RUGELACH

Whenever I think about soft, delicious cookie like pastries, I think of rugelach. They are just so tasty. To my thinking it’s a sin and a shame that they are not served more often both at home and in restaurants. But then I have always daydreamed of owning my own restaurant for one reason, and one reason only. Dainty desserts. Allow me to explain how this has anything to do with this recipe.

After a lovely restaurant meal, I would be in heaven if I were able to order a couple 1-2 bite desserts to finish my meal. Miniature morsels of sweetness, just large enough to provide that little something that says my fine dining experience has come to a fabulous end. Instead, what is usually offered is the same old standard collection of choices, each large enough to easily serve 4-6 aging appetites! I don’t want a warm brownie the size of a dinner plate served with 2 scoops of not-so-special vanilla ice cream! 

I want a tiny tart (lemon and pecan come to mind), or a diminutive piece of pie bar (see several examples on this site), or a beautifully frosted miniature cupcake, or a tiny exquisite chocolate mousse served in an espresso cup, or a lovely truffle (the chocolate variety), or a perfect little shortbread cookie, or a delicious little pastry like rugelach. The variety that could be served is endless.

Now, because I understand that restaurants need to make money, I wouldn’t expect any restaurant to carry more than 6-8 types of these miniature wonders. Just as long as they were small, different, and absolutely delicious, I would be one happy lady. But enough about my daydreams. Back to rugelach.

According to Wikipedia, “rugelach is a Jewish pastry. It is very popular in Israel, commonly found in most cafes and bakeries. It is also a popular treat among American and European Jews. Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling.”

According to me, “rugelach is easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare, absolutely delicious, and enough different from other desserts/cookies/soft pastries, as to qualify for the “Dainty Desserts” menu at the restaurant I am still daydreaming about.”

(I’ll let you know when I open this restaurant. Do not hold your breath!)

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ c. sour cream
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 T. granulated sugar 

Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sour cream together in the bowl of your stand mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, mixing constantly, until dough holds together and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. (Don’t overmix.) Scoop dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a rough ball shape. Divide the ball into four equal pieces and again roll into balls. Flatten each ball to look like a fat disc. Cover each disc with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes, or up to 48 hours. Meanwhile, prepare one of the following fillings and the egg wash.

Brandied Apricot

  • 1 c. chopped dried apricots
  • 1½ c. water
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ c. brown sugar, depends how sweet you want your filling
  • ¼ c. brandy

Place the ingredients in a small pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated – 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, and mash. (Some small lumps are desired, so don’t mash too much.) Can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Cherry Almond

  • ¾ c. dried cherries
  • 1 c. toasted almond slivers
  • ½ c. cherry preserves
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract

Combine ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until a thick, coarse paste forms. Can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Raspberry, Chocolate, and Pecan Filling

  • 1½ c. pecans, toasted and very finely chopped
  • 1/3 c. very finely chopped semisweet chocolate
  • ¾ c. raspberry jam

Combine and spread on dough as directed above. Can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. water
  • granulated sugar
  • ground cinnamon, opt.

Beat the egg and water together. Set aside.

To Assemble:

On a well-floured board, roll each disc of dough into a 9-inch circle. (Only take one disc out of the refrigerator at a time.) Using a small offset spatula, spread a scant quarter of the filling onto the dough to within 1-inch of the edge. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges, cutting the whole circle first into quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, about an inch apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Lightly sprinkle with granulated sugar mixed with cinnamon to taste. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Rugelach will keep for a several days in a tightly sealed container. They can be rewarmed in a microwave

Hint: To get a perfect 9-inch circle, use a 9-inch cake pan. Place upside down on the dough and cut around the pan with a sharp knife. Save scraps. After the 4th dough round, you will probably have enough scraps to make another 9-inch circle.

 

 

CREAM CHEESE DANISH

I love to bake. I’m told, however, that my first attempts were not well received by my family. This may have something to do with the fact that not only did my first efforts contain flour, sugar, and eggs, they also included sand. I was 3 or 4. Apparently I was just old enough to find a bowl, pilfer flour and sugar out of the large under counter bins (we lived in an old farm house) and purloin eggs out of the ever present bowl in the refrigerator. (We lived on a chicken farm.) I also knew where the muffin tins lived, and how to turn on the hose. I’m told that on more than one occasion, I became seriously upset (read here hissy fit) when I was told not to “bake” anymore sand pies.

It was about then that my mother decided (I assume) to start teaching me how to bake “real” goodies. And I’ve never stopped. So when I decided to serve brunch for our last pre-concert meal, I was in heaven thinking about what pastries I could serve our guests.

