Prune Filling

Combine 24 ounces dried prunes, 12 ounces dried apricots, 1/2 lemon, 1 orange (cut into 8 pieces) and water to just cover in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until water is almost gone and fruits are soft. Let cool. Grind with 11/2 to 2 cups walnuts. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar to taste.

An alternate approach I’ve used is to simmer 20 ounces of prunes with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. I cooked them for 8 minutes in the microwave until they were fully rehydrated. I ground them in the meat grinder, added the grated peel from one large orange and 1/4 cup almond meal. I added no sugar.

Extra filling can be frozen and will easily keep for a year in the freezer. If you’re not making a big batch of Hamentaschen or Fluden, you might want to cut the quantities back. See the recipes for Hamentaschen Sugar Dough and  Hamentaschen Honey Dough.

 

Polenta with Fried Egg

Place 1/2 cup Quaker corn meal (I prefer this because of the way it’s ground), 2 cups water and 1/2 tsp salt in a saucepan. Stir continuously until it comes to a boil. Lower heat to lowest setting and cover; let cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 TBL butter and 1/4 cup grated cheese, such as Grano Padano or Manchego. Add salt and pepper to taste — I like it peppery.

Place in each of two broad serving bowls or on plates. Top each with an egg cooked over easy.

Andouille Sausage with Black-Eyed Peas

In a 6-quart (or larger) pressure cooker, heat 1+ TBL oil. (Don’t use less, as it keeps the beans from foaming and causing problems later on.) Saute 1 medium onion, diced, until soft. Add 1 cup dry, rinsed black-eyed peas, 1 minced stalk celery, 1 diced large red pepper, 1 minced jalapeno pepper, 1 minced carrot, 5 andouille sausage cut diagonally into thirds, a chunk of smoked turkey meat, 3 cups canned diced tomatoes with liquid, 1/2 cup water, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 tsp dried oregano.

Cover pressure cooker and bring to high pressure following directions for your model. Cook at high pressure for 11 minutes. I let the pressure come down naturally, but if you’re in a hurry to serve it right away, you may need to cook it for a few minutes longer after you open the cooker. Once it’s done cooking, check the salt level and add salt after cooking, if necessary.

Serve with rice.

Note: I used a 12-ounce package of Bilinski’s chicken-meat sausage.

Root Soup

This started out as potato soup originally, and it’s morphed into a much more interesting dish.

Peel and cut up 2-4 potatoes, 4-5 parsley roots, 3 carrots and 2 leeks. place in pot and cover with water. Add 2 tsp salt and bring to a boil; reduce to a strong simmer. Skim any starchy foam that accumulates on the surface. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Turn off heat.

In a skillet, melt 3 TBL butter over medium heat. When it starts to foam, add 11/2 to 2 TBL flour. Stir to make a smooth mixture and keep stirring until it’s a nut-brown color, but be sure you don’t let it burn. Add it to the soup, keeping it mind it will splatter. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, bring the soup back to a simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

If you want the soup less chunky, use a potato masher to break some if up. Let cool and reheat the next day; it will be much thicker. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mascarpone Rice Pudding

Leftovers with leftovers.

Combine 2 cups of cooked rice and about 1 cup of milk. Heat in high-power microwave for 5 minutes: the rice will be softened and the milk will have come to a boil. Put it in the refrigerator until it’s cooled. (I was impatient and I transferred the mixture to a metal mixing bowl and chilled it in an ice-water bath; it took 5 minutes.) Combine 1 cup of Mascarpone Cream, the cooled milk-rice mixture and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Return to refrigerator to chill before serving.

It’s not low in calories, but it sure tastes good.

Candied Pomelo Peel

This is sweet from the honey, but retains a nice bitter edge. It’s simple and delicious. And it’s really fast to make.

Pomelos usually show up in the market at the height of winter. They look like really big grapefruit, sometimes having a slight pear-like shape. Skins range from yellow to yellow-green. Find a pomelo that has no blemishes on the skin.

Cut the fruit into quarters, through the stem end. For each quarter, make a small cut between the fruit and the pith nearest one end, and then running your thumbnail around the fruit, separate the peel and fruit. You should be able to remove the peel on each quarter in a single piece. Reserve the fruit for eating.

