Sharing a seriously fun love for food

Month: January 2018

Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits

If there’s bread in heaven, biscuits will definitely be there! The perfect biscuit is light in texture with a “melt in your mouth” quality. A truly great biscuit can stand on its own with a touch of butter or rise to the occasion when needed to support a fabulous jam. Yet despite their simplicity and popularity it’s often difficult to find great biscuits – even at restaurants specializing in breakfast and brunch fare.

The vision of my Grandmother making biscuits is etched in my memory – the sight of her in her kitchen, the smell of the dough as it baked and the taste of those tender, golden biscuits fresh from the oven. She never used a recipe. It was a handful of this and a pinch of that. I’ve tried many, many biscuit recipes but this is one of my favorites. My Mom once told me that this recipe yielded a biscuit very, very close to those my Grandmother made.

Biscuits are really quite simple to make and this recipe is virtually foolproof. No need to roll out the dough, these are more of a drop biscuit. Scoops of dough are dropped into flour, then lightly tossed before they’re tucked into a pan and baked until fluffy and golden.

It’s important to use an 8″-9″ pan. You want the biscuits to touch, they help each other rise while baking. And if you don’t have a food processor, cut the butter into the flour by hand with a pair of forks or a pastry cutter. Either way, you want to leave bits of butter in the flour. That’s what creates a fluffy and tender biscuit.

Biscuits were once considered a Southern delicacy and only served for Sunday dinner. With something so delicious and yet so simple, it would be a shame for them not to grace your table for any occasion!

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus ¾ -1 cup extra for dusting

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

1-1/2 cups of buttermilk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for brushing on top of the biscuits

Preheat your oven to 450-degrees. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with a cooking spray and place the extra flour for dusting in a separate bowl or pan; set both aside. In a food processor combine the 2 cups of flour, baking powder, sugar, kosher salt, and baking soda. Pulse about 6-8 times until the dry ingredients are combined.

Toss in the 4 tablespoons of cubed butter.

Pulse 8 to 10 times until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal but leaving bits of butter visible in the flour.

Dump the flour mixture into a medium bowl and add the buttermilk.

Stir gently just until the dry ingredients are combined with the buttermilk, making sure not to over mix. The dough will be wet and slightly lumpy.

Drop rounds of dough, about 1/4 cup at a time into the extra flour and toss gently. Shake off the excess flour and shape the dough into a loose ball. Using a ¼-cup dry measuring cup or 2″ diameter ice cream scoop works really well for this.

Place the rounds of biscuit dough in the cake pan with the biscuits touching until the pan is filled. You’ll have about 10-12 biscuits. Gently brush with the melted butter.

Bake 5 minutes at 450-degrees, then reduce the oven temperature to 425-degrees. Continue baking until the biscuits are light golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Watch biscuits the last 5 minutes; if they begin to brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil.

 

Brunswick Stew

Brunswick Stew

I don’t remember the first time I made this stew, but it was years ago and is still in the top five of my favorites. It’s the stew I make when someone I love is not feeling well and it’s the stew I make when someone is in need of comfort. They say there’s proof chicken soup has healing power. This stew might have magic powers.

This is a refresh of one of our original posts and it’s definitely a recipe that is worthy of pulling back out. Chocked full of chicken along with butter beans, tomatoes, corn, potatoes and a touch of bacon – hearty but not heavy. It starts with chicken cooked in stock with sweet onion and celery until the chicken is tender. Then other layers of comforting goodness are added and simmered until the flavors meld together into something simply special.

This recipe makes a large batch but freezes beautifully. Like any great stew or soup it’s even better the next day. If you’re in a bit of a rush, pick up a roasted chicken and skip ahead! Start with the stock, reduce to intensify the flavor then add the remaining ingredients.

The recipe for Brunswick Stew dates back to the mid-late 1800s depending on which historical reference you believe. Some say it originated in Virginia, some swear it was Georgia but either way it is Southern and it is wonderful!

Brunswick Stew

For the chicken:

3-4 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts (bone-in, skin on adds more flavor to the stock)

1 large sweet onion, sliced, about 2 cups

3 celery stalks sliced, about 1-1/2 cups

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon cider or white wine vinegar

10-12 cups chicken stock

Place the chicken in a large stockpot along with the onions, celery, sugar, kosher salt, black pepper and cider or wine vinegar. Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the chicken breasts.

