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Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake

This recipe, from Jamie Schler’s wonderful new cookbook “Orange Appeal,” is originally made with blood oranges, but I used Cara Cara oranges instead. They’re really my favorite variety of orange, and ok, I admit it, I inadvertently bought two large bags of them, thinking one was a bag of grapefruits. So aside from eating fresh oranges a few times a day, I’ve been experimenting with lots of orange recipes.

Truth be told, the first time I made this recipe, it was a flop. Not that it wasn’t edible. It was. But it had a peculiar shape, due to pilot error. I used a loaf pan that was too small and caused the following chain of events: batter spilling over the sides of the pan, leaving a hollow down the center of the cake; crispy, burned bits on the bottom of the oven; smoke billowing into the kitchen and a loud alarm sounding throughout the house.

Still, that didn’t deter me from trying again. I could tell it was going to be a good cake. And remember I had all those oranges to use up. So this time I followed Jamie’s advice and used the proper size loaf pan – 9″ x 5″ by 2 1/2″. I also followed the recipe exactly, since the first time I added the oil to all the liquid ingredients rather than at the very end. Alright, I did forget to pour the syrup over the cake, but it was wonderful all the same, especially with the glaze over the top.

See for yourself, or rather try it for yourself. But make sure to read the directions thoroughly and follow the recipe and above all, use the right size loaf pan. Otherwise, get your oven cleaner ready.

Blood Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups (7 ounces/195 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened plain whole-milk or Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 blood oranges, zested (I used the zest of 2 large Cara Cara oranges)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
  • Blood Orange Syrup:
  • ⅓ cup blood orange juice (or any orange juice)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • Glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 1 cup (135 g) confectioners' sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter a standard 9 x 5 x 2½ inch or 8 cup loaf pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and flour the pan.
  2. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, zest, and vanilla until blended and smooth.
  4. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined and smooth.
  5. Fold the oil into the batter, a little at a time, until well-blended and no oil has collected around the edges of the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the center of the cake is moist, but set and a tested inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  7. Prepare the orange syrup by placing the orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.
  8. Cook until warm and the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Set aside to cool slightly.
  9. When the cake is done, remove from the oven onto a cooling rack that has been placed on top of a large foil-lined baking sheet and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  10. Carefully loosen the cake from the pan by running a knife around the edges.
  11. Turn the cake out of the pan, discard the parchment paper, and then place the cake upright on the cooling rack.
  12. While the cake is still warm, pour and brush the warm syrup all over the top, allowing it to soak the loaf and run down the sides. Allow to cool completely.
  13. Prepare the glaze by stirring the orange juice into the sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the glaze is smooth. The glaze should be thin enough to spoon or drizzle over the cake but just stiff enough that some of the glaze will cling to the sides.
 

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Broccoli

I’ll bet a lot of you are like me and decide what’s for dinner by looking in your fridge or pantry to see what’s on hand. In this case, it was a small head of broccoli and a bag of pasta that got my creative juices flowing. But it wasn’t just any pasta – it was this lemon pasta I bought at Claudio’s in Philadelphia a few months ago. I’ve used it before and it’s really as yellow as this photo and perfect for this dish. It’s available by mail order here.

And what better occasion to pick a lemon from my small lemon tree than for this recipe? This plant, which enjoys warm sunshine and moist sea air during the summer, comes indoors for the winter. I’ve had the plant for a few years and while it bore fruit last year too, I waited too long to pick it because I hated to lose the decorative look of the yellow fruit hanging from the branches. By the time I got around to plucking the lemons last year, they had dried out, a mistake I wasn’t going to make this year.

The sauce comes together quickly while the pasta is cooking, so get the broccoli into the oven and start making the sauce, sautéeing the leek and garlic, then adding wine, lemon rind and lemon juice. Add the pasta to the pan just before it gets to the al dente stage, pouring in a little of the pasta water to help it finish cooking.

When it’s al dente, add a small amount of cream and stir to meld all the flavors together. Don’t worry if the sauce is a little loose. Once you add the parmesan cheese, it will thicken a bit.

When the pasta is cooked, add the roasted broccoli, parmesan cheese and mix well. Serve in a warm bowl so the pasta doesn’t cool down too quickly.

