Donabe

A light, refreshing and delicious soup. I add a little bit of sriracha sauce to liven it up, but my husband liked it just as it was, although we agree that this should be salted to taste (in other words, add more). According to the New York Times, from where I adapted this recipe, donabe refers to the clay pot in which it is cooked as it keeps the soup hot longer. My enameled cast iron pot did just fine.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and halved
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick strips
  •  Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 ounces tender mushrooms, such as maitake, beech or enoki, or a combination, stemmed and broken into large clusters
  • 6 ounces napa cabbage, chopped into 2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 6 ounces daikon, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick 
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup ponzu
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • Chinese wide noodles, cooked according to package directions, then drained

PREPARATION

  1. In a large Dutch oven, combine broth, garlic and ginger. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and add to pot. Bring to a boil over high, skimming the foam and fat that rises to the top and discarding it. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, occasionally stirring and skimming, until foam no longer appears in the broth, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add mushrooms, cabbage, daikon, scallions and carrot to the pot, arranging them in sections, and season with salt. Cover and simmer over medium to medium-low heat (maintain a good simmer, but do not boil) until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard ginger. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine ponzu, sesame oil and a tiny pinch of red pepper flakes, and mix well.
  4. Also meanwhile, cook your noodles. We liked the version shown below.
  5. Divide donabe among four bowls. Drizzle with some of the ponzu sauce and serve warm.

The noodles were first put in the bottom and the soup was ladled over it. This donabe is even better the next day, we think. We have also developed an affinity for daikon radishes, that when cooked remind us of a cross between a mild radish, a turnip, and a potato.

Cacio e Pepe


I first had this dish when my husband and I went to Eataly in Los Angeles. The first entreé was way too salty, so even though I never do this, I alerted the wait staff to bring something else (the waiter confided in me that they have a new chef and a lot of food was salty). So I chose this, and loved it.

We saw it in Trader Joe’s in the frozen food aisle and that was delicious, too. Then pandemic-supply-side problems hit, and we couldn’t get it. So I found three recipes, combined and came up with this. Enjoy!

Cacio e Pepe | 2-4 servings

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces dry pasta–we used Linguine Fini, from Barilla
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4- 1 cup of Pecino Romano or other hard cheese
  1. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in a pot; add salt, then bend in your pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s about two minutes before it’s tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup water (I saved about 1 1/2cups).
  2. In the meantime, in a large skillet or cookware, melt 2 Tbls. butter over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula until toasted, about 1 minute.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta to the skillet and using tongs, swirl the pasta mixture together. Add more pasta water if it looks dry.
  4. Grate the cheese finely, and add to pasta mixture a handful at a time, stirring with a set of tongs so you can lift the pasta to help it incorporate the ingredients. Add about 1/4 cup more pasta water. Cook and swirl it with tongs until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta and the pasta is al dente. (Again, if it looks dry, add more pasta water, about 2-3 Tablespoons at a time.)

This is the process photo of what it looks like in the pan.

Persian Rice-Stuffed Onions

I read about this one in the New York Times, but then went wandering onto the internet to see others. This version of riced-stuffed onions is adapted from a couple of different recipes.

Once you get the large onion boiled up and slightly cooled, the recipe is not a hard one. Leftovers are good, too. This makes about 4-6 servings.

NOTE: Two large onions are recommended, unless you are cooking for a small group. I also used a mixture of brown and white basmati rice.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large white or yellow onions.
  • 1/4 sliced almonds (I used chopped almonds as it was all I had)
  • 1/2 teaspoon loosely packed saffron, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed until water runs clear
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, or one 3″ stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (can be left out, if you want a vegetarian version)
  • 1/4 cup shelled salted pistachios, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons dried tart cherries, chopped (if you don’t have, increase the amount of golden raisins)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar

PREPARATION

  1. Bring a large deep pot of salted water to a boil. Cut off a sliver of the root end and top of an onion, then peel. Cut a lengthwise cut into each onion from the top to the root end of the onion (which will make it easier to separate the layers). Submerge it into the boiling water, reduce heat to let it simmer until the onions are softened through the middle and the layers separate easily, about 20 minutes. Sometimes mine liked to pop up, so I sometimes use a spatula at an angle or a smaller pot lid, also at an angle to keep it submerged. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees. Also meanwhile, brown the ground pork, adding some salt and pepper as it cooks. Drain if too greasy and set aside.
  3. In a dry saucepan, toast the almonds, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn. Let cool.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the saffron and lemon juice and let it sit.
  5. Separate the onion into layers; if they are stubborn, you may have to slice off a bit of the top and the bottom. On the larger outside layers, cut in half. Try to get a total of 24 layers.
  6. Finely chop any extra layers to make 1 cup. If you don’t have any extras (like me), cut up a raw onion.
  7. Heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a high-sided, 12″ ovenproof skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add chopped onion (raw or cooked) and cook, stirring occasionally until tender (approx. 3-8 minutes).
  8. Stir in rinsed rice, 2 tablespoons butter and stir until evenly coated. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, saffron-lemon juice, cinnamon, cumin, cardamon, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the liquid is just absorbed — about 3 minutes (rice will still be undercooked).
  9. Stir in toasted almonds, pistachios, raisins, cherries and parsley. If the rice mixture isn’t golden-looking enough, add 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric. Transfer rice mixture to a bowl, and wipe out pan. Coat the skillet with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil.
  10. Spoon two tablespoons of rice mixture in the center of each onion layer piece, wrap. Set aside. Repeat until all layers have been filled, or you’ve run out of rice. If you have extra rice mixture you can save it to spoon around the stuffed onions.
  11. Heat pan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, place the onions seam-side down. Let cook for 2 minutes until the bottoms have browned slightly. Add vinegar to 1 cup water and pour around the onions. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter, then sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar.
  12. Cover the pan with the lid, and transfer to the oven to bake until all liquid has been absorbed, rice is cooked through, and onions are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with oil (opt.) Serve warm.
two, side by side

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Adapted from Barb of Sweet Mac Shop

I loved the cookies from Sweet Mac Shop, but found them a tad too sweet to my tastes. So I made some adjustment to some of the measurements, but kept the interesting combination of pretzels, caramel bits and chocolate chips. I also subbed out some whole-wheat flour for the all-purpose flour for a bit chewier texture. These are hard to resist!

I buy these at Walmart.

Ingredients
1 cup butter, still a little cold, but soft
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped pretzels
1 bag Kraft Caramel Bits (11 oz)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place butter in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, then add both sugars and beat for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla and beat one more minute.

Mix together the whole wheat flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and add slowly to mixer on low speed. Add the all-purpose flour; mix just to combine.

Coarsely chop pretzels. Add chocolate, caramel, chopped pretzels to the cookie mixture and just mix until combined.  Over-mixing will break down the pretzels.

Sweet Mac Shop uses the OXO size 20 scoop to make all her cookies evenly shaped, and I did the same, scooping them out on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Pop into freezer for 10 minutes. (I store the tray of cookies in the freezer and bring them out in between to set up a new batch.)

Pull out 9 balls of dough at a time and space them on a half-sheet baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-12 minutes. 

Baclava (Baklava)

The tongue-in-cheek joke in our house is that this is known as “Elizabeth’s Award-winning dessert.” I was dating my husband at the time, and served some to him, proudly announcing that it had won a blue-ribbon at the fair. I was beaming. True to his scientific ways and analysis (in every aspect of his life), he asked, “And how many entries were there?” I pulled a face. He went on eating it. I’ll never tell how many entries in my category there were; to me it’s a blue-ribbon winner all the way.

Ingredients:
1 pound REAL butter, melted
2 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1/8 cup sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 pound filo dough (found in frozen section of grocery store, thaw in fridge before using)

Method:
Mix together nuts, sugar and cinnamon, set aside.

Brush a cookie sheet with some of the melted butter. Place one sheet of filo carefully in the pan.  Brush the sheet with melted butter.  Repeat until there are 6 layers of filo.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top of this layer.

Layer two leaves of filo on top of nuts.  Brush with butter.  Layer on 4 more sheets, one at a time, brushing each with butter.

Sprinkle 1/3 the nut mixture on top of that last layer.

Layer two leaves of filo on top of nuts.  Brush with butter.  Layer on 4 more sheets, one at a time, brushing each with butter.

