Thursday, October 29, 2009

A DeliciousTurkey Burger Recipe with Apples, Gruyere, and Sage Mayo That Changed My Life

turkey burger with apples, Gruyere, and sage mayo

Do you regularly cook foods for people in your family that you yourself don't eat? I do. Turkey burgers.

I just don't get it. Jeff was raised on good old fashioned beef patties. Yet, given the choice today, he invariably chooses turkey over beef. I, in contrast, am a 100% grass-fed beef kind of gal. I prefer beef's tender texture and rich flavor. With the right beef, a burger is delicious even without condiments. (Not that I'm suggesting you do that.)

So when we have burgers, I usually make Jeff a turkey burger and me a hamburger. The last turkey burger I made for him, I topped with sauteed apples, Gruyere cheese, and sage mayo.

After the first bite, he said, "Oh, God, this is good."

I nodded, smiled, and took a big bite out of my hamburger. He took another bite. "Sue, seriously, you've gotta taste this turkey burger. It's awesome."

"But, I don't like turk--"

"Just one bite. Come on."

I took a small bite. It was a revelation! I liked it. I took a larger bite. I loved it! The warm, tart apples, sweet, salty Gruyere, and creamy sage mayo made this turkey burger seem, well, not like a turkey burger. I took a bigger bite.

"Um, how much of my turkey burger are you gonna eat, hon?" Jeff asked me.

I slid the plate with my hamburger towards him, smiled, and took another bite of his turkey burger.

turkey burger with apples, Gruyere, and sage mayo

Delicious Turkey Burger with Apples, Gruyere, and Sage Mayo
Makes 2 burgers.
Print recipe only here.

I highly recommend washing down these turkey burgers with a cold, strong beer, such as Guinness or a good Ocktoberfest.

Sage Mayo:
2 tablespoons mayo
2 teaspoons stone ground or spicy mustard
3-4 small sage leaves, minced

10-12 ounces lean ground turkey
a generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 small tart apple, thinly sliced, such as Granny Smith or Pink Lady
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
2 ciabatta rolls, or other rolls of your choice

1. In a small bowl, stir all ingredients for sage mayo; set aside.

2. Place turkey in a bowl. Season with several shakes of salt and black pepper. Mix in Dijon. Form two equal sized burgers. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add burgers. Cook 3-4 minutes per side, until browned on the outside and cooked all the way through.

3. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add onions. Saute 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add apples. Saute 3-5 minutes, or until lightly browned and tender. Season with salt and black pepper. Remove from heat.

4. Once burgers are almost done, top each with 1 ounce of cheese. To assemble burgers, spread half the sage mayo on the inside of a roll. Place burger on the bottom half of the roll, and top with half the onion-apple mixture. Close the sandwich. Repeat. Serve hot.

Here are more sandwich and burger recipes from Food Blogga you might enjoy:
Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
Italian Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) and Provolone
Grilled Lamb Sandwich
The Southwest Hamburger

Now that I like them, here are more delicious turkey burger recipes I'd like to try:
Thai Peanut Turkey Burgers recipe at Cara's Cravings
Gena's Turkey Burgers recipe at Slashfood
Spicy Turkey Burger recipe at Blue Kitchen
Crunchy Taco Turkey Burger recipe at Hugging the Coast
Grilled Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers with Yogurt Sauce recipe at Kalyn's Kitchen
Turkey Burger Stuffed with Crispy Bacon and Caraway Havarti recipe at What We're Eating

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For a Sexy Autumn Breakfast, Try This Recipe for Ricotta Hotcakes with Warm Spiced Apples and Maple Syrup

Ricotta Hotcakes with Warmed Spiced Apples and Maple DSC_0252

This Halloween weekend is going to be all about the kids. Candy, jack 'o lanterns, trick or treating, and arguments about whether they'll wear their winter coats over or under their costumes. That is, unless you live in Southern California, Arizona, or Florida. You parents have no idea how easy you have it.

