Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Jam-Filled Walnut Scones

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of

While on the subject of tea and scones, this is an awesome little recipe you’ll want to have in your teatime repertoire.  These scones are easy to make and fill the house with a delightful smell; they’re just the thing for those stay-in-your-jammies, wintery weekend mornings when you want to treat the family (and yourself!) to something special.


They look as divine as they taste; the little wedges with their jewel-toned centers add visual richness and texture to serving platters at teatime.





Jam Filled Walnut Scones

(Simply Scones)


2 c all-purpose flour

½ C finely chopped walnuts

¼ C granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled

2/3 C buttermilk (or 2/3 C milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ C strawberry or other preserves


Preheat oven to 400? F.  Lightly butter a baking sheet.


In a large bowl, stir together the flour, walnuts sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture.  With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla and stir to combine.


With lightly floured hands, divide the dough into two equal-sized pieces and put each portion into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured cutting board.  Cut each circle into 6 wedges.  Transfer the 12 pieces to the prepared baking sheet.  Dip the point of a sharp knife in flour and make a slit in the top of each scone, dipping the knife in flour as needed.  Carefully spoon 1 teaspoon of strawberry preserves into the sit in the top of each scone.  Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.


Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.  Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool.  Serve warm, or cool completely and store in a single layer in an airtight container.  These scones freeze well.


Makes 12 scones.

Posted November 4th, 2011.

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The Best Traditional Scones In The World

by Danica Waters

Right.  I know I’ve already published a really fine recipe for scones.  But I’ve gotta’ be honest and recommend that you scratch it, because THIS IS THE BEST RECIPE FOR TRADITIONAL SCONES.  Like, EVER. 

Surprises like this are what keep me fascinated with cooking:  just about the time you think you know what it’s all about, something new comes along that’s even better.  Here’s the back story:  the day before yesterday, we stopped in to my in-laws’ home for afternoon tea.  My mother-in-law, who always sets out a beautiful selection of homemade cakes and sweets to accompany the tea, was particularly excited about a new recipe she’d discovered.  Given that my mother-in-law is a fabulous Scottish cook, when she gets excited about a recipe (especially for something like scones), I pay close attention.

It seems that the author of this particular recipe took all the best elements of her Scottish grandmother’s scones and combined them with all the best elements of the official scone recipe of London’s world-renowned Savoy Hotel.  She nailed it.  These traditional scones are perfect in flavor, body and texture.  They are also beautiful to look at.

While you can easily substitute raisins for dried currants, I highly recommend using the latter if you can find them.  With the holidays coming, keep in mind that these scones would serve as a welcome accompaniment to a gift box filled with an assortment of fine teas, coffees, or even hot chocolate.  They are easily reheated and go equally well  served with butter and jam as they do served with a mild cheese (such as Havarti) and a bit of turkey or ham.




The Best Traditional Scones In The World

(by FRIENDLYFOOD, as seen on


1-1/4 C all purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/4 C white sugar

1/8 tsp salt

5 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 C dried currants or raisins

1/2 C milk

1/4 C sour cream

1 egg

1 Tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl.  Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it is in pea-sized lumps.  Stir in the currants.  Mix together 1/2 C milk and sour cream in a measuring cup.  Pour all at once into the dry ingredients; stir gently until blended.  Note:  overworking the dough results in terribly tough scones!!!

With floured hands, pat scone dough into balls 2-3 inches across, depending on what size you prefer.  Place onto a greased baking sheet, and flatten slightly.  Let the scones barely touch each other.  Whisk together the egg and 1 Tbsp milk; brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash.  Let them rest about 10 minutes.

Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops are golden brown (not deep brown).  Break each scone apart, or slice in half.  Serve with butter or clotted cream and a selection of jams – or even plain.

Note:  Scones can be reheated if not eaten promptly by wrapping in aluminum foil and heated through in the oven, or by simply cutting in half and placing in the toaster.


Posted November 2nd, 2011.

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Savory Mediterranean Cheesecake

by Danica Waters


Who says cheesecake is only for dessert?  This savory Mediterranean Cheesecake is undoubtedly as addictive as its sweeter cousin.  Not too rich, but substantial enough to satisfy, the rich flavor of Parmesan mingles with the mild tang of feta to hit all the right spots for all kinds of partygoers.  Unbeatable as an hors d oeuvre or as an accompaniment to soup or salad, it is also a visual showstopper, guaranteed to rock any buffet table it’s invited to.


This recipe is for 1 – 9 inch cheesecake, which will feed a rather large crowd.  Because it freezes extremely well, try making two smaller cheesecakes out of one batch.  Homemade Cracker Bread is a perfect accompaniment, and is also easily made ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry about on party-day.