Cook over medium heat until the stock comes to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover the stockpot and continue simmering until the chicken is cooked through, about an hour. Turn off the heat and leave the chicken in the hot stock for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the stock and set aside to cool. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the bone and tear or cut it into bite-size pieces.

Raise the heat on the stock to medium and continue to cook until it has reduced by about ¼ to intensify the flavors.

For the stew:

3 cans butter beans, 14-15 ounces each, rinsed and drained

3 cans whole plum or chopped tomatoes, 14-15 ounces each

3-4 new potatoes, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces, about 2 cups

2 cans whole kernel corn, 14-15 ounces each, drained

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

3 teaspoons sugar

3 slices bacon, chopped

3 cans cream corn, 14-15 ounces each

2 tablespoons flour

½ cup cold water

Add the butter beans, the tomatoes, (if you like a more robust tomato flavor add the liquid from the tomatoes), diced potatoes, and whole kernel corn to the stock. (The cream corn goes in later.)

If you’re using whole plum tomatoes, gently break them up in the stew. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. While the stew is cooking, fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp.

Set aside to drain on a paper towel. Once the potatoes are tender, add the bacon and the cream corn to the stew.

Stir frequently to prevent the corn from sticking. In a small jar, mix the flour and cold water, shaking well to make sure there are no lumps.  Pour the mixture into the stew and cook for an additional 30 minutes. This additional cooking time gives the flour time to cook into the stew, slightly thickening and binding the liquid.  Add additional kosher salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Serves 8-10 easily.

Creating a Cheeseboard… A Wonderful Meal for the Weekend!

Creating a Cheeseboard… A Wonderful Meal for the Weekend!

It’s the weekend and something we love to do is open a great bottle of wine, kick back and enjoy one of our favorite meals. And for this meal, I don’t even turn on the oven or the stove. Instead, I pull together an assortment of beautiful cheese, meats and fruits for a spectacular cheeseboard. This idea is perfect for weekends, for game day or any casual or formal gathering.

Creating a cheeseboard doesn’t need to be overwhelming but it shouldn’t be boring and no, it’s not necessary to buy those prepackaged trays. All you need to get started is a variety of cheese – you can include soft, hard, sharp and mild. If you’re not sure what to choose, head to the deli of your favorite food market and ask for the cheese expert on staff. They can offer suggestions depending on your tastes. Then add fruit, meats, nuts plus crackers or bread.

Over the holidays we received a wide array of cheese and other wonderful food items from dear friends and they are perfect for this type of spread. I love trying new foods and the delicious assortment of cheeses, crackers and goodies has provided a lot of delicious sampling. So, I grabbed some of the cheese we received, picked up some meat and fruit from the market and added items from my pantry. Here’s how this cheeseboard came together.

One gift we received was a collection of delectable cheese from Vermont’s Plymouth Cheese Factory available through Williams-Sonoma. Col. John Coolidge who was also the father of Calvin Coolidge founded Plymouth, the second-oldest cheese factory in the United States in 1890. One taste and you are convinced there is a good reason they are still making cheese.

I pulled out the classic Vermont Cheddar. Though there are many types of cheddar cheese on the market, many are mass-produced and not all are wonderful. Plymouth’s original Vermont Cheddar has a sharp flavor that you expect from great cheddar. This cheese has a creamy bite and provides a nice addition to any cheeseboard and is always a crowd-pleaser.

Another gift we received was an assortment of glorious foods with a Spanish profile including cheese, quince paste and tortas – all favorites of our friend. There was a creamy Tetilla Spanish cheese, a light soft Spanish cheese, buttery and mild with a subtle tangy undertone. Made from whole milk from Blonde Galician cows it’s a perfect balance with Serrano ham or Sopressata.

Then there was a Queso Al Vino with its wine-soaked rind. Queso al Vino or Murcia al Vino is also known as “drunken goat” because of the ripening process. It is another fabulous Spanish cheese; semi-soft in texture it is macerated in red wine while ripening giving the rind a gorgeous plum-colored appearance. The aroma of the wine reads into the cheese –it is simply delectable!

