Faith's Vegetable Fritters

Even after all these years, I'm still amazed at the amount of time we spend planning and organizing for the holidays when it seems to be over in  a flash.  Children open everything so quickly, even when you try to slow them down. Mine are now adults, so we take turns opening, but you just can't do that when they're younger.  As it was, we barely got them through brunch, they were in such a rush to get back to playing. Food? No time for food.

But then I've always loved the planning part....the organizing, the decorating, the cooking, finding surprises for everyone. No doubt there were times when my kids were really little that the mass confusion pre-Christmas wasn't quite so much fun, but I always remember enjoying the preparations.

We had adults only chez moi this year; my Michigan kids decided to stay north as it's my granddaughter's first year in college and she wanted to be home to see her old high school friends. This was also, at 4 years old,  my grandson's first year to understand what Christmas is all about. I was sorry to miss that. But they have their own traditions to make.

My NY daughter was here, so this year we kicked back and took our time enjoying every minute. Not always easy....my Florida son works nights in the ER, so he comes right from work for our gift-opening and brunch, and he's exhausted. Then he goes home, sleeps and comes back around 6 for dinner. Not always the case. He's always here for Santa, but if he has to work that night, he misses Christmas dinner. L
uckily, this year he got Christmas Day off. I am so grateful to all our emergency services people who are working holidays, while we enjoy ourselves. The ER, no matter the day or time, must deal with patients who are hurting, panicked and worried. I am in awe of people like my son David and so proud of him. 

Fortunately, this year, we were able to reward him with our traditional Christmas brunch, our love for him (and each other) always there in the background and then, later that evening, a lovely dinner....together.

Now that the wrappings are all stowed away, we are perusing our new books, trying to figure out various electronics, admiring new clothes and polishing off leftovers, I often feel the need for quick and light dinners the week following Christmas. Company is still here and we do have to eat, after all. Faith from An Edible Mosaic came up with the perfect answer. It seems like a summer dish, but you can adapt the recipe no matter where you live. I increased the corn (use frozen corn if you need to) and use any veggies you want, but it was perfect just the way Faith made it. 

Thank you Faith! I've been making it on a regular basis!

Vegetable Fritters
Ever so slightly adapted from An Edible Mosaic

1 medium zucchini, diced small (about 2 c diced)
2-3 ears cooked corn, cut of the cob (about 1 cup corn or more and you can use frozen)
3 spring onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced (reserve 2 TB of the thinly sliced green parts)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream (or use low-fat)
1/4 cup plain yogurt ( I use Fage, and low-fat if you prefer)
1/4 tsp seasoning salt
Canola oil ( I used a tiny bit of butter and olive oil)

Preheat the oven to 200F.
In a small bowl, toss together the zucchini, corn, spring onions, flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Stir in the beaten eggs just until combined.
Pour enough oil into a large skillet to generously coat the bottom. Heat the skillet over medium to medium-high heat, then drop the vegetable batter by the rounded tablespoonful into the hot oil and cook until golden brown on both sides, flipping once (about 5 minutes per side). Turn the heat down if the fritters start to brown too quickly.
Once the fritters are cooked, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil, then transfer them to a baking sheet and keep them in warm the oven until all the fritters are made. Repeat this process until all the batter is gone.
In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, yogurt, seasoned salt, and 1 TB sliced spring onion greens.
Serve the fritters garnished with the sour cream mixture and the remaining 1 TB of sliced spring onion greens.
Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main.


A Simple Holiday Salad: Heirloom Tomatoes and Burrata Cheese

Our Garden Club had their annual Christmas party last weekend. We each bring something and they buy a filet of beef at the market. Everyone prefers to bring appetizers and desserts (of course), so I thought I'd choose to bring a salad. I noticed someone else was doing tossed so I wanted to think up something different.

My daughter Tracy said: why not serve burrata cheese and some heirloom tomatoes, simply tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette? A super idea and I had just had something similar at Michael's in Miami Beach during the Art Basel Miami show the first week of December. (The second biggest contemporary art show in the world; the biggest being the one in Basel, Switzerland in June.) Tracy had a booth in the show so I was back and forth quite a bit that week. AND she also had the salad at Michael's, hence the idea.

