Candied Lemon Peel

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When I was young, my mother often made candied citrus fruit – usually grapefruit and orange. I didn’t quite have the palate for these at first, and couldn’t grasp the concept that is was okay to eat the peels! But as I got older I became more fond of them.

Recently I realized that I’ve never made any kind of candied citrus, so I thought I’d make a small batch. I typically see these during the holidays; they make such pretty gifts, especially partially dipped in dark chocolate.

But instead I thought I’d make candied lemon peel for a fun summer treat, perhaps chopping them up to add to home-made granola. And just to say I’ve made them!

Here’s what I did, based on this recipe from Epicurious.

Candied Lemon Peel
Printable recipe below

3 large lemons
4 cups white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Place rack on rimmed baking sheet.

Cut ends of each lemon. Score each one lengthwise in quarters, butting just through peel, and not the flesh. Carefully pull off each peel quarter in 1 piece.


Cut each quarter lengthwise into 1/4” wide strips. Cook peel in saucepan of boiling water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour peel into a colander. Rinse.

Bring 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar completely. Add drained lemon peel to saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lemon peel is very soft and looks translucent, about 40 minutes.

Using fork, transfer lemon peel, 2 or 3 strips at a time, to prepared rack. Separate strips and arrange on rack. Let peel drain 15 minutes.

Sprinkle peel generously with sugar.

Turn strips over and sprinkle second side generously with sugar. I used white sugar, above left, and raw sugar, above right. Let dry uncovered overnight.

Candied lemon peel can be made up to 1 week ahead.

Keep refrigerated.


Attention! Do not throw away that wonderful lemon-infused simple syrup! Store it to use in cocktails! No filter, it’s really that pretty!

And, use the peeled lemons in a lemon dressing. I added olive oil, parsley, garlic, and salt to the blended lemons based on my whole lemon dressing recipe.

Turns out there was little difference between the white granulated sugar and the raw sugar. I’d personally just stick with white.
 

 

Mushroom Toasts

90 Comments

My readers know that, maybe because of my advanced age, or perhaps because I’ve always been on the stubborn side, food trends turn me off. But I do know that stubbornness can get in the way of experiencing good food.

Case in point – avocado toast. Perhaps avocado toast didn’t excite me much because avocados are my biggest source of protein, not being a huge meat eater. I didn’t need to serve them on grilled bread to appreciate the wonderful food that they are.

Until I did have avocado toast, that is, and I have to say that they were thoroughly enjoyable!

Recently online I saw a headline for the “new” avocado toast – mushrooms on toast. I immediately envisioned sautéed mushrooms that I top my husband’s steaks with occasionally.

So that’s what I did to make my version of jump-on-the-bandwagon mushroom toast.

Mushroom Toast

Bread slices, like sourdough or French
Olive oil
Mushrooms, sliced, about 1 pound
Butter, about 1/4 cup
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cognac or brandy, optional
Garlic pepper
Dried thyme
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces Crème fraiche

Brush some olive oil on the bread slices and toast them, either over fire, in a skillet, or in the oven. They should be crispy. Set them aside.


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over fairly high heat until bubbling, then add the mushrooms.

Keep the heat high, and stir only occasionally while getting some color on the mushrooms. If they stick at all, add a bit more butter, but keep the heat high. This keeps the mushrooms from requiring an inordinate amount of fat.


Once there is good caramelization on the mushrooms, turn the heat to medium, and add the garlic. Stir well for a few seconds.

Immediately add a splash or two of cognac and let it ignite. Shake the pan until the flames extinguish.

Turn the heat to the lowest setting and cook until most of the liquid has cooked off, if there is any.

At that point, season the mushrooms to taste.

Remove the skillet from the heat, let it cool a bit, then stir in the crème fraiche. Heat through.

Place some mushrooms on the toasts using a small, slotted spoon, then pour a spoonful of cream over the top. Serve immediately.


If you want decadence, sprinkle a little finely grated Gruyere, Fontina, or Parmesan on top of the toasts.


Top the toasts with some fresh thyme, parsley, or chives, if available.

If you’re serving these for company, don’t put too many out; they must be warm. There’s nothing much worse than cold mushrooms.

Not only would these be good for hors d’oeuvres, they would be wonderful served with soup. So much better than plain bread!

