Papaya and Lime

papaya1

For a most delicious and healthy breakfast, squeeze a wedge of lime over a halved papaya.

Papayas peak in early summer. As the fruit ripens, it changes color gradually from green to yellow-orange, beginning first at the bottom and progressing toward the stem. At the store, choose papayas that are half yellow and store at room temperature for a few days to let them fully ripen. When gently squeezed, the fruit should yield slightly.

Biscotti And Homemade Chai

biscotti1

The base recipe for these vanilla-almond biscotti (pictured above) can be adapted to all tastes. If you’re still looking for something to give your mother, or somebody else’s, on Mother’s Day, try making these. The almonds, pistachios and craisins can be replaced with anthing from chocolate chips to macadamia nuts to shredded coconut. Lemon and orange zests add a nice touch as well.

Although a chocolate coating is unecessary, white chocolate pairs especially well with the cranberry-pistachio variety. Truly, however, the biscotti taste delectable without any additions.

And the dark chocolate, I think, pairs best with the vanilla-almond biscotti. I use the large white and dark chocolate disks from Nuts to You for the glazes — regular chips probably work fine, but the Nuts to You chips harden relatively quickly, making the finished biscotti easy to store. Fante’s sells a similar brand as well.

To really spoil a mother this Sunday, make her a fresh batch of chai tea. Chill the tea in an old fashioned milk carafe, and adorn it with a festive bow. This recipe yields 8 cups, equal to about 16 servings, enabling the recipient to enjoy chai tea for weeks after Mother’s Day. The chai can be served hot, with steamed milk, or cold, over ice. A relatively new appliance, the Nespresso Aeroccino — my new favorite gadget — has enabled me to create tasty chai tea lattes at home. While this tool froths milk nicely, however, it is not critical — the chai, when warmed or chilled with equal parts milk, tastes equally satisfying.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Vanilla-Almond and Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti
(White and Chocolate Covered)
Yield = 30-35

Note: If you just wish to make almond biscotti, which are delicious, omit the pistachios and cherries.

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup chopped pistachios
¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries
½ cup sliced almonds
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)

6 oz. dark chocolate wafers (optional)
6 oz. white chocolate wafers (optional)

1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugars until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and blend again.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and blend on low-speed until just combined.

3. Remove the dough from the mixer and divide into two equal portions. (Note: If you are just making almond biscotti, divide dough into 3 equal portions. Shape each portion into a log about 10-inches long. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour — three hours to overnight is ideal. Then proceed to step 5.) Return one portion to the bowl and add the pistachios and dried cherries. Mix until just combined, then remove. Return remaining portion, add the almonds, mix until combined, then remove.

4. Divide each flavored dough ball into two equal portions. Shape each portion into a log about 10-inches long. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Three hours to overnight is ideal.

5. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place 2 (or 1 … 3 seems to be too many) logs on a parchment paper- or Silpat- lined baking sheet. Lightly brush each log with the egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the logs are evenly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully transfer logs to a cutting board. Cut the log crosswise on a slight bias with a serrated knife or a bench scraper. Lay the cut slices on their sides on the baking sheet. Return pan to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the biscotti cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooking rack. Cool completely.

7. Meanwhile, place the dark chocolate and the white chocolate each in separate bowls over barely simmering water until melted. Dip cooled biscotti into desired chocolate and place on cooling rack with dipped half facing up.

Let harden before storing in airtight plastic containers.

Homemade Vanilla Chai
Yield = 8 cups = 16 servings

4 cups water
4 cups milk
8 cardamom pods
1 knob ginger 1½-inches long
½ vanilla bean
1 tablespoon aniseed or fennel seeds
10 whole allspice
1 whole nutmeg
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
12 cloves
¼ cup black tea leaves such as Ceylon or Assam
¼ – ½ cup honey

Place water and milk in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to lowest setting. (Mixture should not even be simmering.) Crush the cardamom pods to release the seeds and add both the pods and seeds to the pot. Peel ginger, slice thinly and add to pot. Split vanilla bean lengthwise. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds into pot, then add vanilla bean to pot as well. Add aniseed or fennel, allspice, nutmeg, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves and tea. Let spices steep for 15 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the honey. Taste. Add more honey 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture reaches desired sweetness. (Mixture can always be adjusted later with more milk or honey.) Place a fine-meshed strainer over a large bowl. Pour mixture through strainer, pressing spices against the mesh to release all of the liquid. Chill until ready to serve.

