Tuna Garbanzo Bean and Sumac Salad


I know I’ve said this before, but it’s time to say it again: necessity is the mother of invention. This Tuna Garbanzo Bean and Sumac Salad recipe is something that I invented when I absolutely thought I had nothing to eat in the house. What I did have was a couple of cans of Costco tuna, waaay up in my pantry along with a can of garbanzo beans. And in my fridge, I found wilted dill and parsley from last week’s Passover cooking class. I had a couple of lemons, because if I don’t have lemons, then I’m really a slacker. And truth be told, the only reason I had red cabbage was because InstaCart delivered the wrong thing. 

Tuna garbanzo bean and sumac salad

But there’s nothing I would change about this salad, and I think it’s perfect for a potluck, a buffet, or a family-style lunch. Or to feed your employees while you work (which is why it was so urgent that I found something to eat in my house.) 

If you’ve never zested a lemon, you can do it with a microplane. It adds a pop of Italian summer to the salad. Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that has a tangy taste that’s delicious on all kinds of salads. Good to keep in the house. And there you have it! 

Tuna Garbanzo Bean and Sumac Salad

  • 1 can of organic garbanzo beans
  • 2 7oz cans of olive oil packed tuna (I get Italian tuna from Costco)
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/8 cup of fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/8 cup of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • a handful of red cabbage, chopped VERY THINLY
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of sumac
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste – the amount of salt you need will depend on whether or not your beans are salted, and how salty your tuna is.

1. Put it all together in a large bowl, and mix thoroughly!

Chocolate Covered Charoset Truffles: Passover


Charoset truffles

This treat combines chocolate with a Sephardi version of charoset, the Passover fruit concoction representing the building of granaries by the Hebrew slaves. Use this charoset recipe for your Seder and save the leftovers for your truffles. Or, make enough charoset to plan for these truffles as a Seder dessert. Either way, they are unusual and delicious.

By the way stories about the Sephardi role in spreading chocolate in the world as well as contemporary and historical recipes, may be found in On the Chocolate Trail (Jewish Lights).

Makes 24 truffles

3 pounds high-quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, preferably fair trade, broken into pieces
¼ cup pistachios
¼ cup pecans
1/8 cup almonds
1/8 cup pine nuts
½ tart apple
¼ navel orange, with rind
A few drops of sweet white wine
A few drops of honey
Pinch of fresh or ground ginger (or to taste)
Pinch of ground cinnamon (or to taste)

1) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Grind the nuts, apples and orange separately in a food processor. The nuts should be as close to a powder as possible without becoming “butter.”

2) Combine the nuts, apple, orange, wine, honey, ginger, and cinnamon in a bowl, mixing well. The charoset filling should have a smooth, thick texture.

3) Roll the charoset into one inch balls. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; remove from the heat. Using two forks, dip the balls into the melted chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet; refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz speaks about chocolate and Jews around the world. Her book, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao,” was published in 2013 by Jewish Lights and is in its third printing. The book is used in adult study, classroom settings, book clubs and chocolate tastings. She is Co-Curator for the Temple Emanu-El Bernard Museum exhibit of “Jews on the Chocolate Trail” to be mounted in the fall of 2017.

This is cross posted from The Forward

Recipes: The essence of Ashkenazic cuisine


A spate of Jewish cookbooks have hit the marketplace in recent years to address various niches and interests in diasporic cuisine. The recently published “The Gefilte Manifesto” is arguably the most hamish with its focus on reviving Ashkenazic foods that industrialized production denigrated — and Borscht Belt humor sometimes mocked. 

As the title suggests, “The Gefilte Manifesto” by Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern is part polemic, part how-to manual that reintroduces time-honored cooking, baking and food-preserving. The philosophy and recipes resonate for pickling-crazed millennials or bubbes who were taught to jettison the ways of the Old Country under the sacrosanct banner of modern convenience.

It all is presented with a mixture of tradition and contemporary twists that seems to fit the needs of Chanukah and other holidays.

“Rather than attempting to preserve old recipes or soon-to-be-forgotten ingredients, we’re presenting an old approach to a new way of eating. Or is it a new approach to an old way of eating?” Alpern asks in “Manifesto’s” introduction.

Alpern and Yoskowitz were recently in Los Angeles to discuss their new book, show off their artisinal Gefilteria product line and participate in some local Jewish charity events in a pre-Chanukah run-up. 

Among their events in Los Angeles was a tasting and talk about Jewish food, history and identity at the Rustic Canyon home of food writer Amelia Saltsman. For the November gathering, Saltsman and the two visiting cooks prepared noshes to benefit Netiya, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that addresses the intersection of faith work and food justice. (Disclosure: I’m on the Netiya board of directors.)

While on the L.A. leg of their tour to promote “The Gefilte Manifesto,” Alpern and Yoskowitz, both 32, also joined forces with East Side Jews and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ NuRoots initiative for food and drink events. 

Their time on the Westside included the requisite trip to the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market with Saltsman. “You’re very lucky to live in a city where you get this amazing produce all year,” Alpern told the gathering in Rustic Canyon. The audience already had been converted to Gefilteria’s culinary view of the world via the Cauliflower and Mushroom Kugel served that evening hipster-DIY-style in Mason jars. Cholent deviled eggs, smoked whitefish terrine with carrot-citrus horseradish relish and pickled shallots, autumn kale salad, and roasted red beet and dark chocolate ice cream helped seal the deal. 

With third business partner Jackie Lilinshtein, Gefilteria (ROOT VEGETABLE LATKES

– 4 russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled
– 1 medium parsnip, peeled
– 1 medium turnip, peeled
– 1 small onion
– 4 scallions, finely chopped
– 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
– 1 tablespoon kosher salt
– 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup bread crumbs or matzo meal
– Schmaltz or peanut, canola or grapeseed oil, for frying
– Apple-Pear Sauce for serving (Recipe below)
– Sour cream for serving

Shred the potatoes, parsnip, turnip and onion on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor using the shredder plate. Place the grated vegetables in a large bowl and add cold water to cover. Let sit for about 5 minutes. 

Drain the vegetables in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the shreds into a bowl. It’s helpful to take cheesecloth or a clean thin kitchen towel, drape in an empty bowl, then pour in the shredded vegetables. Wrap the cheesecloth or towel around the vegetables and squeeze tightly in the bowl. Repeat until as much liquid as possible has been removed. White potato starch will collect at the bottom of the bowl. Carefully drain off the water, leaving the potato starch. Set aside. 

Place the drained vegetable shreds in a large bowl. Add the scallions, eggs, salt, pepper, flour, bread crumbs and the reserved potato starch. Mix well, preferably using your hands. 

In a 9-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet, heat a layer of schmaltz or oil, about 1/8 inch deep, over medium heat. Form the latke batter into thin patties, using about 2 tablespoons for each. As you form the patties, squeeze out and discard any excess liquid. Carefully slip the patties, about 4 at a time, into the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Take care to flip them only once to avoid excess oil absorption. If the pan begins to smoke at all, add more schmaltz or oil and let it heat up again before frying another batch of latkes. 

Remove the latkes from the pan and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain the excess fat. Latkes are best and crispiest when served right away. If serving later, transfer to a separate casserole dish or baking sheet and place in the oven at 200 F to keep warm until serving. Serve hot, topped with Apple-Pear Sauce and/or sour cream.

Makes 18 to 22 latkes.

APPLE-PEAR SAUCE

– 2 pounds baking apples (about 6 medium), such as McIntosh, peeled, cored and quartered 
– 2 pounds sweet pears (about 5 medium), such as Bartlett, peeled, cored and quartered 
– 1/2 cup apple juice, apple cider or water 
– 2 cinnamon sticks 
– 1 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup or sugar (optional) 
– 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the apple and pear quarters, apple juice and cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes. The apples will soften and puff up a bit as the heat draws out their liquid. When you can smush the fruit by pressing on it with a spoon, it has finished cooking.

Turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon sticks. Mash the mixture with a potato masher or an improvised masher (an empty jar works well). For a smooth applesauce, puree using an immersion blender or food processor. 

If you’d like your sauce sweeter, stir in the maple syrup or sugar (start with 1 tablespoon and add more if needed). Stir in the lemon juice, if using, which adds a bit of tartness to balance out the sweetness. Let the sauce cool. 

Serve at room temperature. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about a month. If storing for later use, transfer to an airtight container and freeze.

Makes 5 to 6 cups of sauce.

OLD COUNTRY SOUR CREAM

– 1 cup heavy cream 
– 1/4 cup store-bought cultured buttermilk 

Pour the heavy cream and buttermilk into a clean pint- or quart-size glass jar with a lid. 

Seal tightly and shake vigorously for about 1 minute. Let the jar sit on the countertop at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 24 to 48 hours. The longer it sits, the sourer it will become. You may notice liquid separation occurring. It’s hard to judge from the looks of your sour cream when it’s ready, so taste to see if it’s at a sour level you’re comfortable with within the 24- to 48-hour window. The warmer it is, the faster it will sour. If the mixture becomes yellow or chunky, which could occur if the temperature in the room is too hot, toss it out and try again. 

Place the jar of sour cream in the fridge and enjoy for up to a week. Shake before each use to reincorporate any liquid that has separated.

Makes 1 1/2 cups sour cream.

CAULIFLOWER AND MUSHROOM KUGEL

– 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), broken into florets
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil or unsalted butter, plus more as needed
– 1 medium onion, diced
– 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped (porcinis, shiitakes and wild forest mushroom varieties are ideal, but any variety from the store is fine)
– 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
– 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 4 large eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
– 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, store-bought or homemade
– 4 shallots, for topping (optional)
– About 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, for frying the shallots (optional)
– Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
– Six 8-ounce ramekins or a 9-inch glass baking dish

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and boil until the florets are tender but not mushy, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the cauliflower thoroughly. Place it in a food processor.

In a medium pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent and lightly golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, undisturbed, for at least 1 minute to help the mushrooms darken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned and their liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes more.

Transfer the mushrooms and onion (and any extra oil from the pan) to the food processor with the cauliflower. Add the eggs and egg yolks and process until the mixture has a smooth consistency with minimal clumps. (If you do not have a food processor, mash the vegetables, eggs, and yolks together with a large fork or spoon until the mixture is as smooth as possible.) Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, stir in the bread crumbs, and mix well.

Grease six 8-ounce ramekins or a 9-inch glass baking dish. Fill with the cauliflower mixture. Each ramekin should hold a little under 1 cup of the filling. Tap the bottoms of the ramekins or baking dish against the counter so that the top of the kugel flattens out and you’ve released any air bubbles. If using individual ramekins, place them in a roasting pan with at least 3-inch-high sides. Pour boiling water into the pan to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins (this will ensure that the kugel stays moist). Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour. The kugel is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the kugel is lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven carefully, remove the ramekins from the water, and let cool slightly.

If using shallots, while the kugel is baking, slice them as thin as possible (if you have a mandoline, use it here on the thinnest setting). In a small nonstick pan, heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat. Immerse the shallots in the oil and fry them, stirring frequently, until they are crispy, crunchy, shrunken and dark in color, 15 to 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Transfer the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside until serving.

Garnish the kugel with the fried shallots (if using) and the chopped parsley. Store any leftover fried shallots in an airtight container.

Makes about six 8-ounce servings.


Excerpted from the “The Gefilte Manifesto” by Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern. Copyright  2016 by Gefilte Manifesto LLC. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved.

How I learned to make latkes


 

Chanukah has meant different things to me at different stages of my life. When I was little, it was about nightly presents and making candy dreidels in school, using marshmallows, red vines, Hershey’s Kisses and icing.

As I got older, it was about lighting the chanukiyah with my family and reading the prayers from my father’s prayer book. In college, it was about convening my friends in our dorm to light the Chanukah menorah together, and since then it’s been so meaningful to come home from work, light the chanukiyah in my kitchen and place it in the window of my apartment in view of the street.

This year, though, Chanukah took a different turn. I decided to learn how to cook latkes, the potato pancakes we eat to commemorate how oil, enough for only one day, lasted eight nights following the Maccabee victory.

The best way to learn, I figured, was to visit with Rob Eshman, Journal publisher, editor-in-chief and Foodaism blogger.

Rob is a foodie. He once brought a sugar cane to an editorial meeting and began chopping away at it with a knife so we could all taste fresh sugar. He’s kept goats and chickens in his backyard and grows many of the vegetables, fruits and herbs he cooks with in his garden. He’s genuinely offended when the office orders Domino’s.

Given that I’d never made latkes before, it helped that Rob was prepared. He had all the ingredients ready: the potatoes, an onion, salt, pepper, eggs and oil. There aren’t a lot of ingredients to latkes, Rob explained. The secret to success, he said, is in the technique.

He immediately put me to work peeling potatoes. I cook my own meals most nights, but it turns out there’s plenty left to learn. Like, how to use a potato peeler. Rob’s peels flew off the potato like sparks. Mine took their time. Rob looked over.

“Oh, we’re starting from there,” he said.

After some instruction, I sliced away at the potato skin, then, per his instructions, placed the potato in a bowl of water. Rob explained we keep the potato in water so as to prevent it from turning brown, or oxidizing. That was technique No. 1.

Then came technique No. 2. To make sure the grated potatoes didn’t turn brown, we alternated grating them with an onion. The onion was strong. I cried; Rob did too.

