Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Old Fashioned Italian Biscotti

If you like the flavour of anise (rhymes with amiss), these old-fashioned Italian biscotti will surely delight you. They are popular at Easter, Christmas, traditional Italian weddings or anytime.

Biscotti means “twice cooked” and so these anise cookies are. The double baking gives them a characteristic dryness, which is excellent for flavour and dunking too. They keep well baked this way, in case you should want to send some to a loved one far away.

Many people today take shortcuts to the original recipe by using anise extract instead of seeds and using the quick drop method instead of the log method. But this old recipe is a little different and I think makes a tremendous cookie, See if you agree.

Recipe from “The Italian Cooking Class Cookbook, Beekman House, NY 1982

Anise Cookies                                          Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies


¾ cup (4 ounces/115g) whole blanched almonds

2 ¼ cups (560ml) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ cup (180ml) sugar

½ cup (125ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons (30ml) brandy

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon whole anise seeds


Heat oven to 375F (189C)

Put the almonds in baking pan

Bake about 7 minutes or until light brown

Remove to a plate and let cool

Chop the cooled almonds coarsely
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl

In medium mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter until fluffy
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition

Scrape sides of bowl and stir in brandy and lemon peel
Add the flour blend and stir until smooth

Now stir in the almonds and anise seeds

Put the dough in the ice-box and refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour, to get firm

Heat oven again to 375F/190C

Grease 1 large baking sheet

Divide the dough in half

Spoon half the dough in a row, lengthwise, on one side of the sheet

Spread top and sides even with a spatula (or back of a spoon)

Spread to form a 12x2 inch (30x5cm) log, dough will be fairly soft

Pat the surface smooth using lightly floured fingertips

Repeat this procedure with remaining half of dough to form second log

Bake 20-25 minutes or until the logs are a light golden brown

Leave the oven on but remove the baking sheet to a wire rack to let cool

Lower the oven heat to 350F/180C

When logs are completely cooled off, cut diagonally with a serrated knife

Cut into ½ inch (1.5cm) thick diagonal slices

Place the slices flat in a single layer on 2 ungreased baking sheets

Bake 8 minutes then turn over and re-bake 10 minutes longer

Remove cookies to wire rack and cool completely

When cooled, put in tightly covered container, where they will keep for several weeks if they don't get eaten up first.

If you or your children have never had anise cookies, I hope you will bake these soon. This old-fashioned style of baking has a long history behind it. For instance, sailors used to bring hardtack biscuits with them on voyages because they kept well. Anise cookies just plain taste good.


Sunday, January 27, 2013


A Paramount Preparation To Pamper The Palate

Paella, the colourful, internationally known Spanish dish is a triumphal culinary rice preparation that developed in the fields by laborers using local foods. It is named after the wide shallow pan it is cooked in and can contain almost anything, including chicken, pork, shellfish, beans and peas; in short, whatever particular vittles you care to use. So what defines a paella? Olive oil, rice and saffron is the heart of a paella. Ask a hundred Spaniards what goes in a paella and you'll get 100 different answers, or more if they tell you how their mom or aunt makes it.
When the Moors ruled most of Spain, they popularized rice eating with the casseroles they prepared and subsequently established the custom of eating rice on that Iberian peninsula
In Spain, families like to take a paella pan and the paella ingredients and picnic by building a fire and cooking the paella al fresco. When cooked, they all sit around the paellera and eat communally.
If you have ever tasted a paella, you know what an extraordinarily delectable dish it is but were perhaps put off by the tedious time-consuming effort required to prepare this precious gustatory sensation. I thought about this and have actually prepared a stripped down recipe that still tastes like a paella should. This paella pronto compares with classic paellas taste-wise and takes little time to prepare.
Pronto Paella            serves 4
2 Tablespoons highest quality olive oil
2-3 links of hot Italian sausage (about a half pound) casings removed
1 Cup of medium-grain rice (not long-grain)
2 cups of clam broth, seafood stock or water
½ Teaspoon salt (omit if using seasoning mix below)
½ Cup white wine (optional)
1 Sixteen oz can of stewed tomatoes
1 Cup frozen shelled edamame, cut-up green beans or frozen peas, partially thawed
1 Pound of large (15-25) shrimp, shelled and deveined *
1 Red bell pepper (capsicum), cleaned and chopped
1 Tablespoon paella spice mix (see below) OR:

½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika. Less than 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves , ½ teaspoon saffron, and quarter teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Heat a wide skillet (ten inch or wider) over medium- high flame and add the oil
  • Put sausages in skillet and cook, breaking up as you stir, until browned
    • Remove the sausage to a bowl
    • Put the raw rice in the skillet, lower flame to medium heat
    • Stir the dry rice in the fat for a couple of minutes
    • Add the salt and broth,stock or water and turn up the flame
    • When liquid boils, lower heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes
    • Add wine if using
    • Add edamame or green beans and cook 5 minutes (if using peas, wait)
    • Add red pepper and tomatoes and spices and turn heat to boil
    • Add the shrimp, stir and when comes to boil, lower flame
    • Cook the shrimp three minutes only and then add the peas if using
    • Cook one minute, just to heat the peas
      * If you so desire, you could boil the shrimp shells in water to cover for ten minutes and make a lovely seafood shrimp broth.
    • I think this is pretty simple to prepare; a pretty paella made pronto. I hope you will try this paella soon and remember: once you have the olive oil, saffron and rice you can choose your own vegetables and meats or just vegetables only would be good.
    • Paella Seasoning Mix
      50 whole saffron stigmas
      4 Tablespoons paprika, Hungarian or Spanish or both
      1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
      2 Teaspoons onion powder
      1 ½ Teaspoons garlic powder
      1 Teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
      1 Teaspoon dried rosemary
      2 teaspoons salt
    • Thoroughly combine all and store in an airtight jar.
    • The Moors (Muslims originating from North Africa) did a lot of good in Spain. They encouraged learning and the arts. Although the rest of Europe was mired in the dark ages, the Moors studied and kept alive the works of the classical Greeks and Romans. The Moors are also responsible for the exquisite architecture to be found in Spain. Not only did the Moors introduce rice from Asia to Spain, they also started the cultivation of oranges and a complex system of irrigation that made Spain a prosperous group of kingdoms. They were expelled right before Christopher Columbus set sail for India. But you can enjoy the fruits of the rice they favoured
      Happy eating

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Vintage Memories Jewelry Design:First Glimpse of my Wife's Jewelry Designs

Vintage Memories Jewelry Design: First Glimpse of my Jewelry Designs: Welcome to my first post on my new blog. Recently I was under the weather and bedbound for a couple of weeks. Since I love vintage and antiq...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


A Righteous Rapid Rustic Rigatoni Recipe
There are hundreds of different Italian pasta (we used to call them “macaroni”) shapes. Of them all, one shape I have always particularly liked is rigatoni.
Years ago in New York City, there used to be these Horn and Hardhart Automats. They were restaurants where everything was in individual compartments behind glass doors. You inserted a coin and opened a small door to obtain your selection. One of their most popular items was macaroni and cheese made with rigatoni. It was a best seller. In that succulent cheese sauce were little specks of red, which were tiny flecks of tomato, and the relatively large macaroni tubes were flush with luscious, molten, cheese goodness. Once tasted, you couldn't forget that luscious rigatoni.

Nowadays, a lot of folks' macaroni and cheese is rapidly made from a blue cardboard box with elbow macaroni and an envelope of orange-coloured “cheese” powder, which requires quite a bit of butter to prepare. But yes, that crafty boxed food is quick to make. Some people “doctor the dish” by adding grated cheese and maybe some breadcrumbs and then slide it under the broiler for a minute or two. Yes, it is swiftly prepared. However, a profoundly more substantial and delectable rigatoni can be rigged up, Italian style, almost as casually, by tossing in a can of beans, some Italian sausage and a few other items.
Quick to prepare and vastly more toothsome than that boxed mac 'n cheese, this Italian sausage and beans and rigatoni dish is something to keep in your kitchen repertoire for those days when you want a tasty, full-flavoured meal but lack extra time to create it. You can doubly savor this meal because its lovely taste belies its ease of preparation. If you have some Italian sausage, spinach and a can of beans you are almost ready already.
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 pound Italian sausage (hot or mild), put in the freezer for ten minutes, sliced lengthwise and then crosswise into half moons

½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional but nice)

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
8-10 ounces chicken stock or broth

10 ounce box of frozen spinach, partially thawed, or a 5 oz. bag of fresh baby spinach (so tender you can include the stalks)

1 can (10-15oz) great northern, cannelloni or pinto beans, rinsed and drained (I used pinto)

½ cup or more grated asiago, provolone or parmesan cheese
Parmesan cheese for individual diners to sprinkle on their dish

¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon oregano
Heaping ¼- teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or black pepper

1 pound rigatoni

  • Heat the oil in a big skillet or large saucepan
  • Put in the sausage slices and fennel ( if using) and fry, stirring until sausage is browned
  • Add the broth and garlic, bring to boiling and then lower heat
  • Stir in the spinach, beans, cheese and seasonings
  • Stir in the rigatoni
  • Cover and gently cook the rigatoni (about ten minutes) stir intermittingly
  • If spinach and bean mixture appears dry, add some water to the saucepan
  • Test rigatoni for doneness; taste for salt and adjust accordingly                                                                                                                                  
    There it is: Italian beans, sausage and rigatoni; a grand, pleasing, nourishing meal that is quick and easy to put together. We hope you will enjoy it soon.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Sweet treats are always very appealing at Christmas time. When I was young, my dad would bring home a stollen http://gritsandgroceries.blogspot.com/2011/12/christmas-stollen.html every year at this time. Another treat we would find when we visited neighbours were baskets filled with a special vanilla sugar cookie known as Vanillekipferl (va neel kip furl) These were delicious crescent-shaped cookies that originated in Vienna, then a part of Austria-Hungary.

There is an interesting story that goes with vanillekipferl. Since the thirteenth century, the Ottoman empire had been battling and conquering lands in Austria-Hungary. Finally, in 1683, German, Polish and Austro-Hungarian forces defeated the Turks and finally ran them out of Europe for good. After the joyous victory, the bakers mimicked the Turkish flag's crescent emblem by baking crescent-shaped sugar cookies. Also noteworthy is the Turks leaving behind sacks of coffee beans which led to the famous European coffee houses, one in Liepzig where J.S.Bach hung out and wrote his famous secular Coffee Cantata in the 1730's .http://youtu.be/z3s1qC3HqA4 Vanillekipferl, those vanilla crescent cookies with that historic crescent-shape, were served all over Vienna and today are beloved Christmas cookies not only with central Europeans but also by those descendants living here in the USA, who call them Christmas Vanilla Cookies. In the eighteenth century when the vanilla cookies were brought to Paris, bakers there took that crescent shape and created the flaky Croissant (French for “crescent”).

Basically these Christmas Vanilla Crescent Cookies include ground nuts, usually almonds and/or hazelnuts, along with the vanilla for flavour. Often they are dusted with powdered sugar and sometimes dipped in chocolate.

Here is a fine vanillekipferl recipe, from Saveur magazine which uses walnuts for the nut flavouring.

Christmas Vanilla Crescent Cookies              Makes 4 dozen


1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for finishing cookies
½ pound. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups walnuts, finely ground in food processor
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for rolling


Heat oven to 325F

Beat together sugar, butter, and vanilla in a bowl; mix in ground nuts and flour.

Flour and roll into a cylinder.

Divide into 48 pieces.

Roll each piece into a sausage shape.

Taper ends; bend into a crescent.

Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 1" apart.

Bake until golden-coloured, about 12–15 minutes.

Sift with confectioners' sugar. Let cool

Enjoy these wonderful, historic cookies, served at Christmas for more than 300 years.

The Education Tipster and I wish everyone everywhere peace and love this Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



We visited our daughter in Florida for Thanksgiving and her spouses' mom put on a big spread. All the traditional foods were on the table and there was plenty of it. So when we left that beautiful home on the water, we brought back a huge bag of turkey including the carcass.

The next day my BW picked through the bag and separated all the meat. We decided to prepare a casserole using items already on hand. Everyone raved about the casserole so I thought I'd mention it here. It is not difficult to prepare and is a taste sensation. I know because we all finished the casserole that night. My daughter had these cans of soup in her cupboard and they became the flavour base.

Turkey Pasta Casserole           serves 8 normal people


4-5 cups chopped cooked leftover turkey
1-pound of macaroni, I used Ziti
¼ pound of butter
½ cup flour
1-teaspoon of seasoning salt, such as Lawry's. I used Tony Chacherie's Creole Seasoning
2-cups milk
2-18.5 ounce cans of soup, I used Progresso brand Bacon, Potato Soup but there is a wide variety of these prepared soups to choose from.

1-2 cups grated cheese, I used mostly Asiago with Parmesan directly on top but Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack and Provolone would also be good.

Put on a pot of water to boil the macaroni. When boiling, add a little salt and macaroni
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F/175C
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat
  3. Heat the milk almost to boiling in microwave or stove-top saucepan
  4. Add the flour and seasoning to the butter, stir to combine, cook a minute or two
  5. Pour the hot milk into the flour/fat roux and stir to make a white sauce
  6. Drain the cooked macaroni
  7. Grease or spray non-stick on a 13inch by 9 inch baking pan
  8. Spread the macaroni in the pan
  9. Add most of the cheese to the white sauce and stir thoroughly. Reserve some cheese.
  10. Add the cans of soup to the cheese sauce and combine
  11. Pour into the macaroni and combine
  12. Place in middle of oven and bake 20-30 minutes
  13. Shut oven, turn on broiler
  14. Spread some grated cheese atop the casserole. Optionally, shake black pepper all over.
  15. Place under broiler a minute or so to make top golden.
And that is a wonderful way to deal with leftover turkey. Quite frankly, if it wasn't for tradition, I would serve turkey this way on Thanksgiving day, but of course it wouldn't be the same, would it? But the next day? Oy, what a treat. Deja vu never tasted so good.

Monday, November 19, 2012


An Onion Tart, known as Zweibelkuchen (onion cake) in its German birthplace, is always popular in the fall and winter. Alluding to the Reese's candy metaphor, what if a quiche collided with a pizza? Or what if a quiche and a pizza got married and had a baby? Or... well you get the idea. Zweibelkuchen shares genes with both a quiche and a pizza but is just different enough to be interesting. Bacon and sour cream and caraway seeds marry (A menage a trois?) on a nice onion-laden crust and form a delicious tart rendering a delectable luncheon treat, or a nice snack on a cool windy afternoon. Aw shucks, it would be welcome 'most any old time.

Zweibelkuchen is like a German cousin of the Gallic Pissaldiere, only the toppings above the main event, the onions, are different.

Zweibelkuchen is most often made with a yeast dough but can be made with pie pastry. You could even make the filling and use store- bought pastry. There was a lady who made this tart with frozen bread dough from the market. If you have a Kitchenaid or a Cuisinart, a yeast dough is easy to make, should you be so inclined. Use whatever crust you fancy. Early TV star Molly Goldberg used a prepared pie pastry for her Jake's Zweibelkuchen, so you certainly can too. Pre-heat oven to 450F/225C.

Zweibelkuchen             Serves 6



2 lbs onions, peeled cut into half and sliced into half-rings
Four slices of bacon, diced
16 oz/473 ml sour cream
4 eggs
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon caraway seeds

Fry the bacon but do not brown it, using a large skillet or a pot over medium heat.

Add the onions to the bacon and fry, stirring from time to time, until the onions are transparent, and soft, but not caramelized. This will take about 15 minutes. OR: You could put the bacon and onion mixture in a crockpot (sprayed with cooking spray) and leave untended for 5-8 hours. Slow cook them overnight if you wish.

In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream, eggs, pepper and nutmeg.


¾ teaspoon baking yeast 1 cup warm milk
½ teaspoon sugar
3 cups flour
4 tablespoons butter
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk, add the sugar and a dash of the flour, stir, cover and keep in a warm place for ten minutes.

Add this and the remaining dough ingredients to your dough-hook mixer or food processor or bench board. and mix .Knead about ten minutes by hand, 5 minutes by dough-hook or one minute in food processor.

Cover and keep in a warm place for 45 minutes to let the dough rise.

Roll the dough out and place into a flat, large roasting pan. Two separate 9 inch square pans are good too. Just divide the dough in half. You want a ridge on the sides to provide a wall to hold the filling. The ridge should be about 1/2 inch high, then pour the onion and bacon mixture over the dough and spread it out to cover evenly. Optionally, you could sprinkle a little grated Swiss cheese over this if you like.

Pour the egg-sour cream mixture over the top, sprinkle the caraway seeds evenly and put it in the oven for 30-40 minutes, at which time it should be a lovely golden brown.

If you like pizza and/or quiche/pissaldiere and you know your onions, Zweibelkuchen is a pleasant, tasty diversion. Enjoy.

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