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Rice Pudding with Cherries

The original recipe has raisins, but I was out of raisins and tried it with cherries this time. I like it even better this way. It’s good warm or cold.

cherry rice pudding

1 cup long-grain rice

2 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

4 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup, or more, dried cherries (or raisins)

1/4 tsp salt

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

Bring the rice, water and cinnamon stick to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 min. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the milk, sugar, cherries, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently (uncovered), stirring often, until thick (about 15-25 min). Before the pudding gets too thick, beat the egg yolks and vanilla in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the hot pudding and mix well. Stir back into hot pudding and heat for 1 min.

(Recipe adapted from Company’s Coming Home for the Holidays by Jean Paré)

Sushi (the easy way)

If you want to have sushi at home, or serve it at a party, a really easy way to do it is to have little squares of seaweed, a bowl of seasoned rice, and then whatever toppings you want all set out. Everyone makes their own with whatever toppings they want and just eats them out of hand.

You don’t need to roll them and cut them or make them ahead of time. And, as a bonus, the seaweed stays nice and crisp. I remember reading about this in Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food, but when I took a class a few months ago on how to make sushi, the instructor told us that this is something that is very common in Japan, especially if you are feeding a lot of people. It also works just as well for one…

sushi for one

Make the seasoned rice:

It’s best with sushi rice (a short-grain rice), but in a pinch, long grain rice will also work for this, since you aren’t having to roll it up and make it hold together.

I was making this for a party recently and when I opened the brand new bag of sushi rice … well, let’s just say it was … unusable. There was no time to get back to the store, so we used the only rice available — Uncle Ben’s Boil-in-a-Bag rice. And no one seemed to mind. :)

To make 4 cups rice, measure 2 cups sushi rice. Add 2 1/4 cups water.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil, reduce the heat immediately to low and cook for 15 min. Remove from the heat and let sit another 10 min. (If you use a different kind of rice, you’ll need a different amount of water and possibly cooking time, so follow the directions on the package). Or, use a rice cooker.

When the rice is done, pour over it 1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar. (If you have plain rice vinegar, mix it with 1/4 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar until dissolved.) Stir gently until the rice is evenly coated and let it cool a little before using.

Some toppings you might want to have are:

crab sticks, cut small

crab salad

cooked shrimp

smoked salmon

(if you really want to serve raw fish, make sure you get sashimi grade, which has been processed for eating raw; don’t use just any raw fish)

little cubes of cream cheese

cucumber, cut in small sticks

diced avocado

roasted sweet potato sticks (sweet potato fries would work)

roasted green beans with sesame oil and chili flakes (I used this recipe for technique and this one for seasoning)

maybe little pieces of diced mango or pineapple

or even cooked asparagus and thin strips of cooked beef (I had sushi like that once and it was delicious)

the sky’s the limit!

Also, you’ll want:

soy sauce (a must)

wasabi

sriracha mayo (mix mayo with sriracha to taste and add a few drops of toasted sesame oil), put in a squeeze bottle, or lacking that, a zip lock bag with a little corner snipped off will work

sesame seeds

and maybe some pickled ginger

Enjoy!

Ginger and Dried Cherry Scones

This recipe makes a lot of scones (16), and since they don’t keep very well, you might want to cut the recipe in half. They can also be frozen, but they taste best warm from the oven. With a warm cup of Irish tea with milk.

scone and tea

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups rye flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp coarse salt (or 1/2 tsp regular salt)

3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

1 cup crystalized ginger, finely chopped (spread a bunch of sugar on the cutting board to keep the ginger from sticking to the knife)

1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the top

3/4 cup buttermilk

grated lemon zest, from one lemon

course sugar, for topping

butter, for serving

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add cherries and ginger and toss to coat. In another bowl combine the cream, buttermilk and zest, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until flour is just moistened.

Kneed until the mixture comes together (4 to 6 turns). Divide in 2. Pat each portion into a circle or square about an inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut into wedges or squares and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush tops with cream (or milk) and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake until tops are browned, 30-35 min, rotating the pan halfway through. Remove scones to a rack to cool. Serve with butter or clotted cream.

scones

(Recipe from Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass Region Feb/Mar 2014)

Lasagna

Classic rich, meaty, cheesy lasagna to serve a crowd. So, so good.

