Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fennel Fig & Almond Bread

Delicious Fennel Fig & Almond Bread

Figs have always been a favorite of mine. Fresh, with a drizzle of honey are the best, or served on a platter with cheese. However, when fresh is not available, dried is the next best thing.  I always have a container or two or three in my pantry.
Several months ago, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s, one of my favorite stores, they had just put out containers of mission figs. Since I am a figaholic, if there is such a thing, I picked up a few containers!  I use dried figs to make fig conserve (a Lebanese treat that my grandmother used to make…kind of like a jam). I also use them in breads, cookies, cakes, and of course, I just eat them right out of the container. When I brought my figs home, I realized I already had two packages of figs in my pantry.  That’s a lot of figs!  
The holidays came and went, and I forgot about all those figs sitting there! Then I saw this luscious looking Fennel Fig bread by Nick Malgieri on Patty’s Food.  She has a great blog, with gorgeous photos and baked goods! I was inspired!!  So, with a little inspiration from Patty, and all those figs sitting in my pantry, I grabbed my copy of Modern Baker and made Nick’s Fennel Fig and Almond Bread.  I used Anise seed in place of the fennel, as they have a similar flavor.  Since I use anise in my fig conserve, I knew the flavor worked well with figs!  I was right! This bread was wonderful! Moist, fruity and delectable.  I was not surprised!  I’ve never made a recipe by Nick that disappointed me!!

The aroma of this bread was fabulous
It was delicious with my fig jam


Fennel Fig & Almond Bread
from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri 

"This delicious bread was inspired by a fragrant golden raisin, fennel, and cornmeal bread created by my friend Amy Scherber, owner of Amy's Bread in New York City."

Makes one 9x5x3 loaf, 12 to 16 slices

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned into measuring cup and leveled off)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed (I used Anise)
6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1-1/2 cups (8 to 9 oz) stemmed and diced white or black dried figs
1 cup (about 4 oz) slivered almonds, lightly toasted

One 9x5x3 loaf pan, buttered and the bottom lined with a rectangle of parchment or buttered wax paper cut to fit


Set a rack in middle level of oven and preheat to 350°.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and fennel seeds in a medium bowl and stir well to mix.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then beat in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat 1/2 the flour mixture into the butter and egg mixture, then gently beat in the milk about 1/3 at a time. Beat in the remaining flour mixture. Use a large rubber spatula to fold in the figs and almonds.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the bread until it is well risen and a toothpick or narrow bladed knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool the bread in the pan on rack for 5 minutes, then unmold it and cool it completely on rack. Transfer bread to a platter or cutting board before serving.

Serving: Cut the bread into thin slices and serve with butter or cream cheese.

Storage: Keep the bread under a cake dome or loosely wrapped in plastic wrap on the day it is made. Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and keep at room temp for up to 3 to 4 days. Freeze for longer storage.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Swiss Chard Pancakes or “Farçous” ~ FFWD

Absolutely wonderful Swiss Chard Kale Pancakes or “Farçous”

Spring has finally sprung. Days are longer, temps are higher and the sun is shining! I have come out of hibernation! It happens every spring, my burst of energy. Why should this year be any different? This has been a crazy week. Working in my garden and yard clean up was at the top of my "to do" list. Also, we decided to have our little powder room redone. I expected my contractor to call on monday, he didn’t! So on tuesday, feeling a bit energetic, I began to tear up the tile floor. After hammering away at that floor for a few hours, I was famished! I immediately thought about our French Friday pick. Reading the recipe through, I knew it would be quick and easy so, I decided to make them for my lunch!

These were so yummy…similar to a crepe in texture, but thicker!  I served mine with sour cream.