 

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Broccoli
 
Ingredients
  • ½ pound pasta
  • a small head of broccoli florets, bottoms peeled
  • olive oil, salt and pepper to season the broccoli
  • 1 leek, sliced (or one large shallot)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. butter
  • rind of half a lemon, minced
  • ½ cup white wine (or Prosecco)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • pasta water
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
Instructions
  1. Roast the broccoli in a 425 degree oven, smeared with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Start the pasta to boil while you make the sauce.
  3. Saute the leek and garlic in the olive oil and butter until softened.
  4. Add the white wine and cook at high heat until reduced.
  5. Lower heat and add the juice of half a lemon (or less if using a "lemon" pasta as I did.)
  6. Cook the pasta until it has about one minute to go, leaving it "al dente" or even a little harder.
  7. Add the cooked pasta to the pot and finish cooking in the liquid, adding pasta water to continue the cooking.
  8. When the pasta is fully cooked, but still al dente, add the heavy cream, and stir in the roasted broccoli florets and parmesan cheese.
 

Upside Down Pear Walnut Cake

I know, I promised to eat fewer sweets at the start of the new year, but this has three pears sliced on top, so doesn’t that count as health food? (Don’t answer that.)

Seriously, I had to make this cake, if only because I wanted to use some of those delicious boxed pears sent to us for Christmas by our friends Jan and Dave. We still had five uneaten pears left in the box, despite having had a houseful of family and visitors over the holidays. Yes, of course we could have just eaten them raw, but when you have a husband whose idea of the perfect wedding vow includes a commitment to provide cake each night, well, you try to obey (No, neither the cake nor the obey part was part of the vows). Truth be told, I was longing to make this dessert since I saw it being whipped up on the TV program, “America’s Test Kitchen” recently. And with ample pears in the house, it was good timing.

I’ve made a lot of upside down cakes in my life, from my childhood favorite, pineapple upside down cake, to peach, to cranberry, to plum, to fig, to blood orange. 

All of them are made with a basic white or yellow cake, but this one is very different. It does use a little white flour, but it’s got one dominating ingredient that gives the cake a distinct look and flavor.

Can you guess?

Maybe now you can, after seeing this cut slice. It’s toasted walnuts, giving the cake a delicious walnut-y flavor. It’s also very moist with a delicate crumb. And it’s easy to make too – using a food processor instead of a mixer.

The only thing missing is perhaps a little whipped cream or creme fraiche.

If you want to be really wicked, maybe a scoop of ice cream. Oh what the heck, go for it. Bathing suit season doesn’t start for a while.

Upside Down Pear Walnut Cake
 
Ingredients
  • From Cooks Illustrated:
  • For the Topping:
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • ⅛ t. salt
  • 3 Bosc pears - 8 ounces each - (I used Bartlett and it worked out fine)
  • For The Cake:
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • ½ cup (2.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. baking powder
  • ⅛ t. baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. FOR THE TOPPING:
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  3. Grease 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. (I strongly suggest using a cake pan that is 2" high, or use a springform pan. The batter is almost too much for a regular 9" cake pan.)
  4. Pour melted butter over bottom of pan and swirl to evenly coat.
  5. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl and sprinkle evenly over melted butter.
  6. Peel, halve, and core pears.
  7. Set aside 1 pear half and reserve for other use.
  8. Cut remaining 5 pear halves into 4 wedges each.
  9. Arrange pears in circular pattern around cake pan with tapered ends pointing inward.
  10. Arrange two smallest pear wedges in center.
  11. For The Cake:
  12. Pulse walnuts, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in food processor until walnuts are finely ground, 8 to 10 pulses.
  13. Transfer walnut mixture to bowl.
  14. Process eggs and sugar in now-empty processor until very pale yellow, about 2 minutes.
  15. With processor running, add melted butter and oil in steady stream until incorporated.
  16. Add walnut mixture and pulse to combine, 4 to 5 pulses.
  17. Pour batter evenly over pears (some pear may show through; cake will bake up over fruit).
  18. Bake until center of cake is set and bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1¼ hours, rotating pan after 40 minutes.
  19. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.
  20. Carefully run paring knife or offset spatula around sides of pan.
  21. Invert cake onto wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet; discard parchment.
  22. Let cake cool for about 2 hours.
  23. Transfer to serving platter, cut into wedges, and serve.
 