Now, I'm sure you know all about burrata, but in case you don't: it's a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outside is firm like mozzarella and the inside, which contains both mozzarella and cream, is very soft. It's served at room temperature. The name "burrata" means "buttered" in Italian and that is the literal truth: you cut into it and it's like butter inside! Michael's served it whole in the center of a plate with the heirloom tomatoes all around it. It made such a pretty presentation and then I thought I'd scatter some basil around to complete the Christmas colors.

I'm trying to keep this nice and easy as we're all so busy this week. So no recipe here today, just make a simple vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar (I added a touch of fresh garlic), toss the tomatoes in it and sprinkle a little olive oil on the cheese. Easy as can be, lovely and light, and burrata is divine.

Heirloom Tomatoes and Burrata Cheese with Balsamic Vinaigrette


Roast Beef Hash, Ornaments and a Christmas Meme!

I've been making this rather unusual hash for years. Any time we have leftover steak or roast beef, my family loves this dish. Simple to put together, comforting and you can use that tender beef in a casserole instead of sandwiches, or when everyone gets tired of sandwiches. We love the red wine in it and while it bakes, it gets a little crunchy on top. Give it a good stir and all that lovely gravy in the bottom will coat everything.

Haven't a clue where this recipe came from....could have been a friend or even in a magazine back in the 70's. If anyone knows, let me know. I wish I had been more thorough when I entered this kind of recipe in my MasterCook program years ago.

Roast Beef Hash

4 cups diced roast beef
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups diced, cooked potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons chopped onions
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon savory
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons soy sauce


Mix onion and garlic with herbs and saute in butter.  Add potatoes and brown slighty. Add all other ingredients and pour into casserole. Bake 350 for 30 minutes.


Frozen Grand Marnier Mousse

What are you having for dessert on Christmas Day? We're having an absolutely ambrosial Grand Marnier Mousse!

An old family favorite, it's one of my Maida Heatter recipes, no ice cream churn required. You can make it ahead, freeze it and once frozen, cover tightly. It will keep in the freezer for a month and you can use it right out of the freezer with no last minute attention. It doesn't freeze hard and it's simple enough to make (although it sure uses a lot of bowls).

It's a light mousse,  sprinkled with a mixture of Grand Marnier and macaroon crumbs. In the last photo, you can see the texture. I like to serve it in mini souffle dishes or any pretty dish that is freezer-proof. This recipe makes 12 portions.

Frozen Grand Marnier Mousse
From Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts

Macaroon mixture:


6 ounces Amaretti cookies( to make 1 1/4 cups crumbs)
2 tablesooons orange juice (grate the rind before squeezing and reserve)
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Grind the macaroons in your processor.
In a small bowl, mix the orange juice and Grand Marnier. Add the crumbs and mix thoroughly. Set aside.


5 eggs
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Finely grated rind of 1 large deep-colored orange (see above)
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 cups heavy cream
pinch salt

Beat the yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until pale and thick.

Mix the grated rind and the Grand Marnier. Remove the yolk mixture from the beater and stir in the grated rind mixture. Set aside.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip the cream until it holds a shape but is not stiff. Set aside.

Add the salt to the whites and beat until the whites hold a soft shape. Gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and the beat on high until they are stiff and dry.

Fold together the egg mixture, the whipped cream and the egg whites. folding it all together handling lightly until mixtures are barely blended.

Line up your 12 souffle dishes and spoon half the mixture into the cups. With your fingers, sprinkle about half the macaroon mixture. Top with the remaining mousse mixture (do not smooth the tops) and finish with the remaining macaroon mixture.

Place in the freezer until they are cold enough to be covered. About an hour.
Cover each with plastic wrap, careful not to smush the top. You can freeze overnight or up to 3-4 weeks. Serve directly from the freezer.


Standing Rib Roast with Morel Sauce

My FIL loved roast beef. (When the kids were little, they used to tease him: "What are we having for dinner, Buck?" And he'd say: "Roast Barf." *screams and laughter all around* )

My father was no slouch in the roast beef department either. Mother served it every Christmas Eve and one of his favorite restaurants, Dante's in Ft. Lauderdale (now defunct), served it as a special every Saturday night. You can imagine where the two of them (and sometimes the rest of us) had dinner every single Saturday, can't you?

