Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage-Apple Chicken Meatballs in a Spinach Vermouth Sauce

12265847_779290548826_2173721953493967764_oPumpkin Gnocchi with Sage-Apple Chicken Meatballs
in a Spinach Vermouth Sauce

Ingredients:

Pumpkin Gnocchi
2 Russet Potatoes, skinned, cubed
1 cup prepared Pumpkin
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Salt
1 – 2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 Egg

Sage Apple Chicken Meatballs
1 lb Ground Chicken
1/2 cup Sage, finely chopped
1/2 Vidalia Onion, minced
1/2 Granny Smith Onion, skinned & minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1/8 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Black Pepper, coarsely ground
1 Egg
Olive Oil for cooking

Spinach Vermouth Sauce
6 cups Baby Spinach
1/2 Vidalia Onion, Sliced
1/2 Granny Smith Apple, sliced
1/4 cup Vermouth
2 Tbsp Butter
1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1/8 tsp Oregano
1/8 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Black Pepper

Shaved Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  • Prepare the Gnocchi: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and boil the potatoes until fork tender.
  • Drain the potatoes and mash in a large bowl.
  • Incorporate the Pumpkin pulp, Spices, & Egg.
  • Start incorporating the Flour into the mixture. You may not use all the flour, or you may need more. What you are looking for is a dough forming that you can handle, and roll. It should be cohesive to itself, but not sticky.
  • Divide the dough into six parts.
  • On a floured surface, start rolling each part into a rope, about 1/2″-1″ thick in diameter.
  • Start cutting into 1/2″-1″ pieces. Think little pillows for the shape. You do not want to saw, you want to come down with your knife.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough. Set to the side.
  • Prepare the Meatballs: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands.
  • Form into 1 1/2″ balls.
  • Heat the Olive Oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the balls to the oil, but do not over crowd them.
  • Let the balls cook a minute and then roll them to a raw side. Repeat until all sides are cooked. Let cook an additional minute so that they cook through. Remove to a plate and repeat until all meatballs are completed.
  • Cook the Gnocchi: Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
  • Add all the Gnocchi. They will sink.
  • As the Gnocchi start to float, they are done, and can be ladled out.
  • Prepare the Sauce: Using the skillet that was used to cook the meatballs, deglaze with the Vermouth, and add the Butter.
  • Add the Onions and Apples, and cook till tender.
  • Add the Oregano and Crushed Red Pepper.
  • Toss in the Spinach until it wilts.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • Add the Gnocchi and Meatballs and toss well.
  • Plate and garnish with shaved Parmesan.

Serves 6.

NOTES: Gnocchi are simple to make for scratch. I’ve seen many recipes that exclude the use of Potatoes, but in my opinion, it is the Potato that makes the Gnocchi.
This dish was inspired by a recipe that I found through a cooking club, but I decided to improve upon it and make it in my own way.

Sesame-Crusted Chicken with an Apricot Ginger Sauce

Sesame-Crusted Chicken with an Apricot Ginger Sauce

Ingredients:
2 skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts, butterfly-cut
1-2 cups All-Purpose Flour (for dredging)
1 Egg, beaten (for dredging)
1 Tbsp Water (for dredging)
1 Tbsp Honey (for dredging)
1 cup Sesame Seeds (for dredging)
Salt and Pepper for seasoning the Chicken
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Sauce:
1 cup dried Apricots, diced fine
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, julienne cut
1 cup Peach Schnapps
2 Tbsp Butter
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Salt
Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Soak the Apricots in the Peach Schnapps for 1/2 an hour.
  • Set up dredging stations: 1 tray with Flour; 1 tray with Egg, Water, and Honey; and one tray for Sesame Seeds. Do not put all the Sesame Seeds in the tray, as you can always add more, but after you’ve dredged, can’t use the left overs.
  • Pat the Chicken breasts dry with a paper towel, and season with Salt and Pepper.
  • Dredge the Chicken in the Flour on both sides; then the Egg mixture on both sides; and finally the Sesame Seeds. Set to the side.
  • Turn the Oven on to 200F, and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a cooling rack over the pan. Set to the side.
  • Heat the Olive Oil in a skillet, and brown the Chicken on both sides. Place the Chicken breasts on the cooling rack, and then in the Oven to keep warm.
  • In a Sauce Pan, melt 6 Tbsp of Butter.
  • Add the Garlic and Spices, and let cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
  • Add the Schnapps-soaked Peaches (liquid and all) to the Pot, and stir well. Heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Plate the Chicken and cover in the Apricot Ginger Sauce.

Makes 4 Servings.

NOTES: This is a recipe I came up with to appease Michael–he loves Apricots. I’m not really a big fan, though from time to time I will eat one. It has a sort of Asian feel to it, though I personally see it as more of a Middle-Eastern flavor. Regardless, I hope you enjoy it.

