Saturday, December 28, 2013

FFWD ~ Dilled Gravlax with Mustard Sauce on Saturday

FFWD ~ Dilled Gravlax with Mustard Sauce
This week our French Friday recipe is for Dilled Gravlax with Mustard Sauce. The name Gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means “grave” and lax, which means “salmon”.  Thus, gravlax means “buried salmon”.  It is usually served as an appetizer but, I personally enjoy it with my morning bagel along with cream cheese.  It’s also delicious mixed into scrambled eggs.
I thought this was a perfect pick for the holiday season.  I would have loved to have it done for Friday. However, with all my holiday company, Saturday was the best I could do.  If I planned better, I could have served this wonderful appetizer for Christmas Eve.  Instead, we will be enjoying it to welcome in the New Year!

Delicious and elegant…a perfect appetizer for the holidays! 
Gravlax is actually quite simple to make.  It is raw spiced salmon. The dish consists of raw salmon, cured in a spicy salt, sugar mixture, and covered with dill.  It should cure for at least 24 hours. However, Dorie’s recipe has you curing it for 48. I bought a one pound piece of center cut salmon, and then mixed the spices, consisting of black pepper corns, white pepper corns, coriander, sugar and salt. This is then rubbed it into the salmon. The fish is then covered with chopped fresh dill. That’s pretty much it, for the hands on part.  Cover the salmon with plastic wrap, and weigh it down with a board and something heavy.  I used a few large cans of tomato sauce.  Place the dish into the fridge, and let it cure for 48 hours.
The best thing about this dish is, it makes itself as it cures. Prepare the gravlax at least two days in advance.  The mustard sauce can also be prepared ahead of time.  When it’s time to serve, all you have to do is assemble!  Now it’s time to serve….Gravlax, Champagne and a toast to the New Year! Wishing you all the best in 2014!  Happy New Year everyone!!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Around My French Table” or at Epicurious where it was published back in 2004 in Bon Appetit!

Rub the salmon with the spices and cover with chopped dill
Cover with plastic wrap and weight down….refrigerate for 48 hours
When ready…scrape off the seasonings and dill…rinse and pat dry with paper towels
Slice thinly on the diagonal 
Bon Appétit!! 
Happy New Year Everyone!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Lebanese Pistachio Shortbread Cookies ~ Ghraybeh

Lebanese Pistachio Shortbread Cookies ~ Ghraybeh

Are you ready for another Christmas cookie?  Tis the season!  I’ve been baking all week, trying to get my cookies done, so that I could send a box to my son in Atlanta.  His request, this year, was for cookies that I have been making all of his life.  Family favorites for a few generations. How could I say no?  I did add a new cookie to the mix this year!  It’s for Pistachio Shortbread Rings. This is a cookie that I saw a few years ago, on a blog by my friend Jumana@Taste of Beirut.  One of my favorite blogs!

 Melt in your mouth goodness!!
The Lebanese name for these lovely cookies is “Ghraybeh" (gray-beh). This recipe is a pistachio version of the traditional Lebanese cookie. The difference being, crushed pistachios are added to the dough. They are delicate, buttery shortbread cookies. Although Ghraybeh is a Lebanese cookie, you will find them served in many middle eastern countries. From your first bite, you will love them. They are melt-in-your-mouth goodness!  Hope you’ll give them a try!

Tomorrow night, Santa will be coming to our house!  My daughter and her family will be staying here over the Christmas holiday. There is nothing quite as wonderful as the excitement of little children as they go to bed dreaming of Santa, reindeers and the gifts they wished for! From our house to yours Wishing you all a Blessed Christmas, and Peace and Happiness in the New Year!

Ghraybeh is a traditional butter cookie from the middle east…these are a bit different than the ones that I ate while growing up.  Ours were made without the pistachios….these are incredible!

