Pizza Pennies

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I made these bite size cuties in honor of the Super Bowl. The crunchy, chewy, garlicky game day or party food seemed to disappear before they could make it off the baking sheet.  I surprisingly found this recipe in the hors d’oeurves section of “The Art of Fine Baking.” The dough is a Cuban bread recipe that my grandmother describes as “a crusty, delicious water bread. It was made popular by James Beard in his cooking classes, where students particularly enjoy making it because it is so quickly and easily learned.” It’s a versatile dough that can be used for rolls, garlic knots, or my new favorite concoction, “pizza bread.”

The toppings of these little pizza pennies are really up to you. The original recipe just used pepperoni, onion, garlic, and olive oil. I think that tomato, mozzarella, and basil make a nice addition as would Parmesan, olives, green pepper, or any traditional pizza toppings. Mixing the toppings together before piling them onto the pennies will save time but if you want to customize each one than the traditional one topping at a time approach will have to do (though a bit tedious…). Either way, these are fun not fussy, and almost too easy to eat so make sure your game plan includes making enough for everyone.

Recipe:

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 Cuban Bread dough
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Suggested Toppings: 3-4 cloves garlic minced, 60-70 thin slices sausage (pepperoni, salami, or freshly cooked Italian sausage), 1/2 an onion chopped, 1 medium tomato chopped, 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella, fresh basil chiffonade, dried oregano

Sprinkle baking sheets with cornmeal. After bread dough has risen once, roll it out 1/8 of an inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut rounds 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Place on baking sheets. Dab or brush each round lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with toppings.

Place in cold oven. Set temperature to 425 degrees. Bake about 15 minutes or until pennies are puffed and golden. Serve warm.

Makes about 6 dozen.

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Cuban Bread (or Bread Rolls)

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2 packages of dry yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal

Combine warm water, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let stand a few minutes until yeast begins to foam. Stir in flour to make a stiff dough. Knead dough well, until it is completely smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary.

Place dough in bowl sprinkled with flour. Dust top of dough with flour. Cover bowl with a dish towel. Let rise in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.

Punch down dough. Divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape by stretching and rolling each piece of dough into a long sausage about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place loaves on ungreased baking sheet which has been sprinkled with cornmeal.

Slash each loaf diagonally across top 3 or 4 times. Brush with water.

Place on lowest rack in a cold oven. Turn oven on and set to 350 degrees. Bread will rise in oven. Bake 1 hour or until bread is a deep golden brown.

Makes about 2 medium size loaves.

Note: To make rolls, roll pieces of dough into long snake like logs after dough has risen once. Bring ends together and twist. Tuck ends under. Allow to rise again until doubled. Bake on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden on top.

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Heavenly Chocolate Cubes

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Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking,” bite size chocolaty sponge cake sandwiches filled with mocha buttercream. Need I say more?

1 recipe prepared Chocolate Pastry
1 cup Speedy Mocha Buttercream
unsweetened cocoa powder

Divide pastry in half to make two equal layers. Spread one layer with buttercream. Carefully place remaining layer on top. Chill until buttercream is very firm (about 1 hour).

Dust top heavily with cocoa powder. Cut cake into 1 inch cubes, wiping knife off after each slice.

 

Dip sides of each square into cocoa, coating them well.

Yield: approximately 80

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Zucchini Stuffed with Tuna

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I know what you’re thinking, canned tuna? Stuffed in zucchini? This can’t be worth making unless you happen to have leftover zucchini and canned tuna you don’t know what to do with. Even when my mother said she tried this recipe years ago and highly recommended it, I was skeptical. It really is delicious though…no really. Garlic is cooked with the zucchini flesh, mixed with tuna and parsley, then kept moist by soaked bread (what? Bread soaked in water doesn’t sound appetizing? Well once you see how moist it keeps the filling, it just might be). Baked in a mushroom tomato sauce until the zucchini is soft, all of the elements come together in this bright clean tasting dish. You could use fresh tuna, but why bother when canned tuna does such a terrific job that after the zucchini is baked, it tastes a lot like Tilapia or any mild fish. With little carbs and little fat but both protein and vegetables, this is also a perfect dish for the supposedly “healthy” month of January.

Other than converting the size of the zucchini and canned tuna, I really didn’t need to change much in this recipe. Of course, a little sprinkle of Parmesan on top never hurt anyone… but this dish is perfectly tasty as is.

3 medium zucchini
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 slices bread, soaked in water, then squeezed dry and crumbled
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 can (5oz) tuna, mashed
1/2 pound small white button mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups tomato puree or sauce
1/2 stock
grape tomatoes (optional)

Cut zucchini into 2 inch pieces. Scoop out centers using a sharp knife or melon baller. Chop zucchini centers coarsely. Mix bread, tuna, parsley, and pepper.

