Baking Holiday Cookies with Friends

At Macrina, we love baking and we love community. The annual holiday cookie exchange is a great example of this—each cookie a story, each an act of love. It’s a time to visit your neighbors and share good tidings. Not much tops baking family recipes with friends, but when you don’t have the time, Macrina has you covered. Our collection of 20 holiday cookies, sold in a reusable Panibois wooden baking box, will bring joy to your friends and neighbors. Each of the six delicious types of cookie has a story and a distinct flavor.

Read our blog to hear how one of Macrina’s partners, Michelle Galvin, has rekindled and nurtured dear friendships through an annual holiday cookie baking gathering and to learn more about our Holiday Cookie Box.

A few years after college, newly married and busy establishing a career, finding time to visit with dear friends was a challenge. In high school, Trina, Kerri and I would spend whole days together, talking every day. But now, despite the desire, we barely saw each other.

With Christmas approaching, we made a promise we’d start a new tradition: a holiday cookie party. We all loved baking and revered the neighborly tradition of the cookie exchange. What better way to reconnect than spending an afternoon sharing and baking family recipes together?

At the first gathering, Trina brought a vintage pizzelle maker. The family heirloom looked, uh, well-loved. It was easy to imagine the hundreds or thousands of thin wafer-like cookies it had produced over the years. Making 200 pizzelles alone would be a monotonous task, but the repetitive task of spooning dollop after dollop of dough into the rustic pizzelle iron with friends made it fun.  We laughed a lot and had plenty of time to catch up.

Next, Trina taught us her Nonna’s biscotti recipe, the best in all of Montecatini she’d claimed. Her “trick” was to toast the almonds before adding them to the dough. Nothing satisfies the need for crunch like biscotti do, and I loved hearing the stories of Trina’s grandmother.

Since only two baking sheets could fit in the oven at a time, we spent an entire Saturday baking. It was like old times, talking of matters big and small, remembering old stories and sharing new ones. And at the end of it, we each had a large box of cookies to share with our friends, neighbors and family.

We promised we’d do it again the next year. And we did. And the year after that, too. Sometime in the early aughts, one of us showed up with a special holiday cookie edition of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. We tried making her Chocolate Crackle Cookies. Soon our hands were sticky with chocolate dough. But they were so delicious straight from the oven—chocolate crack-le!—I worried we wouldn’t have enough to give away. Of course, they got added to the yearly event. Even after all these years, Kerri and Trina still debate whether they should be crisp or chewy and how long to bake them. I love them both ways—and both of them—so I sit back and enjoy the playful debate.

 

As we added cookies, we also added kids. Gingerbread cookies with bright white royal frosting and decorated sugar cookies made their way onto our cookie trays. With the many small helping hands, the mess grew exponentially. The number of hands helping clean up did not! But the kids were thrilled to help. Though some of them struggled just a little to part with the cookies, they were all proud to present their teachers with plates of cookies they’d helped make.

Not only did I catch up with my friends, but now we also traded parenting secrets and potty training strategies. Later those stories included the challenges of starting new schools, puberty and middle school, sharing the car keys with new drivers, and college tours.

Not that it was all free of tragedy. At one gathering, midway through the pizzelle making, Trina dropped the heirloom iron and it broke. (Thank goodness, it was her—not me!) We raced out to a fancy kitchen store for a replacement. It sufficed but didn’t make cookies anywhere nearly as good, or as beautiful. So, we took to eBay for a replacement, carefully inspecting images and bidding patiently. Three years later, we had not one but two vintage pizzelle makers—exact replicas—safe cover if the dropsies came over us again.

With more kids and more plates of cookies to assemble, the single oven was a bottleneck. So, we ventured down to the Macrina test kitchen in Kent. The kitchen had so much space and fancy ovens galore. We were like pros in there. In just three hours, we had plates and plates of cookies, and we’d barely broken a sweat! We realized that the point of the gathering wasn’t about speed and efficiency (although the convection oven with rotating racks that baked all our cookies evenly was amazing), but nurturing friendships of more than 40 years. We’re back to the two cookie sheets oven.

