Archive for November, 2009

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

I don’t particularly care for traditional pumpkin pie. In fact, I really dislike it. I’ve been traumatized by too many bad pumpkin pies that have had heavy, wet, slippery fillings, gummy crusts, and way too much pumpkin pie spice in the filling. There is only one pumpkin pie recipe I will eat and it’s a recipe I dearly love. It’s creamy, rich, and full of classic pumpkin pie flavor. I’ve been making this recipe for many years and it always gets rave reviews. 

This is the pumpkin pie my Hungarian born grandmother always made. She called it Pumpkin Chiffon Pie but it’s more of a mousse than a chiffon because of the whipped cream in the filling. Being Hungarian, every dessert involved heavy cream in one form or other. She was a world class baker and was the cook for the mayor of Pittsburgh way back in the 1930’s. I still roll my pie crusts out with the same rolling pin she used-a straight, two foot long piece of  wood fashioned out of a policeman’s night stick my grandfather took from a police officer during a scuffle involving a labor union, steelworkers and a strike in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. It makes everything it touches taste better. 

This is her recipe.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie 

1  8 or 9 inch single pie crust baked and cooled. Can be either a standard pastry pie crust or graham cracker style

For the filling:

2 packages plain unflavored powdered gelatin

1 cup brandy, dark rum or bourbon (she used brandy)

1 ½  cups plain canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

¾  cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 egg yolks – refrigerate whites for later step

½  cup evaporated milk or heavy cream

¼  tsp. salt

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½  tsp. cinnamon

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger

very small pinch of cloves

6 tablespoons white granulated sugar

pinch of salt

2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons brandy, dark rum or bourbon

In a small bowl, mix the gelatin and brandy until blended, set aside for 5 minutes to soften.

In a sauce pan add the pumpkin, brown sugar, and the egg yolks. Whisk in the softened gelatin until well mixed. Add the evaporated milk, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Cook for 8 minutes over medium heat stirring constantly to melt the gelatin.

Place mixture in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely, stirring once or twice (this takes about 45-60 minutes). Mixture will thicken.

When the pumpkin mixture has cooled, and in another bowl, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt, adding 6 tablespoons of sugar slowly while beating on medium. When the sugar has all been added, turn the speed up on your mixer and beat the egg whites on high until stiff. Stir the pumpkin mixture well with a spatula to loosen it up and then fold the egg whites into cooled pumpkin mixture until evenly blended.

Clean and dry your mixing bowl and add the whipping cream, vanilla and two additional teaspoons of brandy. Whip until medium stiff peaks form and with a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the pumpkin egg white mixture until evenly blended.

Pile the pumpkin mixture into a cooked and cooled pie crust. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving. The filling will set up nicely because of the gelatin. Serve topped with additional sweetened whipped cream spiked with a teaspoon (or two) of brandy. And don’t even think about using Cool-Whip.

Funeral Potatoes

Regional recipes of various cuisines have always been of interest to me. The small fundraising paperback cookbooks often compiled by church groups or Junior League ladies are nothing short of a treasure chest for comfort food recipes. They often reflect the cultures and customs of the predominant ethnic or religious groups in the area. 

This delicious artery clogging recipe shows up consistently in many of those regional cookbooks. Called Funeral Potatoes, it seems to span both sides of the United States. There’s an ongoing feud between Utah Mormon cooks and Midwest Lutheran cooks regarding the origins of this one. Called Funeral Potatoes by both groups the recipe will always call for one or two cans of condensed canned cream soup. The legend from both groups will say this recipe was born of actual custom surrounding funerals where covered casseroles were often taken to the home of the bereaved family for consumption after the funeral. These days it’s just as common for holiday meals and any other time an event calls for a quick to assemble, easy to transport dish that can feed a large number of folks. 

The most common version will call for frozen hash browned potatoes in the recipe but I think using potatoes you par cook for this recipe are far better. And while you could also go all Alton Brown by making your own cream sauce for the canned soup called for in this recipe, this really is one time where you can get away with using a can of soup without shame. It’s not the same without the can of soup.

Funeral Potatoes

4 lbs Yukon Gold or round red potatoes

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

8 ounces sour cream

¼ cup milk

1 can condensed cream of chicken or mushroom soup

4 green onions, finely minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper 

Boil the potatoes till nearly cooked through, they should still be slightly firm when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife and set aside to cool. This can be done a day ahead, just refrigerate the cooked potatoes till needed. 

In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, reserving 1 cup of the grated cheddar. Coarsely grate the cooled potatoes and spread evenly in a 9 x 12 buttered baking dish. Pour the cheese mixture over making sure it combines with the grated potatoes. The recipe can once again be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap to bake the next day at this point if desired. 

When ready to bake, sprinkle the reserved grated cheddar over the top of the room temperature mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes until cooked through and bubbly.