The third technique, Rob said, was crucial. We took handfuls of the potato/onion mixture and squeezed it out into a bowl to remove as much liquid as possible. The more liquid, Rob explained, the soggier the latke — and no one likes a soggy latke.

A white, wet goo settled at the bottom of the drained liquid. This was potato starch, and the basis for technique No. 4. Once the starch settled at the bottom of the bowl, we drained off the liquid, scooped up the starch and mixed it in with the potatoes. That would help bind the latkes and erase the need to add flour or matzo meal, which can make for heavier pancakes.

I cracked a couple of eggs and mixed those in as well, then sprinkled salt and pepper over the batter. Afterward, I poured a generous amount of cooking oil into a pan, spooned the latke batter into the pan and let it fry into latkes.

Latkes frying in oil.

The latkes turned out perfectly. Crisp, light and potato-y. Rob even made a special few using a Middle Eastern strained yogurt called labneh, smoked salmon, and dill fetched from Rob’s garden.

The real test, however, was cooking latkes on my own. A few days later, I went to Ralphs and purchased two potatoes and an onion. I also got a grater and a potato peeler, since I had neither.

At home, I did exactly what I’d learned, following the techniques step by step. Eventually I wound up with about 12 latkes. I ate them with sour cream. They weren’t as good as the ones I’d cooked with Rob, but they were edible. Most importantly, I’d cooked them myself.

Later, my friend Esther came over with applesauce and tried one of my homemade latkes. I explained that the latkes seemed a little dry and didn’t hold together well. Esther asked me if I used eggs. Nope — forgot. Esther made me feel better, pointing out I’d just made vegan, gluten-free latkes.

I plan to cook latkes at my family Chanukah party this year, to put my new skill to use and wow my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law and nephew with my culinary abilities. I just hope I remember all the ingredients.

Recipe: Mini almond and grape crostatas


Apples and honey around the High Holidays are certainly not the only way to ensure a sweet new year. Cuban families, like mine, have long practiced the tradition of eating grapes for good luck. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, we enjoy 12 grapes — one for each month.

According to folklore, this practice stems from Cuba’s Spanish roots. Spanish grape growers may have instituted the tradition when they were faced with an overabundance of harvest and needed to offload some grapes. With everyone in the community enjoying grapes, the grape farmers were certainly enjoying a sweet start to the new year.

While most Cubans eat their 12 grapes as they are, I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of incorporating the grapes into a Rosh Hashanah dish. My Mini Almond and Grape Crostatas are the perfect solution to this puzzle, as these single-serving pastries feature 12 whole grapes.

Gluten-free and completely pareve, they are the perfect addition to any Rosh Hashanah table.

MINI ALMOND AND GRAPE CROSTATAS 
 
 
Ingredients:
 
7 ounces almond paste
1 egg, beaten
48 seedless grapes (any color)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon corn starch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons sliced almonds, divided
1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

 
Preheat oven to 375 F.

Divide almond paste into 4 equal parts, and between 2 sheets of parchment paper, roll out into ¼-inch thick round discs. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and brush with beaten egg.

In a bowl, toss together the grapes, lemon juice, corn starch and cinnamon until the grapes are coated. Place 12 grapes on each disc, leaving a 1-inch rim and fold the rim over the grapes, pinching to crimp along the edges.

Brush the top of the almond paste with beaten egg, and add 1 teaspoon of sliced almonds to the top of each pastry.

Sprinkle with Turbinado sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and sliced almonds have started to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes.

Carefully transfer to a cooling rack or serving platter and allow to cool completely.

 
Makes 4 crostatas.

 
Jennifer Stempel is a TV development executive who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. To read more about her culinary adventures, check out: www.TheCubanReuben.com.

Recipe: Arugula sweet potato salad


This is a perfect salad to eat for lunch on a weekday or as a first course for a brunch or even during a holiday like Rosh Hashanah. It’s especially nice when served plated individually and topped with the sweet potatoes and cashews.

Note: If you don’t have sweet potatoes you can replace them with sautéed red peppers.

This recipe is excerpted with permission from the cookbook “Kosher Taste.”

Ingredients

For the salad:

2 cups cubed and roasted sweet potatoes
2 Belgian endives, cleaned and sliced thinly
6 cups baby arugula, cleaned
1⁄3 cup dried cranberries
½ cup cooked quinoa
½ cup chopped roasted cashews

For the dressing:

¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the salad ingredients except cashews.

In a small jar or bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients.

Pour dressing over salad and toss well.

Add cashews and serve.


Amy Stopnicki is a busy mother of four, an active member of her community and successful event planner. She is the author of “Kosher Taste.”

The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.

Date syrup: New meaning for an age-old sweet


Many ancient sweeteners are long forgotten, overtaken by the simple, clean taste of granulated sugar. Take for instance, date syrup. Also called date molasses, melasse de datte, rub, dibs or silvan, date syrup has a long, storied history for many millennia in the Levant, Ancient Persia and throughout the Middle East.

I make sure my pantry is stocked with date syrup before the fall Jewish holidays. Its history alone isn't enough to earn it a place in my top shelf, but its taste and new meaning give it high status.

How to use date syrup

Date syrup can be used, spoon-for-spoon, like molasses, although it's not as sulphury or bitter. It is easy to bake with and even easier to drizzle on foods. Last of the watermelon and feta salads? Drizzle date syrup over them. Having avocado toast? Drizzle date syrup on top. Want a new sweetener in your yogurt bowl? Drizzle date syrup all over it. Want something new on your peanut butter sandwich? Drizzle date syrup across the spread.

It's easy to find — look for date syrup online or at Middle Eastern grocery stores.

The unique taste of date syrup

Date syrup is a bit sweeter than agave nectar, yet less sweet and powerful than the strongest honey. The flavor has a dark, complex edge. It's rich, handsome and oh-so-sexy on your taste buds. When paired with a lighter sweetener like granulated sugar, it's an undertone, like blackstrap molasses, but without as much earthiness — and no traces of bitterness.

Why use date syrup at the New Year? What about honey?

I hear the honey rumblings coming, so listen up. I love honey. I write about it, I eat it and I cook with it. One of my teenage daughters even interned at a local honey maker and apiary this summer. A wide variety of honeys will be on my table with apples this year, and every year. But at the Jewish New Year table, I often look for a new food as a tasty way to embrace the new. Year after year, date syrup is always, and I mean always, new to someone at the table.

Dates are a ritual Jewish New Year's food

Dates are also one of the ritual foods in a Sephardic and Mizrachi Rosh Hashanah feast, a seder with culinary symbols, so it feels natural on the table. Ripe dates, wrinkled and nonperishable, are called tamar. (Yes, like my name's root). The word is related to the Hebrew verb to consume or finish. The hope is that our enemies will be “finished.”

But given the domestic climate in this election year, I will not be offering this prayer at my table. I want to broaden the sense of hopefulness at Rosh Hashanah. We have plenty of other days to worry about harshness. So, instead of the Sephardic or Mizrachi prayer, when I serve and eat dates and date syrup, I will hope for a world without any reason to have enemies, where tolerance reigns.

Two new, symbolic reasons to add date syrup to the table

The food is deserving of its place. Its natural complexity is held together with a deep sweetness, without harshness on the tongue. That's one heck of a real life wish on that spoon. Sweet and hopeful, complex and real, date syrup is more than delicious. It mirrors the best reality of an actual life, not a purified dream.

Date syrup is also a tangible evidence of human ingenuity. I think it's awesome to share something so simple and yet so clever at the New Year's table. Ingenuity is fascinating and part of its definition is newness. Ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere. The genius of the human mind is coming up with something unique out of those ideas and inspirations. It's not simple. It's not the white sugar of thinking. It's the date syrup.

Here are a few recipes for using date syrup.

Date Syrup and Carrot Muffins

The magic of date syrup transforms these muffins from simple to complex with a single abracadabra! Tender and rich in both flavor and texture, they are studded with the earthy sweetness of carrots and a few chunks of dates that together up the “healthy” ante. Great with coffee or tea, these are tasty treats from am to pm, weekday or weekend, holiday or everyday.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 22 minutes

Total time: 42 minutes

Yield: 18 muffins

Ingredients

2 cups (260 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 cup (210 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup date syrup (date molasses or silan)
1/2 cup mild olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
3 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 1½ cups)
6 pitted Mejdool dates, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spray an 18-cup muffin tin with nonstick vegetable oil or canola oil spray (see Kitchen Tips).

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and salt.

In separate bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, date syrup, olive oil, and vanilla bean paste and mix with a spoon until fully combined and bubbly.

Add the flour mixture and mix just to combine. Stir in the carrots and chopped dates.

Scoop the mixture into the muffin cups, filling each cup almost to the top (a little more than 1/4 cup of batter each).

Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, and rotate the muffin tin back to front.

Bake for 8 to 9 minutes longer, or until springy when touched lightly, and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean with perhaps a few moist crumbs.

Cool in the pan for 3 to 5 minutes. Then carefully transfer them to a baking rack to finish cooling.

Kitchen Tips

If you don't have an 18-cup muffin tin, use a 12-cup tin and a 6-cup tin, or two partially filled 12-cup tins.

Swap the tins between the bottom and top oven racks about halfway through baking, rotating them from back to front as described in step 5 above.

Almond, Banana and Date Syrup Smoothie

Dairy-free, vegan and packed with flavor and nutrients, this smoothie make a great breakfast, post-workout pick-me-up or after-school snack. You can even freeze it, and scoop it out for a almost-ice-cream treat.

Freezing time: 2 hours

Prep time: 5 minutes

Total time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 very ripe small or 1 large banana, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces and frozen
2 1/2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup smooth almond butter
1 tablespoon date syrup (silan)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
4 large ice cubes

Directions

Combine the frozen bananas, almond milk, almond butter, date syrup, vanilla and ice cubes in a blender and process until completely smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Eat, drink and be healthy


There is an age-old question about what’s the “perfect” diet. The idea behind this question is if we just find the perfect diet and we follow it, we can stop looking, stop worrying, stop stressing over too many carbs or sugar or meat or butter.

But what does “perfect” really mean in the realm of diet and nutrition? Perfect for whom? At what age? In what region? At what activity level? In what culture and society? With what kind of metabolism and immunity and digestion and brain function? At what stress level? 

And, perhaps most importantly, will it still allow us to eat kugel?

The answer is complicated. In the health and nutrition fields, you will find more dietary theories than you can possibly imagine. Some nutrition experts believe in looking at what our ancestors ate; others think we should look at our DNA for answers. Then there’s the idea that our blood type might have something to do with our nutritional needs. 

So many people, including health professionals, think of nutrition as pure science — as if the science will lead us to the best diet. Science has us believing that reducing food to its vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, fat, protein and calories, and consuming those in the proper balance, is the answer. 

What this approach overlooks, however, is that this “proper balance” is almost impossible to determine. After all, no two of us are exactly alike, and there are plenty of other variables: Our well-being is influenced by our thoughts and feelings, our environment, the toxins all around us and in our food supply, the health of our digestive system that determines what nutrients we absorb from the food we eat, and our life circumstances. 

This isn’t to say that you should give up. There are plenty of general guidelines for healthy eating that everyone can follow.

An easy one is to manage what’s on the end of your fork — think quality over quantity. If you eat meat, fish, eggs or poultry, buy organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, free-range and/or wild-caught.

Stop eating processed junk foods, including regular and diet sodas, and get processed sugar out of your diet. (Also cut out fruit juices, which are high in sugar.) Instead, use natural sweeteners such as maple syrup or raw organic honey — in small amounts, of course.

You should also try to consume whole food in its natural state, where all of its nutrients are fully available. This includes raw nuts and seeds, grains and beans, vegetables and fruits.

Be sure to have lots of green leafy vegetables at least twice per day, and make sure you eat good fats, daily and in moderation (coconut and olive oils, olives, avocado).

When it comes to what you drink, a good rule each day is to consume at least half  an ounce of good quality spring water for each pound you weigh. (It may sound like a lot, but check out how much your water bottle holds and do the math. You can do it!)

Finally, no matter what kind of diet you choose, make sure you eat with joy. No joke — it increases your ability to digest. When you eat under stress or anger, digestion shuts down, leading to weight gain and poor nutrient absorption.

How can it work with Jewish foods?

Don’t think that just because you’re trying to eat more healthfully that you have to give up your favorite Jewish dishes:

  • Substitute almond flour (lower in carbs than wheat) or coconut flour (contains healthy fats and is low in sugar) in breads, pastries and matzo balls. Be careful with ordinary flours, since some people have a sensitivity to the gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
  • Substitute carrots or yams for white potatoes or noodles in your kugel dish. This helps keep down your sugar intake.
  • Gefilte fish is often made with sugar and matzo meal, but it doesn’t have to be. Check out the following delicious recipe without these unhealthful ingredients. 

 

GEFILTE FISH

  • 1 pound white fish (e.g. Dover sole) fillets, skinned and deboned
  • 1/2 pound salmon fillets, skinned and deboned
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

 

Directions

Cut the fish into large chunks and place in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground; do not puree.

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Sauté diced onion over medium-low heat until soft and transparent; cool for 10 minutes.

Pulse onion, eggs, salt, pepper and lemon juice into fish mixture. Pulse in dill, carrots and parsley. Refrigerate mixture for 3 hours.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Shape fish mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Drop balls into water and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through. Place balls in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and refrigerate to cool. Serve with horseradish sauce made from horseradish root and apple cider vinegar (no added sugar) and garnish with fresh sprigs of parsley.

