Peppermint-Chocolate Layered Dessert

This uses three ingredients.  Now that’s a quick dessert.  However, it does need to spend some time in the freezer.
So, please, begin this the night before your event, in order to let this freeze solid.

Ingredients
One 14 oz. package chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreo type)
1/2 cube (4 ounces) melted butter
One 1-1/2 quart container of peppermint ice cream

Preparation

Prepare the pan by lightly greasing the bottom only of a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Fold a length of parchment paper in half, creasing well.  Use that crease to center the parchment paper, then smooth out, letting the paper overhang the long edges by about 2-3.”  Set aside.

I’m crushing them more!

Put all the cookies into a zipper plastic bag, OR into a bowl OR into your food processor (easiest).  Crush them thoroughly, or if you have a food processor, pulse until the texture of fine gravel, or chunky sand.  The crumbs should be small, with no obvious big chunks of cookie.

Reserve one cup of the this pulverized mixture for the crumble topping, and if it’s not really fine, do some more crushing.  Set aside.

Place the remainder of the crushed cookies into a mixing bowl, and add 1/4 cup melted butter.  (I like the real thing.)  Mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan, and press firmly with the back of a spoon to even out the crushed cookies.  Place in freezer until solid, about 2 hours.

Set out one carton of ice cream on the counter for about 15 minutes, or until the carton yields slightly when squeezed.  Dump (squirt, sort of ) into a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle beater, let sit for about another 10 minutes.  Turn on mixer slowly, then up to medium, while you beat the ice cream into a creamy mixture.  If you don’t have a mixer with a paddle attachment, use a bowl and a sturdy spoon.  You don’t want the mixture to melt; it should be creamy, not runny.  Work fast if you are doing it by hand.

Spoon it out onto the frozen layer of crushed cookie in glops; spread evenly.

Sprinkle with the reserved cookie crumbs, and refreeze.  It will take at least four to six hours for the ice cream to freeze properly.

Why the overhanging parchment paper?  When you are ready to serve, lift it out onto a board, cut with a knife, then replace remainder back into the pan. Store dessert in the freezer, either with the lid to your 9 x 13, or with foil.  (This is shown just before it received its crumb topping.)

Pork Tenderloin wrapped in Prosciutto


Pork:
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
4 teaspoons herbes de Provence
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
16 thin slices prosciutto (Italian bacon; about 4 ounces)

Preparation
Stir rosemary, herbes de Provence, and oil in a small bowl. Rub all over pork; season with salt and pepper. Wrap prosciutto slices around pork and tie at 2″ intervals with kitchen twine to hold together. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

To make life easier, I spread out a length of wax paper, cut five piece of twine, and laid them out like railroad tracks.  I laid out the prosciutto in an area that I thought might match the length of the pork loin, plus double the width.  I placed the herbed meat on top of the prosciuttio, then brought the string up and tied it, which wrapped the prosciutto into place.  We flipped them over when we placed them in a lidded container, which we then put into the refrigerator overnight.

Spray a broiler pan with cooking spray (don’t forget the bottom of the pan that catches the drippings), place the pork loin on top.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of each loin registers 145 F.  Tent and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Transfer tenderloins to a cutting board, slice thinly and serve with plum chutney, or cranberry sauce.

NOTE: If using a charcoal grill, build a medium-hot fire; push coals over to 1 side of grill. If using a gas grill, heat all but 1 burner to high. Grill tenderloins over hot part of grill, turning frequently, until a crisp brown crust forms on all sides, 8-10 minutes. Move tenderloins to cooler part of grill to gently cook through; cover and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of each loin registers 145°F, 15-20 minutes longer.

Cranberry Curd Pie

I first saw this on the New York Times website, then saw it again on the Bon Appetit website, then about a bajillion other bot-driven websites (all looking the same, all “authored” by a single-named woman, who promised hearth and home and happiness while inundating the viewer with ads-ads-ads).  What is it with these robot websites??

I read about 90% of the comments on the NYTimes recipe site pertaining to this recipe, and have incorporated my changes below.  This pie is gluten-free because I wanted to make it for a woman at my church who can’t eat gluten, and has not had a dessert at a church dinner in a millenia.  This is my holiday gift to her, and to you.  First, the recipe, then the photos (reverse of the usual).

