It’s Sunday and I’m flat-out with piercing back pain. I can stand or lie down but if I sit? Oooeee! Good thing I already had brunch ready, topped off with a gorgeous mixed berry tart studded with praline pecans. Given it’s a school night and there’s work tomorrow, a quick but satisfying indulgence is called for, the operative word being quick. This recipe is a re-make of the ’90’s version of the “fruit pizza”. Any fruit will do as a topping but I feel there’s something lush and almost scandalous about mounds of berries. Adding the store-bought praline pecans takes this tart to a new level. The tart is good served cold or at room temperature. My son, James, loved it as a kid. You’ll love it now!
This is one outrageous zucchini bread. The batter will have your eyes rolling to the back of your head. I can honestly say the first time I tasted the batter I seriously considered not baking the bread at all and , instead, simply eating it all…one generous, sloppy spoonful after another until there was no more. I first began baking zucchini bread for my son, James, when he was a toddler but I never called it zucchini bread. I’m pretty sure he would have turned his cute little Greek nose up at it, but how about “tea bread”? He loved Mama’s “tea bread” and even helped me bake it. Many a morning he suggested we invite his grandmother, Mimi, over for a tea party with “tea bread”. Little scamp. I covered his small, round child’s table with a linen tablecloth and set places for James, Mimi and his two best friends, Bert and Ernie. I prepared cafe con leche or James’ favorite tea, Constant Comment and served the guests while they chatted politely about Curious George, which day that week they would go feed the ducks or the latest happenings on Sesame Street…”Mimi! Did you know there is a number 9?” We have some lovely memories. I hope this recipe makes it to your next tea party!
This wonderful recipe I found in the booklet of directions and recipes which came with my Cuisinart food processor. I made no changes except for the addition of vanilla extract. The recipe is that perfect. It does state milk chocolate chips may be used as well but I’d rather have a sharp chocolate presence so I’ll stick with semi-sweet chips. If your food processor is another brand I’m pretty sure it will be just fine. (But I DO adore my Cuisinart!)
pinch of nutmeg (I used almost 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated)
1 large zucchini (about 12 ounces)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (this is not part of the original recipe)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Reserve.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Reserve.
Insert the shredding disc with the medium side facing up. Shred zucchini. Add to the bowl with the reserved dry ingredients.
Put the sugar, eggs and oil into the large work bowl fitted with the large chopping blade. Process on high for 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and pulse, to just combine, about 8 to 10 times. Remove blade. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
It’s time everyone, time for the 2018 Saint Demetrios Greek Festival in Fort Lauderdale. It’s this weekend February 8th through the 11th. The sun is shining, there’s a stiff breeze and the huge, white tents are up. The kitchen’s a veritable hive of activity; our ladies group, Philoptochos, is in charge of the mouth-watering baked goods. You know….all those little butter cookies calling out to you and no one else, telling you how perfect they are dunked in a hot cup of coffee with steamed milk for breakfast? Or how about the butter and nut cookies resting on a thick pillow of powdered sugar? I’m partial to the spice cookie that has been quickly dipped in a honey and orange syrup called melomakarona, redolent with cinnamon and cloves. Ugh! It’s a dieter’s nightmare. But I tell myself it’s once a year and IT’S FOR THE CHURCH. Thinking of all these ladies, most of them grandmothers and great-grandmothers, mixing and rolling and baking all these sweets from days gone by makes me incredibly happy. Also sharing the kitchen is a team of chefs who crank out hundreds of trays of the most delectable food ever. They are known for their enormous, meat falling off the bone lamb shanks. Having worked on the outside food lines for years, I can tell you folks drive down from the Palm Beaches and up from Miami to savor this lamb. They often purchase two or three additional lamb dinners to take home. I don’t blame them. These shanks aren’t available in grocery stores so you can’t make them at home even if you wanted to. Again, it’s a once a year treat. For those who might not care for lamb, thick, fat wedges of moussaka or the Greek version of lasagna, pastitsio, are available, both oozing with warm cheese and creamy bechamel. But let’s pretend you don’t want a full meal, (who am I trying to kid but I’ll try), all you have to do is step outside for authentic Greek grilled sausage with cheese flamed in brandy, gyro sandwiches stuffed with savory meat, lettuce, tomato and cold Greek yoghurt sauce, hand-held spinach and cheese pies wrapped in phyllo dough so crispy they shatter when you bite into them. Want more? There is a whole lamb roasting on a spit outside while being basted with garlic, oregano and olive oil. Boom. It gets no better. And, because we’re all adults here, you can enjoy your delicacies with an assortment of beer and wine or an ice-cold bottle of water or soft drink. We, who volunteer all weekend, will also drink our weight in Greek coffee, hot or iced and prepared right in front of you. I can’t wait! As you walk in from any direction the gorgeous perfume of grilled food and the strains of Greek music surround you. The children of the church, some small and some not so small, dance the dances from the villages of Greece all in authentic costumes of the region. They’ve practiced all year, all the intricate steps seared into their memory banks. They dance with joy and abandon as the choreography is now second nature. You’ll meet kids in their late teens through their twenties smiling at you while serving beer and wine, parking cars or clearing food trays, all parishioners and most of them alumni dancers having started at five or six old. And you know what the beautiful part is? They’re ALL still close, close friends. They’ve passed the baton to the younger kids and accepted the baton handed them from older parishioners whose achy knees or backs no longer allow them the pleasure of standing all day and selling homemade rice pudding or pushing around a dolly with five or six cases of tomatoes or pork souvlaki. No, these men have earned their spots on fold out chairs. This is their time to flip worry beads while wearing black wool fishermen’s caps. And ladies, sit right down and enjoy that frothy Nescafe frappe while gossiping with your best friend about how your loukoumades syrup is made. God bless you all for tirelessly giving so many years to this church and festival! There is so much more I haven’t touched on. There are glorious tours of the church touching on and explaining a myriad of details and facts about the architecture and iconography. There will be Greek food demonstrations…you might just see me preparing hummus or roasted eggplant dip. I hope you come see us and taste life at the Greek table!
