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Italian

Homemade Gnocchi

February 22, 2022

If you’ve considered, but not yet tried making fresh pasta at home, pillowy little gnocchi are a great place to start! These tender little nubbins are easy to make and taste good simply buttered and tossed with a bit of grated parmesan, or, paired with your favorite spaghetti sauce. Try them with our classic bolognese ragu! Continue Reading…

Melton Mowbray Style

British Pork Pie

February 18, 2022

Americans love their apple pie, but in Britain, pork pies rule the pastry roost. Brits spend more than £165 million on pork pies every year, according to statistics from the Kantar Worldpanel–more than they shell out for any other pie variety there. And among pork pies, the Melton Mowbray variety is king.

Melton Mowbray, a town in rural Leicestershire, England calls itself Britain’s “Rural Capital of Food” for the pork pies, and, Stilton cheese, both having been granted protected designation of origin (PDO) status by the European Commission. That distinction means anyone outside the 10-mile radius surrounding the town, and anyone using cured meat in the recipe, can’t officially call their pork pie a Melton Mowbray.

With that in mind, our Melton Mowbray-style pie uses hand-minced, uncured pork like the original, mixed with salt, pepper, sage, and a squirt of anchovy paste. Tucked into a traditional hot water crust with rich stock poured in through the vent hole to seal the meat, it’s a filling, portable feast. That portability made the pie a favorite bring-along on foxhunts as far back as the late 1700s. But the flavor of the pie took it nationwide. Continue Reading…

Vegetarian

Sherried Mushroom + Walnut Loaf

January 14, 2022

I once lived in a big, pale-green commune of sorts, where vegetarian was how you cooked, if you cooked at all. (Raw food was the other way most people ate.) The best meals were communal, and one recipe I loved for its fabulous flavor was this sherried mushroom-walnut loaf—delicious hot with gravy and veg, and just as good cold, sliced like an elegant pate. Several moves later, I missed the recipe enough to recreate it for my family. During these close-quarter months, this is a great healthy option for you to make: A mix of sherry-steeped baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, onions, brown rice and walnuts baked into a loaf with sage and parsley, this is a moist and meaty meal. Top it with mushroom gravy made with more criminis, onion, sherry and stock, and serve it with some mashed potatoes and garlic spinach on the side. Continue Reading…

Less Faltty Version

40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken

January 5, 2022

When James Beard first whipped this up for Julia Child, he included matchstick-sliced carrot + celery plus slivered onion in the dish as we’ve done here—so very tasty. But for a less fatty version, we took out half of the olive oil and all of the chicken skin. You won’t miss it! We’ve also browned the chicken to add color before the long oven roast. The result is wonderfully rich and deeply flavorful.  Serve the finished dish straight out of the Dutch oven, or, spoon all onto a platter. To save guests the trouble of plucking out the roast garlic cloves to squeeze and spread on crusty bread, we pull out about half of the cloves after baking, remove the skins and put the soft little dollops in a little crock to serve alongside the bread and chicken. Continue Reading…

World Salads

Niçoise Salad

January 1, 2022

When it originated in Nice, salade niçoise was just a mix of tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil—simple food for poor people. But in the decades since, it has been embraced around the world evolving to include haricots verts, lettuce, radishes, oil-packed tuna and hard-boiled eggs. As a composed dish, the beauty of the display is as appealing as the fresh flavors. Ours includes marinated sun-dried tomatoes which we like for the deep flavor, plus eggs that are softer-cooked for more unctuous golden yolks. Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Russian Tea Cakes

December 20, 2021

These little snowballs of melt-in-your-mouth pleasure are full of crunchy toasted walnut. They’re the perfect go-along with that mug of hot chocolate, tea or cider. Put some out for Santa, and he’ll leave a trail of powdered sugar next to the gifts under the tree. Note:  On a recent baking day we made a delightful discovery: You can powder your own sugar. Just clean out your coffee grinder and pulse regular cane sugar for several seconds (about ¼ cup at a time) and voila! powdered sugar. Continue Reading…

Happy Holidays

Yule Log Cake (Bûche de Noël)

December 4, 2021

Among our family’s Holiday-making traditions, filling rooms with boughs of evergreen is one of the brightest and best.  As we bring armfuls of snowy branches in, there is freshness and chill, that wild citrusy conifer smell, and always, a swell of gratitude for nature’s provision. This celebratory cake, with its cute caps of meringue mushrooms, is a woodland fantasy in just that spirit.

In France, la bûche de Noël harks back to Medieval times and traditions. Then, placing a log on the hearth on Christmas Eve and burning it for three days was believed to bring good luck, and good harvest. Centuries later, cakes have replaced the log, with thousands of versions baked worldwide.

