Frannie’s Anise Cookies

anisecookie2This is my mother’s anise cookie recipe. Of course, because she never wrote anything down, I had to actually sit down and make sense of this thing. I’m posting this now because it’s the Christmas season, and this is a great treat to have in the house on Christmas morning. These are awesome with a nice cup of hot coffee.

I use anise oil in this recipe, not anise extract. They are much more authentic when you use oil and, because the oil has a very strong flavor, you use less than you would extract. It is not always easy to find anise oil. You may have to order it online, or find a local Italian shop. Luckily, I have one close to home.

I prefer my anise cookies without icing, but I realize I’m in the minority here. I’ve included the icing recipe. By the way, this makes a shitload of cookies, but they have great staying power.

Ingredients

6 cups of all-purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 lb butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp anise oil

Directions

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream together the softened butter, sugar, anise oil. Then, add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between.

Once you’ve creamed the wet ingredients, add the flour and milk. Start with flour and end with flour, adding a little at a time.

It’s important to wrap the dough and chill it overnight before actually making the cookies.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Here’s the important part. I make the “dropped” cookies, like in the photo. I also form the dough into anise rings, and I don’t mean small rings. Roll a long log of dough, and form into a circle. Slightly press it down. You can cut these into wedges. I like to make these because these are the ones I leave without frosting. Do not ask me for the logic here. That’s just the way my mother did it.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until they are slightly brown on the top. Once the cookies have cooled, apply the icing and the decorations (see icing directions below).

Anise Icing

Ingredients

2 cups confectioners sugar

10 tbsp milk

1/4 tsp anise oil

Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Place the confectioners sugar in a bowl. Add the anise oil. Then add the milk a little at a time, stirring in between additions. You should be able to apply the icing with a spoon. It should not be thick. If you think you need to add a little more milk, do not hesitate to do so.

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Pan-Seared Scallops

Pan-Seared Sea ScallopsSeafood is something Susan and I don’t have an opportunity to enjoy nearly enough. That’s because our kids think it’s something exotic (unless we’re talking about Tuna Melts). I love most fish, but I especially love shellfish. Scallops may be expensive, but they are so versatile and so delicious that the price doesn’t seem to matter much.

Although most people don’t understand this, there’s a difference between regular sea scallops and what they call “dry” sea scallops. The dry version is much easier to sear in a skillet, although this dish can be made with either version. So, my recommendation is that you don’t shy away simply because you cannot find “dry” scallops. Just be sure to rinse the scallops and pat them dry before pan searing them.

Depending upon where you buy your scallops, you may have to remove the muscle. I usually buy mine at my local grocer, and the muscle is already removed.

This is a great dish that comfortably serves three. I’m sure you will absolutely love it.

Ingredients

1.5 lbs “dry” sea scallops

2 tbsp Canola oil

6 tbsp unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tbsp fresh thyme

sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1.5 cups Basmati rice

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper (to taste)

Directions

Heat a skillet on medium-high. Add the 2 tbsp Canola oil. When heated, add 2 tbsp of the butter. Once melted and bubbling, add the scallops in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Sear on one side for 2-3 minutes. Turn each one and cook the other side for 2-3 minutes, or until the scallops become translucent. You can check this by looking at the sides of the scallops. Once done, remove the scallops to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Place them in a warmed oven to keep warm.

While you are cooking the scallops, you should be cooking the rice. Add the 2 cups of chicken broth, one cup of water and the 1.5 cups of rice. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until the rice is done and the water is absorbed.

Once you have removed the scallops from the skillet, add the wine, the lemon juice and the thyme. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add the 4 tbsp butter one tablespoon at a time. Cook until it is slightly reduced. If you feel you need more wine, please feel free to add it.

When the rice is done, divide it into three plates. Place the scallops on top of the rice, then pour the sauce on top of the scallops and rice.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough that this type of dish isn’t an exact science. The idea is to have the plain cooked rice and the scallops on top, with the sauce poured over the whole shebang. It is simply delicious.

 

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Twenty-Clove Cauliflower Bake

Cauliflower-Garlic BakeI call this Twenty-Clove Cauliflower Bake because you literally bake a head of cauliflower with twenty semi-crushed whole cloves of garlic. And I mean semi-crushed, just enough to break open the cloves a bit. I use the back of a ramekin ever so gently on the cloves.

I keep a container of already-peeled garlic in my fridge. You can get this at your local grocer for not a lot of scratch. And it’s so much easier than peeling 20 cloves of garlic by hand.

This is a great side dish for just about everything you can think of, whether you’re making pork, beef, chicken or fish. It even works as a side for pasta dishes. I made this last night with my pan-seared scallops, which is another recipe I plan to post later today.

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets

20 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional, but I like it)

2-3 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary

1 tsp Himalayan sea salt (Kosher or regular sea salt is also fine here)

1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

Finely grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

The first thing I do is whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper and set it aside.

