Archive for November, 2009

Despite being the penultimate day of November, yesterday was a stunner. The shining sun against the bright blue sky, usually a harbinger of frigid temperatures, beckoned me out to the fifty degree day. I donned a mere long-sleeved tee and fleece vest, long pants and sneakers. No hat, gloves, scarf or jacket.

I started my walk. A brisk walk. A brisk day. Heading towards the river. Admiring the few remaining flowers adorning my neighbors’ yards, here a yellow rose, there a few hydrangeas holding on to the vestiges of their dusty pink and blue before browning.

Crisscrossing the river, hopping from bridge to bridge, I did everything I could to stay in sunshine. My face chasing the sun like a field of sunflowers, happy when the sun emerged from behind buildings as I walked, and only turning to make my way home when the sun was definitively behind me.

Knowing that the week would be a bit more dreary, I decided to make a hearty meat sauce, similar to a Bolognese, when I got home to fortify me for the next few days.

Bolognese-style Meat Sauce

I have no pretensions of making a true Bolognese sauce, but I got some inspiration to spice up my normal meat sauce with the addition of vegetables and wine.

– 1-2 T olive oil

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 onion, diced

– 2 carrots, diced

– 2 celery stalks, diced

– 1 lb ground beef

– 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

– 1.5 C canned tomatoes

– 1 C red wine (I used a Bordeaux)

– salt and pepper

Prepare the vegetables: Saute garlic, onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil over low heat until soft, approximately 20-25 minutes. Remove vegetables to bowl.

Prepare the meat: In the same pan, saute ground beef over low until brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir well. Then add tomatoes, sauteed vegetables, and red wine.

Simmer and simmer and simmer: Allow the meat and vegetables to simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water if the sauce gets too thick. The liquid should reduce down by about 1/3, leaving you with a thick, rich hearty sauce for your favorite pasta.

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to my sister-mother

chocolate almond biscotti

A comfort when you are ill, no matter what ails you.

A friendly voice on the phone.

A ready invitation for dinner.

A hug and a smile just when you need it.

Judy is all of this and more. And she asks for nothing in return.

But, she doesn’t turn down offers of dessert. Judy and I share an affinity for not-too-sweet after-dinner treats. And she is always ready to try any dish that emerges from my kitchen. When she and her husband Bruce lived just a few short stairs from me, I was always bringing down tastes of my creations — a white bean dip, chatzilim (eggplant), and quinoa – for an honest opinion. The sweet ones we often shared around a cup of tea or coffee. They critiqued some of my less successful experiments – a challah that fermented and two attempts at apple cake before I came up with this one that still does not meet Judy’s discerning palate.

Judy’s recent favorites are a nearly flourless chocolate cake and chocolate almond biscotti. I made these biscotti last week and brought over a tin for dessert after she and Bruce shared a pot of chicken soup to keep out the cold. A few days later, Judy returned the empty tin and requested a refill.

in the sun

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts. These biscotti are very crispy without being hard. The recipe suggests that they are best at least 2 days after baking, but I find them pretty good immediately after baking and I did not find an appreciable change in their texture. The use of chocolate crumbs made from chocolate chip gives them a double chocolate flavor with small bursts of chocolate.

Makes over 3 dozen cookies.

– 3/4 C sliced blanched almonds

– 1 3/4 C all-purpose flour (divided)

– 1/2 C chocolate chips

– 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa

– 1 t baking soda

– 1/4 t salt

– 3 eggs

– 1 C sugar

– 1 t vanilla extract

Position racks in lower and upper third of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Toast nuts. Toast almonds on baking sheet until golden – start checking after 8 minutes to avoid burning. When you can smell the nuts, they are generally ready.

Reduce oven to 300°F.

Make chocolate crumbs. In a food processor or blender, chop chocolate chips with up to 1/2 C flour to make chocolate crumbs. The addition of flour prevents the chocolate from becoming a big chocolate blob.

Mix dough. Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until well combined. Sift in the remaining flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in this flour mixture, and then stir in the chocolate crumbs and toasted almonds. The dough will be very thick and sticky.

First baking. Using a spatula and floured hands, shape dough into long skinny loaves – either 3 12-inch loaves or 2 16- to 18-inch loaves onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Make sure to leave 2.5 inches between loaves. Bake for 45 minutes on the lower rack. Remove from oven and cool on the pan.

Slice loaves. Carefully peel loaves from parchment or Silpat, and slice on a diagonal (45° angle) into 1/2 inch slices.

Second baking. Bake again at 300°F for another 20-25 minutes. The easiest way to bake is to place sliced biscotti directly on the oven rack. Alternatively, you can place biscotti on two baking sheets. After 5-6 minutes, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. After another 5-6 minutes, flip all the biscotti over. Then, after another 5-6 minutes, rotate pans again. As you might guess, I prefer the direct on rack method.

Storage. Cool biscotti completely on racks. Biscotti may be stored in an airtight tin for several weeks at room temperature.

in the tin

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