Matcha Shortbread Cookies

An Homage to “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane”

I just finished reading Lisa See’s new book, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. More accurately, I just finished listening to this wonderful book. I often listen to books while I commute into work, and the narrators of this particular novel are great! Lisa See is a very talented author, and her stories transport me to other times, places and cultures. This particular novel centers around tea and the Akah ethnic minority living in the Yunnan province of China.

After finishing this novel, I was inspired to develop a  cookie using matcha (green tea) powder.

Here you go!

Matcha Shortbread Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

2 ¾ plus 2 TBS cups all purpose flour (14 ¼ oz)

2 TBS plus 1 tsp matcha powder

½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups unsalted butter (12 oz), room temperature

¾ cup sugar (5 ¼  oz)

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar (4 ¾ oz)

3 TBS lemon juice or as needed

METHOD:

Whisk together the flour, matcha powder and salt, set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until combined.

Add the flour mixture slowly.

Divide the dough into 2 parts. Roll each half into a log about 1 ¾  inches wide.

Wrap each log in parchment or wax paper. Chill until firm.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice about 1/3 inch thick. Place on parchment lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart.

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Bake 15-18 minutes until the cookies are set and very slightly golden on the edges.

When cookies are completely cool, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze.

Drizzle on the cookies.

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Yield about 4 dozen.

BAKER’s NOTE: These are very delicately flavored- for a more robust matcha flavor, use up to 3 TBS in the recipe.

 

Cleaning Out The Fridge Pasta

I call this “Cleaning Out The Fridge Pasta”.

At the end of the day on Friday, I opened my fridge to see what I had to inspire me to prepare dinner. All week long I save little bits of leftover vegetables, sauce and stock – and lo and behold, put them together and dinner presents itself!

This week I had a container of mushrooms that needed to be sauteed. I had some white beans left over from a salad. I had extra garlic chopped. I had a handful of arugula. I had vegetable broth that needed to be used. And I had a cup of homemade marinara sauce. Not to mention that I try to have organic green peas (fresh or frozen) on hand at all times. In addition I had some fun tri- color pasta that I wanted to try.

There’s not really an exact recipe here- just let it flow.

In a large skillet, I lightly sauteed the garlic in EVOO, added the mushrooms with salt to taste. Let that go until the mushrooms were almost done. Next, I added the marinara sauce and some vegetable broth and the beans.

While that was simmering away I cooked the pasta until almost done and then added the peas for the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Back to the sauce- I added the arugula and let it wilt. And a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper.6ABF9778-95E7-4A46-A993-431CAABA1003

Pasta is cooked- so out comes my spider and I scoop the pasta into the skillet with the sauce.img_4046

I let the pasta and sauce cook for a minute or two, added more vegetable broth to taste and- DINNER WAS READY!!

The lesson here is that nothing really goes to waste. And when you cook with vegetables, mostly everything goes well together. So next time that you have a few stalks of broccoli left over, or a small handful of spinach or not enough tomato sauce to stand on it’s own- you can have a new (and thoroughly your own) dinner ready in just a few minutes.

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P.S. Happy Mother’s Day!!

Easter 2017

I haven’t had time to write these past two weeks- I’ve been too busy living in the moment. This year I was fortunate to experience the “High Holies” of my faith in two cultures- the jubilant evangelicalism of Palm Sunday in the Caribbean and the solemn rituals of my home parish in New York. I love them both!

I also love Easter breakfast. It is hands down my favorite meal of the year, and has been since I was a child. The centerpiece is my family’s version of Pizza Rustica. It’s a once a year treat. In Italy, Pizza Rustica is made for Easter Monday, or Pasquetta. It’s an egg, cheese and meat pie that is made as picnic fare for the day after Easter,  a day Italians spend outside enjoying family and friends. Since we do not celebrate Easter Monday here, many Italian American families make Pizza Rustica for Easter breakfast.

In addition to Pizza Rustica, there’s colored eggs, homemade cinnamon bread and fruit salad all surrounded by my collection of vintage chocolate molds and other Easter decor.

Then there’s Easter sugar cookies and delicious chocolate from my sister’s store as take home favors. All in all a pretty, fun and delicious table!

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A final note- I cook mainly vegan and enjoy doing so.  I started to help my husband control diabetes. I love vegetables and legumes!!! This meal is anything BUT vegan, yet once a year…… 🙂

 

 

 

 

Chunky Monkey Cookies

One of the more fun cookies I developed at Provisons Bake Shop was what we dubbed  “Chunky Monkey”. It speaks to comfort flavors- peanut butter, chocolate and banana, all delicious on their own but when combined they are definitely more than their individual parts! The high school senior working at the counter couldn’t get enough of them- she’d even come in on her days off to stock up!