Blue cheese is a must on my cheeseboards. It’s available in many forms and flavors ranging from the very mild to bold and piquant in nature. One of my favorites is St. Pete’s produced by the Faribault Dairy Company out of Minnesota. Aged for 100 days it is a creamy, traditional blue cheese and is wonderful with fresh or dried fruits and meats.

Saint-André is a glorious French triple crème cow’s milk cheese; almost decadent in taste and texture it pairs extremely well with a jam, in this case our Ginger Pear Jam. One bite of this cheese and you might never buy Brie again.

For the fruit I used pears with their delicate sweet flavor along with gorgeous red grapes. (Always buy seedless!) To keep the pears fresh, toss them in a cup of water with the juice of a lemon.

And a trick I learned years ago, clip the grapes into small pieces which make them much easier for your guests. No one wants to stand and pull grapes off the stems. For the cheeseboard, arrange them back together creating a cluster.

I added that lovely quince paste we received. Quince fruit is essentially inedible raw but when they’re cooked they transform into a deep orange, slightly sweet treat with hints of citrus and apple.

For meats, I included a spicy Sopressata

and slices of Serrano ham providing a salty, savory addition to the cheeseboard.

You need something to  carry” the cheese and meat. A sliced multi-grain baguette looked appealing plus maybe a cracker of sorts, something special. Those Seville Orange Sweet Olive Oil Tortas would do the trick – they are an unbelievably wonderful crisp pastry from Ines Rosales.

These fabulous tortas are wonderful enough to stand on their own but are an unexpected pleasure on your cheeseboard.

Use your favorite cheese, meats, and fruits. Add olives or nuts. Get creative. There really is not a right or wrong way and the outcome is always wonderful!

Ginger Pear Jam

Ginger Pear Jam

I love making jams and jellies and truly some are easier to make than others. Pear jam usually fell into the “others” category. Ginger Pear Jam happens to be one of Emily’s favorites so I decided I had to tackle it and work out a recipe that was more reliable.

There are dozens of pear preserve and pear jam recipes and I’ve tried many of them. My frustration – most provided sketchy details about the cooking process. Some said to cook the jam until thick, some referenced cooking until it reaches your desired thickness, some suggested cooking until the mixture sheets off a spoon or gels which is a bit more clear but still “iffy”. I have thrown out many, many jars after spending hours prepping and cooking because the results turned out to be a sticky, tacky mess.

So I pulled together a blend of various recipes. The foundation of this recipe comes from the Pear Bureau Northwest and their site usapears.org. It seemed logical that pear growers would have a great method for making jams and preserves with pears. Their method was clean and simple. But I love the flavor profile of ginger with pears and the subtle, spicy note that ginger adds. So after a few rounds of trial and error this combination did the trick and yielded a beautiful, delicious jam.

For the pears, use your favorite. I’ve made this jam with both Green and Red Anjou, Bosc and Bartlett pears, all with great results. If you like chunks of pears, more of a preserve then use firmer pears. If you want a smooth, softer spread, more of a jam then let the fruit ripen on the counter until the pears soften.

Prepare the pears the day before you plan to cook them giving them time to sit in the sugar and lemon mixture at least 8 hours and preferably overnight. Ginger Pear Jam takes a bit of time to cook. You want the temperature of the jam to reach 220-degrees, about 45- 60 minutes or more. Though you don’t have to sit over the jam every minute you do want to stay in the vicinity. As the jam thickens you’ll want to stir it frequently to prevent the pears from sticking to the bottom of your kettle. Pull up a stool and pour yourself a cup of coffee, it’s worth the wait!

Pears brightened with fresh lemon, fresh ginger along with crystallized ginger create a delightful jam, sweet with a subtle, spicy note – one that is perfect for your morning biscuit or an unexpected treat served on your cheeseboard with a delicate Saint-André cheese.

 

Ginger Pear Jam

3 pounds slightly ripe to ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced – about 6 cups

1 teaspoon lemon zest

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 2 small or 1 large lemon

4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon butter

¼ cup crystallized ginger

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

Tools to have one hand:

A large heavy kettle or stockpot, heavy wooden spoon, digital thermometer, sterilized canning jars and lids (4-6 half-pint), funnel and ladle. If you’re planning to seal the jars in a water bath – a canner and tongs for lifting the hot jars in and out of the water.

