Monday, October 30, 2017

Baking Class: Poppy Seed Cookies

When we were young we spent a lot of time over at the house of one of my mother's closest friends.  Her mother lived with the family and often when we walked in the back door into the kitchen there she would be cooking up something special.  One of the things she made fairly regularly was poppy seed cookies.  I was not particularly fond of them, but my older sister liked them and asked her for the recipe one day.  Grandma Specter looked over at her as she was rolling out the dough and said:
"Two big scoops of flour, a heaping spoon of baking powder, half a heaping spoon of baking soda, a pinch of salt, a spoonful of sugar, a handful of poppy seeds, 3 eggs, and half a small cup of oil."
My sister and I, brought up in a world where recipes were more precise and used standardized measuring devices and were written down with instructions on 3 by 5 index cards, stared at her with our mouths open until my sister came to and ran to get a pencil and paper.

Even though I did not particularly care for the cookies I copied the "recipe" from my sister and carried it with me all these years.  I even tried making them once, which reinforced my original opinion of them.  There was nothing wrong with them; they were just . . . boring.

I find myself using poppy seeds regularly these days with all of my bread baking so I am always looking for ways to use the extra I always seem to have on hand.  So when I ran across this recipe for poppy seeds in the Penzey's Spice catalog I decided to try them, especially since I also had ground almonds in my pantry that I was looking for ways to use.

These cookies are light and delicious and melt in your mouth, thanks in a large part to the ground almonds.  The almonds also add a nutty undertone that rounds out the flavor.  The cookies were a big hit at work and with friends.

These cookies can be made ahead of time.  The logs can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for months without affecting the texture or flavor.

These days I am happy to have so many poppy seeds in my pantry.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Baked Goods (Sweet/Savory)
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 cup whole blue poppy seeds
1/4 tsp salt

Cream the butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, almonds, poppy seeds, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture and beat well.

Divide the dough in half and roll into logs. Wrap in waxed paper and chill for a few hours.

Preheat oven to 325° F. Slice the logs about 1/4-inch thick and bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Makes 42-50 cookies.

from Penzey's Holiday 2008 catalog

Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Frittata

It has been a while since I have made a frittata and last weekend I found myself with little bits of this and that:  half a sweet potato, a bag of baby kale, one small shallot and a zucchini.  I decided to indulge myself and made this delicious version of one of my favorite breakfast treats.

What I love about frittatas is how versatile they are.  As long as you have the eggs you can throw pretty much anything into them and they always come out delicious.  If you want more ideas, click on the Frittatas label link to the right.

For this particular frittata I quartered and sliced the sweet potato and sauteed it in a twelve-inch skillet over medium high heat in olive oil for a few minutes before adding some chopped shallots.  When the sweet potatoes were just getting tender I added the zucchini and cooked that for about five minutes, and then I threw in the chopped baby kale.

While the vegetables finished cooking I cracked 8eggs into a bowl, added some salt, and whisked them together.  When the vegetables were done I added a small amount to the eggs and stirred to temper them, then dumped in the rest.  I wiped out the skillet and returned it to the medium-high heat.  I added a tablespoon of butter (for flavor).  Once it had melted and was foaming I poured in the egg mixture and lowered the theat to as low as I could get it.  I cooked it for about 20 minutes, checking after the first 10, until the eggs were just set and still wiggly on top.  I grated about 2 ounces of provolone cheese while the eggs were cooking.

I slipped my super duper aluminum handle over the skillet handle and sprinkled the grated cheese over the still wet top of the frittata.  I put it under the broiler for about 2 minutes (checking after the first minute and every 30 seconds after that), until the frittata was set and the cheese had browned.  I removed it from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

The next time you want to treat yourself to a beautiful breakfast take a look through your refrigerator for vegetable odds and ends.  I think you will be surprised at what you find, and you will be eating a delicious frittata in no time.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Baking Class: Mallorcas

I came across the recipe for this Puerto Rican bread several years ago in Saveur magazine and saved it because I was intrigued by the idea of rolling the dough into long strips and coiling it into a spiral to shape the rolls.  When I made them, I was pleased at how soft and moist they were, with just the right hint of sweetness.  They reminded me of hamburger buns.

The recipe included the makings of the ham and egg sandwich that apparently goes by the same name in Puerto Rico.  I made the sandwiches with just eggs for the first two that I ate but I was not all that impressed and the powdered sugar was too much for just the egg.  To be fair, I think they would have been delicious with the ham and I would still make them that way.

I made a wonderful discovery for the rest of the rolls (pictured to the left without powdered sugar all over them).  I made a batch of these Sloppy Joes right after I made the mallorcas and that was a perfect match for these babies!

