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Spoja Lorda

These little squares of stuffed pasta are called “spoja lorda” and are rarely seen outside of Italy. Even in the region of Emilia Romagna, where they’re from, they hard to find outside the province of Ravenna. The name, derived from the local dialect, is from “sfoglia sporca” or dirty pasta, harkening back to times when scraps were used to make the pasta and the stuffing. The stuffing is spread thinly across the pasta, just enough to “dirty” the pasta, and they’re traditionally served in a broth. Some may split open during cooking, “dirtying” the broth as well.

I normally use a food processor to mix my pasta dough, but was feeling the urge to make it all by hand recently. I used a mix of 00 flour, all-purpose flour and semolina flour, but I don’t recommend using all three for this pasta, especially not the hard, durum semolina, which made it very difficult to roll. Semolina is a coarser, more yellow flour that’s also higher in gluten and protein. It’s great for tagliatelle, spaghetti or pappardelle, but not so much for stuffed pasta. Next time, I’m going with the softer, 00 flour that I normally use when making ravioli or anolini.

It’s fun to make the dough the old-fashioned way, creating a “volcano” and incorporating the flour and the eggs.

Start out using a fork until the dough becomes too stiff. Then use your hands to knead it until it’s smooth. Let it rest at least a half hour while you prepare the filling.

The traditional filling is made with a soft cheese like squacquerone or stracchino, nearly impossible to find in the U.S., although ricotta would be fine too. However, I wanted to try it with some mortadella, ground up in the food processor and blended with maascarpone and parmigiano. If mortadella isn’t your thing, or you want a vegetarian version, using a mixture of ricotta and parmigiano.

If you decide to try this filling (and I recommend you do), add more mascarpone if the mixture seems too stiff to spread.

Since I wanted to make these the old-fashioned way, that meant I was determined to roll it out by hand too, instead of using my pasta machine. I soon had to enlist the help of my husband however, because the semolina in the dough made it really resistant to rolling by hand and my wrists and arms were complaining. (It’s also why pasta made with semolina holds up so well in cooking too, instead of turning mushy.) Let gravity help make the rolling easier and let part of the dough hang over an edge of your counter or pasta board, turning the dough a quarter of the way after each roll or two with the rolling pin.

 

When the dough is thin enough to see your hand through, spread the filling over half of it.

Fold the dough over the filling.

Then using a pastry or pasta crimper, cut strips about 3/4″ across.

Then cut the same width in the opposite direction.

They really do remind me of puffy little Cheezits crackers.

Serve them in a homemade broth.

And sit down to a beautiful bowl of spoja lorda.

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Spoja Lorda
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE DOUGH:
  • 3 cups 00 flour
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • 6 oz. mortadella
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • a small grating of fresh nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Make the dough either by hand or with a pasta machine.
  2. Roll out into a large circle by hand or with a pasta machine, until it's thin enough to see your hands through it.
  3. Place the mortadella, mascarpone, parmesan cheese and egg in a food processor with the salt and nutmeg.
  4. Whir until smooth.
  5. Spread the mortadella mixture over half of the pasta dough and then fold the unfilled dough over the filled portion of the dough.
  6. Press dough gently to remove any air bubbles.
  7. Using a pasta cutter, cut into small squares about 1 inch across.
  8. Cook the pasta gently in a chicken broth and serve when done.
  9. Alternately, cook the pasta gently in water, then add to a pan with butter and sage.
  10. Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.
 

Roasted Carrot Soup

What could be more warming on a cold day that a bowl of hot soup? Carrots are so ubiquitous and most people use them only as a raw vegetable in salads, or boiled as a cooked vegetable. Sometimes they’re roasted, elevating their flavor a few notches. This soup plays off that theme, with the roasting adding great depth of flavor, and the cumin spice adding a warmth without too much heat. I didn’t add any cream, and you won’t miss it either. To thicken it, I used some leftover cooked brown rice, but if you haven’t got any leftover rice, just add some uncooked rice and simmer the soup until the rice is tender.

