Nina Gilbert’s Favorite Recipes

If you have asked me for a recipe and I've promised to post it at my Web site, this is where I'll post it.

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Vegetarian entrees (including soup, salads and appetizers)
Broccoli Bread Pudding
Eggplant Flan
French Toast Spinach Casserole
Manti in Raita (that is, ravioli in yogurt with cucumber and garlic)
Beet latkes with horseradish cream
Cabbage Pesto
Brie Vinaigrette (a hot dressing for salad greens)
Potato-Stilton Soup (comfort food adored by people at all levels of sophistication)
Pumpkin Lasagna
Distinctive desserts
Pumpkin Granola Cheesecake (actually a breakfast recipe, but still an impressive dessert)
Champagne Mousse
Triple Chocolate Sabra Espresso Brownies (for grownups)
Comfort-Food Brownies (for kids or grown-ups)
S'More Fondue
Peanut Butter and Jelly Fondue
Chocolate Stout Cupcakes
Mocha Milkshake Punch
Coconut Macaroon-oids
Ton-O-Mint Sorbet (for using up mint!)
Ice Cream Flavors (a list, not recipes)
Silly candy (astonishingly good, embarrassingly easy)
Matza Toffee
Chocolate Potato-Chip Crunch ("Choir Crunchies")
Condensed-Milk-Classic Squares
Coconut Mashed-Potato Fudge
Beer-and-Pretzel Truffles
Homemade Candy Corn

Recipes based on College Music Society presentations
Recipes from Cooking Sessions in Lafayette College residence halls
The Dan Weiss Inaugural Truffle

Broccoli Bread Pudding

From: Nava Atlas, Vegetariana (Garden City NY: Dial/Doubleday, 1984).
I highly recommend this cookbook and Vegetarian Celebrations by Nava Atlas.

Heat until foamy in large skillet:
2 tablespoons butter or good olive oil

Saute until browned:
1 large onion, chopped
about one clove's worth of minced garlic

Add, stir together, and remove from heat:
4 cups chopped broccoli, steamed
1 cup sour cream (try to get the plainest, simplest sour cream -- no chemicals to stiffen it, and no light or otherwise unreal sour cream)
2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs (today I had winter tarragon from my garden, but anything you like is fine)
freshly ground pepper (I recommend tellicherry peppercorns)

Beat together:
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk

Tear into small pieces:
4 average slices whole-grain bread

2 cups mild cheese (cheddar, Swiss, Havarti, anything you'd like -- doesn't actually need to be mild, if you ask me)

Layer into a deep enough casserole (9-by-9-inch square, or 10-inch round):
half the bread
half the broccoli mixture
half the eggs
half the cheese

Top with:
sprinkling of wheat germ and/or sesame seeds.

If it looks dry (or if you've let it sit for a while before you're ready to bake it), dot with butter.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until top is browned. (I baked it less than this, let it sit overnight, and then just sprinkled with a little water, no butter, and reheated and completed the cooking for about half and hour at 300.) Serves 4-6 (six, I would say).

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Eggplant Flan

From: Linda Amster, editor, The New York Times Passover Cookbook (New York: William Morrow, 1999), who adapted it from Claudia Roden, The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), where it is called Almodrote de Berengena (Turkish).
This book includes a whole chapter of charoses (haroseth), and seven recipes for matza balls. A masterpiece (both the book and this astonishingly easy, widely likeable recipe).

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. While the oven is heating, prick all over with a fork:
4 pounds' worth of eggplants

Bake the eggplants on a baking sheet (lined with foil, if you'd like) and bake about 45 minutes, turning a few times to prevent burning on the bottom.

Once the eggplants are cooked, remove them from the oven and turn the temperature down to 350 degrees.

Cool the eggplants, and scoop into a colander. Squeeze out the juices (discard the juices). Mash the drained eggplants together in a bowl.

In a large bowl, beat well (approximate amounts, to taste):
9 ounces good feta cheese, drained and mashed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup matza meal
5 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (choose level of sharpness according to your mood)
4 tablespoons olive oil, preferably Spanish

Mix in the mashed eggplant.

Coat the inside of a baking dish with:
olive oil, again preferably Spanish

Pour the eggplant mixture into the dish. Drizzle another tablespoon of good Spanish olive oil over the eggplant. Sprinkle with about:

11 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (so that the recipe includes a total of one cup)

Bake for one hour -- the cheese will turn slightly brown.

Serves 6 to 8, depending on whether this is a side or main dish.

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Manti in Raita: an Indian variation on a Turkish dumpling

Loosely adapted from: Ayla Esen Algar, The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking (London and New York: Kegan Paul International, 1985) and James McNair, Cold Pasta (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1985 and 1989). 

