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Category Archives: biscotti

Chocolate Covered Maple Cookies

Makes 18 cookies

Ingredients

2 cups finely ground almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces dark chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line two cookie sheets or rimmed baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Be sure all the clumps are gone from the almond flour. Switch to a silicone spatula and stir in the maple syrup and vanilla. Mix until a sticky dough forms and holds together.

With a cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop up the dough and form it into a ball. Form the ball into a small rectangle about 2 inches long and a ¼ inch thick. Place the cookie on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough, placing each cookie about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.

Place the cookies in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, switching the cookie sheets on the oven racks at the halfway point. The cookies are ready when the edges are golden brown.
Transfer the cookies on the parchment paper onto a wire rack, and let them cool completely.

Place the chocolate in a small deep glass mixing bowl and place the bowl in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir, and place back in the microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir until the chocolate is completely dissolved.

Place another piece of parchment paper on a kitchen counter. When the cookies are completely cooled, dip one half of each cookie onto the chocolate. Place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheet. Repeat until finished. Leave at room temperature until the chocolate hardens. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature or in the refrigerator or place in a freezer container for up to 6 weeks.

Maple Walnut Biscotti

Makes

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon water
2 oz. dark chocolate chips
1 oz finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, arrowroot powder, baking soda, and salt. Be sure all the clumps are gone in the almond flour.
Add the maple syrup, the vanilla and orange extracts, and water.
Stir well to combine.
Fold the chocolate chips and nuts into the batter. On a cutting board, form the batter into a rectangular log, 2 inches wide by 8 inches long and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.
Reheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Cut the log into thin slices with a very sharp knife and place them cut side down on the same parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them over and bake 10 minutes more, watching carefully to make sure they do not burn.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely before serving.


Christmas baking has begun and I start with cookies. What are your favorite cookies to make for the holidays? Here are some of mine.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
2 cups butter ( 4 sticks)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups flour
Powdered sugar icing (see below) and red and green colored sprinkles for decoration

Directions

In a large electric mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and smooth.

Separate 3 of the eggs; Beat the 3 egg yolks and the remaining whole egg into the butter-sugar mixture.

Set aside the eggs whites and use for another recipe, such as the Pignoli cookies below.

Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the flour and mix well. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into four equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one-fourth of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with floured cookie cutters.

Transfer cookies to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and re-roll scraps until all the dough is used.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Cool.

Frost the cookies lightly with the icing and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.

Store in tightly covered containers for up to one month in a cool place, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Powdered Sugar Icing

Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Directions

Mix together to make a thin icing.

Italian Pine-nut (Pignoli) Cookies

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Makes 2 dozen. I usually double the recipe.

Ingredients

8-ounces almond paste, cut in small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites, from 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
Pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In mixer bowl beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and almond extract with an electric mixer until smooth. Drop a heaping teaspoonful of dough 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 20 minutes or until the tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature.

(Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks, or they can be frozen.)

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Ingredients

6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Place the first 4 ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high-speed for 2 minutes until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in chips and pecans (dough will be sticky). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. With floured hands, shape the dough into a 9 x 4 inch log; pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the log on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the log from the pan and cool 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack.


I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so generally desserts are not often on my menu. When I do want something to go a cup of tea, it would be a biscotti. I tend to not make them very sweet. Here are two of my favorites. The chocolate ganache is optional. These cookies can also be made gluten-free, if almond flour is substituted for the all-purpose flour.

Pecan Pie Biscotti

Makes 14-15 biscotti

Ingredients

3/4 cup pecan meal (finely ground pecans)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 1 ¼ cups almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans.

In a small bowl combine the eggs, molasses and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto parchment lined baking pan and form into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake about 25 minutes, until golden brown and just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the biscotti log cool for 20 minutes.

Using a sharp, straight-edge knife, slice into 14 or 15 even slices .

Space the slices a few inches apart on the baking pan and bake 10 minutes.

Turn the biscotti slices over and bake 10 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti

Makes 12 biscotti

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour or 2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl combine the pumpkin puree, egg, oil and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined baking pan and pat the dough into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the log is just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the biscotti log for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees F.