A crucial part of the flavor also came from the broth I made using these leftover parmesan cheese rinds. I always have some in my freezer, and I add one or two rinds to nearly every soup or stew I’m making. But this is the first time I made a broth using mostly rinds, with some aromatics thrown in too (carrot, celery, fennel frond, onion, garlic and bay leaf). If you don’t have any rinds, feel free to use a purchased vegetable or chicken broth for this soup instead.

While the broth was simmering, I roasted the carrots, by slicing them in half and placing them on a cookie sheet, tossed with a little olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or so. They’ll soften as they roast, so the soup won’t need much cooking. After the carrots are roasted, sauté a shallot in olive oil, then add the roasted carrots, some of the strained parmesan broth, the leftover rice and some seasonings. Cook it for 20 minutes, or slightly longer if using uncooked rice. Pour everything into a blender or Vitamix and purée until smooth. Be careful with hot liquids in a blender. They have a tendency to burst from the top, so pour in a little at a time for blending. Put everything back in the pot and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

Serve the soup with a smattering of croutons, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar to take it over the top. You’ll never look at a humble one-pound bag of carrots in the same way again.

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Roasted Carrot Soup
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of carrots, cut in half and roasted in 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups parmesan broth (directions below, if not, use vegetable broth or chicken broth)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup cooked rice (I used brown rice, but white is fine)
  • If you don't have leftover cooked rice, add ¼ cup of uncooked rice to the soup instead
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • aged balsamic vinegar
  • home made croutons
Instructions
  1. Cut the carrots in half and roast them in a pan smeared with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  2. Roast them at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
  3. Place the minced shallot in the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté until softened.
  4. Add the roasted carrots, the strained parmesan broth, the rice, and the seasonings.
  5. Cook everything together in a simmer for about 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and using either a blender or a stick blender, puree everything until silky smooth.
  7. Serve with droplets of aged balsamic vinegar and croutons.
  8. TO MAKE THE PARMESAN BROTH:
  9. -12 parmesan rinds
  10. stalk celery
  11. carrot
  12. clove garlic
  13. frond of fennel (optional)
  14. -7-8 cups water
  15. Place everything in a stock pot and let simmer for one hour.
  16. Strain and use as directed above.
  17. FOR THE CROUTONS:
  18. Trim the crust off some sturdy bread and cut into small cubes.
  19. Cook over medium high heat in about 1 tablespoon olive oil until browned and crispy.
 

Zucchini Crusted Haddock with Orange Salsa

Just in time for the January “let’s-eat low-cal-but-delicious” comes this recipe from Michele at “Our Italian Table.” As soon as I saw it, with its accompaniment of blood orange salsa, I knew what would be on our dinner table the next night. I made some adjustments, using haddock instead of cod, since my fish market has been selling really fresh wild haddock lately. Halibut would also be delicious here. I would have used the blood oranges called for in the recipe, but I had cara cara instead, and they worked just fine. But I’ll look for blood oranges next time, since they would add even more color. I added a little red onion and parsley, since I didn’t have the thyme the recipe called for, but other herbs would work great too, including chives or cilantro.

Use a mandoline to slice the zucchini very thinly and place the slices atop the fish, which has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Season the zucchini with salt and pepper too, then a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of cornmeal. Don’t try to tuck the slices under the fish or you’ll be asking for trouble.

When the fish comes out of the oven, the slices are then pliable enough to easily tuck them under. A lot of liquid was released from the fish and the zucchini, but cooking the fish over parchment paper makes for easy cleanup.

While the fish is cooking, make the salsa using either blood oranges, cara cara or any other orange you like. Peel the orange with a knife, then cut supremes (no, not the Motown group, but orange sections) in between each membrane.

I served it with some saffron rice and broccoli and it was not only a colorful meal, but a delicious one that was waistline-friendly too.

