July 18, 2011

Pignoli Cookies

For some reason I recently found several references to almond paste, so when I came across some at the store, I went ahead and bought it.  Then one breakfast-for-dinner day, I made almond poppy seed waffles using almond paste.  I had high hopes for the waffles, and while good, not worth repeating.  So then I had leftover almond paste.  Which is where these cookies come on the scene.

These pignoli (pine nut) cookies are a traditional Italian cookie.  The almond flavor is strong, and these chewy cookies have a macaroon-like texture.  I enjoyed the cookies and they grew on me the more I ate them, but I probably won't make them too often, probably more for a special occasion or a cookie-variety plate.

Pignoli Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook by Sara

7 ounces almond paste
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 T all purpose flour
a pinch of kosher salt
1 cup pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in the center and lower third. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Crumble the almond paste in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the almond paste and both sugars on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg whites and vanilla; beat on medium speed until a smooth paste forms, about 4 minutes. Add the flour and salt; beat until combined, about 2 minutes. The dough will be very soft and tacky.

Spread pine nuts in a single layer on a plate. Scoop out a tablespoon of dough; using dampened fingers, drop the dough onto the pine nuts, coating one side. Transfer rounds, coated side up to the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges of cookies and pine nuts have turned golden brown, about 15-17 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment to a wire rack to cool completely. Using an offset spatula, carefully loosen the cookies from the parchment. Dust cookies with confectioner's sugar. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

July 13, 2011

Warm Lentil Salad

Lentils are creeping into my cooking arsenal, and I couldn't be happier. Lentils are hearty, healthy, and easy. If you need convincing, try this recipe. My friend shared it with me; originally she found it on Jamie Oliver's iphone app. This salad is too good: the vinegar is just right, the bacon, the bacon-grease-fried croutons, and warm lentils. I have to make more soon.

Tip: Cook up a bunch of lentils, drain, and store in pre-measured amounts in ziploc bags in the freezer.

Warm Lentil Salad
adapted from Jamie Oliver

green salad mix
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbsp. fresh
1 1/2 c. cooked lentils
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
8 slices bacon
1 - 2 cups torn bread chunks (a bread with some chew, like a baguette)

Wash and dry the salad leaves and arrange on serving plates. Set aside.

Prepare dressing by whisking or shaking together 4 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add sliced garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds. Add cooked lentils to the pan. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add a splash of olive oil, 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to the lentils. Stir, cover, and remove from heat.

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp over medium heat. Remove from pan. Add the bite-sized bread chunks to the skillet. Stir occasionally, allowing the bread to get golden brown, like croutons. Remove from skillet. Once bacon is cool, crumble into bite-sized pieces.

Add a scoop or two of lentils to each prepared salad plate. Top with crumbled bacon and croutons. Drizzle dressing over top and serve warm.

July 11, 2011


The second vegetable in my produce series is kale.  You may have noticed quite a few kale recipes posted before.  Again, like chard, I hadn't even heard of it as of a few years ago.  But now I know better.  Kale is super nutritious, and in my opinion, not too bad tasting either.  If you've tried it before and weren't sold, I recommend two things: try some from a farmer's market and make sure you have a yummy recipe.  That's where I can help.

With all plants, there are many varieties.  I'm not an expert on all varieties kale.  In my mind there are two kinds: curly and dark.  Here's the curly specimen:

And here's the dark, flat specimen (though this bunch is not as dark as some. It can take on an almost purple hue.):

The dark variety is also known as cavolo nero or Tuscan kale.

Kale keeps its structure much more than other greens, unlike chard or spinach. Raw kale is a little bitter, but with the right seasonings, this is not a problem.

I don't have any new recipes to share with you containing kale, but look at this list already posted on my blog:

Basic preparation:
Pan-Toasted Kale with Balsamic Vinegar
Kale Chips

Salads too good to be true:

Cooked and hidden in soups:

Two readers tried kale in this recipe and recommend it:
Fusilli with Chard and Sausage

Do you have favorite preparations for kale? Let me know if you try any of mine and like them.

July 8, 2011

Blueberries and Cream Ice Cream

Fourth of July weekend I picked some blueberries at a local farm. Besides getting fresh blueberries, I love the actual picking. It's simply fun. The weather even cooperated - it was a little cooler and overcast.

I bookmarked this blueberry ice cream recipe last summer, but sometimes it takes a while for the stars to align to allow the perfect timing for some recipes to be made. I'm glad this recipe didn't totally fall off my radar, because this is definitely a keeper. One to make at least once every summer.

This is actually one of the simpler ice cream recipes I've made. The texture for this ice cream was perfect - soft and creamy. And the color is gorgeous. I need to use up the rest of my huge bag of blueberries soon. I'm thinking I will prepare the blueberry, water, and sugar portion and then freeze it in a ziploc bag to finish up on a early (still warm) autumn day. I love finding forgotten surprises in my freezer!

Blueberries and Cream Ice Cream
from Susi

2 cups (8 oz/ 250g) fresh blueberries
3/4 cup (6 fl oz/180 ml) water
1 cup (8 oz/ 250 g) sugar
1 cup (8 fl oz/ 250 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In a heavy saucepan, combine the fresh blueberries, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally too help dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 minutes to steep.

