Cooking

Traditional Carrot Cake

By Heidi Sutton

In honor of National Carrot Cake Day, Feb. 3, here is a traditional take on the timeless treat using everyday ingredients. This cake is so easy to make, perfectly moist, and topped with an easy homemade cream cheese frosting. Then try this cream cheese bar recipe that combines the spiced sweetness of traditional carrot cake with creamy, smooth cheesecake for an irresistible dessert.

Traditional Carrot Cake

Traditional Carrot Cake

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups carrots, shredded

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice

2/3 cup walnuts

Frosting:

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 350 F. In large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In mixing bowl, cream together oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Gradually add in carrots and crushed pineapple. Add dry mixture to wet ingredients and beat until smooth. Fold in walnuts.

Pour batter into two lightly greased 8-inch round cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely. Remove cakes from pans and slice off tops to level cakes.

To make frosting: In mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually add in powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Spread two large spoonfuls frosting over top of one cake and stack second cake on top. Frost entire cake with remaining frosting.

Carrot Cake Swirled Cream Cheese Bars

Carrot Cake Swirled Cream Cheese Bars

YIELD: Makes 24 bars

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided

2 cups sugar, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, divided

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix 1 cup each of flour and sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Add oil, 2 eggs, vanilla extract and carrots; mix well. Spread 1/2 of the batter into greased and floured 13×9-inch baking pan. Reserve remaining batter. Set aside.

Beat cream cheese and remaining 1 cup sugar in another large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add milk, remaining 2 tablespoons flour and lemon extract; beat until well blended. Add remaining 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended.

Drop spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture and reserved carrot cake batter, alternately, over carrot cake batter in pan. Cut through several times with knife for marble effect.

Bake 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Vegetable soup and flaxseed bread

By Heidi Sutton

Homemade soup and home-baked bread are the most basic cold-weather comfort foods. Life doesn’t get any better and lunch/dinner doesn’t get any easier with the following delicious tried and true healthy vegan and gluten-free recipes to start the New Year on the right foot.

Vegetable Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2  stalks celery,

2 carrots, sliced.

1medium onion, diced

1 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups vegetable broth

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup farro

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

1 15-ounce can chili beans , undrained

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

DIRECTIONS:

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil in a 5-quart pot. Add celery, carrots, onions and salt. Saute for 10 minutes. Add garlic. Combine vegetable broth, tomatoes and enough water to make 6 to 7 cups. Add liquid to pot. Stir in farro and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add mixed vegetables and beans, and cook, uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve with flaxseed bread.

Note: This soup freezes well.

Flaxseed Bread

YIELD: Makes 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS:

1 package rapid rise yeast

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup ground flaxseeds

1/3 cup old fashioned oats

1/3 cup toasted sunflower seed kernels ( to toast, put on cookie sheet and bake for 7 minutes at 350 degrees)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup lukewarm water, about 110 degrees

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey

DIRECTIONS: 

Let yeast bloom in warm water in a small bowl. Combine dry ingredients in stand mixer bowl. Add all liquids. Mix with dough hook to make soft, slightly sticky dough. Do NOT add more flour.

Put dough in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled.

Punch dough down. Roll into a 9” by 14” rectangle. Roll up tightly from 9” end. Put roll into a greased 9” by 5” loaf pan, smooth side up. Cover with towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until dough is 3/4” above the pan.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake bread for 33 minutes. Turn out unto a rack immediately. If desired, rub a pat of vegan butter over the hot bread to make crust shiny.

Note: Flax seed is high in Omega-3 and-6, and is know to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

These recipes were originally published in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 26.

Flourless chocolate cookies

By Heidi Sutton

Sometimes when your inner chocolate lover comes out, it’s time for a chocolate cookie. The following recipe for “Flourless Chocolate Cookies” from Danielle Rye’s “Live Well Bake Cookies: 75 Classic Cookie Recipes for Every Occasion” (Rock Point) offers the added benefit of being flourless. That means that even those with gluten allergies or intolerances can indulge.

What if you could replicate the taste of hot chocolate in a cookie? That’s just what happens with the next recipe for “Hot Chocolate Cookies” courtesy of creator Rachel Perry and American Lifestyle magazine. Enjoy them on their own, or paired with a mug of hot cocoa. 

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Flourless chocolate cookies

YIELD: Makes 24 to 36 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups powdered sugar

3⁄4 natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1⁄2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature

11⁄2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder together, then whisk in the instant espresso powder (if using) and salt until well combined. Set aside. 