Well, today's post isn't about the kids. It's about the parents. Because come Sunday morning, you're going to need a respite from all things Halloween, including your sugar-hyped kids. So get up a little early while they're still sleeping, and make yourself a batch of these Ricotta Hotcakes with Warmed Spiced Apples and Maple. (This is also a good time to ransack their Halloween bags for a few of your favorite candies. Come on, you know you do.)

Sure hotcakes are similar to pancakes, but they're better. The creamy ricotta cheese and airy whipped egg whites renders them pillowy soft and tender. You could top them with anything you fancy, but what says autumn more deliciously than warm spiced apples and raisins drowned in maple syrup? Plus "ricotta hotcakes" sounds a whole lot sexier than pancakes, and since the kids will still be in bed, that's a very good thing.

Ricotta Hotcakes with Warmed Spiced Apples and Maple DSC_0241

Ricotta Hotcakes with Warmed Spiced Apples and Maple Syrup

Serves 4
Makes about 16 hotcakes
Print recipe only here.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
canola oil for griddle

2 tablespoons butter
2 sweet, crisp apples, peeled and diced (such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Honeycrisp)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling

1. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a large bowl, whisk ricotta cheese, milk, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and whisk just until combined.

3. In a clean, dry glass or metal bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high until foamy. Using a spatula, fold into the batter.

4. Pour a little bit of oil on a griddle over medium heat. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the griddle. Cook for 1 minute, or until golden underneath. Flip and cook 30-60 more, or until golden. Repeat. Keep hotcakes on a covered warm plate or in a low oven (250 degrees F) until ready to serve. 

5. To make the apples, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and cook for 5 minutes, or until golden and tender, but not mushy. Add remaining ingredients through 1/2 cup maple syrup. Stir well and cook 2 minutes, or until the syrup begins to bubble. Cool slightly. When ready to serve, ladle on top of hotcakes. Serve with maple syrup.

Please don't forget to vote for my Quaker Oatmeal topping and help me win $10,000 for the charity, Action Against Hunger.

Here's how to vote for me:

1. Go to Click on VOTE. Click on my video entitled "Cinnamon Comfort."

2. Click on the BIG GREEN THUMBS UP to cast your vote. Voting closes Friday, November 6th.

3. Please tell your family and friends to vote too!

4. If you'd like, please spread the word on your blog, Twitter, and Facebook! I'm @foodblogga on Twitter.

5. Now, accept a BIG virtual HUG and THANK YOU from me!

You might also enjoy these adult-friendly breakfasts from Food Blogga:
Breakfast Egg Sandwich with Avocado and Chipotle Mayo
Savory Chestnut Pancakes with Pancetta and Creme Fraiche
Fresh Fig, Ricotta, and Honey Breakfast Crostini
Savory Sausage and Fennel Galette

Here are more adult-friendly breakfasts you might enjoy:
Spiced Pear Galette recipe at My Diverse Kitchen
Pumpkin French Toast recipe at Panini Happy
Smoked Salmon Quiche recipe at One For The Table
Green Chile Huevos Rancheros recipe at The Way the Cookie Crumbles

PS- Meeta of What's For Lunch, Honey? just brought to my attention that my hotcakes would be ideal for her Monthly Mingle this month, which is brunch.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Keene Pumpkin Festival 2009 and a Recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans

I love living in Southern California, except in the autumn. The weather's hot, there's no foliage, and the pumpkin population is pathetically small. That's why Jeff and I go home to New England every October. There's chilly weather, brilliant foliage, apple picking, cornstalks, scarecrows, and thousands of pumpkins to be seen and eaten.

This year there was pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, and, one of my favorites: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans. More on the pudding (along with the recipe) in a minute. But first, let's talk pumpkins.

pumpkin pie bread pudding with maple and pecans
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans; recipe below.

Walk neighborhoods in New England in October, and you'll see scores of jack 'o lanterns smiling (or grimacing) at you. They're often propped atop a big bale of hay, accompanied by some tall cornstalks and a spooky black cat. There is one New England town, in particular, that reigns supreme when it comes to jack o' lanterns: Keene, NH. This was the first year I visited, and just the festival itself was worth the cross country trip.


