Pimento Cheese Spread

11 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese (don’t use pre-grated cheese)
2.75 oz jarred pimento
4 – 5 tablespoons Duke’s, Hellmann’s, or other high-quality store-bought mayonnaise
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Dash Tabasco sauce, or to taste
Dash Worcestershire, or to taste
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Using the grater attachment of a large food processor, grate the cheese. Remove the cheese to a bowl and switch out the grater attchment for the metal “S” blade. Return the grated cheese and other ingredients to the bowl of the food processor. Process to your desired consistency. Taste and adjust the flavor to your liking.

Transfer the spread to a glass serving container with a lid. (I used 2 1/2 pint canning jars.) The spread keeps about a week in the refrigerator.

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Preserved Lemon Ghriba Cookie

This is a variation of a recipe from Jesse Szewczyk’s book Cookies: The New Classics. 
Makes about 32 cookies depending on size

2.5 oz or 70 g preserved lemon (about 1/2 of large lemon)
2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz / 390 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (4 oz /115 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups (9.5 oz / 268 g) granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (75 grams) confectioners’ sugar

Brush any visable salt from preserved lemon. Taste a bit of the peel to determine if it’s too salty. If so, quickly rinse and drain on paper toweling. Using the tines of a fork remove the flesh from the lemon and chop (you should end up with about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped preserved lemon peel). Set aside. Set a sieve over a medium bowl and sift together the flour and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine butter, 1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar, and chopped preserved lemon peel. Beat on medium speed until light an fluffy. Turn off machine, add flour mixture, and mix on low speed until mixture begins to form a dough.  Stop machine and finish bringing the dough together by hand. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (overnight or a few days ahead is fine).

When ready to bake off heat oven to 350 degrees F and set the racks at the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Place confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Place 1/3 cup (68 g) granulated sugar into another bowl. Set aside. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Using a small 1 1/16-inch (#100) cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons, portion out the dough and roll into balls. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll in the granulated sugar, then in the confectioners’ sugar. Place the dough balls 2 – 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Using your fingertip or the palm of your hand slightly flatten into a disk.

Depending on your oven bake both sheets at the same time, swapping the top sheet to the bottom rack and bottom sheet to the top midway through baking. Otherwise, bake one sheet pan at a time on the lower third of the oven until the cookies are puffed, the cracks no longer look wet, and the dough feels soft but resists slightly when touched with your finger 15 – 18 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets about 10 minutes or until the cookies are firm, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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Orange Blossom Almond Ghriba (Cookie)

 

Makes about 32 cookies if using a #100 scoop.

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 oz / 160 g) granulated sugar, divided
2 3/4 cups ( 5.4 oz /300 g) ground almonds
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons (1 oz / 30 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon orange blossom or rose water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup (oz/100 g) confectioners’ sugar, for coating

Place 1/3 cup of sugar, ground almonds, eggs, butter, baking powder, orange blossom water and salt in a large bowl and using your fingers or a large wooden spoon (I used a wooden spoon) mix together until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until dough is firm or as long as overnight.

When ready to bake off heat oven to 350 degrees F and set the racks at the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Place confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar into another bowl. Set aside. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Using a small 1 1/16-inch (#100) cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons, portion out the dough and roll into balls. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll in the granulated sugar, then in the confectioners’ sugar. Place the dough balls 2 – 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Using your fingertip or the palm of your hand slightly flatten into a disk.

Depending on your oven bake both sheets at the same time, swapping the top sheet to the bottom rack and bottom sheet to the top midway through baking. Otherwise, bake one sheet pan at a time on the lower third of the oven until the cookies are puffed, the cracks no longer look wet, and the dough feels soft but resists slightly when touched with your finger 15 – 18 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets about 10 minutes or until the cookies are firm, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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Reine de Saba or Queen of Sheba Cake

There are so few ingredients in this recipe that it allows the chocolate to shine. Therefore, use the absolute best you can afford. Also, in many recipes it calls for beating the butter and sugar first. I switched the order and whipped the egg whites first and then moved those to another bowl.  This prevented me from having to wash the bowl and worrying about leaving any traces of fat that would then prevent the egg whites from forming into stiff peaks.
Serves 8 – 10

