Mocha Viennese Whirls

A coffee lover’s dream…dark mocha ganache sandwiched between two delicate butter cookies.

A plate of sugar-dusted Viennese Whirls

The only way I know how to say “thank you” to someone who drinks a quadruple espresso every morning…


Mocha Viennese Whirls

Dark Mocha Ganache sandwiched between two delicate butter cookies.


Ingredients

    Mocha ganache
  • 6 oz. dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)
  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • Cookies
  • 9 oz. unsalted butter, very soft (not European style)
  • 1 ¾ oz. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • ⅛ teaspoon table salt (not kosher salt)
  • 8 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz. cornstarch

Directions

  1. Make ganache: Place the chocolate and heavy whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely melted (60-90 seconds). Add instant coffee and stir until completely combined and smooth. Cover and refrigerate until spreadable consistency, about 90 minutes.
  2. Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Using a 2” round cutter as a guide, draw 8 circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.
  3. Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and beat until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Pipe 24 swirled rounds (not rosettes), inside the circles on the baking sheets. Refrigerate cookies for 15 minutes before baking (this will help cookies retain their shape).
  4. Bake in the center of the oven for 13—15 minutes, until pale golden-brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Assemble: Pipe a layer of ganache onto the flat side of 12 of the cookies and sandwich with the remaining cookies. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!

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Pecan Pumpkin Tart

The best of holiday flavors combined into one impressive dessert:  Pecan Pumpkin Tart with Ginger Crust.

Pecan Pumpkin Tart fresh from the oven

Oh, September…that month where food bloggers in all 50 states are posting pumpkin spice recipes…muffins, lattes, pies, soups – you name it, someone out there has “pumpkin spice-ified” it for Fall.

Just throw me onto the pile with the rest…


Pecan Pumpkin Tart with Ginger Crust

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Pecans, Pumpkin and Ginger...the best of holiday flavors combined into one impressive tart.


Ingredients

    Crust
  • 2 ½ cups finely crushed ginger cookies ( about 55-60 Anna’s Swedish Ginger Thins, for example)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Pumpkin Layer
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pecan Layer
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup corn syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¾ cup pecan pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To make crust, combine ginger cookie crumbs with butter in a bowl and press along the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart shell. Wrap bottom in aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. To make pumpkin layer, beat together all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. To make pecan layer, beat together all ingredients except pecans in a bowl until sugar is incorporated. Stir in pecans.
  4. To make tart, spread pumpkin layer evenly over crust. Spoon pecan layer over pumpkin. Bake for about 45 minutes  or until center no longer jiggles and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool tart completely. Once cool, transfer to refrigerator until ready to serve.

Flatlay shot of Pecan Pumpkin Tart

Cavatappi with Pork Sugo

A long simmer turns cubes of pork fork-tender in this rich sugo.

A bowl of Cavatappi with Pork Sugo
The other night, my friend, Pam, and I ventured into the city for dinner and Portugual. The man at the Shrine Auditorium. We ended up at Josef Centeno’s Bäco Mercat in the old bank district for the meal. His Spanish-fusion fare was the ideal aperitif before anything with “Portugual” in the name and his flavors did not disappoint. My favorite dish of the evening was a pork sugo on maltaglianti with soujouk sausage, raisins, kale and pine nuts.

This version, although very different than the dish I had that night,  is a take on this Bon Appetit recipe, but using some of the ingredients from my beloved Bäco Mercat dish.


Cavatappi with Pork Sugo

A long simmer turns cubes of pork fork-tender in this rich sauce.


Ingredients

  • Ingredients here
  • 1½ lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1½” cubes
  • ½ cup pepperoni, finely chopped
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14-oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ⅓ cup dried golden raisins soaked in hot water then drained
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs removed, torn into 2” pieces
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving-
  • 1 lb. cavatappi, cavatelli or other short pasta, cooked al dente and drained

Directions

  1. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over high heat. Working in batches, cook meat, turning occasionally, until browned; transfer to a large plate.
  2. Add pepperoni to pot and cook until beginning to brown. Add onion, carrot, and celery to pepperoni and cook until golden. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Deglaze pan with red wine, scraping up any browned bits. Tie rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf into a bouquet garni with kitchen twine; add to pot along with pork and any accumulated juices, tomatoes, pepper, nutmeg, and clove. Add water just to cover meat (about 1 ½ tomato can’s full) and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until meat is very tender, about1½ hours.
  3. Discard bouquet garni. Using 2 forks, shred meat in pot; cook, uncovered, over high heat until sauce is thickened but still saucy, about 8 minutes.
  4. Cook pine nuts in butter until golden watching closely so they don’t burn. Reserve butter and pine nuts.
  5. 5.Add golden raisins and kale to sugo; cook until kale is soft, about 4 minutes. Mix in ½ cup Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Serve sugo over pasta; drizzle with pine nuts, browned butter, and top with more Parmesan.

