Monday, November 26, 2018

Turkey Isn't the Only Reason to Love the Winter Holidays

Most of my friends and family look forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays because it is the only time they have turkey during the year.  Which is mainly interesting for the fact that most of them don't really like turkey all that much.  I include myself in this group.  While I do love those leftover turkey sandwiches, I usually only eat one or two small slices at the Thanksgiving table, mainly as a vehicle for sweet pickles and cranberry sauce, both of which I only eat with turkey, and vice versa.  I am a big fan of the stuffing, potatoes, and other side dishes but the turkey itself is my least favorite part of the meal.  (That being said, I have no problem whatsoever having it those two times of the year for those who do actually, you know, like turkey.)

So what does make me happy this time of year?  In a word, citrus.  Late fall and early winter is citrus season, when oranges are orangier and limes and lemons are juicier, and Texas Red grapefruits make their annual appearance in my local Chicago grocery store.

As I mentioned when I first wrote about them in this 2009 post, the two things that I miss the most since moving away from Texas are Ruby Red grapefruit and the Pecos Cantaloupe.  I still haven't found the cantaloupe, but every November the grapefruit shows up at Jewel.

Apparently I am not the only one who feels that way about these deep red, sweet gems.  The 73rd Texas State Legislature declared it to be the State Fruit in 1993.  That is a resolution I can get behind!

Since my move this summer I have been thrown off kilter from my normal routines, and seeing all kinds of things from a new perspective.  The holidays and grapefruit have not been much on my mind, especially once I decided that I was not going to travel this year and instead spend time working on my apartment and other things I have been neglecting since I moved (like this blog).  So I wasn't really thinking about the usual things this fall.  A few days ago I did have the fleeting thought that we were coming into citrus season, which made me happy because oranges are more plentiful and juicier this time of year, but that is as far as my thoughts went.  So when I walked into Jewel Monday afternoon and this five-pound bag of Texas Reds was the first thing I saw, I think I actually squealed with delight.  And threw it into my cart, of course.  That five-pound bag of flour I was going to buy could wait until my next visit.

I went home and immediately supremed a few of them and have been enjoying them all week.  Unlike pink or white grapefruit, the reds are sweet with just a hint of tartness.  I am not a big fan of the pink and white varieties but I absolutely love the reds.  If you give them a try I think you will too.

Many people find grapefruit to be more trouble than it is worth.  I always supreme a few at a time and keep them in a container in the fridge so it is ready to eat when I want some.  If you have never supremed citrus before, this post will show you how.  So now you have no excuse not to enjoy these seasonal gems.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Holiday Baking: Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread

The holidays offer me the perfect excuse to try recipes for breads that I would normally not consider eating, and this Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread is the perfect example of that.  It is full of butter, sugar and milk and is a very rich bread.  Which makes it delicious, of course.  The cardamom takes it up a notch from a more usual cinnamon-filled sweet bread and I was intrigued by the shaping method.  So I decided to give it a try last year and was so happy with the original large loaf that I made that I made smaller loaves to give as gifts.  The bread itself is light and not too sweet.  The filling is sweeter but the cardamom helps to mellow out the sweetness.  It was a big hit with my friends.

It is fairly easy to make, which is always a plus.  It only takes a few hours and the aroma of cinnamon and cardamom made for a festive holiday feel in my kitchen the day that I made it.  I am sure it will do the same for yours.

Home Cookin v.9.73 Chapter: Chapter: Breads and Muffins


7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups whole milk, heated to 115°
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4-1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds, finely crushed
1 egg, beaten
Pearl sugar, for topping

Melt butter in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium. Remove from heat and stir in milk and yeast; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt in a bowl. Stir in yeast mixture until dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. Return dough to bowl and cover with a clean dish towel; let sit in a warm place until dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Mix granulated sugar, butter, cinnamon, and cardamom in a bowl until smooth.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 11" x 17" rectangle, about 1/4 " thick. Spread filling over dough, leaving a 1/2 " border along edges. Working from one long end, roll dough into a tight cylinder; transfer seam side down to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover with dish towel; let sit in a warm place until dough has doubled in size once more, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375°. Using kitchen shears and starting 1" from ends of dough, make crosswise cuts, spaced 1" apart, three-quarters of the way through dough. Fan dough slices away from the center, alternating left to right. Brush dough with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar; bake until golden brown, about 22 minutes. Let bread cool completely before serving.

Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (

Monday, November 05, 2018

Sunday Breakfast: Polenta and Eggs

As often as I make bread, there are still times when I do not have any in the house. Which can be a problem on a lazy Sunday morning when I want to make a nice breakfast of fried eggs and toast.  This actually happened to me the first time when I was visiting my brother and his family in Austin when they had given up flour and most grains.  The only grains they had in the house were instant oatmeal flakes with a questionable use by date and cornmeal.  And I wanted eggs.  But I needed something to go with them, but what?

And I started thinking about the cornmeal and how it can be used to make polenta, and how similar it is to grits, and I realized I could probably make a single serving to go with the eggs.  Which is what I proceeded to do.  I brought three-fourths of a cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan and then added one-fourth of a cup of cornmeal and a little bit of salt.  I turned down the heat as low as it would go and simmered the mixture for about 20 minutes and then poured it out onto a plate to let it cool.  I then cooked up the eggs and plated them on top of the polenta, which had cooled enough to set.

And while not the same as toast (and let's be honest, nothing beats toast with eggs), it was quite tasty and satisfied my need for some kind of carbohydrate to go with the eggs.  And it was filling, too.  And it impressed the hell out of my brother and sister-in-law.

So when I found myself without bread last weekend I remembered that polenta-and-eggs breakfast and decided to do it again.  Except that this time, in my own kitchen, I was able to expand on the theme and came up with something even more tasty.  Here's how you can make it too:

Bring 3/4 cup of water to a boil over high heat in a small saucepan.  (I found this saucepan hanging from a strip in the canned vegetable aisle of the grocery store.  While immune from impulse candy purchases in front of the checkout lane, I find myself alarmingly vulnerable to those odd little items hanging from strips in the aisles; to wit - an equally small skillet, teeny tiny snack containers, and biscuit cutters.  All unnecessary, but I have not yet regretted bringing any of them home with me.)

Slowly stir in 1/4 cup of cornmeal (I prefer coarsely ground but any kind will do).  Turn the heat down as low as it will go and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes, adding more hot water as necessary.

After the 20 minutes, when the mixture is thick and the cornmeal has softened, add about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional but really adds to the flavor!).  Stir well and remove from the heat.  Pour the polenta out onto a plate and let it stand for about ten minutes to set.

If you are lucky enough to have some fresh parsley on hand from an earlier dish (as I was), sprinkle chopped parsley over the polenta.

Top with eggs, shrimp, sausage, or whatever you have on hand and serve immediately.
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