Lemon-Thyme Cookies

You will love this cookie or hate it. It has wonderful flavors but if you are not into “modern” baking, do not make these cookies. They are relatively easy to make and the dough is rolled into rectangles and cut into squares with a scalloped-edge pasty wheel.

½ cup soft butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon snipped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
Coarse sugar or granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream the butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add sugar and mix until combined, scraping side of bowl. Beat in thyme, lemon peel, lemon juice, and cardamom. Beat in flour slowly with the mixer and stir in the last amount if necessary. Kneed mixture until smooth and form dough into a ball.

Divide the dough into three equal portions. Roll each portion to a 6 x 4 ½ inch rectangle about ¼ inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 1 ½ inch squares with a scalloped-edge pastry wheel. Sprinkle the cutouts with coarse sugar. Place cutouts on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are just lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool.

Makes 36 cookies.

Store in layers separated by pieces of waxed paper or parchment paper in an airtight container; cover. Store cookies at room temperature for up to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months.

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Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are a part of Christmas baking for most of us. This recipe is very special because it is over 100 years old and was “gifted” to me by a dear friend.

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 scant teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 cup shortening (or ½ cup shortening and ½ cup butter)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
¼ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon lemon extract

Sift together first 5 ingredients. Cut in shortening just as you would for a pie crust.

Beat eggs very well and then beat in sugar, buttermilk and lemon extract. Mix this liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Do not beat. Stir as little as possible as you would in making a pie crust. Form dough into a flat disc and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Roll out dough to about 1/8 inch and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes.

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Potato and Fennel Gratin (Casserole)

This is a delicious holiday dish. We have made it for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner. It is an easy dish to assemble.

2 small fennel bulbs
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
2 lb. russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly with your food processor or mandolin (or by hand)
2 ½ cups grated Gruyere cheese (or Swiss or Jarlsberg), ~ ½ pound
2 cups cream
½ – 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10x15x2 inch baking dish. I like to use my large oval dish.

Prepare the fennel by removing the stalks and then cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the cores. Slice the bulbs thinly crosswise. Sauté the fennel and onions in the oil and butter on medium heat until tender for about 10 – 15 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice thinly. Mix the sliced potatoes with 2 cups of cream, 2 cups (save the additional 1/2 cup for topping) of the Gruyere cheese, salt, and pepper. Add the sautéed fennel and onions and mix.

Pour the potato mixture into the butter baking dish. With a spoon, smooth the potatoes mixture. Combine the 2 Tablespoon of cream and ½ cup of Gruyere cheese and sprinkle on top of the potatoes.

Bake approximately 1 ½ hours until the mixture is tender and the top is brown and bubbly.

Let set for ~ 10 minutes and then serve.

Serves ~ 8-10

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Salmon with onions and sage

This dish is relatively easy to prepare. It is assembled in a baking dish and baked. The toasted bread crumbs give the dish a nice crunch. This is an excellent dish for company.

1 cup toasted bread crumbs (see recipe below)
6 pieces salmon fillet (about 6 oz. each)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 yellow onions, cut into ½ inch dice (~ 3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
Sprinkle with fish stock, white wine or chicken stock

Make the bread crumbs or use high quality purchased bread crumbs.

Toast bread crumbs:

2 cups fresh Italian or French bread cut into chunks (crust removed)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Process the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs. Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet and stir the salt and pepper into the oil and drizzle over the bread crumbs. Bake crumbs, stirring occasionally, for even browning, until crumbs are golden about 15 – 20 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan and cook the onions until tender and sweet, about 15 – 20 minutes. Add the sage and lemon zest to the onions. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place onion mixture in baking dish.

Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon atop onion mixture. Then top with toasted bread crumbs. Bake in a hot oven for about 6 – 8 minutes or until medium rare. Serve with lemon wedge.

The salmon can be served with green beans, broccoli, spinach, roasted potatoes sautéed fennel etc.