They work well with hamburgers and vegetable burgers as well, and make a beautiful presentation that is sure to impress.  (But that's not why we do this, right?)
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Breads and Muffins

Makes 6 large or 8 small rolls

1-1/4 oz package active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
6 Tbsp butter, melted
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt

Combine yeast and 1/4 cup water heated to 115° F in a bowl; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in milk, 4 tablespoons butter, and egg yolks until smooth. Add flour, sugar and salt; stir until dough forms. Transfer to a work surface; knead until smooth, about 8 minutes.

Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 18 x 8" rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons butter; starting at one short end, roll into a tight cylinder. Cut cylinder into 6 equal pieces; transfer, cut side-down, to a greased 9 x 13" baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Heat oven to 375 deg. F. Bake until lightly browned, about 18 minutes. Let cool completely.

from Saveur Magazine, Number 143 (

exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Last Minute Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Mushroom Fried Rice

I took a couple of days off before Columbus day last week and mostly hung around the house catching up on cleaning and some other projects that I had neglected for too long.  I am pleased to say that it was a productive weekend for me, but by the time Sunday night rolled around I had not really given much thought to dinner and I had not gone to the store since I had been off.  As a result I did not have much in the refrigerator and by the time I realized I did not have anything ready I was hungry.

What to do?  I thought about ordering for delivery but did not want to wait.  Desperate, I went back to the refrigerator for one last look.  What I found was a half full container of steamed rice from a Chinese restaurant delivered earlier in the week (and another reason I did not want to order in again), half a sweet potato, broccoli florets in the crisper I had completely forgotten about, and half a container of sauteed mushrooms (I almost always have those in the refrigerator these days; more on that in another post).

I realized I had the makings of a simple fried rice dish.  It took a second to chop the sweet potatoes.  I did not bother with garlic or ginger and did not want to take the extra time involved to scramble an egg first, so I just heated the wok, added the oil, cooked the potatoes and then the broccoli, added the rice and the mushrooms and finished it off with a quick stir fry sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce and sweet sherry.  I topped it off with toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds.

The whole thing was done in less than half an hour and it was surprisingly delicious and made enough for my dinner that night and lunch the next day.  And although it was one of those last minute things that get thrown together out of desperation, it was tasty enough to make again when I do have the time to take the effort to chop up some garlic and ginger, scramble an egg and throw in chopped scallion at the end for an even tastier version.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 2 to 3 servings

2 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 cup chopped raw sweet potato
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms
1/2 cup to 1 cup leftover cooked rice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sweet sherry
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1/4 tsp garlic chili paste
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

Heat wok over high heat until it is just starting to smoke. Add one tablespoon of the corn oil and gently swirl it around the bottom of the wok.

Add the sweet potato and stir quickly to coat all of the pieces. Continue to stiry fry for about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water by pouring it around the edges of the wok to create steam. Continue to stir-fry, stirring regularly, until the water has evaporated and the sweet potato is just tender. Let them brown and then remove to a serving bowl.

Return the wok to the bowl and add the second tablespoon of oil. Add the broccoli florets and stir to coat, then stir fry for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water and continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the water has evaporated and the broccoli is just tender. Cook another minute or two to let them brown.

Add the mushrooms to the broccoli and let it cook just long enough heat the mushrooms thoroughly. Add the sweet potato back and stir everything together.

Add the rice and cook it for a minute or two, then add the soy sauce, sherry, hoisin sauce and garlic chili paste. Cook until the liquid has evaporated a bit and everything is well coated.

Remove from the heat and place everything into the serving bowl that was used for the sweet potatoes. Add the toasted sesame oil and stir it into the rice. Top with the sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Created 10/8/2017

exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Monday, October 16, 2017


Bobotie is a South African dish with roots in ancient Rome, according to Wikipedia.  The dish Patinam ex lacte consisted of a mixture of cooked meat and pine nuts seasoned with pepper, celery seeds and asafoetida cooked until the flavors were blended, then covered with a top layer of eggs and milk and cooked until the top layer had set.

Over the centuries it has evolved into what can be considered one of the national dishes of South Africa.  It was the first South African dish that ran across my sphere of being.  And I will be eternally grateful that it did, because I loved this dish.

I made it for one of my spice group potluck dinners.  The featured spice was fenugreek, which is a particularly pungent spice and found mostly in Indian cuisine.  I was familiar with the dried leaves, or kasuri/kasoori methi used in Indian cooking but I wanted to find something different.  When I found that there are ground fenugreek seeds in Bobotie I decided to try it.

It was a big hit; big enough that I have made it a few times since then.  While many of the spices are the same as those I use for a more traditional Indian curried dish, the fenugreek and fennel add a unique dimension to the flavor that makes for a nice change.