Verdict: These toasts are fabulous, and any mushroom lover will love these. The toasts would work with finer chopped mushrooms, or even a duxelles.

Salmon Crudo

71 Comments

Facebook is something I check on a daily basis. There, I said it. Mostly because I can keep up with friends and their families. But it’s truly entertaining as well, like when puppy-chimpanzee videos pop up on my feed.

And then there are the food-related posts, not surprisingly, like this one that recently showed up from Williams-Sonoma Taste, which is the W-S blog.

Salmon Crudo with Red Onion and Fried Capers. What? I’ve never heard of salmon crudo, which in Italian means raw salmon. So I knew I just had to make it.

Fortunately, I happened upon a fresh piece of wild salmon at my grocery store. It was like this was all meant to be!

Here’s the recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

Salmon Crudo with Red Onion and Fried Capers

1/2 pound fresh sushi-grade salmon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving

First wrap the rinsed and dried salmon in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, skin the salmon, then slice the it against the grain into very thin slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter, overlapping them slightly.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Carefully add the capers to the oil; they will splatter.

Fry, swirling the pan gently to move the capers around until they are golden brown, 30-60 seconds. Transfer the capers to a paper towel-lined plate, and let the olive oil cool for 5 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and parsley to the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is emulsified.

Arrange the red onion on top of the salmon and drizzle with the dressing. I also added some extra fresh parsley.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Scatter the capers on top and serve with lemon wedges.

The recipe serves four people.

Or one, in my case.

I enjoyed the salmon crudo on water crackers. And a little salt was definitely necessary.

I can honestly say that eating this salmon was an incredible experience. I’d have it any day over sashimi, and I love sashimi.

Coffee Butter

59 Comments

A lot of links pop up on my Facebook page that I typically don’t pay any attention to, like Food 52, Food & Wine, and Tasting Table. They’re all great publications, it’s just that I like to get my recipes the old-fashioned way – from cookbooks.

But then, something popped out at me one day that I had to look into – coffee butter – published by Tasting Table. I love coffee, and I love butter, but coffee butter?!! To say the least, I was intrigued.

The recipe is from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen, and the article is written by Kristina Preka, published on April 14, 2017.

We’ve all made compound butters. Herb and wine reduction varieties are common on steaks, plus, back when I catered I made quite a few citrus and berry butters. However, I certainly have never thought to flavor butter with coffee.

This sweetened coffee butter is a “perfect spread over breakfast pastries like scones, croissants and English muffins.”

The author also suggests that an unsweetened version is good on steaks, which makes sense because coffee is often a dry rub ingredient.

So I set out to make coffee butter.

Coffee Butter
Yield: 1/2 cup

2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup ground coffee
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cheesecloth
Flaked salt, for garnish.

In a tall airtight container, add the heavy cream and stir in the ground coffee until it’s completely mixed. Close the container with a lid and refrigerate overnight.


Strain the coffee mixture, making sure to push through as much milk fat as possible, while keeping out the sediment.

Discard the ground coffee and transfer the strained liquid to a food processor jar.

Add the sugar and kosher salt, and spin the mixture until the fat forms into butter and the liquid separates.

Transfer the mixture to a large piece of cheesecloth and wring out any excess liquid.

Transfer the butter to a small condiment bowl, garnish with flaked salt and use immediately, or store in the refrigerator, covered well, for later.

I’m not one of those “put-salt-on-everything” type of gals, but in this case it works!


And the coffee flavor is superb, even though the color of my coffee butter is lighter than what I saw online.

So if you love coffee, which is the only prerequisite for this recipe, you will love this sweet coffee butter!

Especially on toasted croissants!

Better than Nutella?

55 Comments

Many years go I purchased a Vitamix, Professional Series 300. Having gone through various brands of blenders, I was excited to finally get one with a strong reputation.
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I also purchased a smaller blender jar for dry ingredients. I’d always thought it would be fun as well as economical to make nut butters. But have I? No.

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While on a road trip in November, I read many food magazines (doesn’t everyone?) and came across this recipe. Chocolate hazelnut spread that is better than nutella. Nutella is pretty darn good, but home-made is always better of course. So I knew this would be the recipe to christen that dry blender jar.

I used my cell phone to photograph the recipe and unfortunately do not remember from which magazine this recipe came, but I did find it on Epicurious.com.