Swordfish Steak with Salsa Verde

Sorry readers, if I’ve been a little derelict in keeping up with this blog in the last month. But between a nasty bout with bronchitis and the last minute onslaught of Christmas preparations, updating the blog has taken a back seat. But I’m back and hoping to catch up with all of you.

I hope you all had wonderful holidays surrounded by family and friends, with good food in abundance. If you’re like most people, you ate way too many cookies, cheeses, meats and other fattening foods. Are you  starting to make resolutions to eat a little lighter in the new year ahead?

The excessive holiday eating leaves me craving healthier foods, although I don’t get serious until after New Year’s eve and New Year’s day — one final hurrah before the Christmas indulgence is truly over.

But as soon as the holidays are past, I plan to eat less pasta, pizza and pastries and consume more fish, vegetables and fruit. This swordfish dish is a good way to start. It’s easy to make and delicious too. Just remember not to overcook the swordfish, which can taste dry if left too long in the broiler or on the grill. I use the same technique in cooking a swordfish steak as I do in cooking a beefsteak — that is, the finger test. Press the center of the fish after a few minutes in the broiler. It should have some “give” to it. If you cook it too long, it will feel hard and won’t “spring” back when you touch it.

Buon Anno tutti!

Swordfish Steak with Salsa Verde
 
Ingredients
  • For Two People:
  • One swordfish steak, about one pound or slightly less
  • for the marinade:
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • For The Salsa Verde:
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • 3 T. capers, roughly chopped
  • 3 T. red onion, finely minced
  • ½ of a dill pickle, finely minced (about 2 T.)
  • rind of half a lemon, finely minced
  • optional: lemon balm, finely minced (if you can find it)
  • salt, pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Marinate the swordfish for about a half hour in the soy sauce, olive oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill on an outdoor grill, or broil in an oven, being careful not to overcook, or it will be dry.
  3. Using the broiler, it should take no more than three to five minutes on each side.
  4. For the salsa verde, mix all of the ingredients together and serve in a bowl with the grilled swordfish.

Octopus And Potato Salad

Thank you dear readers, for not clicking off this post when you saw the word “octopus.” Now I know many of you have eaten octopus, but wouldn’t think of cooking it any sooner than you’d think of jumping into the Atlantic Ocean in January.

But wait! It’s easier to cook than you think and tastes infinitely better than anything you could buy already prepared. With Christmas eve coming up, I thought I’d revisit this recipe that I posted when I first started blogging in 2008. The hardest part is getting over the squeamish feeling you might have about handling this unwieldy cephalopod.

But if you think this is unwieldy, try hoisting a live, squiggly octopus into a boat, as I once did off the coast of Sardinia – an activity I hope to duplicate again next summer.

I can buy octopus fresh at my fish store in the Christmas season, but it also comes frozen at the grocery store. The frozen ones (from Mediterranean countries) are quite good, and the freezing process actually helps to tenderize them. Buy the biggest one you can because it shrinks a lot, and the bigger the octopus, the larger and more “meaty” your slices will be. This one weighed about three pounds.

Maybe you’re still reading this, but I bet you’re still not on board with me, are you? I know, it is slippery and ungainly. But hey, you can check it off your bucket list! What? “Cooking an octopus”  isn’t on your bucket list? Come on, where are your priorities?

Alright then, for those of you intrepid folks still with me, you probably know there are many thoughts on the best way to cook an octopus to make it tender, some of them involve thrashing the octopus on rocks, and some involve cooking with a cork or dipping it into boiling water three times before immersing it completely.

I don’t do any of those and I am here to tell you that I’ve been cooking octopus for years and my technique ALWAYS produces a tender result. You start out by placing the whole octopus into a sturdy pot where you’ve placed a bit of olive oil on the bottom. It cooks, in its own juices, over low heat on the range, covered, for about 20 minutes. After that time, it will have shrunk a lot and turned a purple-y color. Transfer it to a glass or pyrex or ceramic baking dish, cover and bake in a 300 degree oven for one hour.