Transfer the blueberry mixture to a blender. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

Add the cream and lemon juice to the blueberry puree and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture in to an ice-cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving.

July 5, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Speculoos Frosting

Remember this fabulous cake? For the frosting, I had to substitute peanut butter for Biscoff, because I didn't know where to find any. Turns out Whole Foods sells Biscoff (near the peanut butter), also known as Speculoos, but I know I looked there before and they didn't have any. My story is corroborated by the check-out lady, who, when she rang up the Speculoos, said that it must be new and she'd have to try it herself.


What is Biscoff/Speculoos? Have you ever flown Delta and been offered their cookies? The cookies are Biscoff brand, but are a cookie known as speculoos, a shortbread cookie with cinnamon. By some weird magic, they turn the cookies into a smooth spread, like nutella or peanut butter. The spread is what is used in the frosting recipe. I used a partial jar for the frosting and then ate the rest with a spoon. It's pretty yummy.

I had no need to make a fancy cake, so I made some chocolate cupcakes to top with the Speculoos frosting. This frosting was very good; the speculoos spread added a deep flavor to the chocolate that I almost couldn't identify as cinnamon spice. But if I closed my eyes and thought about it, I could detect the slight hint of cinnamon. All in all, this frosting is a sophisticated twist on just plain chocolate.

Another awesome discovery was this cupcake recipe. The recipe, by Mel's Kitchen Cafe, was mentioned by my cousin on her crazy baking blog. This may be my go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes from now on.

Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 ¼ cups buttermilk or sub coconut milk or almond milk plus 1 tsp. vinegar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in the middle of the oven. Prepare the cupcake pans by adding cupcake liners. Set the pans aside.

Sift together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs, yolk, warm water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Mix on low speed (with a handheld mixer or in the bowl of an electric stand mixer) until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Fill each cupcake liner about three-quarters full. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Do not overbake! Remove the pans from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool. Once cool, remove cupcakes from pan and frost. Makes about 2.5 dozen cupcakes.

Speculoos Frosting - see this post

July 3, 2011

Fusilli with Chard and Sausage

Lest you think all chard dishes have to be vegetarian, here's one with tasty sausage. Actually meat goes quite well with chard or other greens. Substitute chard for spinach in this meatball soup.

This pasta dish was really good. I thought maybe there was too much onion while preparing it, but I ended up loving the onion cooked in the sausage grease. You could even reduce the amount of sausage, if desired, as it could be used more for flavor. But there's really not that much, so, just go for it.

Fusilli with Greens and Sausage
adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

1 large bunch of chard or kale
1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of dried chile flakes
3/4 pound fusilli or penne rigate
olive oil
1/2 c. grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Trim and wash greens (for kale, remove stems; for chard remove stalks and keep separate from leaves to cook a little longer). Chop coarse and cook until tender (throw the chard stalks in 2 minutes before the leaves) in salted boiling water - this will take just a few minutes. Drain well, saving the cooking water to cook the pasta in.

Cut the sausage into small slices or form into small balls. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sausage and cook over medium heat until browned and cooked through, breaking the sausage into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon while cooking, if desired. Remove the sausage and set aside. Add the sliced onion to the pan. Stir the onions somewhat frequently, cooking until softened and slightly carmelized. Add salt, pepper, and chile flakes to taste. Add the cooked greens and sausage, cooking for a few minutes. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

Meanwhile, cook fusilli in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain and return to the pan. Toss the pasta with a little salt and olive oil. Serve the pasta with the greens/sausage mixture on top. Garnish with grated cheese.

July 1, 2011


I am so inspired by the locally-grown produce I find at my favorite farmer's market. I'm going to do a series focusing on vegetables (and maybe fruit) that I find there. There are too many items I've been introduced to over the last few years that I was unfamiliar with before, by name and taste. Maybe my little posts will inspire someone else to venture out and try something new.

We'll start with chard. I don't think anyone would dispute that one of the most nutritious should-be staples in our diet is leafy greens. Yet not too long ago, probably the only ones I ate were romaine lettuce and spinach. Large chard leaves come with a variety of colored stems, making them absolutely lovely: red, white, yellow, purple. Most often chard is served cooked rather than raw. Chard is a hearty addition to soups (lentil soup is especially good), can be eaten as a side dish (see below), or added to egg dishes, like a frittata.

Try pan-toasted chard with vinegar, like I did in this recipe for kale. Or try this pasta recipe or this one.

Chard with Olive Oil and Lemon
adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater

1 pound white-stemmed chard
2 small garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. olive oil
juice from half a freshly squeezed lemon

Cut out the stalks from the leaves. Immerse both in a large bowl of water, swirling to remove dirt. Rinse thoroughly.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, and add the chard stalks. Boil for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Remove the stalks with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the leaves to the boiling water and cook for two minutes. Remove when tender but still bright green. Rough chop the leaves and slice the stems.

Peel the garlic and slice it thinly. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the garlic. Stir it, allowing it to soften without browning. Add the leaves and stalks, stirring to combine. Reomve from heat. Add freshly ground black pepper, salt to taste, and add the lemon juice.