Break up the whole cauliflower into bite-sized florets, and gently break the garlic cloves.

Place the cauliflower and garlic in a single layer in a large baking dish. Pour the olive oil mixture over the vegetables and stir to coat. I generally drizzle a bit more olive oil on top before placing it in the oven.

Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes. This allows the garlic to cook through and sweeten. It’s delicious.

If you want, sprinkle with finely grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese prior to serving.

 

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Mustard and Herbed Rack of Lamb

rack_of_lamb2I made this for Thanksgiving, and it was delicious. For those of you who think lamb has to taste “gamey,” whatever that means, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t. It just depends on the cut of lamb you buy, how fresh it is, and how you prepare it. I had the ultimate anti-lamb person I know taste this on Thanksgiving, and she loved it.

Rack of lamb is one of those cuts of meat that is worth the price because it lives up to its billing. It’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious. If you’re not convinced, I suggest you give it a try so that you can see for yourself.

You can get your butcher to “French” the rack for you or, if you’re lucky, your local supermarket sells it that way. I ordered mine a week in advance from my local grocer and it came all ready to go.

Ingredients

Two 1.5 lb racks of lamb, Frenched

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup minced garlic

2 tbsp packed light brown sugar

2 tbsp dried rosemary leaves

2 tbsp dried thyme leaves

Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, garlic and brown sugar until well incorporated. Score the fat side of the lamb racks. Place in a glass or non-reactive baking dish and pour the marinade over the lamb. Be sure both the top and the “meat side” of the racks are covered with marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight.

The next day, scrap the marinade off the lamb and retain. Heat the olive oil and a pan, and brown the racks on both sides. Sprinkle both sides of the racks liberally with salt and pepper, as well as the rosemary and thyme leaves. Place in a baking dish and pour on the marinade.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove and cover with aluminum foil. Allow the racks to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into chops and serving.

 

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Slow Cooker Lamb Vindaloo

Lamb vindaloo with Basmati RiceAnother amazing Indian food here, this time made in a slow cooker. I have to tell you that I think a slow cooker (or crock pot or whatever you want to call it) is an essential kitchen item, and I have just posted this in my Kitchen Essentials section.

Vindaloo, whether it be with lamb, pork, chicken or beef, is one of the hottest dishes in all of Indian cooking. Not only does this recipe call for cayenne pepper, but it also calls for six Chipotle chili peppers. These are essentially Jalapenos that have been smoked. This dish is not for the weak willed, but it is so delicious. It should be served over Basmati rice.

For those who may not have an adventurous palate where “heat” is concerned, I am also providing a recipe at the end for a yogurt sauce that can be used to “cool” the dish when serving. The combination of the rice and the yogurt sauce should make it tolerable for even the weakest palate.

Ingredients

1 boneless leg of lamb, 4-5 lbs, trimmed of fat and cut in bite-sized pieces

3 medium red potatoes, washed and cut in bite-sized pieces

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 large Vidalia onions, chopped and divided

1.5 cups of frozen petite peas, defrosted

10 garlic cloves, crushed

6 Chipotle chili peppers, reconstituted and scraped (see Directions)

2 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp cardamom

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup low-sodium beef broth

1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes

2 bay leaves

2 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp Kosher salt

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp sugar

1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

1 tbsp cornstarch plus 1 tbsp water

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cucumber, peeled, trimmed and seeds removed

Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper (to taste; for the yogurt-cucumber sauce)

Directions

The first order of business is to prepare the Chipotle chili peppers. Reconstitute the peppers by soaking them in boiling water for 30 minutes. Once they have cooled, cut them open and scrape the chili meat from the skin and set aside.

In a food processor, take half the onion, the garlic, the Chipotle chili peppers, the cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, cayenne, cumin, paprika, ginger paste and two tablespoons of the olive oil and pureé into a paste. Put it into a bowl and add the lamb pieces. Stir to coat the lamb thoroughly and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day heat the balance of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the marinated lamb. You may need to do this in batches, but you do not need to cook the lamb through. Place in a slow cooker along with the beef broth, the salt, the sugar, the tomatoes, the potatoes, and the bay leaves. Cook on low for about 6-8 hours. About 30 minutes before the vindaloo is done, add the peas, then mix the tablespoon of cornstarch and the tablespoon of water and add it to the slow cooker. Stir thoroughly. The cornstarch-water mix will help to thicken the stew.

Serve over Basmati rice and garnish with cilantro.

Turning Down the Heat

Yogurt is a great way to temper the heat of this dish. Take the cup of plain Greek yogurt and the cucumber and put it in a food processor. Pureé until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste. Put in bowl and refrigerate until you serve the Lamb Vindaloo.

 

 

 

 

 

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