Hazelnut Macaroons

Hazelnut Macaroons

I was looking through both of my grandmothers books, “The Art of Good Cooking” and “The Art of Fine Baking” for an appropriate holiday recipe – either Easter or Passover. I skimmed over Gefilte Fish convincing myself that I would make it at some point but that now just wasn’t the time. Instead, I found a quick and simple recipe for Soft Filbert Macaroons, which I quickly renamed Hazelnut Macaroons. A twist on the traditional coconut or almond macaroons, hazelnuts are one of my favorite nuts and I used this recipe to try a couple of different versions: Hazelnut Coconut Macaroons, Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Macaroons, and Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Coconut Macaroons. Any of these versions are good ( I of course prefer anything with chocolate – especially chocolate hazelnut combinations). If coconut is added, make sure to cut the amount of sugar in half. Also, the recipe calls for blanched whole filberts – as you can see from my photos, I used whole hazelnuts with their skin, but I’m sure these would be prettier with blanched ones.


3 cups ground hazelnuts
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
3 to 4 egg whites
30 blanched whole filberts
sweetened shredded coconut (optional)
melted/tempered bittersweet chocolate for dipping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet well or line with parchment paper.

Combine ground filberts, sugar, vanilla, and spices in a bowl. Add coconut if using. Add enough egg white to make a medium-firm dough. Pinch off pieces slightly smaller than a walnut. Roll into balls.

Place on prepared baking sheet. Flatten balls slightly. Stick a whole filbert into center of each cookie.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops of cookies are firm.

Dip in melted chocolate, if using.

Yield: approximately 30.

Adapted by Megan Peck


Pastitsio Pastetseo Potato Patato


Titled Pastetseo in “The Art of Good Cooking,” with only a brief introduction stating that the recipe may be Greek or Syrian, I wanted to know more about this multilayer lamb casserole with the strange name. I naturally turned to google but was surprised that nothing came up. Unable to resist the excessive layering of ground lamb, pasta, cheese, sauce, and eggplant, I moved forward with this recipe for Pastetseo and figured I would continue my research on it’s name and origin another time. It wasn’t until later, when I happened to be enjoying the delicious leftovers of this casserole that reminds me of a gourmet hamburger helper (but way better), that I came across an article about a Greek Easter feast in a magazine I was flipping through. A full page photo of a casserole and a recipe next to it titled “Pastitsio” caught my eye. The ingredients were almost the same, give or take few minor ones, and the eggplant was missing (one of best parts, in my opinion). Mystery solved. Googling “Pastitsio” brings up tons of photos, recipes, and info. This moussaka like casserole appears to be Greek, but even with the correct spelling online, the exact origin seems debatable since Cyprus, Egypt, and Malta all seem to have similar versions. Since I still haven’t found any recipes online that include eggplant, I’m not sure where this addition came from but it definitely gives this Pastitsio another unique layer of flavor that in my opinion makes it better than any of the others out there. Enjoy.


1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound ground lamb
1 28oz can plum tomatoes, slightly drained
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 pound elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1 large eggplant, peeled, sliced 1/4″ thick, lightly salted, and sauteed in olive oil until tender and brown
1 recipe Cheese Custard (recipe follows)
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until soft. Add the lamb and cook for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes. Break up meat and tomatoes with a spoon or fork and cook until mixture is almost dry. Season well with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add eggs and 1/3 of a cup of grated cheese.

Combine the mixture with cooked, drained macaroni and pour into a deep well-greased baking dish. The dish should be about half full. Place slices of sauteed eggplant over the meat-macaroni mixture.

Pour the Cheese Custard (below) over all. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and an additional 2 tablespoons melted butter (optional). Bake for 45 minutes or until custard is set and browned. Serves 4-6.

Cheese Custard


1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk, heated
3 beaten eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper

Melt butter in saucepan. Add cornstarch and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Add hot milk and cook until slightly thickened. Pour some of the thickened hot sauce into the beaten eggs, beating constantly. Then pour egg mixture into the rest of the hot sauce, beating while you pour. Remove from flame and beat in ricotta cheese. Season lightly with salt and pepper.


Deviled Clams

Deviled Clams

I must admit that these tasty little fruits of the sea came out a little crispier and a little darker than I intended. I blame it on a new oven fiasco. While the recipe says to broil on medium, today’s ovens usually offer just low and high broil settings. In the interest of time, I decided to use the high setting and promised myself I would watch them carefully. Unfortunately, I was using a brand new oven and the broil setting hadn’t yet been used. Not only did the oven omit a strong new oven/chemical smell on the high broil setting, the neighbors called security due to what they said smelled like “an electric fire. Somehow amongst the commotion of the multiple security guards and maintenance men entering our apartment to stare at inspect the new oven, one of whom felt the need to comment that he was looking at buying the same oven for his own apartment, I managed to broil these little guys without completely destroying them. I actually enjoyed the combination of the slightly crispier top with the soft filling. The small piece of bacon on top, while delicious (of course), almost overpowers the light fresh clam flavor and could be easily omitted. These little bursts of flavor are an excellent appetizer or light lunch (especially if your broiler works properly…).


