I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Festive Favorites 2010

The holidays are here, and that means lots of eating, and lots of shopping.  I am not a big wander-around-the-mall type, or a fight-your-way-through-the-sales fan, but I do love picking out gifts for the special people in my life.  And I am told that I am pretty good at it, too.  A little sofa surfing is my ideal form of holiday shopping, so I thought I’d share some of my festive favorites.  For no other reason than the spirit of holiday sharing.

If anyone on your list is a cook or food lover (and that includes you), the must-have gift is a subscription to Canal House Cooking.  This seasonal series of mini-cookbooks is full of amazing recipes and spectacular photography.  No food aficionado should be without them.  The cookbook gift for the season may well be James Beard’s American Cookery, a re-packaged and illustrated edition of the classic.  I’d love to receive the marvelous Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (hint, hint), Tessa Kiros’s books are magnificent, the kind any food lover will want to curl up with and pore over.  Falling Cloudberries is a good start, but they are all well worth a look. The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook is a must-have for any lover of Southern cooking, and it benefits a great organization preserving the heritage of Southern cooking. The I Hate to Cook Book is a recent re-issue 50th anniversary edition.  I don’t imagine you’ll actually cook from it, but it is one of the funniest reads I’ve enjoyed in a long time.  Spoiler alert: folks on my list are getting a copy.  And check out The Spoon’s Store powered by Amazon on the right side of the page for my favorite kitchen gadgets, cookbooks and foodie movies and books.

A fun, happy little gift for any kitchen dweller, these themed sticky notes are sure to please.  The Foodie magnetic poetry kit would make any fridge more delicious.  Funky, fun and personalized colorful tempered glass cutting boards are a useful and personal gift.  And anything from Felix Doolittle is amazing, but the new personalized recipe cards are a real treat. Useful and practical, but also a great gift, personalized Polar Bear Coolers are great for men (and women, I have two).

Fun and functional and perfect to have around this holiday season are simple napkins on a roll – but in real cotton or linen fabric.  They are good looking and practical, can be washed several times and then biodegrade.  If you love giving gifts from your own kitchen, I am sure you love to present them in fun and pretty packaging.  With these PaniMold wooden baking molds, bake your gift and wrap it all in one stylish package. Decorate your packages with personalized ribbon and gift stickers from Namemakers.  Or top off your packages with personalized photo gift tags from Cardstore. Love patterned baking cups, but not how they fade when you actually cook with them? Then try Sutton Gourmet Baking Papers that retain their bright colors. 

But if you don’t’ feel like making your own food gifts, let someone else do it for you.  Custom blended Granola from MixMyGranola for your health conscious friends, or Chocomize custom designed chocolate bars for the indulgent. And these sites all offer gift certificates, so your friends could choose their own custom treat.  The gift I gave last year that produced the happiest response was custom blended tea from Blends for FriendsOlive and Sinclair make beautifully packaged, stone ground artisan chocolates that any chocoholic will truly appreciate. And get healthy with hand ground whole grain flours from Funder Farm.  Their baking mixes, like Chocolate Chip Bars and Blueberry Cobbler, are great, and make a lovely and welcome gift.

And yes, I do buy gifts that are not food-related, believe it or not.  A handbag or accessory from 1154 Lill Studio is a great gift, even more fun to give one of their design-a-bag kits.  Cath Kidston’s decidedly British, flowery accessories make great gifts, and the cases for all of today’s technology and gadgets will brighten any workload.  Savannah Bee Company’s Royal Jelly Body Butter is a super-rich treat that comes beautifully packaged.

But maybe the best gift of all is giving on behalf of someone you love to someone in need.  There are so many great organizations to give to that will create special cards you can wrap up for your recipient or have it sent directly to them.  These cool water bottles are useful and 100% of the proceeds benefit water.org, which provides clean water around the world.  And Heifer International is really cheeky.  Give a friend a goat, or a hive of bees, that will help a community sustain itself.  They have a gift catalog and make great cards for giving. And for all those peanut butter sandwiches you make during the year, make a gift of Plumpy Nut, a therapeutic nut paste feeding thousands of hungry children through UNICEF. And as we continue to read that 1 in 4 children in the United States are food insecure, Share Our Strength is working to combat that appalling statistic.  And don’t forget your local food bank.

