Sugarplums

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The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…

I would love to have visions of dancing sugar-plums in my head, but I don’t know what they look like! And of course, there’s really no such thing, from a fruit standpoint. Ages ago I came across a recipe for Sugarplums on the Food Network website, and I was intrigued.

Turns out there have been candies/confections called Sugarplums around for a long time, and they’re all similar to this recipe, with nuts and dried fruits, rolled into balls.

So there’s no real sugar plum, but nonetheless this recipe was something I knew I had to make!

Best of all, I had 7-year old help with these!

Sugarplums

6 ounces Brazilnuts
6 ounces dried plums
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs, stemmed
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sieved
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/4 cup honey
Swedish pearl sugar

Weigh out the Brazilnuts and all of the dried fruit, then place it all in the jar of a food processor. Pulse until on the coarse side, but not too coarse. You need all of it to stick together.

Place the mixture in a bowl and add the powdered sugar with the poppy seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, anise seeds, and fennel seeds. Give it all a stir and set aside.

When you are ready to finish the Sugarplums, have the nut-fruit mixture and two latex gloves handy. Place the Swedish pearl sugar in a small bowl. Also have a rack handy on which to place the Sugarplums. Put on the gloves and begin mixing everything together. Roll the sticky mixture into balls and dip in the sugar. Then place on the rack.

Continue with the remaining fruit and nut mixture. This recipe made about 20 Sugarplums, until everyone starts sampling them.

These are really sweet. I don’t think there’s any getting around it, because you need the dried fruits, the powdered sugar, and the stickiness of the honey. Definitely make these for your favorite sweets lover!

Beet and Feta Galette

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My girlfriend gifts me wonderful cookbooks, and one of the last ones I received from her was Falastin, by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published in 2020.

Sami Tamimi is well known for his co-authoring of many Ottolenghi cookbooks. At least that’s how I became familiar with him. In fact, Falastin’s foreword was written by Yotam Ottolenghi, sighting that the authors “have picked up the baton where it was left after Jerusalem.”

On the back cover, it’s written: “This is a cookbook about Palestine. About its food, its people, and their voices. It is a book about the common themes that all these elements share, and how Palestine weaves stories and cooking into the fabric of its identity.”

Falastin reminds me of the Ottolenghi-Tamimi cookbooks, in the size and heft, the beautiful photos, and fascinating stories. The recipe I chose to make is called Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey.

It’s so easy to pull out puff pastry for a savory or sweet galette, but I was attracted to this recipe because a delicious, oregano- and thyme-laden dough is used for the crust. A nice change from puff pastry, or a plain pie crust.

Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey
Serves 4

2 small purple beets
1 small golden beet
Salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Crust
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon oregano leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 1/2” cubes
1/4 ice-cold water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 1/2 teaspoon
1 large red onion, cut into 1/4” slices
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt
1 tablespoon za’atar
1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup oregano leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup ricotta
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Black pepper
3 1/4 ounces feta, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Wrap the beets individually in foil and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until completely soft and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then use an old dish towel to gently rub away the skins.

Slice each beet into 1/8” slices and place in separate bowls, to keep the purple away from the golden beets. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt a good grind of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the golden beets. (I only had purple beets.) Combine the purple beets with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a good grind of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon oil. Set both aside until needed.

To make the crust, put both flours into a large bowl along with the sugar, salt, and herbs. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour. Don’t overwork the butter – you want chunks of it throughout the dough. Add the water and use your hands to gather the dough together. Transfer to a well-floured surface and roll out into a rough rectangle, about 11 x 7”. The dough here is fairly wet and sticky, so you’ll need to flour your hands, rolling pin, and work surface often.

Fold the shorter ends in toward each other so that they meet at the center, then fold the dough in half, like a book. Roll out the dough once with a rolling pin and then just fold once in half again. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Put the 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned. Add the sugar, vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook for 1 minute, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, then stir in 1 teaspoon of za’atar, the parsley, and the oregano.

Put the ricotta, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper into a bowl and set aside. (I happened to have leftover creme fraiche, so I used that.)

