A cranberry cookbook from me to you

I haven't made much of this. It came and went so fast my head is spinning. But, after a long break, I finished another cookbook. And it's in bookstores now!

One day last summer I told a friend I probably wouldn't write another cookbook, and she said, never say never. You don't know what is going to happen.

And that is the lesson learned, my friends. We don't like to acknowledge how little control we actually have over our lives. It is just too damn scary--especially for us the-sky-is-gonna-fall anxiety types. The upside is that what is right around the corner might be a good thing, a challenge we can embrace and celebrate. 

Which brings me to this book. It came to me from a friend who passed on it, but recommended me to the publisher (Globe Pequot Press in Connecticut.) I had no ambitions to write a single subject book, or another book for that matter. This one was to be a quick turnaround, no time to wait for cranberry season, but I decided to go for it. One of the best challenges for me was that I would be able to shoot all the photos myself. So it's a first, but not the last, as it turns out. More books are in the works, but I'll let you know when I sign on the dotted line.

This cake recipe is a sleeper, but one you must have in your pocket over the summer. Cranberries (frozen are fine) are tart and fabulous in this cake, but substitute other fruits as the summer progresses: apples, pears, plums, especially plums, peaches, even grapes would be good in this cake.

Cranberry Almond Skillet Cake
Makes one 10-inch cake

Butter (for the pan)
2/3 cup whole, unblanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into slices
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
Confectioner’s sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Generously butter a 10-inch skillet with a heatproof handle.

2. In a food processor, grind the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar until fine. Set aside 1/4 cup of the almond-sugar mixture for the topping.

3. In a bowl, whisk the remaining almond-sugar mixture, the flour, baking powder, and salt until blended.

4. In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar together for 3 minutes, or until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Beat in the vanilla.

5. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture until the batter is smooth. The batter will be thick. Scrape it into the pan, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon.

6. Distribute the cranberries over the cake and sprinkle with the reserved almond sugar.

7. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs still clinging to the skewer. Set on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.  Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cut into wedges.

 

Find the cranberry cookbook on Amazon THE CRANBERRY COOKBOOK

Posted on April 30, 2017 .

Breakfast quiche recipe for the first day of Spring

It’s spring! Finally. The snow may still be on the ground today, but there’s hope in my heart, friends, when the sun is shining and the day is longer.

I’ve been making these lately because:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Protein gets you off to a great start.

Summer is coming.

(Forget about the bathing suit, I just want to fit into my jeans again.)

You can make them ahead.

They’re great to have on hand when company comes for the weekend.

Have them for lunch with a salad, no regrets.

Once you’ve made these, you’ll want to try different fillings. Leftover vegetables come to life when combined with different cheeses, cherry tomatoes or sautéed vegetables. Whip up the eggs in a blender—a little flour keeps the eggs from weeping.  If you’re not a fan of ham, you can substitute cooked bacon or just leave it out.  Make the basic custard and pour it over whatever combination of vegetables and cheese that pleases you. (I have omitted salt in the egg mixture because of the ham, so when improvising, be sure to sprinkle some into the custard.)

 

Crustless quiche recipe

Oil or cooking spray (for the ramekins)
6 ounces Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, finely sliced (white part only)
1 1/2 cups small ham cubes (from an 8-ounce ham steak)
3 cups packed baby spinach leaves (6 ounces)
4 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil six 1-cup ramekins. (Cooking spray works the best). Have on hand a baking sheet.

2. Grate 1/2  cup of the cheese. Cut the remaining cheese into small cubes.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the ham and spinach, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach wilts. Set aside to cool, and stir in the cheese cubes.

4. In a blender, pulse the eggs, milk, flour and pepper, until smooth.

5. Set the ramekins on the baking sheet. Divide filling evenly among the ramekins. Pour the egg mixture over the filling and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy spring, friends!

 

 

Posted on March 20, 2017 .

Sweets for the sweet: Chocolate fruit and nut bark for Valentine's Day

It's snowing outside and we're hunkered down during another storm. We need chocolate.

Luckily, that is always something I have in my pantry, along with an assortment of nuts and dried fruit, so this is going to be easy.

The possibilities of toppings for these bars are open ended.  The choices run the gamut: whole almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped candied ginger, or whatever strikes your fancy will do. Make sure to finely chop the chocolate, and don’t forget a smidgen of salt.

