Tag Archives: family
Post by Alison Hein.
We had some friends over for a barbecue last week, so I bought some pistachio nuts for people to pick on while dinner was being grilled. The pistachios were already roasted, salted and shelled – my kind of nut! Sadly, they weren’t very good. The flavor was there, but the nuts were mushy. Almost as if they needed more roasting. Thinking about roasting, then re-roasting the pistachios made me think of biscotti – the traditional Italian twice-baked cookie. Could a twice-roasted pistachio be revitalized in a twice-baked cookie?
Biscotti, literally “twice-baked” in Latin, were first made centuries ago, and are said to have been a staple food of the Roman Legions. Very dry bread products can be stored and last a long time – good for travel and war. Antonio Mattei, a pastry chef from Prato, “rediscovered” biscotti in the latter part of the nineteenth century. His variation, now considered the traditional biscotti recipe, is still made today. Ingredients include only flour, sugar, eggs, almonds and pine nuts.
Unlike the traditional version, my recipe includes butter, baking powder, and of course, pistachio nuts. Your version, if you feel like experimenting, can include anything from lemon peel to chocolate chips.
It took some time to make the biscotti, baking them twice with a cool down period in between. The end result? A crisp, sweetish cookie with a hint of pistachio flavor and a satisfying nutty crunch. Eureka! Yet another biscotti rediscovery and an accidental poem:
Brew some coffee,
Steep some tea,
Then feel free
To dip your (breakfast in bed) biscotti!
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pistachio nuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly each time. Mix in vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and pistachio nuts. Dough should be thick and moldable.
Wet or flour hands, split dough in half, and shape into two long, mounded loaves (approximately 8 inches long by 3½ inches wide). Place loaves on prepared baking sheets and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to wire racks and let cool at least 15 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, slice loaves into roughly ¾-inch slices. Place slices cut-side down on parchment paper and bake for another 30 minutes or so, turning biscotti once during baking, until golden brown. Remove to wire rack and cool.
Makes about 20 to 25 biscotti.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Pardon me while I pull myself together. I just went to see what year Labyrinth was released, which gave me palpitations. Next year, the iconic movie, starring David Bowie and a bunch of Muppet-esque creatures, turns THIRTY YEARS OLD. Ouch.
Well, let’s just put that aside until next year.
I don’t know about where you live, but in Portland, summer marks another Movies in the Park series, with a different city park hosting a viewing of a movie. They range from new blockbusters to classics such as Wizard of Oz and everything in between. I’m pretty sure that Labyrinth is on the docket every year.
Starring David Bowie as the Goblin King Jareth, and Jennifer Connelly as discontented 15-year-old Sarah, the rest of the cast is made up of dozens of whimsical, weird, and sometimes creepy creatures from mind of Jim Henson, who pretty much single-handedly created my childhood. When Sarah has to watch her half-brother Toby, she is deeply resentful. So much so that she takes a page from the play she is studying a part for, Labyrinth. She tells the Goblin King to come and take him away. And he does.
Suddenly remorseful (who would have thought it would actually WORK?) Sarah now must find her way through an insane Muppet-laden labyrinth to get to Toby, in the goblin city at the center. On the way she meets friends, strange strangers, and a few who are out to get her.
If you haven’t seen this 80’s classic, or haven’t seen it in a while, it’s great movie to watch on a picnic blanket with a spread of snacks, or in bed with a bowl of popcorn.
Post by: Alison Hein
Here’s another wondrous idea from my friend Iva – Fig n’Feta Toast. Who knew the flavors of fig and feta go together like peanut butter and jelly, like salt and pepper, like prosciutto and melon? It’s a perfect pairing, a delicate secret, an idea I wish I’d thought of. 😉
In Iva’s native Albania, breakfast can be as easy as toasting a thick slice of crusty bread, then schmearing with a swipe of butter, a dollop of fig marmalade, and a generous hunk of creamy feta cheese. It’s warm and toasty, sweet and salty. I gobbled mine up in seconds.
I was able to purchase a good fig spread in a local specialty grocery, but if you can’t find any, try ordering online. Dalmatia Imports makes a very nice fig spread (as well as other interesting fruit condiments and tapenades) which can be ordered from igourmet.com. There is hardly any sweetener added, so the spread has a rich, natural fruit flavor. Try it, and you will soon find yourself experimenting – fig spread adds sweetness and dimension to sandwiches, pastries, cheese dips, even ice cream!
But for now let’s stick with breakfast. Iva recommends a tall glass of steamed milk to go with the Fig n’Feta Toast. “No coffee. Just steamed milk,” she says. “I know it’s not a common drink in this country, but it perfectly complements the sweet and salty, fruity and cheesy toast.”