Pistachio Shortbread Rings (Ghraybeh w-fustok)
Adapted from Taste of Beirut

1 3/4 cups of flour
1/3 cup of cornstarch
1 1/2  cups of peeled and chopped pistachios
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of unsalted butter, very soft

Cream the butter in a mixer for a few minutes until all smooth; add the sugar gradually. Add the vanilla sugar or extract.
Add the flour and cornstarch mixture to the sugar and butter mixture, gradually as well. Mix well for one minute and when the dough is formed and is shiny and firm (add a bit more flour if it is too wet, one tablespoon at a time), add the chopped pistachios and mix well throughout; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a cool place or the fridge for one hour.
Take lumps of dough with a cookie scoop and form little sticks of about 5 inches in length; join them at both ends and set on a parchment-lined cookie sheet; dab a tiny bit of chopped pistachios on the cookie ring if desired. Bake in a preheated 325F oven till the cookie is firm, for about 15 minutes. It will firm up more as it cools. The bottom of the cookies will be golden and the top whitish. Cool and serve or keep in a tin box for several days and up to one week or so.

From Our House to Yours….Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Braided Nutella Bread

Braided Nutella Bread
In my house, we love Nutella!  When I saw a recipe for Braided Nutella Bread floating around the internet, I knew I had to give it a try.  I bookmarked it and thought I would bake it before the holidays. This is a fairly basic yeast dough and, although it looks complicated, it’s really quite easy to put together.
This past week we received a big blast from mother nature.  Snow, sleet and cold temps! When the temperature drops down low, you can usually find me baking something warm, and comforting in my kitchen. I decided to give this Nutella Braided Bread a try! The aromas wafting through the house, warmed the senses.

This was a luscious bread, that we all really enjoyed!
My granddaughter was dancing in her first performance of the Nutcracker.  Of course, we were going! This grandma tries never to miss a chance to visit, or support the grandkids! I always bring treats with me, and this weekend was no exception. I decided to make this delectable Nutella bread, to enjoy for breakfast. What's better than Nutella and bread? Well, maybe Nutella baked into the bread!  This bread was impressive and delicious! If you’re looking for something special to bake for the holidays, you might want to give this one a try! As it bakes it permeates the house with the aroma of chocolate and fresh baked bread! Perfect!!
Roll the dough into a 15x12 and spread with Nutella….then roll tightly
Cut down the center with a sharp knife, then twist ends over each other, making sure to turn cut side towards the top
When you finish it should look like this….brush with egg wash and bake
This actually has more Nutella running through it then can be seen….I would have taken more photos, but the bread was gone before I knew it!
 A lovely Christmassy way to spend the day….watching the Nutcracker! 

adapted from Kokocooks

YIELD: 1 loaf


1/2 teaspoon yeast    
1 cup warm water or milk
2 1/2 cups  all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup Nutella
cornmeal for dusting
1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water to use as egg wash


In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in ¼ cup of the water with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let sit for several minutes to activate.

Meanwhile, combine flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add yeast and the remaining water, mix on low with a dough hook attachment. Turn speed up to medium, and knead dough for about 7 minutes.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and then set in a warm place. The dough is ready when doubled in size - about an hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to form a rectangle, roughly 12 x 15”.  Spread Nutella in an even layer on the surface, leaving a ½ inch border of dough. You could heat the Nutella in a microwave-safe bowl for about 30 seconds.  It makes spreading it much easier. Roll tightly and place on a parchment-lined / silicon-lined baking sheet that’s been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cut the dough down the middle with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, leaving one end intact. Twist ends overtop each other, making sure to turn cut side toward the top. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush surface of the bread with the egg wash. Bake bread for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Friday, December 13, 2013

FFWD ~ Mme. Maman’s Chopped Liver

FFWD ~ Mme. Maman’s Chopped Liver
Ok, I’m not fond of touching raw chicken. So, you know I wasn’t thrilled about cutting up chicken livers.  On the other hand, I love chopped liver!  There is nothing quite as good as a great Foie Gras!  I was really looking forward to making this recipe.  I’m hosting a small Christmas party next week, and thought this would be perfect to add to the menu.  I've never made chopped liver before, but have eaten it many times, so I knew I would enjoy it! I knew this would be a test run but, had confidence in Dories recipe.

Quite delicious
This chopped liver does not have a Pâté or mousse consistency. It is actually a textured spread. Making it was straight forward. Chopped onions are cooked in oil, until caramelized.  Then the chicken livers are sauteed and browned in the same pan.  Instead of hand chopping the liver, I went a bit rogue here…mixing in the onions and, adding them along with the hard cooked eggs and spices to my food processor. Pulsed until just mixed, but not a pureed.  I happen to like my chopped liver smoother as opposed to really textured.  The chopped liver should be chilled for several hours to meld all the flavors.  Serve with baguette slices, crackers, some sliced onion, tomatoes or sliced eggs.

