In the mood for Quick Pasta!

I’d like to dedicate this post to my friend Stewart, as we have spent many long walks dreaming of taking a week or two and attending a cooking school in Italy.  I am hoping that 2011 just might be the year that we make it happen.
These three pasta dishes are relatively quick to throw together, especially if you have the components prepped in advance.  And they all taste best if you serve them right away.  Two tips for all pasta dishes: Always reserve a cup or so of the cooking water before you drain the pasta.  It is the perfect liquid for loosening the sauce and rewarming pasta.  And, when a pasta dish calls for zest, as two of the recipes below do, try to use one of the Micoplane brand zesters.  They create a fine, snowy zest that just melts into the pasta.
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Linguine alla Carbonara di Salsiccia

(Sausage Carbonara)
     I was nervous to try Carbonara because it involves tossing eggs with hot pasta to create a luxurious, creamy sauce (or, I feared, a mess of hot pasta and scrambled eggs!) But it came together like a dream and while this is certainly a rich, special occasion dish, I am thrilled to add it to my collection.
     There are a couple of differences between my photos of this dish and the Jamie Oliver recipe that I am going to post below.  First of all, I was out of linguine so I had to use spaghetti and secondly, I didn’t have any pancetta so I made it without.  Next time I plan to use the pancetta and leave out the sausage because this decadent, creamy, lemony pasta really doesn’t need much more in my opinion (and the dish would come together even quicker).  But the little meatballs are fun for sausage lovers.
4 good quality sweet Italian sausages
olive oil
4 slices of thick cut pancetta, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried linguine
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
zest of one lemon
a sprig of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
With a sharp knife, slit the sausage skins lengthwise an pop all the meat out.  Using wet hands, roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side.
Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil.  Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta and continue cooking fro a couple of minutes until it’s golden.  While this is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the linguine, and cook according to the package instructions.
In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest, and the parsley.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back in the pasta pot.  Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together,  The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble.  The sauce should be smooth and silky.  If the pasta becomes a little sticky, add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly,  Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve.  Eat immediately!
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Penne with Ricotta and Spinach

 
This quick, one pot pasta dish is from Cook What You Love, by Bob and Melinda Blanchard.  I love it for a vegetarian entree but it would also make a great side dish for chicken or salmon.
1 pound penne pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 cup ricotta cheese (I use whole milk ricotta)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the penne and cook until tender but still firm.  Drain and return to the pot.  (don’t forget to save a cup of the cooking water, just in case)
With the heat on very low, add the olive oil, salt, pepper, spinach, ricotta, basil, parsley, and 1 cup of the Parmesan to the penne and mix well.  Heat gently, stirring occasionally.  As soon as the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes, remove the pot from the heat.  Serve immediately, topped with the remaining Parmesan.
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Spaghetti con Gamberetti e Rucola

(Spaghetti with Shrimp and Arugula)
This recipe is from Jamie’s Italy, by Jamie Oliver.  I’ve made it many, many times and it is one of our favorites.  The only advice I have is to only use a wine that you would be happy to drink.  It does makes a difference.  (I found that out the hard way)
1 pound dried spaghetti
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 pound large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like to butterfly them)
1 small wineglass of white wine
2 heaping tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste (I like the one sold in a tube, for convenience)
1/2 tablespoon butter (my addition)
zest and juice of one lemon
2 handfuls of fresh arugula, roughly chopped
Cook your spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the package instructions.  Meanwhile, heat 3 good glugs of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and toss in the garlic and chili flakes.  As the garlic begins to color, add the shrimp and saute them for a minute.  Add the white wine and the tomato puree and the butter and simmer for a couple of minutes.   When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water,  Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, and add half the chopped arugula, using a little of the reserved cooking water if you want to loosen the sauce a bit, and correct the seasoning.  Divide between four plates and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest and the rest of the arugula leaves.
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In the mood for Chicken Paillard!

In my mind, I want to be the kind of person who makes lists.  The kind of person who sits down, thinks things through, writes notes to herself, checks off each item as it is attended to, and goes to bed each night  with that peaceful feeling of accomplishment.  But try as I might, I usually end up flying by the seat of my pants and making most things up as I go along.
 Take grocery shopping, for example.  I wander the aisles and wonder…Do we need this, or that?  And then I arrive home to find that the chicken broth that I just purchased will now join the other 6 cans in the pantry and that we are completely out of milk.
      So when I am undecided about what I will feel like cooking for the family on any given week night, I always throw a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into my cart.  Since my pantry is fairly well stocked,  (overstocked, some might say) I know that I will be able to pull off a nice meal by dressing up a chicken paillard*.  The three recipes that follow are just a few of my favorites.  They are great meals for families because you can just keep the components separate for picky kids.  For example, with the crispy panko crusted chicken (last photo below), I serve the chicken sliced with the vinaigrette as a dipping sauce for my younger ones.  I haven’t met a kid yet who didn’t love it!
*paillard (n) a slice of chicken, turkey or beef that has been pounded thinly and cooked quickly
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Chicken Paillard with Fresh Fig Salad and Blue Cheese

A Tyler Florence recipe from his book, Tyler’s Ultimate, brilliant simple food to make anytime.  I will give you Tyler’s original recipe with a couple of notes I made to cut back just a bit on the over-the-top decadence of this one.
Serves 4
Vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons honey  (I use 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound pancetta (I find that 4 ounces, thinly sliced, is plenty)
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound blue cheese, broken into hunks (I use only an ounce or two)
1 bunch of arugula
1 small basket seasonal figs, quartered (could use pears, peaches or apricots)
Tarragon leaves for garnish
First ,whisk together all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl and set it aside.
Sandwich the chicken breasts between 2 layers of plastic wrap and pound them very thin with a mallet or rolling pin.  Remove the chicken from the plastic and season them well on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.  Unroll the pancetta slices, add them to the pan and fry like a big tangle of bacon until the fat is rendered.  Drain on paper towels
Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the pan with the pancetta drippings and pan fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side to brown the breasts and cook them through.  Remove the chicken to the paper towels with the pancetta.  Add the vinaigrette to the saute pan and heat for a few minutes, stirring, to deglaze the bits of pancetta and chicken fro the bottom of the pan. (I like to pour out any oil remaining in the saute pan before adding the vinaigrette, to cut down on the amount of fat in the finished dish) Remove the pan from the heat.
To serve, arrange the chicken on a serving dish and scatter the blue cheese, arugula, figs, and pancetta over. Drizzle the dressing over everything and garnish with the tarragon leaves.
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Chicken Paillard 

topped with fresh greens and pan-seared cherry tomatoes

This couldn’t-be-easier recipe comes from Simply Salads, by Jennifer Chandler.
Serves 4
1/4 cup Balsamic Grainy Mustard Dressing (see recipe below)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
5 ounces mixed field greens
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Prepare the dressing:
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Place the vinegar and mustard in a small bowl and whisk together.  Slowly add the oil in a stream, whisking to emulsify.  Season with salt and pepper.
Place a chicken breast in a large resealable heavy plastic bag.  Using a mallet or rolling pin, flatten to about 1/4 inch thick.  Remove the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with additional chicken breasts.
Warm the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until golden brown and no longer pink in the middle, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and keep warm.
Place the tomato halves in the same skillet used to cook the chicken.  Cook over medium high heat sirring often until slightly charred.
In a large salad bowl, toss together the field greens, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  Add the vinaigrette to taste and gently toss.
Place a chicken breast on each plate and top with the salad,  Serve immediately.
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Sesame Chicken Salad with Spinach, Cucumber and Cilantro

