Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots {FFwD}

The final December recipe that I made for French Fridays with Dorie was a simple, delicious side dish — spiced carrots. This recipe came together very quickly. The ingredients list is rather short — butter, onion, garlic, ginger, cardamom, carrots, chicken broth, salt, and pepper.

I began by sautéing the vegetables in butter, then added the carrots and chicken broth. After bringing the broth to the boil, I simmered the carrots for about 15 minutes, until they were tender.

I turned up the heat and boiled the broth until it had almost all evaporated. What was left was a deliciously concentrated glaze for the carrots.

I served the carrots with beef daube. Both were a bit hit.

The carrots were well-spiced but not overly so. In fact, the flavor was milder than I expected. They seemed almost underseasoned at first, but as I continued to eat them with the beef daube, I realized they were the perfect side dish. Flavorful in their own right, but not so much that they overshadowed the main dish.

Yet another success from Around My French Table. And yet another Dorie Greenspan recipe tha will be a regular feature on my table.

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Spinach Tart {Bake!}

KayteMargaret, and I have been taking turns picking recipes from Nick Malgieri‘s newest book, Bake!. It was Kayte’s turn to pick a recipe, and she chose was one that I had tasted before. Last October, I was fortunate enough to meet Nick Malgieri and take two classes from him at a local cooking school. And his spinach and bacon tart was the first recipe from his new book that we tried.

Kayte, Margaret, and I usually make the recipes “together” via a Twitterbake, but our schedules just didn’t jive this time, so we each made the tart on our own. I made it for dinner on a recent weekday evening when my parents were in town. By the time I got home from work, my sous chef (aka, Mom) had done my mise en place for me, cooking and draining the spinach and measuring out the remaining ingredients. This made the recipe, which is fairly simple anyway, come together very quickly.

After sautéing onions in oil, I added the spinach (I omitted the bacon from the recipe), then stirred in the spices. In addition to the salt, pepper, and nutmeg called for by the recipe, I included a few drops of liquid smoke to emulate the bacon flavor a bit. I added cream, cheese, and eggs, then poured the custard into the tart crust Mom had prepared.

I baked the tart at 375°F for about 35 minutes, cooled it in the pan for a few minutes, then removed it from the tart pan and put in on a serving plate.

The tart was delicious. Not too eggy, the balance of the spinach and spices was perfect. Even my kids, who sometimes turn their noses up at both spinach and quiche-like dishes, really liked it.

This was a quick, easy dish that I could throw together on a work night, even without a sous chef. But I may just wait until Mom’s back in town to make it again.

My Go-to Beef Daube {FFwD}

As Dorie Greenspan notes in Around My French Table, every chef needs a great beef stew recipe in his or her apron pocket. So this week’s entry for French Fridays with Dorie is her — and now my — go-to beef daube.

The recipe begins with beef chuck, which I cut into chunks somewhat larger than I would normally use for stew. With the beef cubed and the rest of my mise en place set up, I was ready to cook.

If you are familiar with Dorie’s recipe, you may notice a few omissions from my mise en place. First, there’s no bacon. I don’t eat pork, and I don’t like turkey bacon (“facon”), so I left the bacon out. Also missing from my mise are carrots. I decided to make Dorie’s spiced butter-glazed carrots to eat with the daube, so I omitted the carrots from the stew.

I began by browning the beef in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. I was careful not to crowd the pot, as I wanted the meat to brown, not steam.

After browning the beef, I sautéed onions and shallots in oil for a few minutes, tossed in garlic and parsnips, then added brandy to deglaze the pan. I returned the beef to the pan, added a fresh herb bouquet garni, and poured in an entire bottle of Shiraz.

After bringing the wine to a boil, I covered the pot with foil, put the lid on, and put the whole thing in the oven. I braised the daube for an hour, then took it out to give it a stir.

I recovered the pot, then returned it to the oven for another 1 1/2 hours. At this point, the meat was fork-tender, and the whole dish tasted delicious. It was hearty, and the wine gave it a deep, rich flavor.

Having grown up in the Midwest, where beef is king, I can safely say this is the best beef stew I have ever tasted. Rich and flavorful, without being too heavy, this could replace the Sunday pot roast on any table, especially served with Dorie’s glazed carrots.

