Danish Pear-Apple Bars

My husband isn’t partial to summer fruit- with the exception of freshly picked strawberries. He loves bananas, Bartlett pears, and cantaloupe. 🙂 Before the summer berry and peach baking season, I made these pie bars to embrace sweet and juicy Bartlett pears.

The bars have a Danish-style pie crust which very tender because it incorporates milk and egg yolks instead of ice water. It was really delicious. I also loved the cream cheese glaze spread over the top.

This recipe was adapted from 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More by Sarah Kieffer. I weighed most of the dry ingredients as well as the peeled and cored fruit. I also used fine sea salt and omitted the brandy.

It was a wonderful springtime dessert but it would also be fabulous for Thanksgiving.

For the Crust:

  • 1/2 cup (120 g) whole milk, plus 1 or 2 T if needed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups (355 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cup (2 sticks or 227 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 20 pieces

For the Apple-Pear Filling:

  • 8 cups (1100 g) Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced 4mm thick (I used 6 organic pears)
  • 1 cup (150 g) peeled and grated Gala apples (I used one large Gala apple)
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar, plus 2 T for sprinkling
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T brandy (I omitted it)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 T (15 g) water

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 2 oz (57 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 T whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups (120 to 145 g) confectioners’ sugar

To Make the Crust:

  1. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the milk and egg yolks. Place in the refrigerator.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, granulated sugar, and salt on low speed until combined.
  3. Add half of the chilled butter and mix on low speed until the butter is just starting to break down, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the rest of the butter and continue mixing until the butter is broken down in various sizes. (most should be the size of small peas but some pieces may be larger) Make sure that all of the flour is moistened.
  5. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the milk-egg mixture, and mix until the dough starts to come together. If the dough is having trouble coming together, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of milk.
  6. Divide the dough in half, place each piece on a separate piece of plastic wrap and flatten each slightly into a square.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until cool but still soft, about 45 minutes.
  8. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll one square of the dough into a 9×13-inch rectangle (22×33 cm). (I covered the top with plastic wrap and rolled the dough 1/8-inch thick, using a bench scraper to cut pieces and patch to form the proper shape.)
  9. Transfer the dough to a 9×13-inch metal baking pan. Gently pat the dough into the bottom. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  10. Roll out the second square of dough into a 9×13-inch (22 by 33 cm) rectangle using the same method. Place on an inverted sheet pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Use a food processor to slice the pears 4mm thick and coarsely grate the apple(s).
  2. Combine the sliced pears, grated apple, brown sugar, 1/4 cup (4 T or 50g) granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a small liquid measuring cup or bowl, combine the melted butter, brandy (if using), and vanilla. Pour over the pear-apple mixture and toss to combine.

To Make the Egg Wash:

  1. Whisk the egg, salt, and water together in a small bowl; set aside.

To Assemble:

  1. Fill the prepared pie shell with the pear-apple mixture and smooth the top.
  2. Remove the top crust chilling on the inverted sheet pan from the refrigerator. Place the dough over the top of the filling. (It does not need to be sealed to the bottom layer.) Trim any excess with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
  3. Gently cut a few steam vents into the top layer of dough. (I cut 11 vents.)
  4. Chill the pie in the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
  5. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  6. Place a sheet pan on the oven rack while the oven is preheating. (The preheated sheet pan helps crisp the bottom of the pie crust.)
  7. When the pie is ready to bake, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. Sprinkle the top with the 2 T reserved granulated sugar.
  8. Transfer the pie to the preheated sheet pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. (I baked mine for 50 minutes.)
  9. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool while you make the icing.

To Make the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  1. In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to mix the cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  2. Add 1 cup (120 g) of the confectioners’ sugar and mix again until smooth. If the mixture is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
  3. Once the bars are cool, top them with the glaze; spread to the edges.

Note: The pie bars are best eaten the same day they are made but can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Cinnamon Roll Blondies

One of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done is to “join” baking groups on Facebook. The beautiful baked goods that are shared make me feel compelled to bake and to try cookbooks that are raved about.

This recipe is from 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More by Sarah Kieffer. This book has a major fan base online. I’m only one recipe in and am already a huge fan. 🙂

Baked goods that involve cinnamon-sugar are a crowd-pleaser in my house so selecting cinnamon roll blondies out of this book was an obvious choice. These blondies had the added bonus of incorporating nutty brown butter too. I weighed the ingredients when possible. Fabulous!