Cut the peel into strips about 5/8 of an inch wide, but the size and shape is up to you. Turn each strip on its side and trim the pith down so the thickness of the peel is about 3/8-inch.

Put the peels into a pot full of water. Bring it to a strong boil, let it boil for one minute and drain off all the water. Add cold water and in under a minute the peels should be cool enough for you to squeeze out the water without burning yourself. ATTN Repeat the process of boiling, draining and squeezing the peel three more times. Each time you do this it removes some of the bitterness, so you can adjust the bitterness to your taste according to how many times you boil the peel. If you really like a bitter flavor, only boil it a total of three times, not four.

Set up a cake rack and place a sheet of wax paper or foil underneath it.

After the last boiling, put the drained peel back in the pot with 1 to 11/4 cups of honey. (You don’t have to measure it precisely because if it’s too dry you can add more and if there’s a little extra it will boil down or drain off.) Bring to a simmer and move the peel pieces around with tongs or chopsticks. The honey level may seem low, but you will need to get all the sides of the peel covered, so turn them as necessary. Add a little more honey as it cooks down, if needed. When the honey is disappearing and  ATTN the peel is translucent, transfer the pieces to the rack. Make sure the pieces aren’t touching. I find some pieces are done faster (they become translucent as they absorb the honey) and I remove them and let the rest keep cooking.

Preserved Lemons

Cut 6 Meyer lemons as follows: quarter them (almost) going from just below one end almost down to the other. The lemon will remain intact, but if you squeeze it by pressing the two ends towards each other, some juice will ooze out and the segments will be accessible. Using 1/4 cup kosher salt total, press a generous teaspoon of salt into the open segments of each lemon. Squeeze the lemons into a wide-mouth quart canning jar, along with the rest of the salt. Be sure any juice that comes out the lemons as you squeeze them makes its way into the jar. Add juice of 2-3 more lemons (Meyer or otherwise). Add water if necessary, or more lemon juice, to fill jar.

Seal jar with lid. Invert several times to mix contents and help salt dissolve. For the next 7 days, leave jar on counter, inverting each morning. Place in refrigerator after 7th day.

You can make these with any kind of lemon, but Meyer lemons work well, and they are only available in the wintertime.

Fruit Crumble

Combine 1/3 cup walnuts, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup oatmeal, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter. Mix until it’s crumbly.

Peel and cut up 4 cups of fresh fruit (peaches, apples, pears or whatever you like). Mix with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 to 2 TBL cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Place fruit mixture in buttered casserole. Cover with crumb topping.

Bake at 375 degrees F until bubbly, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Celery Root Saute

Peel 2 celery roots, trimming as needed to clean. Slice thinly across the root to make even slices and then cut these cross-wise to make julienne. (The safe way to do this is to cut the root lengthwise and then work with each half to make the thin slices.) Set the julienne aside. Despite what you might read elsewhere, they will not brown if you are going to cook with them for 3-4 hours.

When you are ready to cook them, heat some olive oil to coat the saute pan. Add the julienne and saute for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft and have some color. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with some chopped fresh parsley.

Fennel-Mussel Soup

Wash off and debeard 2 pounds of mussels, discarding any dead ones. While wet, put them in a covered pot and cook on medium-high heat until they have opened; discard any that remain closed. Remove meat from all but 12 of the mussels, reserving the meat and the 12 fully-intact mussels. Strain liquid through a coffee filter to remove any sand and reserve that, too. Do this in advance of making the soup, for up to 2 days.

In a soup pot, saute a chopped onion in a little olive oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper and some whole fennel seeds. While that’s cooking, trim off the stalks from 2 fennel bulbs, reserving a few of the wispy fronds for a garnish. Dice the fennel bulbs and mince a clove of garlic. Open a 28-ounce can of plum tomatoes; remove seeds, chop tomatoes and reserve liquid.

When the onions are soft (maybe 5-10 minutes), stir in the fennel bulbs, garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1 quart of chicken stock, the tomatoes and tomato juice, the mussels (both the one in and out of their shells) and the mussel liquid, 1/2 cup of clam juice and 3 tablespoons of Pernod. Simmer for 10 minutes and check seasoning.