I know it will be making regular appearances on mine.

Filled Ham & Cheese Focaccia {ModBak}

The final recipe in the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge is another focaccia. What differentiates this recipe from the other focaccia recipes in this section (besides a distinct lack of anchovies) is that this focaccia is filled, rather than topped.

As with the other focaccia and pizza recipes, this one starts with Dough for Thick-Crusted Pizza and Focaccia. However, rather than pressing the dough into the pan after it ferments, you dump the dough out onto a floured board and press it into a rectangle. Ham and cheese are then layered on half the dough. The recipe calls for prosciutto, but I had deli sliced ham on hand, so that’s what I used, along with Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I sprinkled on a little black pepper, then folded the dough over the topping and pressed to seal it.

I gently lifted the dough onto the pan, then pressed it out to fill the pan. I covered the pan and allowed the dough to rise for an hour. Then I uncovered the dough and dimpled it with the tips of my fingers. I drizzled a little olive oil on the top of the dough, then sprinkled on a little fleur de sel to finish it off.

I baked the focaccia in a 400°F oven for about 30 minutes, until the dough was dry and beginning to brown. I cooled the focaccia on the pan for about 10 minutes, then removed it to a cutting board. I cut and served it directly from the board, which gave it a nice, rustic appearance.

You may have noticed a lack of pictures on this post, as well as the absence of a description of the flavor of the finished product. I made this focaccia on the day of my daughter’s birthday party, while I was preparing half-a-dozen other dishes, so the thought of snapping photos never even crossed my mind.

As for not describing the taste, that’s because I didn’t try it. Not that it didn’t look and smell delicious. It’s just that I don’t eat pork. But everyone else enjoyed it and compared it to a really good hot ham and cheese sandwich. When it came time to pack up the leftovers (and there were plenty), there was no focaccia to be found. But I was asked to bring it to our next family gathering.

Winter in Cleveland

Like many northerners, Clevelanders love to complain about the weather. But this week, we saw something that surprised even us.

The Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse looked like this:

Yeah, that’s ice. Lots of ice. Completely covering the lighthouse. The wind blew water from the lake onto the lighthouse while temperatures were in the teens for almost two weeks. You’ll note that the cold didn’t deter the birds. Nor did it keep us inside. Sure, we complain about the weather. But it doesn’t slow us down.

So, when you want to complain about your weather, remember, it could be worse. You could live in Cleveland.

Leek and Potato Soup {FFwD}

This week for French Fridays with Dorie, I made Leek and Potato Soup. This soup is simple, delicious, versatile, and comforting. It’s easy to throw together — once you chop some onions, garlic, leeks, and a potato, all you have to do is put it all together. There are quite a few variations suggested in the recipe, and you could easily come up with many more, making this a great recipe to have in your repertoire, as the possibilities are endless.

This soup is perfect for wintry weather days, but it can also be served cold in the spring or summer. And it can be served chunky, smooth, or somewhere in between. If you can’t find a variation of this soup that you like, you don’t like soup.

To assemble the soup, I began by cooking onion, shallots (my addition), and garlic in butter over low heat. I added leeks, potato, thyme, sage, chicken broth, and milk, and seasoned with salt and white pepper.

I brought the soup to a boil, lowered the heat, covered the pan partway, and simmered the soup for 40 minutes, until the vegetables were soft. I decided to purée the soup in the pot with my immersion blender. I left a few chunks in it, but for the most part, it was smooth.

After ladling the soup into a bowl, I topped it with freshly ground black pepper and white truffle oil and served it with Irish brown bread made with Irish wholemeal flour from King Arthur Flour.

This soup is easy enough to make on a busy weeknight, versatile enough that you can probably make it with ingredients you have on hand, and so delicious that you will want to make it again and again.

Nonna’s Pizza {ModBak}

Here’s another recipe from The Modern Baker that starts with Nick Malgieri’s recipe for Focaccia and Thick-Crusted Pizza Dough. This is a simple and delicious pizza that will please just about everyone.

While the crust was on its final rise, I prepared the toppings. The recipe calls for fresh or canned whole tomatoes. All I had on hand was Red Pack chopped tomatoes, so I drained them well and used them. I dimpled the top of the dough with my fingers and spread on the tomatoes. Then I added mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheeses, sliced garlic, and fresh oregano. Finally, I drizzled a little olive oil on the top.

I baked the pizza at 425°F for about 30 minutes, until the cheese was melted and the topping had begun to brown.

This pizza was delicious — very flavorful, not too spicy. It’s not as cheesy as American pizza, which allows the other flavors to come through.

This is another versatile recipe. Once you learn how to make the dough for the crust, the topping possibilities are endless. And once you taste it, you’ll want to try them all.

Virtual Cookie Exchange — Cranberry Pumpkin Biscotti & Gingerbread Biscotti {Recipe}

 

OK, I have a confession to make. I have been slow, make that very slow, to get into the holiday spirit this year. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been sick around here. Maybe it’s the thought of gearing up for another tax season. Maybe it’s the weather. But whatever the reason (his heart, or his shoes), I’ve been a bit of a Grinch so far this Christmas. In fact, if it weren’t for the kids, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have bothered putting up the tree.

But put up the tree we did. And about the time I was starting to get into the spirit — adorning the house with all of the Christmas decorations, old and new, and listening to Christmas music on the radio — I got an e-mail from Di over at Di’s Kitchen Notebook inviting me to participate in a Virtual Cookie Exchange. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cooking and baking bloggers, it’s that they’re a sociable and creative lot. So even though I had no idea what a “virtual” cookie exchange was, I knew it would be fun.

The set up was simple: we would all pick a cookie recipe — a family favorite, something we’ve been wanting to try, or even a new recipe we’re working on — bake it, snap some pictures, and post the recipe on our blogs on the same date (December 13). I signed up right away, even though I had no idea what I would bake.

As it turns out, I decided to make two recipes, one that I had made before and another one that I have had in mind for a while but haven’t tried to make yet. And to make it even more fun,  a bunch of the people in the cookie exchange decided to Twitterbake our cookies together the other day. So, with one recipe in hand and the other in mind, I hit the kitchen at the designated time and started baking.

The first recipe I made was the one I was inventing — Cranberry Pumpkin Biscotti. I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to make them, so I started with a rough outline of a recipe and took notes as I put it together. They came out really well. This is a recipe I’m happy to share, and one I will be making for years to come.

Cranberry Pumpkin Biscotti

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup solid-pack canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup whole fresh cranberries
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2.  Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and spice in a large bowl and set aside.

3.  Put eggs in bowl of electric mixer.  Beat at medium speed until lemony in color, about one minute.  Add pumpkin, butter, and vanilla and mix on low speed to combine.

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in three additions, mixing well on low speed after each addition.  Add cranberries and pecans.  Stir into dough with mixer or by hand.

5.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Lightly flour your hands.  Shape the dough into a log.  Divide log into two pieces with a bench scraper and roll each piece into a log about 15 x 2 inches.   Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet a few inches apart.  Flatten the logs so the tops are even.

6.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until tops are golden brown and firm to the touch.  (It’s OK if they seem a little underbaked at this point.  In fact, it’s better to underbake them then overbake or they will crumble when you cut them.)  Remove from oven and place logs on a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.

7.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

8.  After the logs have cooled, transfer each to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.  Don’t push down as you cut; let the knife do the work.  Place the slices cut side down on a baking sheet.

9.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until biscotti are dry.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Yield: about 3 dozen biscotti

Shaped and flattened logs

 

After first bake

Sliced and ready for second bake

Et voila!

The second recipe I made was one I have made before. I don’t remember where I got the original recipe (online somewhere), but I’ve tinkered with it enough to call it my own.

Gingerbread Biscotti

Gingerbread Biscotti

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole raw almonds

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2.  In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  Measure the butter and molasses into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until light, about one minute.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  The batter may appear separated at this point. That’s fine. It will come together as soon as the flour is added. 

4.  Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture on low speed in three additions, mixing well after each addition.  Gently stir in the almonds with mixer or spoon.

5.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Lightly flour your hands.  Shape the dough into a log.  Divide log into two pieces and roll each piece into a log about 15 x 2 inches.   Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet a few inches apart.  Flatten the logs so the tops are even.

6.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until tops are firm to the touch. Remove from oven and place logs on a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.

7.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

8.  After the logs have cooled, transfer each to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.  Place the slices cut side down on a baking sheet.

9.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until biscotti are dry.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Yield: about 3 dozen biscotti

Tip:  After adding butter to mixer bowl, use butter wrapper to grease measuring cup so molasses will release from cup without sticking.

Check out the roundup over at Di’s site to see what everyone else is baking. And if you try the biscotti, let me know what you think.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Focaccia alla Barese: Apulian Onion, Anchovy, & Olive Focaccia {ModBak}

Now that I’ve found an easy, tasty, and reliable focaccia dough, I have enjoyed trying new focaccia and pizza recipes, like this recipe from The Modern Baker. Like the Sfincione that I made recently, the Focaccia alla Barese is part of the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge. And like the Sfincione, this recipe featured anchovies, so I knew I would be eating it alone.

After making the dough, and while it was on its final rise, I made the topping. I began by sautéing onion in olive oil, then adding chopped anchovies. I seasoned with pepper (no salt, as the anchovies were salty enough on their own).

I stirred in the olives, then put the topping in the fridge to chill for a few minutes. While the onion mixture was cooling, I prepared the crust by dimpling the top with my fingers. Then I spread the topping on the crust, dusted the focaccia with the barest sprinkling of sea salt, and drizzled it with olive oil.

I baked the focaccia at 425°F for 30 minutes, until the dough was well-risen and the topping had begun to dry.

I let the focaccia cool for a few minutes on the pan, then moved it to a cutting board to finish cooling. I cut the focaccia into squares to serve.

The Focaccia alla Barese was savory and delicious. The anchovies and olives blended well and gave it a salty, yet slightly sweet flavor.

Although I enjoyed this focaccia immensely, I have to take exception with something Nick Malgieri says about it in the side note to the recipe. Nick states that the anchovies “melt into the topping and add a pleasant note of saltiness, but no stong fishy taste.” While I wouldn’t call this focaccia overly fishy tasting, you can definitely tell it has anchovies on it. And if you’re not an anchovy lover, this isn’t the dish to make a convert out of you.

But if you like anchovies, you will love this focaccia.

Speculoos {FFwD}

This week for French Fridays with Dorie I chose Speculoos — sweet, spicy, crispy cookies that beg to be dipped in coffee and are perfect for Christmas.

The dough is sweetened with granulated and brown sugars. The spiciness comes from ginger, cloves, and a healthy dose of cinnamon. After mixing the dough, I divided it in half and patted one piece into a rough circle, which I then rolled between two pieces of waxed paper.

I rolled out the other half of the dough and then put both sheets of dough into the refrigerator. The recipe says to chill the dough for at least three hours. I made the dough on Sunday and baked it on Tuesday. It held up well (the recipe says it will keep in the refrigerator for three days), although it did dry out a bit. I reread the recipe and noted that, while the recipe itself only mentions wrapping the dough in plastic wrap to freeze it, the sidebar says to wrap it if you’re going to keep it in the fridge for a few days, too. I also found that the waxed paper on top of and between the sheets of dough stuck to them a bit, and the dough had to be handled very gently as it had a tendency to crack.

Dorie uses a 1 1/4-inch round scalloped cutter to cut her Speculoos. The smallest cutter I had was 1 1/2 inches, which was still very small.

I cut out a pan of cookies and let my daughter cut out a few gingerbread people with the rest of the dough.

There is gingerbread dough in the fridge, and we will most likely bake and decorate Christmas cookies this weekend, so I didn’t bother gathering and rerolling the dough. One pan of Speculoos seemed like enough.

I baked the cookies in a 350°F oven for about 11 minutes, just a bit longer than the recipe says to bake them. They smelled really good baking, almost like a cinnamon-scented candle. I let the Speculoos cool for a few minutes before sampling them. They were delicious. The cinnamon flavor was prominent but not overpowering. You could easily change the taste of these cookies by altering the kind or amount of spices. Had I added more ginger and less cinnamon, they would have tasted like crisp gingerbread cookies.

These cookies are perfect for dunking in coffee or tea. And cut into small circles, they would be perfect for a holiday party.

I enjoyed making and eating these cookies, and only wish that I had rerolled the scraps of dough to make more of them.

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