Combine the sliced pears, the lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl or container. Gently mix to combine. Let the pears sit covered, at least 8 hours but preferably overnight at room temperature.

Pour the pear and sugar mixture into a large heavy kettle or stockpot. Cook over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Add the butter, the fresh ginger and the crystallized ginger. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently to prevent the pears from sticking.

Cook the jam until the mixture thickens, is golden in color and measures 220-degrees on a candy thermometer. Note: The temperature will rise to this level periodically but will drop back down after you’ve stirred the jam. You want to continue cooking until the jam has thickened and reaches 220-degrees even after stirring. If you want to double check, you can drop a bit of the jam on a small plate, chill for a few minutes and check the consistency.

Remove the jam from the heat and ladle into sterilized jars then process in a water bath or refrigerate.

Golden, sweet Ginger Pear Jam!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon

I’ve been deep into cooking as many years as I can remember – I was in the kitchen even before I could reach the stovetop. In our family neither my Mom nor my Grandmothers viewed cooking as a chore. They saw different foods and dishes as adventures, always up for trying something new and thankfully a trait they passed along to both Emily and me.

I read cookbooks like most people read novels. If you were to ask me what book is on my nightstand chances are it’s a cookbook. Boeuf Bourguignon is a dish I had worshipped from afar for years. It sounded intriguing, mystifying but intimidating until I did a bit of reading and research. And to my delight I discovered Boeuf Bourguignon is simply a luscious beef stew, one where the beef is cooked primarily in red wine with a touch of cognac. Intimidation factor lifted!

Many of the components of Boeuf Bourguignon are the same as you find in a classic beef stew. Chuck roast is a perfect cut of beef for this wonderful stew; it’s a cut of meat that benefits greatly from braising. Carrots and onions are the vegetables that lend their flavor profile plus a generous amount of garlic that mellows and sweetens as it cooks. To make the perfect braising liquid, thyme is blended with rich tomato paste along with a gorgeous bottle of wine and a splash of cognac.

Simmer this stew in your oven for a couple of hours, then top it with sautéed cremini mushrooms and serve with a side of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. Hopefully you have a second bottle of red wine on hand!

God bless you Julia Child for unlocking the mystery of this classic beef stew!

Boeuf Bourguignon

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4 lbs. chuck roast, cut into pieces about 1” each

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

8 ounces bacon, cut into pieces

1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into 2” pieces, about 7-8 carrots

2 yellow onions, sliced

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

½ cup Cognac

1 (750 ml) bottle good red wine

1-1/2 to 2 cups beef broth

1 can tomato paste, 12 ounces

1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 package frozen pearl onions, 14 ounces (optional)

1 pound sliced cremini mushrooms

Season the beef with 1 teaspoons kosher salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper then let the meat set at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes. In large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the meat cooking in small batches so that the meat has the room to brown and not steam.

As each batch browns transfer the meat to a bowl and continue cooking until all the meat is browned on all sides.

Add the bacon to the pan cooking until it starts to crisp and the fat has rendered.

Toss in the carrots and the onions, season with ¾ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Continue cooking for about 15 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Slowly pour the Cognac into the pan and heat for a few minutes. Using a long match or long-reach lighter, ignite the cognac to burn off the alcohol.

Return the beef and any juices to the Dutch oven.

Pour the wine over the beef and vegetables then add enough beef broth to just cover the meat. Stir in the tomato paste and the thyme.

Cover and cook at 250-degrees for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until the meat and carrots are tender. While the stew is cooking prepare the butter-based roux and cook the mushrooms.

For the butter roux, combine 7 tablespoons of the butter with the flour in a small bowl.

Mix with a fork until it’s blended into a paste. Set aside.

For the mushrooms, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan. Cook allowing the mushrooms to release their liquid.

Continue cooking until the mushrooms are golden before seasoning with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside.

When the stew is ready, remove from the oven and stir in the flour and butter roux mixture. Check for seasonings, adding any additional kosher salt or black pepper to suit your taste.

Add the pearl onions then simmer on low heat for an additional 15- 20 minutes until the stew is slightly thickened and the pearl onions are warmed through.