Sesame-Crusted Chicken with Bok Choy Salad

Sesame-Crusted Chicken with Bok Choy Salad</span>

Ingredients
2 Chicken Breasts, boneless, skinless, cut in strips
1-2 cups All-Purpose Flour (for dredging)
1 Egg, beaten (for dredging)
1 Tbsp Water (for dredging)
1 Tbsp Honey (for dredging)
1 cup Sesame Seeds (for dredging)
Salt and Pepper for seasoning the Chicken
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 cups Baby Spinach
2 cups Bok Choy 白菜, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 Red Onion, diced
1 cup Broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 cup Snow Peas
1 Asian  Nashi Pear ナシ, diced
Water for steaming
1/2-1 cup Sesame-Ginger Dressing

Directions:

  • Prepare pot of water and steamer for steaming/
  • Steam the Broccoli for 2 minutes, just until the color of the Broccoli turns bright green. You do not want to cook it, just steam it to make it tender and colorful. Remove and run through cold water, set to the side.
  • Set up dredging stations: 1 tray with Flour; 1 tray with Egg, Water, and Honey; and one tray for Sesame Seeds. Do not put all the Sesame Seeds in the tray, as you can always add more, but after you’ve dredged, can’t use the left overs.
  • Pat the chicken slices dry with a paper towel, and season with Salt and Pepper.
  • Dredge the Chicken in the Flour on both sides; then the Egg mixture on both sides; and finally the Sesame Seeds. Set to the side.
  • Turn the Oven on to 200F, and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a cooling rack over the pan. Set to the side.
  • Heat the Olive Oil in a skillet, and brown the Chicken pieces on both sides. Place the Chicken pieces on the cooling rack, and then in the Oven to keep warm.
  • Build the Salad (make the dressing now if you have not yet done so as well). You can do this as one big bowl, or in individual bowls–it is up to you.
  • Start with a bed of Spinach.
  • Top with the all the ingredients. You may choose to do this artistically–I like to use the Snow Peas as a frame around the side of the dish. It is completely up to you.
  • Remove the Chicken from the Oven, and slice into 1″ pieces across the strips of Chicken. Place on the top of the Salad.
  • The Salad is ready to serve. You may dress it now, or leave it on the side.

Makes about 4 servings.

NOTES: This salad can serve as a side dish, but also as a main course salad. Though it has “East Asian” flare to it, I would not necessarily call it an Asian salad… maybe East Asian inspired salad with the Bok Choy (白菜), with the Sesame Ginger Dressing are the most Asian aspect of the salad. Some folks may want to add Ramen-style noodles on top. Not a fan of them, I just can’t bring myself to add them to the recipe. So if you do that, please don’t tell me. Thanks.

Scaloppine di Pollo al Vino Bianco con Limone e Crema – Chicken Scaloppine

Ingredients:
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour (for coating)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp dried Oregano
1/4 tsp dried Basil
1/4 tsp dried Rosemary
4 Chicken Breasts, skinless, boneless, butterfly cut and pounded about 1/4″ thick
4 Tbsp Butter
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Dry White Wine (Pinot Grigio)
1/8 cup Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Heavy Cream

  • Season the Chicken with Salt and Pepper on both sides
  • Dredge the Chicken in the Flour and set to the side
  • In a large skillet, brown each piece of chicken on both sides in the Olive Oil. When each piece is browned, remove from the skillet and place on a cookie sheet in the oven on the lowest setting, just to keep it warm.
  • Add the Garlic, Herbs, Lemon Juice and White Wine to the Skillet and de-glaze. (watch as it may flame up…not bad, just be careful!).
  • Add the Heavy Cream and Butter and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Simmer until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly so to not burn.
  • Place the Chicken on Serving platter and cover with the Lemon, Wine and Cream sauce

NOTES: An easy way to pound the chicken flat is to place it between two sheets of cellophane with a little bit of olive oil. Take the back of a skillet and pound flat (or use a meat mallet if too heavy).

Variations:
Chicken Marsala – similar with Marsala wine, Mushrooms, and Prosciutto; no Heavy Cream.
Chicken Francaise – similar with breaded Chicken and Lemon slices, no Heavy Cream.
Chicken Picatta – similar with caper lemon sauce; no Heavy Cream.