And the first pastry that came to mind was this recipe. And what I usually do when I think about preparing one of my own recipes, I signed onto this site to print a copy. What?!?! No cream cheese Danish on my blog. How had I been so remiss? So ladies and gentlemen, I am correcting that appalling omission right here and now.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. “Patti, you want me to make a cream cheese Danish? Are you out of your unbleached, all-purpose flour lovin’ mind?” And believe me, I get it. I was quite intimidated the first time I contemplated making pastry too. But as I prepared this recipe, I realized it wasn’t difficult at all. You simply needed to know how to read and follow instructions. (Heck, everyone who has been in the kitchen, even if only to prepare Top Ramen, has learned how to follow directions!) So get over your fear and give this decadent pastry a try. You don’t even need a mixer. But, if you don’t have the time or inclination right now, save the recipe and consider making it ahead for Christmas morning.  

I always make something fun for Christmas morning. This year I’ve already decided that this Danish filled with the Dried Cherry Compote (recipe below) will be on our breakfast table. Hope you make a similar decision. Then, when asked where you got the amazing pastry, tell them Mrs. Santa sent it along with all the other gifts.

Christmas is such fun! Part magic, and part an indecent amount of work for Mrs. Santa. So what’s one more task? You can always sleep later, that is after all the wrapping paper has been cleared away, the turkey is nothing but cleaned skin and bones, and the left over wine has mysteriously disappeared! 

  • ½ c. milk, room temperature 
  • 1 T. or 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla, divided
  • 3½ c. bread flour
  • 1 c. cold unsalted butter
  • 2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 c. granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
  • filling (see filling suggestions below)

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, yeast, sugar, eggs, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Set aside. Pour the bread flour into a bowl and grate the butter over the flour. With a table knife (yes, just a plain old table knife), cut the butter into the flour. (There will still be lumps of butter, but generally distribute the butter as best you can. Actually you want some lumps. They help keep the dough tender.)

Pour the milk mixture over the flour and butter mixture, and using your table knife again, run your knife through the dough until the mixture holds together. Remove dough from bowl, shape into a rough ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Meanwhile whip the cream cheese, sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla together.

When ready to roll out the dough, cut the dough ball into 2 portions and roll each into a 10×14 rectangle. Place each on a parchment paper lined baking sheet*. Mentally divide the dough into thirds running the long way. Spread the cream cheese mixture down the middle third of each pastry. (Yes it will be quite thick.) Then spread a thin layer of your filling of choice over the cream cheese.

On the outside 2/3rd of the dough, cut 1-inch strips from the edge of the dough to the filling. Starting at one end, braid the strips over the filling. Sprinkle with just a dusting of sugar, cover each with a tea towel, and let sit for 30 minutes.

Bake the Danish in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Do not over-bake. There is so much butter in the dough, that if you bake it too long, the bottom will be over-browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cut and serve at room temperature. Can be made a day ahead and left on your counter overnight lightly covered with a tea towel.

*I use the kind of cookie sheet that has three flat sides. That way, after the 2 Danish have baked, I can slide them right off onto cooling racks.

Dried Cherry Compote

  • 1 c. dried cherries, finely chopped
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. water
  • 2 T. brandy

Combine the chopped dried cherries, both sugars, water, and brandy in a medium sized saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally. Allow mixture to thicken and cherries to cook down slightly, but still maintaining their shape, 10-15 minutes. Allow mixture to cool completely before spreading on cream cheese filling.

Other Filling Suggestions

Any type of Jelly, jam, or fruit spread – raspberry, Marionberry, strawberry, blackberry, boysenberry, etc., or orange marmalade, apricot preserves, lemon curd, etc. You could even try Nutella. Go for it! It’s all good.

Cherry filled

blackberry jam filled

 

 

 

 

 

CHICKEN LAYERED WITH SAGE, PROSCIUTTO, AND PROVOLONE CHEESE

There are just certain ingredients that really should appear in a culinary hall of fame. Each unto itself is magnificent, but when a combination of these marvelous ingredients are used in a dish, the result is almost mystical. This recipe contains four of what I consider to be wonder ingredients – chicken, sage, prosciutto, and provolone cheese. As an amalgam, their flavor is almost unbeatable, thus allowing a dish like this simple layered chicken to become a culinary work of art.

I say simple, because this recipe is very easy to prepare. Even lazy retirees like me can make this dish in quite a short amount of time. And working parents who might not think of fixing a dinner featuring such an exotic list of ingredients, might make it part of their regular rotation if they once gave it a go.

All it takes is a little planning. First of all, you must have the ingredients on hand. Duh! You also must decide what you are going to serve with the chicken. I recommend a nice rice dish like the one I so graciously supplied for you at the bottom of this post. Then something green. If you have the strength, a lovely green salad is always perfect. If you don’t have the strength, frozen petite peas warmed in the microwave with a dab of butter and a sprinkle of seasoned salt, works just fine.

So once you have the rice happily bubbling away and your green offering ready except for a bit of last minute attention, you are ready to focus on the star of the show.

