Category Archives: Cooking

Johanna’s Hot Cocoa

This is for ONE cup of cocoa, which is never enough. Double, triple, quadruple as you see fit.

Melt 1 tsp butter in a saucepan. Add to it 5 ounces of good milk chocolate (you can use any chocolate, but the darker the chocolate, the more you might need to add some sugar.) Stir until melted and creamy.

Stir in a splash of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg–all, none, or some. Personally, I love a little sprinkle of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla.

The milk to cream ratio is 2:1, so 1/2 cup milk to 1/4 cup cream.

Stir constantly or the chocolate settles and sticks to the bottom. Once it’s warmed through, pour into mugs. Top with whipped cream, maybe marshmallows or crushed peppermint sticks.

Enjoy! Before hot cocoa weather is behind us.

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Almond Joyful Cake

Almond Cake

  • 1 1cups granulated sugar
  • 3cup almond paste (not marzipan)
  • 10 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 14teaspoon salt

(Double the recipe if you want a two-tier cake)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, or butter the pan and dust it lightly with flour.
  3. Beat together the sugar and almond paste until the paste is finely broken up. A mixer works best–easier on the arms. 🙂
  4. Add the butter and beat for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir together the eggs with a fork; slowly add it to the batter as you beat.
  6. Add the vanilla.
  7. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  8. Stir the dry ingredients into the batter until incorporated–no more.
  9. Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  10. Cool completely before icing.

Chocolate buttercream icing

Simplest thing in the world. A one pound box of confectioners sugar, a stick of SALTED* butter at room temperature, at least a half cup of powdered baking (DARK**) cocoa, (more, depending upon how chocolaty you want it) and 1-2 tablespoons of milk.

Cream the butter, add the sugar and cocoa a little at a time (so it doesn’t puff up in your face) and the milk a few splashes at a time. You want it stiff enough to hold a peak, not so stiff that it tears your cake apart when you ice it.

I usually double the recipe, because I like lots of icing.

After the cake is iced, while the icing is still tacky, sprinkle the whole thing with coconut flakes.

Enjoy!

*If you don’t use salted butter, add about a quarter tsp when you cream the butter.

**You can can use regular baking cocoa, but it is a very sweet cake, and the dark offsets the sweet a little better, to my palate.

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Roasted Garlic Paste

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Before you say, “I can get that in the grocery store.” No. No you can’t. Not this. I tell you now, it’s worth the little bit of effort to have on hand, because, as we all know, garlic makes everything better.

Roasted garlic has a much more mellow flavor. The caramelization is key. The natural sugars get pulled out, browned and gorgeous. The flavor, while more mild, is concentrated. Though the kind of roasted garlic–jarred or in a tube–found in the grocery store has that golden brown look, the stuff used to preserve it kills that subtle flavor and ruins the texture. Sometimes, believe it or not, that coloring is artificially added.

Roasted garlic adds an amazing finish to mashed potatoes, mushrooms, sauces of all kinds, in dips. A little goes a very long way, and you’d never want to use this in something that has to cook a long time. Roasted garlic will lose most of what makes it so yummy if cooked over a(nother) prolonged period of time.

Added bonus of roasted garlic! It’s less apt to cause heartburn in those sensitive to it.

The above picture is about a pint, and represents a dozen whole heads of garlic. Doesn’t seem like much, I know, but this will last me at least three months.

Very simple to make:

12 heads of garlic. Whole, with papery skin left on, though you should take off the stuff that’s flaking.

place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper*, points up (like you’d plant any bulb) and drizzle with a little olive oil.

put it in the oven at 350 for about an hour; then take it out and let it cool.

The bulbs will be very squishy. *This is why the parchment paper is very important! Some of the sugars from the garlic will be crackled and brown like caramel under the bulbs. You want that stuff! Save it to add to the paste.

Now, the tricky part; extracting the paste. There are all kinds of ways to extract the now-roasted garlic. The easiest way I’ve found is to separate all the cloves and line them up on another sheet of parchment paper, all facing the same way. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper, and then roll (one way only!) the paste out with a rolling pin. It gets a little sticky, but it’s easy to scrape all the yummy paste off the parchment paper.