For hot chai tea, heat ½ cup chai with ½ cup milk in saucepan or microwave until simmering. For iced chai, pour ½ cup chai and ½ cup milk into ice-filled glass. Taste, and add more milk, chai or honey if necessary.

For a chai latte, place ½ cup milk in the carafe of a Nespresso Aeroccino and froth. Place ½ cup chai in mug (or pot) and heat in the microwave (or stovetop) until simmering. Spoon frothed milk onto hot chai and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

Christos’ Falafel Cart

Falafel

Last week I discovered Christos’ Falafel Cart on the northeast corner of 20th and Market. I am now addicted. Christos offers wraps filled either with falafel, or with chicken and falafel, and each comes adorned with the various toppings — ordering “plain” is unacceptable. Toppings vary from diced cucumbers to grilled hot peppers to grapes to melon, and allegedly, Christos never creates the same sandwich twice. Thus far, the legend holds true — in four visits I’ve yet to walk away with the same combination.

I traveled to Christos’ Falafel Cart and to several other fun restaurants and markets after reading a few blog entries on the website, uwishunu.com. To find other hidden spots in Phildelphia check out the site’s dining blog.

A typical lunch-hour line extending from Christos’ Falafel Cart:

Several weeks ago, Mark Bittman provided a recipe for homemade falafel, “For the Best Falafel, Do It All Yourself.” I have not yet tested it, but am hoping to soon, and have printed the recipe below. Also, to see Bittman prepare the recipe, watch this online falafel-making video.

Falafel
From Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” column in The New York Times
Published April 4th, 2007

1¾ cup dried chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 small onion, quartered
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Scant teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for frying

1. Put beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches; they will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep the beans submerged.

2. Drain beans well (reserve soaking water) and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil; pulse until minced but not puréed, scraping sides of bowl down; add soaking water if necessary to allow machine to do its work, but no more than 1 or 2 tablespoons. Keep pulsing until mixture comes together. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste.

3. Put oil in a large, deep saucepan to a depth of at least 2 inches; more is better. The narrower the saucepan the less oil you need, but the more oil you use the more patties you can cook at a time. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350ºF (a pinch of batter will sizzle immediately).

4. Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Two Kentucky Derby Day Desserts

Derbycake

A panel of four judges from Jefferson Medical College, led by my sister Lindsey, polished off this mint julep cake in one sitting. A bourbon-butter sauce moistens the vanilla-buttermilk cake when it first emerges from the oven; and a crème de menthe icing coats the exterior once cooled. The boozy and minty flavors make this cake a truly festive Derby Day dessert.

And these assorted bourbon-spiked truffles, particularly the pecan-coated variety, are always a treat. The base truffle recipe is excellent and can be adapted in a number of ways: any alcohol or liqueur, from Grand Marnier to Port to Baileys Irish Cream, can replace the bourbon; and any coating from white chocolate to pistachios to toasted coconut can replace the cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar and pecans. Although the truffles do take more time to prepare than the cake, the elegant presentation when combined with fresh strawberries makes the work worthwhile, for any special event. Enjoy!

Mint Julep Cake
Yield = 12-18 servings

2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

½ cup sugar
½ cup butter
¼ cup bourbon

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon white crème de menthe liqueur

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Coat a 10-inch Bundt pan with cooking spray.
Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.
Add eggs one at a time to butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla.
Sprinkle half the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until just combined. Add half the buttermilk, stir. Repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk. Pour into prepared pan and smooth evenly around center.

Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on cooling rack. Meanwhile combine the ½ cup sugar, butter and bourbon in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted. Stir until smooth and remove from heat.