Escalope de Veau Comtoise – Comte Veal Scaloppini

Escalope de Veau Comtoise

Ingredients:
6 Veal cutlets, pounded thin
6 pieces Ham, thinly sliced
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour (for coating)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 cups Table Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 – 2 cups Comte cheese, shredded
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc
1 Tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Place the Flour in a container and dredge the Veal cutlets.
  • In a large skillet, brown each piece of chicken on both sides in the Olive Oil. When each piece is browned, remove from the skillet and place in a baking dish.
  • Place a piece of ham on each cutlet, and then cover with shredded cheese.
  • Bake for 10 minutes.
  • While it is baking, deglaze the skillet with the wine.
  • Add the Mushrooms, and cook for 4 minutes.
  • Add the Heavy Cream and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the Veal from the oven; and plate.
  • Cover with the Mushroom Sauce.
  • Garnish with the fresh Parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

NOTES: I love looking at the cuisine of my the regions of the world from which my family comes. This recipe is a typical dish from the Franche-Comte region of France where my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother Adele Francais was born. This dish uses Comte cheese, a regional cheese similar to Gruyère. In fact you can substitute Gruyère for Comte if you cannot find Comte.  For those who object to the use of Veal, you can use Chicken cutlets.

Apple Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 tsp Cinnamon, ground
1 tsp Nutmeg, ground
1 tsp Cloves, ground
1 tsp Ginger, ground
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
4 Eggs, beaten
1 cup Applesauce
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 cups Zucchini, shredded
1 cup Apples (Red Delicious), skinned, seeded, diced or shreaded
1 1/2 cups Pecans, chopped

Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl, sift together all Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Salt, and Spices. Set to the side
  • Combine the Eggs, all Sugar, Honey, Maple Syrup, Vanilla, and Apple Sauce in another bowl, and mix well.
  • Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing well. You may use a mixer for this, as the batter will be fairly thick.
  • Fold in the Apples, Zucchini, and Pecans.
  • Divide the batter into greased loaf pans (9×5).
  • Bake for 55 minutes to an hour, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Please let them cool for 10 minutes before removing them to wire racks to cool further.

NOTES: The first time I had zucchini bread, I was very skeptical. I mean the majority of my zucchini was sauteed with garlic, so the idea of it serving as a sweet stumped me. Still after trying it, this then 8 year old was pleasantly surprised. Zucchini bread can be used as a side item at an Autumn or Winter dinner, or with brunch or tea. I still think it is a great side for Thanksgiving, served warm with dinner, with fresh butter.

Zucchini bread apparently had its hay-day in the 1960s in the US when the idea of using Butter was on the decline, with folks instead wanting to use Oil. I, however think the use of Apple Sauce (something that seemed to happen in the 90s to replace the oil) instead of Vegetable Oil is a better fix. Apple Zucchini Bread is a quick bread, and can easily be modified into muffins, as a result.

Burgundy Pork Tenderloin

Burgundy Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:
Pork Tenderloin, 1lb
12 Pearl Onions, skinned and marked with a deep “x” along the bottom
4 cloves Garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp fresh Rosemary, coarsely chopped
1-2 Bay Leaves
1 Tbsp Capers (optional)
2 cups Table Mushrooms, thick sliced (or of small, whole)
1 cup Burgundy
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
3 Tbsp unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp Steak Spice Rub
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat the Oven to 350F.
  • Sprinkle the Pork Loin with the Spice Rub, and place into a Dutch Oven.
  • Combine Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic, Herbs, Wine, and Stock to the Dutch Oven.
  • Mix 1 Tbsp of Butter with the Flour, and form a Beurre manie.
  • Divide the Beurre manie in dollops on the top of the mixture.
  • Do the same with the remaining Butter.
  • Bake, covered for 35-40 minutes.
  • Remove the cover, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Remove the Roast from the Dutch Oven, and let rest on a plate before slicing against the grain.
  • Cover the sliced Roast with the Mushrooms and Onions, discarding the Bay Leaf.
  • Take the remaining liquid to the stove, and reduce on High Heat, until it can coat a spoon, adjusting Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • Pour over the Roast, or serve on the side.

NOTES: This is one of my favorite ways to do Pork Tenderloin. If you cannot find Burgundy, your favorite Red wine will do, so long as it is not too strong and dry.

Scaloppine di Pollo al Vino Bianco con Limone – Chicken Francaise

Chicken Francaise

Ingredients:
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour (for coating)
1/4 cup Bread Crumbs (for coating)
2 Eggs (for coating)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/2 tsp dried Basil
4 Chicken Breasts, skinless, boneless, butterfly cut and pounded about 1/4″ thick
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Tbsp Butter
3 clove Garlic, thinly sliced vertically
1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc or other white wine
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1 tsp Corn Starch
Juice of 2 Lemons
1 Lemon, thinly sliced horizontally
2 Tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped fine

Directions:

  • Set up a dredging station using three pie pans. In one pan put the Flour, in the next the Eggs (beaten with a little water), in the next the Bread Crumbs and dried Herbs.
  • Season the Chicken with Salt and Pepper on both sides
  • Dredge the chicken in the Flour, then the Eggs, then the Bread Crumbs and set to the side
  • In a large skillet, brown each piece of chicken on both sides in the Olive Oil. When each piece is browned, remove from the skillet and place on a cookie sheet in the oven on the lowest setting, just to keep it warm.
  • Remove the Oil, and wipe it clean.
  • Heat the Butter on-low medium heat
  • In a small bowl combine Broth and Corn Starch, whipping until there are no lumps.
  • Add the Garlic, Wine, Broth, Lemon Juice, and Lemon Slices to the pan.
  • Simmer until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly so to not burn about 5 mins.
  • Place the Chicken on Serving platter and cover with the Lemon Slices and Wine Sauce and garnish with the Parsley

NOTES: I have tried to find a definitive answer as to whether or not this dish is French or Italian–since one usually sees it in Italian restaurants in America.  No one including the infamous Wikipedia seem to agree.  I would guess is that it is an Italian-American dish that is influenced by the French style of cooking with Wine and Butter.

