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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Orange Shortbread









This is one of my all-time favorite cookies; they're buttery and richly orange-flavored. I make them every Christmas, and as I was devour.... er, tasting them this season, I wondered why I only make them at Christmas. Maybe it's all the "tasting" I do. . . Once I added miniature chocolate chips to the batter; the cookies were delicious, but the chocolate isn't really necessary. (I don't say that very often!)

The recipe is from Nantucket Open House by Sarah Leah Chase. It's one of my favorite cookbooks, along with her Cold-Weather Cooking.


ORANGE SHORTBREAD


2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter (no substitutions), at room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
1/2 tsp. orange oil or extract (my addition)
Pinch salt
Glaze:
1 large egg
1 tbsp. water

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat in zest and orange oil or extract. Gradually beat in flour and salt to make a fairly stiff dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough a half-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut out with cookie cutter(s) of choice. I use a small (2-inch) gingerbread girl cutter, because I like them with the chocolate shortbread boys I make.

Place cookies on prepared baking sheets. Beat the egg with water in a small bowl, and brush lightly over cookies. If you run out, make more egg-water mixture. (The original recipe called for 2 eggs and 2 tbsp. water, but I found I always had some left.) You can, of course, skip this step, though it does make for an even prettier cookie.

Bake until just golden 10 to 15 minutes. I check mine starting at 10 minutes, than add a minute at a time till they are perfect. Let cookies cool, then store in airtight containers. Makes about 60 cookies.

These freeze very well; I like to make them up to a month before Christmas.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tortellini Tomato Spinach Soup








This hearty soup is very easy and goes together quickly. Oh, and it's tasty.

The recipe is from www.foodtv.com, the Food Network site, though I have made a few changes (increasing tomatoes, for example).


TORTELLINI TOMATO SPINACH SOUP
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion (about half a small onion)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cans chicken broth (fat-free is fine)
1 28-oz,. can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped or crushed with spoon (or you can use a can of crushed tomatoes if you don't want chunks)
1 (9-oz.) package fresh tortellini (any kind you like; I prefer cheese or spinach-cheese)
5 to 10 oz. fresh spinach* or 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
Parmesan, freshly grated
Salt and pepper

In a 3-quart soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Saute onions, adding garlic after a few minutes. Stir often till translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add broth and tomatoes, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and spinach**; when it boils again, turn heat down so it just bubbles. This keeps tortellini intact. When tender, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with Parmesan.

Serves 4 as an entree, 6 to 8 as appetizer.

*I indicate a range because it depends on your preference, and because it's fine if you decide to make this on the fly and only have a 5-oz. package.

**You can also cheat and put a block of frozen spinach in with broth and tomatoes. It will just take longer to come to boil.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Noodles in Broth, or Pho


I can't believe it's been two months since I've posted. But then, I shopped and baked and crafted, a lot. I hope to find more time to blog this year.

I've eaten variations of this soup in restaurants (the best story involving my husband and jambonneau  in Paris) and decided to try it at home. It was a happy experiment. Here is my version, loosely based on a cookbook recipe. It's very forgiving as far as substitutions and amounts. It's also fast, once ingredients are ready, as well as easy, filling and healthful. (In an "emergency," you can cook 3 packages of ramen noodles with two of the enclosed seasoning packets for the Chinese noodles in plain broth.) I like to load it with vegetables.

Joe uses a spoon and a fork. I use a spoon and chopsticks and add a dash of hot chili oil to my bowl. Yum. You can also have soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil on hand as condiments.

Pho


Noodle seasonings
1 tsp. peanut or other oil
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. oyster sauce

Soup
12 oz. fresh Chinese egg noodles, about 1/8 inch thick (I've substituted lesser amount of dried -- or even vermicelli -- with no problem)
1 carton Trader Joe's soy-ginger broth*
Additional chicken or beef broth to make how much broth you want
1 cup sliced bok choy or spinach
1 cup sliced mushrooms and/or julienned snow peas
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks or very thinly sliced
1 bundle green onions, thinly sliced

Toppings
Any combination of cooked chicken, beef, shrimp, ham, duck, or even better, char siu (Chinese barbecued pork from local restaurant) in separate bowls.

Instructions

In a large bowl, mix noodle seasonings and set aside.
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain in colander, rinse under cool water and toss with the seasonings in the bowl.

Bring the broth to a boil. Add the vegetables and cook for several minutes. Ladle into bowls. Add desired amount of noodles and toppings to individual servings.

Note: If you have leftovers, store noodles separately from broth, or they will absorb much of the liquid.

* Sadly, Trader Joe's no longer sells this broth, so just add some ginger and soy to your broth to suit your tastebuds.