Cake:
½ cup (4 oz / 115 g) unsalted butter softened, plus more for greasing pan
Cocoa powder for dusting pan
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (don’t use chips; they are manufactured not to melt)
2 tablespoons rum or strong coffee or (1 teaspoon instant espresso powder and 2 tablespoons hot water)
3 large egg whites, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 2/3 cup (5 oz / 160 g) granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup (1 ½ oz / 50 g) almond flour
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup (2 oz / 60 g) cake flour, not self-rising

Ganache:
4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate (don’t use chips)
2 tablespoons rum or coffee
6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup blanched, sliced or slivered for decorating

For the cake:
Set oven rack towards the middle and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 or 9 x 2 inch round cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper, dust sides with cocoa powder and tap out excess.

Place 4 oz of chocolate and rum or coffee in a small saucepan, place in a larger pan of almost simmering water; melt the chocolate while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool but remain liquid. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment beat egg whites and salt until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating to soft peaks.  Sprinkle in the tablespoon of sugar and whisk to stiff peaks (don’t over beat as it’s difficult to fold into mixture). Remove beaten egg whites to a large bowl and set aside.

In the same mixing bowl (no need to wash it) using the paddle attachment cream the butter and remaining sugar for 4 -5 minutes or until pale yellow and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then fold in the almond powder, and almond extract. 

Immediately stir in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter.  Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding.  Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated. Turn the batter into the cake pan, leveling it with an off-set spatuala.

Bake for about 25 minutes.  Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2 1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a toothpick stuck into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a toothpick comes out a bit wet.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack.  Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it should be thoroughly cold before it is frosted.

For the ganache:
Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and set in a larger pan of almost simmering water.

Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth.  Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water and stir in the butter a tablespoon at a time.

All the chocolate mixture to cool to spreading consistency. At once spread it over the cake with an off-set spatula or knife. Sprinkle sliced or slivered almonds around the parameter of the cake. Serve with whipped cream as an option.

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Roasted Eggplant Tapenade

Makes 2 cups

1 medium eggplant, whole, unpeeled
Oil, for rubbing eggplant
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons pitted black Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomatoes, optional

Preheat oven to 375F.

Place eggplant on a baking sheet with sides and rub lightly with oil. Bake 40 minutes until eggplant is tender. Cool, peel, drain and remove seed pockets. (This can be done up to two days before making tapenade.)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor fitted with metal blade or blender and process or blend about 45 seconds until smooth and creamy.

Allow to sit for at least 1 hour so the flavors can get to know one another.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache

The holidays are a time of indulgence. I love the seasonal taste and aroma of pumpkin and when paired with chocolate, it adds to the luxury.  Combine them into cheesecake and, well, mission accomplished!

This recipe cuts down on the fuss factor by using canned pumpkin and a conventional cake pan. Whereas other recipes call for springform pans which can leak into the water bath during the bake, a nonstick 9-inch cake pan eliminates that worry and guarantees a beautiful outcome for your next family gathering. (I use one made by Nordic Ware.)

Crust
4 tablespoons (2 oz / 55 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
5 ounces (140 g) chocolate wafers (such as Nabisco famous chocolate wafers)
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 oz / 20 g) granulated sugar

Butter the bottom of a 9 x 3-inch non-stick cake pan. Line with a round of parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of a food processor, using the metal “S” blade add the wafers and sugar and pulse until the wafers become crumbs. Pour the melted butter over the wafer crumbs and pulse until combined (texture of wet sand). Tip the crumbs out into the prepared pan. Shake the pan to distribute the crumbs and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan using your fingers or a flat-bottom measuring cup or ramekin.

Bake until the crust is fragrant and slightly darkened, 9 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.

Filling
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 oz/ 230 g) granulated sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1-15 oz can pure pumpkin purée

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment slowly beat cream cheese until smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. The goal is NOT to create a lot of air while beating. Continue mixing while slowly adding the sugar and salt.

Add eggs one at a time and mix well between each addition, again scraping down bowl as needed.  Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves (if adding) and pumpkin purée. For a completely smooth filling, pour the filling through a sieve prior to filling the prepared pan. I also lift the pan about an inch off the counter and drop it a few times allowing any air bubbles to come to the surface.

Fill a larger pan with about an inch of hot water and place cheesecake pan in the water bath.