An easy way to pound the chicken flat is to place it between two sheets of cellophane with a little bit of olive oil. Take the back of a skillet and pound flat (or use a meat mallet if too heavy).

Variations:
Chicken Marsala – similar, flour-dredged Chicken with Marsala wine, Mushrooms, and Prosciutto.
Chicken Piccata – similar, flour-dredged Chicken with Capers.
Chicken Scaloppine – similar, flour-dredged Chicken with Cream-based lemon sauce.

Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Ingredients:
2 cloves Garlic, minced fine
2 Tbsp Butter, unsalted
2 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Heavy Cream
4 oz Gorgonzola, crumbled
2 Tbsp Asiago vecchio, grated
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions:

  • In a sauce pan on medium heat, add the Garlic and Butter. Cook until the Butter is melted.
  • Stir in the Flour and make a roux, and let cook for about 3 minutes
  • Stir in the Heavy Cream
  • Add the Nutmeg, Gorgonzola, and Asiago, and heat until melted.
  • Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

NOTES: This sauce goes well with Gnocchi, Penne, Farfalle, Orecchiette, or Conchiglie–pretty much any pasta that has a place for the creamy sauce to collect. You can also make it with Shells, and bake it with a bread-crumb and herb topping. The first time I had Gorgonzola sauce was, oddly, in Stirling, Scotland. I fell in love with it immediately. I still claim that the best I ever had was at that little Italian place in Stirling.

Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
2 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded, room temperature
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp House Seasoning
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1-2 Tbsp Milk

Directions:

  • Preheat the Oven to 350F.
  • Combine the Butter, Cheese, Cayenne Pepper, and House Seasoning in a Food Processor, and pulse to combine. Batter should be somewhere between clumpy and grainy. You should not be able to distinguish pieces of cheese.
  • Slowly add the Flour to the mixture, pulsing each time.
  • Lastly start adding the Milk, and the dough will clump together.
  • Fill a Pipping Bag or Cookie Press fitted with a Star Mouth with the Batter. It is essential that the batter be room temperature to do this, or you will kill your arms.
  • Slowly pipe the Dough in strings on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Take a knife or pizza cutter, and score the strings every 2 inches.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until begins to lightly brown.
  • Remove to cooling racks.

Makes about 5-6 dozen (depending on the size of the Star mouth piece)

NOTES: Cheese straws are a real Southern appetizer food. The first time I had them was when I worked at Kanuga Conferences–they were a staple item for their mixers. I love the crunchy cheesy warmness with the Cayenne bite after taste.

Schnitz un Knepp

Ingredients:
2-3 lb Ham, pre-cooked
2 cups dried Apple Rings
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 Egg, beaten
3 Tbsp Butter, melted
1/2-2/3 cup Milk
Water for Ham and Apples

Directions:

  • Put the Ham in a large pot, and cover with water.
  • Bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours until the ham is very tender.
  • Put the Apple slices in a bowl and cover with water, letting them soak the duration it takes to cook the Ham.
  • Add the Apples, the soaking Water, the Brown Sugar, and the Onions to the Ham, and bring to a boil.
  • In a large bowl combine all the dry Ingredients, Egg, and Butter. Slowly add the Milk to the batter–you may not need all 2/3 cup–you want it to be a sticky and gloppy batter, not runny.
  • Drop Tablespoon size-balls of dough into the Ham pot, and cover.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes, and then serve.

NOTES: Schnitz un Knepp is an Amish dish popular in Pennsylvania. Literally translated, it means “Slices and Buttons”. Schntiz comes from Schnitzen – slices and Knepp for button referring to the dumplings. I don’t know who the ham angered, that it didn’t make it into the name! The first time I had this was at YMCA camp in Ohio, when they took us to an Amish farm. The meal is very simple, and easy to serve to a large group of folks–and not what one gets every day in non-Amish circles. I recommend this with left-over ham after a holiday, or in the fall or winter. I’ve also seen this spelled Schnitz un Gnepp, as well as with the “un” spelled out “und”. The Amish German dialect pounces it “schnitz-un-nep”, alighting the ordinarily pronounced K/G sound right out.

