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Inspiration

My sister-in-law Karen is frequently the person who inspires me in the kitchen.  (She’s also the person who inspired me to start this blog.)  Her kitchen is a spacious, family-friendly spot and the food that she creates is always tasty, and even really good for you.  I’ve spent many happy hours there, watching her cook and also cooking side by side with her.

Unfortunately, that kitchen is more than a thousand miles away from my own.  When we are not together, I often take inspiration from her blog, FamilyStyle Food.  And that’s where the inspiration for this post came from.

Last spring when Karen and the rest of my family were visiting Portland (during the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual meeting) she brought home a recipe from Portland chef Greg Higgins for walnut taralli.  She said they reminded her of something she had eaten growing up in Providence.  I was tempted.

Then we all got the flu and the thought of those biscuits flew far from my mind.  Until a few weeks ago, when Karen posted about them on her blog.  The thought of making them was back with a vengance, and this afternoon, while S was out doing errands and I was listening to the local NPR fund drive (yes, really), I decided to give them a try.

One of the great things about these biscuits is that they are really easy to make.  You mix the dough, let it rise, roll out and shape the taralli,

and bake.

Voila, crunchy little nuggets that taste great with cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil and some salt,

or just plain.

Chef Higgins’ recipe can be found here.  I made Karen’s version, with fennel seeds and 1/2 whole wheat flour; here’s her recipe,

Toasted Walnut Taralli

  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups stoneground whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup finely ground toasted walnuts* (grind in food processor)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing on taralli

Using the dough hook on your standing mixer, stir together the yeast, flours, walnuts, salt and fennel seeds.

Add 1 cup of the water and mix at medium-high speed until the dough starts to come together. Slowly add more water as necessary (turning down the mixer speed as you do so) until you have a smooth, moist dough. It shouldn’t be too wet or sticky, so keep your eyes peeled. Depending on the humidity and your flour, you might need a bit less water. (in Portland, today I needed only about 1 ½ cups of water)

Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 or 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Punch the dough to deflate and turn it out onto a sparingly floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.

Working with one piece at a time, cut each into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll and stretch each ball using your palms into ropes about 6 ” long. Bring the ends of the rope together to make a ring, tucking one end inside the other and pinching together.

Arrange the rings on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between.

Brush the rings with oil and bake until golden and firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove to a rack and cool. The taralli will crisp up more as they cool.

*toast the walnuts for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees.

Store at room temperature in covered container.

Makes about 5 dozen taralli.

I highly recommend that you give them a try.


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Last week I posted the recipe for cherry drinking vinegar used to make a colonial drink called a shrub (concentrated syrup made from fruit, vinegar and sugar poured over ice and sparkling water).  When you last saw me, I had pitted and mashed the cherries, covered them with apple cider vinegar and left them to sit at room temperature.

Today I added 1/2 cup of sugar and gently boiled the cherry – vinegar mixture for about an hour (I chose to do it outside on my trusty Weber grill because boiling vinegar has a somewhat pungent odor),

strained the mixture and began a series of taste tests.  With some advice from my visiting sister-in-law K, I added about 1/4 cup more sugar and the drinking vinegar was ready to use.  My first shrub was delicious — a perfect refresher for a summer afternoon.

The recipe made just shy of three cups of liquid and I am already imagining all kinds of other uses for this vinegar — in salad dressing, mixed with vodka … I think the possibilities are almost endless.  The recipe says it keeps indefinitely; I am guessing it won’t be around that long!

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When I was growing up, one of my favorite summer foods was barbequed chicken.

I especially looked forward to the times when my mother made her homemade sauce — a sweet, tomatoey, fragrant barbeque sauce based on a recipe that she got from “a fellow-worker in the University [of Iowa] Hospitals when [she] was writing poems in the [Iowa Writers’] Workshop and moonlighting to keep body and soul together.”*

I’ve been meaning to make some of that sauce for a long time, and today, the first sunny day in what seems like months, seemed like the perfect day to try.

As with most of the things I make, I adjusted the recipe a little bit.  After reviewing the original ingredients, I decided to cut the sugar in half, use sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil (the original recipe doesn’t specify what kind of oil or vinegar to use), add a little lime juice and Aleppo pepper and increase the amounts of garlic, pepper and salt.  I hope that my mother would approve of this updated version of Blake’s no-cook barbeque sauce.

½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
¾ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of one fresh lime
1 can tomato sauce (I used a small box of strained Pomi tomatoes)
1 medium red onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced very finely or pushed through a garlic press
a dash of Worcestershire sauce

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the vinegar, olive oil and lime juice and mix well.
Add the tomato sauce, and mix well again.
Add the grated onion, minced garlic and Worcestershire sauce, and mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Pour into jars and refrigerate.

*quote (and original recipe) taken from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Cookbook, edited by Connie Brothers and published in 1986.

Barbeque Sauce on Foodista

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