CHUNKY MONKEY COOKIES

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all purpose flour (5 oz)

1/3 cup quick oats (approximately 1 oz)

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup sugar (3 ½ oz)

½ cup brown sugar (3 ½ oz)

½ cup natural peanut butter, preferably fresh ground (4 ½ oz)

1 large egg

½ tsp pure vanilla extract (or banana extract)

1 very ripe banana, mashed

1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped (1 ½ oz)

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips (4 oz)

 

METHOD:

Whisk together flour, oats, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

Thoroughly cream together the butter, sugars and peanut butter.

Add egg and vanilla. Mix until combined.

Add mashed banana, mix in lightly.

Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Add peanuts and chocolate chips.

Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets.

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With wet fingertips lightly press down the dough.

Bake 10 minutes, rotate pans. If cookies are puffing up too much, gently bang pans to let out air.

Bake another 5 minutes until firm to the touch.

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Yield 3 dozen cookies using a 1 ½ tablespoon size scoop.

Enjoy!!

 

Sesame Crusted Rye Shortbread Cookies

Sesame Crusted Rye Shortbread Cookies

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had a wonderful cookie from Tandem Bakery in Portland, Maine. This is my recreation of it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of dark rye flour (9 oz)

½ cups sugar (3 ½ oz)

¼ tsp fine sea salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (8 oz)

1 tsp grated orange zest

TOPPING:

3 TBS sparkling sugar

¼ tsp fine sea salt

2 TBS black sesame seeds

 

METHOD:

Whisk the flour and salt and set aside.

Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest together until combined.

Add the flour and salt, slowly.

Mix until dough comes together.

 

Divide the dough into 2 parts. Roll each half into a log about 1 ½ inches wide.

Wrap each log and chill until firm.

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the sparkling sugar, sea salt and sesame seeds.

When dough is firm, slice about 1/3 inch thick.2A08C585-69CC-4753-934A-4BCDCA4A0111

Place on parchment lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart.

Bake 16-20 minutes until the cookies are set and firm to the touch. Rotate the pans halfway through baking.

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Yield about 4 dozen.

Late Winter Citrus Salad

It’s that time of year when you need a little spark to lighten up your dinner. One of my favorite salads is this Sicilian Citrus Salad utilizing what’s fresh in the market now. It’s based on recipes that have appeared in the New York Times over the years, but truth be told it is something that my Sicilian grandmother would have made.

And there’s another thing. Having grown up with my Italian and French grandparents, we always had our salad after our entree. A proper salad acts as a digestif. The world has changed with regards to this, but my old habits die hard and I truly relish a refreshing salad after my entree. Give it a try and see if you don’t agree.

Late Winter Citrus Salad

Ingredients:

2 handfuls of baby arugula

1 cup radicchio, shredded

1 large Cara Cara orange, peeled, sliced lengthwise and then across, white pith removed

1 blood orange, peeled and sliced crosswise

1 rib of celery, sliced

¼ cup brined cured black olives, pits removed

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 TBS red or white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Place the arugula and radicchio on a platter

Top with the citrus segments, celery and olives.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Drizzle over the composed salad.

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Black Sesame and Banana Tea Bread

A Classic with a Twist

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my great experiences at bakeries in Portland, Maine.

Two things that I sampled at Tandem Bakery Company have lingered in my brain and palate. So, I tried my hand at recreating them and I’m happy to report that they were successful attempts.

The first one that I’ll share with you is a black sesame and banana tea bread. Black sesame seeds are rich in vital nutrients- iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. They impart a nice nuttiness and a crunch to the banana bread. If you’re game to try something new- give this a whirl! I think you’ll be pleased.

BLACK SESAME AND BANANA TEA BREAD

Heat oven to 350 degrees; Lightly spray loaf pan (8 ½  x 4 ½ )

DRY INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all purpose flour (5 oz)

½ cup whole wheat flour (2 ¾ oz)

¾ cup sugar (5 ¾ oz)

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp baking soda

½ cup black sesame seeds (2 ¾ oz), lightly toasted

WET INGREDIENTS:

2 large or 3 medium VERY ripe bananas, mashed

1 large egg

½ cup (4 fluid oz) canola oil

3 TBS buttermilk

1 tsp grated lemon zest

METHOD:

In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.

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In a medium bowl, whisk wet ingredients.

Lightly fold wet ingredients into dry

Pour into prepared pan – only 2/3 full.

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Bake 55 – 70 minutes until a tester comes clean. The time is a function of how much banana you use.

If browning too much, lightly cover with tin foil.

Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, unmold the bread and cool completely before slicing.

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And, enjoy!!

 

The Goodness of a Bowl of Lentils in Pasta Form

I’m always on the lookout to try new ways to incorporate lentils in my diet. I LOVE lentils!

So, when I was grocery shopping last week you can imagine my delight when I came across a pasta made exclusively from 100% organic red lentils.

In thinking what to do with it, I decided to go with a saute of Swiss chard. I often add Swiss chard to lentil soup-  the flavors complement each other nicely.

