Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vegetable Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Topping

Adapted from my new Gourmet Today cookbook (thanks, Mom!). This is true comfort food.

Serves 8-10

For filling
1 1-pound package frozen pearl onions (not thawed)
2 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 fresh thyme sprig, plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium boiling potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
10 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
Any other veggies: sweet potatoes, turnips, squash, etc., coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, thawed

For biscuit topping
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour - I used a mix of white and white whole-wheat
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (about 4 ounces)
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk or yogurt

1. Combine pearl onions, water, 1 tablespoon butter, thyme sprig, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until onions are tender, about 8 minutes. Drain in a sieve set over a bowl; reserve liquid and discard thyme sprig.

2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a 12-inch deep heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add chopped vegetables, mushrooms, garlic, chopped thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown (bottom of skillet will become crusty), about 15 minutes.

3. Sprinkle vegetables with flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add reserved onion cooking liquid and milk (and wine, if using) and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer, covered, until vegetables are barely tender, about 10 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and stir in peas, pearl onions, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a 9x13-inch baking dish.

5. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheeses, add buttermilk or yogurt, and stir just until combined.

6. Drop biscuits onto filling in 12 equal mounds, leaving spaces in between. Place baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until topping is golden and filling is bubbling, 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 18, 2009


This is one of the most delicious Babka recipes I've tried, from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. Although the almond paste in the filling makes this recipe very moist, be warned that there is a strong almond flavor as well, which is different from most Babka recipes. With a few small revisions, here it is:

[two loaves: 2 8" cake pans, 2 medium loaf pans, or 1 baking sheet- all greased]

2 C unbleached white flour
2 packages of dry yeast, or 4 1/2 t yeast
1/2 C nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 C very warm water

Stir all ingredients together with a wooden spoon or in a mixer with a flat beater. It will be a heavy and wet dough. Cover tightly with a plastic bag and leave at room temperature to allow the sponge to form and ferment and double in bulk, about 2 hours.

1/2 C sugar
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 C unbleached white flour, approximately
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened

1 1/2 C almond paste
2 C chocolate chips or grated chocolate
ground cinnamon to taste

Mixing dough: remove plastic from the sponge, stir down, and measure in the sugar, salt, cardamom, and vanilla. Stir well to blend. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating each into the batter. Add 1 1/2 C flour and beat with a wooden spoon or flat beater until it has been absorbed into the batter-like dough. Drop in the butter, a small amount at a time, beating until it is mixed into the dough. Add flour, 1/4 C at a time, to form a dough that is quite soft, yet elastic. It will have enough flour when it can be turned from the bowl and be worked without it sticking to your hands or the table.

Kneading: Sprinkle the table lightly with flour, if necessary. Knead the dough only until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. (If using a mixer, use a dough hook.) Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly again, and put aside to double in bulk, about 1.5 hours.

Shaping: Punch down and turn out on the floured table and divide into 2 pieces. Roll each to form a thin piece about 1/4" thick. Combine all the ingredients of the filling in a food processor is you have one- adjust to your liking, adding more chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, etc. Spread each rectangle with half the filling. Roll up the dough longwise, like for a jellyroll, and pinch the seas tightly to secure. Try to roll each snake a little bit longer.

For the cake pans, simply lay the twists loosely in the pan in a spiral form beginning in the center and working to the sides. For the loaf pans, fold the snakes at their halfway mark and twist them on themselves, kind of making a figure-eight formation, and lay in loaf pans or the baking sheet. Cover the loaves loosely and let rise not quite to double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Baking: 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350. Brush the tops with melted butter or the leftover egg whites. Bake until each twist is deep brown, about 45 minutes. If the crusts seem to be browning too quickly, cover with foil. Remove loaves from pans and cool before cutting.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Alexis's Arabian Spinach

My friend Alexis brought this delicious and simple dish to my Chanukah potluck.

1 onion
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
14 oz spinach, washed and shredded
1 tsp cumin seeds
15 oz can chick peas, drained
a knob of butter (1-2 tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste
optional: feta

1. In a large frying pan or wok, fry the onion with the oil for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cumin seeds, then fry another minute.

2. Add the spinach, in stages, stirring it until the leaves begin to wilt. Fresh spinach condenses down dramatically on cooking and it will all fit into the pan.

3. Stir in the chick peas, butter and seasoning. (Optional: add as much feta as you like!) Reheat until just bubbling, then serve hot. Drain off any pan juices if you like, but this dish is rather nice served slightly saucy.

Honey-Ginger Carrot & Parsnip Latkes

Adapted from Straight from the Farm blog. Wonderful flavor and texture - tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. A fun twist on potato latkes - these were more popular at my Chanukah party than the traditional ones!

Makes 12-14 latkes

2 cups packed grated carrots
2 cups packed grated parsnips
2 eggs
1/3 c flour
1 t salt
1 heaping T freshly grated ginger
1 heaping T honey
Vegetable oil

Grate the vegetables using the large holes on the box grater or a cuisinart with a grater attachment. Place grated vegetables on dish towel and squeeze tightly to remove as much water as possible. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, flour, salt and ginger. Stir in the grated vegetables. Drizzle with honey and stir to combine.

Heat a few glugs of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, use a 1/4-cup measure to form the latkes. Drop in the oil and flatten gingerly with a spatulat. Cook until the edges start to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Serve hot with dollops of crème fraiche or applesauce on top.