Fortunately, it is the exception when time and circumstance doesn’t allow for our annual event. The few times it has happened, all three of us were very grateful that we could count on the fabulous bakers at Macrina. Sure, we missed the time together. But we were still able to bring our friends, family and neighbors lovely gift boxes of homemade holiday cookies we could be proud of.

Macrina Holiday Cookie box is an assortment of 20 cookies bundled in a reusable Panibois wooden baking box. It contains:

2 Gingerbread

3 Chocolate Crinkle

3 Mexican Wedding Balls

4 Cranberry Orange Almond Biscotti

4 Pecan Rosemary Shortbread

4 Rugelach

December Recipe of the Month: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

This lighter variation of our pumpkin pie practically floats. The fluffy texture comes from separating the eggs and folding the stiff whites into the batter. A topping of whipped cream adds to the feeling that you’re lifting an airy pumpkin dream to your mouth. At Macrina, butternut squash is the not-so-secret ingredient in our pumpkin pies. Simply put, we think pumpkin pies taste better with a dollop of roasted butternut squash. In this recipe however, butternut squash can replace the pumpkin altogether. We hope the cloud-like combination of sweetened squash, crystalized ginger and buttery graham cracker crust becomes an annual holiday tradition.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 8-10

6 ounces graham crackers (2 cups), crushed in food processor

1/2 cup coconut our

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 cups roasted butternut squash, puréed (or substitute a 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée)

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon + 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons crystalized ginger, medium dice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 packet powdered gelatin (1/4 ounce)

1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

Garnish

1 tablespoon crystalized ginger, thinly sliced

Sugared cranberries or pomegranate seeds

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F and center the oven rack.

In a medium bowl, add the crushed graham crackers, coconut flour and melted butter. Mix well with a spoon. Press the mixture into a 9″ pie pan so that the edges and base have a uniform thickness. Bake for 5-10 minutes until edges are golden brown. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the puréed butternut squash (or pumpkin), maple syrup and vanilla extract. Set aside.

Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a medium bowl and the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Place a medium bowl over a saucepan filled with 2″ of water (or use a double boiler). Add the milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, crystalized ginger, nutmeg and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Add the powdered gelatin and whisk to combine.

Add 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Continue adding the milk mixture in 1/4 cup increments until it’s all added. Return the incorporated mixture to the double boiler over medium heat and whisk for 3 minutes to thicken the custard. Stir in the squash purée and cook for another 3 minutes to evaporate any excess water from the squash.

Transfer the pie filling to a clean bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes, giving it an occasional stir.

Whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until they look foamy. Gradually add 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar and whip until the whites are gently firm.

Fold the egg white mixture into the cooled pie filling. Ensure that it’s uniformly combined before pouring the mixture into the prepared graham cracker shell. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream. As the mixture starts to firm up, add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.

Top the pie with the sweetened heavy cream. It is best if you chill the pie for another 2 hours before serving to let the whipped cream set up. For a festive presentation, garnish with crystalized ginger and sugared cranberries or pomegranate seeds. Enjoy!

 

Macrina Bakery’s New Cookbook: Seasons

With two beloved cookbooks covering many of our most popular breads and pastries, why did we produce a third? Well, after 25 years of creating impassioned dishes—savory and sweet—for customers at our five Seattle area cafés, we kept hearing, Can I get the recipe for that?

This compilation of customers’ favorite new dishes and desserts from the Macrina kitchen is organized around the many seasonal delicacies of the Puget Sound. The easy-to-follow recipes feature big flavors and beautiful food. Local photographer Jim Henkens spent many days at Leslie Mackie’s farm on Vashon Island capturing the spirit and flair of these well-tested recipes and the rural beauty that serves as Leslie’s inspiration.

Leslie Mackie opened Macrina Bakery in 1993 to share her joy of artisan baking. Her passion shined through the hand-formed breads and pastries, and when she opened the cafe shortly after that, it shined in the soups, sandwiches and other savories.