Peppadew Peppers

Have you noticed those round glossy, neon red peppers as one of the choices in your supermarket olive bar? Maybe you assumed the bright red color meant they might be hot round Italian cherry peppers and perhaps too spicy for your taste. But chances are they’re something new in the pepper world. They might be “Peppadew” peppers and if they are they’re tangy (but not fiery), sweet and the perfect size to pop in your mouth or use in recipes. 

I’ve grown dozens of varieties of peppers over the years and was curious why I’ve never seen the seeds for Peppadew peppers in any of the many seed catalogs I receive every year. What I found out was an interesting story. 

The Peppadew is the trademarked brand name of a pepper first grown in the 1990’s in South Africa. The first plant was a naturally occurring hybrid of plants that originated in South America.  The seeds and the brining process are registered and guarded trade properties. The first jars of Peppadew peppers were sold in the Unites States in 2000.


Peppadew Plant

More sweet than tart, they are sold seedless and hollowed out. They can be used in any recipe that you’d use a pickled pepper or sweet pickles. They’re perfect chopped and added to chicken, ham, egg or potato salad.  My very favorite way to serve them is simply stuffed with an herb spiked cream cheese or goat cheese. They are absolutely delicious and look gorgeous served by themselves or as part of a cheese platter or antipasto. They go great with cocktails and are perfect for holiday entertaining. 

I’ve tweaked this recipe in every direction but the basic recipe is still my favorite

Stuffed Peppadew Pepper Appetizer 

10 ounces pickled Peppadew peppers

6 ounces cream cheese (or mild goat cheese)

½ teaspoon each finely minced parsley and green onion

pinch of coarse black pepper 

With a fork mash the herbs together with the room temperature cheese. 

Drain the peppers well and pat dry on paper towels. Carefully fill the cavity of each pepper with the cheese mixture and serve. 

Makes about 20 bite sized stuffed peppers.

Pomegranate Kumquat Relish

Kumquats are small citrus-like fruits about the size of a cherry tomato with an edible skin.  The entire fruit is eaten either fresh out of hand just like grapes or in a variety of recipes.  They work particularly well in preserves and marmalades because of the high pectin content in the skins. When buying kumquats choose firm fruits that are bright orange in color; avoid those with a greenish tint.


Here’s a beautiful relish to serve with holiday roasts and hams. With only three ingredients it’s an easy recipe to put together. Cranberry juice can be substituted for the pomegranate juice for equally delicious results.


Pomegranate Kumquat Relish 

A twist on the traditional cranberry orange relish 

4 cups kumquats (about 1/1/2 lbs)

4 cups sugar

2 cups pomegranate juice 

Wash kumquats and cut in half removing seeds. Combine all everything in a non-aluminum pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. 

Remove from the heat, cover the pan and set aside at room temperature overnight (at least 6 hours). This helps pectin to develop. 

The following day return pan to the heat, bring to a boil then over low heat until juices evaporate and any liquid that remains is a medium thick syrup, stirring occasionally. 

When juices have thickened pour into a glass bowl with a tight cover or quart jar and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 4 weeks). 

Mixture can also be canned in sterilized pint jars using standard hot water canning instructions for canning jams & jellies.

November: National Pomegranate Month

As far as I’m concerned pomegranates are one fruit that deserve an official month. There’s no fruit quite like it. One of the most difficult fruits to eat, almost a puzzle to open, pomegranates are sweet, tart, and jam packed with antioxidants. Once you get inside, they are also one of the most beautiful fruits on the planet.

pomegranate flower

Fresh pomegranate juice is now readily available in the produce section of most supermarkets these days but November is the beginning of pomegranate season in North America and I’m a sucker for bargains. I’ve found a reasonable way to extract my own pomegranate juice when I’m tempted by a bargain and find myself with a few fat specimens…once you get the seeds (called arils) out of the tough, almost prehistoric skin, place them in a large freezer bag, seal almost closed and roll over the bag repeatedly with a rolling pin till each seed has popped and released it’s juice. Pour the entire mess into a strainer over a bowl and smash with the back of a spoon until the seeds are as dry as you feel like dealing with. Voila! Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. 

I’m sure there are more efficient methods, like juicers to accomplish this but when you are only faced with two or three pomegranates and have some time on your hands, this method works just fine. On the other hand, save yourself some time and just pick up a bottle of fresh pomegranate juice to make the delicious sauce for these lamb chops. The tartness of the juice is a perfect match for the flavor of lamb.

Lamb Chops With  Rosemary Pomegranate Sauce


For 2 servings: 

4  thick loin lamb chops

1 large clove garlic



1 teaspoon vegetable oil


Rub both sides of the chops with the cut side of the garlic clove. Season on both sides with salt & pepper. Drizzle oil over and turn to coat both sides well.