Once the paste is in a container, add the caramelized bits, a little salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil, stir it all up and store it in the fridge. Though the natural preservative qualities of garlic, olive oil and salt make it unnecessary, garlic is plant matter and will break down. Storing it in the fridge keeps the flavor, longer.

Never freeze it!

Want an amazing, wintry soup? Saute a small onion and a handful of sliced mushrooms in a little butter. Add 3-4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable,) a heaping tablespoon of the roasted garlic (more or less to your taste.) Bring it to a simmer–never a boil! Take it off the heat, stir in about 1/2 cup of cream. Salt and pepper to taste. Divine.

 

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Feeling Culinarily Accomplished

What did I do Sunday? Here, let me show you.

Fifty pounds of plum tomatoes made twenty-two jars of sauce, plus enough for the really outstanding clam sauce I made that evening. It took four hours, including the clam sauce. It was fun! And I feel accomplished, culinarily speaking.

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Basil and honey shrimp

This was killer.

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Rice first: Jasmine rice. easy peasy. I sauteed carrots and scallions in olive oil and garlic and stirred them into the cooked rice. Set aside and keep warm.

Sauce next: I don’t do measurements, but I’ll estimate. Three big tablespoons of macerated, fresh basil (I used the kind you get in the produce department in what looks like a toothpaste tube. Works great. No fuss.) Measurement AFTER it has been macerated. Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice, at least three cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of honey and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Salt to taste. Whisk it together and set it aside. DO NOT HEAT IT!

Last, the shrimp: Coat two dozen large shrimp in corn starch and flour. Flash fry them crispy.

Plate the rice, shrimp on top, and then drizzle the basil sauce over the shrimp. It’s light and herbaceous but strong in flavor. Too much will overwhelm.

This sauce would be killer on any fish, pork or poultry. I’d even try it on beef! So simple, yet so delicious. If someone invented this before I did, I’ve been missing out on it for way too long.

 

 

 

 

 

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For you foodies

Oy, what I made last night. Speck e mozzarella involtini di pollo (involtini=rolled, pollo= chicken. Now doesn’t it sound way better in Italian?) It was extraordinary.

Frankie D and I visited his nephew and his family in Milford, PA last weekend. Lovely little town. It reminds me of Cape May. It also happens to be the home of Fretta’s Italian Food Specialties. The tiny store by itself is worth the trip. Drying sausage and sopressatta hanging everywhere, porcetta, scamoza, pancetta, marinara sauce, soups, pastas and more–all either house made or imported. For Frankie D, it’s better than Home Depot.

We bought a bunch of stuff, but two things smacked me in my culinary-brain–speck, and scamorza. Speck is a Tyrolean ham, a kind of super-concentrated proscuitto. Scamorza is smoked mozarella. The play of smoke and spice and sweet begged to be made into an involtini.

Involtini: I filleted the chicken nice and thin, layered the speck, then the cheese, and rolled it up nice and tight. A little egg wash, a dip in bread crumbs, and a quick fry–in olive oil, of course–just to get a crust. I put it in the oven at 375 for about forty minutes. (The Hollandaise sauce, I will admit, came from Trader Joe’s. It’s light and creamy and lemon and I’ve never made a better Hollandaise myself. Note–it would have been just as good without the sauce.)

Potatoes: russets, cubed small. Olive oil, garlic, salt and paprika. Into the oven at 375 for about an hour. Take it out, give it a stir, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss on a little parsley and put it back into the oven for about five minutes.

Broccoli: simple sautee in olive with garlic and salt. Make sure you get a little caramelization going.

I’m a good cook, but I have no technique training. I don’t use recipes. Every night is like an episode of Chopped, without the gross ingredients. From my first pot of sauce (gravy,) my culinary know-how has been the result of a good palate, and trial and error, same as I learned how to mother (sorry, Jamie!) write, and do just about everything I do. Sometimes my attempts end up less than stellar. And sometimes, they’re so far beyond what I ever expected, it balances the failures out. Like this one.

 

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Hollandaise sauce. Roasted lemon and parsley potatoes and sauteed broccoli on the side.

