Borscht

This recipe can be veganized and taste quite good, but it is simply heavenly when cooked with beef, and beef bones!! Borscht is, at its core, peasant food… made with whatever is on hand. The only real core ingredients are beets, cabbage, and potatoes! Just like chicken noodle soup in the United States, there are as many versions of borscht as their are Eastern European households. The following recipe is my absolute favorite way of preparing this soul-warming soup, but feel free to customize and adjust all the ratios to suit your taste and available ingredients. This version also produces A LOT of soup (to feed my whole family, and provide days of leftovers). Feel free to halve or quarter this recipe as necessary. For the best tasting borscht, prepare to have the pot simmering all day. Start the meat as soon as you wake up, and slowly add things through the day. Pro-tip: the flavors only get better after a day or two in the fridge.

-Small chuck roast, or any beef suitable for pot roast (WITH bones is preferable, as it enhances the flavor immensely. I often add beef short ribs or oxtail.)

– 4 fresh tomatoes

-entire head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

-4 bay leaves

-sea salt to taste

-12 to 15 small beets (try to gauge the equivalent if using larger beets. If you are a stickler for deep purple color, you will probably need even more beets!)

-gloves, if desired, to prevent hands/manicure from staining

-half a head of cabbage, thinly sliced

-3 carrots, peeled and chopped

-1 parsnip, peeled and chopped (may substitute with additional carrot if you don’t have parsnips)

-2 to 3 cups diced red potatoes

-2 standard plastic packages of fresh dill (or one medium-sized bundle)

-1 to 3 tablespoons caraway seeds, to taste

-water, as necessary, to achieve the consistency you prefer

-sour cream, for serving

-flavorful rye bread, for serving


As soon as you wake up, trim the meats of excess fat, and place into your largest stock pot. Pour in enough water to cover the meat, and a couple tablespoons of sea salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for several hours, or until the meat is extremely tender and almost falls apart when you try to remove it from the pot.

Once the meat is tender, remove from the pot carefully and reserve on a plate. Try to leave any bones in the pot (unless they are small fragments and could easily get lost and swallowed. In that case, remove now while they are still easy to find).

Peel the beets (I recommend using a vegetable peeler to make this easier), and grate them carefully with a box-grater. This is messy work, and you may want to wear surgical gloves if you don’t want your hands to get stained for a day or two. I also suggest wearing an apron, or clothes you don’t particularly care about. Add all the grated beets to the pot.

Puree the tomatoes and garlic in a blender until smooth, and add to pot. Add bay leaves. Stir everything together, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add carrots, parsnip, and cabbage. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste for salt, and add water if you wish.

Add potatoes, and simmer until they are cooked and soft, and all the vegetables are soft. Continue to adjust salt and water to your preference.

Shred the reserved meat and add as much as you prefer to pot. If you have a lot of meat leftover, the tender pieces can easily be used to make Sloppy-Joes, steak sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, or breakfast hash. Since it has simply been cooked in boiling salt water, it will have a mild taste and go well with many other recipes.

Stir to warm the meat back up, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Finely chop all the dill (you may include the stems if you wish), and add to pot. Add caraway seeds and stir.

Allow to sit off the heat for the delicate flavors of the dill and caraway to infuse.

Stir, and serve with a dollop of sour cream, and maybe even a thick slice of rye bread slathered with butter and topped with caviar!