Combine zucchini centers with garlic and saute in half the oil till soft. Combine with tuna mixture.
Sautee mushrooms in remaining oil until soft. Add tomato puree/sauce, a little salt and stock. Simmer 15 minutes.
Stuff zucchini shells with tuna fish combination. Place into tomato puree mixture.

Bake until zucchini are very tender. Top with half a grape tomato, if using.

Serves 4

From “The Art of Good Cooking,” by Paula Peck. Adapted by Megan Peck.

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Chicken Paprikash

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3 chicken thighs, skinned
3 chicken legs, skinned
3 scallions chopped
1/2 tablespoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/4 cup tomato purée
1/2 cup sour cream

Place chicken in a low, wide saucepan which may be covered. Add scallions, garlic, dill, chicken stock, and white wine.

Bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer chicken 20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken pieces from liquid.

Optional: place in baking pan in 300 degree oven while preparing the sauce.

Skim off fat from liquid in pot. Reduce the liquid over high heat by half. Stir in paprika and tomato puree. If sauce is very thin, continue to cook it down until it thickens slightly. Remove sauce from stove and stir in sour cream.

Pour over chicken.
Sprinkle with any leftover dill and serve.

Serves 3.

Adapted by Megan Peck

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Creamed Oyster and Noodle Casserole

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 When I first came across this in the stack of unpublished recipes my grandmother left behind, I thought it was somewhat of a waste of perfectly tasty fresh oysters and the flavor could be savored more appropriately by eating them on the half shell. To be honest, the idea of a casserole made with any form of seafood mostly reminded me of the somewhat frumpy old fashioned tuna casserole. With such a strong emphasis on fresh oyster flavor, this dish is far from a waste or old and frumpy. The oyster liquor (a fancy word for the juice of the oyster) provides an ocean freshness like the smell of salty sea air at low tide (cliche enough?). Chunks of oyster complete the dish and who doesn’t love noodles!

The original recipe called for poppy seeds, which I left out because it just doesn’t seem to add anything to the dish. I did, however; add lemon juice, which cuts nicely through the fat of the half and half. And if used, grated Parmesan sprinkled on top with bread crumbs complements the saltiness of the oysters.

I made this for Christmas Eve this year and was pleasantly surprised that my 12 year old cousin took both seconds and thirds – proof of how delicious this casserole really is…

1/2 a 16oz package broad egg noodles
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups hot half and half or heavy cream mixed with
1/2 cup hot oyster liquor
1/2 lemon juiced
pinch cayenne or 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
salt and white pepper to taste
2 dozen raw oysters, cut in quarters
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
3/4 cup fresh white bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs mixed with
1/4 cup melted butter and sauteed until just golden
grated Parmesan (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a casserole dish (roughly 1-1 1/2 quarts)
Cook noodles in plenty of boiling, salted water until just tender. Drain and place noodles in a bowl.
In a heavy pot, melt butter. Stir in flour, and cook for about four minutes, stirring constantly. Add combined cream and oyster liquor, again stirring constantly. Use a small wire whisk when adding liquid to butter flour mixture to break up any lumps. Add lemon juice and cayenne or Tabasco (if using). Season well with salt and pepper. Add quartered oysters, tarragon, and chopped parsley. Add this mixture to noodles in bowl and toss gently together.
Pour into buttered casserole. Sprinkle golden bread crumbs and Parmesan over top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until very hot. Serve at once.

Note: Casserole maybe prepared ahead and refrigerated up to the point of sprinkling bread crumbs. Remove from refrigerator at least an hour and half before baking.

Serves 4 – 6.

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Indian Beef Curry

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A cousin to Punjabi Vegetable Curry, Beef Curry is basically an Indian style meat and potatoes. Comforting and hearty with soul warming spices like cinnamon, the braised meat gives this dish a slow cooked flavor you crave on those freezing cold winter nights. Serve with Sauteed Cabbage in White Wine or by itself with just rice and Raita (shown here).

3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or fat skimmed from basic braised beef)
3 tablespoons curry powder (or 1 tablespoon each ground coriander and cumin, 1/2 tablespoon turmeric)
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 medium red bliss potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 – 3/4 cup stock or broth
1 recipe Basic Braised Beef
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat oil or fat in heavy wide pan, and add mustard seeds. Just before seeds begin to pop, lower heat and add remaining spices: curry powder, cinnamon, and black pepper. Stir for 2 minutes, then add diced potatoes. Season with salt.

