Cherry Vanilla Scones Make a Great Breakfast (or anytime) Treat

Cherry Vanilla Scones

Tony and Gio are big fans of American coffee house scones, and a recent purchase of some lovely dried Bing cherries from Trader Joe’s has inspired me to play around with my recipe to make these gorgeous Cherry Vanilla Scones.

American scones are usually sweeter than their British counterpart and are often enjoyed as a morning pastry, while British scones are typically served at tea time. And, while the Brits enjoy slathering their tea scones with heaps of butter and cream, over here we put those ingredients right inside our scones.

American scones are essentially a type of quick bread, like their other cousin, the southern biscuit, but they benefit from the addition of sugar and often an extra ingredient, or two, like dried fruits or chocolate chips. For practical purposes, (and in no disrespect to any British readers), I will refer to them from this point on simply as scones.

I confess that, until recently, I never quite understood the big attraction to scones, but, since I love baking and my guys love scones, I set out a couple years ago to find the perfect scone recipe. After trying out several versions, I’ve learned a few things along the way and have come to regard the scone with new respect.

First, (and best, in my opinion), scones are really easy to make, requiring basic pantry staples and very little skill. In fact, they are just another incarnation of flour, butter, sugar and cream, with a little bit of salt and baking powder thrown in for good measure. If you’ve ever found scones difficult to make, I urge you to try this recipe.

Next, scones are incredibly versatile. You can make them plain, or enhance them with a variety of add-ins like dried fruits, fresh fruits, chocolate chips, and nuts. Currants, raisins and cranberries are common add-ins, but we’ve also used dried strawberries and today’s special feature, dried cherries. I also like to throw in half a teaspoon of lemon or orange zest, just enough to brighten up the flavor without taking over.

Fresh berries can also be heavenly in a warm scone, and Gio loves to pick raspberries straight from our garden when they are in season. The extra moisture from fresh berries may alter the texture of the scone just a bit, so be careful when adding them to the dough and gently fold them in. Don’t worry, they may look slightly different but they will still taste amazing. You could even reduce the amount of sugar to just one tablespoon and make a savory scone, with add-ins like aged cheddar cheese and chives.

There are a few key factors to know when making scones, and I cannot stress enough the importance of using cold butter, which creates wonderful steam pockets while baking. This enhances the overall texture of these scones, which are crispy-crumbly on the outside, and melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside.

To ensure this result, I cut the butter into ¼-inch cubes and place it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before using, and once the scones are ready to bake I’ll place them in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes before putting them in the oven.

Cut scones into wedges

Another tip for success is to handle the scones as little as possible, which is why I prefer to cut them into wedges versus other shapes. I’ve found that shaping the dough in a round cake pan first allows me to get consistent portions with minimal handling, but you can shape it by hand, too.

Tony likes his scones plain, while Gio prefers his with a simple glaze over the top. I love that I can fill my freezer with them, baked or unbaked, and have a favorite treat on hand for breakfast or an after-school and work snack.

CLICK HERE for the Cherry Vanilla Scones RECIPE

Drizzle with glaze

Tony’s Featured Recipe: Caprese Orzo Salad

Caprese Orzo Salad This morning on North Dakota Today, Tony featured the recipe for one of our favorite summertime salads, Caprese Orzo Salad. To watch his video demonstration, CLICK HERE.

The small, oval-shaped orzo noodles add uniqueness and elegance to this pasta salad, making it stand out from more traditional versions. Tony tosses the pasta with halved grape tomatoes, torn basil, cubes of fresh mozzarella and a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Toasted pine nuts are used to garnish, and voila – the perfect summer salad is born.

Caprese Orzo Salad ingredients (640x480)

This salad can be made a day in advance, and is perfect for graduation parties, barbecues and picnics. We love to serve it with walleye or grilled chicken, but it’s so versatile it will go with anything. Simple, easy, elegant and delicious – brought to you today from The Lost Italian. Enjoy!

Say Farewell to Winter with Bow Tie à la Provençale

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Spring is just around the corner and we are excited for the seasonal change this will bring to the recipes we share with you each week. But, before we say farewell to Old Man Winter for another year, we’re going to send him off in style with our winter recipe finale: Bow Tie à la Provençale.

Bow tie à la Provençale originated at Sarello’s when we first opened nearly fifteen years ago, and I fell in love with it as soon as I tasted it. It has long been a favorite among our regular clientele, many of whom are responsible for its repeated return to our winter menu. In fact, you’ll find it at Sarello’s all this week as our featured entrée special.

