Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Spice... Pumpkin Spice...it's EVERYWHERE! When the month of October rolls in, it seems like pumpkin-spiced food & drink flood every single coffee house, bakery, and grocery store. There are cases where 'pumpkin spice' is well done, but many more where it's just, well, overdone. This cupcake recipe is one of the good ones!

Back when I was in college, I discovered Penzeys Spices, and I thought I had gone to fragrance heaven! Picture a complete store dedicated to spice; it was a magical experience for me even then. The exotic scents, vibrant colors, and sheer variety blew me away. It was a turning point for me & my interest in cooking. Fast forward a decade, and my spice rack is a Penzeys treasure-trove!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chicken Paprikash (Chicken Paprika)

Autumn is most definitely here; the leaves are changing & the air is crisp. I love this time of year in New England - not only for the sight of changing foliage, but for the distinctive scent of autumn. The air smells like newly fallen leaves, damp earth, and fruitwood smoke from wood burning fires. It all works together to create the "feel" of the season. My cooking also starts to reflect the shortening days: there is something so alluring (and comforting) about pulling up a chair to a plate of rich, beautifully-sauced, goodness when there is a chill in the air. 

My Chicken Paprikash (Paprika Chicken) shows off the full bodied flavors of smoked paprika and garlic, combined with bell peppers, onions, and savory chicken. Hungarian in origin, this variation is easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner, but features all the bold flavors that you might expect of a dish simmered for hours. Serve with a side of broad egg noodles and you have a lovely warming meal in under an hour!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Old Fashioned Apple Pie

I have already written about my great love of all things pie-related, as well as the trials & tribulations of making the perfect piecrust. I think almost everyone has their own favorite type of crust (with eggs? lard? butter? vegetable shortening?) and special filling (fruit? custard? curd?) that they will swear by. For me, a classic, beautifully simple, apple pie is at the top of a very short list.

I was always that kid who hung around the dessert table at Thanksgiving, eyeballing the pies instead of the golden brown turkey! This particular apple pie recipe has everything that I love about autumn baking; a flaky & buttery crust, juicy apples, and just the hint of warm cinnamon and nutmeg. I use a very light hand with the traditional apple pie spices, to really let the apples sing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Salmon in Puff Pastry Dough (Salmon en Croute)

I think it was on our third date that my future husband decided to invite me to his teeny apartment in Boston for a dinner date. I came over expecting a stereotypical bachelor's meal (some sort of meat & potato dish with a beer on the side). He instead went all-out and cooked up a mushroom risotto for starters, and then this fabulous salmon & pesto baked in puff pastry, followed by chocolate-dipped strawberries. He was cooking to impress (and it worked!).

This is a variation on the dish he served me that night; one that his family had been making for years. A beautiful salmon filet is baked and then flaked into a rice, pesto, and mushroom mix. The whole thing is then rolled in puff pastry dough and baked until golden brown & flaky. This dish is hearty, but (moderately) healthy, and perfect hot or at room temperature. We like to serve this Salmon in Puff Pastry as either a light dinner, or as a main dish for brunch.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Basil Pine Nut Pesto

There's something about fresh basil that instantly makes me think of summers in the garden. Even with all the joys of autumn rolling round, it's still nice to have a bite of warmer weather and sunshine. Green, herbaceous, and savory, my Basil Pine Nut Pesto is perfect for capturing the spirit of the summer! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Classic Honey Cake

Honey Cake is a universal dessert; it is a celebratory staple in so many cultures. Whether light and airy, or rich and sweet, honey is an elemental flavor. In my mother's family, we make honey cakes to mark the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah. It's a time of celebration, of family coming together, and... Well... Eating!

It is symbolic to eat honey and apples together on this holiday in hopes of having a sweet new year to come. Honey cake is a great variation on this theme. The thing is, you don't need this holiday as an excuse to whip up this cake! It's just a perfect fall season sweet, plain & simple!