The recipe was for Swiss Chard Pancakes or “Farçous”.  According to Dorie, these “Farçous” are a type of crepe or galette loaded with greens, especially swiss chard. They are a staple throughout southwest France. I made mine with kale. I still had a bunch growing in my garden, left over from last year. Other than that, I pretty much followed the recipe. Typically these pancakes are served with a salad as a main course or, as an hors d’oeuvre, where you might serve them with a dipping sauce. Dorie also suggests trying different herbs. Next time, I think I’ll try some rosemary or thyme. These were really quite easy. I only made half the recipe, since I was pretty sure my husband wouldn’t be eating them ( I was right ).
I used my new "Vitamix" to mix these up. I placed all the ingredients into the blender container and blended away! Easy…right? Now it’s time to fry them up. Add some oil to a frypan, then add the batter in scant ¼ cup measurements. Cook for a few minutes on each side, being careful not to crowd them in the pan.
Oh my goodness…they were incredible! I really loved the texture of these little pancakes. The eggs gave them the perfect consistency and, added a richness to their flavor.
These “Farçous” rate a two thumbs up from me! Next time I will be making the whole batch and freezing them. I loved having these little gems for my lunch this past week while I was in my spring fever mode! The old floor is gone, now onto the garden!! Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table”, you can also find the recipe here. To see what other Dorista’s are doing with this one, check it out here.

Kale still growing in my garden…so fresh and tasty
Batter in blender jar 
Two thumbs up….I will be making these again very soon
I plan an trying these with other herbs and of course the swiss chard…Bon Appétit  
Happy Spring everyone!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

FFWD Cod and Spinach Roulades

Cod and Spinach Roulades

Skipping this weeks FF recipe was not an option, although I thought about it. I enjoy fish, I really do!  However, mashing it up and making a roulade out of it….eeehh!  I also knew my husband would never eat this. He doesn’t do cooked spinach!  So, I bought enough cod to make my roulades, and  baked the remaining fish for him.  
This was actually, much easier than I thought it would be.  I opted not to make the Tomato-Lemon Sauce. I wasn’t going to buy a jar of preserved lemons, for a dish that only I would be eating.  
The filling was to the point. Sauté a finely chopped small onion and clove of garlic, then add about 6 ounces of spinach to the pan, with a tablespoon of water to wilt the spinach. I added lemon zest and a few squirts of lemon juice.  Remove the spinach mixture from the pan, chop and reserve.
This was much better than expected
Now onto the fish. This was the part that I found much easier than expected. Cut the cod into pieces, then place in the bowl of a food processor, along with egg whites, heavy cream, and salt and pepper.  Process a few minutes till well mixed.  
For each roulade, spread a quarter of the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap, making a 3x5 rectangle with the fish mixture.  Place spinach mixture down the middle and, using the plastic wrap, start to roll the mixture. Wrap in the plastic and refrigerate. When ready to serve, place in a steamer for about 10 minutes.  Now they’re ready.
Cut off the ends of plastic wrap and unwrap. Slice each roll into fourths and serve. You can serve these with the Tomato-Lemon sauce, basil pesto or just an olive oil drizzle.  
These roulades actually surprised me. They were quite good.  However, not good enough for me to  make again. When it comes to fish, I have to agree with my husband ( but we won’t tell him ), baked or grilled is better!  Happy Friday, everyone! 

Chopped spinach
Spinach placed down the middle of cod mousse
Starting to roll the fish…easier than it looks
Wrapping in the plastic wrap
The rolls of cod mousse…with spinach filling…you can refrigerate up to 4 hours
Place in a steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes
This was pretty good…just not spectacular!! 

The recipe for Cod and Spinach Roulades can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table” and here.  To see what the other Doristas are doing, check it out here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TWD ~ Madeleines

TWD-Baking with Julia Madeleines

This week’s Baking with Julia challenge is for Madeleines.  The contributing baker is Flo Braker. Madeleines and I go way back.  I’ve made dozens of them at one time or another.  I’ve made them for wedding showers and baby showers. I’ve made them for lunch with the ladies, and I’ve made them for a simple dessert, served with ice cream. My favorite way to enjoy madeleines are with a cup of tea.  

They are a classic little French tea cake made with a Génoise batter...spongy, light and elegant. They have been made quite famous by Marcel Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past”.  Because of his words, they will forever be linked together. 

Tea anyone?

My first experience with madeleines came after reading about them in Martha Stewart’s cookbook “Entertaining”. They were so cute and I was totally intrigued.  Martha’s recipe is still my favorite for a classic Madeleine. I’ve made several different varieties through the years: lemon, chocolate (which I posted), rose and poppyseed. All of these lovely cakes have one thing in common, they are all delicious! 

