Nutella & Halva Babka

Have you tried Halva? In Mediterranean culture, it’s served after dinner as a sweet and nutty treat! It’s made from sesame paste and pistachios. It pairs really well with Nutella, and so I thought how fun could this combination be in a babka. I served this sliced, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side..it was delightful.

You may notice I’m using disposable bread pans…almost all my baking goods were packed – and John refused to dig for them. They worked out well though, and no clean up.

Nutella & Halve Babka – 2 1 lb loaves
For the dough:
1 cup water, warmed to 115°
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
4 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and softened, plus more for greasing
For the filling + syrup:
2/3 cup Nutella
2 cups crumbled pistachio halvah
1/3 cup water
6 tablespoons granulated sugar

Combine water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a large measuring cup, let sit about 10 minutes. Add the flour and salt to the bowl in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook; set aside. Add 1/2 cup sugar and eggs to yeast mixture and whisk to combine. Turn the stand mixer onto a low speed, and slowly pour in the yeast-egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium, adding butter, 2 pieces at a time, until a smooth dough forms. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Grease two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans; set aside. Divide dough into 2 balls; working with 1 ball of dough at a time and on a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12″ x 10″ rectangle, about 1⁄8″ thick. Use an offset spatula to spread half the Nutella on the dough, leaving a 3⁄4-inch border all around. Sprinkle half of the halvah over the top.

Starting at one of the short ends, roll dough up tightly; slice dough in half lengthwise using a serrated knife (gently saw), leaving 1⁄2″ of dough connected at the top. Twist the strands together and pinch at the end to seal.

Carefully place the dough in prepared pan; repeat with remaining dough and filling. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm area until doubled in size, 45 minutes more. Repeat the process to make the second loaf.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake babkas on the middle rack of the oven, rotating halfway through, until golden and cooked through, 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar dissolves, then remove the pan from the heat. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush them liberally with the syrup.

Let the loaves cool for about 30 minutes, then remove them from the pans to cool completely to cool on a wire rack.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Osso Buco Pies

Happy Christmas!

This year I went with something a little different for Christmas Eve dinner, it would certainly be delightful on any cool night, but we thought it was something special. If you don’t have a New Year menu planned, and expect guests this would be the perfect dish – not only can you make it earlier in the day, plate it, and refrigerate so you just need to pop it in the oven for 30 minutes – you can make it 2 weeks ahead and freeze it.

My butcher didn’t have spare bones to make veal stock, so I cheated! And boy am I glad for it – Knorr makes an excellent veal bouillon that worked in a pinch, if anything the flavor was more intense which is perfect for this dish.

Osso Buco Pies – 4 servings
Filling:
4 thick veal shanks, tied with kitchen string to keep meat attached to the bone
2 tablespoons olive oil Plain flour, for dusting
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups dry white wine (Chardonnay)
4 cups veal stock
10 ounces white button mushrooms, thickly sliced
4 shallots, thinly sliced
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 thyme sprigs
Pie Pastry:
12 ounces flour
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), diced
1/3 cup iced water

For the osso buco filling, preheat oven to 285 degrees F. Season the shanks to taste, lightly dust with flour and shake off the excess. Heat the oil in a wide/deep saute pan over medium-high heat, add shanks to pan and brown well all over (about 6-8 minutes), then set aside. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up the little bits, then add the stock, mushrooms, shallots, garlic and thyme. Return the osso buco to the saute pan, season to taste, cover and braise in the oven, turning meat halfway through cooking, until the meat is fork tender, about 3-3 1/2 hours. Cool osso buco in the braising liquid, skim off fat that rises to top and discard thyme.

For buttery pastry dough, pulse flour, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse just until butter forms pea-sized pieces , then continue to pulse while adding iced water until clumps of dough form, adding more water 1 tbsp at a time if necessary. Transfer to a work surface, bring dough together and divide into 4 equal pieces and shape into discs. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest. Dough will keep refrigerated for a day, or frozen for a month.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Divide the braising liquid and mushrooms among 4 deep, baking dishes (about 2.5 inches deep, by 5 inches wide). Remove string from shanks and place a shank in each dish.

Roll out each dough disc to a 6.5 inch round on a floured work surface and cut a hole in the centre (I used the end of my pastry tips). Lightly brush rims of dishes with eggwash, place a pastry round over each, with hole in dough over bone. Press pastry edges to seal and brush tops with eggwash. Place on a baking tray and bake until pastry is deep golden and filling is bubbling (30-35 minutes). Cool pies briefly on a wire rack, then serve.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Duke’s Mayonnaise: Pimento Bow Ties

I recently entered my recipe for Pimento Bow Ties in the Duke’s 100th Anniversary Contest – I was a runner up to the winner who submitted Alabama White BBQ Sauce – I’m in no way sad about this! Since my recipe was a runner-up, it’s still mine, and I thought, finally, I could definitely go ahead and share my recipe you with y’all!

Pimento Bow Tie Crisps – 4 dozen
2 1/4 cups White Lily all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon diced pimentos, drained, patted dry
8 ounces Duke’s mayonnaise
1 cup grated aged white Cheddar cheese, packed
1/2 cup grated orange Cheddar cheese, packed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and cayenne pepper. Add the mayonnaise and pimentos, pulse until coarse in texture.

Place the flour mixture in a large bowl, add cheeses and mix until combined. Drizzle in the water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Test dough by squeezing between fingertips, it should stick together.

Lightly flour work surface and gather the dough on it, press into a rectangle. Fold into thirds, 2 times. Wrap tightly in cling wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Remove the dough from the fridge and let it rest at room temp for 10 minutes. Cut the dough in half and return the unused half to the fridge to repeat the process later.