 

 

Pork Breakfast Scramble

This recipe is as flexible as it is filling, and even though we use pork, almost any ground meat can be substituted. If you opt to use a different kind of meat, keep in mind you may need to use more cooking fat of your choice for frying. We get our ground pork from Cypress Grove Farm and Windhaven Farm, and the meat is naturally fatty, thus negating the need to use additional oil, butter, or lard. I find it convenient to dice and boil the potatoes in large batches, and store them in the fridge so they are ready for use on busy mornings. If you pre-cook the potatoes, this meal is quick to prepare and oh-so-satisfying.20181206_100449.jpg


half a pound ground pork

2 cups diced red potatoes, that have been boiled until just tender in salted water

3 eggs, mixed together with a pinch of sea salt

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

additional sea salt and pepper to taste


Heat a large pan, preferably a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, on the stove on medium-high heat. Once hot, add oil/butter/lard (depending on the fattiness of the meat you are using) to the pan, followed by the pork. If your pork is already high in fat, you may not require additional cooking fat. Stir occasionally as it cooks, and break it up into small, even fragments. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt, black pepper, and the sage and thyme towards the end of cooking, and stir to combine.

If you prefer your meat more crispy, make sure it is spread even in the pan, and do not stir frequently. Flip sections once or twice during cooking, and break up the meat when it is almost done.

Once the pork is cooked through, carefully spoon it onto a plate. Try to reserve as much melted fat in the pan as possible. Add more cooking fat if the pan is completely dry. You need roughly a tablespoon of fat in the pan before the next step.

Add the cooked potatoes to the pan, and saute them until they are warmed through, and golden on the outside. Cook to your desired crispness. As with the pork, if you prefer very crispy potatoes, spread them evenly in the pan, without crowding, and stir less frequently.

When the potatoes are browned to your liking, add the pork back in and briefly stir to combine. Add the eggs, and quickly stir everything together until all the elements are evenly combined and the eggs are cooked through. This only takes a minute or two.

Serve hot with orange juice, or some other sweet side dish.

This dish refrigerates and reheats very well. You may also like serving hot with grated cheese on top.20181206_1046581.jpg

Stuffing

If you follow me on Instagram, and especially if you frequently watch my stories, you have probably noticed I really have an infatuation for my homemade pain de mie (the best white sandwich bread you will ever be blessed to know, if you ever get a chance to try it!). While this recipe can be made with really any bread of your choosing, I love it most when it allows my homemade bread a chance to shine in a new form. Making a loaf of bread just to turn it into stuffing may sound like a waste of time and effort, but I am convinced that homemade bread, of any variety, has such a unique and complex flavor that simply cannot be replicated by store-bought varieties. But, like many things, this recipe is only good if you like it… so feel free to substitute whatever bread you prefer. Roughly the amount of a small loaf of sandwich bread. If you choose purchased bread, I personally recommend buying a loaf from Panera, if you have one nearby!20181117_175938


1 loaf of pain de mie, diced

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 sweet onions, finely chopped (leeks make a lovely substitution)

3 stalks of celery, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped

1 bunch of fresh sage leaves, finely minced

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 cup of dry white wine

1 bunch of flat leaf parsely, stems removed, finely minced

*1 cup of water

*2 teaspoons “Better Than Bouillon” chicken base

3 eggs


*the water and chicken base may be substituted for chicken broth


Spread bread cubes on a large baking sheet at slide into a 300ºF oven for about 30 minutes to slightly dry out. Stir every 10 minutes. This can be done in advance.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions (if using leeks, ensure they are thoroughly washed to remove all sand before cutting and adding), celery, and salt. Stir frequently, and cook until vegetables are soft. Add garlic, sage, and black pepper. Stir briefly, and quickly add only half of the wine before the garlic burns. Cook until wine is mostly evaporated, just a couple minutes.

Butter a large baking dish. Whisk chicken base into the 1 cup of water. Add all the contents of the skillet to the baking dish, along with bread cubes, parsley, remaining wine, and water with chicken base. Carefully mix all the ingredients. Whisk together the eggs, add to the baking dish, and thoroughly mix everything together.

Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 more minutes. If you prefer more moist stuffing, leave the foil on the whole time.