 
Another Tyler Florence recipe from Tyler’s Ultimate.  This has become a family favorite and one that almost all of my kids have actually learned to make on their own.
Serves 4
Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup soy sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper
1/4 cup sesame seeds
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
salt and pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cucumber, un-peeled, cut crosswise into slices
handful of fresh cilantro leaves
1 scallion, chopped
cracked black pepper
In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce,lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, ginger, sugar and red pepper flakes for the vinaigrette.
Rince the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Put a chicken breast on the cutting board and, holding a large knife parallel to the board, cup through the breast horizontally so that you get 2 thin fillets.  Repeat with the 3 remaining breasts,  Put the chicken on a platter, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, and toss to coat.  Set the rest of the vinaigrette aside,  Let the chicken marinate for about  10 minutes.
Combine the panko and the sesame seeds in a shallow bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.  Mix with your fingers so that the seasoning is incorporated and then taste it. The panko should be well seasoned.  Dredge the chicken in the seasoned crumbs, patting the crumbs gently so that they adhere.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium hight heat.  Line a platter with paper towels and set that to the side of the stove.  Add about half of the chicken to the pan and cook about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy.  Remove the chicken to the towel lined platter to drain while you cook the rest of the chicken.
Put the spinach in a bowl with the cucumber, cilantro and scallion and toss.  To serve, arrange a mound of greens on a plate, set a piece of chicken on top, stack a few more greens on top, and finish with another piece of chicken.  Drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with cracked black pepper.

In the mood for Cupcakes!

Cupcakes are everywhere these days and I don’t have to wonder why.  They are fun to make, fun to serve and eat, and so much less intimidating than a whole cake.  When I have time to make cupcakes here at home, I want them to be something a little special.  And it doesn’t have to be hard…just a couple of extra steps and as you will see it is definitely worth the effort.  What do these three have in common?  They are all about the cake, instead of the frosting, which is how we like it around here.  But they also each have a sweet surprise on the inside!

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Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Tender yellow cake, sweet pastry cream and a quick chocolate ganache and you have the cupcake version of Boston Cream Pie…which is actually a cake, by the way.  After several test runs (all happily devoured) I have settled on the cupcake and the glaze recipes from Gail Gand in her book, Chocolate and Vanilla.  For the pastry cream, I use the recipe from Cooks Country, published in the June 2006 issue.
Makes 12 cupcakes.
Make the pastry cream:
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of table salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch plus 1 additional teaspoon
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering,  stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl.  Add cornstarch and whisk until mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 15 seconds.
When cream reaches full simmer, slowly whisk it into yolk mixture. (Pour cream slowly and whisk quickly or you might end up with scrambled eggs!) Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thick and glossy, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla.  Transfer pastry cream to a small bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Make the cupcakes:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.
In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Add the sugar and continue to whip.  Add the vanilla and gradually mix in the eggs, one by one until well combined.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and ending with the dry ingredients.
Pour batter into the prepared pan, filling each slot three quarters full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cupcakes are puffed, firm in the center and light golden brown on top.  Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack.
To fill the cupcakes, use a small paring knife to remove a plug of cake from the top center of each cake and set the plugs aside.  Spoon a heaping tablespoon of pastry cream into the cavities.  Trim each plug so that it is now a flat coin.  Replace the cake coin on top of the custard  and chill for 30 minutes.
Make the glaze:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped
Heat the cream in a saucepan or in the microwave until almost oiling.  Meanwhile place the chocolate in a medium bowl.  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk until melted.
Dip the chilled cupcakes in the warm chocolate glaze to coat the top.  Refrigerate until serving.
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A peek inside…
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Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Inspired by a recipe in the book Cupcakes, by Joanna Farrow, but I had to look further for a really great white cake batter.  I found it in The Best Bake Sale Cookbook, Ever, by Barbara Grunes.   I’ll be using it as my “go to” white cake mix from now on.  No icing here…just freshly whipped cream and beautiful strawberries.
 
This will make 24 cupcakes.
 
For the cupcake batter
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup buttercup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
Sift together flour, caking soda and salt.  Set aside
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cream of tartar, and beat  until stiff, glossy peaks form.  Set aside.
In another large bowl,  using the electric mixer, cream the butter and the remaining 1 1/2 cup sugar until light, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Beat in the vanilla.   With a spatula or large wooden spoon, fold in the egg whites.
Fill each cupcake tin about three-fourths of the way to the top.  Bake until tops are just firm and edges are starting to turn golden, 18 to 20 minutes.   Let cool completely on a wire rack.
For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons red current jelly
16 ounces small strawberries
Whip the cream with the sugar until it holds soft peaks.  Set aside 6 of the smallest strawberries and slice them in half for the center of the cupcakes.  Thinly slice the remaining strawberries.  Prepare the cooled cupcakes by removing a plug from the center of each cake.  (You won’t need these again so nibble away!)  Fill the cavity with a couple of spoonfuls of whipped cream and let it spill out onto the top of the cupcake.  Flatten a bit with the back of a spoon.  Arrange the sliced strawberries around the center of the cupcake, overlapping slightly.  Then place a strawberry half in the center of each cake.  Heat the red current jelly in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons water until melted then brush over the strawberries gently to form a light glaze.  (a silicone pastry brush works really well for delicate glazing)  Store the cakes in a cool place until ready to serve.
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“So Much Better Than Hostess” Chocolate Cupcakes

What can I say?? Of course it is easier to run in the gas station and pick up a two pack of those chocolate marshmallow cupcakes we ate when we were kids.  But trust me…they don’t compare.  I would like to invite my nephews, who ate these exact cupcakes this summer at the farm to comment below.  Thanks guys!
 
 
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon Salt 
1/2 cup boiling water 
1/3 cup cocoa powder 
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
1 tablespoon instant espresso 
3/4 cup sugar 
1/2 cup sour cream 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
2 large eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
FILLING
3 tablespoons water 
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin 
4 tablespoon (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , softened
Pinch salt 
1 1/4 cups marshmallow créme (Fluff, or Kraft Jet Puffed Creme)
GLAZE
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 

1. MAKE BATTER Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup muffin tin. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Whisk water, cocoa, chocolate chips, and espresso in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until incorporated. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out with few dry crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool -cupcakes in tin 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.