Now it's never been something I made regularly. But when I made it for Dad, I made that old never-fail recipe from the Make It Now, Bake It Later cookbooks, where it sat in an oven for hours after a bit of high heat. And now that both those lovely men are gone, I haven't made it once. I'm going to rectify that right now. Vegetarians, you may want to shut your eyes, say hello and pass on by my blog today. Because there's a big slab of rare BEEF coming up.

This is yet another recipe I found in Fine Cooking magazine. A salt/herb encrusted roast. I'd never done it before. Sound complicated? It wasn't and the results were as tender as can be. My only suggestion: I wish I had browned it a little more before I put the salted dough on. So if you decide to try this, sear your roast nicely on all three sides. And once you take the crust off (yes, it actually comes off in one piece) wipe some of the salt off the roast.

As for this divine sauce, I know morels are really expensive, so use any wild mushrooms you have available; it's a lovely accompaniment for the beef. I happened to have some dried morels in the pantry so I used them. I used to make a horseradish sauce with roast beef, but this mushroom sauce beats it hands down. And if you have any leftover, make an omelet with it. Oh My. So good. 

Herb and Salt-crusted Standing Rib Roast with Morel Sauce
From Fine Cooking Magazine,  Make-ahead Holidays



2 cups kosher or sea salt
1 large egg white
3 T. freshly ground black pepper
3 T. chopped fresh thyme, stems included
2 T. chopped juniper berries
2 T. chopped garlic
1 T. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 to 3 cups flour plus more for rolling
1 standing beef rib roast, about 7 lbs., or 3 ribs, cut from loin end, chine bone and fat cap removed
1 T. vegetable oil
Morel sauce, go HERE 


In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix 1 cup water with the salt, egg white, pepper, thyme, juniper, garlic and parsley. Mix on medium speed until blended. On medium low speed, mix in 2 cups of the flour, adding more as needed, until dough is firm and feels slightly dry and stiff, like Play Doh. Continue to mix for 2 minutes. The dough should be smooth and firm but not sticky. Add more flour if needed. Flatten dough into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

An hour before you’re ready to roast, put beef on counter and let sit at room temperature.

Position rack in center of oven and heat oven to 350.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Pour in oil and put the roast, meat side down, in skillet; sear until deeply browned, about 5 minutes. Remove roast from pan and set it, bone side down on rack in roasting pan.

On lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Drape the dough over meat, tucking in on all sides.

Roast until an instant read thermometer in middle of roast registers 125 for rare or 135 for medium rare, 1 and 3/4 to 2 and 1/4 hours. Let rest for 20 minutes, then remove and discard crust. 
After removing crust, roast can rest for up to another 30 minutes. Carve and serve with Morel Sauce.


Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies, Week 10: Peppermint Meringue Cups

Did you happen to see these on the last page of Martha Stewart's Living December issue? That magazine always has a fun holiday recipe like this...last year I made those white chocolate covered mint cookies. This year, these adorable peppermint cups. Let me be honest here: I'm not the least bit adept with a pastry bag so really wasn't certain I could manage these little melt-in-your-mouth gems. And when I referred back to the photo in the magazine, I noticed theirs were less red than mine. So if you're going to try them, don't paint your red line in the pastry bag as thickly as I did. Unless you like them with as much red as this.

All in all, these were wonderful. The peppermint taste is just right, the ganache perfect and they are the perfect holiday treat to pop in your mouth. Such fun!

Mini Peppermint-Meringue Cups with Ganache
From Martha Stewart Living Magazine, December 2010

vegetable oil cooking spray
3 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
red gel-paste food coloring
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
garnish: 1 candy cane, crushed

Preheat oven to 175° . (Mine registers no lower than 200°, but it worked fine.)Trace 16 circles onto each of 2 pieces of parchment paper, using a 1 and 3/4 inch round cookie cutter, spacing about 2 inches apart. Coat 2 baking pans with the cooking spray and top each with the parchment paper, traced side down.

Heat the egg whites and the sugar in a mixer bowl over simmering water until sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 3 minutes.
Transfer bowl to mixer and beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in the peppermint extract.

Using a small food-safe paint brush, paint three stripes of the red food coloring on the inside of a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch plain round tip.

Transfer the meringue to the pastry bag and pipe coils to fill the traced circle. The pipe in the sides to create a 3/4 to 1 inch cup.