A decade later, when she moved to a rustic farm on Vashon Island, a short ferry ride away from Seattle, her connection to sustainable farming and seasonal produce deepened. Vashon is a lightly populated island of hills, twisty backwoods roads, forests and sprawling meadows. Free-range eggs, berries and freshly picked produce beckon passersby from roadside self-serve farm stands. Payment is frequently on the honor system. During the growing season, a bustling farmers market in the small town overflows with some of the best food grown in the Pacific Northwest.

Leslie enthusiastically gathers friends around great food. Most of the cookbook recipes first debuted at meals with the farmers, chefs, bakers, teachers and food lovers who make up Leslie’s community. When one of the new dishes hit a particularly high note, Leslie added the recipe to her notebook. After they were refined and tested, they were shared through Macrina’s recipe-of-the-month newsletter.

Macrina Bakery’s Seasons is a compilation of the best. Each recipe is rooted in the distinctive foods of spring, summer, fall and winter in the Pacific Northwest. Leslie designed the recipes for the home cook. Most use easy-to-find ingredients, and for rarer items, she has provided suggestions for substitutions. Except for a few, you should be able to prepare the recipes in less than an hour so that you can spend time with your guests enjoying a taste of the good life.

November Recipe of the Month: Autumn Breakfast Stew

Vegetable stew for breakfast? This flavorful dish will help power you through the day. Chickpeas and lentils meld with fall vegetables in a garlicky za’atar-flavored tomato sauce. A healthy dash of olive oil, fresh avocado and eggs add protein and nourishment. Mama Lil’s peppers add some zip. No wonder this is such a popular brunch item at our cafés. You can adjust the legumes and vegetables as the seasons change. Serve it with a piece of crusty bread and enjoy a healthy start to your day.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4

½ medium-sized Delicata squash

1 medium zucchini squash

2 red bell peppers

½ cup olive oil, divided

4 tsp za’atar spice, divided

1 tsp kosher salt, divided

1 large leek, thinly sliced

2 tsp garlic, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, medium dice

1 cup dried lentils

2½ cups water

1 cup chickpeas, canned or precooked

1 cup apple cider

¼ cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

8 eggs

1 avocado, peeled and quartered

16 slices Mama Lil’s Sweet Hot Pickled Peppers

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Remove the stem and base of the Delicata squash, then halve the squash and scoop out the seeds (refrigerate one half to use for another dish). Cut the squash into ¾” squares and toss with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, ¼ tsp salt and 2 tsp of za’atar. Spread the seasoned squash on one-third of the prepared baking sheet.

Cut the zucchini into ¾” squares and toss with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, ¼ tsp salt and the final 2 tsp of za’atar. Place on the middle third of the baking sheet.

On the final third of the baking sheet, place the 2 red bell peppers. Brush the exterior with 2 Tbsp of olive oil and season with salt.

Roast the squash, zucchini and bell peppers for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and golden brown. Allow the vegetables to cool for 20 minutes, then peel the bell peppers. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds, then coarsely dice them. Set aside

In a large saucepan, place the final 2 Tbsp of olive oil and sauté the leeks over medium-high heat. Cover to sweat the leeks. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes and garlic, simmer for another 3 minutes. Add the lentils, water and ½ tsp salt. Simmer for 30 minutes to cook the lentils.

Add the roasted peppers, delicata squash, zucchini, chickpeas and apple cider to the large saucepan. Simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes to marry the flavors. Add the Italian parsley and stir to combine.

Divide the stew between 4 plates and start preparing the eggs.

Warm a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and crack 2 eggs into the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook to your doneness preference. Top the stew with the eggs and any extra olive oil in the pan. Garnish the plate with a quarter of the sliced avocado and 4 slices of Mama Lil’s Peppers. Repeat for the other 3 plates. The eggs cook quickly, and the stew holds its heat, so all 4 plates will come out warm.

Serve with a slice of Macrina’s Skagit Sourdough toast (our preference), or another hearty loaf.