2. PREPARE FILLING Combine water and gelatin in large bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, about 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt until combined. Let mixture cool until just warm to touch, about 5 minutes, then whisk in marshmallow creme until smooth; refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer 1/3 cup marshmallow mixture to pastry bag fitted with small plain tip; reserve remaining mixture for filling cupcakes.

3. ASSEMBLE CUPCAKES Microwave chocolate and butter in small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool glaze to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Cut a deep cone from top of each cupcake (see note below) and fill cupcakes with 1 tablespoon filling each. Replace tops, frost with 2 teaspoons cooled glaze, and let sit 10 minutes. Using pastry bag, pipe curlicues across glazed cupcakes. Serve. (Cupcakes can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.) 

 
note:  To fill the cupcake:  Insert a small paring knife into the top of the cupcake, about 1/4 inch from the edge at a 45 degree angle and work your way around to carve out a cone of cake.  Remove the cone, cut off the bottom of the cone, leaving you with a flat disk.  Fill the cupcake and replace the disk.
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In the mood for a Spicy Chinese Stirfry!

As a very amateur photographer, one of the most fun things about working on this blog has been trying to figure out how to make each dish look as good as it tastes.  So far, I am finding that meat is my biggest challenge, photography wise.  It can look so good in real life and then in the photo, it will look gray and unappetizing.  I’m working on that, but today, I found an even harder subject…Tofu!  Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the recipe name “Mapo Tofu” and was surprised to find that it means, “pockmarked face lady’s tofu”  Well, I guess that one wouldn’t expect that dish to be lovely.  But it is tasty!
The three recipes that follow are bold and spicy.  You can, of course, adjust the amounts of the chilies and peppers up or down to suit your taste.
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Mongolian Beef

I wish that you could see the Mongolian Beef page in my copy of Chopsticks, Cleaver and Wok, by Jennie Low.  It is splattered, splashed and frayed.  That goes to show just how many times I have turned to this recipe over the years.  I like to use sirloin strip steaks instead of flank steak, which is what is called for in many Asian stir fry recipes.  It’s a bit more expensive, for sure, but I find that I can serve four easily with just two good-sized steaks and it has a wonderful texture when sliced very thinly and cooked quickly over very high heat.
1 1/2 pounds strip sirloin steak
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 green onions, slivered
2 fresh red chili peppers ( or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes)
Seasoning:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon white wine (or dry sherry)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons catsup
  Cut each steak crosswise into three pieces.  Trim fat from edges and slice across the grain very thinly…almost paper thin.  (a good sharp knife and cold meat will make this easier) Place in a bowl.
Add seasoning ingredients to beef.  Mix well.
Combine sauce ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Heat wok or heavy skillet and add half of the oil.  Add half of the garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds over high heat.
Add half of the beef, spreading it out quickly, and let it brown nicely on one side undisturbed (about 2 minutes)  Then stir fry for another minute or two until beef is browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, garlic and beef.  (Cooking all of the meat at once will lower the heat in the pan too much causing the meat to simmer. I sometimes have to cook this in many batches when serving a crowd but I just do it ahead of time and reheat it gently at serving time.) Remove second batch of meat to the plate while you briefly stir fry the green onions and red chili pepper for a few seconds then add all of the meat back to the pan.  Add the sauce mixture, mix thoroughly and cook for one minute, stirring.  The sauce should thicken a bit to coat the meat nicely.  Serve with rice.  (serves 4)
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Minced Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

This is a super quick stir-fry that I have been making for years.  I know that I got the recipe from a book…a paperback with Asian noodle and rice dishes….but I don’t have it anymore so I can’t give credit.  This is just so easy that I never copied the recipe.  It’s a bold sauce…kind of an Asian chicken spaghetti, if you will.

2 tablespoons peanut oil
6  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat and minced into small pieces
(you can actually buy ground chicken or turkey if you want to make this super easy…I just prefer the texture when I mince the chicken myself)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1/3 cup Asian black bean sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped

Heat oil in wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add chicken in a single layer and sprinkle the minced garlic over the top (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan)  Let cook undisturbed for several minutes until golden brown on one side.  It may be almost cooked through at this point.  Add the sesame seeds.  Using two utensils (I use a metal spatula and a big spoon)  toss the chicken and the sesame seeds around, breaking up the clumps and stir-frying until no longer pink.  Add the black bean sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes and stir to combine and heat thoroughly.  Remove from heat, add the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and let rest while you make the pasta.

Cook the pasta in lots of salted boiling water until just al dente.  Drain well then toss with the sesame oil.

Reheat chicken if necessary and serve over the spaghetti, sprinkled with the chopped green onions. Serves 6

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Mapo Tofu

This recipe is adapted from Potsticker Chronicles, by Stuart Chang Berman and it is new to my repertoire.  Living with three sons and a carnivore husband, I didn’t serve many meatless meals.  But I really like this dish and as the author says, the non vegetarian version is to substitute 1/2 pound sauteed ground pork for the portobello mushrooms.  The sauce is a bit fiery for sure but I just love the complexity of the heat…from three different peppercorns as well as chili paste. (Sichuan peppercorns can be found in Asian markets and specialty food shops…it is an important flavor in this dish)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Asian chili paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 cup vegetable broth
1 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
chopped scallions or chives to garnish
brown rice, prepared according to package directions
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet that has a lid.  Add the Sichuan peppercorns and black and white pepper.  Immediately add the chili paste, garlic and ginger.  Stir once.  Quickly add the soy sauce and the sherry.  Add the vegetable broth and stir.
Add the tofu cubes and portobello mushrooms.  Fold them in gently with a wooden spoon.  Add the sesame oil.  Cover the pan with a lid and braise for 15 minutes on medium heat.  Uncover.  Stir gently and slowly with the wooden spoon.  Continue to braise uncovered for 10 more minutes.
Stir the cornstarch mixture into the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring gently until thickened.  Serve over rice and garnish with the scallions or chives. (serves 4)
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In the mood for a Spicy Chinese Stirfry!

As a very amateur photographer, one of the most fun things about working on this blog has been trying to figure out how to make each dish look as good as it tastes.  So far, I am finding that meat is my biggest challenge, photography wise.  It can look so good in real life and then in the photo, it will look gray and unappetizing.  I’m working on that, but today, I found an even harder subject…Tofu!  Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the recipe name “Mapo Tofu” and was surprised to find that it means, “pockmarked face lady’s tofu”  Well, I guess that one wouldn’t expect that dish to be lovely.  But it is tasty!

The three recipes that follow are bold and spicy.  You can, of course, adjust the amounts of the chilies and peppers up or down to suit your taste.

