Tart cranberries and sour cream make pound cake sparkle

The Free Press WV

Pound cake is simple but elegant; it’s also incredibly rich. We thought tart cranberries and tangy sour cream would provide a welcome contrast to the buttery cake, and the bright cranberries would also contribute a burst of color for an extra-special dessert.

We wanted this pound cake to have a crumb that wasn’t quite as tight as a classic all-butter pound cake, so we used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour and we thoroughly creamed the butter.

While cranberries should add tartness, fresh cranberries can border on acerbic. To tame the sourness, we tossed coarsely chopped cranberries with confectioners’ sugar before adding them to the batter; this also prevented them from sinking to the bottom of the pan.

Baking the loaf slowly (for almost 2 hours) in a low (300 F) oven ensured that the inside cooked through before the exterior became too brown. If you’re using frozen cranberries, there’s no need to thaw them first. The ideal temperature for the eggs and butter is 60 F. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inches; if you use a 9-by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 5 minutes early.


Servings: 8

Start to finish: 2 hours 30 minutes

5 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour


1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons milk

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 14 pieces and softened but still cool

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar

4 ounces (1 cup) fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped coarse

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 F. Spray 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with baking spray with flour.

Whisk eggs and vanilla together in 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sift flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder into bowl. Whisk sour cream and milk together in second bowl.

Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down bowl once. Reduce speed to medium and gradually add granulated sugar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Reduce speed to medium and gradually add egg mixture in slow, steady stream. Scrape down bowl and continue to mix on medium speed until uniform, about 1 minute (batter may look slightly curdled). Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream mixture in 2 additions, scraping down bowl as needed. Give batter final stir by hand. Toss cranberries with confectioners’ sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt in bowl until evenly coated, then gently but thoroughly fold into batter.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan on counter to release air bubbles. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 3/4 hours to 1 hour 55 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours. Serve. (Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost cake at room temperature.)


Nutrition information per serving: 450 calories; 221 calories from fat; 25 g fat (15 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 192 mg cholesterol; 117 mg sodium; 51 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 33 g sugar; 6 g protein.

For a nutty, risotto-style dish, reach for the farro

The Free Press WV

Italian farrotto is essentially a risotto-style dish made with farro in place of the usual Arborio rice. Although it is made with a similar method, farro’s more robust, nutty flavor gives the dish new dimension. But because much of farro’s starch is trapped inside the outer bran, achieving a creamy, velvety consistency can be a challenge.

We tested making farrotto with pearled farro, which has had the outer bran removed, but the flavor was lacking and the sauce turned out thin. Instead, we turned back to whole farro and, to make the starch more accessible without losing farro’s hallmark chew, we ran the grains through a blender. After a few pulses, about half of the farro had cracked, freeing up enough starch to create a creamy, risotto-like consistency.

Adding most of the liquid up front and cooking the farrotto in a lidded Dutch oven helped the grains cook evenly and meant we didn’t have to stir constantly_just twice before stirring in the flavorings. We also created a variation with pancetta, asparagus, and peas, which turned this simple side into a satisfying main course. We prefer the flavor and texture of whole farro.

Do not use quick-cooking, presteamed, or pearled farro (read the ingredient list on the package to determine this) in this recipe. The consistency of farrotto is a matter of personal taste; if you prefer a looser texture, add more of the hot broth mixture.


Servings: 6

Start to finish: 1 hour

1 1/2 cups whole farro

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

3 cups water

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped fine

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Pulse farro in blender until about half of grains are broken into smaller pieces, about 6 pulses.

Bring broth and water to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and keep warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add farro and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.

Stir 5 cups warm broth mixture into farro mixture, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until almost all liquid has been absorbed and farro is just al dente, about 25 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.

Add thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until farro becomes creamy, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in Parmesan, parsley, lemon juice, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Adjust consistency with remaining warm broth mixture as needed (you may have broth left over). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.


Nutrition information per serving: 345 calories; 106 calories from fat; 12 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 11 mg cholesterol; 374 mg sodium; 44 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 13 g protein.

COOKING ON DEADLINE: Instant Pot Mediterranean Lamb Stew

The Free Press WV

Beef usually hogs the spotlight when it comes to stews, but there are plenty of other meats that can star in this quintessential, cold-weather comfort food. Pork, chicken and here, lamb, a big favorite of my younger son, Charlie.

This rich meat also takes well to many flavor combos, and in this recipe, some accessible, Mediterranean-inspired supporting ingredients turn the lamb into a truly delicious stew. If you are a chickpea lover, feel free to add a second can.

These instructions use an Instant Pot, THE appliance of the decade. The Instant Pot is a plug-in pot that performs as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker and a few other impressive cooking tools. In this case, you will first be using the saute function and then the pressure cooker function to cook a tender stew in much less time than it would take otherwise.

