almond biscotti

When faced with three bowls of Bolognese and a spoon, Dave declared them all good. “Different, but good.” Which is better? “I don’t know. They’re all good.” Carne adovada? “They all taste the same.” Sugar cookies? “They need frosting.”

I can’t really complain about having someone to cook for who appreciates everything I make (unless it has olives), but feedback isn’t Dave’s strongpoint. He used to tell me that he could only give a good opinion if he was served similar dishes side-by-side, which started this whole thing, but not even that always works.

Unless it concerns almond biscotti. I have made at least four almond biscotti recipes, over the course of well over a year, and Dave has unequivocally identified his favorite. It was the first I tried, and nothing else has ever lived up. He loves these because they’re just crunchy enough to dip into his coffee without getting soggy, but not so crisp that they’re a challenge to bite into.

I like them because the recipe is simple to mix up and is easily adaptable. Usually I use slivered blanched almonds, but if I need to use up sliced almonds, those work just fine as well. If I’m in the mood for variety, I can add different nuts and dried fruit, although if I do, Dave will be disappointed. Pure, unadulterated almond biscotti is one of Dave’s favorites, up there with banana cream pie and salmon pesto pasta. At least this recipe is.

One year ago: Tartine’s Banana Cream Pie
Two years ago: Crispy Baked Chicken Strips
Three years ago: Mu Shu Pancakes

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Almond Biscotti (adapted from Bon Appetit via Smitten Kitchen)

There’s no need to toast the nuts before mixing the dough; they’ll brown in the oven.

You’ll only use a bit of the egg white, plus I dislike using only one part of an egg. Instead, I steal just a bit of egg white from one of the eggs that gets mixed into the dough to use for the egg wash instead of using a separate egg white.

1 large egg white
3¼ cups (15.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 large eggs
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 teaspoon salt
1½ cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or orange liqueur
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup slivered or sliced almonds

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Whisk the single egg white until frothy. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, mix the flour and baking powder.

2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, heat the butter just until melted. Remove the pot from the heat; stir in the sugar and salt. Stir in the eggs, one at time; add the extract, liqueur, and zest. Slowly mix in the flour mixture, then the almonds.

3. Divide the dough in half. On the prepared baking sheet, shape each half into a log 2-inches across and ¾-inch high. Brush with the egg white. Bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.

4. Carefully transfer the logs to a cooling rack (I use two large spatulas for this); cool for 30 minutes.

5. Slice each log on the diagonal into ½-inch thick cookies. Lay half of the cookies cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake 11 minutes; remove the pan from the oven and, using tongs, turn each cookie over onto its other cut side. Bake 7 minutes, until the edges are browned. Transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

I have blogged about this recipe before. At the time, I could only tell you that they were good. Now I can tell you that they are the best.

curry coconut chickpea soup

When my parents brought home a half-grown boxer puppy, I asked them why they got such an ugly dog. With her squashed face, beady eyes, and unproportional torso, she was a far cry from the beautiful German shepherd I’d grown up with. Then we took her out to the backyard to run around and within minutes, I was exclaiming that she was the cutest thing ever! She raced back and forth, eagerly stopping by our sides for head pats. She had no tail to speak of, so instead wagged her entire butt back and forth. What a great dog (except for the drool and the farts). She certainly taught me an important lesson about how it’s what’s inside that really counts.

This soup might look oddly curdled to you, with random chunks of red floating on top. But I know that the mottled look is from sweet rich coconut milk, and the soup is full of healthy tomatoes and red peppers. I know that quinoa adds a bit of crunch to the soup, and chickpeas offer something to chew on.

We gave the boxer puppy an ultra-feminine name, Belle, to counteract some of her less feminine traits. And maybe that’s why this soup has such a descriptive name. Without all of those flavorful ingredients right in the title, how would you have any idea what’s in that suspicious orange-tinted broth? Your first impression might not reflect how good it really is.


(photo taken by my friend Ramie Pierce)

One year ago: Baked Ziti
Two years ago: Herbed Lima Bean Hummus
Three years ago: Maple Walnut Cupcakes

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Coconut Curry Chickpea Soup (adapted from epicurious via Cook, Pray, Love)

Serves 4

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped tomatoes, seeded and peeled, fresh or canned
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1. In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, curry powder, and garam masala; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

2. Stir in the coconut milk; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 10 minutes. Garnish with the herbs; serve over rice, couscous, or quinoa, if desired.

I’m submitting this entry to Branny’s Charity Souper Bowl, in which she will donate a dollar to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for each post submitted.

nutty chocolately swirly sour cream bundt cake

I’ve got nothing against nuts and chocolate and currants, but you know what I really like best? Cake made with sour cream. For me, it always comes back to the purest form of flour plus butter plus sugar, and adding a tangy fatty dairy into the mix just makes things better. Usually that’s cream cheese, but I have nothing against sour cream either.

