Thursday, January 22, 2009

Golden Winter Root Veggies

I can't for the life of me think of a decent name for this recipe. It was born out of necessity, as so many great things are. The short backstory: I cannot pass up a bargain on produce. Okay, so maybe I won't be buying 3 for $2 bell peppers anytime soon but as long as it's something I like or would like to learn how to use. Hence my discovery of the rutabaga.

My mom recommended them after I raved about the beet salad a friend brought to our house. She says "it's kinda like a beet, kinda like a turnip and kinda like a potato". When I saw them in the produce aisle with their dark, rubbery skin I was dubious but picked up a few anyway.

I've been roasting lots lately, mainly because it's such a good way to combine the flavor of vegetables with spices in a way completely unrelated to boring ol' boiled dinners or something out of a can. These rutabagas roast beautifully, and the golden beets added a nice difference to the texture (although the rutabagas are quite mild themselves). This dish is a bit time consuming but not labor intensive, so if you have an evening to get work done at home this is a great dish to try out.

1 large rutabaga
3 small golden beets
3 tsp juice from preserved lemons
1/2 white onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4c olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
~1/2c grated parmesan

Put a large pot of water on to boil and slice the tops off of the beets and rutabaga. Scrub them well and allow to boil 20-40 minutes or until a fork easily penetrates the rutabaga. Remove from the boiling water and allow to cool.

Peel the roots (the skins of the beets should come off by hand, you'll need a peeler for the rutabaga). Dice into bite sized pieces and toss with all ingredients except the parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, toss again and bake for another 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve hot.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Panettone French Toast

January is a magical month -- namely, magical in the sense of post-Christmas sales. Everything from winter coats to holiday food staples are redlined, put under clearance signs and left to fend for themselves in the masses of holiday crazed bargain hunters. After a few weeks, the remnants of the holidays are all but gone, the last of which to go are the grocery store items. All the cans of pumpkin have been reshelved, the boxes of dark brown sugar safely nestled with other forms of glucose rather than being precariously stacked in the produce aisle.

It was amid these skeletons of the festivities of 2008 that I came across Panettone on sale at Whole Foods. Especially for Italians, this bread is the very symbol of the holidays and joins the ranks of other seasonal superstars like the latke and Christmas cookies. It's a very soft, almost cakelike bread with raisins, candied orange zest, citron and other things I'm surely forgetting that's been allowed to proof for over 30 hours. In it's regular form it's the perfect complement to a cup of coffee or tea, a jovial breakfast loaf to be enjoyed for the days of recuperation in early January.

So, what exactly is my not-at-all-Italian self doing with such an "inside" staple? I can't take complete credit for this masterpiece; Foodblogga posted a lovely recipe for this dish, along with the suggestion on the box. Not all French toast is created equal, even if it's made with Italian bread. My verdict on the dish itself? PHENOMENAL! The best French toast I've ever eaten -- it's creamy on the inside, slightly crispy on the outside and packed with a symphony of flavors. It was almost a little too sweet, but that may have been thanks to my generosity with the maple syrup.

Ingredients for 3 large servings:

3 slices of panettone, apx "1 in thickness
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4c whole milk
maple syrup
butter for the skillet

Combine the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and eggs. Whisk together until uniform. Place each slice of the panettone into the custard and let it soak for exactly 30 seconds; flip and do the same for the other side. Heat a skillet over medium low and melt some butter to prevent sticking. Very carefully place the slices of bread in the skillet (they will be really fragile). After 3-5 minutes, or when the bread is browned when you peek under it, flip and brown the other side. Serve hot with a bit of maple syrup or confectioner's sugar.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Roasted Kohlrabi with Garlic Curry Sauce

A spice that I've recently looked into is yellow curry -- I remember my first year of college having some tofu in curry cream sauce, and since then I haven't had the chance to replicate it. Well, at least until this evening. The roasting of root vegetables causes them to caramelize, releasing their inner sweetness. Combined with the spicy creamy sauce, this makes for a celebration of flavors. Let's hear it for new improvised recipes!