Lightly flour work surface and roll the dough into a rectangle 12 to 14 inches long horizontally. The dough should be about an 1/8 inch thick. Cut horizontal strips to 1 1/4 inches wide, then cut the d
ough in vertical segments to form strips that are 2 inches wide.

Place 2 inch strips on the prepared baking sheet, to create a bow tie, give each rectangle a twist.

Bake for 15-18 minutes minutes or until light brown. Allow to cool on baking sheet.

Serve or store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!contest

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole

WAIT! I know what you are thinking – Amanda, a casserole? I can assure this is not one your mother would have whipped up, it doesn’t involve processed “cheese-like” product. We were wanting comfort food, so I created a roux, and with the help of heavy whipping cream and shredded cheese…I made my own cheesy sauce.

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole – 6 servings
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 package (16 ounces) frozen broccoli florets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces Kraft Triple Cheddar Cheese finely shredded (you can use whatever blend you like, this is our preference)img_0081-2
1/3 cup reduced fat milk
1 can Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1 1/2 cups cooked long grain white rice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat, add the onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the broccoli, cook until lightly browned.

To make the cheese sauce melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan, whisk in the flour. Cook for about 1 minute, while continually whisking, add the cream in a steady stream. Whisk in the shredded cheese, until completely melted.

Add cheese sauce, milk, condensed soup, and rice to saute pan, combine – turn off the heat.

Pour mixture into 2-quart shallow baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let dish rest for 5 minutes, and serve.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Pork Chops with Roasted Pears and Shallots

It’s FALL y’all! My favorite season is upon us – and it’s finally “cool” (it’s 80 F today) enough to get in the kitchen.  I decided to kick things off right, with roasted pears, shallots, thick-cut pork chops and a pan sauce.

Also, a little update on me: Things have been hectic since my last post, we’ve decided to sell our home – so I don’t get the chance to get in my lovely kitchen and cook as often as I’d like during this process, which means less posts. I assure you once this miserable process is over…I’ll be back in the kitchen.

Pork Chops with Roasted Pears and Shallots – 2 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minceddscn5972
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
2 bone-in pork chops
3 shallots, peeled and quartered
2 Bosc or Anjou pears, quartered and cored
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon flour
1/2 cup pear juice
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Mix oil, garlic, and chopped thyme in a roasting pan. Add pork, shallots, pears, and toss to coat in mixture. Remove pears. Place roasting pan over medium heat, and brown pork on all sides, turning, about 4 minutes, remove from heat.  Roast pork until thermometer inserted into center registers 145 degrees F, about 15 minutes. Place pork, shallots and pears on serving dish – cover with foil to rest.

Meanwhile melt butter in roasting pan, over medium heat, whisk in flour. Add broth, pear juice mixture to the roasting pan and boil until sauce thickens, scraping up browned bits, about 7 minutes.

Divide pork among 2 plates, garnish with shallots, pears and sauce.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Kabocha Squash and Wild Rice

Ok – so I served my casserole with roasted poussin. You too can serve this with poussin, quail, or you can stuff a cornish hen – you could also just serve it as is because it’s such a comforting dish.

The casserole dish I used, is a cast-iron enamel glazed Le Creuset. It’s safe to use on the stove top and the oven. If you don’t have something similar, you can easily get by with a deep oven safe sauté pan.

Kabocha Squash and Wild Rice – 4-6 servings
4 thick-cut slices bacon, sliced into lardons
2 cups diced Kabocha squash (aka kent/jak squash)
1/2 cup diced white onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced leek
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of saffron threads
1 cup wild rice
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
6 curry leaves
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup roasted pine nuts, optional
1/4 cup chopped parsley, optional

Heat a casserole dish over high heat, add the lardons and saute until golden. Add diced squash, onion, leek, garlic and spices, and sauté until softened (6-8 minutes). Stir in rice, ginger and curry leaves, add stock to cover (add a little water if necessary), stir and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat, cover the casserole dish tightly with foil, then transfer it to the oven and bake until rice has absorbed liquid (16-18 minutes). Remove from the oven, and cover with a clean tea towel, then set aside to steam for 5 minutes.

You can garnish with pine nuts and parsley, and serve family style. If you decide to serve this along side a bird, I recommend simply dressing the bird with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Happy Cooking! Bon Apppetit!

Marinated Flank with Garden Veggies

Is your garden as prolific as mine? Tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini…oh summer!

This recipe serves 2, but you can easily double or triple the recipe.

Marinated Flank with Garden Veggies – 2 servings
2 cups Merlot (or other dry red wine)IMG_0166
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
1 cup mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup loosely packed basil
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large garlic clove
1 medium zucchini, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch thick
1 medium yellow squash, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch thick
1 lb flank steak
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine wine, peppercorns, fennel and bay leaf into a saucepan and bring to a boil until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Allow mixture to cool completely. Place steak in a gallon size Ziploc bag, add cooled wine mixture and refrigerate for 4 hours. Let the steak stand at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to grilling.

Combine cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes while preparing the rest of the recipe.

Preheat your grill to high.

In your handy blender or food processor (basically whatever you use to make pesto) – combine basil, pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pulse until smooth, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss the sliced zucchini and squash in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper.

Season the steak with chile powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Add steak to the grill, and grill about 8 minutes on each side (times varies on your preference). Let the steak stand for 10 minutes while you grill the zucchini and squash, about 4 minutes per side.

Toss the zucchini and squash with the basil mixture, and divide among two plates. Divide balsamic tomatoes and serve over squash and zucchini. Cut the steak into thin slices, cutting across the grain, and place over the vegetables.

Enjoy with the “leftover” merlot!

Bon Appetit! Happy Cooking!