December 29, 2016

Roasted Kabocha and Mushroom Risotto

5 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 red kabocha squash, peeled and cubed
1 sweet onion, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
16 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 oz diced pancetta
3-4 sprigs' worth of thyme
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Arrange the squash in a single layer on a parchement-lined baking sheet. Bake until fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add the pancetta and saute 1 minute. Add the onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Scrape into to a large, heavy bottom pot. Add the rice, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring continually. Add the broth a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, and waiting until the liquid is absorbed before each addition.

Meanwhile, saute the mushroom in the pan the pancetta was in until fully cooked. Toss in the squash and thyme. Stir to evenly divide ingredients.

When you are about two-thirds of the way through the broth, add the squash, thyme, and mushroom mixture n to the rice. Continue to add broth and stir. When the risotto is creamy and the rice is al dente remove from heat and stir in the Grana Padano.

My thoughts:
I love getting the local produce boxes from our produce delivery service. I admit I do skip them occasionally in the winter because so few things are in season locally but I always get them when they have fun varieties of squash like this pretty red kabocha squash. It has a super-thin skin and the bright orange flesh is so fun and a bit sweeter than pumpkin. I like to roast it to caramelize the sugars a bit and deepen the flavor. It makes a great addition to risotto because it holds its shape well but still turns the dish a delightful shade of orange. I added mushrooms and thyme for some earthiness and the pancetta adds a salty, savory note.

December 24, 2016

Gingerbread Sufganiyot (Doughnuts)

3/4 cup lukewarm whole milk
1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

for the filling:
8 oz (brick) cream cheese, at room temperature
1  cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

canola oil (for frying)
Powdered sugar (for sprinkling)

Place the milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and lightly whisk. Allow to stand until frothy and yeasty smelling about 3 minutes.

Place the flour, sugar, spices and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly mix the flour mixture, using the hook attachment, into the yeast mixture.

Add the yolks and mix, until a rough dough forms, about 1-3 minutes. Add the butter, increase the speed, and mix until the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 5 minutes. It should be tacky, sticking to the bottom of the bowl but not to the sides or dough hook.

Coat a large bowl with oil. Form the dough into a ball, place in the bowl. Roll the dough around the bowl to coat it lightly in oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place (or cold oven) until doubled in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Lightly flour a platter. Set aside. Punch down the dough, transfer to a lightly floured work surface (I used a rolling mat), and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut out dough rounds and place on the prepared platter 1/2 inch apart. Roll the scraps into a ball and roll out again, cut into rounds.

Cover loosely with a tea damp towel. Let rise in a warm place/cold oven until doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat together the vanilla, cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Set aside.

Pour about a quart and a half of canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and heat until the temperature reaches 350. Meanwhile, line a second baking sheet with paper towels and place a wire rack over the paper towels. Set aside.

Use a large, flat spatula to lift the doughnuts into the oil, taking care not to over crowd the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.

Drain on wire rack over paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat for remaining dough.

Puncture the side of each doughnut with the tip of a small, sharp knife and pipe in the cream cheese mixture. Dust doughnuts with powdered sugar on both sides.

Bonus Points: Add gingerbread spices to the powdered sugar before sprinkling for extra flavor. I like to use my dusting wand to get an even amount of sugar on each doughnut.

Yield: about 18 doughnuts
My thoughts:
Sufganiyot are super popular Hanukkah snacks in Israel. While we are over here frying potatoes like chumps, they are chowing down on doughnuts! Unfair! I love yeast doughnut so I will take any excuse to eat them so why not make my own? Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year and we celebrate both at our house so I thought it would be fun to combine a fried Hanukkah treat with a classic Christmas dessert. Gingerbread sufganiyot seemed like the logical choice. Rather than just making plain sufganiyot with a gingerbread filling, I made the doughnut gingerbread flavored and filled it with sweetened cream cheese. Traditionally sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts but neither of us really like jelly doughnuts ( #teamcustardfilled)  and the combination of jelly and gingerbread did not seem appealing. If it does to you feel free to use jelly instead, of course! I've read that fancy sufganiyot with unusual flavor pairings are all the rage this year in Israel so I think these would fit in very well!

The cream cheese is a bit thick so you really have to use some musel to get it into the doughnut but it is worth it to have every bit filled with gingerbread-doughnutty-cream cheese excitement. Also, these doughnuts take a while to make so be prepared to get up early if you want to have them for breakfast. Snack time might work best!

These are super flavorful, nice and spicy and full of gingerbread flavor but with the light texture of a yeasted doughnut.

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December 22, 2016

Kielbasa Potato Bread Herb Dressing

1 1/2 lb sliced potato bread, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
1 tablespoon minced sage
1 tablespoon minced thyme
1 lb fresh kielbasa, casing removed
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
butter for baking dish

Preheat oven to 325. Arrange the bread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until toasted. Place in a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and celery in the butter in a large skillet until the onion is translucent but not browned. Scrape onto the bread in the bowl. Add the kielbasa to the same skillet and saute, breaking up any large chunks, until fully cooked. Drain the grease. Add the sausage to the bowl.

Add the eggs to the bowl. Stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the salt, pepper and stock. Stir until it is an uniform mixture. Set aside.