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Here’s what I did to make the “real” Nutella, based on the above ingredients; my verdict below.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, or Gianduja

2 cups (heaping) hazelnuts, preferably skinned (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Toast the hazelnuts on the stove in a cast iron skillet. Let cool.

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Grind hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor until a fairly smooth, buttery paste forms, about 1 minute.

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Combine the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Melt slowly and stir until smooth and shiny.

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So here’s the deal – my hazelnuts and sugar never formed a “buttery paste” like they were supposed to. So I added all of the cream to the blender. You can see from the photo, the blender was working hard to combine the hazelnut mixture with the cream.

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The resulting mixture was stiff and thick, but smooth and not gritty.

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The recipe says to “whisk in cream and salt, then hazelnut paste.” Since my hazelnut paste already contained the cream, I simply folded the hazelnut mixture into the chocolate, gradually, stirring well.

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Pour gianduja into four clean 8 ounce jars, dividing equally. Let cool.

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Gianduja can be made up to 4 weeks ahead; keep chilled.

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Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours to soften. Can stand at room temperature up to 4 days.

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If you don’t know what to do with chocolate hazelnut spread besides eat it with a spoon, I’ve got a few suggestions:

1. Spread in warm crepes, roll and eat.

2. Thin with cream and serve drizzled over a fresh-out-of-the-oven Dutch Baby or Crespella.

3. Fold gently with beaten whipped cream for an instant mousse.

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For a treat, I spread some chocolate-hazelnut spread on buttered toast.

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verdict: I’m befuddled as to why my hazelnuts didn’t grind into a hazelnut butter. Secondly, the recipe claims that the nutella will thicken; mine was already really thick, and definitely not “pourable.” My husband said that the spread reminded him of cupcake batter, which I think is an excellent comparison. Also, I would suggest 12 ounces of chocolate instead of 16 ounces, or use bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet. It was too chocolatey for me.

So is this stuff good? Yes, but I will tweak the recipe next time.

Polish Cookies

80 Comments

A while back I was contacted by Ania from Poland regarding my blog. I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, with our world almost completely online these days. But she did surprise me. Ania told me she liked my blog, which was sweet, and she wanted to know if I was interested in her product. I normally would have immediately deleted the email, or at least written “thank you but no thank you,” but I was intrigued!

Ania represents the company STODOLA, that engraves rolling pins. I urge you to check these rolling pins out. They make so many different varieties, from puppies and kitties to stars and flowers. I f you want one customized with your logo or photograph, they’ll do that too!

The rolling pin I chose is based on a typical Polish folk design, according to Ania, like the design below.
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Check out my rolling pin!

It came with a sugar cookie recipe (the little roll of paper) that Ania assured me was easy! I’m not a baker, but I was really excited about using the rolling pin!!!

Sugar Cookies

8 ounces/230 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 ounces/175 grams confectioner’s sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1.5 – 3 teaspoons extract
1 teaspoon salt
14 ounces/400 grams all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
Begin my mixing the butter and sugar together well.

Add the egg and extract and mix well. I used vanilla extract.


Use a sieve to add the flour so there are no lumps. I added a fourth of the flour at a time, blending well after each addition. The salt is in the flour.

Have some extra flour and confectioner’s sugar for rolling the dough.
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Roll, emboss and cut cookies into desired shapes, dusting with flour as necessary.



Bake cookies until tops appear dry rather than shiny.
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The recipe is foolproof, although I chilled the dough a little before rolling.


What I also like is that the cookies aren’t too sweet.

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Stodola claims that the secret to successful cookies using the rolling pin is to preheat the oven, and apply the right amount of pressure on the dough.

note: Stodola also makes mini rolling pins for children!

Stodola is on Facebook, too.

Pimm’s Float

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This recipe is brought to you by Food Network chef Sunny Anderson. I wish I could claim it as my own, because it’s fabulous! Every summer I swear I’m going to make it, stack it with other recipe cards, and promptly forget about it. But not this summer.

If you love Pimm’s, and you love ice cream, then you’ll love this treat!
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I didn’t follow Sunny’s recipe to the T – hers included strawberries, and being passed strawberry season, I instead decided on blackberries and raspberries. So here’s what I did.