Cooking this pasta was an experiment and I am very pleased with the results.And as a bonus, it’s a quick, easy meal to put together. Give it a try- I think you’ll be pleased as well.

Red Lentil Pasta with Wilted Chard

Ingredients:

½ pound (8 oz) red lentil pasta

3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 bunch of Swiss chard, woody stems discarded and leaves chopped

Large pinch of red pepper flakes

2 TBS pine nuts, toasted

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method:

In a large sauté pan, over low heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil for a minute or two.

Add the Swiss chard, the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and cook over medium heat until the Swiss chard is wilted. Remove the cover.

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Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water cook the red lentil pasta according to the package directions. Do not overcook.

Using a spider or sieve, add the pasta to the wilted chard.IMG_4046.JPG

Cook stirring for a minute or two until the flavors have blended. Add a little pasta water if necessary.

Serve, garnished with the pine nuts.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Bakery Crawl in Portland, Maine

A Nibble Here, A Nibble There, A Little Nibble Everywhere

I’ve mentioned before that I’m very fortunate to have children living in “Foodie” destinations and Portland, Maine is no exception. On a recent visit to see our daughter, Rebecca, we did a Bakery Crawl- how perfect is that! We hit 6 bakeries – all wonderful in their own way. Who knew that in a city of 68,000 we would find so many great places and I’m sure there are more to discover in future visits.

Are you ready to go on the Crawl with me? Let me share with you the highlights!

First stop, right around the corner from Rebecca’s home is The Holy Donut https://theholydonut.com/

They have a great selection of interesting flavors- my personal favorite is the chocolate with sea salt and Rebecca is partial to the gluten free lemon poppy seed.

Next on the list was the Standard Baking Company. http://standardbakingco.com/

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The Standard Baking Company specializes in artisan breads and classic pastries. The baguette has a wonderful crust and I also sampled an apricot almond galette- a rich almond pastry filled with apricot jam- delish!!

Third up was Aurora Provisions ( a name close to my heart) auroraprovisions.com/, a place perfect for a great cup of coffee and a small bite. Try the cinnamon bread puffs- you won’t be sorry!

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It was a great sunny (but cold) day in Portland so we visited the Lighthouse and then hopped a ferry and took a 4 mile walk around Peak’s Island. That made me feel justified in continuing “The Crawl”- wouldn’t you feel the same?

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So, back in town, it was on  to Tandem Coffee and Bakery, http://www.tandemcoffee.com/bakery. Tandem is in a converted garage- so fun to see re-purposed buildings!

We sampled two very interesting flavored classics- a banana bread with black sesame and a shortbread cookie but made with rye flour and also rolled in black sesame seeds. You know something’s special when the flavors remain with you long after you’ve eaten it. So stay tuned for a future post when I recreate the rye shortbread for you.

Four down and the last two to go.

Two Fat Cats Bakery, twofatcatsbakery.com , offers homestyle american cookies, cakes, and pies. They are famous for their Whoopie Pies and rightly so!

 

And finally- a short drive to South Portland brought us to Scratch Baking Company, www.scratchbakingco.com

What a way to end our day…the aromas of freshly baked breads surround you as you walk through the door. Stuffed to the gills we decided to make our purchases and save them for breakfast the next day. The whole wheat sour dough English muffins are simply the best! I’m going to put in a special request to have some brought to me on Rebecca’s next visit home.

So that ended our Bakery Crawl adventure- but I’m so looking forward to returning and sampling more!

 

Love is in the Air – Heart Scones

I loved the holidays at my bake shop…We always created special holiday themed treats- from sugar cookies to cupcakes to breakfast treats. On Valentine’s Day you could always find a heart shaped scone for your love.

Try these- start to finish in about 1/2 hour. What could be sweeter than for your Valentine to wake up to a special breakfast or to join you for afternoon tea?

Heart Shaped Cream Scones

Heat oven to 400; yield 1 dozen 3 ”  scones

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all purpose flour (10 oz)

1 TBS baking powder

½ tsp salt

¼ cup sugar (1 ¾ oz) (plus 1 TBS for sprinkling if not using glaze)

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1 TBS melted butter

GLAZE: Optional

½ cup powdered sugar (2 oz)

3 TBS milk

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 drop of pink food coloring

METHOD:

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder and salt.

Slowly add the heavy cream mixing with your scrupulously clean hand until the dough comes together and no dry particles remain. Stop adding cream as soon as the dough comes together. Depending on the weather this could take 1 cup of cream up to 1 ½ cups.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 4 or 5 times.

Roll or pat the dough to about ½ inch thick.

Cut the dough with heart shaped cutters and place on parchment lined baking sheet.

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With your forefinger, lightly make an indentation in the center of each scone. This helps the dough keep its shape while baking.

Brush the dough with the melted butter.

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If not using the glaze, sprinkle the top of each scone with sugar.

Bake 14-17 minutes until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

When done and cooled, combine the glaze ingredients until smooth.

Spread glaze over each scone.

Enjoy!