Makes 18 fish balls.

Recipe adapted from Elana’s Pantry (elanaspantry.com), the website of New York Times best-selling author Elana Amsterdam. 

Recipe: Salted S’mores Truffles


Ingredients:

1 pack graham crackers
1 cup of mini chocolate chips
1/2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 cups of marshmallow fluff
4 chocolate bars for melting
Sea salt to top with

Directions:

Empty crushed graham crackers into bowl. 

Add mini chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, and salt. 

Mix well. 

Roll small hand-fulls into balls. 

Place the truffles onto wax paper and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Break the chocolate bars into small pieces and microwave in a non-metal bowl for 1 minute. 

Dip the truffles into the melted chocolate, making sure the whole truffle is covered.

Top the truffles with sea salt and cool. 

Enjoy!

Recipe from Buzzfeed Tasty.

Red-hot grilling tips for the Fourth of July


July Fourth begs for a magnificent grill party. It's summer, it's a great celebration of the nation's birth and everyone is outdoors and in party mode. Why hold back on July Fourth? Why not grill everything? With a couple of days' planning, you can really do something amazingly and deliciously different.

Here are four great ideas for the barbecue. There's no reason why you can't do all of the these dishes, although it does require that planning. You will have to consider how many people you're cooking for, think about how large your grill is and make plans for placing all the dishes on the grill.

Getting organized for easy grilling

There's something else many people forget when they grill, but it makes everything easier. Remember to set up a little work station next to the grill to put foods that are cooking too fast, spatulas, mitts and your drink. Even a crummy card table will do. When building your grill fire, remember to pile up the coals to one side of the grill so you also have a “cool” side to move food that is either cooking too fast or is flaring up.

Getting spicy with 'angry chicken'

You may have heard of the pasta dish called penne all'arrabbiata, angry pasta, so-called because of the use of piquant chiles. This is chicken arrabbiata. It's “angry” because it is highly spiced with cayenne pepper.

This chicken gets grilled so if you use the breasts instead of the thighs it will cook quicker. You can leave the chicken skin on or remove it. Crispy skin is delicious, but trying to get the skin crispy on a grill is tricky because of flare-ups. You'll have to grill by means of indirect heat, pushing the coals to one side.

Finding the right fish for the grill

Many people shy away from grilling whole fish for a variety of reasons. One way to make grilling fish easier is to place a rectangular cast iron griddle over a portion of the grilling grate and cook the fish on top.

If you do that, the griddle must be on the grill for at least 45 minutes to get sufficiently hot before cooking. I suggest several fish below, but it all depends on what's locally available.

Parsley-stuffed grilled porgy and mackerel are two small-fish dishes ideal for a fast grill. You may not necessarily have these two fish available, so use whatever is the freshest whole fish of like size.

I like the contrast between the mild tasting white flesh of the porgies, also called scup, and the darker, denser meat of the mackerel. Because 50 percent of the weight of a whole fish is lost in the trimming these, 4 pounds of fish will yield 2 pounds or less of fillet.

But you can use any fish: The red fish in the photo is a Pacific fish called idiot fish, kinki fish, or shortspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus alascanus). It has delicious soft flesh.

Complementing with the right grilled sides

I think it's always nice to have grilled vegetables with any grill party. Grilled red, green and yellow peppers make a very attractive presentation. Their flavor is a natural accompaniment to grilled meats. The charred skin of the peppers is peeled off before serving, leaving the smoky flavor. You don't have to core or halve the peppers before grilling.

Chicken Arrabbiata

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts (skinless, optional)

 

Directions

1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire to one side of the grill or preheat one side of a gas grill on high for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together the onion, tomato paste, olive oil, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste until well blended.

3. Flatten the chicken thighs or breasts by pounding gently with the side of a heavy cleaver or a mallet between two sheets of wax paper. Coat the chicken with the tomato paste mixture.

4. Place the chicken on the cool side of the grill, and cook until the chicken is dark and springy to the touch, turning once, about 20 to 24 minutes (less time for breasts). Baste with any remaining sauce and serve.

Simply perfect grilled chicken, sure fire summer fun


It's hot, you're busy and company's coming for dinner. Nothing's easier than tossing some chicken on the grill. Am I right?

Not at all! Think about it: When was the last time you had a properly cooked piece of chicken from somebody's backyard grill?

“Never” is my guess — even from your own. Don't take it personally. The fact is that hardly anybody knows how to grill chicken that isn’t coal-blackened or outright charred in some places or practically raw in others.

The trouble is the chicken. While it’s a favorite choice for grilling, especially in summer, the how-tos are not obvious. Chicken is nothing like burgers or hot dogs, pork chops or rib steaks; it's tricky to deal with the fat under the skin that drips onto the fire and causes flare-ups. What makes matters worse is marinade, which causes the grill to smoke heavily, turning your chicken gray instead of enticingly browned.

On top of that, it's tough to determine when chicken is done all the way through; it always seems to take longer than it should. So you pull it off too soon and end up with (gulp) pink, undercooked chicken.

So who am I to give advice? Well, I wrote a cookbook all about cooking every cut of grass-fed beef, and now I'm tackling poultry. Listen, I've had my own share of chicken troubles in the past. The worst was when I served underdone chicken to a Muslim exchange student who told me that it was against his religion to eat it. That low point kicked off a self-improvement project: learning the techniques for grilling chicken right.

Top 5 grilling tips

1. Use bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. Grilling experts highly recommend thighs, and I agree that they are the moistest, but legs, breasts and wings also benefit when the bones and skin are left intact, as they help to insulate the meat from overcooking — and they make it taste much better. (However, if you're committed to boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the techniques you practice with the remaining tips will help you master those, too, with practice.) Pasture-raised chickens, especially those from heritage breeds, are not only tastier but also more sustainable than factory-farmed birds, so seek them out in your area at the farmers market or local grocer.

2. Season the chicken well with salt and save the marinades for after cooking. Most people make their first mistake before they even fire up the grill: They don't season the chicken enough. With your best-quality kosher or sea salt, sprinkle all sides of the chicken pieces as if you're dusting them finely with confectioner's sugar. Everyone loves marinated chicken, but submerging your chicken in any sauce — even barbecue sauce — will bring you more cooking complications, not more flavor.

3. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and control those flames. Unlike other foods that respond well to intense heat, chicken calls for moderate or medium-high heat (between 350 F and 400 F). Whether using a charcoal or gas grill, test the heat patterns by placing your open palm about 5 inches above the grate. If you can hold it there for 5 seconds, you're in range. Also note where the heat is less intense. In the event of a flare-up, immediately move the chicken to these cooler parts of the grill to prevent charring.

4. Brown chicken pieces skin side down for longer than you think you should. Always cook the chicken skin side down first and plan to leave it there for the next 20 minutes or more — or until it is nearly all the way cooked. Why? You'll end up with crispy and beautifully browned skin (remember, it insulates the meat), plus the chicken will be cooked evenly to the bone. In general, it takes 25 to at least 30 minutes to cook bone-in chicken at this temperature, so aim for cooking it skin side down for three-quarters of the total cooking time — 20 to 25 minutes — before flipping and finishing it on the second side.

5. Use your grill like an oven. After laying the chicken pieces on the grate, put on the lid. Now your grill will radiate the heat above as well as below, which is exactly what chicken needs to get cooked all the way through. The lid also controls air flow and keeps the flames on a charcoal grill from getting out of hand. Dripping fat will likely incite flare-ups, so monitor the cooking and move the chicken away from flames to those cooler areas of the grill whenever necessary. If you're at all uncertain that the chicken is done, insert the tip of an instant-read thermometer close to the bone or just cut into the center for a visual check.

Foolproof finishing strategies

Once your chicken is seasoned and fully cooked to an enticing golden brown, let it rest near the heat for 15 minutes or so. Grilled chicken doesn't need much embellishment, although cilantro pesto, peach chutney or avocado salsa — or any other fresh and tangy sauce — will liven it up. [aside]

But what about those pesky marinades? Think wings, which are first deep-fried and then tossed with sauce. The same principle applies to grilled chicken: Cook it well first, then brush or toss it with any homemade or bottled marinade or sauce. Let it warm-marinate until ready to serve or put it back on the grill for a few minutes to marry the sauce to the chicken as it reheats.

Now you're the expert.

Recipe: Pappardelle with long-cooked asparagus and basil


My father, may he rest in peace, was a champion Yankee gardener, as proud of his vegetables as he was of the considerable flowerbeds that surrounded his bayside home. He did almost all the work himself — preparing the beds and cold frames, planting, transplanting, weeding, deadheading and harvesting — although there was a man who came to mow the lawns once a week or so.

Like most champion gardeners in these chilly northern parts, my father relished especially the first springtime harvest, no matter what it was: first peas, first strawberries, first lettuce (served at table the old-fashioned way, with sugar and vinegar as a dressing) and above all first asparagus.

He was also first up in the morning and out in his garden almost at sunrise, snapping off the tender shoots of asparagus right at the base. Then for breakfast we'd have aspara-grass, as we called it, cooked in my father's unique and (fortunately) almost inimitable fashion, boiled or steamed until the poor, plump stalks were limp and gray with exhaustion, then piled them atop a toasted slice of Wonder Bread, liberally spread with butter, and with more butter, melted now, pooled on top — along with the leftover juices, which of course turned the toast to soggy pap. My father was a much better gardener than he was a cook.

I was fully grown before I discovered the pleasures of underdone asparagus and had to wait for my own garden patch before I understood that the best asparagus in the world, like the best peas, is consumed standing in the garden and contemplatively chewing on what you've harvested only seconds before. Come to think of it, because all fruits and vegetables begin to deteriorate in the normal course of things as soon as they're harvested, don't you get the fullest impact of all those vitamins, minerals and fiber when you eat food, as it were, straight from the ground? I'm no raw foodist, but it does seem to me there's an argument there.

Fast forward to the present day, when my daughter, Sara, and I were working on our first cookbook together, “The Four Seasons of Pasta.” Of course, the spring season must have asparagus pasta recipes, and so we set diligently to work. I've done tagliatelle for years with grilled or seared asparagus and sliced red onions, tossed in a creamy goat-cheese dressing, the asparagus just barely cooked so it still has a lot of crunch. As they say on Facebook: YUM! But I was stopped in my tracks when Sara proposed a recipe that's a favorite from her restaurant: pappardelle with long-cooked asparagus. “Long cooked?” I shuddered, remembering those breakfasts of soggy toast and limp, discolored spears of asparagus.

She ignored my qualms and went ahead with the recipe. And you know what? It was terrific! The melting softness of the asparagus sauce, made from the stalks cut small and indeed overcooked, contrasts beautifully with the still-crisp flavors of the tips, which retain some of their brightness because they're cooked for a short time. We made it again for dinner recently, with the first of the local asparagus, and once again marveled at how pasta can serve as a perfect foil for the first of spring's offerings, whether peas or asparagus or possibly even strawberries.

Pappardelle With Long-cooked Asparagus and Basil

Asparagus is a delight when freshly picked and barely blanched. Its sweet vegetal flavors are a welcome herald to spring. But as the season winds on and the spears get fatter and a little tougher, it's also good cooked thoroughly, to break down the tough fibers and pull out a little extra sweetness along the way. It's great served over pappardelle — or any other kind of long, broad noodles, fettuccine, for instance, or even penne.

Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes

Total time: 20 to 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings as a main course, 6 as a first or primo

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of fresh asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large shallot or 1 small spring onion, finely minced (2 tablespoons)
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, in fat slivers
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • About 1 pound (500 grams) pappardelle
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

 

Directions

1. Trim the asparagus by snapping off the bottoms, which break where the stem starts to get woody. Cut the stalks into 2-inch lengths, setting the tips aside.

2. Combine the butter and oil over medium heat in a saucepan or deep skillet. When the butter begins to foam, add the minced shallot (or spring onion) and the asparagus pieces, except for the tops, with a good pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Cook briskly until the shallots and asparagus take on a little color — about 8 to 10 minutes. Then turn the heat down and add the cream, 2 tablespoons water, the asparagus tips and half the basil leaves. Cover the pan and continue cooking, until the asparagus tips are tender and the liquid in the pan is reduced by half.

3. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the asparagus sauce is ready, cook the pasta according to package directions, until it is al dente.

4. Have ready a warm serving bowl. Drain the pasta and toss in the bowl with the asparagus sauce, the remaining basil and the cheese. Add more black pepper to the top and serve immediately.

Note: You can vary the flavors by using other fresh spring herbs in place of the basil — lovage, chervil, even plain old flat-leaf Italian parsley will be very good.

Recipe: Blast the heat for a charred vegan salad


Going vegan tastes so good when you turn up the heat on garbanzo beans and create a beautifully charred vegetable salad.

Carbon steel pans and their close cousins, cast iron pans, love heat. Turn a burner on high, place the carbon steel pan on the fire, and you’ve pushed the pedal to the metal. Used by chefs to create crispy skin fish filets and perfectly seared steaks, carbon steel pans can also be used to give vegetables a beautiful, carbonized crust that deepens their flavor.

Hot, fast and easy

Everything is faster with a carbon steel pan. Cooking is quick. And so is cleanup.

