Roasted Fennel Crusted Pork Belly

I jumped on the pork belly craze a few years back and have been experimenting with a variety of dry rubs. Slices of this fennel crusted number is delicious as part of a Ramen bowl or atop a bowl of lentils.

Remember that when selecting a worthy slab, if possible, go for one that has the same thickness thoughout so that it cooks evenly.
1 ½ to 2 pounds pork belly, skin-on
2 teaspoons whole fennel
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

Using paper toweling dry the pork belly. With a sharp knife, score the fat/skin side every ½-inch at a diagonal. Repeat cutting in an opposite diagonal to create a diamond shape pattern. Set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, grind the fennel. Mix with salt, sugar, and pepper. Rub the pork belly on all sides. Wrap in food film and refrigerate overnight. When ready to continue remove the pork belly from the refrigerator and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Set the pork belly skin/fat side up on a grill pan or a roasting rack. Roast pork belly for 30 minutes on the middle rack. Reduce heat to 275°F and continue roasting for an additional hour or until tender but not mushy. (Larger pieces of pork belly will take longer.)

Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly in food film and refrigerate until chilled through – at least a few hours and up to 2 days (this makes for easier slicing). Reheat slices in a sauté pan and serve as desired.

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Classic Italian Pizzelles

These pizzelles are light and crisp. Serve them plain or dusted with powdered sugar. To keep them crisp, store them in an airtight container. Makes between 28 – 30 pizzelles depending on size

1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, (don’t use oil as a substitute)
1 3/4 cups (8.3 oz/ 235 g) All-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed or extract (optional)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Set a sieve over a medium bowl and sift together flour, baking powder, and ground anise seed (if using). Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. Whisk in the cooled melted butter, vanilla, and anise extract (if using instead of the anise seed). Switch to a wooden spoon and mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Batter will be stiff enough to be dropped by spoon. Batter can also be refrigerated to be baked off later.

When ready to proceed, heat a pizzelle iron until hot (the light goes off on mine when ready). Using a heatproof pastry brush, brush a bit of clarified butter on the top and bottom of the pan. Drop a spoonful of batter onto each side of the iron. (I used a #50 ice cream scoop, about ½ full.)

Close the lid and cook for about 30 seconds (give or take depending on your iron). Using a fork or offset spatula carefully remove to a cooling rack until the pizzelles are cold and crisp.

VARIATION PIZZELLE CON CIOCCOLATTE: Add 3 tablespoons cocoa and 3 tablespoons sugar to the basic Italian Pizzelle recipe. If desired, you may substitute chocolate flavoring instead of the vanilla and anise flavoring.

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Linzer Cookies

Whether it’s cookie, pie or tart dough, I’ve been experimenting with rolling out doughs between parchment paper or plastic wrap as soon as I make the dough instead of forming the dough into a disk. Using either eliminates the need for flour and therefore, the dough scrapes can be rerolled a couple of times instead of traditionally only once.

Because the dough is already pliable, it saves time as I don’t have to wait for the disk to come back to room temperature. I also find that regardless of whether it’s disk form or rolled out, by allowing it to rest in the fridge there’s no shrinkage when baked.

2/3 cup (2.4 oz / 65 g) powdered sugar 
½ cup (2.5 oz / 70 g) almond flour (or blanched and slivered, sliced or whole almonds)
1 cup (5 oz / 140 g) all-purpose flour 
¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, beaten
1 tablespoon heavy cream 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup seedless raspberry  or apricot jam

If you don’t have almond flour, in a food processor using the metal “S” blade process the sugar and almonds until almonds are finely ground, about 20 seconds. Add flour, salt, and butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 15 to 20 pulses.

In a small bowl whisk together egg yolk, cream, vanilla, and almond extract. Pour over the flour mixture and process until dough just begins to come together. Transfer dough to a counter and using the palm of your hand, smear the dough until it comes together. Divide dough in half and roll each piece out between 2 sheets of parchment paper to a scant 1/8-inch. Leave the dough between the parchment paper, transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate at least one hour or better yet overnight.

When ready to proceed, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Using 2-inch fluted square or round cookie cutter, cut out cookies and space ¾-inch apart on prepared sheets. Using a smaller cutter, cut out centers from half of cookies. Gather and reroll scraps. Bake until edges are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Let cookies cool completely.

Spread bottom of each solid cookie with 1 teaspoon jam, then top with cutout cookie, pressing lightly to adhere. Let cookies set before serving, about 30 minutes.

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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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