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Mongolian Beef

I wish that you could see the Mongolian Beef page in my copy of Chopsticks, Cleaver and Wok, by Jennie Low.  It is splattered, splashed and frayed.  That goes to show just how many times I have turned to this recipe over the years.  I like to use sirloin strip steaks instead of flank steak, which is what is called for in many Asian stir fry recipes.  It’s a bit more expensive, for sure, but I find that I can serve four easily with just two good-sized steaks and it has a wonderful texture when sliced very thinly and cooked quickly over very high heat.
1 1/2 pounds strip sirloin steak
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 green onions, slivered
2 fresh red chili peppers ( or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes)
Seasoning:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon white wine (or dry sherry)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons catsup
  Cut each steak crosswise into three pieces.  Trim fat from edges and slice across the grain very thinly…almost paper thin.  (a good sharp knife and cold meat will make this easier) Place in a bowl.
Add seasoning ingredients to beef.  Mix well.
Combine sauce ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Heat wok or heavy skillet and add half of the oil.  Add half of the garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds over high heat.
Add half of the beef, spreading it out quickly, and let it brown nicely on one side undisturbed (about 2 minutes)  Then stir fry for another minute or two until beef is browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, garlic and beef.  (Cooking all of the meat at once will lower the heat in the pan too much causing the meat to simmer. I sometimes have to cook this in many batches when serving a crowd but I just do it ahead of time and reheat it gently at serving time.) Remove second batch of meat to the plate while you briefly stir fry the green onions and red chili pepper for a few seconds then add all of the meat back to the pan.  Add the sauce mixture, mix thoroughly and cook for one minute, stirring.  The sauce should thicken a bit to coat the meat nicely.  Serve with rice.  (serves 4)

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Minced Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

This is a super quick stir-fry that I have been making for years.  I know that I got the recipe from a book…a paperback with Asian noodle and rice dishes….but I don’t have it anymore so I can’t give credit.  This is just so easy that I never copied the recipe.  It’s a bold sauce…kind of an Asian chicken spaghetti, if you will.

2 tablespoons peanut oil
6  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat and minced into small pieces
(you can actually buy ground chicken or turkey if you want to make this super easy…I just prefer the texture when I mince the chicken myself)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1/3 cup Asian black bean sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped

Heat oil in wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add chicken in a single layer and sprinkle the minced garlic over the top (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan)  Let cook undisturbed for several minutes until golden brown on one side.  It may be almost cooked through at this point.  Add the sesame seeds.  Using two utensils (I use a metal spatula and a big spoon)  toss the chicken and the sesame seeds around, breaking up the clumps and stir-frying until no longer pink.  Add the black bean sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes and stir to combine and heat thoroughly.  Remove from heat, add the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and let rest while you make the pasta.

Cook the pasta in lots of salted boiling water until just al dente.  Drain well then toss with the sesame oil.

Reheat chicken if necessary and serve over the spaghetti, sprinkled with the chopped green onions. Serves 6

 

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Mapo Tofu

This recipe is adapted from Potsticker Chronicles, by Stuart Chang Berman and it is new to my repertoire.  Living with three sons and a carnivore husband, I didn’t serve many meatless meals.  But I really like this dish and as the author says, the non vegetarian version is to substitute 1/2 pound sauteed ground pork for the portobello mushrooms.  The sauce is a bit fiery for sure but I just love the complexity of the heat…from three different peppercorns as well as chili paste. (Sichuan peppercorns can be found in Asian markets and specialty food shops…it is an important flavor in this dish)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Asian chili paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 cup vegetable broth
1 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
chopped scallions or chives to garnish
brown rice, prepared according to package directions
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet that has a lid.  Add the Sichuan peppercorns and black and white pepper.  Immediately add the chili paste, garlic and ginger.  Stir once.  Quickly add the soy sauce and the sherry.  Add the vegetable broth and stir.
Add the tofu cubes and portobello mushrooms.  Fold them in gently with a wooden spoon.  Add the sesame oil.  Cover the pan with a lid and braise for 15 minutes on medium heat.  Uncover.  Stir gently and slowly with the wooden spoon.  Continue to braise uncovered for 10 more minutes.
Stir the cornstarch mixture into the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring gently until thickened.  Serve over rice and garnish with the scallions or chives. (serves 4)
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In the mood for a Midnight Snack!

All of the recipes in this post were inspired by a lovely little book called Midnight Feasts, by Charmain Ponnuthurai. ( Subtitled An Anthology of Late-night Munchies.)  The author has collected recipes and recollections of midnight snacking from chefs, food writers, and actors, among others.   I’m a bit confused by Gwyneth Paltrow’s contributions to the book, Capon, Grandma’s style, and Chinese Duck(which cooks for 3 hours!)  But I do intend on trying the chocolate cake recommended by HRH The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, although perhaps a bit earlier in the day.  She guarantees that everyone who tries it will ask for the recipe!  I’ll let you know how that turns out.  The three recipes that I have chosen to represent here are all 5 minute affairs because that would be the extent of my dedication to a late night foray into the kitchen.  And, I do believe that these quick fixes are far superior to standing in front of the freezer eating ice cream from the carton.’

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Gillian Anderson’s Peanut Butter and Banana

When I tried these little frozen treats, I got the same slightly guilty feeling that I get when I let myself pinch off a bit of cookie dough.  But it’s just peanut butter and banana…nothing else!  
 
Take a banana and slice it end to end down the middle.  Take some peanut butter, smooth or crunchy, your choice, and lather it down one side of the banana as thick as your taste desires.  Place the other half of the banana on top like a sandwich.  Slice four or five times to create little sandwiches and wrap them in plastic wrap, twisting to close and place the whole lot of them in a plastic container in the freezer.  Then, in the middle of the night, open the freezer, and there you have a surprisingly delicious snack!  
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Goat’s Cheese and Runny Honey on Toast

This snack is based on several recipes in the book that use the grilled cheese concept. I think that I could eat this at absolutely any time day or night.
Heat up a ridged grill pan on your stove top.  Drizzle olive oil onto a thick slice of good crusty bread.  Grill the bread on both sides pressing with a spatula.  Remove the pan from the heat and top bread with slices of goats cheese.  Let sit for a minute or two to let the residual heat melt the cheese then drizzle with a couple of teaspoons of honey and sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper.  Yum!
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Emergency Cheesecake

Of course it isn’t cheesecake, but it does give you a similar satisfaction.  The crunchy grahams with the sweet/tart and creamy filling and the dollop of sweet fruit preserves.  Fresh fruit or nuts might be a nice addition as well.  This is my version of Rachel Johnson’s Instant Cheesecake.  She suggests a cup of sleepytime herbal tea to accompany.
Take 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt and mix in 2-3 teaspoons of light brown sugar and a teaspoon of lemon juice.  Stir well and serve in a small teacup with graham crackers and a bit of your best fruit preserves.  Serves 1
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In the mood for Pork Tenderloin!

Don’t pack up your grill just because Labor Day Weekend has passed!  I think that the next few months are the best for cooking and eating out of doors.  The crisp evening air of September and October make grilling a pleasure, instead of a hot, sticky chore. The first two pork tenderloin recipes are right at the top of my list when I want to grill.  But if you are already in the mood for some warm Fall flavors, scroll down and check out the pork tenderloin salad with roasted butternut squash.