Collard Greens

Living south of the Mason-Dixon line, collard greens are an essential ingredient on any well laid winter table. Unlike most leafy greens, they are tough and difficult to eat when fresh. Also unlike most leafy greens, collards stand up famously to hours and hours of cooking. We like ours best with lots of apple cider vinegar, but you are welcome to adjust the proportions to your taste. Collard greens are very versatile and open for interpretation. The only non-negotiable ingredient is the collards themselves, and hours of gentle simmering.20181117_175956


2 large bundles of collard greens (looks like too much, but they shrink drastically!)

2 cups apple cider vinegar (you can add slowly and adjust to taste as you cook)

3 cups water

2 tablespoons sea salt (adjust to taste)

2-3 strips of cooked bacon, cooled and crumbled finely


Carefully rinse off all the collard leaves. Cut out the hard center rib. Stack several leaves on top of one another, roll into a tube shape, and slice thinly to produce long strips of leaves.

Pour all water and vinegar (in the ratio of your choice), salt, bacon, and collards to a large pot. If the greens are overflowing a bit, don’t worry. They will quickly begin to reduce in size and leave lots of room! Set the heat to high until the liquid boils, then cover and simmer for at least an hour, preferably two. Or three.

Did I mention how flexible this recipe is?

The collards are done when they are soft and very tender. You can continue to adjust your water and vinegar ratio as you cook. If you like them with lots of liquid, add more and keep the lid on. If you have too much liquid to your taste, remove the lid (and raise heat slightly to keep them simmering) and allow liquid to evaporate.

Spoon Bread

Spoon bread is a softer version of cornbread. Since it isn’t firm enough to cut and eat with one’s fingers, utensils are required…. spoons, usually… hence, the name! For a classic American Thanksgiving, corn must be featured on the table in some form. This recipe is our preferred way to partake in this custom. The photo used for this post was hastily snapped during our Thanksgiving meal, but I will remake this, and get a better photo soon.20181117_175949


3 Tablespoons butter (plus more for dish)

1 onion, very finely minced

2 cups water

¼ cup sugar

1 cup cornmeal (we prefer the yellow, coarse-ground cornmeal from Bob’s Red Mill)

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

5 large eggs

1 ½ cups heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350ºF, and butter a 2-quart baking, or souffle dish.

Heat butter in a medium saucepan. Saute minced onion until soft and translucent.

Whisk together the eggs and heavy cream.

Add the water,salt, and sugar to the saucepan, and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, slowly pour in the cornmeal, and stir constantly to avoid it forming lumps. Reduce heat to low, and continue to stir and cook for a couple minutes, until the mixture is very thick. Stir in the corn kernels, and mix well.

Remove from heat, and pour in the egg and cream mixture. Mix thoroughly. Once well-incorporated, carefully pour into baking dish, and carefully place in oven.

Bake until it is set, and the top is golden brown. You may cover with aluminum foil if you prefer the top to remain yellow, and avoid any browning.

Mini Pumpkin Pies

Pumpkin pie is a ubiquitous autumnal staple, and one that I have looked forward to every year when the crisp air arrives ever since I was a child. I’m pleased to pass this anticipation on to my children, and First-Born especially favors them (she has literally cried at the thought of missing a slice of my pumpkin pie, and she has cried with excitement while making it… her pleasure for this traditional dessert might actually surpass my own!). 20181030_154509.jpg

In order to blend with our dainty morsels on our afternoon tea table, I’ve begun baking mini versions of this classic. Perfect for occasions that require delicate finger-food, these pies can be baked ahead of time and stored in the freezer for unexpected guests, or as sensible portions when baking a whole pie is a bit overkill.


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½ can pumpkin puree (approximately 1½ cups)

¾ cup heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar

small pinch of sea salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon powdered ginger

pinch of ground cloves

pinch of ground nutmeg, with more for garnish

whipped cream, for garnish

1 pie crust (preferably my Tender Pie Crust)


Either pat pie crust dough into mini-pie or tart molds, or roll out and cut into rounds to fit your pan. If using the pat-in-pan method, the amount of dough per pie depends on the size of the pan(s) you are using. A ball of dough a little smaller than a golf ball is what works for me for each mini pie. Lightly flour your hands if you find the dough sticking to your fingertips.

