Peeling Hazelnuts

Coincidentally, the LA Times posted an article on peeling hazelnuts. For my chocolate hazelnut cookies, no need to fully peel the hazelnuts. Just toast, roughly chop, and remove lingering and flaky peels. However, if you suffer from OCD and want to remove the peel completely, read the following article and learn a simple method of removing hazelnut peel. Enjoy!,0,2337115.story

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

My nephew, Kian, will be celebrating his 7th birthday tomorrow in San Diego.  Coincidentally, he was born on the same day Peyman and I got together.  It’ll be Kian’s 8th birthday and my 8th anniversary with the man I now call my husband.  I wanted to make something sweet to bring to Kian’s birthday gathering, and I wanted to also serve whatever I make to Peyman for dessert this evening.
Peyman’s a lucky man.  Growing up and to this day, whenever he’s home, he’s used to having dessert after a meal.  An hour after a meal at his mom’s, she serves freshly baked soft chocolate chip cookies or Persian desserts to enjoy with our Earl Grey tea.  He loves her cookies.
After dinner tonight, I wanted to make him MY version of his mom’s cookies.  She uses an interesting ingredient, vanilla pudding, which makes it fluffier and softer.  But instead of making her normal chocolate chip cookie, I added a flair of flavor with toasted chopped hazelnuts and toffee bits.
I hope both Peyman and Kian enjoy their cookies!
1/2 C Unsalted Butter, room temp
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
1/4 C Vanilla Instant Pudding
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 1/4 C All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking soda
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/2 C Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 C hazelnuts (also called filberts), toasted, husked and chopped
1/4 C English toffee candy (recommended: Heath or Skor bar)
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
3.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, instant pudding, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture just until blended.  Depending on how large your egg is, you may need to use more flour to give the cookie more structure.  In case egg is very large and dough is loose, add one or two more tablespoons of flour. You don’t want runny dough because it will spread.
4.  Stir in chocolate chips, hazelnuts, and toffee.
5.  Using a standard-sized cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop dough onto a prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges, not longer than 10 minutes.  The tops will not brown.
6.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. (The cookies can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

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Persian-Style Basmati Rice and Tadik


This passed June, I married my best friend, Peyman.  In the early part of our relationship, about 7 years ago, a lot of friends warned me that his parents, being Persian (Iranian, being politically correct), would most likely not approve of me dating their son.  My Persian friends and coworkers told me, “Persians only marry Persians”.  My mom’s hair colorest even told her the same.
I almost didn’t believe them because not only do I find myself very good with older folks, when I sold real estate in Brentwood and Beverly Hills, an area densely populated with Persian-Americans, a lot of Persian parents would try to set me up with their sons.  I am not kidding.
Still, to be honest, on the day I was to meet Peyman’s folks, I woke up a little frightened.  To my delight and surprise, though, my friends were flat out wrong. It was a good day!  The first time I met my in-law’s (about 2 years into the relationship), they welcomed me with open arms.  What a blessing!  To this day, my mother-in-law gives the best hugs, calls me Eva, and always tells me, “I love you”.
Whenever Peyman and I are in town for the weekend, we spend one entire day at his parents’ house.  My father-in-law has a wonderful farm-like garden with trees and other plants overflowing the property.  I enjoy walking around the “farm”, checking out the chickens in the coop, talking to my father-in-law about the plants, and picking and tasting what’s in season.  It’s a beautiful experience.  I get to pick my own eggs, avocados, figs, pomegranates, citrus, beets, plums, persimmon, berries… whenever they’re in season.
While in the yard, my mother-in-law is usually in the kitchen, warming up food that she prepared for us in advance.  Her food is divine.  I love her food more than any Persian restaurant I’ve ever been to.  I’ve asked for her recipes, she told me the ingredients and the directions, but unfortunately, nothing comes out the same.  For that reason, I told her I want to visit her next week, to watch and record her cooking.  It amazes me that I’ve only been able to watch and help her cook rice.  But it’s a darn good rice.  It’s Persian-style basmati rice.  This is one recipe that I will share with you today.
Basmati Rice – Persian-style
Yield: 4 cups of rice
2 Cups Basmati Rice, uncooked
1. Just as you would cook pasta, fill a medium-sized sauce pot with water and salt it. Bring to a rolling boil, then throw in the rice, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
2. Drain the rice (I drain using a sieve or colander with very small holes – like the one from Ikea)
3. Taste it. If too salty, add a little water to rinse off salt. If not too salty, don’t rinse.
4. Put rice back into pot. Place pot on burner, on medium heat.  Add about a tablespoon or less of canola/grape seed oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pot.
5. Wrap the lid of the pot with a dishcloth, and cover the pot with the lid.
6. Keep the flame on medium heat for about 4 minutes, then bring down heat to low so the rice steams until fluffy.  Fluff with a fork if you wish.  This takes about 10-15 minutes for 2 or 3 cups of rice.  The end result is a crispy rice at the bottom of the pot or, in Farsi, “tadik” and perfectly steamed rice. My mother in-law flips the rice over in a serving plate and will sometimes add saffron water for color and a bit of flavor.
*Saffron water- in a coffee grinder, grind saffron. Add about a pinch-to-1/8tsp to warm water (less than 1/4c). Stir then pour over rice.
**Variation – of you want crispy potato on the bottom of the pan, cut 1/6″ sliced pieces of potato, add enough oil to coat bottom of the pan, then add one layer of sliced potato to the bottom of the pan, add rice back to the pot, on top of the potato. Wrap the lid of the pot with a dishcloth, and cover the pot with the lid. Keep the flame on medium heat for about 4 minutes, then bring down heat to low so the rice cooks and is steamed and fluffy.  Fluff with a fork.  This takes about 10-15 minutes for 2 or 3 cups of rice.  The end result, if you use a nonstick pot, is a crispy potato, in Farsi, “tadik” and Persian-style steamed rice.