Speaking of pork, this past weekend I had a wonderful lunch with some of my dearest friends at The Purple Pig, in Chicago, IL.  “Cheese, Swine & Wine”!  Of course, the swine was divine.  But we also loved the Roasted Corn with Mushrooms and Walnuts, the Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette, and the Whipped Feta “Smear” with Cucumbers.  Their website posts recipes so I will most definitely be trying some of them out here at home.

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Grilled Garlic Lime Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeno Onion Marmalade

I have served this dish at so many dinner parties that I had to retire it from my entertaining repertoire.  But   I will still have to make it for the family as it is such a favorite.  The recipe is straight out of Gourmet Magazine, September 1995.  By the way, don’t you miss Gourmet Magazine??
Serves 6-8
For the marinade:
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
cayenne to taste
4 pork tenderloins, about 3/4 pound each, trimmed
For the marmalade:
1 1/4 pounds red onions, chopped fine (about 4 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
To make the marinade:
In a blender or small food processor, blend marinade ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large sealable plastic bag, combine pork with marinade.
Seal bag, pressing out air, and put in a shallow baking dish
Marinate pork, chilled, turning occasionally, at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
Prepare grill.
Let pork stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before grilling.
Remove pork from marinade, letting excess drip off, and grill on an oiled rack turning every 5 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 150-160.  (15-20 minutes)
Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with onion marmalade.
To make the Jalapeno Onion Marmalade:
In a large heavy skillet, cook onions in oil with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring until softened.
Add jalapenos and cook, stirring one minute,  Add honey or sugar and cook, stirring one minute,  Add vinegar and simmer , stirring until almost all liquid is evaporated.  Add water and simmer, stirring until mixture is slightly thickened and onions are very tender, (the recipe says about 10 minutes but I find that it takes quite a bit longer to get them very tender, about 25 minutes, and I tend to need to add a bit more water as the marmalade cooks down.)  Season with salt and pepper.  Marmalade may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered,  Reheat before serving.
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Pork Tenderloin Crusted with Green Onion, Jalapeno, and Ginger

This is a Bobby Flay recipe from his book, Grilling for Life.

6 green onions, light and dark parts, halved crosswise
2 jalapeno chilies, stemmed and halved
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed

Combine the green onions, jalapenos, and ginger in a food processor and process until coarsely ground.  Scrape the mixture into a bowl and sir in all of the remaining ingredients except the pork.

Place the pork tenderloins in a baking dish, add half of the marinade, and turn to coat the pork.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes ad up to 4 hours.  Cover and reserve the remaining marinade at room temperature.

Heat the grill to high.

Remove the pork from the marinade,  Grill until crusty and charred on both side and cooked to medium well.  Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the pork into slices and drizzle with the reserved marinade before serving.

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Mixed Greens with Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Butternut Squash and Port Reduction

This spicy main course salad is from Mixt Salads, by Andrew Swallow.  It has several steps but it is a whole meal on one plate so it’s not too time consuming when you think of it that way. I’ve made a couple of very minor changes to the original.  Chef Swallow calls this salad, “Porky”.   Serves 4-6
Spice Rub:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups Port wine
Dressing:
3/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 strips thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into medium dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste
3 pounds pork tenderloin
3/4 pound mixed greens, (I used red leaf lettuce)
4 ounces shelled pistachios, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all spice rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
For the dressing:  Combine the vinegar, shallot, mustard and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth.  Slowly add both oils and blend until emulsified,  Season with salt and pepper.
Saute the bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy.  Drain and set aside.
In a bowl, toss the butternut squash pieces with the tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes , or until tender.  Keep warm for serving.
Increase the oven temp. to 400 degrees.  Spread the spice rub on a plate, dredge the pork in the spice rub, coating all sides and place on a baking sheet.  Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 150 degrees.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  When the pork has cooled, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.
For each serving, toss 3 ounces greens, 2 ounces warm squash, 1 1/2 ounces bacon with 1 1/2 tablespoon of the dressing.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in the middle of the plate.  Top the salad with 4 ounces of pork tenderloin.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the port reduction over the top and sprinkle with 1 ounce chopped pistachios.
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In the mood for Peaches!

Peaches are one of those fruits that I would never, ever buy out of season.  Sometimes I wish that I could  find the discipline to buy and eat only local, in season products as Barbara Kingsolver did, and then documented, in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I was fascinated by her year-long challenge and adventure.  But quite frankly, I can’t imagine never eating a banana or pineapple, nor could I bear going all winter with only canned or frozen vegetables and fruits.  But it is an interesting concept and one that I try to keep in mind as I choose produce.  Back to the peaches…knowing that the season is short makes us appreciate them all the more.   Here are three peach recipes that we are enjoying this summer.
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Peach Crostata

Now, I’ve made pies and tarts, crisps, crumbles and cobblers….but this is the first time that I have made a crostata.  No particular reason, just never got around to it.  Well, I’m here to tell you that I may never make another proper fruit pie.  This crostata, or free form tart, couldn’t be easier and I just loved the way that the kids would slice off a wedge and carry on their way, no plate, fork or napkin.  Such a casual, fun little pie.  Of course, you could always dress it up for company with a lovely scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprig of fresh mint.  This recipe is adapted from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table.
(makes 2 small crostatas that will serve 4-6 each)
For the dough:
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cup into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
1/4 cup ice water
For the filling:
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds ripe peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced into 3/4 inch thick wedges
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon heavy cream, for an egg wash
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar for topping
To prepare the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend.  Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas, about 15 times.  With the processor running, add the ice water and process for about 10 seconds.  Stop the processor before the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper, divide the dough in half, and shape it into two disks.  Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, for the filling, combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl. Add the butter and cut the mixture together with a pastry knife or two table knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll each disk of dough into an 11 inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place the peaches in the center of the dough circles on the baking sheet and top with the butter sugar mixture.  Begin draping the edges up and over, forming about three pleats.  crimp the pleats and press down to seal.  Brush the pastries with egg wash and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
Bake the tarts for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.  let cool on a rack and serve warm or room temperature.
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Fresh Peach Bellini

Mmm…fresh squeezed peach juice and Prosecco.  This is a refreshing cocktail that is perfect for late summer parties.  Harry’s Bar in Venice is the supposed creator of the peach Bellini.  But theirs is made of  white peach puree and is quite overpriced, if I remember correctly.  This is another recipe from Frank Stitt, a chef and restaurateur from Birmingham Alabama.  Not surprising that a southern chef would know what to do with peaches!
8 very ripe peaches
1 ounce simple syrup ( 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water, simmered for 2 minutes to dissolve. Cool.)
fresh lemon juice to taste
1 bottle prosecco, well chilled
Wash the peaches.  Set a colander over a large bowl and , with clean hands, squeeze the whole peaches one at a time over the strainer to extract every bit of juice possible.  You will need 3/4 cup juice.  Add simple syrup and lemon juice to taste…depending on the ripeness of the peaches, you may need a little more syrup…and whisk to combine.  Refrigerate the peach juice mixture until will chilled.  In a large cocktail shaker or pitcher, combine the peach juice mixture with half of the prosecco.  Let the foam settle and add the remaining prosecco.  Stir and serve.
note:  From my experience making this wonderful drink, you really need very ripe, never been refrigerated, peaches to be able to juice them in the way described.  These photos were taken on a day when the farmers market peaches that I had were just perfect for juicing.  A subsequent time, I had peaches from the grocery that advertised to be local but although ripe, they just wouldn’t release their juice so I ended up peeling and pureeing them to make the Bellini.  While the taste was still very nice, the drink had a thicker consistency so not as light and refreshing.
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Fresh Peaches with Whipped Cream and a                 Balsamic Caramel Sauce

 

If a dessert could be fresh and light, and luxurious and decadent at the same time, this would be it.  And I am already counting up the ways that I will use this caramel recipe this fall and winter. I found this special dessert in At Home with Michael Chiarello.