Unlike stainless steel pans that must be scrubbed clean after each use, once cured, a carbon steel pan needs only a gentle washing to remove leftover oils. After that, it can be dried on a high flame.

If you have not used a carbon steel pan, think of it as a wok cut down to frying pan size. What carbon steel pans bring to the party is the ability to create rich caramelization quickly. In a matter of minutes, the high heat chars the garbanzo beans and vegetables with a small amount of oil.

Because the temperature of a carbon steel pan can reach as high as 700 F, a blend of oils works best. Eighty percent canola manages the heat with less smoke, and 20% olive oil adds flavor.

Flash cooking adds flavor and seals in the healthy qualities of fiber-rich garbanzo beans, a good source of protein and essential minerals such as manganese and folate or B-9. Also called chickpeas, the legumes provide a starchy contrast to the vegetables.

To make a delicious salad, toss the charred garbanzo beans and vegetables with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar together with finely chopped Italian parsley or fresh leafy greens like arugula, green leaf lettuce, romaine or frisee.

Mise en place, tongs and a good over-stove exhaust fan

What restaurant chefs call mise en place is all-important when cooking with high heat. Because the dish will cook in a matter of minutes, all the ingredients must be prepped ahead of time. Peel, chop and arrange all the ingredients on the cutting board before you fire up the carbon steel pan.

Remember, the pan can get as hot as 700 F, so have a good pair of 12-inch tongs at the ready. Turn on the exhaust fan so any smoke from the pan will be pulled out of the kitchen.

Charred Vegetable Salad With Garbanzo Beans

Use any fresh vegetables you enjoy. Besides broccoli, carrots and onions, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, turnips, Chinese bok choy and celery are also delicious when charred.

All the vegetables must be cut into small pieces so they will cook evenly. Leafy greens can be shredded. Calculate the order in which you add the vegetables based on how long they take to cook. For example, broccoli, carrots and turnips take more time to cook than does spinach.

Because carbon steel pans are relatively nonstick, less oil is required when cooking. The recipe calls for a minimum amount of blended oil. Use more depending on taste.

Reducing balsamic vinegar creates a thicker sauce and adds sweetness, offsetting the acid.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup blended oil, 80% canola oil, 20% extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, washed; skin, root and top removed; thin sliced
  • 1 15-ounce can cooked garbanzo beans, organic if available, drained
  • 2 cups shiitake, portabello or other brown mushrooms, dirt cleaned off, stems trimmed on the end, thin sliced
  • 2 cups broccoli crowns, washed, each floret cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 large carrot, washed, stem and root ends trimmed, peeled, finely diced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 large bunches Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions

1. In a small saucepan over a low flame, reduce the balsamic vinegar to one quarter the original volume. Set aside to cool.

2. Arrange all the prepped vegetables on a cutting board or in bowls for easy use.

3. Place a 10-, 12- or 14-inch carbon steel pan or cast iron pan on a high flame. When the pan begins to smoke, turn on the over-the-stove exhaust fan.

4. Drizzle a teaspoon of blended oil on the hot pan and immediately add the thin-sliced onions. Using tongs, toss the onions in the hot oil, turning frequently to avoid burning. When the onions are lightly browned, add drained garbanzo beans. Mix together. Add another drizzle of blended oil. Using tongs, toss frequently to avoid burning.

5. Add mushrooms. Stir and mix well until lightly browned.

6. Add broccoli crowns. Stir and mix well until lightly browned.

7. Add finely diced carrots. Mix well and drizzle with blended oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

8. Taste a broccoli crown and carrot dice. When they are al dente, with a little crispness, remove from the flame.

9. Transfer to a bowl or large plate to cool.

10. Place the finely chopped Italian parsley into a large salad bowl. Add the room-temperature charred garbanzo beans and vegetables. Toss well. Season the salad with extra virgin olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Recipe: Fennel granola is a wild breakfast treat


Granola is a marvelous vehicle for foraged seeds. When I harvested more than a quart of fennel seeds last fall, I never could have imagined that I'd have used them all by spring.

Thanks to the delicate anise cookie-like taste of fennel granola, I believe my demand for fennel seeds will always outreach my supply. Fennel granola is so delightful that even those who don't have access to wild-harvested seeds will want to make it. Store-bought fennel seeds are slightly less flavorful, but work well in this recipe.

As a forager, I find wild seeds to be fascinating, particularly in fall, when the number of other crops to pick diminishes. Every year, I work hard to collect all manner of wild seeds. Some of these, such as seeds from the mustard family, are very flavorful and can be used as spices. Others, such as lamb's-quarter and its cousin kochia, need to be processed to remove bitter components before they can be utilized as food. Other seeds, for example evening primrose, a high source of gamma-linolenic acid, are relatively flavorless but powerfully nutritious.

Seeds such as amaranth, nettle or evening primrose are easy to bring into the kitchen, requiring little more to process than simply shaking them off the plant and some minor winnowing. These seeds are a dream to harvest, but because they have little flavor, I often forget about using them over the course of the winter. In theory, they can be ground to better access their nutrition, then used atop or mixed into pretty much anything you could cook, from salad to breadcrumb toppings to dessert. In practice, these flavorless wild seeds sit unused in my kitchen. A foraging friend, Erica Marciniec, mentioned using her seeds in granola. I followed her advice and it worked brilliantly. Finally, with granola, I've found a way to use these wild seeds in a way that is convenient for me to cook, and that the whole family will enjoy.

While I really enjoyed eating my wild seeds in a typical cinnamon-flavored granola, I knew I could somehow boost the flavor.

That's when I rediscovered my quart of fennel seeds. Initially, I added only a teaspoon of fennel seeds. I discovered that I loved the taste so much that I omitted cinnamon entirely and increased the fennel to further enhance the flavor of the granola.

I ran nine test batches of fennel granola, tweaking every detail you could imagine. In the end, leaving it in the oven produced the most consistently brown and crunchy granola. The addition of the egg white helps to form clusters. Of course, it could easily be omitted if you are making granola for someone with an egg allergy.

I tried making this granola with honey, but found the flavor competed too much with the fennel. Using brown sugar as a sweetener makes this recipe budget friendly, too. If you'd prefer to use honey, substitute 2/3 cup honey, and omit the brown sugar and water.

Fennel Granola

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 to 12 minutes

Total time: 6 to 8 hours (including cooling time in the oven)

Yield: 5 cups

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups quick oats
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • ¼ cup fennel seeds, lightly ground in a spice mill
  • 2 tablespoons other wild seeds such as evening primrose (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 egg white

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2. In a small pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the brown sugar and water, raise the heat to medium, and let it bubble for 2 minutes. Remove it from the heat, and stir in the vanilla.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the two kinds of oatmeal, seeds, salt and almonds.

4. Pour the warm liquid ingredients over the dry ones, and make certain that they are mixed very thoroughly, so that all of the oatmeal appears wet.

5. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white with a fork until it is frothy. Add it to the oatmeal mixture, and again, stir very well.

6. Pour the granola mix onto a greased 12×17-inch baking sheet. Use a spatula to press it down and make it evenly thick. This will help to ensure that you will have big chunks once it is cooked.

7. Place the granola in the oven and bake it for 10 to 12 minutes. When that time is up, turn off the oven, and leave the granola inside until it is cool. From the time the granola goes into the oven until the oven is cool, do not open the oven door.

Bay area chef revives tradition of supper clubs


What’s the difference between a “pop-up” restaurant and a supper club? About 50 years.

Intimate dining rooms had all but faded into a thing of the past until recently, when the idea re-emerged among millennials as the underground or “pop-up” restaurant. While these smaller, informal dining arrangements are similar to the traditional supper club in basic function, the spirit has changed. In today’s so-called supper clubs, the love and warmth of a chef who truly enjoys cooking a good meal for friends is often superseded by a desire to be exclusive or edgy. 

But chef Noah Jacob doesn’t go for the clubby part of supper club.

With his Bay Area-based gastronomic venture, Comestible Catering & Supper Club, Jacob has given new life to the supper club tradition. At Comestible events, the atmosphere is light-hearted and carried by the laughter and chatter of family, as well as friends new and old. The meals are skillfully prepared, yet unpretentious. There is a sense of fresh creativity and energy in this old-fashioned affair. 

Comestible caters events both large and small, kosher and non-kosher. The team of chefs and culinary entrepreneurs are actively involved in the local Jewish community, often hosting events for the San Francisco Jewish Federation and the Jewish Film Festival, as well as elaborate Passover seders. 

It all began when Jacob and a friend, chef Tim Symes, slaughtered a lamb in Jacob’s garage at his Northern California home. But even before that, Jacob had long been passionately engaged in all aspects of the world of food. 

When Jacob was 14 years old, he began his first job in a Portland restaurant as a dishwasher. “Working as a dishwasher gave me great respect for people who do those jobs, the dirty jobs, the less-desired jobs, the physically hard jobs. … I’m sure it’s because of what I learned in those years that I make it a priority to treat my staff as I would like to be treated,” Jacob said, looking back on the experience.

Jacob continued to work in restaurants through high school and college, but when he moved to New York City in 2001, he gave up cooking to pursue a career in finance. After several years in the financial sector, Jacob got married and moved with his new wife, Dori, to San Francisco. It was then Jacob realized that it was cooking, not finance, that made him happy. Jacob explained, “I had a strong connection to my cultural Jewish heritage. … I was hoping to have that be a piece of what I was going to do next.” 

Jacob heard about a new Jewish deli opening in the Mission District of San Francisco, Wise Sons. He tracked down the owners, told them he wanted to be a part of their team and that he’d do whatever they needed, even without payment. “I just wanted to be back in the kitchen learning,” Jacob said. For the next year, Jacob worked at the deli, where he was trained to smoke and cure meats, slice fish, make pickles and prepare vegetables with speed and accuracy. 

 It was around this time that chefs Jacob and Symes butchered the lamb, which they then served over eight courses to 10 people at Jacob’s house. “From there, the supper club evolved to be a more elaborate event, starting with a theme or an ingredient and four or five chefs in friendly competition, with a sommelier or mixologist and a wait staff,” Jacob said. The supper clubs gained in popularity and guests began asking if Jacob could cater their corporate events. 

Jacob’s love of food, and the source of inspiration for much of what he cooks, stems from his Jewish heritage. 

“The techniques and flavor combinations of the foods I grew up with are my daily inspirations, using smoke and brine, caraway and dill, and using cheaper ingredients and attempting to elevate them to more sophisticated levels,” Jacob said. “Beyond that, it’s also about feeding people and how it equates with showing love. I think that’s one of the things that I appreciate most about Judaism and food culture, how tied to food and love are.”

With a baby at home, Jacob has had less time for creating menus, but plenty of food and love in his life. He enjoys reinventing antiquated Jewish recipes and believes that “soon enough, we’ll see modern adaptations of kugel and kishke and gefilte fish on fancy menus all over the place.” 

His embrace of his heritage has lead directly to his emphasis on ethical food. We must pay attention to where our food comes from, Jacob said, not just because the way something is grown correlates to the quality of its taste, but also because it’s the right thing to do. 

“With kashrut, Jews were probably the first people to truly source their food and closely examine its origins,” Jacob said. “While training as a chef and a caterer, I worked for a fully kosher-certified Bay Area caterer to learn exactly how kashrut is applied in commercial kitchens and professional events.”

When sourcing ingredients, Comestible goes beyond the farm-to-table movement, returning to Jacob’s Jewish roots. During his interactions with farmers and suppliers, Jacob strives to find the best kosher ingredients and ensures that the animals used in his dishes were treated humanely. 

Jacob remembers the early days of his supper club events fondly. “I know that it’s not going to be possible to ever go back to the way they were at the beginning, with all of the excitement and mistakes and far too many drinks for both cooks and diners. … It felt like a moment in time, where everyone kind of knew something special was happening. There was just so much creativity and teamwork, and I think you could really see it in the presentation and taste it in the food,” Jacob said. 

In the near future, Jacob hopes to grow Comestible’s team of chefs, but he is also determined to remain personally involved in every event that they cater. He will only take on as many events as he can while still offering the same high-quality, heartfelt dining experience. For Jacob, the goal has never been about numbers or filling seats. Comestible is founded on a simple tradition of sharing good food with good company. 

COMESTIBLE GRAVLAX

People always think that lox have to be expensive or labor-intensive, but in reality, these dishes are super-easy to make and fairly inexpensive. All you need is some foresight, as the fish takes 4 to 6 days to cure, minimum. 

  • 2 sides of salmon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground star anise
  • 2 tablespoons ground juniper
  • 2 tablespoons ground clove
  • 2 tablespoons ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons ground fennel seed
  • 4 bunches of dill

 

Start with two fillets of salmon, skin-down, on a cutting board.

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. 

Pour half the dry rub over both salmon fillets and rub into salmon meat thoroughly. Next, lay bunches of dill over one of the salmon fillets until it is completely covered in dill. Pour the remaining dry rub over the fillet with the dill. 

Place the other fillet skin-up on top of the dill-covered fillet to create a salmon sandwich, with the thick layer of dill as the middle. Line up the fillets as closely as possible so all the spices and dill stay inside.

Next, wrap the salmon sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and place in a large roasting pan. Place another roasting pan directly on top of the salmon sandwich (covering it completely) and weigh it down with cans or something heavy, such as a Dutch oven or cast iron pan. This is the pressing process. Place in refrigerator.