Gently slice the log into 12 even slices using a serrated knife.

Place the slices back on the baking pan on their sides and place the pan back into the oven.

Let bake 15 minutes and then turn the biscotti slices over and bake 15 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will firm up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Makes enough for both recipes.

4 oz Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% (or any high percentage chocolate)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

Directions

Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds.

Add the cold heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the butter and gently whisk to combine.

The ganache should be thick and glossy.


I titled this post Summertime Cookies because the cookie recipes are quick and easy to make and they are filled with flavors that go well with summer ingredients. They are also perfect paired with ice cream desserts.

Basil Pistachio Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup fresh sweet basil, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup chopped pistachios

Directions

Using an electric mixer on low-speed, blend together the flour, basil, sugar and lemon zest and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, egg and vanilla. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients.

Beat with the mixer, gradually adding the lemon juice. The mixture will be crumbly and slightly moist. It should not be sticky, though.

Add the pistachios and mix well. Gather the mixture into a ball.

Roll the ball into a log about 1½ inches thick and 14 inches long. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Can also be overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the chilled log into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and reshape, if necessary, so they keep their round shape.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pans and bake for 10 minutes more or until they are slightly brown.

Cool on a rack.

Crunchy Biscotti

Ingredients

6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Place the first 4 ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high-speed for 2 minutes until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in chips and pecans (dough will be sticky). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. With floured hands, shape the dough into a 9 x 4 inch log; pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the log on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the log from the pan and cool 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Oatmeal Date Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ, preferably toasted
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together applesauce and oil until completely blended.

Whisk in sugar, egg and vanilla; set aside.

In a second medium bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ and flour.

Add to the applesauce mixture and stir well to combine thoroughly. Fold in the dates and pecans.

Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon drop dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart, and bake until cooked through and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Carefully transfer to wire racks and set aside to let cool completely.


morningcover

Christmas cake is an English tradition that began as plum-porridge. People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve, using it to line their stomachs after a day of fasting. Soon dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture and, eventually, it turned into Christmas pudding. In the 16th century, oatmeal was removed from the original recipe and butter, wheat flour and eggs were added. These ingredients helped hold the mixture together, resulting in a boiled plum-cake. Richer families with ovens began making fruit cakes with marzipan, an almond paste, for Easter. For Christmas, they made a similar cake using seasonal dried fruit and spices. The spices came from the eastern countries and this cake became known as Christmas cake.

Christmas cakes are made many different ways, but generally they are variations on the classic fruitcake. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy, leavened, unleavened and more. They are made in many different shapes, with frosting, glazing, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or  just left plain. The traditional Scottish Christmas cake, also known as the Whisky Dundee, is very popular. It is a light crumbly cake with currants, raisins, cherries and Scotch whisky. Other types of Christmas cakes include apples and mincemeat.

In Japan, Christmas cake is a frosted sponge cake with strawberries, chocolates or seasonal fruit. In the Philippines, Christmas cake is a yellow pound cake with nuts. Don’t forget the traditional British fruitcake that is soaked in brandy or rum, sugar syrup and water. Italy has a long culinary tradition of serving cakes and sweets during the Christmas season. The tradition of “dolci di Natale” is long and varied with hundreds of types of cakes, cookies and sweets on the Christmas table. Every table for sure has Panettone and Pandoro –  the symbols of Christmas in Italy.

Following are some modern day fruit style cakes.

Jam Filled Coffee Cake

morning1

Ingredients

  • One 8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup seedless red raspberry jam or your favorite jam
  • Powdered sugar
  • Fresh fruit for garnish

Directions

Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan or a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, granulated sugar and butter; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 3/4 cup of the flour, the eggs, milk, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and salt. Beat about 1 minute more or until combined. Add the remaining 1 cup flour, beating on low-speed just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. In a small bowl stir jam with a spoon until nearly smooth. Spoon jam in eight to ten mounds on top of the batter in the baking pan.

Using a thin spatula or knife, swirl jam into the batter.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake portion near the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and, if desired, serve with raspberries or other fruit. Serve warm.