Ladle the beef bourguignon into large bowls, top with a spoonful of the sautéed mushrooms. Serve with a side of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and perhaps a glass of red wine!

 

Chocolate Chip Pecan Coffee Cake

Chocolate Chip Pecan Coffee Cake

This is one of those recipes that every time I make it I ask myself why I don’t make it more often. It starts with a luscious pound cake batter made with sour cream and pure vanilla extract – then bittersweet chocolate chips and toasted pecans are layered into the cake. This is the perfect coffee cake for any brunch buffet or dessert table. Think of it as a fabulous chocolate chip cookie mixed into a rich, buttery pound cake.

Coffee cakes were quite popular in the 60s and 70s. Every great home baker had a variety of recipes and frequently had one on their kitchen counter should a neighbor drop by for coffee. This is one of those cakes which is really quite simple to make. And here’s a few tips to ensure you’ll have scrumptious results.

Allow your butter and eggs to come to room temperature. This sounds like a step you can skip but don’t. Starting with butter and eggs at room temperature will help to create that light and tender cake you’re after.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – use a high quality, pure vanilla extract. No imitation vanilla. Nope, never. Vanilla creates the background, the foundation of your dish so it needs to be wonderful. My favorite vanilla extracts come from Nielsen-Massey. They offer a selection of delectable flavorings including almond, chocolate, orange and lemon plus a wide array of vanilla products.

Invest in a quality Bundt pan then take the time to prep it with either a good cooking spray or grease and flour it before baking. There is nothing more frustrating than mixing, baking and then watching as part of your cake stays in the pan.

The aroma from this cake while it’s baking is just a glimpse to the deliciousness waiting inside- so pour yourself a cup of coffee, cut yourself a slice then sit back and enjoy the weekend!

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pound Cake

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature

3 cups sugar

6 extra-large eggs, room temperature

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

2 cups chopped pecans, lightly toasted

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour with the kosher salt and the baking soda. Cream the butter with the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

On low speed, blend in the eggs one at a time, blending well after adding each one.

Add the sour cream and the vanilla.

Mix in the flour on low speed, one cup at a time blending just until the flour disappears.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure the batter is well combined.

Scoop half of the batter into a 3-quart Bundt pan that has been sprayed well with a cooking spray or greased and floured. (A large ice-cream scoop works great for scooping the batter into the pan.)

Sprinkle half the chocolate chips over the batter, then spread 1-cup of the pecans over the chocolate chips.

Top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips and pecans over the batter. Bake at 350-degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the cake tests done. Careful not to over bake! If the top starts to brown too much before the cake is done, cover the top loosely with a sheet of foil.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for an hour before turning it out on a cake plate.

Broiled Grapefruit

Broiled Grapefruit

It’s the middle of the week and ridiculously cold outside so I’m working from home and looking for something to pull together for brunch. Broiled grapefruit seems like a perfect idea! This brunch recipe has been around for decades with many variations on this simple yet elegant dish. Some recipes call for simply a sprinkling of white sugar across the top of the grapefruit before broiling while others use a blend of honey, butter, cinnamon and sugar before topping it with a grilled chicken liver. The chicken liver is a bit much and probably don’t have any on hand so I’m going with a more traditional version.

The Texas Red Grapefruit is the official fruit of Texas and has been grown in the state for over 100 years. Texas is one of the top producers in the US of this sweet and slightly tart citrus fruit. When we were kids my Mom and Dad often ordered grapefruit from a producer in the Rio Grande Valley – these midwinter citrus fruit weren’t always readily available in a small town market. The grapefruit arrived boxed, nestled in wrapping paper and were always plump, sweet and beautiful.

When selecting any citrus look for fruit that are plump and “heavy”. Pick up several and compare, you’ll be surprised at the difference. Store them in the refrigerator, since you’ll want them well chilled for this dish. The contrast between the warm, melted sugar and the chilled fruit beneath is part of the magic.

This version of broiled grapefruit includes brown sugar, ground cinnamon, ground mace, butter and if you’re after the truly classic version, they’re topped with a maraschino cherry. Broiled grapefruit comes together quickly, cooking in about 10 minutes. Take a few minutes to section your grapefruit before broiling – your guests will appreciate the special touch!

