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Molasses Spice Cookies

This is a recipe from “Cooks Illustrated” dating back over 20 years. They’re my go-to autumn cookie. I’ll make these before chocolate chip, or oatmeal. They are flavorful without being overly sweet. Tender without being cloying. You can double the recipe, it’ll still fit in a standard Kitchen-Aid mixer bowl. The dough also freezes well. Shape the cookies into balls before freezing and you can thaw and bake a few at a time.

Molasses Spice Cookies

Ingredients

2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt, plus additional 1/4 tsp for rolling
12 tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (dark is better)
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses.

Instructions

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment (or Silpat sheet liners). Put 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in a wide, shallow bowl for rolling.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt, set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add brown and white sugars, beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium, add egg yolk and vanilla. Beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium low, add molasses and beat until incorporated, pausing to scrape down sides. add flour/spice mixture, beat on lowest setting until incorporated, roughly 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

cookie factoryUsing a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon measure, scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough. Roll between your palms into a 1-1/2″ ball. Drop ball in rolling sugar, roll to coat, and set on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough , spacing the balls 2″ apart. (Note: if you want to freeze these, roll them, don’t sugar them, bag them and freeze them at this point).

Bake one sheet at a time,  until the cookies are set on the edges, but still look slightly puffy in the centers (this will keep them tender and chewy), approximately 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through cooking to ensure even baking.

Transfer cookie sheet to a cooling rack, let the cookies rest for five minutes or so, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 24 cookies.

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Gluten Free Sweet Potato Pecan Tea Bread

This is a nice autumnal change from pumpkin spice… everything. If you want a vegan version, swap out the butter for coconut oil. The lack of gluten makes this crumblier than a typical tea bread, so be gentle when cutting it.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked sweet potato, mashed coarsely, approximately 8 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups gluten free flour (spelt flour, or King Arthur gluten free flour)
  • 2-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks) or equal amount coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut flakes (preferably unsweetened).

Cook, peel, and mash the sweet potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, soda, powder and salt.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. add the sugar and brown sugar, beat until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium, until well mixed. Add the sweet potato and vanilla and beat until just mixed. Gradually add the flour, beating on low until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, 60 – 80 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.

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“The Primo:” A summer cocktail

Summer drinks. When I have fresh fruit and herbs, I make a plethora of simple syrups and shrubs for mixing. Inspired by a local bar, I’ve been working on a grapefruit & basil cocktail, which finally seems to be ready to share. This recipe is for two drinks. It would scale up pretty easily, assuming you have something big enough to make it in.

Ingredients

  • 4 large, fresh basil leaves
  • 1 keffir lime leaf (fresh is best, dried will work in a pinch)
  • pinch salt
  • 3 oz basil simple syrup
  • 4 oz. vodka
  • 6 oz grapefruit juice
  • bitters
  • lemon twist
  • fresh basil leaves

Instructions

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the basil, lime leaf, and salt until the leaves have expressed their oils. Add in the simple syrup, vodka, and grapefruit juice, then add ice to the shaker and shake until well chilled. Rinse two martini glasses with a splash of bitters. Pour out the cocktail, garnish with a twist of lemon and a fresh basil leaf. Makes two.

Basil Simple Syurp

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, stems and all

Instructions

Add all ingredients to a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer over low heat until the syrup thickens slightly, approximately 40 minutes. Cool, then jar. It will keep in the fridge for several weeks.

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Pickled Radishes

Radishes are in, so it is time to preserve some of the harvest.  This recipe works well as either a fridge pickle or a water-processed canned pickle. If you plan on water-processing, cut the radishes on the thick side to preserve their crunch.

Spicy Pickled Radishes

Ingredients

  • Approximately 12 radishes (depending on variety and size, this could be up to 24)
  • ¾ apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup or light brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (flavorful without being overly spicy, if you want a hotter pickle, use coarsely ground dried serrano or thai bird chiles)
  • ½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 12 black peppercorns

Instructions

Wash the radishes, trim off the tops, the bottoms, and any blemishes or discolorations. Using a chef’s knife, thinly slice the radishes into rounds (If you plan on preserving these with a water bath or pressure cooker, make the rounds thicker). Toss with 1 tsp. kosher salt and place in a colander to sweat while you make the brine.

Make the brine: In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water,  maple syrup or sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat.

Rinse the radishes under cold water and pat them dry. Have two 8 oz jars and lids washed and ready (if you are using a water bath, put the lids and cans in a pot of water and bring to a boil, keep them there until you are ready to pack your pickles). Fill each jar with radishes and top with the dry spices. Press gently with a clean wooden spoon to pack everything lightly, then cover with the hot brine. For fridge pickles, top the jar with a lid, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for 2-3 days to allow the flavors to meld. For processed pickles, leave 1/4″ head space at the top of the jar when filling with brine. Press gently to expel any trapped air, then place a lid and a ring on the can. Water process in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool (you should hear the lids *tink* as the vacuum seal sets while they cool). Store in a cool, dark place for at least a week. Refrigerate after opening.