Typographical note: for true Turkish spelling of "Manti," you don't dot the "i," and you pronounce the vowel as in "it," not "eat."

This recipe is embarrassingly easy. Your challenge: figure out the quantities you need. I used three pounds of ravioli, two quarts of yogurt, at least three tablespoons of garlic, two cucumbers, and a bunch of scallions, and got about three times as much as we needed for our party of 26. The ravioli with garlic yogurt is Turkish; the cucumber and scallions add the Indian note of raita.

If you're going to include cucumber, prepare it as you're getting started: peel it, slice it in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seeds, and cut it in whatever shape you'd like. I used thin crescent slices, made by running the cucumber over the mandoline-blade on a grater. You could also dice or grate it. Then, to keep the final result from being too watery, sprinkle salt generously on the cut cucumber and let it sit while you do the rest of the recipe (it should sit about half an hour, more or less). When you're ready to use the cucumber, you rinse it, squeeze out any more water, and blot it dry. If you're trying to avoid sodium, you could skip the salting, but the result will be watery. Maybe skip the cucumber altogether in that case.

Cook as directed on package:
ravioli (I used Trader Joe's miniature cheese-filled ravioli; traditional Turkish involves homemade full-size meat ravioli)

While it's cooking, whisk together:
yogurt (enough to be like a generous salad dressing for the ravioli)
garlic (crushed or minced; about one heaping teaspoon per cup of yogurt)

You could stop adding ingredients at this point and have a simple version of manti.

For the raita variation, add to the yogurt mixture:
cucumber (peeled, cut, salted, and rinsed as it says at the top of this recipe)
scallions (minced into thin O's)

When the pasta is cooked, assemble the dish: drain the pasta (do not run cold water over it; you don't want to lose the heat) and put it in a generous bowl (could be your serving bowl at this point). Pour the yogurt mixture over the pasta and stir gently. Don't worry if it curdles a little.

Before serving, you could sprinkle this with:
paprika (optional; I suppose you could also garnish with parsley or sprinkle minced fresh parsley)

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French Toast Spinach Casserole

Adapted from: Roz Denny, The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1994; London: Anness Publishing, 1994) . You can improvise quantities and ingredients in this recipe. These quantities serve four to six people.
Two easy adventures:
(1) Go buy some whole nutmeg. You can grate it on the fine side of a normal grater. It tastes much more interesting than powder.
(2) Be sure you have a roasting pan big and strong enough to put your casserole dish into, but small enough to fit into your oven, so you can pour boiling water around your casserole for a bain marie.

Slice fairly thinly (say, about a third of an inch or so):
a baguette or other bread that lets air in, such as Italian ciabatta

Spread lightly and thinly on the bread:
good Spanish olive oil (or butter); easy to do by pouring oil into a saucer and touching the bread slices to it

Oil (or otherwise grease) a lasagna-shaped casserole dish. Cover the bottom and sides with about 2/3 of your buttered or oiled bread.
In a large skillet, saute:
2 tablespoons olive oil (or other oil or butter according to taste); you could use the oil from the saucer from the bread
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4-6 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced

After the vegetables melt, add and continue to saute:
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (worth getting; not ground)
1 pound chopped fresh spinach
freshly ground black pepper (I recommend tellicherry)

While it's sauteing, you can grate:
at least 4 ounces of Gouda or other cheese

Put about 2/3 of the vegetables on top of the bread in the casserole.
Cover that casually with the rest of the oiled/buttered bread, and sprinkle generously with half the cheese.
Put the rest of the vegetables on top of that, and then sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Beat together:
3 eggs (or 4 if you've been rounding other ingredients up)
2 1/4 cups milk (whole milk for best flavor)
generous grating of fresh nutmeg

Pour the milk-and-egg mixture over the casserole.
Now let this sit somewhere for an hour so the milk and eggs can turn the bread into French toast. It probably doesn't need refrigerating.
At the end of the hour, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set a pot of water to boil on the stove.
Put the casserole in a roasting pan. Pour the boiling water around the outside of the casserole to make a bain marie.
Bake the whole contraption about 45 minutes -- it should rise a little and the top should be a little shiny, a little browned, and a little crisp.
To my surprise, you can refrigerate this and reheat it successfully the next day if necessary.

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Champagne Mousse

Adapted from: James Haller, The Blue Strawbery Cookbook (Harvard MA: The Harvard Common Press, 1976).
I highly recommend this cookbook and Another Blue Strawbery by James Haller. This recipe is adapted from "Fruit Mousse," and you can adapt it further. Amounts can be approximated.