Generously flour a 12” square of parchment paper. Transfer the crust dough to the prepared parchment paper and roll out to form a rough circle. It will have uneven edges but should be about 11” wide. Lifting up both the baking parchment and the dough, transfer to a baking sheet; you don’t want to be lifting it onto the sheet once filled.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the base of the dough, leaving a 1/2” rim clear around the edges. Top with half the feta, then the onions. Next, and this time leaving a 1 1/2” rim clear around the outside, top with the beets, alternating between purple and golden, with a little overlap between each piece. Wash your hands well, then scatter the remaining feta on top.

Using a knife, make 3/4” incisions spaced about 3 1/4” apart around the edge of the galette. Creating these “strips” will allow for the beets and cheese to be encased. Take a resulting dough strip and fold it over the beet, in toward the center of the galette. Repeat with the next strip, pulling gently to slightly overlap and seal the last fold. Continue this way with the rest of the strips, then refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes, or up to 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes, or until deeply golden and cooked through.

Drizzle with the honey and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of oil, then scatter with the remaining 2 teaspoons za’atar.

Transfer to a wire rack so that the bottom remains crisp and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Garnish with thyme leaves.

Slice once set, and serve.

And that crust?! Flaky, tender, and herby!

Roasted Jalapeño Salsa

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The recipe comes from the blog Living the Gourmet. The founder of this blog is Catherine Cappiello Pappas, but two other contributors include her son and daughter.

I’ve made the salsa once before, and wanted to make it for the blog so I can share the recipe. I was a bit skeptical at first because it’s not traditional, but it’s wonderful.

I served it with some chicken fajitas, but it would be fabulous with fish!

Roasted Jalapeño Salsa

12 large jalapeños
2 Roma tomatoes
2 heads garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 generous bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons honey
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, or your preferred roasting setting.

Start by preparing the jalapeños. Remove the stems, then slice them vertically around the core of seeds. Discard the seeds and stems. Roughly chop the jalapeño slices and place them in a medium-sized bowl.

Chop the tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds, then place them in with the jalapeños.

Slice the garlic heads crosswise and bang on them to release the cloves. The intact peels are fine, you just want to remove the root. Add the cloves to the jalapeños mixture. Toss the mixture with the oil and salt, then place it in a baking/roasting dish. Roast until vegetables are caramelized, about 30 minutes.

Let cool, then pinch the peels off the garlic cloves and place the garlic in a food processor; discard the peels. When you’re done, add the roasted jalapeños and tomatoes to the food processor. (If you are able to, pinch off the tomato peels and discard them as well.)

Place the remaining ingredients in the processor and pulse, until the desired texture. I like it a little chunky, not smooth.

This salsa is very good served alongside a black bean dip with chips, which I did before.

If you want to see the individual salsa ingredients more, chop them by hand instead of using the food processor. But the flavor is so good, I don’t mind the slightly mushier texture.

Ms. Pappas also recommends it as a crostini topping, or omelet filling. (Both with feta or goat cheese!)

I see endless possibilities with this salsa!

Ultimate Christmas Pudding

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We have a new member of our family – our British son-in-law. My daughter and he have been at our home for Thanksgiving the last two years, but because of the pandemic, they won’t be back in 2020. In fact, they married in Brighton, England, and of course we couldn’t attend. My daughter said I could include a wedding photo in this post. I just couldn’t pick one. Aren’t the pics beautiful!

I’ve been wanting to make a steamed Christmas pudding for years, not just now with a Brit in our family. Ironically, he doesn’t like Christmas pudding! (I’m actually trying to figure out who does!)

I don’t enjoy alcoholic desserts, but Christmas pudding isn’t similar to American fruitcakes, in that they’re not slogged with brandy or rum weekly before being served.

It’s recommended that one start a Christmas pudding up to 3 months in advance of serving, which I did. I chose Nigella Lawson’s Ultimate Christmas pudding from her book Nigella Christmas, which is my favorite book of hers, probably because I love Christmas so much. And I love Nigella.

This took me a while to understand, but desserts in England are called puddings, like sticky toffee pudding isn’t a pudding, nor is this Christmas pudding.