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Zucchini Crusted Haddock with Orange Salsa
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR TWO PEOPLE:
  • ¾- 1 pound haddock, cod or halibut
  • thin slices of zucchini
  • salt, pepper
  • olive oil
  • cornmeal to sprinkle on top
  • FOR THE SALSA:
  • 2 oranges (cara cara or blood oranges)
  • a slice of red onion, finely chopped
  • minced parsley (or chives, thyme or cilantro)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic (or red wine) vinegar
  • salt, pepper
Instructions
  1. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
  2. Lay the fish on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
  3. Slice the zucchini paper thin, either with a mandoline or by hand.
  4. Layer the slices over the fish, overlapping them like fish scales.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of cornmeal.
  6. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
  7. While the fish is cooking, make the salsa by segmenting the oranges and mixing with the rest of the ingredients.
 

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Winter is upon us here in the northeast U.S. and that means hunkering down with hearty, comforting meals, including this stuffed cabbage. All the work is done upfront, and then you just sit back and wait for the oven to do its thing. You don’t even need to boil the cabbage first in order to remove the leaves. A really easy trick to separate leaves is to put the whole head of cabbage in the freezer overnight.

The next day, when you want to make the recipe, remove the inner core with a knife.

The leaves will peel off easily. Savoy cabbage is my favorite, but ordinary green cabbage is good too in this recipe.

I like to make a stuffing using three kinds of ground meat – beef, pork and veal. I also like to use brown rice but feel free to use white rice if you prefer – or even farro. Make sure the rice is cooked and cooled before adding it to the meats. Mix all the ingredients well.

Cut out the tough center rib of the cabbage and place some of the stuffing inside the leaf, tucking the excess all around.

Place the rolls seam-side down in an oven-proof casserole that’s been spread with some tomato sauce.

Spoon more sauce over the cabbage rolls, along with a sprinkling of pecorino cheese.

Bake for one hour, or until the cabbage rolls are tender. The sauce may be too liquidy because the cabbage releases a lot of water. If that happens, remove the rolls from the pan and reduce the liquid in a saucepan. Alternately, if you add more tomato sauce and mix it well with the more-liquidy sauce in the pan, that should thicken it too.

I hope 2022 brings you lots of good food, good health and good adventures.

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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 1½ pounds -2 pounds ground meat (I like to use a combination of beef, veal and pork)
  • ½ cup of rice, cooked (I used brown rice, but any kind of rice would work fine)
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • one clove minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¾ cup pecorino cheese, grated, with aa little reserved for sprinkling on the top
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • homemade tomato sauce (about 2 cups)
Instructions
  1. Place the cabbage in the freezer overnight.
  2. It will be easy to peel the leaves off without having to boil them first.
  3. Peel off the leaves and remove the center, hard rib and discard it (or use it for soup)
  4. Boil the ½ cup rice in water as per instructions. (It takes longer and more water to cook brown rice)
  5. Let the rice cool.
  6. Mix the ground meats, the cooled rice, the egg, the cheeses, the parsley and the seasonings.
  7. Place a small amount of stuffing in the center of each cabbage leaf, and roll the leaf around the filling.
  8. Spread a casserole with some tomato sauce, and place the cabbage rolls into it, seam side down.
  9. Fill the casserole completely with the rolls, then cover with tomato sauce, a sprinkling of pecorino cheese.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees, uncovered, then remove the cover and bake another ten minutes.
  11. This will allow some of the liquid from the cabbage to evaporate.
  12. If the sauce is still too liquid, remove the cabbage rolls from the casserole and reduce the sauce over a burner until thickened.
  13. However, sometimes just stirring the liuqidy part of the sauce with the thicker part tin the pan, after you remove the cabbage rolls, will accomplish the same thing.
 