Not only is this one of my favorite appetizers but it’s also one of my go-to “I’m beat” dinners. I always have plenty left over for lunches the next day and if I’m just so dead-dog tired I can’t muster up the energy to include the meat or shrimp mixture, well, hey! It’s okay. These egg rolls taste terrific with or without a little protein so if you’re doing a no-meat Monday or you are a vegetarian then these egg rolls are for you. In fact, they taste just like the ones you get at a Chinese restaurant. My boys love them and the following day they have an even deeper flavor after being crisped up in the oven for 10 minutes then swirled in a puddle of duck sauce and Chinese hot mustard and washed down with a couple of cold beers. This recipe can be assembled the day prior to serving which makes for easy party prep. Simply roll them all up, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to cook. And since they fry up in minutes you’re not chained to the kitchen yet you still have one more hot appetizer to serve your guests. These are so dang good, kind of a sleeper and they’re not often served at home so check this out. You may just have a new obsession.
Sometimes chocolate is the best last resort. You’ve apologized, prayed, fretted and worried, yelled, torn your cuticles and had one too many drinks. Maybe chocolate is the answer. Not as a long-term solution but this recipe will certainly smooth ruffled feathers and ease worried minds for the time being. These brownies were created by baking maven, Maida Heatter, and are classic world renown treats. If you served brownies at a wedding, these are the ones you want. If your precious angel is going through a rough time at college, these are the brownies to pack in an empty shoe box. I made a few changes in the way I bake them. I sprayed the tin foil lined baking pan with non-stick cooking spray as opposed to applying the melted butter process. Worked fine. I used pecans in place of walnuts because I adore pecans and I find walnuts to be bitter…I don’t know…I’m just not a fan. The final change I made was rather than purchase 2 bags of York Peppermint Patties I used 2 7.7-ounce bags of Ghiradelli Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Squares I found on clearance after the holidays. I had started actually dipping into one of the bags for an occasional treat and that’s never good. I had no business buying more chocolates. Boy howdy, do I love these brownies! It is imperative you chill these overnight for the best results. Somehow it all works together and makes this dessert well worth the wait.
Pre-heat oven to 425°. Line a 9″ X 13″ x 2″ pan as follows: Invert the pan and center a 17″ length of aluminum foil, shiny side down, over the pan. With your hands, press down on the sides and corners of the foil to shape it to the pan. Remove the foil. Turn the pan right side up. Place the foil in the pan and very carefully press it into place in the pan. Now, to butter the pan, place a piece of butter (additional to that in ingredients) in the pan, and put the pan in the oven. When the butter is melted, use a pastry brush or a piece of crumbled plastic wrap to spread the butter all over the foil. Set the prepared pan aside.
Place the chocolate and the butter in the top of a large double boiler over moderate heat or in a 4- to 6-cup heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are melted. Stir to mix. Remove from heat and set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, salt, espresso powder and sugar at high-speed for ten minutes. On low-speed add the chocolate mixer (which may still be warm) and beat only until mixed. Then add the flour and again beat on low-speed only until mixed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the walnuts.
Pour half the mixture (about 3 1/2 cups) into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place a layer of the mints, touching each other and the edges of the pan, all over the chocolate layer. Cut some mints to fill in large spaces on the edges. (You will not use all the mints. There will be some left over.) Pour the remaining chocolate mixture into the pan and smooth all over.
Bake for 35 minutes, reversing the pan front to back once during baking to ensure even baking. At the end of 35 minutes the cake will have a firm crust on top but if you insert a toothpick in the middle it will come out wet and covered with chocolate. Nevertheless, it is done. Do not bake any longer.
Remove the pan from the oven; let stand until cool. Cover the pan with a cookie sheet and invert the pan and the sheet. remove the pan and the foil lining. Cover the length of the cake with a length of wax paper and another cookie sheet and invert again, leaving the cake right side up. Now, the cake must be refrigerated for a few hours or overnight before it is cut into bars.
