Month: April 2010

Anise-Almond Biscotti

 - by Elizabeth

When we went to Drew and Lisa’s wedding in March of 2010 we enjoyed their cookie table, a traditional touch for those from Philadelphia (the groom is from that city).

We fell in love with these cookies, so I looked for a recipe for them.  I ended up combining two: one from the website Epicurious and one from the Cookies & Biscotti cookbook by Williams-Sonoma.

Ingredients
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1  and 1/4 cups sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons aniseed, ground or crushed
1 Tablespoon lemon rind (optional)
1 cup whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped

Preparation
Crush or grind the anise seed.  Here’s my high-tech version: an old kitchen mallet that has been used for playdoh creations for 20 years and two zip-loc bags.

Toast the almonds, then chop.  And here’s the toasting the almonds business–some do it in a pan on top of the stove, but I’ve burned them too many times.  So I do it under broiler–this also works for when you make Butternut Crunch Toffee at Christmastime.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In mixer, mix sugar, melted butter, 3 eggs, vanilla extract, lemon rind and ground aniseed. In another bowl, sift (or stir together) flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl.  Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir on low speed, scraping when needed until well blended. (Yes, I know I did it backwards–I fixed it for you.) Mix in almonds.

Glop half of the dough onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Dough is kind of gooey–so I used my spatula to shape each dough half into 13 1/2-inch-long, 2 1/2-inch-wide log. Mine got a little wide, so the final biscotti were a little flat.  Remember that, when you shape them.  Space the logs 2-3 inches apart.

Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 30 minutes. They should be firm to the touch. Cool logs completely on sheet on rack, about 20 minutes. I dragged mine over onto a baking rack by using the edge of the paper, and tilting the cookie sheet a little bit.  Don’t turn off the oven!

Transfer logs to work surface; discard parchment paper. Using serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices.  I used to lay them down, like those in the above photo, but now I just stand them up:

biscotti

If you do it this way, you don’t have to turn them over, and you can get it all on one baking sheet.  Bake 10-14 minutes.

Transfer to rack and cool. These can be prepared 1 week ahead of your Big Party. Store in airtight container at room temperature, that is if they last that long.  These have a melt in your mouth crispness that are typical of homemade biscotti.

I’ll never go back to store-bought again.

Note: One interesting thing about the Epicurious website is the community, and their many comments.  From those, I gleaned that some have changed this by adding 1 Tbs. orange zest, cranberries, chocolate.  Some say okay not to crush the seeds. Others say to substitute 1 tsp. anise extract.

Asparagus Belgique

 - by Elizabeth

This Easter I had a desire for simple supper on Easter Sunday, that would be followed by a more traditional meal the next day when my husband returned from his traveling. I had picked up some fresh asparagus at the store–only the green variety was stocked, but the white is also delicious–and decided that this would be just the ticket.  One year when traveling in Belgium, a friend took us to her country club where white asparagus was in season.  It was served simply, with crumbled hard-boiled egg and a light vinaigrette over the top, served with a side of greens and a garnish of lemons and tomato wedges.  I hoped to recreate that.

Ingredients:

asparagus spears, white or green, approximately 3/4 pound (one bundle)
2 hard-boiled eggs
a good quality vinaigrette if store bought, or use Lemon Vinaigrette if you have time to make it

Wash the spears, then snap them near the bottoms to remove the woody part.  Place them in a pan with about 1/4 to 1/2″ of water, and cover.  Steam them, shaking occasionally.  Don’t let them get too done–check by inserting a knife tip in the lower portion and when it slides out easily, it’s done.  Turn off the heat and prop the lid slightly so the spears don’t discolor.

This should be a good way to use up those dyed Easter eggs, but mine are just plain.  Peel the eggs, then cut them into ribbons by slicing first one way then the other in an egg slicer.  In the photo from Belgium, the eggs are crumbled, but this way will do fine.