Blend and simmer in a small, heavy, non-stick saucepan until thickened:
6 egg yolks
1 cup of champagne (or cream sherry or other wine, or fruit juice -- re-name your mousse accordingly)
3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin

Pour into blender with:
another cup of champagne (or other wine or fruit juice)
2 cups of nice white (that is, green) grapes (or other fruit; pitted but keep the peel on)

Blend until it is as smooth as you want your mousse to be.
While it cools, whip in a completely clean, grease-free bowl:
6 egg whites

Once the yolk-fruit mixture cools, fold it into the egg whites.
In another bowl, whip:
a pint (that's two cups) of heavy whipping cream

Stir into the whipped cream:

Half a cup of honey; good, interesting honey is a nice idea.

Combine the fruit-and-egg mixture with the whipped-cream-and-honey mixture. Put into serving bowl or parfait glasses, and refrigerate until set.

You can check on this and stir it back together if it seems to be separating, or you can let it saparate into a foamy top layer and a translucent champagne-custard layer. If the separation is conspicuous, change the name to "Floating Champagne Mousse."

Variations: By the time you involve the custard, the whipped cream, the egg whites, and the gelatin, this recipe is foolproof in terms of setting up as a mousse. You can invent and name your own variation. I used Mogen David Passover wine, cinnamon, apples, and finely chopped walnuts to make a Charoses mousse, for example. Enjoy!

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Matza Toffee

From: Marcy Goldman, A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (New York: Doubleday, 1998).
This recipe is all over the Web (often called Matzoh Buttercrunch), and Marcy Goldman seems to have invented it.

Line a cookie sheet (one with a raised edge) with foil and a layer of baking parchment (on top of the foil).

Cover bottom of pan with:
about 5 plain, unsalted matzas -- break as necessary to fill spaces, but try to keep the pieces large

Preheat oven to 375 degrees while you do the next step.

Melt and simmer in a saucepan, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes:
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

Pour that mixture over the matza. Place in preheated oven and reduce heat to 350. Bake about 15 minutes. If it seems to be browning too fast, remove from oven for a few minutes and turn down the heat.

Remove from oven after 15 minutes. Sprinkle immediately with:
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Do something else for five minutes, and then spread the chocolate, which will have melted, so that the chocolate covers the toffee.

When it becomes cool enough to handle, break or cut into pieces.

Chill in refrigerator or freezer until set. Serve at room temperature.

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Chocolate Potato-Chip Crunch
...affectionately known as "Choir Crunchies"

From: The Microwave Cooking Institute, More Joy of Microwaving (New York: Prentice Hall, 1988).
A highly wonderful cookbook, with luscious illustrations, practical charts, and inspired recipes. This recipe is the ultimate quasi-homemade junk food, incorporating the essential elements of sugar, salt, grease, and chocolate. You can double the recipe, and if you forget to set the microwave at 50%, nothing terrible happens.

Melt in the microwave until softened -- 2 to 4 minutes at 50%, stirring after each minute:
1 package butterscotch chips (11 1/2 oz., more or less)
1 package milk chocolate chips (6 oz., more or less)

While it is melting, crush:
enough ripple potato chips to make one cup

Once the chips are melted, stir in the crushed potato chips and:
1 1/2 cups dry-roasted peanuts (my preference is unsalted, though the book says salted)

Spoon into paper candy cups. Chill to set.
For something this silly, these are embarrassingly good.
This makes a pound and a half -- 20 to 40 pieces, depending on your concept of bite-size.

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Triple Chocolate Sabra Espresso Brownies

From: The Roanoke [Virginia] Times and World News, sometime between the fall of 1985 and the spring of 1987. As potent as a brownie can legally be! I have no idea why these were in the Roanoke newspaper.

Melt in small saucepan over low heat (or you could microwave):
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate

Stir to blend. Cool slightly.

Stir in:
1/2 cup butter

Set aside to cool.

Beat in large bowl five minutes until light in color and thickened:
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs

Beat in chocolate mixture until blended.

Beat in until blended:
2 tablespoons Sabra (orange-flavored chocolate liqueur)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon (at least) grated orange peel
3/4 cup flour (I prefer whole wheat)
1/8 teaspoon salt (or none)

Stir in:
1/4 cup (at least) miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Scrape into greased and floured 9-inch square pan and spread evenly with a spatula.

Bake in 350-degree oven 25-30 minutes or until cake tester inserted 2 inches from the center comes out almost clean.

Set pan on wire rack to cool 30 minutes.

Brush brownies with:
(at least) 1 tablespoon Sabra.

Cover with plastic wrap and cool completely.

Cut brownies into 16 bars.

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Comfort-Food Brownies with Melted Butterscotch and Marshmallows

Closely adapted from: Lora Brody, Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet: A Memoir With Recipes (New York: Viking Penguin [Stephen Breene Press/Pelham Books], 1985). Even people who don't casually read cookbooks for fun will find this book engrossing. These brownies are very comforting. The butterscotch disappears, and the marshmallows almost disappear. The cookbook actually calls these "Surfer Squares," and recommends them for summer-camp care packages.

