Archive for the ‘Holiday Foods’ Category

Art Week at Home: A Divine Dip

Sunday, May 10th, 2020
I’m not really cross-eyed, but this was a selfie, and I was trying to keep both eyes on the camera. Sigh….

I was scheduled to teach a hands-on cooking workshop today for Art Week, a culture-filled annual event here in Massachusetts. Obviously, no one will be coming to my home to cook and tell stories this afternoon, but I’m sharing one of the recipes we were planning to make as part of Art Week at Home.

I wish I could do the cooking online, but the internet here is weak. So please just pretend that you’re with me, singing and cooking and telling stories around my great-grandmother’s old oval table. I’m going to walk you through one of the recipes I planned to make today.

In this crazy time, I am grateful every day for the natural beauty around me. Each time my dog Cocoa and I walk down the road, it seems to me that we observe a new sign of spring … another flower in bloom, another tree starting to bud, another tuft of grass springing up greener than the one before it.

We actually had a little snow yesterday, but it has fortunately departed, leaving everything even greener than before.

The color green is my theme these days. It’s a color of hope and renewal. It’s a theme indoors as well as out. Spinach is coming into season, bringing with it vitamins and minerals and that gorgeous deep color.

I eat spinach and cook with it a lot … in quiches, in quick sautés, in salads, in scrambled eggs. Like the cartoon character Popeye, I feel “strong to da finich ‘cause I eats me spinach.”

A few years back, I devised an onion-dip recipe loosely based on my mother’s formula for French onion soup. I love commercial dips and dip mixes, but I feel a little queasy when I read some of the ingredients on their labels. I don’t like to put foods in my body that I can’t pronounce.

My dip contained only normal foods. And caramelizing the onions for it made my house smell delicious.

With spinach on my mind, I recently decided to add a little spinach to the onion dip. The addition was a success. The spinach adds vitamins, a hint of flavor, and a lovely green color.

The recipe takes a while, between caramelizing the onions and letting the dip’s flavors meld in the refrigerator. Most of this time isn’t hands on, however, so you’ll have plenty of leisure to do other things while you’re cooking. Just make sure to keep your nose active while you’re caramelizing the onions.

Make the dip early in the day, and honor your mother with it by evening. My mother isn’t with me anymore, but I love to remember her on Mother’s Day. Making a dip inspired by one of her recipes gives my family a delicious way in which to enjoy the memories.

My Mother in 1968


Spinach and Sweet Onion Dip

If you happen to have fresh parsley and/or dill in the house, you may add sprigs of them before blending the dip at the end.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, cut into thin slices, with each slice cut in half (sweet onions are best, but any onion will do in a pinch)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 generous splash dry sherry
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 teaspoon sea salt and three grinds of the pepper mill)
1-1/2 cups sour cream (half of this could be Greek yogurt if you want to be healthier, and if your onions are really huge you may increase the amount to 2 cups)

Instructions:

Combine the butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter melts stir in the onion slices. Cook them slowly over low to medium-low heat, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes or so, until they are reduced and turn a lovely golden brown. This will take at least 1/2 hour and may take as long as an hour; they will be ready when they are ready. Add a little water from time to time if burning seems likely.

When the onions are almost ready stir in the mustard, and continue to cook, stirring, for at least 5 minutes. Add the sherry and the spinach and cook, stirring, until the liquid disappears and the spinach wilts.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the vegetables and remove them from the heat. Allow them to cool to room temperature.

Place the vegetables in a food processor and combine them briskly; then add the sour cream and mix well. If you don’t have a food processor, an electric mixer will do, but you will have bigger chunks of onion and spinach. My food processor is broken so I used my mini-chopper. I had to chop the vegetables a little at a time, they were chopped.

Place the dip in the refrigerator, covered, and let the flavors meld for several hours. At least an hour before serving taste it on a neutral cracker to see whether you want to add any additional flavors (more salt and pepper perhaps?). Bring the dip to room temperature, and serve it with raw vegetable strips or chips. Makes 2 to 3 cups.