Broiled Grapefruit

2 large grapefruit, halved and well chilled

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground mace (use nutmeg if you don’t have mace on hand)

2 tablespoons butter

4 maraschino cherries for garnish, optional

Using a sharp paring knife, cut around the outside between the fruit and the white membrane then cut around each section of fruit. Place the grapefruit in a baking dish.

Combine the brown sugar, the cinnamon and mace in a small bowl, whisking to blend well.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the tops of the grapefruit halves.

Cut the butter into pieces and dot each with a half-tablespoon.

Place the oven rack in the second position from the top – you want the fruit about 4” from the heat. Broil the grapefruit for about 10 minutes until the sugar has melted completely.

Garnish with a maraschino cherry if desired and serve warm.

 

 

 

 

Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup

Soups are a staple on my menus. Whether it’s summer or winter, there’s one frequently simmering on the stove. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t love soup especially when the temperature dips. Split pea soup is one of those comforting, cold weather “hugs” in a bowl type of soup.

Most of the women in my family frequently made soups from peas or beans. It was a means to stretch the budget and make use of all leftovers – including tossing the beautiful ham bone from Sunday dinner into the soup adding a richness to the stock. Mom would always keep the bone from leftover ham, wrapping it and keeping it in the freezer for stocks or soups. The flavor of the soup would only get better with time and you could feed a family for days.

Split peas make a hearty and incredibly satisfying soup. Sweet onions, carrots and garlic along with the flavor from the ham bone elevate this peasant dish to a feast. If you don’t have a ham bone on hand you can pick one up from food markets or specialty stores. Hold out a half-pound of the peas for the second half of the simmering time to give another layer of depth to the soup. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a slice of toasted Ciabatta and you’ve got dinner.

Rich in color, richer in flavor – split pea soup warms the soul on a cold winter day!

Split Pea Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped, about 2-1/2 cups

6-8 carrots, peeled and chopped, about 2 cups

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

13 cups chicken stock, plus extra as needed to thin the soup

2 teaspoons concentrated chicken bouillon

2-1/2 pounds dried split peas, rinsed and sorted

1 ham bone

Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and carrots, season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and the black pepper. Cook the onions and carrots until the vegetables are somewhat tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and the oregano and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, the concentrated chicken bouillon and 2 pounds of the split peas. Stir to blend the vegetables and the peas together. Place the ham bone in the stockpot with the peas. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook partially covered for about 40-45 minutes or until the peas are tender.

Add the remaining half-pound of split peas, the remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste and continue cooking partially covered for another 40 minutes until all the peas are tender. (The amount of salt will vary depending on the flavor of the ham bone.) Stir the soup frequently, as it thickens it will tend to stick to the bottom of the stockpot.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the soup for serving.

The soup will thicken as it sits, so add additional chicken stock as needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Tea Cakes

Southern Tea Cakes

The layers of sugar on my counters have been cleared from the holiday baking frenzy. Though it’s not quite time for the rich sweets of Valentine’s Day something to nibble on with a cup of hot tea sounds quite inviting. Southern Tea Cakes provide a perfect balance for something slightly sweet though not overly heavy.

These puffy little cookies, with a delicate cake-like texture are somewhat a cross between shortbread and a sugar cookie. There are many variations on this Southern cookie, some are very thin others thicker, some all butter while other recipes are all shortening.

My favorite tea cake is an adaptation of a recipe I was given many years ago by a dear woman who worked for us. The inclusion of buttermilk yields a very tender cookie and fresh nutmeg gives a subtle warmth from the spice. The primary flavors in these tea cakes come from pure vanilla extract and nutmeg. So it’s important to use a high quality vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg.

The dough is very soft so you’ll need to chill it at least one hour before you roll it out. Even after it chills it’s still soft so the tea cakes won’t necessarily be perfectly round in shape. No worries, the taste makes up for any visual imperfection!

Tea Cakes are wonderful served plain or with a lavender icing. Put the kettle on, grab a tea cake and curl up with a good book! The day just got better.

 

Southern Tea Cakes

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

3 extra-large eggs, room temperature

1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

5 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Cream the butter on medium speed until it is light and smooth.