In 1991 the first Keene Pumpkin Festival featured 600 pumpkins downtown. It was so warmly received that it became an annual event. Now it's a pilgrimage. This year the locals, along with tens of thousands of visitors, lit a record-breaking 29,762 jack 'o lanterns!

The entire festival, which consists of setting up and lighting pumpkins, and eating funnel cakes and doughboys, is more fun than you can imagine. Oh, and there is also a Dunkin' Donuts booth (which had a hundred people lined up this year waiting for a hot cawffee).

The night was magical for kids and adults alike. We plan on going again next year. I hope you do too!

You wouldn't find this jack 'o lantern in San Diego (or New York).

Keene Pumpkin Festival 2009
Anyone want a pumpkin M & M?

How about a squash-eyed pumpkin?

I can haz cheeseburger pumpkin.

When the sun sets, everyone helps light the pumpkins.

Kids (like my 9-year-old niece) LOVE to light pumpkins. She lit 52 of them!

My other niece is deciding which pumpkin to light. These things can't be rushed. After all, this is serious business for a 7-year-old.

Two hours later, and she's still lighting pumpkins.

My niece's favorite pumpkin of the night: a pretty, petite, pale yellow pumpkin with a flower in her hair.

Doesn't he just make you smile?

Yes, this pumpkin caused thousands of kids to loudly, "Oink! Oink!" as they passed by.

This pumpkin captivates viewers on his eerie, black perch.

If you want your children to look like this, then meet us at the Keene Pumpkin Festival next year.

Then go home and enjoy some warm Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans. Serve it with hot cocoa for the kids and some spiked mulled apple cider for the adults. Trust me, everyone will be smiling, not just the pumpkins.  

pumpkin pie bread pudding with maple and pecans

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans
Serves 12-14
Print recipe only here.

This dessert celebrates the flavors of autumn: Rich, moist bread pudding is laced with fragrant pumpkin pie spice and pure maple syrup while earthy pecans provide just the right crunch. 

1 (16 ounce) stale French baguette, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice 
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, plus extra for garnish
3/4 cup pecan halves
whipped cream, optional garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You will need one ungreased  9 X 13 rectangular glass or ceramic baking dish.

2. Place bread in a large bowl. Pour melted butter over it, and toss.

3. In a large bowl, whisk cream, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin, and maple syrup.

4. Place bread in the baking dish. Add pecans (saving a few to scatter on top). Pour pumpkin mixture over bread, and toss until well coated. Scatter remaining pecans over the top of the pudding. Bake for 25-30, or until the top is lightly browned and the custard is set.

Toss in 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries.
Substitute walnuts or cooked chestnuts for pecans.
Add 3 tablespoons rum.
Drizzle with hot caramel.

Here are more pumpkin desserts you might like:
Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Cranberries, Raisins, and Pecans recipe at Food Blogga
Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie recipe at Simply Recipes
Pumpkin Coconut Muffins recipe at Sarah's Bella Cucina
Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe at Pinch My Salt
Pumpkin Pie Pudding with Candied Pecans and Whipped Cream recipe at Food Blogga

Please don't forget to vote on You Tube for my oatmeal topping in the Quaker Oatmeal challenge and help me win $10,000 for my charity, Action Against Hunger.  Many thanks! More details here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Please Vote for My Quaker Oatmeal Topping and Help Me Win $10,000 for My Charity, Action Against Hunger

I've got exciting news to share! Quaker Instant Oatmeal has partnered with Good Bite to sponsor the "Awaken Your Senses" challenge. It's a challenge that asks twelve of the nation's top food bloggers (including yours truly) to share their favorite food memories, which have been translated by Good Bite's Chef Dave into new oatmeal toppings. The blogger whose topping gets the most votes will win $10,000 for her or his favorite charity!

Today the third round of videos are up, which includes my video entitled, "Cinnamon Comfort." This is where you come in. I need you to vote for me, well actually, for Action Against Hunger, the charity I'm representing. Action Against Hunger is an international network committed to saving the lives of severely malnourished children and their families. They provide clean drinking water and sustainable solutions to hunger as well as advocacy for those who need it most. They touch the lives of over 5 million people in over 40 countries every year. If I win the Quaker Oatmeal Challenge, then this amazing charity will win $10,000 to help them with their efforts.

