Tuesday, March 22, 2011

HAMENTASCHEN FLU

I had big plans for last week. Celebrating both my Irish and Jewish heritage, I was to offer two fantastic recipes in a single blog, gently weaving together the beauty of each culture and my love for my family. In a cute nod to St. Patty’s Day, I would forego traditional (and bland) corned beef and cabbage for my Aunt’s Grasshopper Pie, a green-tinted mint chocolate confection. I would then reign in Purim with the annual batch of hamentaschen. As the Irish Prayer says: “Twas [to be] Heaven…” Or rather I should say: “Twould’ve been Heaven.”

Then everyone in my family got sick.

God love my son, but in his flu-induced haze he became a Snuggle Nazi. For two days straight, I was ordered to remain on the couch and hold him. No talking, no reading, and absolutely no TV.

Lying in this monastic infirmary, I kept hope alive. “He’ll be better by Thursday, and we’ll bake. It’s all good.” Alas, no such luck. As the week progressed, our family’s physical and mental health fell apart like a cheap toy from China. By St. Patrick’s Day, I was so deeply entombed in the sick day cocoon I could barely figure out why everyone was wearing green.

Things were marginally better by Purim, so my husband suggested that we make hamentaschen. I hesitated. Did I really want to eat Danish forged by sick people’s hands?

Ultimately, I relented and we soon launched into our routine of squabbling over measurements and analyzing the best triangle-making technique. (The trick is in an extra twist to the corners.)

Early in our marriage, we made hamentaschen –a batch whose doughy goodness still linger in my memory—and have yet to capture this past glory. Our quest for the perfect recipe pushed the outer limits of hospitality the year we –as house guests at my brother’s-- turned his kitchen upside down and baked long into the night.

By the time, my son begged to help, thus getting his own germy little hands in on the action, I was completely resigned. Who cares if our hamentaschen are laced with cooties. They were our cooties, darnit! Besides, wouldn’t The Jeanne have frowned upon such germophobia? (I can already hear her rattling of an incredibly scientific argument about how societal fear of germs simply creates mega-viruses.)

In the end, the whole family agreed this was our best batch yet. We seem to have hit upon a winning recipe. Nonetheless, I won't offer you one. They’ve got cooties, you know.

*********************************************************************************

Easy Hamentaschen

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

One of the biggest problems with hamentaschen is that to get the tasty butter kinds, you usually have to freeze the dough for two hours. This recipe, however, uses oil but is still flavorful. The orange juice seems to give it a nice kick. Try almond extract instead of vanilla.

Ingredients:

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup vegetable oil

2 ½ tsp vanilla extract (or try almond, but use less)

½ cup orange juice

5 ½ cups all-purpose baking powder

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 cup fruit preserves, any flavor (We like apricot)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until lightly and fluffy. Stir in the oil, vanilla and orange juice. Combine the flour and baking powder; stir into the batter to form a stiff dough. If dough is not stiff enough to roll out, stir in more flour. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut into circles using a cookie cutter or the rim or a drinking glass (the smaller the circumference, the better). Place cookies 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of preserves into the center of each one. Fold over three edges and twist the corners. (The Danish is yummiest when there is jelly caught in the folds!)
  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

NOTE: I'll post the grasshopper pie recipe later this week.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

BRINGING AMALFI’S HOME: Shrimp And Radicchio Pasta

My husband and I spent four nights alone in Puerto Rico. Isn’t that the most obnoxious sentence you have ever read? I’ll confess it was truly a paradise of sun, cocktails, and Mofongo (that's nothing naughty, just a really tasty Puerto Rican dish of fried yucca and seafood or meat)

As I was basking in the afterglow of our lovely escape, reality promptly arrived at my door. There was weight to be lost, bills to pay, and two sick children to which to tend. In other words, I felt a strong urge to belly-ache though I had no justifiable reason to belly ache. So belly ache I did not.

Instead, I metaphorically returned to Mom’s and my favorite escape. I recreated the storied Amalfi’s in my own home (one with whiny sick children and dirty laundry).

By the time, I graduated from college, Amalfi’s had evolved from dependable pizza joint into swanky Italian restaurant. Mom had remained so loyal throughout this transition she attended the owner’s wedding.

We often went to swishy Amalfi’s when I came for weekend visits. There, over plates of piping hot fresh pasta and wine, we would –as Mom used to say—“solve the problems of the world.” Jeanne was a champ at such marathon conversations, and I can hold my own. We reviewed family history, analyzed personalities and, once, even hatched a plan for me to scrounge up enough cash to pay rent on my first NYC apartment.

As we conspired, the wait staff fawned over Mom brandishing us with complimentary treasures from the kitchen. Bruschetta, antipasta, and glasses of port. They practically dangled grapes above Mom like Cleopatra. (Speaking of whom, I just read a fascinating biography of Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff. Give it whirl and let me know what you think.)

My favorite was a shrimp dish served over tender fresh pasta with radicchio and mushrooms in Madeira wine sauce. It’s a dish I have been recreating ever since I got my own kitchen. So, naturally, when I spotted some tasty looking homemade linguine at the farmer’s market, my mind immediately drifted to those dreamy evenings. I scooped up the pasta, grabbed radicchio at a neighboring table and dashed home.

Rather than Madeira, I went for Pernod anise mainly because we spent $30 on a huge bottle and never use it. Pernod was a genius move, adding a dash of licorice flavor to offset the bitter radicchio. The pasta, however, was the star of this dish. Made by Hudson Valley Farmhouse, it was both airy and chewy creating the ideal mattress upon which my lovely shrimp could rest.

As for the meal that ensued, let’s put it in terms of a resort brochure or perhaps one of those old Calgon commercials: “Upon first bite, I was immediately transported to another time and place. Take me away!!”

Then I looked up and heard feverish children whining. Vacation’s over, baby.

AMALFI'S SHRIMP PASTA

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 Tbsp of olive oil

  • 1 lb of shrimp, cleaned with tails on
  • 1 head of radicchio, cut into 1 inch wide strips
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, preferably Crimini, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 smallish Vidalia onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup cooking sherry
  • ¼ cup Pernod (or Marsala wine)
  • 1 lb fresh pasta, cooked and drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Heat olive oil in large pan over medium high heat

Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper, and add to pan. Cook briefly until shrimp is slightly browned. Remove shrimp, cover with tin foil and set aside.

Add garlic and onions, cooking over medium high heat until soft

Add mushroom, cook until begin to soften

Add radicchio, cook until begin to soften (may cover pan)

Turn heat up to high and add sherry and Pernot. Scrape extra bits off of pan’s bottom. Cook on high until liquid reduced by half.

Reduce heat and return shrimp to pan, cover. Cook until just opaque.

Toss pasta with shrimp and veggies.

You can garnish with parmesan and parsley if you feel fancy.

Follow by Email