Posts Tagged ‘Weisblat’

Year’s End (or Year’s Beginning) Peanut Soup

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

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I don’t see New Year’s Eve as a time for complicated cuisine. (Of course, I don’t actually see ANY holiday as a time for complicated cuisine. I’m a pretty basic cook!) I like to make something simple and spend the evening with friends and family.
 
It often snows on New Year’s Eve in Hawley, Massachusetts. In fact, it did today! Very small groups gather on my quiet street, grateful for congenial company and a wood stove. And no, we don’t always stay up until midnight. As my mother is wont to say, it’s always nearly midnight SOMEWHERE.
 
My simple new dish this New Year’s Eve is creamy peanut soup. Peanut soup is a classic dish for Kwanzaa, which ends on New Year’s Day. Like many Kwanzaa dishes and traditions, this soup is part African and part American: although peanuts are native to South America, early Spanish traders took them to Africa, and they returned to the Americas with slaves.
 
My version of peanut soup is adapted from a recipe from Colonial Williamsburg. It offers just a little spice and makes a cozy supper when served with cornbread near a warm fire.
 
Happy New Year–and Joyous Kwanzaa!
 

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Creamy Peanut Soup
 
Ingredients:
 
2 tablespoons sweet butter (plus a bit more if needed)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken stock, warmed in a saucepan
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)
3 splashes half and half (about 1/4 cup)
chopped peanuts or crumbled bacon to taste for garnish
  
Instructions:
 
In a 4-quart pot, melt the butter. Sauté the onion and celery pieces over medium-low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft (3 to 5 minutes).
 
Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes more. If the flour begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a bit more butter.
 
Pour in the chicken stock. Turn up the flame, and bring the stock to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat to medium, and boil gently, partly covered, until the soup reduces and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid from time to time during this process, and stir frequently.
 
The next step depends on how you feel about the consistency of your soup. Several peanut soup recipes I saw (including the one from Colonial Williamsburg) asked the cook to strain the soup at this point, being careful to extract as much flavorful liquid as possible. If you are set on serving a smooth soup, you can also pulverize the soup carefully in a blender or food processor.
 
Personally, I rather like having little pieces of food in my soup so I bypassed this step altogether. My friend Raymond tells me that he has tried the soup both ways (he works hard in the kitchen!) and much prefers the blended version so I will probably try that next time, but I enjoyed the soup the way I made it.
 
Whisk in the peanut butter and the pepper flakes. I found that 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper added a lovely tang to the soup. If you love spice, add more; if you are not a spice person, leave it out. Continue whisking until the peanut butter is mixed into the liquid and the mixture comes just to a boil.
 
Whisk in half and half to taste, and continue to heat the soup just until it is warm; do not bring it to a boil.
 
Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with peanuts or bacon. Serves 4.

 

Our Apple Tree

Hawley on New Year's Eve: Our Apple Tree

Truffle in the Snow
Truffle in the Snow

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Cheese Blobs

Friday, December 19th, 2008

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          Not everyone on my gift list has a sweet tooth so I like to make some food gifts that aren’t sugary. This year I decided to try some cheese straws. I’m not the world’s most talented slicer, however, so my straws are actually blobs. If you’re good at food presentation, yours should look better. If not, don’t worry. They will taste so deliciously cheesy no one will mind the way they look!

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon Creole seasoning

1 pinch dry mustard

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold sweet butter

1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Instructions:

          In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, seasoning, mustard, and paprika. Set aside.

          In a food processor, pulse together the butter and cheese. Pulse in the Worcestershire sauce; then add the dry ingredients, and pulse until the mixture forms a ball (you may have to stop and push down the dough on the sides with a spatula).

          If you don’t have a food processor, cut the butter and cheese into the dry ingredients and then add the Worcestershire sauce. But you’ll work much harder.

Wrap the ball of dough in wax paper, and refrigerate it for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it is quite flat (about 1/8 inch thick). Cut the flat dough into small slices, and braid them or crimp them quickly to make interesting shapes. .

          Bake the cheese straws on cookie sheets covered with parchment or a silicone mat until they are firm and a little brown, about 20 minutes. Makes 3 to 4 dozen blobs.

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Illumination Cookies

Friday, December 19th, 2008

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I invented these cookies for my town’s recent Illumination Party. Just be sure to use homemade or high-quality eggnog when you make them!
 
Ingredients:
 
for the cookies:
 
3/4 cup sweet butter (1-1/2 sticks) at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar plus sugar as needed for rolling
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup eggnog
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
 
for the icing:
 
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1/4 cup eggnog
confectioner’s sugar as needed (probably about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla
holiday sprinkles if desired
 
Instructions:
 
Start with the cookies. Cream together the butter, 3/4 cup sugar, and vanilla. Add the egg and eggnog, and beat until light and fluffy. Blend the dry ingredients and stir them into the creamed mixture. Wrap the dough in wax paper, and chill it for at least an hour.
 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll small balls of the chilled dough in sugar, and place them on greased (or parchment-covered) cookie sheets. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms brown lightly. Let them cool for a minute or two on the sheets; then remove them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
 
Next, make the icing. Beat together the butter and eggnog. Beat in confectioner’s sugar until you have a smooth but not wet icing. Add the vanilla, and spread the icing on the cookies. If you like, throw on some sprinkles for color.
 
Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies.
 

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Eggnog Scones

Friday, December 5th, 2008

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Now that December has arrived I’m starting to think about holiday baking. Fruitcake is on the horizon, but since I love scones I’m starting with them.

These buttery treats taste like Christmas—delicious and full of nutmeg. I suggest using either homemade eggnog or a good commercial grade. If you’re trying the latter, take a good look at the ingredients.

They should be things you recognize—milk, cream, eggs, nutmeg, sugar—rather than powdered substances, corn syrup, or things that end in the phrase “ose.” Spiking the eggnog is fun but not essential.

Ingredients:

for the scones:

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) sweet butter
2/3 cup dried cranberries (optional for flavor and color)
1 egg
2/3 cup eggnog
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

for the optional glaze:

2 tablespoons orange juice
confectioner’s sugar as needed (I used at least a cup!)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Liberally grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment or a silicone mat. Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. With knives or a pastry blender cut in the butter, but be careful not to overmix. Stir the cranberries into this mixture if you want to use them.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, eggnog, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and blend until the dry ingredients are moistened. You may cut the scones in your bowl by forming the mixture into a round disk and cutting it into 6 to 8 pieces and then placing them on the baking sheet—or you may simply drop 6 to 8 lumps onto your baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.

If you wish to use the glaze (which is sweet but delicious), place the juice in a small container, and add confectioner’s sugar until you have a slightly wet paste. Drizzle the glaze over slightly cooled scones. If you want to go wild, place sprinkles on top.

Makes 6 to 8 scones.

Simple Gifts

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

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          Thursday is Thanksgiving—and one of the simple gifts for which I’m grateful is my new audio recorder. It isn’t very big or very good (and it wasn’t very expensive!), but I hope that it will be useful in documenting some of my culinary adventures for this blog. Just now I’m using it to sing “Simple Gifts.”

I haven’t quite figured out how to adjust the audio settings; I know the sound quality or lack thereof will appall my audiophile brother. But days like Thanksgiving make me want to sing. Listen by all means (just click on the link below), and please don’t be too critical. I promise I haven’t yet given up my day job!

Sing along if you like—the louder, the better. As my neighbor Alice Parker says, music should be something we make, not just something we consume. And that’s a simple gift for which we can all be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving……….

Simple Gifts

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