Category Archives: WALNUTS

VIENNESE VANILLA CRESCENTS…VANILLEKIPFERL

00vanillenkipferlWIENER VANILLEKIPFERL……a very popular Holiday cookie these are AUSTRIAN VANILLA CRESCENTS.  This type of cookie is made all over the world for the Christmas season and sometimes for special occasions thru the year.  Wedding Cookies, Greek Kourabiedes, American Almond Crescents, the list goes on but at their heart they are a butter cookie made with finely ground nuts in the dough.  The nuts can be almond or walnut.  The butter is always present and in the central European countries the Vanilla Sugar is an ingredient as well.  Simply put, it’s granulated or fine granulated sugar infused with vanilla beans and is very fragrant.  So why am I focusing in on this Viennese version?  Well last Summer I visited Vienna and bought a cookbook, in German, called WEIHNACHTS BACKEREI…translates to CHRISTMAS BAKING.ho15577518_10208099303022724_1310207240_nNice looking book, i had to buy it. Cost 6.75 Euros. One of the recipes is the Viennese crescent.  I made them last Christmas using European butter and they were fantastic, so now I share this with you.  The butter I suggest to really make them over the top delicious is butter from Europe.  A little more costly for sure than U.S. butter but they are after all European butter cookies.  A few European brands are LURPAK, from Denmark, FINLANDIA from Finland, KERRYGOLD, from Ireland.  There’s also the US made in the European style PLUGRA.  They are richer than the usual American butter. If you can’t find them the cookies will still be fantastic!

VIENNESE CRESCENTS                            TAKES: 3 hours                    YIELDS: 48-60

the rezipe
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla sugar
1 TBS pure Vanilla Extract
3 egg yolks or 2 extra large yolks
1 cup Ground Almonds (or ground walnuts)
1 CUP COLD EUROPEAN BUTTER (or good quality U.S. butter)
2 TBS vanilla sugar plus 2 TBS Confectioner’s Sugar for coating
Cream the butter and the sugar, then the eggs, then the almonds and flour.All ingredients are quickly mixed to a smooth dough in your mixer and let cool for approx. 1 hour. Cut the dough into a small roll of small, coarse pieces, shape them into crescents and place on a  well greased baking tray or baking sheet. I’d use a SILPAT mat if you have them, or lightly greased parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes till firm and golden. While still warm roll in the Vanilla sugar and confectioner’s sugar blend.
If you like the taste of Almonds in this, add 1 tsp. Almond Extract while you’re mixing the dough.
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 Quantity: about  48-60 piecesbakingnight121915-025bakingnight121915-026
Let fully cool.  Store in air tight tins or in baking tins layered with waxed paper and well wrapped.fulleuropevaca-938Just to show you were I bought the cookbook, this is a roadside scene in the WIENERWALD, or the VIENNA WOODS which lie outside of the city of Vienna, Austria.  A magical land where Wiener Vanillekiperl fall out of the sky!!  Now that you have the recipe you don’t have to wait to take a trip to Austria.  Bring Austria to you own kitchen!!!
Glückliches Kochen!

OLD FASHIONED APPLESAUCE CAKE

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It’s almost sinful to call something OLD FASHIONED today but I’ll gladly use that term to describe this sinfully delicious APPLESAUCE CAKE I made.  What makes it so good?  Attention to sticking to a tried and true formula that will spark all your memories of applesauce cakes of your youth.  If you don’t have that shared history it’s time to make Applesauce cake memories of your own.   As always I reach into that memory box of mine and pull down from it’s shelf the aroma of my mother’s Applesauce cake.  This isn’t technically hers because I never knew how she made it.  Mom had lots of apple cake recipes.  Crisps, PanDowdies, Cobblers, Pies, Loaves, Cakes.  Some were a blend of All purpose flour and other pantry staples,  some were part of that BISQUICK family of cakes, others were simply using a commercial Spice Cake mix and adding apples.  Her Applesauce cake, unlike mine, was made in those Round Tube Pans.  Peppery, spicy, warm and aromatic, she sometimes added diced apples to applesauce batter and would glaze it.  There’s an idea,  a glazed one but I’d add diced crystallized ginger to the top.  Back to the style that I make..it’s baked in a rectangular pan and cut into squares.  It can be frosted, left plain, glazed, or a simple dusting of powdered sugar.   Out here in Monmouth County New Jersey where I live we have a few really nice “farm” and gourmet markets with in house bakeries.  One of them,  Delicious Orchards of Colts Neck N.J. makes a delicious apple spice cake with a white icing on it that is just about one of my favorites.  If you want to make homemade applesauce for this cake recipe I am giving you, this is the Delicious Orchards recipe:

Delicious Orchards Applesauce

 

Or you can simply use your own or a good brand.    My cake uses the spicy mix of my mom’s with the white icing of Delicious Orchards, but I do a basic Cream Cheese Icing.  It’s awesome.  I must tell you, I screwed up when making this.  The crushed walnuts and the raisins get folded in after you have finished the batter.  Well…even with the bag and box of the two ingredients RIGHT NEXT TO THE MIXER, I was so excited to get this cake made…um…they are still not in the cake.  Still delicious.  I wound up just sprinkling some of the crushed walnuts over the frosted cake.  It’s a win-win regardless of including the fruit and nuts or not.  Successful recipe anyway.  I base my recipe off of the Land O’Lakes Applesauce cake recipe with a few changes.  Ready to bake?  Let’s go…preheat that oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 13 X 9 ” pan well, then lightly flour it.

Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar, I used Vanilla Sugar  (see note on bottom)
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1/2 cup Butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Paste or Extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup  raisins dusted with some flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
ICING
1 stick butter (1/4 lb)
8 oz REAL Cream Cheese Not a spread, the bar type
3 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2 tbs. Vanilla Paste (or 1 1/2 tsp. extract)  PLEASE USE THE REAL STUFF, NOT IMITATION
1/8 Tsp. salt
Add all the ingredients into the Mixer bowl for the cake EXCEPT the raisins and nuts.  Mix on low till all is well blended scraping down on the sides.  Then beat on High Speed stopping to again scrape down the sides until the batter is smooth.  Now fold in the nuts and the raisins.  The flour you shook the raisins up with helps to suspend the raisins in the batter and keep them from sinking to the bottom.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The sides should have pulled away a bit from the pan and the center will be springy when done.  Let this cool COMPLETELY on a rack for 3 hours.  I hurried the process by sticking it out the window and right into the 30 inches of snow that came up to the sills of the kitchen windows.  Chilled that cake RIGHT down.  LOL…but one doesn’t always have a quick chill handy like that, so wait the 3 hours.  applesauce cake 005  Can you smell that?? It’s spice heaven.  NOW, onto the icing.  While your cake is cooling or while you were baking it, add the butter and creamcheese to the mixing bowl and slowly cream the two.  When they are blended start to slowly increase the beating to medium and slowly add in the sugar and the salt.  Add the vanilla and beat on high until it’s completely blended and it of nice firm consistency.  Place in a cool spot, covered until your cake is ready to frost.
Simply frost the top till it’s all covered.  Crumble toasted walnuts over the top if you like.
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applesauce cake 003  I used the paste and you can see the Vanilla Beans in the frosting.  Delicious. CHILL THE CAKE FOR 1 hour before serving.  Then slice into squares and serve.  It’s amazing.
So, here’s the note about Vanilla Sugar..I was in Central Europe this Summer and of course was picking up ideas and recipes.  Almost all of their sweet baked items use Vanilla Sugar which is simply made by slipping a whole Vanilla bean into a canister of regular sugar.  Let it sit for 5 days before you use it.  Keeps for a long time and the vanilla essence is really great.
Now time for a glass of milk or a nice Black Coffee (only black for me thank you) and a square of my Applesauce Cake.  Happy Cooking!!
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OVEN BAKED CHICKEN WINGS WITH VINEGAR AND BREADCRUMBS

syd17 014  Chicken Wings can be a party planners best friend.  These packets of flavor have the best of all possible snack or starter (or entree) worlds all in a small hand held piece. The skin creates a self basting packet which keeps the meat inside moist and adds tons of flavor and texture. Chicken is like the flavor chameleon.  It readily takes on the flavors of what ever spices or sauces or coatings you’re giving it.  Who doesn’t like wings?  OK, those of you who raised your hand, you can leave the room now, but not until you share this post with someone you know who DOES love wings.  That’s a suitable punishment for such an offense.  Wings, gotta love them.  Wings are yet another food in your recipe arsenal that should have 1000 different varieties to choose from.  Ok, you probably have fried, or Teriyaki, or Buffalo, or some kind of grilled, but….DO YOU HAVE VINEGAR MARINATED AND BAKED WITH A FINISHING COATING OF SEASONED BREADCRUMBS???? I’ll venture a guess and say, no, no you do not.  My hope is that you sincerely thank me for this Foodcentric PSA that will have you making them over and over again.  I just made 72 for 13 kids who came over for my daughter’s birthday.  We also had 6 pizzas and a huge bowl of salad with Blue Cheese Dressing.  All the wings…GONE.  That should be your expectation!