Like those, ours—a chocolate roll cake with vanilla mousse filling, light-chocolate buttercream and dark chocolate “bark”– conjures memories of favorite flavors from childhood.  An elevated Hostess Ho-ho perhaps?  Or Little Debbie Swiss Roll snack cake. We’ve included a recipe for crispy meringue mushrooms that fit the woodland motif and add a nice crunch when eaten with the cake.

To streamline assembly for when you bake the cake, the mushrooms, mousse and dark chocolate bark can be made ahead of time. The meringue needs to be made on a dry-weather day—rainy weather won’t work. And for best texture and flavor, you’ll want to refrigerate the finished cake at least an hour, and serve it very cold. Continue Reading…

Happy Holidays

Chocolate-Dipped Walnut Brittle

December 4, 2021

My Dad always loved English toffee, and kept it out of kids’ reach, high in a cupboard in the dining room, to ensure it would last a little longer. My homemade version is a walnut-studded brittle rich with molasses, dipped in dark chocolate, and sprinkled with more toasted nuts. My simple method for removing the walnut skin—rubbing the toasted nuts in clean tea towels–takes away the mouth-puckering tannins you sometimes get with walnuts.  To make the candy, you’ll need a candy thermometer to monitor the bubbling syrup until it reaches 300 degrees, the hard crack stage. Use any good quality melted dark chocolate for dipping—or milk chocolate, if you prefer. When cooled, store the finished brittle in an airtight container in the fridge, or high up in that cool cupboard—to make it last a little longer : )  For more Holiday treats? We’ve got lots to choose from. Try our Holiday Brandied Fruit & Nut Bars, Coffee and Molasses Dream Bars, Christmas Pudding, Mincemeat Tart, Grandma Bertha’s Apricot Delights, Marshall Fields’ Chinese Chews, Gingerbread Cookies, Old-Fashioned Butter Cookies, Lutz’s Raspberry Nut Bars, or Jam Tart Bar Cookies. Continue Reading…

Happy Holidays

Holiday Brandied Fruit & Nut Bars

December 3, 2021

My Mom had a pecan tree on the grounds of her childhood home in Houston. Long after she married and moved to Chicago to raise me and my sibs, Mom’s family sent a big box of pecans each year for the Holidays. How Mom beamed when she opened that box! Then, she pulled out a battered baking tin and set to work making a dark, rich, fruit and nut spice cake. This recipe is an easy-to-make updo of that, baked in a buttered 9 x 13-inch pan with loads of toasted pecans, plus brandy-soaked dried cranberries, Montmorency cherries, Thompson raisins, a smattering of plump prunes, and some candied orange bits. Buttery and chewy at the edges, and oh-so-tender in the middle, it is my favorite Holiday baked treat. It’s very good with a hot cup of tea, and even better with whiskey! For another delicious Holiday treat? Try our Chocolate-Dipped Walnut Brittle.

Continue Reading…

Cookie Kitchen

Homemade Fresh Fig “Newtons”

November 16, 2021

When Stuart Smalley (Al Franken) saves his family in Harold Ramis’ 1995 comedy of the same name, it’s not without setbacks–the worst of them overcome with the aid of those cakey little comforts: Fig Newtons. Sulking in his bedroom after a blowout with his nasty boss, Stuart’s friends plead with him to emerge, to which he replies: “Come back later, maybe when I’ve run out of Fig Newtons.”

We can certainly relate : )

But Stuart would be shocked to know that Fig Newtons—at least in name—no longer exist: Nabisco dropped the “fig” from the title in 2012. Simply calling the cookies Newtons was thought to be a better fit, since the cakey little treats now came in different flavors. Today, that’s everything from Triple Berry, to Sweet Peach and Apricot, to Apple & Cinnamon, although fig is the enduring favorite.

The famous fig filling goes all the way back to the 1880s when Philadelphia baker Charles M. Roser sold his recipe to Boston-based Kennedy Biscuit company (later acquired the companies that merged to form Nabisco.) Kennedy Biscuit named the cookies Fig Newtons, after the town in Massachusetts, and the bars became wildly successful.

While homemade fig fillings can be made with dried figs, we prefer to use fresh figs, cooked with lemon, for a fruitier, more-flavorful result. While it takes a little practice to get the knack of folding the pastry around the fig filling, the result is worth it. One thing you should know: Fresh baked, the pastry is crisp—stored in an air-tight container, it tenders up the day after you bake these into the “cakey” cloak you expect. Continue Reading…