If you are serving a smaller number, you could also divide the recipe among 4 loaf pans, freeze them for when you want them and get 2 (large) to 4 (modest) servings out of each one. Or divide it between two 8 x 8 pans … or just eat a lot of lasagna. I don’t think anyone will mind.

lasagna

1-½ pound ground beef
1 pound hot breakfast sausage (hot bulk pork sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can tomatoes
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
2 Tbsp dried parsley
2 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
3 cups lowfat cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
½ cups grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 lb. sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package (10 oz.) lasagna noodles (8 noodles)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt. Cook the lasagna noodles until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or saucepan, cook the ground beef, sausage, and garlic. Drain half the fat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 Tbsp parsley, basil and 1 tsp salt. Simmer for 45 min.

In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, beaten eggs, parmesan, parsley, and salt.

Arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles and spread evenly. Cover cottage cheese with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spoon a little less than half the meat sauce mixture over the top. Repeat, ending with meat sauce mixture. Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 min, or until top is hot and bubbly. You can also make it ahead and refrigerate for up to two days, or freeze it. It will take longer to cook of course -probably an hour or more if frozen.

(Recipe from TastyKitchen.com)

Poppy-Raspberry Kolachkes

I was surprised at how good these cookies were. I’ll definitely have to make them again! They are easy to make and freeze very well too.

poppy raspberry kolachkes

1/2  cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
1/3 cup raspberry jam

Glaze:

1/2 cup icing sugar
4 to 5 teaspoons half and half or milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a large bowl, beat butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add flour and poppy seeds and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms. Working with half the dough at a time,  roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Cut, using a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, and place circles on a parchment-lined or ungreased cookie sheet. Spoon 1/4 tsp raspberry jam onto each circle. Fold the circle in half over the jam and press the edges with a fork dipped in flour to seal.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the edges are light golden brown. Cool completely. Mix the ingredients for the glaze until smooth and drizzle over the cookies. Let the glaze dry completely before storing.

(Recipe from Cookies!)

Cacio e Pepe (Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano, Lemon, and Pepper)

I could eat noodles with just butter and be very happy. Adding cheese and lemon is even more delicious. You can cut this recipe in half to make a quick lunch for one.

cacio e pepe

8 oz. thick spaghetti

salt

4 Tbsp butter, cut into 4 pieces

3 oz. Grana Padano cheese, grated (1 cup)

fresh coarsely ground black pepper

3/4 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/4 cup)

lemon zest from one lemon

fresh lemon juice

extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt and the pasta. Cook 2 min. less than called for on the package. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining.

Transfer the drained pasta to a large nonstick frying pan. Add butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano and pepper. Toss the pasta with tongs thoroughly to coat it with the sauce. Keep at a gentle simmer until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens slightly.

Remove from heat and add in Pecorino Romano and lemon zest. Toss with a bit more pasta water if it looks dry. Divide between 2 warm bowls and drizzle each with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Serve immediately.

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Magazine)

Chocolate Meringues

I never knew that meringues could be so delicious. I always thought they were a little boring, but these are great. And they last for 2 months in an airtight container, so they are my new favorite treat to make ahead (and a great way to use up all those egg whites I keep having left over from making ice cream and such). You can make them any size – I did 3 6-inch circles to make a layered dessert, and then made the rest into 2 or 3-inch cookie-sized circles.

chocolate meringue

5 oz. dark or milk chocolate, any kind, coarsely chopped

2/3 cup sugar, divided

3 egg whites, at room temperature

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1/8 tsp salt

On the back of a sheet of parchment paper, use a pencil to trace circles of whatever size you want to make your meringues. Place the parchment paper on a baking sheet pencil-marks-down.

Pulse the chocolate with about a third of the sugar in a food processor until it has the consistency of fine crumbs.

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar a little at a time (it should take about 60 to 90 seconds to add it). It should now form very stiff dull peaks.

Gently fold in the sugar/chocolate crumbs with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. (The undissolved sugar helps give the proper texture to the meringues.) Dollop the mixture onto each of the traced circles and use an offset spatula to spread the meringues evenly. Alternately, scoop the mixture into a pastry bag and start at the center of a circle and pipe around until you have filled the circle.

Bake at 200 degrees F for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the turned-off oven to cool completely (overnight is fine). Keep in an airtight container.

chocolate meringue

You can also omit the chocolate to make regular meringues.

(Recipe adapted from Seriously Bittersweet by Alice Medrich)

Rice Pilaf

Just the right side dish for moussaka. This recipe can be doubled to serve 8-10.

moussaka with rice pilaf

3 Tbsp butter or olive oil

1/2 onion (1/2 cup), minced very fine

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups long grain white rice (can use regular, basmati or jasmine), rinsed until the water runs clear and drained

2 1/4 cups water

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 min. Stir in the rice and cook until the edges start to become translucent (about 3 min.)

Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 17 min. Remove from heat and let stand 10 min. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.

(Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Shrimp Saganaki

I never tried this dish when I was in Greece, but I will be sure to get it next time … whenever that may be. Perhaps it was the strange “special saganaki” I had one day that prevented me from trying anything else with that name. In Greek Town in Chicago, ordering saganaki means getting a flaming dish of delicious cheese, and so that was what I was expecting when I got … something completely different.

Alright, now I’m curious. I can’t finish this post without learning what saganaki actually means…

Saganaki (Greek σαγανάκι) refers to various Greek dishes prepared in a small frying pan, itself called a saganaki, the best-known being an appetizer of fried cheese.”

Thanks, Wikipedia. So, there we have it. As long as you aren’t expecting this dish to involve flaming cheese, you might like it too.  :)

shrimp saganaki

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

10 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined

chili flakes

dried oregano

salt and pepper

glass of dry white wine

1-2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved

1 (15 oz.) can tomatoes

handful of crumbled feta

fresh dill

fresh baguettes or other crusty bread, for serving

Heat the oil in a saganaki (had to use my new word), or a large frying pan. Add the garlic. After about a minute, add the shrimp in a single layer. Season with chili flakes, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two, until they are pink. Remove the shrimp to a bowl and set aside.

Add the wine and cherry tomatoes to the frying pan. Simmer for a little bit then add the canned tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are getting soft. Add the shrimp back in and the crumbled feta. Top with fresh dill and a little more feta and serve with crusty bread. Serves 2.

(Adapted from this recipe from The Londoner)

walking around oia

oia, santorini

oia at night

santorini sunset

Moussaka

Moussaka is a rich, delicious layered Greek casserole. Variations of moussaka abound, but the recipe I was looking for had to have potatoes, eggplant, and ground lamb, which is Macedonian moussaka, according to my cookbook. I thought it would be best to make this for a crowd rather than for just two of us, so I saved it for a night when we were having people over.

I’m usually pretty optimistic about how long a dish will take to cook and I thought it would take maybe an hour or so to prep and get in the oven…it actually took me over 3 hours! (And then an hour of baking time.) So, dinner was a little late, but we all thought it was worth the wait when we tasted the moussaka. But just a word of warning — this is not a quick weeknight recipe. It is great served with rice pilaf and a Greek salad.

moussaka

2 lb. potatoes (about 4 medium/large)

1 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying eggplant

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, finely sliced

1 lb. ground lamb (ground beef will work too)

salt and pepper

3 lb. tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp dried oregano

1 cup white wine

1 lb. eggplant, sliced

chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan, Kefalotyri or Gruyere cheese

Bechamel sauce:

6 Tbsp butter

scant 2/3 cup flour

2 1/2 cups warm milk

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan, Kefalotyri or Gruyere cheese

2 egg yolks

Topping:

1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Kefalotyri or Gruyere cheese

1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs

Scrub the potatoes and boil them unpeeled in salted water for 10 min. Peel and slice 1/4 inch thick and dry on paper towels. In a large frying pan, heat the 1 cup oil and fry the potatoes until golden on both sides (this will take several batches). Remove and drain on paper towels.

Sauté the onion in the same oil until softened. Add the garlic, then the lamb, tomatoes, some salt and pepper, the spices and wine. Simmer for 20 min, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Add the cheese and parsley.

Dredge the eggplant slices in flour and fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides.

Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Place a layer of fried potatoes on the bottom, followed by a layer of fried eggplant. Cover with half of the meat sauce, another layer of potatoes and eggplant, the rest of the meat sauce, and ending with potato then eggplant.

To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter. Remove from heat and gradually add the flour, stirring until well-blended. Return to the heat and add the warm milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and let stand for 2 minutes. Mix in the cheese and egg yolks. Spread over the pan of moussaka and top with the additional cheese and bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Notes: Besides using ground beef (the grocery store was out of lamb), I doubled the potatoes from the original recipe because I didn’t have enough to make the three layers with only 1 pound. I would probably add a little more eggplant next time too, but I only bought one, so I couldn’t this time.

I would also try making the tomato sauce ahead of time and just frying the potatoes and eggplant simultaneously (in separate pans) right before layering, rather than starting the sauce after the potatoes were done. I think this would make it go a little faster.  But taste-wise, this recipe was exactly what I was looking for. I think you could also make the whole thing a day in advance and reheat it –the leftovers were just as delicious the next day.

moussaka

(Recipe adapted from Regional Greek Cooking by Dean and Catherine Karayanis)