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Biscotti di Amaretto

December 16, 2015 Dessert, Menu No Comments

It’s Christmas time! The season of giving, family traditions, good will towards others…and cookies! Lots and lots of cookies! If your family is anything like mine, there will be generous plates of home made cookies and baked good at every house that you visit this season. While I am more than happy to sample every variety that I possibly can, I always find myself drifting back to the classic, old fashioned Italian-style cookies…the ones that are a perfect complement to a nice, hot cup of coffee. I refer to these as the ‘dunkers’.

The cookie recipe that I’m sharing with you today is the perfect example of an old fashioned dunker. It was originally inspired by an Italian biscotti recipe by Father Giuseppe Orsini, that used whiskey and anisette in the ingredients, and would be served with a glass of wine. I modified the recipe to have a sweeter taste by replacing the whiskey and anisette with amaretto and vanilla extract. I also shaped the dough into individual knots instead of the traditional biscotti loaf. You can shape them into knots or rings, or prepare it as a biscotti. Either method would work well with this cookie.

 

Biscotti di Amaretto

Inspired by a recipe by Father Giuseppi Orsini,
author of Italian Baking Secrets

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 large eggs
2 tbspn amaretto
2 tbspn vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
2-3/4 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 tspn baking powder

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, until absorbed. Add amaretto, vanilla extract, and almonds. In another bowl, mix the flour and baking powder and blend thoroughly into the sugar mixture. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375˚. Divide the mixture into four pieces. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each piece to approximately a 2″ x 6″ rectangle. Continue to keep the surface lightly coated with flour to avoid sticking. Cut each piece into 1/2″ strips, and shape the strips into knots or circles (your choice). Place on slightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Remove from oven, let cool on a wire rack.

Drizzle with powdered sugar icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoons milk
Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, until spreadable (mixture will thicken slightly as it sets). You can add more milk to make it thinner, or more sugar to make it thicker.

*To use the dough for biscotti, shape the dough into flat loaves, 1/2 inch thick, 2 inches wide, and as long as your cookie sheet. Place no more than two loaves parallel and well apart per sheet. Bake in 375˚ oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool enough to handle. Cut in diagonal slices 1/2 inch thick. Return to sheets and bake at 375˚ for 15 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool on a wire rack.

Flatten out the chilled dough on a floured surface.

Flatten out the chilled dough on a floured surface.

 

Cut the dough into 1/2" strips.

Cut the dough into 1/2″ strips.

 

Shape the dough into knots or rings.

Shape the dough into knots or rings.

 

Serve with a nice cup of hot coffee!

Serve with a nice cup of hot coffee!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Apples and Kale

November 18, 2015 Menu 1 Comment

Brussels sprouts have quickly become one of my favorite greens to serve as a side dish to a Sunday meal. My Honey Balsamic Brussels Sprouts recipe, which I posted a while back (found here), is also one of the most talked about recipes on my food blog. For this recipe, I’m combining brussels sprouts with chopped apples and kale (another of my favorite green power foods) for a healthy, tasty and vibrant side dish that is perfect for Thanksgiving dinner.

Because kale can toast up pretty quickly in the oven, you do not need to add it to this dish until the last 7-10 minutes of baking. By simply layering the kale on top of the already baked sprouts and apple mixture, the kale will toast up nicely, while absorbing the flavors of the other ingredients. Once removed from the oven, gently fold in the kale, plate it, and serve it up with all of your other favorite Thanksgiving sides!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Apples and Kale

1 12oz package brussels sprouts, tips removed, then sliced in half
2 apples – peeled, cored and cut into 3/4 inch chunks (Macintosh or Granny Smith work well)
2 tbspn olive oil
1 tbspn honey
1/2 tspn onion powder
handful of chopped kale
zest plus juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425˚. Mix olive oil, honey and onion powder together. Place brussels sprouts and apples into a baking dish. Toss with oil and honey mixture. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, or until sprouts are softened. Remove from oven, layer the top with kale, place back in oven for another 7-10 minutes, or until the kale starts to crisp. Remove from oven, mix together. Top with zest and juice of one lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

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Mixing the brussels sprouts with the chopped apples and the dressing.

