Braised Fennel

LeeksEtc.

When I come home from my Saturday morning visits to the Sugar Land Farmer’s Market, the temptation to photograph my finds results in pictures like these.  The fennel, leeks, and spinach lying on my counter here all wound up in different recipes and were delicious.  I sauteed the spinach with a little olive oil and garlic and served with balsamic vinegar.  The leeks went into a quiche. But these beautiful fennel bulbs were the star..  I only discovered fennel a few years ago. We like it raw in salads, roasted, baked with sliced potatoes in an iron skillet, and added to a variety of vegetables. Fennel has a sweet, anise or licorice flavor that’s strongest when it’s raw but much more mellow when it’s cooked.

Most fennel recipes call for just the white bulb. When thinly sliced, the fennel bulb is great in salads — it’s crunchy and slightly sweet and subtly licorice-like, but not as pungent as  black licorice candy. The stalks can be used to make stock, or chopped and sauteed with other vegetables in a mirepoix (a typical French blend of onion, celery and carrot) for a soup or stew. The fronds can be added to salads or used to garnish dishes.

Try this braised fennel!

Braised Fennel

    • 2 fennel bulbs (sometimes called anise; 10 to 12 oz each) with fronds
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup water

Mini Almond Croissants

20160310_100429

One of our favorite treats is almond croissants from the bakery at Le Madeleine.  These little croissants come close to the taste without the trip into town to purchase the flaky bakery product. I usually have crescent roll dough and sliced almonds in the refrigerator because I use both often. Recently I had a tube of almond paste bought for a different recipe and changed my mind.  These tasty minature croissants are the result of “shopping from the frig and pantry” – which I try to do often.

1 can of refrigerated crescent roll dough

almond paste

sliced almonds

Preheat oven according to instructions on the crescent roll package.  Unwrap and separate dough into triangles, placing several inches apart on a baking sheet.  On each dough triangle, squeeze a generous amount of almond paste.  Roll, starting with large end of triangle.  Press ends together to avoid losing filling during baking.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Shrimp in Pastry Shells

20160309_174852

On our first wedding anniversary (over 52 years ago) we lived in Corvallis, Oregon. Our budget did not allow restaurant meals and I was still a beginner cook. But I served Joe Shrimp in Pastry Shells on our wedding china and we still consider it one of our fanciest dishes. Somewhere I still have the index card on which I taped the simple recipe clipped from a magazine, using Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp soup and canned shrimp.  These days, I do not buy the little shrimp in a can, but I do keep a bag of frozen peeled and deveined shrimp as a freezer staple. This version is how that first anniversary shrimp n shells dish has changed, definitely for the better.  However, Pepperidge Farm still makes their wonderful Puff Pastry Shells that make it so easy to pull puff pastry out of my oven for the base of a wonderful entree.

Shrimp in Pastry Shells

Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry shells (6 shells)

1/2 to 1 pound medium size shrimp, shelled and deveined (fresh or thawed from frozen) We like plenty of shrimp.

2 Tablespoons butter,

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp soup

1/2 cup milk or half and half

1 Tablespoon minced fresh dill,

1/4 cup Sherry

Bake Puff Pastry according to instructions on package..  Be sure to save the discs of pastry that you remove from the top after baking to top each serving. Place each pastry on serving plate, with tops on the side.

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in saute pan, add mushrooms and simmer until mushrooms have cooked down and liquid begins to reduce. Add soup  plus only 1/2 cup milk and simmer until well blended and beginning to thicken.  Add shrimp and cook, stirring, 4-5 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through. Blend in dill and sherry and ladle into pastry shells.  Top each with a puff pastry topper.

 

 

 

Dessert Meringue with Raspberries and Ice Cream

 

When we lived in San Antonio early in our marriage,Joe introduced me to one of his commanding officers when he served in the U.S. Army at Fort Baker, California in the 60’s.By the time I met them, Major Kneesy and his wife lived in officer’s housing on base at Fort Sam Houston.  We visited with them in the living room of their home, and Mrs. Kneesy served us coffee and dessert.  The dessert was a small meringue shell filled with ice cream topped with a drizzle of chocolate. It was the most elegant dessert I had ever eaten, and I fell in love with meringues.  She told me she kept some in the freezer so she would have them to offer on occasions such as our visit. A young bride and fledging cook, I was of course, duly impressed. I have since made them many times myself.

Later, when we lived in Indonesia, I was introduced to Pavlovas, large meringues topped with whipped cream and mixed tropical fruits and my admiration of meringues increased. The ingredient list is very simple, preparation requires an electric mixer and patience, but this remains one of my very favorite things to serve guests in my home for dessert.  The variety of toppings makes it very versatile.

Recently I learned that this is a Downton Abbey dessert. In one episode, Mrs. Patmore the cook makes Raspberry Meringues for the Crowley’s and their guests. However, her eyesight is failing and when reaching for sugar, she measures salt, resulting in inedible meringues!

Dessert Meringue with Raspberries and Ice Cream

5 egg whites

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla.

Prepare 2 large baking sheets by lining with Silpat or parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Let egg whites sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes.  Place in bowl of electric mixer, and begin beating slowly.  When egg whites begin to froth, add cream of tartar. Increase mixer speed to medium and continue to beat until egg whites will hold a hard peak.  Begin to add sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time and beat at medium-high speed after each addition until all sugar has been added.  Turn mixer speed on high and beat for 5 to 6 minutes until egg whites are glossy and hold sharp peaks.  Remove and fold in salt and vanilla.

Meringues will spread, so do not crowd on baking sheets, adding 6 to each sheet.  With a large spoon, add dollops of meringue and spread slightly to 3-inch circles.  Make an indention in the middle of each by pressing with the back of the spoon. Place baking sheets into preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Reduce heat by 25 degrees if they begin to brown. Turn oven off, leaving meringues in oven with door shut for at least 2 hours.  Place in air tight containers and when ready to serve, fill with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and top with raspberries or other berries of your choice.

Note:  If using whipped cream, a nice variation is the addition of  a splash of orange liqueur.

 

 

 

 

Creamy Chicken Tetrazzini

CreamyChickenTetrazinni

Every cookbook has its own version of this dish.  Our own favorite through the years was a recipe given to us by Jean McGuire, who was our back door neighbor when we lived near San Antonio in Kirby, Texas, in 1966. This version is also a keeper.  This is a great dish to make when you have leftover rotisserie chicken and pasta.

Creamy Chicken Tetrazzini

3 large chicken breast halves, cooked

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

about 4 cups cooked spaghetti (half a pound  uncooked)

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (may use canned, sliced)

1/2 large green pepper, chopped

1/2 large red pepper, chopped

1 onion, choppped

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup flour

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup half and half

1 can cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup sherry

3/4 cup sliced almonds

paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook chicken and pasta and drain. (I use rotisserie chicken and leftover spaghetti noodles when possible, but if you are using raw chicken and uncooked pasta, you can cook those while you assemble and prep the other ingredients.

Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.  Shred chicken.  Saute mushrooms, pepper, garlic, and onion in butter in a large sautee pan.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper, stirring constantly.  Cook for one minute, stirring gently. Add shredded chicken, half and half, mushroom soup, cheese, and sherry.  Mix well.  Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish and bake 25 minutes.  Scatter almonds on top and continue baking for 5-10 minutes longerl