Cranberry Curd Pie

Almond Crust
2 cups almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
Place in medium bowl, stir to mix (or use food processor).

Cut in 6 Tablespoons of softened butter, until crumbs are fine, and you can gather the dough together in your hands.  If too dry, add 1-2 Tablespoons water, a bit at a time.  Press dough evenly into a 10-inch tart pan with removeable bottom; use half the dough for the sides and half for the bottom.  Prick all over with a fork.  Tear off a piece of aluminum foil the size of the tart pan, and butter the dull side.  Press onto your tart butter-side down; freeze for at least 30 minutes.  This can be made a couple of days ahead.  Just make sure the aluminum foil seals the tart well. (photos below)

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chilled tart shell with the foil into the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully take off the foil.  Finish baking for another 5 minutes.  Cool.

Cranberry Curd Filling
12 ounces cranberries, washed and picked over (almost 2 cups)
1 cup sugar
Peel of one orange, removed with a vegetable peeler, in strips (then rip into about 2″ pieces)
Juice of one orange, or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1-1/2 Teaspoons cornstarch
4 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, softened

Put cranberries, sugar, orange juice and peel in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, and liquid has diminished, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove orange peels.  Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until berries are not noticeable in the pan.

Set a medium mesh sieve over a bowl, and spoon the cranberry mixture into the sieve, pressing it into the bowl. (See note below about what remains in the sieve.)

Wash the pan (or get another).  Break in the two eggs, then add in the two egg yolks.  Stir to break up yolks.  Stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons (1/2 Tablespoon) cornstarch until blended.  You may see some white bumps; ignore.

Spoon cranberry puree into the yolk mixture.  Set over low heat, and constantly whisking/stirring, bring mixture to a temperature of between 140 and 160.  The commenters noted that when properly cooked, the curd should coat a spoon.  This took me about 15 minutes.  I did keep it constantly stirring, but I wasn’t beating it.  I didn’t want to incorporate any air into the mixture and disrupt the anticipated color.

Remove from heat, and stir in the butter a bit at a time, whisking well in between each addition.  Again, don’t incorporate air in your mixing.  Let cool to room temperature (mine was a little warmer), and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, in order to set the curd.  Cool on a rack.  Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Sugared Cranberries for topping

Boil together 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water until mixture is at a full boil and looks clear.  If you have time, let the syrup cool.
Wash and pick out your best handful of berries (3/4 to 1 cup), and stir into the syrup, making sure they are well coated.  Remove to a fine rack (or into a strainer).

Sprinkle some sugar onto a square of waxed paper, and sprinkle some more over the top.  Then roll the berries in the sugar.  If they are well-drained, you won’t get clumps of sugar, but a nice, even coating.  Let cool and dry, then decorate the top.  I meant to clip some mint sprigs to place at the center berries; you might want to consider this.

Cooks Notes:

After all was said and done, I had about 1/2 cup left of the cranberry mash in my sieve from making the curd.  This went nicely with a slice of Cranberry-Orange Bread that I had in the freezer, as it’s like a jam. Store in the refrigerator.

If using the almond crust, best eaten on the day you make it.
Day One: it was perfection.
Day Two: crust was really soft, but curd was still good.

Alternate crust: Sweet Tart Dough (more like a shortbread cookie)

Curd can made be ahead.  Cover curd with plastic wrap (pressing it against the surface of the curd) and refrigerate up to one week.

Now the photos!

Roasted Root Vegetables (for Christmas Dinner)

vegetables before roasting

Roasted Root Vegetables

12 – 13 cups red potatoes chunks (4 lbs.)
6 cups sliced carrots (2 lbs.)
8 cups chopped onions (4 medium – about 2 lbs.)
2 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. melted butter

Cut up the vegetables (and photo, above):

  • Scrub potatoes.  Leave skins on but cut off any bad spots. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise again and slice once crossways.  (If a potato is unusually large or small, adjust cuts accordingly.) In other words, you’ll end up with 8 chunks per average size potato.
  • Peel carrots.  Trim small end on the diagonal.  Cut each carrot on the diagonal about 1 1/2” long and about ¾” wide. (Do not include the top end.)
  • Peel onions.  Cut each in half lengthwise.  Cut each half lengthwise two or three times so that the cuts are about 1” apart.  Cut these pieces across into about 1” pieces.  Don’t worry.  These will all cook down.

Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and toss together along with melted butter,  olive oil and seasonings.

Meanwhile, place two large rimmed baking sheets in oven and preheat to 450F.  When oven is ready, remove baking sheets and spread half of vegetable mixture onto each one. (NOTE: If the vegetables are too crowded, they will steam, not roast.  Please give them room.)

Use a pancake turner or wide spatula to turn vegetables over and mix around about every 15 minutes for about an hour until nicely browned.  Switch the top pan to the lower rack and the bottom pan to the lower rack about midway to promote even browning.  Some of the onion pieces may get quite dark.  Don’t worry about.  It adds flavor and an earthy look.

Cover the pans with foil or combine the batches into one container to deliver to the church kitchen by 5:45 p.m..  From there we will combine all of the contributions into roaster ovens to keep warm. Please take your own pans to your car to take home to wash.

Thank you!

Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

1 ½ – 2 pounds brussels sprouts
¼ cup olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon (or 10 grinds) black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
½ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To prepare the brussels sprouts, remove any yellow or brown outer leaves, cut off the stems and cut in half.
In a large bowl, toss the brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Once all of the brussels sprouts are coated in oil, spread them into a 9-by-13-inch (or larger) baking dish or sheet tray to roast. Note: You may want to line your sheet tray with foil for easy cleanup because the caramelizing process leaves a sticky residue.
After 15 minutes, stir the brussels sprouts with a spatula or large spoon to even out the browning. After 30 minutes, stir in the maple syrup. Continue to roast the brussels sprouts for about 15 more minutes, or until they are fork tender (about 45 minutes total roasting time).  Toss the roasted brussels sprouts with the hazelnuts and devour!

NOTE: If your sprouts are on the smallish side, they may need less time overall.  Cook only until fork tender.

To toast hazelnuts, place in pan over low heat, tossing or stirring frequently so they don’t burn.  They should let off a fragrance when they are toasted, in probably no more than 5 minutes total time.

Carrot Cauliflower Soup with Miso

It’s fall, so anything fall-colored seems to make its way to the menu, and that means a new recipe.  While this has been published in several places, I read about it in the New York Times where it goes by the name of Lemony Carrot Cauliflower Soup, and is a recipe by the talented Melissa Clark.  But I didn’t think the amount of lemon in it (added at the end) warranted an inclusion in the title, although it is a necessary ingredient.

One of the more unusual ingredients is white miso, an item I’d never used.  In doing some internet reading, I found there were two main kinds: white miso and red. Apparently white miso has rice as the main ingredient.  It’s kind of a paste, easily scooped out with a spoon.

I bought some at the local grocery store, but it didn’t say whether it was red or white (the green label container).  So I searched online for “Asian food stores” and found a little convenience mart near me (who knew?) and called.  They had it. The website I read said the difference was how much rice it had (circled, above) but both of them seemed to have rice listed as the first ingredient, but I used the slightly lighter one on the left.  It is not a pronounced flavor, but it adds a depth to the soup, giving it a more “rounded” flavor than just carrots and cauliflower.  I will save the low-sodium miso for another use, as apparently they keep forever. There are recipes everywhere, once you start looking.

I have a spice grinder, but after toasting the coriander seeds, I went old-school and put them in a ziploc bag and crushed them with a food mallet.

I read through many of the comments and decided to make it as written, with the exception of using chicken broth as the base (original calls for water).  But the comments were right: it needs a bit of a flavor boost.  While Clark indicated adding cilantro, I would add more of the spices to the soup itself (rather than just a garnish at the end), and perhaps add some rotisserie chicken from the big box store.