Photo is slightly out of focus, I know, but I was hungry and in a hurry.  I think Brianna’s French Vinaigrette is a good substitute for the homemade vinaigrette if you like.

You know what to do from here.  Lay the asparagus onto your plate, scoop out some of the egg, then drizzle with the vinaigrette and enjoy!

Carrots and Snap Peas

 - by Elizabeth

This is my go-to recipe in springtime when I need a quick but delicious vegetable side dish.  First printed in Bon Appetit last year, I made my own changes to it which I present below.  Below  I show it with Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce.

Notice how I never say the word “veggies.”  It’s the equivalent of fingernails on the chalkboard for me–a real spine-grabber of an irritant.  (I just realized how dated the image of “fingernails on the chalkboard” is since most people now only encounter plastic whiteboards on the walls of their classrooms.  Oh well–that cliche stands.)

At the grocery store, select three long, slender carrots.  Three makes enough for the two of us, so adjust your quantites accordingly.

Buy a bag of snap peas from the produce department.  Ours are about 8 ounces per package, roughly.

Peel the carrots, then cut into “nickel” slices.

Dump them into a pot of boiling salted water and set the timer for 2 (two) minutes.

When the timer goes off, dump in the snap peas and set the timer for 3 (three) minutes.

When that timer goes off, scoop them from the boiling water and put into an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Drain the water as you will use the hot pot in the next step.  (You could also drain the vegetables into a colander and then put them into the ice bath, but work quickly.)

In the hot pot, melt 1 tablespoon of real butter.  Meanwhile, drain the vegetables, and pat dry if desired (I don’t.)  Add the vegetables to the butter along with 1 tablespoon of snipped fresh mint and 1 tablespoon of snipped fresh tarragon leaves.  Toss with a bit of salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Lamb Chops with Mint Chimichurri

 - by Elizabeth

I had two Easters this year.  One was quiet by choice: a day of reflection and quiet, without family or friends (my husband was traveling).  I ate a simple meal of Asparagus Belgique and spent it recharging my batteries.  But the other Easter happened the day after the holiday, when my husband was home and we had our celebratory meal, complete with chocolate bunnies for dessert.

I wanted an easy meal that could be cooked up quickly, yet one that incorporated some traditional Easter ingredients.  I found this online on Epicurious, a recipe from Gourment Magazine, November 2009 by Paul Grimes.  They write: “Here, the sunny warmth of mint escapes the sweet-jelly cliché to find new expression in the thick Argentinean herb sauce called chimichurri. Its bright acidity cuts the lush richness of lamb shoulder chops.”  Okay, that’s food writing for you.  But I loved the sauce, cutting run-away mint sprigs from my garden to use.  I made a couple of changes to the original recipe which are reflected below in the process.  I served it with fingerling potatoes and a mix of Carrots and Snap Peas, also with some mint from my garden.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Active Time: 10 min
Total Time: 20 min

Ingredients for lamb chops:

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 (1-inch-thick) lamb shoulder chops

Ingredients for mint chimichurri:

1 to 2 garlic cloves
2 cups flat-leaf parsley including trimmed stems (sometimes called Italian parsley)
2 cups mint including trimmed stems
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation

Preheat broiler.

Stir together cinnamon and 1 and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl, then rub over chops. Broil in a 4-sided sheet pan 3 to 4 inches from heat, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes total for medium-rare.

Note: At first I didn’t understand this direction, but then realized they just didn’t want you to put it on a rack.  So I sprayed the bottom of the broiler pan with non-stick spray goo and broiled them in there.  I don’t like too rare of meat–just medium to medium rare, so I cooked them a little longer, perhaps 6 minutes each side, for a total of 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, make chimichurri:

With motor running, drop garlic into food processor and finely chop. Add remaining sauce ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pulse until herbs are finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl.

Serve chops drizzled with a little chimichurri and serve peas and remaining chimichurri on the side.  I liked it on the potatoes, as sometimes fingerlings can be a little dry, I think.