I’ve been doing a better job of reining in my batter-eating, but the few spoonfuls I had of this cake’s batter made me crave a bowl of the stuff, a quiet corner, and a cup of coffee. It also made me wish I had more sour cream cake. The swirl was fun, but all I really want is the cake part. Or the batter part.

Jennifer chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I actually didn’t change anything. I don’t think I even added more salt.

One year ago: Coco-Nana Muffins
Two years ago: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

stromboli

If you roll your dough and toppings into a spiral instead of keeping them flat, it’s a whole new recipe and totally different from the normal Friday night pizza routine!

Friday evenings are pretty much my favorite part of the week. It’s one of the only times I just STOP. I don’t worry about chores, or exercise, or even hobbies. I just hang out in the kitchen with a beer, rolling out dough, shredding cheese, slicing toppings.

I’m not too interested in varying from this routine. I’m occasionally willing to get takeout sushi instead of make pizza, and, sometimes, I might really get wild and change the shape of the pizza. Usually that means calzones and this time it was stromboli, but let’s face it, it’s all basically the same thing.

You can certainly roll anything you want up in pizza dough, but sometimes I like to let other people do the thinking for me, so I follow a specific recipe. Emeril’s stromboli has three kinds of pork, green peppers (gross!), and jalapenos, so I was pretty sure I could get away with some paring down of ingredients. With only two kinds of meat and one type of pepper, plus three types of cheese, there were still plenty of flavors for me. Oh Friday. How I love your carbs, cheese, and freedom.

One year ago: Maple Oatmeal Scones
Two years ago: Twice-Baked Potatoes with Broccoli, Cheddar, and Scallions
Three years ago: Country Crust Bread

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Stromboli (adapted from Emeril)

Serves 6

Based on the pictures, it appears I sautéed some sliced mushrooms with the peppers. Yum!

1 recipe pizza dough
1 tablespoon milk
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
8 ounces hot Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
8 ounces ham, diced
1 large red onion, chopped fine
1 red pepper, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces (2 cups) provolone, shredded
8 ounces (2 cups) mozzarella, shredded
2 ounce (1 cup) finely grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. In a small bowl, mix the milk, salt, and sugar; set aside.

2. In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until it’s browned and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the ham, onions, and bell peppers; cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and slightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool.

3. Divide the dough in half. On the prepared baking sheet, stretch out one half of the dough to a large rectangle, about 10 by 14 inches. (If it becomes too elastic, let it rest for a few minutes, lightly covered.) Spread half of the cooled sausage mixture across the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with half of each of the mozzarella and provolone. Using a pastry brush, paint the border of a long edge with the milk mixture. Starting at the other long end, roll up the dough into a cylinder, pinching the edges to seal. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Let the dough rise for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Brush the top of each stromboli with the milk mixture. Bake, one at a time, until nearly completely golden brown and starting to crisp, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the stromboli with parmesan cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the dough is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with your favorite sauce.

lemon poppy seed muffins

In winter, when berries and melons aren’t even on the horizon and you’ve had all you can take of apples and pears, it’s all about citrus. What’s more, the bright flavors and colors of citrus mimic the sunshine we’re missing.

Well, the sunshine you’re missing. Here in southern New Mexico, it was 80 degrees yesterday, and I used some of that winter citrus for something quintessentially summery – a margarita.

But the occasional warm day in January doesn’t mean we have fresh-picked strawberries and peaches for sale, so lemons are still a good bet for muffins, not to mention that it’s one of my favorite flavors. Combined with the crunch of poppy seeds, these little treats will be perfect any time of the year – but maybe not as an accompaniment to that margarita.

Betsy chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I doubled the salt (as usual).  I also skipped the glaze (because frosting on muffins = cupcakes).  Instead, I brought a mixture of lemon juice and granulated sugar to a simmer, then brushed that on the warm muffins.

One year ago: Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars
Two years ago: Berry Surprise Cake

feta and shrimp macaroni and cheese

I can’t deny that quality matters when it comes to food. I know I’m lucky in this small town that I can buy the ingredients I can – Greek yogurt, dried currants, and free range eggs are all items that my grocery store has started carrying since we moved here last year. (Soy yogurt and King Arthur whole wheat flour are ingredients they’ve stopped carrying, unfortunately.) But there just isn’t a market here for all the ingredients I wish I could buy. And that’s why I stock up on cheese and chocolate when we visit my parents in Albuquerque.

