Usually, the word spritzer is enough to scare me away from a drink. It’s a word usually accompanied by some combination of the words white wine and cranberry/rasberry/strawberry and sometimes even vodka. All of which are things pretty low on my list of drinks of choice. I’ll drink a stout or a red ale over a merlot any day. And if it’s going to be a mixed drink, it’ll probably involve whiskey, won’t get any sweeter than ginger ale and definitely won’t be pink with an umbrella and a sugar-rimmed glass. My taste in drinks leans much more heavily towards the bitter and sometimes unusual. Basically, I’m a dude when it comes to drinks.
Although bright red, this drink is not fruity or sweet or one of those that makes you go, “Is there alcohol in that?”. It’s bitter and strong and complex and boozy. The IPA (my favorite of all) is of course bitter, but so is Campari, in a different way. Yes, we’re mixing bitter on bitter here, with nothing to balance it, but it works. It’s great. Trust me.
I got this recipe from The Kitchn, which calls it a summer cocktail. It was indeed refreshing on a 100-degree July day, but I think it’s a perfect winter cocktail too. This isn’t your goes-down-easy summer shandy. Not that it’s hard to get down (totally isn’t) but it does take a little getting used to and a bit more work to enjoy (don’t worry, it’s worth it), and would be a great way to kick-start your getting-out-of-your-comfort-zone New Year’s resolution before the clock strikes midnight.
Campari + IPA Spritzer
Recipe from The Kitchn
Makes 1 (Don’t be fooled by the pictures. I made this for myself a couple days after moving to a new town and since I had to use the whole bottle of beer I went ahead and doubled it…it was kind of a lot. The recipe is plenty for one.)
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) campari
1/2 bottle (6 ounces) IPA
lemon twist for garnish (optional)
Fill a glass with ice (I know your beer is cold, but you definitely want the ice) and add the campari. Slowly pour the beer over it. If using lemon, squeeze the peel over the drink to release its oils, and rub the peel around the rim of the glass. Leave the lemon peel in the glass and serve.
Last week was one gigantic sugar-coated, caramel-filled, chocolate-dipped Christmas treat extravaganza at my office. We had a potluck one day, and the 40+ people who work there couldn’t even finish all the desserts. I definitely had
a little more WAY more than my fair share, just at the potluck. There were countless cookies, rice krispie treats, chocolates, Hershey kiss and m&m topped pretzels….
The day of the potluck, I ended up at work until almost midnight. The plus side was that while I was working, I got to snack on the leftovers. A couple cookies at 8:00, leftover salad at 9:30, and at 11:00 another sliver of this tart, which was my potluck contribution. Don’t ask me how it didn’t all get eaten during the day. Who picks too-sweet but still tasteless store-bought cookies over something rich, chocolatey, homemade, and a little boozy? Beats me. I’d pick this tart over something from a grocery store bakery any day, but I was glad to have some late at night.
This tart is rich and very chocolatey, with a nice citrus flavor, a hint of booze, and a little spicy kick from the cinnamon. We start by candying some orange peel.
Then we’re mixing butter and cocoa powder and sugar and cinnamon and a little flour and salt.
Crust gets rolled out and baked.
Then, the orange peel gets chopped up and some chocolate gets melted.
Orange peel and almonds go in the crust.
Melted chocolate gets poured in, and the tart chills for a bit in the fridge. And then we get to feel really fancy while we eat it.
This tart is a little labor-intensive, but completely worth it. It’s worth your weekend afternoon, both for the taste and for the oohs and ahs you’ll get from your family when you show up at Christmas dinner with it. Have a wonderful holiday!
Dark Chocolate and Orange Tart with Toasted Almonds
Candied Orange Peel:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup slivered almost, toasted, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liquor
For the candied orange peel:
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel (orange part only) from the orange in strips. Cut strips into pieces the size of matchsticks and place in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 seconds and drain. Rise the pan, add 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and peel. Over medium-low heat, stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer until the peel is translucent and the syrup thick, about 20 minutes. With the tines of a fork, transfer peel to a plate to cool. Peel can be made 1 day ahead. Cover it and store at room temperature.)