Using a skewer, poke holes into cake. Pour sauce evenly over the cake. Let cake cool to room temperature in the pan before removing.

Meanwhile whisk confectioners’ sugar, milk and crème de menthe until smooth. Add more milk or liqueur to reach desired consistency. Drizzle sauce over cooled cake. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Chocolate-Bourbon Balls
Yield = 35

10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup bourbon
12 oz candy-making chocolate disks*
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Place the chocolate and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute, stirring after the first 30 seconds.
In a small sauté pan heat cream, corn syrup and salt until simmering. Pour over melted chocolate mixture and let stand 2 minutes. With a spatula gently stir mixture until evenly blended. Pour the alcohol, about a tablespoon at a time, into the chocolate mixture, stirring well after each addition. Pour mixture into an 8×8 inch baking dish, preferably glass or Pyrex. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a #100 scoop or a melon baller, gently drag the balled end across the surface of the chocolate. Release the ball of chocolate onto the cookie sheet and repeat until all of the chocolate has been scooped. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Place the coating chocolate in a large stainless-steel bowl. Fill a large wide-mouthed pot with one inch of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and place the bowl of chocolate over the pot — make sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. After a few minutes stir the chocolate with a spatula. Place the cocoa powder, pecans and confectioners’ sugar in shallow vessels, preferably with sides. Have a clean Tupperware ready for the finished truffles.
When the chocolate is smooth and melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Remove the chocolate balls from the refrigerator. Working one at a time, place one ball into the melted chocolate. Quickly coat the ball using a spatula or spoon, then transfer to desired coating vessel. Gently shake the vessel back and forth until the truffle is coated, and let sit while you move to the next one. Repeat with two more before removing the first finished truffle. After 3 or 4 of the truffles have been coated, remove the first completed truffle to the clean vessel.

Once all of the truffles are coated, store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you prefer to eat them at room temperature, remove them from the refrigerator one hour prior to serving.
*Merckens brand from Fante’s or the dark chocolate disks from Nuts to You work well.

Mango Pico de Gallo

Mango

Before the summer tomatoes reach the farm stands, ripe for fresh pico de gallo, try making one with mangoes, which are currently in season. From now until September, bright yellow champagne mangoes are at the market, and from May until August, the reddish-green Florida variety will be available.

Flavored with traditional salsa seasonings — lime juice, cilantro and jalapeños — this mango pico de gallo makes a refreshing appetizer. Serve with pappadums for a nice change from tortilla chips.

Mango Pico de Gallo
Yield = 3 cups

1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeño
2 mangoes
½ medium red onion
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon sugar

store-bought pappadums (Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s) or tortilla chips

1. Cut the red pepper in half, core and remove stem and seeds. With a knife, remove the white interior membranes, then finely dice the pepper (to yield about ¾ cup). Place in a large bowl. Repeat with the jalapeño.

2. Peel the mangoes, then slice fruit from the pit. Finely dice the fruit and add to the bowl (about 1¾ cup). Finely dice the onion (about ½ cup) and add to the bowl with the cilantro, lime juice, salt and sugar.

3. With a large spoon gently toss the ingredients together, being careful not to bruise the fruit. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary with more salt or lime juice.

4. Serve with pappadums or tortilla chips.

Crispy Baby Artichokes

artichokes

Artichokes originated in the Mediterranean and have been grown for over two thousand years. Edible, immature flowers of a cultivated thistle, artichokes produce crops twice a year — from March through May and August through October. As Sicily is believed to be the actual birthplace of these edible flowers, artichokes have been an essential part of the Italian diet for years. In Italy, young artichokes are eaten raw dipped in extra virgin olive oil, or fried whole in olive oil.

My husband and I recently tasted the baby artichokes “alla romana” at Osteria, a new Italian taverna opened by the owners of Vetri. Cooked slowly in olive oil with rosemary and garlic, the artichokes were, for me at least, the highlight of the evening.

