Cookbooks

Triple Apple Snack Cake + First Look at The Fruit Forager’s Companion

This Triple Apple Snack Cake—cider, sauce, and fresh apples—means this cake is bursting with fall flavor. This one comes from Sara Bir’s cookbook The Fruit Forager’s Companion!

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12 to 16 servings

It’s fall, and apple picking—or at the very least, apple eating—is on the brain for many of us. Apples work in all manner of recipes, and not all of them sweet.

But let’s face it, that’s where most of us go when it comes to this fruit, right?

This apple snack cake wants to be tucked into lunchbox or sliced up ad hoc by small hands after school. It’s not exceedingly sweet, so it would work with coffee or tea in the afternoon (or, in the morning, let’s be real here).

It’s good any time you want to eat it. It is an all-occasion thing—hence, a snack cake.

A RECIPE FROM THE FRUIT FORAGER’S COMPANION

This recipe comes to us from The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond (Chelsea Green, 2018) by Simply Recipes contributor Sara Bir.

Bir’s book comes to life with her stellar fruit research, funny anecdotes, and a keen eye for detail. It’s full of recipes both familiar and that sound a little unorthodox — things like jams, relishes, and compotes, along with scones, salads, pies, and pizza.

The snack cake we’re featuring here is full of recognizable comfort, but have you ever worked with mayhaws, sumac, or, Bir’s favorite and arguably the gateway fruit for this whole topic—pawpaws? The book offers enough that’s approachable and a complement of recipes for those who are truly culinarily curious.

Never fear, the fruit forager is here.

The gift of this book is the way it sees the potential we have to feed ourselves right in our backyards.

SARA BIR’S LIFE AS A FORAGER

Bir spends much of her free time during the growing season hunting for things that others miss. There’s a wealth of foods available in our backyards, forests, parks, roadsides, and so forth—and you don’t even have to be an expert.

She says it’s just about becoming familiar with what is in your environment—and that doesn’t necessarily just mean with the edibles in your yard or local park.

It also means “foraging” at the farmers’ market, noticing seasonal foods, or looking out for new foods you’ve never seen before, and asking farmers questions about them. It’s a practice of mindfulness. And something she joking refers to as “eyeball foraging,”—you’re just sort of eyeballing things as you go.

The idea of foraging sounds kind of esoteric, or difficult, but it isn’t. It’s really the fancy way of saying, this is how we used to eat. And it doesn’t require a whole lot of knowledge—just a sense of curiosity, really, about what grows in our environments, and how that changes with the seasons.

A SNACK CAKE WITH TRIPLE APPLE FLAVOR

Recipes often work well because a layering of flavors takes place. In this case, the snack cake has apples in triplicate: applesauce, apple cider, and chunks of apples. The applesauce adds moisture, the cider concentrates the flavor, and the apples add texture.

WHICH APPLES TO USE FOR THIS SNACK CAKE

I used Pink Ladies and Honeycrisp apples in this recipe, but you can use what you find when you go picking.

Or maybe you’ve got friends with apples trees. When I asked Bir what kind of apples she liked to use for this recipe, she says, “The ones that are free, that you find.” Of course! What else would a forager say?

All things considered, though, you might be as lucky as I am to find a local orchard that also produces cider and applesauce, which you can use for this recipe and which will undoubtedly create a more interesting apple flavor.

Or you can go all out and make your own cider or applesauce; Bir provides recipes for both in her book.

WHAT ELSE TO FORAGE AND MAKE FROM THIS COOKBOOK

I also plan on making the Citrus Curd from The Fruit Forager’s Companion, which calls for lemon, orange or limes. I think I will use all of them. I don’t live in California or anywhere that citrus grows, so my foraging for citrus will be the grocery store for this one.

We are also in pear season right now, and I’m angling to make the Arugula, Pear and Almond Pizza. Or maybe the Italian plum cake. Oh forget it, they all look delicious!

Sara’s own favorite hidden gem from the book is something called Old Sour, a condiment that’s well known in the Florida Keys. It’s basically a brine you make from limes, to which you add spicy peppers and then you bottle it and let the whole thing ferment.

It’s salty, citrusy and spicy, equally good over sautéed veggies like corn or zucchini, and also in “taco situations,” she says. Southeast Asian food would benefit from it. “It has a bright heat, with top notes of heat, and the citrus notes are deeper—almost like a citrus hard candy,” she explains. It dissipates quickly, in other words.

MORE COOKBOOK RECIPES TO EXPLORE!

• Pot Sticker Stir-Fry from Nom Nom Paleo
• Pressure Cooker Cheesecake from The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook
• Quick Chicken Pho from The Pho Cookbook
• Snip Doodles (Snickerdoodle Coffeecake) from Bravetart Cookbook
• Speculoos Brownie Cake from Baker’s Royale Cookbook

This happens to be one of the most moist cakes I’ve ever made. Make sure you wait until it’s completely cool before you cut it—otherwise you’ll end up with chunks of cake on your knife.

This recipe is from Sara Bir’s book The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) applesauce
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) apple cider
  • 3/4 cup (165g) brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
  • 2 1/2 cups (325g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup (240 ml) apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Position the rack in the center and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2 Make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk the applesauce, vegetable oil, cider, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and eggs together until combined. Fold in the diced apples. Set aside.

3 Mix the dry ingredients into the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add it to the wet ingredients and fold it in until you don’t see any dry lumps.

4 Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out free of crumbs, 35 to 45 minutes.

5 Make the glaze: While the cake bakes, boil 1 cup cider until it reduces to 1/4 cup. Whisk in the confectioner’s sugar.

6 Glaze the cake: Immediately after removing the cake from the oven, pour the glaze over the top and spread it around evenly with a spatula. Cool on a wire rack before serving. The cake will keep, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.

Posted by gen_gen - 2019 at 

Categories: Cookbooks   Tags: , ,

Pressure Cooker Shepherd’s Pie + First Look at The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook!

Everything you love about Shepherd’s Pie, but this quick and easy version is made in the pressure cooker! Pressure cook the potatoes on top of the filling, then mash, assemble the casserole and serve. So easy!

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Shepherd’s Pie is one meal that both my husband and I can have for days on end and never grow tired of eating. I mean, creamy mashed potatoes on top of ground beef and tender veggies in a lip-smacking sauce — what’s not to love?!

The only reason that we don’t make it more often is because (let’s be honest here) it’s kind of a production to make. As in, an afternoon-consuming production that leaves my kitchen looking rather storm tossed by the end. Some weekends, I enjoy this production. Others, not so much.

Enter my new favorite recipe: this Pressure Cooker Shepherd’s Pie from my pal and Simply Recipes contributor Coco Morante’s new book The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook.

  • New to the Instant Pot? Check out our post How To Use an Instant Pot: A First-Timer’s Guide.

You guys, this recipe is fast, easy, and most importantly, delicious. It also leaves a minimum number of pots and pans to clean, and that gets a thumbs up in my book. Please allow me to tell you all about it, as well as about Coco’s awesome new book!

