Linzer Hearts

We drag out holidays in my house. One day just isn’t enough of a celebration. 😉

We were so busy eating leftover Mardi Gras King Cake on Valentine’s Day, I had to make a belated Valentine’s Day dessert! The truth is that I was procrastinating a little bit. As much as I wanted to make this special dessert for my husband, I really didn’t want to peel the hazelnuts. :/ I was quite happy to find a method to remove the skin by blanching the nuts. This method is a little bit time-consuming but it completely removes the bitter skin. Yay!

These cookies were very special- completely worth every minute of work. My husband wants me to add them to our Christmas cookie assortment! (in a different shape, of course) The blanching method used to peel the hazelnuts was adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum, via Fine Cooking.com. The cookie recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. Wonderful!

Yield: 9 3-inch sandwich cookies and 14 2-inch heart cookies

  • 4 1/2 oz (1 cup) raw hazelnuts
  • 4 T baking soda, for blanching the hazelnuts
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam, for filling
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

To Blanch, Peel, and Roast the Hazelnuts:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add 4 T baking soda and the hazelnuts.
  3. Boil for 3 minutes- expect the water to turn black. Run a nut under cold water and see if the skin slips off easily. If not, boil the nuts a little longer until the skins slip off.
  4. Strain and then cool the nuts under cold running water, slip off the skins, blot dry with paper towels.
  5. Place peeled nuts on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until fragrant.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
  7. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely ground.

To Make the Cookies:

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. Whisk the ground hazelnuts into the flour mixture; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and lemon zest; beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. With the mixer on low-speed, add hazelnut-flour mixture, and beat until just combined, about 10 to 15 seconds.
  6. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface or onto plastic wrap. Divide in half and shape into flattened disks.
  7. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. (I refrigerated overnight.)
  8. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator, and let stand until softened slightly. (This will help keep the dough from cracking when rolled.)
  9. Between layers of plastic wrap or on a large piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to a baking sheet. Place in freezer and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.
  10. Repeat with second disk of dough. (You can stack the parchment and dough in the freezer.)
  11. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  12. Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer. Working quickly, cut into heart shapes with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Cut out the center from half of the shapes with a 2-inch cutter. (If the dough begins to soften too much, return to the freezer for a few minutes.)
  13. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. (I kept the similar shaped cookies on separate sheets as they had the same baking time.) Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
  14. Repeat with second sheet of dough.
  15. Bake on the center rack, one cookie sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until cookies are crisp and lightly golden all over, about 17 minutes for full 3-inch hearts and 15 minutes for the open hearts and full 2-inch hearts.
  16. Let cool slightly on cookie sheet and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. (Cooled cookies can be stored overnight in an airtight container at room temperature before filling.)
  17. Spread the flat sides of the whole hearts with jam.
  18. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the open hearts.
  19. Just before serving, top open hearts with jam. Cookies should be eaten the day they’re filled.

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Chicken Rice Pilaf

My entire family loves one-pot chicken and rice dishes. I personally thought that I brought this one to another level by serving it with sautéed Indian-spiced CSA kale. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Asha Gomez. I used ground cardamom, chicken thighs, and increased the garlic. It was a fabulous weeknight dish!

Yield: Serves 6
  1. In a large saucepan, heat the ghee. Add the onion, cardamom, star anise and a big pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the onion is softened and browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and turmeric and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and 
cook over moderate heat for 4 minutes, stirring to coat it with the aromatics.
  4. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat.
  5. Stir in the rice and return to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and let steam, covered, for 15 minutes.
  7. Fluff the pilaf with a fork and season with salt to taste.
  8. Transfer to a bowl, discarding the cardamom pods (if using) and star anise. (The star anise is so pretty that I left it in the dish!)
  9. Garnish with 
raisins, chopped cilantro and chopped toasted almonds, as desired. Serve.

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Crisp Toffee Bars

I am a huge fan of a skillet-baked dessert. Irresistible. These blondie-esque, nutty cookies were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The edges were fabulously crumbly too. In the original recipe, the edges are removed prior to serving… What on Earth?! 😉

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. I weighed all of the dry ingredients, included both of the add-ins, increased the skillet size, and reduced the baking time. The article cited that the original recipe for these buttery, basic toffee bars belongs to Maida Heatter, the great American dessert maven of the 20th century. It was adapted for a cast-iron skillet by Charlotte Druckman, who wrote a book on cast-iron baking in 2016. Wonderful.