Baby artichokes are the small buds that grow on side shoots off the central stem of the large plants and currently can be found at the market. Unlike the large globe artichokes, the tender small ones have no fuzzy inedible choke and are easier to prepare than the large. Served with a little salt and lemon, these crispy and caramelized little buds make a wonderful appetizer.

Osteria-Inspired Artichokes
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 lemon, halved
15 baby artichokes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
2 sprigs rosemary
4 cloves garlic, lightly smashed

Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze half the lemon into it. Cut off the rough spiky tops of the artichokes and peel away leaves until the pale green leaves are exposed. With a paring knife, cut off very bottom of stem and peel dark green layer off sides of stem. Repeat with each one, dropping each cleaned artichoke into the prepared acidulated water.
In a medium, deep heavy pot, add ½ cup water, the oil, salt, rosemary and garlic. Place over medium-high heat until oil and water mixture begins to bubble. Add the artichokes. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove cover, and increase heat to medium-high. Let the artichokes cook undisturbed until the bottom side begins to turn golden brown and get crispy. Once nicely colored, flip artichokes and cook until second side becomes similarly golden-brown.
When artichokes are crisped all over, remove with slotted spoon, sprinkle with salt to taste and serve with remaining half lemon.

Hot Cross Buns

BUNS1

Hot cross buns, associated with Good Friday for centuries, have a storied history. Some trace the spiced sweet rolls back to spring festivals in pagan Britain, when the cross atop the buns represented the four seasons of the year; others believe an Anglican monk in 12th century Britain began adorning his small breads with crosses to honor Good Friday, also known as the Day of the Cross; and another tale describes an English widow who baked cross-topped buns every Good Friday and vowed to have one hanging on her front door until her son, on a journey at sea, returned home.
Perhaps the popularity of hot cross buns, however, stems particularly from an old superstition. In 17th century Britain, many believed that if the buns were made on Good Friday itself, the baker, and everyone eating his festive baked goodies, would be protected from misfortune for the rest of the year.
This weekend, wake to the smell of freshly baked cinnamon-spiced hot cross buns. Prepare the dough a day in advance and store in the refrigerator overnight, where the buns will slowly rise. Treat your family, friends and yourself to these warm, delectable hot cross buns, and begin celebrating the Easter weekend with this ancient tradition.


Overnight Hot Cross Buns
Yield = 16

½ cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
½ cup whole wheat flour

1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
3½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ – ½ cup raisins (optional)

1 egg
2 teaspoons milk

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk

To make the sponge, place milk in microwave on high for 30 seconds. Add sugar, yeast and flour. Stir and let sit 15 minutes until bubbly.
In separate bowl, whisk butter until fluffy and smooth. Add milk, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon and nutmeg, and whisk until smooth. Add the sponge and stir until smooth. Add flour and stir until stiff dough forms. Turn dough out onto work surface and knead for 4 minutes, adding only enough flour to prevent dough from sticking to surface.
At this point, if you wish to add raisins, divide the dough into two equal portions. Flatten one of the portions and sprinkle _ cup raisins over it. Fold dough to enclose the raisins, then knead for 4 more minutes until raisins are evenly dispersed. (Note: If you wish to add raisins to all of the dough, add ½ cup raisins to whole ball — do not divide the dough — and knead for a total of 8 minutes.) Place dough in greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour or until almost doubled in bulk.
Knead remaining portion of dough and place in separate greased bowl also covered with plastic wrap.


Grease two 8-inch square or round baking pans with butter. Punch one of the dough balls down, and turn out onto floured work surface. Roll ball into a 12-inch log. Divide into 8 equal portions and shape each into a ball. Place balls in pan, evenly spaced. Repeat with remaining dough ball. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Remove pans from refrigerator and with a very sharp knife or razor blade, make a cross through each bun. Beat egg with the two teaspoons of milk, brush buns with the mixture, place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with milk to make the glaze.
Let buns cool five minutes before drizzling glaze overtop. After the buns are topped with glaze, serve immediately. Note: the glaze is optional — they are delicious spread with softened butter as well.