Nigella Lawson’s Ultimate Christmas Pudding
From Nigella Christmas

150 grams currants
150 grams sultanas
150 grams roughly chopped prunes
175 millilitres pedro ximenez sherry
100 grams plain flour
125 grams fresh breadcrumbs
150 grams suet
150 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 medium cooking apple (peeled and grated)
2 tablespoons honey
125 millilitres vodka (to flame the pudding)

You will need a 1.7 litre/3 pint/1½ quart heatproof plastic pudding basin with a lid, and also a sprig of holly to decorate.

Put the currants, sultanas and scissored prunes into a bowl with the Pedro Ximénez, swill the bowl a bit, then cover with clingfilm and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.

When the fruits have had their steeping time, put a large pan of water on to boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer, and butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining pudding ingredients (except the vodka), either in the traditional manner or just any old how; your chosen method of stirring, and who does it, probably won’t affect the outcome of your wishes or your Christmas.

Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly, then fold in cola-cleaned coins or heirloom charms. If you are at all frightened about choking-induced fatalities at the table, do leave out the hardware.

Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid.

Then wrap with a layer of foil (probably not necessary, but I do it as I once had a lid-popping and water-entering experience when steaming a pudding) so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer (this size of basin happens to fit perfectly in the top of my all-purpose pot) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.

When it’s had its 5 hours, remove gingerly (you don’t want to burn yourself) and, when manageable, unwrap the foil, and put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way in the kitchen or, if you’re lucky enough, a larder, until Christmas Day.

On the big day, rewrap the pudding (still in its basin) in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours. Eight hours combined cooking time might seem a faff, but it’s not as if you need to do anything to it in that time.

To serve, remove from the pan or steamer, take off the lid, put a plate on top, turn it upside down and give the plastic basin a little squeeze to help unmould the pudding. Then remove the basin – and voilà, the Massively Matriarchal Mono Mammary is revealed. (Did I forget to mention the Freudian lure of the pudding beyond its pagan and Christian heritage?)

Put the sprig of holly on top of the dark, mutely gleaming pudding, then heat the vodka in a small pan (I use my diddy copper butter-melting pan) and the minute it’s hot, but before it boils – you don’t want the alcohol to burn off before you attempt to flambé it – turn off the heat, strike a match, stand back and light the pan of vodka, then pour the flaming vodka over the pudding and take it as fast as you safely can to your guests.

If it feels less dangerous to you (I am a liability and you might well be wiser not to follow my devil-may-care instructions), pour the hot vodka over the pudding and then light the pudding. In either case, don’t worry if the holly catches alight; I have never known it to be anything but singed.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: Make and freeze the Christmas pudding for up to 1 year ahead. Thaw overnight at room temperature and proceed as recipe on Christmas Day.

Maplev Bourbon vButter

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar bourbon, or your choice of liquor
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of allspice

With a mixer, beat the softened butter until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and mix while scraping the sides of the bowl, so the sugar and butter come together evenly. Add the vanilla, bourbon, and spices.

Mix, scraping the sides again, to combine. Spoon the sauce into a bowl.

This is brown sugar bourbon.

Serve warm or at room temperature, along with some of the maple bourbon butter.

Well, I do like Christmas pudding. And I really like this butter, which I adapted from Ms. Lawson. They’re a great combination.

Well, I liked it!

Fruit Caponata

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A while back I wrote a post on a young man who is a spice expert. His name is Lior Lev Sercarz, and he opened a spice store called La Boîte in New York City in 2007. I titled the blog post The Spice Companion, because that is the name of his first book, published in 2016. It’s a fascinating and hefty encyclopedia of spices.

La Boîte, the store, sells spices, but also has classes, dinners, and wonderful gift offerings.

If you can’t get to New York City, La Boîte has a beautiful website where one can purchase unique spices and spice blends. It’s like Penzey’s on crack.

Read my blog post if you want to be impressed by a young man on a world-wide mission to study spices. His journey from a kibbutz in Israel to New York City via France, working with notable chefs, is a great read.