Savory Mediterranean Cheesecake

(Fine Cooking Magazine)


1-1/2 C Panko Breadcrumbs

6 Tbsp butter, melted


3/4 C butter

¼ C minced green onion

¼ C chopped fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, or enough fresh spinach that has been chopped well and wilted to render approximately 1-1/2 C.

3 – 8 oz packages cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened

¼ C heavy whipping cream

4 large eggs

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

2 – 2.5 oz cans sliced black olives, drained

1 C grated good-quality Parmesan cheese

1 C crumbled feta cheese


Sour cream

Fresh chopped herbs


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.


In a small bowl, combine panko and melted butter.  Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (or use two 5-inch springform pans).  Bake 8 minutes.


In a medium skillet, melt ¾ C butter over medium high heat.  Add onion, parsley, and garlic.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender.  Add spinach, and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and set aside.


In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, cream, and eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Divide mixture evenly into two medium bowls.  Stir spinach mixture into one-half of cream cheese mixture.  Pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle evenly with sliced olives.


Stir Parmesan cheese and feta cheese into other half of cream cheese mixture.  Spread cheese mixture evenly over olives.  Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes (for 9-inch springform;  if using smaller pans, adjust time accordingly).  Let cool completely in pan.  Gently run a knife around edges of pan to release sides.  Cover, and chill.


Prior to serving, remove cake from springform ring.  Top with a light spread of dairy sour cream, and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.


Serve cheesecake at room temperature with assorted crackers (try homemade Cracker Bread)


Note:  Cheesecake can be made up to one month ahead!  Wrap tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap, and freeze.  Simply let come to room temperature before serving.

Posted October 27th, 2011.

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Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of Cornell University


By now, we should all be  familiar with the wildly popular Mexican version of a Seven Layer Dip.  This recipe is an equally delicious alternative, featuring the warm, fresh flavors of the Mediterranean for an exciting change of pace.

To round out a Mediterranean hors d’ oeuvres table, try serving this delicious dip along with a platter of Falafel balls, tzatziki, a gourmet selection of olives, and some baklava.



Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip

Serves 8

1-1/2 6-inch pita pockets, cut into 12 wedges, tops and bottoms separated  to make 24 wedges in all
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup loosely packed baby spinach, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 ounces)

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp Kalamata olives, finely chopped

1/2 medium tomato, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1/4 medium cucumber, peeled and finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint

1/2  C crumbled feta cheese


Make Pita Wedges:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the pita wedges in a single layer on a large baking sheet without overlapping the wedges. Lightly brush each wedge with olive oil; bake for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly crisp (the pita wedges will crisp more as they cool).  Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.


Make Seven Layer Dip:
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, process the chickpeas until coarsely chopped. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the lemon juice and process until blended. Add the water and pepper. Process until smooth.

Arrange the spinach on a serving plate. Gently spread the chickpea mixture on top, leaving a border of the spinach. Sprinkle the oregano over the spread. Arrange the tomato on the spread. Top, in order, with the cucumber, onion, olives, mint, and feta.  Serve with the pita wedges.

Tip: The pita wedges and chickpea spread can be made up to one day ahead. Store the pita wedges in an airtight container at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the chickpea mixture. The remaining ingredients can be chopped and stored in the refrigerator up to 8 hours in advance, but the dip shouldn’t be assembled until right before serving.

Posted October 26th, 2011.

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Baked Bananas With Cardamom and Cream

by Danica Waters

Most everyone has the “Three B’s” lying around their pantry:  Bananas, Brown Sugar, and Butter.  Cardamom, maybe not so much.  But it’s worth a wee trip to the grocery store to score some cardamom pods;  they’re inexpensive, and given the depth of flavor they add to this heavenly little dish, you won’t want to leave them out.
These warm caramelized baked bananas are delicious served all by themselves; however, they would go smashingly well served over vanilla ice cream, as well.  Served with crepes and a smear of unsweetened cream cheese, they’ll be the hit of your holiday brunch.



Baked Bananas With Cardamom and Cream


4 firm bananas

4 – 6 Tbsp brown sugar

¼ C unsalted butter

4-6 cardamom seed pods, husks removed and black seeds crushed

¼ C Toasted diced pecans, or more, if desired (optional)

½ C heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 450.  Place 2 Tbsp butter in a large baking dish and place in oven until butter melts.  Carefully remove dish from oven and swirl melted butter to coat bottom of dish thoroughly.


While butter is melting, peel and cut the bananas diagonally or vertically into 3/8-inch slices.


When butter is ready, sprinkle pecans over bottom of prepared baking dish.  Place banana slices on top and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar.  Bake 5 minutes.