Date Coffee Cake with Orange Sauce

morning2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup orange or lemon yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup pitted whole dates, chopped

Orange Sauce

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

To make the Orange Sauce:

Stir sugar, cornstarch, ginger and finely shredded orange peel in a small saucepan. Stir in orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in butter until melted. Cover pan and cool slightly. Serve warm. Makes about 1 cup.

To make the cake:

Grease and flour an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan; set aside.

Stir together the 1 cup flour, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F oven.

Place softened butter and ginger in a medium mixing bowl; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Stir in yogurt and milk.

Add flour mixture, beating on low to medium speed until combined. Toss dates with 2 tablespoons flour and fold into the batter. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly (about 30 minutes) in the pan on a wire rack.

Cut into squares. Serve with warm Orange Sauce.

Cherry Crumb Cake

morning3

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups cherry, raspberry or strawberry preserves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans, lemon peel and baking soda. Stir in applesauce and oil; mix well. If necessary, use your hands to combine.

Measure 1 cup of the oat mixture; set aside.

Press the remaining oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Carefully spread the preserves evenly over the hot crust. Sprinkle with the reserved 1 cup oat mixture; pat gently into preserves.

Bake about 30 minutes more or until top is lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Using the edges of the foil, lift the cake out of the pan. Serve warm.

Prune Bread

morning4

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, snipped
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Two 6 inch wooden skewers

Directions

With the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until soft and shiny.

Place in a greased bowl and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, until double.

For the filling:

In a small bowl, stir together chocolate and dried plums; set aside.

Remove dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface; punch down dough. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll dough into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle. Along the short side (10 inch) of the dough sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the prune mixture over a 3-inch-wide section of the dough.

Starting from the opposite side, fold dough over filling, allowing dough to extend beyond the prune-topped dough.

Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of the prune mixture on top of the filled layer, pressing filling down lightly. Fold dough back over prune mixture, accordion-style.

Repeat filling and folding dough, accordion-style, twice more.

Fold remaining dough over the top, pressing lightly. (You will have five layers of dough and four layers of filling.) Gently pat the sides of the dough to form a rectangle.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 30 minutes).

You can use this dough and filling to make any shape coffee cake – horseshoe, ring, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, make a shallow lengthwise cut down the center of the top layer, then make several crosswise cuts at 1-inch intervals.

To keep bread layers from slipping while baking, insert wooden skewers (one close to each end of the loaf, inserting each skewer at a slight angle) from top through the bottom layer.

Bake about 35 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. If necessary to prevent over browning, cover with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

Remove from the baking sheet; cool on a wire rack. Remove wooden skewers. Slice thinly to serve.

Christmas Biscotti

morning5

These are especially good with coffee.

Makes: 48 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg for the wash
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons anise seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, snipped
  • Powdered sugar glaze

Directions

Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; beat until combined.

Beat in the 3 eggs, vanilla and almond extract until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, anise, fennel seeds, cranberries, pistachios, and apricots with a wooden spoon.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until the dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 12-inch-long log 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place logs at least 3 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Flatten each log slightly to 3/4-inch thickness. Combine egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush over logs.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Cool logs on cookie sheet 1 hour or till completely cool.

When logs are cool, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Transfer logs to a cutting board. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lay slices down on the cookie sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake 5 minutes more or until dry and crisp.

Remove and cool on wire racks. Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze, if desired.


falldinnerparty2

With the weather getting cooler in many parts of the country, we may find ourselves entertaining friends for dinner rather than hosting casual, warm weather BBQs. There are so many good choices in the fall for your menu that it is difficult to know where to begin. Chicken is always a good choice but for a dinner party,  the chicken recipe should be something a little different; something your guests may not have had before – just to keep things interesting. Choose vegetables in season, a side of potatoes, noodles or rice and a great appetizer.

Please find below one of my fall dinner party menu suggestions and the recipes to go with it.

Entertaining Menu

Antipasto Stromboli

Wine: Pinot Grigio or Prosecco

Vinegar Braised Chicken with Pappardelle Noodles

Olive Oil Braised Broccoli Rabe

Wine: Barbera from Emilia-Romagna or a Chianti from Tuscany

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti and Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Fresh Fruit

Espresso

First Course

IMG_0066

Antipasto Stromboli

Ingredients

  • 2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa Salami
  • 1/4 Pound thinly sliced Pepperoni
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced Provolone Cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced pickled cherry peppers
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil.

