Cranberry Orange Swirl & Nigella, Sesame & Pumpkin Seeds Challah

I hope you all had a Happy Chanukah and a Merry Christmas.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I was all about challahs this holiday season. First I made my fluffy, 'cotton candy' dough with a cranberry sauce swirl. Cranberries are one of my all time favorite winter ingredients. I don't have many photos of that batch other than the round one and sliced cranberry one on Instagram, with Wizard, aka Wizzy, lurking in the background waiting to pounce on a slice. It was featured on challah hub on IG which was super fun. Ah, you can also see the texture, shot with my point and shoot, in the third photo here. I suspect I sliced it as soon as it came out of the oven. I couldn't wait.

Greek Gigante Bean Stew (Gigante Plaki) with Sunny Side Up

First came my obsession with the gigante bean. What to do with it came next. The marinated buttery gigante beans, one of, if not my #1 favorite bean, always lure me into the olive bar at the supermarket. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why you can find them marinated but never for sale, dry, anywhere. That is until I saw The Washington Post's Greek Giant Bean Stew with Lemon Honey Sauce. Though a fine looking dish, I think perfect as a mezze for a NYE party, I knew I didn't want to make it this weekend, LOL. I wished to make a more substantial tomato sauce based dish. In the process, I found out through the Washington Post that a new Mediterranean grocer, Mediterranean Way, in DuPont Circle, DC, carries the gigante beans. You don't have to coax me twice, I always look for an excuse to get into the city.
Little did I know that one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Balkan Cooking by Benny Saida, has the perfect recipe. I do hope someone someday would translate this cookbook from Hebrew to English. I really do. It's such a treasure trove. You might remember this Wintery Balkan Cannelini Stew I made from Saida's cookbook back in February, 2012. The title of the recipe in Hebrew was transliterated 'גיגאנטס פליקי'. It took a moment to sink in, 'Gigante (gigandes) Plaki'. Basically a Greek gigante beans in tomato sauce cooked on the stove and finished off in the oven.  The dish is served as an appetizer.

Savory Pie Crust Za'atar Cookies & How to Cheese Board

If you follow me on Instagram you probably know that we spent this past Thanksgiving in Boston. It was loads of fun, but I suspect that since we were on the road I didn't get my Thanksgiving cooking and baking out of my system. When I got back, I kept playing with pie crust, one of my favorite Thanksgiving foods. Yes, pie crust all on its own.
Sini Fulvi Drunken Goat Cheese
I fell in-love with Kate McDermott's (The Art of The Pie) butter pie crust dough. In order to achieve the flakiness, and some call it a shortcut, I grated the chilled butter into the flour using a big hole grater. Then I worked the dough from there as instructed. I also rolled out the dough at first as shown in the directions here before finishing rolling it out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin.
Humbolt Fog Grande
Since I really wished to highlight the flaky pie dough, I brushed it with a bit of egg wash and topped it with za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix usually made with thyme, marjoram, oregano, toasted sesame seeds and salt. Za'atar can be purchased online or at Middle Eastern grocers. Some main stream supermarkets may carry it as well. You can top the savory pie crust cookies with sesame seeds, poppy or any spice mix or seed your heart desires.

Masala Chai Sable Cookies

I don't bake as many cookies throughout the year as I should. It's curious given how religiously I have my afternoon tea since the beginning of the time of the dinosaurs. And tea has to go with a cookie (I dig me Laura Numeroff's children books with the enchantingly whimsical illustrations by Felicia Bond).