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Apple Tart for Election Day


Rustic apple tart I made for Riva. Perfect thickness and size of crust.

Today is election day, a day when folks all around the country will stay up, long enough to learn of the election’s final results.  I’m so excited, I’m inspired to share a recipe to commemorate this special day.

If you ask any American, they’ll agree that there’s nothing more American than an apple pie.  If you know me, you know I prefer making beautiful tarts over pies.  Last week, I had an abundance of apples at home and since Halloween came around, I wanted to share my harvest in the form of baked treats for my loved ones.  I decided to make apple tarts for Riva’s family and for my in-laws.

Not having to use a tart or pie pan, these tarts, which I should call galettes, were so easy and fun to make.  Served warm with vanilla bean ice cream, I received rave reviews for days!


Here’s the recipe.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F


2-3 Pounds apples (good choices: Granny Smith, Pippin, Pink Lady, even Gala which I used this week and added 1/8 tsp to (gala only))

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

2 Tablespoons sugar

2-3 Tablespoons sugar mixed with 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon

10 ounce disc of pie dough (recipe to follow)


Roll out pie dough into a 14-inch circle. Brush off any excess flour and transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in refrigerator to it firm for about 10 minutes.

Peel, core, and slice apples about 1/4 inch thick. Toss with 1.5 Tablespoons melted butter and 2 Tablespoons of cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Take dough out of the refrigerator and pour apple mixture around the circumference, leaving a 1.4-inch border.  The apples should be about 1.5 layers thick. Fold the dough border over the apples.

Place in the refrigerator to firm up a bit.

Brush the folded dough border generously with butter and then pat the tops of the apples with the rest of the butter. Sprinkle the crust with sugar.

Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 45-55 minutes, until the crust is golden brown on the bottom. Slide off the pan and cool on a rack.


Tart and Pie Dough

Yields 2 10-ounce balls of dough, enough for 2 11-inch tarts or one double crust 9-inch pie

1/2 Cup Ice Cold Water

2 Cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 Teaspoon Salt  (omit if using salted butter)

12 Tablespoons (1.5 sticks) Cold Butter, cut into (1/4 inch) cubes



Measure out ice-cold water. Place flour and salt in a stand mixer bowl, fitted with a paddle attachment, and mix at medium-low speed. Stop mixer, add cold cubes of butter, mix on low, pouring the water (not ice) down the sides of the bowl, mixing for 30 seconds or less.  Keep adding water if the dough doesn’t come together (don’t want it too wet). Divide the dough in two, bring together each half into a ball. Wrap each ball in plastic and compress each ball, flattening into discs. Let rest, refrigerated, for 1 hour or longer. Before rolling out, remove from the refrigerator until malleable, but not soft. Choose a smooth and cool surface to roll out the dough. Dust the surface lightly with flour. Place dough on surface and dust the top lightly with flour. Roll a circle about 13-14 inches in diameter.



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