Yield: 2 dozen bars

  • 2 sticks/225 grams unsalted butter, cold but not frozen, plus 1 T more for buttering the pan
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/210 grams soft-packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups/240 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup/100 grams unsalted slivered almonds, toasted
  • 6 ounces/170 grams chocolate chips or small chunks
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Place a rack in the middle and place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet on it.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on low-speed for about a minute, until softened. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
  3. With the mixer running at low-speed, add salt and vanilla.
  4. Add the brown sugar, then turn the speed up to medium and beat until mixture is the color of peanut butter and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again.
  5. With the mixer running at low-speed, shake in flour, beating just until dough holds together. Mix in nuts or chocolate just until combined.
  6. Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place 1 T of butter in it. As butter melts, swirl it over the bottom and sides of the pan until evenly coated.
  7. Dump dough into skillet and press it out to evenly fill the skillet. You can use your fingers (being careful to avoid touching the hot pan), a potato masher or the bottom of a measuring cup. Press dough down firmly to make a compact, even layer.
  8. Transfer to oven and bake for 25 to 40 minutes, until the top is walnut brown. You may be tempted to take it out when the edges have begun to darken, but let it continue to cook so the entire surface can take on that color. There may be bubbles visible on top of the dough; that’s a good sign.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. If necessary, run an offset spatula or butter knife around the sides of the pan to loosen. Cut into bars, squares or diamonds. (I cut them after they had completely cooled.)
  10. Let the bars cool completely before removing from pan. Store in airtight container; they keep well for up to 1 week.

Note: This recipe can be adapted to bake in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

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Baked Spinach Rice

Yes! More baked rice! 🙂 SO so SO delicious!! This one is loaded with cheese. It is meant to be served as an indulgent side dish, but we ate it as a main dish with a green salad. I loved it. It had fabulous contrasting textures.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. This wonderful dish is an upgrade of one of his favorite family casseroles.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 pound spinach (about 2 bunches), washed
  • 1 ½ cups long-grain white rice, such as Carolina, Jasmine, or Basmati
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus more to butter the baking dish
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère
  • ¼ cup currants or raisins
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped sage
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add spinach and wilt for 30 seconds. Remove with a wire mesh spider or tongs and rinse in a colander with cold water. Squeeze dry and chop roughly.
  2. In the same pot, boil the rice for 10 minutes, keeping it slightly underdone. Drain and spread on a baking sheet to cool, then transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish (or other baking dish) and dust with about 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan.
  5. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and add contents of skillet to rice.
  6. Add remaining Parmesan to rice, along with the ricotta, Gruyère, currants, nutmeg, lemon zest, thyme and sage. Season lightly with salt and add pepper to taste.
  7. Add chopped spinach and gently toss rice with hands or wooden spoons to distribute ingredients evenly.
  8. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. (May be prepared up to this point several hours in advance of baking.)
  9. Cover and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 minutes more, until top is browned.

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Weeknight Fancy Chicken & Rice

The New York Times recently published cookbook reviews in their weekly Food section. Dishes from each book were featured. This dish is from a book with fusion dishes from the American South and Southern India. What’s not to love?

They described this dish as “a truly glorious one-pot weeknight meal.” Perfect. It was full-flavored, fast and fabulous.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, adapted from “My Two Souths” by Asha Gomez, contributed by Sara Bonisteel. I used ground cardamom instead of pods, chicken thighs instead of breasts, and increased the garlic. Delicious!

I’m bringing this dish to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #140 this week, co-hosted by Julie @Hostess at Heart and Linda @Fabulous Fare Sisters. Enjoy!

