Pumpkin Pancakes

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Pumpkin is not only for Thanksgiving time, or for just making pumpkin pie. After all, it is a squash. It’s healthy, delicious, and really versatile.

I used to make pumpkin pancakes year-round for my daughters when they were growing up. They loved the pancakes and, unbeknownst to them, the pancakes were terribly healthy.

This is a version of what I made for them:
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Pumpkin Pancakes with Raisins and Walnuts

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk – almond, soy, hemp, whatever you prefer
2 eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
Ground walnuts, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole-grain pancake mix
Butter
Maple syrup, or agave syrup

Place the raisins in a small bowl. Pour the milk over them and let them sit for about 15 minutes, or even overnight in the refrigerator. Warm the milk slightly if the raisins are hard.


In a separate larger bowl, add the eggs and pumpkin and whisk until smooth.

Stir in the walnuts, cinnamon, and the raisins with the milk.
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Gradually add the pancake mix, but don’t overstir. You might have to adjust the quantity.

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Place about one tablespoon of butter in a skillet or on a griddle. Heat it up over medium-high heat. I let my butter brown and even burn a little.
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When the butter is ready, make pancakes with the batter, spreading it evenly. Let cook for about a minute, then turn over, turn down the heat a little, and cook them for about 2 minutes. I like the outsides browned, but the insides need to be cooked through.
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When the pancakes have cooked, place them on a plate and continue with the remaining batter.
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Of course I add more butter to the warm pancakes.

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This recipe makes about one dozen pancakes, about 3″ round or so.
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Drizzle with maple syrup.

Enjoy!
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note: Children may not like the walnuts unless they’re more finely chopped. Oats that have been soaked in liquid are another option for added texture and nutrition.

Foriana Sauce

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Soon after starting my blog, I posted on this miraculous concoction called Foriana sauce. I’d never heard of it before which is what I love about food and cooking. There is always something to discover.

The recipe is in the cookbook, “Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods” by Eugenia Bone. She claims its origin is a little island off of the coast of Naples. I definitely need to visit this island to see what other culinary treasures they’re keeping from me!

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So I posted on foriana sauce back when I had about 3 followers, and it’s just too good to keep to myself. So this is a re-post of sorts.

foriana sauce

foriana sauce

Foriana Sauce

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pine nuts
10 good-sized cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
More olive oil

Place the walnuts, pine nuts,and garlic cloves in the jar of a food processor. Pulse until the nuts look like “dry granola.” Add the oregano and pulse a few more times.

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Heat a skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the nut-garlic mixture and the raisins and cook on the stove, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. The nuts and raisins will caramelize a bit.


Divide the mixture between 3 – half pint jars that have just come out of the dishwasher (sanitized) with their lids. Let the mixture cool. Tamp it down a bit to limit air pockets, then pour in olive oil until there’s about 1/2″ of oil over the nut-raisin mixture. When cooled completely, cover and refrigerate until use.

foriana sauce cooling off in the jars

foriana sauce cooling off in the jars

After using, replace some of the olive oil on the top to protect the sauce.

To test it out, we spread chèvre on baguette slices and topped it with the foriana sauce. Everyone fell in love with this stuff. I quickly gave the other two jars away so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat more of it!
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Then, the following Christmas, I made foriana sauce again, but this time with two different kinds of dried cranberries instead of the raisins. Just to make it more festive! Plus, I processed the nuts a bit more to make the sauce more spreadable. And once again, I can share with you that this stuff is heavenly!

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I tested it with a variety of cheeses, for the sake of research, and I found foriana sauce especially good with warmed bleu cheese!

I hope you try this extraordinary “condiment” of sorts for the holidays. You will not regret it!

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note: I can see this foriana sauce spread on chicken or fish, or added to lamb meatballs, or added to a curry. The author also has suggestions as to how to incorporate foriana sauce into various dishes. But I just want to spread it all over a brie and bake it…

Dried Fruit Sauce

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In yesterday’s post on duck breasts, I mentioned that I served them with a “fruited” sauce. After completing the duck breasts and the sauce, there was just too much information and too many photos for a single post. So here is the sauce I made for the duck breasts, using dried fruit.

This sauce would be just as good with poultry, pork, or lamb. Plus, you can really mix and match the ingredients to suit your tastes. This is your sauce, make it yours!

Fruit Sauce

1/4 cup dried pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup golden raisins
Chambord
1 cup chicken broth or other
1 tablespoon veal or chicken demi-glace
Oil left in a skillet after searing meat
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon ancho chile paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sherry vinegar

First, place the pomegranate and raisins in a small bowl. Cover them with the chambord and set aside.
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Pour the stock into a measuring cup and add the tablespoon of demi-glace. Heat the stock in the microwave until you can dissolve the demi-glace in it.
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If there’s a lot of oil in the skillet you’re going to use, pour some off. You will have quite a bit if you’ve just cooked duck breasts with the skin. Keep about one tablespoon in the skillet.

