Skip to content

Baked Lamb and Oregano Meatballs

January 20, 2015

Three years ago, I met Tony… As a typical “we met in college” story goes, we met at Evanston’s second classiest establishment, The Deuce, and I was inebriated beyond recollection.

In the four years that I had gone to Northwestern I had never met nor heard of Tony. I did, however, see him frequently on my way to class during my senior year and thought to myself, “that boy is so cute.” A very rare finding at NU. Maybe it was the alcohol or my love life at the time, which was non-existent, but I was determined to meet him.

 

IMG_1005_2

 

I saw him a few nights before at Evanston’s most notorious bar, “The Keg,” and my best friend, Regan, suggested that maybe it wasn’t the best line to introduce yourself as, “Hi, I’m Claire and we sometimes make awkward eye contact on our way to class,” but as I said, I was determined and that’s exactly what I did the second night I saw him out at The Deuce. I introduced myself and Tony just stared blankly at me; apparently Tony had no idea what I was referring to and just thought I was a drunk girl at the bar… Which I later confirmed by asking him a total of ten times throughout our conversation if he remembered my name or not. Smoooooth.

 

IMG_1030_2

 

I’m told we chatted about my food blog, The Cellar, hockey, running, traveling, and dogs among other things. At the end of the night as sober Tony tried to end his night early as the designated driver, he asked if I wanted to go back to Evanston, which I misinterpreted as him trying to make a pass and said, “Um, no! But if you want, you can ask me for my number and maybe we can go out sometime…”

Surprisingly, Tony did ask me for my number, but the following morning I could only recall giving my number to “the really cute guy,” but couldn’t remember if his name was Mark or not… The start to every good love story!

 

IMG_0999

 

Two days passed before Tony texted me telling me he “hoped I remembered Tony from the Deuce,” and then asked to go to coffee the following day. We met at Peet’s Coffee, where we could not stop talking and I learned that he has the most beautiful green eyes (when they’re actually open), was getting a puppy within the week, was Lebanese and Hungarian, spoke French fluently, played hockey, loved Rick Ross (but that was more of a negative), was a huge foodie, and had plans to travel the world… Our conversation was cut short because he had a hockey game and I had to develop some film, but he asked to take me to dinner the next night at The Cellar, since apparently I told him I had never gone and really wanted to the night we met…

After he dropped me off at my photography class, I walked in the building and then turned around and ran to the library as fast as I could so I could tell my best friend that I was in love and found “The One…” and the rest is history!

 

IMG_1007_2

 

I am so thankful for you, Tony! You are my best friend, my biggest supporter, my adventure partner, and the greatest fiancé I could ever ask for. You make me comfortable enough to be me, 100% of the time. You love me unconditionally and have given me the opportunity to chase my dreams and travel the world. You’re the only person crazy enough to put up with my crazy. I love you and cannot wait for the rest of our adventures!

 

IMG_5982

 

So I made you meatballs, the first dinner I made you in your dirty college apartment, but this time I didn’t double the garlic.

Baked Lamb and Oregano Meatballs recipe by Donna Hay:

½ cup (80 grams) fine burghul

¾ cup (185 milliliters) boiling water

1 kilogram lamb mince

2 eggs

2 cups oregano leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar

⅓ cup (80 millilitres) pomegranate molasses or balsamic glaze

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1½ tablespoons harissa paste

2¼ cups (700 grams) tomato purée (passata)

2 cups (200 grams) grated mozzarella

¼ cup (20 grams) finely grated pecorino

½ cup oregano leaves, extra

  1. Preheat oven to 250°C (500°F). Place the burghul and water in a large bowl and mix to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the grains are tender.
  2. Add the mince, eggs, oregano, cumin, 2 teaspoons of the sugar, the pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Using wet hands, roll 2 tablespoons at a time into balls.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Cook the meatballs, in batches, turning frequently, for 5–7 minutes or until browned. Place in a 2.5-litre ovenproof dish and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until lightly golden. Add the harissa, purée, remaining sugar, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to the boil and cook for 5–7 minutes or until slightly reduced.
  5. Pour the sauce into the dish over the meatballs and top with the mozzarella and pecorino.
  6. Bake for 10–12 minutes, top with the extra oregano leaves and cook for a further 2–3 minutes or until golden. Serves 4–6.