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • ¼ cup ghee (or use unsalted butter, melted, browned, skimmed, and strained)
  • 2 medium (or 1 large) yellow onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or 6 green cardamom pods, crushed)
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 ¼ cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups white Basmati rice
  • ¼ cup chopped dried apricots or cranberries
  • ¼ cup roasted sliced almonds (or raw almonds, toasted), hazelnuts, or pine nuts
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
  1. In a medium saucepan with a lid, melt ghee over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions, cardamom, star anise and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and a very deep golden brown, about 15 minutes, lowering heat if necessary to keep from burning them.
  3. Add garlic and turmeric; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, or until very fragrant.
  4. Add chicken and cook for 4 minutes, stirring to coat chicken with the onion mixture.
  5. Add stock and remaining salt, increase the heat and bring to a boil.
  6. Add rice, stir and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice has absorbed liquid, about 12 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 12 minutes. Remove lid and fluff rice with a fork.
  8. Transfer chicken and rice to a bowl, if desired. Remove and discard cardamom pods, if using, and star anise.
  9. Garnish with apricots, almonds, and cilantro. Serve at once.

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Oaxacan Pork Picadillo Tacos

This is an easy upgrade to the typical Taco Tuesday ground beef tacos. Rick Bayless uses tomatoes and sweet spices to flavor the meat (ground pork) as well as nuts and raisins to add contrasting texture. Delicious!

We ate the picadillo in warm hard-shell taco shells with avocado slices, refried beans, steamed greens, and brown Basmati rice. A little sprinkling of feta or queso fresco was a nice garnish too. This recipe was adapted from Rick Bayless.com.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
  • 1 1/2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean, coarse-ground pork
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns OR about 3/4 tsp ground
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick OR 1 teaspoon ground
  • 5 cloves OR about 1/8 teaspoon ground
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 4 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • coarse salt (about 1 teaspoon)

  1. Pour the tomatoes directly into a blender and blend until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  2. Heat the oil in a large, 14-inch skillet over medium heat. (I used enameled cast iron.)
  3. When hot, add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer.
  4. Add the pork in a thin layer and fry, stirring frequently, until cooked and lightly brown. (If quite a bit of fat has rendered from the meat, drain it off.)
  5. If using whole spices, add the pepper, cinnamon and cloves in a mortar or spice grinder. Add the ground spices to the skillet along with the tomato puree, raisins and vinegar.
  6. Simmer until reduced to a thick, homogenous mass, 30 to 45 minutes.
  7. While the filling simmers, toast the almonds for about 8 to 10 minutes in a 325 degree oven.
  8. Stir toasted almonds into the filling; adjust seasoning as needed with salt. Serve.

Note: The finished picadillo can be covered and refrigerated for 3 or 4 days.

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Speculaas: Dutch Spice Cookies

One of my all-time favorite cookies are Belgian Biscoff cookies. They are SO GOOD! When my husband picked up this holiday cookie cookbook at the library for me, this recipe immediately caught my eye. These Northern European spice cookies are called Speculaas in the Netherlands, Speculoos in Belgium, and Spekulatius in Germany.

This recipe for Dutch Spice Cookies was adapted from Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season by Lisa Zwirn. It was recommended to use a diamond-shaped cookie cutter with fluted edges, but I made Christmas trees for the occasion! (Any other shape would truly make them seasonless.) The dough had an ideal texture and rolled and cut like a dream. 🙂 I am going to make them again for sure- and will (at least) double the recipe next Christmas. I may also have to get the traditional cookie cutter.

Yield: Makes about 50 (2 1/2-inch diameter) cookies

For the Cookie Dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice (or cloves) (I used freshly ground allspice)
  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 lemon)

For the Egg Wash & Topping:

  • 1 egg white whisked with 2 tsp water until frothy
  • sliced almonds, to taste

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice in a medium bowl.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until creamy.
  3. Beat in the egg, then the lemon zest.
  4. With the beaters on low-speed, mix in the flour mixture until throughly combined.
  5. Gather the dough in to a ball, then divide it in half.
  6. Shape each half into a disk and wrap separately in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (I refrigerated the dough overnight.)
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees on convection. Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough  between two sheets of plastic wrap or on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness.
  9. Using a diamond, square, or round cookie cutter measuring about 2 1/2-inches in diameter, cut the dough and arrange on the prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2-inches apart. (I refrigerated the cut dough overnight prior to baking.)
  10. Reroll the scraps and repeat.
  11. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the cookies.
  12. Press a few almonds onto the center of each cookie.
  13. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until the cookies are slightly browned around the edges and the almonds are golden. (The cookies will crisp up as they cool.)
  14. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.

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