It will shrink a little bit more after baking for an hour. Let it cool in its own juices.

Now this next part is messy, I’m the first to admit. But big whoop – you have a sink with running water, right? So you just wash your hands afterwards.

OK, let’s get down to business. After the octopus has cooled enough to handle, cut off the head from the rest of the body. See that grey-ish opaque thing-y at the juncture where the legs meet the head? That little “beak”  feels like hard plastic, so remove it with a paring knife. Throw it out, along with the head (although some people do eat the head).

Now take a sharp knife and separate the legs (tentacles) from each other.

Many people (and restaurants) serve the octopus with the suckers still attached, but in larger octopi especially, I think the suckers and surrounding skin taste gelatinous, and I prefer to remove them. Besides, removing the suckers leaves you with white flesh, which is more appealing to me visually in this salad. But if you like the suckers, by all means, leave them on.

One of the best octopus dishes I’ve ever eaten – at Porta in Asbury Park, N.J., is served with its suckers on. It’s dripping in butter, which may have something to do with why it’s so good – along with the capers and fennel and parley salad it’s served with.

If you want to remove the suckers however, a quick way is to hold each tentacle under cold running water, and use your fingers to “scrape” along the length of the leg. Pat dry.

Slice the octopus and place in a bowl.

Add the potatoes and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Caveat emptor, octopus is not inexpensive. Octopus for a salad of this size (serving four as a salad, or eight as an appetizer) will cost from $35 to $50 at the fish store. But for a once a year special event, like Christmas eve, it’s worth it. Serve it as an appetizer with crusty slices of bread, or as a side salad.

Now have I convinced you to cook octopus? Spero di si. Buon Natale tutti.

Octopus And Potato Salad
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large octopus - 3 to 4 pounds
  • olive oil to coat the bottom of a pan
  • 6-8 small fingerling potatoes (or other waxy potatoes - enough to amount to about 1 cup or however many potatoes you want)
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup finely minced red onion
  • ¼ cup finely minced celery
  • a touch of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 2 T. minced parsley
  • salt, pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Place olive oil on the bottom of a sturdy pan and put over low heat, lowering the octopus into the pan. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, cook the potatoes in water until just tender, then remove from water and let cool.
  3. Remove from heat and put the octopus in a glass or ceramic dish. Cover and cook in a 300 degree oven for one hour.
  4. Remove from oven and let it cool.
  5. Cut the head from the octopus and remove the beak.
  6. Remove the suckers and outer purply skin by rinsing under cold water.
  7. Slice the octopus and the potatoes, then mix with all the other ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste.
 

Fig, Orange and Mascarpone Cheesecake

Looking for a delicious showstopper dessert to serve this holiday season? The new cookbook “Sweet” by Yotam Ottolenghi  & Helen Goh is filled with possibilities, including this rich cheesecake I made for a party recently. The recipe includes dried puréed figs spread over a graham cracker and walnut base, but doesn’t require the fresh figs shown in the photo. But since my supermarket had some real beauties on the shelf last week, I couldn’t resist adding them as decoration, smeared with a little quince jelly to add some shine.

As if a graham cracker, walnut and butter base isn’t wonderful enough, the recipe calls for you to cook some dried figs in orange juice with spices and smear that over the graham cracker base. You can use American measurements, but whenever possible, I like to use metric measurements, (included in the recipe) which are so much more accurate.

After slicing the figs, they may weigh a teensy bit less (especially if you’re a taste-tester, as I am.)

After they’re cooked, I blitzed them in a food processor to obtain a purée,  something the book’s recipe doesn’t ask you to do.

But the technique avoids having lumps in the purée and provides a smooth spread to smear over the graham cracker crust.The recipe also doesn’t call for baking the cake in a hot water bath. In fact, at the beginning of the cheesecake chapter, the authors say they’re not huge fans of the technique. I am, however, and looking at the photo of this cheesecake is proof that the technique works. See the cheesecake pictured in the book below, included next to the recipe? You’ll see very raised and very rounded outer edges, as well as a very browned (too browned in my opinion) top and side crust.