Put crusts in the freezer while oven preheats (or about 15 minutes).

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Whisk together the pumpkin puree, egg, sugar, salt and spices together in a bowl. Add the cream and stir carefully until completely combined. When the crusts have finished chilling, pour spoonfuls of filling into each mini pie, to the level of the top of the crust. Mine take about an even tablespoon. If there is filling left over, I like to pour the remainder into ramekins and serve as a “pumpkin custard”.

Carefully slide into the 425°F oven, and bake for 7 minutes. Lower heat to 350°F and bake for 15-20 minutes more, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool, then gently tease the pies out of the pan with a butter knife or fingertip (this is easily done when using my recipe due to the generous amount of butter). Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream – yes, homemade is best, when possible – and a sprinkle of grated nutmeg.20181030_154940

Tender Pie Crust

Homemade pastry doesn’t have to be a chore. This recipe is so simple, and simply delicious, that I often deliberately look for recipes to use throughout the week that require a crust. Since developing this version, my husband has begun insisting that the crust is now the best part, and that he’d be happy to eat it on its own. No longer the forgotten edible wrapping for the filling, this crust steals the show. While this version can be tedious to roll out, due to its extremely tender quality, it can be done with care and patience (and frequent dustings of flour on the board and rolling pin while working). Most of the time, I simply pat the dough into the pan… a nostalgic reminder of a childhood spend molding clay and mock “dough”, and only roll out if I need to make an upper crust that can’t be patted into place with my finger tips. I recommend trying this recipe with my Mini Pumpkin Pies!20181029_132832

This recipe makes one pie crust. For pies requiring a bottom and a top layer, please double.

1 cup all purpose flour

¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 stick cold butter, diced

¼ cup cold water


Whisk together the flours, salt, and sugar in a bowl.

Add the cold butter cubes, and with clean fingers, break the bits of butter up and mix well into the dough. Continue breaking and mixing until the fragments of butter are quite small, and the whole mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Pour in the cold water, and mix with a spoon. Briefly knead with your had once or twice to ensure all the loose crumbs have been combined into the dough.

On a lightly floured board (you may want to consider lightly flouring your hands as well as you work), pat the dough out into a disk.

From here the dough may be wrapped in plastic wrap then sealed in a plastic bag for storage in the freezer, rolled out further for a pie crust, or patted by hand into your preferred baking container.

Bake according to the directions for the pie you are making.

Almond Biscotti

Biscotti is a delicious accompaniment to a perfectly brewed pot of coffee or espresso. One of my favorite ways to enjoy biscotti is as an addition to my espresso affogato (I will be doing an Instagram post later this week, but you get to see it first if you keep scrolling!). Unlike store-bought biscotti, which is frequently hard as a rock, my biscotti is dense and dry (deliberately designed for dipping into coffee to soak up the liquid), yet tender enough to not risk cracking a tooth. Biscotti can be made with many different dried fruits, nuts, and spices. I prefer mine to be rather simple so that each bite is mostly espresso-drenched cookie, with a subtle hint of complimentary flavor…. I use mine mostly as a vehicle for coffee, not as a cookie to be eaten on its own. Below is my favorite way to enjoy these crusty cookies.20180911_121139

Talk about a great start to the morning, right? Espresso affogato is simply vanilla ice cream with espresso poured over. I’ve been using this moka pot for years to brew my espresso and I highly recommend it. The ice cream I’m using is homemade (of course… what else did you expect?) and I followed the recipe for “Vanilla Bean Ice Cream” (in my opinion, it is more of a custard due to the use of eggs) that is in the booklet that came with my ice cream maker, which I have also used for years and highly recommend. Since I’m already making recommendations, I will add that I’m thoroughly enjoying my subscription to Victoria Magazine and am planning on renewing. Now for the biscotti recipe…


