Tuesday, February 5, 2013
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
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 Mix50 whole saffron stigmas4 Tablespoons paprika, Hungarian or Spanish or both1 Tablespoon smoked paprika2 Teaspoons onion powder1 ½ Teaspoons garlic powder1 Teaspoon coarse ground black pepper1 Teaspoon dried rosemary2 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 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...
Posted by anthony stemke at 11:58 AM
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.
ITALIAN SAUSAGE, BEANS AND RIGATONI serves 4
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
Ingredients: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
Method: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 turkey1-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
2-18.5 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.
Method:Put on a pot of water to boil the macaroni. When boiling, add a little salt and macaroni
- Pre-heat oven to 350F/175C
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat
- Heat the milk almost to boiling in microwave or stove-top saucepan
- Add the flour and seasoning to the butter, stir to combine, cook a minute or two
- Pour the hot milk into the flour/fat roux and stir to make a white sauce
- Drain the cooked macaroni
- Grease or spray non-stick on a 13inch by 9 inch baking pan
- Spread the macaroni in the pan
- Add most of the cheese to the white sauce and stir thoroughly. Reserve some cheese.
- Add the cans of soup to the cheese sauce and combine
- Pour into the macaroni and combine
- Place in middle of oven and bake 20-30 minutes
- Shut oven, turn on broiler
- Spread some grated cheese atop the casserole. Optionally, shake black pepper all over.
- 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.