Aunt Suzy says . . . .

This is a delicious casual meal for any occasion that’s a lot of fun to cook and serve for a crowd.  Think football playoffs!  My brother and I cooked these great pita sandwiches last Sunday and served them with a number of Mediterranean items – hummus, roasted chickpeas, olives, tabbouleh and Corfu salad.  We waited till half-time of the Bears-Seattle game to serve -my niece, Katie and her cousin make it clear who we were rooting for!  Good meal, great game outcome!  (Go Bears!!) Many sides work with these sandwiches and a peppery Cotes du Rhone or California Syrah works really well.

This recipe is comprised of several components – sauteed onions, red pepper-date relish, sausages, feta cheese – that can be assembled into the pita pockets to individual tastes.  Randy likes to substitute hummus for the feta and these can be made vegetarian by omitting the sausages.  These can also be served as appetizers on toasted regular (non-pocket) pita wedges, omitting the sausage. The amounts specified here served 7 people.  All quantities are adjustable to your taste and number of people.

The Onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

2 white onions, sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet.  When shimmering, add the butter.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the sliced onions.  Saute on medium-high heat stirring constantly until beginning to brown – about 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until soft and golden.  Set aside.  NOTE: I heard about a technique for slicing the onions that minimizes the stringy membranes.  Cut the onions in half length-wise and then slice in that same direction – from top to bottom rather than across.  Yellow onions can be substituted for the white.

The Pepper-Date Relish

3-4 roasted red peppers, sliced in lengthwise strips (about 1/4″)  and then in half

1/3 cup chopped dates

1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

The Sausages/Assembling the Sandwiches

8 sausages – lamb, merguez or flavorful chicken sausages

1 1/2 cups feta cheese, in chunks or crumbles

8 pita pockets, whole wheat recommended

A NOTE ON THE SAUSAGES: If you are near a Whole Foods, brother John discovered delicious lamb sausages from New Zealand in their freezer section – flavored with Sofrito.  Some Whole Foods have fresh lamb sausage.  I use either fresh-made merguez Moroccan lamb sausage or lamb-blueberry-pine nut sausage, both from Clancy’s Meats in my neighborhood – definitely worth a trip for you Twin Cities residents.  We also use some of the fully cooked, highly flavored chicken sausages found at places like Co-ops, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

DIRECTIONS: Cook the sausages according to directions till just done, but still juicy.  If it’s warm out, you can grill on either a gas or charcoal grill.  Cut into smallish pieces on the diagonal. Cut the pitas in half and wrap in foil and heat in the oven till warm.  To make the sandwiches, place the onions, sausages, red pepper-date relish and feta into a pita pocket half.  Enjoy!

Panettone Bread Pudding

December 11, 2010

Margaux says…

I have a new obsession: panettone.  I was watching the Food Network because there was nothing else on (I’d already seen every cop show that was on, and had already caught up on all my shows on On-Demand).  So I happened to catch a Barefoot Contessa episode about bread.  Thrilling, right?  That’s what I thought, until she got to the bread pudding recipe.  The panettone, the eggs, and the half-and-half had me on the edge of my seat (well, I would have been had my 2-year-old son not been sleeping on me), and I could practically smell it baking.  I’ve actually never had panettone…I always just passed over it during the holiday season when it pops up at the grocery store because I assumed it was just an Italian fruit cake, which I really don’t like.  Well, thanks Ina, for broadening my horizons!  I seriously couldn’t stop popping pieces in my mouth while I was slicing it for the pudding.  I think I’m going to buy a loaf every week!  This stuff is like candy-bread!  Just think of the possibilities!  Panettone French toast!  Panettone toast and butter!  Panettone plain, with tea, for a mid-day snack!  Panettone and almond butter sandwich!  I’m so excited about this stuff.


This recipe is great for a crowd…luckily my babysitter has a huge family and I was able to send a bunch home with her this morning.  It’s serious comfort food, and I recommend serving it after a nice, comfort-food like dinner.  It would also be great served at a brunch.  The almond topping makes it very elegant, and I could see it at a post-wedding weekend brunch for the family, or for a birthday brunch.

I didn’t trim the crust from the panettone because there wasn’t really any super dark parts, and she didn’t trim it on the show…she actually said you don’t need to bother with that.  Also, I didn’t have extra-large eggs on hand, so I used one more whole egg and one more egg yolk, and it turned out perfectly!  I was a little hesitant about the 2 teaspoons of almond extract…that’s a lot of almond…but went for it anyway, and it was just right.  Tastes great served warm with vanilla ice cream!!

Panettone Bread Pudding
from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa show, Bread Winner episode 2008

1 Italian panettone, about 1.2 pounds
Unsalted butter, for greasing the dish
3 extra-large whole eggs
8 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim the dark brown outer crust from the panettone. Cut the rest of the loaf in 1-inch cubes and place on a sheet pan in a single layer. Toast the panettone for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Grease a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish with the butter. Place the panettone cubes in the baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts and sugar. Pour this custard mixture over the panettone. Set aside for 10 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top of the pudding.

Place the baking dish into a larger pan and add very hot tap water to the larger pan until it’s halfway up the side of the baking dish. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake the pudding for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the pudding is light golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.