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3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (half a stick), room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons heavy cream

¾ cup sliced almonds


Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

Put the butter and sugar in a mixer (or use a hand-held mixer) and beat until pale and fluffy, about a minute or so. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and carefully add the eggs, extracts, and cream. Mix slowly and carefully until completely combined. Slowly add the flour mixture, and mix until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Gently mix in the sliced almonds.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Carefully turn out the dough onto the baking sheet, and flatten into a rectangle that is about a half inch thick.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway during baking time. When you remove from the oven, allow it to cool enough to handle without burning yourself, but leave the oven on.

Once cool enough to handle, cut into desired shapes (biscotti is usually cut into strips that are between a half-inch to one inch wide) and lengths. Arrange the cut pieces on their sides (so a cut side will be facing up), and return to the oven for about 8-10 minutes. Carefully turn the cookies so the opposite cute site is now up, and return to oven for another 8-10 minutes. If you prefer softer biscotti, bake for 8 minutes per side. If you prefer really dry and crisp, then bake for 10 minutes per side.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before storing. Biscotti can last for several weeks if stored in an airtight container. Dry biscotti will store longer than soft biscotti, so keep that in mind when decided how long to bake the slices.

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Pork Loin Roast

A good roast is an ideal main dish to serve for gatherings of family and friends. It gives you a large amount of hearty fare for minimal effort, fills your home with a welcoming aroma, and presents beautifully on the table as an edible centerpiece. This recipe calls for pork loin (NOT the same as pork tenderloin), and surprisingly little else. I love this recipe because it provides a long of bang for my buck, and gives me time to spend on more complicated side dishes or desserts. This recipe also provides its own gravy of deglazed au jus. Perhaps the only tricky requirement of this recipe is the necessity of a lidded, enameled cast iron cooking vessel. While Le Creuset is quite an investment piece in most kitchens, recipes like this show how worth it one of these dutch ovens is. If you don’t have enameled cast iron, a large lidded casserole can be used.


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Boneless pork loin (approximately 4lbs)

several tablespoons cooking fat of choice

1 large onion, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 heads of garlic, peels and chopped

several sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

sea salt and black pepper to taste

½ to 1 cup of flavorful Chardonnay of choice


If possible, salt the meat the day before you plan to cook, to allow more time for the dry brine to permeate the pork loin. (Roughly a tablespoon)

Preheat oven to 315ºF.

Heat two to three tablespoons of cooking fat on medium-high heat (I use a blend of half butter and half coconut oil) in an enameled cast iron dutch oven large enough to fit the pork loin (a skillet may be used if you don’t have a dutch oven) until the oil is quite hot, almost smoking. If you weren’t able to pre-salt, sprinkle sea salt and pepper to taste all over the meat, roughly a tablespoon. Thoroughly sear each side of the meat for several minutes on each side, until there is a rich golden crust all over. Remove to a platter.

If the cooking fat has scorched, you may carefully pour it out and put fresh fat into the dutch oven or skillet. Heat on medium, add onions, and cover. Saute for a few minutes until onions are fragrant and translucent. Add carrots, stir, cover, and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the pork loin back to the dutch oven, fat side up! (or transfer the carrots, onions, and meat to a casserole dish), and add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Cover, and slide into oven. Bake for about 2½ hours, or until the center of the thickest part of the roast reads 180-185ºF on a meat thermometer, and the meat is tender. Baste with the juices from the bottom of the dish a few times during cooking, and rotate the baking vessel every 30 minutes to facilitate even baking.

Once the meat is cooked, carefully remove to a platter, and cover in foil for 15 minutes. Pour wine into dutch oven, and simmer uncovered on the stove for about five minutes, or until slightly thickened. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pot and mix into the liquid to not lose any flavor. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Carefully strain all the contents of the pot through a sieve into a gravy boat, and gently mash the soft vegetables with the back of a spoon to release every bit of rich liquid.