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I’d round up some Runaway recipes to help you plan your celebration, whether you are hosting the feast at home, or taking a dish along to family or friends. Just click on the highlighted titles for the recipe.

If you need some nibbles while everyone is waiting for the main event, don’t go overboard – there’s plenty of food to come. But a plate of Blue Cheese and Fig Savories or a bowl of Thanksgiving Popcorn or some dishes of Lemon-Garlic Cashews scattered around go great with a pre-dinner drink without being too much. And a plate of Glazed Kielbasa is always appreciated. Pimento Cheese served with crackers is a great little snack, and it is always good to have some in the fridge if you have hungry guests in the house through the weekend.

Turkey is the main event, but the supporting players really make the meal. In my house, it’s all about sweet potatoes on the side, and I always make Sweet Potato Casserole with Cider, Orange and Maple. But if mashed potatoes are more your style, why not jazz them up as Champ: Irish Mashed Potatoes with Spring Onion. And it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving here without some Classic Corn Pudding with Cheddar and Chives. Now, I admit this is a dish I usually make in the summer with squash from the farmer’s market, but this Summer Squash Casserole makes a creamy, tasty addition to a Thanksgiving table too. Succotash Salad is another summer standard that translates beautifully to the holiday board, and it’s a new take on a uniquely American dish. Peas with Pancetta,Mint and Crème Fraiche add a nice dash of green to the table, or try Bacon Glazed Parsnips for a wintry roasted vegetable. And the kids’ table is sure to love Cinnamon Apple Salad (and the adults will dig in too!). Butternut and Sage Lasagna is a great main course option for vegetarians, or an impressive side.

The bread basket is often the forgotten guest at the dinner table, but don’t just fill it with frozen rolls. A big batch of classic Buttermilk Biscuits is never a bad idea, but step it up a little with Pumpkin Sage Biscuits or some Toasted Corn and Bacon Muffins. A couple of loaves of Muddy Bread are useful throughout the weekend, with the main meal, toasted for breakfast or for sandwiches.

Now some people just sit patiently through all this other rigmarole just to get to the dessert – so don’t disappoint. Pie is a traditional Thanksgiving treat and a great bring-along if you are eating at another home. Traditional Southern Pecan Pie is a classic, or try another Southern tradition with simple, creamy Buttermilk Pie. Pumpkin Cream Tart is a true seasonal dessert, and a departure from a plain pumpkin pie. Or try a Buttermilk Cake with Caramel Glaze on a pretty stand. And a Traditional Pound Cake never goes amiss.

A big plate of cookies and bars passed around after a huge meal at the table can be a perfect Thanksgiving idea, offering small bites of sweet, without the extra service and clean-up of a full dessert. They are easy to pass or just put out if the crowd moves outside or in front of the TV for football. Maple Spice Crinkles or Clove Cookies have the warm, spiciness of fall; add some Hearty Pumpkin Cookies for a chewy treat. Apple Pie Bars are American as, well, Thanksgiving and a favorite family treat

My traditional post trick or treating Chicken Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce are also an amazing vehicle for leftover turkey and add an interesting twist to the weekend, as would Green Chicken Chilaquiles.  And Maple Mustard Chicken Salad, made with turkey of course, is great to have around.

So those are my ideas for Thanksgiving. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below – I’ll answer the best I can!

Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream

I am a little bit of a kitchen gadget geek. Particularly when it comes to gadgets that claim to make things easier. I love my strawberry slicer, my cherry pitter and my onion chopper, but when it comes to the cabinet-space sucking larger gadgets, I tend to think twice. But a few years ago, I finally caved in a bought a simple ice cream maker – just an electric base with a bowl that goes in the freezer, ready for your next batch. And man I am glad I did, particularly in summer, when ice cream is the perfect dessert, and homemade, tailored to your personal taste, is both a special treat and an impressive dish to serve friends. Freezing takes about 30 minutes, and the possibilities are endless for loads of tasty fun. I have never looked back.

