Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Biscotti

We had a very rainy day as a tropical storm came through.  Dark cloudy skies, heavy rains, it felt like a perfect day to stay indoors…and bake!  I love the smell of cinnamon.  I look forward to fall, lighting candles with the scent of pumpkin spice, apple and cinnamon.  Better still is filling my kitchen with the aromas of fresh-baked cinnamony treats!

Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Biscotti is crisp and low fat.  Made with white/whole wheat blend flour, pecans and golden raisins.  This is a recipe I have made many years back recently replacing the white flour with the white/wheat blend.  Perfect for dipping in espresso!

Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Biscotti

Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 1995

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup white/wheat flour
2 teaspoons backing powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
Cinnamon / Sugar mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a large baking sheet or use a slipat. 

Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer until thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in brandy and vanilla.  Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into egg mixture and blend well.  Mix in raisins and pecans.  Divide dough into two and shape each into long, thin logs.  If the dough feels sticky, use wet hands to shape.  Sprinkle on cinnamon/sugar mix as liberally as you like.

Bake about 20-25 minutes until biscotti begins to brown and feels firm to the touch.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.  Cool biscotti logs on sheet for 10 minutes.

Transfer logs to cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices.  Arrange slices on same baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  Cool biscotti on baking sheets as biscotti will continue to become very crisp.  Store in airtight container.

Ghee aka The Golden Oil aka Clarified Butter

Ghee is clarified butter.  The Golden Oil that is fragrant, flavorful, free of milk proteins and sugars.  It’s a wonderful staple to have on hand to drizzle on toast, quick saute of fruit,  adding flavor and character to food.  Because it is so flavorful, almost a nutty taste, I can usually use less ghee than regular butter or oil.  Ghee does not have to be refrigerated and will not become rancid sitting out on my counter in an airtight container.  Ghee can be purchased; however, it is expensive.  I like to prepare a batch of Ghee while I’m baking or cooking in the kitchen as it really only takes about 30-45 minutes and occassionally an eye on the butter to avoid burning!

I prefer to use organic, unsalted butter.  If I have a specific recipe in mind, I will infuse the ghee with spices and herbs.  Similar to flavored oil, I will add oregano, rosemary and thyme for an Italian flavoring.

When I notice that my fruit is becoming overly ripe, I love to saute a mix of cut up fruit with just a touch of ghee and a sprinkling of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom to enhance the flavors.  I will use the sautéed fruit in syrups by adding a touch of maple syrup, dessert sauces or breakfast topping for waffles, mixed into oatmeal or yogurt.

Ghee

1 pound unsalted organic butter

Place the butter in a medium heavy bottom saucepan.  Using medium heat, bring the butter to a boil.  Reduce the heat to continue with a steady slow boil.  Watch so that the butter does not burn.  There will be crackling sounds as the water evaporates from the butter.  Foam will begin to settle to the bottom of the pan and the top will become clear.  This will take about 3o minutes.  When the top is mostly clear, turn off the heat and allow to cool.  Strain the ghee through a cheesecloth lined strainer to catch the sediments.  Continue to cool complete and then pour into a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.  This will yield about 1 1/2 cups of ghee and will last for a month without needing refrigeration.

Artichoke Carbonara

Somedays I simply crave a creamy, warm pasta dish.  Carbonaro is one of these dishes with egg yolks and parmesan cheese creating a rich sauce.  While Carbonaro can be tricky to make as the eggs need to be tempered slowly to avoid a scrambled, cooked egg, the dish does come together quickly to satisfy those urgent cravings.  Other recipes use raw eggs, followed by the “Raw Egg Warning“!

Awhile back I saw a recipe from Giada using a fried egg to top her pasta.  I immediately like this idea.  The egg is quickly fried to not overcook the yolk and once plated on the pasta and cut, the creamy yolk saturates into the pasta.  Similar to the frisee salad topped with a fried egg, which I love also!  The presentation is also so cool, however, my picture doesn’t do it justice!  Plus the fact I used a green plate with white & spinach (green!) egg noodles, green pesto sauce and green ish artichokes!!  Aside from the green look, the taste is fabulous!  The creamy herby sauce blends with the tang of the artichokes and the texture of the thicker egg noodles creates a wonderful balance.

Artichoke Carbonaro

1 9 oz package of frozen artichokes, simmered and drained
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped pancetta
1/2 lb egg noodles or tagliatelle or spaghetti
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pasta water or heavy cream (I use the cream!)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pesto
4 eggs and butter for frying

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the pancetta and artichokes.  Saute until lightly browned.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm.  Drain pasta and add to the artichoke pan.  Stir in the pesto sauce, cream, parmesan cheese and pepper.