Remove bananas from the oven, immediately sprinkle with the crushed cardamom,  remaining brown sugar, and butter.  Place back in oven until butter and brown sugar have melted, approximately 1 min.


Remove from oven.  Divide banana slices equally among individual dessert plates.  Pour a bit of cream around the slices and serve immediately.


Serves 4

Posted October 22nd, 2011.

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Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of


There are lots of recipes for sautéed green beans out there in the wild blue yonder.  Most of those recipes invite a whole lot of other ingredients to the party: tomatoes, wine, garlic, cream of mushroom soup, etc. – the list goes on and on.  It seems that somewhere along the way, we forgot that the good ol’ green bean can hold its own on the dinner table; its simple, spectacularly fresh flavor doesn’t need a lot of help as long as it’s treated properly.  Allowed to simply be itself, the green bean has all sorts of great things to offer:  Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Manganese, and a full range of beneficial B Vitamins, carotenoids, and antioxidans are but a few of its virtues.


This recipe is simple.  It features fresh green beans sautéed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until crisp tender, and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh lemon juice.  Exquisite!  .


An excellent accompaniment to Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce, these green beans go well with French and Italian cuisines, in addition to fish, poultry, and vegetarian dishes.  This preparation is so delicious, it might have you looking at that grayish green been casserole on the Thanksgiving menu in a whole new light.




Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil

(serves 4)


1 lb fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and patted dry

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

Kosher Salt to taste


Prepare beans, be sure they are thoroughly dry to avoid splatter when they are added to the oil.

In a wide, shallow sauté pan or frying pan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking.  Add green beans and cover; allow to cook for about a minute.  Beans should be lightly browned, but not charred – keep your eye on them.  Remove cover and allow condensation to run back into the pan; turn beans and cook another minute.  Once beans are browned a bit on all sides, add 2 -3 Tbsp water to the pan.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to steam until beans are bright green and crisp tender, approximately an additional 3 -5 minutes, depending on your preference.


Remove to a serving dish; squeeze fresh lemon juice over beans and season with Kosher Salt to taste.  Toss well and serve.


Posted October 20th, 2011.

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Chicken With Tarragon Cream Sauce

by Danica Waters (image courtesy of

If you are a stranger to cooking with Tarragon, here’s a fantastically foolproof way to get acquainted.   (Trust me:  you’ll be ever so happy you did.)

Called the “King of Herbs” in France, Tarragon is the primary flavoring of many of the sauces that form the foundation of fantastic French cuisine, such as béarnaise, rigavote and tartare.  It contains highly aromatic volatile oils which are unfortunately lost when the herb is dried; therefore, it is best to use Tarragon immediately after cutting from the stem, and after the cooking process to ensure the purity of its flavor.  While some heat will help to release its essence, be sure it is only exposed to heat for a brief period of time.


Because it’s best used fresh, Tarragon makes a spectacular addition to any kitchen herb garden; however, it does not perform well when started from seed.  Cultivated by cuttings and root divisions, it makes a spectacular living heirloom gift for family and friends. Got a Harry Potter fanatic on your gift list?  Here’s a tip:  Tarragon used to be referred to as little Dragon Mugwort.  Legend has it that, because of its dragon-like root structure, Tarragon was supposed to cure bites and stings of venomous beasts.  As a matter of fact, in France, Tarragon is called Herbe au Dragon.  Just think:  with a small pot, a Tarragon plant, and a fancy label, you’ll be giving a gift that will excite the imagination as well as the palate!  Score!  Be sure to give your Tarragon full sun and well-drained soil and it will happily enhance your finest potions… uh…recipes for years to come.

F.Y.I, of the two most common varieties (Russian and French), French Tarragon is the most widely used in culinary endeavors, primarily because it is a bit richer in flavor than its cousin, whose inferior flavor tends to the bitter side.  French Tarragon, on the other hand, has a sweet, oh-so-slightly tangy flavor with licorice (anise) overtones; it pairs beautifully with chicken, fish, vegetables, and eggs.  Happily, it happens to be the star of this incredibly easy to make, elegant, and over-the-top delicious recipe.




Chicken With Tarragon Cream Sauce

(Serves 4)


5 Chicken breast fillets, cut into ½ inch slices and lightly seasoned with white pepper

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh chopped fresh French tarragon

1 C cream or half-and-half

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste


Prepare chicken breast fillets and lightly season with white pepper.  Heat a large, shallow frying pan over high heat, add the oil, and stir to coat the pan.  Add the chicken, in batches, and cook each batch over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until chicken slices are golden brown.


When all the chicken is cooked, return all of it to the pan and stir in the chopped tarragon.


Add the cream and bring to the boil; boil for three minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.  Add the lemon juice and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Serve with buttered egg noodles and a crisp salad.