The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook

$16.69 on Amazon Buy

How to Make Shepherd’s Pie in a Pressure Cooker

When I first came across this recipe, I was puzzled. Maybe I hadn’t had my coffee yet, but I imagined tossing ground beef, veggies, and a few whole potatoes into the Instant Pot and then lifting off the lid to reveal a table-ready Shepherd’s Pie topped with mashed potatoes.

In reality, there are a few more steps involved — though not many!

Coco has you start by prepping the filling using the Sauté function on the Instant Pot. Then you place a tall steamer rack in the pot and place the peeled potatoes on top.

Steamer Rack

$7.99 (20% savings) on Amazon Buy

Then the lid goes on and everything pressure cooks together. At the end of cooking, the potatoes are perfectly cooked and ready to be mashed with milk.

For a traditional casserole-style shepherd’s pie, you transfer the filling to an 8×8 pan, top with the mashed potatoes, and broil until the top is golden. You can also serve this in bowls by scooping out some filling and topping it with a generous dollop of mashed potatoes. So easy!

New Cookbook: The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook

This is absolutely my new favorite way to make Shepherd’s Pie, but there are plenty more recipes in this book that I’m excited to try.

I’ve actually already made the Sweet Potatoes Stuffed With Black Beans and Quinoa. Verdict: phenomenal. I love having this easy, meat-free meal in my back pocket.

A few that are next on my list:

  • French Toast Casserole
  • Hot and Sour Soup
  • Thai Green Curry Tofu with Rice
  • Lobster Rolls (!!!!)
  • Hoisin-Glazed Spareribs
  • Caramelized Onion Dip

Coco sprinkles her recipes with useful tips and suggestions for substitutions, which are all very useful for cooks like me who employ a mix of roughly 80% “follow the recipe” and 20% “wing it.”

Reading through the book, I also appreciate how straightforward and approachable all the recipes feel — though of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise since this is why I love featuring her recipes here on Simply Recipes as well! With its mix of basic recipes (like yogurt and chicken broth) and recipes to make for dinner, I think this book would be a good one for new Instant Pot users and die-hard fans alike.

Say “Hi” to Coco Morante!

One last treat for all you readers out there: I thought it would be fun for you to get to know Coco a little more. Here’s a quick Q&A with the author herself!

1. How many Instant Pots do you own?

Right now, four. I’ve also given some to friends and family as I’ve upgraded or received new units for review. Currently I have two 6-quart models (Ultra and Smart WIFI), as well as 3-quart and 8-quart pots. 

2. What’s one recipe from this book that you really want people to try and fall in love with?

Cincinnati Chili (page 109). I adapted the recipe from a stovetop version shared with me by my friend Diana Pray. It’s full of spices, including a healthy dose of cinnamon — the Midwestern-meets-Greek flavor is so unique and delicious. You have to try it (served over spaghetti, of course)!

3. What three recipes from this book are best if you just got your first Instant Pot?

Risotto (page 52), because it’s so easy you won’t believe it. Split Pea Soup (page 86), because it tastes like my grandma’s did — I’m transported back to her kitchen when I eat a bowl. And Succotash (page 246) — most all the ingredients come from the pantry or freezer, so you can make a hearty, nutritious vegetable side dish any time. Those are all really straightforward recipes that don’t require you to buy additional accessories, so you can make them right when you take your Instant Pot out of the box.

4. Latest food obsession?

Danish-style rye bread, a.k.a. rugbrød. It’s dense and chewy, and so flavorful. I’ve been toasting slices of it for breakfast for weeks now, ever since the weather turned chilly. My favorites are from Tabor Bread and Regular Portland Bread.

5. Three ingredients that are always in your pantry?

Nutritional yeast, almond flour, and San Marzano-style canned tomatoes.

6. Go-to beverage when you’re done testing recipes for the day?

Lately, a big mug of Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland tea. Depends on the season, though!

7. What are you working on now?

I’m wrapping up my third cookbook and developing recipes for the fourth. It’s a whirlwind of Instant Pot recipe testing over here, nonstop. I can’t wait to share them all!

Thanks, Coco!

The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook

$16.69 on Amazon Buy

Looking for more of Coco’s Instant Pot Recipes?

  • How to Make Pressure Cooker Egg Bites
  • Pressure Cooker Green Pork Posole
  • Pressure Cooker Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Pressure Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
  • Pressure Cooker Guinness Beef Stew

Changes I Made to This Cookbook Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or other neutral oil with high smoke point
  • 1 pound ground lamb or beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Special equipment:

  • 6-quart electric pressure cooker, such as the Instant Pot
  • Steam rack for pressure cookers

Method

1 Brown the meat: Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and heat the avocado oil. Add the lamb and sauté, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula, for about 7 minutes, until cooked through and no traces of pink remain.

Set a colander in a bowl. Wearing heat-resistant mitts, lift out the inner pot and pour the lamb into the colander, letting it drain. Return the inner pot to the Instant Pot housing. (Note from Emma: I just scooped out the meat with a slotted spoon and then poured off all but a tablespoon of fat, which I used for sauteing the vegetables.)

2 Cook the vegetables and stir in the meat: Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt to the pot and sauté for about 4 minutes, until the onion is translucent. (Note from Emma: As the onions release moisture, use that to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. More flavor!)

Stir in the thyme, pepper, Worcestershire, and tomato paste. Return the lamb to the pot, then add the vegetable broth and peas.

3  Add the potatoes: Place a tall steam rack in the pot, making sure all of its legs are resting firmly on the bot­tom. Place the potatoes in a single layer on the rack.

4 Pressure cook the filling and the potatoes together: Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Press the Cancel button to reset the cooking program, then select the Pressure Cook or Manual program and set the cooking time for 15 minutes at high pressure. (The pot will take about 15 minutes to come up to pres­sure before the cooking program begins.)

5 Vent the pressure: When the cooking program ends, perform a quick pressure release by moving the Pressure Release to Venting.

6 Mash the potatoes: Using tongs, transfer the potatoes to a bowl. Add the milk and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, then use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until smooth. (Note from Emma: If the filling seems a little liquidy at this point, put the Instant Pot on the Sauté function and let it simmer while you mash the potatoes.)

Wearing heat-resistant mitts, remove the steam rack from the pot. Stir 1/2 cup of the mashed potatoes into the lamb mixture in the pot. (Note from Emma: Taste both the mashed potatoes and the filling at this point, and add more salt if needed.)

7 Assemble the casserole: Transfer the lamb mixture to a broiler-safe 8-inch square baking dish, dollop the mashed potatoes on top, and spread them out with a fork, creating a surface texture.

Note: If you like, instead of assembling and broiling the pie, you can simply serve the lamb mixture with the mashed potatoes on the side.

8 Broil the casserole: Broil the shepherd’s pie in a toaster oven (or a conventional oven) for about 5 minutes, checking often, until the potatoes are lightly browned.

9 Serve: Spoon the shepherd’s pie onto plates and serve immediately.

Note from Emma: Leftovers will keep for about a week in the fridge and can be warmed in a low oven or in the microwave.

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Pressure Cooker White Chicken Chili

This White Chicken Chili is proof that chili doesn’t have to be red and beefy to be delicious. Plus, this version is ready in a fraction of the time thanks to the pressure cooker!

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Generous amounts of shredded chicken, tender cannellini beans, and vegetables (just green ones, please!) give this white chili its unique appearance.