Cherry Pound Cakes

Are you in a baking frenzy ahead of the Christmas holiday? If you’re like me, you’re practically done. Admittedly, I’ve had to be a little obsessive-compulsive this year with preparations, since there was so much going on in my life this month — my dad’s 100th (yes, 100th) birthday party; a three-week-long visit from London by my five-month granddaughter and her parents; and a new addition on the house that has me dizzy with all the decisions to be made. Still, getting organized is the best way not to stress, so I’ve made this large cherry pound cake to tuck away in the freezer for one of the Christmas eve desserts, and these minis to gift to friends and neighbors. I confess, we’ve eaten a few of the minis and they are so delicious, with their tender crumb and subtle almond flavoring, that they’re going to become a regular Christmas tradition. I saw the minis last year on Annie’s blog  and tucked away the idea for the future.

The original recipe is from a 2004 edition of Southern Living, and while it’s not low-calorie by any means, if you limit yourself to a small slice, you won’t burst your waist buttons. And they make such a lovely small gift that anyone would be happy to receive one. I bought these disposable tins at the grocery store and they were perfect for individual cakes.

 

I frosted them right in the pans, which came with a clear, plastic lid that didn’t smush the frosting, and made it easy to deliver them to neighbors.

But for a large crowd, bake the cake in a tube pan. I froze mine, frosting and all, and will remove it from the freezer hours ahead of serving it. I already tested freezing and thawing a mini cake, and that worked well, so I am confident that when we sit down to slice into this beauty on Christmas eve, it will taste as fresh as when I baked it. The holly leaves and berries (made from purchased marzipan and a squirt or two of food coloring) aren’t necessary, but they do say “Merry Christmas” in a most festive way, don’t you think? I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas and that the Covid menace doesn’t find its way to your house.

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Mini Cherry Pound Cakes
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 10-ounce jar maraschino cherries (or use a 16 ounce jar for more cherries)
  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 3 cups sugar
  • FOR THE CAKE:
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • FOR THE CHERRY GLAZE:
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1 ( 3-ounce ) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cherries
  • FOR THE DECORATION:
  • 1 tube marzipan
  • food coloring
Instructions
  1. Drain jar of cherries, discarding juice.
  2. Chop cherries, and set aside.
  3. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
  4. Gradually add sugar, beating 1 minute.
  5. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears.
  6. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  7. Beat at low speed just until blended.
  8. Stir in flavorings and ½ cup chopped cherries.
  9. Spoon batter into 7 greased and floured 5¾'' x 3" mini loaf pans. (I used PAM and it worked just fine.)
  10. If using one large tube pan, grease and flour that.
  11. Bake at 300 degrees for 55 minutes (both the minis and the large cake need this time) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean.
  12. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.
  13. Remove cakes from pans, and place on wire racks set over wax paper.
  14. To make the glaze:
  15. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
  16. Gradually add powdered sugar and milk; beat until smooth.
  17. Stir in vanilla and cherries.
  18. Drizzle Cherry Glaze over slightly warm cakes.
  19. Decorate with marzipan leaves and berries, if desired
  20. Refrigerate cakes to let glaze harden before wrapping.
  21. TO MAKE MARZIPAN LEAVES:
  22. Place a few tablespoons of marzipan in a small bowl and mix in some food coloring.
  23. Blend with a spoon until the color is uniform.
  24. Shape into leaves by hand, or with a small cookie cutter.
  25. Make berries by rolling little balls in your hand.
 

Chocolate Rugelach

Have you been baking cookies this holiday season? Although these rugelach, originally from the Jewish community of  Poland, were never part of my Christmas cookie traditions growing up, they’ve been a favorite of mine for decades. I finally got around to making them this year, and they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I’m going to have to tuck these away in the freezer or I’ll eat the whole batch before company arrrives for the Christmas holiday.  I followed the basic dough recipe from Ina Garten, but instead of using the traditional raisins, jam and nuts filling, I opted for a chocolate filling. I also lowered the temperature to 325 degrees, and kept them in a little longer, since at 350 degrees, some of the interior dough wasn’t thoroughly cooked.

After chilling the dough, quarter it and then roll each quarter to a circumference of about 9 or 10 inches. Spread the chocolate filling all around, cut into triangles, then roll up each triangle, starting from the wide end.

