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12 posts from November 2016

11/30/2016

~ Dried Cherry-Berry & Walnut Holiday Cheese Ball ~

IMG_3430'Tis the season for holiday cheese balls or cheese logs.  They're in all ordinary grocery stores and specialty cheese shops, or, they can be ordered from catalogs or on-line.  For the most part, they are a popular addition to the holiday nosh table -- given to the right person, they make a thoughtful gift too.  They pair great with any type of wine or champagne and almost any cocktail. Did you know these tasty (and often pricey) cheese balls are really easy to make at home?

IMG_3365 IMG_3340Back in the 1970's and 1980's, port wine cheese, and, the relatively inexpensive store-bought "port wine cheese ball" rolled in walnuts was a very trendy snack.  Port wine cheese is not gourmet.  It's an American snack cheese made by processing yellow sharp cheddar, tangy cream cheese and sweet port wine.  It's best served at room temperature, which renders it spreadable.  It's sold in slabs/chunks, rolled into nut-coated balls or logs, and/or, packed into pretty porcelain crocks.  

Homemade port wine cheese is super-easy to make in a food processor, but:  it won't have the signature neon-pink rainbow-like marbling.  It's a solid color, but, is every bit as tasty:

IMG_3455For full retro cheese ball affect:  "Put it on a Ritz!"

IMG_32908  ounces finely-grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese

8  ounces cream cheese, or neufchatel cheese*, at room temperature, very soft (Note: Remove from the refrigerator two hours in advance.)

1/4  cup inexpensive port wine, a fortified Portuguese wine

1  tablespoon Worcestershire

1  cup finely-chopped dried cherry, blueberry, cranberry and golden raisin blend (2 ounces each)

3/4  cup finely-chopped walnuts (about 6 ounces)

Ritz crackers, for serving

IMG_3452*Note:  Back in my day, everyone used cream cheese to make all types of cheese balls. Nowadays neufchâtel cheese is often substituted. It's packaged almost identically to cream cheese and located right next to it at the store. Both are dense, tangy and spreadable.  The biggest difference between the two:  the neufchâtel is made using milk exclusively (23% milk fat), and, cream cheese is made with milk and cream (33% milk fat).  What does this mean?  

Neufchâtel contains about a third less fat.  To learn more, click on the Related Article link below. 

IMG_3295Step 1.  Place the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, port wine and Worcestershire sauce in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of 30-40 rapid on-off pulses, process until cream cheese is incorporated. Open the lid and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the lid and turn the motor on, to process until smooth, about 20-30 seconds.

IMG_3305IMG_3298Step 2. Carefully remove the steel blade from the processor.  Using the spatula, transfer mixture to a food storage container and refrigerate until cheese is firm enough to remove from container, about 2 hours or longer (until it's the texture of stiff manageable cookie dough).

IMG_3406~ Step 3.  While the cheese mixture is chilling, chop the dried fruit and the walnuts as directed.

Note:  In one of my local markets (Sam's Club), I purchase 12-ounce bags of sweetened, dried "berry blends".  I keep a bag or two on-hand in my freezer at all times.  The blend I like best contains a combination of dried tart cherries, blueberries and cranberries.  I just chop half a bag (6 ounces) up along with 2 ounces of golden raisins, plus the walnuts.  Easy.

IMG_3416 IMG_3418 IMG_3422 IMG_3423~Step 4.  Remove the cheese mixture from the refrigerator and divide it in half.  I like to use a kitchen scale as a measure.  Place the two clumps on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Using the palms of your hands, while working as quickly as possible, form into two even-sized cheese balls (or logs if you prefer).  You will have, two, 8-ounce cheese balls or cheese logs:

IMG_3424~ Step 5.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 more hours, or up to 3 days in advance.  Remove from refrigerator and allow to soften, 30-45 minutes, prior to serving with crackers: 

IMG_3451Dried Cherry-Berry & Walnut Holiday Cheese Ball:  Recipe yields 2, 8-ounce cheese balls or logs, approximately, 16-20 Ritz-cracker-sized portions per ball or log.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; large rubber spatula; 4-cup measuring food storage container w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; ; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; kitchen scale (optional) parchment or wax paper

IMG_3695Cook's Note: Dips and spreads are also quinessential holiday noshes. One of my favorites, which is popular and appropriate any time of of the year is:  ~ Pretty in Pink:  A Simple Smoked Salmon Spread ~. You can find my recipe in Categories 1, 9, 14, 22 or 26.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/28/2016

~ The Morning After: Thanksgiving Stuffing Waffles ~

IMG_3385Thanksgiving.  I love all the pomp and circumstance and I always cook a full-blown, traditional feast with all the trimmings.  Stuffing.  Next to a cold turkey sandwich on white bread with lettuce, tomato and mayo the next day, stuffing is the dish I like best (we all have our #1 favorite).  I could skip the other stuff -- I'm fine with a plate of steamy stuffing and a ladle of gravy on Turkey Day, reheated the next day, or, a cold slice of stuffing as a snack for a day or two or three afterward.

What's the difference between "stuffing" and "dressing"?

IMG_3353"Back in the days", before large wall ovens, small toaster ovens and microwaves, space in the home kitchen was almost always limited, so, stuffing was almost always "stuffed" inside the bird -- it was also a smart way to get an inexpensive, extra side-dish that "stretched the meal" a bit (without taking up any extra time or precious space). This method also kept Grandma's stuffing super-moist with a steamed, pudding-like texture. When stuffing is baked in a casserole (not in the bird), the technical term for it is indeed "dressing", but, in our family, we settled on calling it "stuffing casserole".  I love "the stuff".

IMG_3358Imagine my glee when I found out I could make waffles out of leftover stuffing for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Why didn't I think of that? No matter.  I'm just grateful I found out.  It changed my life. It's a reason to get my Belgian waffle iron out on Thanksgiving evening (as I would never consider making waffles of any type from scratch on the morning after such an exhausting holiday).  "Big, thick, Belgian-style stuffing waffles (with all the trimmings) for breakfast or brunch."

"Big, thick, Belgian-style stuffing waffles with all the trimmings.  Just saying those words makes me salivate.

Use your favorite moist stuffing -- they will all work. I use my mom's cracker stuffing casserole (see Cook's Note below for details).  It's got a moist, bread puddling-esque consistency.  That said, if you plan on making stuffing waffles, it's best to use the soft center of the baked casserole rather than the crispy edges, and, I always microwave it for a moment to heat it up -- heating it softens it which allows it to smoosch easily into the nooks and crannies of the waffle iron. 