2 dozen small (cherrystone) clams or 1 dozen large
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
2 teaspoons tomato paste
salt and pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped

Scrub clams well to get any sand off shells. Place them in a large pot and add wine. Cook, covered, over low heat, just until the clam shells open.

Remove clams from pot and reserve half of each shell. Remove clams from shells.

Grind clams in food processor.

Melt butter in skillet. Saute green pepper, onion, and garlic till soft and golden. Add chopped parsley and bread crumbs. Stir in tomato paste. Season well with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat and add clams.

Fill reserved clam shells with this mixture. Sprinkle tops with chopped bacon (if using) and place on broiling pan.

Brown under low broil (or high broil if watched carefully) until bacon is crisp.

Serves 4

From “The Art of Good Cooking” by Paula Peck. Adapted by Megan Peck.


Strawberry Kiwiberry Mascarpone Cream Parfait

Strawberry Kiwiberry Marscarpone Parfait

Yes, it’s as delicious as it looks. It is also very easy to make and a crowd pleaser. I used kiwiberries because I like their combination of tart skin with the sweet flesh but regular chopped kiwi, banana, raspberries, blueberries, or any combination of fruit all work well here.
If you’re a kiwi lover but not familiar with kiwiberries, you should be. These miniature kiwis with fuzz free tart edible skin, may seem like baby kiwis but they are actually an entirely different fruit. Often from New Zealand, Kiwiberries or Hardy Kiwis can be difficult to come by and expensive. Here in NYC, they’re available at most gourmet food stores and according to Wikipedia (Kiwiberries on Wikipedia), more commercial production is now taking place in the U.S. so this “historically unsuccessful fruit” may become more available. If you’re a fan of sweet and sour combinations like I am, you should definitely try kiwiberries.

You may be wondering if or how this recipe relates to Paula Peck and her cookbooks. Well, the recipe itself may not (no kiwiberries in the 1960’s, that’s for sure) but the inherent pound cake recipe comes directly from “The Art of Fine Baking.” I also think she would love the beauty and simplicity of this recipe, though she would probably add cognac or kirsch to the cream layers.


1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 – 6oz package kiwiberries, sliced
1/2 loaf Basic Pound Cake (recipe follows), sliced and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Continue beating, gradually adding remaining sugar, until the cream holds stiff peaks. Beat in mascarpone cheese.

To build the parfaits: in clear dessert glasses, begin layering cake, cream, and fruit. Cover the bottom of the glass with 1-2 pieces of cake followed by a few dollops of cream. Build a ring of kiwiberries around the glass by sliding them down the side (cut side out). Add strawberries. Continue layering and top with cream and strawberries.

Serves 4-6.

Basic Pound Cake


3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and dust with flour.

In a large bow, combine eggs and sugar. Beat for a minute. Set bowl over saucepan of hot water. Place saucepan over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until eggs are slightly warmer than lukewarm. Do not let water boil. Stir eggs occasionally while they are being heated to prevent them from cooking on bottom of bowl.

While eggs are warming, cream butter and flour till light and fluffy. Add vanilla.

When eggs are lukewarm, beat them until cool, thick, and tripled in bulk. Quickly stir 1/4 of beaten eggs into creamed mixture. Pour mixture over remaining beaten eggs. Fold in gently. Be careful not to over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake about 40-50 minutes or until cake is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of pan.


Cheesy Bean Burger Blasters

Cheesey Bean Burger Blasters

Since I was curious about making homemade refried beans and Paula Peck’s Mexican/Tex-Mex style recipes are almost always excellent and reliable (she spent time cooking in Mexico- more about that later), I decided to try this gem of a recipe for Refried Bean Cakes that is tucked away in the vegetable section of “The Art of Good Cooking.”

A friend mentioned that the name didn’t do these tasty little patties justice. Like myself, she couldn’t get over how flavorful the homemade refried beans were by themselves, especially with so few ingredients. I kept saying she had to try them and her response was something like “homemade refried beans? Um…ok…interesting.” After tasting them, this quickly turned to “wow, i could just sit and eat a whole bowl of that stuff by itself.” Maybe the name Cheesy Bean Burger Blasters isn’t that much better but it’s at least interesting and fun to try to say five times fast.

Simplicity is key here and these are not to be confused with canned refried beans or the soupy mess that comes with your enchiladas at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant. When turned into a patty with melted ooey gooey cheese in the center, it’s just a rich amazing mess of deliciousness.


1 recipe Homemade Refried Beans
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
6 pieces Jack, Mozzarella, or melting cheese of your choice, each 1″ x 1″ x 1/2″
3/4 dry bread crumbs
oil or butter for sauteing

Add grated cheese and chopped onion to refried beans and refrigerate until cold. Divide mixture into six parts. Shape each part into a patty, pushing a piece of cheese into the center of each. Roll each bean cake in dry bread crumbs, then refrigerate one hour or more.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil or butter in a large skillet. Saute bean cakes, turning to brown on both sides and heat through.

Note: for firmer cakes that are less fragile, use a traditional breading method: dip cakes in flour, then beaten egg, and finally roll in breadcrumbs.

Serves 6


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