light and fluffy mashed potatoes

For Erev Yom Kippur dinner last night, I made mashed potatoes.  I thought they were good, but my daughter Randi swooned as she ate some and said, “These potatoes are like fluffy clouds, they’re so light!  She asked me if I had done anything different than usual to which I said I didn’t, but I realized I’d better write down what I did do!

5 lbs. organic Idaho potatoes

2 sticks Whole Foods salted butter

about 1/2 cup whole, organic milk

salt (not kosher)

about 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peel potatoes.  Cut into largish pieces and put in large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil (uncovered), and simmer over low boil till you can put a fork into potatoes easily.  Drain in colander.  Put your sticks of butter back in pot to melt over low flame.  Add potatoes back in, and mash.  Add salt to taste and pepper too.  Then add milk, and mash till nice and fluffy.

New and Fabulous Pizza

Benji and I are home today due to a blizzard, and it is truly glorious being stuck in the house with one of my kids and no chance of being able to go out to work or do errands.  So I’ve been cooking up a storm. I asked him if he wanted some homemade pizza since I know how much he loves pizza, and of course he gave a very enthusiastic thumbs up.  Now, the pizza is out of the oven, and he is loving it. He said it’s the perfect doughiness, cheesiness and sauciness. And of course, I’m always thrilled when Alexa Hente approves of my cooking!

for the pizza dough:

  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¾ cups King Arthur Organic Bread Flour (to start with)

Pour ¾ cup warm water in the large bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Mix and let sit about 15 min. till foamy. Add 1 ¾ cup King Arthur Organic Bread Flour and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low for about 15 min. adding about ½ cup additional flour till dough is mostly together as a ball around the dough hook. Turn out onto floured parchment or counter and knead maybe 10 times. Turn under to roll into a nice ball. Lightly oil a large bowl and cover with saran wrap. Put in warm spot for about 1 ½ hours.

for the sauce:

  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I used Cento).
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 light teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Pour 2 tablespoons light olive oil into pot. Grate 2 large garlic cloves with microplane into the oil. Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes into the oil as well. Saute over low flame for about 3 min. till garlic is softened, but not brown. Pour crushed tomatoes in. Simmer over low flame about 30 min with cover off till sauce reduces by about 1/3 to 1/2.

put it all together:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Turn out dough onto floured parchment and flatten. Cut into 2 pieces. Put one in fridge. Let other one rest (covered) for a few minutes or refrigerate covered till ready to use. Cover large baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle parchment with a little yellow cornmeal (I use Quaker yellow). On counter or another piece of parchment, roll out dough to about ¼ in. thick (rectangle or circle). Transfer to parchment on cookie sheet.

Spoon tomato sauce over dough almost to edges. Sprinkle with about 8 oz. whole milk (or part skim- which I used) mozzarella cheese – all the way to the edges. Put cookie sheet on lowest shelf of oven. Bake about 15 min. till cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Slice with pizza cutter.

new apple pie

I’m always searching of the perfect pie crust; I think I may have found it.  I liked the flavor of it, since it’s made with both Crisco and butter.  My son Danny just told me that he thought it was amazing, so I’ll probably stick with this recipe, at least for awhile.

crust: 

3 cups unbleached organic flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

12 tablespoons frozen salted butter

8 tablespoons crisco (that’s refrigerated)

8 tablespoons ice water

Put flour in food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Sprinkle salt over.  Then put cut up butter over flour and crisco over as well.  Pulse till you can still see some pieces of butter throughout. Pour water over, and pulse till dough comes together.  Dump on clean surface (I use a marble slab) and divide into 2 pieces, one being larger by about 2 oz. for the top crust).

Flatter each into a round disk and refrigerate wrapped separately in waxed paper or parchment paper for a few hours or overnight.

apple filling:

apples – about 12 medium to large apples- I use a variety of baking apples either from my local orchard, Terhune Orchards near Princeton, or from

Whole Foods.

scant 3/4 cup granulated sugar

about 1 1/2 teaspoons organic cinnamon (you many need 2 teaspoons to taste)

about 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons cornstarch or flour (I used cornstarch this time)

dash kosher salt

2 tablespoons butter, broken up for dotting over the top

Roll out smaller bottom crust, using enough flour to prevent sticking.  Place carefully in 9 to 9 1/2 inch pie dish.  Then spoon apples and most of the macerated cinnamon-lemon juice in. Dot with about 2 tablespoons butter. Then stick this in fridge while you roll out top crust.    After you roll out the top crust, carefully place over the apple filling.  Brush crust with a mixture of 1 egg and about 1 1/2 teaspoon milk or light cream (I used the light cream).  Then refrigerate or freeze for baking later. I freeze it uncovered for about 30 minutes before I wrap it up to give the egg wash some time to freeze.

Before baking, put  about 6 slits in the top for venting purposes.I bake it frozen at 375 degrees for about 1 hour and 10 minutes on lowest possible position in the oven  till the crust is nice and golden, and just before the juices start to erupt.

 

easiest spinach pie

I’ve been making this spinach pie for years for my daughter and my grandkids.  During dinner tonight at my daughter’s house, my grandson Ezra said, “Safta, this is my favorite dinner!”  Noah chimed in his agreement.   They each had at least 4 or 5 pieces.  My daughter said, “This is the perfect comfort food.”  She commented that  it’s her favorite meal too.  She wasn’t too happy when I set aside a piece to bring home to my son Benji.  When I got home, Benji wasn’t too happy that I only brought one piece home for him.

  • 1 box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets
  • 2 10 oz. boxes frozen organic chopped spinach, defrosted and drained and squeezed pretty dry
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • about 8 oz. chunk feta
  • about 1/4 cup parmesan
  • about 1/2 tablespoon Litehouse dill
  • about 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • pinch salt

Place frozen puff pastry in refrigerator to defrost.

In mixing bowl, put mostly dry, drained spinach, eggs, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese.  Break apart the feta into smallish pieces and add to mixture.  Add the dill, pepper, and salt.  Mix gently with a rubber spatula until all ingredients are incorporated.

Grease aluminum pan that’s about 9 x 13 in. (sides are less than 1 inch deep).  Place parchment paper that’s a little longer and wider than the bottom of the pan, pressing it down into the corners.

Take 1 sheet of the puff pastry out of fridge and roll it out so that the size matches the bottom of your baking pan (about 9 by 13.  Sprinkle flour on the counter as necessary to roll out the pastry.  Transfer to parchment lined pan.  Spread entire filling evenly over pastry, almost to the edges of the pastry.  Then roll out second sheet of pastry.  Place it over the filling, and turn the edges of the pastry over the filling and crimp it with the bottom layer of pastry.  Then make an egg wash of 1 egg with 1 teaspoon of water, and brush it generously over top of pie.

I usually stick it in the freezer for about 30 min.  Then I cover it with foil and put back in freezer till I’m ready to bake it.

Bake about 45-50 min. at 400 degrees till puffy and brown.  Serve immediately.

very fluffy buttermilk pancakes

I tried a new recipe for buttermilk pancakes that’s very similar to my other ones.  I was very happy with the result and so was my own personal Alex Si Hente (from the old Savarin Coffee commercial), my son Benji.  I also made them for my mother’s best friend Adele, and she enjoyed them as well, commenting that she loved my pancakes, but no others!

adapted from ohsweetbasil.com melt in your mouth buttermilk pancakes:

  • 2 cups organic King Arthur brand unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 extra large eggs- fresh from the farm, separated
  • 2 cups Friendship 1.5  percent fat (make sure you shake before using) 
  • 2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter (either salted or unsalted- I happened to use salted)  

First, melt butter in small microwave-safe dish and set aside to cool.  Put dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.

Measure buttermilk in pyrex glass cup measurer.  Then add egg yolk to the buttermilk.  Add melted butter and mix till well blended.

In separate glass bowl by hand with wire whisk or using a hand-held mixer (I did this by hand), mix egg whites till almost stiff, but not quite.

Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and fold in with rubber spatula till almost smooth- but batter still has some lumps.  Then fold in egg whites gently.

Heat non-stick griddle.  Then coat very lightly with butter. Do not let your butter brown! Scoop 1/4 cup spoonfuls onto hot griddle.   Leave alone till you have the idea that the undersides are brown, use a spatula and peek under.  If sufficiently browned, carefully flip with a wide spatula.  Cook till browned nicely on other side.

Serve immediately with butter and pure maple syrup.

 

the perfect summer dinner of fried fish (tilapia or flounder) with homemade tartar sauce, cole slaw, sliced Jersey tomatoes, and Jersey farm corn on the cob, french fries or baked stuffed potatoes!

This is one of my favorite summer dinners to eat and make.  When my parents were alive, I loved to make this for them (with french fries, too) because they loved it to the nth degree.  And what I loved was how much they loved the meal and how they commented with almost every bite about how delicious everything was.  My mother Shirley Fried’s comment would be, “How do you make everything so perfect, dolly?”  My daughter Randi loved the meal too, and she recently asked me to make it.  I invited her father in law and his wife, because I really have fun with them- they are great people- and because they like my food.  As my daughter says, “They are good customers.”

I bought the fish at Whole Foods and it was super fresh. The only other place I’ve bought fish that’s been this fresh has been at the Keyport Fishery.  The corn I bought at an amazing farmstand in Pennington, NJ called Kerr’s Kornstand. The corn is brought right in  from the field while you are there- and it is perfect corn- there is none fresher or sweeter!  I also got my tomatoes there, and they were sweet, dark red, and juicy.

for the fish (tilapia, flounder, or other mild white fish):

My recipe for the fish harkens from the recipe used at Klein’s Fish Market in Belmar, NJ.  I once asked them for their recipe, and they readily gave it to me, I think because they sell the coating mix right there in the market. For the coating they use 1 part McCormick Golden Dipt Tempura Seafood Batter Mix  to 2 parts McCormick Golden Dipt Fry Easy All-Purpose Breading Mix. What a breeze to make.  Simply put the mix into a 9 by 13 baking pan and whisk together to get any lumps out.  Put some cold water in a separate mixing bowl.  Dip each fillet into the water on both sides of the fillet, then dredge the fillet through the coating mix on each side of the fillet, using your hand to sprinkle some extra coating over the fish to cover the fillet completely.  Then heat your oil (about 1/2 inch deep)  on a high flame in a nonstick frying pan till it’s really hot.  Fry about 2-3 minutes till underside is beautifully browned.  Flip with spatula and cook till underside is browned.  No need to drain- the fish doesn’t pick up excess oil if it’s hot enough to start.

For each pound of fresh fish fillets, use about 1 cup of the all purpose breading mix and 1/2 cup of the tempura mix.

Use canola or light olive oil  in a large non-stick fry pan, and get the oil nice and hot before putting the fish in.  Fry till underside is brown, flip and brown the other side. This should take about 5 min. altogether.  Serve immediately with tartar sauce and/or cocktail sauce and lots of fresh sliced lemon.

judy’s homemade tartar sauce:

  • 1 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh or Minute Maid frozen lemon juice from concentrate 
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly grated onion
  • a few tablespoons of chopped dill pickle (I use Claussen dill sandwich slices)
  • a dash of kosher salt 

After you taste, adjust by adding a little more lemon juice or chopped pickle to your liking.

my simple cole slaw:

  • 2 bags dole cabbage for cole slaw
  • about 1 cup of Hellman’s mayo
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk (you could substitute plain Greek yogurt or sour cream)
  • about 4-5 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • about 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • about 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • about 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • about 1 tablespoon of the BEST herbs- Litehouse dill 

Mix together in large mixing bowl at least a few hours before serving.  Add more or less of any of the ingredients to your taste.

fresh corn on the cob:

Cover shucked corn in a large pot with water.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer on low boil for 8 minutes.  Serve.

french fries (Be careful with this recipe- although it’s easy, only experienced cooks should make this!)

Heat a large pot of oil (corn or canola) till oil starts to shimmer, but is NOT yet boiling. You don’t want your oil to come to a boil before you put the fries in, because the oil could catch on fire!  Carefully place your fries in and stand back a bit so you don’t get burned if oil splatters a little- I use either Whole Foods Crinkle Cut Fries or Nathans Crinkle Cut Fries.  Leave the fries alone, do not mix them in the oil.  Fry on a rolling boil till fries are browned- the time may range from 15 min. to 25 min.  Drain in paper towels, sprinkle with kosher salt, and serve.

baked stuffed potatoes:

  • Idaho organic potatoes
  • salted or unsalted butter
  • paprika 

Pierce potatoes with a fork.  Bake at about 375 degrees to 400 degrees for at least 1 hour till a fork goes in easily and potatoes are soft inside. Slice the tippy top of potatoes off.  Scoop out the potato being careful not to break the skin and put in mixing bowl.  Add butter to taste, salt to taste, and a little pepper to taste.  Mash potatoes.  Scoop the mashed potatoes back into the potato shells.  Sprinkle tops with paprika.