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

Ingredients:
3 medium Russet Potatoes, skinned and diced
1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
3 pieces of Bacon, diced
4 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups Clam meat, diced
1 cup Clam Juice
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 cups Milk
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Parsley

Directions:

  • In a saucepot, cook the Bacon until crisp on medium heat.
  • Add the Onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add the Potatoes and Garlic, coating with the Oily Onion/Bacon mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
  • In a bowl combine the Butter and the Flour to form a paste called a beurre manié.
  • Add the beurre manié, Clams, and Clam Juice to the pot and bring to a boil.
  • Add the Milk, Heavy Cream, and Herbs.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring often.

NOTES: I prefer to use bigger chunks in my Clam Chowder, so my dices are a little bigger than others…especially the Clams. However you should avoid having whole clams as they can be chewy–quartering is the best. I have no problem using high-quality canned clams for this, so long as preserved in water and not oil. Oh, and you’ll notice that I omitted the use of Salt in this recipe. This is because of the salty bacon and salty clam juice, and the lower amount of potatoes, however you can always add salt to taste.

There are other types of Clam Chowder — Manhattan, Rhode Island, and Outer Banks (from the Carolinas), but none of them have the appeal of New England Clam Chowder to me. This is a true comfort food, and reminds me of the days when my family would go to buffet restaurants like Ryan’s Steakhouse and Golden Corral. I would always start with a big bowl of New England Clam Chowder, and pick out the potatoes which seemed to take away from the clams!

Variations:
Cassava Clam Chowder – Substitute Cassava for the Potatoes.

Rhode Island Clam Chowder –  When adding the Clams, also add 1 cup diced Tomatoes.

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

Whole-Wheat Scottish Shortbreads

Ingredients:
1 cup Granulated Sugar
2 cups Butter
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 300° F.
  • In a large bowl, cream the Sugar and Butter with the Vanilla Extract.
  • Slowly incorporate the Flour a cup at a time. I highly recommend that you break down and use your hands!
  • Knead the dough on a floured surface to ensure that it is well mixed. If dough is too moist and sticky, add more flour.
  • Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Form the dough into a cylinder and place lengthwise on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Roll the cylinder into the shape of the cookie sheet, the dough even with the top of the edge of the baking sheet.
  • Using a pizza slicer, score the top of the dough into bar-shapes, not going too deep.
  • Using a fork, poke each bar-shaped piece with the prongs in the center of each bar, pressing down to the bottom of the pan. You should think about this as a decorative feature for each bar.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until it starts to turn slightly golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven, and while warm cut along the scores made from the pizza slicer, making the individual bars.
  • Let cool in the pan.

Makes about 5 dozen.

NOTES: Scottish Shortbread is a super-simple tasty cookie that is known as the “Jewel in the crown of Scottish Baking”. Originally, this would have been made with Oat Flour instead of Wheat Flour, but that is not regularly available. Scottish Shortbread is ideal with tea, in my humble opinion.

About the cutting. You can also choose to make wedge shaped cookies instead. To do this roll out the dough in a round shape about 1/4″ thick and 10-12″ in diameter on a piece of parchment.  Using an upside-down pie pan or round cake pan as a stencil, trim off the excess dough. Carefully lift the parchment onto a cookie sheet, score into wedges, and poke with a fork for decoration. You would then cut the dough into wedges while it is still warm. You can also make small round, individual cookies on a cookie sheet. These need a little less time to cook, so keep your eyes on them.

Variations:
Traditional Scottish Shortbread – Substitute Oat Four for the All-Purpose Flour.

Whole Wheat Shortbread – Substitute Whole Wheat Flour for 2 1/2 cups of the All-Purpose Flour. The coarseness of the Wheat Flour achieves a similar texture to the Traditional Scottish Shortbread.

Wheat Pizza Crust

Wheat Pizza with Pepperoni and Mushrooms

Ingredients:
1 cup Warm Water
1 dash Granulated Sugar
1 packet Active Dry Yeast
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp dried Basil
1/4 tsp dried Oregano
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Honey
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2-1 cup Cornmeal
Directions:

  • In a large bowl pour the Dry Yeast onto the Warm Water with the Sugar and let sit for 10 minutes. It should be frothy, and if it is not frothy, then your Yeast is too old-start over.
  • Using your hands, add the remaining ingredients except the Cornmeal, mixing well. You can use a bread hook with a stand mixer if you prefer. To prevent sticking to your hands, dip them occasionally in ice cold water while you mix.
  • Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes until it is stretchy.
  • Let stand, covered with a moist cloth for about 30 minutes.
  • Prepare a pan for cooking: Lightly grease and cover in corn meal. I prefer using a pizza stone, so it just needs to be dusted with Corn meal.
  • Preheat Oven to 425°F.
  • Divide the dough in two. You can either make 2 pizzas or freeze one for later.
  • Work the portioned dough into a disk with your hands, until the dough is about 8″-10″ in diameter.
  • Place on the cooking surface and stretch to the desired diameter.
  • Poke dough with a fork all over.
  • Bake at 425° F for 10 minutes.
  • Top with your favorite sauce and toppings and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Makes 2 medium pies or 1 large pie.