Tom Kha Kai Soup

January 13, 2015

On our very first trip to Amsterdam, Tony and I stumbled upon this little Thai restaurant across the street from the AirBNB we were staying in. We walked inside and there were paintings all over the walls of mouths and distorted cartoon faces with big ears and the tables were decorated with white business shirts and ties. It was all very strange, but we were starving and didn’t know where else to go so we took a seat at an open table.

 

IMG_0933

 

They gave us our menus and served us these shrimp chips with peanut sauce to snack on while we reviewed the menu. After staring at the menu for a solid fifteen minutes, we still were only able to decipher about five of the dishes because everything on the menu was so unlike the typical Thai restaurants we frequented in Chicago… and those shrimp chips were so amazing that I couldn’t really focus on anything else. We ordered some Thai beer, Tom Kha Kai Soup, Pad Thai, and took our chances on a few other dishes that I can’t remember for the life of me.

 

IMG_0951

 

After a few moments, they served us our beer in these trippy little slanted glasses so that every time you put down your glass you thought it was going to fall over. Not very conducive for our state of mind. Then they brought out our Tom Kha Kai soup, and without waiting a single second, I took my first spoonful and it was SCALDING HOT. Like, so hot that it was burning the insides of my mouth and tongue and I couldn’t swallow it and in the exact same moment I realized exactly how hot my soup was, a fellow patron was walking into the restaurant, locked eye contact with me, and had to witness as I was literally drooling and spitting out the soup like a dog. He just started laughing at me and I would have too because it was kind of a funny situation, but I was too busy with chugging beer to cool down my mouth. Anyway, after letting the soup cool down for a few moments, I was able to taste the lovely concoction of spices, sweetness, and sourness that is Tom Kha Kai soup and it was delicious.

 

IMG_0958

 

After devouring the rest of our meal, they placed two small plates with a small, white, cylindrical mound in the middle of the plate. Tony thought it was some kind of marshmallow-gift from the chef since we ate so much, but as he popped it in his mouth to eat, the waiter came by with a tea kettle of hot water and poured it over my plate and the “marshmallow” unraveled and revealed itself as a small, damp towel to clean your hands with… Whoops.

 

IMG_0961

 

Safe to say, between spitting out the soup and the towel incident, Tony and I were utterly embarrassed and we refuse to show our faces at that restaurant again. Thankfully, you can find Thai food all over Amsterdam and they always have Tom Kha Kai on the menu! Since Italy lacks any kind of food diversity, I decided to recreate the soup at home for a nice, warm dinner on a chilly Sunday night! It’s easy to make and can easily be adjusted to meet your palate!

 

IMG_0970_2

 

Tom Kha Kai Soup by The Bite-Sized Baker:

2 quarts chicken broth

4 lemongrass stalks, smashed and cut into 1” pieces

12 kaffir leaves or ½ cup lime juice and 2 tablespoons lime zest

3-inch piece of galangal or ginger

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

16-ounces oyster or button mushrooms, sliced

3 13.5-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk

½ cup fish sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

5 Thai chilies, sliced

Cilantro, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

Chili sauce, for garnish

  1. To make the soup, in a very large stockpot, combine broth, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, and galangal and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes until flavors have melded.
  2. Using a fine-mesh strainer, transfer broth to a new stockpot and discard solids. On low heat, add the chicken and poach for 15-20 minutes, until chicken has cooked through. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are tender. Mix in coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, and Thai chilies. Continue cooking for five more minutes until flavors have melded. Taste and add more fish sauce, sugar, and chilies as desired.
  3. Serve with freshly chopped cilantro, extra lime wedges, and chili sauce.

Dark Chocolate Brownies

January 9, 2015

In Europe, you see a lot of dogs running or going about their day independently from their owners. Whether they’re a yappy little Jack Russell Terrier and Border Terrier running up and down the hills of Cinque Terre and greeting everyone who visits, a watchful Rhodesian Ridgeback keeping post at his owner’s frame shop in Florence, or a curious Beagle showing visitors the way into town in the Alps. It should come as no surprise that I am a huge dog person and I am definitely NOT one of those people who are able to let my dog run wild and free.

 

IMG_7254 2

 

My family sometimes jokes that Tony and I are like that couple from Best in Show, you know, with the Weimaraner and Busy Bee? Overbearing, protective, and generally just crazy about their dog? At first, I laughed with them and didn’t take it too personally, but then at some point I realized that in the past year every time I’ve gone shopping Louie has accompanied me in the dressing room and has joined me at the nail or hair salon because I can’t bear to be away from him for over an hour… Maybe they had a point. Maybe I needed to slacken the leash a little, let Louie be a real dog versus my furry best friend/child?