Preheat a broiler, BBQ grill or non-stick skillet to medium high. When hot add the chops and lower the heat to medium and cook for approx 4 minutes and turn. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until medium rare.


Remove and keep warm while sauce is prepared. Chops will continue to cook slightly will resting.


Pomegranate Sauce:


1 cup pomegranate juice 
1 tablespoon  honey 
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary 

1 minced shallot
1  garlic clove, minced

1  tablespoon sherry vinegar 
3 tablespoons pomegranate liqueur (preferably PAMA)

1 tablespoon cold butter

salt to taste 

Add the rosemary to the juice and simmer to reduce by one half. Add the honey, garlic and shallot and gently simmer for a few minutes. 

Remove from heat and add the vinegar and pomegranate liqueur. Swirl in the butter just until melted off the heat. Pour over warm chops and serve.

Chicken with Yogurt Sauce and Pomegranate


Chicken with Yogurt and Pomegranate 

This easy Middle Eastern chicken dish is pretty and delicious. The chicken is slowly braised in stock till tender then thickened with a tart yogurt sauce. The sweet and sour pomegranate seed garnish is more than pretty, it’s delicious and full of anti-oxidants. 

Serve with rice, a cucumber salad and warm pita bread.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1  chicken (approx 1 ½ lbs) , cut into 8 pieces

2  finely sliced onions

1 tsp ground cumin

1  small hot green chilli , halved, seeded and finely chopped 

1  1/2  cups chicken stock or broth

salt & pepper to taste

2 cups plain Greek yogurt

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 pomegranate , seeds removed

1 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped for garnish

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan or sauté pan. Season the chicken pieces with salt & pepper and brown them on both sides till browned for about 5 minutes on each side. Once they are a golden color remove them. Add the onions and cook until golden. Stir in the cumin and the chilies and cook for a minute.

Put the chicken pieces back in the pan, together with any juices, and add the stock and taste for salt. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down very low. Cover and cook the chicken for 20 minutes, take the lid off and leave to cook for a further 20 minutes. The liquid will reduce slightly and the chicken should be cooked through (there should be no pink juices when you pierce it).

Mix the yogurt with the cornstarch (this stabilizes it and stops it from breaking). Add a small ladleful of the cooking liquid to the yogurt and mix well. Add the yogurt to the chicken and mix carefully. Gently heat through. Serve garnished with the pomegranate seeds and parsley.  Serves 4.

Recipe: Gentlemen’s Relish


Gentlemen’s Relish

Anchovy lovers will love this very old English recipe for a famous savory spread (anchovy butter, actually) invented in 1828 by John Osborn. The commercially available version of this highly seasoned spread is know as  Patum Peperium. It’s a descendant of the ancient Roman condiment, garum, mentioned in what is believed to be the first written cookbook “Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome” by Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet and lover of luxury, who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius.


While the exact recipe of the commercial version of Gentlemen’s Relish is a guarded secret this recipe comes very close. To use it, spread a very thin layer on a slice of very good warm toasted bread as an appetizer. It’s an amazing addition to a pat of butter for frying eggs or added to any deviled egg recipe. There are several old English recipes that add a small amount to stews or as a spread for cucumber sandwiches and baked potatoes. 

The finished recipe can be stored, closely covered in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.

3 (50 g) cans anchovy fillets

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 pinch ground cinnamon

1 pinch ground nutmeg

1 pinch ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or mortar and pestle until smooth. Transfer to a ceramic or glass bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate till ready to use. Will keep for at least 2 weeks if kept tightly covered.


Recipe: Roasted Beet and Horseradish Dip


Roasted Beet and Horseradish Dip 

Commercial beets in cans have done more damage to the vegetable kingdom’s reputation than can ever be undone. (with the possible exception of canned spinach and canned asparagus)  The often maligned beet becomes sweet and delicious when roasted; the roasting concentrates the sugars. Baking beets in this way make them very easy to work with. 

The vibrant purple hue of beets and their sweet earthy flavor make a fascinating dip when combined with tangy horseradish and mellow cream cheese. This really is a beautiful and surprisingly tasty dip with a bite of horseradish. Give you old tired holiday dips a break this year and try something new. 

6 whole fresh medium beets

8 ounces cream cheese

3-4 tablespoon prepared horseradish (more or less to taste)

2 green onions, minced (for garnish) 

Remove all but 3 inches of stems from the beets and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes (or until a knife inserted in one of the beets slides in easily). Remove from the oven, unwrap from the foil and set aside to cool. 

When completely cool peel the beets with the tip of a paring knife and place in a bowl of a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add a dash of salt if needed. 

Place in a serving bowl and refrigerate till serving time. Garnish with the finely minced green tops of 2 green onions. 

Serve with toasted pita wedges, thin cheese strips, tortilla chips or, raw crudités  (celery sticks, cauliflower in dip size pieces, blanched whole green beans, etc.)


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