Meringues

The first time my friend Marsha and I tried meringues, we fell in love with them and could not stop eating them. Light and sweet, we used to make them by the dozen when My Most Favorite Dessert Company opened on Madison Avenue. Sometimes they would fall and we would hide the imperfect ones in the middle and put the gorgeous ones on the outside of the display. We sold them in a box designed by a famous designer who did a clock for MoMA, and soon the orders started pouring in from well-known stores like A&S, Macy’s and Zabar’s. We realized then that this was a very versatile dessert. For example, in South America, meringues are often sandwiched with fresh whipped cream and served with strawberries and raspberries on the side. There are a lot of meringue recipes out there but, for my taste, these are the most delicious.

Ingredients:

2 extra large egg whites, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Grease and flour a large baking sheet.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the vanilla and beat until the meringue holds stiff peaks and is glossy.

3. Using 2 tablespoons, drop the mixture off one spoon, pushing it with the second spoon onto the prepared baking sheet; leave 2 inches in between the mounds.

4. Bake for 1 hour. Remove the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let cool. Store, in a single layer, in an airtight container for several days.

Variations

Chocolate Meringues

Make the meringue mixture as directed in the recipe, and after beating in the vanilla, add 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, beat until fully incorporated. finish the meringues as directed in Steps 2 and 3.

Tinted Meringues

There is a fun restaurant on East Sixtieth Street in Manhattan called Serendipity 3. Back in the mid-eighties, we delivered meringues to them, and I will never forget the day they places an order for pink meringues. The fellows as Serendipity were way ahead of the curve, as tinted meringues–pink, yellow, green–are now in vogue, some fifteen years later. To make colored meringues, add a tiny drop of liquid food coloring to the meringue mixture. Even a little food coloring goes a long way.

Healthy tip:

Egg whites are pure protein with very few calories.  The addition of unsweetened cocoa to the meringues adds a wonderful chocolate richness with only a few added calories.

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The Best Brunch

My friend Nancy loves this Vegetable Frittata, made with healthy veggie ingredients and very satisfying. She now makes it as a gift item for friends who invite her to brunch. It’s simple and delicious and has all the components you need for a healthy brunch. Serve it with a green salad drizzled with a light dressing for the perfect lunch or light supper.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 summer squash, ends removed and sliced 1/4 inch thick

3 zucchini, ends removed and sliced 1/4 inch thick

3 bell peppers (red, green and yellow) cored, seeded and ribs removed, cut into 1/2 inch strips

1/2 pound (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms

6 extra large eggs

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh pepper

2 cups stale plain croutons, from day-old French bread

1/2 pound (8 ounces) cream cheese, cut into small cubes

2 cups grated Swiss cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch-round, 2-inch-deep cake pan and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, garlic, squash, bell peppers, and mushrooms and saute, stirring, until cooked, but still crisp-tender, about 20 inutes. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Stir in the croutons until combined, then add the cream cheese and Swiss cheese and stir well again. Stir in the sauteed vegetables until completely incorporated.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and level the top. Bake about one hour, until firm. Check at the halfway point, and if the top is browning too quickly, lay a piece of foil loosely over the top of the pan.

5. Let stand 10-15 minutes to rest before serving slightly warm, when the fritatta is at its very best.

Healthy tip:

This delicious frittata is full of protein (eggs, cheese)… making it an excellent main course for brunch.  The wonderful squashes and peppers add essential vitamins including lots of vitamin C.

A great pick-up dinner entrée the next day!

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Crepes with Cream Cheese Filling and Apricot Sauce

When my kids were young, I started inadvertently  collecting recipes that were easy to make because I like easy and delicious. What better recipe to make than crepes with a cheese filling, topped with a delicious apricot sauce (I love anything with apricot–maybe because of my Viennese background!) I first made this dish for my daughter’s Bat-Mitzvah lunch. My husband likes them hot, in which case you simply melt butter in a skillet, add the crepes (already filled) and saute them, turning for several minutes. If you are a veteran crepe maker, you know that the first few are not always perfect when they come out of the pan. Keep trying–the next few will be fine. TIP: These crepes are easy to make and freeze. Whenever I was having a lot of company, this was one of the offerings I would make and freeze ahead of time.

Ingredients:

For the crepe batter:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

pinch coarse kosher salt

3 extra large eggs

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:

1 cup large-curd creamed cottage cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

unsalted butter or unsalted margarine for cooking

For the apricot sauce:

2/3 cup apricot preserves

1/3 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

To make the crepe batter:

1. In a blender, combine all the batter ingredients until combined. Put the container in the refrigerator and let the batter chill for at least 30 minutes. Stir before using.

2. Heat an 8-inch crepe or omelet pan over medium heat with enough butter to just coat the pan when melted. When the pan is hot and the butter has stopped foaming, pour in a ladleful (3 to 4 teaspoons), tilting  the pan to cover the bottom. Cook until set on the bottom, 1 minute. Turn with a spatula or your fingertips and cook until set on the second side. Saute until golden brown.

3. Let cool in a single layer on a sheet of parchment paper. Continue to make crepes with the batter and butter in the same manner.

To make the filling:

1. In a bowl, stir together all the ingredients until well combined.

2. Fill and wrap the crepes: Spoon the cheese filling in the center of each crepe, the fold the bottom of the crepe up and over to cover the filling. Fold in each of the sides and roll up the crepe. Transfer the crepe, seam side down, to a plate. Fill and wrap the remaining crepes in the same manner, arranging them in a single layer on the plate.

3. Serve, drizzled with apricot sauce.

To make the apricot sauce:

1. In a small saucepan, combine all the ingreients over low heat, stirring until the butter and jam are melted and the sauce is well combined.

2. Pour the sauce into a serving bowl, let cool, then chill until ready to serve.

Healthy Tip:

You can easily substitute low fat cottage cheese (1% or 2% fat) for regular cottage cheese and substitute low-fat milk (fat-free or 1% fat) for whole milk to save on fat and calories.

To warm the crepes, sauté in a little butter until crispy brown and delicious or simply warm them in the oven if you prefer to avoid the butter calories.

Any serious weight watchers can drizzle the apricot sauce sparingly!

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Carrot Cake

When I first heard of carrot cake, it was a completely alien thought. Imagine–a cake made of ground carrots! A close friend gave me the recipe and after one bite, I knew I had never tasted anything so incredibly delicious. It was nothing like what I thought a good pastry was about. Little did I know when I first started making it at home, that my best friend Marsha and I would decide to use it to launch our cake business.

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 extra large eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1-1/2 cups canola oil

3 cups finely grated carrots (about 8 medium carrots, peeled)

1 cup very finely chopped (but not to powder) unblanched almonds

Confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch straight-sided tube pan with a removable bottom.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs with the sugar on medium speed until lemon colored. Pour in the canola oil and beat until combined.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Stir in the carrots and the almonds until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, distributing it evenly and smoothing the top.

5. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 15 to 20 minutes before unmolding it to cool completely.

6. When cool, serve the cake as is or dusted lightly with confectioner’s sugar. This cake keeps well, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for for up to five days. If you want to make it ahead and freeze it, you can do so up to one month in advance.

Healthy tip:

This cake is perfection! If you are trying to control calories, enjoy a smaller than usual slice.  You can also cut calories by eliminating the icing and lightly dust with confectioner’s sugar.

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