This lemon meringue pie version I created for my mom. Lemon meringue pie is her favorite dessert, and I have never quite gotten the pie right. But this version is idiot proof. Crumbled graham crackers, purchased meringue cookies and jarred lemon curd create all the rich, custardy flavor with the tang of lemon in a couldn’t- be-simpler ice cream base.

Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream
When I first created this, I easily found meringue cookies about 1 -inch in diameter at the market, Now I generally find smaller ones, so I crumble up a few more. Do what feels right for you. 

1 cup whole milk

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 cups heavy cream

Zest and juice of one medium lemon

1 (12 ounce) jar lemon curd

6- 7 graham cracker sheets

12 small meringue cookies (or 6 large)

In a bowl, whisk together the milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. I use a hand mixer for about 2 minutes to get everything well blended. Whisk in the cream, lemon zest and juice. Pour the cream base into an ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Meanwhile, break the graham sheets into very small pieces by placing them in a ziptop bag and crushing with your fingers. Some crumbs are fine, but the pieces need to be bite sized. Place the meringue cookies into another bag and pop each one with your fingers to break it up into shards. They will pop apart easily so don’t get carried away.

About half-way through the recommended freezing time for the ice cream, spoon in the lemon curd, a little at a time, so it blends into the ice cream. As the freezing time comes to an end, drop in the graham pieces until mixed in, then the meringue pieces. When everything is mixed in and the ice cream is frozen, scoop it into freezer containers and freeze for several hours or overnight.

Makes roughly 2 pints
 

 

Fun Summer Finds

So now that summer has well and truly begun, I thought  I would share with you some of my favorite finds for the perfect summer – in and out of the kitchen.  These are just some ideas about personal favorites – no one has asked me to promote any products.

Nothing says summer quite like ice cream, so I highly recommend a simple ice cream maker.  I have this Cuisinart version and think it’s perfect, and not terribly expensive. It’s a lot of fun to invent your own flavors, especially with kids, but if you need a little help, try David Lebovitz’s Perfect Scoop book.  David’s a hoot and he really knows his stuff.  Now that you’ve mastered the ice cream, you’ll want to share it with your friends.  And we all like pretty packaging, right? Sweet Bliss sells great containers you can decorate yourself – and in quantities that make sense.  I love these!  But if baking is more your thing, Bake It  Pretty has amazing decorative cupcake papers and lots more fun items to jazz up your summer celebrations. And to really add personality to the food gifts you share with friends, check out Felix Doolittle’s beautiful Chef’s Medallions and Baker’s Labels, amazing personalized stickers with foodie themes.

Summer also means picnics and outdoor eating, and as I may be all about easy, but I want to be good to the earth too.  These Bambu plates are made from sustainable bamboo, are organic and disposable and look good to boot.  They also make serving pieces and cutlery.  You can get cups, plates and cutlery from Preserve that are made from recycled material and are recyclable.  They come in fun colors as well.  I use them all the time.  And to tote all those picnic supplies, or cut a dashing figure at the farmer’s market, pick up a snazzy oilcloth bag from Beth’s Market Bags.  I carry the large white bag with red graphic apples, and it’s easy to wipe up any spilled milk or leaking berries.

So maybe you are interested in all things food, but don’t want to spend too much time in the hot kitchen.   Some cookbooks are great reads, like Martha Foose’s Screen Doors and Sweet Tea.  You’ll love reading it, but it’s likely to get you in the kitchen as well.  But for just a good read, Julia Stuart’s The Matchmaker of Perigord is full of food and characters and is just delightful.  It’s not as light and charming but The Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris intersperses a haunting tale with the importance of food.  But if you are looking for summer projects, you’ll learn more from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cookery than you can imagine. Or gather your epicurean friends around for a game of Foodie Fight trivia. And if you just want escape the heat and have a good laugh, watch the British series Chef with Lenny Henry.