Sprinkle last 1/3 nuts on top.  Repeat layering of filo until all leaves are used.  Brush top layer with butter.  With a small sharp knife, score the top of the pastry with parallel diagonal lines about 1/2-inch deep and 2 inches apart, then cross them diagonally to form diamond shapes.  Bake in the middle of  a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 300°F and bake for 45 minutes longer, or until the top is crisp and golden brown.

Meanwhile, make the syrup:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon FRESH lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and, stirring constantly, cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves. increase the heat to high and, timing it from the moment the syrup boils, cook briskly, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the honey.  Pour the syrup into a pitcher or other pouring container and set aside.

When the baclava is done, remove it from the oven and pour the syrup over it, slowly, up and down all the rows and across. Cool to room temperature, and just before serving, cut through the scored lines to the bottom of the pan, yielding diamond-shaped pieces.

Enjoy your blue-ribbon dessert!

Sticky Pecan Rolls for Christmas Morning

These are a winner, all the way around. Perfectly sticky, soft dough, just the right amount of spice all combine for a perfect Christmas morning cinnamon roll. The original recipe comes from Joy Wilson, via the Washington Post, 2020.

Sticky Pecan Rolls

    If you want a fresh-baked batch of rolls when you wake up, proceed with the recipe through the step when you place the cut rolls into the pan with the sauce. Cover the pan with lots of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, let the rolls come to room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes while you preheat the oven. Then bake as directed.

Ingredients

For the dough:
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons warm water
Scant 3 cups (360 grams) flour, plus more for dusting the counter
½ cup (120 milliliters) whole milk, at room temperature, or more as needed
⅓ cup (65 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into medium chunks

For the filling inside the pecan roll:
½ cup (99 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the sticky topping:
½ cup (120 milliliters) heavy cream
⅓ cup (113 grams) honey
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1¼ cups (125 grams) coarsely chopped pecans

Make the dough

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the yeast with the warm water until combined. Add the flour, milk, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. Using a silicone spatula, stir the mixture into a shaggy dough.

Place the bowl on the stand mixer and mix on low speed, slowly adding chunks of butter as the dough comes together. [Note: This is kind of weird, and doesn’t look as if the butter will incorporate, but it does.] If the dough looks too dry, add an additional tablespoon of milk.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead the dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand into a cohesive, relatively smooth ball, about 3 minutes.

Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

Make the filling:

While the dough rises, in a medium bowl stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt until combined. Reserve the room-temperature butter for use in assembling the sticky rolls.

Make the topping:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, honey, butter and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer gently until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans.

Generously flour a work surface and unwrap the dough onto it. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 15 inches. Spread the reserved butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling mixture on top. Starting with the long edge of the dough, lift and roll it into a tight log, seam-side down. Using a sharp knife, trim off the uneven edges. Slice the log into 9 equal pieces.

Pour the prepared pecan topping into a 9-inch greased square pan. Nestle the cut rolls over the topping. [Note: I slightly flattened out the rolls into a bit larger circle when I placed them in the pan.] Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest while the oven preheats, about 20 minutes. (To store overnight, skip the 20-minute rest, cover the rolls with lots of plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator overnight. Let come to room temperature before baking.)

Position the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Uncover the rolls and bake for 30 to 32 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. While the rolls are still warm, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan and invert the entire pan onto a large serving platter. Scrape any nuts or caramel that remain in the pan on top of the rolls. Serve warm.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 420; Total Fat: 24 g; Saturated Fat: 12 g; Cholesterol: 65 mg; Sodium: 130 mg; Carbohydrates: 48 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 23 g; Protein: 5 g.

Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes

This recipe originally comes from Bon Appetit, and was in their special Thanksgiving Issue from 2014. A classic issue, if there ever was one. It also had the Spatch-cocked Turkey recipe.

4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2” pieces
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
1½ cups whole milk
3 sprigs thyme (optional)
2 bay leaves
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Place potatoes in a large pot and pour in cold water to cover by 1”. Add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender but not saturated or crumbly, 20–25 minutes (boiling will lead to waterlogged pieces).

