Tag Archives: family
Post by: Alison Hein.
It is my joy to create an annual Halloween recipe. In 2011 (when I began writing for Charles P. Rogers) it was the fun and popular Crêpe Dracula – a little chocolate crêpe dressed up like the count himself. Following that, I shared my secrets for baking individual Smoky Pumpkin, Egg and Bacon Cauldrons, and last year, we enjoyed rich and colorful Pumpkin Cream Crêpes.
This time, I chose to explore an ancient and somewhat confusing tradition of Soul Cakes, which are linked to the Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain, the forbear of Halloween. It was a time of year when spirits and fairies could enter more easily into our world, and celebratory, seasonal foods were served. Soul Cakes were baked with exotic saffron, perhaps to represent the great harvest sun. Much later, Samhain evolved into a Christian holiday, and Soul Cakes were made to honor the dead. Many bakers pressed currants in the tops of their cakes in the shape of a cross.
Soul Cake recipes abound, ranging from quick breads to yeast breads, tiny muffins to giant cakes. They are sweetened and spiced, glazed and decorated. I decided to make sweet, individual golden orbs, swapping out currants for plump golden raisins – tiny little suns within the great harvest sun. Fall spices add a pie-like feel, and become mysterious and aromatic when warmed. Wrap one in a colorful napkin and give it as a gift, or hoard them and share with a special someone for a soulful breakfast in bed.
10 – 12 threads of saffron
1 tablespoon hot water
¼ pound (1 stick) butter, softened, plus an additional teaspoon for greasing pans
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ cup golden raisins
Preheat oven to 325°. Generously grease two 4×2-inch round cake pans and set aside.
Place the saffron threads in a mortar and crush with the pestle until powdery. Cover with 1 tablespoon hot water and let sit for at least 20 minutes.
Add butter and sugar to a large bowl, and cream together until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, until batter is light and smooth. Pour milk into a measuring cup and stir in saffron “tea”. In a separate small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Alternately add milk mixture and flour mixture into batter, stirring thoroughly after each addition. Gently stir in golden raisins.
Spoon batter equally into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and serve warm, if you like.
Makes 2 4×2-inch cakes.
NOTE: If you are as fascinated as I am by convoluted food history, I recommend reading this engaging article and recipe from T. Susan Chang.
by Alison Hein.
This past summer, I learned the neat trick of placing homemade pizza directly on the grill from Matty Matarazzo of Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere, New Jersey. Thanks to Matty, my husband and I have been impressing friends and family with delicious variations of bubbling hot, crispy pizza. (Read more about Matty’s Grilled Flatbread Pizza and Four Sisters Winery.)
Because the cooking time is super fast, Kevin and I work as a team – I shape the pizza and brush the surface with olive oil. While he is grilling the first side, I am preparing whatever toppings are needed for the final product. Meats and vegetables need to be sautéed in advance. Kevin brings the half-cooked pizza back to me, and I place the ingredients on the grill-marked surface. He oils up the grill again, and cooks the pizza to a crisp, melted finish. When you swap out some of the more traditional choices with bacon and eggs – voila! You’ve got an impressive pizza breakfast in bed.
½ pound pizza dough
Flour, for shaping dough
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 eggs, scrambled
½ cup grated cheddar (or other) cheese
2 slices bacon, cooked and broken into small pieces
Fresh herbs (parsley, basil, or oregano) for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the grill to high. Shape the pizza dough by flattening with your hands on a lightly floured surface. Use your fingers to stretch the dough out, or hold up the edges of the dough, letting the dough hang and stretch, while working around the edges of the dough. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then push out the edges with your fingers again, until you have a nice round shape, about 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Keep the dough flat (no raised rim) for easy grilling.
When the grill is hot (you can hold your hands an inch over the grates for no more than 2 seconds), dip a tightly folded up paper towel in olive oil and use tongs to wipe the grill grates. Place shaped dough on a lightly floured (or use cornmeal) rimless cookie sheet or pizza peel. Gently let the dough slide onto the hot grill grates. Close the lid and cook for 2 minutes. Open the grill and check the bottom of the dough to see if it is getting browned. If it is evenly browned, let it cook for another minute. If not, rotate the dough so it gets an even browning for the last minute. If it is not beginning to brown, cover the grill and continue to cook a minute at a time until the bottom has begun to brown. Your dough is ready when the top of the pizza begins to bubble. Do not overcook as this will be the pizza top.
Remove the pizza from the grill using your cookie sheet or pizza peel. Use a spatula to flip the dough over onto a work surface so that the grilled side is now up. Keep the grill covered so it retains heat. Paint the grilled surface of the pizza with a little olive oil, then cover with sauce. Arrange scrambled eggs evenly on surface. Cover with cheese and bacon pieces.
Slide the pizza back onto the grill. If you’re using a gas grill, reduce the heat. If working with a charcoal grill, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly. Remove with a spatula onto a cutting board or other flat surface. Top with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Let rest for a couple of minutes before slicing.