3-4 small to medium kohlrabi bulbs
3 oz cream cheese (try neufchatel for a lower fat version)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp juice from preserved lemons
1 tsp yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Bring a pot of water to a boil, chop the leaves off the kohlrabi bulbs and drop them in. Boil for around 20 minutes, or until it's easy enough to poke them with a fork. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 425. Peel the kohlrabis and chop into bite sized pieces, place them in a ceramic casserole dish or cast iron skillet. Add the spices and lemon juice, toss with the kohlrabi pieces until evenly coated. Drop the cream cheese into the casserole dish and allow to bake, covered, for about 10 minutes or until the cream cheese melts. Remove from the oven and toss to coat the veggies for a second time, put them back in uncovered and bake for 5-10 more minutes or until bubbly.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Cream Sauce

I think winter is officially my favorite season -- fall is nice in many areas of the country but around here, the weather doesn't drop below 50 before November. I love the clothing, the cold wind on my cheeks and the celebration of the holidays. Recently, I discovered something else about winter that I like: the seasonal produce.

But Rasta, you may ask, what's seasonal in the middle of winter? Among many other things, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, mushrooms and brussels sprouts top the charts (for the complete list, click here.) Depending on your area it may be local or it may be shipped across state lines, but buying seasonal is a great way to get both cheaper and fresher produce.

This is another recipe that utilizes the preserved lemons mentioned in the beet salad entry. The measurements are a bit rough, but this isn't a dish where everything has to be exact. Feel free to experiment with different spices or cheeses.

~1 lb brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-4 slices of preserved lemon
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4c heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
salt to taste
cheese to sprinkle over the top (parmesan is good, but I used manouri and it was fabulous as well!)

Steam your brussels sprouts until they're slightly soft and still green, maybe 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450. In a large baking dish, combine all the ingredients except for the cheese and toss until evenly coated. The butter will still be in a chunk, that's okay. Top with cheese and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove and allow to cool.

Limoncello Ricotta Drops

These were in Foodblogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event, thanks to MyGourmetConnection. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I made these, but the result was unique and appreciated by all. I didn't use actual Limoncello, so following the instructions for the non-alcoholic version I increased the lemon extract to 1 tsp and 2 tsp of milk for the dough, along with using lemon juice for the glaze. Milk could be used too.


2c flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2c softened butter
1c sugar
1 egg, beaten
1c ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp lemon zest

3/4c confectioners sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and mix until creamy. Add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon extract and zest. Add the dry ingredients gradually; again, don't overmix or the cookies will lose structure.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove and drop cookies onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes and allow to cool completely.

In a bowl mix the glaze ingredients together. When the cookies are completely cool, drizzle the glaze over them. You can top with a sprinkle of lemon zest for an extra kick. Make sure to keep these in the refridgerator between snacks!

Italian Christmas Cookies

I will begin by saying one thing; nobody beats the Italians when it comes to Christmas cookies. These in conjunction with the lemon ricotta drops, which I'll elaborate on later, impressed me in a way that cookies normally don't :) Not only is it a creative and aesthetically pleasing recipe, but they have a unique flavor without being overly sweet.

I will also confess that I'm not a fan of anise or anything licorice-ey. The recipe said that the anise extract could be substituted with vanilla, lemon or whatever else you desire. I have a good bit of rosewater waiting in my cabinet and decided to put it to use here. It added an extra "something" to these cookies, but I should have used more to make the flavor really come out. This recipe makes quite a few cookies, so I'll include my modifications. Just remember that if you're not using rosewater, only use 2 tsp of your chosen extract.

A last note: I know that I'm super against shortening and hydrogenated oils and considered omitting this recipe for that reason. However, because the recipe makes so many cookies and the amount of shortening is so small I went ahead and made it with no substitutions. It seems important to the texture of the cookie, but if you have any ideas for a better substitution I'd love to hear them!


1/2c butter
1/4c shortening
3/4c sugar
4 eggs
3c flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp rosewater

2c confectioners sugar
2-4tbsp milk
sprinkles or sugar

Preheat the oven to 375. Melt the butter and shortening together and add the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the rosewater then gradually add the dry ingredients. The dough should be soft but firm enough to roll into balls with your hands, if it's too sticky add a bit of flour. Roll them into small balls, about an inch in diameter -- they puff up a lot when they bake! Bake for about 8-10 minutes and allow to cool completely.

Combine the confectioners sugar and milk and dip the tops of the cookies into it. Sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles when it's wet and allow to harden, about an hour. Repeat with each cookie. These ship and present beautifully when dry!