Serve in bowls, placing 2 or 3 of the mussels (in their shells) on the top. Garnish with fennel fronds. This makes 4 to 6 servings.

Magret de Canard

That's French for duck breast.
Serves 3 people, depending on the size of the duck breast and your appetites
Shopping List

1 thick duck breast (magret), preferably very thick

Score the skin side  in 1/2-inch diamonds, only cutting into the fat layer and not into the meat. Make a mixture of 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp ground black or green pepper. Rub the generously all over the magret.

Magret de Canard scored and seasoned
Magret de Canard scored and seasoned

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and as it nears the desired temperature heat an oven-proof pan on medium heat. I prefer a cast iron pan. When the pan is hot, place the magret skin-side down. Cook for 7 minutes on that side. Drain excess fat and turn over magret.

Notice the duck fat which needs to be drained away.
Notice the duck fat which needs to be drained away.
The skin is nicely crisp before it goes in the oven.
The skin is nicely crisp before it goes in the oven.

Place pan in oven for 5 to 7 minutes (for rare center). Remove pan from oven, place magret on board and let rest 3 to 5 minutes in a warm place before slicing. Be sure to slice across the grain of the meat.

Let the slicing begin...
Let the slicing begin…

ATTN These times are for a thick magret: if yours is thinner, the cooking time will need to be reduced.

When sliced, it will make about 12-15 slices and serve 3 people.

Anise Cornmeal Fingers

Cream 11/2 sticks butter until soft. Add 1 TBL Pernod, 1/2 tsp ground white pepper, 1 TBL fennel seeds (ground after measuring), 1/4 tsp salt. Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 eggs, 1 egg white. When mixed, add 13/4 cups flour and 2/3 cup cornmeal, blending just until mixed in. By hand, mix in grated lemon peel from 2 lemons.

Put dough into a pastry bag or plastic bag with a 1/2-inch opening cut at one corner. Pipe 3- to 4-inch cookies onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, about 11/2 inches apart. Bake at 325 F convection for about 20 to 25 minutes. (Bake at 325 F non-convection for 25 to 30 minutes.) Cookies will be golden and brown around the edges.

Clam Soup

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add 2 TBL finely minced garlic. Cook briefly, add 6 anchovies, mashing them as they cook. Add 1 cup white wine, 4 cups canned tomatoes with paste/pulp, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried basil, 1/2 cup chopped parsley (fresh), 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes. Taste it before you add any salt or pepper… you probably won’t need either.

Add 3 dozen scrubbed and dried little neck clams. Cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Serve with large garlic croutons (slice bread, brush with olive oil, toast until golden brown and rub with cut garlic clove).

Yellow Tomato Soup

Puree 1 lb peeled, seeded yellow tomatoes with 1 TBL olive oil. (I was short on yellow so I added one red one: the soup is still a rich yellow.) This will make about 3 cups of juice. Add 3/4 cup chicken stock. Strain through a coarse strainer to capture any seeds. To the puree add 2 tsp sherry vinegar and 3-4 TBL heavy cream. Chill.

Lemon Whipped Cream

*Small Recipe (for 9″ cake): Combine in top of double boiler, 2 egg yolks, zest of 3 lemons, 1/4 cup lemon juice, pinch of salt, 3/4 cup sugar and 3 TBL butter and cook as directed below.

*Full Recipe (for tube cake): Combine in top of double boiler, 4 egg yolks, zest of 4 lemons, 1/2 cup lemon juice, pinch of salt, 11/2 cups sugar and 6 TBL butter.

Set double boiler over medium heat and stir mixture continuously making sure nothing sticks to the pan. Cook for 10-20 minutes… time varies according to the temperature of the ingredients, etc. It is done when the mixture starts to thick and it coats a spoon. (It thickens more when it cools completely.) Transfer to small bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled.

Beat whipping cream (8 ounces for small cake, 12 ounces for large) until it is thick, but peaks don’t form. Add lemon curd to taste, and beat more. Generally there will be more lemon curd than you will need to flavor the whipping cream, but it just depends on how you like it to taste.

The lemon curd keeps refrigerated up to 5 days. This is great with a fruit salad or as a filling for Lemon Cloud Cake.