Don’t be fooled by the lack of color, though! Its flavor runs the full spectrum of hearty, creamy, tangy, and well-spiced (but not too spicy!), so it’s both adult- and kid-friendly.

CREAMY WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

White chili can be brothy or creamy, with a ton of toppings or served with just a handful of fresh cilantro and some warm, charred tortillas. This one has a touch of dairy, but it’s not super thick. You can make it and dress it up any way you like.

This version is a riff on Elise’s White Chili. Made in an electric pressure cooker with cooked beans (canned or homemade) and boneless chicken, it’s fast and simple!

HOW TO MAKE WHITE CHICKEN CHILI IN THE PRESSURE COOKER

When using a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, it’s best not to cook dairy under pressure since it has a tendency to curdle and then make a mess when the pressure is released. (New to the Instant Pot? Check out our post How To Use an Instant Pot: A First-Timer’s Guide.)

Therefore, this chili is cooked first without dairy, and then you stir in a big dollop of sour cream at the end. By adding the dairy ingredient after cooking, you avoid any unfortunate pressure cooking issues and still end up with a creamy chili, too.

Of course, you can leave it out entirely to make the dish dairy-free! If you go that route, I’d recommend a squeeze of fresh lime juice to add some tanginess.

FAVORITE TOPPINGS FOR WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

This chili is good served on its own, but you can also jazz it up with some toppings if you like! Some of my go-to’s are a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese, crumbled corn chips, diced yellow onions, chopped fresh cilantro, and sliced jalapeños.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

Most often, I serve chili with a stack of warmed tortillas or a wedge of cornbread. Rice is good too—you can ladle the chili right over it for a one-bowl meal.

MORE GREAT CHILI RECIPES!

  • Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Chili
  • Spicy Vegetarian Chili
  • Pressure Cooker Ground Beef Chili
  • Chili Con Carne
  • Chili Mac and Cheese

You can also make this recipe using leftover shredded or diced cooked chicken or turkey. Reduce the cooking time to 5 minutes at high pressure.

For a thicker chili: After the chili is cooked, stir in 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water. Use your pressure cooker’s Sauté setting to simmer the chili for a minute or two until it thickens.

For a dairy-free chili, leave out the sour cream.

For stovetop pressure cookers: Sauté the vegetables, herbs, and spices as directed, over medium heat. Cook the chili for 8 minutes at high pressure, perform a quick or natural pressure release, then continue with the recipe as written, shredding the chicken and adding it back to the pot with the sour cream and cilantro.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped (leave the seeds in if you like it spicy)
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups homemade beans)
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenders, or thighs
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Special equipment:

  • 6-quart electric pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot

Method

1 Sauté the garlic and vegetables: Select the sauté setting on your pressure cooker and heat the olive oil and garlic for 2 minutes, until the garlic is bubbling.

Add the bell pepper, jalapeños, celery, and onion, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.

2 Add the spices, beans, and chicken: Add the cumin, oregano, coriander, cayenne, and salt and sauté for about 1 minute more, until aromatic.

Pour the beans over the vegetables, layer the chicken pieces on top, and pour in the broth. Do not stir. 

3 Pressure cook the chicken: Secure the lid on your pressure cooker in its sealing position. Cancel the sauté program, then select the manual setting and set the cooking time for 15 minutes at high pressure. (The pot will take about 10 minutes to come up to pressure before the cooking program begins.) 

4 Release the pressure: Perform a quick pressure release by moving the pressure cooker’s lid to its vented position, or let the pressure release naturally.

At this point, you can also leave the chili on your pressure cooker’s Keep Warm setting for up to 10 hours, then continue with the recipe when you’re ready to serve.

 5 Shred and season the chicken: When the pressure has fully released, open the pot and use a pair of tongs to remove the chicken to a carving board or dish. Using a pair of forks, break up the chicken into shreds.

Add the shredded chicken back to the pot along with the sour cream and cilantro and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

6 Serve the chili: Ladle the chili into bowls. Serve hot, with tortillas or cornbread on the side.

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Maggie Hoffman’s Virgin Pomegranate-Citrus Sangria

Here’s an alcohol-free sangria that everyone can enjoy! This mocktail is made with pomegranate, orange, and grapefruit juices, and infused with two kinds of tea. It makes a great drink no matter the occasion.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Steeping time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: About 8 servings in a 2-quart pitcher

I take pride in being a fantastic hostess. For me, this means not only setting out a nice cheese plate and putting together the perfect party playlist, but also providing a booze-free option for my friends who aren’t drinking that day. And handing them a soda or nudging them toward the lemonade will not do.

I want to give them a mocktail that truly lives up to the name, and for that, I’m turning to my friend Maggie Hoffman’s new book Batch Cocktails and her recipe for Pomegranate-Citrus Sans-gria.

Batch Cocktails by Maggie Hoffman

$14.81 on Amazon Buy

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOCKTAIL

While Maggie’s new book mostly concentrates on big batch cocktails made with alcohol—check out the recipe for Side Porch Sangria that I’m also sharing—she devotes an entire chapter to alcohol-free refreshments.

I asked her what makes a good mocktail, and here’s what Maggie had to say:

I really believe that non-alcoholic drinks are on the rise, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t get better and better. I was super strict about the recipes I included in the nonalcoholic chapter of Batch Cocktails, because I think anyone who is not drinking for whatever reason should still have a super delicious, super balanced drink. It shouldn’t be overly sweet or boring.

There are a few tricks that can make these sorts of drinks work. One is the tannin from tea, which gives some of the same sensation as, say, the tannin in red wine. Another is adding a little heat, from cayenne, for example. Not enough to actually get spicy, but just enough to mimic the heat of alcohol. There’s also an awesome non-alcoholic shandy in the book, the Kumquat Shandy, which has a nice bitterness from non-alcoholic beer, plus kumquats!

THE INGREDIENTS FOR THIS VIRGIN SANGRIA

This Pomegranate-Citrus Sans-gria has all of those elements that Maggie mentions above. It uses chai and English breakfast tea to provide some spice and soft tannins. It also uses cayenne for a bit of heat—but not too much.

The pomegranate juice works as the base for the sangria, a stand-in for the red wine in traditional sangria. To this, Maggie has you add grapefruit juice, orange juice, lemon juice, and fresh berries.

The sum of all these parts is an alcohol-free sangria that any of us would be happy sipping at a party!

MORE GREAT ALCOHOL-FREE DRINKS!

  • Ginger Switchel
  • Agua de Jamaica
  • Rosemary Lemon Rhubarb Spritzer
  • Cucumber Mint Shrub Soda
  • Lavender Lemonade

From Maggie Hoffman: “The secret to good booze-free sangria is a bunch of tart citrus and a little spice. Pomegranate juice (sweetened with raspberry jam) stands in for red wine here; it gets additional tannin and warm flavor from long-steeped tea. I’ve included a sprinkle of cayenne to subtly mimic alcohol’s heat; if you want a spicy drink, feel free to add a pinch more. Consider this recipe your flavor base: you can garnish it with whatever seasonal fruit you have on hand. If you’d like to add more than a cup of fruit, make sure your pitcher can hold the extra volume.”