Summer isn’t all about food.  I do actually leave the kitchen occasionally.  And when I do, I love to wear these jazzy SwitchFlops with interchangeable straps. And since slaving over a hot stove doesn’t give me a tan, a little bit of Stila one-step bronzer helps create a summer fresh look.  When I do get outside, I add a little Dermologica Solar Defense Booster to my moisturizer for protection.  If travel is on your agenda, this Vera Bradley transparent pouch is TSA approved for your carry-on, and cuter than a Ziploc!  And I would love to be spotted by the pool with one of these adorable canvas totes from Iomoi.  And keep all your travel notes, memories and keepsakes in one of these practical Moleskine city notebooks.

Caprese Tart

A few years ago, in the hot, hot summer, we had a big storm that knocked out power for over two weeks.  They say it was a wind storm, but we all called it Hurricane Elvis.  As it was summer, many people were away on vacation, had vacations planned, or just left town during the power outage.  But I was a busy little event planner and had a wedding and a private event to plan and execute, so no leaving town for me.  I lived in my hot, hot house with no lights and no air conditioning for the duration.  My parents had two giant trees fall on their house, then breezily left for a planned trip overseas with the parting words “we expect the trees to be gone when we get back.”  So despite the catastrophe, I was a busy little bee.

As it happened, this was the first year I had planted a garden in my newly constructed raised beds.  I had carefully tended my tomato plants, and wouldn’t you know they all produced a bumper crop of gorgeous red tomatoes right during the storm. Now, I can only eat so many raw sliced tomatoes and I had way more than I could ever finish.  Everyone I knew had left town, so there was no one to share them with.  Under other circumstances, I would have made vats and vats of sauce and soup and frozen my bounty for the long winter.  My gas stove worked, but of course I had no refrigeration and it was just too darn hot to slave over the burners.  So the tomatoes wilted on the vine.  After that, I decided planting tomatoes just wasn’t worth it.

But this year, I have re-entered the wannabe gardener world.  My lettuce is magnificent, my radishes a triumph, and I am awaiting the zucchini.  And I have planted tomatoes.  I watch them carefully – one variety plant has already got some little green babies on it, the other plants are flowering.  So barring any natural disasters, I hope to have another grand crop.  But it is not here yet.  So in the meantime, I am using the ripe, red cherry variety for my tomato fix.  I find they are pretty tasty throughout the year, and pretty darn cute too.

Caprese Tart

I use a rectangular tart tin, but a round tin will work just as well. It may take more or less tomatoes.

1 sheet puff pastry, room temperature

45 round cherry tomatoes

1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese

2 bunches (about 1 ounce each) fresh basil

2 Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons pine nuts

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the tomatoes and pat them dry.  Using a small, sharp paring knife, gently cut out the core of each tomato, scraping the inside lightly to remove seeds.  I find a sturdy ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon helps with this job.  Be carefully not to cut through the flesh or squash the tomato.  You want to create a little cavity for the mozzarella to fit in.  Place each tomato cut side down on a few layers of paper towels to drain for 20 – 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to fit into a removable bottom 10 inch round or an 11 by 7 inch rectangular tin. Gently fit the pastry into the tin, using a small ball of pastry to press the dough into the corners and sides. Poke all over with the tines of fork

In a food processor (I like the mini one for this), pulse one bunch of basil leaves a few times until roughly chopped.  Add the parmesan and pine nuts and pulse a few more times to chop the nuts.  Add the ricotta and egg, a grind of pepper and a pinch of salt and process to a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once.  Using a small offset spatula (or the back of a big spoon), spread the filling in an even layer over the bottom of the pastry.  Set aside.

Cut the mozzarella into small cubes to fit in the tomato cavities.  Lightly press on cube of mozzarella into each tomato. If some seeds or juice squish out of the tomatoes, carefully wipe it away.  Place the filled tomatoes in rows in the prepared tart, pressing lightly into the filling. Sprinkle pepper and salt lightly over the tomatoes.