For this recipe, I put together the Génoise batter from Baking with Julia. It consists of butter, flour, sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla. I did some online research and found a video of Julia Child and Flo Braker making the Génoise and Madeleines Part 1 and Part 2 .  After your batter is made, immediately fill the prepared Madeleine moulds. Madeleine batter rises quite a bit, so only fill the mould halfway.  I do not flour my moulds.  I find the madeleines come out much better with a double coating of butter.  Brush on melted butter, place the mould in the fridge till it hardens, and then add another layer of butter, refrigerate again. I have never had a problem with sticking. 

I made these cakes last week and froze them as soon as they cooled.  I had plans for those little cakes! We were heading to Long Island for my granddaughters birthday and, I thought these would be a lovely addition to her birthday cake.  So, the morning of her party I took them from the freezer to thaw, sprinkled on a little powdered sugar, and served them at her 9th birthday party!  Happy Birthday, Josie!! They were enjoyed by all!

This recipe made a delicious Madeleines, but I don’t think they were as spongy as others I’ve made. I found them to be a little dry.
Our host this week for TWD: Baking with Julia was Katie and Amy Thisdell of Counter Dog.
The recipe will be posted on their blog.  Happy Tuesday everyone!

The Madeleine mould…buttered
Eggs and sugar beaten together until ribbons form….now fold in the flour mixture and melted butter
Just baked…characteristic humps
Delicious and elegant…a perfect tea cake
These had a great texture

Madeleine anyone?

Friday, April 12, 2013

FFWD ~ Financiers

Beautiful, and blissfully delicious!
This weeks recipe for French Fridays is Financiers (pronounced fee-nahng-syehr).  A very elegant Parisian tea cake with a rich, buttery taste.  The best thing about this recipe was, I got to use my cute little tart molds. They have been hiding in the back of my kitchen cabinet for a very long time.

Dorie tells us that Financiers were first made in the late 19th century, by a pastry chef whose shop was close to the Paris Stock Exchange. He baked them in rectangular molds that resembled gold bars or ingots.  He was inspired by the hurried stock brokers, who would come into his shop to buy a pastry each day.  He wanted to make something they could eat without a knife or fork.   Hence the name, Financiers!

While you could use a Financier mold to bake these cakes, I chose to use my little tart molds. Dorie suggests you could also use a mini muffin tin.
This batter was easy to assemble.  First making the beurre noisette (browned butter).  This is basically clarified butter, which has been cooked until the solids start to brown.  It adds a deep nutty flavor to the batter.
Put the sugar and almond flour in a medium saucepan, and stir to mix. Add the egg whites, stirring over low heat till the mixture is slightly white, runny and hot to the touch.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour. Then gradually blend in the melted butter.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
When you’re ready to bake these, preheat your oven to 400°.  Prepare your pans or molds, and add the batter. These are wonderfully delicious plain, but are so very lovely when topped with raspberries, blackberries, thin slices of peaches or strawberries.  I made several topped with pine nuts, and they were so good.  I put my berries on before I put them in the oven. However, I’ve read that  adding the fruit halfway through the baking cycle, will prevent sinking.
Bill and I each ate one, right out of the oven. They were delectable!!  I froze the rest. I plan on bringing them to my granddaughter’s birthday party this weekend.  I’m sure they will be a big hit! I will definitely be baking these again…quite often!
Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table” or on Dorie’s blog where it is posted.  If you’d like to see what the other Dorista’s have done, check it out here.

My cute little tart pans that finally got to come out of the closet!
Why haven’t I used them before?
I placed a raspberry on each one….they were so cute
I also made a few with pine nuts…oh the possibilities!  
I can’t wait to make the chocolate version
Happy Friday, everyone!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Food Bloggers Against Hunger…..Pasta e Fagioli

"Hungry children suffer. And 16 million kids in America aren't getting the food they need. “

I'm blogging against hunger….
“Because a world where a billion people live in chronic hunger is unacceptable!”

As a food blogger, food is an integral part of my life.  I spend my time talking and blogging about all things food. That’s what food bloggers do. However, my heart breaks when I realize how many kids go to bed hungry each night.  I’m not talking about a third world country. I’m talking about right here in the USA.  I’m talking about right here in my state of New Jersey. 