Makes 1 6-inch pizza, or 2 servings.
NOTE: Double the recipe for a larger, 12-inch pizza.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-it-yourself Designs to Amuse your Friends and Scare your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
We are less than two weeks from Halloween now! We picked out our pumpkins a couple weeks ago and my son has been rarin’ to cut into his ever since. For my part, I’m always hurting for inspiration when it comes to most crafty concepts. I came across this out-of-box book at the library. It’s full of amusing and sometimes a little disturbing ideas. On the cover is a mean pumpkin face chewing an understandably surprised-looking littler pumpkin. On the back is a pumpkin who has vomited its insides all over the table. Yuck! Unless you are a six-year-old boy, in which case: awesome!
Have you ever wanted to make a Darth Vader helmet pumpkin? How about using toothpicks as scary sharp teeth? What about a pumpkin puking guacamole? Whatever your weird desires, this book probably has some ideas for you.
Note: I did not do any of the pumpkins in this book in the end. I probably should have, as mine looks like a disaster. My kid’s looks extremely abstract and my wife’s is a fantastic nerd reference.
Post by Alison Hein.
The bad news is that summer is completely and entirely over. The good news is that autumn harvest vegetables are completely and entirely at their peak. Butternut squash, with its rich, buttery sweetness, is one of my all-time favorites.
You can dish a little bit of October flavor onto your breakfast plate with this Butternut Hash recipe. Best results come from fresh, not frozen, squash. Either steal a few pieces of a whole butternut when making soup (try my recipe for Butternut Squash Soup!), or use a handful of pre-cut pieces you can find in most groceries these days.
Broiling the butternut squash first makes finishing this hash a snap – do it the day before if you like to speed things even more. I like to roast the squash with a generous sprinkling of hot cayenne, infusing some heat as a counterpoint to its naturally sweet flavor. Stop here, if you like, and serve up the roasted butternut as a side dish for any meal of the day.
If you keep going, you will love the colorful array of vegetables tossed in the pan – deep orangey-gold squash, sprightly green celery, burnt auburn bacon, and rich red onion make this hash as pretty and autumnal as a mountainside of Eastern trees decked out in peak foliage.
Cook up some eggs as a go-with, if you like. Fried or scrambled are good alongside; perching some poached atop the hash is also lovely. A bite of tender yolk completely and entirely enhances the rich, crispy, flavorful bed of vegetables beneath, for a delectable harvest breakfast in bed.
1 cup butternut squash, chopped finely into 1/8-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of cayenne pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh thyme, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and cayenne and spread out onto baking sheet. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon, celery, red onion and butternut squash to pan. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisped and vegetables are cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic and sauté. for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until garlic is golden but not yet browned. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with fresh thyme.
Serve hot, with a side of eggs of your choice.
Makes 2 servings.
Post by: Alison Hein.
Do you ever find yourself alone of a morning, craving something yummy, but don’t feel like fussing? The answer to this dilemma is a minimal-ingredient, one-pot, fast and furious, cheesy, vegetable-filled mini-frittata.
I love the meaty richness that mushrooms provide, and my fridge is almost always stocked with some kind of edible fungus or another. Adding green spinach (usually to be found in my freezer) for color and depth is a no-brainer. And of course, no frittata is complete without some gooey, sharp cheese.
If you’ve got other goodies stashed in your pantry, by all means, improvise. A tiny bit of salty bacon, ham or sausage goes a long way, and savory sautéed onions or garlic are always delightful. Tomatoes or peppers, potatoes or squash, tofu or seafood can all conspire to create your own custom-built mini-frittata.
I add a healthy dose of seasoning, and like to use a pre-blended mix which includes onion, garlic, paprika and the like. You should use whatever fits your mood and ingredients – basil, oregano and parsley for Italian flavors, or chipotle, marjoram and chili for Latin flair.
Start to finish, you’ll need about 15 minutes to concoct your very own personalized mini-frittata. Just enough time to fluff up those pillows, grab the daily paper, and dig in to your no-fuss, fast and furious breakfast in bed.
1 tablespoon high-heat olive oil
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms
½ teaspoon seasoning mix
½ cup chopped spinach (thawed and drained if frozen)
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
Pour olive oil into a 6-inch ovenproof heavy frying pan, and place on stove over medium heat. Add mushrooms to pan, sprinkle with seasoning mix, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Cover mushrooms evenly with chopped spinach and reduce heat to low.
Break eggs into bowl, and whisk until smooth and thickened. Stir in shredded mozzarella cheese and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg-cheese mixture over mushroom-spinach mixture. Continue to cook, gently moving uncooked eggs back around the sides of the pan, until edges are set, about 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle top of frittata with parmesan cheese. Place frying pan under broiler, about 5 inches from direct heat. Broil frittata until eggs are firm and do not jiggle, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Makes 1 serving.