Happy Valentine's Day no matter where you are and who you are with. Maybe you are your own best friend right now, and in that case,  I'm sending you a big virtual hug.

Eat some chocolate, friends, and spread a little love this week. 

Chocolate fruit and nut bars
Makes 18 (4 1/2-by-1-inch) bars
8 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mixed, unsalted, raw nuts and seeds such as pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raising or chopped dried fruit of your choosing

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a parchment paper rectangle that is 9 inches wide and slightly longer than the pan. The parchment should fit on the bottom and extend up the two short sides of the pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the lined baking pan and bake for 3 minutes, or until the chocolate melts. Remove from the oven, and use a small offset spatula to spread it in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cool for 5 minutes. Freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm. Remove from the freezer.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt. Add the nuts and stir to coat them. Spread them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and fragrant. Remove them from the oven and cool for 2 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the warm nuts and the dried fruit evenly over the chocolate. Place the parchment sheet you used for the nuts on top of the bars and press firmly with your hands to embed them into the chocolate. The chocolate will start melting from the heat of the nuts. (If it does not, return the pan to the oven for 1 minute.) Freeze for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens.

5. Using the parchment paper ends as handles, lift the chocolate out of the baking pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board with the short side parallel to the edge of the board. Use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the chocolate in half lengthwise. Make 1-inch cuts across the halves to make a total of 18 bars. Store in a cool place in an airtight tin between layers of waxed paper.

Posted on February 13, 2017 .

Baking with Dorie (Greenspan). Seriously.

Dorie 1.jpg

What do you do when a baking icon shows up at your door? (or in this case, a friend’s door) Well, when it’s Dorie Greenspan you don’t have to worry. Relax, because she is as natural and easy as they come

Dorie 2.jpg

My friend Sheryl Julian (former editor of the Boston Globe food section) was interviewing Dorie at her house, and I was the lucky fly on the wall. I opened the door to Dorie and her husband, and it was like greeting an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while. In fact, I had met Dorie quite a few years ago, but I was sure she wouldn’t remember me. She did (or she had the grace to say so) and the conversation picked up from there.

Dorie 3.jpg

Dorie made Caramel Sugar Pufflets from her new book, Dorie’s Cookies. Leave it to Dorie to reinvent a vintage recipe and give it a modern twist (from the 1961 book 1001 Dairy Dishes from the Sealtest Kitchens.) It’s an abbreviated layered dough (like puff pastry) made with butter, sour cream and yeast. The dough is a dream to roll out, which makes these pastries undemanding and fun to bake. The dough is slightly salty, contrasting perfectly with the caramelized sugar layers. I would show you my photo of them, but alas, they were too enticing to make it in front of the camera—somebody ate them, but I won’t say who.

Never mind, because you can see them here and read Sheryl’s story (and get the recipe.)

I know it’s the eleventh hour, but I wanted to post this since really, there are still a few days left to shop and bake. The book is a must-give to a baking friend. You can never have too many cookie recipes, and Dorie’s are well researched and tested. You will find each delicious bite in every size shape and size imaginable.

There is so much more to say, but I have to get back to baking. If you are looking for a real last-minute treat, here is one I photographed and immediately gave away. I’ve put Dorie’s slogan on her next tee shirt “Bake and Release” into practice.   That’s how a prolific baker such as Dorie Greenspan keeps her girlish figure. 

Chocolate fruit and nut bars
Makes 18 (4 1/2-by-1-inch) bars

The possibilities of toppings for these bars are open ended. If you have some nuts, dried fruit and chocolate around the house, you won’t even have to make a special trip to shop for ingredients. The choices run the gamut: whole almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped candied ginger, or whatever strikes your fancy will do. Make sure to finely chop the chocolate, and don’t forget a smidgen of salt.

8 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mixed, unsalted, raw nuts and seeds such as pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chopped dried fruit of your choosing

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a parchment paper rectangle that is 9 inches wide and slightly longer than the pan. The parchment should fit on the bottom and extend up the two short sides of the pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the lined baking pan and bake for 3 minutes, or until the chocolate melts. Remove from the oven, and use a small offset spatula to spread it in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cool for 5 minutes. Freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm. Remove from the freezer.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt. Add the nuts and stir to coat them. Spread them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and fragrant. Remove them from the oven and cool for 2 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the warm nuts and the dried fruit evenly over the chocolate. Place the parchment sheet you used for the nuts on top of the bars and press firmly with your hands to embed them into the chocolate. The chocolate will start melting from the heat of the nuts. (If it does not, return the pan to the oven for 1 minute.) Freeze for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens.