However, after covering the bottom and outside edges of the pan with aluminum foil, and baking it in a bain marie, the cheesecake I baked came out of the oven with a perfectly even height from the center to the edge. You have to be really careful when putting the pan in the oven and removing it, though, since spilling hot water on yourself can be very hazardous. But it will be worth it once you bite into this beauty.

Fig, Orange and Mascarpone Cheesecake
 
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Ingredients
  • =Base
  • 3½ oz/100 gr. graham crackers (about 6½ sheets), roughly broken
  • ¾ cup/80 g. walnut halves, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp/60 gr. unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 9 oz/260 gr. soft dried figs, tough stems removed, sliced into ¼ inch/0.5 cm strips
  • 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp/250 ml orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ⅛ tsp. ground cloves
  • =Filling
  • 1 lb. 2 oz/500 gr. cream cheese at room temperature (I used 1 lb. only)
  • 1 lb. 2 oz./500 gr. mascarpone (I used 1 lb. only)
  • 1¼ cups/250 gr. granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 large orange (1 tbsp)
  • 4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. To make the base, grease the base and sides of a 9-inch/23 cm round springform pan and line with parchment paper, making sure that the paper rises at least 2 inches/5 cm above the rim; the cake rises a lot in the oven. (I lined only the bottom and buttered the sides and it was fine).
  2. Place the graham crackers in a food processor and process to form fine crumbs; the consistency should be that of dried breadcrumbs. Place in a medium bowl and add the walnuts and melted butter.Use your hands or a large spoon to combine; the mixture should be the consistency of wet sand. Spoon the crumbs into the pan, using your hands to press them into the base, then place in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up. (At this stage, I baked the base in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes. Next time, I would bake it for 10-12 minutes, since the base still softened after the cheesecake was baked.)
  3. Place the figs, orange juice, cinnamon stick and ground cloves in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated but the mixture is still moist. (At this point, I blended it until smooth in a food processor - removing the cinnamon stick.) Set aside to cool, remove the cinnamon stick, then spread over the base. Return to the fridge.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. To make the filling, place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until smooth, before adding the mascarpone, sugar, orange zest, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Continue to beat until all of the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture looks smooth and creamy, scraping down the paddle and sides of the bowl from time to time, if you need to.
  6. Place the egg whites in a separate clean bowl and whisk (either by hand or with an electric mixer) until firm peaks form. Fold a third into the cream cheese mixture, followed by the remaining two-thirds.
  7. Pour the filling over the chilled fig and graham cracker base. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 75-80 minutes, until the cheesecake is a light golden brown at the edges and the center is only just firm. (Before putting in the oven, I wrapped the bottom of the springform pan with aluminum foil, then placed the pan in a bain-marie, or hot water bath. It helps the cheesecake to bake more evenly and avoids formation of raised edges. I baked it for 75 minutes and it was still slightly wobbly in the middle. Don't worry, it firms as it cools.)
  8. Turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake inside for an hour or so, with the door propped open with a wooden spoon. Allow it to come to room temperature before covering in plastic wrap and keeping in the fridge for 4 hours.
  9. When ready to serve, release the springform pan, remove the parchment paper (that is nearly impossible to do without flipping it over, so I left it on) and transfer to a cake platter. (I decorated the top with sliced figs that were brushed with quince jelly.)
  10. The cheesecake is best served chilled, straight from the fridge, and cut with a warm knife (dip the blade in hot water and wipe dry before using.)

Pork Chops and Mushrooms in Marsala Wine Sauce

If you’re like me, dinner is often a consequence of what’s in the refrigerator, and on this particular night, I found a bunch of baby portobello mushrooms that needed to be used before they spoiled. I could have served them as a separate vegetable, but they seemed like a natural pairing with the pork chops I had just bought. A little marsala wine, plus a small bit of cream that was left over, would elevate those pork chops from ordinary to sublime.

It’s easy to overcook pork chops because they’re so lean. If you can find some with a little marbling, great, but that isn’t so easy. Marinating or brining helps, but knowing when to pull them off the grill or the stove is the most important step in avoiding a tough piece of meat.