Yield: One 9×13-inch pan, about 24 small blondies

For the Brown Butter Blondie Base:

  • 2 cups (284g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 227g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt (I used coarse salt)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature

For the Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 4 oz (113g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt (I used coarse salt)

For the Cinnamon Sugar Swirl:

  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt (I used coarse salt)
  • 1 T ground cinnamon

To Make the Brown Butter Blondie Base:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
  2. Grease a 9×13-inch (23×33-cm) baking pan and line with a parchment sling. (I used a metal baking pan.)
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
  4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 12 tablespoons (170g) of the butter. Brown the butter until it is dark golden brown and smells nutty, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons (57g) butter to the pot, swirling the pot until the butter stops foaming.
  6. Add the granulated and brown sugars, vanilla, and salt, and stir to combine. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  7. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk until combined.
  8. Transfer the butter-egg mixture to the bowl with the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  9. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and smooth into an even layer. Set aside while you make the toppings.

To Make the Cream Cheese Filling:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt, and mix on medium speed until well combined.

To Make the Cinnamon Sugar Swirl:

  1. In a small saucepan or skillet, melt the brown sugar, butter, and salt together over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon until combined.

To Assemble:

  1. Dollop the cream cheese and cinnamon sugar over the top of the brown butter blondie batter base in the prepared pan, alternating between the two.
  2. Drag the tip of a butter knife through the batter, creating swirls. (I created swirls parallel to the length and the width of the pan.)
  3. Bake for 25 to 29 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the blondies comes out with only a couple of crumbs. (The testing spot should be in a central location that does not have the toppings because they will appear wet when the base is fully baked.)
  4. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  5. Use the parchment sling to gently lift the blondies from the pan. Cut into bars.

Note: Store blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. (We placed a few in the refrigerator and they were also absolutely fabulous chilled.)

Buttery Apple Crêpes with Cinnamon Custard & Salted Caramel Sauces

Crêpes have always been special to my family because my dad made them for breakfast on Sundays when I was growing up. We always make sure to have them at least once a year- on Christmas morning. We typically eat them simply sprinkled with sugar and occasionally with jam or fresh fruit as well.

I made these fancy crêpes for our celebratory Valentine’s Day dessert from a crêpe cookbook that my sister gave me for my birthday. ❤ I loved the browned butter in the crêpe batter. As a sauce fan, I also loved that these crêpes were served with two wonderful sauces.

This recipe was adapted from Crêpes: 50 Savory and Sweet Recipes by Martha Holmberg. I made the sauces and crêpe batter a day in advance. Delicious!

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 filled crêpes plus extra crêpes and sauce

For the Salted Caramel Sauce:

Yield: 3/4 cup (180 ml)

  • 100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 6 T heavy cream or crème fraîche
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt or coarse sea salt
  1. Put the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring just until the sugar is beginning to dissolve.
  2. Let the mixture boil without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan, until it is a deep amber, very fragrant, and you can see tiny wisps of smoke, 4 to 12 minutes. Watch carefully!
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully pour in a small amount of the cream; it will bubble up furiously. Whisk in remaining cream a little at a time so it doesn’t bubble over.
  4. Whisk in the butter, vanilla, and salt until the caramel is very smooth.
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and let it cool to room temperature; it will thicken as it cools.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature. (I made it a day in advance and refrigerated it overnight. I brought it to room temperature prior to serving.)

Note: Stored in an airtight container, the finished sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 1 month or in the freezer for 3 months.

For the Cinnamon Custard Sauce (Crème Anglaise):

Yield: 1 cup (240 ml)

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) lightly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of coarse salt or sea salt flakes
  1. Heat the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it’s just beginning to steam. Watch carefully! Don’t let it boil- it will change the flavor.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl with a spout, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt until well blended but not foamy.
  3. Slowly pour half of the hot milk-cream mixture into the bowl with the egg mixture, whisking constantly and quickly.
  4. Return the pan with the remaining milk and cream to the heat and whisk the yolk-cream mixture into the pan.
  5. Switch the whisk to a heat-proof rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, and gently cook the sauce, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the custard thickens and registers 175 to 180 F (80 to 82 C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer.
  6. Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 2 hours.

Notes: Half & Half can be substituted for the combination of whole milk and heavy cream. The finished sauce will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.