Cut into wedges or slices. Serves 6 to 8.

A Passover Story

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

I’m not EXACTLY comparing myself to the ancient Jews. But I did have an experience on Monday that made me appreciate their need to eat matzo (unleavened bread) because they were in a hurry to get out of Israel. They went with what they had, baking their bread before it was able to rise. I, too, ended up going with what I had—and part of what I had was matzo.

I’m not EXACTLY comparing myself to the ancient Jews. But I did have an experience on Monday that made me appreciate their need to eat matzo (unleavened bread) because they were in a hurry to get out of Egypt. They went with what they had, baking their bread before it was able to rise. I, too, ended up going with what I had—and part of what I had was matzo.

I was scheduled to appear on Mass Appeal on Tuesday, making matzo crunch in one segment and sharing the other segment with JD Fairman, the co-owner of Pioneer Valley Charcuterie.  JD was planning to make the ultimate BLT with homemade tomato jam and his own lovely bacon.h

Unfortunately, JD emailed me Monday evening to let me know that he was feeling horribly ill. I was stuck with an extra segment to fill at the last minute.

My general store had already closed for the night, and I am not the sort of person who gets up early in the morning to shop. I thus had to plan a dish that would use ingredients I had in the house. I decided to continue the matzo theme (it was still Passover, after all) and make matzo brei. For those of you not in the know, this egg dish is a cross between scrambled eggs and French toast.

I hadn’t ever made matzo brei before; my Jewish grandmother didn’t prepare it as far as I can recall. Happily, I HAD previously cooked eggs, its main ingredient, and I happened to have quote a few of those in the house. So I adapted a recipe I found online (thank you, Emily) and added matzo to eggs, onions, cheese, and homemade salsa. (Your salsa does not have to be homemade.)

The result was ideal comfort food, and a wonderful way to use up some of the matzo I had in the house. I recommend it highly. If you feel obliged to finish up your meal with a little matzo crunch, feel free to make that as well.

Happy Passover/Happy Spring….

Matzo Brei with Salsah

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 pieces matzo, broken into small pieces

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup grated sharp cheddar

1/2 cup salsa

chopped fresh chives to taste (optional, but I saw them coming up in my yard and couldn’t resist!)

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Sauté the onion pieces over medium-low heat until they turn golden brown, about 10 minutes.

While the onion is sautéing, place the matzo pieces in a colander, and place the colander in the sink. Pour boiling water over the matzo until all the pieces are damp. Drain the matzo pieces in the colander.

Set aside about 1/4 cup of the cheese. Stir together the eggs and the remaining cheese in a large bowl. Add the drained matzo pieces and combine well.

Add this mixture to the onions, adding a little more butter/fat if needed to keep the eggs from sticking. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring as needed, until the eggs set.

Spoon the egg mixture onto a serving plate. Pour the salsa on top, and garnish with the remaining cheese and the chives. Serve with extra salsa. Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetite.

And now for the videos:

Tinky Makes Matzo Brei

Tinky Makes Matzo Crunch

Holiday Greetings

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

Happy everything to all who read this! I hope you, like me, are surrounded by family and friends and looking forward to a positive, healthy new year.

Things are a bit hectic on my end at present; my holiday retail job is going full speed! So here is a quick recipe and not much more to help you celebrate Christmas.

I should note that the recipe—and indeed, some of the ingredients—came to me courtesy of King Arthur Flour. I have made turtles from scratch; there’s a great recipe for them in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. I have to admit, however, that I love the idea of making them as quickly and simply as one can with this recipe.

I made them last week on Mass Appeal, along with a family favorite: my mother’s fruitcake! Here is a link to the fruitcake video, and here is the one for the turtles.

Please note that you do have to store the turtles on parchment; they stick to just about any other surface. You won’t have to store them long; they disappear quickly!