I don’t use a meat thermometer for pork chops or steaks, but instead have learned to test meat with the finger test. It’s got to have a little softness in it when you touch it, like the fleshy part of your hand. If you let it cook until it feels hard, then it’s overcooked. It takes getting used to, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll never overcook meat again. Click here to get a more detailed guide on using the finger test for doneness of meats.

Pork Chops and Mushrooms in Marsala Wine Sauce
 
Ingredients
  • 2 thick pork chops (about ¾" thick)
  • To marinate the pork chops:
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. butter
  • 8 ounces baby portobello (or button) mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ¼ marsala wine
  • ¼ cup chicken stock (or water)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • parsley, minced
Instructions
  1. About an hour before cooking, marinate the pork chops in the olive oil, soy sauce and minced garlic.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the mushrooms on high heat. You want to get a nice sear on the mushrooms and let the water in them evaporate.
  3. When the mushrooms have turned a nice golden brown color, remove them from the pan and set aside with any remaining liquid from the mushrooms.
  4. Drain the pork chops from the marinate and dredge them in flour, salt and pepper. Shake off any excess flour.
  5. Place the oil in the same pan as you cooked the mushrooms and turn the heat to medium high. Add the pork chops and quickly sear on each side. This should take only a couple of minutes on each side.
  6. Lower the heat, add the marsala wine and the chicken stock, stirring to incorporate them.
  7. Flip the pork chops once to give both sides exposure to the liquid, then add the cream and swirl in, flipping again. Add the mushrooms back to the pan and cook until everything is heated through and just until the pork chops are done. Do not overcook. The meat should still have some "give" in it when you press it with a fork or with your fingers. If it's overcooked, it will feel hard.
  8. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
 

Gjelina’s roasted yams

 
 I know it’s nearly heresy to mess with family favorites at Thanksgiving. But if you crave something a little different from the traditional mashed potatoes or candied sweet potatoes, this recipe from “Gjelina:Cooking From Venice, California,” might hit just the right note. Even if you don’t make it for Thanksgiving, try it for an ordinary Thursday night (or any other night of the week).
It’s a snap to make, starting out with roasting some chunky slices of yams, tossed in olive oil, honey and espelette, or red pepper flakes.
 When they emerge from the oven, drizzle with the yogurt and lime dressing, and top with fresh green scallions.
And if you’re looking for a way to brine and roast that Thanksgiving turkey, click here for instructions.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Gjelina's roasted yams
 
Ingredients
  • 3 large yams
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon espelette pepper, or crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup Greek style yogurt
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and thinly sliced, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425. Cut the yams lengthwise into 4 wedges per yam. Put them in a large bowl, and toss them with the honey, ½ tablespoon of the Espelette pepper or crushed red-pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so, tossing once or twice to coat, as the oven heats.
  2. Transfer the yams to a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and then bake until they are deeply caramelized around the edges and soft when pierced with a fork at their thickest part, approximately 30 to 35 minutes.
  3. As the yams roast, combine the yogurt, lime juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl, and whisk to combine, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  4. When the yams are done, transfer them to a serving platter, drizzle the yogurt over them and garnish with the remaining Espelette pepper or red-pepper flakes, the scallions and some flaky sea salt if you have any.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Maple Brown Butter Glaze

Looking for an alternative to the pumpkin pie that’s ubiquitous on everyone’s Thanksgiving table? Or maybe you just want a delicious dessert to serve at your next Sunday supper. This moist cake has all the right autumn flavors going for it – from pumpkin to cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and a touch of black pepper too. Plus it’s topped with a luscious glaze made with browned butter that adds a nutty taste, in addition to the maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar.

The recipe comes from the New York Times, and it included toasted pepita seeds on top. I took it a step further and candied them. Just make sure you use either a Silpat mat or a piece of buttered aluminum foil. Otherwise you’ll have a hard time prying the candy from the pan.