"People are hungry in New Jersey. Though the state ranks as one of the nation’s wealthiest, more residents are turning to emergency food pantries and soup kitchens as jobs disappear and living costs increase, leaving them with less money for food. The number of people seeking food assistance in New Jersey has risen as much as 30 percent in some areas. As a result, the cupboards of these charitable organizations are becoming bare and in need of sustained efforts to enable their work to continue.”

"Nearly 1 in 5 children in America lives in a household that struggles to put food on the table.  They may look no different than other children; child hunger in America is often invisible. They are hurting just the same.”  

I have volunteered in my church's soup kitchen.  It is an extremely humbling experience.  These people are not what you think of when you think about hunger. The face of hunger is not any different from yours.  The unfortunate person who may have lost a job, the single mother who struggles to make ends meet, or the elderly who live on a fixed income. They are our neighbors. 
Millions of Americans who participate in the nation’s food stamp program are limited to an average of $3 or $4 per person daily, to supplement their food budget. Do you think you could feed your family on $4 a day?  Food keeps getting more expensive. I can’t walk out of my grocery store without spending at least twenty dollars per bag. My church pantry can’t keep up with the demand for food.  What used to last a few months is now being depleted within a few weeks. This is America and no child, no person should suffer from hunger.

The recipe: I wanted to make a nutritious, economical meal that could feed a family of four to six for very little.  I decided, my recipe for Pasta e Fagioli was a perfect choice. Trying to keep meals healthy and economical is a challenging job, but it is possible. This recipe calls for readily available ingredients. Canned tomatoes, pasta, and cannellini beans.  You can find the recipe here

Wonderfully delicious and satisfying it will feed a family for just a few dollars

Preview ~ A Place at the Table ~ A documentary about hunger in America

Some things you can do to help…Please...

Tell Congress:
Federal nutrition programs are crucial for hungry children 

Take 30 seconds to write CONGRESS, urge them to reconsider the cuts to SNAP and other hunger programs.

Join the Hunger Core


FOLLOW The Giving Table and Share Our Strength - No Kid Hungry to stay informed about the war on hunger
Please get involved…we can help end hunger in America!

See "A Place at the Table"

This post participates with The Giving Table’s Food Bloggers Against Hunger


Friday, April 5, 2013

FFWD ~ Pierre Hermé’s Olive Sablés and Lemon Steamed Spinach

Strange ingredients make for lovely Sablés

After being absent for two fridays, I’m back!  I picked a great week to return.  This weeks pick was for Pierre Hermé’s Olive Sablés.  I must admit, I was totally intrigued by this cookie.  Who puts olives in cookies?  Well, the French, of course!!!  To be honest, since I’ve been participating with French Fridays, strange ingredients don’t surprise me anymore! These sablés consist of a hard cooked egg yolk, butter, olive oil, potato starch, flour and powdered sugar. Oh, and chopped black, oil cured olives!  Olives in cookies?  Well, yes!!  I’ve come to trust Dorie on these issues.

These were an easy cookie to put together.  Grate the egg yolk onto waxed paper.  Then sift the flour with the potato starch (something new to add to my pantry), set aside. Next, beat the butter till soft and creamy.  Beat in the olive oil and egg yolk.  Blend in the confectionary sugar and flour mixture and stir in the chopped olives.  Shape the dough into logs, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  When it’s time to bake, set your oven to 325°,  slice and bake your sablés.

I would make these again, using the olives.  So good! I would also think of  other additions…such as chocolate chips.
Dorie suggests a fruity blend of olive oil for these sablés, and I just happened to have the perfect oil sitting in my pantry. A great little bottle of Tahitian Lime Olive Oil, that I picked up at Home Goods!   It was a perfect addition! The lime slightly permiated the sablés, giving them a lovely lime flavor.  The taste was delightful!
Dorie suggests serving these lovely little sablés with wine or Champaign, perfect for cocktails.  I had mine with tea and they were great!  These were a hit in my house. Even Mikey loved them, oh I meant Bill!  Happy Friday everyone!