We will be spending the weekend on Long Island.  My granddaughter will be dancing in her dance school production of the Nutcracker. I will be taking this wonderful chopped liver with me.  I am sure everyone will enjoy it as a quick appetizer.  Of course, I have already tested it, and it is quite good. It even passed the Bill test!  Happy Friday, everyone!

A great appetizer for the holiday season
This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook, “Around My French Table”….did you put it on your Christmas list yet? You can also find it at my friend Trevor’s Sis Boom Blog.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ricotta Cheesecake

My Favorite Cheesecake Ever

I’m crazy for Cheesecake! It has long been one of my favorite desserts! Smooth and creamy! Rich and luscious! Just one taste leaves you craving another! Although, I have made many different cheesecakes, the one I’m sharing today has to be my all time favorite!  It is also my most requested. The recipe was given to me by a friend, who had entered it in the Abraham & Straus (or A&S) Cheesecake competition, back in the late 1970’s.  According to my friend, it was chosen runner up. All I know is, it is one fabulous cheesecake!

For those of you not familiar with A&S,  it was a major New York City department store, based in Brooklyn. It was founded in 1865, and in 1929 became part of Federated Stores. In 1994 Federated acquired Macy’s, and eliminated the A&S brand, changing all their A&S stores to Macy’s. For many years, A&S held the Great American Cheesecake Contest. I still have a clipping from LI Newday with recipes and story about the winners.  It was from the early 80’s.

This cheesecake does not need a crust. However, I added a Biscoff cookie crust to the cheesecake that is pictured here.  I followed the same basic recipe for a graham cracker crust, using Biscoff cookies instead.  Yummy!  For best results, do NOT substitute any ingredients with low-fat.  I sometimes serve this cake with some type of fruit on top. Cherries, strawberries etc. But, when it comes to cheesecake, I’m really a purest, and love it just the way it is!

Bake one hour,  then turn the oven off and leave in the oven for two more hours….cool completely before refrigerating 

This lovely Cheesecake graced my Thanksgiving table…I was lucky to get a shot before it was gone
Creamy and luscious!

Ricotta Cheesecake

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta
1 ½  cups white sugar
4 eggs (slightly beaten)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons flour
1 stick (¼ lb) butter, melted and
1-pint sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 325° degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Cream together the cream cheese and ricotta in the large bowl of your electric mixer until combined and creamy. Add the sugar, mixing on med.-low speed until incorporated and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well on med. speed after each addition.  Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add the cornstarch and flour; mix in. Then add the melted butter and mix well.  Add the sour cream last, stirring well. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan.
3. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour; turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven, undisturbed for another 2 hours.  When you remove the cake from the oven, allow it cool at room temperature completely before you refrigerate it. Serve chilled.

Friday, December 6, 2013

FFWD ~ Almond-Orange Tuiles and How to Blanch Almonds

These were not only beautiful, but a wonderful treat with my tea! 
This week’s French Friday pick is for Almond-Orange Tuiles, a classic French cookie.  Tuiles are lacey, thin cookies that get their name from the curved tuiles (tiles) that line the rooftops of the French country homes in the Provence. To get the curved shape, Tuiles are placed on a wine bottle or rolling pin as soon as they are taken off the baking pan.  This is where my trouble began! Getting those suckers off that baking pan, which your not supposed to grease!!  I threw two trays of Tuiles away, because they were cemented to the pan.  I tried putting them back into the oven to soften them, to no avail!  Now I’m not a novice baker…I make lace cookies every Christmas. They are actually quite similar.  Therefore, I wasn’t quitting!! These Tuiles were not going to be my Waterloo!!

Love the lacey delicate look of these Tuiles 
Late last night, I mixed another batch of batter.  I guess I’m a little obsessive when it comes to baking. I also checked out Tuiles on-line, to see if I could find any helpful information. That’s when I found FXcuisine.  Not only does he have a recipe similar to Dories that you could try, but I picked up some pointers that I found quite helpful.  One thing I found most useful was his use of parchment paper, to make his Tuiles.  That's the only reason I have these beautiful Tuiles to share with you today!