October Recipe of the Month: Creamy Mushroom & Chicken Bread Soup

It’s high time to bring this retro favorite back into style! Our Mini Macrina Casera Loaf is the perfect size for making bread bowls and is crusty enough to contain the soup. The lovely texture of this creamy chicken and mushroom soup is created by puréeing the broth with some of the bread you remove to make the bowls. Homemade stock makes this crowd-pleaser even more flavorful.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4

4 Mini Macrina Casera loaves (8 ounces each)

1/2 cup olive oil, divided

4 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped, divided

8 ounces chicken breast

3/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

3/4 cup carrots, peeled and finely chopped

3/4 cup celery, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1/2 cup white wine

8 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup (2 ounces) Gruyère cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS

Cut a 1″ deep circle, about 4″ to 5″ in diameter, across the top of each Mini Macrina Casera loaf. Then cut beneath each circle to create a lid for the soup bowls. Using your fingers or a spoon, carve out the center of the loaves, leaving the edges about 1/2″ thick. Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the bread you’ve removed, and reserve it for adding to the soup. Brush approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil inside each bread bowl and on the underside of the lids. Set the bowls aside.

In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon of thyme. Brown the mushrooms then remove and set aside. In this same pan over medium-high heat, brown the chicken breast on each side for 2 minutes and then set aside. It will finish cooking in the soup base, so the browning here is just to develop flavor.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for 2-4 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, rosemary and remaining teaspoon of thyme. Continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add the white wine and simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add the chicken breast, chicken stock and the reserved bread. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken breast and let cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper.

Pour the soup mixture into a food processor. Do not fill it higher than the top of the blade. Secure the lid and purée the soup. Repeat in batches until you’ve puréed all the soup. Alternatively, if you have an immersion blender that works as well.

Over medium heat, return the soup to the saucepan and add the heavy cream.

Coarsely chop the chicken breast and sautéed mushrooms. Add them to the soup and let cook for another 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the oiled bread bowls and lids on the prepared baking pan and bake for 5 minutes.

Fill the bowls with soup and top with Gruyère. Carefully return the baking sheet to the oven for 3 minutes to melt the cheese. Serve each bread soup bowl topped with its lid. The crispy lid makes for a great soup dipper and don’t forget to enjoy the bowl itself once you’ve spooned out all the soup. It’s delicious!

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September Recipe of the Month: Peach & Raspberry Crumb Pie

Peach and Raspberry Crumb PieSweet peaches and tart raspberries harmonize in this juicy marriage of pie and crumble. A flaky pie crust cradles the tender fruit and a buttery almond-laced crumb gives the top a gentle crunch. Take this to your next picnic or backyard barbecue and you’ll be scribbling out the recipe for everyone—it’s that delicious. Buy a good pre-baked crust or make your own by following our Flaky Pie Dough recipe. This crumb pie is best enjoyed the day you bake it, but next-day leftovers will not go to waste!

INGREDIENTS

Makes one 9″ pie | Serves 8

4 ripe medium peaches (approximately 6 cups cut fruit)

2 pints fresh raspberries (approximately 3 cups)

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, divided

3/4 teaspoon almond extract, divided

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2/3 cup light brown sugar

2/3 cup sliced almonds

4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled & cut in 1/4″ cubes

1 pre-baked 9″ pie shell

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Cut an X on the bottom of each peach, just breaking through the skin. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Blanch the peaches in the boiling water until the skin around the X starts to curl back, about 2-3 minutes. Test one to be sure the skin pulls back easily. If so, use a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches to the ice bath.

Once cool, peel the peaches and cut them into 1/2″ wedges. In a medium bowl combine the peaches, raspberries, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Combine gently, being careful not to crush the raspberries. Allow to rest for 1 hour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place the remaining 3/4 cup flour, light brown sugar, sliced almonds and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. With the mixer running at low speed, add the butter a cube at a time. Continue mixing for 4-5 minutes until the flour mixture is a coarse crumbly texture. Set the crumb topping aside.

Set a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the fruit mixture into it. Allow the juice to drain for 2 minutes. Add the strained fruit to the pre-baked pie shell and level with a spatula. Pour 1/4 cup of the drained fruit juice over the fruit. Discard the remaining juice or use for another purpose. Evenly distribute the crumb topping over the pie.

