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Eggplant-Turkey Moussaka

In Holidays, Meats, Soups and Stews, Vegetables On November 23, 2014 0 Comments

Moussaka is an eggplant dish from Greece and Turkey. In Greece, it is layered with ground lamb and served hot. In Turkey, the eggplant is stewed with lamb and served warm or at room temperature.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m making eggplant moussaka from Turkey. It contains ground meat of the same name – lol! For those of you who are vegetarian, simply omit the ground turkey. Bon appetit!

Prep time: 1 hour
Serves: 4 to 6 (as a side dish)

Ingredients:
1 medium eggplant
1 large tomato
extra virgin olive oil (to brush eggplant and tomato)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing the moussaka)
1/2 pound dark ground, organic turkey meat (or lamb)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium brown or white onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup Muir Glen Organic Diced Tomatoes® (canned)
1 cup tomato purée
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Dash freshly-ground nutmeg

Grill the Eggplant & Tomato:
1. Line a 12 X 18-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil; brush foil with olive oil and set aside.

2. Cut off and discard top and bottom of eggplant.

3. Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices and place the on foil-lined baking sheet (previously oiled).

4. Cut the tomato in half and place it (cut-side up) alongside eggplant slices on baking sheet.

5. Brush the eggplant and tomato with olive oil; lightly sprinkle each with salt.

6. Place the baking sheet on a rack positioned 6 to 7 inches away from top broiler element inside oven.

7. Grill the tomato and eggplant for approximately 8 minutes or until eggplant has turned golden brown.

8. When eggplant has turned golden brown, wearing oven mitts, transfer the baking sheet to a counter.

9. Transfer the tomato pieces to a bowl to cool.

10. Turn the eggplant slices over; brush them with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.

11. Grill the eggplant slices (on other side) for 6 to 8 minutes or until they have turned golden brown.

12. After eggplant is done, set the baking sheet to a counter; transfer eggplant slices to a plate to cool. Set aside.

Prepare the Moussaka:
1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch skillet.

2. When the oil is hot (do not let it smoke), add the ground turkey (or lamb).

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the meat, constantly breaking it up with a wooden spoon.

4. Add the garlic, onion and chopped peppers.

5. Cook the mixture on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.

6. When onion is translucent, stir in the diced tomatoes and tomato purée.

7. Cook the moussaka for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomato sauce has thickened.

8. After 4 to 5 minutes, stir in the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

9. Cook the moussaka for 5 to 6 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasonings.

10. Serve moussaka alongside one or more recipes from this website:
Hummus Heat with Pitas and Vegetables (see recipe index – Appetizers/Starters);
Persian Cucumber Salad (see recipe index – Salads);
Butternut Squash Risotto (see recipe index – Pastas, Rice & Legumes).

Text & Photograph © 2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Halloween R.I.P. Carrot Cakes

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Fun Foods, Holidays On October 18, 2014 0 Comments

This year, for Halloween, I transformed my traditional carrot cake into spooky R.I.P cakes. They’re topped with buttercream frosting and, of course, tombstones.

These Halloween carrot cakes are fun to make, especially if you include the kids. Happy Halloween!

Prep time: 20 minutes (for the cupcakes) and 20 minutes (to mix the frosting and decorate cupcakes)
Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes: 12 cakes* (cupcakes)

Ingredients for Carrot Cakes:
2 cups finely-shredded carrots – do this first and set aside in a bowl
1-1/2 all-purpose, unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Make the Carrot Cakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a 3-cup bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside.

3. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla.

4. Beat the mixture until it is uniform.

5. Fold in the shredded carrots and walnuts and mix well. The batter will be firm.

6. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake papers and divide the batter evenly among them.

7. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

8. Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes.

9. After 20 minutes, insert a sharp knife in center of one cake. If knife comes out dry, the cakes are done. If not, bake the cakes for an additional 5 minutes.

10. When the cakes are done, transfer the muffin pan to a kitchen counter; set aside to cool for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the buttercream frosting:

Ingredients for Buttercream Frosting:
One package (16-ounces) confectioner’s sugar (this is powdered sugar)
One stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
6 drops red food color
9 drops yellow food color

Prepare the Buttercream Frosting:
1. In a mixing bowl and using a hand mixer, cream the sugar, butter and milk together. Alternatively, stand-mixer fitted with a bowl can be used.

2. When the buttercream frosting is creamy and uniform, mix in the food color. This will convert the white frosting into a light orange frosting.

3. When the frosting has turned orange, using a spoon, transfer it to a frosting bag fitted with a star tip.

4. Using a swirling motion, pipe the buttercream frosting onto the cakes.

5. Add a Halloween decoration of your choice to each cake.**

PREPARE CAKES ONE DAY AHEAD: These Halloween cakes can be baked a day ahead, cooked and transferred to a platter. Cover the cakes with plastic wrap and refrigerate them until the next day.

FROST THE CAKES ON THE DAY OF SERVING: Prepare the buttercream and frost the cakes up to 2 hours ahead. Cover them with tented foil and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Alternatively, you can use a standard loaf pan. This will result in a carrot cake or bread.
**For this recipe, the R.I.P. cupcake kit was purchased at CVS Pharmacy® in Los Angeles.
Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Refried Beans (Frijoles refritos)

In Holidays, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On May 2, 2014 0 Comments

Last week, I stumbled across these fresh cranberry beans at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. These beans really captured my attention. Just look at them!

BeansMar'14

They’re fresh and this means that they take less time to cook than packaged dry beans. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we’re makin’ some frijoles refritos or refried beans. You can add these creamy beans to tostadas and tacos or serve them as a dip with tortilla chips. I’m sure you won’t forget the Tequila shots and/or the Margaritas… y andale! Or, just go for it!

Inactive Prep Time: Overnight soaking, plus 45 minutes to boil the beans
Prep Time: 15 minutes (for refrying the beans)

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh cranberry beans (if using dried beans, allow 20 to 30 minutes more for cooking)
1 yellow or white onion, peeled and halved
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 strips of bacon (optional)
3/4 cup peeled and finely chopped yellow or white onion
Half a Serrano chile, finely minced
4 to 6 tablespoons Half n’ Half cream
1 Chipotle chile in adobo sauce, mashed*
Salt, to taste

Soaking & Cooking Directions:

1. Place beans in a 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl; add enough cold water to cover the beans.

2. Cover the bowl and let beans soak overnight.

3. After the beans have soaked overnight, drain them completely.

4. Transfer the beans to a 6-quart sauce pot; add the peeled and halved onion and the bay leaves.

5. Cover the beans with about 2-1/2 to 3 quarts cold water (there should be 3 extra inches of cold over surface of beans).

6. Bring the beans to a boil.

7. After beans come to a boil, set heat on low. Simmer the beans for about 45 minutes or until they are tender, but not broken.

8. Set the sauce pot with beans aside to cool.

9. After the beans have cooled to room temperature, drain them, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

10. Discard onion and bay leaves.

11. Transfer the drained beans to a food processor; process beans into a puree.

Refry the Beans:

1. In an 8-quart sauce pot, heat the oil.

2. When oil is not, add the bacon strips, finely chopped onion and the minced Serrano chile.

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the mixture until onion is translucent and bacon turns crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, remove the bacon strips and discard them.

5. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the pureed beans into the stir-fried mixture.

6. Constantly and quickly stir the beans, bringing them to a boil – stand away from stove to avoid hot splatters.

7. Immediately lower the heat setting. If the boil is too strong, cover the sauce pot to avoid hot splatters once more.

8. Constantly stir the beans for about 2 to 3 minutes.

9. After 2 to 3 minutes, add the Half n’ Half cream and the mashed Chipotle chile; continue stirring until the refried bean mixture is uniform.

10. Stir in about 1 teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust seasonings.

11. Serve immediately.

*NOTE: Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in cans. They can be found in the international foods section of standard supermarkets or in Latin American grocery stores.