Use half the meat, cheese and peppers, and cover the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.

IMG_0063

Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, place the roll on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other roll in the same manner.

Brush the rolls with the beaten egg mixture and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Second Course

dinnerparty

Vinegar-Braised Chicken

Ingredients

  • 8-10 pieces of chicken – combination of bone-in breasts cut in half if large and thighs (skin on or off; your choice)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced thin
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz pappardelle noodles

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the upper third.

Coat the chicken in flour and season generously with salt and pepper.

In a Dutch Oven or large ovenproof skillet heat half of the butter and half of the oil. Add half the chicken, skin side up, and cook over high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook the chicken for 1 minute. Remove to a large platter. Repeat with the remaining butter, oil and chicken. When brown place on the platter with the first batch of chicken.

Add the scallions and garlic to the skillet and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on top, skin side up and roast for about 25 minutes, until it is cooked through.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pappardelle and cook until the al dente stage. Drain. Place the noodles on a large serving platter.

Place the Dutch Oven on top of the the stove and transfer the chicken with a slotted spoon to the  platter with the noodles, arranging the chicken attractively over the noodles.

Bring the mixture in the pot to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add a little of the sauce to the sour cream, mix well and whisk the sour cream into the mixture in the pot. Simmer until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Do not boil or the sour cream will curdle. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

dinnerpartybroccoli

Olive-Oil-Braised Broccoli Rabe

Look for broccoli rabe with vibrant green leaves and plump stems.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 2 bunches (1 1/4 pounds each) broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon julienned lemon zest, plus fresh lemon juice for serving
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

Directions

Heat the oil and garlic in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is sizzling and aromatic, but not browned, about 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, zest and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then use tongs to toss and coat in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until broccoli rabe is tender, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer contents of pan (including liquid) to a serving bowl. Grind pepper over top and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

Dessert Course

dinnerpartydessert

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place pistachios in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix toasted pistachios, cherries, sugars, baking powder and flour.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush the loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti (3/4-inch-wide cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur

Directions

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool. Chop the nuts into large pieces.

In a large bowl, mix toasted hazelnuts, chocolate chips, sugars, baking powder, cocoa, flour, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and coffee liqueur. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container.


part12cover

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the local communities and later for Americans nationwide.

California

Italians were some of the first European explorers and settlers of California. Italians first came to the state in large numbers with the Gold Rush. While most found little gold, they did find success in farming, fishing, commerce and making wine. Though we often associate Italians in California with San Francisco, the initial Italian settlers established themselves in such diverse communities as Monterey, Stockton and San Diego. Italian fishermen established themselves in fishing villages along the coast.

part12a

Across the state, the Italians also settled the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880’s, Italians dominated the industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

Another enterprising Italian was Domenico Ghirardelli, who traveled through the gold mines in the 1850’s, selling chocolates and hard candies. He settled in San Francisco after the Goldrush and founded the Ghirardelli chocolate empire.

part12d

One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy, in the Italian neighborhoods, across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America.

part12c

Many Italian families have made their living from cattle ranching in the Mother Lode foothills at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One can still find many Italian family ranches in the region.

The Italians also played an important role in developing the olive oil industry in the foothills. The rolling hills of the Gold Country, which resemble the Mediterranean hills of Liguria, are dotted with the remnants of early Italian olive tree orchards and with newly planted trees similar to those found in Italy.

part12b

The California wine industry also owes much to its Italian founders. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson.

Drive down the California vineyard roads and you may think you are in Italy. The Italian winery names that are seen throughout the area stand as a reminder of the contribution of Italian-Americans in the growth of the California wine industry. Some of the most famous names in American wine got their start during the four decades leading up to Prohibition in 1919. Seghesio, Simi, Sebastiani and Foppiano all started in the late 1800s and are still operating today. Giuseppe Magliavacca’s Napa winery was by then a thriving business, Secondo Guasti had established the Italian Vineyard Company and Andrea Sbarbaro had founded Italian Swiss Colony.