I receive the monthly La Boîte newsletter, and it was in a recent issue where I discovered this fruit caponata recipe, created by Christian Leue.

In the newsletter, Mr. Leue describes his fondness of Sicily, and how in the town of Rosolini he was once served a caponata made of fruit, alongside a grilled veal ribeye. Traditional caponata is not made with fruit, but is instead a savory Sicilian eggplant dish.

Based on his dining experience, he created his own version of fruit caponata. From the newsletter: “It’s a supremely versatile condiment, bright and freshly acidic, with a deep but forgiving sweetness.”

He served his caponata with “a simply seared salmon and fluffy basmati rice topped with toasted almonds.” A sprinkle of Izak N37, a La Boîte spice blend, ties all the flavors together.” This is a photo of that meal from the newsletter.

Here is the spice blend Izak N37. It contains sweet chilies, garlic, cumin, salt, and spices.

Previously on the blog I’ve made a fruit compote As well as roasted fruit in parchment, and chutney, but this recipe is like none of those. See what you think.

Fruit Caponata
printable recipe below

1 cup whole red cherries, stems removed if you like (you can also leave them on as a reminder not to eat the pits)
2 firm nectarines, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Vidalia onion, peeled, 1-inch dice
2 cups mixed whole grapes
2-3 Tbsp wine vinegar (either white or red is fine, amount will depend on acidity, some wine vinegars are above the standard 5%)
1 Tbsp olive oil
sweetener, to taste (I prefer chestnut honey)
salt, to taste

For the caponata, combine all ingredients except salt and sweetener in a sauce pot with a lid and cook, covered, over medium heat until everything has softened, about 25 minutes.

Adjust to taste with salt and sweetener of your choice, and additional vinegar, if desired. Instead of honey, I used maple syrup.

Leaving the fruit whole or in large chunks keeps it from getting mushy, and you’ll get a lovely red color from the cherry skins.

Depending on the season you can also try adding/substituting: strawberries, small plums, quince, figs, apple, or pear.

The only way I veered from the original recipe was to somewhat reduce the liquid remaining in the pot after cooking the caponata.

According to Mr. Leue, “The caponata goes really well with most anything you want to throw at it. Try it with brined pork chops, pan fried and served with spätzle. Or alongside farro pilaf and braised chicken thighs. I followed his suggestion and gently seared a salmon filet, but didn’t make rice.

And I used Izak N37 on the salmon.

This fruit caponata is definitely unique. If I have to compare it to a condiment, I guess it would mostly closely mimic a chutney, because of the sweet and savory components.

The caponata is pretty because the fruit isn’t chopped, but I found it more challenging to eat. But all in all it was an interesting and delicious condiment to prepare, and so many different fruit options are possible, much like a chutney.

And the Izak N37? Fabulous!

The 2nd book already published by Serarz is The Art of Blending: Stories and Recipes from La Boîte’s Spice Journey. His third book is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

 

 

 

 

Peking Duck

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The last time I made Peking duck was 35 years ago.I know this because I did some serious cooking between getting married in early 1982, to when my baby arrived in late 1983.

During this time I dove head first into cooking, making my way through The Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook set. I wanted to learn how to cook, and those cookbooks were the only ones I owned, gifted to me by my mother when I got married!

There were 27 cookbooks in that set, with both International and regional American cuisine represented. The first was published in 1968. I still treasure them today.

Growing up, my mother, who was a passionate and crazily talented cook, whipped up International dishes from her set of Foods of the World cookbooks, so I was familiar with a lot of “exotic” ingredients, and fortunately not intimidated by the recipes when I began cooking seriously.

My favorite dish from the Chinese cookbook was Peking duck, served with Mandarin pancakes, hoisin sauce, and green onion “brushes!”

Preparing all of the elements, including the duck and the Mandarin pancakes, was not difficult, but it was time consuming. And I loved it.

Until the baby was born. At that point I continued to cook a lot, but I couldn’t make recipes that took hours of preparation. No more Peking duck!

Fast forward to 2019. Peking duck popped into my head. I have no idea why. So, it’s been so many years since I’d made it, or enjoyed it. Time to fix that!