Place the rolled cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then brush with some beaten egg, and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 325 degrees F., or until lightly golden. Let them cool, then sprinkle with a little powdered sugar (optional) and enjoy.

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Chocolate Rugelach
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE DOUGH:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • CHOCOLATE FILLING
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ ground cinnamon optional
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • an egg, lightly beaten with a teaspoon of water, to brush on top
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • a pinch of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light.
  3. Add ¼ cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined.
  5. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball.
  6. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. While the dough is chilling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, then stir in the sugar, cinnamon and salt and mix well.
  8. On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9 to 10-inch circle.
  9. Spread the dough with ¼ of the chocolate mixture.
  10. Cut the circle into 16 equal wedges, cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into four pieces.
  11. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge.
  12. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  13. Brush each cookie with the egg wash.
  14. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies.
  15. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
  16. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.
 

Farro and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is squash season, and although I love using all kinds of squash as side dishes, sometimes I let them take a starring role, as in this stuffed acorn squash recipe that makes a great main dish. I love a good bread or rice stuffing, but wanted to give farro a try this time, adding some sausage to give it a little extra oomph. If you’re a vegetarian, you could easily omit the sausage and it would still taste delicious. The recipe contains a number of steps, but if you plan well, you can make it all ahead of time and place it in the oven just before dinner. Start by roasting the squash in the oven, let it cool slightly, then scoop out the cooked squash.

Cut the squash into large chunks.

Add the chunks of squash to the cooked farro, sausage and cheeses.

Spoon the stuffing back into the squash.

Sprinkle grated mozzarella on top. If you have more stuffing than will fit into the two halves (and most likely you will), butter a small casserole and place the stuffing inside.

Bake for about a half hour, then turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top nicely. Be careful, it will burn easily!

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Farro and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large acorn squash
  • salt, pepper
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 links Italian sausage
  • ¼ cup onion, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, minced
  • ½ cup farro
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • a couple of leaves of minced fresh sage
  • a small amount of minced parsley
Instructions
  1. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, rub the cut ends with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Place in a 350 degree oven, covered with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or until tender.
  3. Let the squash cool.
  4. Bring the water to a boil, add the farro and a pinch of salt.
  5. Cover with a lid, and let simmer on low heat for about 20-25 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
  6. Let the farro come to room temperature.
  7. Take the casings off the sausage and break up the sausage into bits, cooking in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
  8. Add the minced onion and minced celery, and cook until softened,
  9. Scrape the cooked squash from the interior of the squash, cutting into large pieces.
  10. To the cooked and cooled farro, add the squash, the cooked sausage, onion and celery, the beaten egg, the parmesan cheese and most of the mozzarella cheese, keeping some aside to sprinkle on top. Season with salt, pepper and the minced parsley.
  11. Mix thoroughly, then stuff back into the squash.
  12. You will have more than will fit into the squash, so butter a small casserole and place the remaining stuffing inside,
  13. Sprinkle more mozzarella cheese on top.
  14. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  15. At the end of 30 minutes, turn on the broiler for a few minutes to allow for greater browning on top, but keep an eye on it since it can burn easily,.
 

Apple Streusel Pie

 I don’t care if it’s two-crusted or streusel-topped, but I’m a big fan of apple pie. But it’s much easier to make this streusel topping than tackle two crusts, and with so much to do for the Thanksgiving meal, why not save yourself some time?  The crumb topping gives this dessert extra crunch, especially with the addition of some walnuts. Use your favorite pie crust recipe, or buy one already packaged, like I did this time, with one from Trader Joe’s. Roll it out, place it into your pie plate and crimp the edges. I sprayed my pie plate first with some PAM, to ensure easier removal of the slices. Prick the pastry all over, then put it in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before baking.

Weigh down the crust with some pie weights that are nestled on a piece of aluminum foil. I also sprayed the bottom of the foil with some PAM, so it wouldn’t stick to the crust. If you don’t have pie weights, use some hard beans, like I did. I keep reusing mine year after year and I think they’re at least 30 years old by now — and still have more life in them.

