calls for a 9″ springform but I make it in a 10″ as it is such a rich dessert, it can take the extra room.
Chocolate silk
Crust
3 oz. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
4 oz. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
4 oz. sweet butter, melted
9 or 10″ springform pan, (lined with parchment if desired)
Mousse Cake
20 oz. bittersweet or extra bittersweet chocolate (I used 60% Ghirardelli)
1/2-3/4 c. sugar (I use 1/2 c. would use 3/4 if extra bittersweet)
6 large eggs
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. vanilla
Topping
1 c. heavy cream
2 T. sugar

Combine the walnuts and pecans with the brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Press into the bottom of the springform pan. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour, until firm.
Melt the chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. While chocolate is melting, combine the butter and sugar in a mixer with the paddle attachment and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy. Switch to the whisk attachment and add the eggs 2 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl increase to medium high speed for 2 minutes, until the egg mixture increases in volume. Whisk the melted chocolate until it has cooled slightly. It should be warm but not hot. Whisk the chocolate into the egg mixture on medium low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl until the chocolate is fully incorporated. Stir in the cream and vanilla. Spread into springform on top of crust and refrigerate until firm, 6 hours or overnight.
Cover with the topping (or serve on the side)
Whip cream and sugar in mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Spread on top of cake. Unmold cake by running a hot dry knife around the inside edge of pan and release the latch from the springform. Slice cake with a hot dry knife, dipping in hot water in between slices and drying the knife off.

Pizza

We used to have the most fun pizza parties where we would roll out a dozen pizzas and assemble lots of wonderful ingredients and invite friends to design their own pizzas. I had forgotten about Wolfgang Puck’s easy pizza dough until yesterday when I made it again. It is the nicest dough.You can make it in a mixer or in the food processor. I always make sure my yeast mixture has bloomed and is active (5 minutes) before adding it to the flour.
Raw pizza
1 package of yeast
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water (105-115 degrees)
1 T. honey
2 T. olive oil
3-4 c. unbleached flour
1 t. salt
Proof yeast in warm water and let stand 5 minutes. Add honey and olive oil.
Combine flour and salt-start with 3 c. flour. In a mixer with the paddle, mix the flour and yeast mixture until combined. Switch to the dough hook and mix for 5 minutes until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl (you may need to add more flour). Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. When you press it with your finger, it should slowly spring back and it should not feel tacky. Using a food processor: Mix together the yeast, honey, water and olive oil in a small bowl or measuring cup. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice. Then, with the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture. Process until the dough forms a ball on the blades. Remove the dough from the processor and knead it on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes, adding flour as necessary, until it is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, rounded side down first and then rounded side up. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes (you can leave it up to one hour). Divide the dough into 4 equal balls. Shape each ball by gently pulling down the sides of the dough and tucking each under the bottom of the ball. Roll the ball on a smooth surface under your palm until the ball feels smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Put the balls on a tray and covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise 30 minutes. At this point the dough balls can be refrigerated covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1-2 days. You will need to pull the dough out at least an hour before baking, punch down and reform the balls. Let rise, covered for 1 hour before rolling into the pizza shape of your choice. There are endless toppings you can choose from!
Cooked pizza

Plated-a dinner delivery service

I recently tried an online mail order dinner service called Plated. My sister discovered it and sent meals to her daughter when she had a baby. I sent another sister three vegetarian meals and they enjoyed them. I was excited to try the service and ordered four meals. I was impressed! The packaging is amazing and everything is included except for canola oil, salt and pepper. Instant Mis en place! It was amazing how fast the meals came together. There were new and interesting combinations and it was all delicious! Here are the meals we tried-
-Soy sriracha beef bowls with brown rice and avocado-including a carrot edamame salad
-Fennel roasted pork with apricot, almond, blue cheese arugula salad
-Cornish hen with creamy morel sauce and oven roasted potatoes and asparagus
-Seared strip steak with olive chimichurri, blistered shishito peppers and roasted wild mushrooms
Plated meals

Blueberry and Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This recipe is originally from Alice Waters Simple Food II and I found it on valleybrinkroad.com by a woman in LA who has a wonderful blog and is a caterer in LA and makes the most beautiful boxes of fabulous things to send to friends in LA.
The glaze was very thin, I did not add the milk but the cake is delicious!

1 egg, at room temperature
2 meyer lemons, zested (or regular lemons are fine)
2 cups blueberries, washed, dried, stems removed
2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon unbleached flour
2 tablespoons poppyseeds, must be fresh!
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup creme fraiche
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole milk
Lemon Poppyseed Blueberry Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with flour.
In a medium bowl, gently stir together the blueberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and the nutmeg. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, poppyseeds, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixture, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture and creme fraiche, alternating, until both have been completely added to the mixing bowl. Mix just until the flour is incorporated and then remove the mixing bowl. The batter is quite thick, so don’t be alarmed. Spread the batter into the springform pan, creating a depression in the center and pressing the batter up a little higher around the sides.

Add 1 tablespoon of flour to the blueberry mixture and stir. Pour the blueberries into the center of the batter. Bake for 45 -50 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool slightly.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, meyer lemon juice, and milk.

Drizzle the glaze over the warm cake. When the cake is cool, run a knife around the edge of the pan and lift it out of the form.

Lemon Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Another winner from the Williams Sonoma blog. The texture of this cake is so nice-you do not miss the butter. Use an olive oil that is not too peppery and be sure to beat the egg/sugar mixture for a good three minutes.

Lemon-Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

4 oz. (125 g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups (10 oz./315 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) full-fat Greek-style yogurt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Lemon Chocolate OO Cake
Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).

Put the chocolate in the top of a double boiler and set over (but not touching) barely simmering water. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat together the granulated sugar and eggs until pale in color. Beat in the vanilla. Add half of the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Beat in the yogurt and lemon juice, and then the remaining flour mixture. With the motor running, beat in the olive oil just until smooth. Scoop about one-third of the batter into a clean bowl and gently fold in the chocolate. Stir the lemon zest into the rest of the batter.

Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cm) loaf pan. Fill the pan with alternating spoonfuls of the lemon and chocolate batters. Swirl a large, thin-bladed knife in an S pattern through the batters to create the marbled effect. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Carefully invert the cake onto the rack, then place upright on a cutting board. Cut the cake into thick slices and arrange, slightly overlapping, on a platter. Dust with the confectioners’ sugar and serve. Serves 8.

Italian Wedding Soup

This is the most amazing soup! I have wanted to try it forever and am so happy that I finally did! The Barefoot Contessa rarely disappoints! I love that you bake the meatballs and by the time they are baked, the soup is done! I used the little star shaped pasta that is so festive! I am not sure a photo would give this soup justice but I assure you, everyone will love it!
For the meatballs:
¾ pound ground chicken
½ pound chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup ¼-inch diced carrots (3 carrots)
¾ cup (¼-inch diced celery (2 stalks)
10 cups homemade chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
¼ cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1- to 1¼-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan cheese.