Grease an 9-inch pan (I used a deep dish pie plate) with butter. Spoon in the dressing. Cover in foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and turn oven to 350. Bake 30 minutes or until fully cooked and the top is crispy. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
We are a house divided. I love my "un-stuffing"-stuffing balls cooked around the turkey and loosely in the exposed cavity, and my husband likes what I'd call "dressing", bread stuffing that basically comes in no contact with the turkey (or other poultry or meat) at all. It makes me sad. However, we made a turkey breast this year and in the spirit of good will, I made a pan of kielbasa laced dressing. Well, a pie tin anyway, which turned out fine because we could cut wedges of it, which, I admit was kind of fun. He likes it with sausage and still talks of the Thanksgivings they couldn't serve it that way because it wasn't kosher for his grandfather. Kosher is not a concern for us, so sausage it is! I like a good, smoked kielbasa from the Polish market but a fresh sausage works best here so you can get a meaty chunk in nearly every bite. It is very tasty, although I missed the flavors of the turkey. It is the best dressing I've ever had and since it is cooked in its own pan, it is a great side dish for any kind of meat, not just turkey! If you are a dressing person, love sausage and a ton of herby flavors, this will be perfect for you!

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December 21, 2016

Janssons Frestelse


1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, halved and sliced
8 cups Russet potatoes, cut into 2-inch long, 1/2 inch wide, 1/4 inch thick sticks
1-4.4 oz tin ABBA Grebbestad Ansjovis original (anchovy-style spiced, marinated sprats)
1-pint heavy cream
white pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Set aside.

Saute the onion in butter in a medium pan until soft and translucent but not browned. Sprinkle with pepper.  Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer with onions, then potatoes, then sprats until all is gone, ending with potatoes. Pour the juices from the tin over the potato mixture if desired. Pour the cream over the top until you can just begin to see it through the potatoes.

Top with bread crumbs. Bake until the potato is tender, about 1 hour. Check at about 30 minutes and if the top is browning, cover in foil until fully cooked, removing to brown if needed for the last few minutes.

My thoughts:
I've been wanting to make this for years! I've had it at various smörgåsbord but the key ingredient-the sprats-aren't super available here in Baltimore as we do not have much of a Swedish population. Luckily, this year when we went to the Swedish holiday bazaar, a man was there selling not only the usual candy, jams and mixes but tins of sprats! Score!

Side note: you can buy them online on Amazon and on various Swedish/Scandinavian online groceries but they are pretty pricey to ship as they need to be kept refrigerated. Or try Ikea, where they sell their own version under the name skarpsill, seasonally.

Janssons Frestelse (translated as Jansson's Temptation) is most often served at the julbord, the Christmas smörgåsbord but from what I can tell, it is also popular at other holiday celebrations like Easter. It is a homey casserole, similar to scalloped potatoes but with one major addition: salty, sweet, spiced, lightly pickled sprats! It sounds a little nuts but it really is good; lightly sweet but very savory. If you can find the ansjovis (remember--it is sprats, not anchovies!) it is well worth making and a welcome addition to any holiday table.

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December 20, 2016

Spaetzle with Mushrooms, Spinach and Chèvre

10 oz dried spaetzle
1 lb fresh flat-leaf spinach
16 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
5 oz log fresh chèvre, crumbled
1 onion, halved and sliced
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaetzle. Cook according to package instructions, about 10-12 minutes until the spaetzle is tender.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and mushrooms until the onions are nearly caramelized. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Add the drained spaetzle, saute 1 minutes until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in chèvre. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
This has been a rough year in general and the last nearly two weeks has been dreadful as we both have had the actual flu, a stomach flu, and in my husband's case, a throat virus that makes it difficult to swallow and to eat acidic foods. Oy! My plans to make tons of festive food this month really went out the window after those brownies. Holiday season indeed! Luckily, Hanukkah and Christmas are at the same time this year so we can knock them out at once (or nearly, Hanukkah continues) while we are feeling marginally better.

I love spaetzle any time of the year but it is especially easy to find during the winter months. I stock up on bags and keep them to have throughout the year. Frequently, spaetzle is served rather plain or under a sauce but I like to use the sturdy noodle in more of a starring role. This could be a vegetarian main dish or hardy side for a weeknight meal but it is special enough thanks to the chèvre to serve at the holiday tables.

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December 08, 2016

Candy Cane Peppermint Pattie Brownies


12 oz semisweet baking chocolate squares
8 tablespoons (aka 1 stick, 1/4 lb) butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cup  sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 Peppermint Pattie miniatures (.6 oz each), quartered
1/2 cup crushed candy canes*, divided use


Preheat oven to 350. Spray with baking spray or grease and flour one 9x13 inch baking pan. In a saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa and chocolate together over low heat. Stir occasionally, and when the chocolate is nearly melted, remove from heat. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder and 1/4 cup crushed candy canes. In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until frothy. Slowly stream the chocolate mixture into the eggs and mix to combine. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is thick and glossy. Beat in the Peppermint Patties. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.  Sprinkle with remaining  candy cane bits and sprinkles (if desired).

Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

*Crush your own by placing them in a resealable plastic bag and whacking it with a rolling pin. Many stores, including Giant (if you are local), sell bags of pre-crushed candy canes.
My thoughts:
This has been a long summer and fall and I am trying mightily to get into the holiday spirit. What could be more festive than peppermint infused brownies?! I've made brownies with a Peppermint Pattie layer before (8 years ago, OMG) and Candy Cane Oreo Brownies (4 years ago! Where does the time go?) and loved them so I thought I'd do a mash up and make this candy-packed version. The mint favor is really spread out and the York Peppermint Patties give the brownies a slightly chewy texture which I find pleasant. I always forget how much I like brownies and how easy they are to make until I make them again. It is like brownie amnesia.

Normally I make brownies in an 8x8 inch pan because we are a family of two but this time I went all out and made a whole 9x13 inch pan which is perfect for taking and sharing. Feel free to cut them as large or small as you'd like, they are rich but not as over-the-top as you'd think!

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