Bake until meringue cups are crisp but not browned, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

Put the chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream to a simmer and add to the chocolate. Allow to stand for a couple minutes, then stir to dissolve the chocolate. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap, cut a small slit in the top and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour to one hour and 15 minutes. (I got side-tracked and left mine too long, but microwaved it until it softened enough to put in the pastry bag.

Stir the ganache, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch open star tip. Pipe ganache into the meringue cups. Garnish with the crushed peppermint stick.
Makes 32.


Orange Ice Cream with Dried Cherries and Toasted Pecans AND a Kitchen Remodeling

OK. I promise...no more ice cream recipes until next spring. But this is such a super one for the holidays I couldn't resist posting just one more. I think I actually might like this one better than the cranberry ice cream!

This ice cream is boozey, chewy and crunchy all in one bite. Very much in tune with the holidays. It doesn't make much so if you have a bigger churn than I do, double the recipe. Trust me, you're going to need every bite. But don't make it too far in advance of serving, because the men in your family will keep dipping into it with a spoon. Speaking from experience here guys. Luckily, it doesn't freeze hard so you can make it ahead.

Holiday Orange Ice Cream

From Fine Cooking, Holiday Issue

2 medium navel oranges
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
large pinch of salt
1/4 cup skim milk powder (I didn’t have any so eliminated it)
5 large egg yolks
1/2 a vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 tablespoons Cointreau
3/4 cup toasted pecans, broken up slightly

Toast the pecans. Set aside.

Soak the cherries in the orange juice and cointreau for a few hours until soft.

Pare off the peel (not getting any pith) of the oranges. Set aside.

Fill a saucepan half way with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Combine the cream, milk, sugars, salt, skim milk and skim milk powder, egg yolks, vanilla bean and orange zest in a glass bowl and set it over the simmering water. Stir the mixture constantly until it reaches between 165 and 180 degrees. Test with a candy thermometer and keep the temperature in that range for 10-15 minutes. The mixture will thicken somewhat.
Cool over an ice bath until it is cool, or 65 degrees. Add the vanilla. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.When you are ready to freeze the ice cream, pour it through a sieve to remove the orange peel and vanilla bean. Add half the cherries and ALL of the excess soaking liquid. (I squeezed the cherries to get most of the liquid out.) Freeze according to manufacturers instructions and when the mixture is semisolid (like a stiff cake batter), add the remaining cherries and the pecans. Continue until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Pour into a covered plastic or steel container and freeze.


A Kitchen Remodel

Penny over at Lake Lure Cottage thought it would be fun to peek into our kitchens. And because I did a complete remodel 4 years ago, I thought it would be fun to join in. She has chosen December 1st as the date to post so be sure to check in with her tomorrow. You'll love seeing what everyone else has done. 

My home is mostly blues and whites with lots of antiques. We thought it would be a nice contrast to make the kitchen very contemporary. Most of the photographs were taken professionally for a magazine right after it was finished. I still can't figure out why the cabinets looked so white in their photos; do they really like kitchens to look cold and uninviting?  It's really a warm room, with lots of family activity and messy cooking!

The final two photos I took more recently. The kitchen's end wall leads to a laundry room and is filled with  souvenirs from different Caribbean islands. I think the wall adds warmth to the kitchen and gives you a better idea of the true cabinet color, which is more a soft cream than white. And of course now, my cookbook shelf is jammed with books and notice the ceramic morel mushroooms; I have an ongoing love affair with morels and found these years ago in northern Michigan.
My kitchen hasn't looked so pristine since that first day!


On a very sad note, the paintings and painted objects on the back walls were mostly done by a local island artisan and friend named Matthew Paul who resided on St. Lucia. He and his family of 6 lived at the base of a small mountain and had a little gallery there. Their home was not very sturdy and the gallery was little more than a lean-to. My children and I have collected a great deal of his art over the years; it has always held a special charm for us.

We just found out that Matthew and his family were killed in a landslide during Hurricane Tomas which recently hit several Caribbean islands. St. Lucia was quite badly hit and there was a great deal of damage. The six of them were the only fatalities on the island. Can you imagine? Matthew was in the middle of doing one of his spectacular wall murals for Anse Chastanet, a resort we visit often. The owner tells me they will leave the unfinished mural as is.

A small section of Matthew's gallery....and my daughter, shopping. Don't you love the bright colors in his art work?