Sunny’s Pimm and Proper Ice Cream Float
Serves 4 or 2, depending on the serving size

1 pound raspberries and blackberries
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water

First place the berries in a small pot. Add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and stir gently, until the sugar dissolves. Put the lid on, and lower the heat.

After about 5-6 minutes, remove the lid, and cook about 1 minute more. Place the pot in the refrigerator and let the berries and syrup cool completely.
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To complete the ice cream floats, you will need:
Pimm’s
Vanilla ice Cream
Fresca

To prepare the floats, but about 2 heaping tablespoons of the berries and syrup in the bottoms of ice cream glasses. Add an equal volume of Pimm’s to both. Scoop out the ice cream and place it in the glasses.


Right before serving, add the Fresca.

I also served a skewer of blackberries, just for fun.
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Sunny not only made a strawberry syrup in her original recipe, she also used strawberry ice cream. I chose vanilla because I wanted to taste the other flavors.

After tasting these, I’d still opt for vanilla. But I’m sure you could come up with many different ideas for these floats!
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They’re really refreshing, and would make a fun dessert after a summer dinner party as well!


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Strawberry Vanilla Neufchâtel

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A while back I posted on making your own Chocolate Neufchâtel – a chocolate cream cheese spread. My initial reason for making the chocolate version from scratch many years ago was because the chocolate neufchatel I purchased once was terribly expensive.
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I haven’t seen it around anymore, although I spotted a variety on IGourmet.com this morning. It’s made by Westfield Farm, and it’s purely a chocolate-flavored goat cheese. Pure bliss!
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In any case, chocolate neufchâtel is wonderful to serve for something slightly sweet on a table of hors d’oeuvres, as is this strawberry version. I use the name neufchâtel only because it sounds nicer than cream cheese. They’re both firm and creamy, although American cream cheese also contains cream; the taste difference is negligible.


I had a little leftover jam from when I used my new jam and jelly maker last week, and decided to use it to make the strawberry cream cheese. I could have also added some goat cheese for a little zing, like I did with my chocolate version, but today’s will be only cream cheese.
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Besides being delicious, strawberry cream cheese/neufchâtel is very pretty, especially in the spring and summer for parties and showers. You can make a very similar strawberry cream cheese with sweetened fresh strawberries, but today I’m simply using the jam I made, a strawberry vanilla jam. It’s so simple.
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Strawberry Vanilla Neufchâtel

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup strawberry jam

Place the cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl and add the jam.

Blend the ingredients together until they’re smooth.

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Today I’m going to make the cream cheese into a log form, so I let the mixture chill for about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Place a piece of plastic wrap on a counter, and plop the strawberry cream cheese onto the plastic. Working carefully, with your fingers underneath the plastic wrap, carefully form the cream cheese into a log shape, wrapping it in the plastic at the same time. If it’s not working properly, you probably need to chill the cheese more.


When ready to serve, unwrap the cheese and place on a serving platter. The plastic should come off easily; the butter helps with that step.

Let the log warm to room temperature before actually serving. Serve with water crackers or crisps or bread.
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As you can see, it’s very spreadable.


You could sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top, toasted walnuts, candied pecans, or pearl sugar. Or, if you wish, you could also add a little more of the jam on top.

But I really like it as is, with just the slight sweetness of the strawberries!

note: Taste the cream cheese when you’re making it, because the flavor of the resulting spread, no matter what shape you form it in, will taste the same. If you want more sweetness, add some sieved powdered sugar. Don’t go crazy with adding the jam; in fact, I wouldn’t use any more of the jam to cream cheese and butter ratio than I did. Otherwise you run the risk of the cream cheese not firming up. Jam doesn’t firm up – cream cheese and butter do!

Christmas Rocky Road

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I happen to really admire and idolize Nigella Lawson. And if you do, too, you know she loves Christmas.

This rocky road recipe is a Nigella recipe that she adapted for her Christmas cookbook, in order to make it more Christmassy! I’ve made it a few times now, and it’s become a holiday favorite for my family.

My favorite Nigella cookbooks are Nigella Kitchen, Feast, and Nigella Christmas. I can’t narrow those down any further. They’re all so unique and wonderfully entertaining, and packed full of hearty and satisfying recipes. Nothing too fancy and fussy. Or fiddly, in British speak.