Don’t have an Instant Pot? You can also make this stew in a slow cooker. Just brown the meat in the slow cooker if it has a saute function, or if not, brown it and saute the vegetables in a pot on the stove, and then transfer everything to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients, and cook on low for 8 hours.

If you don’t have an Instant Pot or a slow cooker, no worries! You can do all of the sauteing in a pot on the stove, and then add the other ingredients as directed and cook the stew, covered, over low heat for about 3 hours until the meat is tender. Give it an occasional stir to make sure the stew doesn’t stick to the bottom. If you prefer to put it into a 300 degrees F oven after all of the ingredients have been combined, that works, too — this should also take about 3 hours. Give that a stir if you think of it every once in a while.

If you don’t have brandy, add a healthy glug of red wine instead. This is a soupy stew, and would be fantastic ladled over noodles of any kind or chunks of steamed potatoes.

So, whether you approach this old school, new school or somewhere in the middle, the cooler days approaching promise to be flavorful.


Servings: 6

Start to finish: 2 hours in the Instant Pot, 9 hours in a slow cooker, or 4 hours on the stovetop or in the oven

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 pounds 1-inch cubes lamb shoulder or lamb stew meat

2 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed, divided

1/2 cup sliced leeks

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup diced fennel

1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary

2 tablespoons brandy or cognac

1 (28-ounce) can diced or crushed tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 cups beef broth

1 bay leaf

Chopped fresh parsley to serve

In a large shallow bowl combine the flour, salt and pepper. Add the lamb meat and toss to coat it.

Place the inner pot into your Instant Pot. Press the Saute button, and then use the Saute or Adjust buttons (depending on your model) to select the “Normal” or middle temperature. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pot, and let it heat for 1 minute. Add the lamb in two batches and brown on at least a few sides of the cubes, about 2 minutes per side (if you want to brown all of the sides, go ahead, but it’s not necessary, and often the pieces of meat aren’t really six-sided “cubes”). Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a plate, add the remaining tablespoon olive oil if there is not oil in the pan, and repeat with the other half of the lamb.

Add the leeks, carrots, celery and fennel to the pot and saute without the lid on for 5 minutes, until everything is slightly tender. Stir in the rosemary, then add the brandy to the pot and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, bay leaf and lamb, and stir to combine.

Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing. Press Cancel, then press Manual or Pressure Cook and use the Pressure Level Button to select high pressure. Set the timer for 45 minutes. Note that the timer will not start to count down until the correct pressure has been achieved.

When the Instant Pot beeps, press Cancel. Let the pressure come down slowly for 30 minutes. Release the sealing valve, remove the lid and serve hot in bowls, with parsley sprinkled over the stew.


Nutrition information per serving: 652 calories; 376 calories from fat; 42 g fat ( 15g saturated; 2 g trans fats); 97 mg cholesterol; 928 mg sodium; 35 g carbohydrate; 9 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 34 g protein.

This Spanish-inspired seafood dish is a simple one-pot meal

The Free Press WV

This Spanish-inspired seafood dish is a simple one-pot meal. You can substitute halibut, sea bass, or haddock for the cod in this recipe.

Other varieties of hard, cured sausage (such as linguica) can be substituted for the Spanish chorizo; we do not recommend using fresh chorizo.

When shopping for saffron, look for dark red threads without any interspersion of yellow or orange threads, and be prepared for some sticker shock_they don’t call it the most expensive spice in the world for nothing, but its distinctive flavor is worth it.

You will need a 12-inch skillet with a tight-fitting lid for this recipe.


Servings: 4

Start to finish: 1 hour

4 ounces small red potatoes

1 onion

4 garlic cloves

3 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 bay leaf

4 (6- to 8 ounce) skinless cod fillets, 1 to 11/2 inches thick

Salt and pepper

1 lemon

Fresh parsley

1 loaf rustic bread

Slice potatoes 1/4 inch thick. Chop onion fine and mince garlic. Slice chorizo into 1/4 inch-thick rounds.

Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and chorizo and cook until onion is softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and crumble saffron into skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in clam juice, 3/4 cup water, wine, potatoes, and bay leaf and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Pat cod dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Nestle cod, skinned side down, into skillet and spoon some broth over top. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes are fully tender and cod flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and registers 140 F, 10 to 15 minutes.

While cod cooks, squeeze 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Mince 2 tablespoons parsley.

Carefully transfer cod to individual shallow bowls. Using slotted spoon, divide potatoes and chorizo evenly among bowls. Discard bay leaf. Stir lemon juice into broth and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon broth over cod, sprinkle with parsley, and drizzle with extra oil. Slice bread and serve with cod.


Nutrition information per serving: 238 calories; 109 calories from fat; 12 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 567 mg sodium; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 17 g protein.

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