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, egg, and vanilla extract until fully combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until the mixture is fully combined and smooth.

Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave a little room between each one. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are set. Remove from the oven, and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. 

Hot Chocolate Cookies

Hot Chocolate Cookies

YIELD: Makes 24 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1⁄2 cup butter

1 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips

11⁄4 cup light brown sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

8 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, cut into 1-inch pieces

12 large marshmallows, sliced in half

DIRECTIONS:

Place the butter and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat on high for 1 minute. Stir, and then heat for 30 seconds; repeat until chocolate is melted. Beat the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract together on medium speed, and then blend in the chocolate mixture. Add the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix on low until combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop 12 tablespoons of dough onto each cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven, and top each cookie with 1 piece of chocolate and 1 piece of marshmallow. Bake for another 4 minutes, and let cool for 5 minutes before placing on wire racks to cool completely.

Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon with Stir-Fried Vegetables

By Heidi Sutton

Integrating more seafood into your diet can be a delicious and nutritious way to improve your health. Salmon, in particular, is good for your heart and provides a variety of nutrients that help keep your body functioning. It is also very delicious.

Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon with Stir-Fried Vegetables

Recipe courtesy of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon with Stir-Fried Vegetables

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Salmon:

2 tablespoons light teriyaki sauce

1/4 cup mirin or sweet rice wine

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons scallions, rinsed and minced

1 1/2 tablespoons ginger, minced

12 ounces salmon fillets, cut into four portions (3 ounces each)

Vegetables:

1 bag (12 ounces) frozen vegetables stir-fry

1/2 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil

1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced (about 1 clove)

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

1 tablespoon scallions, rinsed and minced

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To prepare salmon: Mix teriyaki sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, scallions and ginger well. Pour over salmon and marinate 10-15 minutes. Remove salmon from marinade. Place salmon on baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with fork in thickest part and reaches minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

To prepare vegetables: Thaw frozen vegetables in microwave or place bag in bowl of hot water about 10 minutes. In large wok or saute pan, heat oil. Add garlic, ginger and scallions; cook gently, but do not brown, 30-60 seconds. Add vegetables and continue stir-frying 2-3 minutes, or until heated through. Add soy sauce. 

Serve one piece of salmon with 1 cup vegetables.

Feta Roasted Salmon and Tomatoes

Recipe courtesy of Marcia Stanley, MS, RDN, Culinary Dietitian

Feta Roasted Salmon and Tomatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

3 cups halved cherry tomatoes

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon oregano or dill weed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, cut into four serving-size pieces

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line 18-by-13-by-1-inch baking pan with foil. Lightly spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In medium bowl, toss tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, oregano or dill weed, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place fish pieces, skin side down, on one side of prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining pepper. Lightly press feta cheese on top of fish. Pour tomato mixture on other side of prepared pan. Bake, uncovered, 12-15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with fork.

Place salmon on serving plates. Spoon tomato mixture over top.

Belgium-style waffles

By Heidi Sutton

‘Tis the season for frost and snow, which means coming downstairs in the morning to a chilly home. One way to rally the troops out of bed when it’s cold and snowy is to reward them with a sweet breakfast. Classic crepes, Belgian-style waffles or homemade muffins can be just what’s needed on blustery days.

Classic Crepes

Classic Crepes

 

YIELD: Makes 10 crepes

INGREDIENTS: 

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1⁄4 teaspoon fine salt

Confectioner’s sugar(optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl. Heat an 8-inch (or larger) nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 1⁄2 teaspoon butter to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour 1⁄3 cup batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Once the bottom side is golden in color, flip it with a spatula and cook the other side for about 15 seconds. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding 1⁄2 teaspoon of butter/oil for every crepe. If the batter thickens over time, add a little milk. You can keep the ready ones warm on a plate in the oven at low temperature. Spread each crepe with jam (or filling of your choice) and roll it from one side to the other. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving if desired.

Belgian-Style Waffles

Belgian-style waffles

YIELD: Makes 8 waffles

INGREDIENTS:

8 waffles

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup butter, melted

3 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Combine flour, sugar baking powder and salt in bowl; mix well. Combine milk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla in another bowl; mix well. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Cook batter in Belgian waffle maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve warm with butter and maple syrup, or desired toppings.

Triple Chocolate Muffins

Triple Chocolate Muffins

YIELD: Makes 12 muffins

INGREDIENTS: 

1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1⁄2 cup white chocolate chips

2 large eggs beaten

1 1⁄4 cup sour cream

6 tablespoons packed brown sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Add the semisweet and white chocolate chips, and stir. Place the eggs, sour cream, sugar, and melted butter in a separate mixing bowl, and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir gently until just combined. 