The choice of chicken for this is also key.  Look for organic or natural chickens.  I don’t advise making this with Perdue wings. Why? The skin.  Perdue skin is entirely too thick and you will have flabby texture when you bite into them.  Not putting out a hate on Perdue, but they do not bake the way the whiter, thinner skinned chicken wings do.  You’ve been warned.syd17 003  See the color of those wings?  It’s not that golden yellow.  These will cook way better for you.  OK, onto the cooking..

FOR 36 WINGS                                     3HOURS TOTAL

36 WING PIECES

1/8 CUP APPLE CIDER OR SHERRY VINEGAR

1/8 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

1/2  TSP. KOSHER SALT

1/2 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/2 TSP. SWEET PAPRIKA

1/2 TSP SMOKED PAPRIKA

1/2 TSP CRUMBLED DRIED OREGANO

1 TSP. GRANULATED GARLIC OR 3 CLOVES finely minced or pushed through a Garlic Press

1/2 TSP GROUND THYME

Whisk all the ingredients and  pour over the wings, Let them soak in this marinade for at least 1 hour, longer if you like.

1/2 cup BREADCRUMBS

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO OR PARMIGIANO CHEESE

pinch of OREGANO

1/2 TSP KOSHER SALT

1/8 TSP CAYENNE

1/8 TSP, GRANULATED GARLIC

mix this together till blended.

3 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER (you will be melting this later)

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking  tray with foil.  (When you are cleaning this up you will again THANK ME for the foil tip).  Arrange wings on one or two trays depending on space. I made a double batch in this picture:syd17 002

Pour the remaining marinade over the wings.  OH..make sure you oil the foil first…sorry. Let’s move on now. Place in the oven on the bottom and middle rack and let this bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven carefully and top each wing with about 1/2 tsp of the crumb mixture.  Melt the butter and drizzle a small bit over each wing.  Back into the oven for an additional   15-20 minutes or till browned and done. This is how they will/should look:syd17 008and up close they will look like this:sydbday15 008 I love a food close up!! Want another angle? ok, here it is:syd17 012 Let them sit for at least 8 minutes before removing them to a serving tray. Gently move a spatula under them to loosen from the foil and try really hard not to pop them in your mouth.  Ok, are you asking…where’s the sauce?  America loves it’s dipping sauces.  Seriously, for these? You don’t need any. It’s a lazy cooks way of making a hybrid of breaded chicken with baked chicken.  Just enough coating on the top to make a difference from no breading at all.  If you did need a sauce…ok…tabasco and honey or just tabasco or tabasco and ranch…up to you..it’s a no win situation figuring that out because  …you really don’t need any..BUT…i’ll leave that bit of creativity up to you.

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LARGE PASTA WITH BROCCOLI “CREAM” AND WALNUTS…PACCHERI CON CREMA DI BROCCOLI E NOCI

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Vegetables and dairy are wonderful pairings especially when they are creamy and  used as a pasta “sauce”.  I put “sauce” in quotes because the correct term in Italian would be a “condimento”…a condiment that enhances the pasta which, sorry to do this to you carb-haters out there, but the Pasta is the main event on a plate of macaroni.  The sauce or condimento just adds more flavor and nourishment, it’s an enhancer. And the sky is the limit with pasta dishes. Italy is full of heritage recipes, family recipes, regional recipes, with new ones are being created all the time.  I’m going to think that I created this but somewhere out there this dish may already be on a table in an Italian kitchen.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Let’s create together…for more texture I’m adding crushed walnuts.  Why?  Why NOT?  They will make the dish more interesting and complex.  The crunch with play off nicely with the toothsome pasta and creamy blend of cooked Broccoli and Mascarpone.  Parmigiano sharpens the plate and it’s nuttiness works with the Walnuts. Peperoncino because I’m of Southern Italian extraction and it’s what we do.  So I’ll give you a pass here and say if dried crushed chiles are too hot for your palate, fresh cracked black pepper will work too.  I’m going to ask you to do something that you will probably have been taught not to do.  I want you to “overcook” your broccoli.  That’s right, no crisp bright green florets for this dish, it simply will not work.  It will only taste raw.  Are you up for the challenge??  Do you have the courage to turn your Broccoli into mush?  GOOD!  Continue with me into the kitchen then..let’s go..ANDIAMO!