As you can see, if you’ve taken the time to read the list of ingredients and directions below, this dish does not take a long time from stove/oven to table. But I would caution, assemble all your ingredients ahead of time and have them close at hand. (Pretend you are the prep cook in a fine dining establishment.) Because prep work is the key to successfully preparing this dish. Actually it’s a good plan of action for almost every recipe. Good prep work can save you time and frustration. Before almost every dinner, I do my prep work before I ever set a pan on the stove. Of course, I usually have a drink in my hand while I complete these preliminary functions. This of course helps the onerous tasks like chopping onions much easier to swallow. So to speak!

So regardless of your time in life – retired, eager to retire, or parent trying to provide your family with wholesome and delicious food, get thee to the kitchen and prepare this amazing dish at your earliest convenience. As you will also have noticed, this recipe makes just enough for 2 hungry, or 4 not so hungry adults. But luckily for you, this recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. And remember – it really is OK to play with your food, regardless of what your mother told you when you were a child. Fix this dish for her, and she might even give you permission to play with your food more often! Cheers

  • ¼ c. flour
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in halves lengthwise
  • ¼ c. dry white wine
  • scant 1 T. minced fresh sage
  • ½ c. chicken broth, divided
  • ½ tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 slices prosciutto, cut in thirds
  • ½ c. grated provolone cheese
  • paprika, opt.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a wide shallow dish. (I use an 8-inch cake pan.) Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Fry just until done. Transfer the chicken to a 9×9-inch or 7×11-inch Pyrex dish. (Try not to overlap the pieces.)

Deglaze the frying pan with wine. Add the sage, ¼ cup of the chicken broth, and additional pepper. (Not too much pepper.) Slowly simmer for about a minute. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining ¼ cup chicken broth and add to pan. Let simmer for about a couple of minutes, then remove from heat. Adjust seasoning and set aside.

Lay prosciutto over the cooked chicken breasts, sprinkle with grated cheese, and dribble the sauce over the whole mess. (Use a spatula to get every last bit of the sauce onto the chicken.) Sprinkle very lightly with paprika.

Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 10 minutes. Place under broiler for about 30 seconds to brown. (That is, if you aren’t afraid of your broiler, like I am.  Long story. Someday when I’m feeling strong I’ll tell you all about my ridiculous broiler phobia.) Remove from oven and let rest for about 3 minutes before serving.

WILD RICE SIDE DISH

  • 1 c. wild rice blend (I use Lundberg Wild Blend rice)
  • 1¾ c. chicken broth
  • freshly ground black pepper (not much)

Put the above ingredients in rice cooker. Turn the rice cooker on go. Walk away for about 45 minutes or until the rice cooker tells you the rice is done.

BTW – if you do not own a rice cooker, what are you waiting for? Christmas is coming. Put it on your list. Or do as I do. Order a rice cooker for yourself and inform your spouse that he/she has just purchased one of your Christmas gifts and you are positive you are going to like it. Saves your spouse time and inconvenience, and you get what you truly want or need!

 

 

OVERNIGHT RYE BEER BREAD

Now I know, most of you don’t bake bread every week. Me either. I should, for the sake of cost and nutritional purity. But if I baked bread every week, I would eat more bread every week. You see, bread is my biggest downfall. I can gladly forgo most baked goods, but not bread. I’m hooked and it’s my grandmothers’ fault!

As a child I really had 2 sets of care givers. My maternal grandparents lived in a home on the same piece of property as my parents. So even though both of my parents worked, my grandparents were always in attendance. And after school snacks were habitually available in my grandmothers’ kitchen.

My favorite snack was hot-out-of-the-oven homemade bread liberally spread with home churned butter. Oh my friends, those were the days. I can still conjure up the smell of those lovely loaves, always the same, and always perfect.

Now grandma never made fancy breads except at Christmas. (She used cardamom in a delicious braided Christmas bread.)  The loaves she made for everyday consumption were your basic white loaf. She would probably be quite skeptical of the various types of flour and other ingredients I use in some of my favorite breads. Like this one. First of all she wouldn’t even know what espresso powder was, much less espresso itself! Nor would she understand why I would put onion in bread dough. Even molasses or beer might cause her to lift an eyebrow. And after she took a bite, I’m pretty sure she would immediately decide that I was a complete bread baking failure. After all, tastes were simpler 60 years ago. And even though my grandmother was a college graduate, she was still at heart a farm girl from the mid-west. Her spice collection consisted of salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and possibly paprika. That’s it! No savory herbs like dried oregano, thyme, or rosemary. She didn’t even use fresh parsley. She did grow dill for pickles, but as far as I can remember, that’s about it. So like I said, simpler times and definitely simpler tastes.

And even though she would have been in her early 60s when she was allowing me to cut both crusts off her newly baked loaves for my after school snack, she never advanced to using dried herbs in her cooking, even though I believe they were starting to become available through the Watkins man. (I used to love when he came to visit.) So most definitely she would not have liked or understood this bread!

But I do, and Mr. C. does, and so did our guests at our last JazzVox pre-concert meal.

So even though my dear grandmother who first introduced me to bread baking would frown on me even suggesting that you might enjoy this bread, make it anyway. After all, respecting our elders only goes so far.