NOTES: Pizza is a Neapolitan dish in origin. In those dishes, olive oil and herbs were usually added to the flatbread and baked. Pizza is found all over the world with tons of variations, most using a red or white sauce with cheese and toppings. My favorite pizza toppings are a red sauce with fresh basil, mozzarella, pancetta, and pepperocini.

In high school I traveled to Russia with other students, and our host families took us to a Sports club that boasted the best pizza in Yaroslavl–having a chef from Italy. I had realized there may be some communication differences in what the food toppings were. Everyone was ordering ‘pepperoni’ except the Russians…who looked disgusted by the idea. So I followed their lead on ordering and got “Salami” instead. Well I did the right thing. The other Americans got Pepperocini peppers, while I got Pepperoni!

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Vegetable Oil
4 Eggs
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 cups Carrots, Shredded
1 cup Raisins
1 cup chopped Pecans
2-3 cups Cream Cheese Frosting
Pecans for decoration

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Salt, Sugar, Brown Sugar, and Spices.
  • Slowly incorporate the Eggs, Vegetable Oil, and Vanilla Extract.
  • Mix in the Carrots, Raisins, and Pecans.
  • Grease 2 8″ round cake pans and coat with flour.
  • Divide the Batter between the two pans.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.
  • Place one cake on a plate or cake plate, and spread frosting on the top.
  • Place the second cake on top and frost the top.
  • Carefully add frosting to the side and rotate the plate to spread the frosting along the sides.
  • Decorate the top with Pecans. If you prefer you can crush the Pecans and place along the sides of the Cake.

Makes 1 cake

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:
4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 3/4 cup Buttermilk

Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 425° F
  • In a large bowl combine the Dry Ingredients and make a well.
  • Slowly add the Buttermilk until a dough forms.
  • Place on the counter and gently knead, being sure not to overwork the dough.
  • Place in a greased heavy round cake pan or warm greased dutch oven.
  • Using a knife cut a cross along the top of the cake.
  • Bake covered for 30-35 minutes and then an additional 15 minutes uncovered.
  • Remove and allow to cool before serving.

NOTES: Traditional Irish Soda bread is plain and not sweetened like a cake or filled with raisins. Though I advocate adding both to give it flavor. Soda Bread also does not last that long, so eat it up in the first few days.

Apple and Pecan Pie

Ingredients:
Pecan Pâte Brisée, divided in 2 disks
6 cups Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, sliced
2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 cup chopped Pecans
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground Ginger
1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg
2 Tbsp Butter, cold and cut into pieces.
1 Egg yolk
1 tsp Water
8-12 Pecan Halves for decorating

Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 425° F
  • In a large bowl toss the Apples, Lemon Juice, chopped Pecans, Sugars, Flour, Salt, and Spices, coating the Apples well.
  • On a very clean, floured surface, roll out 1 of the disks of Pâte Brisée into a circle about 10″ for a 9″ Pie Pan.
  • Placing your rolling pin mid way across the crust, fold back half of the crust over the rolling pin, so as to utilize the rolling pin to move the crust over the Pie pan. Unroll and gently fit into the Pie pan. It is ok for crusts to hang over the sides.
  • Place the Apple mixture into the pie crust and dollop with the pieces of Butter
  • Repeat the rolling and placement with the second disk of Pâte Brisée, this time placing over the apple mixture in the Pie Pan.
  • Press along the edges of the two crusts to seal the dough.
  • Using a knife, trim the excess dough.
  • You may crimp the crust as you see fit.
  • Cut slits in the top of crust to allow for steam to escape.
  • Decorate with the Pecan Halves
  • In a small bowl, beat the Egg Yolk with the water.
  • Brush the Egg mixture over the crust.
  • Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to 350° F and cook for an additional 40 minutes.

NOTES: If you fear the crust may burn, after the first 15 minutes, wrap aluminum foil around the edges.

Pollo Pesto al Forno – Pesto Chicken Bake

Pesto Chicken Bake

Ingredients
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour (for coating)
1/4 cup Bread Crumbs (for coating)
2 Eggs (for coating)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/2 tsp dried Basil
4 Chicken Breasts, skinless, boneless, butterfly cut and pounded about 1/4″ thick
2 cups Pesto
4 Plum Tomatoes, sliced
2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 350° F
  • Set up a dredging station using three pie pans. In one pan put the Flour, in the next the Eggs (beaten with a little water), in the next the Bread Crumbs
  • Season the Chicken with Salt and Pepper on both sides
  • Dredge the chicken in the Flour, then the Eggs, then the Bread Crumbs and set to the side
  • In a large skillet, brown each piece of chicken on both sides in the Olive Oil. When each piece is browned, remove from the skillet.
  • Spread the Pesto sauce over both sides of the Chicken, coating it completely.
  • Place Chicken in a baking dish, and cover with a layer of Tomato Slices followed by the shredded Mozzarella.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and begun to brown.