Peking Duck
Pei-ching-k’ao-ya

1 – 5 pound duck
6 cups water
1/4 cup honey
4 slices peeled fresh ginger root, 1″ by 1/8″ each
2 scallions, cut into 2″ lengths

The sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
2 teaspoons sugar

12 scallions
Mandarin pancakes, recipe below

Wash the duck under cold water, then pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Tie one end of a 20″ length of cord around the neck skin. If the skin has been cut away, loop the cord under the wings. Suspend the bird from the string in a cool, airy place for 3 hours to dry the skin.

In a 12″ wok or large flameproof casserole, combine 6 cups water, 1/4 cup honey, ginger root and cut scallions, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Holding the duck by its string, lower it into the boiling liquid. With string in one hand and a spoon in the other turn the duck from side to side until all of its skin is moistened with liquid.

Remove the duck and hang it again in the cool place, setting a bowl beneath it to catch any drippings; the duck will dry in 2 to 3 hours. Discard the liquid in the wok.

Make the sauce by combining hoisin sauce, water, sesame seed oil and sugar in a small pan, and stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to its lowest point and simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. Pour into a small bowl, cool and reserve.

To make the scallion brushes, cut scallions down to 3″ lengths and trim off roots. Standing each scallion on end, make four intersecting cuts 1″ deep into its stalk. Repeat at other end. Place scallions in ice water and refrigerate until cut parts curl into brush-like fans.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Untie the duck and cut off any loose neck skin. Place duck, breast side up, on a rack and set in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the bird.

Roast the duck in the middle of the oven for one hour. Then lower the heat to 300 degrees, turn the duck on its breast and roast for 30 minutes longer. Now raise the heat to 375 degrees, return the duck to its original position and roast for a final half hour. Transfer the duck to a carving board.

With a small, sharp knife and your fingers, remove the crisp skin from the breast, sides and back of duck. Cut skin into 2 by 3″ rectangles and arrange them in a single layer on a heated platter.

Cut the wings and drumsticks from the duck, and cut all the meat away from breast and carcass. Slice meat into pieces 2 1/2″ long and 1/2″ wide, and arrange them with the wings and drumsticks on another heated platter.

To serve, place the platters of duck, the heated pancakes, the bowl of sauce, and the scallion brushes in the center of the table.

Traditionally, each guest spreads a pancake flat on his plate, dips a scallion in the sauce and brushes the pancake with it. The scallion is placed in the middle of the pancake with a piece of duck skin and a piece of meat on top. The pancake is folded over the scallion and duck, and tucked under.

One end of the package is then folded over about 1″ to enclose the filling, and the whole rolled into a cylinder that can be picked up with the fingers and eaten.

Mandarin Pancakes
Po-ping

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup boiling water
1-2 tablespoons sesame seed oil

Sift flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the center and pour into it 3/4 cup of boiling water. With a wooden spoon, gradually mix flour and water together until a soft dough is formed; on a lightly floured surface, knead it gently for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a circle about 14″ thick. With a 2 1/2″ cookie cutter cut as many circles of dough as you can.

Knead scraps together, roll out again, and cut more circles.
Arrange circles side by side, brush half of them lightly with sesame seed oil and, sandwich wise, place the unoiled ones on top.

With a rolling pin, flatten each pair into a 6″ circle, rotating the sandwich an inch or so in a clockwise direction as you roll so that the circle keeps its shape, and turning it once to roll both sides. Cover the pancakes with a dry towel.

Set a heavy 8″ skillet over high heat for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to moderate and cook the pancakes, one at a time, in the ungreased pan, turning them over as they puff up and little bubbles appear on the surface.

Regulate the heat so that the pancakes become specked with brown after cooking about 1 minute on each side. As each pancake is finished, gently separate the halves and stack them on a plate.

Serve them at once or wrap them in foil and refrigerate for later use.

Charred Carrots with Brie

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So, Facebook did it to me again! There it was, a post from Tasting Table, and a photo. An intriguing photo of what looked like charred carrot sticks. Then I read further.

