February 24, 2007

Nana's "Very Good and Easy" Cinnamon Rolls

So, this might sound snobby but I don't like Cinnabon. The rolls they sell are way too sweet, and I always feel sick afterwards. And coffee shop cinnamon rolls? To me they are dried out, having spent too much time in those glass cases. Like Nana always says, "they're only good when they're fresh."

Homemade cinnamon rolls do take a bit of work. You know, a little kneading, some time spent waiting while they rise, taking out the pastry blender to mix together the spices and butter. But so, so worth it. Next Saturday pull out your pantry staples --flour, butter, and sugar--mix them together and delight in a warm and gooey roll with your coffee on Sunday morning. You might want seconds. After all, they're only good when they're fresh.

Nana's Cinnamon Rolls

--All-purpose flour, 41/2 -5 cups
--Active dry yeast, 1 tablespoon or 1 package
--Milk, 1 cup
--Butter, 1/3 cup
--Sugar, 1/3 cup
--Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
--Eggs, 3
--Brown sugar, 3/4 cup packed
--All-purpose flour, 1/4 cup
--Cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground
--Allspice, 1 teaspoon ground
--Nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground
--Butter, 1/2 cup
--Light raisins, 1/2 cup
--Cream, 3 tablespoons

1) Combine 2-1/4 cups of flour with the yeast in a medium bowl.

2) Heat the milk, 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly. Add to flour mixture. Add eggs. Beat with mixer on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and mix for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 cups of flour.

3) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead in remaining flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, place into a greased bowl, and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm area for 1 hour (until doubled).

4) For the cinnamon filling, mix together spices and 1/4 cup flour. Cut in remaining butter, making a crumbly mixture.

5) Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a 1 foot square. Sprinkle the cinnamon filling and raisins over the dough. Roll the dough and pinch the edges to close. Slice into 7 or 8, 1-1/2 inch, pieces. Place the rolled up dough into a greased baking pan, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover losely with plastic and let the rolls rise for 2-24 hours in the refridgerator. When you are ready to bake, bring the rolls to room temperature for 30 minutes.

6) Brush the dough with cream. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until light brown. To prevent overbrowning, cover with foil for the last 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush again with cream. Invert onto a wire rack. Cool slightly. Invert onto a serving platter. Drizzle with glaze.

Powdered Sugar Glaze


--Powdered sugar, 11/4 cups
--Vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon
--Cream, 4 tablespoons


Stir together powdered sugar, vanilla and cream. Add enough cream to make the glaze of drizzling consistency.

February 18, 2007

Golden Tomato Soup

Sometimes things don't turn out as planned. This is one of those things. I should have read the recipe closer. Not that this was a disaster, it just wasn't what I had been imagining. Let me describe. A creamy rich yellow soup with hints of red. A cream of tomato...only yellow. Despite my best intentions the recipe had other ideas.

If there is such a thing as a light winter soup, this would be it. Flecks of basil, parsley, and chunks of tomatoes stand out against a muted backdrop of white wine and chicken stock. It may not look like much in the bowl, but it will surprise your tastebuds with a tangy flavor. I am going to serve this for my friends with thick hunks of crusty sourdough, wedges of unsalted European style butter, and grated parmigiano reggiano.

Golden Tomato Soup
Serves 4
Inspired by Lynne Rosetto Kasper

--3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
-- 3 medium yellow or white onions, minced
--1/3 cup packed parsley leaves, minced
--1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
--3 large garlic cloves, minced
--1/2 cup packed basil leaves, minced
--1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme leaves, ground allspice, Chinese five spice, and ground coriander
--Pinch cayenne pepper
--1/2 cup dry white wine
--2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, I used yellow beefsteak tomatoes I had canned from the farmer's market in the fall
--8 cups chicken broth

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pot that can hold 8 or more quarts of liquid. I found it a tight squeeze with my 8 quart sauce pan. Add minced onions, beans, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent.
2. Add garlic, fresh herbs and spices to the soup pot. Stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add the wine. Add tomatoes and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes to thicken.
3. Add broth and simmer until the soup reaches desired consistency, about one hour.

February 11, 2007

Suddenly, inspiration strikes!

This salad was the most fun I have had in a really long time. I don't think I have ever said that when it comes to food. I love cooking sure, I enjoy it, but I actually experienced glee and jumping-up-and-down excited-ness while prepping the salad, taking photos of the salad, and the best part...eating the salad. In fact, it is almost five days later and I am still enamoured with this dish.

