Variation on a Thumbprint Cookie

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Variation on a Thumbprint Cookie
As we were planning a reception for an upcoming Organ Concert, we all agreed on the perfect savories, but couldn’t make a decision about a complimentary sweet. “How about Thumbprint Cookies,” piped up a nearby sister, “but this time, try rolling them in chopped nuts.” Great idea – they’re colorful, and above all, they’re an old-time favorite that everyone loves. Butter, brown sugar, chopped nuts, and your jam of choice – a definite Yum!
SERVINGS
20cookies
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cookies
COOK TIME
16mins
PREP TIME
25mins
READY IN
1hr

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and egg yolk; keep egg white separate in a little dish.
  3. Toss the flour and salt lightly together and then gently mix in.
  4. Shape dough into 20 balls; dip in egg white and then in chopped nuts
  5. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart; make a thumb indentation, and be sure the dough isn’t splitting apart.
  6. Bake for about 15-17 minutes. When golden and done, remove from oven, and indent each cookie again. Then spoon a little of your favorite jam into each thumbprint. Cool completely.

Blackberry Balsamic Salad with Crispy Fried Goat Cheese​ and Grilled Chicken​

We continue to enjoy the harvest from our gardens over these summer months. This week we had an abundance of beautiful lettuce, so we expanded our repertoire and tried out some new combinations for our guests at Bethany. The crisp, salty, creaminess of the fried goat cheese paired with the sweet and pungent combination of the blackberry balsamic vinaigrette is the key here. Summer is a wonderful time to experiment with all sorts of combinations in a salad. “The colors of a fresh garden salad are so extraordinary, no painter’s pallet can duplicate nature’s artistry.” Have fun creating, eating, sharing, and enjoying nature’s storehouse!

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Blackberry Balsamic Salad with Crispy Fried Goat Cheese​ and Grilled Chicken​
SERVINGS
4servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
10mins
PREP TIME
10 mins(30 mins marinate)
READY IN
30 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
  1. Mix everything well​ in the blender until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.​
Fried Goat Cheese
  1. ​Dredge the goat cheese slices/balls in the flour
  2. Dip in the beaten egg
  3. Dip in panko
  4. Fry in oil over medium heat until lightly golden brown before setting aside on paper towels to drain.
Salad
  1. Marinate the chicken in half of the vinaigrette for 30 minutes to over night before grilling over medium-high heat until​ golden and cooked through, about 2-5 minutes per side​. Set aside to cool and slice.
  2. Assemble the salad and enjoy!

Note: Best enjoyed while the fried goat cheese is still warm from frying!

Pecorino Pere e Miele

One of the beautiful things that I am learning about Italian cooking is that each ingredient is to be savored. So many times, we take wonderful ingredients and throw them all together and miss appreciating them as they were meant to be.

As I walk along the streets of Barga with the dogs in the morning or on my way to the Pannificio to get our bread for the day, I often take photographs of the menus hanging on the restaurant windows. When I return to the Villa and have a moment, I try to find a recipe and recreate them.

A featured item on the menu in the Garfagnana district, and much of Tuscany, is Pecorino pere e miele – Pecorino with pears and honey. Pecorino is a cheese made from sheep’s milk and each district or town here is very proud of their own version of the cheese. The taste of the cheese changes depending on what type of grass the sheep are fed and how the cheese is aged. Most popular and well known are those produced in Sardinia. A good Pecorino Stagionato is often the finish of a meal, served with pears and walnuts and drizzled with a strong chestnut honey or one of the lighter acacia honeys farmed locally. Their food is simple, but in this simplicity can be found tremendous beauty and taste. Savor the moment.

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Pecorino Pere e Miele
SERVINGS
4people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
0minutes
PREP TIME
10 minutes (or less..)
READY IN
10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pears
  • 4-5 oz. pecorino fresco, semi-stagionato or stagionato (fresco is a mild and soft form, semi-stationato is also soft but sharper and stagionato is the hardest and sharpest form)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • walnuts either in the shell or toasted halves - as many as you prefer

Instructions

  1. Slice the pear in quarters from top to bottom and remove the core carefully with a pairing knife. Then slice each quarter into three or four thin slices, depending on the thickness you prefer.
  2. Slice the cheese into small thin wedges.
  3. Fan the pears on the cutting board or serving plate with the cheese slices in between the pear.
  4. Set a dish of honey in the center of the board and place your walnuts around.
  5. Enjoy sharing this with your friends and family. Andiamo mangiare!

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Fresh Fig, Walnut and Mascarpone Tart

When I was a child, there was a peacock that used to strut through the back yard of my great-grandmother’s house. He would time his performance perfectly; as soon as all of us were gathered at the window, he would throw his head back, arch his feathers into a magnificent fan, and do a little pirouette as graceful as a king. It is like this with figs — they must be showcased.

I can’t pass up a fresh fig in a grocery store, especially when I’m doing holiday baking. Our local grocer had a nice selection of figs this past week, and I thought they would make a handsome and tasty dessert for a holiday luncheon we were preparing. Flamboyant as they are with their velvety exterior and intricate, seed-filled interior, they beg to be shown off.