Reprinted with permission from Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion by Maggie Hoffman, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam or spread
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 chai tea bags
  • 2 English breakfast tea bags
  • 8 thin orange wheels
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 cups chilled unsweetened 100% pomegranate juice (such as Knudsen)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, as desired
  • 4 thin lemon wheels
  • 1 cup fresh berries, sliced peaches, or other seasonal fruit (optional)

To serve:

  • 3/4 cup chilled club soda, plus more as needed

Method

1 Make the tea infusion: Up to 1 day before serving, put raspberry jam and water in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a bare simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve completely. Turn off heat and add chai and English breakfast tea bags, making sure they’re fully submerged.

Let steep for 40 minutes, then discard tea bags. If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate.

2 Up to 2 hours before serving, make the sangria. Place 4 orange wheels into a 2-quart pitcher along with tea mixture. Tap orange wheels about ten times with a muddler or long wooden spoon, just enough to bruise peel; don’t pulverize it.

Prepare grapefruit, orange, and lemon juices, and pour into pitcher mix, along with pomegranate juice and cayenne, and stir to mix. Add lemon wheels and remaining 4 orange wheels, plus any additional fruit, and stir gently.

If not serving immediately, seal well, covering with plastic wrap if needed, and refrigerate. (I do find that this improves after an hour or two in the fridge, but not much more.)

3 Serve: To serve, stir mixture well, then add chilled club soda, and give it another gentle stir. Pour into ice-filled tumblers or wine glasses, offering additional club soda to anyone who prefers a spritzier sangria.

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Apricot and White Wine Side Porch Sangria // Cookbook Recipe

This is not your typical sangria! In this pitcher, you’ll find dry white wine, Aperol, Campari, Carpano Antico, apricot juice, and grapefruit juice. It’s a boozy, bitter-sweet sip for a lazy summer afternoon!

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: About 8 servings in a 2-quart pitcher

There is nothing I love quite as much as an icy adult beverage on a hot summer afternoon, preferably with sprinklers running nearby and some grilled burgers in my immediate future.

But I have to admit that while I enjoy sipping cocktails, I am an extremely lazy maker of cocktails. Gin and tonics are about as fancy as I typically get, people.

This is why I am a huge fan of Maggie Hoffman’s latest cocktail book, Batch Cocktails. It is full of make-ahead, big-batch cocktails for lazy souls such as myself.

WHAT IS A BATCH COCKTAIL?

A batch cocktail is one that can be made, assembled, and pitcher-ed (technical term) entirely, or almost entirely, ahead of time. This is extremely useful for party situations when you’d rather be mingling with your friends with a beverage in hand, instead of standing at the counter shaking cocktails for a line of thirsty guests.

It’s also useful if you’d like to make a batch of cocktails as part of your Sunday meal prep and keep it stashed in the fridge for nightcaps during the week. Maggie has a whole list of recipes in her book that are perfect for this.

For me, the idea of prepping big batch cocktails feels more approachable. I have all the ingredients laid out. I get any finicky (to me) steps like simple syrups and muddling fruits done all at once. And I’m not doing this work for the reward of only a single cocktail.

MAGGIE’S BRILLIANT COCKTAIL BOOK

In Maggie’s expert hands, batch cocktails are more than just pouring a few different liquors together in a pitcher. These are nuanced recipes with depth and pizzazz.

Some are spirit-forward, like a riff on the Manhattan called Happiness. Some will take advantage of your herb garden, like the tequila-based Garden Rambler. Others will introduce you to new liquors while wooing you with fruity flavors, like the Side Porch Sangria I’m sharing today.

Maggie interviewed dozens of top bartenders and mixologists around the country while putting together this book. These batch cocktails are all based on their favorite fancy cocktails, but accessible to those of us without mixology degrees.

Batch Cocktails by Maggie Hoffman

$14.81 on Amazon Buy

LET’S TALK SANGRIA

Ok, this sangria. This is not your typical super-sweet and fruity sangria, my friends. This one is for those of us who like to live on the edge and try new things.

Here’s what’s in it: dry white wine, Aperol, Campari, Carpano Antico, apricot juice, and grapefruit juice. It’s a boozy combo with a bitter-sweet flavor that works so very well as a summer afternoon sipper.

Carpano Antica was a relatively new one for me. I’ve seen it on cocktail menus, but never done anything with it myself. This stuff is the bomb, and now I’m keeping it stocked in my fridge (like white wine, carpano should be kept refrigerated!).

It’s a vermouth that tastes like a wacky-but-perfect blend of bitter herbs, warm baking spices (think: cinnamon and clove), orange peel, and some licorice root. Throw some vanilla in there too, and you’ve got it about right.

This Carpano adds that “something special” to this sangria, but I’ve also been enjoying it on its own over ice!

P.S. Looking for a booze-free sangria? We’re also sharing Maggie’s Pomegranate-Citrus Sans-gria recipe!

Q&A WITH MAGGIE HOFFMAN

Maggie has been a friend of mine for years now, and I’m absolutely thrilled to share her book and this sangria recipe with you. Here’s a little Q&A I did with her that I thought you’d enjoy!

What’s the most recent cocktail you had, and what was in it?

I went on a big book tour for Batch Cocktails and got to taste a bunch of the cocktails from the book again—we had some really fun parties at bars in San Francisco, New York, Portland, and Seattle! One of my favorites to taste again was the Grand Prix, which is like an espresso-tonic, with a little Campari and grapefruit juice. It somehow tastes like chocolate-covered raspberries, and I am HERE FOR IT.

What recipe is best if you’re SUPER lazy? (aka me)

The Happiness [a riff on the Manhattan] is SO easy! You can keep a batch around for a few weeks, or make it without water and keep it for MONTHS and months. I have a year-old batch that’s still delicious. Thank you, former self, for making cocktails for me!

How many bottles of liquor do you have in your liquor collection right now?

I actually just counted because we are about to move back to NYC: 200. I’m going to have to get that down quite a bit before moving, though. Party at my house?

Favorite snack to serve with cocktails?

Salty marcona almonds are great, and aged cheeses. It depends a bit on what’s in the cocktail. A lot of these drinks are actually great brunch drinks, so then I’m really into breakfast tacos.

TRY THESE OTHER SANGRIA RECIPES!

  • Cranberry-Apple Sangria
  • Pear and White Wine Sangria
  • Mixed Berry Sangria
  • Sparkling Strawberry Sangria

From Maggie Hoffman: “Sangria just calls out for experimentation, and there’s no reason to feel tethered to a ho-hum mix of wine and fruit. In this fruity-but-bitter rendition, Dorothy Elizabeth of Straylight in New York brings out the juicy flavors of Sauvignon Blanc by adding fresh grapefruit juice and citrusy Aperol, bracing Campari, and rich Italian vermouth. Boxed or bottled apricot juice rounds out the drink. For a lighter version, I like to top off the mix with a splash of chilled seltzer.”

Reprinted with permission from Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion by Maggie Hoffman, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Aperol
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Campari
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle chilled dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled apricot juice (such as Looza or Ceres)
  • 1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice

To serve:

  • Grapefruit, sliced into quarter-moons
  • Fresh apricots, pitted and sliced (optional)
  • Chilled seltzer or club soda (optional)

Method

1 Up to 8 hours before serving, make the batch: Pour Aperol, Campari, vermouth, and chilled wine into a 2-quart pitcher.  If not serving immediately, seal well, covering with plastic wrap if needed, and refrigerate.