While sitting in my overstuffed green reading chair and drinking coffee, I was imaging the how I was going to plate this dish and what ingredients I was going to use. I had some ideas and was writing down a few notes when suddenly I couldn't sit any longer. I couldn't just think about what I was going to do, I had to do it. And I had to do it now.

This is a record of what I came up with:

Blood Orange and Grapefruit Salad
with Rocket and Candied Blood Orange Peel
If you have the winter doldrums and your tastebuds need a major boost, this is the answer. Light, juicy, spicy, tangy, and sweet. I almost fell off my chair with the first bite. The crunch of the almond gives way to the sweet pockets of juice in the fruit, while the rocket, or arugula, ends a good bite with a kick of its trademark spicy flavors.

Serves 2

1 blood orange peel
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 grapefruit
2 blood oranges
15-20 crisp rocket (arugula) leaves
2 almonds, blanched with skins removed

To candy the blood orange peel:

1) Heat honey, sugar, and water in a heavy saucepan.

2) Zest the peel of the blood orange.

3) When the temperature of the sugar mixture reaches 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer, drop in the peels of zest. Reduce heat to low and let slowly simmer for 30 minutes.

4)Remove peels from saucepan with a slotted spoon and let them cool on a silpat or wax paper.

To prepare the salad:

1)Remove peel from grapefruit and slice. Remove peel from blood oranges and cube.

(I also roasted a few grapefruit slices in a 400 degree F oven. This added a wonderful mellow sweetness to a very perky dish. Sprinkle the slices with sugar and place in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they begin to brown slightly. The roasted grapefruit slices are in the picture below on the right. Be warned: your fire alarm may go off!)

2) Plate the dish:

**I also sprinkled the dish with California Grapefruit Vinegar and pepper. It would also be good with a drizzle of oil such as grapeseed.

February 05, 2007

Fridge free for all

Sometimes, yes, it happens. I was tired. I was planning on making Deborah Madison's Lasagne with Chard, Ricotta, and Walnuts from her book Local Flavors. But I didn't have a chance to make it to the farmer's market and the grocery store I was at didn't have chard or lasagne. So I improvised. And you know? It turned out pretty good. Not bad for a Sunday night dinner.

But, I have another confession. One that discriminating palates might shudder in horror at. So we all know that tomatoes are only good in the heat of the August and September sun and the grocery store tomatoes are tasteless and bland. But I couldn't resist. I had to buy that pack of golden red cherry tomatoes waiting on the shelf. Perhaps it was the winter months getting to me, perhaps I was a bit tired. But I broke down and bought a pint. And they weren't bad. Not the best I have had by any stretch of the imagination, but not the worst either.

Since I couldn't get all of the ingredients, I improvised a bit, raided my fridge and came up with good alternatives involving pappardelle pasta, the aforementioned tomatoes, button mushrooms, and hazelnuts.

(click to enlarge)

Pappardelle with Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes, and Hazelnuts
(a lasagne if you will)
Serves 4-6
Adapted from the wonderful Deborah Madison

-Hazelnuts, 1 cup
-Sea salt
-Pepper--freshly ground is always best!
-Olive oil
-Garlic cloves, 3 large
-White wine, 1/3 Cup
-Whole-milk ricotta, 1 Cup
-Parmesan, 1 Cup freshly grated
-Mozzarella, 2 - 4oz balls of fresh, coarsely grated
-Milk, 1 Cup
-Pappardelle, 8 oz package
-Mushrooms, 8 buttons
-Cherry tomatoes, 10

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Toast hazelnuts in a skillet until fragrant, remove from heat. Chop and set aside.
3) Heat olive oil in the skillet used for hazelnuts over medium heat. When hot, add mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic and cook for about one minute until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the wine and cook the wine down by half. Take off of the heat.
4) Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
5)Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, half of the mozzarella, and the remaining garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
6) Oil a medium to large baking dish. Add 1/4 cup of milk to the dish and set aside.
7) When the water is boiling drop in a handful, perhaps 8 pappardelle. Let boil for 4 minutes. Remove. Place the pieces of pasta on the bottom of the baking sheet. Spread cheese mixture on top of pasta. Add a handful of vegetables and hazelnuts. Add a bit of milk to the dish. Repeat this process until you have used up all of your ingredients and have layers of pasta, cheese, veggies, nuts, and enough milk to keep the dish moist. On the final layer add the remaining pasta, mozzarella and a handful of hazelnuts.
8) Place tooth picks in each corner of the dish and cover with foil.
9) Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes to create a golden brown top. Take out of the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool.
10) Serve and enjoy!