2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

8 large ripe peaches, halved, pitted, peeled if desired, and cut into 1/2 inch wide wedges
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pour 1 cup cream into a small saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to low to keep the cream hot.

In a large, deep, heavy saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar with 3 tablespoons of the water and place over medium high heat.  Heat the mixture, tilting and swirling the pan in a circular motion every now and again, until the sugar dissolves.  As the sugar mixture begins to bubble, watch for crystals developing on the inside of the pan just above the liquid.  Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush the inside of the pan right above the crystals, so the water drips down and dissolves the crystals back into the liquid.  When the sugar begins to brown, occasionally move the pan to swirl the liquid gently and cook it evenly.  Continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture is a dark golden brown.  The total cooking time will be 12 to 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Very carefully, add the hot cream to the sugar mixture a few tablespoons at a time.  The liquid will bubble up dramatically, so watch for spatters.  Stir the sauce, place over medium heat, and cook for 1 minute.  Pour into a heatproof bowl and add the vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and mix well.  You should have a bout 1 1/4 cups sauce.  You will only need 1/2 cup for this recipe; cover and reserve the remainder for another use.

Put the peaches in a bowl.  Add the lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss lightly to coat evenly.  Divide the peaches evenly among individual glass bowls.  Cover and refrigerator to chill the fruit.

In a bowl, using a mixer or a whisk, whip the remaining 1 1/2 cups cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

To serve, plop a spoonful of whipped cream into each bowl of peaches.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the  sauce over each bowl.  Serves 8

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In the mood for Tomato Tarts!

‘Tis the season…for tomatoes, that is.  So I can’t resist another post on ideas enjoying this season’s bounty. Tomato Tarts…beautiful and delicious.  Make all three and let me know which is your favorite.

 

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Cherry Tomato Tart with Parmesan Crust 

Although the crust in this recipe is from scratch, it’s an easy one, I assure you.  Actually, it took longer to defrost the frozen puff pastry for the two recipes that follow, than it did to whip this one up in the food processor.  The tart shell is adapted from Tarts, by Sarah Banbery, and the filling is mine, inspired by my visit to the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market this week.
Pastry:
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 1/2 tablespoons ice water
Filling:
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5-6 slices provolone cheese
4 cups of cherry tomatoes, mixed colors and sizes, if possible
   large tomatoes cut in half and smaller ones left whole
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 10 inch loose-bottomed tart pan.  Set aside.
Place the flour, salt, butter, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  Add the egg and ice water and pulse until dough starts to come together…just a few seconds.  You can add more water…just a teaspoon at a time, if necessary.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into a round and roll it out to be about 13 inches.  Carefully lift the dough and place it in the tart pan, gently pressing to fit.  Roll the rolling pin over the pan to neaten the edges and trim the dough.  Place the piece of parchment paper into the tart pan and fill it with pie weights or dried beans.  Put the tart in the refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes.  Remove the pie weights and the parchment paper and bake shell for another 10 minutes  until the edges are starting to brown and the base has dried out.
While shell is baking, toss the cherry tomatoes with the sugar, salt and pepper, and olive oil.
When the tart shell is ready, remove it from the oven and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly to cover the base.  Place the provolone cheese slices in a single layer over the Parmesan.  Use a slotted spoon to fill the tart with the cherry tomatoes and return to the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  The tart is ready when the crust is golden brown, the cheeses are bubbling and the tomatoes are just barely starting to split their skins.  The tomatoes will not brown.  Let the tart cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.  Serves 6-8
note:  I served this with a drizzle of basil oil. (didn’t have it ready and was about to lose the light for the photos) Just throw about 1/3 cup of olive oil into the blender with a good handful of fresh basil leaves, a healthy pinch of salt and a sprinkle of black pepper and whiz it all together for a few seconds.  Season to taste and spoon a scant teaspoon or so over each serving of the tomato tart.
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Tomato Tart with Caramelized Onions, Olives and Capers

A tomato tart with no cheese…doesn’t need it…don’t be tempted.  The caramelized onions are so sweet and rich and the olive and capers provide the perfect salty bite.  Served with a lovely salad of arugula and herbs and, yes, more tomatoes!  This recipe is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.
For tart:
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 sheet frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry
1 large egg yolk
3 medium tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt packed capers, soaked and drained
1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted, cut in half
For salad:
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1 bunch arugula, cleaned and dried
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup small basil leaves
1/4 cup 1/2-inc snipped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat a large saute pan over high heat.  Add the olive oil, onions, 2 teaspoons of the thyme,  1 teaspoon salt and some pepper.  Cook 10 minutes, stirring often.  Then turn the heat down to medium, add the butter and cook slowly, stirring often with a wooden spoon.  It will take at least another 15 minutes to caramelize the onions.  Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to help them cook evenly.  They should be a deep golden brown.  Set aside to cool completely before you make the tart.  (This can be done well in advance if you want)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place the defrosted puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Use a paring knife to score a 1/4 inch thick border around the edge of the pastry.  Whisk together the egg yolk and one teaspoon water.  Brush the border with the egg wash.  Spread the caramelized onions evenly within the border.
Core the tomatoes and cut into 1/4 inch rounds.  Place the tomato slices, just touching, but not overlapping, on top of the caramelized onions.  Season the tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a sprinkle of pepper.
Arrange the capers and olives over the tomatoes and onions.  Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of thyme over the tart.
Just before serving, place the cherry tomatoes and diced shallot in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice and toss together.  Add the arugula and herbs and toss well.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve the salad with wedges of the tart.  Serves 6
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Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