~ Step 1.  Heat 1 cup cooked stuffing in the microwave, place it on grids of preheated Belgian waffle iron & close the lid:

IMG_3359~ Step 2.  Cook waffle(s) 3-4 minutes until sizzling & golden:

IMG_3369~ Step 3.  Using a thin spatula, remove waffle & invert it onto a serving plate -- the bottom of the waffle is prettier than the top:

IMG_3382~ Step 4.  Top with your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers:

IMG_3393The Morning After:  Thanksgiving Stuffing Waffles:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many "leftover stuffing waffles" as you want.

Special Equipment List:  Belgian waffle iron; 1/2 cup measure, preferably microwave safe; thin spatula and/or fork

IMG_7515 IMG_7492Cook's Note: Feel free to use your favorite stuffing recipe to make waffles out of baked stuffing.  That said, ~ I Just Love My Mom's Cracker Stuffing Casserole ~. Made with saltine crackers, milk, eggs and ground beef, after it's baked, this savory mixture has the consistency of bread pudding.  It makes awesome waffles.  You can find the recipe in Categories 4, 12, 18 or 19.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2016)

11/25/2016

~Time Out: Tomahawk Steak (Long Bone-In Ribeye)~

IMG_3229The tomahawk ribeye steak, also known as a "cowboy" or a "long bone-in" ribeye is a specialty cut that you assuredly won't find at your local supermarket.  Without jest (no joke), I literally found one on my kitchen doorstep, leaning up against the kitchen/laundry room door, this very morning.  I have a friend, Scott.  He owns a few well-known Happy Valley restaurants (you locals all know who he is, and, he is one reason I get to call myself a cooking consultant).  He likes to surprise me unexpectedly with unique ingredients occasionally.  Today, while driving to and from his eateries, he decided to drop one of these fancy-schmancy steaks off for me to cook at home.  No.  He didn't knock at my door or ring our bell.  He just put it on the doorstep and left. He knew I was home, and, within seconds, my three poodles were howling.  I opened the door, picked up what resembled a fireman's ax made of red meat, grinned, and speed-dialed Scott.

"I found a gorgeous hunk of meat on my doorstep & I don't mean you."

IMG_3216

"I take offense to that", said Scott (who was laughing out loud and barely out of our driveway), "It's a pretty nice day outside today and I thought you might want to grill one of these for dinner." I assured him that was indeed my new plan -- turkey leftovers be damned.  Even after I offered, he didn't have time to turn around and come in for even a short visit.  We agreed to catch up sometime next week, and, I decided this steak would make a great impromptu blog post.  

It is:  "time out" from turkey to grill a tomahawk steak today!

A bit about tomahawk steak:  These are huge steaks that resemble a single-handled fireman's ax.  They are about 18-20 total inches long, 2-2 1/2 inches thick, and, weight approximately 30-40 ounces each.  Why so long?  The rib bone, which they "French" (they remove the meat to expose the bone), is left extra-extra-long for a powerful (and pricey) presentation.  Why so thick? Because that's how thick the rib bone is.  This is one show-stopper of an impressive steak.

IMG_3226So how does the home cook handle this hunk of meat?

THE REVERSE SEAR METHOD

IMG_3247Aside from its intimidating size, it's easier than you think, and, Joe and I are no strangers to what is referred to as the reverse sear method -- we've been cooking 2"-thick bone-in veal loin chops this way for over twenty years.  For a 2"-thick steak:

IMG_3261Season meat with coarse salt and pepper and place on grill, as far from indirect high heat as possible (we use the upper rack). Close lid. Heat meat to an internal temperature of 115°, 6-7 minutes per side, turning only once.

IMG_3314Immediately after the above has been accomplished, the steak goes on the direct high heat for a quick sear on both sides, long enough to grill-mark it, flipping it every 45-60 seconds for 2-3 minutes. After that, all it needs is an 8-10 minute rest, to redistribute the juices, then it's time to slice and eat.  To recap process:

Bring steak to room temp (1 hour), then season w/sea salt & pepper: 

IMG_3242Place steak on grill rack above high indirect heat & close lid:

IMG_3253Cook until meat reaches an internal temperature of 115°-116°.  This will take about 6-7 minutes per side, turning only once:

IMG_3267Place over high heat to sear, about 1-1 1/2 minutes per side:

IMG_3278Remove from heat & rest 5-10 minutes.  Slice & eat:

IMG_3321Pure perfection from first bite to the last boney nibble:

IMG_3349Time Out:  Tomahawk Steak (Long Bone-In Ribeye):  Recipe yields instructions to grill, via the reverse sear method, one tomahawk steak/serves two.

Special Equipment List: gas grill; instant read meat-thermometer; long-handled grilling spatula

IMG_0105Cook's Note:  Worcestershire or any thick, store-bought (or homemade) steak sauce is all wrong for a tomahawk steak.  So what do I recommend?  What I keep on-hand in my freezer.  My bold and fresh recipe for ~ Chimichurri:  The Sauce Steak Can't Live Without ~. You can find the recipe in Categories 8, 10 13, 14 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/22/2016

~ How to: Oven-Roast Butternut Squash (Halves) ~

IMG_3043I love butternut squash and every Fall Joe's garden gifts us with a few beauties. Some are big and some are small, some are short and some are tall -- I love them all.  Butternut squash, how do I love thee, let me count the ways:  1) Sliced raw and baked into main or side-dish casseroles.  2) Peeled, cubed, seasoned and roasted, or, sliced into halves, roasted and mashed as tasty side-dishes.  3)  Steamed to make purée for appetizers, soups and desserts.

IMG_3134A bit about butternut squash: Butternut squash is one of our healthy super-foods. That’s great but I'd eat it even if it weren't, and, when it comes to savory applications, I prefer its subtly-sweet taste it to the noticeably blander pumpkin.  For the most part, all Winter squash are pretty quick and easy to prepare.  My favorite methods for rendering them tender and edible are roasting and steaming, as boiling, in my opinion, IMG_3140leaches out whatever flavor they have to offer.  Like pumpkin, butternut squash falls into the category of Winter squash -- which differs from Summer squash (like zucchini and yellow crookneck) in that their skin is hard and inedible. They're allowed to fully-mature on the vine and once harvested in the Fall, if kept in a cool, dry place, they can be stored for several months.

Winter squash was one of the three main crops planted by the Native Americans.  Known as the "three sisters" (corn, beans and squash) they were highly-prized for their extra-long shelf life.

IMG_3142When it some to roasting butternut squash halves, size matters. Common sense says:  a larger squash will take longer to roast than a small one, and, when oven-roasting multiple squash, 2-4-6 at the same time, it's important to choose those as close in size and shape as you can.  Today, for demonstration purposes, I'm using:

2, 2-2 1/4-pound butternut squash, unpeeled and sliced in half lengthwise and seeded

2  tablespoons vegetable oil, for brushing on squash

IMG_3146~ Step 1.  Prep the squash as directed (and pictured) above, and, using a pastry brush, paint the yellow interior surface of each half with the oil.  Place the squash halves, side-by-side, oiled-sides-down, on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.