Merry Christmas to all…

Snappy Turtles

Ingredients:

16 pecan halves
1 4-ounce block of caramel, cut into 16 pieces, or 16 caramel candies
16 milk chocolate disks or small pieces of chocolate
1 pinch fleur de sel or other sea salt for each candy

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment or silicone.

Spread the pecans around the sheet, keeping them as far apart from each other as possible. Flatten each caramel piece into a round about the size of a half dollar, and place the caramel pieces on top of the pecans.

Heat the candies in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the caramel starts to melt. Remove them from the oven, and press a piece of chocolate on top of each candy. Sprinkle a little of the salt on top.

Allow the candies to cool before removing them from the pan and placing them on parchment paper. Makes 16 candies.

A Thanksgiving Salad

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

The older I get—and the more work I have to do on the days before and after Thanksgiving—the simpler I like to make Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law Leigh and I will experiment a bit over the weekend, once the holiday is over. She wants to play with pastry. I want to make some lovely potato buns my friend Sandy makes every year.

But on Thanksgiving itself we’ll have a simple meal and let the turkey shine. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, perhaps a little mashed potato … and a salad.

I first encountered Brussels sprouts in a salad a few years back at the home of my cousins Alan and Jane. As I have written before here, I don’t care for boiled sprouts. They fill the house with an icky cabbage-y smell and take on a depressingly sodden texture.

When roasted or sautéed or used raw (as they are here), however, they smell fine, taste better, and have a satisfyingly crunchy texture. Lauren Zenzie on Mass Appeal scooped up what was left of the salad after we made it on the air for her lunch.

A note about vinegar: I go back and forth between cider vinegar and red-wine vinegar in this recipe. The cider version is more autumnal; the wine vinegar gives the salad dressing a bit more tang.

We also made my cranberry-apple crisp for dessert on the air. I’m having trouble uploading the videos, but you may watch them here if you wish: Brussels-Sprouts Salad and Cranberry-Apple Crisp.

Happy Thanksgiving! May all your sprouts be crunchy….

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients:

16 Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries (more if you like)
6 to 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
2 small apples (or 1 large apple), cored and sliced (optional but delicious)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon raw honey
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)

Instructions:

Trim the Brussels sprouts; then slice them with a knife or shred them with a food processor or a mandoline.

Combine the sprouts, the celery, the onion bits, the cranberries, and the apple pieces. Mix the remaining ingredients into a dressing, and toss half of the resulting dressing onto the salad, adding more dressing if needed. Serves 8.

The photo is a bit fuzzy, but you should get the idea!

Foods of Our Fathers

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

This post will be quick because it’s hot outside, and I really, really want to spend all of Independence Day by the water!

For my TV appearance this week, I decided to make dishes beloved of a couple of our founding fathers. I started out with George Washington’s Hoe Cakes, which I first wrote about here after my visit to GW’s gristmill near Mount Vernon. They were as tasty as I remembered: crispy and corny.

I went on to make a strawberry fool in honor of John Adams and his pioneering wife Abigail Smith Adams. According to The Food Timeline and other sources, the pair were fond of a simple, rich gooseberry fool. I didn’t have any gooseberries—but strawberries have just reached their peak here in Massachusetts. So I made those into a fool. Everyone who tasted it raved.

Neither dish will warm up your kitchen too much, and both will make you respect the taste of our first and second president.

Here’s the recipe for the strawberry fool. If you have strawberries and cream in the house, you can eat it in less than 15 minutes. I wish you a Glorious Fourth!

 

Strawberry Fool (inspired by John and Abigail Adams)

Ingredients:

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Toss the strawberry pieces in half of the sugar, and let them sit for 10 minutes to juice up.

Place half of the strawberries and all of the strawberry juice in a blender. Puree the mixture; then stir it into the remaining strawberries.

Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks, adding the remaining sugar and the vanilla when it is almost ready. Fold in the berry mixture. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Hoe Cakes on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Strawberry Fool on Mass Appeal