I like to cook the apples a bit before putting them in the crust. Otherwise, the pie has a tendency to sink a lot — especially important if you’re making a double crust pie and don’t want a big gap between the apples and the crust. Just cook them a little, so they still maintain their integrity as slices. You don’t want them turning into applesauce!

After you’re prebaked the pie shell a little bit, gently place the partially cooked apples inside, cover with the streusel topping and bake.

If the edges seem to be browning too quickly, cover them with strips of aluminum foil.

Let the pie rest at least a couple of hours before digging in.

And don’t forget that it tastes even better with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream!

Click here to find the recipe for this other great apple pie – an upside-down apple pie with a gooey pecan topping.

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Apple Streusel Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 purchased pie crust or your favorite home made pie crust
  • 7-8 apples, peeled and sliced evenly (about 9-10 cups of sliced apples)
  • (I used a combination of mostly Honey Crisps and Granny Smiths)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch of cloves
  • a few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • a pinch of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PIECRUST:
  2. I rolled out the pie crust and placed it gently in a pie plate that was sprayed with PAM.
  3. Then, I crimped the outer edge and pricked the bottom with a fork.
  4. I preheated the oven to 375 degrees F. and placed the uncooked pie crust in the refrigerator while the oven was preheating.
  5. When the oven reaches 375 degrees, place a buttered piece of aluminum foil in the pie shell, and weigh it down with pie weights or beans.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, remove the pie weights and aluminum foil and bake the crust for another 10 minutes.
  8. FOR THE PIE FILLING:
  9. Peel, core and slice the apples into slices about ¼ inch thick.
  10. Place the butter in a large skillet, big enough to hold all the apple slices.
  11. Cook the apple slices in the butter on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes or until they start to soften,
  12. Do not cook completely. They will continue to cook in the oven.
  13. When they begin to soften, turn off the heat and stir in the spices, the salt and the cornstarch.
  14. Spoon all the apples into the prebaked pie crust, then cover with the streusel topping and bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
  15. Check the pie to make sure it isn't browning too much on the edges and bake for another 5-10 minutes, placing aluminum foil strips around the edges if it's getting too browned.
  16. STREUSEL TOPPING:
  17. Mix the flour, brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon together, then using your fingers, blend in the butter.
  18. Carefully spread the topping over the apples and bake as directed above,
 

Pumpkin (or Squash) Sformato

I know Thanksgiving is all about the turkey here in the U.S., but if you serve this squash sformato to your guests, the turkey might develop an inferiority complex. Everyone will want seconds of this intensely flavored dish that just melts in your mouth. It also makes a nice first course for a dinner party too, since you can make practically all of it ahead of time and just reheat in the microwave.

You can make a sformato from nearly any vegetable, including cauliflower, which I posted about here way back in 2009, served with a tomato sauce. But you can make it with carrots, spinach, broccoli, and even ricotta can be used to make this unctuous dish that is almost like eating glamorized baby food.

It’s good all on its own, but if you dress it up with a creamy parmesan sauce and drizzle with balsamic, it’ll take you to Nirvana. Now is the time to bring out that aged balsamic vinegar that’s been saved for special occasions. But even if you don’t want to spring for the expensive stuff, just take some supermarket balsamic and reduce it to a syrupy liquid, or alternatively, buy some balsamic glaze.