  • 2 c. light rye flour
  • 1½ c. (1 bottle) room temperature amber beer
  • 2 pkgs. or 5 tsp. active dry yeast  
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 T. vegetable oil, plus more for coating the dough ball
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. chopped dehydrated onion, opt.
  • 3 c. bread flour, or as much as needed
  • cooking spray

Combine rye flour, beer, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set on a counter overnight. (Don’t refrigerate.)

The next day, add molasses, salt, espresso powder, oil, egg, and dehydrated onion; beat with dough hook until smooth. Add enough white bread flour to make a soft dough. Knead for about 5 minutes.

Pour a small amount of oil over the dough, and using your hands, coat the bread with oil and round into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for at least an hour, or until doubled. (Can take up to two hours.)  

Punch down and divide dough in half. Shape into round loaves, and place on a large baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Cover the loaves and let rise for 45 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut a large shallow X on the top of each boule just before placing in the oven. (Just in case you didn’t know, bread baked into a round loaf is most often referred to as a boule.)

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. Remove from oven and cool on racks. Best if allowed to rest uncovered overnight.

 

 

CABBAGE CASSEROLE WITH MEATBALLS (LAZY COOK CABBAGE ROLLS)

Once again it’s Oktoberfest time in the city. And most years when we host a JazzVox concert in September, I serve a German themed meal before the concert. Well, this year is no different. Except this year I am expanding my geographic area to include food from some of the neighboring countries. After all, they celebrate Oktoberfest too. I mean really. Who doesn’t like a big old party featuring beer, rich food, and 16-18 days of revelry? Not we Washingtonians, that’s for darned sure. We have Leavenworth, which prides itself on celebrating Oktoberfest 365 days a year! Take that Munich! (Munich may host more than 6 million people each year for the 16-18 days, but our very own Leavenworth has endurance, 365 days a year, and that counts for something!) But back to this recipe.

I love cabbage rolls. But cabbage rolls for 30 some people – I think not! Just the thought of removing the core of several cabbages, boiling the cabbages until the leaves are softened enough to pull off individually, then gently removing the leaves as they become tender and setting them aside to drain and cool seemed like just too onerous a task. (Yah think!) So I decided to simplify the process so that I could still serve cabbage and savory meat to my guests, while at the same time avoiding a trip to our local hospital for exhaustion or a home for elderly nitwits who have delusions of being able to work like they were still in their thirties!

Now if you have already perused this recipe, you know there is still an average amount of work involved in preparing this dish. I simply couldn’t deprive you of the wonderful meat filling that is the reason for cabbage rolls in the first place. (The cabbage is really just there to justify all the time and energy you put into growing the darn things in the first place.) But please note, the Meatballs don’t take all that much time to prepare, and the Sauce and Topping are only about 3 minute tasks.

So get into the September spirit and fix this casserole for your family and friends before winter sets in. And if you’re interested, I posted my menu for this coming Sunday at the bottom of this post. (Guests attending the concert – no fair peeking!)

Cabbage Base:

  • ½ medium-large green cabbage (about 1 lb.), cored and cut into ¾-inch strips
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped, divided
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. chicken or vegetable stock
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Place the cabbage pieces in a lightly greased 9×13-inch gratin or baking dish. Scatter the cabbage with half of the chopped onion. Drizzle veggies with the olive oil and stock. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, and a scant amount of crushed red pepper flakes. Cover tightly with foil or lid, and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. While the cabbage bakes, prepare the meatballs, sauce, and topping.

Meatballs:

  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp. Hungarian paprika, divided
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can (14-oz.) diced tomatoes plus juice (canned Italian tomatoes are the best), divided
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. cooked rice (white or brown)
  • ½ lb. lean ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground chicken
  • 1 T. minced fresh parsley

Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan. Add the remaining half onion and gently fry until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute. Transfer the onion and garlic to a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk in 1½ teaspoons of the paprika, cloves, salt, pepper, 1/3 cup of the diced tomatoes, and the egg. Gently stir in the cooked rice, ground beef, ground chicken, and parsley. Using a good sized ice cream scoop, form balls and lay them in a single layer on a sheet of waxed paper. Set aside. (I get 11 meatballs when I use my #16, 2-inch diameter scoop.) For information on ice cream/portion scoops, see The Real Scoop at bottom of post.

Note: You can use all ground beef or all ground chicken in the meatballs. I use both because I like the combination in these meatballs.

Sauce:

  • 1½ c. sour cream, divided
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the remainder of the can of diced tomatoes, remaining 1½ teaspoons paprika, ½ cup of the sour cream, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Topping/Garnish:

  • 1 T. chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed (fresh is always best)
  • pinch of kosher salt

Combine the remaining 1 cup sour cream with the dill and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembly:
When the cabbage has baked for one hour, remove from oven. Turn the oven heat up to 375 degrees. Carefully remove the aluminum foil (there will be steam) and set aside. Lay the meatballs in a single layer over the braised cabbage. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Tightly cover with the saved aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil (again being very careful), raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and change to convection (if you have a convection oven, that is). Continue to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs are fully cooked and the sauce is almost gone. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-7 minutes before serving. Pass the sour cream and dill topping.