Drain potatoes, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid if making potatoes ahead. Return potatoes to pot and set over low heat. Gently stir until dry, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, heat milk, thyme sprigs, if desired, bay leaves, and ¾ cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat.

Pass hot potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl (if allowed to cool, the potatoes will become gummy).

Remove herbs from warm milk mixture; discard. Gradually add milk mixture to potatoes, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined and smooth; season with salt and pepper. Serve mashed potatoes with a few pats of butter on top.

Hasselback Potatoes

The name of this potato comes from the Stockholm restaurant where it was first served: Hasselbacken. I used a giant russet potato, but I think this might be better with a Yukon Gold or other medium-sized thin-skinned potato.

Tip for cutting: Lay two wood-handled spatulas/spoons on either side of the potato, and slice the potato crosswise at 1/8″ intervals, cutting to within 1/4″ of the bottom.

Ingredients:
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed; leave skin on
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Scrub potatoes, then cut as shown above in the photo, making sure not to cut through the bottom of the potato, as it will fan out a bit as it bakes.

Combine olive oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, smoked paprika and parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Mix well. Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet (can line with foil, if desired). Spoon some of the mixture over the top of the potato, then carefully insert pinches of the mixture in between the slits of the potatoes. Rub the outside with any leftover mixture, or if needed, a bit more olive oil.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the inside is cooked through and the outside of the potato is a bit crispy. If olive oil pools in the pan, it’s possible to baste the potatoes with this one time, to assist in crisping. Garnish with additional parmesan and chopped chives.

Note: the giant russets took forever to cook, nearly 90 minutes, and the flavor is earthy (not buttery like the Yukons), so I won’t use them again.

Honey-Garlic Roast Carrots

Ingredients
2 pounds carrots washed and peeled
1/3 cup butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
3 garlic cloves minced
Salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking oil spray; set aside. (If you choose to line the pan with foil, it may stick, so be generous with your cooking spray.)

Trim ends of carrots and cut into thirds. If the end of the carrot is thick, cut in half lengthwise, so that all carrots are about the same size. Place into large bowl.

Melt butter in a pan or skillet over medium-heat. Pour in honey, oil, garlic and cook while stirring, until garlic is fragrant.

Pour over the carrots, tossing so the carrots are well coated. Transfer carrots to baking sheet, and arrange into a single layer so they cook evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until carrots are fork-tender. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

Optional: Broil for 2-3 minutes on high heat to crisp/char the edges. (I did not do this.)

Pumpkin Pie with Shortbread Crust

I served this to my pumpkin-pie-loving son Peter, a bit nervous to see if this new version — with a shortbread crust — would pass muster. It did, and it will be a long time before I go back to the other pie crust.

Prepare Pan:
Lightly butter/grease the bottom of a 9″ square metal cake pan. Using a longer length of parchment paper, line the pan so there is an overhang of paper on two sides of the pan (to facilitate the easy release and removal of the bars after baking).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Crust: Into the bowl of a food processor, place 2/3 cup whole pecans. Pulse a couple of times to break them up.

Add:
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Pulse a few times to further chop the pecans and to blend.

Cut 6 Tablespoons of stick butter into smaller pieces, distribute around the flour mixture in food processor bowl. Pulse until butter is smaller than pea size. It will be loose in texture. Dump into the prepared pan, and with the back of a spatula, press into pan evenly. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, but do not let it burn. Remove from oven.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees F.

Filling (can be made while crust is cooking):
Mix together dry ingredients in a small bowl:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
dash of nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Into separate, large mixing bowl, blend:
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, yokes broken

Add in dry ingredients (sugar and spices). When blended, add in 1 12-ounce can light evaporated milk (see notes below). Carefully pour over prepared crust.

Place in 350 degree F oven, and bake for about 55 – 60 minutes, or until knife inserted about 1-1/2″ from the center comes out clean.

Let cool on rack to room temperature, then place in refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, gently loosen edge of crust from pan, then lift out and place on cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, to which 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar has been added before beating it into soft peaks.

Note: Instead of light condensed milk, regular condensed milk may be used. The original recipe called for 1 cup half-and-half along with 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, a shake of pepper and 1 teaspoon vanilla. I just went with the regular Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe, and it worked just fine.