What have you got to lose? Try Iva’s perfect pairing of fig n’feta for a wondrous breakfast in bed!
4 slices thick bread
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons fig marmalade, jam, or spread
4 slices feta cheese
Toast bread to a light golden brown. Spread butter evenly on toast slices. Top with fig spread and a slice of feta cheese. Serve while still warm, accompanied by fruit and a glass of steamed milk.
Makes 2 servings.
Post by Alison Hein.
Years ago you could only find grits, or ground corn cooked porridge-like, in the southern United States. Luckily for us northerners, this delectable, creamy dish has become more prominent in our area. To me, grits tastes like a heavenly cross between polenta and popcorn. When cooked slowly with milk instead of water, it makes a perfect bed upon which to place your favorite breakfast food.
As with other grains, cooking grits takes a bit of patience. You must bring the milk (or water) to a boil, then find the perfect simmering temperature to bring your grits to a creamy (not burnt) finish. I strongly recommend looking for traditional stone-ground grits with no additives. It may take a few minutes longer to prepare, but the natural flavors are extraordinary. Try ordering online if you can’t find these locally. My favorite purveyor is Palmetto Farms, a family-owned South Carolina tradition since the 1930s.
Grits have long been considered a homey breakfast dish, but can be enjoyed for dinner, too – serve them as a simple side with a pat of butter, or spruce them up by stirring in chicken stock, cheese, fried onions, or bacon. Try the Carolina classic shrimp and grits – a mournful of creamy corn grits, topped with plump seasoned and sautéed shellfish – astoundingly easy to prepare, yet deep and rich in flavor.
In this breakfast recipe, I add spunky grated cheddar to the grits as they cease simmering. Then I fry up a couple of crispy eggs to place on top, and complete with some fresh, green parsley sprigs for color and punch in my heavenly breakfast in bed.
2 cups milk
½ cup grits
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh parsley, for garnish
Pour milk into a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in grits and a dash of salt. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until grits are thick and creamy. Stir in grated cheddar cheese and keep warm until ready to serve.
To make eggs, heat olive oil in large, heavy frying pan over medium low heat. Crack eggs into pan one at a time, making sure to leave enough space between the eggs so the whites don’t run together. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook each egg until white is solid, edges are beginning to crisp and yolk is still soft, about 4 minutes.
Spoon cheese grits into two bowls. Top each serving with a fried egg. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Makes 2 servings
Post by Alison Hein.
The origin of Mint Juleps is clouded with the mist of the past. We know that the drink emanated from the southern United States most likely sometime in the 18th century. The word “julep” itself is quite unusual, and is thought to have been derived from the Persian word “golâb”, meaning rose water. Made by diffusing rose petals in water, rose water has historically been used for flavoring food, scenting perfumes, supporting religious rites, and enhancing medicinal concoctions.
A traditional Mint Julep is made with just four ingredients: fresh mint, sugar, bourbon and water. What began as a medical tonic to aid with “sickness at the stomach” has since morphed into a southern tradition and the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. Approximately 120,000 Mint Juleps are sold during the race each year. The frosty thirst-quenching drinks are a surefire winner.
There are as many recipes for Mint Juleps as there are drinks sold at the Derby. Some make a mint-infused simple syrup while others prefer to muddle the fresh sprigs; some use blender-crushed ice and others like large, crystal cubes; and some add the traditional bourbon, though others favor whiskey, gin, or rum. Mine is a virgin version (unless we’re having a weekend champagne brunch) which calls for fresh mango purée to be added to the mix. A very refreshing option for a sticky summer morning.
Island mango and aromatic mint go together in every way – sweet counters spunky, herbal offsets fruity. Even the colors work! Rosy golden mango blush blurs and swirls with deep forest green for a winner of a breakfast in bed and a cure for what ails ya.
3 sprigs fresh mint, plus additional for garnish
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup mango purée
½ cup crushed ice
½ cup sparkling water, ginger ale, or champagne
Clean mint and trim leaves from stem. Add to a tall glass. Add sugar, and muddle together until the sugar and mint take on a pasty texture. Add mango puree and stir. Fill the glass with crushed ice, then finish with sparkling water, ginger ale, or champagne, Add a tall spoon and straw to the glass. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve icy chilled.
Makes 1 drink
Note: You can purchase mango purée, or make your own by peeling, chopping, and puréeing a fresh mango in a blender until thick and smooth. To make a traditional Mint Julep, replace the mango purée with bourbon, then add the crushed ice and fill the glass with water.