From the clever folks at Cooks Illustrated, here is a brilliant tomato tart that will stay crispy enough to eat out of hand, as demonstrated below by my trusty hand model!  The process of assembling the crust may seem a bit tedious at first but it is really quite simple and the end result is spectacular.
All purpose flour for work surface
1 box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (defrosted in frig overnight)
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Roma tomatoes (3-4 medium)
salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
8 ounces low moisture whole milk mozzarella, shredded
2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil leaves
  Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Dust work surface with flour and unfold both pieces puff pastry and follow these steps to form one large sheet with a border.
1) Brush egg along short edge of one sheet of puff pastry and overlap with second sheet of dough by one inch and press to seal pieces together.
2)  With a rolling pin, smooth out seam.  Dough should measure about 18×9 inches.  Use a pizza wheel or knife (and a ruler) to trim edges straight.
3)  With a pizza wheel or knife, cut a 1-inch strip from the long side of the dough.  Then cut another 1-inch strip from that same side.
4)  Do the same thing on one short side.  Now you should have 1 large rectangle of dough, 2 long, 1-inch wide strips and 2 short, 1-inch wide strips.  Transfer the pieces of dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg.
5)  Gently press long strips of dough onto each long edge of dough and brush with egg.  Gently press short strips of dough onto each short edge and brush with egg.
6)  With a pizza wheel or knife, trim the excess dough from the corners.
So now, hopefully, you have a long, rectangular, unbaked tart shell with doubled up edges.  Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the shell (inside of the borders) and then using a fork, uniformly and thoroughly poke holes in the base of the shell. Bake 13-15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Continue to bake until golden brown and crisp, 13-15 minutes longer.  Transfer to wire rack.  Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
While the shell bakes, place tomato slices in single layer on double layer of paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Let stand 30 minutes.  Place second double layer of paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.  Combine garlic, oil, and pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over warm (or cool if made ahead) baked shell.  Shingle tomato slices on top of cheese (about 4 slices per row)  Brush tomatoes with garlic oil.  Bake until shell is deep golden brown and cheese is melted, 15-17 minutes.  Cool on wire rack 5 minutes,  sprinkle with basil and serve.  (6-8)
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In the mood for Crab Cakes!

I set up this blog with three recipes per post to give myself the structure to use recipes from my collection and at the same time make it necessary to find new ones to complete each category.  I always have one or two recipes in my repertoire for a certain post, and the fun part is finding new ones to complement them.  I keep a huge binder with all of my best recipes and if a new dish fails to make the cut to enter the binder, I won’t post it….even if the photograph turned out really well…which can be annoying.  I have a beautiful photo of white gazpacho on my computer that I will never post, or make again, because it wasn’t very tasty.  (Still looking for a good recipe if anyone out there has one!)
I am also trying to figure out how to take appetizing photos of some very yummy, but not particularly attractive, dishes.  I’ll go ahead and post those, I’m sure, because it is all about the recipes after all.

I guess that the point is that I am having lots of fun, and learning so much about food and photography by keeping this blog, so thanks for checking it out.  By the way, I didn’t have to do any research for this post on crab cakes.  These three recipes are firmly established in my binder and are there to stay.

 

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Daniel Boulud’s Crab Cake Sandwich

 

A really special sandwich!  Worth the effort! (published in Elle Decor magazine)
 
1 pound jumbo lump crab, picked over for shells
1 egg
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch of ginger powder
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cardamom
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
2 pinches cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 cup good white sandwich bread, cut in 1/8 inch dice, then lightly toasted
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 loaf ciabatta bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce, washed
2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
 
Sauce Remoulade
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons
1 teaspoon paprika
dash of garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper 
salt to taste
In a bowl, mix together the egg, mayonnaise, mustard and all of the spices and salt to taste.  Add the crabmeat, mix evenly and gently fold in the toasted bread cubes.  Shape 6 crab cakes of the same thickness without pressing too hard.  Set aside.
In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the remoulade.  
Preheat the broiler.  Slice the bread into pieces that are 4 inches long.  Cut each segment horizontally and brush the cup sides with a little of the olive oil.  Toast briefly, open faced, under the broiler, then set aside.
Place the crab cakes on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and brush them with the melted butter, Broil each side for 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Spread some remoulade on the bread and add 1 slice of tomato,  a leaf of lettuce and a crab cake.  Garnish with a dollop of sauce and an herb sprig to make it pretty!
Serves 6
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Oven Baked Crab Cakes with Two Sauces

 
One of my pet peeves is when a I am reading a cookbook or magazine and the photo of the dish obviously doesn’t match the recipe.  Probably the food stylist made a last minute change for the sake of art and the chef was unaware.  Well, now I’ve done it myself.  I’m going to give two recipes for sauces that I love to serve with these crab cakes,  but with all wonderful chaos of summer vacation, I didn’t have time to make them last night.  So I threw together a quick substitute as pictured.  Still, I want to include the best options and they can be made ahead of time, if you are more organized than I am at the moment.
Note:  This is the recipe that I turn to when I want to serve crab cakes to a crowd. ( adapted from The Sea Grill Restaurant)
5 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large egg yolks
2 pounds jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
In a food processor pulse cornflakes until ground coarse and spread in a shallow baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne, and yolks an add crab meat and salt and pepper to taste, tossing mixture gently but thoroughly.
With a 1/4 cup measure, form crab mixture into cakes and gently coat with cornflakes, transferring as coated to a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Chill crab cakes, covered with plastic wrap, at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.  (This is an important step)
Preheat over to 400 degrees.  Transfer crab cakes to a large baking sheet.  Put about 1/2 teaspoon butter on each crab cake and bake in middle of oven until crisp and cooked through, about 15 minutes.  You will need to turn the cakes after about 10 minutes to brown them evenly on both sides. (You will NOT need to add more butter)  But it is key to wait  until they are golden brown on the bottom before you attempt this.  Otherwise the fragile cakes will come apart.  Dealing with the fragility of these crab cakes will be worth it when you taste the sweet crab inside…free of the fillers that you so often get in restaurants.
Makes about 20 small crab cakes.
Lemon Dill Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Refrigerate until chilled.  The sauce will thicken as it chills.  (recipe from Paula Deen)
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with Capers and Dill
 
2 large red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 tablespoon drained capers
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Puree the peppers, dill, parsley and capers in a processor or blender, maintaining a little texture,  Transfer to a small bowl,  Add the sour cream, mayo, salt and pepper,  Stir until combined.  Taste for seasoning.  Let stand until needed, about 30 minuted or refrigerate one or 2 days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  ( from Teri’s Kitchen.com)
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Spicy Asian Crab Cakes

I just love this recipe from Ming Tsai in his book, Simply Ming. As a matter of fact, I love all of his recipes!  Sambal is an Asian chili sauce that is available in most supermarkets these days.  
 
2 tablespoons sambal 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon honey
juice of 1 lime
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons canola oil
 
In a small bowl, combine half the sambal, half the mayonnaise, and half the chives,  Mix well and set aside, refrigerated. This will be the sauce for the crab cakes.
In a medium bowl, gently combine the remaining sambal and mayonnaise with the honey, lime juice and crabmeat, and season with salt and pepper.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out 8 portions of the crab mixture and place them on a plate.  Wet your hands and form each portion into a cake, packing it tightly
Place the flour, eggs and panko in 3 separate shallow dishes.  Dredge the cakes in the flour, dip in the beaten egg, and then dredge with the panko.
Heat a large saute pan over high heat,  Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the cakes, and sear on both sides until brown and crisp, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.
Serve with the reserved sauce and garnish with the remaining chives.

