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    Chickpeas(Garbanzo Beans) & Onions

    Over the holiday I had a conversation with my son-in-law about some of the foods my mom, may she rest in peace, prepared for our Christmas Eve dinner. If I’m not mistaken it consisted of 13 courses, all meatless and each served individually in a specific order. Some are simple with one or two steps some not so easy. I’ll try to recreate most if not all of them here so come back often to check them out.

    You will need:

    Chickpeas — 1 16 oz can
    Onion — 1 large Walla Walla or Vidalia – diced
    Butter — 1 stick – unsalted
    Sea Salt or Kosher Salt — to taste
    Pepper — fresh ground to taste.

    In a sauce pot large enough to hold both ingredients slowly melt the butter over medium low heat (do not let the butter brown), when it is completely melted and the onion and boil until the onion is completely softened. Meanwhile in another sauce pot add the entire can of chickpeas, liquid included, and bring up to heat. Once the onion/butter mixture is ready drain the chickpeas and add to the butter stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper, stir to combine and serve.

    Quick and easy. Enjoy!

    Crab Puffs

    On occasion I find a great item through networking, a while ago I had the opportunity to get a sample of Miller’s Select Special White Crab Meat and promised my contact that as soon as had come up with something using his product I would publish the recipe and let him know. This holiday season was the perfect opportunity to try it out on friends and it got rave reviews. I think that, although there is some effort needed to make this one, your guest will appreciate your work.

    The base for this recipe is Pâte à Choux which, contrary to popular belief, is rather simple to make.

    You will need:

    Flour — 1 cup
    Water &151; 1 cup
    Butter, unsalted — 1 stick
    Eggs — 1 cup
    Flaked Crab Meat — 6 oz as mentioned above I use Miller’s Select due to the fine flake they provide
    Paprika — 2 tsp
    Pepper — 1 tsp (white pepper works best here however black will do just fine)
    Sea Salt

    Place water and butter in a sauce pot, just large enough to hold the liquid, bring to a low boil, once the butter is melted add the entire cup of flour at one time then with a wooden spoon, for some reason metal spoons won’t work as well. Beat the combination continually until a mass is formed and it starts to dry out. Place the flour mass into a food processor and pulse a few times to break it up and cool a little. Turn the processor on to full then through the feed tube slowly pour in the egg making sure it is combined each time before you add more, set aside.

    Place the flaked crab in a bowl, if it is not a fine flake break up any large pieces, toss the crab with the paprika and pepper. Fold the crab mixture into the choux base. Form the mixture into balls using a melon baller dipped in oil, this will allow the mixture to crop easily onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, space them about one inch apart as they will puff up when baked. Place the sheet into a preheated 400° oven baked until golden brown. Enjoy!

    Apple/Pecan Pie

    I’ve prepared many a pie in my life but was never really satisfied with the outcome. Most of the time my dissatisfaction was due to the crust, I’ve used many different recipes and have even used store bought varieties. I happened to be watching an old, very old, you know the old black and white version, of a Julie Child show. In it she made a pie crust that I though to try and use. I’ve made only one change to her recipe and it was using frozen butter instead of just chilled butter, I’m not sure how much of a difference it made from her version but the final result was, fantastic.

    You will need:

    For the crust:

    Flour — 1½ Cups all purpose flour
    Butter, unsalted — ½ cup (one stick)frozen
    Water — ⅓ Cup (ice cold water)
    Vegetable Shortening — 3 TBSP (I used Crisco)
    Sugar — 3 TBSP
    Salt (table – non iodized) — Pinch

    For the Filling:

    Apples — 5 medium to large, use a variety such as Gala, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Macintosh, try to use 1 of each.
    Sugar — 1 TBSP
    Maple Syrup — ¼ use the real stuff not pancake syrup.
    Pecans — ¼ cup, chopped.
    Salt — pinch of non-iodized table.
    Cinnamon — 1 TBSP
    Balsamic Vinegar &#151 1 TBSP
    Butter — 4 TBSP

    Start with the dough, in a food processor add all of the dry ingredients. Cut frozen butter in half length wise, cut the two pieces in half length wise then cut into half inch pieces add to dry ingredients along with the shortening. Pulse the ingredients to combine them, you want to watch this step, you want to see what looks like pea sized chunks scattered throughout the dough. Turn the machine on to full speed and add the water slowly through the feed tube run until the dough forms into a large mass. Remove from the machine, form into a ball, flatten the ball into a disk then wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight is best.

    Now the filling. Peel and core all of the apples, cut into 8 pieces each, put cold water into a bowl large enough to hold all of the apples then add the vinegar and stir to combine, add the apples making sure they are all covered by the water mixture.

    In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the apples in one layer add the butter and maple syrup, when the butter melts add all of the apples and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Add enough water just to about half way up the apple mixture. Bring to a rapid boil, turn the heat to simmer, cover and cook until the apples soften, about 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue to cook the apples until all or most of the liquid has evaporated. Continue cooking until the apples start to caramelize. Remove from heat, place into a bowl and let cool completely. Once the apple mixture is completely cool add the pecan pieces.