Serve with baguette, rice, potatoes, or anything to catch every drop of the gravy. In the photo, I’ve served this pork loin atop a bed of Duchess potatoes piped through a piping bag.Roast Pork Loin

One Rack, Two Ways (with a homemade sauce)

Juicy racks of ribs are a staple at any summer barbecue, especially down South. For years, I prepared ours in the oven. As if the hot summer days weren’t hot enough, I had my oven running for hours on days we wanted this dish for dinner! The oven method did produce delicious results, and I will share the recipe below. A recent change, however, is my switch to the Instant Pot. Now I can cook ribs at any time of year (literally without even breaking a sweat!), and am able to cook them in about half the time. My Instant Pot version is also below. I’ve included both methods because not everyone has jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon (yet). Which method do you prefer?


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Oven Directions

1 rack of baby back pork ribs (about 4-5 lbs)

salt and pepper to taste.


Preheat oven to 400ºF. Pat ribs dry with paper towels, and season to taste with sea salt and pepper to taste. You may want to cut the rack into smaller sections to fit onto your baking sheet.

Once the oven has reached the cooking temperature, wrap the ribs snugly in two layers of aluminum foil. If you’ve cut them into multiple pieces, they may be stacked before wrapping.

Place on a baking tray, and back for two hours (or up to three) until very tender.

Unwrap the ribs, and carefully drain any excess liquid out of the aluminum foil packet. Arrange the ribs in a single layer, or prepare to proceed to the next step in batches.

Set your oven to broil, and place an oven rack in the upper third. You may place the rack even closer to the broiler but you must monitor closely to ensure splattering sauce or excess liquid doesn’t start a fire. Pour desired amount of sauce of your choice onto the ribs, and set under the broiler until the sauce is bubbling and browned in spots. Be very careful to monitor this step as it goes quickly, and burning is a real possibility. This step takes about five minutes depending how close you put the ribs to the broiler.

Remove, allow to cool, and enjoy (scroll to the bottom for the sauce recipe).


Instant Pot Directions

1 rack of baby back pork ribs (about 4-5 lbs)

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

Large splash of apple cider vinegar (depends on the size of your Instant Pot, about a quarter cup)

salt and pepper to taste


Place the chopped onions in the bottom of the pot, and then a generous splash of apple cider vinegar.

Cut the rack of ribs into smaller sections, if necessary, and pat dry with paper towels. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper, and stack in the pot.

Close the lid, set the vent to “seal”, and set the cook time to 45 minutes on High pressure.

Once the Instant Pot is finished, and it is safe to remove the lid, VERY carefully remove the ribs. They will likely be already falling off the bone, to lift gently. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Preheat the broiler. Broil following the final directions for the oven method: place an oven rack in the upper third. You may place the rack even closer to the broiler but you must monitor closely to ensure splattering sauce or excess liquid doesn’t start a fire. Pour desired amount of sauce of your choice onto the ribs, and set under the broiler until the sauce is bubbling and browned in spots. Be very careful to monitor this step as it goes quickly, and burning is a real possibility. This step takes about five minutes depending how close you put the ribs to the broiler.


Homemade Sauce Recipe

This sauce can be prepared quickly, while the ribs are cooking (either method)

3 tablespoons of butter (or almost half a stick)

1 large onion, grated

1 whole head of garlic, peeled and grated

1 ½ cups ketchup

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

¼ to ½ teaspoons powdered chili pepper (I use Indian chili pepper, but cayenne is also good)

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


I recommend pre-measuring the ingredients before starting, so you can quickly dump them into the pot before the onion and garlic burns.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan. Once hot, briefly saute the onions and then garlic (no longer than a minute as they will quickly burn since they are finely grated).

Add the rest of the ingredients and carefully stir to combine, and bring to a simmer.

Remove from heat. The sauce may be used while still hot, but allow to completely cool before storing in the refrigerator.20180709_184929