Using two spoons, divide the batter evenly among the paper liners and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until well risen and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and serve warm, or place on a cooling rack and let cool.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple

Congratulations to Susan McGreevy  of Port Jefferson Station who was recently awarded a Blue Ribbon by Just A Pinch Recipes for her Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple recipe. 

To land the award, McGreevy served up a full-flavored dish that was both tasty and easy to prepare. “Not too many people like Brussels sprouts, but I happen to love them. I have made a believer out of them with this recipe. I always make it for Thanksgiving and other special dinners,” she said.

The recipe was tested by the Just A Pinch Test Kitchen who released the following testing notes: “If someone says they don’t like Brussels sprouts, have them try this recipe. Frying the bacon and then baking them in the bacon renderings adds a nice smoky flavor to the sprouts. After they bake, the outside layer gets crispy, and the inside is soft. Adding the apples gives a hint of sweetness, while vinegar balances out the flavors with some acidity. Topping them with crumbled bacon is a perfect finale for the side dish.” Find her recipe here.

McGreevy is one of millions of other home cooks from across the country and worldwide sharing their recipes on www.justapinch.com. Founded in 2010, the site allows users to post their own “family tested and approved” recipes and try recipes submitted by others, use a menu calendar and grocery list, create custom cookbooks, print hundreds of grocery coupons, enter recipe contests and join discussion groups. 

Latkes

Potato pancakes are traditionally served during Chanukah celebrations. This dish is often referred to as “latkes,” a Yiddish word that loosely translates to “little oily thing.” Potato pancakes are not exclusive to Jewish celebrations and cuisine. Germans have their own variation called “kartoffelpuffer” that can be served with sour cream, applesauce or smoked salmon. The Irish have “boxty,” which may be made with a combination of shredded potato and mashed potato before being fried. Many potato pancake recipes are quite similar. They involve only a few ingredients and fry up in a flash. Some chefs recommend draining the shredded potato prior to cooking so that the pancakes will fry up crispy and not be soggy or break apart.

Enjoy this recipe for Latkes, courtesy of AllRecipes.com

Latkes

YIELD: Serves 12

INGREDIENTS:

3 large potatoes, peeled and shredded

1 small onion, shredded

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or as needed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

1. Place the potatoes and onion into a bowl, and stir in eggs, salt and flour as needed to make the mixture hold together. With wet hands, scoop up about 1/3 cup of the mixture per patty, and form into flat round or oval shapes.

2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, and gently place the patties into the hot oil. Fry until the bottoms are golden brown and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes, then flip with a spatula and fry the other side until golden.

3. Line a colander or strainer with 2 paper towels, and drain the cooked latkes in the colander. Serve hot.

 Photo courtesy of Gurwin Jewish ~ Fay J. Lindner Residences

Residents at Gurwin Jewish~Fay J. Lindner Residences assisted living community in Commack recently celebrated the cooking traditions of Hanukkah with an interactive latke cooking demonstration.

“Our Assisted Living residents always enjoy our live cooking demonstrations, especially during the holidays,” said Stuart B. Almer, President and CEO of Gurwin Healthcare System. “It is a wonderful time for residents to reminisce about their own holiday memories and traditions and share them with each other and our staff.”

Gurwin Chef Salvatore Zingalis conducted the demonstration live in a temporary teaching kitchen in the residence’s dining room. Residents shared stories of their own latke recipes as they watched the chef go through his recipe step-by-step and were able to enjoy a sampling of what was prepared.

Latkes are traditionally served with either applesauce or sour cream, depending on whether the meal is meat or dairy; both were available for residents to enjoy.

“As a Jewish family, we love getting together for the holidays, the bigger the crowd, the better,” said Carol Sussman, a resident at the assisted living community, thoroughly enjoyed the demonstration and complimented the chef on his technique. “I used to cook latkes for Hanukkah, but now my daughter has taken over that job. I taught her everything I know!”

 

Guy Reuge's Ginger Almond Tart Mirabelle

By Heidi Sutton

At this year’s holiday gatherings, you can put together a showstopping menu from the beginning of the party to the final bite with mouthwatering recipes that bring guests back for more. Start with some savory appetizers, enjoy an elegant main course with an award-winning side dish, and top it off with a sweet cocktail and delectable dessert.