The Real Scoop:

To get uniform sized portions, be it cookie dough, meatballs, ice cream, etc., the most reliable method is to use a portion scoop.

Portion scoops, commonly referred to as “ice cream scoops”, are standard-sized scoops used to measure out food, both cooked and uncooked. They have a spring release that scrapes your food/ice cream/cookie dough, etc. out of the scoop as the handle is squeezed. The interesting thing about portion scoops is that they come in strange sizes. For example, a #16 has a 2-inch diameter which is perfect for the meatballs in this recipe and for scooping out muffin or cupcake dough. Many cookie recipes direct you to roll the cookie dough in a 1-inch ball or a rounded tablespoon. That would be a #100.

In addition to the 2 scoops listed above, I routinely use a #60 (1¼-inch diameter) for medium sized cookies, meatballs, etc., and a #40 (1 5/8-inch diameter) for larger cookies or portions.

The number on the scoop basically represents how many “scoops” it would take to fill a quart sized container. Therefore, the larger the number, the smaller the scoop. For practical application however, picking out the right scoop for your needs is as simple as going to a good kitchen shop. Then choosing scoops based on the size of the cookies or whatever else you plan to portion out. The time saved in not having to hand roll cookie dough, all by itself, is well worth the money spent on the scoop. (Oh – for just one nickel for every cookie I’ve ever baked. I would probably be able to buy us round trip tickets to Portland, or to some other fascinating destination.)

2017 JazzVox Oktoberfest Menu:

Appetizers – Viennese Liptauer (recipe on site), cornichons, and 3 types of cheese

Main Dish – Cabbage Casserole with Meatballs

Side – Roasted Garlic, Buttermilk, and Fresh Chive Mashed Potatoes (recipe coming)

Salad – Cucumber and Red Onion Salad (recipe on site)

Bread – Overnight Rye Beer Bread (never made it before, so it may or may not appear on this site)

Dessert – Berry Pie Bars with Cinnamon Whipped Cream (recipe on site)

 

 

 

 

 

A PAIR OF CORPSE REVIVERS

I love the names of some of Mr. C’s favorite cocktails – Kentucky Mule, Penicillin Cocktail (both recipes already posted), Brandy Stinger and Rusty Nail (see recipes below) and now, my favorite – Corpse Reviver. So named I’m sure, because if any alcoholic beverage could wake the dead, this drink would be at the top of the list! 

In my opinion, the individuals who think up these fancy ingredient combinations, then name them, are geniuses. Either that, or they are mad men and women who should be locked up and forced to drink their own concoctions. (Depends on each persons’ perspective, I guess!) Anyway, back to Corpse Revivers.

Since I happen to like these two drinks, they were obviously the inspiration of master minds. (See how this works!) And even though I am not a fan of bourbon, I truly enjoy the reviver made with Kentucky’s finest.

So if you too are a lover of mixed drinks, give a Corpse Reviver a try. They are incredibly delicious and amazingly refreshing. Absolutely perfect served on a warm summer evening. And truly, if one of these babies doesn’t bring you back to life after a long day of work or running errands, I fear there may not be any other restorative as adequate to the task. Cin Cin!

FYI: Mr. Cs latest drink recipe endeavor is called a Presbyterian’s Revenge. This drink contains, of all things, an Italian bitter liqueur made from a bunch of herbs and plants, the most prominent of which is artichoke. Artichoke? Really? I know artichoke plants are common in Italy. But what kind of individual would ever think to turn an artichoke into a liqueur? (Refer to my statement above regarding mad men and women!)  

 

Bourbon Corpse Reviver (also referred to as a Kentucky Corpse Reviver):

  • ¾ oz. bourbon (¾ oz. = 1 ½ T.) (Andy uses Buffalo Trace bourbon)
  • ¾ oz. Cointreau
  • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice ½ oz. Lillet Blanc
  • a few drops or tiny dash of Pernod
  • a few ice cubes
  • fresh mint, opt.

Shake the bourbon, Cointreau, lemon juice, Lillet, Pernod, and ice together in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled coupe* glass and garnish with a mint leaf.

Corpse Reviver:

  • ¾ oz. gin (¾ oz. = 1 ½ T.)
  • ¾ oz. Cointreau
  • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice ½ oz. Lillet Blanc
  • a few drops or tiny dash of Pernod
  • a few ice cubes
  • fresh mint, opt.

Shake the gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, Lillet, Pernod, and ice together in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled coupe* glass and garnish with a mint leaf.

*A coupe is a stemmed glass featuring a broad, shallow bowl. (See picture above) A martini glass can be used in a pinch.

Brandy Stinger:

  • 1 part brandy
  • 1 part white crème de menthe

Stir over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass, and serve.

Rusty Nail:

  • 2 oz. Scotch
  • ½ oz. Drambuie

Stir over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass, and serve.

 

 

 

FRESH CORN, RED ONION, AND BASIL SALAD

This is an Ina Garten recipe I discovered on the internet. I didn’t change a thing, except reducing the ingredient amounts to accommodate just the two of us. I used two cobs of corn rather than 5 and altered the remaining ingredient amounts accordingly.

Now usually I mess with a recipe as I prepare it. Not this time. I immediately felt that the restrained number of ingredients in this dish was genius. And I sure as heck didn’t want to add an addition flavor that might detract from the delicious taste of the corn. As it turned out, the balance of flavors in this simple salad is absolutely perfect.

So I’m not going to expound on this dish any more than I already have. Well, except to say that once again Ina has proven what an exceptional cook can do with a few straightforward ingredients. This is simply the easiest and best corn salad I have ever tasted. Try it, you’ll like it! And thanks again Ina.

  • 1 T. cider vinegar
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 – 3 ears cold cooked corn on the cob, depending on the size of your ears (not the ones on your head; the ones off a corn stalk)
  • ¼ c. chopped red onion
  • ¼ c. fresh basil chiffonade*

Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a salad bowl. Cut the kernels off the corn cobs and add to the dressing along with the onion. Stir in the basil and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

Please note: If you plan to make the salad ahead of time, don’t add the basil until just before you plan to serve.

Serve cold or at room temperature.  

**Chiffonade (pronounced “shif-oh-nod”) is a knife technique used for cutting herbs and leafy vegetables such as lettuce into thin strips or ribbons. To chiffonade leaves of basil, stack the basil leaves and roll them into a tube. Then carefully cut across the end of the tube with a sharp knife to produce fine strips.

 

BERRY PIE BARS

Yes, I know. Berry season is just about over. So why am I publishing this recipe now rather than 2 months ago? Well the answer is simple. I didn’t have time to work on this recipe until now. (I have a life you know!) Besides, I mostly use frozen berries when I bake with berries anyway. So using fresh berries is not the least bit necessary. (I know I didn’t really need to explain myself on this issue, but sometimes I just like to set the record straight right up front.)

So – this is my spin on an averiecooks.com recipe. And why “pie” in the form of a bar cookie you might ask? Well, first of all – I love pie. But pie is a lot of work. And making enough traditional pies to serve a crowd would be a ridiculous use of my dwindling energy level. (Not that my guests aren’t worth the effort. I’m just not the energizer bunny I used to be.) 

So last evening when we hosted a potluck dinner for our friends and neighbors who are on the board and committees of our homeowners association, our guests got their blueberry pie in the form of a blueberry pie bar. And I’m happy to report, no one complained about it either. (18 good people, each and every one!)

Now, if you have already glanced at the recipe below, you might be a little put off that there are 4 steps to compiling this delicious concoction. But in my defense, each step is very easy and takes no time at all. You don’t even need a mixer, which in my case means I don’t have to take my stand mixer off a shelf in the pantry and carry it to one of the counters in my kitchen. So anytime I can leave my mixer firmly planted to a pantry shelf, I am ever so delighted.

But back to these bars. OMG, what can I say? Well, to begin with, they are just plain delicious. The crust is crunchy, the filling isn’t runny, and the cinnamon flavored topping is as lovely to look at as it is to savor. So regardless of the fact that these bars don’t come in a round pie pan and cut into wedge shape pieces, they are still the essence of pie at its’ finest.

Just so you know, I actually do know how to build a pie. Search this site for my Lemon Meringue Pie, Bourbon Pecan Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream, French Apple Pie, and Chicken Pot Pie. Ok, ok – maybe Chicken Pot Pie is a bit of a stretch, but it‘s still a pie, and delicious to boot! Enjoy them all. 

Crust and Topping

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. light brown sugar, packed
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Melt the butter in a medium sized, microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the sugars and salt. Add the flour; stir to combine. Set aside 2 cups to be used as the topping. (Before topping the dessert, add the cinnamon to the set-aside mixture. Don’t break up the crumbs as you incorporate the cinnamon. Its best if the cinnamon just coats the crumbs.

Transfer remaining mixture to a lightly buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish. (I prefer glass.) Using your fingers, pack the mixture down hard to create an even crust slightly sliding up the sides of the pan. Set aside.

Filling

  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 lg. egg
  • ½ c. plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the egg, yogurt, and vanilla. When thoroughly blended, pour the filling over the crust and tilt the pan to evenly cover the crust. Set aside.

Berry Layer

  • 2/3 – 1 c. granulated sugar (use full cup if the berries are tart)
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1-2 T. fresh lemon juice (depending on the tartness of your berries)
  • 4 c. frozen or fresh berries – blackberries, Marionberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. (no need to thaw frozen berries)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Add the berries and lightly toss until the berries are thoroughly coated. Evenly distribute the berry mixture over the filling. Sprinkle the reserved crust/topping mixture over the berries.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the berries are bubbling around the edges and the bottom crust is a nice golden brown. (That’s just one of the reasons I use glass baking pans! I can see the bottom crust. Thank you Pyrex.)