We served it with crostini, and ended up throwing them in, to absorb the soup and fall apart into big soggy delicious chunks.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
1 large white onion, peeled and diced (2 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 medium carrots (1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
3 tablespoons white miso
1 small (or half of a large) head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
½ teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste
Smoky chile powder, for serving [note: I didn’t have this, so used smoked paprika and chili powder as a substitute]
Coarse sea salt, for serving
Cilantro leaves, for serving

Preparation
Toast coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes, swirly often to keep them from burning. Coarsely crush.

In a large, heavy pot, add the oil and heat until warm. Stir in chopped onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly colored, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add carrots, crushed coriander, salt and 6 cups chicken broth to the pot. Stir in the miso until it dissolves (I was hesitant at first and only used half, but use the full amount). Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, you can let soup cool slightly then purée it in batches in a food processor or blender.) If necessary, return the puréed soup to the heat to warm through.

Stir in the lemon zest and juice just before serving. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, sea salt and cilantro leaves.

[Note: I added a wave of the paprika and a half-wave of chili powder to the soup, as well as the salt before serving.  We also garnished with the spices and the olive oil.  My favorite was using my lime-flavored olive oil, purchased from a local shop near me.]

Texas Sheet Cake

Since this is one of those recipes that my mother gave to me, probably about thirty-five years ago, you can imagine my disgust when a famous cowboy-cookbook-authoress put it in one of her cookbooks and claimed it as her own.  I don’t even think she was born when this started making the rounds.

In an article in Texas Monthly, Courteney Bond writes that “Texans clearly have a proprietary interest in the enormous rectangle of thin, flat chocolate cake slathered in deliciously sugary, pecan-studded chocolate icing. But what exactly makes it a “Texas” sheet cake? Some say it’s simply because the cake is huge. Others maintain it’s because it’s flamboyantly rich. Still others point to the addition of Texas-y ingredients like buttermilk and pecans, or to the fact that the recipe is similar to one submitted to the Dallas Morning News in 1957 that subsequently swept the country.”  You can trace the timeline of this treat here, or have a look at the full range of the Food Timeline, tracing more treats.

The proportions may vary slightly.  Some use walnuts instead of pecans (it doesn’t really matter to my way of thinking), but all recipes include buttermilk and cocoa.  Yield: 1 half-sheet-cake pan (about 15″ by 10″), in less time than it takes to drive to the big box store and pick up a cake.

Here you can see the difference between the Dutch-process cocoa and regular cocoa powder. I think the taste difference is dramatic (think more chocolatey and rich).

Grease a half-sheet-cake pan: 15 1/2″ by 10 1/2″ by 1″  This is also known as a “rimmed cookie sheet.” [Note: some say to flour it too, but I never have.]

Sift into bowl:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
2 cups sugar

Bring to boil:
2 stick butter or margarine
4 Tablespoons cocoa (I like using Dutch-processed cocoa the best)
1 cup water

Pour boiling liquids over dry ingredients and stir.

Add:
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

After cake comes out of oven, bring to boil:
1 stick butter
4 Tablespoons cocoa

Mix in: 6 Tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 -1/2 cups chopped nuts, pecan or walnuts

Combine and pour on slightly-cooled cake, spreading to cover evenly.

Cheesecake Diamonds – or – Squares

Mom used to make these long ago, and recently I had cause to resurrect them from the recipe graveyard.  Yes, they are really 1980-ish, but yes, they are really good.  I’ve updated the recipe to our more modern methods.

Cheesecake Diamonds, 9 x 13 pan (quantity can be halved)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor place:
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup walnuts
Process until walnuts are small bits, but still recognizable.  Melt 10 Tablespoons butter, then, with food processor running, pour melted butter into flour mixture, letting it mix about 20 seconds.  Don’t overmix–you want it to remain kind of loose.  Pour this out into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Scoop out 1 full cup of this topping and reserve.  Press the remainder down firmly and evenly into pan.  Bake for 12-15 minutes in hot oven.  [NOTE: if using a glass pan, set oven temperature to 325.]

In a separate bowl, mix together:
2 softened 8-ounce packages cream cheese (I use Trader Joe’s), and 1 cup granulated sugar until creamy.

Add:
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup milk (4 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat well. Spread over baked bottom crust (crust doesn’t need to cool).