Very gently brush the top of the tart with extra virgin olive oil and place in the oven.  While the tart is baking, cut about 6 of the remaining basil leaves into a chiffonade (Stack the leaves up, roll them like a cigar, then cut very thin ribbons with a sharp knife or scissors).  When the tart has been in the oven 15 minutes, remove it and sprinkle the basil over the top.  Return to the oven and cook a further 15 – 20 minutes until the tomatoes are shriveled and the mozzarella is melted.

Leave to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.  Sprinkle additional basil chiffonade on top if desired.

Serves 6 – 8

Fluffy Corn Cakes with Bacon and Maple Syrup

Breakfast for Dinner.  Who doesn’t love the thought?  I particularly like a good breakfast for dinner, because I am NOT a morning person, and generally way too lazy to cook a good, hearty, classic breakfast first thing.  I have developed a repertoire of night-before recipes for when the need to cook a morning breakfast arises, but morning is not my best time in the kitchen. So early morning waffles, pancakes, hollandaise sauce for eggs benedict are out. In the morning.  But for dinner, it’s a whole different matter.  You could spend all day working on breakfast. Use every tool in the kitchen.  Pull out waffle irons and griddles. I have several friends who make “breakfast for dinner night” a big occasion for their kids, and they all love it.

So I propose these fluffy, pillow-y corn cakes for your next breakfast for dinner experience.  Of course, you are more than welcome to make these for breakfast in the morning.  In fact, the batter will keep overnight if you whisk it well before frying.  And these would make a real treat for a Sunday brunch.  Add the salty bacon and a drizzle of sweet syrup, and I don’t care what time of day it is, these will make you happy.

Fluffy Corn Cakes with Bacon and Maple Syrup

Crispy bacon and maple are syrup are my favorite way to serve these, but they are also good with butter melting over the top, or with a dollop of sour cream.

2 large eggs

1½ cups buttermilk

Salt and pepper

1 (16-ounce) can cream-style corn

3/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1 ½ cups self-rising flour

2 Tablespoons yellow corn meal

Canola oil for frying

1 pound thick-sliced bacon, cooked

Maple syrup

Lay out a baking sheet covered in two layers of paper towels and set close to the stove.

In a large skillet, preferably non-stick, heat ¼ inch of canola oil.

While the oil is heating, combine the eggs, buttermilk, salt and pepper and corn and mix together well. Mix together the flour and cornmeal and add to the wet ingredients until thoroughly incorporated.

Test that the oil is hot enough – drop in a little batt, and if it sizzles wildly, you are ready to go.  Drop ¼ cup of batter at a time into the hot oil.  I use a measuring scoop and slowly pour into the oil, swirling into a nice round shape.  Fry 2- 3 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.  Depending on the size of the skillet, you can do about three at a time.  Remove the cooked cakes to the paper lined baking sheet to drain.

Serve immediately with crispy bacon and maple syrup.

Makes about 18 corn cakes

Champ: Irish Mashed Potatoes with Green Onion

I’ll admit I don’t know too much about Irish cooking, but I do know the Irish can make incredibly flavorful and satisfying food from simple ingredients, and no one is better with potatoes.  Champ is so deceptively simple; you won’t believe the rich flavor.  Add this to any meal and it’s instantly a simple St. Patrick’s celebration.

Champ

Irish Mashed Potatoes with Green Onions

6 green onions (about 3 ounces)

2 pounds russet potatoes (about 3 large)

2 cups buttermilk

¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter

Salt

Melted butter for drizzling

Slice the white, light green and a small bit of the dark green part of the green onions very finely. Save the rest of the dark green part for garnish. Peel the potatoes and slice into chunks.  Place in a large pan and just cover with water.  Add half the sliced green onions.  Bring to a boil and boil until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and green onions in a colander, shaking out the water, then return to the pot.  Place a tea towel over the pot, the cover tightly with the lid.  Leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the buttermilk with the remaining green onions and the butter over low heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is warmed through.