Heat the fat over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 4-5 minutes, then stir in the garlic.
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As soon as you can smell the garlic, add the stock with the demi-glace, plus the wine.
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Then add all of the juices that have run off from the duck or whatever meat you seared and cooked.
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Heat the liquid gently and let it reduce. If you’re unsure about reducing liquid, read my post on it here.

Meanwhile, strain the raisins and pomegranates over a bowl. Keep the Chambord, but not for this recipe. I didn’t want the sauce too sweet. You can always use it in another reduction or marinade.

When the liquid has reduced by at least half, add the ancho chile paste and salt. Stir well.
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Then stir in the fruits and keep cooking over low heat.
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When there’s barely any liquid in the skillet, pour in the vinegar. This will brighten the sauce a bit, and offset the sweetness from the fruit. Continue to cook until there’s barely any liquid in the skillet again. Then it’s ready to serve.

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Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and pass around with the duck breasts or lamb chops.
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note: If you’re limited on time, reduce all of the liquids except the vinegar first, until just 1/4 or so remains in the saucepan. Then the sauce-making time will be cut back significantly.

another note: The ingredients that you can make your own include:
1. your choice of dried fruits (try apples and apricots instead of pomegranates and raisins)
2. your choice of liqueur (try port instead of Chambord)
3. your choice of liquids (try home-made stock, red wine, port, vermouth, madera, marsala, whatever you like and have on hand)
4. your choice of seasoning (try a little thyme or even a little curry powder instead of the ancho chile paste)

Chutney

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Apple Fig Raisin Chutney ready for the Thanksgiving Table

Yesterday I posted on a Cranberry Compote, which is an alternative to a traditional cranberry sauce. It’s perfect for the holidays because, well, it’s made with cranberries! I love the combination of meat and poultry with compotes and sauces like these.

However, there’s another sauce of sorts that’s sweet and zingy at the same time, and that’s a chutney. It’s not just a sweet condiment – there are savory and spicy components to a chutney as well.

I love condiments so much, especially those seasonally-based. And, because I love to “play” in the kitchen and use whatever ingredients I have on hand or am in the mood to use, I wrote a post last year entitled “Make your own Chutney.” It’s a very easy primer, for lack of a better term, on literally creating a chutney of your dreams. Using what you have and love, and customizing it to your tastes.

At the time I had minimal readership. Although I did get 4 Likes! So I’m reposting that post. It’s for those of you who’ve always been intrigued by chutneys but have never attempted to make one. Or, feel that a recipe is necessary, when it truly is not.

Indulge. Chutneys are fabulous. They may not be for everyone, but for the more adventurous, they’re a condiment that hits and satisfies every culinary inclination.

Create Your Own Chutney

note: This primer isn’t only about holiday chutneys – it’s for making chutneys year-round!

I just love creating chutneys, and a recipe is not really necessary. It’s about combining fruits, the sweet factor, and aromatics, the savory factor, and then seasoning and flavorings.

However, the sweet-savory ratio is important. I (visually) use about 2/3 fruit to 1/3 aromatics in my recipes when I start out. The fruit shrinks down during the cooking process, especially the fresh fruit, so then afterwards you’re left with a nice blend of both sweet and savory. You don’t want it all fruit, but you don’t want an onion chutney, either. (Unless you do, but that’s a different post!)

I then season the chutney according to my tastes and the time of year. There are fall and winter chutneys, and there are light, vibrant chutneys you can make for spring and summer appearances as well. It’s all a matter of the ingredients you choose.

Here are my guidelines:

all of the chutney ingredients ready to cook

all of the chutney ingredients ready to cook

Fruit:
You can use fresh fruit: apple, pear, mango, apricot, plum, strawberries, peach, etc.
And you can use dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, raisins, apples, peaches, blueberries, etc.
A combination of fresh and dried makes a nice consistency, like pear-fig, peach-raisin, apple-apricot. Using three fruits works really well, like apple-mango-cherry. You get the idea.

Aromatics:
I always use a combination of fresh onion, garlic, and ginger. Sometimes I throw in a shallot or two. You definitely need onion; the rest is up to you.

Sugar:
There is always a sweet component in chutney to balance the onion and vinegar. And, if you’re using tart cranberries, you would definitely need more sugar than if you were using, say, ripe peaches. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar and so forth. Liquid forms of sugar don’t work well in chutney, because they’re too, well, liquid. A prepared chutney is soft, but not a pile of syrup-y mush. But you can also add a few drops of maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or boiled cider.

Seasonings:
Except for salt, you don’t have to season a chutney at all, especially if you’re making a spring chutney, like an apple-strawberry chutney, where maybe a little black pepper is in order.