IMG_3149~ Step 2.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, until skins are browning and blistering and a knife can be easily inserted into the skin and through to the baking pan, about 45-50 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool in the pan until squash can be easily handled with the hands, 15-20 minutes.

IMG_3152Note:  Right now, you have a wonderful side-dish for four people. Serve with butter pats, salt and pepper (plus a drizzle of honey or maple syrup), just as you would a baked potato or sweet potato.  Or:

~ Step 3.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, scoop the soft, tender, pretty-orange centers from the tough skin and use as directed in whatever recipe you are following.

Two 2-21/4-pound squash (halved) = 3-3 1/2 cups cooked squash.

IMG_3156How to:  Oven-Roast Butternut Squash (Halves):  Recipe yields instructions to perfectly-roast halved and seeded butternut squash.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; tablespoon; pastry brush; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b019b01d8c9dd970bCook's Note:  If you enjoy snacking on roasted pumpkin seeds as much as I do, you'll be thrilled to find out that squash seeds, which are about the same size and texture, are just as good, if not better.  To see how I do it, click into Category 2, 15 or 18 and learn ~ How to: Clean & Roast Pumpkin (or Squash) Seeds ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/20/2016

~ Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque ~

IMG_3213This sinfully-simple, creamy-rich butternut squash bisque is one of my favorite go-to Turkey Day specialties.  I don't serve it every year, but on years when my husband has harvested a bumper crop, it starts off our traditional feast.  It looks pretty and tastes divine.  There's more: It is indeed easy to prepare, and, it can be made two-three days in advance too.  All it needs is a gentle reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave and it's ready to take to the table and serve.

IMG_3043A bit about butternut squash:  Butternut squash is one of our healthy super-foods. That’s great but I'd eat it even if it weren't, and, when it comes to savory applications, I prefer its subtly-sweet taste it to the noticeably blander pumpkin.  For the most part, all Winter squash are pretty quick and easy to prepare.  My favorite methods for rendering them tender and edible are roasting and steaming, as boiling, in my opinion, leaches out whatever flavor they have to offer.  Like pumpkin, butternut squash falls into the category of Winter squash -- which differs from Summer squash (like zucchini and yellow crookneck) in that their skin is hard and inedible.  Once fully-matured on the vine and harvested, if kept in a cool, dry place, they can be stored for months. Winter squash was one of the three main crops planted by the Native Americans.  Known as the "three sisters" (corn, beans and squash) they were prized for their long shelf life.

IMG_3192A bit about bisque:  It's a thickish, rich, finely-textured 'soup' usually consisting of puréed seafood and/or vegetables (and occasionally poultry), along with a copious amount of cream and spices suited to each version, which varies regionally and from cook  to cook.  Bisques originated in France, but nowadays, they're made all over the world -- with lobster bisque being the universal favorite.  Bisques are easy to make, but, the cooking process can be a bit lengthy because it relies on time to concentrate the flavor.  Bisque is often referred to as "the refined city relative" of "the less-sophisticated country" chowder (a rustic, chunky, cream-based soup).

IMG_3210Every butternut squash bisque should taste like a butternut squash.  It needs no silly celery, onion, garlic or carrots in it.  It needs no overpowering spice of any type except for good old-fashioned salt & pepper, &, save that white wine or persnickity sherry for drinking!

IMG_3134A bit about my butternut squash bisque:  It's as easy to make as it is delicious, and, because when roasted, butternut squash takes on a lovely, subtly-sweet flavor of its own, unlike most other versions, I do not muddle it up with the opinionated flavors of other vegetables (like celery and/or onion) or overpowering spices (insert names here).  My bisque is simply a creamy-dreamy mixture of IMG_3140unpretentious stock, cream and roasted, puréed butternut squash seasoned with some salt and pepper then kissed for a minute or two with the flavor of fresh rosemary sprigs.  Each portion gets a dollop of crème fraîche and the bowls of this lusciously refined bisque make their way to my the table.

To roast the squash:

2  2-2-1/4-pound butternut squash, IMG_3142as even sized as possible, unpeeled and sliced in half lengthwise and seeded

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_3146~ Step 1. Prep the squash as directed above and brush the yellow interior surface of each half with the oil. IMG_3149Place them, side-by-side, oiled-sides-down on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.

~ Step 2.  Roast on center rack of preheated 350° oven, until a knife can easily be inserted through to the baking pan, 45-50 minutes.

IMG_3156Note:  Larger squash will take longer and smaller ones will roast more quickly.  

IMG_3152~ Step 3. Cool 15-20 minutes prior to scooping out the soft centers and  proceeding with recipe.  There will be approximately 3 cups of squash.

IMG_3159 IMG_3165 IMG_3168 IMG_3172~Step 4.  Place the squash in the work bowl of food processor fitted with the steel blade. Season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper. With motor running, purée for 15-20 seconds.  Transfer the purée to a 2-quart measuring container and stir in 3 1/2 cups generically-seasoned chicken or vegetable stock (2, 14 1/2-ounce cans).

IMG_3174 IMG_3178 IMG_3179 IMG_3186 IMG_3188 IMG_3190~Step 5.  Transfer to a 4-quart, preferably wide-bottomed, saucepan (to promote reduction at the end).  Add two-three sprigs fresh rosemary, adjust heat to a gentle simmer, partially cover, and continue to simmer until rosemary has lost it's bright green color, about 8-9 minutes.  Remove and discard the rosemary.  Add and stir in 1 cup cream.  Adjust heat to a gentler, steady simmer than before, and, continue to cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until reduced slightly and nicely thickened, 14-15 minutes.

Can be prepared two-three days in advance & refrigerated.  Gently reheat on stovetop or in microwave.

IMG_3201Sinfully-simple & each & every spoonful is spiced to perfection.  It's all about the flavor of the squash in this bisque:

IMG_3202Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque:  Recipe yields 5 cups bisque and 6-8 smallish, starter-sized servings.  Double or triple the recipe to make as much as you need.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; large chef's knife; tablespoon; pastry brush; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; food processor; 2-quart measuring container; 4-quart saucepan

IMG_3722Cook's Note:  For another one of my favorite bisque recipes, which I particularly like to serve garnished with bacon for brunch and grilled Gruyère cheese sandwiches, ~ Get Out Your Whisk & Make this Tomato Bisque ~ can be found in Categories 2, 11, 14, 18, 20 & 21.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/18/2016

~ Simon and Garfunkle's Roasted Butternut Squash ~

IMG_3126"Eat your squash".  Three words I never heard as a child.  At the tables I sat down at to eat, no one made squash -- not my mother, not my grandmother and no one in their immediate or distant families.  Meat, potatoes, gravy, a green or yellow vegetable and "drink your milk".  That was that.  No squash.  I never had to worry about squash.  The first time I cooked and ate squash I was twenty.  It was butternut squash at the apartment of a co-worker and close friend:  Eileen.