After two days, open it up and flip the salmon sandwich so the other side is facing up. Rewrap it with fresh plastic wrap and place the salmon sandwich back in the roasting pan, repeating the pressing process for the second side. The salmon will release some water, but it shouldn’t smell bad or fishy. 

After an additional two to four days, pull from the refrigerator and unwrap. Toss the dill and give the filets a quick rinse before laying them skin-down on a paper towel. You will see the pin bones starting to protrude. Go down each fillet and pull out the bones with tweezers; they should slide right out at this point. 

Once it is deboned, your salmon is ready to be sliced for lox or used however you see fit. The serving size will depend on the size of your salmon fillet, usually between 2 and 4 pounds. One side of salmon usually makes sliced lox for 20 to 30 people. The scraps can be chopped up and whipped into cream cheese for homemade shmeer. 

Recipe: Fresh eggs and spring herbs come together in veggie sfougata


“My girls are laying so fast I can’t keep up with them,” Martha says. She has arrived at my door with another dozen eggs, fresh from her henhouse, no doubt laid within the past 24 hours.

In Italy an egg that fresh is a treasure. It’s called a “uova da bere,” a drinkable egg, and it’s often turned into something called zabaglione, which is not perhaps what you think it is because it is not cooked at all. For this kind of zabaglione you use the freshest egg, preferably one still a little warm from the hen’s body, and a good heaping teaspoonful of sugar. You beat the egg and the sugar together in a small bowl, using a fork or mini whisk, beating it steadily for about 10 or 15 minutes until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Sometimes a few drops of Marsala wine get beaten in as well. And then at breakfast you simply sip the lush, gooey mixture with a spoon, emitting little sighs of pleasure as you do so. (The egg-and-sugar sauce called zabaglione goes one step further and beats the mixture over — but not in — boiling water until it is thicker, almost like a runny pudding. It’s delicious served with fresh seasonal berries, so keep it in mind for strawberry season, not many weeks away.)

Martha, however, is a down-to-earth Maine girl like me, and the very idea of a breakfast of sugar and raw eggs is not on her cultural horizon. Nor on mine. Leave that to the Italians.

A Mediterranean-inspired egg dish

Instead, I decided to use the spring bounty of eggs to make a seasonal favorite from another part of the Mediterranean, the island of Crete.

Quick timeout for a food iconography lesson: Do you ever wonder at the association between Easter and eggs? When you think about hens and their lifestyle, it’s pretty obvious. Hens stop laying in winter, when the daylight hours grow short, then start up again in spring. In the natural rhythm of things, eggs become plentiful precisely at this time of year, when the light is growing stronger day by day. So Easter, whether Catholic or Orthodox, is symbolized all over the Mediterranean by eggs as icons of rebirth. So why in our modern supermarkets do we have eggs all year round? Because our hens are exposed to artificial light, often 24 hours a day, and that keeps them going strong. Or not so strong, because they must usually be replaced after 18 to 24 months.

Make this recipe your own

Back to Crete, where sfougata, a combination of eggs, cheese and vegetables, somewhere between a soufflé and a frittata, is popular for all those times when household cooks are strapped to come up with something cheap, filling and delicious. In spring, that combination usually includes greens, but I could equally imagine doing this in the autumn with mushrooms or slivers of winter squash toasted in olive oil, and at the height of summer it would be delicious with fresh roasted peppers and little chunks of eggplant. But for spring, I did it with some delicate new spinach I picked up at the farmers market along with sliced zucchini. Quintessential to the flavor, it seems to me, is a handful of finely minced dill added at the very end, so the taste stays forward.

My advice? Make this once the way I’ve detailed below, then start to experiment, using leeks instead of spring onions, or a mixture of foraged and cultivated greens (dandelion greens, beet greens, chard, maybe even a little Chinese broccoli), or adding a couple of small diced potatoes to the skillet with the other vegetables. Another great spring vegetable combination, and very much in the Mediterranean spirit, would be asparagus and fava beans, if available, or fresh peas if not.

Let your imagination play with the recipe, and you’ll find all sorts of uses for what could become fundamental to your repertoire — and a savior for all those times when you simply have run out of time and inspiration.

Although the total time listed is 1 1/2 hours, this can be broken down into manageable chunks. Make the vegetables ahead of time (even a day ahead), taking about 45 minutes, then mix up the eggs and cheese just before the meal, stir in the prepared vegetables, and bake for 25 minutes.

Sfougato of Zucchini and Spinach

Prep time: About 30 minutes.

Cook time: About 1 hour.

Total time: About 1 1/2 hours.

Yield: 4 servings as a main course, 6 as a starter.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 5 or 6 spring onions, about 1/2 pound, including green tops, chopped to make 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 pound zucchini (2 medium zucchini), thinly sliced, to make about 2 to 3 cups
  • 6 ounces to 8 ounces fresh spinach, slivered (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh dill or finely chopped fresh mint, leaves only
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • About 1 cup coarsely grated Cretan graviera cheese or Swiss gruyere (or use a mixture of gruyere and parmigiano reggiano)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of Middle Eastern red chili pepper

 

Directions

Heat half the olive oil in a big, heavy skillet over medium-low heat and gently sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook briefly. As soon as the zucchini slices start to soften, stir in the spinach, mixing thoroughly. If the pan seems a little dry, add 1/2 cup of water, cover the pan and cook gently until the spinach is softened and the zucchini slices are tender. If there are excess juices, raise the heat and cook rapidly to evaporate the extra liquid. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the dill, mixing well.

Use the remaining oil to grease the bottom of a rectangular oven dish that is approximately 11 inches by 8 inches. Heat the oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. Add the grated cheese and fold in the vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with a pinch of Middle Eastern red pepper flakes.

Pour the mixture into the oven dish and transfer to the hot oven. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the top is nicely browned.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 or 15 minutes before serving. This dish can also be served at room temperature — a nice suggestion for lunch on a hot day.

Copyright 2016 Nancy Harmon Jenkins via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express

Recipe: Bengali egg curry with clingy caramelized onion sauce


In mid-April, the people of Bengal — a region straddling Bangladesh and parts of India, including my hometown in West Bengal — celebrate the Bengali New Year.

Bengalis of all religious persuasions celebrate this secular holiday with music, song and, of course, plenty of good food.

It's only appropriate to go all out, food-wise, on naba barsha, as Bengalis call the holiday. Food in Bengali is synonymous with all events and happenings. But for festivals like the one for the new year, Bengalis go the whole nine yards on the dinner table.

People also buy new clothes and other new items with the belief that something done at the beginning of the year repeats itself year-round. Bengali traders crack open fresh new account books called the haal khata on this day.

A new year ahead, with taxes behind us

Ironically, the Bengali New Year, which falls this year on April 13th, originated in the Mughal Empire, when it marked a fresh beginning after the collection of taxes.

So, celebrate the end of tax season with me by delving into this regional cuisine.

Bengal, with its west monsoon climate and proximity to rivers, offers a diet rich in fish, greens, rice and vegetables. Its seasonings are distinct and prominent with the use of mustard, poppy seeds, ginger and a Bengali Five Spice Blend consisting of mustard, cumin, nigella, fenugreek and fennel. This seasoning is called panch phoron: panch means five and phoron means tempering.

The Bengali meal ranges from light to heavy courses, with a sweet and sour chutney to cleanse the palate before dessert.

Starting the new year with a family recipe that travels well

The fact that the holiday lands midweek this year puts a wrinkle on food celebrations.

This year, however I've resurrected a well-seasoned egg dish that my grandmother used to call her “picnic dimer dalna” or picnic egg curry.

Our “picnics” consisted usually of multilayered lunch boxes, filled with puffy fried breads known as luchi and drier curries like alur dom. In our family's case, it included these eggs, since my grandmother felt that we should get our protein as growing children.

This dish travels very well, and actually improves as leftovers. My children now love this as a special breakfast treat and it can be enjoyed with toasted bread almost as much as the luchi, which can be difficult to pull off on a school-day morning. The eggs, however, can be made the night before.

This particular recipe is also known as Kosha Dimer Dalna. The word kosha in Bengali refers to slow-cooked and refers to the slow-cooked onions in the dish.

This year, if you feel that you just might need an excuse for a new beginning and an opportunity to revisit your New Year’s resolutions, join the Bengalis in celebrating our Bengali New Year.

Kosha Dimer Dalna (Egg Curry with Clingy Caramelized Onion Sauce)

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 to 50 minutes

Total time: 65 to 70 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 3 medium-sized onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 to 3 cardamoms
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon red cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 8 eggs, hard-boiled and shelled
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • Chopped cilantro to garnish

 

Directions

1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and add in the sliced onions. Cook the onions on low heat, until they gradually wilt, soften and turn golden brown. This process will take about 30 to 35 minutes, but should not be rushed.

2. Add in the ginger and stir well.

3. Add in the cardamoms, tomatoes and red cayenne pepper. Cook for about five minutes until the mixture thickens and the tomatoes begin to soften.

4. In the meantime, make slits on the sides of the eggs and rub them with the salt and the turmeric.

5. Mix the eggs into the tomato mixture and cook for about 5 minutes, until the eggs are well-coated with the onion base.

6. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.

Copyright 2016 Rinku Bhattacharya via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express

Elizabeth Belkind’s Nutella babka with hazelnut brittle


Note: At Cake Monkey Bakery, pastry chef and co-owner Elizabeth Belkind makes house-made “Nutella” by combining dark chocolate ganache, pastry cream and pulverized hazelnut brittle. For the purpose of simplicity here, she’s substituted it with store-bought Nutella. 

RECIPE COMPONENTS

  1. Brioche dough
  2. Hazelnut brittle
  3. Nutella filling
  4. Simple syrup

 

BRIOCHE

  • Slightly less than 2 cups high-protein bread flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold, yet pliable, butter

 

Combine the two flours, the yeast and the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using a hand-held whisk, whisk for just a few seconds to distribute the yeast evenly.

Add the eggs and the salt, and with the dough hook attachment of the mixer, mix on low speed for up to 10 minutes, or increase to medium until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough seems dry, sprinkle a few drops of water into the bowl, one at a time.

Begin to add the butter, a few small pieces at a time, until the butter is incorporated and the dough becomes smooth and uniform again, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be very buttery and very unwieldy at this point. 

Turn the dough out into a greased bowl or cookie sheet. Chill the dough in the refrigerator overnight, or for a minimum of six hours.

[READ: CAKE MONKEY BAKERY STEALS THE SHOW]

HAZELNUT BRITTLE

For this recipe, you will need to have all your equipment ready and within reach. It comes together quickly, and requires that you are ready to act and responsively follow the steps. You will need a half-sheet tray or cookie sheet; two silicone tray liners/baking mats, or two pieces of parchment paper with nonstick vegetable cooking spray, sized as big as or slightly bigger than the tray; and a rolling pin.

  • Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 heaping cup raw (not blanched) hazelnuts
  • 7/10 cup sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 

Cover a half-sheet pan or a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper, or ideally, a silicone pad (such as a Silpat nonstick baking mat). Spray the pad or parchment sheets lightly with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

Place the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and roast for 9 to 10 minutes, or until aromatic. Remove from the oven and set aside. 

Place sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed, stainless steel pot. Melt the sugar over high heat, stirring occasionally with a tempered rubber spatula to ensure even heat throughout. When the sugar darkens to a rich, dark, caramel brown, add the warm hazelnuts and stir them in with the spatula. Coat all the hazelnuts in the caramelized sugar, then turn them out onto the parchment- or baking mat-lined tray. 

Being careful not to touch any part of the hot, sugar-coated nuts, cover them with another silicone mat or piece of sprayed parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the mixture to flatten it as much as possible. This will make it easier to crush the candy into small pieces to use for topping on the babka.

Allow the hazelnut brittle to cool completely. Once it has, use a rolling pin again to crush it by hitting it, or pressing down on it until you are left with some powdery bits and some bits that are about 1/4-inch (this helps prevent any accidental teeth breakage). 

ASSEMBLE AND BAKE THE BABKA

Spray the inside of an approximately 9-by-4 loaf pan that is about 3 inches deep, then line it with a strip of parchment paper that is the same width as the pan and comes up over the sides just a little. Spray the parchment.

Set aside three cups of the dough. This is best done with a kitchen scale; if you have one, weigh 600 grams of the dough. (You will have a small nub of dough left over, which you can shape into a mini free-form babka to snack on right out of the oven.)

Measure 1 1/4 cup (11 ounces) of Nutella for assembly; this leaves 2 ounces in the smaller standard jar to use on your snack babka.

Measure 1 to 1 1/2 cups crushed hazelnut brittle.

Working quickly, and preferably in a comfortably chilly room, roll the dough into a 9-by-16 rectangle. Spread the Nutella over the dough as close to the edge as possible, but allowing a small strip of dough to remain bare on all sides.

Roll the dough tightly lengthwise. Seal the ends of the roll. Chill the roll for about 10 minutes if it becomes soft and sticky. Otherwise, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the roll in half down the middle. Seal the ends of both pieces again. Braid both pieces together. Seal the end again.

Place the roll in the loaf pan and tuck it in as needed. Place the pan in a temperate area of your home to rise — not too warm, not too cold. Too much warmth will cause the butter to bleed out of the dough. Allow the dough to rise until it is almost, but not quite, doubles in size. It should not rise so much that it comes out over the edges of the baking pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 with a convection oven). 