 

IMG_0852_2

 

We take Louie to CrossFit with us every morning, mostly so I don’t have to run the two miles home by myself, but also because it gives him the opportunity to be a dog and explore on his own. The gym is in an enclosed area with a large parking lot and a big field so I’m never too concerned about his whereabouts, but I always try to keep a watchful eye like any responsible parent!

On this particular morning, there were a few men working on the facilities outside and Louie was showing off as usual so I wasn’t acutely aware of his location at all times. I was recuperating from a brutal workout when I realized I hadn’t seen Louie run past for a while so I peeled myself up off the ground and proceeded to ask the men outside if they had seen Louie. They pointed to the other end of the building so I casually jogged over, called his name, but I didn’t see him. I ran back to the gym and ran on to the field to see if maybe I missed him, but nothing. Then a friend mentioned she saw him running in the parking lot and that’s when I began to panic.

 

IMG_0873_2

 

While it is an enclosed area, there is a gate large enough for cars to get in and out and just adjacent to the main road to access the gym is a large highway. At this point, I was sprinting down the road and frantically yelling his name like a distraught parent looking for their child who got lost in the grocery store. It doesn’t help that “lui” also means “he” in Italian. I asked a random passerby if he had seen a dog, “Hai visto un cane?” but he hadn’t seen anything. And then off in the distance I saw two gentlemen with dogs, but I knew by the dogs’ coloring neither of them were Louie, but if I know my dog, I knew he could have easily gotten distracted and wanted to play with the other dogs… He’s so social.

I ran across the field toward the men to ask if they’d seen a dog and before I could finish my sentence, I heard Louie’s little jingle as he jauntily strutted towards me upon realizing the look of terror of my face. He knew he was in trouble and slowly walked over towards me, but I couldn’t even yell at him for running away because in that moment I was just so thankful he hadn’t been hit by a car or taken home by a kind stranger. He’s very convincing.

 

IMG_0878

 

Like most of my stories, this story might not have the plot line to be the next “blockbuster” movie, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that I am not a carefree person. I am destined to be that overbearing mother that monitors her children’s whereabouts on applications that I’ve secretly installed on their phones (maybe I’ll just avoid the anxiety and strap on a child-leash and call it a day), checks their Halloween candy for razor blades and poison, and forces them to stay at the table until they eat their entire dinner– basically the mom who everyone despises. But you know what, I’m doing it because I love you. Don’t worry, Mom, I’m not pregnant, I’m just on a rant.

While this brownie recipe has absolutely NOTHING to do with this novella (except for the fact that I was introduced to it in the Alps where I met the curious Beagle and Louie also slept in bed with us nightly, despite house rules that he remained out of the bedroom), it is life changing. So you might have to measure out a few more ingredients and wash two more bowls than you normally would with a boxed mix brownie (which used to reign, in my opinion), but it is completely worth it!

 

IMG_0929

 

I tried these brownies after one particularly dreadful day on the slopes (I was crying after the first run because it was so icy and rocky) and they were amazing… and I obviously ate my feelings and devoured two within ten minutes. The brownies were rich in chocolate flavor, dense, fudgey, and had a shiny, crackly little top. Fortunately, our host was more than willing to share his recipe with me so I could recreate it at home and now I get to share it with you!

 

IMG_0892_2

 

Dark Chocolate Brownies recipe slightly adapted by The Bite-Sized Baker:

350 grams (~1½ cups) unsalted butter

300 grams (10.5 ounces) dark chocolate

400 grams (~1¾ cups) granulated sugar

50 grams (~¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder

150 grams (~1¼ cups) all-purpose flour

5 eggs

Pinch of salt

  1. To make the brownies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9×13” pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer. While the mixture is still very warm, add sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add the eggs and beat for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate-butter mixture on low speed until the batter looks thick, shiny, and well incorporated.
  4. Spread the batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and cut into squares.

Bites…

January 8, 2015

Remember when I used to do “Monday Bites…?!” Me neither.

Thoughts, inquiries, and photos from The Bite-Sized Baker… about our holiday vacation.

I’m back in Italy and it’s slightly bittersweet; I’m delighted to cuddle with Louie every morning and eat a phenomenal panini for 5 euros, but my heart aches for my family back in California.