It’s a photo of charred carrots, tossed with Brie, cayenne flakes, honey, and lemon juice. WOW! A sweet, spicy, smoky, cheesy, and tangy vegetable dish, by Tim Love.

Tim Love is a Texas chef best known for his “urban Western” cuisine, and more typically – meat and game. Not being familiar with him, I googled. He’s definitely not Tim Love, the plastic surgeon.

From chef Tim Love, “This is a dish that is actually the result of a little too much pink wine. I was cooking for a party and I drank a lot of rosé all day,” Love says with a laugh. “I forgot about the carrots under the broiler and had to figure out what to do with them — and it ended up being the most popular dish of the night.”

The most important part of this dish is charring the carrots, so don’t be afraid to get them dark. Since you aren’t tossing them while they roast, only one side will char, preventing them from tasting burnt. After you toss them with the Brie, honey and lemon juice, make sure to transfer the carrots to the platter without any of the accumulated liquid. That way the vegetables stay crisp.”

Charred Carrots with Brie

4 medium carrots
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 ounces triple-cream Brie (rind removed), roughly chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the broiler to 500°. (Don’t forget to have a rack on the top shelf in the oven like I did!)

Cut the carrots into cut into 4-by-½-inch sticks.

In a medium bowl, (I used a large Pyrex bowl) toss the carrots with the oil and cayenne pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a baking sheet and spread the carrots out into a single layer.

Cook until the tops of the carrots are well charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Immediately, add the Brie, honey and lemon juice to the bowl with the carrots, and toss to combine. (I used the same Pyrex bowl to toss the hot carrots with the other ingredients.)

Let sit for 2 minutes to allow the Brie to melt, then toss to incorporate.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to a platter, leaving any liquid behind.


Serve immediately.

To say these carrots are fantastic is an understatement. The flavor profile is incredible.

I will be making this recipe again, and experimenting with sweet potatoes and Cambazola, especially as it gets closer to the holidays! Thanks Chef Love!

Cranachan

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The three weeks my husband and I toured the circumference of Scotland were a pure delight. I knew Scotland would be pretty, but I had no idea the vast geographic extremes that exist in this country, from the highlands to the lochs to the granitic islands off the northern coast.

This post is about a Scottish recipe, but I wanted to share a few photos from our trip. If you’re never thought about seeing Scotland, you might consider adding it to your list!

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During our trip, we stopped in at Talisker, a distillery on the Isle of Skye, took the very interesting tour, and tasted their Scotch whisky.

IMG_2048

I am not a fan of scotch, but I had to drink it because that’s my rule. That’s why I tried banana beer in Rwanda. (never again!)

You only get about an ounce, understandably, for your whisky sample. But instead of pouring it down my throat like a shot, I probably took 100 sips of the stuff, which prolonged the pain and agony. But I finished it! It had a really smoky flavor from the peat used in the scotch making process.

So I bring up Scotland and scotch because this recipe, Cranachan, which I have no idea how to pronounce, is a Scottish recipe and it contains scotch whisky. Irish whiskey, by the way, has an “e” in it!

I picked up this little cookery pamphlet at a tourist stop, I think at Culloden, one of the famous battle sites in Scotland. Just walking around there will bring tears to your eyes. So much blood shed over the centuries.

On a brighter note, this recipe, from the smallest cookbook ever printed, at 28 pages, intrigued me because of its simplicity. The recipe is not terribly unique, since it’s whipped cream and raspberries, but there are two Scottish additions – scotch whisky and pinhead oatmeal! So I really wanted to try it. The cookbook author’s version of cranachan is pictured on the front cover of the cookbook.

clan

I should mention that the food in Scotland was superb. I mostly had seafood, some I’d heard of like salmon, and others I hadn’t ever experienced, like sea bream. All of it was fresh out of the sea, since Scotland is practically an island. And yes, I had haggis and blood pudding. I’m not scared of that kind of thing, but they were made traditionally, so they were very bland. Someone needs to make gourmet versions and they might be way more popular!

I also had to have cullen skink, which is a seafood soup, and also a clootie dumpling, which was a dense cake. How can you pass up names like that?!!!