When the dough has risen enough, place the loaf pan in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (maybe a little less, about 30 minutes in a convection oven).

While the babka bakes, prepare the simple syrup.

SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

 

Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Set aside.

Remove the loaf pan from the oven and set it on a heat-resistant surface.

Using a pastry brush, generously brush simple syrup all over the top of the babka.

Top the babka with your crushed hazelnut brittle. Be very generous with it. The crunchy topping steals the show!

Place the loaf pan back in the oven and bake for another 10 to 12 minutes. Test the doneness of the babka by tapping the side of the loaf pan. It should sound hollow. 

Remove babka from the oven and allow it to cool, undisturbed, for 25 minutes. Run a knife or small offset spatula along the sides of the pan (not the sides of the babka) to release it from the pan. Invert the loaf pan onto a plate if needed to release the babka completely. Then rest it, right side up, on the plate for a few minutes. 

Serve warm if you like, or, after the babka cools completely, cover and serve it at room temperature. If properly covered and stored, the babka will stay fresh for about two days. 

Purim recipe: Chocolate eclair hamantaschen


While traditional eclairs use a batter to bake the crispy shell, then a homemade custard filling this recipe uses store bought puff pastry, instant vanilla pudding and chocolate chips making it a super simple (and delicious!) treat to whip up for the holiday.

Ingredients:

  • Puff pastry dough
  • 1 packet of instant vanilla pudding, prepared
  • 1 package of chocolate chips

Directions:

Cut triangle out of puff pastry dough using a cookie cutter. Fold into triangles.

Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper then bake on 350′ for 10 to 12 minutes until puffed.

Once puff pastry is baked, allow to cool off then take one puff pastry triangle and gently separate into two layers.

Top one layer with vanilla pudding then place the other layer on top of pudding.

Melt chocolate chips by placing in microwave safe bowl and melt on 30 second intervals.

Top puff pastry triangle with melted chocolate.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Purim recipe: Fruity Pebbles hamantaschen


Pastry dough studded with colorful crispy fruity pebbles will bring both the kids and adults to the table. 

Servings: about 20 hamantaschen

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup fruity pebbles plus more for decorating
  • Strawberry jam for filling

 

Directions:

Cream together sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla.

Slowly add flour and baking powder. Mix together.

Add fruity pebbles and combine with dough.

Roll out dough on floured surface (about 1/4 to 1/8 thick. Not too thick since then the circles are hard to shape and will open up. Not too thin since then it will rip when shaping or filling.) If the dough is slightly sticky rolling it out on floured surface will help smooth it out.

Cut out circles using a large circle cookie cutter or the rim of a large glass cup or mason jar.

Fill center of circle with strawberry jam (about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp), fold* and bake on 350′ for 12 to 15 minutes depending on how soft or crispy you want them. I like them super soft so took them out around 10 to 12 minutes.

Once hamantaschen have cooled off drizzle melted white chocolate or icing on top. (Icing is powdered sugar with water or milk mixed together until you have desired consistency.)

Immediately top with fruity pebbles.

*How To Shape Hamantashen: Place filling in center than slowly fold over one side. Then the next and finally bring the bottom on top. Gently pinch the corners. You can also simply bring up the sides, forming a triangle by pinching the corners together.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Champagne: Perfect for your Oscar successes and failures


Soon, Academy Award winners will be popping open some bubbly and the runners-up will be drowning their sorrows. What Champagne or other sparkling wines should they have on ice while they wait on Oscar? Better yet, what about you? 

Looking for ideas, the Journal turned to Michael Bernstein, 35, proprietor of The Cask on Pico Boulevard, which has nearly 500 wine titles and is the largest all-kosher wine and spirits shop on the West Coast.

JEWISH JOURNAL: What’s the best kosher Champagne to celebrate an Oscar win?

MICHAEL BERNSTEIN: Hands down, the Oscar would go to the Laurent-Perrier Rosé ($150).

JJ: What makes it so special?

MB: When you taste it, you know it.

JJ: What’s the best to serve at an Oscar party?

MB: If you are looking for a cheaper Champagne, then I would go with a Drappier Carte d’Or for $55, but a sparkling wine like a Yarden Blanc de Blanc for $35 or a Bartenura Prosecco for $19 are also great options, depending on your budget. 

JJ: Is there any difference in the process for making kosher Champagne?

MB: No. The process only needs to be worked on by Shabbos-observant Jews.

JJ: What is the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?

MB: Real Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France. Sparkling wines can come from anywhere else in the world. Prosecco, like Champagne, France, is a region in Italy.

JJ: What are the qualities of a good sparkling wine?

MB: I think it comes down to personal preference. Me, personally, I look for a more full-bodied, citrus style. I’m also a sucker for a good rosé, both sparkling and non.

JJ: What are your favorite Israeli sparkling wines?

MB: I mentioned the Yarden Blanc de Blancs. Their brut and rosé, I think, are fantastic.

JJ: Why is Champagne so expensive? Isn’t it the same grape juice as white wine?  

MB: I think originally Champagne became so expensive because it’s what was served to kings and queens during celebrations. That being said, sparkling wines have made tremendous growth in the past 100 years and don’t come with the hefty price tag that Champagnes have.

JJ: What about Bartenura? Does that count as sparkling wine?

MB: The Bartenura Moscato (in the blue bottle) is considered a frizzante wine, and is not considered a [full] sparkling wine. However, Bartenura does make a sparkling prosecco, a sparkling Moscato, a sparkling Moscato rosé and an Asti Spumante. 

JJ: Why is Bartenura so popular?

MB: I believe it all gets credited to the rappers. … Drake, Rick Ross, DJ Khaled and Lil Wayne. While they might not seem like poster boys for a sweet kosher wine, the Bartenura Moscato was featured in [DJ Khaled’s] “I’m on One” video and that, I think, opened the doors to an entirely different clientele for the company. 

JJ: What’s your top-selling sparkling wine?

MB: Sparkling: Bartenura Prosecco. Champagne: Drappier Carte d’Or.

JJ: What kind of sparkling wine is best for cocktails?

MB: I think prosecco is the best to use for cocktails. It tastes good, and most of them don’t break the bank.

JJ: What’s your favorite Champagne cocktail?

MB: I think mimosas are probably my favorite — easy to make and delicious!

JJ: What will you be drinking on Oscar night?

MB: I’ll probably have a scotch in hand, as a toast to Leo’s [DiCaprio] first-ever statue, and rooting for Jennifer Lawrence to win her second. (I’m a big fan!) 

MIMOSAS

Makes 8 Mimosa Cocktails

  • 1 750 ml bottle chilled dry sparkling wine
  • 3 cups and 8 teaspoons (750 ml) chilled orange juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) of triple sec (optional)

 

Fill 8 champagne flutes half-full with chilled sparkling wine. Top with orange juice. Top each mimosa with 1 tablespoon of triple sec (optional).

For 1 Mimosa Cocktail

  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) chilled dry sparkling wine
  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) chilled orange juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) triple sec (optional)

Coffee beyond the cup: Java desserts and marinades


Coffee actually started out as a food, not a drink. A thousand years ago in Africa, the birthplace of coffee, locals would mash the ripe “cherries'' from wild coffee trees to create a dried traveling food packed with protein and nutrients; sort of an early version of the breakfast bar.

While it is the outer “cherry'' fruit of the coffee bean that has protein, it's the inner roasted coffee bean that has the flavor. “All great chefs value the quality of their ingredients and the same applies to coffee,'' says Lynda Calimano, editor in chief of the popular monthly Coffee and Tea Newsletter. “So when using them in recipes, we at the Coffee and Tea Newsletter, can't emphasize enough the importance of organic Fair Trade, shade-grown coffee, seasonally harvested if you want the best flavor and to retain the nutritional elements.''

When asked why, she added, “Because organic coffee is grown without pesticides and harvested in season, which maintains quality, nutrients and protects your health and the environment. Fair Trade, which guarantees a fair wage and other benefits, makes farmers happy and happy farmers produce great harvests.''

I'll drink — and eat — to that!

Italian Mocha Cake (Torta Nera)

From “Dolci: Italy's Sweets” by Francine Segan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Baking time: 30 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

This flourless cake has a crisp, macaroon-like top layer and a dense, incredibly moist center. As the cake cools, it collapses just a little, creating a pretty webbing on the delicious crust.

Ingredients

7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

7 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cacao or higher

1 ounce freshly brewed espresso or 1 teaspoon granulated instant espresso

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons potato or cornstarch

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform cake pan.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small bowl, either in the microwave or over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Stir in the espresso.

3. In a large bowl beat the sugar and egg yolks with an electric hand-held mixer until creamy and pale yellow. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and beat until creamy. Add the potato or cornstarch and mix until well combined.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Slowly, using a spatula, fold the egg whites, a little at a time, into the chocolate mixture until combined.

5. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until just set in the center.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

And the Oscar for the best popcorn ever goes to…


It's Oscars time, and in addition to dressing for the occasion, we always like to set the table with award-worthy snacks. This year, we plan to honor the movies with their best-loved partner, popcorn.

Of course, because it's the Oscars, it couldn't be just any microwaved popcorn. Last week when I found some dried popcorn being cut off the cob at the farmers' market, I knew it was time to use my newly inspired love for spices to elevate popcorn to a starring role.

First, you must be willing to set aside the iconic melted butter and find the very best extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to dress the hot kernels. EVOO's intense flavor will lend an earthy, grassy, herbal flavor that just belongs with farm-grown popcorn.

Next, your choice of salt is critical to the perfect box of popcorn. It's got to be soft enough to cling to the kernels, but crunchy enough to hold its own on the palate. I found that the moisture of grey sea salt fit the bill perfectly.

Finally, adding variety with ground spices, grated cheeses and even cocoa powder creates an interesting mix of options for movie-loving guests. Any blend of favorite flavors will do, but my winning combination was hot salted popcorn tossed with grated pecorino romano cheese, sprinkled with Aleppo pepper flakes and doused with another healthy drizzle of olive oil.

Old-Fashioned, New-Flavored Popcorn

Serves 4

  • Ingredients
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste

 

Flavoring suggestions:

  • Grated hard or semi-hard cheese
  • Aleppo or Marash chili pepper
  • Cocoa powder mixed with sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Smoked paprika
  • Saffron
  • Freshly ground peppercorns

 

Directions

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 3-quart, deep saucepan. As soon as the oil melts and spreads evenly, add enough kernels to fill one layer on the bottom. Cover and increase heat to high flame. As soon as the corn starts popping, shake rigorously over heat until popping is complete.

2. Immediately dress with olive oil and salt and toss to coat.

3. If you are adding grated cheese, do so immediately after removing from heat to ensure that cheese clings to popcorn.

4. Sprinkle with other seasonings to taste.

Adar: Conflict and joy and a recipe for stuffed dates


This article first appeared on Neesh Noosh

We are encouraged to celebrate and have more joy than normal during the month of Adar.

“The whole month of Adar is learning how to grow and heal through joy and laughter. . . . . the main reason we came into this world is to experience and teach joy.” writes Melinda Ribner of Kabbalah of the Heart. Moses was born on the 7th of Adar and the holiday of Purim (the miracle of the Jews survival against Haman) is celebrated during Adar. The 9th of Adar commemorates “marks the day that two thousand years ago healthy disagreements ‘for the sake of Heaven’ turned destructive.”  In honor of it, the 9Adar project is a week devoted to “strengthening a culture of constructive conflict across personal, political, religious, and other divides.”

Living in Israel now makes me acutely aware of the need for constructive conflict skills here. I love and appreciate the multi-faceted diverse nature of this country. But, whether it’s the mundane experience of impatient people at[insert location of choice] or the more serious societal divisions based on one’s religious practices, politics, race or geographical residence, there are challenges (and I am referring to things that go beyond the average Israeli’s normal direct words and actions).

Indeed, in my brief time here thus far, I’ve chosen to participate in many activities where I’m an “outsider” and each of these experiences has only increased my joy because I’ve felt welcome, been part of a cultural bridge, listened to someone else’s perspective that is different from mine and/or stood in solidarity with someone who was victimized because of their identity.  We could each be inspired by Moses, a humble person, as we reflect on our identities and beliefs during the process of constructive conflict. Indeed, processing conflict in a respectful way is rewarding. Perhaps it’s not process for more “joy” one would expect during Adar (watching a comedy film might be an easier option), it can be powerful and meaningful.

The food that I prepared for Adar is a sweet for Purim that also looks (a bit!) like sushi fish (fish is the symbol of Adar). While I learned this recipe at at Tu B’shevat seder, the no-added-sugar, protein-rich treat is delicious (and easy to prepare) to put in your Purim baskets. I love these (ie joy) and hope you feel the same, too!

Stuffed Dates

Ingredients

  • 5 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 5 walnuts or almond
  • 1 tbsp nut butter (peanut, almond, etc)
  • 1 tsp cacao nibs or powder
  • optional: 1 tbsp shredded coconut

 

Preparation

1. Remove pits from dates.
2. Place a nut in each date. Put a bit of the nut butter inside and sprinkle with cacao nibs or powder. Option to top each one with shredded coconut.

B’tayavon!