In the mood for “Cool” Slaw!

The Dutch called it koolsla.  (kool = cabbage and sla = salad)  We anglicised it to Cole slaw and that is just a bit of food trivia for today.   Here are three slaws that I think are a bit “cooler” than average.

 

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Caesar Cole Slaw

This is a fresh twist on your basic Cole slaw from Bob and Melinda Blanchard published in their wonderful cookbook, Cook What You Love.
for the dressing:
1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
for the slaw:
1 1/2 pounds Chinese napa cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (8 cups)
1/2 pound red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (2 cups)
1/2 pound jicama, peeled and cut into long thin strips
2 large carrots, shredded or grated
4 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
In a small mixing bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients until well blended.  In a large bowl, toss together both cabbages, jicama, carrots, and scallions.  Add enough dressing to coat well.  Add the Parmesan and toss again.  Serves 6-8
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French Carrot Salad

 
This simple, fresh salad is omnipresent in France.  You will find it in every Charcuterie (delicatessen) and Bistro but I rarely see it here.  It is such a nice side dish for a summer lunch or supper and of course, it would be wonderful to take to a picnic or potluck.
7 large grated carrots
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, toss the grated carrots with the parsley.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, and mustard.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add vinaigrette to carrots and toss well to lightly coat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Sometimes I add a bit more lemon juice or olive oil to tweak the flavor if necessary.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serves 6
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Chinese Coleslaw

I’ll  be honest with you, this salad was a lot of work… which is OK by me as I love to chop, mince, slice and dice.  It started out as a recipe from the chef and caterer Wendy Leon, published in the June issue of Food and Wine.   I simplified it considerably and it was still wonderful.  However,  next time, I plan on adding lots of shredded chicken (I’ll buy a roasted chicken at the market) and making it the whole meal.  The rice sticks will stay crispy so they can be fried ahead of time.  But don’t toss the vegetables with the dressing until right before serving because this slaw will wilt.
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 ounces dried cellophane noodles
1/2 lemon
2 cups mixed field greens
1 1/2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1 1/2 cup finely shredded green cabbage
1 large celery rib, cut into 2 inch julienned strips
1 small carrot, cut into 2 inch julienned strips
1 scallion, cut into 2 inch julienned strips
2 ounces jicama, peeled and cut into 2 inch julienned strips (1/2 cup)
1/3 seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into 2 inch julienned strips (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup snow peas, julienned lengthwise
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
In a small bowl, whisk the hoisin sauce with the vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
In a large saucepan, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil the 350 degrees.  Break the noodles into 2 equal clusters.  Add one cluster to the hot oil; fry until the noodles puff up and whiten, about 5 seconds.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the noodles to paper towels to drain.  repeat with the remaining cluster.
In a large bowl, toss the field greens with the red and green cabbages, celery, carrot, scallion, jicama, cucumber, snow peas, and cilantro.  Add the dressing and toss to coat.  Transfer the salad to a platter.  Top with the fried noodles, garnish with the basil and serve right away.  Serves 6
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In the mood for Cinnamon!

10 reasons to eat cinnamon

(according to the website, Healthdiaries.com)

 
1.  It can help lower cholesterol
2.  It can help regulate blood sugar
3.  It can relieve arthritis
4.  It is a natural food preservative
5.  It can boost cognitive function and memory
6.  It has an anti clotting effect.
7.  It can cure yeast infections.
8.  It can fight e coli infection.
9.  It has been shown to fight leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
10.  It is a good source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium.
OK OK, I know that in the recipes below, I have mixed this miracle spice with a lot of other ingredients that may counteract some of these benefits but I prefer to focus on the positive and eat cinnamon as much as possible.
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Cinnamon Baked Fruit

This brilliant dessert is a bit like a cobbler. 
The ginger cookies not only made it quick and easy, they, along with the cinnamon, give it an amazing aroma and flavor.  Use the thick crunchy ginger cookies, not the super thin type.  Any fruit that bakes well would work in this recipe.  It was inspired by one published in the UK magazine, Delicious.
3 ripe peaches, roughly chopped
1 banana, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
3/4 cup coarsely broken ginger cookies, plus 2-3 more cookies finely crushed for garnish
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
butter for coating the baking dishes
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the fruit, ginger cookies, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mix together gently.  Butter 4 shallow baking dishes lightly, divide the fruit mixture among them and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling around the edges.  Cool slightly and serve warm with vanilla ice cream, dusted with cinnamon and a sprinkle of finely crushed ginger cookies.  
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Cinnamon Scones

This is probably my most requested recipe and yet I hesitate to post it.  Not because it is a closely guarded secret but rather because the cinnamon chips have recently become so darned hard to find.  I use the Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips and in the last year or two they have disappeared from the shelves.  You can order them online, of course, or there is a similar product available on the King Arthur Baking website.  Otherwise, keep yours eyes open…I found them this week at Sunset Foods in Lake Forest, IL.  
 
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups cinnamon chips
1 cup heavy cream
 
For glaze:  whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and just enough milk (it will only take a tablespoon or two) to get a consistency that you can drizzle with a fork. 


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the cutter with a pastry knife until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  (alternately, you can mix the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers)  Stir in the cinnamon chips and make a well in the center.  Stir in the heavy cream just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Take care not to overwork the dough and resist the urge to add more cream…it is OK if the dough is crumbly.  On a lightly floured surface, gently pat the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 3 inches.  Cut the rectangle in half, then cut those pieces in half again, which will give you 4 squares.  Cut each square twice diagonally to get 4 triangles from each.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or so, until edges are just turning golden.  Cool on a wire rack and use a table fork to glaze with confectioners sugar glaze.  Let glaze dry and serve.
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Snickerdoodles



One of my children once said, “It’s hard to be in a bad mood when there are Snickerdoodles in the house!” Like the best sugar cookie but with so much more personality.  I don’t usually like to cook with shortening but I make an exception for these cookies…it’s for the texture…crisp yet chewy.  This is a recipe from Baking Illustrated.  Hints for getting the best results: use parchment paper, try to make the cookies uniform in size, bake until just starting to brown around the edged and no more… the centers will be soft and puffy but will collapse back down and set as they are cooling.

2¼ cups (11¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1½ cups (10½ ounces) granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling dough
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, for rolling dough
Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions.  Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and 1½ cups sugar on medium speed until well combined, 1 to 1½ minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat again until combined, about 30 seconds.  Add in the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 20 seconds.
In a small, shallow bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon for rolling the dough.  Stir well to combine.  Working with a heaping tablespoon of dough each time, roll the dough into 1 inch balls  Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place them on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake until the edges of the cookies are beginning to set and the center are soft and puffy, 9-11 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.