 

SERVES: 4-6                                    TIME: about 1 hour

2 lbs. CHOPPED WELL COOKED BROCCOLI (cook the broccoli until it’s very soft, drain well and let it sit for at least 1 hour, drain off any water that collects).

1 1/2 cups MASCARPONE CHEESE

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT, PEPERONCINO (or fresh ground Black Pepper)

2 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Juice of 1 LEMON

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO PLUS MORE FOR SERVING AND FINISHING

3 TBS. CRUSHED TOASTED WALNUTS

1 TBS WALNUT OIL (if available)

1 lb PACCHERI OR RIGATONI..cooked till Al Dente according to the package directions

In a Bowl, using a potato Masher, mash the Broccoli.  A Food Processor will make this  “CREMA” too thin, I like this with some small pieces of broccoli among the mashed pieces.  If you must have it thinner pulse it in a Food Processor.

In a large non stick pan, heat the olive oil…when it’s heated, add the garlic and a pinch of the peperoncino, pinch of salt.  Do not let the garlic brown, as soon as you really can smell the garlic add the broccoli  and heat the broccoli through keeping this on a low flame.  Heat for at least 8 minutes, being careful to stir frequently. Taste for seasoning, if you think it needs some salt, add a little now.  Add the lemon.,Gently stir in the MascarponeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA until it’s incorporated into the mixture.  Next add the grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO and the Pasta.           OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Gently mix the pasta into the “CREMA”. Make sure it’s well blended.

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How nice is that? So, let’s finish this up…top with the toasted crushed walnuts, peperoncino or black pepper, a drizzle of Walnut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil and more Grated Parmigiano.

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That is smoking “hot”.  A nice glass of wine or Sparkling Italian Water with fresh lime or lemon, or a frosty Beer or Coca-Cola…drink what you want.  Eat what you want.  You’ll want to eat this!  Happy Cooking!!

so let’s talk PACCHERI..what the hell is A FOOD OBSESSION talking about?  It’s an oversized Rigatoni like pasta that is loved in Naples (again with the Naples, sorry) and generally paired with light seafood sauces.  It’s big and toothsome and sucks into it’s center some of the Crema di Broccoli and the nuts.  Not easy to find but it’s what I use when I make the dish.  Rigatoni will work as well so, there’s your option.

VINEGAR AND GARLIC CHICKEN WINGS, BAKED AND CRISPY

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Chicken Wings…so good, so versatile, so many ways to cook them.  Wings are my favorite part of the bird for a few reasons with flavor being the most important one. Because of their compact side and the phenomenal ratio of skin to meat all that good stuff that bakes or fries on top of the wings you get in every single bite.  Apologies to the breast, legs and thighs, they all have more meat and less skin, a wing guarantees you that prize each time to reach the wing to your mouth.  Delicious!  Chicken skin, while it’s not for eating every day certainly contains whatever it is that makes things taste good (i’m sure it’s the fat content, let’s be honest) so for those who are careful with their fat intake make this an occasional treat.  Skinless or boneless wings…no interest..they are silly.  I’ll stick with boneless thigh or breast if that’s the road I’m taking.  Wings need bones and skin, the whole package is what makes them rarely a dry piece of meat, unless they are way overcooked or as old as your collection of 80’s cassette tapes.  The meat, let’s talk about it..it’s not really all white meat, and it’s not really dark meat…hence it’s that perfect balance of both.  Self basting I may add because it’s not all white meat and those bones add moisture and flavor.  This is not my only wing recipe but it’s one of my favorites, especially for a crowd.  Vinegar is one of my preferred condiments/ingredients in much of my cooking.  Blame my southern Italian genes as chicken baked with vinegar, olive oil, garlic and herbs is a mainstay of that cuisine.  I grew up on that and Mom applied that vinegar and oil approach to her grilled wings as well.  She’d either pour her own over the chicken or a bottle of Italian Salad Dressing, however when we would grill the bottled ones they always scorched quicker than her own mix.  Why?  The reason why processed foods contribute to all that’s wrong with our eating, there’s sugar or corn syrup in many of those bottled dressings.  I’m not anti sugar, i have a sweet tooth but long ago I guess I realized that adding sugary ingredients is not really necessary. Certainly there are great wing recipes with sugar glazes in them, however this isn’t one of them.  newyearseve14 023  That’s achieved without using a bottle of processed salad dressing.  Let’s have some fun with acid and aromatics and let this chicken sing.