So delicate and pretty….perfect to serve over the holidays
These are actually quite easy to put together.  Whisking the flour, ground blanched almonds and sugar together, then add orange juice and melted, cooled butter. Give the batter an overnight rest in the fridge, and your ready to bake. I would never bake these again without using parchment paper. It made the process so easy.

When making these Tuiles finally worked, they were wonderful!  They looked so pretty and festive!
I love their delicate, lacey look.  Perfect with your tea or coffee and, lovely to serve along side some ice cream  or creme brulee.  Happy Friday, everyone!!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook, ”Around My French Table”.  Do yourself a favor and put it on your Christmas list! Dorie’s recipe has not been published, if you want to make a batch, try the recipe at FXcuisine.   To see what the other Dorista’s are up to check it out here.

They start to spread once they are in the oven…note the parchment paper
give them lots of room…you don’t want to crowd them
Remove from pan and place onto rolling pin or bottle to get the curve…you could make them flat, if you like

*A note about Blanching Almonds: I had been to BJ’s last week to buy nuts, flour, sugar and butter to start the Christmas baking season.  I bought a huge bag of almonds, so I decided to blanch my own nuts.  This was really easy, although a bit time consuming.  In a saucepan, bring enough water to generously cover the almonds you want to blanch, to a boil.  When the water boils, add the nuts and only boil one minute! This is important so that the almonds don’t soften.  Drain the almonds into a colander and run cold water over the nuts to cool.  The skins will be wrinkly.  Now this is the fun part!  If you have kids that like to help in the kitchen, they would probably love to help with this.  Take each almond and squeeze the skin at one end…the nut will slide out!

Boiled and put into colander…note the wrinkled skin
Squeeze the skin and the almond will pop out
Here you have a bowl of blanched almonds
Ground and ready to use in the recipe

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

FFWD ~ Sugar-Crusted French Toast

FFWD~Sugar-Crusted French Toast

 My new “go to” French Toast
Here it is Tuesday, and I’m finally getting around to posting my FFWD Sugar-Crusted French Toast recipe. Better late than never!  I really wish I had made this wonderful French Toast while my grandsons were still in town. I’m sure they would have loved this one!  How could they not? Challah or brioche soaked in a rich custard, made with cream, milk, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and of course sugar.

I have been making French Toast since I was about twelve years old. However, I have never made such a rich, decadent version.  Dorie’s Sugar-Crusted French Toast was quite special. As the name suggests, it is crusted in sugar.  Sprinkling sugar in the skillet over the melted butter, then placing the custard soaked bread over it, browning it slowly. Then sprinkling more sugar over the top before flipping it over. It’s made with a rich challah or brioche bread, preferable to whatever left over bread you have in the house.  Lastly, it has a lot of cream and eggs. Much more than I’ve ever used for my standard version of French Toast. I’ve always added cinnamon to mine but this one relies on vanilla for it’s wonderful flavor.  It was incredible!  Leave it to the French to know all about French Toast!! Go figure.
My husband and I enjoyed this scrumptious French Toast, after our morning walk.  It was a good thing we walked first.  It didn’t seem quite as sinful!  This one rates a 10!!  I think I just found my new "go-to" French Toast recipe.

 We loved this one! I used Challah, and served it without syrup.  It was definitely sweet enough.

Dorie’s recipe for Sugar-Crusted French Toast can be found on Epicurious. The only difference is the recipe on Epicurious calls for all milk, and the one in the book calls for roughly half milk and half cream. 

Rich, decadent and custardy….leave it to the French!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Arlene’s Dark Date Nut Bread

My friend Arlene’s Dark Date Nut Bread….delicious!
It’s that time of year again!  The time of year when we take out those old trusted family recipes. The recipes steeped with family tradition. The same recipes that sat on your mother’s Thanksgiving table and your grandmothers! You know the dishes I mean.  That sweet potato casserole that has been on the menu since you were a child…with marshmallows on top, of course!  One year I decided to add chopped pecans, to the dismay of my family!  I still haven’t heard the end of that.  The broccoli casserole that really isn’t all that healthy, but so well loved.  And let’s not forget the cranberry sauce!  I always make a homemade version, yet that canned jellied stuff has to be there too!