For Valentine’s Day, a tender tale of love and meatballs


It's that time of year when a rash of stories appears to suggest, despite hard science to the contrary, that certain foods — oysters, chocolate or what have you — fire up the libido. A recipe, on the other hand, can have a different kind of romantic power. It might stir up memories or evoke our roots, allowing us to mingle, in a metaphorical way, with our ancestors. For some people, certain foods, whether pasta or potatoes, are imbued with symbolic meaning. The Umbrians, for example, link love and meatballs. Their region, coincidentally, is the birthplace of St. Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, affianced couples and happy marriages (not to mention beekeepers, plagues, epilepsy and fainting episodes).

The lore and lure of the meatball

According to the late Umbrian cookbook writer Guglielma Corsi in her classic “Un Secolo di Cucina Umbra” (“A Century of Umbrian Cooking”), it was once a custom among country people for a prospective mother-in-law to invite her son's bride-to-be for a home-cooked meal the day before their wedding and present her with a platter of meatballs. The future mother-in-law would offer her one, impaled on a fork, saying, “Daughter-in-law, may you be the joy of my home. Will you bring discord or union?” The bride was meant to answer, of course, “Union,” after which the mother-in-law would respond, “Then eat your polpettina.” A promise of domestic harmony, sealed with a meatball. It's perhaps not a surprising custom considering Umbria's Etruscan ancestors, those mysterious first settlers of Italy who, historians tell us, believed that every food harbored a spirit.

In the years since I first crisscrossed Umbria to study its traditions and foods, I, too, have come to believe that a good meatball is a talisman for domestic happiness. Thinking like an Etruscan, I can equate its plumpness as a symbol of abundance, its spherical form with wholeness, good health and the infinite potential of love. Who, in any case (vegetarians aside), doesn't love a good meatball?

Recipe variations around the world

As with everything else Italian, there is controversy about what constitutes a meatball's proper structure. For the tenderest meatballs, some say to add water to the ground meat mixture; others add ricotta. Still others swear by blending in sausage meat or pancetta — fat makes for both flavor and moistness. Signora Corsi's polpettine, a complex blend of three different fresh-ground meats as well as prosciutto, two kinds of cheese, egg, garlic, lemon zest, bread and marjoram, are probably as close to perfection as a meatball can come. But the Bolognese, who consider their cuisine unparalleled, like theirs “straight up,” with no fillers added to the meat, egg, and herb mixture. The succulence of their polpette is because of the addition of a healthy dose of minced mortadella. The Neapolitans sometimes add sultanas and pine nuts to theirs, a Baroque touch befitting their city. The Sardinians may use rice instead of bread, especially for meatballs that will be served at wedding feasts.

The meatball universe extends well beyond Italy. The Greeks spice them with cumin and oregano. A Colombian chef I know grinds together lamb and chorizo, then coats the meatballs with romesco sauce after cooking. A Spanish friend who runs a superb little restaurant near my house adds ground anise seeds to a mixture of beef, pork and veal, which he roasts in his wood-fired clay oven before serving the meatballs with a dollop of burrata in a puddle of tomato sauce. Persian recipes may blend yellow split peas with ground meat, pine nuts or dried fruits. Turkish mixtures are perfumed with cinnamon or saffron. And so on around the world.

I love them all, but the most tender is the result of a recipe I came up with one summer when the eggplants in my garden dangled from their vines ready for the picking, and I had just brought home a couple of pounds of fresh-ground lamb from the market. I roasted the eggplants until they were entirely collapsed and smoky, scooped out their flesh and plied the pulp with the meat mixture gingerly (overworking it results in a rubbery texture). I added scarce other ingredients besides garlic, rosemary and plenty of parsley — as anyone who is as fond of lamb as I am knows, the meat alone packs a big flavor punch. The eggplant sweetens and foils its gaminess.

No matter which kind of meatballs you make, there are many ways to serve them. Sometimes I offer them as an appetizer, threaded onto rosemary skewers. I might whip together hummus, Greek yogurt and cumin for a dip. Probably everyone's favorite is meatballs al pomodoro. The color red is a universal symbol of love, passion and happiness, so that's how I suggest you serve them on Valentine's Day, whether you are feeding kin, friends, or lovers.

Lamb and Eggplant Meatballs in Simple Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: About 40 minutes

Total time: About 1 hour 20 minutes

Yield: 20 meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 cup day-old sturdy bread such as sourdough or country loaf, crusts removed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (2 ounces trimmed weight)
  • 1 egg
  • Scant 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground lamb leg or shoulder
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
  • Extra virgin or pure olive oil for frying
  • 2 cups homemade meatless tomato sauce of your choice

 

Directions

1. Preheat an oven to 400 F.

2. Grease a baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place each half face down on it. Roast about 30 minutes, until it is entirely collapsed, soft and lightly charred on the cut side. Meanwhile, place the bread cubes in a shallow soup bowl and cover with water. Soak until moistened, several minutes. Drain and squeeze excess water from the bread.

3. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut off the stem. Chop finely.

4. In an ample mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, sea salt, pepper and garlic. Stir in the prepared bread cubes. Use your hands to break them up until they are well blended with the egg mixture. Add the chopped eggplant, ground lamb, parsley and rosemary. Using your fingers, mix the ingredients together without overworking them. If you have time, chill the mixture before forming the meatballs; this step can help you shape it into perfectly round spheres, but it is not essential.

5. With wet hands, form the mixture into equally sized balls about 1 1/4 inches in diameter, no larger than golf balls.

6. Prepare a platter with two layers of paper towels next to the burner over which you will be cooking. In an ample skillet or frying pan, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and warm it over medium heat. Fry the meatballs in batches to avoid overcrowding; there should be plenty of room around each for proper searing. When they have developed a light crust and look golden brown, about 10 minutes, transfer them to the paper towels to drain. If necessary, drain off smoky oil and add fresh oil to the pan to prevent the bits that settle on the bottom from burning. Warm the oil once again and finish frying.

7. If you are serving the meatballs in tomato sauce, warm it in a saucepan over medium heat and slip the browned meatballs into them. Cook them through, about 20 minutes. Serve at once. If you plan to make the meatballs in advance, cool and store them, with or without the tomato sauce, in a covered storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Alternatively, freeze them for up to 3 months.

Recipe: Sicilian fish with tomatoes, olives and capers


One of the most beautiful cities in Sicily is Syracuse, which has a history extending to the ancient Greeks. There is a method of cooking in Syracuse, especially applied to Sicilian fish, but other foods as well, that makes for beguiling dishes.

Stemperata is a Syracusean method of cooking that means something like “melting sauce” or “tempering sauce.”

The idea behind “melting sauce” is to meld a number of aromatic ingredients together by cooking slowly until the sauce or food is infused with flavor. The dish is finished with a sprinkle of vinegar that evaporates, or “melts,” into the sauce and it is the vinegar that gives the dish its distinctive flavor. Whenever you see a dish described as stemperata, you know it is a dish from Syracuse.

The concept of stemperata finds its roots in medieval cooking. According to the prevailing theory of dietetics at the time, prepared food had properties that would match the temperament of the person eating it.

In the mood for Sicilian fish

Certain foods were ideal for particular conditions or temperaments. The nature of foods could be changed by tempering the food with additions such as sauces or spicing.

In medieval Italian cookbooks one runs across the term temperare, which takes on a greater meaning than “to temper.” It implies that one corrects the food so it will conform to a dietetic humoral notion. So the Italian stemperare has the sense of taking something away, and in this recipe it is the vinegar that “is taken away” through evaporation to moderate the taste of the sauce.

This Sicilian fish dish is called pesce spada alla “stemperata” and it is typically made with swordfish, but two whole red snapper work well. The recipe, though, is written for swordfish.

Pesce Spade alla 'Stemperata'

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1½ tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped if large
  • 10 large green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1½ pounds swordfish steaks, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

 

Directions

1. In a large sauté pan or earthenware casserole, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook, stirring frequently, the onion and celery until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. (If using earthenware and if it is not flameproof, or if you don't know, you will need to use a heat diffuser. Earthenware heats up slower but retains its heat longer than non-earthenware casseroles. When using earthenware, food may cook slower at first and then cook very quickly while retaining its heat, so adjust accordingly). Reduce the heat to medium, add the capers, olives and tomatoes, and stir. Pour in the water, stir again, and cook until denser, 10 minutes.

2. Dredge the swordfish slices in the flour, tapping off any excess flour. Set aside.

3. Arrange the swordfish slices in the pan or casserole on top of the sauce, spooning some sauce on top of the swordfish. Drizzle the vinegar over the fish, cover, and cook over medium heat until the vinegar is evaporated, 5 to 6 minutes. Serve hot.

Recipe: Chocolate and raspberry swirl cookies


Having been married for more than two decades, I realize many factors contribute to the longevity of my marriage. Perhaps the most important is how my husband and I blend.

People often ask how we’ve done it, as if there is a secret. But there really is no secret. Just like the pairing of raspberry and chocolate, my husband and I are together despite our differences. We know how to compromise and work together, which we actually do most of the time.

Love is not “never having to say you’re sorry.” Chocolate is temperamental, so if you add the wrong amount of moisture from, say, fresh raspberries, you will have something to apologize about. But you get another chance. As in longtime relationships, you learn and grow.

Better together than apart

I love offering up treats that focus the partnership of raspberries and dark chocolate because of the magical synergy that makes them better together than individually.

In the past, dark chocolate was relegated to the lowest shelves in grocery stores. Over the last two decades, though, it has become very au courant. I would like to say that the only reason I give myself permission to eat dark chocolate is because of possible health benefits. But in truth, I like the taste. I find its bitterness to be complex and appealing.

What makes dark chocolate dark?

Dark is only defined relative to all other chocolates. It’s darker in comparison with milk or sweet chocolate candy bars. It has a higher percentage of cocoa, less milk fat and less sugar. The higher the cocoa percentage, the deeper and more intense the chocolate flavor. My favorite for baking and cooking is around 72%.

When choosing your dark chocolate, like choosing a mate, there are two more issues to consider: Where it was born and where (and how) it was processed. Dark chocolate is often labeled with the place of origin, the cocoa percentages and where it was processed. Climate and soil give chocolate its inherent nature, and that’s part of its heritage. The style of preparation is also key. To many, Switzerland's chocolate production is the gold standard. In my book, it’s equaled or even bettered by Belgian chocolate.

Equal partners

Lest you think that chocolate is the alpha dog of this relationship, raspberries are an equal partner. They are more than just juicy and lovely to behold. They are rich in cancer-fighting compounds and vitamin C, and full of fiber. They taste sweet — with a uniquely tart undertone and a deep complexity. Just like chocolate. Raspberries aren’t mild-manned, singular sweetness, like the ever-affable strawberry or cherry. They are an assertive flavor in their own right.

Like any paramour partnership, each ingredient brings something unique and yet retains its distinctive character even as it blends with the other ingredients. Raspberries are juicy, but chocolate is silky. Both have a little sexy undertone that makes them interesting. Together they make a wondrous bite.

May they live happily ever after.

Chocolate and Raspberry Swirl Cookies

These charming swirl cookies, tucked, wrapped and snuggled like the spiral of a snail or a conch shell, are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dough is oh-so-gently sweet, and the filling bursts with both the tartness of raspberry and a cacophony of rich chocolates. Like a good relationship, they contrast but support each other and together they create an enticing synergy. These cookies have one more touch of meaning: I developed them for my fantasy meal for Rashida Jones, an actress and writer I admire greatly. She is the co-author, co-producer and star of one of my favorite sad but sweetly tender and real films — “Celeste and Jesse Forever.” I wanted to make a cookie that hinted at the Jewish facet of her identity, so these cookies are a bit rugelach-ish. These are simply a joy to eat and fun to make.

Yield: About 28 to 30 cookies

Prep and baking time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 cup (116 grams/4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/2 sticks (¾ cup/170 grams/6 ounces/12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup (54 grams) dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (see Notes)

1 3/4 cups (228 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped

3 ounces milk chocolate, very finely chopped

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons water

1/4 cup brown turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon any large-crystal salt

Directions

1. Prepare the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or if you are using a hand-held mixer, in a large mixing bowl), combine the cream cheese and butter and mix until completely blended. Add the brown sugar and salt, and mix for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.

2. Add the egg and mix well. Add the vanilla bean paste and mix well. Add the flour and mix just until fully combined. Prepare a large piece of plastic wrap and scrape the mixture onto it, wrap, shape into a rough square or rectangle and seal well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until fully chilled.

3. Wet a work surface with a few drops of water or a swipe of a wet paper towel. Quickly place a large piece (11 x 14 inches or larger) of parchment paper on top. It should stick. Dust the parchment paper very lightly with flour. Roll a rolling pin in the flour to coat it lightly. Place half of the dough on the floured parchment and roll it into a 6-by-9-inch rectangle that is 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick.

4. Using a pastry brush, coat the rectangle with raspberry jam, leaving a 1/2-inch border bare around the edges. Sprinkle the chocolates over the raspberry jam, distributing the pieces evenly. Position the parchment and dough so that the short side of the parchment is in front of you. Using the parchment, lift the short side of the dough up and over the filling, covering it by about 1/2 inch. Continue rolling to make a cylinder, rolling as tightly as you can. Place the roll on a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap well. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until fully chilled.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats and set aside.

6. Remove the rolled dough from the plastic wrap and, with a very sharp, long knife, cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between the cookies.