Lobster and Mango Cocktail

Black Friday has arrived...which always makes me sit up and take notice: the Christmas holidays are upon us. The Christmas trees have filled the lots on main street and the stores, bless them, have had their holiday decorations up since Halloween. It's that time, my friends....of good cheer, carol singing, happy children's faces and candy canes.

So, even before the turkey leftovers have disappeared, are you planning your next holiday meal? At least on paper? I am. I'm an inveterate list-maker. My Christmas list has been made for months and I'm nearly done. I like to finish early... no panic shopping for me.... so I can kick back and enjoy the sparkling tree lights, wrap gifts with care, cook with love, share egg nog with friends, help the less fortunate children among us with the Spirit of Giving Network, remembering what Christmas really means and taking time to enjoy the holiday.

I'm really looking forward to everyone's postings for the next few weeks...I just know you're all going to be chock full of great holiday ideas. I hope you can discover an idea or two here that will help with your planning as well.

Here's an elegant starter for a sit-down holiday dinner. I normally use lobster, but don't see any reason why you couldn't substitute shrimp or crab. I've never really cared for the Cognac addition (so unlike me!), but do a little taste test for yourself and  decide. I debated about using rum instead. Next time, perhaps. It has all those lovely Caribbean flavors, doesn't it?  Also, try to find a nice sweet mango. If it's unavailable where you live, you could try melon. Lots of possibilities with this appetizer.

Lobster and Mango Cocktail
From Gourmet Magazine, June 1992

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons Cognac (optional)
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
four 1 1/2-pound live lobsters (I used lobster tails)
3 firm-ripe mangoes
1 cup finely diced celery
4 whole Belgian endives plus 12 leaves for garnish
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives plus 24 whole chives for garnish

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, the yogurt, the Cognac, the ketchup, the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and chill sauce, covered. Plunge the lobsters into a large kettle of boiling salted water and boil them, covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer the lobsters with tongs to a bowl and let them cool until they can be handled. Crack the shells, remove the meat, and cut it into 3/4-inch pieces. Transfer the lobster meat to a large bowl and chill it, covered. The lobster cocktail may be prepared up to this point 1 day in advance.

Halve the mangoes by cutting just to the sides of each pit and, using a 3/4-inch melon-ball cutter, scoop the flesh from the mango halves. (There should be about 2 cups.) To the lobster meat add the mango balls, the celery, the whole endives, trimmed and sliced thin crosswise, the minced chives, and the sauce and toss mixture until it is combined. Divide the lobster mixture among 12 chilled small glasses and garnish each serving with 1 of the endive leaves and 2 of the whole chives.
Serves 12.


Just Awesome: A Random Act of Culture

A few weeks ago, shoppers at the Macy's in Philadelphia (the old Wanamaker building) were surprised when over 600 choristers who were there mingling with regular shoppers suddenly burst into Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. It was truly amazing.

The Opera Company of Philadelphia was instrumental in bringing it together to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "1000 Random Acts of Culture" which they'll be doing over the next three years across the country. Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the singers burst into song at exactly noon.

Please take the time to watch.....


Nana's Potatoes

I'm offering you an apology in advance...this recipe is downright dangerous. Fattening as all get out and all carbs. OMG! But it's worth every bite. And aren't we supposed to splurge over holidays? It's expected, yes?

So here it is in all its glory: my mother-in-law's holiday potatoes. Better than mashed. Better than scalloped. Just better period.

You can either hand grate (takes a strong arm) or use your food processor's grating attachment. Remember, my MIL made these back in the days when there were no processors. You only need three ingredients...all bad. Potatoes, whipping cream and butter. Yes, I said butter; but just a dotting. It's a long slow bake in the oven with a stir once in a while. But when it somes out....dreams are made of potatoes like this.

Forgive me, please. Only once a year do I dare make this.....

Nana's Holiday Potatoes

6 baking potatoes
salt and pepper
2 or 3 cups heavy whipping cream


Peel and grate the potatoes. Place them in a LARGE buttered casserole. You will find everything overflowing half way through if it's not big enough. Look at the photo below, it spilled over and the raw potatoes only filled about half way up. Besides, you need room to give this a big complete stir every so often. Be sure to put a piece of tin foil under the casserole.

