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Walnut Cream - (Serves 4)



4 cups whole milk

1 cinnamon stick

2 cups shelled walnuts, plus more for garnish

3/4 cup sugar



1.  Place the milk and the cinnamon stick in a saucepan.  Heat over high heat until the milk is steaming.  Just before it starts to simmer, remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for at least 10 minutes.


2.  Meanwhile, chop or crush the walnuts very finely by putting them in a clean kitchen towel and rolling them repeatedly with a rolling pin or by pulsing them in a food processor, but be careful not to over-process.  There should be a mixture of powdery and small, crumb-like pieces.  The powdery pieces will thicken the mixture; the crumb-like pieces will give it a pleasant texture.


3.  Add the sugar and walnuts to the milk.  Return the pot to high heat and bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer.  Lower the temperature to medium and cook, maintaining a gentle simmer and stirring often, until the pudding has a creamy texture, about 30 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature, or chill and eat cold.  Garnish with extra nuts, if desired.



Roasted Apples - (Serves 4)



4 apples. (Reinette, Russet, or Golden Delicious)

6 tablespoons granulated sugar or brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons anisette liqueur

1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces



1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


2.  To prepare the apples, cut out the core from the top in an upside-down cone-shaped piece.  Do not cut a hole all the way to the bottom; only cut through three-quarters of the apple.  Discard the cone-shaped piece.  With a sharp knife, make a thin incision in the skin around the diameter of the apple, halfway between the base and the equator of the apple.  This prevents the apple from bursting and helps it to keep its shape.


3.  Arrange the apples upright in a small square baking dish.  Distribute the sugar evenly among the apples.  Depending on the size of the apple and the size of the hole, you may need a bit more or a bit less sugar.


4.  Sprinkle the cinnamon on the top, dividing it evenly among the apples.  Pour 1 teaspoon of the anisette into each apple and top with a piece of butter.


5.  Bake until golden, tender, and bubbling, about 25 minutes.  Let cool and serve.



La Vina Cheesecake - (Serves 12)



1 3/4 cups sugar

2 1/4 lbs. cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

5 large eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup all-purpose flour



1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 10-inch spring-form pan and line it with parchment paper, leaving 2 to 3 inches overhanging the top of the pan.  (you can cut a circle to fit the base and then cut a band of paper to fit neatly around the sides, but the more rustic and simple method is to press and entire sheet into the pan, pleating the paper where it begins to crease.)


2.  In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and cream cheese until smooth.  (This can be done by hand as well - beat with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes.)  Add the salt and mix.  Incorporate the eggs one by one and stir until fully incorporated.  Whisk in the cream.  With a sifter, add the flour to the mixture and fold it in gently.


3.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until browned and almost burned-looking on top.  This can really vary oven to oven, so it helps to have your eye on the cheesecake from 50 minutes forward.  The center will still be quite jiggly, but the cake is ready.  Remove from the oven and cool.


4.  Before serving, remove the outer part of the spring-form and gently tug away the parchment paper.  Serve at room temperature.



Christmas Compote - (Serves 8)



3 cups red wine

1 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

3/4 cup (4 1/2 oz.) dried peaches (no sugar added)

1 cup (6 oz.) prunes, pitted

3/4 cup (4 1/4 oz.) dried figs

1 cup (4 1/2 oz.) raisins

2 apples (Reinette, Russet, or Golden Delicious)

1 winter pear, (Comice)



1.  In a pot, heat 3 1/2 cups water, the wine, sugar, cinnamon, and star anise over high heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to cook out the alcohol and allow the liquid to begin reducing.


2.  Add the dried peaches and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the prunes, figs, and raisins, then simmer for 25 minutes, or until almost, but not quite tender.


3.  Meanwhile, peel the apples and the pear, core them, and chop into 1-inch pieces. Add them to the pot.  Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the fresh fruit is tender.  If the liquid is reducing too quickly, cover the pan.  Or, if the mixture looks quite dry, add a bit more water, keeping in mind that the end product should be fruit bathed in a syrupy, deep red liquid.


4. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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