For the crust:
With an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the cocoa powder. Add in the four and beat until dough comes together in moist clumps. Form the dough into a ball; flatten the ball into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Roll the crust out between sheets of waxed paper to an 11-inch round. Remove the top sheet of paper and invert the dough over a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Peel off second sheet of paper. Gently press the dough into the pan, pressing the overhang in to form double-thick sides. Pierce dough all over with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake crust until the sides look dry and the bottom looks bubbly, about 14 minutes. Transfer crust to rack. If the sides of the dough are falling, use the back of a spoon to press them up. Cool crust completely.
For the filling:
Toss the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Chop all but 2 strips of the orange peel. Sprinkle the chopped orange peel over the bottom of the prepared crust, and then sprinkle the almond mixture over. Place the cream in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the Grand Marnier. Pour the chocolate mixture into the crust. Refrigerate tart until filling is firm, at least 3 hours. Garnish with the remaining 2 orange peel strips. Tart can be make 1 day ahead. Keep covered loosely with foil in the fridge.
To serve, gently loosen the crust from the sides of the pan with a sharp knife. Cut tart into wedges and serve cold.
Here’s what happened while I was making this cake. The eggs were all separated and ready to go at room temperature. The parchment paper was buttered and floured. All the ingredients were measured and set in their own containers at my fingertips. The bowls were ready. The beaters – which belong to my roommate – were plugged in and reporting for duty. The sugar was in the egg yolks, I was ready to go. And then, I turned on the beaters.
Level 1 speed: they give a little kick, start spinning reeeeaaaallll slow. No cause for concern, right? I’m only at level 1. Turn it up to level 2. They give a decent effort to speed up but it’s not going to happen. Hmmmm. Turn the speed up to level 3. The beaters don’t even try this time. They sputter a little, and weakly plug along at a glacial pace. Up another notch to 4, and they actually slow down. And start emitting the same weird and highly unpleasant smoky smell that the really high pitched spinning drill/cleaner thingy at the dentist has. Just one more notch to go. Level 5, and the beaters are totally out of gas. Except they don’t run on gas, so I can’t just fill them up. But it’s pretty clear they’re done for. So at about 8 pm, I bundle up and head out in the 20-degree night and iced-over roads in search of beaters. And find them tucked in a corner among a beautiful forest of brightly hued Kitchen Aids and high-tech juicers and almost-industrial food processors (I can dream, can’t I?).
I bring my new beaters home, take the already-separated eggs out of the fridge to come to room temperature again, and finally get down to business. And let me tell you, this cake was worth the extra trip and $30 for beaters. And the waiting while the eggs warmed up. And everything else. It’s light and fluffy (even though it totally doesn’t look like it) and pretty and impressive and delicious.
What makes this cake light and fluffy? EGGS. Beaten yolks. Beaten whites. And no flour. It’s gluten-free! The peppermint goes right into the whipped cream, so it’s a big flavor in this cake. Not hiding behind the chocolate at all.
If you’re not a peppermint fan, this cake would be wonderful with a myriad of other flavorings. I think I’m going to make it with Grand Marnier for my family at Christmas, and candied orange peel on top. It would of course be great with Kahlua and cinnamon and chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish. I think Kirschwasser could be tasty, too. Raspberry liquor. Hazelnut liquor. Some kind of coconut situation? Endless possibilities with this one.
Meanwhile we’re melting chocolate, and then mixing it in the egg yolks.
Then we’ll be the egg whites. At first they turn frothy.
And then they turn into a dreamy white cloud that I want to curl up in forever. See those peaks? That’s how you know they’re ready.
Then the egg whites get gently folded into the yolk-chocolate mixture.
Cake goes in the oven, comes out and gets slathered in whipped cream.
And now, we roll.
Those cracks? Totally cool. No one can tell once it’s all rolled up.
And then we cover it in ganache, because why wouldn’t we. And put some candy cane on top, because we’re fancy like that.
This cake is a perfect holiday dessert. Gorgeous and satisfying, but light enough that you won’t have to loosen your belt after a big dinner.