Text & Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Italian Easter Bread

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays On April 4, 2014 0 Comments

Symbolizing fertility, eggs are featured in the traditional foods of many cultures during Springtime.

In Italian gastronomy, colorful eggs are used to decorate baked delicacies at Easter. They are reminiscent of rebirth and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Celebrate Spring or Easter by making this festive bread known as pane di Pasqua. – Italian, for Easter Bread!

Active Prep Time: 45 minutes (for making dough & coloring eggs)
Inactive Prep Time: 90 minutes (for two dough risings of 45 minutes each)
Bake Time: 30 to 35 minutes

Prepare the Yeast Starter:
1/2 cup water
1 envelope (7 grams or 1/4-ounce) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1. In a 1-pint metal bowl, combine the dry yeast and the sugar; set aside.

2. In a 1-pint sauce pot, heat the water until it is warm, but not hot.

3. Pour the warm water over the yeast-sugar mixture.

4. Swirl the bowl slightly to mix the dry and wet ingredients gently.

5. Cover the bowl and place it on a wood board for 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, assemble the dough ingredients as follows:

Prepare the Dough:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons rum (light or dark)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached organic flour

1. Heat the water and milk together in a 1-quart sauce pot until the liquid is barely lukewarm; set aside.

2. After the yeast mixture has risen for 15 minutes, it will look puffy. Transfer it to a 6 to 8-quart mixing bowl or a stand mixer.

3. Whether using a hand mixer or the stand mixer, on low speed, stir in the water-milk liquid, egg, sugar, oil, vanilla, rum, cinnamon and salt.

4. When the mixture is smooth, gradually stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time.

5. Each time you add 1 cup of the flour, make sure the batter that forms is smooth and uniform.

6. After adding about 3 cups of the flour, a dough should form. It will be thick and sticky.

7. At this point, use a wooden spoon to mix in an additional 1/2 to 3/4 cup flour.

8. The dough should amalgamate and become semi firm, but soft and easy to handle.

9. Transfer the dough to a smooth, lightly floured wood board and knead it lightly until dough is uniform. [When kneading, to prevent dough from sticking to the board, lightly add flour to top of dough and wood surface.]

NOTE: Do not place the dough on marble, granite or tile, as these surfaces are too cold and will halt the rising process of the dough.

10. When the dough is smooth, set it aside.

11. Oil an 8-quart bowl; transfer the dough to the oiled bowl.

12. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel; set bowl away from draft and let dough rise for 45 minutes.

13. After 45 minutes, punch down the dough and, with a knife, divide it into 3 equal pieces.

14. Shape each of the 3 dough pieces into a ball; set them aside.

15. Take one dough ball and place it on a lightly-floured wood board. Gently begin rolling the dough ball, stretching it to out, to the sides.

16. As you roll the dough ball, it will elongate.

17. Continue the rolling and stretching process until you have made a strand of dough measuring 23 to 24 inches in length. Set the dough strand aside.

18. Repeat the above rolling and stretching technique for the remaining two dough balls. You should now have three strands of dough.

19. Place the three strands of dough next to each other, to form three rows (they will be parallel to each other):

Dough3Tubes

20. At one end of the dough strands, press them into each other so that they hold together. Begin forming a braid:

DoughBeginBraid

21. After completing the braid, shape it into a wreath. Press edges together to close the wreath (it will be a circle). Set the dough wreath aside:

EasterBread.RawWreath

22. Meanwhile, line an 18-inch X 12-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.

23. Gently lift and quickly transfer the wreath onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.

24. Cover the wreath with a clean kitchen towel; set baking sheet with wreath aside on a wood surface or in a cold oven to rise for 45 minutes.

