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Pffeffernusse or Pepper Nuts, a traditional European Christmas cookie

Pffeffernusse or Pepper Nuts,a traditional European Christmas cookie

Thank you Aunt Marie!

Sift together the dry ingredients:
2 c. flour plus 2 tb flour
1/4 tsp.baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1/4 tsp. Each nutmeg, clove and cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon

Cream together:
1/2 cup each butter and sugar
Add one egg, beating until light.

Add: 1/4 c finely chopped almonds

1 TB each candied orange peel and candied *citron*

Add the flour to the creamed ingredients slowly and alternate with:
1/2 generous cup or Barbados molasses
1/2 cup brandy or Cognac
1 tsp lemon rind, grated
1 TB lemon juice

Combine and beat well, allow to sit covered overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Form the dough into one inch balls.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

While warm, roll in powdered sugar Keep tightly covered and the flavor will develop nicely!

* a note on candied citron: I tried preparing my own candied citron one year. It’s a lot of work and a lot of sugar…but worth it if you’re an avid baker. And it keeps!

A citron is a special small melon like fruit,called a Buddha’s Hand (most commonly) which you dice small and cook in a thick sugar syrup, then dry on a rack and add more sugar to coat. A candy thermometer is worthwhile for this endeavor.

Hoppin’ John / Ring in the New Year Right!

Hoppin’ John is classic low country cooking, having originated in South Carolina and probably with roots in African cuisine. I make mine with both thick country bacon and spicy Andouille sausage, but if you just wanted a nice vegetable forward dish, these could be omitted and the seasonings elevated.

Stories abound about how the name of this dish came to be. Some tales reference children “hopping happy” to see this meal coming their way, others speak to a crippled peddler who sold this food as a street vendor. One can only guess how Hoppin’ John became the lucky New Year’s Day meal of choice. Maybe it’s good for a hangover. This could be the year to find out!

HOPPIN’ JOHN / Serves 6 Generously

INGREDIENTS
1/2 lb. thick bacon, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces

1/2 lb. Andouille sausage

1 medium white onion, chopped fine

4 celery ribs, spiced medium

1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped

Chicken stock, if desired

1 bunch green onion, trimmed, chopped and set aside for garnish

1-1/2 uncooked long grain rice white or brown

Basil, thyme, cayenne, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste

1 or 2 cans (15 oz) of black eyed peas, rinsed and drained. It depends on the ratio you like, it’s a personal thing. You may also cook your beans from scratch if not pressed for time.

DIRECTIONS
Cook bacon and sausage in a large cast iron skillet with a tight fitting lid, set aside, slice sausage when cool. 

Combine and sauté all vegetables in the bacon grease, stirring in salt and seasonings. Stir in the rice to coat with the pan drippings and spices.

Cover with chicken stock to the first knuckle on your index finger (good Grandma tip…first knuckle for rice, second for beans)

Cover and cook until rice has absorbed all liquid and appears to be done. If you need to add a bit more stock, please do.

Then add in the rinsed beans, bacon and sausage, gently folding in.

Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes on a very low flame while preparing the side dishes or salad you’d like to have to accompany the rice and peas.

Top with lots of green onion and have the hot sauce handy! 

Everyone is lucky since this is a highly nutritious one pot meal that’s also economical.

Happy New Year!

Nestle’s Finest Achievement ….The Chocolate Chip

Here is a classic recipe my family always made at Christmas time for gift giving, the Toll House Cookie from Nestle, modified by me with more vanilla and chips.

 I prefer to roast the walnuts ahead of time for additional depth of flavor. In fact, the batter may be doubled and saved in the fridge, then scooped and bake as desired. Makes 5 dozen melty chocolate chip cookies.

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 TSP. Baking Soda
1 CUP Softened Butter
3/4 C White Sugar
3/4  Light Brown Sugar
1 TB Real Vanilla
2 Large Eggs
3 Cups Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 Roasted Chopped Walnuts, optional 

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375°

Sift / Combine all Dry Ingredients

Beat sugars,  softened butter and vanilla together until well creamed

Add eggs gradually.

When well combined, begin to add dry ingredients.

Finally stir in nuts and chips.

Drop desired size onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake about 10 minutes or until browned around edges.

Cool on wire racks, then package for holiday cheer!

Grilled Vegetables


Tips for perfect grilled vegetables:

CHOOSE your vegetables. Make sure they’re young and in season.

CUT them into uniform sizes, and not too small…

BLANCH tougher veggies, then dry them.

COAT all vegetables with oil and good salt. Don’t over do it.

PREHEAT the grill and make sure the rails are clean.
Grill vegetables with similar cooking times together.

ARRANGE artfully on an attractive platter, serve immediately.
Makes a nice, plant forward and substantial side to any picnic!