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before cutting into serving sized pieces. Great dolloped with whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

MEZCAL MARGARITA

Well, true to my word, here comes another fabulous cocktail recipe. (And no, we don’t spend all of our time drinking amazing adult beverages, but we do usually have an early evening drink while I cook dinner and we discuss the days’ events.) This drink has become one of our favorites.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of tasting mezcal, but possess both an inquiring mind and a wish to obtain mezcal enlightenment, read all about this amazing product at the end of this post.   

Now as the name implies, this drink is called a Margarita for good reason. Basically this is our favorite recipe for a tequila Margarita simply substituting mescal for tequila. Ta Da – that’s it! The difference? Mezcal has a light to moderate smoky flavor that is not found in tequila. The difference is delightful, especially if you happen to love alcohols like Scotch with their inherent smoky flavor. Of course, mezcal doesn’t incorporate that nasty peaty flavor associated with Scotland’s finest. (I don’t care for Scotch. Can you tell?) Mezcal simply exudes a rich smoky essence that is quite appealing.

So next time you are at your favorite liquor emporium, pick up a bottle, especially if you are a Margarita fan. I’m sure you will love this new spin on a classic Margarita as much as we do.

  • 2 parts Mezcal (we use the El Zacatecano Reposado Mezcal for this drink)
  • 1 part Cointreau (orange flavored liqueur)
  • 1 part fresh lime juice  
  • ice
  • coarse salt (kosher works fine)
  • Tajin Clásico Seasoning*, opt.

Combine the mezcal, Cointreau, lime juice, and ice in a martini shaker. Shake well and pour the liquid and a few of the ice cubes into prepared glasses. Garnish with a thin wedge of lime.

To prepare the glasses, rub the rims with lime and dip into coarse salt combined with a pinch or two of Tajin Clásico Seasoning.

Chilled glasses are always wonderful. If you have the time, and presence of mind to chill your glasses ahead of time, you’re doing better than we are! But I highly recommend chilled glasses for the best presentation and mouth feel.

We enjoy the following two brands of Mezcal:

For mixed drinks – El Zacatecano Reposado Mezcal – Made in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, this 100% agave-based spirit is elegant and powerful, with herbal notes of rosemary and mint, along with cooked agave and green olives. It won a Silver medal at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Its appearance is golden, with yellow straw highlights. Its distinguished elegant style, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and almonds, come from time spent in white oak casks. The powerful and intense palate has herbs and spices, while the finish shows cooked agave, anise, and subtle remnants of white oak. Information Source – Crafts Spirits Exchange

For sipping – Fidencio Clásico Mezcal Joven – Made from 100% agave and double distilled. Earthy and slightly fruity on the palate, with mineral, smoke, and dried herbs, with a consistent fruit and agave undertone. Information Source – kegnbottle.com

*Tajin Clásico Seasoning – a delicious blend of ground chili peppers, sea salt, and dehydrated lime juice

Mezcal: The following information is from an article on examiner.com (now discontinued) with a little editing by yours truly.

“Mezcal (traditionally spelled mescal) is a Mexican distilled spirit that is made from the agave plant. Tequila is technically a mezcal, however, there are differences in production technique and in the types of agave used. Tequila is made from a single type of agave plant – the agave Tequilana (blue agave) – and can only be produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco and in small parts of four other Mexican states.

Mezcal can be produced from up to 28 varieties of agave (including blue agave) and is made around the city of Oaxaca and, according to official government regulations (NOM -070-SCFI-1994), can also officially be produced in some areas of the states of Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas. Most mezcals are made from the Espadin agave, although some mezcal producers blend agave varieties to create a distinct flavor.

Mezcal traditionally has a very unique, smoky flavor that makes it fairly easy to distinguish from tequila. It also tends to taste sweeter, or richer, than tequila. Some mezcal producers have adopted production processes similar to tequila, and the resulting mezcal has flavor profile similar to tequila.

Traditional Production Methods:

When tequila is made, the agave head is baked in an above-ground oven. This began in the late 19th century. Mezcal producers, however, often follow the traditional method of using in-ground pits. The agave heads (also called agave hearts, or piñas) are roasted or grilled over hot rocks in a cone-shaped pit (called palenques or hornos). A fire is started and burns for about 24 hours to heat the stones that line the pit. The agave heads are put into the pit and then covered with moist agave fiber that is left over from the fermentation process. A layer of agave leaves or woven palm leaves cover the fibers and the agave heads are left to cook for two to three days.

Types of Mezcal:

Mexican government regulates mezcal, defining various types and aging categories in a manner similar to tequila. The regulations split mezcal into two categories:

Type 1: 100% agave (using any or all permitted agave plants)

Type 2: Minimum 80% agave and maximum 20% other sugars.

There are three aging categories:

Abacado (also called joven or blanco): clear, un-aged mezcal that results from the distillation process. It is often bottled immediately, but flavoring or coloring agents can be added.

