If you think that bread pudding is just a dessert, I’m about to change your mind in a delicious and surprising way. Imagine a savory soufflé-like bread pudding with a good quality ham (smoked is delightful), the sweet and slightly salty flavor of Gruyère cheese, fresh sautéed spinach and roasted red peppers all baked to perfection. This dish is so appetizing and versatile it can be enjoyed as a main meal or sliced in wedges for the perfect holiday party appetizer. Where did I find this sumptuous selection? In the Sing For Your Supper Cookbook compiled by the Sounds of the Southwest Singers. This 85-plus member non-profit volunteer choir has been singing in the Valley since 2010, performing a variety of music in concerts throughout the year. Members have sung at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City, and by the recipes in this cookbook, it’s apparent that this group can cook as well as they can sing! Make this dish and you’ll be singing for your supper too!
I hardly expected such a gourmet French dessert to come from a small, tattered booklet called “Grandma’s Cooking.” Cherry Pie, Blueberry Cobbler or Apple Brown Betty, perhaps. But not something called Clafoutis. (Pronounced “Claw-foo-TEE”). Never did I expect a few simple ingredients would produce such a rich, delicate baked dessert that is now one of my very favorite go-to recipes. (To think that I found Grandma’s Cooking at a thrift store for a buck!) Yes, it’s hot outside, and we don’t want anything heavy for dessert. Clafoutis is the answer! This simple treat begins with fresh fruit topped with a very basic combination of eggs, cream and sugar with a slight amount of flour and lemon juice. It’s a bit of a cross between cake, pudding and flan, and it’s remarkably delicious and light! Clafoutis, a local favorite dessert from the Limousin region of France, is traditionally made with black cherries. But most fruits in season, like plums, pears, apples and berries work just as well. This week blackberries were large and sweet, so that’s what I used. What I love about Clafoutis is that it is pretty much foolproof. Spread the fresh fruit on the bottom of an oven proof dish, pour the egg and cream mixture over the top and bake. That’s it. When done, Clafoutis get sprinkled with a light mist of powdered sugar and served warm, room temperature of cooled with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream! Wow! What a winner. So here you go. From the area of France that gave us the world-renowned Limoges porcelain, I give you another regional treasure, Clafoutis!
Ice Cream Churro Cones
It’s always on the list of favorite treats for summer; Ice cream in any shape, flavor or form. And if you want to create a cone with a real Southwest twist, how about a home-made, hand-crafted ice cream cone that tastes just like a Mexican churro, and it holds as much ice cream as the cone you are willing to create! While homemade churros are pretty tough to tackle (churro dough is very dense and sticky), this cone is made with store-bough biscuit dough, making the process a whole lot easier. The dough is wrapped around a homemade paper mold. It is then baked, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, baked again and then coated on the inside with dipping chocolate which seals it, preventing a soggy cone. Load it up with scoops of your favorite ice cream for a cool and festive way to celebrate summer, Southwest style!
Festive Italian Easter Bread Rings
Planning an Easter egg hunt tomorrow? How about hiding those decorated ovals someplace you’d least expect to find them? That is, unless you’re familiar with the traditional Italian Easter bread called Pastelli di Pasqua (Bread of Easter). Brightly colored hard-boiled eggs are embedded into the braids of this slightly sweet dough, making it one of the more festive Easter heirloom recipes. Not only is the bread fun to look at, but also Pastelli di Pasqua is absolutely delicious when eaten plain or sliced and toasted with a little butter! Greece has it’s own version of the braided loaf called Tsoureki (pronounced too-reki). Both the Greek and Italian varieties are similar in flavor and texture to Jewish Challah bread. Normally, this recipe for Pastelli di Pasqua makes one large braided loaf or round. But in the spirit of Easter time fun, I’ve divided the dough into six braided rings, each one displaying a single colorful egg in the center. This is a great recipe to do with or for the kids in your life. It’s perhaps a new way to play Easter egg “hide and seek” with a recipe that’s centuries old.
Black Pepper Cookies
They’re too good. Too good for my own good! If you can imagine the perfect ginger snap or molasses cookie—only soft and chewy—these would come as close to the top of the list as you can get! Just my opinion, of course. But I can’t quit making them and I can’t quit eating them! The black pepper in this recipe threw me off just a bit, even though it’s just a half a teaspoon. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I sunk my teeth into this moist, full-of-flavor cookie, I realized exactly what the pepper contributed to the recipe—a cookie with a spicy kick and the perfect chew. In doing a little research about the Black Pepper Cookie, I discovered that just about every nationality has its own version on this scrumptious munchy. Now you have a recipe with the description that that is spoken is every language and culture on earth- “Mmmm!”
What makes this the most wonderful time of the year? Well, besides, glad tidings, family and the holiday spirit, it’s gotta be Christmas Cookies! Here are two of my favorites!
Watch my How To Video for Christmas Cookies here!