Dot with butter and season with salt and pepper. Stir. Pour in heavy whipping cream stirring until it seeps down through the casserole- you should see a slight layer of cream on the top. Bake in a 300 oven for 2 hours. Check frequently, stirring thoroughly and adding more cream to keep it moist. Serves 8-10.


Creamy Baked Leeks

Does everyone like a side of creamed onions on Thanksgiving? It always seems to be on the menu, doesn't it?  Truthfully, it's never been a favorite of mine. Then I ran across this recipe in a magazine called Fine Cooking which I (accidentally) picked up a couple weeks ago. It was chock full of great ideas for the holidays; I bookmarked a bunch and am going to make several of them during the next couple months. And here was the answer to my creamed onion dilema: creamy baked leeks.

I've always liked leeks because they seem to whisper onion rather than yell it. So I decided to give this recipe a pre-Thanksgiving try to see if I wanted to serve it to guests. We found them delicious; they are definitely going on my menu!  And you can get the leeks cut, trimmed, rinsed and in the pan a few hours in advance. Just boil the cream and add just before baking. This recipe serves about 6 or so, depending on how large your leeks are; you may have to increase the recipe. Mine were not very big ( I saw some huge leeks yesterday, a couple days too late!) and I should have either used a smaller pan, or bought more leeks. They are supposed to be crowded in the pan.

Creamy Baked Leeks
From Fine Cooking Magazine, Make-ahead Holidays


1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt
8 medium-large leeks, ideally with several inches of white
2 teaspoons lightly chopped fresh thyme
1 cup heavy cream
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 piece of parchment paper

Heat oven to 350° F.  Butter a 10 by 15 inch baking dish and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bottom.

Cut the dark green portion and all but 1 inch of the light green off the top of the leeks. Discard any tough or damaged outer leaves. Trim the ends by cutting the roots, but leaving a bit of the bases intact to hold the leeks together. Cut each leek in half lengthwise and rinse under cold water, fanning the layers to make certain all the dirt is removed. Pat dry and place cut side down in the baking dish. They should fit snugly. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
At this point you can refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Heat the cream and garlic to a rolling boil, watching carefully so it doesn't overflow. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Pour the garlic and cream mixture over the leeks and cover with a piece of parchment paper, cut to fit the inside of the baking dish.

Bake until the thickest part of the leek is fork-tender and the cream is nearly all reduced, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano and some black pepper. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes.
Transfer leeks to a warm serving platter.


Zimtsterne: Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies.....Week 7

There's no point in telling you these cookies were simple to make. They weren't. But they ARE a true European Christmas cookie; interesting, frustrating,  unusual and yes, tasted wonderful, but will I make them again? Well....maybe. And compared with some of the other photos I found online of these, all I can say is: I had a bad baking AND camera day. Oh well, I'm going to post this anyway. They were worth the trouble.

First of all, 
Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, The Many Meals of Rose Bakery is a gem of a cookbook.

And that's where I found this recipe...they called it Almond, Cinnamon and Meringue Biscuits. But what they really are is Zimtsterne, or erstesternen ("first stars"), a reference to the heavenly signs indicating the end of a fast day. They are traditionally served by German Jews at the meal following Yom Kippur. You can read more about them
here, here and here. European bakeries make them only during the holidays, rather like my mother's favorite Christmas cookie, Springerle. And they are usually made in star shape. I made them round. For one thing, I didn't have a small star cookie cutter and for another working those star points with that dough and meringue was beyond me. Perhaps with practice.....

This is what David Lebovitz says about them (and he doesn't make his own, he buys them):
"There’s just something about these chewy little stars, spiced with lots of cinnamon, then brushed with a glaze of royal icing that provides just the right bit of creamy sweetness in contrast to the chewy cookie below."

So here's the thing. The dough is difficult to work with and I made two different batches, correcting the original recipe a little to make it slightly easier to work with. Still....not the easiest cookie dough to roll out. But as I said, after the first bite, it was worth the effort!
Bench note: many recipes call for 1/2 cup candied citrus peel which I omitted 'cause I just don't like it.