Here's an example of their humanitarian programs: Procter and Gamble's Children's Safe Drinking Water Program has provided clean, safe drinking water to millions of malnourished children and their families.

 CF-Cambodia, courtesy: J. Lapegue

Here's how to vote for me:

1. Go to Click on VOTE. Click on my video entitled "Cinnamon Comfort."

2. Click on the BIG GREEN THUMBS UP to cast your vote. Voting closes Friday, November 6th.

3. Please tell your family and friends to vote too!

4. If you'd like, please spread the word on your blog, Twitter, and Facebook! I'm @foodblogga on Twitter.

5. Now, accept a BIG virtual HUG and THANK YOU from me!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Recipe for Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread. What's Your Favorite Cornbread Recipe?

jalapeno, cheddar, and cilantro cornbread

I love Austin, Texas. The people are warm, the food is amazing, and the weather --  well, let's not talk about the weather. Let's stick with the people and the food. One morning while Jeff and I were eating breakfast at an Austin eatery, we started chatting with a lovely elderly couple next to us. The conversation quickly turned to food: we talked brisket, chili, Shiner bock (which they drink from the bottle), and cornbread. When I told the wife that I had never made corn bread in a skillet, she replied, in a dramatic affected Southern accent, "Well, dahlin', if it ain't made in a cast-iron skillet, then it ain't cornbread."

She shared how her skillet had been in her family for three generations and how she wouldn't dream of making cornbread in a regular metal pan or glass baking dish. I would have loved to share a sentimental tale about my family's cast-iron skillet and corn bread recipe, but the truth is, we don't have one. Sure, my mom made cornbread, but it usually came from a Jiffy box, and I wasn't gonna tell that to the Texan with the third generation cast-iron skillet. 

Although cornbread is a Southern staple, it comes in numerous regional variations across the country. Some of the most memorable ones I've had include a New Mexican cornbread studded with fiery hatch chilies, a New Orleans cornbread laced with Cajun spices and Cheddar cheese, and a North Carolina cornbread made with buttermilk and bacon. My favorite, however, remains the one I ate when I was a kid in New England: dense, sweet cornbread toasted with butter and drizzled with honey.

There aren't too many people who don't love cornbread. It's easy, versatile, and satisfying. It's delicious on its own, dunked in a bowl of hot chili, or used as a mop for excess bbq sauce on your plate. It can be simple and plain or chock full of add-ins such as bacon, corn kernels, and peppers. There's a corn bread to suit just about any taste. 

jalapeno, cheddar, and cilantro cornbread

Since chilly weather is upon us, it's time for a substantial cornbread that pairs well with hearty chilis and stews, like my jalapeno cheddar cornbread. It's punctuated with crisp corn kernels, hot jalapenos, and creamy sharp Cheddar cheese. It was made in a 9 X 9 inch square baking dish, not a cast-iron skillet. Sure, I could go buy one, but to me, that's one of those things that should be passed down in a family. And since my grandmother and mother cared a lot more about making gravy and meatballs than cornbread, skillets didn't feature prominently in our house.

So, tell me, what's your favorite cornbread recipe? 

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
Makes 16 pieces
Print recipe only here.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably coarsely ground
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 small jalapeno, finely chopped
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1. Place rack in center of oven, and preheat to 425 degrees F. Coat a 9 X 9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, milk, and oil. Beat with an electric mixer until just smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in jalapeno, corn, Cheddar, and cilantro.

3. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

You might also like these recipes from Food Blogga: 
Mom's Zucchini Bread (with pineapple and coconut!)
Sweet Corn and Honey Muffins
Persimmon and Date Bread

Here are more cornbread recipes I'd like to make:
Cornbread recipe at Homesick Texan
Bacon Cornbread recipe at House of Annie
Chipotle Cornbread recipe at Baking Bites
Cranberry Cornbread recipe at Closet Cooking
Tri-Colored Cornbread recipe at Mango and Tomato

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baking With Granny Smith Apples: A Recipe for Old-Fashioned Spiced Apple Streusel Muffins

apple streusel muffins

I'm back home in New England this week; I'm wearing my fleece, enjoying brilliant foliage, and subsisting on a diet of apples and goods baked with apples. Although you can't compare the year-round fresh produce in San Diego with the produce here, when it comes to apples, New England is indisputably #1. Although any apple can be shined on your sleeve and eaten as is, we usually divide them into eating and cooking apples: firm Cortlands for baking pies; soft MacIntosh for apple sauce; crisp Macouns for eating.

baskets of apples in Scituate, Rhode Island
(Apples from Pomfret, Connecticut.)

Before I left San Diego, I used some Granny Smith apples I had to make these Old-Fashioned Spiced Apple Streusel Muffins. The sour tang of Granny Smiths contrasts deliciously with sweet raisins, brown sugar, and spices. The beauty of this Granny Smith recipe is that they taste like your grandmother's homey spiced apple streusel muffins but with a youthful jolt of tartness. Pair them with a latte for a San Diego treat, or go New England with a nice, hot cup 'a coffee. 

apple streusel muffins

Old-Fashioned Spiced Apple Streusel Muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins.
Print recipe only here.

Streusel Topping:
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon cold butter

1 1/4 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (about 2 small)
2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons butter
1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped raisins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
5 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-mold regular size muffin pan with paper muffins cups.

2. To make the streusel, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts. Cut cold butter into small pieces. Using your fingertips, rub butter into the mixture until a pebbly texture forms. Refrigerate while making the muffins.

3. For the apples: Put peeled apples in a small bowl, and douse with lemon juice. Toss to coat. In a medium skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 teaspoons butter. Add apples and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice. Add raisins. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until apples are lightly browned and tender. Remove from heat.

4. For the muffins: Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 teaspoon apple pie spice in a large bowl and stir well.

5. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract; whisk well. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the cooked apples.

6. Spoon the batter evenly into the into 12 muffin cups. Remove streusel from refrigerator, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the muffins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

Here are more apple recipes from Food Blogga that you might enjoy:
Tuscan Torte di Mele (Apple Cake)
Apple, Fennel, and Celery Salad
Crunchy Veg Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Cranberry, Raisin, and Walnut Apple Sauce

Here are more apple muffin recipes you might enjoy:
Jumbo Fluffy Apple Walnut Muffins at Confabulation in the Kitchen
Apple Muffins with Maple Glaze at Recipe Girl
Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins at That's Not What the Recipe Says
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins at Bleeding Espresso

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rigatoni with Walnut, Parsley, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto. And, Yes, It Is a Pesto.

rigatoni with walnut, parsley, and sun-dried tomato pesto

There once was a time when basil reigned supreme. A time when basil was ubiquitous in Italian dishes. A time when pesto always meant basil.

Not anymore.

Pesto is a Ligurian sauce made from mashed basil, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, and pine nuts. Though it has been enjoyed by Italians for centuries, it's a newborn to American cuisine. Sunset magazine was instrumental in introducing this sauce to Americans, when in 1946, it published a pesto recipe by Tuscan native, Angelo Pellegrini. It wasn't until the 1980's and early '90s that pesto became widely popular with chefs and home cooks, who could easily buy fresh basil at the market.

Maybe it was boredom with basil. Maybe it was creative genius by some chefs. Whatever it was, by the mid to late '90s new "pestos" made with herbs such as mint, parsley, and sage were popping up in restaurants and in cooking magazines. Now "pesto" would have to be qualified: mint pesto or sage pesto. Some people were thrilled. Others confused. Some indignant. Pesto purists (you know who you are) will argue that "pesto," refers to the Ligurian sauce made with basil. For them, all other "pestos" are imposters.

You can call me a swindler or a sell-out, but I say, if it's a sauce made with herbs, nuts, oil, and cheese, then it's a pesto. And I'm sticking to it. That is, unless Anthony Bourdain or Mark Bittman or Judith Jones emails me directly to say that I'm wrong. Then I'll change my mind. Maybe.

