We continue to be fighting cold weather and the flu here on the east coast. So my call to action is comfort food for strength. I think a hearty soup is the perfect answer. I used the ham bone I had in the freezer from Christmas , I embarked on making a lentil soup that uses some of my favorite flavors, such as rosemary, thyme, red chili flakes, garlic and some dry sherry. It’s my mother’s lentil soup kicked up a few times for more flavor. I love adding just a touch of heat to the soup with the red chili flakes, and the sherry is purely for medicinal purposes! Lentils are considered a power food, it helps lower cholesterol, helps lower the risk of heart disease and it’s filled with antioxidants. So fortify your family with this delicious and warming soup.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sweet onions finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 quarts chicken stock
1 ham bone with some meat on bone
1 pound umbrian lentils
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry sherry
In a stock pot heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté the onions until soften. Add garlic and red chili flakes and saute another minute. Add rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves. Sauté until fragrant about one minute. Add the stock and ham bone. Bring to a boil, then lower heat , cover and simmer for approximately 1 hour. Remove the ham bone, chop the meat from the bone and add back into the soup along with the lentils, salt and pepper and simmer covered another hour. Add sherry and simmer another ten minutes. Remove from heat and serve.
Dried Cherry, Coconut and Chinese Five Spice Granola
3 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 1/2 cups pepita (pumpkin) seeds, unsalted
1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chinese five spice powder
4 tablespoons orange blossom honey
½ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine all ingredients except the dried fruit into a mixing bowl, combine well. On a parchment lined sheet spread ingredients in 1 layer. Bake for 50 minutes until brown stirring every ten minutes until mixture is browned. Remove from oven and cool granola. Once cooled add dried cherries and coconut. Mix well. Keep in airtight container. It should keep about one week.
Well, it was bound to happen. Temperatures just plunged here on the East Coast and when the wind whips across the bay, it is bone chilling! When the weather turns that cold, I find making a nice braise that spends a few hours in the oven the ultimate comfort food. I love making braises through out the winter and one of the most rewarding is this slow red wine braise for beef short ribs. Beef short ribs are one of the most delicious and flavorful cuts of meat. It takes some love and time to bring the best out of this cut in preparation. First, the ribs are bathed in a brine for a few hours to add flavor and keep the meat tender while it slowly braises in the oven in a bath of red wine and beef stock with some lovely herbs and vegetables. The final step is a splash of red wine vinegar to balance against the richness of the meat. The result is a beautiful, complex marriage of flavors. I know this sounds a little theatrical but the results are show worthy!
From by the bay wishing you lovely slow braised food memories!
Beef Short Rib Braised in Red Wine
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup coarse sea salt
6 cups water
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds beef short ribs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 cups leeks, chopped in rings using the white and light green parts only
1 cup fennel, chopped ( remove fronds, stem and core)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1 bottle dry red wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
In a large stock pot add the ingredients for the brine and bring to a boil, dissolving the sugar and salt. Cool completely then add the beef short ribs , cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and remove meat from the brine pat dry and let come to room temperature , before proceeding with making the braise. Mix flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a sealed plastic bag. Add beef short ribs into the bag and coat with the flour mixture. In a large Dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté the floured beef short ribs until browned. Remove browned meat into a bowl and place to the side. Add remaining olive oil to a pan and sauté the leeks and fennel until both start to soften. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute a minute . Add the fennel seeds, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves. Sauté until fragrant about one minute. Add the tomatoe paste. Deglaze with the wine and stock . Add light brown sugar , salt and pepper and then add the meat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat , cover and simmer until very tender but meat still on the bone, approximately 3 hours. Skim any fat from the sauce and then add one tablespoon red wine vinegar and simmer another ten minutes. Remove from heat and serve with soft polenta or mashed potatoes.
Well the holidays are officially done and I would venture to guess that just like me , you are probably looking at various leftovers when you stare into your refrigerator. As I looked at the carton still half filled with eggnog, I considered several different uses and landed on making some pudding. This was a quick and delicious way to use what was left and give new life to the holiday eggnog!
Ingredients For Icing
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and champagne. Add 2 1/2 cups flour and mix well. Dough will be stiff. If not sprinkle a little more flour in and mix well. Roll out dough, on well-floured pastry sheet, to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutter. I prefer to use a champagne cork cookie cutter. Bake on a non-stick cookie sheet for 10 minute, until bottoms just start to brown. Once cookies have cooled, make icing by combining above ingredients. Frost cookies and top with decorative sugar and or sprinkles, Let icing harden on cookies by sitting on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.
Well, we are well into the holidays season and still a few parties to go from now until New Year’s. I thought I would share my all time favorite crowd pleasing appetizer recipe . Variations of this recipe abound but if you have never tried it , you definitely should. It’s easy to make and assemble in advance for a party, which is a plus in book for any party recipe.
From by the bay wishing you happy holiday food memories!
Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Provolone
24 pitted Medjool dates
12 slices bacon
2 ounces provolone cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the bacon slices in half with a scissor. Cut the provolone cheese into 24 small sticks approximately 1” x 1 ¼”. Place cheese into the date. Wrap date with a ½ slice of bacon and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes and turn the dates over and bake for 15 more minutes until the bacon is crispy. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
You can make these with other sharp cheeses such as Manchego, Parmesan or Soft Gorgonzola.
One of my guilty pleasures is subscribing to the mouth watering daily menu of Thomas Keller’s amazing restaurant in Napa Valley- “Ad Hoc”. Not too long ago Pepita Brittle was on the menu and I knew I needed to make it. While searching the internet I found the Smitten Kitchen Blog for Pepita Brittle. It was inspired by the same Tom Colicchio recipe I adapted last fall for my Thanksgiving and Christmas peanut brittle. Below is my version of pepita brittle and it is fantastic. This is one of the best brittle recipes and I have tried many. The recipe always works and it doesn’t need a candy thermometer. I found that brittle is not only a great addition to your dessert table but it also makes for a wonderful holiday gift. But be forewarned this brittle is highly addictive.
From by the bay wishing you sweet holidays!
Adapted from “Craft of Cooking” by Tom Colicchio and Smitten Kitchen Blog from 11/1/2008
Makes one 12 x 16 – inch pan
Canola -oil spray
2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter
6 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 pound or 1 1/2 cup shelled raw unroasted pepitas ( pumpkin seeds)
1 1/2 tablespoons Maldon sea salt
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray parchment paper with Canola oil. Take a large non-stick pot and add sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1 1/3 cups water. Place on high heat melting sugar until the caramel turns amber color, stir occasionally as this is cooking. This might take awhile, it will thicken as it boils before it finally turns amber. At this point add the baking soda and salt, then remove from heat and add the pepitas. Stirring well, then quickly pour onto the baking sheet and spread out evening with a spatula. An alternate method for a smoother brittle is slide the parchment paper out of the baking pan and onto a smooth counter top. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and use a rolling in, to smooth the brittle and roll it out thin. Once the brittle is rolled out you can remove the top sheet of parchment paper and let the brittle cool and then break into pieces. If you can resist eating this , store in an air tight container.
Cranberry Soda Bread
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Irish Soda Bread from “Barefoot Contessa At Home” published in 2006.
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Cranberry Jam from “Feast Food To Celebrate Life ” published in 2004
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Put a film of water in the bottom of a large saucepan and add the cranberries and sugar. Stir patiently over a low heat to dissolve the sugar; this will take a little while. Turn up the heat and boil the pan rapidly until setting point is reached, about 7 minutes. (Alternatively it will have reached a jam-like consistency.)
Pour the jam into a sterilized jar (s) and seal immediately or keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.
Makes approximately 4 cups.