When you are ready to cut the cake, use a long, heavy knife with a sharp blade, either serrated or straight-try both. Cut the cake into quarters. Cut each quarter in half, cutting through the long sides. Finally, cut each piece into 4 bars, cutting through the long sides. (I think these brownies are better in narrow bar shapes than in squares.) Pack brownies in an airtight box or wrap individually in clear cellophane, wax paper or foil. They freeze perfectly and can be served very cold or at room temperature.
It’s Sunday, cloudy with soft and erratic rain showers as if Mama Nature hasn’t quite decided if today will be soggy or not. I find days like today the perfect time to put together a cooking project which produces immediate results, looks good, doesn’t break the bank and does not eat up an entire afternoon. This recipe for Worcestershire sauce fits the bill. Two added bonuses are the recipe yields plenty for your future use and makes a fabulous gift for a fortunate friend. By the way, the sauce is a super hostess present or Christmas gift when presented in a fetching bottle with a pretty bow or tag. It will leave you sitting pretty and pleased as punch. This recipe really ought to age at least a month before using as the flavor ripens…almost blooms, becoming fuller and round. Obviously there is a good amount of both vinegar and fresh horseradish but allowed to mature, this sauce is a wonderful surprise when the undertones of cloves and molasses are tasted behind the mustard and anchovies. As good as store-bought is, it cannot compare to handmade. I marinate steaks in a mixture of Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce before tossing them on the grill. What a difference this sauce makes! And just imagine how glorious a spicy batch of Bloody Marys would taste. Cheers!
You may not have noticed, but most grocery stores carry fresh horseradish in the produce department. I typically find it hiding behind the turnips and rutabagas so make certain to ask if you can’t find it. I store my Worcestershire sauce in pint and half-pint canning jars. And, yes, the sauce needs to be refrigerated.
Growing up there was no baking done in our house. None. No cookies, no cakes. Except during the holidays Mama would bake a frozen apple pie and when girlfriends spent the night, which was almost never, she always and without fail prepared Pepperidge Farm Puff Pasty Apple Turnovers. But Mama had a tendency to burn things…anything…everything and these turnovers were no exception. She had one baking sheet, an old, warped aluminum sheet covered with burnt-on stains. I looked at them as friendly reminders of her past culinary disasters. Saturday mornings during sleepovers Mama couldn’t “pop” the turnovers in the oven, oh no. Everything she did was done at hyper speed, from the moment she flew out of bed in the morning until the moment she collapsed into bed at night. As Mama slammed the baking sheet into the oven, the pastries skittering wildly about the tray, the crash of metal on metal and the slamming of the oven door could be heard down the street…or at least on our side of the house. And as I stretched in my twin bed with its girly white lace bedskirt, I looked over at Dana/Andrea/Ann waking up in the matching twin bed with the identical bedskirt. We always smiled knowing we could breakfast later at their house with the utmost confidence it wouldn’t be burned. Sure enough, Mama rapped on our door on the bedroom door with the back of her hand, her middle knuckle sounding like the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun. “Girls! Breakfast is ready!” I always wanted to sing back, “We know. We smelled the smoke.” but that would have been sassy and disrespectful and Mama DID NOT tolerate any of that in her house. No, ma’am. She would not have batted an eye in front of anyone outside of the family, but later? Holy Mary, mother of Jesus! She was liable to wash your mouth out with an enormous, white bar of Ivory soap AND ground you. Uh uh. Don’t sass Mama. Anyway, in our soft blue or pastel pink baby doll nighties off we’d saunter into the kitchen to find a bowl of freshly cut fruit, cold glasses of milk and a gorgeous platter of beautifully arranged turnovers, the pastries were all puffed up with layers of crunchy sweetness. Sadly, the bottom of each and every turnover was a solid, black charred mess. Every.Single.Time. Without speaking, we’d peel off and enjoy the tops which hadn’t burned and scrape the apple and nut goo on the bottoms with spoons while the exhaust fan roared in the background sucking out the smoke. That was the closest Mama came to baking apples and pastry and we were fine with it. When you’re twelve or thirteen you know when life is good and our lives were good. Good and rich with Mama’s love!
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed and kept chilled until needed
Line a small baking sheet with tin foil and set aside.
Mix sugars, corn starch and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Using a melon-baller 1″ in diameter, scoop the core out of each apple beginning at the stem and stopping before you get to the bottom of the fruit. You don’t want the dulce de leche to run out of the bottom.
Roll each apple in the sugar mixture and press the mixture into the outside and inside of the fruit.
Open both sheets of puff pastry and lay down side by side.
Cut both sheets to make 4 rectangles.
Place an apple in the center of one of the rectangles and fill with 2-3 teaspoons of dulce de leche. Save the remaining dulce de leche to serve with the hot apples.
Bring up the short sides of the puff pastry and press into the apple. Gather up the long ends of the pastry and pinch together as if it was a bundle. Pinch closed any gaps or holes. Continue with the remaining apples and pastry.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Place apple bundles on the baking sheet and put in the freezer for 15 minutes for the pastry to firm up.
Bake the apples 30-35 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden.
Cool the apples 10-15 minutes before serving.
Warm the remaining dulce de leche in the microwave until runny and serve with the baked apples.