Rigatoni with Walnut, Parsley, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Serves 4-6
Print recipe only here.

The tiny pieces of rich olive oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes and earthy walnuts make this a satisfyingly thick, knobby pesto that bursts with flavor.

1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 small garlic clove
3 tablespoons olive oil soaked sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon water, or more if needed

1 pound rigatoni

1. In a food processor, combine the parsley, walnuts, cheese, and garlic.* Process until the mixture is finely chopped. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil, then water in a steady stream, and process until smooth. (Add additional water or olive if necessary to achieve desired consistency.) Set aside.

*Note regarding garlic:
If you don't prefer the pungency of raw garlic, then heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add garlic, and saute until slightly golden, 2-3 minutes. Then add to food processor.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta. Cook, stirring frequently, until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta.

3. Place the pasta in a large warmed serving bowl. Top with pesto, and toss well. Garnish with grated cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

You might also enjoy these pasta recipes from Food Blogga:
Creamy Goat Cheese and Beet Green Pasta
Quick Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta
Pasta with Lemony Broccoli, Walnuts, and Toasted Breadcrumbs

You might also like these pesto recipes:
Cilantro-Lime Pesto recipe at 5 Second Rule
Mint Pesto recipe at Savour Fare
Rosemary Pesto recipe at Real Epicurean
Rocket/Arugula Pesto recipe at Home Gourmets

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Who Doesn't Love Betty Crocker's Cooky Book Recipe for Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies?


Some flavor combinations never go out of style, like chocolate and peanut butter, cranberries and orange, and lemon and poppy seed. I grew up eating (and loving) my mom's lemon poppy seed muffins -- big, moist, hill-topped treats that were covered in sweet, tart lemon icing.

Walk into just about any bakery or coffee shop today, and chances are good that you'll find some kind of lemon-poppy seed baked good: muffin, scone, cake, or cookie. Maybe it's because they have old-fashioned charm, or maybe it's because they're appealing to just about everybody. Really. Have you ever heard of someone turning down a slice of lemon poppy seed cake?


You'll have a hard time turning down today's recipe for Lemon Poppy Drop Cookies with Poppy Seed Glaze. The recipe is slightly adapted from an original in the iconic 1963 Betty Crocker Cooky Book. I remember my mom making many recipes from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book, but I don't remember if lemon poppy drops were one of them. No doubt, after reading this post, she'll be making a batch. You might too. After all, have you ever heard of someone turning down a glazed lemon poppy seed cookie?

Lemon Poppy Drop Cookies with Poppy Seed Glaze
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Print recipe only here.
This recipe is slightly adapted from the original.

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest 1/2 lemon

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3 teaspoons)
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. For the cookies: In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter, and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients.

3. Drop dough in heaping tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely before glazing.

4. For the glaze: Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. The glaze should cling to the back of a spoon. For easy clean up, place a sheet of parchment paper underneath the cookie rack before glazing cookies. Drizzle glaze over cookies. Allow to cool completely until the glaze hardens. Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container for up to a week.

You might also enjoy these recipes featuring citrus:
Orange Delight Cookies
Orange, Date, and Pecan Bread
Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Lemon
Italian Easter Rice Pie

Here are more light and lemony cookie recipes you might enjoy:

Lemonade Cookies at Food Blogga
Crispy Lemon Cookies at Kitchen Gadget Girl Cooks
Lemon Thyme Cornmeal Cookies at The Perfect Pantry
Lemon and Fleur de Sel Cookies at Chocolate and Zucchini
Buttermilk Cookies with Lemon Zest at Orangette

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Remembering Nan and Her Recipe for Italian Chicken and Escarole Soup


Fall has arrived in San Diego. This morning on our hike Jeff and I could see our breath in the blustery morning air. We loved it.

There's nothing like a chill October morning with a crisp blue sky to evoke feelings of nostalgia. Within minutes of our hike, our talk turned to missing New England and our autumn traditions, like apple picking, pumpkin carving, and decorating for Halloween.