Eileen was born and raised in Brooklyn, and, like my husband and I, had moved to Happy Valley because her husband was going to Penn State.  She and I were both born-to-be homemakers who loved to cook and found ourselves working at the same bank.  We became fast friends -- always sharing and trying "new to us" recipes.  One evening we served up two medium-sized butternut squash as a side-dish for the four of us.  They were unpeeled, sliced in half, seeded and roasted until tender.  Once out of the oven, each portion received two-three pats of butter, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a drizzle of honey.  It was simply amazing. 

IMG_3043Enter the butternut squash period of my life, then, fast forward forty-some years.  From the moment we owned our own home and planted a backyard garden, butternut squash has been a part of it.  The following recipe, which is as simple and straightforward as the original "butter & honey" creation described above, was one I adapted from a method I use for roasting potatoes. Over the years it's become a regular on my traditional Thanksgiving table, placed just to the right of the mashed potatoes and just to the left of the brussels sprouts.  "Please pass the squash."

Simon & Garfunkle Squash:  Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme

IMG_30472 1/2-3  pounds peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into even-sized 1"-1 1/2" cubes* (Note: Butternut squash vary greatly in size, from petite to large.  When purchasing them, choose even-sized ones.  When picking them in the backyard (like me), use what's there.  The number of squash needed to get 2 1/2-3 pounds of peeled, seeded and cubed squash will depend entirely upon their size and weight.  I always depend on my kitchen scale for this.)

4-6  tablespoons olive oil

1  teaspoon each:  dried parsley flakes, rubbed dalmatian sage, crushed rosemary leaves, thyme leaves, granulated garlic powder and cracked black pepper

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

* Note of importance:  Squash contains quite a bit more water than similarly roasted potatoes. For that reason, it is going to lose about a third of its volume as it roasts.  Be sure to error on the side of larger cubes rather than smaller ones to avoid any squishy little mishaps. 

IMG_3049~ Step 1.  Using a chef's knife and/or a vegetable peeler (whichever is easiest for you), trim top and bottom ends from the squash, peel it and slice it in half. Using an ordinary tablespoon, scoop the seeds out of the cavities. Chop the squash into 1"-1 1/2" cubes, placing the pieces in a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish as you work. Drizzle the oil over the squash, and, using a large spoon or spatula, toss until the squash is thoroughly but very lightly-coated in oil.

IMG_3067 IMG_3069 IMG_3071~ Step 2.  Sprinkle the dried spices and sea salt evenly over squash. Using the large spoon or spatula, toss again, until all of the spices are evenly incorporated. Note:  This can be done up to an hour prior to roasting.

Roast in a 375° oven 1 hour-to-1 hour, 15 minutes:

IMG_3076~ Step 3.  Roast on center rack of preheated 375° oven for 60-75 minutes.  After 30 minutes of roasting, give them a stir.  After 45 minutes of roasting, stop to toss them around with the large spoon or spatula every 15 minutes until golden.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Crispy & nicely-spiced outside, tender & sweet inside:

IMG_3123"Please, please please -- pass the butternut squash!"

IMG_3100Simon and Garfunkle's Roasted Butternut Squash:  Recipe yields 6-8 side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler (optional); tablespoon, 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; large spoon or spatula

IMG_5283Cook's Note:  I won't lie, the inspiration for "Simon & Garfunkle" spiced anything was not mine.  It was my girlfriend Carol's and it is brilliant.  To get the recipe for ~ Carol's Herbaceous Simon & Garfunkle Potatoes ~, just click into Categories 4, 19 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/15/2016

~ So Sophisticated: Sweet Potato & Frangelico Tart ~

IMG_3039"So sophisticated."  That was my mother-in-law's comment when I served this dessert in place of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving a few years back.  I hung onto those words because Ann was a woman of few words who didn't hand out compliments often.  We were having an unusually small gathering of eight people that year.  Making one easy-to-serve dessert to feed us all, enabling me to offer seconds to a few, and, save me time too -- it worked out perfectly.

IMG_3025Sweet potato or pumpkin pie (in addition to Dutch apple, pecan, and rhubarb) was/is always a part of my three-four pie dessert buffet for our larger Thanksgiving feasts.  In a gathering of 22-24 of our family and friends, those pie choices please everyone every time.  On this particular year, I knew that my mother-in-law, like myself, was a huge fan of sweet potatoes and always chose sweet potato pie over pumpkin, so, I came up with:  a very ladylike sweet potato tart.

IMG_2992Part One:  Making My Three-Ingredient Tart Shell 

IMG_0915We bakers all have our favorite recipe for pâte brisée, and pâte sucrée (unsweetened and sweetened recipes for flaky quiche and pie pastry).  I know I do.  Some folks simply purchase pie pastry and I am neither going to judge nor criticize. What happens in your kitchen stays in your kitchen. Just remember: Whether making it from scratch or taking it out of a box, it's got to be rolled enough to fit into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom.

That said, I have a nifty little three-ingredient-recipe that is so easy-to-make you'd have to be crazy to use a store-bought crust.  Technically, it's in a category all its own and the fancy French word for it is pâte sablée.  Literally translated, it means "sand dough", because it has a coarse sand-like texture when mixed together.  It is so sandy, it gets dumped into a tart pan and pressed into place because, unlike a pie pastry, it's next-to-impossible to roll and impossible to pick up and move after rolling.  It produces a cookie-like crust, which makes it perfect for sweet tarts.    In my version, I melt some butter in the microwave, stir it into a mixture of flour and sugar, then pat and press it into the tart pan -- that's all there is to it.  It bakes up perfect each and every time.

IMG_2413For one 11" tart crust:

10 tablespoons salted butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) (Note:  If you choose to use unsalted butter, which a lot of bakers do, stir a scant 1/8 tablespoon salt into the flour and sugar mixture.)

2  cups + 3 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

5  tablespoons granulated sugar (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)

IMG_2415IMG_2417IMG_2423IMG_2424~Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt butter in microwave.  In a medium bowl, using a fork, stir together the flour and sugar.  In a thin stream add the butter to the dry mixture, stirring constantly with the fork, until all the butter is added.  The mixture will resemble pea-sized crumbs that come together when a few small bits are pressed together with the fingertips.

IMG_2428IMG_2432Step 2.  Transfer all of the loose crumb mixture to the bottom of an 11" tart pan.  Using your fingertips, pat and press the mixture evenly but firmly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Note:  Feel free to use a small hand-held tart roller if you have one (like the one pictured above), but it is not necessary.  Place on center rack of 340°-350º oven and bake until crust is a very light golden brown, 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool the crust while preparing the tart filling.

