Sautéed Asparagus with Pancetta and Leeks

Sautéed Asparagus with Pancetta and Leeks

Amy is taking the week off from writing her blog. And, the Piedmont Grocery staff is filling in with this wonderful, seasonal recipe that highlights asparagus. Local fresh, green stalks have recently hit our shelves, and this means…spring!

This recipe for Sautéed Asparagus with Pancetta and Leeks makes a dish that is so delicious, it might be considered addictive. Our recipe says it serves four, but you just might want to double it.

And what is great about this recipe is that there is no carefully wrapping the stalks in the sliced meat. It is a very straightforward, one-pot dish that can be prepared quickly on a weeknight.

Toss some salmon in the oven to roast, slice up some crusty bread, and you have yourself a delicious meal that is fit for fine restaurant dining.

Sautéed Asparagus with Pancetta and Leeks
Yields 4 Servings
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Apricot Hamantaschen

Apricot HamantaschenHamantaschen Noshin’
I don’t think it’s any great revelation to say that food often plays a starring role in holidays. This is especially true when one is referring to the Jewish holiday of Purim, which starts today.

Purim has a number of customs and one of them is handing out gifts of triangle-shaped filled cookies called Hamantaschen. I did not grow up in a Jewish household but my husband did. And, I can honestly say that any custom that encourages the sharing of cookies is good with me.

The only constant with Hamantaschen is their shape. Even the spelling varies. The filling is as wide-ranging as the people who make them. Traditional filling is made with prunes and walnuts. But, you can also find poppy seed, apricot (my favorite), honey pecan, chocolate chip, cherry…even Nutella. Whatever you dream up to fill the cookies works.

Same goes for the dough. You can use a yeast dough, rugalach dough, or (my personal preference) a butter cookie dough. As long as you get that triangle shape you’re good to go.

Of course, if you don’t want the hassle of making them yourself, we’ve got a number of varieties available from Grand Bakery ready for you to get your Hamantaschen Nosh on…

This recipe for Apricot Hamantaschen is a combination of a one I found on King Arthur’s website and others I have pulled from some of my favorite Jewish cooking books. Feel free to play with it a bit—or use your own butter cookie dough recipe. You can also use apricot preserves instead of the filling below for faster oven to mouth time…

Apricot Hamantaschen
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Let the Christmas Begin

Let the Christmas BeginI have always been one of those people that work better under pressure. Probably because I was a procrastinator in high school, but I digress…

When there is a lot going on, and even more to be done, I get hyper-organized and efficient. This is why I have spent the last hour organizing my shopping list for the holiday weekend. I have it split out by day (‘cause I am going to have to do multiple trips) and by aisle to make it easier to maneuver and get it home. You may be asking what could possibly require multiple trips to the store and aisle mapping? Let me explain…

Most years, I am responsible for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas dinner—which is also my husband’s birthday dinner. This year my sister is hopping on a plane Christmas Day. Therefore I am responsible for Christmas Eve dinner for 14 people, Christmas Morning breakfast for 7, and Christmas/Birthday Night dinner for 8.

So, you see why my fridge may not be able to handle it all at once (and you can believe there is some wine on that shopping list!) It is also why I start planning the menu pretty far in advance so I can map out what can be made ahead and what is last minute.

In case you’re curious here’s what’s on the menu:

Christmas Eve
Spinach Salad
Roasted Fresh Ham
Ginger Glazed Turnips, Carrots and Chestnuts
Potatoes Au Gratin
Sticky Toffee Ginger Bread Read more…

Fig, Ricotta, and Goat Cheese Tart

Fig, Ricotta, and Goat Cheese TartFinger-Lickin’ Good
It’s the second week of December and holiday parties are in full swing. Between work parties and our own, I think I’ll see my husband for a total of 20 minutes this week.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a caterer at this time of year. I think I would lose my mind—those caterers are way better at the one party food that usually throws me for a loop, hors d’oeuvres.

I am known for my awesome guacamole. Most of my friends have enjoyed a Hot Cheezy Thing a time or two and I almost always have a cheese and cracker plate or veggie platter whenever I have people over. But the cute little bite-sized tasty tidbits? Not really my thing. I’m just not that great at coming up with that super yummy finger food idea.

The funny thing is that it can be difficult to find recipes for little appetizers unless you are looking just before New Years Eve. Hors d’oeuvres are to New Year’s as turkey is to Thanksgiving.

When I do come up with something, I tend to gravitate towards anything in puff pastry, cause it’s relatively simple to use and and it always impresses. Even better, you can take whole sheets and turn it into a tart (think carmelized onion, brie and pears!) that can be cut up into bite-sized pieces. Easy Peazy.

The recipe for Fig, Ricotta, and Goat Cheese Tart is a perfect example. And the tart is so pretty you may not want to cut it up…

Happy holiday partying!

Fig, Ricotta, and Goat Cheese Tart
Yields 20 to 24 bite-sized pieces Read more…

Red and White Pinwheel Cookies

Red and White Pinwheel CookiesCookie Conundrum
If it’s December, that means it’s cookie baking time. In fact, I was reminded over the weekend by my family that I hadn’t made the traditional batch of Swedish Gingies yet. It was December 2. My bad…

This week I am in full-on cookie mode because I have people coming over on Saturday plus two other cookie-friendly events next week. One is a cookie exchange that my sister is hosting—which presents a bit of a problem. I have a set of go-to cookies that I bring to such gatherings because they are always well received. The problem is they are a family favorite, so my sister tends to make the same cookies for her parties. This means I am on the hunt for a new recipe to try this year.

When it comes to finding new Christmas cookie recipes I don’t have too many requirements save one: A Christmas cookie is a cookie you only make at Christmas. Chocolate chip cookies are not a Christmas cookie.

The one exception I would make to this rule is shortbread. Every day is Christmas if there is shortbread.

As much as I love a beautifully decorated sugar cookie, the royal icing and the drying time can be a pain. So, I am thinking of going a little less labor intensive yet still colorful. I found a couple of versions of these tasty Red and White Pinwheel Cookies that seem to fit the bill nicely. I have never actually tried to make pinwheels so this might be a bit of an adventure. The good news is I have four impatient elves more than willing to do quality control sampling…

Red and White Pinwheel Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
These vanilla flavored cookies add a splash of pure color to your Christmas Cookie tray.  We recommend mixing the white and red dough separately rather than trying to add coloring to the already-mixed dough—the color incorporates better. Read more…