 

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Layering the kale on top of the baked sprouts and apple mixture.

 

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The finished dish, plated and ready to be served.

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Carrot Pecan Pesto

November 11, 2015 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu, Pasta No Comments

Pesto is traditionally thought of as a pasta sauce that is made of fresh blended herbs, garlic, olive oil, grated cheese and pine nuts. Its most common ingredient is fresh basil. However, there are a number of creative variations that have popped up over the years. I like to do a half and half blend of basil and mint, and my sister-in-law makes a delicious pea pesto. This carrot and pecan version of pesto makes for a fantastic addition to your Thanksgiving menu. It would work well as an appetizer with fresh veggies or crackers. If pasta is part of your Thanksgiving dinner, it would be a nice alternative to a traditional marinara sauce/red gravy. And you can bet that slathering it on top of a turkey sandwich would be heavenly!

Before you break out your food processor or food chopper, you’ll want to first roast the carrots and pecans in the oven for 15 minutes. This will soften the carrots for easier chopping and will enhance the flavor of both the carrots and pecans. I decided to use pecans in this recipe because I feel that their taste is very complementary to carrots. You can use walnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, or any holiday nut combination of your liking.

Carrot Pecan Pesto

1/2 lb baby carrots (1/2 of a small bag)
1/2 cup pecans
vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
dash of ground ginger
1 tspn fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375˚. Lightly coat the carrots with a small bit of vegetable or canola oil. Place the carrots and pecans onto a baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven.

Place the roasted carrots and pecans, parmesan cheese, ginger and thyme into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Keeping the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until fully incorporated. You may need to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl a few times. Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with additional sprigs of fresh thyme.

 

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Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

October 27, 2015 Pasta, Soup No Comments

With the cooler fall air rolling in, now is the time of year that I enjoy making soups and stews. This past weekend’s brisk weather was the perfect time for me to make a pot of Pasta e Ceci (pronounced as pasta & chichi), which is a cousin to the famous Pasta e Fagioli. Instead of using the traditional kidney or cannelloni beans, this recipe uses garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas. Many pasta e ceci recipes use ingredients similar to other pasta and bean dishes, such as pancetta, fresh rosemary and thyme, and a mirepoix (sautéed carrots, celery and onions). My recipe is a bit abbreviated, but I promise you it does not lack in heartiness or rich flavor! My version of this dish can be prepped and served in just under an hour, which makes it a practical and comforting dish for any chilly weekend or weekday meal.

 

 

Pasta e Ceci

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbspn olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 14oz can stewed tomatoes
1 16oz can garbanzo beans/chick peas, drained
1 32oz can/container of low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 tbspn grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1 cup short cut pasta, such as dilatini or elbow macaroni
salt and pepper

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, stir to evenly coat. Let simmer until onions become soft and translucent. Add garlic, stir. Simmer for 30 seconds, until garlic becomes fragrant. Add stewed tomatoes and their juices, along with about 1/3 can of beans. Add bay leaves, stir together. Let simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Using a potato masher, rough-smash the tomatoes and beans, making a chunky broth. You can also use an emulsifier or remove the beans to puree them and add them back into the soup for a creamier texture, but I prefer to mash them along with the softened tomatoes. Add the remaining beans, along with 3 cups of the broth. The soup will thicken up as it cooks, so you can add the remaining broth as needed. Add 1tbspn grated parmesan, stir. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta, stir well. Again, the soup will thicken up as the beans and pasta cook and expand. You can slowly add more broth or water as needed, or to your liking. Heat another 5-10 minutes until pasta is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Serve with crusty bread. Top with additional grated or shaved parmesan cheese.

The basic ingredients...plus a little wine!

The basic ingredients…plus a little wine!

Early stages of the soup.

Early stages of the soup.

Rough-smashing the beans and tomatoes.

Rough-smashing the beans and tomatoes.

Served with shaved parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Served with shaved parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

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