We called them the “White Cookies”

fullsizeoutput_149cI was the one in our family who could devour a whole batch of “white cookies” in just a couple of sittings. So when my mom would say — should I make the white cookies? I had a push/pull feeling. Yes! I love them. No! I’ll be only one to eat them and here comes some extra pounds. Grr. BUT they’re so good.

Why was it only me who liked them? Well, they’re not too sweet (I’m not big on too sweet), they have a cakey almost biscuity body with a lemony vanilla-y icing. Ohhhh. Very good. Soft to the bite, exciting to the palate. Maybe they’re very sophisticated and that’s why I’m the only who recognized that (ha ha, just kidding).

Make them. Bake them. They’ll stay nice in a tin (after icing sets) for a week. But they won’t last that long. Because you’ll eat them first. And, yes, they’re from my Italian-American background, and despite our simple name for them I’ve seen similar cookies in Italian bakeries with the name: anginetti. But those bakery cookies never lived up to the ones coming from our home kitchen. So now…from your home kitchen!

“White Cookies” or Italian Lemon Cookies

For the cookies:

½ stick unsalted butter (four tablespoons)

5 tablespoons sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons

4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft (room temp)

1 ¼ cups powdered sugar

2 drops lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Make the cookies:

Cream butter and sugar till smooth. Add eggs one at a time, and vanilla extract. Beat to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add to the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Beat to combine until a dough forms. Don’t over mix. Pinch off one-inch pieces of dough and shape into balls. Place on a baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough.

Bake for about 15 minutes until cookies are slightly colored golden-tan. Use a spatula to gentle move cookies from baking pan to a rack to cool (or open a brown paper bag flat and let cool on that). 

Make the icing:

In a medium mixing bowl, use a spoon to mash the butter flat. Add the sugar, and mix roughly. Run tap water until it is very hot. Drizzle in a little hot water – just start with about a teaspoon – and stir to combine, mixing vigorously and quickly to incorporate the butter. Add more water little by little until you reach a good consistency…like honey.

When cookies are cool, dip them top-first into the icing, then stand them icing-side up on a flat surface. Continue with all the cookies. You can store cookies in airtight tins once the icing has dried and set.

Sautéed Peas Roman-Style

peas

Why Roman style? Simply because I learned this recipe when I was a student in Rome — many years ago. It’s a recipe that one of my professors talked about in the hallway between classes. It’s never left my repertoire.

It’s so easy. So lovely. A perfect accompaniment to meat, fish, seafood. And so pretty, too!

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Sautéed Roman Peas w Onion & Pancetta

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/3 cup pancetta, diced

1 medium onion, peeled, halved, thinly sliced

¼ cup wine

1 lb. bag frozen peas

salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the pancetta. Cook until lightly browned. Add onion & cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the wine. Let it simmer for a minute or so and mostly evaporate. Add peas and a ¼ cup of water. Cook until peas defrost and water evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil. Serve.

BOOK peas roman

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

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Baked Stuffed Mushrooms

When I make stuffed mushrooms it’s always a last minute thought. And that’s okay. Because it takes near nothing to do.

You can make this recipe with 5 mushrooms, 12 mushrooms, 20. As long as you have a shallot (my favorite for this) or an onion (and some breadcrumb) you’re ready. Turn on the oven to 375 or 400. Line a sheet pan with foil. And go!

They are so tasty, and look so enticing and elaborate, you’ll never use a mushroom in any other way. (Well, of course, you will.)

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

12 medium to large white or cremini mushrooms (I love having the usual array of mixed sizes)

1 shallot

Olive oil for sautéing and drizzling

1/2 cup panko

2-3 sprigs parsley, leaves minced, stems discarded

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Line a sheet pan with foil. Drizzle a thin film of olive oil on foil. Gently pop out the stems of the mushrooms and line up the empty caps on the sheet pan. Mince up the stems. Peel and mince the shallot. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a medium frying pan. Sauté the chopped stems and shallot. Season with salt and pepper. When softened — about 2-3 minutes — add the breadcrumb & parsley. Drizzle a little more olive oil. Stir and coat crumbs with mixture. Add a little more salt. Take off heat. Let cool for a minute or so.

Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over caps, and very lightly salt caps. Using a small spoon, spoon mixture into caps until heaping. Place pan with mushrooms in the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until tops are golden or lightly brown.

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Baked Stuffed Mushrooms

 

 

Beans & Macaroni aka “Pasta Fazul”

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Beans & Macaroni

My mom says she thinks Beans & Macaroni was an every Friday night dish when she was growing up — for Catholics, Friday was a no-meat day. Both my parents grew up in Brooklyn during the 1930’s & 40’s. My grandparents were from Italy and all cooking was Italy influenced. 

Beans & Macaroni is also the oft-dialect-named Pasta “Fazul” or in real Italian: Pasta e Fagioli. This is a very simple dish — deceivingly so, because the flavor is surprising and addicting. AND you’re eating awfully-good healthy.

You start by putting on the pasta pot to boil. Add your pasta, then start the other ingredients. That’s how long it takes. No time!

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pasta boiling

Try it. It’s a surprise (if you didn’t know it already) and when you’ve got a couple of garlic cloves, a can of beans, and a 1/2 lb. of pasta— you’re in!

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beans and macaroni ingredients

I added the “prohibited” meat, a 1/4 lb. of chopped pancetta.

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pancetta and garlic in oil

Also, not in my mom’s original recipe: some fresh herbs added at the end: basil, parsley, sage, or rosemary— just a little… of just a couple.

Beans & Macaroni (Pasta Fagioli — “Pasta Fazul”)

1/2 lb. small cut macaroni i.e. elbow or ditalini

1 15-oz can cannellini beans

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled & cut in half

1/4 cup minced pancetta (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

3-4 sprigs Italian parley, leaves minced, stems discarded

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves minced, stems discarded

grated cheese to pass at table

Fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Season water with salt and pour in pasta. Cook until “al dente” (done but not mushy).

Meanwhile, add the can of beans and its water to a small saucepan, add an additional  3/4 can of water. Season beans with salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer. After it’s hot, take a potato masher and mash down the beans one or two times only– so you get a little mush, but mostly left with whole beans (this thickens the whole dish a little). In another small saucepan, add the olive oil and garlic (& pancetta if using) until garlic gets just a little golden (and pancetta is cooked through), then shut off.

Drain pasta and add drained pasta to a medium serving bowl. Add the beans and its water. Add the olive oil, (cooked pancetta), and garlic. Sprinkle with parsley & rosemary, toss to combine. Serve in bowls. Pass grated cheese.

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your serving of beans and macaroni

Roasted Tomato Pesto

tomatoes

This sauce has a lot of concentrated flavor: tomato, garlic, herbs, with a touch of creaminess. It’s easy to do. And it all takes place in your oven, with a quick stint in your food processor.

Use this sauce for your favorite pasta. It’s earthy, luscious, and unforgettable!

Roasted Tomato Pesto

10 fresh Roma tomatoes

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled, quartered 

salt to taste

about 1 tablespoon sugar

3-4 fresh oregano sprigs

3-4 fresh tarragon sprigs

3-4 fresh mint sprigs

(or substitute, sage, rosemary, or your favorite herbs)

olive oil to drizzle

2-3 tablespoons half & half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a sheet pan with foil. Drizzle a thin layer of oil over foil. On a clear work surface, or cutting board, cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Over a bowl, push out all of the seeds into bowl. Place tomato “shell” on prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the rest of the tomatoes. Place a piece of garlic in some or all of the tomatoes. Season with salt, sprinkle with sugar. Scatter herb sprigs on top of and between tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes. Place in oven and roast for about 30-40 minutes, until tomatoes get wilted and browned in places. 

Remove from oven. Let cool. Pick out the herb sprigs, and about half of the garlic. When cooled, place tomatoes in a food processor and pure until smooth. Spoon sauce into your pasta serving bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of half & half, stir in until combined. Add hot, drained pasta. (Quantity is good for 1 pound.) Stir to coat.