Passover Chocolate Cake

chocolate cake

chocolate cake

Of all the symbolic foods on the Passover Seder table, matzoh is the most important. Made without yeast and quickly baked, matzoh reminds Seder participants of the Jews fleeing Egypt who had no time to leaven their bread or bake it properly. Flour used to make matzoh is made from wheat that is “watched” from the moment of harvesting to ensure it never contacts any water, which might cause the flour to expand and rise.

As leavened flour is prohibited during Passover, flourless chocolate cakes are popular Passover desserts. This rich chocolate cake rises dramatically, cracks and then falls. When dusted with Passover “confectioners’ sugar” and garnished with berries, the cake looks striking on the table.

Flourless Chocolate – Almond Cake
Yield = 1 9-inch cake

8 oz semisweet chocolate
8 tablespoons margarine or butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon almond extract
4 large eggs, separated
2 large eggs, whole
1/3 cup plus ½ cup sugar
½ cup almond flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon potato starch
or confectioners’ sugar (for non-observers)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place chocolate and margarine or butter in bowl and microwave on high for one minute, stirring once after 30 seconds.
Coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom with round of parchment paper, then spray the parchment as well.
Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth, then add salt and almond extract and stir until blended.
Whisk the four yolks and two whole eggs with the 1/3 cup of sugar just until blended. Add yolk mixture to chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in almond flour.
In the bowl of an electric mixture, whip the four egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the ½ cup sugar and beat until egg whites become shiny and hold their peaks, but are not too stiff.
Stir one third of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten. Then, in two additions, gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour batter into pan and place in oven. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.
Cake will rise and have cracks running across it. It should feel only slightly wobbly when gently pressed. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing sides and transferring to cooling rack. Meanwhile, pulse sugar and potato starch in a spice grinder to make a powder. Sift mixture over cake and serve.

A St. Patrick’s Day Feast

BlueBiscuit

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a feast featuring three of Ireland’s most renowned products: Guinness, Cashel Blue cheese and McCann oats. While I have been familiar with Guinness and steel cut oats for years — I prepare the oatmeal recipe below almost every morning — I only learned of Cashel Blue these past few weeks while researching Irish cheeses. For the past month at DiBruno Brothers, the cheese mongers have been luring customers to a table showcasing five Irish cheeses: Gubbeen, Durrus, Coolea, Adrahan and Cashel Blue. I happily tested all of them, and although I must admit that I am easily pleased by any variety of a cheese, each was truly delicious. I am partial to blue cheese, however, and the Cashel was my favorite: it melts nicely, and makes a nice snack on crisp toasts, as in the recipe below, but is also wonderful on its own, at room temperature, spread onto soft bread or crackers.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Cashel Blue

In the late 18th century the Grubb family, members of an Anabaptist sect, fled to Ireland from England, to avoid persecution. They settled in Tipperary, a town in south-central Ireland, and became millers and buttermakers. A descendant of the family, Louis Grubb, and his wife Jane continued the dairy tradition with their creation of Cashel Blue cheese in 1984. Made from the highest quality milk taken mostly from the cows on their farm, a herd of Friesian dairy cattle, Cashel has received countless honors and awards. Creamy, tangy, salty and sweet, Cashel Blue is truly a treat.


These biscuits take only minutes to make and freeze beautifully. (Place unbaked biscuits on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 30 minutes, then transfer to a Ziplock bag. It may be necessary to increase baking time by 2-3 minutes.) Also, for a simple plain buttermilk biscuit, omit the cheese and herbs, increase the salt to ½ teaspoon, and increase the sugar to 2 tablespoons. For a festive treat, however, the Cashel Blue and chives are a wonderful addition.