Stir in Basic Braised Beef. Add the stock and cover. Simmer over low heat until meat and potatoes are completely tender. Add more stock or broth as needed to ensure meat and potatoes do not dry out. Stir in cayenne pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serves 6.

 

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Basic Braised Beef

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Instead of writing an introduction for this staple recipe, I am copying in the one my grandmother provided in “The Art of Good Cooking”. I found that it explained the recipe quite well and answered any questions I had regarding the technique used.

“In my experience, browning the meat before braising only toughens the meat and creates smoke. Theoretically, browning is supposed to seal the juices in, but why, then, is it possible to have absolutely succulent boiled beef, which is not browned at all? Here is my recipe for braised beef which can also be turned into curry, chili, paprikash, or any kind of stew you would like it to be. It can be kept in the refrigerator as long as a week- even a bit longer if you take the trouble to reheat it to boiling point every few days. To make this properly, you need a heavy pot with a tight-fitting, heavy lid.”

I personally prefer to brown the meat for both flavor and color, but I will discuss the differences between the two methods in a later post.

3 pounds beef chuck roast cut into 1″ cubes or beef stew meat
2 onions chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup stock or broth
salt and pepper

Place beef in a heavy pot. Add onions, garlic, and some salt and pepper. Cover tightly. Place in a 325 degree oven. When meat and other ingredients begin to simmer, add stock or broth.

Continue to braise meat in covered pot for 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is barely tender. Skim off fat from top.

Serves 6.

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Rich Chocolate Velvet Cake

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As the name suggests, this is an extremely rich luxurious cake that should probably come with the warning: for die hard chocolate lovers only. Not to be confused with red velvet cake, the sponge cake lined thick mousse center is in it’s own category of cakes. At first taste of the filling, the richness is overwhelming as the coffee brings out the dark tones in the thick chocolate but finishes with just a hint of sweet Grand Marnier. The sponge cake lining is frosted with just lightly sweetened whipped cream that balances the many different strong and subtle flavors of this velvety indulgence. Before you know it, that large slice you thought was too rich to finish, is gone.

1 recipe Basic Sponge Sheet 9 x 13
12 oz semisweet chocolate chopped
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
3 egg whites
pinch salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

For the frosting:
2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1-2 teaspoons Grand Marnier, 1-2 tablespoons sugar, and gelatin (to stabilize for longer shelf life) – see note.

Completely line 1/2 quart mold or loaf pan with basic sponge cake by cutting out one large piece to fit the bottom of the mold; then, from remaining cake, cut out one long or two short strips to cover the sides. Reserve any sponge sheet left to make into a top later on.

Melt chocolate (careful not to burn it) over very low heat. Add egg yolks, coffee, Grand Marnier. Stir together until smooth and heated through. Cool.

Beat egg whites with salt until they hold soft peaks. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. Continue beating 5 more minutes, or until very stiff.

Fold unsweetened whipped cream and stiffly beaten egg whites together. Fold in about 1/4 cup of egg white cream mixture into cooled chocolate to lighten. Pour chocolate mixture into remaining egg white mixture. Fold in gently but thoroughly.

Pour into sponge cake-lined mold. Place in refrigerator for 2 hours or until filling is firm.

Cover with remaining sponge sheet, fitting together any bits and pieces if there isn’t a single piece large enough. Loosen sides of the mold with a sharp knife. Turn out upside down on a plate.

Frost all over with whipped cream frosting. Chill if not serving immediately. Chocolate Velvet maybe frozen before frosted, if necessary.

Note: To prepare whipped cream with gelatin, soften 1/2 teaspoon of gelatin (for each cup of cream) with a tablespoon cold water. Set over a pan of boiling water (or double boiler) until gelatin dissolves and looks clear. Beat dissolved gelatin, sugar, extract, and liqueur into the cream just as the cream begins to thicken.

Adapted by Megan Peck

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Basic Sponge Sheet

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4 eggs
pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sifted corn starch
1/4 cup sifted flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 11 x 16 jelly roll pan or a 9 x 13 pan and line with parchment paper.

Separate eggs. Beat egg whites with salt until they hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in sugar, sprinkling it in a little at a time. Continue beating until whites are very firm, about 5 minutes in all.

Stir yolks with a fork to break them up. Add vanilla. Fold a quarter of the stiffly beaten egg whites thoroughly into egg yolks. Pour egg yolk mixture on top of remaining whites. Sprinkle corn starch and flour over mixture. Fold all very gently together until no pieces of egg white show. Careful not to overmix.

Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter evenly. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cake is very lightly browned.

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