The marriage of figs, mascarpone, and walnuts makes a fabulous winter dessert, and I would recommend this one for any dinner party. You can make the tart shells ahead and freeze them. When you are ready to use them, fill them while still frozen, and they will thaw in time for dessert. Since fresh figs are one of the most perishable fruits, they should be purchased only a day or two in advance of your meal. Look for figs that have a rich, deep color, and are plump and tender, but not mushy.

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Fresh Fig, Walnut and Mascarpone Tart
SERVINGS
6individual, or a 10" round tart pan
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
individual, or a 10" round tart pan
COOK TIME
15 minutes
PREP TIME
15 minutes
READY IN
30-35minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

Crust
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy for 3 minutes, using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom occasionally. Add the flour and mix on low speed until fully incorporated, about one minute (don’t over mix). Add the egg yolk and continue to mix on low speed until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds.
  2. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour (or up to 4 days).
  3. Remove from refrigerator and let soften until pliable. Flour your work surface so dough does not stick, and sprinkle the top of dough with a little flour. Roll out dough, starting in middle and rolling outward, to a 1/4 inch thick disk or rectangle, depending on your tart pan.
  4. Don’t worry if dough tears or crumbles, it’s easily pressed together in the tart pan. Lift over the rolling pin and place in tart pan with removable bottom. Patch holes or tears by pressing dough with fingers. Press dough into sides, corners and bottom. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pin for a clean even edge. Refrigerate 30 minutes -this is important.
  5. Bake at 350 for 30 -35 minutes, positioned in the center of the oven, until golden. Be sure to keep a careful eye so that it doesn’t over cook. If using individual tart pans, these will take about 12 min. to bake. Let cool before filling.
  6. While these are baking, spread your walnuts onto a sheet pan and toast in the oven – once you smell them, remove them, they will be done!
Filling
  1. Put the jam in a microwaveable bowl, and heat in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds until the jam is of a more spreadable consistency. Add the brandy, a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Spread this over the bottom of the tart shell (s) but not up the sides. Let cool.
  2. In a stand mixer with the beater attachment, whisk together the mascarpone, whipping cream, vanilla, powdered sugar and salt until soft peaks form. Be careful, especially if you are using an electric mixer, because the mixture will thicken very quickly.
  3. Spread this mixture over the fig jam leaving about 1/4 “ of space of the jam showing on the edges, so not completely covering the jam base.
  4. Decorate the top w/ some toasted walnuts mounded in the center, a couple of quartered figs and right before serving, drizzle with some light honey.

If making ahead, have your components ready but don’t assemble until close to serving time.

Fabulous Roasted Fruit Platter

This Sunday after church the sisters, along with some invited guests, enjoyed a sumptuous southern breakfast, the perfect holiday treat especially for those who have southern roots.

The menu was extensive……..baked ham, grits, sausage, bacon, buttermilk biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sticky buns and more than anyone could sample at one sitting. My favorite of all the dishes was a fabulous fruit platter consisting of a combination of roasted fresh and dried fruits and nuts that had been coated with a rich glaze of brown sugar, butter and Calvados.

This winter fruit and nut combination was “Out of this world”…and not only for a southern breakfast, but as a wonderful accompaniment to any number of other meals, especially at this time of year.

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Fabulous Roasted Fruit Platter
SERVINGS
6-8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
50-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut fruit to desired size and shape. Spread out on sheet pan and brush with a little oil and cover with foil and roast about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until softened.
  2. Uncover and sprinkle with nuts and generously brush with glaze. Return to oven uncovered at 50 degrees higher and cook until nice and golden.
  3. Sprinkle with pecan and walnut halves and serve.
Glaze
  1. To make glaze melt butter and brown sugar together until sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Add cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Calvados and simmer till thick enough to spread.

Notes

If dried fruit needs softening soak in warm cider to reconstitute before roasting.
We used firm pears and apples, and pineapple for fresh fruit, along
with dried figs and apricots. Craisins could also be an interesting addition.

Individual Apple Crisps

As I write this, it is snowing again. Wow,what a winter it has been, and continues to be. I begin to wonder if spring is truly going to come. But like any issue of faith, one just has to believe. Spring has always come, with its promise of new beginnings and life, and  it will be all the more special this year when it does.

Usually I would be starting to think of things like asparagus and lemon, lamb and baby beets–but it’s just a little too chilly still for the spring forerunners. I’m still thinking about hot stews and soups, lovely warm desserts like apple crisp in little ramekins with ice cream melting on it. So, to keep us warm through these last chilly days of winter, here is a recipe for orange-tinged mini apple crisps.

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Individual Apple Crisps
SERVINGS
6ramekins
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
ramekins
COOK TIME
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Butter 6 ramekins.
  3. In a medium bowl mix together flour, walnuts, 2 Tablespoons sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of salt.
  4. Pour butter over and mix together with a fork. Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl combine apples, remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar and orange juice, tossing to coat.
  6. Divide among ramekins, top with flour mixture.
  7. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until fruit is tender and topping is golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if desired.