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Fennel, Mushroom, and Roquefort Tart

I was in the mood for a savory, vegetable tart. I’d made, in the past, a Stilton and fennel tart, but that wasn’t quite right. And I have an old Williams-Sonoma recipe for a mushroom galette, but that wasn’t quite right either. So, I thought I’d mix and match, which turned out to be a good idea. Usually, I’d make a rough puff pastry, but I found this recipe for a savory tart crust on Smitten Kitchen, and it was different enough from my usual crust that I gave it a whirl.  In the end, the tart is a rich, savory, fulfilling main course.

Ingredients

1 small fennel bulb, stems removed, quartered and thinly sliced
1 small leek, white part only, quartered, thinly sliced and washed
8 oz. white button mushrooms or crimini mushrooms, wiped and sliced thin
6 oz. fresh wild mushrooms, wiped and sliced thin (I used oyster, but anything that looks good, or a mix, will do)
1/2 tsp dried sage
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz. Roquefort cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Tart crust, either store bought, or homemade

Equipment

9″ two-piece tart pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment cut to fit.

Crust

If you’re using a Store-bought crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, gently place the crust in the tart pan, pressing it down into the edge, trim, then chill for 30 minutes. Place the pan on a cookie sheet, line the crust with foil, fill with beans or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, return the crust and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the crust is light golden. Remove to a cooling rack.

If you’re making a crust from scratch, it doesn’t need to be blind baked. assemble the crust, line the tart pan, and tuck the crust in the fridge while you work on the filling.

Filling

In a 12″ cast iron skillet or saute pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium low heat. Add the fennel and leek and cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel is soft, 20 minutes or so. Scrape the fennel and leek into a bowl, wipe the pan clean. Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and add the mushrooms, stirring, until the mushrooms give up their liquid. Add the sage, a generous grinding of pepper, and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking until the liquid in the pan is gone, another 7-10 minutes. Scrape the mushrooms into the bowl with the fennel and leek, stir to combine.

Beat the eggs and milk together until combined.

Assembling the Tart

Take the tart crust from the fridge. Spread the filling evenly over the crust, pressing it gently flat but not compacting it. Crumble the Roquefort and scatter it over the mushrooms. Take the egg-milk mixture and pour evenly over the filling, top with the Parmesan cheese, and another few grinds of pepper.

Bake at 350 until well browned and fragrant, 30 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and cool until just lukewarm. Remove the tart from the tart pan, serve warm.

 

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Rosemary Sweet Potato Rolls

I had one sweet potato kicking around the pantry. I could have simply roasted it and eaten it, but, instead, decided to chase down a sweet potato roll recipe. The original is here, but I made some alterations, cutting out sugar and altering the glaze a bit. These look funny, since I cooked them in a cast iron frying pan. If you want nice looking, even rolls, cook them in a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Rolls

1/2 cup water (I used the water from boiling the sweet potato) 100-110 degrees
1/4 cup whole milk, 100-110 degrees
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp yeast
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
2-1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, or 1 tbsp dried, minced
1 cup mashed sweet potato (putting it through a potato ricer or food mill will give you better results)
4-1/2 to 5 cups all purpose, unbleached flour.

Glaze

3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp fresh rosemary, or 1 tbsp dried rosemary, minced
coarse sea salt

Mix the water, milk, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl let proof until frothy, 10 minutes or so. Add in the eggs and beat, then add the salt, butter, and rosemary, beat again. Add in the sweet potato and beat until well mixed. Add two cups of flour and mix until incorporated. Add two more cups and mix until incorporated. If you’re doing this by hand, you will, at this point, have to abandon your spoon and get your hands dirty, kneading the flour in. If the dough feels slack or sticky, gradually add the remaining flour. Otherwise, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough feels smooth and slightly tacky, about ten minutes. Place in a covered container and let rise until doubled in size, roughly an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 16 equal pieces. Shape your rolls and place them in a parchment-lined 9 x 13″ baking pan (you can oil it lightly, but I found this unnecessary). Cover the pan and let the rolls rise again, 45 minutes or so. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the glaze: Stir the butter, honey, and rosemary together. Brush the tops of the rolls with the glaze. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned. Remove from the oven and brush once again with the glaze, scatter coarse sea salt over the rolls. Serve warm.

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Maple Shortbread Cookies

Sugaring season starts in mid-February in Vermont, and lasts until the trees bud. Showing up with a plate of these maple shortbread cookies to a “Sugar on Snow” dinner isn’t a bad idea. The maple isn’t overpowering, and the cookies aren’t overly sweet. If you don’t want to bother rolling them out and using a cookie cutter, you can always form the dough into a log, chill it, and slice rounds. But, really, making maple-leaf shaped cookies is half the fun.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour

In a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is light and airy. Add the sugar, beat until incorporated, then add the syrup and egg yolk. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour, mixing until the dough is just combined. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour (overnight is better).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment. Divide the dough in half, keeping one half in the fridge. Roll the other half out to 1/8″ thick, and cut with a cookie cutter. Save the dough scraps, put them back in the fridge as you roll out and cut the second half of the dough. Continue rolling and cutting until the scraps are all used up. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned (the cookies may look undercooked in the middle, this is fine. They’ll firm up on the cooling rack). Depending on the size of your cookie cutter, this will make approximately 24 cookies.