Reposado (also called madurado): aged in wood barrels for two to eleven months.

Añejo: aged in wood barrels for a minimum of twelve months.

(The regulations also forbid mezcal producers to make tequila, and tequila producers cannot produce mezcal.)

Mezcal is widely known for the agave “worm” (or gusano) that floats toward the bottom of the bottle. It is primarily a marketing gimmick to help boost sales, especially in the United States and in Asia. In fact, it is not a “worm” at all, but one of two insect larvae (a caterpillar of a night butterfly or the larvae of the agave snout weevil) that can infest yucca and agave plants. Tequila never (ever!) has a worm in the bottle.”

 

 

 

 

 

IRISH CREAM AND PECAN BUNDT CAKE

Yesterday was my dear father-in-law John’s 98th birthday. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law came over from Winthrop, we drove up from Camano Island, and the 5 of us went out for dinner. Of course first we had appetizers and a drink at John’s home before venturing into the bustling town of La Conner to dine. And as usual the 5 of us had a grand time.

Previously I had decided that John needed a birthday cake. Of course he did! So in trying to keep my work to a minimum (getting lazy in my “full speed ahead” advancement into old age), I decided to work up a recipe for a Bundt cake that would be easy to prepare, a bit different, and easy to prepare. Did I mention I also wanted it to be easy to prepare? Anyway, this is the result.

Now, not to change the subject (and of course I am going to do just that), but I am pretty darned disgusted with manufacturers whose products used to be a standard weight that I could depend upon. Until yesterday, I was completely oblivious to the package weight change on cake mixes. I don’t even know why the weight verbiage caught my eye, but before I went any further with this recipe, I checked the weight on the other cake mixes in my pantry. They were all 15.25 ounces instead of the standard 18.25 ounces. That’s a 3 whole ounce reduction! What? Why? And when did this happen? And why didn’t they just ask me if I would be willing to spend a little extra money to keep the same number of ounces? I would have answered in the affirmative. It also registered on me that the change in ounces would make a significant impact on the final product when I used cake mixes as an ingredient. Then I got mad! Grrrrr! So I went on line and did some research on the subject.

Patti’s seat-of-the pants economic analysis: Companies live or die by their bottom line. Apparently manufacturers realized that their profit margin would increase significantly if they simply decreased the amount of product contained in any given package, but failed to adjust the price accordingly. Duh! In other words, consumers would continue to pay the same price for their product, but the content of the package would be much reduced. And consumers like myself, who don’t necessarily check package weight, but rather focus on the ingredient list don’t figure it out, sometimes for years. (Guilty as charged!) In my defense, I simply don’t use cake mixes that often, but I have several killer cake recipes on this site that call for an 18.25-oz. cake mix. As a result of finally realizing what has happened in the cake mix world, I plan to edit my blog recipes in the very near future to include extra cake mix as explained below.

My solution: Since cake mixes now all seem to come in 15.25-oz. packages rather than 18.25 ounce packages, I’m going to simply add about 1/3 cup yellow cake mix to all my recipes that call for an 18.25 ounce cake mix. (I’ll use yellow because it won’t add or detract from the flavor of the cake I’ll be baking.) And yes, I know it’s a pain to always have to add that little extra cake mix. But I frankly can’t think of any other way around the problem. I’m simply going to keep an extra open cake mix (stored in an airtight container) at the ready. One additional cake mix should last me through several recipes.

I’m sure many of you are way ahead of me on this new product challenge. But sometimes I’m just clueless. This was obviously one of those times. But I still know a good cake when I taste one. And this is one good cake!

  • 1 c. chopped pecans, divided
  • 1 package (15.25-oz.) yellow cake mix
  • 1/3 c. additional cake mix
  • 1 pkg. (3.4-oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ c. room temperature water
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • ¾ c. + 2 T. Irish cream liqueur, divided
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 T. hot water
  • 1-2 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Sprinkle ½ of the chopped nuts evenly over bottom of pan. Reserve the rest of the chopped nuts for the cake batter.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cake mix and dry pudding mix together. Add the eggs, ¼ cup room temperature water, oil, the ¾ cup of Irish cream liqueur, and the remaining chopped nuts. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed. Pour batter over nuts in pan.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 52-57 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then gently pry the cake away from the sides of the pan, and gently invert onto a serving dish. Cool completely before adding the glaze.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, hot water, the 2 tablespoons Irish Cream Liqueur, and enough powdered sugar to bring to desired consistency. When the cake is cool, drizzle glaze over the top letting it flow down the sides. Let the glaze set before serving.

To reiterate: – Adding an additional 1/3rd cup cake mix whenever you use a cake mix as an ingredient and the recipe calls for an 18.25-oz. cake mix and what you have in front of you is a 15.25-oz. cake mix, solves the weight problem and thus assures you a wonderful final product. But please note, if you are simply making the cake as is, and not using the cake mix as an ingredient, follow the instructions on the package.