Buttermilk Biscuits with Cashel Blue Cheese and Chives
Yield = 10 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3¼ oz (a scant cup) Cashel Blue cheese
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon buttermilk
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into the flour and using a pastry cutter or fork, mix the butter and flour until the butter has broken into small bits and flakes. Crumble the blue cheese into the mixture and toss to coat.
Whisk the ¾ cup buttermilk with the chives then pour mixture into flour mix. Stir just until the dough comes together to form a mass — Do not over-mix. With lightly floured hands, gently knead the dough in the bowl to bring together, adding the extra tablespoon of buttermilk if necessary, then turn out onto a lightly-floured work surface. Pat the dough into a ¾ – inch thick rectangle. Using a 2½ -inch round cutter, cut the biscuits and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, spacing the biscuits 2-inches apart.
Brush each biscuit with melted butter and transfer sheet to the oven, immediately increasing the temperature to 425ºF. Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven, transfer biscuits to wire rack for 2 minutes before serving.


A nice snack: Blue Cheese Toasts Drizzled with Lavender Honey

To make the toasts, cut a baguette into ¼ – inch thick slices, place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400ºF for 8-10 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven, top with a generous portion of Cashel Blue and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes until melted. Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of lavender honey in a shallow bowl and submerge bowl into another bowl filled with hot water to help loosen the honey. When the cheese has melted, remove toasts from the oven, drizzle with honey and enjoy immediately.


Sautéed Cabbage and Radicchio with Bacon and Cashel Blue Cheese
Serves 4 as a side dish

1½ oz bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 small head cabbage, halved, cored and thinly sliced
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 small head radicchio, halved, cored and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 oz Cashel Blue cheese

Place the diced bacon in a large nonstick skillet, cover, and cook over low heat for five minutes. Remove the cover, stir and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook for another five minutes or until the bits of bacon are beginning to crisp and brown. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Add the cabbage, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about five minutes or until the cabbage is slightly tender. Taste to test its texture, and cook a few minutes longer if necessary. Add the radicchio, and using tongs, mix it with the cabbage. Add the balsamic and sugar and cook until the vinegar has reduced and the radicchio has wilted, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat, stir in the reserved bacon bits and serve. Sprinkle the Cashel Blue evenly on individual servings.


Guinness Draught

In 1759, shortly after signing a 9,000-year lease at £35 a year, Arthur Guinness began brewing ales from St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, a site that has since become Dublin’s most popular tourist attraction. Today, Guinness is Ireland’s best selling alcoholic drink and is one of the most successful beer brands in the world.
A dry stout, based on the porter style that originated in London in the early 1700s, Guinness is recognized by its thick, creamy, tan-colored head and its distinct roasted-barley flavor. A versatile beverage, Guinness complements both sweet and savory dishes as illustrated by these two recipes for Chocolate Guinness cake and Guinness-braised short ribs.


Guinness-Braised Short Ribs
Serves 4

3 lb short ribs (long cut), cut into 2-inch pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, stem removed
1 medium onion, peeled
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 11-oz bottles of Guinness
2 cups chicken stock, preferable homemade
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
4-5 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
Place a large oven-safe soup pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Season short ribs generously with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to pot, let heat for a few seconds until almost smoking, then add the meat skin side down. Let brown for about five minutes, flip, and brown other side for another five minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the leek into big chunks and soak in a bowl of cold water, separating the layers to make sure each is well cleaned. Roughly chop the onion and the carrot into medium-large pieces. This should yield about 3 cups leeks, and 2 cups each of carrots and onions.


When the ribs have finished browning, remove from pan and place on a plate. Drain off all fat and discard. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over high heat and add the vegetables and cinnamon stick. Season with salt and pepper to taste and let cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, then stir. Let vegetables sauté for 8-10 minutes. Add the tablespoon of tomato paste and stirring to coat the vegetables.
Deglaze the pan with the Guinness and the chicken stock, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan. Add the zests, thyme sprigs, bay leaf and short ribs, and bring pot to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the liquid is just simmering, cover and place in the oven.
Braise for 2 hours. Remove pan from oven and test one of the short ribs. If the meat is very tender and nearly falling off the bone, the ribs are done. If not, return the pot to the oven, testing every 15 minutes until done.
Remove the ribs from the liquid to a bowl or plate. Strain the braising liquid, discarding the solids. Pour liquid into tall narrow vessel and let chill in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes. Skim fat from surface and discard. Return ribs to pan, cover with liquid and bring back to a simmer. Serve immediately.
Note: Can be made three days in advance.