There are several steps to this dish, but they are easy to do and the end result is worth it.  If you don't have the individual spices you could use curry powder, but I would recommend that you add the fennel and fenugreek, or at least the fenugreek, to achieve the distinctive flavor that makes this dish so special.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Meat Fish and Eggs
Servings: 8

2 oz tamarind paste
2 slices square white sandwich bread
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 lbs ground lamb shoulder
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground fennel
kosher salt, to taste
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 Tbsp golden raisins
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Break the tamarind paste into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Cover with half a cup of boiling water and let sit until soft, about 30 minutes. Mash the paste and water together with your fingers until the mixture is smooth. Push the pulp through a fine strainer into a bowl and set aside.

Tear the bread into small pieces and place in another small bowl, cover with a fourh of a cup of milk and let sit until the bread soaks up milk.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is well browned and any moisture has evaporated, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Return the skillet to the heat and add the butter. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Place it in the bowl with the lamb mixture, then add the tamarind pulp, the soaked bread, 3 tablespoons os the almonds, the raisins, lemon juice and zest and 1 egg. Season to taste with the salt and pepper and mix well.

Place the mixture in a 9" deep-dish pie plate or a 9" x 12" baking dish. Spread the mixture evenly across the bottom.

Whisk together the remaining milk and egg and season with salt and pepper. Pour it over the lamb mixture.

Place the dish on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake until the custard is set on top and the lamb mixture is heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining almonds. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

adapted from recipes found in Saveur #144 ( and Saveur #150 (

exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Baking Class: Jessamyn's Sephardic Challah

I ran across this recipe for Sephardic Challah when I was looking for challah recipes.  I grew up with the sweetish, eggy Ashkenazi version and did not even know there was any other kind.  So when I saw it I knew I had to make it.

While I like a well-made Challah as much as the next person does, I must admit I was blown away with how good this version is.  The spices complement each other perfectly and each bite is loaded with flavor, but it is not so much that it overpowers anything you spread onto it.  While I am pretty good these days at rationing myself to one serving of bread a day (it's the only way I can justify making so much of it!), I must confess that I scarfed up several days' worth of servings the first time I made it.

It is easy to make and comes together quickly but the end result belies that simplicity.  This bread is delicious and sure to impress.  It makes fantastic toast and sandwiches for everyday use and will brighten up any occasion.

I adapted the recipe to my usual sourdough.  The original volume measurements are at the end of the ingredient list.

(As I was typing out the recipe I realized that I have not been shaping the bread according to the instructions.  I have been rolling the coil from one end to the other rather than starting in the middle.  It has had no affect on the taste but I am sure my loaves will look much better in the future.)
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Breads and Muffins

Makes 2 small loaves
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1-1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1-1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
177 g starter
371 g water
519 g bread flour
2-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Cornmeal for dusting
2 large egg yolks

Volume amounts:
1 envelope(s) active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
5 cups bread flour

Toast the sesame, caraway and anise seeds in a small skillet over moderate heat until fragrant, about two minutes. Transfer the seeds to a plate and let cool. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture for topping the bread.

In a large mixing bowl combine the starter with the water and mix well. Add the olive oil, the honey, all but the reserved tablespoon of the seed mixture and the salt and stir everything together. Add the flour, a cup at a time, until the dough has formed into a soft ball and remove it from the bowl onto a floured sourface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is supple and smooth, adding additional flour as needed.

Transfer the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise until the dough has doubled, about one hour.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surfce and deflate it. Cut it in half and let it rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each one into 32-inch ropes. Starting from the center, form each rope into a coil. Tuck the ends under the coils.

Transfer each coil to a baking sheet and cover each loaf with a large, inverted bowl. Let stand for 1 hour, until the loaves have nearly doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Whisk the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and let stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash once more and sprinkle with the reserved tablespoon of seeds.

Bake the loaves on the same shelf in the center of the oven for 30 about minutes, until they're golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to racks and let cool completely before slicing.

adapted from

exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Monday, October 09, 2017

Orange Sunflower Slaw

I love my new Coleslaw with Cashew Spread recipe and make it often, but every once in a while I want to switch it up a little.  So I decided to give the Orange Sunflower Slaw recipe I found in the June 2015 issue of Vegetarian Times.

As I have written a few times before, I find the recipes in Vegetarian Times to be iffy for me.  I believe the main reason is because the spice levels never seem high enough for me.  But I use a lot of spices in my cooking and it has occurred to me that many Americans do not and perhaps the recipes are tested to reach the broadest range of cooks.  To test that theory I have increased the amounts of spices in Vegetarian Times recipes I have tried lately and that seems to make a difference.  There are still recipes that I have made and not liked, but overall I have seen an improvement in getting the dishes to taste the way I believe they should taste based on the ingredients.

In the case of this recipe I saw no need to alter the amounts and I was not disappointed.  The dressing is light and fresh and makes for a refreshing change from the usual slaw.  And it traveled especially well for work lunches.