Chocolate Peppermint Yule Log
Makes 1 roll cake, enough to serve about 8
For the Cake:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped fine (I measured 4 oz chocolate chips from the bulk section)
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the Whipped Cream Filling:
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract or your preferred flavoring (start with 1 and add more to taste)
For the Ganache:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces (I used chocolate chips again)
2/3 cup heavy cream
Make the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Grease a 17×12-inch baking sheet with butter or vegetable spray. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper (don’t use foil). It should overhang the sides of the pan about an inch. Grease and flour the parchment.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites while the eggs are cold. After separating, allow them 20 minutes to warm to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl with hand beaters, beat together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar at medium-high speed until the yolks are thick and pale in color. This will take about 5-7 minutes. (It took me a bit longer with my hand beaters.) You’ll know it’s been beaten enough when the mixture pours from the beater in a thick ribbon.
While the eggs are beating, melt the chocolate pieces. (Since I have to hold my beaters, I melted the chocolate in the microwave in a small glass measuring cup, and then sat it on the back of the stove where the preheated oven would keep it warm and melty.) You can melt the chocolate in the microwave with low heat for a few seconds at a time, stirring every once in while. You can also use a double boiler, or makeshift one. Place a few inches of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl – this bowl will eventually hold everything – and set the bowl over the boiling water. The bowl should not touch the water. Stir the chocolate until it is melted completely. Remove from heat, and remove the bowl from the water. Let the chocolate cool a few minutes.
Place the chocolate in a large bowl if it isn’t already. Add the beaten egg yolk mixture to the chocolate. Gently stir until just incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. The mixing will thicken the egg yolks even further, and the chocolate will appear fluffy. Set aside.
Clean the mixer bowl and whisk attachment or beaters. Dry to ensure that no yolk is left. Add the egg whites to the bowl. With the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until the whites are frothy, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, and gradually add the cream of tartar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. There will be peaks when you lift the whisk out of the whites, but they won’t hold their shape. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar while beating. Beat until stiff peaks form.
Grab your chocolate-egg yolk mixture in its large bowl. Place about 1/3 of the egg whites in the bowl and gently fold to combine. Using a light hand, sweep the egg whites up and under through the center of the chocolate mixture. Fold until just incorporated. Large egg white and chocolate streaks will remain. Add another 1/3 of the egg whites and continue to mix in the same manner. The batter will be fluffy and glossy. The fluffiness creates the spongy cake texture, so try to deflate the egg whites as little as possible. Fold in the remaining egg whites and fold gently until entirely incorporated.
Immediately transfer the batter to the prepared baking sheet. Carefully smooth into the pan, making sure there’s an even thickness. Don’t mess with the batter too much. The more you do, the more it deflates. If the batter won’t reach the ends of the pan, no big deal. Just try to make an even rectangle.
Bake the cake 15-17 minutes. When done, the top will be dry and it will have a spongy, bounce-back feel. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
While the cake cools, make the whipped cream and ganache.
Make the Whipped Cream:
Place the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and peppermint extract in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, or if using beaters, in a medium bowl. Beat until there are soft peaks. It should hold its shape but still be soft and spreadable. Let rest in the refrigerator.
Make the Ganache:
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small sauce pan until it’s almost boiling. It will be steaming hot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute. Whisk into a smooth and glossy sauce. Let rest in the fridge about 30 minutes, until thickened slightly.
Assemble the Cake:
Once the cake has cooled completely, use the overhang of the parchment paper to remove it from the baking sheet. Spread with a thin layer of whipped cream filling. It does not need to be a thick layer, but I did use all the whipped cream.
Place the cake so the 12-inch side (the shorter one) is facing you. We’ll roll from this side.
Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake. It doesn’t need to be tight. Roll the cake gently, removing the parchment as you go. The first roll or two will probably crack, but that’s okay. It will crack less as the roll gets larger.
End with the seam side down and gently lift the cake onto a serving board or plate. Let rest in the fridge about 30 minutes.
Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the chocolate ganache over it. Let chill until you are ready to serve it. Garnish with a crushed candy cane just before serving. If you garnish early, the candy will ooze and color will seep out a bit.
The cake will last, wrapped and refrigerated, for 3 days.