Uncover the potatoes and begin mashing.  Pour in the buttermilk mixture and mash until smooth, adding salt to taste.  The mixture will be quite loose.  Scrape the potatoes into a small baking dish, smoothing the top. You can keep the potatoes covered for a few hours at this point, or just move on to the baking.

When ready to serve, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.  Let rest for 5- 10 minutes before serving. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with chopped green onion tops to serve.

Serves 4

Chinese Dumplings

When I was growing up in Memphis, there were really only two fancy, sit-down, white tablecloth, special occasion restaurants.  An old-school, white-jacketed waiter, New Orleans-style place and an elegant Chinese restaurant.  My Dad is a big fan of Chinese food, so it was his choice for special meals.  My brother and I loved the egg drop soup, which had tiny little carrots floating in it cut in the shapes of ducks and bunnies.  The owner told my mom that the chef carved the whole carrot into the shape and thinly sliced the whole into paper-thin floaters.  To this day, as my kitchen obsession grows, my mother frequently asks when I plan to learn to properly carve carrot bunnies.

I was probably twelve or thirteen before any other Chinese restaurant opened, and we ate there a lot.  Sesame Chicken, Egg Drop Soup, Fried Wontons, Lemon Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Mu Shu Pork.  The standard fare in this area, on the menus of the many subsequent Chinese restaurants to open.  When I went off to college in Connecticut, my friends and I ordered Chinese food from the local, college-friendly delivery joint.  This group of folks were all from the New England and they took over the ordering, choosing their standard choice of dishes.  When we laid it all out on the floor of the dorm room, I was flummoxed.  Everyone was digging in heartily and I didn’t recognize some of the dishes.  Sure beef and broccoli was there, but I’d never seen cold sesame noodles (now one of my favorites) or dumplings before.  It had never occurred to me that ethnic food could be regional not just in its country of origin but in its transplanted incarnation as well. 

Dumplings have made their way onto Chinese menus in Memphis as totally standard fare now.  My nieces are big fans.  It never crossed my mind that dumplings were something you might make at home until I stumbled across a magazine article about the process.  I didn’t save the article, but it stuck with me for weeks until I just had to try it for myself.  I use packaged dumpling wrappers and make a flavorful filling.  I like to make a big batch and freeze them to pull out and cook when I’m in the mood.  I have to say, I am rather impressed with myself for this accomplishment.

Chinese Dumplings

1 pound ground pork

1 medium carrot finely grated

4 green onions, finely chopped

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns (optional)

1 package wonton or dumpling wrappers

Place all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Your clean hands are the best tool for this.

I find it easiest here to set up a little assembly line. Place a small bowl of water in easy reach. Lay some of the wonton wrappers out on the counter, and place about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper.  Wet your finger with water and run it around the edge of the wrapper.  Fold the wrapper over the filling and press the edges together, pressing any air bubbles out and sealing completely.  Keep going until you have used up all the filling. You should end up with 35 – 40 dumplings.

Place the folded dumplings on a baking sheet or plates lined with waxed paper.  Place the dumplings in the freezer until solid, at least an hour, then transfer to a plastic freezer bag or container.  I like to divide into portions of six or seven dumplings in individual bags.

There are several ways to prepare these dumplings: 

For fried dumplings: Thaw the dumplings in the fridge. Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and fry the dumplings until crispy and golden. Remove the dumplings to a paper towel lined plate to drain and serve with soy or ponzu sauce to dip.

For pan-fried dumplings:  Thaw the dumplings or cook from frozen.  For each 6 – 7 dumplings, bring 1 ½ cups of chicken broth and one tablespoon of oil to a boil.  Add the dumplings and continue to cook until the broth has evaporated.  The dumplings will cook and brown on the bottom in the residual oil.

Makes 35- 40 dumplings

Sticky Clementine Quick Bread

I love clementines.  They are the perfect, bright refreshing little sunshine snack.  They are so portable, you can just carry one around all day until you need a pick-me-up.  But I also find clementines annoying, largely because around here they are sold almost exclusively in five to seven pound bags.  I cannot eat five pounds of clementines before they start to shrivel and loose their juice.  So I am sometimes reluctant to buy them, because I know I will end up with uneaten fruit sitting forlornly on my counter.