Q. Why not use a can of diced tomatoes? Canned diced tomatoes usually have added calcium chloride, which helps them hold their shape through cooking – exactly what I don’t want when making a sauce. I use canned whole San Marzano tomatoes and chop them myself so they melt into the sauce.

Favorite Banana Bread

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread.  This recipe ticks all the boxes: easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.

Sliced Banana Bread with melting butter

It’s no secret I’m an Anglophile, especially in my choice of TV programmes (I couldn’t resist). My current favorite, to no one’s surprise, is the Great British Baking Show. Saturday mornings, before getting my own bake on, I treat myself to an hour of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, a tent-full of amateur bakers and those classic only-in-Britain colloquialisms, such as “scrummy” and “oh my giddy aunt,” that I’m dying to introduce into the common American lexicon.

Before bed, when I’m brain-dead and in need of mindless comfort, nothing beats Escape to the Country; Brits house-hunting for their perfect “chocolate box” countryside cottage. I’ve picked up a few British idioms during my viewing of this show as well – like the aforementioned “chocolate box” as well as “homely.” “Homely” to the Brits doesn’t mean the same as “homely” in the states. It’s their term for homey, comforting, cozy. “The snug with wood-burner is quite homely.”

Combining the two shows leads me to this recipe, which can only be described as “homely baking” – I can almost imagine pulling freshly- baked tins of quick bread from my “range cooker” in my exposed-beamed Yorkshire kitchen, thatching optional.

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread. This recipe from Saveur ticks all the boxes – easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.


Favorite Banana Bread

  • Servings: One 9” x 5” loaf pan
  • Print

This moist banana bread is quick to make, packed with flavor and my go-to recipe when overripe bananas are on hand.


Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing pan
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for pan
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set aside. In a small bowl, combine milk and white vinegar and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, curdled milk, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Pour wet ingredients over dry and whisk until just combined. Fold in nuts and mashed bananas.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon

Myriad spices and preserved lemon come together in this exotically flavored chicken dish with minimal hands-on time, making Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon an ideal recipe for entertaining.

A platter mounded with Moroccan Chicken

Looking back at one of my old blog posts feels like pulling out an old high school yearbook from a dusty closet shelf. I first prepared this recipe in February 2014. At the time I hit “post,” I was feeling reasonably accomplished and proud to post both recipe and photograph. Four plus years later, I cringe – at the poorly lit and composed image and appallingly written recipe, for starters. What. Was. I. Thinking. In the future, when I’m exasperated by my lack of noticeable improvement, I’ll revisit a post from 2014 to remind myself how far I’ve truly come. Oh, the horror.

Inspired by Epicurious’s Chicken Tagine with Olives and Lemons.


Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon

Myriad spices and preserved lemon come together in this exotically flavored chicken dish with minimal hands-on time, making Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon an ideal recipe for entertaining.


Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • Handful Italian parsley
  • Handful cilantro
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 8 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs (about 3.5 – 4 lbs.)
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1” slices
  • ¾ cup pitted oil-cured black olives
  • 1 ½ preserved lemons, sliced (or one fresh lemon very thinly sliced)

Directions

  1. In a food processor, process first 12 ingredients through saffron to make a marinade. Arrange chicken, carrots, olives and lemon in a 13×9” pan and pour marinade over and around ingredients. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least two hours and up to one day.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place dish, covered with foil, in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 additional minutes until chicken is cooked through. If desired, broil for an additional 5 minutes to crisp skin on chicken.
  3. To serve, arrange chicken, carrots, olives and lemon on a platter. Degrease sauce and pour over chicken and vegetables. Serve with aromatic rice.

The author in a photo from highschool

Speaking of school years…yep, gloves, a walking stick, and check out those shoulder pads!