    Remove the dough from the refrigerator, with the dough still wrapped use a rolling pin to pound the disk to a thickness that will be easy enough to roll. No need to be gentle here as the dough will be very stiff and can take the pounding. Lightly flour countertop, remove the dough from the plastic wrap and roll out to approximately a 10″ circle. Lightly spray a pie pan with baking spray or coat the pan with oil or butter. Lay the dough over the pan and lightly press it in with about ½” overlapping the rim. Fold the dough under itself to form an edge, crimp the dough to seal. With the tines of a fork dock the entire bottom of the dough. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the dough and fill with pie weights or beans. Place the pie shell in a preheated 400° F oven, bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, remove weights and foil, fill with the apple mixture and return to oven, reduce the heat to 350° F and finish baking, it should take another 15 to 20 minutes.

    I think you’ll enjoy this one, serve it with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

    Maple Glazed Baby Carrots

    I developed this simple recipe years ago but never put it into Let’s Eat. I am sure your guests will love it even those finicky kids.

    You will need:

    Baby Carrots — 1 lb bag, alternatively you can use large carrots cut diagonally into bite size pieces.
    Maple Syrup — Approximately 1 cup – use the real stuff here folks not that “pancake syrup” you find in stores, it’s all high fructose corn syrup with no maple anything in it.
    Butter — 5 TBSP make sure you use unsalted.
    Sea Salt/Pepper — to taste.

    The first step is to steam the carrots. Steam until a sharp knife goes in easily about 1/4 way through to what is called just “al dente”. You want to maintain the some of the crunch. In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the carrots in a single layer heat the butter until just melted. Add the carrots simmer on low until the butter coats the vegetables. Add the maple syrup and simmer until the syrup reduces by half.<.p>

    If you don’t have equipment to steam the carrots add enough water to the sauté pan to just above half their thickness, cover and let cook until most of the water has evaporated add the butter and maple syrup then proceed as stated above. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can do them ahead of time, keep at room temperature until you are about to serve, return to the sauté pan and heat them up.

    Apple Pie Filing

    While I call this recipe a filing it can also be used warm for a topping for a good vanilla ice cream. I was shopping at my local farmer’s market not knowing, as usual, what I was going to purchase. I came upon a stall selling fruit and spied several varieties of apples. Most recipes for pie filling tell you to use only a firm fruit such as Granny Smith however I like using varieties that break down when baked along with the firmer Granny.

    This recipe will produce enough filing for one 9″ pie.

    You will need:
    Apples &#151 5 medium sized.
    Cinnamon Stick &#151 1
    Honey &#151 3 TBSP
    Sea Salt &#151 1 tsp
    Lemon Zest &#151 1 TBSP
    Unsalted Butter &#151 3 TBSP

    The biggest difference for this filling is that it is precooked prior to filing your pie shell. By pre cooking it you can control the amount of moisture exuded from the apples giving a firmer final product. Peel, core and cut apples into 6 to 8 pieces. In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the fruit melt the butter using a medium heat setting. Add the apples, cinnamon stick, salt, honey and lemon zest. Cover the pan and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes, after 20 minutes check to see whether the apples are soft enough.

    Continue cooking the apples, uncovered until all of the liquid has evaporated and the apples start to caramelize. Once you get a nice caramelization remove from heat and let cool completely. Once cooled you can use your favorite pie crust, I cheated here and used a store bought, then bake the pie until the crust is baked thoroughly. Mine took about 30 minutes.

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    Brussels Sprouts with Chestnut Sauce

    The first time I made this recipe was for a family holiday dinner. I went through the trouble of making everything from scratch including the preparation of the chestnuts for the sauce. It was quit time consuming so I wanted to get this down to as simple a process as possible. I found that you can use canned chestnuts without losing too much of the flavor. For those of you who aren’t too excited about Brussels Sprouts try this recipe I think you might become a convert.

    For the Sauce:

    • Chestnuts — ½ pound
    • Beef Broth — 2 cups
    • Garlic Clove — 1 crushed
    • Sea Salt — 1 tspn
    • Fresh Nutmeg — ¼ tspn
    • Unsalted Butter — 2 TBSP
    • For the Sprouts:

    • Brussels Sprouts — 4 Cups fresh or 2 10 ounce packages of frozen

    In a sauce pot large enough to hold all of the chestnuts combine them with the beef broth and garlic then simmer until chestnuts are completely softened. By using canned chestnuts this shouldn’t take too long. Press entire contents of the sauce pot through a strainer return to pot and simmer until it thickens slightly, add nutmeg and butter and set aside.