Bake 1 ½ to 2 hours or until almost set. You can test it by giggling the pan. It’s done when only the middle wobbles slightly. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven to cool.

Remove from the water bath and run a knife around the inside edge of pan to loosen, taking care not to scratch the nonstick coating.  Allow to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate overnight.

To unmold the cheesecake, carefully run a knife around the perimeter again and then gently heat the bottom of the pan to loosen. Tip the cake over on an 8-inch cardboard round  or the disk from a removable bottom tart pan. Remove the parchment paper and then then tip it back over onto a cake plate. Pour chocolate ganache* over top of cake and spread gently to an even layer allowing it to drip down the sides. Cut cheesecake with a hot dry knife, rinsing and drying knife between each slice.

* Chocolate Ganache
In a small bowl, melt 3 oz. chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate and 5 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add 1 tablespoon. light corn syrup and whisk until smooth.

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Socca

This provençal flatbread or pancake is made with chickpea or sometimes it’s called garbanzo bean flour; which makes it gluten free. If you don’t have a soccca pan you can use a well seasoned 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet.

When you go to Provence be sure to grab a triangle when it’s hot from the fire. It is generally wrapped in a piece of paper with enough olive oil drizzled on top that it will run down your arms. That’s okay too as it’s delicious.

Makes two 9 or 10-inch (23cm) pancakes
Serves 4–6

1 cup (130 g) chickpea flour
½ cup olive oil, divided
1 ½ tablespoons (8 g) minced rosemary, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together the chickpea flour, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 tablespoon rosemary, salt, and 1 cup water in a medium bowl until smooth; cover and let batter sit at room temperature for 2 hours or even better let is sit overnight in the refrigerator.

When ready to proceed position 2 oven racks, one being in the middle of the oven and the other being close to the broiler. Heat the oven on maximum heat (like 500 degrees F) for at least 20 minutes, with the pan inside.

Remove the pan from the oven and pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Place it back in the oven to heat for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven again and quickly pour in half the batter. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven.

After 5 minutes, turn on the oven’s broiler and move the pan to the upper rack. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the socca starts to brown and even burn a little in spots especially around the edges.

Once the socca is brown remove the pan from the oven and using a large spatula remove the socca to a cutting board. Sprinkle it with remaining rosemary, salt, cumin, pepper and an additional drizzle of olive oil.

Cut into triangles and serve it while it is still hot. Repeat with remaining oil, batter, rosemary, salt, cumin, and pepper.

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Confiture de Figue (Fig Jam)

Assortment of Provençal jams

Confiture de Figue is my favorite. Maybe it’s because I was in Provence the first time I enjoyed it. While sipping on a steaming bowl of café au lait, I slathered this confiture on a toasted baguette for breakfast. It didn’t hurt that I was sitting at the dining table of La Pitchoune.

Now more often than not, whether I’m staying friends, at a B & B or even a hotel, a delightful confiture de figues is the jam pot I seek out pour le petit déjeuner (for breakfast).

4 pounds fresh figs
3 – 4 strips of  organic lemon peel, yellow part only
3 – 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups (21 oz) granulated sugar
4 – 6 tablepoons (2 – 3 oz)  cup honey, depending on your sweet tooth
½ cup water
3 – 4 fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

If canning have ready 8 half pint jars, sterilized and ready to go.

Boil a large kettle of water. Place the figs in a heat-proof bowl and completely cover them with boiling water, allow to stand for 10 minutes. Drain, stem, and chop the figs into eighths. It should yield about 6 cups.

Using a vegetable peeler, zest 3 or 4 strips of lemon into 1-inch wide by the length of the fruit capturing the yellow part only. Cut the strips into 1/8-inch pieces. Set aside. Juice the lemon, using 2 ½ tablespoons and reserving the remaining for another use.

Combine figs, sugar, honey, water, strips of lemon, lemon juice, and thyme sprigs (if using) in a large, heavy bottom Dutch oven. Let mixture sit for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to medium to medium-low and cook for 40 – 50 minutes, stirring ocassionally at the beginning but then stirring constantly for the last 20 minutes to as not to scortch the confiture. The thermometer should be 205 degrees F. Process jars according to manufacturer’s directions.

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