I made this recipe once with swiss cheese I bought in the grocery store here. It might even have called itself gruyere. And the pasta was fine. Not thrilling, but nice. But I couldn’t wrap my head around how something with this combination of ingredients – pasta, fresh herbs, feta, shrimp, and gruyere – could not be thrilling.

When I tried again with gruyere I got at Whole Foods in Albuquerque, it was a whole different dish. This time it was everything I had expected originally, with bright fresh lemon and dill, sweet shrimp, and pungent gruyere melted around swirls of pasta. Just like the good coffee is less acidic and good chocolate tastes deeper, good cheese makes better macaroni and cheese.

One year ago: Apple Muffins
Two years ago: Caramel-Topped Flan
Three years ago: Marcella Hazan’s Lasagne Bolognese

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Shrimp and Feta Macaroni and Cheese (adapted from The Perfect Pantry via Annie’s Eats)

½ cup panko breadcrumbs
10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled and divided
zest of 1 lemon, divided
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, divided
5 tablespoons butter, divided
salt
1 pound pasta
1 pound raw shrimp (31-40 ct.), peeled and deveined, cut in half (if desired)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. In a small bowl, combine the panko, a quarter of the feta, a pinch of lemon zest, 2 teaspoons of the parsley and 1 tablespoon of the butter, melted. Toss with a fork to combine; set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions. Drain, then transfer the pasta back to the cooking pot. Add the raw shrimp to the warm pasta; combine.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat; whisk in the flour. Cook 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until light golden brown. Whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the sauce bubbles and thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the remaining feta, Gruyere, remaining parsley, remaining lemon zest, dill, salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the pasta and shrimp; stir well to coat.

4. Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased 2½ or 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

beef short ribs braised in tomato sauce

When my sister visits with her young kids, I like to make a dish on the first night that’s particularly kid-friendly. While they aren’t picky eaters, they love pizza and spaghetti and hot dogs as much as any other kid. But if I’m cooking, the food has to be Bridget-friendly too. In other words, it has to be fun to cook.

I’ve wanted to perfect a recipe like this for a long time. I had in mind something that wasn’t just tomato sauce with meat added. I wanted the meat to shine, and I wanted the sauce itself to taste distinctly meaty.

To get the intensity I was hoping for, I pulled out every umami trick I know. Beef, obviously, and all the tomatoes don’t hurt. Dried porcini mushrooms, tomato paste (added with the aromatics and browned slightly), and pancetta added layers of meaty flavor.

This is my favorite type of recipe to make. Ingredients are added incrementally, food gets browned and delicious, and all the while, I get to stir and inhale the aroma, stir and inhale. It gets better after the sauce has simmered for hours, and then it becomes stir and taste, stir and taste. Even better is enjoying the meal with pasta, freshly baked bread, salad, a bottle of red wine, and two rambunctious kids and their parents.

One year ago: Lighter Chicken and Dumplings
Two years ago: Chopped Salad
Three years ago: Banana Cream Pie

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Beef Short Ribs Braised in Tomato Sauce

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 (3-4 pounds total) beef short ribs
salt
3 ounces pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced small
1 carrot, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon oregano
½ cup wine (red or white, just something that isn’t too sweet or oaky)
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes with their juice

1. Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt clinging to them. Cover them with ½ cup water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the plastic wrap, and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Let stand until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Use a fork to lift the mushrooms from the liquid; mince the mushrooms, reserving the liquid.

2. Season the beef ribs with salt. Meanwhile, in a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it flows like water when the pot is tilted. Add the beef ribs and cook, for 2-3 minutes per side, until richly browned on all sides. Remove the ribs from the pot. Lower the heat to medium and add the pancetta to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to the plate with the short ribs. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pot. Add the onions and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned on the edges, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, mushrooms, and oregano; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the wine; scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, beef ribs, pancetta, mushroom soaking liquid (being careful to leave any dirt behind) and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. After 2 hours, remove the cover, increase the heat to medium-low, and simmer for another hour, until the beef is tender.

3. Transfer the ribs to a plate; shred the meat. Meanwhile, if the sauce is too thin, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until it reaches the desired thickness. Stir the meat back into the sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary, and serve over pasta or polenta.

chocolate madeleines

These madeleines made me crave chocolate mousse. If you aren’t a batter eater, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. You wouldn’t know how chocolately and fluffy and rich this batter was.  And if you aren’t a batter eater, I’m jealous, truly. I’d be a size smaller if I didn’t love cookie dough.

But I’m glad they were baked, because it gave me a chance to finally use the madeleine pan I got for Christmas – two years ago. I do feel silly having a pan I’ve never used for so long, but at least it’s easy to store and relatively cheap.  And honestly, seeing it in the cabinet every time I reached for my mini-muffin pan has made me happy.