IMG_2433Part Two:  Making my Sophisticated Sweet Potato Tart Filling

IMG_5635Sweet potato pie is a Southern tradition.  Similar to pumpkin pie in texture, it too is mostly served in the Fall, when both are in season.  That said, it's my opinion that too many recipes for sweet potato pie try to make it taste like pumpkin pie by adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc.  As a sweet potato lover,  "Why", I ask myself, "would anyone want to try to make both of these pies taste alike?"  It made and makes no sense to me.  

Pumpkin is naturally bland and boring and benefits from the aromatic spices.  Sweet potatoes are full-of-flavor and naturally sweet all by themselves.  All they require is a companion flavor that plays harmony with them -- nothing intense.  I chose Frangelico, an Italian hazelnut-flavored liqueur.  I even serve each slice of sweet potato tart with a small aperitif glass of Frangelico.

IMG_29382-2 1/2  cups mashed sweet potatoes, from 3 medium-sized, orange, sweet potatoes

6  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

3/4  cup sugar

1/4  teaspoon salt

2  large eggs

6  tablespoons cream

2  tablespoons Frangelico (an Italian hazelnut-flavored liqueur)

3/4  teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation

IMG_2944Step 1.  In oven or microwave, bake sweet potatoes until soft.  Set aside until they are cool enough to comfortably handle with your hands, about 15-20 minutes.  Using a paring knife, an ordinary tablespoon and a fork, slice the potatoes in half, scoop out the soft centers, transfer them to a measuring container and mash them with a fork.  Set aside.  Note: Many recipes instruct to peel, cube and boil the sweet potatoes until soft.  I find this makes them watery.

IMG_2946 IMG_2952 IMG_2954 IMG_2955~Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, on medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and salt, until light and fluffy, constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, for 1 full minute.  Add and beat in the eggs and continue to beat for another 1 full minute. Add the cream, Frangelico and vanilla, and, beat 1 more full minute.  

IMG_2959 IMG_2963 IMG_2967 IMG_2969~Step 3.  Add the sweet potatoes.  Starting on medium-low mixer speed and working up to high, continuing to scrape down the sides of the bowl, beat for 2 full minutes.  Transfer the filling to the tart shell, which has been placed on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with parchment paper.

IMG_2971 IMG_2978~ Step 4.  Bake on center rack of 325° oven until puffed and just set in the center and barely browned, 30-35 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on wire rack 2 hours prior to removing from tart pan and slicing and serving.

Sweet potato tart going into the oven to bake:

IMG_2971Sweet potato tart coming out of the oven to cool:

IMG_2978Slice & serve w/freshly-whipped cream & a grind of chocolate:

IMG_3011So Sophisticated:  Sweet Potato & Frangelico Tart:  Recipe yields 10-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife; tablespoon; fork; 2-quart measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 11" tart pan w/removable bottom; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; cooling rack

Roasted Pumpkins of Tussey Mountain #2Cook's Note:  Click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe for ~ Traditional Thanksgiving Preschutti Pumpkin Pie ~.  The difference between a pumpkin pie made from canned vs. fresh-roasted pumpkin puree is night and day.  To read my method and get my recipe for making ~ Roasted Pumpkin Puree ~ from scratch, just click into Categories 15, 18 or 22.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/12/2016

~ Plain, Simple & Unpretentious Basic White Sauce ~

IMG_2894Melted butter, flour and hot milk.  Whisk it all together with some salt and pepper to taste, simmer it for a few short minutes and you've got basic white sauce.  It's one of the things I learned to make "way back when" in Home Economics, and, the recipe the teacher used was out of a 1960's or '70's edition of the The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which was kept on a shelf along with a few of her other favorites of the time (The Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker's Cookbook, etc.).

IMG_2827 IMG_2935< On page 274 of this 1974 edition, Fannie Farmer writes a paragraph about white sauce and home economics, which, I am sure is why our teachers of the time enjoyed referencing it.

Butter + Flour + Milk + Seasoning = Basic White Sauce 

IMG_7034Basic white sauce couldn't be easier to make.  It's sometimes referred to as "cream sauce", because whole milk (not lowfat or skim) is used in its preparation, which, when thickened, takes on a creamy appearance. White sauce is traditionally made by melting butter or oil (never margarine or shortening), adding equal parts of flour (in proportion to the butter) to form a thick, smooth paste (called a "roux"), then whisking in hot, whole milk, until it thickens to the desired consistency (thin, medium or thick), then seasoning, to taste, with salt, pepper (black, white pepper or cayenne), and, bay leaf, clove and/or nutmeg.

In France, white sauce is called béchamel, and, in the 17th Century, in the days before refrigeration, they were the first to realize this very basic sauce could be used to enhance the flavors of a wide variety of foods, extend the shelf life of others, and, disguise the taste of foods that were turning bad.  In Italy, it is called balsamella and is used in dishes like lasagna and stuffed shells.  In Greece, it is called besamel, and is used in recipes like moussaka and pastitsio.  Universally, it's used to add a rich, velvety quality to many dishes and gratins.

The French used white sauce as the base to create a host of other mouthwatering sauces too: creme (w/cream added), nantua (w/seafood added), mornay (w/cheese added), mutarde (w/mustard added), soubise (w/onion added), and, cheddar (w/cheddar cheese added).  It's clear to me why white sauce was taught to us future home cooks in home economics class.

IMG_28542  cups whole milk, heated on the stovetop or in the microwave

4  tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, your choice

4  tablespoons, unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/16  teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

freshly-ground sea salt & peppercorn blend, about 40 coarse-grinds each and more salt if using unsalted butter

IMG_2864 IMG_2871 IMG_2873 IMG_2876~Step 1.  In a small saucepan on the stovetop or in a 2-cup measuring container in the microwave, heat the milk to steaming, not boiling.  Set aside.  Immediately:

Step 2.  In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Increase heat to medium and add all of the flour.  Whisking constantly, cook until the smooth paste begins to bubble, controlling the heat to make sure is does not brown, and, continue to cook a full 1 1/2-2 minutes.

Note:  It's important to allow this to bubble for 1 1/2-2 minutes because, if it does not, the white sauce will have a floury taste to it.  While whisking constantly, I just keep lifting the saucepan up and down, on and off the heat, to keep it bubbling without browning for the full 2 minutes.

IMG_2878~ Step 3.  Add the hot milk and continue to whisk constantly as the sauce thickens and comes to a gentle, steady simmer.  

Once simmering, add the cayenne pepper, optional nutmeg and season to taste with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend (I use about 40 grinds each).  

Remove from heat when desired consistency is reached.

IMG_7051~ Step 4.  Use immediately, as directed, or, transfer to a 2-cup container and cover with plastic wrap, placing the wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to prevent a rubbery skin from forming.  Cool to warm or room temperature, or, refrigerate overnight.  Return to room temp and reheat gently, whisking in 1/4-1/2 cup additional hot milk to control consistency.