Place the pie on the lined rimmed baking sheet and place on the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 80-90 minutes. The pie should be bubbling up around the edges and golden brown on top.

Let cool for 1 hour before serving. Enjoy!

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August Recipe of the Month: Blueberry Chipotle BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Local blueberries are bountiful and in peak form right now. They add a tart sweetness to this mildly spicy BBQ sauce and give it a beautiful deep purple hue. The frozen blueberries will break down into the sauce while most of the fresh ones retain their form. The refreshingly zesty summer vegetable slaw gives the sandwich a cool crunch that lends balance to the assertive flavors of the grilled chicken. Serve this sandwich with a favorite potato salad or handmade roasted potato fries.

INGREDIENTS

Makes 4 sandwiches

BBQ Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup sweet onion, small dice
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic, finely diced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1-1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons brewed espresso or rich coffee
4 skinless chicken breasts

Summer Vegetable Slaw
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 ear white corn, kernels cut off cob
3/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

Assembly
4 Macrina Ciabatta Burger Buns
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) mayonnaise

DIRECTIONS

BBQ Sauce
Add the olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, paprika, chipotle, black pepper and salt. Cook for 1 minute, then add both the fresh and frozen blueberries. Cook for 3-5 minutes to break down the berries. Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to help. You want some whole fruit and some to break down into sauce. Add the brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire, ketchup and coffee. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until reduced. Let cool to room temperature.

Marinate the chicken breasts in 1-1/2 cups of the BBQ sauce. Cover entirely and refrigerate overnight.

Summer Vegetable Slaw
Prepare this slaw at least 30 minutes before assembling sandwiches. In a medium bowl, add the mayonnaise, sherry vinegar, lime zest and juice, honey and salt. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the cabbage, sweet onion, corn kernels and cilantro. With tongs, toss the ingredients together to fully coat the cabbage. Check for seasoning and add cracked black pepper to taste. Refrigerate until needed.

Grilling & Assembly
Preheat grill to 400°F.

Slice the Ciabatta Burger Buns in half and brush each side with olive oil. Set aside.

Brush the grill with oil. Place chicken breasts on grill and cook for 6-8 minutes on each side (to mark the chicken with hatch lines from the grill, rotate a quarter turn halfway through the grilling of each side). When done, chicken should reach 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove breasts and let rest for 3 minutes.

Grill the buns cut side down, watching carefully to ensure they just caramelize and don’t burn.

Lay the toasted buns on each plate. Spread a tablespoon of mayonnaise on each top bun. Add a generous amount of slaw to the bottom bun, approximately 1/2-3/4 cup. Cut the chicken breasts into 1/2″ slices and arrange over the slaw. Top the chicken with 1 tablespoon or more of the BBQ sauce. Cover each with its top bun and enjoy!

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June Recipe of the Month: Ricotta Panna Cotta with Local Strawberries

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This recipe is in honor of Gina DePalma, the acclaimed pastry chef from Babbo restaurant in NYC. Her book, Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen, inspires a reverence for simple recipes. Too often chefs over complicate dishes to make them more worthy. Sometimes less is more, a philosophy central to much of Italian cuisine. This recipe embraces straightforward preparations and quality ingredients. Good cream will really stand out, for panna cotta is one of the world’s most delightful versions of cooked cream. Sweet Washington strawberries and a Macrina Walnut Anise Wafer are perfect complements to this eggless custard.

Ingredients

Makes 6 servings

RICOTTA PANNA COTTA

1 cup whole milk ricotta

1 cup whole milk, divided

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 packet powdered gelatin (1/4 oz)

STRAWBERRY TOPPING AND ASSEMBLY

10 strawberries

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 package of Macrina’s Walnut Anise Wafers

Directions

Place the ricotta and 1/2 cup of the milk in a medium bowl and whisk to dissolve the lumps. Add the sugar, gelatin and heavy cream to a medium saucepan. Cut vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape the seeds out with a paring knife. Add the seeds and bean to the heavy cream. While whisking constantly, warm mixture just to the boiling point, then turn off the heat. Gradually pour the heavy cream mixture into the ricotta mixture and whisk to combine well. Remove the vanilla bean and strain the mixture through a fine cheesecloth or mesh strainer. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and mix to combine. Divide the mixture between 6 sorbet glasses or stemless wine glasses. Place in the refrigerator for 4 hours to set.