In a separate skillet, light fry the eggs in a small amount of butter.  Platter the pasta on individual dishes and place one fried egg on top of each serving.  Sprinkle on freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.

Baked Eggplant Cutlets

Eggplant cutlets are one of my favorite staple dishes.  With a platter of crispy, yet creamy slices of breaded eggplant layered with sauce and parmesan cheese, I am ready to create several meals.  Delicious on their own, I love to simply plate a slice and savor it slowly.

My dad made the best eggplant cutlets!  He knew how much we loved them and would have a dish ready when I visited.  Even though I followed his recipe exactly, my kids would tell me it’s not quite as good as Grampa’s!  My sister too, nieces and nephew could find a plate sitting out warm or at room temperature to top on fresh Italian bread.  While they were previously prepared by frying the cutlets, my Dad started the healthier baking version, using much less oil, as eggplants can soak up the oil quickly.

Once I have a platter prepared, I am ready to use the cutlets for an eggplant pizza, or as a Panini filling with ciabatta bread, or for eggplant parmesan by layering the cutlet slices with mozzarella cheese and sauce and baking for about 30 minutes until the cheese is all melted, hot and bubbly.

Baked Eggplant Cutlets

1 – 2 large eggplants sliced into thick rounds, about 1/2 inch thick
Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano – or use 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
Homemade or store-bought tomato sauce
Additional parmesan cheese for sprinkling between layers

Layer the eggplant slices on a plate, sprinkling kosher salt liberally on each layer.  Cover with a plate and add weight – as you see in my picture, anything will do!  Leave the eggplant for at least an hour.  Some say its done to reduce the bitterness of the eggplant, others say it is so that the eggplant will not absorb so much oil.  After an hour or so, rinse off the water and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees.  Lightly oil a large baking sheet, or two if necessary.

Using two breading pans, beat the eggs in one and combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, dried spices or fresh parsley.  Dip the cutlets in the egg and then in the bread crumb mixture, pressing down slightly to adhere the crumbs.  Place on baking sheet.  Drizzle additional oil on top of the cutlets and place in oven.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Take out and flip each cutlet over and return to oven for an additional 15 minutes.  The cutlets will have a golden crust.

While hot from the oven, prepare a platter by spreading on a light layer of sauce and begin evenly topping with the cutlets.  Spread sauce on top of each cutlets and sprinkle on the parmesan cheese. Continue until all cutlets have been placed in the platter.  Serve warm or at room temperature or use in other dishes.  Store in the refrigerator for a few days.

 

 

Mixed Grilled Shrimp, Scallops, Zucchini and Peppers with Papaya Salad

I have finally found a great little place to shop for seafood.  One would think living in Florida it would be easy.  The Fish Peddler was recommended by Chef Jean Pierre.  A small, friendly seafood store with a large selection of fresh, high quality seafood and many accoutrements to compliment a dish.

Like a kid in a candy store, or like me in a cookbook aisle, I wanted to buy it all!  Luckily, we were there for a purpose, a requested dinner of shrimp and scallops.  Gorgeous large Key West pink shrimp and beautiful, ivory colored jumbo scallops.  Along with the seafood, we grilled zuchini and peppers and served it all with yellow rice and a refreshing papaya salad.

Grilled Shrimp and Scallops, Zucchini and Peppers

4 servings

16 large shrimp
8 jumbo scallops – cut in half
2 medium zucchinis sliced in half and cut into bite size chunks
1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange pepper, cut into chunks

For the marinade:

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
1/2 cup oil
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 small red onion
1 tablespoon honey
salt & pepper

For the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 small red onion
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small blender and emulsify well.  Set aside.  Can be made one day ahead.

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small blender and emulsify well.  Set aside and can also be made one day ahead.

Devine and clean shrimp.  Cut scallops in half (if using jumbo).  Marinade seafood no longer than 1 hour prior to cooking.  Marinade zucchini and peppers in the same marinade, separate containers.

Heat a grill to medium heat.  Thread shrimp and scallops on separate skewers as shrimp will cook faster than the scallops.  Thread zucchini and pepper combined on skewers.  Grill until lightly charred and tender.  Shrimp will curl slightly and scallops should be firm to the touch.  Remove and plate to serve.  Drizzle on some of the vinaigrette.