NOTES: The first time I ever had this, my mother had used Shake ‘n’ Bake. Though I prefer to use herbed bread crumbs, this is a quick option that also does not require the use of eggs.

Thumb Print Shortbread Cookies

Thumb Print Shortbread Cookies (variety of fillings)

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups Butter, room temperature
2 cups Sugar
2 Egg Yolks
1 tsp Vanilla
2 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt

Fillings of choice:
Jam, Chocolate kisses, Candied Fruit

Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl cream the Butter and Sugar.
  • Slowly incorporate the Vanilla and Egg Yolks.
  • Add the flour 1 cup at a time to the wet ingredients. As you near the final installment, the dough can be mixed with your hands.
  • Cover with Plastic and place in Fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Remove and roll into small balls (about 1″ in diameter).
  • Place on prepared cookie sheet and indent a pocket in the middle with your thumb (or finger if your thumb is too big).
  • Place your filling in the indentation. If you are filling with chocolate kisses, you can press the ball down with the kiss rather than your thumb. The dough may break a little as you press it down, this is ok.
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the bottoms start to brown.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

NOTES: Traditionally, these treats have jam in them as a filling. If you use jam, please keep in mind it will be much hotter than the cookie when it comes out of the oven.

Sausage Balls

Sausage Balls

Ingredients:
2 cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Butter, cut in pieces
1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 cup Dry Nonfat Milk
1 lb bulk Hot Pork Sausage
3 cup Extra Sharp Cheddar, shredded

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • In a food processor, combine dry ingredients.
  • Slowly add the Butter, pulsing as each piece enters to fully incorporate into the dry ingredients.
  • In a large bowl, break down the sausage with your hands.
  • Slowly add the Cheese and Flour mixture, alternating between the two. Dough should be slightly crumbly.
  • Grease a large cookie sheet.
  • Using your hands, make small balls (slightly smaller than golf balls) of the dough, rolling the dough in your palms; place on the cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen, depending on size.

NOTES: Any Southerner will recall this recipe. It is that simple brunch snack or holiday appetizer that everyone loves. I grew up in a trailer park in Georgia, and we had a holiday party at the local club house. I was the only child usually there, and there were many people in their sixties or so. There was always a bunch of these wonderful treats there.

Let’s talk sausage: Though pork sausage is easy to find, I really have to advocate for Jimmy Dean® hot sausage. This is the only traditional sausage I would use.

Now the above is a homemade version–a lot of people will just use Bisquick® baking mix, which is fine if you’re in a hurry, though the above recipe is all natural.

Fruitcake

Dedicated to my Mom and to Lucile F. Locher Mishler “Mum”, her maternal grandmother.

Traditional Fruitcake

Ingredients:
2 cups mixed Dried Fruits, minced
1 cup Rum
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Ginger
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
5 Eggs
3 Tbsp Canola Oil
1/4 cup Rum
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest
1 Tbsp Orange Zest
1/2 cup Pecans, chopped
1 cup Pecans, whole
1 cup Candied Red Cherries
1 cup Candied Green Cherries
1 cup Candied Pineapple

Directions:

  • Soak the minced Dried Fruits in 1 cup of Rum overnight.
  • Preheat the Oven to 300°F.
  • Sift together the Flour, Baking Powder, Salt, and Spices into a large bowl.
  • In a second bowl cream the Eggs with the Sugars.
  • Whisk in the Olive Oil and 1/4 cup Dark Rum.
  • Slowly incorporate into the Flour mixture.
  • Fold in the Dried Fruits, Zest, and 1/2 cup of crushed Pecans.
  • Grease a bunt pan well.
  • Pour mixture into the bunt pan, and lightly tap it against the counter.
  • Decorate with the Candied Fruits and whole Pecans.
  • Bake on the middle rack for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in it comes out clean.

NOTES: Fruitcake has always been one of my favorite deserts.  My mom tells me about how when she grew up her grandmother “Mum” used to make Fruitcake in early fall, and stick it in cheesecloth a tin.  Every couple weeks she’d pour Port on top of it.  By Christmas it was amazing.  I’m still nervous about keeping a cake in a tin and pouring alcohol on it for over a month…so here’s my version with a less pungent Rum.

Mixed Dried Fruit can include Cranberries, Raisins, Dates, Figs, Apricots, Apples, Pears, Pruns, etc.