However, in the fall and winter, I like them full of flavor – especially when they’re going to be served alongside fairly bland meats. The choices are vast, depending what you want your chutney to taste like.

I, personally, love that aroma from a curry powder added to a fruit chutney. But separately, I love cumin, cardamom, white pepper, black pepper, and cayenne. A cinnamon stick adds a little cinnamon flavor while the chutney is cooking, but ground cinnamon can be used as well. And nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are always yummy. Think of them in an apple-pear-fig chutney served with a pork loin. YUM.

You can also add ground chile pepper, like ancho or even chipotle powders, to a chutney. And also adobo powder – especially if you’re making the chutney for a Southwestern-inspired meal.

Vinegar:
Any vinegar will work in a chutney. I love cider vinegar and red wine vinegar for cooking. For a different kind of vinegar flavor, add a little balsamic vinegar after the chutney has completely cooked, just for flavor. But you’re going to have to contend with the dark color.

And if you’re so inclined, you can always top off your chutney with a little tawny or ruby port, or even a little cognac or brandy. Just don’t add too much unless you cook the chutney for about a minute. That way you’ll get the flavor, but not the strong alcohol.

That’s it! Have fun making your own chutney!

note: I hopefully haven’t confused you. If you want to follow an exact recipe to get an idea of what a chutney tastes like, click on this link to Cranberry Apple Chutney!

Bread and Butter Pudding

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When we were in Ireland last May, specifically in Dingle on the west coast, we were fortunate to stay at a lovely bed and breakfast right on the water called the Castlewood House.
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The multi-award winning B & B is run by Brian Heaton and Helen Woods Heaton, who opened Castlewood House in 2005. Helen runs the front of the house, and Brian, among his other duties, cooks breakfast at Castlewood. And, an outstanding job he does.

In all of my visits to the UK, I’ve somehow missed the experience of bread and butter pudding, which is typically served as a dessert. If you are not aware, all desserts in the UK are called puddings. Don’t ask me why…

But anyway, at this B & B, there it was, amongst many other elaborate breakfast offerings every morning. I could smell the wafting cinnamon smell all the way up to our room in the wee hours.

I was a bit hesitant to try it at first, being that I didn’t need a sugar buzz so early in the day. But fortunately, I did. And I fell in love with it. Helen told me that the recipe for this bread and butter pudding, as well as some others, are posted on their website here.

This is a recipe I can definitely see making during the winter months, because it is sweet and hearty, but I just couldn’t wait. And as it turns out, it would be good any time of the year, especially for a brunch.

So here it is for you. It’s Brian’s recipe!

I adapted the recipe just slightly, but you can get the original one by using the link.

Bread and Butter Pudding

12 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed, I used potato bread
About 1 stick, 4 ounces soft unsalted butter
6 ounces golden raisins
Nutmeg, about 1 teaspoon
4 Large Eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces heavy cream
12 ounces evaporated milk
Ground cinnamon

Have an 8″ square baking dish handy.

Generously butter four slices of bread and place them butter-side down inside the baking dish.
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Sprinkle with some nutmeg and add half of the raisins.
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Arrange another layer of buttered bread, buttered side down and sprinkle on the remaining raisins and more nutmeg.
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Cover with the remaining bread buttered side down.
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In a separate bowl whisk the eggs then add the sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the vanilla, cream and evaporated milk, and whisk until fully incorporated. Carefully pour the mixture over the bread and leave to stand for one hour or ideally overnight.
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Right before baking, sprinkle the top of the bread and butter pudding with nutmeg and cinnamon. (Brian’s recipe doesn’t use cinnamon, but I would have sworn that I smelled cinnamon every morning!)
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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place the dish in a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with hot water until the water reaches halfway up the baking dish.

Bake in the middle of the oven for one hour, removing the aluminum foil 10 minutes from the end ensuring the top gets crisp and golden. This photo shows what the pudding looks like after the foil is removed.
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This is the photo of the pudding after the final 10 minutes in the oven. It’s a little more golden brown and puffy.
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I served the bread pudding with crème fraiche. Sweetened whipped cream would also be delicious. I also tried it with some fresh blueberries.
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It was definitely good with the blueberries, but it is absolutely perfect without as well. See what you think!
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I hope if you ever go to Dingle, Ireland, in County Kerry, that you stop by and at least say hi to Brian and Helen, if you don’t have the time to spend a few days. They are kind and generous people who are proud of their B & B as well as their corner of Ireland. Fortunately, Helen was also the one who guided us to have dinner at the Global Village in Dingle, which turned out to be such a wonderful experience. They can be tour guides for you, as well.

Torta di Ricotta

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I wish I could share the source of this recipe, but I can’t. It dates back to the days when I borrowed cookbooks instead of buying them. I would get stacks of cookbooks every week from our local library, zerox favorite recipes, glue them onto large index cards, and then go back for more. This was all for economic reasons, as there was a period of time while raising our daughters that the purchase of cookbooks would have been completely extravagant and irresponsible.