 

SERVES: 6                                  TIME: 1 hour cooking, 6 hours marinading

36 WING PIECES (SEPARATED)FIND WINGS ON THE LARGER SIDE, THE SMALLER ONES REALLY SHRINK DOWN

1/2 CUP WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR, OR APPLE CIDER VINEGAR,plus more for seasoning while cooking.

1 TSP. BELL’S SEASONING OR 1/2 TSP GROUND THYME AND 1/2 TSP GROUND SAGE

1/8 CUP OLIVE OIL, PLUS EXTRA FOR DRIZZLING

1 TSP. KOSHER SALT, plus more for seasoning for cooking

4 GARLIC CLOVES

1 TSP. PAPRIKA, plus more for seasoning while cooking.

1/4 TSP. BLACK PEPPER, plus more for seasoning while cooking.

GRANULATED GARLIC (IT’S BETTER THAN POWDER BECAUSE IT’S JUST GARLIC)

In a food processor add all the ingredients except the chicken (lol.please don’t process them!!) and the granulated garlic. Blend them so the garlic has become sort of a paste. Make sure the chicken wings are dry, then add them to a LARGE bowl and pour the marinade over them.  Toss till they are all coated. Cover with plastic wrap tightly and place in the fridge.  After 3 hours, turn then so the wings on the bottom move up to the top.  Re-cover for an additional 3 hours, OR overnight.  Chicken loves marinade, the longer the better.

If you want a smoky flavor to the wings that wonder spice from Spain, PIMENTON, Smoked Spanish Paprika can be used in place of the sweet paprika.   I like the sweet Paprika from Hungary.  It also comes in Hot as well.  If going the Hot Paprika route use 1/2 sweet, and 1/2 hot.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil (or not, up to you but the clean up is easier with the foil liner).  remove the wings from the bowl and let them drain for 10 minutes on racks.  Line them up on the pan or in two pans and then give them a good sprinkle of more salt, pepper, and the granulated garlic.  Drizzle with olive oil (drizzle, not drown) then sprinkle of more vinegar.  Then another dusting of Paprika.  Place into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove them,  turn the wings and season again with the salt, pepper, paprika, granulated garlic.  Let them cook another 15 minutes,  Remove, flip the wings to the top side up again and bake for 5 minutes more. At the end of this process they will look like this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Resist the temptation to have one.  Part of good cooking is having patience and the chicken actually will taste better as it cools down.  Plus you will not accidentally rip the lining of the roof of your mouth out.  Let them rest.  Serve 10 minutes out of the oven. (have you ever really held anything that was 425 degrees in your hand without some severe discomfort??  you need those fingers to eat these delicious treats!!)

NOTE!!:  ALL OVENS ARE DIFFERENT. WHAT IS WORKING IN MINE MIGHT BE SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT THAN YOURS.  DO NOT MAKE THE FOLLOW THE RECIPE MISTAKE OF NOT USING YOUR SENSE OF SIGHT AS AN IMPORTANT COOKING TOOL/GAUGE.  IF THEY ARE BROWNING TOO QUICKLY, LOWER THE OVEN A BIT…IF THEY ARE COOKING FAST IN ONE SPOT ROTATE THE PAN…IF THEY ARE LOOKING DONE BEFORE THE RECIPE TIME SAYS SIMPLY TEST ONE.

America, thanks to our corporate Restaurant mentality insists on pairing everything with a dipping sauce.  These do not need a dipping sauce but if you are not happy with the prospect of a wing with no sauce to dip, whisk some olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and fresh garlic together and dip it in that.  No bleu cheese dressing on this wing.

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There it is.  Vinegar and Garlic wings.  Baked, That accumulated pan juice you can either hoard for yourself with massive amounts of bread to dip into it…or platter the wings and pour the jus over them.  Make sure there are plenty of napkins!!