5. Using the parchment paper ends as handles, lift the chocolate out of the baking pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board with the short side parallel to the edge of the board. Use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the chocolate in half lengthwise. Make 1-inch cuts across the halves to make a total of 18 bars. Store in a cool place in an airtight tin between layers of waxed paper.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ONE AND ALL AND BEST WISHES FOR A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR WITH MANY NEW ADVENTURES AND GOOD FRIENDS AND OF COURSE, FOOD.

Posted on December 22, 2016 .

Turkey enchilada casserole

Ix-nay on the turkey soup, it's time to cook something a little different to use up those leftovers.

With folks still hanging around over the weekend, turn your leftovers into a spicy casserole. Traditional enchiladas are made with corn tortillas that are first fried, then coated in sauce, filled, and rolled. I break only one rule, and that is to ‘oven fry’ the tortillas instead of frying them in oil on the stove, which is a deal breaker for most of us. The frying actually serves to keep the tortillas from cracking when filled, but with some experimentation, I found that a light coating of oil and a few minutes in the oven accomplish the same goal.

Green sauce goes well with any kind of poultry (you could substitute chicken), and here it is made with tomatillos, pale green, firm fruits that are covered with a papery husk and a slightly sticky residue that must be removed. Their flavor is lemony tart and they pair well with the mild spice of poblano peppers and the heat of jalapenos. As in many Mexican sauces, once pureed, the sauce is simmered in a pan for a few minutes to blend the flavors. The thick Mexican cream (crema) that would be used here is not easy to obtain, but easy enough to replicate with sour cream thinned with milk. You can find cotija, a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese in some markets, but Parmesan makes a fine substitute. All’s well that ends well, and this feisty casserole rounds out a weekend of feasting in an unexpected way.

p.s. I'm going to let you in on a secret. When I'm feeling lazy and want to make this in a hurry, I use tomatillo sauce from a jar (!) (Frontera Grill). That's it. Everything else is the same. 

Rest up my friends, and enjoy your weekend.

Turkey enchilada casserole
Serves 6

SAUCE

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved crosswise
1/2 white onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 poblano chiles, halved and seeded
2 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup turkey or chicken stock

1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the tomatillos, cut side down, in the pan. Cook, turning with tongs, for 4 to 5 minutes on a side, or until lightly charred. Transfer to a blender jar.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan and return to the heat. Add the onion and garlic. Place the poblanos and jalapenos with the skin sides down. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly charred. Transfer to the blender jar. Add the cilantro, salt, and stock to the jar, and puree until smooth.

3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the pureed sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add more water or stock, 2 tablespoons at a time, if sauce seems thick.

ENCHILADAS
3/4 cup sour cream
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
12 corn tortillas
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups shredded cooked turkey (from about 3 pounds uncooked turkey)
1 1/4 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup crumbled cotija, or grated Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
4 thinly sliced radishes (for garnish)
Cilantro leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Lightly oil two 3-quart, shallow baking dishes. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet and a dinner plate.

2. In a bowl, stir together the sour cream and enough milk to bring it to the consistency of thick cream.

3. In a separate bowl, toss the shredded turkey with 1/2 cup of the sauce.

4. On the baking sheet, spread the tortillas (they don’t have to be in one layer.) Drizzle with the oil, and with your hands, lightly rub to coat them in the oil. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes, or until softened. Remove.

5. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of each baking dish. Drizzle each with 2 tablespoons of the cream.

6. One at a time, dip, fill and roll the tortillas: Dip a tortilla in the sauce and set it on a plate. Spoon about 1/4 cup turkey filling on one side and roll it up like a cigar. Place in the baking dish with the seam side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas, leaving a small gap between each roll, six enchiladas per pan. Pour the remaining sauce over each baking dish, dividing it evenly between the two pans. Sprinkle each dish the grated Monterey jack, dividing it evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.

7.  To serve, drizzle each dish with more cream, and sprinkle with cotija. Top with radishes and cilantro.

©2009-2016 Sally Pasley Vargas. Writing and photography, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on November 25, 2016 .