Buttery Jam Cookies

Another winner from Castsugar! I needed an easy "filler" recipe, and seeing as I had just enough lingonberry jam to use up it seemed perfect. Mine didn't come out nearly as pretty as Nemmie's, but I think I overthunk it -- they would have been lovely as fork-scored rounds, similar to peanut butter cookies. Instead I just had to get all fancy and attempt to pipe them out of a freezer bag. They looked more like squished pretzels than cookies, but they still tasted great.

2c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2/3c sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 fruit jam (I used lingonberry, but anything would work)

Preheat the oven to 375. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the egg and beat for about a minute. Add the milk and vanilla and beat for 30 more seconds, finish by adding the jam and beating for about one more minute. Add the dry ingredients and blend until they're just mixed in. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for around 10 minutes.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

This is another recipe from Nemmie's blog, and was the hands-down favorite from the slew of holiday cookies. It's a little labor intensive, but compared to real cinnamon rolls it's a cinch. You see, I was going to make cinnamon rolls but between finals and preparing for the holidays time managed to slip away from me. I still wanted to include a spicy, cinnamony cookie in the packages when I found this recipe.

The cookies were a bit crumbly after the rolling process and I had to be really careful putting the log into the freezer. I think this problem would be solved by wetting the dough slightly before sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over it, so I'll add that step to this recipe. I also omitted the 1/2 tsp powdered egg whites, primarily because I couldn't find them anywhere. I'm sure it works great either way!

Cinnamon Sugar:

2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2c white sugar

Cookie dough:
3c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1c room temperature butter
zest of 1/2 orange
1c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1c confectioners sugar
1/4c warm water or milk

Cream the butter, orange zest and brown sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Combine the dry ingredients for the cookie dough and add it to the wet ingredients gradually. Make sure not to overmix so the dough doesn't lose structure.

Line a 16 x 9 inch pan with wax paper and roll the dough out. Brush the surface with a tiny bit of milk and coat with 1/2 of the cinnamon sugar. Roll it into a long log and dust the outside with the remainder of the cinnamon sugar, brushing with milk if needed. Wrap in plastic and chill for 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the dough into 1/4 inch thick rounds and arrange on a greased baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake 10-12 minutes and allow to cool. When the cookies are completely cooled, combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle it over them. Let the glaze dry until hardened, usually about an hour.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Pinwheels

This year I went all out on holiday cookies -- although I have plenty of cook books and reliable recipes at my disposal, I wanted to make some new recipes. Needless to say, when I found FoodBlogga's Eat Christmas Cookies project the possibilities for my beautifully packaged perfect cookie boxes. I was sure they would be an effortless hit, with such detailed instructions and a few days of baking time.

I'm not one to back down from a challenge, but this is a spin on the traditional pinwheel cookies (no pun intended!) which turned out to be a lot harder than everyone else had said. The dough didn't want to roll out and certainly didn't want to turn into adorable pinwheels. In frustration I made snakes out of the dough, mashed them together and wound up with marble cookies. They tasted great, but technically weren't pinwheels -- so if you're not a fan of roll-out cookie dough, feel free to arrange these however you please.

While these weren't the favorite, they were a solid hit and kept especially well. The recipe makes a lot, so make sure you have plenty of friends to give them to!

Cream Cheese dough:

2 1/4c flour
1 egg yolk
1c white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1c butter
3 oz cream cheese (this is one where you shouldn't use low fat, just get the regular stuff)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar, add the cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and chill the dough for at least 8 hours before use, otherwise it will be too soft to work with.

Chocolate dough:
2 1/2 c flour
7 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2c butter
1c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Follow the same procedure as you did with the cream cheese dough -- cream the butter and sugar together, blend in the other wet ingredients and then add the dry gradually. Put this dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes before using, but it will not be nearly as soft as the cream cheese dough.

Roll out the chocolate dough using a "1 deep cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Do the same with the cream cheese dough. Brush the top of the chocolate layer with a tiny bit of milk and stack the cream cheese one on top. Roll the stack so the longest side ends up as the length of the roll -- for example, if you've rolled your dough into an approximately 9 x 13 rectangle, your log should be "13 rather than "9 in length.

Place in the freezer for thirty minutes to an hour. Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the log(s) from the freezer and using a sharp knife, slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide rounds. Place them about 1/2 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes -- don't worry if you don't see browning, they will be done all the way through if they're sliced thin enough. Allow to cool and eat!