LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF BISCOTTI

When in the course of blogging events, it becomes necessary to create a holiday dish, it’s fun to try to come up with something creative in order to form a more perfect celebration.  For this year’s 4th of July festivities, I’ll be making Red, White and Blue Biscotti, which hit all the high notes with my family.  (I’ve seen it suggested that Chicken Catch-a-Tory would be a good Independence Day party dish, but these colorful biscotti are so much more fun.)  There’s a few steps involved, but the end result is worth the extra time.

Begin with your favorite biscotti recipe, or use the one I’ve provided below.  Divide the dough into thirds, placing each third in a separate bowl.

To color the dough, it’s best to use gel food color, as opposed to liquid food color, for deeper colors:

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Be careful when using the food color, however, as it will stain your clothes, countertops, wooden spoons, fingers, dogs, etc.  Add enough food color to get the depth of color you desire, and mix it thoroughly into the dough (I find a metal fork works best for mixing the food color in):

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To shape the biscotti, cover your workspace with a sheet of waxed paper or parchment, and lightly flour the surface.  Place one portion of dough on the waxed paper, and using your bare arms (which is your right), knead the dough a few times and then roll into a log about 14 inches long.  Repeat with the remaining two portions of dough.  Lay the three logs side by side, and gently twist them to form a single log:

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Cut the log into two pieces and transfer to a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Shape logs into fat rectangles:

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Bake according to recipe directions, then remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet.  The dough will have puffed up considerably.

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When cool enough to handle comfortably, slice on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices using a serrated knife.  Stand the slices up on the baking sheet.  (For some recipes, you lay the slices on their side and bake, then turn over and bake longer, but for this recipe, in order for the colors to stay sharp, you don’t want to brown the sides.)

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If you really want to gild the liberty bell, you can spread a little white chocolate on the tops of the biscotti and sprinkle with red, white and blue nonpareils:

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Peaceably assemble (which is your right) the biscotti in a decorative container, and stand back and receive full faith and credit for these crowd-pleasing treats.   If you bring these to a 4th of July picnic, it should be a self-evident truth that they will be a surefire hit.

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I tried to find a knock knock joke to post for the 4th of July, but apparently there aren’t any, because freedom rings.  Happy 4th of July!

PLAIN BISCOTTI
Print
Recipe type: Cookie
Author:
The beauty of this recipe is that it's a blank canvas -- you can doctor it up as you desire with nuts, flavorings, chocolate, etc. The butter keeps it from being tooth-breaking hard, but still crunchy enough for dunking.
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Place eggs, melted butter, and extracts in a large bowl, and beat together using an electric beater. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and stir until well combined, and a sticky dough is formed.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 5 or 6 times. (If making red, white, and blue biscotti, divide dough into thirds and color one third with red gel food color, one third with blue gel food color, and leave the last third uncolored. Form each third into a rope approximately 14 inches long. Lay the ropes side by side and gently twist to form a single rope.) Divide the log into two equal portions.
  5. Transfer the logs to a baking sheet, and using your hands, pat into fat rectangles. Bake until lightly browned and firm to the touch, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the logs from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Transfer the cooled logs to a cutting board and slice them on the diagonal into ½-inch thick slices using a serrated knife. Stand the cookies up on the cookie sheet and bake again until the biscotti are dry, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

 

 

RETRO DINING: NIELSEN’S DELICATESSEN

Nielsen’s Delicatessen, located at 4500 Richmond, has been in operation since 1952.    The restaurant was founded by Danish immigrants Ellen Nielsen Andersen and her husband Dick Andersen.  The shotgun-like structure sports a red roof, which makes it easy to spot:

Inside the narrow space is a row of vinyl-covered stools for counter dining on one side, and a deli counter on the other.

The restaurant’s minimalist “decor” (if you can call it that) is Danish, with sun-faded posters of Denmark and Danish royalty, as well as a few Danish characters:

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Get in line, and peruse the menu:

If there’s one thing that characterizes Nielsen’s Delicatessen, it is its legendary mayonnaise, copious amounts of which are used in most of the restaurant’s offerings.  In fact, hanging on the wall is a 1990 letter from Gourmet magazine, advising that they received an “enthusiastic letter” from a patron who “particularly admired the potato salad,” and asking for the recipe for Nielsen’s potato salad, the key to which is the mayonnaise:

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The mayonnaise is house-made daily, and the recipe is a closely-guarded secret.  It’s snowy and silky, unrelated to the stuff in the jar.  Some have suggested it has a hint of onion or celery.  Don’t ask questions, don’t think about the calories, just experience it.  Consider taking a pint home with you.

One of the popular items featuring the famous mayonnaise is deviled eggs.  Although they make about 120 eggs daily, If you want one, you’ll need to get there fairly early, as they usually run out around 1 p.m.

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Sandwiches, especially turkey sandwiches, are another popular item.  The restaurant takes pride in the fact that it roasts its turkey breasts daily.  The sandwiches, on your choice of wheat or white, sport a generous schmear of a spread made with–you guessed it–mayonnaise and mustard on both the top and bottom slices of bread.  People go crazy over this spread.  One time, a young lady in front of me ordered her sandwich and asked for “lots of spread.”  The employee nodded his understanding of her request, but the lady went on:  “No, I mean like a LOT of spread.  Like, a TON of spread.  Like, an EMBARASSING amount of spread.”  I don’t know why she didn’t just buy a jar and get a room.

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Get a small cup of potato salad or cole slaw to go with your sandwich, and really have yourself a party:

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Feeling especially hungry?  Order yourself a box lunch, which I refer to as the 50 Shades of White Box Lunch:

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Inside the plain white box, are a number of items neatly wrapped in white paper:

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The lunch consists of a turkey sandwich on white, a half a cheese sandwich on white, a cup of potato salad, two pickle spears, and two brownies, and makes a perfect picnic lunch for sharing:

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So what’s the secret to Nielsen’s Delicatessen’s longevity?  The answer is obvious — freshly-made sandwiches and salads, and mayonnaise.  Lots of mayonnaise.  A ton of mayonnaise.  An embarrassing amount of mayonnaise.  😉

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