Nigella had a tv show in the U.S. at one time that I loved to watch. She’s extremely funny, irreverent, and quite a hoot. Nigella embraces just about all food and drink, loves her children, and loves parties. We should really be friends.

So I’m not sure why I made this rocky road recipe the first time, actually. I don’t love candied fruit, marshmallows are strange, I don’t like rocky road ice cream, and we’re not really a sweets family. But am I glad I took a chance on this recipe.

In the past I’ve followed it almost exactly, except for the fact that I’ve always substituted other cookies for the Amaretti, because I could never find them. I used shortbread once, and gingersnaps another time; both turned out fabulous.

But this year I ordered Amaretti in the fall, so I was prepared! Plus I made a few changes to enhance the Christmas theme of these fudgey bars. I used pistachios for their green color, and I added some dried cranberries for their scarlet color. So here’s this year’s version of Nigella’s Christmas Rocky Road:

Christmas Rocky Road

1 bag Amaretti cookies, 7 ounces
1 cup whole pistachios
1 cup whole candied cherries, plus a few extra
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
15 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup Lyle’s golden syrup
Powdered sugar

In a food processor, pulse the amaretti cookies until they are a coarse crumble. Place them in a large bowl.

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Add the pistachios, candied cherries, dried cranberries, and mini marshmallows, and set aside.

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To the top pan of a double boiler, place the chocolate, butter, and golden syrup. Heat about 2” of water in the pot below until it is gently simmering; the water should not boil, and should not touch the pan on top. We are melting the chocolate, not cooking it. Then, place the pan with the chocolate mixture on top. Using a spatula, occasionally stir the mixture as it melts. This should take about 10 minutes.

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Have a 9 x 13” pan ready.

When the chocolate and butter have melted, pour this into the cookie mixture in the large bowl. Using the spatula, fold everything together until completely incorporated. Then pour this mixture into the pan, using the spatula. Push it all around so it fills the corners, and is relative smooth on top. Using any extra cherries, if you wish, push them into the bars in random locations.

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Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When you are ready to serve the bars, slice them into big squares and remove them from the pan. If you wish to cut them smaller, it’s easier to do on a cutting board. If desired, sprinkle the Christmas Rocky Road with sifted powdered sugar.

Chocolate Neufchâtel

40 Comments

Back when my husband and I were first married, we went on lots of picnics. I guess that’s what you do before kids, which reminds me that now that they’re grown and gone, we should be picnicking again!

In any case, I used to buy a particular chocolate Neufchâtel cheese, and paired it with strawberries and water crackers. In my memory, at least, it’s something I always packed up for our adventures, for something sweet.

Then there came a time when we really couldn’t afford this cheese any more. That’s when I had a light bulb moment. I can make it myself, just like I created home-made Boursin, which I call “faux” boursin!

I actually made this cheese a lot when I catered, but I haven’t made it for years now. I’d just completely forgotten about it until something jogged my memory recently. It’s funny how a memory works!

The reason this cheese worked well for catering is that it’s inexpensive to make, slightly sweet, and very pretty. There were always those clients who wanted a full hors d’oeuvres spread for $5. a person…

I sometimes also made an additional strawberry Neufchâtel as well, which was pretty sitting next to her chocolate sister. But these cheeses I used to make, and am making again today, are made with cream cheese instead of Neufchâtel. The good old American variety.

I just googled chocolate Neufchâtel and I found nothing. Perhaps I was the only person eating it? Well, fortunately you can duplicate its flavor in your own kitchen, using this recipe, which can be doubled or tripled.

Chocolate Neufchâtel

1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 ounce unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted

Place the cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl. Using a spatula, beat them together until smooth. The addition of the butter helps in the molding process.
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Add the cocoa and powdered sugar.
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Gently stir in the ingredients until the cream cheese mixture is smooth.
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Place the cheese in a plastic wrap-lined bowl that fits it snuggly, and provides the shape of the cheese that you want. Add the cheese, smoothing the top. You might want to give the bowl a few hard taps on a cutting board to make sure that there are no air holes.
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Cover well with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, unmold the cheese by turning the bowl upside down onto a serving platter. Carefully remove the plastic wrap. Let the cheese sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving. You want it nice and spreadable!


I served mine with fresh strawberries and water crackers, just like in the old days!

This is enough cheese to serve 4-6 people. And it cost less than $2.00 to make.

A recipe for strawberry version is here.