 

10890967_594772577291643_1954162390_n

10852616_672592909520426_858473788_n

IMG_5961

10848424_828947920496531_212323614_n

 

This was one of the most amazing years of my life and our holiday vacation was no exception; starting with our snowboarding trip in the Alps with our two best friends, Chelsea and Hunter (where they got engaged!), our trip to California, where we spent much needed time with my family and best friends, and a brief trip to Chicago, where we got to check in with our college friends and some of Tony’s family.

 

10844178_834012066659545_1496075130_n

10844230_1519434318328126_1118741827_n

10831843_1555531664684671_1439933201_n

 

Oh, and Tony and I got ENGAGED! On Christmas Eve morning, Tony had an arch delivered to my house without my knowledge and while I was getting ready that evening, my dad and Tony decorated the backyard with candles and lights. My sisters asked me to grab a bottle of Prosecco from the cooler and when I walked outside, Tony turned on all the lights and proposed! It was very sweet and romantic and thankfully, my entire family was there to capture the moment!

 

IMG_5929

IMG_5934

IMG_5918

 

Our holiday was a bit magical and I’m just so grateful that I was able to celebrate with all my loved ones at a “surprise” engagement party that weekend that my sisters, Judith (my future mother-in-law ;)), and Tony organized. Judith rented out a super cute space in downtown Los Gatos called The Lexington House, where the owners worked with my sisters to create a customized menu of various appetizers and themed drinks and even recommended a photographer so we could enjoy and capture the night without constantly whipping out our own cameras… The only downside is Tony and I don’t have a SINGLE photo together so I’m hoping the photographer has some good ones when we finally get to see them!

Our family and friends flew in from all over the United States to celebrate with us and it was truly the best engagement party I could ever ask for and the best part is, I didn’t have to plan a thing! Except for what I was wearing, of course!

 

IMG_6024

IMG_6032

10860088_1542067122708065_133749517_n

10895112_1524942754455414_979574668_n

10864830_747538542007114_1045512755_n

10890943_879944565383410_1719794861_n

 

Thank you to all of our friends and family that were able to celebrate with us! You made our holiday AMAZING! Now I’m homesick, dreaming, and pinning all things wedding… Also, since I’m sappy and our anniversary is coming up, I already wrote a little post about how Tony and I met so there’s that… I know you’re looking forward to it. There will also be some food in the mix, eventually.

 

10899481_943447669007506_814106718_n

My Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

December 19, 2014

ONLY SIX MORE NIGHTS OF SLEEP ‘TIL CHRISTMAS!

 

IMG_0755_2

 

Tony and I are flying home to California bright and early tomorrow morning and I’m not sure I’ll be able to fall asleep tonight because I am so full of excitement! I also haven’t packed or done any laundry, but regardless… It’ll be the first time I’ve gone home in a YEAR! EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!

 

IMG_0746

 

Besides smothering my nephews and Chandler and playing heated games of Scattegories and Rummikub with my family, I plan on baking A LOT. The first order of business is baking Peanut Butter Blossoms, Russian Teacakes, Turtle Thumbprint Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Biscotti, and these Chocolate Chip Cookies.

 

IMG_0752

 

I know, Chocolate Chip Cookies aren’t the most festive, but I don’t think there’s anything more comforting and reminiscent of home than this all-time classic cookie.

 

IMG_0758

 

This cookie is an adaptation of Joy The Baker’s “The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies” I made a few months ago. Since trying out her original recipe, I’ve made a few adjustments and I’ve created something that I like to call, “My Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.” I increased the flour from 2¼ cups to 3 cups, added an egg white, omitted the molasses, and substituted milk chocolate for bittersweet chocolate and the results were prettttty noteworthy. They are soft, chewy, crunchy, and full of gooey milk chocolate shards and chunks. They are just pure heavenly.

 

IMG_0769

 

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie by The Bite-Sized Baker, adapted from Joy The Baker:

1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ cup milk chocolate, roughly chopped (I like to get a mix of chunks and small slivers of chocolate so every bite is full of melted chocolate!)