Be careful not to touch it until it cools. Once the candy cools and hardens, you can break it up with your hands, then sprinkle it across the top of the cake. The candy is also delicious as a topping on ice cream too.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Maple Brown Butter Glaze
 
Ingredients
  • RECIPE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp. ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, soft but cool
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pureed pumpkin
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • FOR THE GLAZE:
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons lightly toasted pepita seeds (optional)
  • or candied pepita seeds
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter and flour a 12 cup or larger bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice and black pepper until well combined.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine brown sugar, butter and olive oil. Beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 20 seconds between each egg.
  5. Add the pumpkin puree and the sour cream, and mix until well combined, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and use a rubber spatula to fold in the dry ingredients until well combined.
  7. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure an evenly mixed batter.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and firmly tap on the countertop a few times to release any large air bubbles.
  9. Bake the cake until golden and puffed, and a tester in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes.
  10. Set the cake, still in the pan, on a rack to cool, about 20 minutes, then use the tip of a knife to loosen the edges and invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely before glasing.
  11. TO MAKE THE GLAZE:
  12. Once the cake is cool, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter, occasionally scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with a rubber spatula, until it turns a deep golden brown and smells nutty. Don't walk away from the pan during this process. The butter can go from brown and nutty to acrid and burnt in mere moments.
  13. Transfer butter and brown bits to a bowl to a heat safe bowl and let it cool slightly. Whisk in the confectioner's sugar, maple syrup and salt until smooth. The glaze should be thick but pourable. If it's too thin, add more confectioner's sugar. If it's too thick, add water. (I added some milk to thin it down a bit.)
  14. Transfer the cake to a serving platter and pour the glaze over the top. Sprinkle with pepitas if desired.
  15. TO MAKE CANDIED PEPITAS:
  16. Place about ¼ cup sugar into a saucepan and heat at medium until the sugar melts and starts to turn a light golden color. Pour in some pepitas (1/4 cup or so) and stir for a few seconds to coat. Then pour the mixture onto a Silpat mat or a piece of aluminum foil that has been greased with butter. Careful not to burn your fingers. The melted sugar will be extremely hot. Let it cool, then break into bits.
 

Quinoa Balls in Squash Soup

Fall is finally here and so is soup weather. And when I think of fall soups, I invariably think of squash soup, since squash is so prolific at farmer’s markets and grocery stores right now – and it’s one of my favorite vegetables.  I’ve posted my recipe for squash soup before – here – and this recipe has a complexity gained from the addition of a pear and an apple in the soup.

But the squash soup in this post goes a step further. It contains quinoa balls mixed with vegetables and cheese, a combination I was served on our recent memoir writing retreat in Italy – “Italy, In Other Words.”  The chefs at “Cavatappi,” my favorite restaurant in Varenna, opened their doors one evening just for our group of twelve people, and served a delectable meal starting with squash soup and quinoa balls.

Back home, I did my best at recreating their recipe. The taste and texture are almost the same, although the chefs told me they started with three types of quinoa, and I used only two – a dark and a white variety.

The quinoa fluffs up to several times its dried state.

Meanwhile, dice the vegetables into small pieces.

Then sauté in a bit of olive oil until softened. Cut the cheese into small pieces the same size as the vegetables, then mix the vegetables and cheese together, along with some egg and cornstarch and seasonings. Roll into balls and refrigerate.

These also freeze very well.

Steam the balls for about five minutes, then gently lift them from the steamer and place a few into each bowl of soup.

They melt in your mouth and are an explosion of flavor too.

 

Quinoa Balls
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup white quinoa
  • ½ cup red quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup zucchini, finely diced
  • ¾ cup butternut squash, finely diced
  • 1 T. butter
  • a few sprigs of parsley, minced
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, finely diced (or fontina or taleggio)
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • salt, pepper
Instructions
  1. Use your favorite recipe for making squash soup or follow the one I have in the archives here.
  2. Cook the quinoa in boiling water, covered for about 7 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the pot covered for 10 minutes.
  3. When the quinoa has cooled, put it into a bowl.
  4. Sauté the zucchini and butternut squash in the butter for a few minutes until it starts to slightly soften.
  5. Add the vegetables and all the rest of the ingredients to the quinoa and mix well with a spoon.
  6. Using your hands, form the quinoa mixture into balls (the size of a meatball) and steam for three minutes on the range. If you don't have a steaming pot, sauté for a couple of minutes with a dab of butter, turning all the while so it cooks on all sides.
  7. The cheese should start to melt.
  8. Remove from the heat and place a few quinoa balls into the soup. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.