7. Prepare an egg wash by beating the egg yolk and water gently in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, liberally brush the egg wash over the cookies, making sure to cover both the dough and filling. Sprinkle with the sugar and salt and bake (both sheets at once) for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheets before removing them, as the raspberry jelly will be very hot. They will crisp as they cool off.

Notes:

1. Vanilla bean paste is a form of vanilla flavoring that is made from vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder (sometimes it’s what’s left over from producing the extract and sometimes fresh vanilla bean seeds), mixed with a binder such as sugar syrup, corn syrup or, in commercial preparations, xanthan gum. It has the consistency of a paste and an intense, distinctly vanilla flavor. It’s available in well-stocked markets and online, but if you can’t find it, use pure vanilla extract.

2. Turbinado sugar is a minimally processed, minimally refined sweetener made from cane sugar. Brown in color, it is often confused with brown sugar. Turbinado sugar, however, has a higher moisture content, which will make a difference in baking, so it’s best to use the sugar that is called for in the recipe unless you are skilled enough to reduce another liquid in the ingredient list. With its large crystals, it’s great for sugar toppings on cookies and other baked goods. Like demerara sugar, it is made by drying the juice of the sugar cane and then spinning it in a centrifuge to purify it. Store in a cool, dry place.

Recipe: Barley, chanterelle mushroom and pinot noir risotto


Some ancient grains get all the press. Quinoa, freekeh, and spelt are the darlings of the food world these days, especially in the United States — and rightfully so, since they were ignored for millennia. But one ancient grain seems to lag behind: barley. Plain ol' barley never makes a Top 10 list. It needs a spunky dance partner and great choreography to be seen. Mushrooms have often been its companion for comfort food — think of all the savory mushroom-barley soups. But wild mushrooms, exotic and even more flavorful than the cultivated variety while still just as earthy as barley, may serve as the most perfect partner of all.

During the chill of January, foraging for comfort food is often a search for simple, earthy foods — like barley and mushrooms. But these foods can also be rich and elegant, intriguing and satisfying, old and new. Sometimes all it takes is one little change to make a comfort-food dish special.

Barley and mushrooms, ancient foods

Barley is no newbie to the food scene. There is no way to overstate its importance in the Fertile Crescent and the Levant (present-day Iraq and the Middle East). Wild barley was an integral part of the human diet, so much so that it became a domesticated crop. It was the basis for a key everyday comestible that is still popular today: beer.

In Europe by the Middle Ages, barley was the flour of poor man's bread and the filler in Scotch broth. It was — and remains — a common food for livestock. Notwithstanding the changes in the world around it, domesticated barley is, in essence, a simple whole grain with plenty of nutrients. And it has countless culinary benefits.

There is a good reason why barley's long time partner is the mushroom.

An ancient, originally wild food, mushrooms are fungi, and are incredibly healthy — high in B and D vitamins, selenium, copper, potassium and antioxidants that appear to protect DNA at the cellular level. Some of these benefits can be found in common button mushrooms and their close cousins, baby bellas, criminis and portabellos. But mushrooms are more than that. They are a natural flavor enhancer. All mushrooms contain glutamic acid, a version of the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Wild mushrooms, or those that were once wild and are now cultivated (called “exotic” by growers), burst with all of these benefits. No wonder wild ones have been popular across Europe, Asia, the United States and India for centuries. Each variety of wild mushroom has its individual charms. The one I used for this mushroom-barley risotto is the chanterelle.

Chanterelles, a sexy and mellifluous a name for fungus if there ever was one, evokes images of five-star French chefs cooking up lavish, sophisticated and warming dishes. To many a chef and connoisseur, chanterelles — golden and floral, earthy and fragrant — are in the same pantheon as morels and truffles. Chanterelles have even been considered male aphrodisiacs, with the 11th-century Normans in Britain serving them at wedding feasts to the grooms. Widely found in both Europe and the United States, fresh in season and dried year-round, the lightly peppery, softly fruity chanterelle is an ideal candidate to gussy up the Plain Jane barley.

The wine that links all the flavors

The element that can put it all together? A wine born from the same soil as those wild mushrooms. Barley risotto style is now a restaurant mainstay. But when the mushrooms in the risotto are the prized chanterelle and the wine is Willamette Valley — what you have is dinner alchemy.

Willamette Valley, Oregon, where chanterelles have long grown wild and are now cultivated, is a well-regarded region for producing fine grapes and even finer wines. The Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Willamette Valley are characterized by robust notes of black raspberry and bogs, of vanilla and cloves. The old cooking adage “if it grows together it goes together” is certainly true with Pacific golden chanterelles and Willamette Pinot Noir. Pairing these two is not for the faint of wallet. But the cost of the barley balances that out a bit.

And that wine — ooh — that wine is the essential link tying, literally binding, the mushrooms to the barley. All together, chanterelles and barley become something genuinely soul satisfying. The flavors and textures support and encourage each other, revealing the best they can offer. Perhaps that is what a plate-mate, a bowl-mate and soulmate should always be.

Barley Risotto With Fresh Chanterelles and Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

This special-occasion dish is impressive to serve and even better to eat. It showcases a classic Italian cooking technique applied to humble pearl barley and highlights the quality and unique flavors of fresh wild chanterelle mushrooms. The result is extravagantly delicious and memorable, worth every penny and every stir.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: 4 servings as a meal, 6 as a starter

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups low-sodium mushroom broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • Leaves of 6 sprigs fresh thyme, minced (about 2 teaspoons, see Kitchen Tips)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 cups Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (see Kitchen Tips)
  • 1 pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms, sliced, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large fresh bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (see Kitchen Tips)
  • 1 (7-ounce) package fresh baby kale, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese
  • ¾ cup sour cream or crème fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon truffle salt (see Kitchen Tips)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the mushroom broth to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile, in a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the butter and heat until it melts. Add the shallots and thyme, stir to coat, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes, until the shallots are translucent and the edges are just beginning to brown. Add the barley and cook, stirring to coat, for 2 minutes.

3. Increase the heat to high, add the wine, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until it has been fully absorbed into the barley. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the mushrooms and bay leaf, and stir well.

4. Add 1/2 cup of the warm mushroom broth and cook, stirring for 4 to 5 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add the salt and stir. Continue adding the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring continuously but gently for 2 to 3 minutes, until it is nearly absorbed into the barley. Repeat until all the mushroom broth is used.

5. Cook for about 30 minutes more, until the barley is al dente. Add the kale, stir well, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the leaves are completely soft. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the Gruyère cheese and sour cream. Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaf, sprinkle with the truffle salt and pepper, and stir well. Spoon into wide, shallow bowls and serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips

1. To remove the leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme, hold the sprig (or a few) at the top with one hand, and with the other hand, grasp the stem with your thumb and forefinger and gently slide your fingers down the stem. The leaves will be pushed against the direction they grow in, and will come off easily.

2. For more information about Pinot Noir grapes and wines: http://www.pinot-noir-wines.com/

3. If you don't have low-sodium mushroom broth, you can omit this extra salt.

4. Salt to which very small pieces of dried truffle have been added is called truffle salt. It is used to add richer flavor.

Make food, not war


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

[Bethlehem]  Set aside regional discord for a moment and think instead of regional dining.

Or, better yet, think of regional weekending and foraging.

That’s what Fadi Kattan has been thinking. A month and a half ago, just in time for Christmas, Kattan, 38, a native Bethlehemite who studied cookery and hotel management in France, opened Hosh Al-Syrian Guesthouse, a refurbished gem tucked into a courtyard not far from Manger Square.

Already, it is much more than a hostel: Hosh Al-Syrian, a graceful, ancient building whose renovation was funded by four Tuscan municipalities as part of a municipal scheme to recondition and restore abandoned buildings, some of which have fallen into ruin, hopes to endow Bethlehem with a contemporary cultural hub apt both for locals and for tourists, through which the Palestinian ethos can be experienced without reference to conflict or strife.

To this aim, Kattan has just opened a gourmet locavore restaurant that competes with the best of them, in which, for instance, you can enjoy his loosely reinvented, exuberant iteration of a classic French mille-feuille, that delectable pastry of a thousand crispy layers encasing two fat strata of pastry cream.

Brace yourself, because Kattan’s version is not even sweet; it’s decidedly salty, with mysterious hints of a mellow sweetness, about which more later. And it is not remotely dessert. In fact, it opens your meal.

Kattan’s Palestinian iteration of a mille-feuille goes like this: (recipe below.) Instead of crackly sheets of pastry you have unctuous, neon-red layers of red peppers softened by the roasting flame.

Instead of pastry cream, you have a sturdy but texturally soft sheep cheese. Instead of a glacé topping you have the sheen of olive oil. And in the place of the chef’s prerogative, a little detail that personalizes the pastry such as a crunchy accompaniment of butter crackle or the swirl of a coulis, here you find strewn about famous local star ingredients such as pine nuts and fresh hyssop (zaatar) leaves. And that mysterious pop of dark sweetness? Some diners have suspected Kattan of sneaking tiny dates in between the layers but no. The plump, delicate globes that spike the creation and give it surprising depth are native Hebron Hills grapes with a skin as delicate as a bubble of soap.

As part of his new tourism initiative, Kattan offers visitors not only accommodation in his twelve sharply appointed rooms but a tour of Bethlehem’s Old City Farmer’s market. “Not everybody is here on a religious quest,” he observed to The Media Line, “or even that politically engaged. Or maybe they are, but even they should find a different way to experience the real land of Palestine.”

It is difficult to imagine a more immediate way to experience the land than through the earthy, inspired dishes created by Kattan, in which, for example, a classic Daube (a beef stew) is adorned and flavored with local black olives and a Galette de Rois, an elaborate pie created to celebrate the Epiphany, ubiquitous in France, in which two layers of golden butter pastry encase a thick slab of frangipane, is perfumed with orange blossom water and bejeweled by green pistachios, still in their crisp pink skins.

Bethlehem, a natural magnet for tourists from around the globe, has paid a heavy price for the drop in visitors since the latest eruption of violence between Israelis and Palestinians started in October.

Ali Qleibo, the Jerusalem artist and social anthropologist, is enthused about what he called the “wonderful project.”

Speaking with The Media Line, he said that apart from Kattan finding an “original and excellent way to express his own identity, ” the entire project, spearheaded by a former student of Qleibo, Bethlehem mayor Vera Baboon, who attended Hosh Al-Syrian’s opening, “shows that Bethlehem is taking care of its own heritage, which is itself praiseworthy, and deeply connected to preserving Palestinian heritage and developing the Palestinian economy.

It had already paid a steep price for the security wall and check point built by Israel to prevent the infiltration of terrorists, that alarmed tourists, dissuading many from visiting altogether and provoking others to visit the pretty West Bank town merely for day trips, while remaining in their Jerusalem lodgings only a twenty minute drive away.

Pope Francis made a point of stopping his motorcade and getting out of his car to pray at the separation wall during his May 2014 pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Known for his conviviality and hearty appetite, it is easy to imagine this pope feasting on Kattan’s sophisticated yet earthy fare.

Mille-feuille de poivrons et fromage de brebis (Red pepper and sheep cheese mille-feuille)

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

For the roasted peppers

12 medium-sized red bell peppers
2 garlic cloves
1 cup virgin olive oil
4 rosemary sprigs

For the mille-feuille

1 kilo of fresh unpasteurised white cheese
1⁄2 cup of large dried raisins
1⁄2 cup of pine nuts

For the dressing

1 bouquet of fresh zaatar
3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
100 ml of olive oil
50 ml of lemon juice
1⁄2 cup of pine nuts seeds

Preparation:

1. Place peppers in oven pan, season with virgin olive oil and salt. Place the rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves alongside them. Roast until the pepper skins are charred at 180 degrees C. Remove from the oven, peel the peppers removing their stalks and cut into halves. Drain the pepper juices through a sieve into a bowl.

2. Coat the inside of an ovenproof ramekin with a dash of olive oil. Place the red pepper pieces in the ramekin so that the peeled side is downwards. Then add a layer of the white cheese and sprinkle with pine nuts and raisins. Add another layer of red pepper pieces and one of the white cheese. Finish with a last layer of red pepper pieces.

3. Place the four ramekins in a bain marie in the oven at 80 degrees C for one hour.

4. Remove ramekins from the oven, allow to cool and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator overnight.

Plating:

1. Prepare a vinaigrette with the Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice.

2. Toss the fresh zaatar leaves into the vinaigrette.

3. Run a knife around the edge of the millefeuille in the ramekin to make sure it will not stick. Turn over millefeuille onto plate and decorate with the zaatar salad and pine nuts seeds.

Nacho latkes with creamy cheddar sauce


Spice up the original potato latke this holiday! Skewer bite sized potato latkes together with a layer of creamy nacho sauce served on top.

Potato Latkes:

  • 20 oz. shredded hash browns about 3 1/2 cups (frozen works great!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T flour (add more if batter doesn’t hold together)
  • 2 scallions chopped up
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 

Combine, form into small patties and fry until golden.

Nacho Sauce:

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

 

Melt butter then add flour and whisk together until well combines and a paste forms. Add milk and over a medium flame whisk until sauce thickens then add shredded cheese and continue whisking until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.

Salsa:

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 red onion
  • Juice of 1 lime

 

Pulse together in a processor until smooth. Optional, add 2 jalapeno peppers without seeds for spice! Plate latke skewers over sliced avocado and salsa with nacho sauce on top.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!