2 Up to 2 hours before serving, add the juices: Stir chilled apricot juice into pitcher mix. Prepare and add grapefruit juice, then stir and reseal, returning pitcher to refrigerator if not serving immediately.

3 Serve: To serve, add grapefruit and apricot slices, if desired, and stir well. Fill pitcher with ice, and stir gently until outside of pitcher is cool. Serve immediately in ice-filled rocks glasses or wine glasses. Offer chilled seltzer to top off the drink, if desired.

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Marmalade Pound Cake // Cookbook Recipe

Have a jar of marmalade? Then you’re halfway to sitting down with your own slice of this orange-scented marmalade cake. Tender and rich, this cake can go from afternoon snack to dessert buffet without blinking an eye.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 2 loaves (about 10 slices each)

Let’s talk about your stash. You know which one I mean. All those pickles, tomatoes, jams, and preserves that you so painstakingly “put up” at the end of last summer—or were gifted by well-meaning friends—and that are still lingering in the cupboard at the start of this new canning season.

It’s not that you don’t want to delight in these preserved goods. You do! It’s just that… they’re so precious, right? You want to save them for a special occasion, right? Or maybe, just maybe, there’s only so much toast with heirloom fruit jam that you can eat, right?

Well, my friend Marisa McClellan, a.k.a. the Canning Queen, just came out with a brand new cookbook to help us all with our canned goods dilemma. The Food in Jars Kitchen is allllll about using up those pickles and preserves that we’ve stocked away.

A Cookbook For Cooks and Canners

Whether you’re a newbie canner or have been at the canning game for years, I think this is a book you will find very useful. It moves beyond (way beyond!) simply relegating jam to toast and tomatoes to pasta.

Here, we get jam swirled into cocktails or baked into granola. We get hummus made with preserved lemons and party dips made with chutney and pesto. Wondering what you can do with sauerkraut besides piling it on sausages? Marisa’s got a frittata that you HAVE to try.

The point is, this is a cookbook that will inspire, encourage, and cajole you into using up your canned goods stash. And trust me—after you see these recipes, you will!

Also let me be clear, this cookbook isn’t just for canners. One of the things I love about this book is that you can make any of the recipes using preserves that you’ve been gifted, picked up at the farmers market, or bought at the store.

The Food in Jars Kitchen by Marisa McClellan

$15.86 on Amazon Buy

Let’s Talk Marmalade Cake

I had a very hard time picking just one recipe to share with you all, but this cake took the, ahem…cake. In her headnote for the recipe, Marisa says that she made six of these cakes to serve at her wedding, and after making it myself, I can see why.

This cake is moist and rich—but not so rich that you couldn’t take it to work as a perfectly respectable afternoon snack. The citrus flavor is just amazing, soft, and so very pleasant, like waking up from a good nap and feeling the afternoon sunshine on your face.

I really like the glaze that gets brushed over the top and sides. It turns the outside edges of each slice candy-like and adds the perfect burst of sweetness to each bite.

Store this cake right on the counter and cut yourself a slice whenever the need arises. It keeps well for about a week and gets even better with time. Marisa also says the cake freezes well—the recipe makes two, and I froze my second loaf for another day.

A Q&A with Marisa McClellan!

I thought you all would enjoy getting to know Marisa a little better, so here’s a little Q&A! Her blog, for those of you who don’t know, is Food in Jars, and it’s a treasure trove of canning inspiration.

  • How many canned goods do you think you currently have in your kitchen?

If we expand the question to include my entire apartment, the answer is probably something in the neighborhood of 250 full jars. That includes jams, pickles, chutneys, salsas, whole fruit, pie filling, tomato products, and even pressure canned beans and stocks.

  • What canned goods do you make sure to re-stock every year?

Roasted corn salsa. Sour cherry jam. Apricot preserves. Tomato jam. Pickled green beans.

  • What summer produce are you most excited about coming back in season?

Apricots. They bring me incredible amounts of joy.

  • What’s your secret most-favorite recipe from Food in Jars Kitchen?

My most beloved recipe is the Quick Strudel. It comes from my Great Aunt Doris, and I love the feeling of generational connection that making it gives me. Plus, Aunt Doris would have been so incredibly thrilled to have had her recipe in a cookbook. If she was still alive, she’d be selling copies of this book out of the back of her Buick to all the ladies at the synagogue.

  • You’ve now written, what, FOUR books about or related to canning—what about canning do you love? What keeps you coming back for more?

I know. It’s a little crazy that I’ve essentially spent the last decade digging into a single topic. But I really do find it endlessly fascinating. And the thing I most love about canning is that it is a cooking project that endures.

When we make a meal, that experience lasts 20 or 30 minutes before the pleasure is done and you are start thinking about how you have to do it again. With canning, you get to relive the joy of the picking, gathering, and making over and over again. There is deep satisfaction in that.

Thank you, Marisa! And on that lovely note, I encourage you all to make this Marmalade Cake. It’s really sure to become a favorite. 

Want to try canning? Here are some recipes!

  • Meyer Lemon Marmalade
  • Canned Tomato Salsa
  • Apricot Riesling Jam
  • Bread and Butter Pickles
  • Green Tomato Chutney

From Marisa McClellan: “When Scott and I were planning our wedding, one of the things I was really clear on was that I wanted to bake our dessert. We did not have the budget to buy an exceptional cake, and I was not willing to serve lackluster cake to our friends and family. And so, in the days before our big day, I baked a dozen cakes. Half were loaves of this pound cake, and the remaining six were Flourless Chocolate Cake. A decade later, my in-laws still mention our delicious wedding cakes whenever I see them. It was well worth the work!”

Recommended Preserves: Marmalade. Any kind. If it’s really thick-cut, consider dic­ing the big hunks of peel before stirring into the batter.

Note: I find that these cakes improve with age. If you can manage it, bake them at least a day or two before serving. They also freeze beautifully, if left unglazed.

Reprinted with permission from THE FOOD IN JARS KITCHEN © 2019 by Marisa McClellan, Running Press

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 1/2 cups (495 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest, from 2 large oranges
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:

  • 3/4 cup (85 g) powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) marmalade
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water

Special equipment:

  • Two 8×4 inch pans

Method

1 Preheat your oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour two 8 x 4-inch loaf pans. (Alternatively, line your pans with a parchment paper sling and spray all sides with cooking spray.)

2 Make the batter: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attach­ment, cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest together for 3 to 4 minutes, or until fluffy.

Break the eggs into a spouted measuring cup. With the mixer running on a moderate speed, add the eggs, one at a time. When the eggs are incorporated, add the marmalade and vanilla and beat them in.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix just until combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, as needed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir a few times to ensure that the flour from the edges of the bowl and any runnier batter from the bottom are all blended in.

3 Bake: Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans and smooth the tops. Place on a baking sheet (to make it easier to move them around). Bake the cakes for 35 minutes.