Simply, silky-smooth & sumptuously creamy:

IMG_2893Plain, Simple & Unpretentious Basic White Sauce:  Recipe yields 2 cups.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart saucepan, preferably nonstick; whisk; 2-cup measuring container; large spoon; plastic wrap

PICT0002Cook's Note:  You can find my detailed instructions for ~ How to: Make a Roux & Slurry (to Thicken Foods) ~ in Category 15.  Rouxs and slurries are really easy and great techniques to know too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/10/2016

~ Eggs a la Goldenrod or Creamed Eggs on Toast ~

IMG_2916Once upon a time, this vintage egg recipe was reserved for Easter breakfast or brunch.  Why?  It was a tasty way to make use of a dozen or so of those hard-cooked, pastel-colored eggs that got dyed by the children to celebrate the holiday.  In my kitchen, eggs a la goldenrod is simply a delicious way to enjoy hard-cooked eggs, which I always keep on hand.  Besides liking eggs a lot, as a busy food blogger and host of a TV segment, I hard-cook several eggs at the beginning of each week -- it's ten minutes well spent.  I consider a hard-cooked egg a filling snack, and, a quick-to-fix tuna or egg salad sandwich is a favorite "eat while I'm working" lunch option.

Eggs à la goldenrod are "gussied up" creamed eggs on toast.

IMG_2930Creamed eggs on toast and eggs à la goldenrod are basically the same thing.  Start with an easy-to-make white sauce then add some chopped hard-cooked eggs (small bits of cooked ham, seafood, asparagus or peas can be included too).  The finished sauce is served over toast, butter-fried croutons or biscuits.  If some or all of the bright-yellow yolks are reserved, minced and sprinkled over the top as a pretty garnish, the dish is called:  creamed eggs à la goldenrod.

IMG_2907Because of the calories, I don't make goldenrod eggs often, but now and then I succumb to my craving for creamed eggs.  The first time I tasted it was at an elegant brunch the day after my co-worker and friend Karen's wedding.  This prearranged menu item arrived at each table plated and served over buttermilk biscuits with shaved country ham and asparagus. Karen's sister Karla explained it was a specialty of their Southern grandmother.  I'd never heard of it, but, I ended up quite smitten with it.

"A fun dish to serve to folks who never heard of it." ~ Melanie 

IMG_2817Research revealed that the recipe first appeared in 1896 in The Boston Globe Cooking School Cookbook by Francis Farmer and was reprinted on page 96 of the 1996, 100th anniversary edition. That said, the version I used as my guide was from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (12th edition/1986), and it appears on page 344.  I actually bought the book to get the recipe.

IMG_2827 IMG_2819< On page 265, Fannie Farmer writes a charming paragraph about white sauce, and, from one who took home economics "way back when", be not afraid -- it's easy to make.

When it comes to eggs à la goldenrod, I did break with tradition on one small point:  I do not make this dish with leftover hard-cooked eggs that have been refrigerated.  Of course the dish will be fine if you do, but, I am here to tell you it will be obviously better if you take a few minutes to hard-cook the eggs just before you make it.  Both the yolks and the whites will be softer and tenderer, which, to a perfectionist like me, makes a difference in the end result.  Try it, you'll see.

IMG_2844 IMG_2832For the egg yolk sprinkles:

6  hard-cooked egg yolks that have been removed from 6 extra-large hard-cooked eggs that have been peeled and sliced in half 

IMG_2838~ Step 1. Remove and flake the yolks into tiny bits and pieces.  If the eggs have been properly cooked this will be easy.

IMG_2846For the egg-white gravy:

whites from 6 hard-cooked eggs, thinly-sliced into 'half-moons' 

2  cups whole milk, heated

4  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons, unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/16  teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

freshly-ground sea salt & peppercorn blend (about 40 coarse-grinds each)

For serving:

4 slices of any type of toasted bread, butter-fried croutons or baked and split biscuits

IMG_2859 IMG_2862 IMG_2864 IMG_2871~Step 1.  In a small saucepan on the stovetop or in a 2-cup measuring container in the microwave, heat the milk to steaming, not boiling.  Set aside.  Immediately:

~ Step 2.  In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Increase heat to medium and add all of the flour.  Whisking constantly, cook until the smooth paste begins to bubble, controlling the heat to make sure is does not brown, and, continue to cook a full 1 1/2-2 minutes.

Note:  It's important to allow this to bubble for 1 1/2-2 minutes because, if it does not, the white sauce will have a floury taste to it.  While whisking constantly, I just keep lifting the saucepan up and down, on and off the heat, to keep it bubbling without browning for the full 2 minutes.

IMG_2873 IMG_2876 IMG_2895 IMG_2899~Step 3.  Add the hot milk and continue to whisk constantly as the sauce thickens and comes to a gentle, steady simmer.  Once simmering, add the cayenne pepper, optional nutmeg and season to taste with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend (I use about 40 grinds each). Add the egg whites and continue to stir until the whites are heated through, about 30-60 more seconds.  Remove from heat.  Ladle over toasted bread, butter-fried croutons or split-biscuits.  

Garnish with plenty of egg yolk sprinkles and serve immediately:

IMG_2922Eggs à la Goldenrod or Creamed Eggs on Toast:  Recipe yields 4 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife; 4-quart saucepan; small saucepan or 2-cup measuring container; whisk; small ladle

6a0120a8551282970b017ee6636362970d 11-58-32Cook's Note:  Plain toast or freshly-baked biscuits (or even toasted English muffins or bagels) are perfect for serving eggs a la goldenrod, but, if you're interested in ~ How to Make Croutons & Toasts for Salad and Soup ~, just click into Categories 2, 5, 9, 15 or 20 to find out how I butter-fry them.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/08/2016

~ Easy Amish Dutch-Style Sweet & Sour Coleslaw ~

IMG_2808Walk into an Amish market and you'll likely find a side-dish in the refrigerated deli-section simply labeled "Dutch slaw".  It'll be right next to the ever-popular finely-minced "pepper cabbage" (also known as "overnight coleslaw") and the classic creamy-crunchy mayonnaise-dressed coleslaw. It's a monochromatic mixture of shredded cabbage, celery, onion and green bell pepper dressed with a pretty yellow-colored, celery seed and onion-laced oil-based sweet and sour dressing.

Interestingly, the Amish label it "Dutch slaw" because it is the Pennsylvania Deutsch version of the Amish's own version of sweet and sour slaw (known as "Amish slaw" and dressed with a mayonnaise-based similarly-seasoned sweet and sour dressing).  How do I know this? I've lived my entire life in Pennsylvania (I grew up near Pennsylvania Deutsch country and currently live near Amish country), so, I understand the subtle differences.  In the event you don't, I will share the following paragraph (which you'll find on many of my PA Deutsch posts) once again:

You say Pennsylvania Dutch, We say Pennsylvania Deutsch.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcafef88970bLet me make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist".  They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley.  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion. Pennsylvania.  The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life?  You betcha.