Holiday Mini Meatball Skewers

Recipe courtesy of Beef Loving Texans

Holiday Mini Meatball Skewers

Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef

1 cup fresh zucchini, grated

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 small yellow onion, diced 1/2 inch

2 red bell peppers, diced 1/2 inch

2 green bell peppers, diced 1/2 inch

12 skewers (6 inches)

1 can (16 ounces) whole berry cranberry sauce

3 tablespoons barbecue sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In medium bowl, lightly mix ground beef, zucchini, egg, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Shape into 24 1-inch meatballs. Alternately thread meatballs, onions, red peppers and green peppers onto skewers. Place skewers on shallow-rimmed baking sheet. Bake 22-25 minutes, or until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatball registers 160 F.

To make cranberry barbecue sauce: In medium saucepan, combine cranberry sauce and barbecue sauce; simmer 5 minutes, or until flavors blend. Drizzle sauce over skewers or serve as dipping sauce.

Classic Beef Wellington

Recipe courtesy of Beef Loving Texans 

Classic Beef Wellington

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 teaspoon olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided

1 chateaubriand tenderloin roast

8 ounces mushrooms

1 large shallot

2 tablespoons dry red wine

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

flour

1 sheet puff pastry

DIRECTIONS:

In large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1/2 teaspoon oil until hot. Combine salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Press evenly onto all surfaces of roast. Place roast in skillet; brown evenly. Remove roast from skillet. Heat oven to 425 F. In food processor, pulse mushrooms and shallot about 10 times until finely chopped. Do not overprocess. Place same skillet used for roast over medium-high heat and heat remaining oil until hot. Add mushrooms and shallot; cook 4-6 minutes until tender and all liquid is evaporated, stirring often. Add wine; cook 2-3 minutes until all liquid is evaporated. Stir in mustard, thyme and remaining pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes. Remove from skillet to medium bowl; cool.

Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place in oven. On lightly floured cutting board, unfold pastry dough. Roll pastry out to 12-by-9-inch rectangle; lay dough with shortest edge toward you. Spread mushroom mixture onto pastry dough, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges. Place roast in center of mushrooms. Fold pastry dough neatly around roast, stretching dough if necessary. Cut off excess pastry dough; press to seal overlapping edges. 

Remove baking sheet from oven and dust lightly with flour. Place pastry-wrapped roast, seam-side down, on baking sheet. Cut four (2-inch) vents in top of pastry. Bake 35-50 minutes, or until golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of roast registers 135 F for medium-rare or 150 F for medium. Transfer roast to carving board. Let stand 10 minutes. Temperature will rise about 10 F to reach 145 F for medium-rare or 160F for medium. Carve into slices and serve.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple

Recipe courtesy of Susan McGreevy of Port Jefferson Station, who was recently awarded a blue ribbon for this side dish by Just a Pinch Recipes

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apple

Makes 8 servings

“Not too many people like Brussels sprouts, but I happen to love them. I have made a believer out of them with this recipe. I always make it for special dinners.”

View the recipe here.

 

 

Espresso Martini 

Recipe courtesy of the Beverage Team at Mirabelle Restaurant in Stony Brook

Espresso Martini

Makes 1 serving

INGREDIENTS:

1.5  oz Titos Vodka

1.5 oz Black Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Fresh Espresso

1 oz Vanilla Simple Syrup

3 espresso coffee beans for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Shake over ice and strain into martini glass.

Guy Reuge’s Ginger Almond Tart Mirabelle

Recipe courtesy of Chef Guy Reuge

Guy Reuge’s Ginger Almond Tart Mirabelle

Makes 8 servings

“This pie is part of the early history of Mirabelle. I created the recipe for our dessert list when the restaurant opened in 1983. The recipe has been printed many times, and still today my customers ask for it…so I keep it on the menu. Personally, I love it with a cup of great coffee; it just goes well together.” 

Pâte sablée (pastry dough)

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces confectioners’ sugar

8 ½ ounces all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

4 ½ ounces butter, chopped into small cubes

1 egg

DIRECTIONS:

In a the bowl of an electric mixer (such as a Kitchenaid) fitted with the paddle combine the confectioners’ sugar, flour, salt, butter, and egg. Form the dough into a ball and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour. Roll out the dough 1/8-inch thick to fit a 10-inch tart shell mold. Fit the dough into the tart mold and freeze it for 1 hour before baking. Bake the tart shell in a preheated 325 F. oven for 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and reserve it.

