Wish Upon A Dish

December 16, 2014

Cranberry Pear Crostata ♥ A successful dessert from a not-so-successful baker

Coupons make me do strange things.
Somehow I know someone else also understands that.

You see, I had a coupon for Ocean Spray cranberries. A tradition in this house that I make a dessert as soon as fresh cranberries appear or I miss them till next year. Armed with that coupon and one for Pillsbury pie crusts, I was on my way to the store for my annual cranberry harvest.

For some bizarre reason, my local supermarket decided to buy a generic brand and the bags they finally got in (two days before Thanksgiving mind you), had crinkled, split or mushy cranberries.
I was terribly disappointed that this would be the first year without a fresh cranberry dessert. It wasn't so much that I disliked frozen cranberries but I can never find them when I want them. Each year I buy enough to freeze 3-8oz bags then I have them all year.

Last week I was in my big box warehouse store and right next to the bags of Brussels sprouts, I noticed a few bags of cranberries, oh yes, but not just any cranberries, Ocean Spray cranberries. Forget the coupon, all I could think about was my dessert. You would think I found truffle oil on sale.
I have never baked a crostata before and I had just enough ingredients. It only required pears, cranberries, almonds, a few spices, and of course, sugar (but just a touch).
It was kismet (or maybe Christmas magic), I never get lucky.

I know prettier pies are out there but I posted mine because I wanted you to know that if a non dessert maker can do this, anyone could and it was the easiest thing I have ever made. No measuring required, you want it sweeter, add more sugar, more cinnamon? sprinkle more in. I used the spices that I thought I would like with pears. No pears? then use apples. It's all good and in 40 minutes it's on the table, cooling.

I don't even peel the fruit. All the fiber and nutrients are in the skins, leave them on.
I baked mine in a deep dish pie plate to catch all the juices and to keep it from flattening out. It worked wonderfully. A Pyrex pie plate would also work great.

Foolproof, I only wished I had uninvited guests popping in.
"But of course, I always whip out a dessert like this."

Let's get baking .......

Pear & Cranberry Crostata
makes one pie

*  3 Bosc pears, seeded and stemmed, cut into 1" chunks
* 1/2 cup cranberries
* 1/4 cup sliced almonds
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1/4 cup granulated sugar
* 1 pie crust
* egg wash (beaten egg)
* handful of Demerara (or sanding) sugar, optional
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
* pinch of salt

Spray a pie plate and preheat the oven to 425°.
Place the pie crust into the pie plate.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the first 7 ingredients and then mix in the cornstarch and salt.
Spoon the mixture into the pie crust and turn the edges back over the mixture, creasing every 2-inches and gently pressing down to adhere.
Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sanding sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the juices bubble and the crust browns.
Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

Serve with Yogurt Ice Cream or whipped topping.

December 11, 2014

Beef Osso Bucco with Milanese Barley Risotto ♥ A day in the life......

The boss is somewhere around Picadilly Circus trying to get used to sitting on the right passenger side of his ride. My morning was all about negotiating the traffic around Laguardia Airport. I think we were both out of our element.

A cold, damp day that can't quite decide if it wants to rain, hail or snow so it's doing all three.
I spent the rest of my late afternoon chasing away two deer trying to hog in on our resident squirrel's private stash of pumpkins.

Every year we buy four pumpkins (one for each step)  and once Thanksgiving is over, the gorging starts and the whole pumpkin feeds our buddy right up till Christmas. I always feel good when the ground freezes and they have food. Once the deer discover them, they will be gone in one day.

About a month ago I spotted beef shanks and grabbed the last two. I often buy something hard to find knowing I have no idea what I would make with them. A great reason to have a free standing freezer.

The other day I was searching for new hot spot eaterys in DC and stumbled on an Osso Buco made with beef instead of veal. Yes, Serious Eats also does recipes.
The perfect foul weather dinner, oven or slow cooker + minimal work = yum.
Osso Buco is often served on top of a decadent Risotto Milanese but rice is no longer welcome in my house so instead of a rice risotto, I made a Barley Risotto (regular with saffron in the stock).
The recipe calls for using a slow cooker, but I used my Dutch Oven placed on a back burner for 3 hours.