When the time is up, rotate the pans 180° so that the cakes bake evenly. Continue to bake until a cake tester comes out mostly clean from the center of a cake (a few crumbs are okay), another 30 to 35 minutes.

4 While the cakes bake, prepare the glaze: In a small pan, combine the powdered sugar, marmalade, and water. Place over medium heat and warm until everything melts together.

5 Cool and glaze the cakes: Remove the pans from the oven and place them on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then remove the cakes from the pans.

Set them, top-side up, on the rack and spoon the glaze over the warm cakes. Use a brush to glaze the sides of the cakes. Keep spooning and brushing until all the glaze has been distributed over the cakes.

Let them cool completely before serving.

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Blueberry Jam in the Microwave // Cookbook Recipe

Love jam? Love blueberries? How about making jam in the microwave? Let’s do it! This recipe comes from Sally Vargas’ new book The Blueberry Cookbook.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 2 minutes
  • Cook time: 8 minutes
  • Yield: 1 8-ounce jar of jam

I grew up in the Pine Barrens, in south Jersey, whose acidic, sandy soil provides a most hospitable environment for the growth of blueberries. (There are giant commercial blueberry farms in that part of the Garden State). I had some growing in the woods around my house, and remember picking them with my sister; as soon as we’d spot them, we’d scarf them down.

So, I have soft spot for berries. They are hand held. They are super concentrated in flavor. They work great in both savory and sweet applications. They preserve well, freeze well, and jam up well. That is, when you’re not doing like Little Sal in the childhood favorite book Blueberries for Sal—eating all the ones you pick so there are none to put away for the winter! (Kerplink, Kerplank, Kerplunk! Into the pail!)

Turns out Sally Vargas, who just happens to be one of our regular contributors, has a few things in common with this scenario. She’s been called Sal her whole life and confesses to a soft spot for blueberries, too. And that, among many other reasons, is why she wrote The Blueberry Cookbook (Down East Books, 2019).

SUMMER MEANS BLUEBERRIES

As someone who spent many years visiting and living in New England, Sally understands that blueberries are part of what makes summer what it is. And if you’ve visited Maine in late July or early August, as she did with her children, you’ve seen and, hopefully, you’ve purchased wild blueberries from people selling them on the sides of highways.

These wild ones are eagerly anticipated (and also available frozen from Wyman’s, too, if you can’t get to Maine) and pack a more concentrated flavor.

However, this cookbook, which is dedicated to all things blueberry, doesn’t discriminate between wild and cultivated berries. Any blueberry will do. And any time of year will do for making these recipes—you can use frozen ones in many of these recipes.

The Blueberry Cookbook

$18.95 on Amazon Buy

JAM IN THE MICROWAVE IS A THING!

There are many lovely recipes in Sally’s book that incorporate blueberries into muffins, brioche, cobblers, crumbles, scones, ice cream, pies, and so forth. One in particular called out to me—the blueberry jam you make in the microwave.

It solves so many problems. Run out of jam for your kids’ PB&J but you’ve got blueberries? Done. Picked berries and you’ve got a surfeit even after the best-laid plans for cooking, preserving, and/or freezing, have been implemented? Got company coming unexpectedly and want their parting gift to be homemade and easy to transport? Or maybe you just don’t want to get all hot and sweaty in your kitchen by making jam. That’s totally understandable.

Microwave jam to the rescue, one jar at a time.

Q & A with Sally Vargas

Why did you write this book?

The idea for the book actually came to me from the publisher, Down East Press in Camden, Maine. I had just finished writing The Cranberry Cookbook, for Globe Pequot Press, Down East’s sister imprint for a larger press, and Down East wanted a similar book. We settled on a strictly baking book, which was a lot of fun. I returned to my restaurant pastry chef roots and revisited some old recipes and memories from my past, and refined some of my favorite recipes, adapting them for blueberries.

Doing all the photos myself was also a big draw to doing the book—it was challenging and fun.

So you definitely have a thing for berries! Are strawberries or raspberries next? What is it about them that so captivate you?

I think I might have completed my berry phase! What captivates me is that berry seasons are ephemeral, and there is so much pleasure in seizing the moment. They are the essence of summer and come with a heaping plate of nostalgia for my favorite season.

What are your favorite things to do with blueberries?

Pies and galettes—I am a total pie freak!—as well as simple cakes like Sweet Wine Cake, and Berry Skillet Cake. And I wouldn’t turn down a stack of blueberry pancakes.

Do you eat blueberries all year round? I love to pick them in summer and try to freeze half of what I pick!

I do! If I haven’t had the foresight or time to pick and freeze them, I buy frozen ones and stir them into yogurt for breakfast almost every day.

Are there any recipes where you can’t substitute frozen ones for fresh ones? 

For the most part, the two are interchangeable in baking. There’s a knockout Fresh Blueberry Pie in the book that came from a friend, and a few others where fresh blueberries are much better, like the Fresh Berry Pavlova and Summer Berry Shortcake for a Crowd.

This recipe for blueberry jam in the microwave is such a revelation. It shortcuts the whole process, which is great for people who want to can but don’t have a lot of time. A friend of mine said it felt like “cheating,” because of that! Was this the most surprising use of blueberries?

Yes! I was surprised to find I could make blueberry jam in the microwave. I was in a heated debate with a friend who has a jam company. She felt that microwave jam was an affront to the whole process of jam making, which is all about slowing down and going through the process. While I do enjoy that, I was thrilled with the results you could have in just a few minutes, without a ton of effort, and for a teeny batch, which works for people who don’t want to spend the afternoon in the kitchen or fill their pantry with jars of jam. I especially like the combination of blueberry and raspberry.

KICK OUT THE JAMS! HERE ARE 5 MORE!

  • Microwave Strawberry Jam
  • Easy Microwave Fig Jam
  • Tomato Jam
  • How to Make Jam in the Microwave
  • Rose Hip Jam

From Sally Vargas: “A single jar of jam made in minutes in the microwave comes in handy when you want to coddle houseguests or take a homemade jar along to a friend. In addition, making jam one jar at a time will cure just about anyone who suffers from jam jitters. Cook the berries, sugar, and lemon juice in the microwave briefly to dissolve the sugar, stir, and return to the microwave for a few more minutes until the jam looks thick, rather than syrupy. That’s it. You can swap out half the blueberries for other berries, such as strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries to vary the recipe. This method gives new meaning to the idea of small batch jam, in 10 minutes or less.”

This recipe is reproduced with permission from Down East Books, an imprint of Globe Pequot, 2019.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cultivated blueberries
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Special equipment:

  • 1 8-ounce jar with a lid

Method

1 Combine the ingredients: In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine the berries, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest. The bowl should be large enough for the jam to bubble as it cooks.

2 Microwave the jam: Cook the berries in the microwave, uncovered, for 3 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.

3 Stir, and cook again: Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the ingredients together. Return to the microwave and cook for 3 to 5 minutes longer, or until the jam reaches the setting point.

