Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘parve’ Category

Look what I found.

They’re jars.

From Italy!

No, I didn’t bring them back from Italy, though that would have been the type of story I like to tell.

I could tell you about how I visited Rimini with my friend Lau for a beach holiday. How I ran to dip my feet in the Adriatic before we had even started to unpack. How as I walked back to the room, flip-flops in hand, I stopped by a little gelato place, drawn by the scruffy man behind the counter wielding a shallow scoop, caught by the indecision over gianduia versus espresso, satisfied by a double cone, and enchanted by the large jars holding nuts and tiny chocolate chips. How I inquired about those jars and was told that they had been made for the past 150 years by a company only three hours away in Fidenza that began its business making bottles for pharmaceuticals. How I rushed back to my room to find Lau resting on her bed, arm flug across her eyes to block out the ray of sunlight, and how I woke her up to taste that gelato and tell her my plan of renting a car to drive those three hours to the glass manufacturer to see a little history. How I said, “it’s only a three hour drive” with such conviction that she forewent a day on the beach to accompany me.

But, that didn’t happen.

I could tell you about how I visited Venice with my college boyfriend and how after a morning of navigating the canals and pigeons, we took a speed boat out to Murano to see their famous glass. How when ringing up a small decorative plate, the store owner stuffed her copy of the receipt into a glass jar. How I was so enamored by the jar that she emptied it, as she said she did every night, and arranged all the receipts in a neat pile, and handed the jar to me.

But, that didn’t happen.

I could tell you how I was just south of Naples on the island of Capri in the cold of November with a friend who was a serious shopper. How she introduced me to Prada and Gucci. How our little hotel in the cliffs welcomed us to our room with a glass jar filled with biscotti in lieu of a TV. How we took that jar of biscotti with us as we hiked out to the blue grotto (“La Grotta Azzurra”) and snacked on them along the way, holding on to the empty jar as we scooched down in our tiny rowboat to enter the water-filled cave. And how I carefully wrapped that jar in t-shirts to secure its safe flight home.

But that didn’t happen.

Here’s what did happen.

I found the jars in a store not too far from my apartment and I picked up one from the shelf. I went back to the shelf. I brought home five.

The other stories are better, no?

Regardless of how I got them, now I get to fill them. Let’s start with the biscotti that my Capri hotel make-believe baked for us.

Let’s bake them with cocoa and stud them with almonds.

Now let’s tinge them with orange – a little zest, a little blossom water, the smell of citrus.

Perfect for a hike (with espresso in a thermos).

Next, let’s fill another jar with some chocolate and nuts reminiscent of the toppings in the gelato shop with the cute scoop-wielding Italian man who served me two flavors. Let’s make a nutty crunchy sweet concoction that’s less trail-worthy and more I-need-an-afternoon-snack-worthy. Let’s bring in a jar to the office and leave it on the corner of a desk for everyone to snack from.

Finally, let’s fill a jar with receipts.

OK, that doesn’t make sense. But let’s say that I open my own restaurant (the one with the long communal table). And let’s say I keep each day’s receipts in a glass jar at the front of the house and keep a stock of glass jars in the back. And let’s say that if someone comments on the receipt jar, I’ll pull one out from that back room and send him away with a smile.

Let’s just say.

Chocolate almond orange biscotti

I based this recipe off of David Lebovitz‘s chocolate biscotti - he makes one hell of a biscotti. I think these are my favorite biscotti I’ve ever made, and I’ve made a lot. I did make a few changes to give them an orange flavor – I replaced the almond extract with orange blossom water, omitted the chocolate chips, increased the amount of salt, and added orange zest. It’s actually easier to make these by hand than using a stand mixer.

- 1 C raw almonds

- 4 eggs (room temperature) – divided 3 for the dough, 1 for brushing on top

- 1 C sugar

- 1 t vanilla extract

- 1 t orange blossom water

- zest of 1 orange

- 2 C flour

- 3/4 C cocoa powder

- 1 t baking soda

- 1/2 t kosher salt

- turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

Toast. While pre-heating the oven to 350°F, toast the almonds on a cookie sheet. This should take about 10 minutes. Stay close to the oven – when the scent of almond fills the kitchen, take them out. Let them cool and then roughly chop them.

Beat. In a bowl, beat together the first 3 eggs, sugar, vanilla, orange blossom water, and orange zest.

Stir. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and gradually stir into the wet ingredients until the dough comes together. Mix in the chopped toasted almonds. The dough will be thick and sticky.

Shape. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Flour your hands a tiny bit and shape the dough into two logs. Lightly brush them with beaten egg white (freeze the yolk for the next time you want to make pâte sucrée) and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake. Bake for 25 minutes until the dough feels firm to the touch.

Cool. Remove the logs and cool on a rack for about 15 minutes.

Slice. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the cooled logs diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.

Bake again. Lay the cookies, cut side down, back on the cookie sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, flipping them over after 10 minutes to toast both sides.

Eat (or store). In case you don’t finish these all in one sitting, store them in an airtight container for up to two weeks. As if!

I-need-an-afternoon-snack mix

It’s a bit embarrassing to call this a recipe. But I do believe that I have, though extensive testing and customer surveys, developed the best afternoon pick-me-up. Here’s how you do it:

Start with a few handfuls of lightly salted roasted almonds. Bonus points if you then toast them again in your oven until your kitchen smells like almonds. Put them in a big bag. Add in a few handfuls of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Add in one big handful of dried blueberries. Add in one big handful of dried tart cherries. Shake it all around. Pour into an Italian jar. Leave on the corner of your desk.

Read Full Post »

thank you

Where to begin?

Thank you.

Thank you to my family.

Thank you to the friends who voted and recruited their frends to vote, and their friends’ friends.

Thank you to the colleagues who, when our network blocked them from voting, voted from their home computers, BlackBerries, and iPhones.

Thank you to the loyal readers who found me in the early days and stayed close while I fought my way out of crappy and embarrassing photos.

Thank you to those who serve as inspiration and muse for my cooking, recipes, and writing.

Thank you to the complete strangers who discovered Kosher Camembert through Joy of Kosher’s best kosher food blog contest and enjoyed it enough to vote.

Until I can send each and every one of you these almond and orange croquants (my lucky officemates … you were the first recipients), please accept my gratitude with this recipe.

Almond and orange croquants

Croquants are crispy French almond cookies, normally very sweet and merengue-based. I found a recipe for ones that are similar in shape and texture to biscotti on the blog that inspired me to start this one. If you like biscotti, check out these almond and chocolate ones. These croquants are not too sweet with almonds that are well toasted and only 1 ½ cups of sugar to 4 cups flour. The original recipe calls for half white whole wheat flour, but I prefer to only use all-purpose. If you taste the raw dough, it will taste a little bitter - don’t worry – this is from the orange blossom water and it mellows during baking.

Makes about 4 dozen.

- 12 ounces whole raw almonds (approximately 2 ½ cups)

- 4 C all-purpose flour (or use a scale to measure out 500 g flour) or 2 C all-purpose and 2 C white whole wheat flours

- 1 ½ C sugar

- 1 t baking powder

- ½ t kosher salt

- 2 large eggs

- 2 T orange blossom water

- 1 orange for zest

- approximately ½ C cold water

- optional: sugar in the raw ( also called “turbinado” or “demerara”) and fleur de sel (or kosher salt)

Preheat. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Toast. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheets. Toast in the oven for about 15 minutes. They’re ready when the scent of almonds wafts over from the kitchen. When you take them out of the oven, the inside should  be light brown and the skins should start to crackle as the nuts cool.

Mix. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt (I used my stand mixer). Add eggs one at a time, orange blossom water, and orange zest and incorporate. At this point, the mixture will be very crumbly and will not yet come together. Add the cold water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix until the dough comes together. Gently stir in cooled almonds.

Shape. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Shape the dough into 2 or 3 long loaves on the parchment. The dough will be sticky – just go with it. I typically make the logs about 3 inches wide. You can make them wider, but make sure to leave enough room between the two loaves to allow them to spread without touching.

Sprinkle. Wet your hands and slide them over the loaves to smooth out the sticky dough. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and sugar in the raw.

Bake. Bake the loaves for 30-40 minutes. I set my timer for 30 minutes and then check the loaves every few minutes . They are ready when the dough sets and turns golden brown.

Cool slightly. Remove the loaves from the parchment (they should come off pretty easily) and cool for 5-10 minutes. If you let them cool for too long, they’ll be too hard to slice.

Lower temperature. Lower the oven to 225ºF.

Slice. Slice the still-warm loaves diagonally into skinny slices, about 1-2 cm (or 1/2 inch) wide.

Bake again. Lay the slices on a cooling rack and place the rack directly in the oven. This will allow the croquants to crisp evenly. Or, spread the slices out on your cookie sheet and flip them over half way through the second baking. Bake again for 20-25 minutes.

Store. Let the cookies cool and then store in an airtight tin. You can always crisp them up a bit on low heat in a toaster oven.

Read Full Post »

Remember my mixer? The one that leapt to its death like a goldfish from its tank?

What? Am I the only one who had lemming-like goldfish growing up?

Well anyway, the old  has been been replaced  by a bigger, shinier model. I have not yet had a chance to make (or share the recipe for) the challah that challenged my mixer to a duel and won. But I have used my new toy twice already and I was very glad for the extra room in the big bowl. I broke it in with ka’ak b’sukar (yes, you do need to be careful when pronounching the name of these Syrian butter cookies). A pear frangipane tart quickly followed. The tart is on its way, but let’s first talk about the cookies.

I first tried sweet ka’ak b’sukar (sukar means sugar) in Israel when staying with my friend Zoe’s Syrian grandmother. Her Jedda (Arabic for grandmother) welcomed us into her home overlooking Jerusalem with a plate of pale twisted cookies and a pot of tea. My first impression was that they were a bit bland. By the fourth taste though, I was reaching for a fifth. I was hooked. Before going to bed, I’d find my hand making its way over to the cookie tin next to the stove. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d gingerly tip-toe across the cold ceramic floor, refreshing in the hot August night, and reach into that tin again. While waiting for the water to boil for coffee in the morning, I’d snag a few more. After three days, Zoe’s grandmother had to make another batch. The evening of my flight home, she gave me everything that was left in the tin.

I was so excited to find this ka’ak recipe that I didn’t look beyond the list of ingredients and the pretty cookies staring at me from the right side of the page. I threw four eggs and a cup and a half of sugar into my (new!) mixer bowl and started to beat. As I gathered the rest of the ingredients and finally read past the first step, I saw that the sugar was supposed to be divided – one cup in the mixer, the remaining half cup for coating the cookies.

The fix was easy — I made a larger batch. And it seemed fitting that my mixer’s six quart bowl easily fit the over seven cups of flour.

Ka’ak b’sukar (braided sugar cookies)

This is the recipe that I used, essentially one and a half times the original. If you have a smaller bowl, multiply all quantities by 2/3. Depending on how large you make you cookies, the full recipe makes about 50-60 cookies. They are meant to remain somewhat soft after baking (they’re not crispy at all).

- 6 eggs

- 1.5 C sugar, plus more for finishing the cookies

- 1 orange (to make 1 T zest)

- 1 T vanilla extract

- 1.5 C vegetable oil

- 7.5 C flour

- 1.5 T baking powder

 Mix. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat eggs, sugar, zest, vanilla, and oil. Slowly add the flour and baking powder until you get a sticky well-blended dough.

Chill. Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.

Preheat. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Shape. If dough is too sticky to handle when you remove from the fridge, add a small amount of flour and mix everything together with your hands. Keep adding tablespoon by tablespoon of flour and mixing until it  no longer sticks to your fingers. Don’t flour the counter. Take a handful of dough and roll it on the counter into a strand about 1/2 inch thick. Bring the two ends together, folding the strand in half. Holding the folded over side, gently twist the doubled strand several times until it looks like a rope. Cut the rope into pieces that are 2 to 3 inches long. For me, most ropes yielded two cookies.

Roll. Pour some sugar onto a small plate. Lightly roll the twisted cookies in the sugar to coat.

Bake. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment. Place the cookies on the sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. The cookies should remain very pale, with only a tiny bit of browning on the bottom where some of the sugar caramelizes.

Read Full Post »

carry me through

Welcome to 2012.

Before we get too far into the new year, I want to send out the recipe that carried me through the last few weeks of 2011. With the track record it has, I suspect it will carry me through the first weeks of 2012 as well.

I met this wild mushroom soup when my aunt Sessie made it for Thanksgiving. Two weeks later I made it for shabbat dinner, using the hugest pot I own - the bright green stockpot peeking out from behind the soup (thanks, mom and dad!). We ate the leftovers while making sufganiyot. Then I made it again for a huge crowd in Atlanta. Meira liked it so much she froze and brought the leftovers home in her suitcase.

One soup, three times, five weeks – that might be a record.

There’s not much to this soup and I’m almost embarrassed to call it a recipe. You start with olive oil, a basic mirepoix - the holy soup trinity of onion, carrots, and celery — and garlic. And then stock. And then thyme. And then pretty much every single mushroom in every single variety you can find in your grocery store. I’m talking pounds and pounds of mushrooms here. A few minutes with your immersion blender, and you’re done.

Wild mushroom soup for a crowd

(Addendum 10/30/12: This really makes a lot of soup, as in serves-almost-20-people a lot. Cut the recipe in half if you have 8-10 people. Or make the whole thing and freeze the rest. Thanks, Meira, for the feedback.)

Roughly chop an onion, a 1/2 pound of carrots, a bunch of celery, and 4-5 pounds of assorted mushrooms (I used white, cremini, shitake, and king oysters). Mince a few cloves of garlic. Cover the bottom of a large stockpot (like the green one my parents just gave me) with olive oil and heat until it glistens. Saute the onion until it become transparent. Add the garlic and saute for a few more minutes, being careful not to let it burn. Add the carrots and celery and 2 quarts of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then drop to a simmer over low to medium heat. When the vegetables start to soften, add in the mushroom and a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or a few large pinches of dry thyme). Keep simmering for about 2 hours until all of the vegetables are very soft. Puree with an immersion blender. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. This makes enough for 10 and can be doubled or tripled, as long as you have a bit enough pot.

Read Full Post »

to her table

My grandmother – the one on my father’s side – was a school teacher. Kindergarten in fact. She had a smile and something nice to say to everyone. She kept cookies in her car to give to toll collectors. She couldn’t sit in a restaurant without engaging the baby at the next table. She kept a list next to her kitchen phone of birthdays and anniversaries. 

Every time Bubbie  took the train down from Philadelphia to visit us, she would collect piles of paper Amtrak conductor hats for us (and her students). One of my favorite memories is her wearing one of those conductor hats and leading all of the grandchildren in a parade around the island in my aunt’s kitchen. Well, she was the caboose, leading from behind, but the conductor nonetheless.

Before she and my grandfather passed away, we had Thanksgiving at their house every year.

I loved that house. When they bought it, Poppie had two requirements – it had to be made out of brick and its street number had to be 212 – the boiling point of water. He was an engineer and was in the Army Air Corps (precursor to the US Airforce) when he met Bubbie (before she was a bubbie).

Whenever we pulled into their driveway, I would run to the front door. I never had to ring the doorbell or knock because the door was always open behind the screen. I could step right into the living room with its rocking chair, fireplace and potbelly stove. The first floor formed a circle around the stairwell. I used follow that circuit like it was a train track and I was the engine. Through the living room into the den past the bathroom into the pink kitchen around the corner to the dining room and back to the front door.

Thanksgiving at Bubbie and Poppie’s was a family affair on par with Pesach. But with bread and no long prelude to dinner. Food and family was the event. And Bubbie reigned over it. You could say she was the train conductor. At least she had the hat for it.

Bubbie directed my dad to add the leaf to the dining room table. Then we added another table. Every once in a while we added a third, the table chugging through the doorway into the living room, past the front door  towards that potbelly stove.

She directed me to set each place with a dinner and salad plate, two forks, two spoons, one knife, two glasses, and a napkin in a napkin ring.  There were always napkin rings. Bubbie had to remind me to put the napkins on the left next to the forks. Because I always forgot and put them on the right. Sometimes I still do.

Bubbie directed my mother to add fresh dill to the chicken soup. My uncle Michael to stud the sweet potatoes with marshmallows. My aunt Leslie, whom I call Sessie, to cut the vegetables. My aunt Linda to entertain me with stories of when I was younger, like the time when I woke  up her and Michael in the den on the sofabed, holding a diaper and asking to be changed.

Bubbie removed from the fridge the applesauce she had made from scratch. It’s my dad’s favorite.

The first to arrive was always Bubbie’s “kid” brother Sidney who walked in with the tell-tale click-clicking of a box of tictacs in his shirt pocket and a still-dripping bucket of pickles and olives plucked from the barrel at his favorite pickler. He always had always a fresh twenty for each of the kids.

And then everyone else arrived with those kids. Everyone seems to remember my chasing my cousin Gary around the meandering table, shouting, “Gawee…Gawee…” I will deny it if you ask me.

Around this time of the evening, Uncle Sidney would just turn the volume down on his hearing aid.

Before the parade of dishes, we would pour the wine, Poppie would make a toast, and Bubbie would say shehecheyanu – a prayer of thanks for bringing the whole family together to her table.

Dinner started with soup. And then turkey filled with stuffing.  Cranberry sauce from a can with mandarin oranges.  Salad. Green beans. Roasted potatoes. And those sweet sweet potatoes.

We’d clear the table and then the adults would retire to the sofa in the living room for a few minutes and the kids would gather on the floor in front of the TV to watch The Wizard of Oz.