If you have never eaten Osso Bucco, you really should make this version. Veal shanks can be expensive, not to mention almost impossible to find unless you have a butcher. This beef version (veal is baby beef) is just as good. Trust me on this. I have eaten Osso Buco in Lidia's Becco and this is right up there.

Good news, The Nudge doesn't like slow braised meals, so the timing was perfect.

Slow Cooked Beef Shank Osso Buco
serves 4

For the Shanks:
* 4 cross-cut, bone-in beef shanks (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
* 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
* 2 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup) * 1 stalk celery, diced (about 3/4 cup)
* 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 4 teaspoons)
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
* 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* 4 sprigs thyme
* 2 bay leaves
* Pinch ground cloves

For the Gremolata:
* 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon grated zest from 1 or 2 lemons
* 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

For the Shanks: Pat shanks dry using a paper towel. Place 1 cup flour on a plate. Season beef with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add meat and cook without moving until well browned on first side, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on second side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Add onion, carrots, and celery to the Dutch oven, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin have softened, about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic. Stir and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon.

Transfer the contents to a slow cooker and add stock, vinegar, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, and ground clove. Season with salt and pepper and cook on low until meat is tender, about 6 hours.

Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Skim fat from the sauce and transfer 1/2 cup of gravy to a medium saucepan. Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour into the reserved gravy until no lumps remain. Add the rest of the sauce to the saucepan. Whisking frequently, bring the sauce to a rolling boil over high heat and cook until the sauce achieves a gravy-like consistency, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Gremolata: Meanwhile, combine parsley, lemon zest, and garlic in a small bowl.

Arrange shanks on a spoonful of risotto on a plate and spoon sauce on top. Garnish with gremolata and serve.

December 8, 2014

Healthy Baked Ziti with Squash & Sausage ♥ Good enough for my Dad

My SIL sent me (by way of my other SIL) a beauty of a butternut squash. Instead of my carrot tart contribution to the T-day table, I thought I would use her squash (sort of like drinking the wine a guest brings, only better).

After filling a 10" tart shell I still had quite a bit of roasted flesh and when I saw this recipe at the Nestle's Very Best Baking site, I pulled out all the ingredients (thhis is one reason to have a really great stocked pantry) and made this for dinner. I also made enough to bring a baked version down to my Dad's. We need to pump him up so he gains weight and this looked very pumpy.

While I am not a fan of fat-free dairy, he is allowed to eat 2% dairy so I used reduced fat ingredients and whole wheat pasta for much needed fiber.

The original recipe called for canned pumpkin (which I could have used) and while pumpkin has good nutritional value, I know that butternut squash is slightly ahead in Vitamin C and potassium.

Baked Ziti with Squash & Sausage
makes 12 servings
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 cups (12 oz.) dry regular or whole-wheat ziti
  • 15 oz. squash, roasted and mashed
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Fat Free milk
  • 12 oz. (4 links) Italian-seasoned chicken or pork sausage, casings removed
  • 1 pkg. (6 oz.) or about 4 cups pre-washed baby spinach or chopped Swiss chard
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded part-skim or 2% milk reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese


PREHEAT oven to 425ยบ F. Spray 4-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

PREPARE pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and set aside for later use. Drain pasta; return to cooking pot.

MEANWHILE, COMBINE sausage meat, squash, garlic powder, salt, nutmeg and cayenne pepper in medium skillet over medium heat. Slowly stir in flour and add evaporated milk, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken slightly. Pour over pasta in pot. Add reserved pasta cooking water; stir well.

SPREAD half of the pasta mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with spinach. Cover with remaining pasta mixture. Lightly spray piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray. Cover ziti with foil, greased side down.

BAKE for 20 minutes or until heated through. Combine mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in small bowl. Remove foil; sprinkle with cheese mixture. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
My dad is going to love this and once cooled, I sliced the casserole into 4x4-inch squares, wrapped each in plastic wrap & foil and placed them all in a large gallon bag (labeled of course).
TO EAT: All one needs to do is to defrost and heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes, nuke for 4 minutes or if still frozen, place wrapped squares on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350°.
I will include the reheating directions (also wrapped in plastic wrap) inside the freezer bag.