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Pumpkin (or Squash) Sformato
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 medium size butternut squash (enough to produce about 4 cups cooked squash)
  • 1¾ cup milk or a combination of milk and cream
  • ½ stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing molds
  • ¼ cup flour plus 1 T.
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt, white pepper, to taste
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 2 cups heavy cream, reduced a bit
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • reduced balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze, or aged balsamic vinegar if you want to be indulgent
Instructions
  1. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.
  2. Grease an oven-proof casserole or flat pan and place the squash on it, cut side down.
  3. Roast in the oven for 45 minuttes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
  4. Remove the cooked squash from the skin, then place it in a food processor and puree it until perfectly smooth.
  5. Place the squash into a colander lined with paper towels to absorb any remaining moisture.
  6. You can do this the night before.
  7. Butter eight ¾ cup oven-proof custard cups or flan molds and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Heat the milk in a saucepan until warm and little bubble start to form.
  9. In another saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and stir and cook for a couple of minutes until smooth.
  10. It will start to get “pasty,” but that’s fine.
  11. Add the milk and continue to stir constantly, using either a whisk or wooden spoon, for about five minutes.
  12. Add seasonings and squash puree.
  13. Beat the eggs and add the parmesan cheese to the eggs.
  14. Add the puree mixture to the egg and cheese mixture, starting with a small amount, then increasing the amount a little at a time.
  15. By adding them slowly, you want to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs and cheese.
  16. If you add the pureed squash mixture all at once, you risk curdling the eggs.
  17. When everything is mixed, pour into the buttered molds and put the molds in a bain-marie or hot water bath.
  18. Bake for about 40 minutes.
  19. Remove the molds from the water and let them rest at least 10 minutes before trying to unmold.
  20. If you unmold too soon, they won’t hold their shape.
  21. They actually hold their shape better the next day when you reheat them.
  22. I microwaved them in their molds the next day to reheat, then flipped them out onto individual plates.
  23. Serve as is, or with a simple homemade parmesan cream sauce, as shown.
  24. TO MAKE THE SAUCE:
  25. Place the cream in a sauce pan and reduce a bit (not too much because when you add the cheese it will thicken more)
  26. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, whisking to incorporate and make it smooth.
  27. Pour some of the sauce over the sformato and drizzle with balsamic, then fresh gratings of parmesan cheese.
 

French Apple Almond Cake

Is it even Fall if you haven’t made an apple cake? There are so many recipes out there for apple cake that it was hard to choose, but any recipe that includes almonds and apples has my vote. I found this winner of a dessert on a website called The Sugar Hit and made it last year but never posted it. Hey, it’s time to make it again!  Whenever I’m peeling apples, I have a contest with myself to try to keep the peel intact in one piece. Yea! I did it! (I know, nerdy)

I used a buttered springform pan, placing a piece of parchment paper on the bottom. I then layered some of the batter over the paper, and placed apples over the batter in a neat pattern.

Repeat with the batter (don’t worry if you don’t get complete coverage), then more apples.

When you’re finished with that layer, scatter the almonds and sugar topping all over, then bake. (I overbaked it by five minutes and the bottom layer was too browned.)

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar when cooled.

Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee (and some vanilla sauce or ice cream wouldn’t hurt either).

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French Apple Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the apples:
  • 3 medium granny smith apples (or whatever kind you like)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar (for you Americans, use superfine granulated sugar)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp rum
  • For the cake batter:
  • 1 + ½ sticks (150g) butter
  • ½ cup (110g) caster sugar (superfine granulated sugar to you Americans)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1¼ cups (185g) plain flour
  • ¾ cups (85g) almond meal
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds, mixed with sugar and cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F/180C and grease a 9 inch/22cm springform cake tin.
  2. Peel and core the apples, then quarter them and slice them into thickish pieces.
  3. Toss the pieces with the sugar, cinnamon and rum and set aside while you prepare the batter.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar, until they are light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat them in well.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and slowly mix or fold until everything is well combined. The batter will be very thick.
  6. Scrape 2 thirds of the batter into the greased cake tin, and spread it evenly over the base (it will seem like there's not enough, but there is).
  7. Scatter most of the apples evenly over the cake mix, leaving enough slices for a second layer.
  8. Then dollop over the remaining batter and spread carefully over the apples.
  9. Add the rest of the apples, arranging the slices in a concentric circle.
  10. Scatter over the chopped almonds and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
  11. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out without any raw batter clinging to it.
  12. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes in the tin, before carefully unmolding it and scattering over a little sugar to decorate. This is best served warm.