One person in particular has been on our mind: my grandmother, Nan. I have written about Nan numerous times on this blog, and many of my regular readers feel as if they know her. Last October 5th, Nan turned one hundred years old. She had no idea of the significance of the day. But she did love her whipped cream covered chocolate cake with pink roses, so much so, that she ate two big slices. Watching her enjoy that cake was the best part of the day.

This past July, Nan passed away peacefully, with my mother by her side. Yes, she was fortunate to live to 100. Still, I miss her. We all do.

Next week Jeff and I are going back to Rhode Island. This morning on our hike, I instinctively said to him, "When are we going to visit Nan?" Then I realized, Wait a minute. We can't visit Nan. It's strange how that happens.

Feeling blue for Nan and for New England, I decided to make us something soul-soothing: Nan's Italian Chicken Soup with Escarole. What made her soup special was escarole -- a crisp, bitter type of endive that lends robust flavor. If you're wondering where the mini meatballs are, you won't find any here. Nan couldn't abide meatballs in chicken soup, and neither can I. That's all there is to it.

This recipe is based on Nan's soup, though it isn't her exact recipe. It couldn't possibly be -- she never used recipes. For her, it was always just "a little of this" and "a pinch of that." This won't taste exactly like Nan's -- no one's ever could -- but it will sooth your belly and your soul. The way only your grandmother's chicken soup can. Thanks, Nan.

Italian chicken soup with escarole

Nan's Italian Chicken and Escarole Soup
Makes 8-10 servings
Print recipe only here.

2-2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 celery stalks with leaves, cut into 1/4-inch slices
12 cups chicken stock or broth
1 head of escarole, chopped (about 5 cups)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 cups cooked ditalini or other small pasta, optional*

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil (for easy clean-up). Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over chicken. Sprinkle with several shakes of salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove, and cool slightly. Then using a fork, shred the chicken.

2. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions, carrots, and celery, and saute 5-7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the cooked chicken and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low. Add escarole, salt, crushed red pepper, parsley, and cheese. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Taste it, and adjust seasonings as needed. Add cooked pasta, if desired. Otherwise, serve hot, and garnish each serving with additional grated cheese.

*Nan would add the cooked pasta only just before serving so it wouldn't soak up all the broth. I do the same. I'd also highly recommend serving some crusty Italian bread with this soup. How are else are you going to sop up the broth at the bottom of the bowl?

Here are more posts featuring Nan and her recipes:
Nan's Italian Lentil Soup
Italian Asparagus, Mushroom, and Parmesan Frittata
Potato, Pepper, and Onion Frittata
The Best Ever Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Italian Ricotta Pie with Pineapple
Italian Pizzelle Cookies
Italian Pepper Biscuits
My NPR piece: Nan's Way: The Only Way to Make Easter Pies (includes an audio interview!)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Not One, But Two Fresh Fig Cake Recipes

fresh california figs
Brown turkey figs grown in San Diego County.

This past weekend at the BlogHer Conference, I was on a panel entitled, "The Meaning of Identity and The Value of Voice in a Crowded Foodblogging World." I shared the stage with three lovely and talented food bloggers: Dianne of Will Write For Food, Garrett of Vanilla Garlic, and Ree of Pioneer Woman.

When asked to identify "voice," we all agreed: Voice is an expression of you -- your personality, your beliefs, your attitudes, your quirks, etc. My post today is a perfect illustration of that.

Every time I get dressed to go out, I try on at least two, sometimes three different outfits. Even if the first outfit is ideal for the occasion, I feel compelled to try on at least one another. What if I don't like the way that dress looks when I put it on? What if I'm cold in a sleeveless top? What if? What if? What if?

Maybe it's a touch of OCD. Maybe it's because I'm a closet What Not To Wear addict. Maybe it's just because I'm indecisive. I don't know. I don't care. After 30- some- odd years, I've decided to just go with it. (Fortunately, Jeff has too.)