Posted October 19th, 2011.

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Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

by Danica Waters

When simple ingredients can be combined in a manner that inspires not just the palate, but excites the soul, this is the true magic of good cooking.  This salad is just that magical.  It is one of the crown jewels of my personal recipe collection.  The vertical presentation is visually breathtaking; the flavors and textures are nothing short of inspired.


While this simple salad is intended to be a first course, beware:  it is incredibly filling.   Be sure to judge your pear size according to the way you intend to serve this little culinary gem.





Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

(serves 4)


4 perfectly ripe, smooth-skinned (not overripe, not underripe) pears

2 C watercress

2 Tbsp toasted pecan pieces

1 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)

2 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Raspberry or red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Lemon juice



Gently wash pears with a natural fruit and vegetable wash; set aside.

Toss watercress with pecans, cranberries and gorgonzola; drizzle with salad dressing and gently toss to combine.

Core pears from bottom, leaving the stem intact.  Slice each pear in four horizontal slices; brush all sides generously with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

On individual salad plates, reassemble pears with salad mix in the middle and between each pear layer.  Drizzle with honey.

Posted October 14th, 2011.

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Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash

by Danica Waters


In the chilly autumn evenings, nothing beats the flavor and aroma of warm, baked squash.  While acorn squash is typically associated with winter squash varieties, it actually belongs to the same species as summer squashes, such as zucchini and yellow crooknecks.  Thankfully, the tough skin of an acorn squash allows it to keep for weeks in a cool, dark place, making it a favorite staple for the fall and winter months.


The best acorn squash should be approximately one to three pounds, and feel heavy for its size.  If the squash is any bigger than that, you run the risk of getting a squash that has been harvested too late in the season, which will render the squash tough and stringy.  Look for a squash that has a nice combination of green and orange coloring, that’s not too shiny.  If the squash is shiny and completely green, it’s been harvested prematurely.


Nutritionally, a one-cup serving of acorn squash comes in at a meager 115 calories and is packed with fiber, potassium, and magnesium.  That same one cup serving will also give you 2 grams of protein and 30% of your daily Vitamin C requirements, which makes it a very attractive alternative to, say, diet-killer mashed potatoes.  While acorn squash is traditionally baked and seasoned with loads of butter and brown sugar, this recipe features a figure-friendly basting with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


And F.Y.I.:  try roasting and seasoning the acorn squash seeds for sprinkling on salads.  They’re edible and delicious!




Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash


Acorn squash, figure on serving one-half of a squash per person

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Balsamic Vinegar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Wash acorn squash (see recipe for vinegar-based vegetable wash).  Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and long fibrous strands.


Sprinkle squash halves with kosher salt; place face down in a large roasting pan.  Add water to the pan to a depth of 1/4” and place in oven. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until squash is tender but still firm.


Remove from oven and allow to cool; slice squash halves into 1-1/2” sections on the bias and put back in the roasting pan, right-side up.  Brush each section generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and return to hot oven.


Bake five minutes; baste squash with balsamic vinegar.  Repeat process until squash is very tender and well-roasted.  Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.


Posted October 13th, 2011.

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Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

by Danica Waters


Having grown up under the influence of heavy-duty Southern Sensibilities and then steeped in the sweet civility of British living once or twice, I must admit that I have come to truly appreciate the merits of a good pound cake.  While most folks shudder at the thought of what a pound cake can do to a diet, I personally feel better if I’ve got three or four of them tucked away in my freezer for gift giving and emergencies.  And tea.

My Nana was famous for handing out pound cakes to visitors.  It was just what she did.  The mailman came with packages during the summer and received pound cake and lemonade to go.  Mothers would come to pick up their kids after a play date, and they, too, received some version of a delectable pound cake.   A cake walk or a bake sale at the school?  Yep.  Pound cake.  She always spoke to the fact that a good pound cake went with everything, was admired by everyone,  remained virtually indestructible during transport, and always showed up looking good at a party.  While that sounds more like a great travel garment than something you’d eat, go figure; I now find myself collecting great pound cake recipes, baking them in wee tiny pans and putting them away for gift giving, emergencies, and yes, afternoon tea.

This is a lighter version of a pound cake I found on Martha Stewart’s website.  It could easily be made with any type of jam, but is completely smashing with a  fresh blackberry swirl.  As a footnote, I chose to leave my blackberries crushed but not pureed, and the result was fantastic.  Super easy to make ahead and freeze, this is a great way to get a head-start on the holiday season.



Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

(Martha Stewart)


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. (Or, for a more rustic texture, simply crush blackberries and combine with sugar.)  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer half the batter to pan and dot with 1/2 cup blackberry puree. Repeat with remaining batter and puree. With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing.


Posted October 11th, 2011.

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