A perfect bread for Thanksgiving
Still, there is one recipe that is most important to me. It just wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving if it wasn’t on my breakfast table, smeared with cream cheese.  It’s my Aunt Emma’s Dark Date Nut bread.  I posted it here a few years ago. Then last year, one of my dear friends brought me a loaf of her date nut bread, and it was delicious!  Her recipe includes instant coffee in the list of ingredients, and is moist with a lovely texture.
I enjoy my date nut bread served cold from the fridge, with all the flavors melded together, tasting so much better the second day!  I will always make my Aunt Emma’s date nut bread! It’s tradition! However, this year I made two date nut breads!  I did a taste test and loved them both! Perfect with a cup of tea, coffee, or even a big glass of milk!  I hope you’ll give them a try. They are both quite wonderful, and you can be the judge!
Wishing you all a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Just out of the oven…cooling
Moist, lovely texture and oh so delicious
Perfect with a cup of tea, coffee or a big glass of milk
I like mine for breakfast…with a schmear of cream cheese…yum!

Arlene’s Dark Date-Nut Bread
Adapted slightly from original 

1 lb. dates
2 ½  tsp. baking soda
1 tablespoon of instant coffee (I used Medaglia D’oro)
2 cups boiling water
Chop dates, sprinkle with baking soda and instant coffee, then pour the boiling water over the date mixture and let set for at least 1 hour.

2 sticks of butter
1 ¾ cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups of chopped nuts

Beat butter and sugar together till light and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add vanilla.  Then mix in the flour and date mixture. Fold in the nuts.
Divide the mixture between two 9x5 loaf pans that have been greased and floured.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until done and a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, November 22, 2013

FFWD ~ Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples (a make up post)

FFWD ~ Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples

This week consisted of shopping, baking and plenty of cleaning. It’s the week before Thanksgiving and, it's been crazy busy around here!  My family will be converging on my house for a few days.  In addition to planning our Thanksgiving dinner, I will also be planning a few easy weeknight meals and breakfast for the crew.  So, when “Salty-Sweet Potato Far” was picked for this friday,  I just couldn’t bring myself to take the time to make something that I knew Bill wasn’t going to eat.  Frankly, it just didn’t appeal to me either!  Maybe after the reviews are in, I will give it a try.  In the mean time, I decided to post a make up, that I missed while I was on vacation.  For me, this week's French Friday is all about Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples.

Join me on the porch…won’t you?
Rice pudding is something I grew up on, evoking many wonderful memories!  As a child, I loved it more than cake! It has always topped my list of ultimate “comfort foods”.  My mom made a version that was made with evaporated milk, and baked in the oven. It would develop this most wonderful crust on top.  My brother and I would fight over it!
In later years, my rice pudding of choice, was a simpler version that I received from my cousin Jayne.  It’s made with milk, on top of the stove, with a beaten egg and vanilla added at the end.  Wonderfully creamy and oh so good!  I’ve never met a rice pudding I didn’t like, so I was really excited to make Dorie’s version!  Her recipe calls for Arborio rice, cooked partially in water. Then, the prepared rice is cooked in milk, along with some sugar until the rice is very tender and most of the milk is absorbed.  Dorie adds, "It is important not to let all the milk be absorbed, or the pudding will be stiff". I think I worried about this too much, because I don’t think I let mine absorb enough milk. It tended to be a bit watery, but still creamy and delicious!

Now, I don’t know if this pudding was so luscious because of the creamy texture, or the amazing caramel apples.  The apples were easy to make.  Begin by moistening sugar with lemon juice in a skillet, then letting it bubble away until a caramel is produced.  Then remove the pan from the heat, and add the butter, swirling the pan to mix. Place the pan back on the heat and add apple cider. Once it comes to a boil, add the apples and cook until tender.  Pour in the heavy cream, boil for one minute and let cool.  You now have the most wonderful caramel apples you will ever taste!  Just this girls humble opinion. This was a truly a delectable dessert!  The rice pudding, although a little too moist, tasted creamy and rich! The caramel apples took it over the top! My husband and I decided "it’s a keeper"!  Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, “Around My French Table”, or
here at Epicurious.

Starting the caramel, with the sugar and lemon juice
Apples sliced and ready to be used 
Apples cooking in the caramelized sugar and cider
After the heavy cream was poured in
The caramelized apples….amazing!
This was so good…creamy, rich and delectable!