    Remove outer leaves of sprouts as these are tough and rather bitter. Cut off a little of the stem end and make a cross mark about ⅛” deep. In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the sprouts place them along with enough water to cover by 1 inch, cover and simmer 8 to 10 minutes until a knife point goes in easily. Remove all excess water from pan then add the Chestnut puree.

    Easy Squash Ravioli with Sage/Cream Sauce

    First in our Holiday Series. You can use the search box on this site to find other Holiday recipes.

    Making a great squash ravioli can be a daunting task. Making homemade pasta isn’t in most peoples repetoire so here is a simple way to enjoy the great taste of homemade without the hassle.

    What makes this so easy you may ask, simple we used won ton wrappers instead of homemade pasta. Won Ton wrappers after all are a flour based product not unlike Italian pasta just a tad thinner. The only thing you need to worry about is keeping them covered when using so they don’t dry out, simply put a damp towel over the exposed wrappers then when finished wrap the unused portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

    At the bottom of this recipe see a couple of alternative seasoning options for a totally different ravioli.

    NB: The ingredients list do not show quantities as the portions will depend on the size of the squash you are using.

    For the filing:

    • Wonton Wrappers
    • One medium sized Butternut squash
    • Ricotta Cheese — enough to equal ⅓ the volume of squash.
    • Olive Oil
    • Fresh Nutmeg
    • Sea Salt/Pepper
    • Pecan Pieces

    For the sauce:

    • Heavy Cream
    • Fresh Sage — chiffonade
    • Sea Salt/Pepper
    • Fresh Nutmeg

    A medium sized squash should produce 3 dozen ravioli.

    Using a very heavy knife cut off a small slice on the round bottom of the squash. Place the squash upright on a board and carefully cut it in half down the middle, lengthwise. Butternut squash has a thick skin so it might take a little muscle. With a spoon scoop out all of the seeds, coat lightly with olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Place the squash in a preheated 350° oven and bake until it is very soft, the time needed will depend on the size of your squash. While the squash is baking place ricotta cheese in a strainer and place over a bowl to remove excess liquid. When the squash is fully baked remove from the oven and let cool completely.

    In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients add the squash, the cheese, ¼ cup pecan pieces, Fresh Ground nutmeg (use sparingly so as not to overpower the squash) about ¼ tsp. Mix well. On a flat surface place two rows of wonton wrappers, place one tablespoon of the squash mixture in the middle of each wrapper in the first row, with a brush or your finger coat all of the edges with water. Take a wrapper from the second row and place over filling pressing down around the filing to eliminate any air pockets. Continue with remaining wrappers and filling.

    At this stage you can either cook the ravioli and add to the sauce or place on a cookie sheet, freeze for future use.

    In a stock pot large enough to hold the ravioli, boil well salted water, add the ravioli and cook until they float. In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the ravioli place heavy cream and heat until it simmers slightly, add a dash or two of fresh ground nutmeg, the sage and continue to cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Once the sauce thickens add the cooked ravioli spooning the sauce over each.

    Alternative herbs and seasonings.

    • Replace the nutmeg in the mixture with fresh ground ginger.
    • Replace the nutmeg and pecan pieces with crushed Amaretti Cookies.
    • Replace the nutmeg and pecan pieces with curry powder

    Ditalini al Forno con Molti Formaggi

    If you are a cheese lover, as am I, one might assume that you have some, what I call, “cheese nubs” sitting in your refrigerator. If you don’t have any nubs not to worry, you can purchase a variety of cheeses at your favorite retailer. Since most of mine melt easily I decided to play around with that traditional macaroni and cheese. This recipe is still evolving so come back to see what transpires.

    You will need:

    Assorted cheese nubs – 4 cups total – amount of each depends on which of the cheeses being used you wish to highlight. I used grated aged cheddar, white cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, romano, parmesan and asiago I thought about adding some bleu cheese but held off since some folk might not like the taste of a good bleu.

    Ditalini 1/2 lb. – a nice replacement for the traditional elbow.

    Bechamel – 4 cups – you can search for a good recipe there are many on the internet.
    Hot sauce – optional
    Bread crumbs – two cups – I used Panko style they seem to work the best.
    Olive Oil – enough to coat the bread crumbs.

    In a pot large enough to hold the pasta bring 3 or 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil, once the water is boiling add 3 or 4 TBSP salt add the dry pasta and cook until just under al denté. Meanwhile bring the Bechamel up to heat, and add the cheeses stirring after each addition. Continue stirring until all the cheese is thoroughly melted and combined, reserve one cup. Drain pasta, reserving one cup of the cooking water, add pasta to cheese sauce stirring as added, stir until well combined. If the mixture looks too dry add more of the cheese sauce and water. It should be creamy as it will set once it is baked. Thoroughly butter an oven proof baking dish, 9 x 13 works well, pour cheese mixture into dish, combine olive oil and panko then sprinkle over top of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.

    I like my Mac and Cheese on the denser side, if you want a creamier consistency add some heavy cream to the cheese sauce.

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