Add the sugar and continue mixing until it’s well blended, about 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and buttermilk. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, kosher salt and nutmeg.

Add the flour mixture about one cup at a time, alternately with the buttermilk mixing on low speed just until the flour is blended into the dough.

Divide the dough in half (it’s easier to handle) and dump it onto lightly floured parchment sheets. Gently knead the dough in with the flour just until it is not sticky to the touch. Flatten each round of dough into a disc, wrap it in the parchment and seal it up in a plastic bag. Refrigerate at least one hour.

When you’re ready to bake, gently roll out the dough onto a surface that has been dusted with flour, dusting the rolling pin with flour as needed. Roll until the dough is about ¼” thick. Cut with a cookie or biscuit cutter. I use a biscuit cutter that’s approximately 2-1/2″ in diameter but you can make them smaller or larger.

Place the tea cakes on a baking sheet lined with either a Silpat or parchment paper. Bake the tea cakes at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they are lightly golden on the bottom.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Lavender Icing

¼ cup half and half

1/8 teaspoon dried lavender, food grade (found in the spice aisle)

1-1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove any lumps

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Warm the half and half until it’s steaming, about 30-60 seconds in the microwave will do it. Add the dried lavender and allow it to steep for 2-3 minutes to gently infuse the lavendar flavor into the half and half. A little lavender goes a long way… Too much and it will taste like you’re eating perfume! If you want a bit stronger flavor, steep longer.

Sift 1-1/2 cups of the powdered sugar into a small saucepan. Pour the half and half through a sieve to remove the lavender and add to the powdered sugar along with the vanilla extract.

Warm over low heat, stirring well until the icing is smooth. Add the remaining powdered sugar if you like a slightly thicker icing.

Drizzle over the tops of the tea cakes.

Raisin Sauce and Maple Baked Ham

Raisin Sauce and Maple Baked Ham

Growing up, ham was normally reserved for company or holiday meals. My most visible memory of my Mom preparing a gorgeous ham was one she made for company. Mom had toiled away all afternoon, readying the evening meal for her guests. She pulled her gorgeous ham from the oven, left it to rest on the counter and we made a quick run to the market. When we returned our beloved German Shepherd was sitting at the top of the stairs gnawing on the bone, enjoying a late afternoon snack. On all eight pounds of ham.

I love a good ham. But often the presentation is nothing more than a slab of meat on a platter. If you look through any cookbooks dating from the 1930s through the 1970s you will typically find chapters on sauces. There was a reason and they weren’t just for dessert. There were luscious sauces served with vegetables and meats. Pull those recipes back out – they are such a simple way to elevate the taste of any meal.

Raisin Sauce is a perfect example of a beautiful vintage sauce. It’s a wonderful addition to any baked ham, but it’s also fabulous served with a pork tenderloin or pork roast. This sauce comes together in less than 30 minutes with simple ingredients – golden raisins, fresh oranges, spices of cloves and mace plus currant jelly and it can easily be made ahead.

You don’t need a special occasion or even company to enjoy this spectacular dish!

Raisin Sauce

1 cup sugar

½ cup orange juice

1 cup golden raisins

1 large orange, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar

¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon mace

1 cup currant jelly

2 teaspoons cornstarch

¼ cup water

Combine all the ingredients except the cornstarch and the water in a medium saucepan.

Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a gentle boil, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and continue simmering until the raisins are very plump, about 15 minutes.

Dissolve the 2 teaspoons cornstarch with ¼ cup cold water. Add to the raisin sauce and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve warm over ham, pork tenderloin or pork roast. Refrigerate any leftover sauce.

Maple Baked Ham

1 fully cooked spiral cut ham, about 4-6 pounds

1 cup maple syrup

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup orange juice

1 orange, sliced

Place the ham cut side down in a large roasting pan, add the orange slices.

Whisk together the maple syrup, the brown sugar and the orange juice. Pour over the ham.

Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees for about 1-1/2 – 2 hours (approximately 15-20 minutes per pound). About halfway through the cooking time, spoon the maple glaze back over the ham and continue cooking. The last 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook until the ham is heated through and the internal temperature is around 140 degrees.

Serve with warm Raisin Sauce.