This lovely bread is one of my excess clementine solutions.  It’s incredibly easy to whip up in the food processor and results in a sweet, citrus-y treat perfect for breakfast, tea or a great snack.  This recipe started its life as away to use tangerines, but I have found this clementine incarnation the most practical.

Sticky Clementine Quick Bread

This moist sticky bread will stay delicious for three days wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.  It can also be frozen for up to a month.  Try making it in smaller loaf pans, even individual sizes, and share with your friends.

For the Quick Bread:

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

½ cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 Tablespoon clementine zest, from two to four clementines, depending on size

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons self-rising flour

Pinch of salt

4 Tablespoons milk

For the Glaze:

4 Tablespoons clementine juice, from two to four clementines, depending on size

½ cup confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a standard 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with non-stick spray.

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  The butter must be soft and at room temperature.  If needed, microwave on half power in 15 second intervals until soft. Blend until the ingredients are just combined and smooth, about 1 – 2 minutes.  Do not over process.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, then tap the pans on the counter to spread out the batter.  Bake until golden and cooked through, about 15 – 20 minutes.  A tester inserted in each loaf should come out clean.

While the loaves are cooking, whisk together the juice from the clementines and the confectioner’s sugar until smooth.

When the loaf is cooked, run a knife around the edges of the loaf to loosen from the pan. Poke the top of the loaf several times with the skewer.  Drizzle the glaze over the loaf.  Do this slowly so the glaze absorbs into the loaves.  When the glaze is absorbed remove the loaf to a rack or a piece of waxed paper to finish cooling.

Let the loaf cool completely before serving.

Makes one loaf

Pastitsio (Greek Lamb Casserole)

Pastitsio

This is an extra post this week, because to be honest, I am quite pleased with myself.  My recipe for Pastitsio is a finalist in the wonderful website Food52 contest for Best Baked Pasta dish.  When I saw the contest theme, I immediately remembered how much I enjoy this dish.  This Greek lamb casserole is as comforting and homey as any cheesy, meaty baked pasta, but with a unique twist of lamb, red wine, herbs and salty feta.  Served with a Greek salad and some crusty bread, this is a meal out of the ordinary with a familiar feel.

Food52 is an amazing site to read and search for recipes.  They are holding weekly recipe contests with different themes and will publish a cookbook at the end of the project.  I know you’ll enjoy the site, maybe you’ll submit your own recipe.  And while your there, consider voting for The Runaway Spoon’s Pastitsio.

Pastitsio

Greek-Style Lamb Casserole

This can be made in one big family style casserole, or two smaller sizes.  Take one to a friend and have one for dinner.

1 pound dried penne or ziti pasta

1 Tablespoon butter

2 pounds ground lamb

2 medium onions, diced

1/2 cup red wine

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional)

1 teaspoon dried mint (optional)

2 cups water

6 ounces crumbled feta

For the cheese sauce:

6 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and reserve.  Stir in the butter to prevent sticking.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the lamb until no longer pink, breaking it into pieces, about 8 minutes.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a colander and shake well to drain the fat.  Return the lamb to the pan, add the wine and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir in the tomato paste, cinnamon, oregano, (sumac and mint if using) and 2 cups of water.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool.

For the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  In a slow steady stream, whisk in the milk until there are no lumps.  Cook, whisking often, until the mixture is thick and bubbly and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 – 7 minutes.  Stir in the cayenne and the Parmesan.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the pasta to the lamb mixture and stir to combine.  Toss in the feta and combine. Spoon the mixture into a greased 9  x13 inch baking dish, or two 8 by 8 inch pans.   Spread the cheese sauce over the pasta mixture, smoothing the top with a spoon. Bake until browned in spots, 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven then allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

This will keep assembled up to one day in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap. To freeze, cool completely and wrap tightly in foil.  Thaw completely and reheat.