This recipe is definitely Italian in origin, and I’m wondering if it’s from a Lorenza de Medici cookbook. But whose ever it is, it’s one of the few desserts I’ve made on many an occasion when I need to give a small gift of food for one person, or perhaps for just a few of us getting together for a girly lunch.

It’s a small ricotta-based cheesecake, that is moist and full of flavor. I hope you like it, too!

Torta di Ricotta

1 pound ricotta cheese, whole-milk only
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons brandy
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup pine nuts, but today I used pistachios
Softened butter for the pan

Drain the ricotta overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve.

Soak the raisins in the rum. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the zest of the orange and lemon to a small bowl, and add the vanilla to the same bowl.

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Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until pale yellow.

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Add the drained ricotta, salt, and citrus zests, and blend thoroughly. Add the pine nuts and raisins and rum, blending well.

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Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold them into the cake batter.

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Brush a 6″ springform pan with softened butter. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, and bake 30 to 35 minutes.

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Use a tester in the middle to make sure the torta is ready to come out of the oven. It will look like this:

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Cool for about half an hour, then turn onto a serving plate. It’s good warm or at room temperature.

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The torta will slice very easily. I served mine with some macerated strawberries, which just means that I sprinkled some white sugar over sliced strawberries, tossed them gently, and let them sit for about 20 minutes or so.

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But this torta di ricotta is such a delight, it doesn’t really need anything at all!

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verdict: The pistachios were just as good as the pine nuts.

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Nigella and Pasta

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Nigella Lawson is my favorite TV chef. Not just because she is pretty and has a cool accent, but because she’s hysterically funny and loves eating and sharing food.

When I think of Nigella, I immediately think of cake, because it’s obvious she loves cake if you’ve read any of her cookbooks. But after cake, I think pasta. This is a woman who doesn’t worry about carbs or maintaining a gluten-free diet. She eats pasta with gusto.

So I found a unique pasta on her website, http://www.nigella.com/ to celebrate pasta and Ms. Nigella Lawson. It was a pasta I’ve never come across before.

This pasta recipe, called Pesto Trapanese, originates from the Italian city of Trapani, on Sicily’s westernmost tip. Geographically, Trapani is closer to the country of Tunisia so its local food has been defined by both Italian and Tunisian ingredients.

As a result, this pesto bears no resemblance to the popular basil pesto with which we’re familiar from northern Italy. Instead, it is a savory-sweet combination of tomatoes, raisins, and almonds with the addition of anchovies and capers. Intrigued? I was!

Sicilian Pasta with tomatoes, Garlic and Almonds

1 pound pasta of your choice, I chose pappardelle
9 ounces cherry tomatoes*
6 anchovy fillets
1 ounce golden sultanas
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons capers, well drained
2 ounces blanched almonds
2 ounces olive oil
Cayenne pepper flakes to taste
Grated Parmesan
Chiffonade of basil leaves, optional

Pappardelle are a beautiful pasta.

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Cook your pasta according to package directions in salted water.

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Meanwhile, place the tomatoes, anchovies, sultanas, garlic, capers and almonds in the jar of your food processor. Add the 2 ounces of oil and process until smooth.

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Ms. Lawson also recommends using about 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water in the pesto sauce.

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Without pasta water, mine looked like this, so I didn’t add any water.

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Drain the pasta, then put in a large serving bowl. Immediately add the tomato mixture and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. I definitely added cayenne pepper flakes. Serve with some grated Parmesan and a few basil leaves, if desired.

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* I thought the tomato skins would be problematic, but they weren’t !

verdict: At first bite, I wasn’t really sure what I thought. Then, it was immediately addicting. Within a split second. You first taste the anchovies, capers, and garlic, then you feel the texture from the almonds, and then there’s the occasional sweetness from the raisins. What an unbelievable pasta sauce. I can see why Nigella eats it cold…

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From Nigella:
“I have come across more than one version of “pesto Trapanese”, the Sicilian pasta sauce from Trapani that differs from the more popularly known Genoese variety in a number of ways. Chief of these is that almonds, not pine nuts, are ground into the mix – a divergence whose origins (in common with a lot of Sicilian food) owe much to Arabic cooking.

I like to use fusilli lunghi, which are like long golden ringlets (or, less poetically, telephone cords) but, if you can’t find them, simply substitute regulation-size fusilli (or indeed any pasta of your choice).

Since the sauce is unheated, it would be wise to warm the serving bowl first but, having said that, I absolutely adore eating this Sicilian pasta cold, should any be left over. It is so easy to make and, being both simple and spectacular, is first on my list for a pasta dish to serve when you have people round.”

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