At one point while I was making this stew, I had the tomato, garlic, and basil all lined up on my cutting board, and a strange thought popped into my head, completely on its own. Huh. That looks like the Italian flag. The next thought that popped into my head was not that it would be kind of absurd for a country to base its flag on its food, though that’s probably what I should have thought. Nope. Instead, I thought, Wait. Tomatoes came from Mexico. Which I learned in some Spanish class where we focused on everything Europeans took back with them after coming to the Americas (tomatoes, chocolate, corn, potatoes….). So even if the Italian flag is based on food – obviously it’s not – the red can’t be tomatoes.
Then I had a hunch. Basil probably isn’t native to Italy either. Why this train of thought continued for so long I have no idea. And if you haven’t given up on this post yet, we should probably be friends. Anyway, turns out my hunch was right. Basil is native to Southeast Asia. And that’s where my weird train of thought finally ended.
And then, I got curious so I did a little research. Garlic is also native to Asia. The flag of Italy, of course, does not take its colors from basil, garlic, and tomatoes, but its green hills, snowy Alps, and bloody independence wars. Or hope, faith, and charity, from a more theological interpretation. Now we’ve all learned something new, thanks so my wandering stream of consciousness. Regardless of its ingredients’ resemblance to the Italian flag, the leftovers from this stew were wonderful to come home to on Friday, which was what will probably be the only day it snows in my town all winter.
This stew is yet another great one from Real Stew, a book which has yet to disappoint me. It starts with chopped onion practically swimming in olive oil.
Now for the red, white, and green.
Cover and simmer 3 hours, and dinner’s ready.
Home-Style Beef and Tomato Stew from Sicily
From Real Stew
Makes 4 servings
Time: about an hour for prep, then 3 hours of waiting while it cooks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 pounds boneless stew beef, trimmed of any large pieces of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, slices
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a casserole over medium-high heat. (I used the cast iron pot my mom got me for Christmas last year. I love that thing.) Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the beef, season with salt, and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes.
Whisk together the tomato paste and wine and stir into the casserole. Cook about 5 minutes, until the wine is nearly evaporated.
Add the tomatoes, water to cover (recipe says 1/2 cup but I used a little over 1 cup), garlic, basil, and bay leaf, and season with pepper. Cover the pot, reduce heat to very low, and simmer about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender. Remove the bay leaf. Serve immediately.
This is great as leftovers, and will keep well for 4-5 days. if you want to vary your leftover routine a bit, a small-ish portion of this stew is great over pasta.
When I was about middle-school age, demanding and hard-to-please as any other 13-year-old girl, my great-grandma used to make me pie crust cookies every time she made a pie. Extra dough, cut up into squares, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until just the tiniest bit golden, Granny’s pie crust cookies were perfection. That 95-year-old lady sure knew how to make my bratty pre-teen self happy.
Why did I like those pie crust cookies so much? I’m definitely a crust person. Save the pie crust, cheesecake crust for last. It’s the best part. I call dibs on the corner brownies. That snake-looking brownie pan in SkyMall that makes ALL the brownies edge brownies? Dream come true. I guess it runs in the family because my grandpa (Granny’s son) was also a crust and edge brownie person. It really is the best part. And this pie totally has the crust to filling ratio nailed. It’s better than a regular circular two-crust pie. Those have way too much filling. This pie has a thinner layer of apple filling, just enough to add the sweetness a pie needs, but let the crust be the star. And star it is, my friends. The crust of this pie is glorious. Buttery, flaky, and perfect. Just like pie crust cookies.
First step is the dough. We’ll bring flour, a little sugar and salt, cold butter, and cold water together into a big shaggy mess of a ball. Really cold butter and water is important – that’s what makes the crust flaky! Then it’ll sit in the fridge for a while. We don’t want the butter to get soft, because no tiny pieces of butter means no flakes.
Then we’ll peel a whole bunch of apples. I used 4 granny smith, 3 pink lady, and 2 golden delicious.
Apples get mixed with some cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a little lemon juice.
Now, we roll out the crust. This is the trickiest part. You want to work fast so the butter doesn’t get soft, and use a little more flour than you think you need to keep it from sticking to the counter. (The bottom crust of my pie totally ripped when I was transferring it to the pan…but no on can tell!)