Papaya Salad

1 large papaya, ripe, gently soft
3 limes
1 small red onion, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions, cut thin on the bias
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, sliced thin
salt and pepper

Peel and seed the papaya and slice into wedges.  In a small bowl, juice the limes, add the red onion, ginger and olive oil.  Mix well.  Drizzle over papaya, and gently toss.  Sprinkle on green onion and mint.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Mediterranean Pork Chops

Hot and fast, tender pork chops simmered in a creamy light tomato sauce.   This is a very easy weeknight dinner that can I can pull together quickly with staple pantry ingredients.  While I  normally purchase boneless pork chops for preparing quick dishes, these center cut pork chops can be made as easily requiring just slightly longer cooking time.  Pork chops on the bone seem more rustic, comfort dining to me, but I would serve this to guests as well as the pork is so extremely flavorful and tender.

Mediterranean Pork Chops

4 center cut pork chops about 1/2 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
Italian seasoning mix (see below)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion thinly sliced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup water, chicken stock or white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup heavy cream

Italian Seasoning Mix:
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon dried sage
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine seasoning mix in a small container; not all will be used, save the remaining for other dishes in an airtight container for up to 3 months.  Season each pork chop well with the mixture, rubbing it into the meat on both sides. 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add pork chops to the pan and allow to cook for about 3 minutes or until the chops can be turned easily, without sticking, and are nicely browned.  Turn pork chops over and cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Remove from the pan to a plate.

Add in thinly sliced onions and diced tomatoes, stirring well to combine and scraping bottom of the pan.  Stir in the cream and return the pork chops to the pan, turning once to coat both sides with the sauce.  Partially cover the pan and allow to simmer for about 25 minutes, occasionally turning the pork chops.  Plate pork chops spooning sauce over each chop.

S’mores Brownies

Summer doesn’t really seem to end in Florida.  The beautiful weather, blue skies and sun remain year round.  I truly love living in this climate.  There are subtle changes to let you know seasons are changing.  While I certainly can dip in a pool in December, BBQ outdoors and sip tropical drinks year round, I do change up my menus with the seasons.  My Northern roots tug at my heart to keep those seasonal routines and traditions.  I actually get very excited and look forward to start cooking with each new season’s fresh bounty of fruits and veggies.

All summer making S’mores was on my mind.  Either traditionally with the graham crackers, toasted marshmallows and chocolate camping treat or in the various cookies, pies or cheesecakes I have seen.  Realizing my time is passing quickly…. September is almost over!  I quickly, and I emphasize quickly, decided on easy S’mores Brownies.

I bought this Wilton Brownie sheet pan awhile back and had not yet used it.  It would be perfect for the S’mores idea.  Cutting neat squares of brownies can be challenging and to then have them topped with gooey marshmallows, well, you get the point. 

I used my go to quick brownie recipe, however, a good brownie mix will certainly work well.  Bite size mini brownies, popped right out of the silicone pan.  No cutting, no stressing and very, very cute!

S’mores Brownies

(tried & true Baker’s One Bowl Brownie recipe)

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Mini marshmallows
Graham Crackers, 1 sleeve (I used chocolate graham crackers)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat stirring well until butter and chocolate are completely melted.  Stir sugar into melted chocolate mixture.  Mix in eggs and vanilla until well blended.  Stir in flour and nuts.  Spread in greased 13 x 9 inch pan.  *If using one Wilton brownie pan only half of this recipe will be needed.

Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven.  Sprinkle marshmallows and broken graham cracker pieces over soft dough.  Return to oven and continue to cook 10 – 15 minutes longer or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out with fudgy crumbs.  Do not overbake.  Cool in pan and cut into squares.  Makes about 24 brownies using the 13 x 9 inch pan.

Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Souffle

Saturday night Peter and I attended a couples only French Dinner Cooking Class at Chef Jean Pierre’s Cooking School in Ft. Lauderdale.  The menu consisted of Shrimp and Scallop Sambuca on Mediterranean Couscous, Saffron Broth Poached Salmon with a Champagne Mustard Sauce and a Spinach Souffle.  Dessert was Cherry Jubilee Crepes with Vanilla Ice Cream.   Delicious!

We truly had a fun, informative evening.  Chef Jean Pierre with his wit and wisdom kept us all entertained and wanting to learn and hear more.  Each dish was superb as he stresses the importance of quality ingredients and correct cooking techniques.  I picked up a lot of very useful and new tips along with these fabulous recipes to use and recreate at home.  It would be hard to pick a favorite as I adored each one.

The Spinach Souffle was absolutely wonderful.  Chef Jean Pierre shared variations to his recipes thereby proving a basic method that can be changed up with different ingredients.  And, that I love!  Which leads me straight to my version.  Basically I added roasted garlic and omitted the potatoes, which were heavenly in his dish, but just as good (different) without.  I will probably make these many more times and with many different ingredients.  In another post, I will definitely share how he cooks his potatoes as it’s a great method!

Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Souffle

adapted from Chef Jean Pierre’s Cooking School

Non stick spray
1/2 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion diced small and cut even in size
1/2 bag fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 bulb roasted garlic
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese grated
1/2 cup goat cheese
6 whole eggs (1 egg per ramekin)
about 12 ounces cream (2 ounces per person, per 6 ounce ramekin)
salt and pepper

6  –  6 ounce ramekins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray individual souffle dishes with a non-stick spray.  Coat each ramekin with parmesan cheese and set aside on a baking sheet.

In a saute pan, heat the butter and the oil.  When hot, add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic (removed from papery cloves) and spinach.  Continue to cook for a few more minutes to soften the spinach and release some of the water.  Divide the mixture into each ramekin make sure not fill more than 1/2 of each dish.  Tope the mixture with the cheeses.

In a saucepan, add the cream, salt and pepper.  When hot, temper the eggs very slowly to avoid cooking the eggs by slowing adding the eggs into the cream while whisking.  Chef used an immersion blender.  Pour the cream mixture on top of the cheese to fill each ramekin.  Gently mix each ramekin to submerge all ingredients.

Bake in oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  They will puff up, but will deflate as they cool.  The souffles can be baked ahead and reheated in a warm oven prior to serving.

Remove from ramekin for serving.  Serves 6.

Note:  Recipe can be increased/decreased by estimating one egg per ramekin and 2 oz cream per ramekin.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin Scampi

I have been wanting to post a recipe for beef tenderloin as it is fairly easy to make and when cooked correctly, very tender and flavorful.  There are many ways to serve and prepare; rolled and stuffed, seared and roasted, marinated and grilled, topped on salads, drizzled with sauces, in a crunchy baguette, topped on a crostini, mixed into a frittata.

Seared and roasted is one of my favorite ways to cook a beef tenderloin and a good basic method.  I decided to do a surf and turf type entre; basically prepping two dishes, a roasted beef tenderloin and a shrimp scampi.  No sauce was necessary for the tenderloin as the juices from the scampi topped the tenderloin slices with a light, lemony sauce.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin Scampi

For the tenderloin:

2 pounds beef tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Tie the tenderloin with twine to help hold its shape and create an even thickness.  Mix together the olive oil and remaining spices to form a paste and rub all over the tenderloin.  (The tenderloin can be prepped at this point and refrigerated over night or until ready to continue – bring to room temperature before proceeding)

Heat a cast iron or ovenproof skillet over medium high heat and allow to get hot.  Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Put the tenderloin in the pan and sear it, turning once.  Place the pan in the oven and roast until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes.  Remove to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes.  Cut into 1/4 inch slices and platter.

For the Shrimp Scampi:

1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 – 4 large garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a large skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add in the shrimp, garlic and salt.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes, turning the shrimp until they are just pink.  Stir in the parsley and lemon juice and cook 1 minute.

Pour shrimp and sauce over the tenderloin slices.  Serve with additional lemon wedges.

Cannoli

Cannoli makes me smile.  Creamy and crunchy; a very distinct flavor of ricotta blended with marscapone and infused with Gran Marnier or Amaretto.  Additions of chocolate, almonds or pistachios; their presentation is as delightful as their taste!  There are many different fillings to choose from.  This is my simple, yet wonderfully tasting filling.  Cannoli’s are a make ahead dessert but filling of the shells should be done just and hour or two prior to serving.  I will admit the leftovers, if there are any, still taste good to me.  The crunchy shell slightly softens from the filling and the combined flavors marry and melt in my mouth.

I do not make the shells. I have contemplated buying the tubes and studied various recipes, but honestly, I buy a few boxes, small and large sizes, online or at my Italian deli.  I keep a supply on hand and when a need arises for an impressive, easy dessert, I am ready!  That being said, please note I almost always have ricotta cheese and marscapone in my refrigerator 🙂

Cannoli

3/4 cup whole milk ricotta – drain overnight or several hours with a cheesecloth
3/4 cup marscapone cheese
1/4 cup fine sugar
1/2 teaspoon Gran Marnier or Amaretto
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Optional to decorate:  melted chocolate, mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, pistachios or almonds finely chopped

Mix all ingredients together.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, at least a few hours.  Use a pastry bag or a plastic bag, corner snipped, to squish the filling into each end of the cannoli.  Decorate the ends with nuts or chocolate chips.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Note:  I added about 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips into my filling mixture for these cannoli.