Ginger Almond Filling

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound light brown sugar

1 cup blanched sliced almonds

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot

6 ounces unsalted butter

4 large egg yolks

confectioners’ sugar for dusting the top of the tart

unsweetened whipped cream

DIRECTIONS:

In a saucepan combine the brown sugar, almonds, cream, grated gingerroot, and butter, cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it is liquefied but not too hot. Rapidly stir in the egg yolks. Pour the mixture into the reserved tart shell and bake it in a preheated 240 F. oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it is semi-firm and the top looks shiny. Remove the tart and let it cool for at least 3 hours before unmolding. Sprinkle the tart with the confectioners’ sugar and slice it into 8 pieces. Serve each slice with the unsweetened whipped cream.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

I love you, come for dinner! Isn’t that invitation we all want to hear? It promises an evening of good food, warm conversations, and the chance to share our lives with family and close friends.” The wonderful Ina Garten, best known as The Barefoot Contessa, opens her excellent new cookbook, Go-To Dinners (Penguin Random House/Clarkson Potter), with this call to celebration. Leading with community, she addresses the power of connection that meals bring. 

Garten’s most accessible work to date, the book offers seventy-eight detailed and plainly articulated recipes: “Make ahead, freeze ahead, prep ahead, easy, assembled.”

Go-To Dinners is just that. As with Modern Comfort Food, Garten acknowledges the desire for ease in challenging times. Specifically, she embraces the need for the occasional modest approach. “When I planned a party before the pandemic, it was always a multicourse extravaganza. But then the pandemic happened and everything seemed like so much work. I started making simple dinners for [my husband] Jeffrey and me. I often made a lighter, easier, all-in-one dinner.” 

In addition, the experiences of the last two years changed her point of view on leftovers — something she had previously disliked — repurposing one dinner into the next. “… I tried to think of new ways to be creative with what I had on hand. It became like a game to see how many different meals I could get out of the dinners I was cooking!” Throughout, she even suggests various “two-fers” (such as putting the leftover Mussels with Saffron Cream into the One-Pot Oven Risotto). 

English Cream Scones

She smartly breaks the book into six sections: drinks and apps; breakfast for dinner; light dinners (the largest chapter); family dinners; vegetables and sides; and desserts. Nothing seems overly complicated, and the directions, as always, are clear. “And just because a recipe is easy to make, it shouldn’t skimp on flavor or style.” 

There are one-pot meals (as mentioned above) and others that take fewer than a quarter of an hour to cook. Some are supplemented with store-bought items, such as a pie crust that works better for a particular recipe. In addition, she has suggestions for boards made of purchased food (shown in inviting arrangements).

Garten proposes clever insights. The trick to pulling off cocktails is to prepare them ahead of time in a large pitcher; this provides more time with guests. Often, she updates classics (as with Creamy Hummus and Easy Oysters Rockefeller). Breakfast for dinner is the perfect answer to the love for breakfast food but acknowledging that mornings present time constraints. From the relatively simple Overnight Irish Oatmeal to the more demanding English Cream Scones, there is something for every level of cook. 

Eggs in Purgatory

Garten writes with ease and frankness. She is self-revelatory that she did not grow up loving family meals, which were grim, anxious affairs. Her passion for parties and dinners came later. Now, dinnertime marks the welcome end of the day, a time to relax and engage, an opportunity to be home. She draws on a skiing metaphor, encouraging risk-taking. “… avoiding failure means we miss out on the thrill of accomplishing something new”— whether on the slopes or in the kitchen. She also is not lacking in a sense of humor: witness the aptly named Eggs in Purgatory, with the eggs floating in a red sauce. 

Of course, the proof is in the eating. My good friend, Doug, kindly made the Lemon Linguine with Zucchini and Basil, a highly recommended dish. He reported that the dish came together easily. His plans include tackling the Oven-Roasted Southern Shrimp Boil; the Summer Skillet with Clams, Sausage, and Corn;  and the Creamy Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Thyme. He also has his eye on Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Fennel, Parmesan Polenta; and Panettone Bread Pudding.

Enhancing Go-To Dinners are dozens of vivid and elegant photos from the sure and artistic eye of Quentin Bacon (who also provided the visuals for Modern Comfort Food). 

“Restaurant food is wonderful but there is something soul-satisfying about making and eating a real home-cooked dinner right at your own kitchen table.” Ultimately, Ina Garten’s Go-To Dinners is an exploration of stress-free cooking with dozens of creative, tasty options to be easily prepared, shared, and enjoyed.

Go-To Dinners is available at www.penguinrandomhouse.com, www.amazon.com and www.barnesand noble.com.