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Beet Ravioli (Casunziei all’ampezzana)

These are an attractive, dish to serve to your vegetarian friends. Garlic-infused beet and potato ravioli, topped with a simple butter and poppy seed sauce. If you want to get extra-fancy, make batches with red beets and golden beets for a multi-colored main course.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds (700 grams) of fresh beets (about 3 medium beets)
  • 1/2 pound (250 grams) of potato (about 2 small potatoes)
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves, whole
  • Olive oil
  • pinches of freshly ground nutmeg
  • pinches of ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 3 ounces (80 grams) Parmesan cheese, grated

The Pasta

Combine the flour and the pinch of salt in a bowl, make a well in the center and crack the eggs into it, add the oil, then, using a fork, whisk the egg and oil until combined. Slowly start working the flour into the eggs. The mixture will become very stiff, eventually, you’ll have to switch to your hands. Work the dough until it is no longer sticky. When it is smooth and bounces back when poked with a finger, shape it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

The Filling

While the dough rests, wash and quarter the beets and the potatoes (don’t bother peeling them). Place together in a pot, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender (the potatoes may finish faster than the beets, if so, remove them with a slotted spoon and let the beets finish). Puree both the beets and potatoes using a food mill (the skins will be left behind in the mill).

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil over gentle heat in a pan large enough to hold the beets and potatoes. Add the garlic cloves and saute for a moment. Over medium-low heat, add the potatoes and beets and cook until they thicken and start to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Add the nutmeg,  cloves and some salt, remove the garlic and take the mixture off the heat, letting it cool completely.

Making the Ravioli

Roll out half of the pasta on a floured surface until it is thin enough to see your hand through (a pasta machine works, too, of course). Cut out rounds with a drinking glass or a 3″ diameter biscuit cutter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each round, then fold over to make half-moon shapes. Seal the edges firmly with your fingers or with a fork. Set the ravioli aside, uncovered, on a floured surface as you finish them. Save the scraps of dough under a tea towel while you work. Continue to roll and fill until the filling and dough are used up.

At this point, the ravioli can be placed on a cookie sheet, so they’re not touching, and frozen. Once frozen, bag them and return to the freezer. To cook the frozen ravioli, bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and place the frozen ravioli straight from the freezer into the water. Do not thaw them first.

If you are cooking them fresh, bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and drop the ravioli in. Remove them when they float, 2-3 minutes. Toss with melted butter, poppy seeds, and freshly-grated Parmesan (a grinding of black pepper, while non-traditional, is welcome, too). Serve immediately.

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Texas-style Chili

I had a hankering for real, Texas-style chili: no beans, stew beef rather than ground beef, and a slew of different chiles, both dried and fresh. Your mix of peppers determines the heat; I opted for milder spiciness, if you like things hotter, add in some dried Thai bird chiles or some fresh scotch bonnet or habaneros.

 

2 dried red New Mexico chiles
3 dried pasilla chiles
1 chipotle in adobo
1 tbsp of adobo reserved
1 tsp cumin powder
4 lbs grass-fed beef, sliced into 3/4″ cubes
1 white onion, diced
2 fresh green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup masa harina

split and seed the dried chiles, toast them on a hot, ungreased cast iron skillet, one at a time, pressing them down, flipping and pressing them down again, 10 seconds or so per pepper. Transfer to a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes or so.

Transfer the peppers to a blender, add half the garlic, the cumin, the reserved adobo, a bit of salt, and enough of the soaking liquid so you can puree the peppers. Work the puree through a medium mesh strainer back into a bowl. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet and add the pepper puree, cook, stirring over high-heat for 2-3 minutes, until it darkens slightly and becomes a bit glossy. Transfer back to a bowl.

In a six quart dutch oven or pot, heat another 2 tbsp of oil. brown the beef in batches. remove to a bowl. Once all the beef is browned, without wiping out the pot, add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the green chilis and the remaining garlic, cook, stirring until the pepper softens slightly. Add back in the beef, toss to coat, then add the chili sauce, tomato, and oregano, stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the beef is tender, 2-3 hours. Right before serving, stir in the masa (which will thicken the sauce slightly) taste, adjust salt, if necessary, and serve with corn bread.

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Easy Artisan Bread

This is, really, the simplest loaf of bread to bake. The only catch? You need a dutch oven that can stand being put in a 450 degree oven. Cooking the bread in a dutch oven traps the moisture, giving the crust that lovely look. This has been my weekly bread all winter. Minimal fuss with a wonderful result.

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
1-1/2 cups warm (110 degree) water.
Stir together the dry ingredients, add the water and stir until just combined. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise, 12-24 hours. When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the dutch oven in the oven to preheat as well. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball, dusting your hands with flour (the dough will be sticky. Place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper, dust the top with flour, and allow to rest while the oven heats.  When the oven is hot, remove the dutch oven, place the bread and parchment in the dutch oven, put the lid on and cook for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid (I usually just remove the bread and place it on a cookie sheet) and return to the oven to brown the crust, another 15 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool