A friend unexpectedly stopped by for dinner. I took him shopping with me to get something to cook when he noticed pomegranates at the grocery store. He mentioned that he’d seen them before but never tried one.
I said, “What? How could you live in New York and never have had a pomegranate? Let’s get a couple and I’ll show you how good they are.”
How to cut and remove the seeds –
Cut the skin around the top and remove it.
Make 5 shallow cuts along the sides and pull apart into sections.
Break up the seeds into a bowl.
Fill the bowl with water so the membrane floats and can be removed.
Ready to eat.
Pomegranate Juice –
On the street in Vietri sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast.
Put the seeds in a blender with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water and blend for a few minutes.
Strain the mixture, squeezing the seeds in a sieve.
Ready to drink.
Pomegranate Liqueur –
After we’d made my Aunt Lena’s Coffee Sport and it turned out so well, Bridget and I got adventurous and decided to try making pomegranate liqueur. I went to the nearest Korean grocer. In NY, Korean grocer means general merchandise and very fresh and varied fruit and vegetables. I picked out 12 pomegranates and went to the cashier. As I started to unload them from the basket to the counter, a couple got on line behind me.
When they saw what I was buying the woman asked, “What could you possibly do with all of those pomegranates?”
Her husband looked embarrassed and so did she. “I apologize. Those words just fell out of my mouth.”
“There’s no need to apologize. And since you asked, my wife and I make some old Italian cordial recipes and this is for one we one we made up.”
The cashier who knew I shopped there regularly said, “These are very expensive. And you’re buying so many.”
“Maybe but that will turn into a bottle of something that will be worth it.”
The woman who apologized asked, “Why can’t you just use bottled pomegranate juice?”
Maybe I looked a little indignant when I said, “Bottled juice just won’t be a good as fresh. We squeeze the juice, strain, then simmer it until it’s thickened a bit. Then we mix it with simple syrup and grain alcohol, and it’s done. That’s it, a simple cordial and ready to drink.”
My Aunt Lena made the best gingerbread. Whenever she made it, usually after I asked her to, I’d have it for dessert and breakfast. I recently tried some gingerbread recipes and came up with this one that’s a lot like hers.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup coffee
2/3 cup mild-flavored molasses
4 tbsp. butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease a 9-in square pan with butter. Mix dry ingredients 1 to 5 in a bowl.
Heat but don’t boil the coffee, molasses, butter, and brown sugar in a small pot. Let it cool and then whisk in the egg.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth. Pour it into the buttered pan and bake for about 35 minutes.
Gingerbread is perfect plain but you can also dress it up with fruit and heavy cream.
Too late for Thanksgiving but in time for Christmas and Hanukkah. Cranberry Lemon Bars have a sweet-tart topping on a butter cookie base. I got this in the New York Times.
Cranberry and Lemon Topping –
12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
2 large lemons
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 large room temperature eggs
The Crust –
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. fine salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
9 by 13 inch pan, lined with foil and coated with cooking spray
Combine the cranberries, ¾ cup of sugar, and 3 tablespoons of water, and the zest of 2 lemons in a small pot. Bring it to a boil, stir and cook for about 10 minutes until the berries burst.
The Crust (heat oven to 350o)
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the vanilla and butter. Mix until dough forms. Press the dough into the pan in an even layer. Bake 18 – 20 minutes or until brown around the edges.
While the crust is baking squeeze the zested lemons for ½ cup of juice. Squeeze another lemon if needed. Mix the ¼ cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, and the beaten eggs until incorporated. Add the lemon juice and mix until smooth.
After the crust has cooled for a few minutes spread the cranberry topping over it. Then slowly pour the lemon topping on the cranberry.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the topping is set. Let it cool and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Use the foil to lift it out of the pan. Cut into bars and sprinkle top with confectioners’ sugar.
This is an old desert recipe that’s not too common in most restaurants today but still very popular in New Orleans, especially Brennan’s where it was invented. It’s prepared and served table-side and the flaming presentation is impressive. Be careful when you light it – use a long reach lighter or wooden match.
Ingredients (1 banana per serving):
1 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 banana cut lengthwise and in half
A sprinkle of cinnamon
1 tsp. banana liqueur
1 oz. light rum
1 scoops of vanilla ice cream
Melt and mix the butter and sugar in a pan on medium heat. Brown the banana pieces lightly on both sides, sprinkle with cinnamon and remove for the pan to a dish with the ice cream. Pour the banana liqueur and rum to the pan and carefully light it. Spoon the sauce over the bananas and ice cream and serve it while it’s hot.
Banana Rum Old Fashioned
If you’d like something else to do with your Banana Liqueur, try this variation on an Old Fashion. I got this a recipe in Food & Wine magazine.
1 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. white rum
1/2 oz. banana liqueur
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Orange peel garnish
Put all of ingredients except the orange peel in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with the orange peel.
The peach season is almost over in New York. I thought I’d make Peach Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake while I still could. It’s an almost fool proof recipe but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Use ripe but firm peaches.
Don’t overcook the butter-sugar mixture.
Use less sugar in the batter if you want it to taste more like corn bread than cake.
8 tbsp. room temperature unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup sugar, divided
3 ripe peaches, sliced into wedges ¼ inch thick
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350o.
Place 4 tbsp. butter in a 10-inch cast iron pan on medium heat. Add ¼ cup of the sugar and stir until it melts and begins to color – about 4-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and place the peach slices around its edge and cover the bottom in one layer.
Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cream the remaining 4 tbsp. butter and ¼ cup of sugar in another bowl. Beat each egg and add one at a time and mix into the creamed butter. Now mix in the vanilla and cream.
Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Spread the batter over the peach slices in the pan and smooth it out with a spatula.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top starts to color. Let the skillet cool for 10 minutes then run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Cover the pan with a large plate and flip it over. Tap on the bottom of the pan and let it rest for a few minutes while everything settles then remove the pan. It’s a perfect desert but I like it for breakfast.
I came across this article on desserts made with olive oil in Gambero Rosso.
Traditional Desserts Made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
THE RESULT OF ANCIENT TRADITIONS AND OF A HUMBLE BUT TASTY CUISINE, DESSERTS MADE WITH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PART OF THE ITALIAN TABLE.
“There are those who use it. to replace butter, for reasons of intolerance or food choice, or to reinvent classic recipes making them lighter, not to mention the many vegan versions of all the traditional desserts. In order to find fine quality extra-virgin olive oil cookies, there’s no need to search among specialized websites and magazines: just look to the past, at the recipes of a time when olive oil was the absolute protagonist. . . “
These Little Bird Cookies were a typical Easter dessert when I was growing up. Well, Easter was different this year due to COVID 19 so we’re having them in August. My Aunt Vicky’s family was from Abruzzo where these cookies originated. When she made them, they really did look like little birds. Some of ours resemble chickens and others look more like fish but they still taste good.
16 oz. all-purpose flour
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup white wine:
3 tbs. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
Put the flour in a large bowl and add the liquids, sugar, and salt. Mix and knead to form dough. Cover and let it rest for at least 1 hour.
5 oz. blanched almonds, toasted and ground
2 oz. grated dark chocolate
Zest of 1 orange
10 oz. Montepulciano grape jam (not so easy to find – I used raspberry preserves)
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbs. dark rum
Dried currants for eyes
Place the almonds in a dry frying pan and toast on medium heat until they lightly color. Grind them in a food processor to a coarse powder. Chill the chocolate in the freezer for 15 minutes to make it easier to grate. Put all the filing ingredients in a pot and heat on low for 15 minutes. Let it cool before using it.
Pre-heat the oven to 340 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Roll the dough out into a thin sheet. Use a bowl or glass to cut circles. Re-knead and roll out the scraps. The bowl I used was 4 ½ inches in diameter and I got 15 cookies.
Put a teaspoon of filling in the center of a circle. Fold it in half and press the edges to seal. Shape a head and make a triangular cut for a beak. Use a current for an eye. Poke a few holes where the wing should be to let the steam escape and cut a few lines to represent feathers in the tail. If you’re artistic and take your time it should look like a little bird. If not, just shape it into a half moon. Bake for 20 minutes, let cool and serve.
I’ve only recently heard of these. They aren’t something that anyone in my family ever made. I read about them in an article in L’Italo-Americano and decided to give them a try. Easy to make, not too sweet, very crunchy and just right for breakfast.
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
Sugar for glazing
Mix the wine, oil, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Add in the flour and make dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it stops sticking. Put it back in the bowl, cover it and let it rest for ½ hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly oil the baking sheet. Pinch off a walnut sized piece of dough and roll out to form a log about 4 inches long. Overlap the two ends of the log and pinch to form a ring. Pour some sugar onto a small plate. Dip one side of the cookie only in the sugar and place, sugar side up, on the baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
Biscotti all’Arancia are an easy to make cookie. I got the recipe from Lidia Bastianich.
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup plus 1 tbsp.sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsps. orange juice
2 tbsps. lemon juice
1 tbsp. orange zest
For the glaze:
2 ½ cups confectioners sugar, or as needed
¼ to ½ cup orange juice, or as needed
Cream the butter and sugar – Place the room temperature butter and sugar in a bowl and force the sugar into the butter with the back of a wooden spoon until the mixture is creamy.
Beat the eggs, one at a time in a separate bowl, and blend into the creamed butter.
Add the vanilla, the lemon and orange juice, and the zest and mix well.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl and then mix it with the butter/egg mixture to make dough. Wrap the dough in Saran, and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Roll the dough into four logs, about 1 ½ inches in diameter and 10 to 12 inches long. Freeze the logs for 20 minutes, until firm enough to cut without losing their shape.
Cut the logs into ½ inch rounds, and place on parchment-lined or buttered baking sheets. Bake about 15 minutes. Remove and let the cookies cool on a wire rack.
Glaze the cookies – Whisk the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl with the orange juice to make a smooth glaze. Dip a cookie tops in the glaze; it should stick to the cookie in a thin layer. If not, adjust the consistency of glaze with more juice or confectioners’ sugar. Dip the top of the baked cookies in the glaze, and let them dry on a wire rack.
This is a fairly simple recipe for what looks like an elaborate fruit tart. It’s December so I used canned peaches but this works with fresh peaches and apricots too.
¼ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 can sliced peaches
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, about 10 by 10 inches, thawed
¼ cup raw pistachios, finely chopped
Preheat to 425° and put a rack in middle of the oven.
Heat honey, sugar, salt, and 2 tbsp. water in a small pot over medium-high heat, until it’s blended and slightly darkened. Turn off heat and add butter and vinegar. Pour the honey mixture into a 9″ spring-form pan. Place the peaches in pan.
Roll out the thawed pastry on a lightly floured surface to remove the folds. Prick pastry all over with a fork. Place the pan on top of the pastry and use scissors or a sharp pointed knife trim the pastry to make a circle that’s slightly larger than the circumference of the pan. Place the pastry over the fruit in the pan and tuck in the edges. The pastry with shrink as it bakes.
Bake until pastry is puffed – about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375° and continue to bake for another 15–20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.
Remove the upper section of the spring-form pan and cover the tart with a large dish. Flip the tart over and remove the bottom of the pan. You may need a spatula to unstick it.