Loved this olive oil…imparted a delightful lime flavor
Baked…the aroma was wonderful
These were surprisingly delicious…a real treat

While I’m here…I’m posting a photo of my Lemon Steamed Spinach (last weeks pick). This was a very easy way to serve spinach! It was delicious and I would definitely make it again.


The recipes for both of these dishes can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table”.  You can find the recipe for Pierre Hermé’s Olive Sablés here.  To see what the other Doristas are doing check it out here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Strawberry Chiffon Pie and a Happy Easter

Luscious Strawberry Chiffon Pie
I hope everyone had a glorious Easter.  I spent the week leading up to Easter, doing all kinds of fun things with three of my darling grandchildren. There was no time for computers or baking.  We visited Washington’s Headquarters and Jockey Hollow.  They are part of the National Park Service and a wonderful New Jersey treasure.  The week was fun, exhausting, educational and filled with much activity from sunrise to sunset.  We colored eggs, hunted eggs, and spent many hours at the park trying to use up their seemingly endless energy.  I helped with homework ( the new math? ), read many stories and tucked everyone in at night. All and all we had a great week!  
My daughter and her husband came in on Easter saturday.  Now I could put together my Easter dessert.  I chose a Strawberry Chiffon pie.  The stores were full of lovely sweet, spring strawberries…making this pie a perfect choice! This strawberry chiffon pie has a light, fluffy strawberry cream filling and was a delicious end to a wonderful dinner!

My grandchildren couldn’t wait to dig in
So fluffy and light
A perfect end to a delicious meal
Oh so yummy…It’s a good thing!!

Strawberry Chiffon Pie

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes


½ cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
¼ cup cold water
½ cup boiling water
¾  cup sugar, divided
1½ cups strawberries, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
9-inch pie crust, baked (use your favorite pie crust recipe mine follows)

Whip cream, and set aside.
Soak gelatin in cold water. Add boiling water and stir until dissolved. Cool.
Stir in ½ cup sugar, strawberries and salt. Chill stirring occasionally until partially set; fold in whipped cream.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks, gradually add a ¼ cup of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold into strawberry mixture.
Pour into baked pie crust and chill, at least 5 hours. Garnish with additional whipped cream and strawberries if desired.

Flaky Pie Dough
Recipe by Nick Malgieri
Ingredients for a one-crust pie, about 10 ounces:

1 1/4 cups allpurpose bleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Ingredients for a twocrust pie, about 1 1/4 pounds dough:
2 1/2 cups (about 11 ounces) allpurpose bleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
4 to 6 tablespoons cold water


To mix the dough by hand, combine flour, salt and baking powder in a medium sized mixing bowl and stir well to mix. Cut butter into 1tablespoon pieces and add to dry ingredients. Toss once or twice to coat pieces of butter. Then using your hands or a pastry blender, break the butter into tiny pieces and pinch and squeeze it into the dry ingredients. Keep the mixture uniform by occasionally reaching down to the bottom of the bowl and mixing all the ingredients evenly together. Continue rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarseground cornmeal and no large pieces of butter remain visible.

Sprinkle the minimum amount of water over the butter and flour mixture and stir gently with a fork the dough should begin holding together. If the mixture still appears dry and crumbly, add the remaining water, 1 teaspoon at a time for the smaller quantity of dough, a tablespoon at a time for the larger quantity, until the dough holds together easily.

To mix the dough in the food processor, combine flour, salt and baking powder in work bowl fitted with metal blade. Pulse 3 times at 1second intervals to mix. Cut butter into 1 tablespoon pieces and add to work bowl. Process, pulsing repeatedly at 1second intervals, until the mixture is fine and powdery, resembles a coarseground cornmeal and no large pieces of butter remain visible about 15 pulses in all.

Scatter the minimum amount of water on the butter and flour mixture and pulse 5 or 6 times the dough should begin holding together. If the mixture still appears dry and crumbly, add the remaining water, 1 teaspoon at a time for the smaller quantity of dough,one tablespoon at a time for the larger quantity, until the dough holds together easily.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a disk (two equal disks for the larger amount of dough). Sandwich the disk(s) of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and press it into a 6inch circle. Refrigerate the dough until firm, or until you are ready to use it, at least 1 hour.