For the Sautéed Apple Filling:

  • 4 T (55 g) unsalted butter
  • 4 firm, tart apples (800g / 1.75 lbs) such as Braeburns, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch (12mm) dice (I used 4 large (840g) Ruby Frost apples)
  • 75 g (6 T) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of coarse salt
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. When the butter is foamy, add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re almost tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the apples with the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt and cook, stirring often, until the apples are tender when pricked with a fork, 3 to 4 minutes more.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and let the apples cool slightly.

For the Brown Butter Crêpes:

Yield: 15 to 18 8-inch crêpes

  • 1 3/4 cups (420 ml) whole milk (can add up to a total of 2 1/4 cups (540 ml) to adjust consistency)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 190 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 6 T (85 g) unsalted butter
  • butter or vegetable oil, for the pan
  1. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to cook until the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty and delicious. Pour melted butter and browned milk solids into a glass measuring cup with a spout to cool before using.
  2. Put 1 3/4 cups milk (420 ml), the eggs, and salt into a blender. (I used a Vitamix.) Process for a few seconds to blend.
  3. Remove the lid and add the flour. Cover and blend until very smooth, about 20 seconds.
  4. Remove the lid, pour in the browned butter- including the toasty brown milk solids, cover, and process until combined, about 10 seconds more.
  5. Transfer the batter to a large glass measuring cup with a spout.
  6. Let the batter rest at least 5 minutes and up to 24 hours. (If resting for more than 30 minutes, store in the refrigerator.)
  7. Before making the crêpes, test the batter’s consistency: it should be as thick as heavy cream but not as thick as pancake batter. If it’s too thick, whisk in up to 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the remaining milk.
  8. Heat an 8-inch (20 cm) crêpe pan over medium-low to medium heat until it’s hot enough to make a drop of water sizzle upon contact. (I always check to make sure the base of the handle is hot.)
  9. Using a heat-proof brush, coat the pan with oil. (Alternatively, use a folded paper towel to coat the pan with 1/2 teaspoon of butter. The butter should sizzle but not turn brown. Adjust the heat of the pan, if necessary.)
  10. Using a ladle, pour about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the batter into the center of the pan, and at the same time lift the pan from the heat, tilting and turning it in all directions sos the batter spreads evenly across the bottom of the pan in a thin circle. (If the crêpe has any holes in it, quickly add a few drops of batter to fill them in. If there is excessive batter, immediately pour the excess back into the bowl of batter.)
  11. Cook the crêpe until the edges begin to dry and lift from the sides of the pan and the bottom is nicely browned, about 1 minute.
  12. Use a table knife, slim spatula or your fingers to lift the crêpe and quickly flip it over. Smooth out any folded edges or pleats and then cook unit the center is firm and the second side is browned, about 20 seconds more. (The first side is almost always prettier and more evenly browned so it is noted as the presentation side.)
  13. Slide the crêpe from the pan onto a large plate.
  14. Repeat with the remaining batter, adjusting the heat and wiping the pan with more oil or butter as you cook.
  15. The finished crepes can be stacked on each other as they are done.

Note: Leftover crêpes can be wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If storing them in the freezer, lay pieces of waxed or parchment paper between them so that they don’t stick together. They will keep in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. To thaw, let the stack sit at room temperature until the crêpes are pliable, about an hour.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 F(220 C).
  2. Butter the bottom of a baking dish. (or use cooking oil spray) (I only baked 4 filled-crêpes at a time, so I used a small baking dish. If baking all at once, use a 9×13-inch baking dish. The crêpes should be tightly packed.
  3. Lay the crêpes presentation-side down on a clean work surface.
  4. Divide the apples equally among the crêpes, spooning them onto the bottom third of each one.
  5. To fold the crêpes, pull the bottom edge of each crêpe up and over the apples, then roll it up a half turn. Tuck in each side, and finish rolling up from the bottom.
  6. Arrange the crêpes seam-side down in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.
  7. Bake until heated through, 4 to 10 minutes.
  8. Spoon a thick ribbon of cinnamon custard on a dessert plate.
  9. Lay a crêpe over the custard sauce and drizzle the salted caramel sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

Khoresh Bademjan (Persian Tomato & Eggplant Stew)