And now I’m using it. For chocolate! You just can’t go wrong with little clam-shaped chocolate cakes, and dipping them in ganache is even better. Probably I should use the pan again a little sooner than two years from now. But first I need to make chocolate mousse.

Margo chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted on her site. I halved the recipe (and ate about 2 madeleines worth of batter).  I “filled” the madeleines with strained cherry jam instead of marshmallow fluff; however, I found that the amount of jam I was able to stuff into each little cake was negligible.

One year ago: Mrs. Vogel’s Sherben
Two years ago: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

roasted chicken thighs with root vegetables

I am highly susceptible to the Sunday Sads. I start out every weekend thinking that I have infinite time before going back to work to catch up on chores, hobbies, and sleep. I make pizza and drink beer the first night. Make something fancy for dinner and drink wine the second night. Sunday, though, turns into a mad rush to catch up chores from the previous week while preparing for the upcoming week. I still want something fantastic for dinner, but not something that’s going to keep me in the kitchen all day.

This one-dish meal is the perfect antidote to the Sunday Sads. The original recipe had a long staggered cooking method, in which the chicken roasted, then the vegetables, and then they’re combined to finish cooking. I don’t have that kind of patience on Sunday, so I cooked the whole thing in one dish at the same time. While it baked unattended, Dave and I shared a bottle of our favorite champagne – my other foolproof method of dissolving the Sunday Sads.

An easy meal is one thing, but what busy Sundays really need is something that tastes delicious. This mixture of browned potatoes, caramelized vegetables, and moist chicken that takes next to no time to put together eases the blow of facing another busy work week.

One year ago: Lamb Stew
Two years ago: German Apple Pancake

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Roasted Chicken Thighs with Root Vegetables and Potatoes
(adapted from Bon Appétit)

Serves 4

The chicken thighs provide plenty of fat, probably too much, to coat the vegetables so they cook evenly. I think this would probably work with bone-in, skin-on breasts as well, or at least a mixture (with the breasts cut in half cross-wise so they cook in the same time as the thighs).

If you aren’t a fan of parsnips, replace them with more carrots or another root vegetable.

nonstick spray
1 pound medium carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch-long, ½-inch-thick spears
1 pound parsnips, peeled, cut into 2-inch-long, ½-inch-thick spears
1½ pounds unpeeled medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 2-inch-long, ½-inch-thick spears
1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
8 large chicken thighs with skin and bones
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix salt, thyme, 1½ teaspoons pepper, and nutmeg in small bowl. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Place the carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and onion in the pan and spray with a light coating of nonstick spray. (The chicken will provide plenty of cooking fat, but you want to make sure every vegetable has at least a light coating.) Stir half of the salt mixture into the vegetables. Lay the chicken, skin-side up, over the vegetables. Rub the remaining salt mixture on the chicken and under its skin.

2. Bake until the chicken is golden and cooked through, 35-45 minutes. Serve.

pasta puttanesca

Dave’s been traveling occasionally for work, and every time we say goodbye, I get all, “nooooo, don’t leave me!” and then he’s gone, and I’m like, hey, now I can eat anchovies. Woohoo!

My standard dinner routine for when I’m on my own is pasta puttanesca on weeknights and pissaladiere on the weekend. Both combine Dave’s two least favorite ingredients, olives and anchovies. He doesn’t like such strong flavors – olives with their brine and anchovies with their salt. But if you combine the two, they battle for dominance and neither overpowers the other.

The first time I made puttanesca, I was a little overwhelmed. Looking back, I think I had made an understandable error – I added salt. The anchovies provide all the salt you need for this dish. Then that’s enhanced by bitter parsley and spicy pepper flakes, and everything comes together in a wonderful clash of flavor in your mouth.

One year ago: Asian-Style Chicken Noodle Soup
Two years ago: Pasta with Broccoli, Sausage and Roasted Red Peppers

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Pasta Puttanesca (from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves four

I use 12 ounces of pasta instead of 16 ounces; also, I don’t prefer spaghetti with chunky sauces like this.  To increase the protein, sometimes I add 2 cans of solid tuna, drained.

4 medium cloves garlic, minced to a paste or pressed through a press
Salt
1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons minced anchovies (about eight fillets)
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, ½ cup juice reserved
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped coarse
¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Meanwhile, mix the garlic with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl; set aside. When the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; stir to separate the noodles. Immediately heat the oil, garlic mixture, hot red pepper flakes, and anchovies in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.

2. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, then return the pasta to the pot. Add ¼ cup of the reserved tomato juice and toss to combine.

3. Stir the capers, olives, and parsley into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to combine, adding more tomato juice to moisten if necessary. Adjust the seasonings with salt to taste and serve immediately.