My only regret was according to the recipe directions you add the sunflower seeds to the salad and mix them in just before serving.  That is fine if the salad gets eaten up right then and there, but that never happens.  By the next day, the seeds were swollen and soggy and had lost their raw crunchy goodness.  I would suggest that you hold them out of the salad and add them to each dish just before serving.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables
Makes 8 Servings

1/2 cup orange juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp coconut nectar or sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
3/4 tsp salt

3 cups shredded napa or green cabbage (1/2 head)
2 cups shredded red cabbage (1/8 head)
1 large carrot, julienned (-3/4 cup)
1 English cucumber, peeled, flesh scooped out, and julienned (1 cup)
1 green pepper, thinly sliced lengthwise (1 cup)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup raw sunflower seeds

To make dressing:
Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth.

To make Salad:  
Toss all of the ingredients except for the sunflower seeds together in a large bowl.  Add the dressing and mix well. Serve topped with the sunflower seeds.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.70 (

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Baking Class: Pan de Muertos

Pan de Muertos is the perfect way to celebrate Halloween.  It is traditionally made in the weeks leading up to the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, which coincides with our All Saints Day and All Souls Day on November 1 and November 2.  Orange juice, anise and sugar combine to give the bread just the right amount of sweetness so that it can be eaten alone or slathered with butter or cream cheese.

I have been meaning to post this since I first started making it a few years ago but I keep forgetting to do it close enough to Halloween. I made it for a friend's Halloween Party and it was a big hit.  If you are looking for something different to help celebrate your Halloween, you can't go wrong with this.

I used this recipe from  It was easy to follow and easy to make.  You will not be disappointed if you give it a try!

Monday, October 02, 2017

Beet Salad with Mustard Seed Vinaigrette

Beets are one of those vegetables that people seem to either love or hate, with little middle ground.  I must confess that when I was young I hated them.  In my defense, I now believe that is because the only beets we had at the time came out of a can.  They were mealy, bland, and what little flavor they had tasted of dirt.  I can't imagine why I did not care for them.

At some point when I was a little older my mother started pickling the canned beets with onions in a brine of vinegar and sugar.  That brightened up the flavor and seemed firm them up a bit as well and I liked them enough to eat them without complaining.

Occasionally, as an adult, I would order salads at restaurants that contained beets and discovered that I loved the way they complemented the greens and other vegetables. When I started shopping the Green City Market I could not resist the appeal of the fresh beets with the beautiful greens attached so I bought a bunch.  I boiled them, peeled them, cut them up and put them in a salad.  I had washed and chopped the greens and added them to the salad as well and it was quite delicious.

Now I can't imagine life without beets.  I love them in salads, soups, and by themselves.  When possible I will use the greens with them, as I did in this Beet Salad with Mustard Seed Vinaigrette.  I was as pleased with the mustard seed vinaigrette as I was with the salad.  Beets and mustard actually go very well together.  Mustard seeds add an extra crunch with the flavor.  I bought a jar of Maille's Classic Old Style Mustard on sale a few years back and liked it so much I have replaced it a few times since then.  It is a little pricey but goes a long way and is well worth the price, in my opinion.  I also prefer their regular Dijon mustard and always have that on hand as well.

The beauty of this salad, as with so many of my dishes these days, is that you can easily improvise.  If you don't have shallots you can use any kind of onion.  I often use fennel instead of or in addition to celery.  If I have neither fennel nor celery, I make it without them.  Your beets did not come with the greens attached?  Use any kind of green - lettuce, baby kale, or spinach.  And as long as you use any kind of mustard, vinegar and oil you have your vinaigrette.
Home Cookin v9.70 Chapter: My Recipes


1 bunch (3 large or 4 medium) beets, with greens
3 stalks celery
1 large shallot
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Mustard Seed Vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
1 Tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette:
Combine the mustards and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk until they are well incorporated. Add the olive oil gradually, whisking continuously, until you have an emulsion. Add the crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste. If using right away, set aside. Can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.

For the Salad:
Remove the greens from the beets. Remove the leaves from the stems and rinse well (save the stems and saute them with other aromatics for frittatas, soups, or stews)l. Drain and roughly chop the leaves and set aside.

Fill a saucepan large enough to hold the beets with cold water. Trim the stems on the beets down to an inch and leave on the roots. Place them in the saucepan with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the beets are just tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain and cool.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, cut off the stem and root ends and peel them. The peel should come off easily in your hands. Chop then into bite-size pieces and put them into a large bowl. Thinly slice the scallions and add them to the beets. Trim the celery and thinly slice on the diagonal and add them to the bowl with the beets and shallots. Add the dill and the dressing in small increments until the salad is well covered, but not too wet. Mix well.

Let sit for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend before serving. If refrigerated, take out an hour before serving.

Garnish with dill and the toasted walnuts.

Created January 31, 2015

exported from Home Cookingh v.9.70 (
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...