Friday, February 18, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Lemon Blackberry Thumbprint Cookies

Thumbprint cookies are easy to make, and always rewarding and delicious. They are so cute in that there is a thumbprint in the center of each cookie with your favorite flavor of jam or pie filling. They kind of remind me of hamentaschen with respect to how they taste, although they obviously look different.

I had received some of ShopRite's blackberry preserves awhile back as part of the ShopRite blog panel, Potluck, that I am involved with. I knew right away that they would be perfect for making thumbprint cookies, but it took me a bit of time to get around to it. The blackberry preserves for these cookies are perfect with a bit of lemon as a flavor combination, so in devising this recipe, I decided to add a bit of lemon zest and lemon juice to the cookie dough. This provided a subtle lemon flavor to the cookies that went just perfectly with the blackberry preserves.

Sasha's Lemon Blackberry Thumbprint Cookies
2 1/3 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 sticks of butter
3/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Blackberry preserves

To prepare these cookies, in the basin of a stand mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium high for about three minutes. Then, mix in the eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. The mixture may curdle slightly, but this is not a big deal, and I promise it will work out in the end. In a bowl, combine the baking powder and flour and beat into the mixture until it forms a dough.

Prepare two cookie sheets. Form the dough into small balls and press flat, but not too thin. Each should be about an inch in diameter.  Using your thumb, make an imprint or indent into the center of each cookie. Fill this indent with some of the blackberry jam - about half a teaspoon at the most. Only use enough to fill the indent and don't overdo it or it will not bake nicely.

Bake each sheet of cookies (this recipe makes about two dozen) one at a time in an oven preheated to 350 for 20 minutes. Allow to cook and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Saffron Risotto Balls with Tomato Chutney

Risotto balls are one of my husband's favorite treats, and this was no exception. This recipe is loosely based on a recipe I found in a cookbook, which called for coloring the balls with yellow food coloring. I figured it was much better to use saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, which creates a wonderful flavor for the rice, as well as a lovely yellow color. I served the riceballs with some spicy tomato chutney (leftovers from serving with chicken for the night before) and the combination was so perfect, that I am sharing the recipe for the chutney as well. However, just about any chutney would be perfect with these.

Sasha's Saffron Risotto Balls (makes about 18)
1/2 lb arborio rice
1/6 cup cream
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated hard mild goat cheese
1 T sugar
pinch of saffron threads
1/4 cup bread crumbs
canola oil

Cook the risotto according to the package instructions, along with the pinch of saffron threads. Then combine the cooked risotto rice with the egg, cream, grated cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Divide the mixture into one inch balls. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate. I used the bread crumbs that ShopRite sent me and they worked perfectly for these delicious treats. Next, heat 4 T of canola oil in a skillet and cook, turning occasionally until completely (and evenly) browned on all sides. Drain the excess oil on paper towels.

Below is the chutney recipe, loosely based on the cookbook, with several modifications (including about half the amount of sugar as recommended).

Bengali Style Tomato Chutney (loosely based on the recipe in the cookbook At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, a terrific Indian/regional cookbook)
2 T olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp fennel
2 cups canned tomato puree
1 small can cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
3 T raisons

Combine the oil with the cumin, fennel, tomato puree, cherry tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, pepper flakes and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook on low, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Add the raisons and cook for another ten. The chutney should be thick and have a glazed appearance when done.  I found multiple uses for this chutney, both on chicken and with the saffron rice balls. Yum!

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