Note:  I usually make these in advance, so I refrigerate them, covered, and then I heat them up in a baking pan or sheet pan at 375 degrees for about 45 min. to an hour, till piping hot.

nectarine, blueberry, and raspberry galette or crostada

I usually bake pies, but sometimes, I enjoy baking summer fruit galettes because they are quick to prepare, and because you are guaranteed a flaky, browned crust on the bottom, which is hard to achieve in a pie.  For this, I used nectarines, blueberries, and raspberries, because that’s what I had on hand.  I liked the color of all three fruits- dazzling! I also liked the pure taste of the fruit in the tart- a result of only a little sugar and a dash of cinnamon- and no nutmeg!! I’m publishing this recipe because my daughter told me this dessert was one of the most delicious desserts she’s ever eaten. It’s adapted from Simply Scratch – Rustic Peach and Blueberry Galette.

for the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached organic flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks frozen butter (I used salted), cut into smallish cubes
  • 1 extra large egg yolk mixed with 3 tablespoons whole milk- but I will use 3 1/2 tablespoons next time, as dough needs a bit more liquid                                         ** (reserve the white for egg wash) 

In bowl of food processor with metal blade, put flour, salt, and sugar.  Pulse 1 or 2 times. Put butter cubes on top.  Pulse until you can still see little pieces of butter.  Pour egg yolk and milk mixture into feed tube and whirr until dough just comes together as a ball.  Sprinkle some flour on a marble slab or on a piece of waxed paper, and flatten (roll) pastry into a disk about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick.  Wrap in plastic or waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes, or if you’re short on time as I was, stick in freezer for 30 minutes.

for the fruit filling (you can adapt your fruits to your taste or what you have on hand):

  • 2 large nectarines (do not peel!)  (or 4-5 nectarines or peaches to 1 cup of blueberries and no raspberries)
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 heavy cup raspberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached flour 
  • NO NUTMEG!!! (I hate it!) 
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 

In mixing bowl, slice the nectaries, put the blueberries, and the raspberries.  Sprinkle in the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and flour.  Gently mix with a rubber spatula.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Take pastry out of fridge.  Roll out (either on waxed paper or on a marble surface) to a circular shape of about 14 inches. You should flip it a few times, sprinkling flour on rolling surface as needed.   Transfer carefully to a large sheet pan lined with parchment (I folded pastry in half to move it and then unfolded it onto my parchment lined sheet pan). Evenly put the fruit mixture evenly on pastry leaving a border of about 1 1/2 inches around the outer edge with no fruit.  Then pleat that uncovered pastry up and over the fruit (You will have quite a large opening where the fruit is uncovered by pastry).  Make an egg wash of the reserved egg white with a teaspoon of water.  Brush it generously over the folded pastry.  Sprinkle the crust lightly with granulated sugar, and a little extra sugar over the fruit, too.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 min.  Once you see crust is starting to brown, reduce oven to 375 degrees, and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes till crust is perfectly browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature plain or with vanilla ice cream.

banana pudding a la magnolia – in more ways than one

I was recently at 2 parties where my cousin Jane made the Magnolia Bakery recipe for banana pudding.  I couldn’t help but notice how everybody was going crazy for it.  So this weekend I decided to make it  as a dessert for my grandson Noah’s afterbirthday party (7 years old).  My daughter told me that it made a big hit.  I don’t see how it couldn’t – it’s rich and refreshing and just plain delicious. My cousin used the recipe on popsugar.com, so I used that as well.  I also referred to the recipe on confessionsofacookbookqueen.com.

ingredients:

  • 1 box Nabisco Nilla wafers (don’t substitute any other brand of cookies)
  • 1 14 oz. can Magnolia sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water
  • 1 pack Jello brand vanilla instant pudding
  • 4 large ripe (but not too ripe) bananas 
  • 3 cups heavy cream

instructions:

  1. In the bowl of a mixer, beat sweetened condensed milk and water for about a minute with paddle attachment. Add the pudding mix and beat for about two more minutes. Transfer to a smaller bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. By that time the mixture should be nice and firm.
  2. In a large bowl on medium speed, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form (I put my large metal mixing bowl and whisk mixer attachment in the freezer for 15 minutes. I also put the cream in the freezer for 5 minutes before beating.) Beat till stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in whipped cream to the pudding mixture in thirds until fully incorporated and no streaks of pudding are visible.
  3. I like to use a glass trifle dish.   Start out by putting a shallow layer of whipped cream in bottom of dish. (This is different than any recipe I looked at for the Magnolia banana pudding) Then put about a layer of cookies (about a third of the box of Nilla wafers) on top of cream.  Layer about one third of the sliced bananas over cookies, then about 1/3 of leftover cream.  Then put second layer of cookies, then 2nd layer of bananas, then 1/2 of leftover cream.  Then put last layer of cookies, last slices of bananas, and rest of cream over bananas.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 8 hours before serving.

Note:  I recommend you watch the video on popsugar.com at least once before you begin making this banana pudding.

creamy and light quiche lorraine

Whenever I go out for a breakfast or a brunch, I always think about ordering the quiche, but I usually don’t make that selection because I’m usually disappointed.  I’ve had a yen for the perfect slice of quiche, and my son Benji put in the request, so I obliged.

Wow.  I put together a bunch of recipes and came up with this.  The result was quiche heaven. The consistency was creamy but light like a soufflee at the same time!

ingredients:

  • 1 Oronique deep dish pie crust (very important to use a deep dish crust.  I have found this crust to be the best tasting.
  • 5- 6 oz. swiss cheese, grated by hand (you can substitute gruyere)
  • 1 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • no nutmeg (to me that ruins the recipe!) 
  • about 10 -11 oz. crispy bacon, broken into bite sized pieces, not crumbles! (I use Nature’s Promise, which I bake on a foil lined sheet pan at 425 degrees, till crispy, then I drain on paper towels) 

First, take crust out of freezer, use a fork to prick bottom and sides.  Bake for 10 min. at 350 degrees. Take out of oven while you prepare the filling and raise temperature to 375 degrees.

Cook your bacon as described above in list of ingredients. Drain and set aside.

Grate the cheese by hand.

For filling, mix eggs and cream well with a fork.  Add salt and pepper. Place pie crust on a sheet pan lined with foil.

Spread cheese on bottom of crust.  Then spread bacon evenly over cheese.

Ladle the custard over bacon and cheese.  You may not be able to use all the filling because it will overflow, but save it for a few minutes later after the quiche has started to cook.

Begin to bake on middle rack of oven.  After about 15 min., pull oven shelf out with sheet pan carefully and spoon any remaining custard into the quiche.

Bake for about 45 to 55 min. until entire pie is puffed nicely.  Let sit on counter for about 15 min. before serving.

Corn Muffins

I’ve made many different recipes for corn bread and corn muffins.  I happened to have on hand a mix from Stonewall Kitchen for cornbread which I used for corn muffins.  Although I usually am pretty negative towards mixes, I have to admit that this one was great.  The muffins had that perfect taste between savory and sweet, slightly reminiscent of the sweet Thomas Toaster Cakes I loved when I was a kid.  My daughter in law really enjoyed them, and she requested I make some for her to take back to Vietnam with her.  I didn’t have another of that mix, so I had to choose from one of the many recipes I’ve used in the past.  I settled on one I haven’t made for years from my old Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  The muffins came out great.  The second batch I made, I divided the batter in half and I added 1 cup of fresh blueberries to the one half.  I actually added an extra tablespoon of sugar the second time I made the muffins, and I liked the end result.

Adapted from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook recipe entitled, “Rich Corn Cake” :

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal  (I used Quaker yellow cornmeal)
  • 1 cup organic unbleached flour (I always use King Arthur Flour)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar (I used 5  the second time)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (original recipe calls for cream of tartar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream (I use Daisy because it is the purest brand of sour cream)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter (I used salted) 
  • optional – blueberries-  about 1 cup for half the batter if you want to do half muffins plain and half with blueberries.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put 12 paper muffin cups in muffin tin.

In mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt.

Mix milk, eggs, sour cream with a whisk.  Then pour in melted butter (but slightly cooled).  Mix with whisk. Add wet ingredients to dry.  Mix quickly with rubber spatula just till combined and you can’t see any streaks of the flour.  Scoop into muffin cups.

Bake 20 minutes, just till tops are starting to brown.

Eat hot with lots of butter!