Top crust goes on, crimp the edges, cut some vents, brush with an egg wash. And just look at how beautiful this behemoth of a pie is.
Apple Slab Pie
From Smitten Kitchen – I think hers is the best pie crust ever
Serves 15+, depending on how you cut it. I was going for 18 but messed up on the cutting, and if you cut it into 15 the pieces are pretty big. But definitely manageable 🙂
For the Crust:
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, very cold, cubed
3/4 cup very cold water
For the Filling:
3 1/2-4 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into about 1/2-inch chunks (about 8 cups)
Squeeze of lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar (or 3/4 cup if you want it sweeter)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream or one egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk, lemon juice, apple cider, maple syrup (you’ll need more than a tablespoon for syrup) or other preferred liquid (would have used bourbon if I hadn’t brought it to work), plus a little more if needed
Make the pie crust:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter using a pastry blender, two forks, or your hands until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Stir the water in gently with a rubber spatula, mixing until a craggy mass forms. Knead the dough a few times with your hand to form a ball.
Divide the dough in half (it’s ok – possibly better – if one piece is slightly larger than the other). Flatten each half into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to two days. You can also freeze the wrapped dough in a freezer bag for a couple months. Leave it in the fridge for a day to defrost.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 10x15x1-inch cookie sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
Prepare the filling:
In a large bowl, toss the apples with lemon juice until coated. Add in the remaining ingredients and stir until evenly coated.
Assemble the pie:
On a floured surface, roll one of the dough halves (the bigger one if they weren’t quite even) into an 18×13-inch rectangle. It will be kind of hard, but do your best to work quickly, keep the dough as cold as possible, and use enough flour so that it doesn’t stick to the counter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. It will overhang a bit, use this to fill in the corners and edges of the pan. Some should still hang over the sides of the pan, trim the overhang to 3/4 inch.
Pour the apple mixture in the pan and spread evenly.
Roll the other half of the dough (the smaller one) into a 16×11-inch rectangle. Drape it over the filling and fold the overhang of the bottom crust over the edges of the top crust, sealing them together. Cut slits all over the top crust to act as vents. Brush with cream or egg wash. Bake 40-45 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool on a wire rack until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.
In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and liquid until thin enough to pour. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the pie. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Pie will keep at room temperature for 3 days.
Yesterday, after a full three days of Thanksgiving food, bar food, and beer, I finally had a salad. It was glorious and delicious and totally necessary. I was craving vegetables. And not creamy, buttery, bread crumb-topped vegetables. The fresh kind. I also needed my four days at home, complete with mountain views and a gorgeous sunset and lots of catching-up time with family and friends. No work, no answering to anyone, and the only decisions I had to make were in the wheelhouse of “Do I really want more pie?” (Yes. I did.) Complete relaxation. Facilitated in part by this beauty:
If you’re like me and still not fully recovered from the perma-food coma that was last week, this salad will set you right back on track. It’s got tons of vegetables, beans for heartiness, and tuna for that bit of saltiness you’re still craving. It does not have mayo, bread crumbs, cheese (though that would be a good idea), or bacon (also would be really tasty). Just simple fresh ingredients to wake you from your food coma. Or help you get rid of your food baby. Whichever you prefer.
We start off with tuna, beans, cucumber, onion, and a few dressing ingredients.
Then we slap it on a bed of lettuce, slice some avocado, and liberally sprinkle salt and pepper all over the top.
Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Adapted from Shutterbean (she had me at “no mayo”)
1 can tuna, drained
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/3-1/2 of a cucumber, chopped
Juice of 1 small lemon
splash of red wine vinegar
a couple tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Toss it all in a bowl and mix it up! Arrange with lettuce and avocado on a plate or in a bowl, and salt and pepper to taste. This is great as a salad, and also on toast or as a pasta salad.
This is a recipe that welcomes alterations and additions. Tomatoes would be great – I just don’t like them (I know. It’s weird. I try them every couple months just to make sure). You want to leave out the cucumber? Cool. Add parsley? Good call. It’s all up to you and what your Thanksgiving belly is craving.