Scottish oatmeal, or porridge as it’s often called, is a staple in Scotland. If you want it for breakfast at your hotel in the morning, you must order it the night before. I assume it’s because the oatmeal is soaked all night before cooking. Scottish oatmeal is not the light and fluffy quick-cooking stuff we get in the US. It’s not even thick-sliced oats. It’s pinhead oats, which are more like pieces of the whole oats, which require longer cooking time.

If you want Scottish oats, make sure that you see a photo on the canister or box, otherwise you may not get the correct variety of oats. Even steel-cut oats can be flakes. Here is the recipe as it appears in the cookbook.

_MG_6935

Cranachan

60 ml/4 tablespoons pinhead oatmeal
280 ml/10 fl ounce/1 1/4 cup double (heavy) cream
30 ml/2 tablespoons whisky
About 45 ml/3 tablespoons liquid honey
250 g/8 ounces raspberries

1. Put the oatmeal in a small, dry frying pan and toast it over gentle heat for 20-30 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time, until the oatmeal is lightly browned.

I first sieved the oatmeal to remove any fine powder, then toasted it in a skillet over moderate heat, which only took about 6-7 minutes.

Then I placed the toasted oatmeal on a plate to cool.

2. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it is thick but not stiff. Add the whisky, and honey to taste.

I first mixed together the honey, which I warmed slightly, along with the whisky, then made the whipped cream. You can see me pouring the mixture into the whipped cream, before adding the raspberries.

3. Reserve a few of the best raspberries for decoration and fold the rest gently into the cream.

4. Spoon the mixture into 4 glasses and chill until you are ready to serve.

5. Just before serving, sprinkle the toasted oatmeal on top of the cream and decorate with the reserved raspberries.

verdict: I have to say, I was first skeptical about a few things. First, I wasn’t sure how well whisky and honey could be folded into whipped cream, but it does. Secondly, I thought the whisky would be off-putting, but along with the honey and the raspberries, it was truly delightful! Thirdly, I wasn’t sure what the oats would do for the dessert, but it works!!! Just a nice little crunch!

Sweet Chili Shrimp

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A while back I came across a cookbook called The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. When I first saw the title, my snobbiness took over and I refused to look into it further.

But then I came across the cookbook again, and it got me thinking about the whole idea of Chinese takeout. I don’t do takeout of any kind of food, but if I did, it would be Chinese. I love all of the vegetables and the bean sprouts and the noodles, especially! And who doesn’t love egg rolls!!! Plus, you get it in those adorable little boxes with the handles.

In the U.S., really all we know about Chinese food, at least in my experience, is from little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants that serve Americanized versions of Chinese food. You know, the breaded, deep-fried everything served with gloppy sauces that all seem to taste the same. (I even had an MSG reaction at one of these restaurants.)

But the thing is, a lot of this food is really good, especially if you know what to order. And until you go to a real Chinatown and have dim sum, like Chinese steamed buns, or happen to have a mother who cooks authentic Chinese, it’s all you know as an American. Just like we all used to think that Italian food was really all about lasagna and spaghetti.

So I decided to buy this cookbook after all, and I’m glad I did. It’s been fun looking over recipes like Kung Pao Chicken, Dan Dan Noodles, Chop Suey, and Egg Foo Young. Remember all of those?!!!

But the first one I decided to make out of the cookbook was Sweet Chili Shrimp because I’d just purchased a pound of beautiful shrimp.

So here is the exact recipe from this cookbook – no MSG required.

Sweet Chili Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey*
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili sauce

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 shallot, finely chopped

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the cornstarch, salt, and pepper.

Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, honey, cider vinegar, and chili sauce. Set aside.

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Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the garlic, ginger, and shallot and stir-fry until fragrant, 30 to 40 seconds. Toss in the shrimp and stir-fry about 2 minutes, until pink.

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Pour in the sauce and stir to coat the shrimp well.

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Transfer to a plate and serve.

* I used less honey just because I didn’t want these too sweet.

note: These would also make a fabulous hors d’oeuvre!

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The author of this cookbook is Diana Kuan. She is a food writer and cooking instructor who has taught Chinese cooking in Beijing and New York.