To test, dip a spoon into the jam and hold it over the bowl so the jam drops back into the bowl. When the drops off the spoon are thick, rather than runny, the jam is ready. Stir in the vanilla. (I found the jam to be thick and a little gloppy off the spoon—that was the tell. – Carrie)

4 Fill a jar: Spoon the hot jam into a clean 8-ounce jar with a lid. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

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Carrie Havranek’s Amish-Style Soft Pretzels

These Amish-Style Soft Pretzels are coated in buttery goodness, are easy to make, and will be gone in a flash. From the cookbook Tasting Pennsylvania by our associate editor Carrie Havranek!

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 50 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 8 pretzels

I have a deep relationship with soft pretzels. As does cookbook author and Simply Recipes associate editor Carrie Havranek. As, I am guessing, do many of you.

Carrie and I share something in common when it comes to pretzels— our favorite version comes from Pennsylvania. I went to college outside the City of Brotherly Love and I have vivid memories of traveling into the city for a day of museums and wandering along South Street. These trips always included at least one (maybe two) street vendor soft pretzels.

The buttery crust. The sharp crunch of the salt. The chewy middles. Even the cheap mustard the vendors always gave for dipping. It all feels very near and dear to my heart.

But enough about me. This is about Carrie and her fantastic new book Tasting Pennsylvania, which includes a recipe for Amish-Style Soft Pretzels (note: awesome melted butter on top!) that you can make at home without the price of a plane ticket.

Tasting Pennsylvania: Favorite Recipes from the Keystone State

$29.95 on Amazon Buy

The Cuisine of Pennsylvania

If the only cuisine you can name from Pennsylvania is Philly Cheesesteak, you’re in for a treat. Yes, Carrie includes a recipe for those delightful sandwiches (another staple of my South Street visits), but Pennsylvania cuisine is so much more.

Did you know, for instance, that Pennsylvania is the #1 producer of mushrooms in the United States? And fourth in apple production? You can see this evidenced in recipes like Roasted Kennett Square Mushroom Soup and an Apple Pie Shortbread Tart.

You can also see Pennsylvania’s German and Polish roots in recipes like Pennsylvania Dutch Onion Tart (Zwiwwelkuche, say that five times fast), pierogis with potato and cheddar filling, and yes, scrapple. Pennsylvania’s history is rich with other immigrant groups, too—they’re represented with dishes like Double Chocolate Tahini Cookies, Old Forge-Style Pizza, and English Toffee Pudding.

Pennsylvania has also become something of a hotbed for star chefs and trendy restaurants. Try Beet-Cured Salmon from High Street on Market or Braised Pork Cheek Tacos from Victory Brewing Company at your next party! Also, I suspect the Pennsylvania Mushroom Ramen from Mister Lee’s Noodles will be high on my meal rotation this winter.

Let’s Hear from Carrie!

I could read you the names of tempting recipes all day. Before we get to that recipe for Amish-Style Soft Pretzels, I thought you might like to hear a bit about Pennsylvania and this cookbook from the author herself!

Tell me about YOUR Pennsylvania. I love how you describe it as a “place of opposites” in your introduction. What do you mean, and how does this relate to the food of Pennsylvania?

We have three metro areas that are densely populated (Philly, Pittsburgh and, where I live, the Lehigh Valley), but the state is enormous and full of rural communities, too. We have cities with James Beard Award-winning chefs, many of whom have contributed recipes. And then we’ve got tons of great mom and pop cafes and family-run restaurants. The food, then, is both progressive and traditional, chef-driven and homey. The best of Pennsylvania food manages to conjure those juxtapositions, but that’s not easy to pull off. We haven’t gone haute, yet!

What is something about Pennsylvania cuisine that you want everyone to know?

It is more than cheesesteaks, pierogies, and pork products!

What are the major flavors of Pennsylvania? The ingredients that you see come into play again and again?

Pork, cabbage, mushrooms, beets and, quite honestly, Italian food. Oh, and beer. And, often, pork and beer together. We have a strong craft beer culture here.

What are the three recipes from the book that you think capture the breadth of Pennsylvania cuisine the best?

Pennsylvania Mushroom Ramen, Pittsburgh Salad, and Shoo-Fly Pie.

Be honest: How many Philly cheesesteaks were eaten in pursuit of your recipe for it in the book?

Fewer than you think. I actually ate more of them when I was writing about cheesesteaks for Serious Eats several years ago!

What’s the weirdest thing you ate while doing research for this book?

Scrapple. It’s not really that weird—it is quintessentially Pennsylvanian—but it’s not something I eat on even an occasional basis, so to me it feels “weird.” It was also one of the hardest things to photograph.

What recipe gave you the most challenge to get right, and you’re so proud that you did?

Oh, that’s easy. The Chocolate Bread Pudding from Hershey. It’s not a complicated recipe, but it definitely required a lot of back and forth to get the amounts right.

I feel like every cookbook author has that one recipe in their cookbook that they know isn’t going to be super popular, but they loved it so much that they just couldn’t bear to cut it. What is that recipe for you?

The Indian Breakfast Bowl. I could eat this for breakfast or lunch every day. Scrambled eggs or tofu, over spinach and roasted potatoes, topped with two chutneys and pan fried mustard seeds. It’s not for everyone!

What recipes do you still have on regular rotation in your kitchen, even now that the book is done?

The Pittsburgh Salad is genius. It’s salad with grilled chicken, French fries, and homemade ranch dressing on it. I don’t ever have to choose between French fries or salad with this dish. It’s all on one plate, on purpose! Also, any of the veggies-on-toast dishes (summer corn tartine, spinach and leek toast, peas and bacon on toast… you see where this is going).

LOVE PRETZELS? HERE ARE SOME OTHER SALTY TREATS!

  • Christmas Crack
  • Peanut Butter Pretzel Magic Bars
  • Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

Carrie says, “I have such fond memories of eating buttery soft pretzels, with just the right balance of sweet and salty, at the Amish markets in South Jersey and Philly. This one comes pretty close. Pretzels are customarily eaten to bring luck in the new year, but their appeal so transcends that tradition that it’s fun to make them anytime.”

Reprinted with permission from Tasting Pennsylvania by Carrie Havranek (Farcountry Press, 2019).

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (one packet)
  • Scant 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • Kosher or coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Method

1 Make the dough: Place the flour, salt, brown sugar, yeast, and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer with the hook attachment and beat until well combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, until it’s smooth and soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

2 Rest the dough: Flour the dough a little, place on a floured surface, and cover. Let rest for 30 minutes.

3 Prep the oven and baking sheets: Preheat the oven to 475°F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or nonstick cooking spray.

4 Divide the dough: Uncover the dough and divide it into eight equal pieces. Let them rest, uncovered, for another 5 minutes.

4 Twist the pretzels: Using the palms of your hands, roll each piece into a thin rope approximately 25 to 30 inches long. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape by lifting the ends of the rope, crossing them to make a twist, and then folding them back down onto the bottom loop. Gently press the ends so they stay in place.

5 Make the baking soda bath: Boil 6 to 8 cups water in a large stockpot over high heat and add the baking soda, stirring until it’s dissolved. Reduce to a simmer.

Working quickly and carefully, dip each pretzel into the water bath, and simmer for 30 seconds on each side, flipping them with a slotted spoon. They will puff up slightly in the water.

6 Bake the pretzels: Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake pretzels until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

7 Brush with butter: Remove from the oven and brush with the melted butter, using up all the butter. These pretzels are best consumed while warm. They can be reheated in the oven, or frozen and defrosted later in a low oven. Top with your favorite mustard, if desired.