To reserved topping, add 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, mix.  Sprinkle over the filling.  Return to the oven and bake 25 minutes more.  Cool, then cut into diamonds or squares. Keep refridgerated.

To cut into diamonds, make parallel cuts the length of the pan.  Then cut across them at a 45 degree angle, forming diamonds.  There will be odd-shaped pieces in the corners: Cook’s taste!

Store in refridgerator.

(You know how to cut into squares.)

Christmas Eve Bolognese Sauce

For several years in a row, our children came home for Christmas and every Christmas Eve we’d make a batch of home-made pasta.  Of course good pasta needs a good sauce, so here’s my recipe.

I make this is two parts: one is the “Bolognese” part, made with a carrot, a celery stalk and the leanest ground beef you can find, then simmered slowly.  The other part is made from high-quality canned tomatoes, simmered with minced garlic with added basil and olive oil.  If you have a vegan, like we did one year, then this second sauce will work for them.

I combine the two sauces as we like our Bolognese sauce to resemble the one we ate in Bologna in 2012, at the Eataly store (shown above with a tagliatelle noodle).

This recipe serves about 8-10; half it if desired.

Part I–Bolognese Meat Sauce (adapted from Phaidon’s Silver Spoon cookbook)
6 Tablespoons real butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 to 1-1/2 pounds of ground steak, or lean hamburger in the 90% lean category
3 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
water
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large flat pan, add olive oil.  Add the vegetables and the meat and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well and cook over low heat for a few minutes until the vegetables have softened and the meat begins to brown.  Dilute the tomato paste with a little bit of water, and add to the pan, stirring well to distribute.

Cover and cook over a very low heat for 1-1/2 hours, adding a little water if the sauce appears to be drying out.

Part II–Tomato Sauce
2 cans high-quality Italian Peeled Tomatoes.  I use both of the above, but Cento is preferred.
5-6 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, then minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Put the tomatoes with can juice in a pan and add the minced garlic, the sugar and a sprinkling of salt (shown above).  Cover and cook over a very low heat for thirty minutes without stirring.

Using a potato masher, crush the tomatoes, stir and let cook another fifteen minutes.

If you are using only the Tomato Sauce, at the end of cooking, swirl in about 2-3 Tablespoons high quality olive oil and 15 fresh basil leaves, torn.  You can omit this if you are proceeding to step III.

Part III–Combine

Combine the Bolognese Sauce and the Tomato Sauce and use.

I find it best to make this a day ahead to let the flavors blend.

Combined Sauces

Gingerbread Cookies

I was visiting Matthew’s house at Christmastime, when we decided to rustle up a batch of Gingerbread Cookies, for eating and for sharing.  I found this recipe online at the King Arthur Flour website, and they all turned out so well I wanted to put it up here (I own the King Arthur cookbook).  We made a few modifications for ease in preparation, which I’ve incorporated into the recipe below.

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice or cloves
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Instructions
In a large mixing bowl, place the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and spices.  Melt the butter in a microwave, and add to the sugar/molasses mixture.  Beat in the egg.

Whisk the baking powder, soda and flour together, then to the molasses mixture about a quarter at a time.

Place the dough in a gallon-sized quart bag, shape it into a flat disk, zip closed, and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer. The dough may be sticky and hard to roll if not thoroughly chilled, so make sure it’s cold before continuing.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get out several baking sheets; line with parchment parchment paper.

Once the dough has chilled, take one-half of the dough out of the refrigerator.  I always use a floured pastry cloth and a stockinette on the rolling pin, but if you don’t have this, work on a well-floured surface, and roll the dough 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick; the thinner you roll the dough, the crispier the cookies will be.

Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, cutting them as close to one another as possible to minimize waste.  Roll scraps into a ball, and re-roll and cut out again.

Transfer the cookies to prepared cookie sheets. Bake the cookies just until they’re slightly brown around the edges 8 to 10 minutes, or until they feel firm. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for several minutes, or until they’re set. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Cook’s Note: We doubled this with no troubles at all, but worked with only 1/4 of the dough at a time, keeping the rest refrigerated.