Pumpkin Gnocchi in a Maple Sage Sauce

Ingredients:VegetarianNut Alergy Warning
2 Russet Potatoes, skinned, cubed
1 cup prepared Pumpkin
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Salt
1 – 2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 Egg

Maple Sage Sauce
1/2 cup Butter
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp Sage, minced

Garnish:
1 cup Walnuts
Grated Parmesan

Directions:

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and boil the potatoes until fork tender.
  • Drain the potatoes and mash in a large bowl.
  • Incorporate the Pumpkin pulp, Spices, & Egg.
  • Start incorporating the Flour into the mixture. You may not use all the flour, or you may need more. What you are looking for is a dough forming that you can handle, and roll. It should be cohesive to itself, but not sticky.
  • Divide the dough into six parts.
  • On a floured surface, start rolling each part into a rope, about 1/2″-1″ thick in diameter.
  • Start cutting into 1/2″-1″ pieces. Think little pillows for the shape. You do not want to saw, you want to come down with your knife.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
  • Add all the Gnocchi. They will sink.
  • As the Gnocchi start to float, they are done, and can be ladled out.
  • In a saucepan, start heating the stick of Butter on low heat. Use low heat to prevent smoking
  • As the Butter melts, it will start to caramelize along the edges.
  • Stir in the Maple Syrup and the Sage, cooking for an additional 30 seconds or so.
  • Pour on the Gnocchi, and garnish with Walnuts and Parmesan.

Serves 6.

NOTES: Gnocchi are simple to make for scratch. I’ve seen many recipes that exclude the use of Potatoes, but in my opinion, it is the Potato that makes the Gnocchi. This is a dish that is great for an Autumn night. I recommend it with a side of green beans.

Persimmon Cookies

Fuyu PersimmonsFuyū 富有 Persimmons

Ingredients:Nut Alergy WarningVegetarian
Pulp of 3 medium sized Fuyū 富有 Persimmons
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 cup granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Cloves
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup Raisins
1 cup Walnuts, crushedDirections:

 

  • Preheat the Oven to 350° F.
  • In a food processor, pulse the Persimmon Pulp and Baking Soda until a puree forms. Set aside
  • In a large bowl combine the Sugar, Vanilla, Butter, and Eggs, mixing well.
  • Pour in the Persimmon Pulp, and mix well.
  • In a second large bowl sift in the two types of Flour and Spices.
  • Slowly incorporate the Dry Ingredients with the Wet Ingredients, mixing as you go.
  • Add the Raisins and Walnuts, folding the mixture rather than beating it.
  • On greased baking sheet, spoon teaspoon fulls of batter 2″ apart from each other.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes; remove to a rack; and repeat till done.

Makes about 3 dozen little cookies.

NOTES: Persimmons come in two real varieties: Astringent and Non-Astringent. The most common Astringent Persimmon is the Hachiya 蜂屋 and tends to look like a bee-hive or heart in shape. You can tell it astringent because when you bite into it, it dries out your mouth. If you can only find this type of Persimmon, then double the Baking Soda, also look out for the large seeds. Fuyū 富有 Persimmons are a variety of the Non-Astringent Persimmons, and look a little bit like a squashed tomato. They lack the strong dryness of the Astringent varieties, and taste good eaten by themselves. Because of their sweet flavor, lack of dryness, and no seeds, I prefer Fuyū 富有 Persimmons.

Variations:
Substitute dried Cranberries for all or part of the Raisins. Substitute Pecans for all or part of the Walnuts

Alfredo Sauce

Ingredients:Vegetarian
1/4 cup Butter
4 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup Sherry
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 cup Romano, grated
1/2 cup Asiago, grated
1/2 tsp Nutmeg

Directions:

  • In a sauce pan, combine the butter and Flour.
  • Heat on low heat stirring constantly for 3 mins.
  • Add the Sherry and Cream, stirring constantly; heat for 10 minutes
  • Add the Garlic, Nutmeg, and Cheeses.
  • continue to cook until the cheese is thoroughly melted.

Makes about 4 servings.

Serving Suggestions:
Pour over Fettuccine or your favorite Pasta.

Spiced Date Bread

Ingredients:Nut Alergy WarningVegetarian
16 oz Dates, chopped
2 cups Water, boiling
2 Tbsp Butter
1/2 cup Honey
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
2 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
1 tsp Ginger, ground
1/2 tsp Cloves, ground
1/2 tsp Nutmeg, ground
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 cup WalnutsDirections:

  • In a medium bowl, place the Dates and pour the Hot Water over it; let it soak for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat Oven to 350°F
  • In a large bowl, cream the Sugar, Honey, Butter, Vanilla, and Eggs.
  • Mix in the Dates and Water.
  • In a second bowl, combine the Flour, Spices, Baking Soda and Salt, and mix well.
  • Slowly incorporate the Wet Mixture into the Dry Mixture.
  • Once incorporated, add the Walnuts and mix well.
  • Pour into greased loaf pan.
  • Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.