Adapted from Breakfast Lunch Tea, The Many Meals of Rose Bakery

3 1/3 cups ground almonds (I used almond flour)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
juice of 1/2 lemon and grated zest of 1 lemon
4 egg whites
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted


First, make the meringue. Beat the whites until they form stiff peaks. Then very gradually add the sugar. When the mixture is very stiff, beat in the lemon juice. Set aside 6 ounces of the meringue for the topping, covering with a damp cloth. Place the rest in a bowl.
 Add the ground almonds, cinnamon and lemon zest and mix by hand. Mix until you have a dough-like paste. If it is too sticky to handle, add more ground almonds, by the tablespoon, until it is manageable. If the dough crumbles or falls apart, add a few drops of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the reserved egg whites. When the dough has reached the proper consistency refrigerate for one hour.
 Butter a baking tray and line it with parchment paper.
 Then dust a pastry board lightly with granulated sugar. Shape the dough into a flat round and dust the surface lightly with sugar. Roll the dough out into a rectangle 3/8 inch thick. Add more sugar on the board as necessary.
 Cut into desired shapes and place on the baking tray.
 Remove the cloth from the reserved egg whites. Use a metal spatula to smooth an even coating of the meringue over the entire surface of your cookie, just enough to cover it completely with white. To smooth the surface further, dip the spatula in hot water and run it across the glaze.
 Leave to dry on the prepared tray for about an hour.
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes until the bases are lightly golden. The tops should remain white and the bases must be soft and moist. And BTW? Keeping the tops from  browning is another tricky part!

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)


Cranberry Ice Cream

Every once in a while, a recipe makes me close my eyes and say Mmmmmmm. This is one of those times.  The flavor and color, the hint of honey, the tanginess of cranberries and would you believe there is brown sugar in this ice cream?? Words cannot describe. Not too sweet, tart and divine.

Interestingly, this recipe uses gelatin as an ingredient. After some investigation, I discovered gelatin assists in absorbing some of the free water in the ice cream and helps prevent the formation of large crystals. It also gives substance or a less watery taste when the ice cream is consumed.

So, this is the last of my Maida Heatter ice cream recipes for this season (I may sneak in someone else's though)...pretty soon I'll have you all putting her books on your wish list. But let me warn you, there aren't that many ice cream recipes in them....just a few in each book. Which makes them all the rarer. Maida's choosey. But her other recipes are worth their weight in gold; fortunately, Amazon is a great source for used books.

You don't need to serve a thing with this ice cream. I did briefly consider dumping in some dark mini chocolate chips at the end of churning (which I may try the next time I make it) but for the holidays, I wanted that pure red color and just a sprig of green mint. Thanksgiving or Christmas, you decide. It's perfect after a heavy meal.

Cranberry Ice Cream

From Maida Heatter's Great Book of New Desserts

2 pounds (about 10 cups) cranberries, fresh or frozen
2 cups water
2 cups orange juice
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup cold water
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup honey
2 cups heavy cream

Wash, pick over and drain the berries. Place them in a large saucepan with the water and orange juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little. Then process in a processor or blender. Press the mixture through a large stainer into a large bowl. Set aside.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water, set aside.

Bring the corn syrup and the 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a saucepan. Boil gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Add the brown sugar, stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and add the honey, stirring to dissolve everything.

Mix this mixture into the cranberry mixture and set aside to cool. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. You can also chill it quickly in the freezer.

When you are ready to churn, Whip the heavy whipping cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until it slightly holds a shape. Fold the cream thoroughly into the cranberry mixture and churn.

*Bench notes: This makes enough for a 4 quart churn. Mine is not that big so I cut the recipe in half.
This ice cream will stay semi-firm for several hours after putting it in the freezer. Maida likes it best at this consistancy. I don't. I froze it overnight.


Grateful Pudding (and giveaway winners)

Don't you love the name of this pudding? It's almost worth making just to announce it to your Thanksgiving guests! My family really enjoys plum pudding after a turkey dinner, so they had quite a surprise when I served a light rather than dark steamed pudding last time. Fortunately, they were crazy about it. I have some of my grandmother's old pudding molds- but this is the shape I like best. And it just fits perfectly in my soup pot for steaming.

This holiday pudding is a Martha Stewart recipe from her old cookbook Entertaining. An amazingly simple recipe (although you have to prepare the fruit by soaking overnight) and it's done in about an hour. I kind of like the traditional idea of a steamed pudding for Thanksgiving. Martha suggests using her sour lemon sauce and it's excellent with this pudding. Everyone enjoyed the tart lemon flavor (especially my dad) of this sauce. But you could make my mother's caramel brandy sauce- which would be good too-that recipe is HERE.