Serves 6

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Salting

You will notice in most of the recipes that I post, I provide a range of salt. Everyone’s palate and salt threshold are different and you must decide how much salt to add. I also suggest tasting the recipe as you make it. You may add salt in the beginning and decide to add more when you taste the dish at completion.

There is an excellent cookbook/technique book that was published in 2017. It is titled, “Salt Fat Acid Heat” by Samin Nostrat. She goes into detail on all of these elements of cooking. She suggests that you, ”develop a sense for salt by tasting everything as you cook, early and often”.

Your library probably has a copy or you can purchase it for your personal cookbook library. The book would also be a wonderful gift for your friends who cook or for newlyweds.

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Lasagna from Emilia, Italy

This recipe is from a restaurant in the Emilia area of Italy. The amounts have been changed from metric where possible. My spouse does not usually like lasagna but the béchamel and thinner pasta made this recipe special. This is worth the effort and you will probably have leftovers for another meal.

Ragu:

2 small carrots
2 stalks celery
1 large onion
1 – 2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 lb. ground beef
1 cup white wine
28 ounces of tomato sauce (I used San Marzano Italian Peeled Tomatoes: put in blender until smooth)
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
Black pepper to taste, ~ ¼ teaspoon
6 – 8 Basil leaves, chopped

Cut the carrots, celery and onion into small cubes and sauté in the olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook it well and stir while it browns. Add wine and let it absorb as you stir gently. Add the tomato sauce, basil leaves, ground pepper, and salt. Cook covered with a small opening at very low heat for two hours. Add water if it dries too much. Taste when cooked fully and add salt again if needed and black pepper. Remove any excess oil from the sauce.

Béchamel Sauce:

1 quart of whole milk, warmed
3 oz. flour (80 grams)
6 -7 Tablespoons butter
Nutmeg, pinch
Salt, pinch

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Stir well and slowly and add the warm milk a little at a time. Continue to mix milk slowly into the roux. When all the milk is added, bring to a boil for three minutes until it is a thickened slightly. Take the sauce off the heat and add a pinch of nutmeg and salt. (I added more butter than the original recipe to get the roux to work correctly.)

Lasagna:

1 package of fresh, thin lasagna (Whole Foods has Bertagni Lasagne, 8.8 oz.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil to slightly cook the lasagna sheets for 30 – 60 seconds. Have the ragu and béchamel ready. Butter a ~ 9” x 13” casserole dish. Place a layer of béchamel in the bottom of the dish and spread out thinly. Boil enough pasta to cover the dish for one layer and then boil pasta for each layer as you need it. Add a layer of pasta over the béchamel, then a thin layer of meat sauce, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese if you wish (we prefer this without the cheese). Add a layer of béchamel sauce, pasta, meat sauce and continue to layer in this sequence until you have 4 – 5 layers. On the final layer add some butter. You can also add cheese if you wish.

Bake the lasagna at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for ~ 40 – 50 minutes depending on your oven. The pasta will be gold brown on top when it is ready.

I doubled the meat sauce from the original recipe. You will not use all of the ragu unless you want to have more meat sauce on each layer. I used about 2/3 of the ragu and saved the rest for another pasta dish.

Let the lasagna rest 10 – 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves ~ 8

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Zucchini Bread

Summer squash is at the farmer’s markets. Or, if you have a garden and have ample zucchini, this is a delicious way to use the squash. It makes 2 loaves. You can eat a slice as a snack or put two thin pieces together with cream cheese and cut into small strips for lunch. Good for a picnic also. These loaves freeze well wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a plastic sealed bag.

3 eggs
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup salad oil
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups coarsely shredded, unpeeled raw zucchini
2 Tablespoons grated orange peel
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts

Beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat well. Stir in salad oil, vanilla, zucchini, and orange peel. Sift the dry ingredients and stir in. Add walnuts. Turn into 2 greased 9” x 4” loaf pans.

Bake at 325 degrees for 50 – 60 minutes or until bread test just done. Do not over bake.

Cool on rack and while still slightly warm, remove from pan.

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