This is an absolutely incredible vegetarian stew. Traditionally, this dish is made with lamb or beef, but the author described this version as just as savory without the meat. I absolutely loved it. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Andy Baraghani. I substituted American globe eggplant for the smaller Japanese eggplant and incorporated Campari tomatoes. I also used fresh lime juice instead of dried black limes. We ate the stew over brown Basmati rice with warm naan on the side. Wow. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  • 8–9+ T vegetable oil, divided (I used canola oil)
  • 2 globe eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled, cut into 1-inch rounds OR 6 small Japanese eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled, halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 10 Campari tomatoes, cut into eighths OR 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb), seeds removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups stock (can substitute water)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 3 lemon omani (dried black limes) or 2 T fresh lime juice (see Note)
  • cooked basmati rice, parsley leaves, plain yogurt, and flatbread, for serving (I served brown Basmati rice, Greek yogurt & warm naan)
  1. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high.
  2. Working in batches, cook eggplant in a single layer, adding another tablespoon of oil if pan looks dry, until deeply browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Transfer to a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt. (I added an additional 4 tablespoons of oil to cook the second batch of globe eggplant slices.)
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to same pot and cook onion over medium to medium-high, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges, 8 to10 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle turmeric and cinnamon over and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened in color, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes; cook, still stirring, until tomatoes have burst and mixture is very thick, 5 to 9 minutes.
  8. Nestle eggplant into sauce and season lightly with salt.
  9. Pour in stock and 3 cups of water; bring to a simmer.
  10. Pierce dried lemon omani with a paring knife and add to pot. (If using lime juice instead, add when dish is finished cooking.)
  11. Cook, gently stirring occasionally, until thickened and eggplant is almost creamy in texture, 40–50+ minutes. (I cooked mine significantly longer to achieve my desired thickness.)
  12. Divide rice among bowls; ladle stew over. (I served the stew over brown Basmati rice.)
  13. Top with parsley and yogurt and serve with flatbread. (I served it with warm naan.)

Browned Butter Crumb Cake Muffins

These New York crumb cake muffins have a few qualities that elevate them a step above others. They not only incorporate lemon zest and browned butter, they also have additional crunchy crumbs hidden inside each muffin. Genius.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the zest of an entire lemon and modified the baking time for a convection oven. They were quite large but baked perfectly in a standard muffin tin. Great.

Yield: 12 muffins

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 1/3 cups/165 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup/110 grams dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Batter:

  • 3/4 cup/180 milliliters sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 large lemon)
  • 1 1/2 cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup/135 grams granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1-inch slices and softened
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection, and line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.

Make the Topping:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter, then let it simmer until the foam on top falls to the bottom of the pot and turns brown, 4 to 6 minutes. It will smell nutty when it’s ready. Immediately pour butter into a small bowl to keep it from getting any browner, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour in the brown butter and stir, pinching the mixture together, until crumbs form. Set aside.

Make the Batter:

  1. Whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until combined, about 10 seconds.
  3. Add softened butter and beat for 20 seconds to work it into the flour.
  4. Add egg mixture and continue beating until the batter is very smooth, about 1 minute.
  5. Sprinkle a scant tablespoon of the topping crumbs into the bottom of each muffin liner. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  6. Spoon the batter on top of the crumbs, dividing it evenly. (I used a large cookie scoop- plus a little bit extra- per well.
  7. Bake muffins for 5 minutes to firm up the tops so the crumbs don’t sink into the batter. Remove muffin pan from the oven and lower heat to 350 degrees.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top of each muffin. (I used 1 tablespoon per muffin, rationed with a cookie scoop.)
  9. Continue to bake until the muffins are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 17 on convection or up to 30 minutes longer.
  10. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
  11. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to lift the muffins out of the pan. Finish cooling muffins on a rack.

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Cookies

Classic butter cookies are my husband’s absolute favorite, so I had to try this vanilla bean version. He loved them! They are dangerously easy to make too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the ground cinnamon option, varied the shapes, and topped the cookies with festive colored sugars prior to baking.

Because the cookies are quite fragile, the original recipe suggests making them into sandwich cookies, filled with chocolate, Nutella, or thick jam, to increase their stability for shipping. We ate them as is!

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), preferably cultured, softened
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, OR 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 2 1/4 cups/290 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • decorative sugar, for sprinkling, optional
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla and the zest, spices or almond extract (if using), and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Load dough into a cookie press. Following the directions that came with your cookie press (models can vary), push the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch between cookies.
  6. Sprinkle cookies with decorative sugar.
  7. Bake until firm to touch and golden brown at edges, about 8 to 9 minutes, or longer (up to 17 minutes) depending upon the size of your cookie press.
  8. Transfer cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Our festive 2020 “Gingerbread Mansion” (photo above). 🙂

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