25. After 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 375°F. In the meantime:

Prepare Egg Wash & Decoration:
3 colored Easter eggs (made a day ahead, per instructions on one Easter egg coloring kit)
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water (this is the egg wash)
Nonpareils candies

1. Place the colored eggs, spaced evenly, over wreath; gently push them into dough until they are snug.

2. Brush top of wreath with egg wash (DO NOT BRUSH THE COLORED EGGS).

3. Sprinkle the wreath with nonpareils candies:

EasterBreadRisenWatermrk

Bake the Bread:
1. Place the baking sheet with wreath on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

2. Bake the bread for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, insert a pointed knife in the bread. It should come out clean. If not, bake the bread for 5 more minutes.

3. After 30 to 35 minutes of baking, transfer the baking sheet with bread to a counter to cool (at this point, marble granite or tile counters can be used).

4. Serve the Easter bread warm or at room temperature, but cutting it into 2-inch thick slices.

TO STORE: After the bread has cooled completely, cut it into 4 sections. Wrap each section in plastic wrap and place it in double freezer bags. Freeze the sectioned bread for up to one month.

TO THAW: Remove bread section(s) from freezer bags and unwrap. Place the bread section on a plate, covered with a new sheet of plastic wrap, to thaw for 1 to 2 hours. Slice the bread and serve.

Text & Photographs © Nancy DeLucia Real

Valentine Chocolate Ganache Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On February 7, 2014 0 Comments

Frosted with chocolate ganache, this flourless cake is absolutely magnifique for February 14th! First, shop for Valentine’s Day decorations. Then, make the cake and enjoy the romance. Happy Valentine’s Day!

For the Cake:

Butter, flour and parchment paper for 9-inch springform pan

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon rum

1-1/4 sticks unsalted butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

5 large eggs, separated

Four 3-inch wide strips of aluminum foil (for cake assembly)

1 cup ground, unpeeled almonds

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F oven. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

2. Place a 9-inch round parchment paper circle at bottom of pan; dust the sides of pan with flour, shaking off excess.

3. Fill a double-boiler pan with about 2 inches of water. Place the double boiler element over the pan and place on stove burner set on high heat.

4. Add the chocolate, rum, butter and sugar to the double boiler. As the mixture heats, stir it with a wooden spoon until it becomes uniform.

5. When chocolate mixture is uniform, remove the pan from heat and allow to cool a little.

6. Meanwhile, in a 2 or 3-quart mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set egg whites aside.

7. In a separate 1-pint bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are uniform.

8. With a spatula, transfer the chocolate mixture to a 3-quart mixing bowl.

9. Gently stir the beaten egg yolks into the runny chocolate mixture.

10. Stir the ground almonds into the chocolate-egg yolk mixture.

11. Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the chocolate batter, taking care not to mash or deflate the egg whites.

12. When mixture is uniform, transfer it to the prepared spring form pan.

13. Place the spring form pan on a rack positioned in center of oven.

14. Bake the cake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, check to see if the center of cake has puffed up. If it still looks sunken and wet, bake the cake for an additional 5 minutes.

15. After 5 minutes, if the cake looks puffed up, insert a knife with pointed tip in center of cake. If knife comes out clean, the cake is done.

16. Transfer the cake to a rack or trivet set on a counter; let it cool completely.

17. When cake has cooled completely, remove the sides of spring form pan.

18. Invert the cake over a platter and gently lift off the pan bottom.

19. Peel off the parchment paper and set cake aside.

MAKE SURE THAT THE CAKE IS COMPLETELY COLD, BEFORE YOU PREPARE THE GANACHE:

For the Chocolate Ganache:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon rum

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions:

1. Place chocolate and rum in a medium glass or porcelain bowl (it should be heatproof).

2. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

3. When the cream has just begun to simmer, immediately pour it over the chocolate in bowl and let it stand 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, whisk the chocolate-cream mixture until smooth. Let cool slightly before using. Set aside.

Pour Ganache Over Cake:

1.  Pour the runny ganache over cake, start pouring in center of cake and then pour over rim/sides of cake.

2. Let the ganache forms drips over the cake sides.

3.   Set the cake aside so that the ganache will solidify – about 30 minutes.

4. When the ganache has solidified, cover the the cake with aluminum foil and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

5. This cake can be made one day ahead and refrigerated.

Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real