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Coarse sea salt, to sprinkle on top

  1. To make the cookies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Place half the butter (8 tablespoons) in a medium skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat, swirling it in the pan occasionally. It’ll foam and froth as it cooks, and start to crackle and pop. Once the crackling stops, keep a close eye on the melted butter, continuing to swirl the pan often. The butter will start to smell nutty, and brown bits will form in the bottom. Once the bits are amber brown (about 2 ½ to 3 minutes or so after the sizzling stops), remove the butter from the burner and immediately pour it into a small bowl, bits and all. This will stop the butter from cooking and burning.  Allow it to cool for 20 minutes.
  3. Beat the remaining ½ cup butter with the brown sugar for 1 minute, until light and fluffy.
  4. Pour the cooled brown butter into the bowl, along with the granulated sugar. Beat for 2 minutes, until smooth; the mixture will lighten in color and become fluffy.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and eggs one at a time and beat until combined.
  6. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda, beating on low speed just until everything is incorporated.
  7. Use a spatula to fold in the chocolate chunks and pecans and finish incorporating all of the dry flour bits into the dough.
  8. Scoop the dough onto a piece of parchment paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. Flatten it slightly into a thick disk, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to begin baking, place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat your oven to 350°F.
  9. Scoop the dough in 2 tablespoon-sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave about 2″ between the cookies; they’ll spread as they bake.
  10. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and immediately sprinkle with sea salt, and allow them to rest on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before moving them.
  11. Serve warm; or cool completely, and store airtight at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.

Pumpkin Tortelloni with Sage and Pumpkin Seeds

December 17, 2014

For Christmas dinner, my family and I are planning an Italian feast complete with apertivo, pear and pecorino toretlloni, pumpkin risotto, bistecca, white beans, roasted veggies, budino, and tiramisu! Words cannot express how excited I am to see my family… and to serve them this dinner!

As much as I would love to pretend that I have a loud Italian grandmother to teach my sisters and I how to make pasta from scratch, I don’t… I’m also not really enthused about the idea of buying a pasta roller that I’ll most likely use once. Sooo we’re ordering fresh sheets of pasta from one of our favorite Italian restaurants in the area, La Villa, to make our toretlloni.

 

IMG_0668

 

The last thing I wanted to worry about on Christmas day was ruining one of my favorite dishes and not having a back-up plan so I thought it would be in my best interest to do a “test run” of Pumpkin Tortelloni while I was in Florence.

I made the pumpkin filling the day before to save some time and used a great picture tutorial from the Williams Sonoma blog to assemble the toretlloni. I know… I’m in Italy and I’m using Williams Sonoma as a reference, but it is an excellent guide for beginners! The first time I tried to assemble the toretlloni, I made the mistake of buying cheap store-bought pasta sheets and as soon as I started making little triangles the pasta started breaking. I got annoyed, had a little hissy fit, and I was about to call it a loss and throw everything away… But then I remembered, “I have to do this for Christmas! I must persevere.”

 

IMG_0672

 

The following day I went to the fresh pasta vendor at the Mercato Centrale and explained (in Italian, might I add!) that I wanted to make tortelli at home and walked away with some fresh, quality pasta sheets that don’t break when you fold them! The Williams Sonoma blog was super helpful, but of course, there were still a few mishaps… How are you supposed to learned otherwise?!

On my first sheet of pasta, I didn’t use a ruler so all of my squares looked more like rectangles and didn’t create even triangles, which was fine because I jut cut off the excess dough… But still, not perfect. The second sheet of pasta I used a ruler and made 2”x2” squares, which were a bit too small for my liking and I got overzealous with the pumpkin filling and I couldn’t seal my edges completely. But alas, on the third sheet of pasta I made 3”x3” squares, I only put two teaspoons of filling in the center, and I was able to seal my edges and fold over my corners. Success! Tortelloni for the win!

 

IMG_0693_2

 

The pumpkin filling is a great balance of sweetness and acidity from the vinegar and honey and then it’s coated in a simple brown butter sauce and topped with sage and toasted pumpkin seeds for a little extra crunch and nuttiness. Seasonal, cozy, and delicious.

 

IMG_0701

 

Pumpkin Tortelloni with Sage and Pumpkin Seeds from Williams Sonoma:

Tortelloni:

20 ounces/625 grams of fresh pasta sheets (1/16-inch/2 millimeters)

Pumpkin Filling:

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) (3 ounces/90 grams) unsalted butter

2 ¼ pound (1 kg) Cinderella or other heirloom pumpkin or butternut squash, halved, seeded and stringy fibers removed (seeds reserved)

Olive oil for drizzling

Kosher salt, to taste

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 ½ cups (6 ounces/185 grams) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Semolina flour for dusting

Garnish:

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

½ teaspoon olive oil

Kosher salt, to taste

5 tablespoons (2 ½ ounces/75 grams) unsalted butter

6 fresh sage leaves, finely slivered

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for finishing

  1.  Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted and the foam has subsided, cook, stirring constantly, until the butter becomes a light tan color. Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. To make the filling, cut the pumpkin in half, drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt. Place the pumpkin, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Roast the pumpkin until fully tender when pierced with a knife, 45 to 60 minutes. The pumpkin should be soft to the touch but not mushy or deflated. Scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin and discard the rind. Add the warm pumpkin to a blender along with the brown butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and vinegar. Puree until smooth and season to taste with salt. The puree should have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. If the pumpkin lacks sweetness and depth of flavor, add the honey to balance the flavor. Spoon the puree into a bowl and fold in the cheese. You should have about 3 ½ cups (28 fl. oz./875 ml) filling. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to cool.
  4. Dust 2 baking sheets with semolina flour and set aside.
  5. To make the tortelloni, using a straight wheel cutter or sharp knife and a ruler, cut the dough into 2 ¾-inch (7-cm) squares. Using a piping bag or spoon, place 2 teaspoon of filling into the middle of each square. Fold the pasta in half so the opposite corners meet, forming a triangle. Use a spritz of water from a spray bottle to help seal it if necessary. Gently press out the air around the filling by running your fingers from the tip of the triangle downward. With your thumbs along the base of the triangle and your index fingers halfway down each side of the triangle, gently pinch your index fingers and thumbs together and rotate your left index finger to fit under the base of the triangle. Wrap the corners around your left index and middle fingers and pinch them together to seal. You should have a small gap between the filling and the pinched dough, like a ring.
  6. Working quickly, place the tortelloni on the prepared baking sheets, spaced apart, until ready to cook. Don’t let the tortelloni touch each other or they may stick together. Repeat until you run out of dough or filling. You should have 30 to 40 pieces.
  7. Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  8. In a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin seeds with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 11 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  9. Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Meanwhile, heat a 12-inch (30-cm) sauté pan over high heat. Add ¼ cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) of the seasoned pasta water and the butter and bring to a simmer. Once the pasta is cooked 80 percent through, until almost al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes, add it to the pan along with the sage and swirl until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Reserve the pasta water. If needed, add a few more tablespoons of pasta water to keep a saucy consistency and continue cooking until the pasta is tender, about 90 seconds. Season with salt.
  10. To serve, divide the pasta and sauce between 4 plates. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Vanillekipferl

December 11, 2014

Let’s talk about Holiday Baking for a bit. As usual, I talked a big game and I’ve only posted three quasi-Christmas desserts in the last two weeks. I had BIG plans to do a Twelve Days of International Christmas Cookies segment on the blog and well… that’s just not happening anymore. But I do have these German Christmas cookies for you, Vanillekipferl!

 

IMG_0629

 

Vanillekipferl are essentially butter cookies, typically made with ground almonds, but there are some variations made with ground walnuts, with a strong vanilla flavor from vanilla sugar, which you can easily make at home! My friend, Lara, introduced me to these cookies as the quintessential German Christmas cookie along with some other German Christmas traditions like putting your shoes out on December 5th for Sinterklaas to fill with candy or coal from Black Peter if you’ve been naughty… And that’s not just an empty threat to scare children either, they will actually put coal in your shoe!

 

IMG_0620_2

 

Speaking of children, naughty or nice, this is a great recipe to bake with children! They are super easy to throw together when you’re short on time and there’s lots of hand rolling and shaping involved, kind of like Play-Do… Ahh, the good old days. 

 

IMG_0623_2

 

Vanillekiperfl by The Bite-Sized Baker:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

125 grams (4.5 ounces) almond meal

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

200 grams (7 ounces) butter, softened

1 egg yolk

Pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. To make the cookies, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla sugar, and egg yolk and mix until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until the dough just comes together.
  4. If you can’t find vanilla sugar at your local grocery store, you can make it at home using 1 vanilla bean for every 6 ounces of granulated sugar. Split vanilla bean in half and place in glass jar with sugar, cover, and shake well. Let sit for a few days, occasionally shaking jar, before using vanilla sugar.
  5. Lightly flour a surface and roll dough into a cylinder and divide into 48 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece into a smaller cylinder, taper the ends, and bend into a crescent. Transfer cookies to parchment-lined baking sheet spaced 1” apart and bake until golden, about 8-12 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sift confectioners’ sugar over while still warm. Let cool.
  6. Makes 48 servings.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,885 other followers