Grateful Pudding
From Martha Stewart's Entertaining


1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup muscat raisins
1/4 cup cognac
6 cups white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2 in squares (I used challah)
3 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean
6 eggs
1 lemon

1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon mace

For the lemon sauce

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch

dash salt

1 1/4 cups hot water
3 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons grated lemon rind


Grate the rind of one lemon and soak the raisins with the cognac and the rind overnight. Drain.
Butter and sprinkle with sugar a 2 qt. covered mold including the inside of the lid.
Layer the bread alternating with the raisins. Scald the cream with the vanilla bean and cool slightly. Remove bean, scrape out the seeds and put back in the milk. Beat eggs and sugar until light and gradually pour in the cream. Add the mace and pour over the bread.
Secure lid and steam for 1 hour on a rack in a covered kettle with water 2/3 up the side of the mold.
Unmold pudding carefully and serve with sauce. Serves 8-10. You don't need big servings...this is quite rich.

Method for the lemon sauce:

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a double boiler. Add hot water and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until thick. Add butter, lemon juice and rind. Cook a little longer.

And here are the lucky Cookbook Giveaway Winners. I used the random number generator to pick  four and then if possible, tried to give you the cookbooks you requested.

Then first winner is Donna from My Tasty Treasures . She won the Rose Levy Beranbaum cookie cookbook.

The second winner is Dana from The Kitchen Witch. She won Maida Heatter's Chocolate cookbook.

The third winner is Lea Ann from Mangos Chili and Z.    She won Dorie's book.

 The final winner is Susan from Schnitzel and the Trout.   She won Nigella's book.

Congratulations to all of you! Please email your mailing information to bsmithw@gmail.com so I can mail your cookbook out ASAP!


Pumpkin Ice Cream with Gingerbread Croutons

We're all fans of David Lebovitz and The Perfect Scoop, but Maida Heatter has some divine ice cream recipes in her many cookbooks too. I know I've mentioned she is my dessert guru. (Her chocolate cookbook is part of my giveaway.) I'm going to post a couple of her ice cream recipes this holiday season.

Let's start with pumpkin. This ice cream tastes like pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream, only frozen. And just to make it a touch more unusual, I made some gingerbread croutons. (Maida has a fabulous gingerbread recipe; please find it HERE.) I just cut some gingerbread cubes, dried them out in the oven and then melted a little butter and threw them in. Toss them around lightly until they get crunchy. You'll love them with this ice cream.

You DO need an ice cream maker. (I cut this recipe in half as my ice cream maker is not big enough to handle the whole recipe.)

Pumpkin Ice Cream
From Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts

6 egg yolks
1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin ( about half a one pound can of solid-pack pumpkin; do not use pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
4 cups heavy cream

In an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are pale, thick and creamy.
Place the pumpkin in the top half of a large double boiler. Add the beaten egg yolks, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Place over the hot water on moderate heat.
Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom with a rubber spatula for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Remove and set aside, stirring occasionally, until cooled. (Or you can set the double boiler top in a bowl of ice and water and stir constantly until cold.)
In a large chilled bowl with chilled beaters, beat the whipping cream until it holds a soft shape. If you beat it too much, it will taste buttery and not creamy.
Fold into the pumpkin mixture. I put it in the fridge for a few hours, but Maida says it is cold enough to freeze right then.
Freeze according to manufacturers directions.

(And be sure to check out my cookbook giveaway in the last post! Winners will be announced on November 5th.)


A Giveaway!

There's a lot to celebrate in October!

First  I want to wish all of you a fun and scary Halloween!

Second, I have been blogging two years this month. It went by in flash, didn't it?  So fast, I even forgot to celebrate my first year blogging last year! So to celebrate this blogoversay, I'm going to have a giveaway. Four fabulous cookbooks for four fabulous readers!
Drum roll, please....

How about that? Isn't this a super giveaway? Maida Heatter....Rose Levy Beranbaum.....Nigella.....and Dorie!

To win one of these lovely cookbooks, just leave a comment letting me know which cookbook is one you've always wanted and if you become a follower, you'll get two entries! (Please leave a separate comment for each.) And make certain I have your email address.
Have a lovely holiday week. 
I'll announce the winners on November 5th.


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