Let's talk 'slaw, coleslaw or cole slaw (cabbage salad):

IMG_2743A bit about coleslaw or cole slaw: The words "cole" and "slaw" come from the Dutch (German) word "koolsla", meaning: "cold" "salad".  

Coleslaw is a salad of shredded green, red or white cabbage that gets mixed with other vegetables (onion, carrot and bell pepper being most common) then tossed with a mayonnaise, vinaigrette or other type of dressing.  Some versions contain bacon, pickles and/or seasonal herbs.  It is safe to say there are as many versions as their are cooks.  One of my fruity Fall favorites contains shredded fennel, chopped apples, pears and bacon -- tossed with my recipe for sweet and sour dressing, it is "to die for".

The key to great homemade coleslaw is to insure your vegetables are "dry", meaning: dry of as much moisture as possible before combining them with the dressing.  My grandmother taught me to shred my cabbage, chop my vegetables, then, wrap them individually in a kitchen towel and refrigerate them overnight prior to proceeding to mix the slaw.  The day I started using the store-bought, pre-washed, dried and shredded slaw mix, instead of shredding my own cabbage, I never looked back.  If my grandmother had this available she would have used it too.

"The secret's in the sauce", or in this case, the proper dressing:

IMG_2705 IMG_2672Having the right store-bought brand or recipe for ~ PA Deutsch (Dutch) Sweet  & Sour Dressing ~ is the key to this slaw.   Throughout the greater Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, Wos-Wit is the store brand of choice.  In my kitchen, Nana's recipe, which was given to me by my husband's PA Deutsch grandmother is the one I use.  

Click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe.  It's super easy to make:  just seven on-hand pantry ingredients, no chopping slicing or dicing, and 5 minutes of your time.  Check it out.

IMG_2811For my easy-to-make Amish "Dutch-style 'slaw" coleslaw:

IMG_27365  cups store-bought coleslaw mix (12 ounces)

3/4  cup each: diced celery and green bell pepper (4 ounces each)

1/2  cup small-diced diced onion (3 ounces)

1/2  cup crisply-fried and small-diced bacon (about 4 strips of thick-sliced bacon or 6 strips of thin-sliced bacon)

3/4-1  cup sweet & sour dressing, store-bought or my recipe

IMG_2749 IMG_2753 IMG_2754 IMG_2762~Step 1.  Prep and place all of the vegetables in a large bowl as you work.  Using a pair of salad servers (or two large spoons), toss all of the ingredients together.  Add 3/4 cup of the dressing and thoroughly toss again, making sure all of the vegetables are evenly coated in dressing. Transfer to a 2-quart food storage container w/a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, stopping to toss a time or two (when it's convenient) while it is in the refrigerator.

Remove well-chilled coleslaw from refrigerator, toss & taste.

IMG_2763Add or drizzle each portion w/dressing to please yourself:

IMG_2802Easy Amish Dutch-Style Sweet & Sour Coleslaw:  Recipe yields 6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; salad servers or two large spoons; 2-quart food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

IMG_8754Cook's Note: If placed on the table next to Nana's sweet & sour Dutch slaw, ~ Nana's "Overnight" PA Deutsch Pepper Cabbage ~, I would have a hard time deciding which one to eat first.  Make 'em both and see if you can make a decision.  Click on the Related Article link below to get the recipe.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

11/05/2016

~ PA Deutsch (Dutch) Sweet & Sour Salad Dressing~

IMG_2701If you live in or around a region in Pennsylvania (and other surrounding states too) influenced by a Pennsylvania Deutsch community, you know all about this drizzly, creamy-yellow, sweet and sour, onion-and-celery-laced oil-based salad dressing.  So as to avoid any confusion, it is different from Amish sweet & sour salad dressing, which is a thicker, similarly-flavored mayonnaise- or salad-dressing-based concoction (Miracle Whip is referred to as "salad dressing" in Amish country).  How do I know this stuff?  I've lived my entire life in Pennsylvania (I grew up near Pennsylvania Deutsch country and currently live near Amish country).

You say Pennsylvania Dutch, We say Pennsylvania Deutsch:

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcafef88970bLet me make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist".  They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley.  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion. Pennsylvania.  The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life?  You betcha.

IMG_2713Got salad?  The PA Deutsch have a to-die-for dressing for you!

IMG_2672One of my favorite KE readers, a gal named Penny from California, reminisced to me in an e-mail about "a sweet and sour salad dressing" she ate here in PA and asked me if I had a recipe because: she "couldn't find one anywhere."  Say what?  

After some cookbook and internet searching, I must say, considering how popular this dressing is in parts of PA, I was surprised by what I couldn't find:  a published recipe.  I have no idea why, but it seems this is one of those "lost recipes" that needs to get some press.  Having a recipe in my archives, given to me back in 1973 or '74 by a PA Deutsch family member, Nana, I'm happy to be able to share it.

IMG_2695In the greater Lehigh Valley Area of Pennsylvania, Wos-Wit is hands-down the favorite store brand for all sorts of Pennsylvania Dutch products -- preserves, sauces, dressings, pickles and pickled products, you name it, they make it and they've got it.  Their sweet and sour salad dressing is as close as you're ever going to get to homemade, so, if buying it is what you want to do, theirs is the only one I will recommend to you.  I am not here to steal their thunder.  To repeat, I just happen to have an authentic recipe of the type I am sure they based theirs on.  It's super easy to make too -- 7 or 8 on-hand ingredients, no chopping slicing or dicing, and 5 minutes of your time.

IMG_2698To make about 1 3/4 cups of Nana's sweet & sour dressing (a little more than a standard 12-ounce bottle of store-bought dressing):

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  teaspoon celery seed

2  teaspoons dry English mustard

1  teaspoon dried onion flakes

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup white vinegar

3/4  cup vegetable oil

1 drop yellow food coloring, for a touch of pretty color (optional) 

IMG_2677 IMG_2680 IMG_2681 IMG_2685 IMG_2691~Step 1.  Place dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir together.  Add the white vinegar (and the optional drop of food coloring) and whisk until sugar is dissolved.  Allow to rest 5 minutes, to give the onion flakes time to soften a bit.

~ Step 2.  Transfer mixture to work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  With the motor running, in a slow, thin, steady stream, add the vegetable oil through the feed tube and continue to process until emulsified, about 10-15 seconds.