Chocolate Guinness Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “Feast”
Hyperion (2004)

1 cup Guinness
1 stick + 2 T. butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
¾ cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.
In a medium saucepan, heat Guinness with butter until butter is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder and sugar. Whisk sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then pour into Guinness mixture and stir until smooth. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt, then add to batter, stirring just until combined.
Pour into prepared pan, and bake for 45 minutes. Test cake with a toothpick or paring knife. If utensil comes out cleanly, remove cake from oven. Let cool completely in pan.
Beat cream cheese until light. Add sugar. Add cream and beat until thick. If cream cheese mix is too soft to spread onto cake, let chill for 10 minutes or until firm
Spread cooled cake with cream cheese frosting.


John McCann’s Steel Cut Oats

Ireland’s fertile plains, humid climate and clean rivers have enabled it to grow high-quality oats since the fifth century. In 1800, John McCann built a mill on the east coast of Ireland in the town of Beamond, and began making steel cut oats. Several years later, in 1851, his product received two quality of excellence awards from exhibitions in London and Dublin, followed by first prize at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876 — an honor still proudly printed on its old-fashioned tin can.
Steel cut oats are whole grain groats that have been cut into small pieces. They are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and protein, containing twice as much protein as brown rice, and 50 percent more than bulgur. Moreover, steel cut oats are nuttier and chewier than rolled oats, and create a creamier, more flavorful oatmeal. Low in fat and a great source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, steel cut oats make a delicious and nutritious breakfast.


Steel Cut Oatmeal with Medjool Date and Cinnamon
Serves 1

¼ cup skim milk
¾ cups water
pinch of kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup steel cut oats
1 Medjool date
1 banana
granola for crunch (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring milk, water, salt and cinnamon to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add oats and stir. Gently simmer, stirring every five minutes for about 21-23 minutes. Watch closely at the end — add a splash of water or milk if oatmeal sticks to bottom of pan.
While oatmeal cooks, finely dice the date and slice the banana. Place fruit in a bowl, top with the cooked oatmeal and stir to combine. The date and the banana should sweeten the oatmeal sufficiently, but add a touch of sugar, brown sugar or honey if necessary. Top with granola if desired.

Flowerpot Beer Bread

beerbread

At Django, a little BYO on 4th Street just north of South, the chef bakes his bread in a flowerpot. The warm pot arrives to the table along with softened butter served in an old-fashioned butter crock. Three years ago I enjoyed my first bite of this unique bread and have been meaning to test the baking method ever since. It could not be easier. Both yeast breads and quick breads bake equally well in the terra cotta vessel, but for simplicity I’ve provided a recipe for a no-knead beer bread. The dough takes no more than five minutes to mix and makes a fun presentation. Celebrate this last weekend of the Philadelphia Flower Show with a pot of this delicious bread. Enjoy!

Flowerpot Beer Bread
Yield = 1 standard 4” pot

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons sugar
½ beer or (¾ cup beer) I like Magic Hat #9
1 standard 4” diameter flowerpot (lead-free)
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Crumple a small piece of aluminum foil and stuff the tiny hole at the bottom of the pot. Generously coat inside of flowerpot with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add beer, stir until combined and place in prepared pot.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375ºF and bake for 30-35 minutes longer, or until golden brown on top.
Remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes before attempting to remove from pot. Meanwhile, melt butter. After the five minutes, the bread should slide out easily from the pot. Turn out onto cooling rack and let rest five more minutes. Place loaf on a cutting board, turn upside down, and slice loaf in half vertically through the center. Holding the two halves together, make another vertical slice through the center, perpendicular to the previous slice to create 4 quarters. Return sliced bread to pot, pour hot melted butter over bread (careful, this makes a mess) and serve immediately with more softened butter. Enjoy!