Fiddlehead Quiche/ A May Pine Cone Cafe Tradition

FIDDLEHEAD QUICHE / Serves six

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Have ready one unbaked pie shell, your favorite recipe

INGREDIENTS

2 tb soft butter
1-1/2 cup chopped white onion, pinch of salt
2 cups fiddleheads, cleaned of all brown papery stuff, washed twice, drained and steamed until bright
2 cups shredded farmhouse sharp cheddar
Salt, pepper and freshly ground nutmeg
6 eggs, beaten well
1-1/2 cup half and half or light cream

DIRECTIONS

Make a custard of the beaten eggs and cream. Set aside.

Saute the onion until lightly browned, add salt , pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Toss with the cooled, cooked fiddleheads.

Pile into the uncooked pie shell, top with the cheese.

Pour the custard over all, don’t overfill if the custard is too generous. Dust lightly with paprika.

Bake at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet for about 40 minutes or until puffed and set in the center.

Let it rest for a half hour before slicing. Goes well with a crisp salad.

Enjoy a taste of spring!

Pennsylvania Dutch Hot Bacon Dressing


Serves six

6 slices bacon, cooked till crisp then crumbled, save the fat
1 egg, well beaten
2 tb flour
1 generous cup milk
1/4 cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion

Have your foraged greens triple washed and dried, rough chopped and quickly steam wilted, then cooled.

In a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, prepare a roux with all the other ingredients except the bacon, whisking until thickened and the flour cooked.

Add the bacon fat, continue whisking.

Toss the just wilted green and bacon until all are combined.

Some like this topped with hard cooked eggs.

This was Granddad Reigel’s end game when he taught us to “hunt dandelions.” Also good over lettuces,in which case steaming the greens first is not necessary.

Remember what you say to a child. It’s possible that 60 years later they’ll still be hanging on your words.

Rabbit, Rabbit / A French Recipe

It’s tradition to say Rabbit, Rabbit at the beginning of each month. I am not sure why.

But, truly in the springtime, a rabbit fricassee over wide noodles with a touch of woodland or garden herbs and grainy mustard transports me to in Paris in April.

Rabbit hasn’t caught on in popularity in America like in France. It tasted mild, much the same as poultry. Honestly, cutting up a rabbit is not harder than cutting up a chicken, once you get over the fact that it’s a rabbit. The technique is much the same: dredging in seasoned flour, a little sautéed shallot, turn once when brown, remove meat and deglaze with white wine, mustard and heavy cream or creme fraiche. Add in fresh chopped thyme, ramps or rosemary at the end to keep it bright.

Served over wide noodles with a big salad, one couldn’t ask for more on a blustery early spring day….for lunch, at a bistro in Paris!

Here is a recipe we prepared when I was a student at La Varenne, in Burgundy,France:

Lapin a la Moutarde

1 small, dressed rabbit, cut into 8 pieces.

Flour, salt and pepper…a little paprika for color

1/2 cup avocado oil

Combine the flour and seasonings, Dredge the rabbit in the flour and set aside. Heat the oil on a medium heat.

1 cup, chopped shallot

2 cups dry white wine, 2 cups rich chicken broth

1 TB whole grain mustard, 2 fresh thyme springs and fresh rosemary or chopped ramps or chives, added last..

1 pound of wide egg noodles, cooked al dente. Keep warm.

Fry the rabbit in medium hot oil, turning once until just cooked through, salt lightly, and set to drain on paper towels.

Pour off most of the oil, and sauté the shallot in the same pan, deglaze with wine and broth, check seasonings. Add the mustard and creme fraiche or heavy cream, and place rabbit back into the pan, cook covered over a low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally and add more broth if it seems to need it.

When it’s time to serve, choose an impressive platter (make it warm). Add the noodles and top with the rabbit pieces. Taste the gravy and add more creme fraiche and the herbs… give it a stir and pour over the rabbit and noodles. I add even more spring chives and their deconstructed blossoms to the top, to garnish.

Choose a crisp, white Burgundy and enjoy a hearty lunch with friends. Is that the Eiffel Tower I see?

There’s no time BUT the present, so enjoy!!

Bilberry Pie

Bilberries are not typical in Maine, although Finnish people are. The common wisdom, and it works nicely, is to substitute Maine wild blueberries for the Bilberries. Equally wholesome and delicious.

BILBERRY OR WILD MAINE BLUEBERRY PIE | Serves 6

CRUST
Here we welcome you to use your own crust recipe, as people have preferences in this regard. Make enough for a two crust pie. Roll them out and have ready in the fridge.

FILLING

 5 cups Bilberries or Wild Blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon zest and juice of one small lemon
3 tb quick cooking tapioca
1 tb vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°

Combine all and let rest, covered for an hour. This gives the tapioca time to swell and effectively thicken the juices.

Pile all filling and juice into your rolled out crust in a deep pie plate. Top with the second crust and crimp the edges high, as it’s a generous filling.

Bake at 350 degrees on a half sheet pan to catch any spills for around one hour, or until bubbly and browned.

This pie needs an hour to set up and slice nicely. Serve with good vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

This wild berry pie is worth the wait!