Quick Tasty Mini Spinach Pies

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mini spinach pies

This is one of those recipes that works great when you have a sheet of dough ready in your freezer. Like I did!

One sheet of puff pastry (preferably made with butter, and not hydrogenated oils — actually, Publix just came out with an all-butter puff pastry). It takes maybe 20 minutes at the most to thaw. In that meantime, you can put together the filling and preheat the oven, so when you roll out the dough and fill and shape your spinach pies, it’ll be just 20 minutes later when you’re eating.

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mini spinach pies about to bake

Wow. Quick. Easy. Tastes great. And you know exactly what’s in the food you’re eating (as opposed to a fast PU at a quickie restaurant). Make your own snacks!

(I added some minced sorrel to my mixture, because my friend, Danusia, once made spinach pies with sorrel. That subtle addition of taste was so good! She gave me a plant this season and it’s been thriving. So, lucky me, I’ve got sorrel! But you don’t need it. Works fine without, too.) *FYI: that’s my sister in the video. My sous chef.

Enjoy!

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mini spinach pies

Mini Spinach Pies

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, diced

6-9 ounces of spinach (I get triple washed)

4 ounces crumbled feta or goat cheese

salt & pepper to taste

1 egg, beaten for egg wash (add a little splash of water)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sauté diced onion in the butter. When softened (about 2-3 minutes), add spinach and let it wilt — add a little salt. Drain. Remove to a mixing bowl and crumble in cheese. (Add a couple of sorrel leaves, minced, if you have it — or another herb you may love — mint? basil? or nothing else…) Season mixture with some more salt and some pepper.

Roll out your sheet of puff pastry…to about half as much thinner. Cut into 3-inch squares. Spoon some filling into each square, fold square in half in a triangle shape. Press edges to seal with your fingers, use a fork to press edges a bit more to seal. Place on a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan. Brush with some egg wash. Poke one little hole in the top each for steam release while baking. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden. Eat.

 

 

Tasty Recipe for Cornish Hen

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roasted Cornish hen

Oh, they are so little! They border on game, but aren’t really. Still there’s a slightly deeper taste to the meat (than, say, chicken). They cook up fast (because: oh, they’re so little!) and are so easy to make tasty.

May fave way is to make a quick pesto of your favorite herbs. Add as many as you like — or use just one. Pulse in a food processor with a little garlic. Add salt and a little olive oil. Press the pesto under the breast skin.

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Jim, Karen, and Chuck dressing hens in my class

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Barbara & Vickie getting hens ready in my class

I rub some butter all over the bird. Add some thyme leaves to the pan and some quartered lemons. Stuff a few lemon pieces inside the bird.

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ready for the oven 

Season well with salt and roast at 400 degrees for about 40-45 minutes. Instant read should say 180 (a bit more than the 165 for chix). And ta-da!

I know some people could go with a whole Cornish hen for a serving, but I split them in half down the breast line and serve each person half a hen (so there… you have a new band name: Half a Hen). 🙂

Yum, yum, yum, yum.

Roasted Cornish Hen in 5-Herb Vinaigrette (serves 4)

2 Cornish hens

1/4 cup parsley leaves

1/4 cup oregano leaves

1/4 cup mint leaves

1 tablespoon sage leaves

2 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped 

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

2 lemons, 1 zested/1 quartered 

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2-3 thyme whole sprigs

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

You can roast hens whole of to spatchcock: cut the backbone out of the 2 hens so that they can lay flat, skin side up, spatchcock-style. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place a grate into the pan — or use without.

Add the parsley, oregano, mint, sage, and garlic to the bowl of a processor. Pulse until minced fine. Scrape into a medium mixing bowl. Add thyme leaves, lemon zest, and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper. Stir to combine.

Loosen breast skin from hens. Stuff pesto until skin of the breasts. Place hens on sheet pan. Rub with butter. Season with with salt & pepper. Toss thyme sprigs, and lemon quarters on top. Roast for about 45 minutes until golden brown and instant read thermometer reaches 180 degrees. Cut each hen in half, down the bread line. Serve hot.