The dish was inspired by and received its name from the cuisine of Provence, France; more specifically, the style of cooking found in Nice and its surrounding area, which is heavily influenced by its close ties to Italy. Pasta dishes are common here.

A typical Provençale sauce would consist of tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, and our sauce is further enhanced by the use of blue cheese and heavy cream. White wine is another component, but only as a flavor builder since the alcohol content fully evaporates during the cooking process.

Bow tie ingredients in pan pretoss

To make this dish really sing, we add sundried tomatoes, cooked chicken breast and fresh spinach once the sauce has thickened. Tony embraces the use of sundried tomatoes in winter, when the quality of fresh tomatoes can vary greatly, and you can find them packed dry in bags or in a jar with olive oil. Both are fine for this recipe, just be sure to soak the dry variety in warm water for about 20 minutes before using. If using the oil-packed kind, shake off any excess oil before adding them to the sauce.

Don’t let the fancy name fool you – bow tie à la Provençale is simple enough for even a novice cook to master. I should know, because it’s also become a favorite at home for our son, Giovanni, and this dish is now firmly in my repertoire.

Chicken is a main ingredient, and for this dish we use four whole breasts, each cut in half horizontally and then lightly pounded with a meat mallet until each cutlet is ¼-inch thick. This extra step ensures that the chicken will be tender and moist when cooked. As an added bonus, the chicken can be cooked and refrigerated for up to two days before using.

Chicken cutlets

This dish has some heft to it, so when making the sauce be sure to use a pan or pot large enough to accommodate an entire package of cooked pasta (1 pound), because there’s no going back once you begin tossing the pasta with the sauce. We use bow tie-shaped pasta, also known as farfalle, in this recipe, as its pretty shape is pleasing to the eye and well-suited for a cream sauce. Penne, rigatoni, cavatappi or any medium-sized noodle with ridges will also work well.

Bow tie à la Provençale is rich, tangy and elegant, yet hearty enough to satisfy even the hungriest teenager. The recipe can easily be doubled, and leftovers, if there are any, reheat nicely in the microwave. To usher out winter, we plan to enjoy this pasta dish later this week with a simple salad of mixed greens and red wine vinaigrette, some crusty bread and a good Chardonnay. Welcome, spring!

Tossed bowtie in pan

Bow Tie Pasta à la Provençale

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally, cooked and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb. bow tie pasta, cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Directions:
Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally and use a meat mallet to lightly pound each piece to ¼-inch thickness. Dredge each cutlet in flour, coating both sides, and fry in vegetable oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned and fully cooked, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan, cover and cool for ten minutes and then cut each cutlet into 2-inch medallions. Use same day or refrigerate up to 2 days.

Next, cook the bow tie pasta in boiling water according to directions on package. Drain and set aside.

Use a large sauté pan or stock pot (large enough to hold one pound of cooked pasta),and  cook the olive oil and minced garlic over medium-low heat for one minute.

Add white wine and continue cooking on medium-low until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and increase the heat to medium, and cook for another three minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.

Add the crumbled blue cheese and continue cooking over medium heat for another 2 minutes until cheese is melted. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the sundried tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes to infuse their flavor into the sauce; add chicken medallions and cook for one more minute until chicken is heated through.

Add the cooked pasta and toss well so that all the noodles are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper and adjust as desired. If the sauce appears somewhat dry, add some water, starting with ¼ cup and cook for one minute.

To finish, add the spinach leaves and toss until the leaves just begin to wilt. Transfer to serving platter or bowls and garnish with the Parmesan cheese.

Today’s Holiday Recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini

Sun-Dried Tomatoes are a great way to enjoy the flavor or tomatoes during the winter months, and this appetizer is one of our favorites to feature during the Christmas season.

Not only are these crostini big on flavor, combining sun-dried tomato pesto, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella, but these red, white and green ingredients also mirror the colors of the season. The pesto is super easy to make and can be done several days in advance of serving. How’s that for merry and bright?

Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini

Serves: 4 to 6

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto:
2 cups dehydrated, or oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:
If you are using dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes to rehydrate them before using. Strain and use.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except the olive oil, and mix until well blended. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until a smooth consistency is achieved. Add the salt and adjust as desired.

To store the pesto, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to two months.

To assemble the Crostini:
12 Crostini
12 slices fresh mozzarella
12 large basil leaves
Sun-dried tomato pesto

Place a slice of fresh mozzarella on each crostini, top it with a leaf of basil and finish with a heaping dollop of the sun-dried tomato pesto.