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Grandma Grace’s Artichokes

My grandmother made the best stuffed artichokes. It’s a well-known fact. My mother tried for years to get her to share her secret. Gram always told her she’d tell her one day, but that day never came. Grandma Grace died without ever passing her recipe along. Since then, mom’s tried. I’ve tried. We both think we know what it was she did, but neither of us have ever been able to duplicate them. It’s not that our stuffed artichokes aren’t good. They’re just not Grandma’s.

My grandmother was never an amazing cook. Plain and simple was her style. That’s what her artichokes were too. (She did share with me once one of her secrets–Wonderbread. Yes. Wonderbread.) I’m good with flavors, at being able to pick out even the most subtle herb in any dish. Why couldn’t I figure out Gram’s simple recipe? With Thanksgiving coming up, I bought four artichokes to practice on. If I got it right, I would bring them to my brother’s for Turkey Day.

Mulling over past attempts, trying to devise a new strategy, I had an epiphany. At last and finally, I realized I was never going to be able to make Gram’s artichokes. Ever. She’s gone, and she took her secrets with her. I couldn’t duplicate her recipe, only replicate it to the best of my ability.

My best is pretty damn good. Honoring her tradition, I used the ingredients I know she used, but for the first time, I made them my way. I added things I knew would enhance what I’d tried in the past. They were amazing. Dare I say it? Even better than Gram’s. Yes. I dare. I think she would agree. Mine were over-the-top delicious. The only nit I had was that there was too much stuffing. Next time, I’ll stuff them less.

I don’t do measurements, I eyeball everything, but here’s my recipe.

Gracie’s Stuffed Artichokes, Terri-Style

Four large artichokes

1 sixteen inch semolina loaf (has to be semolina)

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup grated romano cheese

2 eggs

1/3 c olive oil

garlic–lots of garlic (I used about a tablespoon and a half of minced, dried garlic. Gives it more of a kick than fresh.)

1 tsp salt (never skip the salt. It’s not like you make artichokes often)

1 c fresh baby kale*

1 c fresh watercress*

(*I threw these in because I had them in the house. It gave the artichokes a nice, earthy flavor. Arugula would have worked really well, too.)

32 oz container chicken stock

1 1/2 c white wine (not too dry, not too sweet)

2 tsp capers

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp butter

Cut stems off the artichokes so that the bottoms are flat. Clip the tips (they’re sharp!) off the leaves. Wash thoroughly, opening up the artichoke nice and wide to make stuffing easier (see photo below.) Turn them upside down to dry while you assemble the stuffing.

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Steaming liquid: Put the stock, wine, lemon and capers into a large stock pot. Bring it to a simmer while you assemble the rest. NEVER BOIL IT! Boiling kills the flavor of the wine and capers, and makes the lemon bitter.

Stuffing: Chunk up the semolina and put it in the food processor. You want it coarse, not fine. Toss it into a big bowl with the cheeses, eggs, olive oil, garlic, kale, watercress, and salt. Mix it well. I use my hands. It’s the best way to make sure it’s all incorporated. The stuffing will hold together if you press it into a ball. If it doesn’t, add a little olive oil until it does.

Stuff the artichokes between each of the larger, outer leaves. You should be able to get fairly close to the center before they get too small. Shove a good bit into the center. This is messy business. Do it on a cutting board to make re-gathering the stuffing that misses the artichoke easier. Don’t over-stuff it. Yummy as the stuffing is, it gets to be a bit much.

Carefully lower the artichokes into simmering liquid. The liquid will come about halfway up the artichokes. Cover and let simmer 45 minutes to an  hour. When an inside leaf pulls away easily, they’re done. Remove artichokes from the liquid and set them onto a plate. There should be a good couple of cups of simmering liquid left. If there’s more, reduce it by simmering a little while longer. Remember–never boil! Take it from the heat, stir in the butter and pour the sauce back over the artichokes.

Eat them hot or cold, but warm is best.

If you try them, tell me! And send me a picture. This is not an actual pic of mine. I forgot to take one. But this is pretty much what it looked like.artichokes 1

 

 

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