Melt together in a saucepan (use a large enough saucepan that it can also serve as your mixing bowl), stirring constantly until melted and smooth:
6 ounces butterscotch chips
6 ounces chocolate chips (semisweet, milk chocolate, bittersweet, any kind or a combination)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup butter (half a stick)

Remove from heat. While it is cooling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8-inch-square pan.

When the mixture is somewhat cooled, mix in thoroughly:
1 extra-large egg

Sift or stir together, and then stir into the melted mix in the saucepan:
3/4 cup flour (I recommend whole wheat)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Then stir in:
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon (or a little more) vanilla extract

Spread into the buttered pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes.

Cool completely. Cut into about 20 squares.

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Mocha Milkshake Punch

Clipped and paraphrased from: Crawfordsville, Indiana Journal-Review, a 1994 (?) segment on alcohol-free party recipes. Credits Jenny Fitch, The Fearrington House Cookbook (Ventana Press, 1987).

Note that you need to start this early -- say, the day before -- so that you can freeze the coffee ice mold.

2 quarts strong coffee (decaf is fine)

Dissolve in the hot coffee:
3/4 cup sugar

Freeze about two cups of the sweetened coffee -- a tupperware-type bowl is fine, or you could use ice cube trays.
Chill the rest of the coffee.

When you are ready to assemble and serve the punch, whip:
1 cup whipping cream

Stir the chilled coffee into the whipped cream. Then stir in:
1 cup (or more) chocolate syrup
1 quart vanilla ice cream, cut into small pieces

Pour into a punch bowl, and float the coffee ice in it.

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Ton-O-Mint Sorbet

Something to do with the mint that's taking over your garden. Inspired by various Earl Grey sorbet recipes out there. All quantities are approximate and to taste.

Clip from your garden:
Big handful of mint leaves -- enough to flavor 5-6 cups of water. If you have a lot of mint leaves, use a lot of mint leaves. The more the better. Any kind of mint!

Bring to a boil:
3 cups of water

Either pour the water over the mint leaves, mushed and chopped a bit, in a bowl; or, if your water is in a saucepan, just take the pan off the heat and throw the mint leaves in (again, mush and bruise the leaves a bit; cut them up if you'd like).

Let the leaves steep for quite a while -- this is a good time to go do something else and come back to the recipe after at least half an hour. The point is, you're trying to make a strong mint tea.

Strain the leaves out. A few green flecks can remain for dramatic effect.

Stir in:
1 1/2 cups sugar (a whisk can encourage the sugar to dissolve)
1 1/2 cups whole milk

At this point it's a good idea to chill the mixture, covered. Overnight is fine, but not too much longer, or the mint essences will fade.

When you are ready to freeze the sorbet, stir in:
approximately 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (if bits of lemon get in, that's fine)

This may curdle the milk slightly. That is good -- makes for creamier sorbet, I think.

Freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can improvise -- freeze in a flat tray, stirring occasionally to keep crystals from forming, for example.


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S'More Fondue

My own invention! December 22, 2000. Please contact me if you want to publish this recipe in any way.

Melt together in a heavy, non-stick saucepan, stirring just about constantly:
one 7-ounce Hershey bar with almonds (you could substitute plain non-almond if you prefer)
about half a 7 1/2-ounce jar of marshmallow fluff

Thin with:
about 1/3 cup heavy cream

Keep warm in a fondue pot, or in some sort of heated container.

Serve with:
graham crackers for dunking
any other fondue dunks you'd like -- tangerine segments, angelfood cake, whatever -- though graham crackers seem to be the requisite classic; pretzels are fun too

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Fondue

Also my own invention, December 22, 2000. Please contact me if you want to publish this recipe in any way. I realize that it is embarrassingly simple!

Melt together in a heavy, non-stick saucepan, stirring just about constantly:
about half a cup of natural chunky peanut butter ("natural" meaning that peanuts are the only ingredient; you could substitute smooth)
about half a cup of good grape jelly (I recommend the "spreadable fruit" that contains no extra sugar or other ingredients; you could substitute other preserves, such as cherry, but Concord grape seems to trigger the right comfort-food sensibility)

Thin with:
about 1/3 cup heavy cream
about 1/3 cup wild-cherry-flavored brandy (or something similar to that)

Keep warm in a fondue pot, or in some sort of heated container.

Serve with:
fondue dunks: animal crackers, bite-size pieces of fruit, pretzels (waffle pretzels are especially good for dunking)

Copyright note: I have adapted all these recipes into my own words (which I am not copyrighting, though I hope you'll tell people where you found them). Lists of ingredients are in the public domain.

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Updated December 10, 2005

E-mail Nina Gilbert