Apparently, I have the same problem with fresh fig cake recipes. I was all set to post on one fresh fig cake when I got this incurable itch to make another. What if it's sweeter? What if it's better with some fresh rosemary? What if? What if? What if?

So I tried on a second recipe. My verdict? There's both delicious (and stylish). That's the beauty of blogging. I don't have to choose. I can wear both.

dorie greenspan's fig cake for fall
Fresh fig cake #1: Dorie's Fig Cake For Fall.

Though both cakes are made with fresh figs, they're not at all like one another. The first, a fig and polenta cake, slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Fig Cake for Fall recipe, is rustic and boozy. It's the kind of the cake that's ideal for sharing with good friends and good wine on a lazy weekend afternoon.

fresh fig, walnut, and rosemary upside-down cake
Fresh fig cake #2: My Fresh Fig, Walnut, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake.

The second is my Fresh Fig, Walnut, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake, which I adapted from my grandmother's famous pineapple upside-down cake recipe. I've got to tell you, I'm smitten with this cake. The lush, ripe figs become encased in a buttery brown sugar crust, while the savory rosemary and tangy lemon balance the cake's sweetness perfectly.

I won't tell you which fresh fig cake you should make because that would be presumptuous. So, I'll tell you this instead: Make both. OK, so maybe that is presumptuous, but it's better than saying, "I couldn't make up my mind."

Fresh Fig, Walnut, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake

Makes 8 servings
Print recipe only here.

1/2 cup butter (8 tablespoons)
1 cup brown sugar
10 fresh, ripe figs of your choice, tips removed, halved
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped, divided
2-3 tablespoons walnut pieces, or as many as needed
1 cup flour, sifted*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F.

2. Add butter to a 9-inch-round baking pan, and place inside of a warm oven until melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the butter. Add figs, flesh side down, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the rosemary. Fill in the nooks and crannies with walnut pieces.

3. In a medium bowl, combine sifted flour, baking powder and salt, and stir.

4. Using a hand mixer, in a metal or glass bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until fluffy. Set aside.

5. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar at medium speed until creamy. Add lemon juice, zest, vanilla extract, and remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary, and beat well. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, and beat until well combined. Fold in the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Pour cake mixture evenly over the fruit, and smooth with the spatula.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert carefully onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Note: Sifting the flour creates a lighter cake.

dorie greenspan's fig cake for fall
Don't forget to drizzle each slice of Dorie's fig cake with some spiced wine sauce.

Dorie Greenspan's A Fig Cake for Fall
Makes 8-10 servings
Print recipe only here.

This is Dorie Greenspan's recipe for A Fig Cake for Fall from her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. Since I adapted it ever so slightly, I merely added the changes in parentheses where applicable.

3/4 cup ruby port (I used Muscato)
1 cup honey, divided
2 thin slices lemon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (my addition)
16-20 fresh figs, stemmed and halved (I used Calimyrna)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably medium grind
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
grated zest 1/2 lemon (I used 1 whole lemon)
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature
3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Stir the port and 1/2 cup honey together in small saucepan. Add lemon slices and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat. Add figs, cover, and cook 4-6 minutes, or until figs are soft but not falling apart. Using a slotted spoon, transfer figs to a bowl. Raise the heat to medium and cook the liquid for 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened; the syrup should coat a metal spoon. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust the inside of the pan with flour, tapping out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

3. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

4. In a separate bowl, add sugar and lemon zest; rub together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist. Add butter. Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Pour in remaining 1/2 cup honey, and the vanilla extract; beat for 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, add dry ingredients, and mix until just incorporated. The batter will be fairly thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan from side to side to even out the batter. Scatter poached figs over the top.

5. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before running a blunt knife around the edges and releasing the sides of the pan. Cool the cake slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle slices with wine sauce.

Here are more delicious fig dessert recipes you might enjoy:
Dessert Risotto with Wine Poached Figs recipe at Food Blogga
Fresh Fig Tart recipe at Macheesmo
Gingered Flavored Fig Tartlets recipe at La Tartine Gourmande
Fresh Fig Sorbet recipe at Ms. Adventures in Italy