Shortcake shortcut

Berries are back in the Hudson Valley. Petite wineberries, a not-too-distant relative of raspberries, are in bloom.

Time to harvest ...

Time to harvest …

Harvest now or lose them to hungry deer (or your nearest pastry chef/neighbor who may be sourcing fresh and local). If you haven’t been beaten to the bushes, get picking and try your day’s take with this easy shortcut on berry shortcake.

 

 

Shortcake shortcut

4 cups fresh berries (rinsed)

2 cups crushed pretzels

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350˚. Melt butter in an 8-inch baking pan in oven. Crush pretzels and layer in pan of melted butter. Cover with chocolate morsels. Bake 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Cut into four servings. Top shortcake with berries and a dollop of whipped cream.

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PuraVidalicious Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto

Costa Ricans rate near the top with their hospitality and capacity for comfort. The pure life of “pura vida,” the greeting and spirit shared throughout the country, isn’t simply a marketing catch phrase (though it seems as if the tourism trade has claimed it), but a philosophy to seize the day with a certain degree of nonchalant enthusiasm. An appreciation for easy living has helped ramp up Costa Rica on travel destination routes, and the beauty of the diverse natural environment and its amazing number of species of the Central American country draws visitors from around the globe. We met travelers from the UK to China during our recent family tour where we savored the landscape, wildlife and Costa Rican cuisine.

If you go, take your appetite to indulge in the puravidalicious local food. Sample a taste of Costa Rica with this no-frills take on Gallo Pinto, a signature dish we encountered everywhere. The simple creation of rice and beans started each day with a high-protein foundation, not dressed up yet prepared with care.

Puravidalicious

Puravidalicious

Gallo Pinto

1 pound bag black beans, soaked overnight in water

5 cups water for beans

1 medium sweet onion, diced

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

12-15 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped

2 cups medium grain white rice

3 cups broth or water for rice

2 teaspoons salt

Twist of fresh ground pepper

After soaking beans overnight, drain, rinse and place in large pot of water (at least 5 cups). Simmer beans 3 to 4 hours. Drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid.

Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until lightly caramelized. Add chopped cilantro, broth or water and rice. Add salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, covered, until rice softens, about 25 minutes. Add additional vegetable oil to pan and fry rice mixture, turning evenly. Fold in beans. Gradually add reserved liquid from beans. Stir. Serve immediately with eggs, tortillas or toast, and fresh fruit.

Yield: 10 generous servings

 

Coconut macaroons – tested and tasted …

Try this no-nonsense recipe for macaroons from trusted friend and guest blogger Jane Manaster. Welcome back to The Cookery, Jane.

A Dessert for Passover

By Jane Manaster

Florence Greenberg was the English equivalent of Joan Nathan, today’s maven or expert in American Jewish cookbook authors. Both, in their time and place, have supplied recipes for everyday and the special dishes pertinent to the festivals and holidays.

They belonged to different generations and while Joan Nathan appears on television and writes vividly illustrated books, the 1947 first edition of Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookery Book mostly derived from her column for the weekly Jewish Chronicle. It was sparsely illustrated with black and white advertisements for kosher products and now outmoded kitchen equipment and became an instant wedding present, usually from mother to daughter or daughter-in-law. I still treasure my 7th edition copy though the pages are stained and the book itself disintegrating from constant use.

Recipes are straightforward, even making the Passover gefilte fish (relished or abhorred at the traditional seder table) a low-tech procedure. Florence Greenberg didn’t have to resort to the older practice of keeping a live carp in the bathtub until preparation time, but nor did she fuss about which fish had to be chosen.

Passover meant forsaking flour and certain grains for the 8-day holiday. Matzoh, a near-tasteless flatbread, and crushed into matzoh meal for cooking, were the replacements. But Florence Greenberg simplified further. Her recipe for coconut macaroons dispels the idea of failure for even neophyte cooks and translates easily from ounces to cups.eggs

 

 

Coconut macaroons

Ingredients

½ pound desiccated coconut

5 ounces caster sugar

2 eggs

U.S. translation

Shredded coconut; it was all unsweetened then. Desiccate is the correct spelling! Granulated white sugar works fine. Eggs were eggs, sizes unspecified

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar and eggs first (this wasn’t an instruction: commonsense dictated). Stir in the coconut and mix well. This is sticky so wet the hands often to form into pyramids; the recipe makes about 20. Place on greased baking sheet (no parchment paper then, it was called ‘greaseproof paper’). Bake until lightly browned.

And that’s it!

Jane Manaster is the author of Pecans: The Story in a Nutshell.

© 2014 Jane Manaster. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Spicy devotion

20140303-203501.jpgI thought I was I lucky enough to have a friend who keeps me well stocked with my favorite Middle Eastern blend of allspice: She knows what’s cooking in my kitchen. Then I received a spicy gift box of Penzeys from my gardening inspiration. That welcome surprise was followed by a spice selection by mail from my favorite spice girl in St. Louis … more Penzeys including the kicky Balti seasoning. And the fresh zahtar that recently found its way home here in the Hudson Valley was hand carried from Lebanon and shared by one who can quickly identify zahtar wannabes. Thanks to all that, I’m on a new flavor trail with friends who know how to share the simple formula for preserving food and friendships. Keep those fresh spices on hand.

Snowstorm Survival Kit for You and Your Valentine

Snowstorm survival kit

Snowstorm survival kit

If you’re close to home thanks to this season’s latest snowstorm, sweeten the moment with these three things for you and yours this Valentine’s Day: Oreos, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Baker’s Dipping Chocolate. Follow Shannon’s easy steps to make these truffles.

Eat better, live well

cropped-star_of_anise.jpgHaving spent a few more hours than planned in airports these past few days, I found it tempting to reach for sweets and entirely-too-salty snacks. I’m grateful to be out of range of the temptations and home in the Hudson Valley. Eat better and live well in your new year. Read more in my latest article on Health Matters.

Easy baked apples

Jane Manaster is sending us back to the apple orchards, or at least the produce section at her local grocery. Try these easy baked apples …
Choose a bag of sour apples. Run the knife around their waists. Core them. Set in a baking dish with, say, plenty of brown sugar (demerara is nicer, it crunches). Spoon some of the sugar into the cavity, fill up with raisins and a dash of cinnamon. Water almost up to the waists then bake until soft.

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