Finely dice 9 of the strawberries and place in a medium bowl. Cover with the sugar and sprinkle in the sherry vinegar. Mix well and let sit for 1 hour before serving. Thinly slice the remaining strawberry into 6 rounds. Top each panna cotta with a strawberry round, a spoonful of sweetened diced strawberries and a sprinkle of oregano. Serve with a wafer cookie and enjoy!

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Lamb Meatball & Cabbage Soup

There’s just something about hot soup that satisfies the soul on those long dark evenings of winter and early spring. I often keep a stockpot simmering, making rich broth from leftover bones and vegetables. I use it for light and refreshing soups meant to tease the appetite, and some (like this one) that are nourishing, hearty meals all on their own.

Classic Italian wedding soup often features the “marriage” of meatballs with greens. My recipe takes this wholesome marriage to heart and gives a nod to St. Patrick’s Day by combining lamb and cabbage. The meatballs add richness to the flavorful broth, while the cabbage adds sweetness. There’s nothing better on a chilly evening than dipping a slice of buttered crusty Macrina bread into this lovely soup. No one will believe you spent less than an hour making it!

Ingredients

Serves 5

Meatballs

1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs

Soup and Assembly

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup shallots, finely diced
2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
4 cups green cabbage, thinly sliced
6 cups chicken stock
Cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1 Macrina loaf

Directions

Meatballs

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Add all the meatball ingredients to a medium bowl. Mix with a spoon until thoroughly combined. Scoop out 20 meatballs that are about 1-1/2″ and place them 2″ apart on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden brown in color and firm to the touch. Let cool while you prepare the soup.

Soup and Assembly

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 2 minutes. When the shallots are translucent in color, add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for 3 minutes until the tomatoes begin to break down. Add the cabbage and cook for another 3 minutes to sweat the cabbage. Add the chicken stock and cracked black pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface of the broth. Add the meatballs and cook for another 10 minutes.

Divide meatballs (4 per bowl) and soup between the 5 bowls. Garnish with mint and serve with your favorite crusty Macrina loaf. Enjoy!

A Valentine’s Day Treat: Chocolate Cherry Almond Heart Bread

Chocolate Cherry Almond Heart Bread

One of my favorite things about Valentine’s Day is that we get to make our Chocolate Cherry Almond Heart Bread. This bread is inspired by a Greek Christmas bread I began baking in Macrina’s early days. It has evolved into one of my favorite Valentine’s Day gifts. The aroma coming from our ovens while it is baking is irresistible— sweet and buttery mixed with the scent of cherries and bittersweet chocolate, and that hint of brandy is the kicker. We bake the golden-brown bread in the shape of a heart. I warm it up slightly before serving and have difficulty restraining myself from eating the whole loaf.

For those who don’t eat the entire thing in one sitting, or are looking for how best to use this bread, I have a few suggestions:

Chocolate Cherry Almond French Bread

1. This loaf makes incredible French toast served with fresh raspberries, maple syrup or a drizzle of chocolate ganache and slightly sweetened whipped cream.

2. Sauté one-inch slices with butter until caramelized to a golden brown. Serve warm drizzled with chocolate ganache and slightly sweetened whipped cream.

3. For a decadent dessert, toast one-inch slices and serve them with rich chocolate or vanilla ice cream and top with plumped dried cherries and drizzle of chocolate sauce

4. For a savory treat, cut half-inch slices and sauté in butter to golden brown and top with a slice of brie. The heat of the bread will warm the brie.

Our Cherry Almond Heart Bread is available at our cafés through Valentine’s Day.

Enjoy!

Leslie