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Maria Lichty’s Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese goes green with this spinach and basil pesto from cookbook author Maria Lichty of Two Peas and Their Pod. Havarti adds a silky, creamy touch to this comfort food classic.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings

There is no such thing as having too many mac and cheese recipes. It is one of the best culinary blank slates, one with endless variations. Heck, we’ve got a good dozen here on the site.

Add chorizo? Sure. Make the cheese smoky? Absolutely. Would you like some chicken? Or veggies? Even better. What about pesto? And veggies? Double yes!

But sometimes taking a chance on a recipe can be a little risky if you’re feeding someone other than an adult—i.e, someone who may or may not politely articulate how he or she feels about the food—and who therefore may or may not eat said food. Generally speaking, kids can make for a tough crowd.

That’s what makes this Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese recipe from blogger Maria Lichty (and her husband Josh) of Two Peas and their Pod especially awesome.

It’s mac and cheese, but the Havarti makes it silky and creamy beyond belief. And the spinach-heavy pesto lends a touch of sweetness to what’s typically a pretty assertive bundle of flavors: basil, cheese, and garlic.

Two Peas and Their Pod Cookbook

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A MAC AND CHEESE EVERYONE WILL LOVE

This particular mac and cheese fits the criteria for what we’ve taken to calling a “unicorn dinner” around here at Simply Recipes: something EVERYONE in the family likes. My kids both liked this recipe—and we had plenty enough for leftovers to share with the neighbors, and for my one son to take for lunch the next day.

ABOUT MARIA’S NEW COOKBOOK!

The recipe comes from Maria’s new cookbook, Two Peas and their Pod: Favorite Everyday Recipes from Our Family Kitchen. It’s loaded with recipes that will make you say, “Oooh I want to make that!” (Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars!) “And that!” (Greek Salad Pita Pizzas!) The recipes are approachable, creative, and full of flavor—they’re make-from-scratch, too, without lots of processed ingredients, which is a bonus.

And speaking of variations, Maria says this mac and cheese is “a great blank canvas for all kinds of mix-ins, such as cooked chicken, broccoli, or frozen peas.” If you want to add some texture, turn it into a baked casserole. Just pour the mac and cheese into a 2-quart baking dish and top it with panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Give it a quick hit under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the top is golden brown.

Q&A WITH MARIA LICHTY!

I talked with Maria about her book, cooking for her family, and what it was like putting together a cookbook with kids underfoot—and helping out!

Who is this cookbook for?

Everyone! Our recipes are approachable, made with fresh and simple ingredients, and delicious, that is the most important part. There are healthy recipes and indulgent recipes because life is all about balance . . . and I have a major sweet tooth. (Note: There’s an entire chapter on cookies, be still my beating heart.)

This books leans vegetarian but isn’t vegetarian—how’s that working for your family?

There are lots of vegetarian-friendly recipes because I am a vegetarian, but my husband and boys eat meat, so there are plenty of meat recipes, too! Like I said, this book is for everyone!

What’s the biggest challenge for home cooks?

Time! That is why we make sure our recipes are quick and easy—30 minutes or less.

What’s your advice to tackle that?

We know it is not easy to get dinner on the table every night, but with a little planning and prep, you can make it happen. Our book includes lots of tips and recipes that will help you succeed in the kitchen! We even have a section called “UnRecipes” that we turn to when we are really short on time. These “recipes” can be made in no time and are so much better than eating out, going through the drive-thru, or ordering takeout! Simple food doesn’t have to be complicated.

How old are your boys? What’s your favorite way to get them involved in cooking?

Caleb is almost 8 and Maxwell is 5. Our boys love to help us in the kitchen. We turn on the music and everyone gets a job. If they are part of the process, they are more excited about eating, too, which is always a bonus with little kids. And getting them involved means dinner gets on the table faster!

What are their favorite recipes from this book?

The boys love being our chief taste testers and were so helpful in picking which recipes were “cookbook worthy.” Caleb’s favorite recipes are the Cinnamon Streusel French Toast and the Crispy Bean Tostadas with Smashed Avocado and Jicama-Cilantro Slaw. Maxwell loves the Slow Cooker Meatballs and Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies.

What is your go-to “I don’t want to cook but I do it anyway” template?

Breakfast for dinner is always a winner! We usually scramble up some eggs from our chickens (I like to add in veggies), make avocado toast or another fun toast in the Feeling Toasty section in our book, and cut up whatever fresh fruit we have on hand or blend up a smoothie. If you aren’t in the mood to cook, don’t plan an elaborate meal—cook one of your favorite “go to” recipes you know that will turn out and hit the spot. I always make sure our freezer is stocked with dinner options and don’t be afraid to jazz up leftovers!

What’s on your dinner prep playlist? You talk about music a lot, and we at Simply Recipes often talk about what we cook/work with, music-wise.

Our boys are the deejays in our kitchen. They love music and are good about mixing things up. They are currently loving Imagine Dragons, Bob Marley, John Denver, and Maroon 5.

What are some of the funniest things your kids said in terms of feedback or the cookbook process—and being privy to that? Kids are always saying funny things! 

When they found out we were writing a book, they asked when they could check themselves out at the library—ha! They also started practicing their handwriting, so they could sign cookbooks. The boys were the best taste tasters; kids are very honest. They loved using the “thumbs up” rating. If a recipe didn’t get two thumbs up, it wasn’t cookbook worthy.

RELATED RECIPES

  • Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
  • Quick Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
  • Civil War Macaroni and Cheese
  • Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
  • Chili Mac and Cheese

Maria says, “I usually make a salad for myself on mac and cheese night, unless this version is on the menu—then I grab a bowl and join my boys. This easy “gourmet” version of the classic is my personal favorite, and yet it takes just as little time as the boxed kind to prepare. It gets its creaminess from Havarti cheese (a soft cow’s milk cheese that is super melty and gooey—you could also use mozzarella), plus a boost from fresh spinach-basil pesto. At first, the boys were wary because their mac wasn’t orange, but after one bite they were yelling for more. Now it’s a family favorite that we all get excited for.”

Excerpted from TWO PEAS & THEIR POD COOKBOOK. Copyright © 2019 by Maria Lichty. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

Ingredients

For the spinach pesto:

  • 4 cups packed spinach leaves
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more for a thinner pesto
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

For the mac and cheese:

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) whole-wheat elbow macaroni (orecchiette also works well)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 cups shredded Havarti or mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tablespoons spinach-basil pesto (or store-bought pesto)

Method

1 Make the pesto: In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and blend for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides down with a spatula and blend again until smooth. If you want a thinner pesto, add more olive oil. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

The pesto can be stored in the fridge in a covered container for up to two weeks, or pour into ice cube molds and freeze for up to 6 months.

2 Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

3 Thicken the milk: In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to create a paste. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and continue whisking until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes.

4 Add the cheese: Stir in the shredded cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Fold in the pesto (Note: My kids and I liked a bit more pesto than what she calls for here—about 1/4 cup or so did the trick).

5 Assemble, heat and serve: Add the pasta, stirring to combine, and cook just until the pasta is warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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