Italian-Americans in California kept their vines in the ground and healthy throughout the Prohibition era. When Prohibition ended, they were rewarded but, more importantly, the families that had struggled to maintain their vineyards gave America a jump start in resuming the wine industry. Without the vineyards and the fully equipped wineries, America would have had to rebuild the industry from scratch, an industry that is synonymous with longevity and tradition.

Today, the California wine industry is dotted with Italian names. The Trinchero family name is hidden behind its non-Italian winery name: Sutter Home. Robert Mondavi, Ferrari-Carano, Geyser Peak (owned by the Trione family), Viansa, Cosentino, Atlas Peak (owned by Antinori), Dalla Valle, Delicato, Valley of the Moon, Parducci, Signorello, Sattui, Rochioli, Rafanelli and Mazzocco are all thriving wineries in America.

Recipes From California’s Wineries

part12e

Chilled California Garden Gazpacho

Recipe by Vicki Sebastiani from Viansa Winery.

Serve this course with Barbera, a wine flavored with plum, black cherry, wild berry and oak spice.

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 6 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (about 6 cups)
  • 1/4 cup Italian white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash Tabasco sauce

Garnish:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup croutons, preferably homemade

Directions

Set aside 1/2 cup each of the chopped cucumber, red onion, red pepper and zucchini. In a blender or food processor combine the rest of the vegetables with the remaining ingredients. Puree slightly, so the vegetables are left a little chunky.

Combine soup with the reserved vegetables, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 2 to 3 hours. To serve, top with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of minced chives and several croutons.

Makes 8 cups.

part12h

Risotto Milanese

From the kitchen of Ed Seghesio.

Serve this course with Arneis, which is both the name of the wine and the grape from which it is made. The name means “little rascal” in the Piedmontese dialect, so named because it can be difficult to grow. Arneis has a delicate aroma and flavor of pears, with a hint of almonds. The grape seems to have more acidity in California than in Italy, yielding a crisper wine.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup Seghesio Arneis
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Simmer chicken stock in a separate pan.

Sauté onions in olive oil and butter until onions are clear in a large saucepan. Add the rice to the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the wine and garlic to the mixture and allow the liquid to cook down. Then add 1/2 cup of warm stock and the rehydrated porcini mushrooms with their liquid. Allow the liquid to cook down, stirring constantly.

As the liquid simmers, continue adding 1/2 cup of the warm stock. Repeat this process until the rice is tender, approximately 30 minutes.

With the last 1/2 cup of stock, add the saffron. When the rice is tender, stir in the Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main dish and 4 as a side dish.

part12f

Grilled Chicken with Tapenade

Recipe courtesy of Louis M. Martini Winery.

Serve with Sangiovese, a Chianti-style wine.

Chicken

  • 1 chicken, about 3-1/2 pounds
  • 1/4 cup tapenade, store-bought or homemade (recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Remove the chicken’s backbone (or have the butcher do it). Lay the chicken out flat. With your fingers, gently separate the chicken skin from the breast and thighs but do not detach it completely.

Rub oil all over chicken skin. Spread the tapenade evenly over the breast and thighs and underneath the skin. Season with rosemary, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before grilling.

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire. Arrange coals in a ring around the perimeter of the grill and set an aluminum foil drip pan in the center. Grill the chicken over the drip pan for about 20 minutes skin side down, with the grill covered; then turn, cover again and cook until done, about another 10 minutes. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Serves 4.

Tapenade

  • 1/2 pound Greek or Italian black olives, pitted
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brandy

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until nearly but not completely smooth. Tapenade should have a slightly coarse texture.

part12g

Hazelnut Biscotti

Recipe courtesy of the Mosby Winery.

Serve with Tocai Friulano, a slightly sweet wine with aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom along with the flavors of citrus and tropical fruit.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups whole hazelnuts, toasted, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of hazelnut flour (finely ground hazelnuts, measured  after grinding)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2 teaspoons anise seed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease 2 baking sheets.  

Combine flour, baking powder, hazelnut flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend the ingredients.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar and beat well.  

Stir in the flour mixture, the coarsely chopped hazelnuts, espresso powder, vanilla and anise seed.  Cover the dough and chill for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each into a 9-inch log. Place the logs on the baking sheets and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

Remove the loaves to a cutting board, cool and cut the pieces crosswise into 3/4” thick slices.

Return the slices, cut side down, to the baking sheets and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until dry and firm. Let the biscotti cool before serving. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.

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tuscancover

Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its influence on culture, yet, simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made from Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Chianina used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced for the region’s many excellent cured meats. Tuscany’s climate provides the ideal soil for the grapes grown to create the region’s world-renowned Chianti wine.

A soffritto can be considered the Italian version of a mirepoix and is a combination of olive oil and minced browned vegetables (usually onion, carrot and celery) that are used to create a base for a variety of slow-cooked dishes. Herbs (sage and rosemary) are used in many Tuscan dishes and seasonings can be added to the soffritto, as needed, to bring out the unique flavors of each different recipe.

Stracotto (braised beef) is a well-known favorite of the area, as are finocchiona (a rustic salami with fennel seeds), cacciucco (a delicate fish stew), pollo al mattone (chicken roasted under heated bricks) and biscotti di prato (hard almond cookies made for dipping in the local dessert wine, vin santo). Borlotti beans provide a savory flavor to meatless dishes and cannellini beans form the basis for many a pot of slowly simmered soup. Breads are many and varied in the Tuscan cuisine, with varieties including, donzelle (a bread fried in olive oil), filone (an unsalted traditional Tuscan bread) and the sweet schiacciata con l’uva  with grapes and sugar on top. Pastas are not heavily relied upon in Tuscan cooking but pappardelle (a wide egg noodle) is one of the region’s few traditional cuts.

Antipasto

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Italian Bread

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tuscan1

Marinated Olives and Mushrooms

Olives

  • 1 cup mixed Italian olives
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, (flat-leaf parsley basil, and oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. whole cremini mushrooms, stemmed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel stalk (with some chopped fronds)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

To prepare olives:

Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To prepare mushrooms:

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are just soft, 6–8 minutes.

Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Mushrooms will keep in refrigerator for 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

tuscan3

Tuscan White Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cannellini beans
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions

Soak the beans in water to cover overnight.

Drain the beans and simmer in water to cover until tender (about 45-60 minutes).

Combine the remaining ingredients and toss with the warm beans.

Correct seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Main Course

Stracotto translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in northern Italy. There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.

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Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 lb chuck roast
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • One 26-28 oz. container Italian crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Polenta, recipe below

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides. Put the roast on a plate and set aside.

Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.

Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.

Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock. Put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours. If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.

When the meat is tender, remove it from the sauce and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, boil for a few minutes to reduce it. Remove the bay leaf.

Serve the sliced beef with the creamy polenta. An Italian red wine, like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Chianti, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.

tuscan5

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 3 cups beef broth or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta

Directions

Bring the broth to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta. Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.

Dessert Course

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Fresh Fall Fruit

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Amaretto Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks and reserve one egg white
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 6 cups whole almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two heavy cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light, about 2 minutes; the mixture will look somewhat curdled.

Beat in the vanilla, amaretto and anise seed. Beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts.

Divide the dough into four portions. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a flat log, just about the length the cookie sheet. Place two rolls on each cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze each log with some egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.

Allow the logs to cool on the cookie sheet about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F.  With a serrated knife slice the biscotti on the bias into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheets in a single layer; Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, turning over halfway through the baking time or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp

Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep for 2-3 weeks.


biscotticover

In Italian, the word “biscotto” means “biscuit” or “cookie.” More specifically, biscotti are named according to their original method of baking. The root words “bis” and “cotto” literally mean “twice” and “baked.” When Italians first created biscotti in the region of Tuscany many centuries ago, they were careful to bake the cookies twice, in order to allow the cookies to develop their signature crisp texture. Over the years, these methods became standard practice. Bakers shape the dough into a log, bake it, evenly slice it into cookies and then bake the cookies again.

The first biscotti were made as a portable and durable food for Roman soldiers and travelers. They were made with traditional almond flavoring during the Renaissance and, at the time, it was also popular to dip them in an Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo, a practice that remains common in Italy today. Many people outside of Italy prefer to dip biscotti in coffee or hot chocolate to soften them before eating them. The range of flavors that these cookies come in has also expanded hugely since their creation and can include walnuts, orange zest and anise. Some types are coated with icing or glazed with chocolate, but the most traditional ones do not have a frosting or coating.

It’s relatively easy to bake these cookies. The basic recipe includes flour, sugar, eggs and sometimes butter or olive oil, along with nuts, spices or fruits. There is no one perfect way to make biscotti. Some recipes call for eggs only, which is the traditional method, while others include butter or oil. The choice is yours; just keep in mind that those made with butter or oil will have both a softer texture and a shorter shelf life.

Here are my two favorite recipes.

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place pistachios in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix toasted pistachios, cherries, sugars, baking powder and flour.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush the loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

If you desire, you can turn off the oven and let the biscotti stay for up to an hour. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp. Stored properly, biscotti will last up to a month.

Toast the Nuts

Lightly Toast the Nuts

batter

Form the Batter

Shape into Loaves

Shape into Logs

Brush with Egg

Brush with Egg

Bake the Logs

Bake the Logs

Cool and Slice Logs

Cool and Slice Logs

diagonalslice2

Bake Slices

Bake Slices

Cool Twice Baked Slices and Store

Cool Twice Baked Slices and Store

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti (3/4-inch-wide cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur

Directions

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool. Chop the nuts into large pieces.

In a large bowl, mix toasted hazelnuts, chocolate chips, sugars, baking powder, cocoa, flour, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and coffee liqueur. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

If you desire, you can turn off the oven and let the biscotti stay for up to an hour. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp. Stored properly, biscotti will last up to a month.

 


Our Newly Planted Lemon Tree

Our Newly Planted Lemon Tree

Caring about our communities, the environment and our planet shouldn’t be a one day thing. Working to decrease our impact on the planet should be a continuous process. However, Earth Day is also the perfect time to make a personal pledge to start a new good habit.

Here are a few ways to make a difference:

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Turn out the lights when you leave a room. It does make a difference.

Taking a shower uses less water than filling a bathtub and a water-conserving shower head is even better.

To decrease waste, purchase durable, long-lasting products that can be reused, refilled or recharged. If you do use disposables, choose those made with recycled/recyclable materials.

Adjusting your thermostat down just 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer could save energy consumption.

Buy groceries such as grains, beans, cereals, pasta and snacks from bulk bins when available to avoid excess trash. Plus, being able to buy just the amount you need means no wasted food.

Use reusable cloth bags when shopping to avoid using paper or plastic bags.

Compost your food waste to reduce trash that goes to a landfill. Add  the compost to your garden for nutrient-rich soil.

Plant a tree. A single tree can absorb up to 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

These are just a few suggestions to incorporate an Earth Day mentality into your daily routine.

The more unprocessed foods you eat — especially plant-based foods — the healthier you and our planet are going to be.  While a meat-centered diet deepens our ecological footprint and contributes to pollution, a plant-centered diet requires fewer resources and supports long-term health. But you don’t have to go completely veggie to reap the benefits; try gradually adding a few meatless dishes to your weekly menu. Try some of these delicious, earth friendly recipes.

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Broccoli Calzones

Spinach can be used in place of broccoli.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Flour, for rolling dough
  • 2 (1 pound each) fresh or frozen pizza dough balls, thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded (6 ounces) mozzarella cheese
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Homemade marinara sauce, recipe below

Directions

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion; cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add broccoli, garlic and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Make the calzones:

Divide each ball of dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, stretch each piece out, first to a 3-by-4-inch oval, then stretch again, this time to a 6-by-8-inch oval. (Let dough rest a few minutes if too elastic to work with.)

Stir cheeses into cooled broccoli mixture; season generously with salt and pepper.

To assemble the calzones:

Spread a rounded 1/2 cup broccoli mixture over half of each piece of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border; fold over to form a half-moon. Press edges to seal. With a paring knife, cut 2 slits in the top of each calzone.

Using a wide metal spatula with a thin blade, transfer calzones to 2 baking sheets lined with parchment; reshape if needed.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with heated marinara sauce.

To freeze: Prepare recipe through step 3. Tightly wrap each calzone in plastic; freeze until firm. Transfer calzones to resealable plastic bags; label and date. Freeze up to 2 months.

To serve: unwrap calzones, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets; bake without thawing until golden, 35 to 40 minute

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Makes about 3 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1  28-oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1⁄2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Put tomatoes and their liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Set aside.

Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes along with the oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.

earth4

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, (about 12), cored and halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 large eggplant, (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, for serving
  • Toasted Italian bread, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. with racks on the top and the bottom.

On one rimmed baking sheet, toss together tomatoes, carrots, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer, with tomatoes cut sides down.

On another rimmed baking sheet, toss together eggplant, chickpeas, Italian seasoning, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer.

Place both sheets in the oven (tomato mixture on top rack). Roast until tender, tossing mixtures halfway through, about 45 minutes.

Using tongs, peel off and discard tomato skins. Puree tomato mixture (including juices) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large pot.

Stir in eggplant mixture; thin with 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Serve, sprinkled with basil and garnished with toasted bread, if desired.

earth7

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fresh spinach, stems removed and washed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced, divided
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds wild mushrooms, (chanterelles, oyster and shiitake), trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup Madeira wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 4 1/2 cups milk at room temperature, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 one-pound package lasagna noodles, parboiled

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon oil in large pan over medium heat. Add half the garlic; saute until light golden, about 1 minute. Add half the spinach leaves, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain spinach in a colander. Repeat with the remaining tablespoon of oil, remaining garlic and spinach.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze to rid it of liquid. Roughly chop spinach; place in a medium bowl with ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the mushrooms; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Saute until mushrooms are softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Deglaze the skillet by pouring 1/4 cup Madeira into the hot skillet with the mushrooms and using a wooden spoon to loosen bits cooked onto skillet. Cook mushrooms until liquid has almost evaporated. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a second bowl. Repeat with another 1 tablespoon of butter, the remaining mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and 1/4 cup Madeira. Add to the first batch of cooked mushrooms.

Set aside in a small bowl one-third of the cooked mushrooms to use for the topping. Add ¼ cup of chopped parsley to the remaining cooked mushrooms; stir.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add the flour; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Slowly add 4 cups of milk; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the nutmeg and 1/2 cup grated cheese. Set aside 1/2 cup sauce in another small bowl.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Place a layer of lasagna noodles in the pan; spread 1 cup spinach mixture, 1 cup mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup of sauce on top of the lasagna. Repeat layers several times.

For the last layer, place a layer of lasagna noodles on top; spread 1/2 cup sauce over the lasagna noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup grated cheese. Bake lasagna until the top is golden brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, heat the remaining reserved one-third mushrooms, reserved ½ cup sauce, remaining half cup of milk and ¼ cup parsley in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon some of the mushroom sauce over each serving of lasagna.

earth5

Green Bean, Orange and Feta Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta (6 ounces)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved and roughly chopped
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or nuts of choice

Directions

In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain green beans and spread on a baking sheet to cool.

Using a sharp knife, slice off both ends of each orange. Cut off the peel following the curve of the fruit. Halve fruit from top to bottom, and thinly slice each half crosswise.

In a bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Add feta, oranges, lettuce, onion, nuts and green beans. Toss to combine.

earth6

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 48

Ingredients

  • 3  egg whites
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts or other nuts, chopped and toasted
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease large cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, beat together egg whites, oil, coffee and vanilla.

In a large bowl, stir together flour and remaining ingredients until well mixed.

Pour egg mixture onto dry ingredients and stir until combined. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half.

Shape mixture into two 12″ by 1″ logs; place both on the prepared cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool 10 minutes.

Transfer one log to a cutting board. Slice diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick biscotti.

Arrange biscotti, cut side up, on cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining log, using a second cookie sheet, if necessary.

Bake 20 minutes; turning cookies over after 10 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight jar up to 1 month.

earth



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