Toss w/a salad of: greens-of-choice, crisp bacon, hard-cooked egg, cucumber, tomato & onion (& chicken or turkey too):

IMG_2705PA Deutsch (Dutch) Sweet & Sour Salad Dressing:  Recipe yields 1 3/4 cups dressing.

Special Equipment List:  whisk; 1-cup measuring container; food processor or blender; 2-cup measuring container or bottle w/tight-fitting lid

IMG_8322Cook's Note: Nana often served this salad for lunch when she had leftover chicken.  She also made it with turkey left from Thanksgiving.  

~ This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken + My Stressfree "Carving for Dummies" Methodology ~, can be found in Categories 2, 3, 15, 19 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016) 

11/02/2016

~ Simply Divine: Chocolate Tart (Tarte au Chocolat) ~

IMG_2612Don't look now but the season of holiday entertaining and festive gatherings is quickly approaching.  If you're like me, you're always "in the market" for another elegant yet easy-to-make dessert to serve at your own get-together or take to someone else's.  A chocolate tart is a perfect ending to any occasion, and, in the case of this recipe, it doesn't require the skills of a trained pastry chef -- feel free to keep that a secret and let 'em think you slaved all day over it.

IMG_2583"Tarte au Chocolate" -- No special skills required.

A chocolate tart, or as they say in France "tarte au chocolat", is a chocolate lovers dream come true.  Happily, it's not as fussy to prepare as you might think.  Classically, the French pour a relatively easy-to-make chocolate filling into a crispy, delicate, very-buttery pastry shell. Sometimes they top it with a glaze, sometimes they dust it with Confectioners' sugar, and sometimes it's dollops of freshly whipped cream that gilds the lily.  Over the years, I've taken a liking to chocolate tarts that are prepared with a sweetened cookie-esque pastry.

IMG_2597Part One:  Making My Three-Ingredient Tart Shell 

IMG_0915We bakers all have our favorite recipe for pâte brisée, and pâte sucrée (unsweetened and sweetened recipes for flaky quiche and pie pastry).  I know I do.  Some folks simply purchase pie pastry and I am neither going to judge nor criticize. What happens in your kitchen stays in your kitchen. Just remember: Whether making it from scratch or taking it out of a box, it's got to be rolled enough to fit into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom.

That said, I have a nifty little three-ingredient-recipe that is so easy-to-make you'd have to be crazy to use a store-bought crust.  Technically, it's in a category all its own and the fancy French word for it is pâte sablée.  Literally translated, it means "sand dough", because it has a coarse sand-like texture when mixed together.  It is so sandy, it gets dumped into a tart pan and pressed into place because, unlike a pie pastry, it's next-to-impossible to roll and impossible to pick up and move after rolling.  It produces a cookie-like crust, which makes it perfect for sweet tarts.    In my version, I melt some butter in the microwave, stir it into a mixture of flour and sugar, then pat and press it into the tart pan -- that's all there is to it.  It bakes up perfect each and every time.

IMG_2413For one 11" tart crust:

10 tablespoons salted butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) (Note:  If you choose to use unsalted butter, which a lot of bakers do, stir a scant 1/8 tablespoon salt into the flour and sugar mixture.)

2  cups + 3 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

5  tablespoons granulated sugar (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)

IMG_2415IMG_2417IMG_2423IMG_2424~Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt butter in microwave.  In a medium bowl, using a fork, stir together the flour and sugar.  In a thin stream add the butter to the dry mixture, stirring constantly with the fork, until all the butter is added.  The mixture will resemble pea-sized crumbs that come together when a few small bits are pressed together with the fingertips.

IMG_2428IMG_2432Step 2.  Transfer all of the loose crumb mixture to the bottom of an 11" tart pan.  Using your fingertips, pat and press the mixture evenly but firmly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Note:  Feel free to use a small hand-held tart roller if you have one (like the one pictured above), but it is not necessary.  Place on center rack of 340°-350º oven and bake until crust is a very light golden brown, 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool the crust while preparing the tart filling.

IMG_2433Part Two:  Making My Ultra-Rich Chocolate Tart Filling

IMG_2638Let's talk chocolate.  Just like politics and religion, it's a topic that stirs people up.  Let's suffice it to say, it's personal.  As a young bride and novice baker, semi-sweet chocolate morsels were what I used to make a chocolate tart and no one ever complained.  After years of side-by-side taste tests combined with making and baking plenty of chocolate desserts, I settled on Lindt as my hands-down favorite chocolate.  Whatever you choose, it will work perfectly in this recipe.  

IMG_536814  ounces high-quality dark chocolate, preferably 70% - 85% cacao, chopped into small pieces

2  cups heavy or whipping cream

3  large eggs, at room temp

2  teaspoons pure red raspberry or vanilla extract

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

Note:  To make 1, 10"-round tart, use: 9  ounces chocolate, 1 1/4 cups cream, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon extract and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

IMG_5372IMG_5378Step 1.  Chop the chocolate as directed and place in a large heatproof bowl.

Step 2.  In a small saucepan on the stovetop (or in the microwave), heat the cream until steaming, but not boiling.  Do not allow to simmer or boil.

IMG_5385IMG_5394Step 3.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and set aside, without stirring, for 2 minutes.

Note:  I always time this.  Two minutes is the magic number.

IMG_5381IMG_5396IMG_5402IMG_5403~Steps 4, 5 & 6.  During the two minute wait time, in a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together the eggs, extract and salt.  Set aside.  After the two minute wait time, using a wire whisk, vigorously stir the chocolate and cream, until all of the cream is drawn into the chocolate and the mixture is smooth, uniform in color and shiny.  Whisking constantly, slowly and in a thin stream, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture.

IMG_2541 IMG_2544 IMG_2551 IMG_2557 IMG_2562~Step 7.  Place the tart shell on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Transfer all of the chocolate filling to the prepared tart pastry.  Bake on center rack of 325° oven until filling is slightly puffed up and just set while still wobbly in the center, about 16-18 minutes.

IMG_2567~ Step 8.  Remove from oven and place the baking pan (with the tart on it) on a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, remove the tart from the baking pan and place it on the wire rack to cool completely, about 2 more hours.  When the tart is completely cooled, remove the sides of the pan and place it on a serving platter.  Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve chilled -- the choice is yours.

Remove sides of pan & place on a plate:

IMG_2572Dust w/Confectioners' sugar or dollops of whipped cream:

IMG_2600Slice & serve at room temperature or chilled:

IMG_2622Simply Divine:  Chocolate Tart (Tarte au Chocolat):  Recipe yields 10-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  11" tart pan; 1-cup measuring container; fork; hand-held tart roller (optional); wire cooling rack; cutting board; chef's knife; whisk; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper

PICT0391Cook's Note:  Besides a great tart pastry, every cook needs a great pie pastry recipe too. My recipe for ~ Making Pâte Brisée:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~, can be found in Categories 6, 15 or 22.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)