It was only recently that I ever saw the end of the movie, because once dessert was on the table, no one cared about those red ruby slippers anymore.

Dessert started with a fruit-filled jello mold. Really, every year, a jello mold. And then pumpkin pie, and my favorite - my mother’s chocolate chip pound cake.

When Bubbie passed away, we transferred her china and silver to Sessie’s nearby house.

Sessie hosted most holiday meals after that, carrying on the tradition of keeping the family together. Sometimes we fit at the dining room table. Sometimes we need three tables lined up in the living room. Sometimes we set out the good china and silver. Sometimes we set out the everyday dishes.

This year, I offered to help plan our Thanksgiving menu. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

Wild mushroom soup

Green salad

Turkey

Cornbread stuffing

Cranberry sauce from a can *sigh* because my mother loves it

Green beans with lemon sauce

Roasted butternut squash with balsamic onions

Bread – probably something with some combination of cranberry-orange-pumpkin-whole wheat

Fruit platter

Pumpkin pie

Chocolate chip pound cake

So far, our count is at 9. I think we’ll still fit around Sessie’s dining room table to say shehecheyanu.

** A slightly modified version of this post, along with my recipe for roasted butternut squash with balsamic onions, first appeared a week ago on KosherEye. **

Chocolate chip pound cake

This is the cake my mom made most often when I was a kid. She got the recipe from her good friend Helen. It’s a dense cake studded with chocolate chips that I think is best eaten with a cup of tea or coffee. It’s not a moist, fluffy cake, but it’s what I grew up with and I like it this way. Also, we always coat the chocolate chips with some flour before adding them to the cake so that they don’t all sink to the bottom. I’m not sure it makes a difference, but, well, that’s what we do.

This recipe makes a huge cake and I often end up freezing half. Actually, I might like the frozen cake even better, snuck out of the freezer in the middle of the night, unwrapped from its plastic, and cut into a sliver or two with the false hope that no one would notice.  Luckily, growing up with a chocoholic dad meant that generally any sweets theft was assumed to be his. Sorry dad!

- 1 C margarine or butter

- 1 C sugar

- 4 eggs

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 C almond milk, non-dairy creamer, or milk (I use almond milk, my mom uses the non-dairy creamer)

- 3 C flour + a little more

- 1 T baking powder

- 1-2 C chocolate chips

Prep. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a bundt (or whatever) pan – this is not necessary if you’re using non-stick…which I highly recommend. Put chocolate chips and a few pinches of flour in a ziplock bag and shake to coat the chips.

Mix. Cream margarine/butter and sugar until light yellow. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between. Add vanilla. Add a little almond milk, then a little sifted flour and baking powder. Keep alternating liquid and flour mixture until they are both added. I usually do this in about 3 rounds. Add the flour-coated chocolate chips and mix by hand.

Bake. Pour batter into a bundt pan (or whatever you have). Bake 55-60 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean. If you’re dividing the cake between two loaf pans, which my mom often does, bake for 30-40 minutes. Note, if you freeze the entire second loaf, no one can really get away with sneaking slivers undetected.

Read Full Post »

over the edge

You know how I like my kitchen appliances? How sad and lost I am when they break? Unfortunately I have another one to add to the graveyard collection.

Yes, another one.

And this one will require a bit more research to replace and upgrade. Luckily I have my culinary school instructors to offer advice (and maybe a discount!).

As you may have noticed, I’ve moved past the bread machine for my challah and onto the KitchenAid mixer.  Just one attempt at the really old-fashioned way was enough (un œuf!) to remind me how much I rely on my tools.

Until they become unreliable.

My fourth challah recipe, this time an Israeli one from Janna Gur, pushed my mixer over the edge. Literally.

The sweet egg-y dough had been kneading in my mixer for about 7 minutes continuously when I heard a strange clunking. A loud whir. A grumble. I jumped from my perch on the couch to investigate the commotion. I made it to the kitchen in time to see the arm of the mixer flapping over the bowl as the kneading hook turned.

And then.

And then the mixer – bowl, dough, flapping arm and turning hook – took a few hops on the counter before diving to the floor.

I am not joking.

The bowl stayed miraculously locked to the base. The dough securely cradled inside.

The arm was nice and warm. Really warm. Too warm.

I kneaded the rest by hand.

I am not quite ready to share the challah recipe that led to my mixer’s demise because I haven’t worked out all the kinks. However, I did want to pass along a “braiding” technique that makes really unique challot.

Halot à la “danoise”

I discovered this braiding technique from Anne Sfez, who writes the bilingual French-English blog a foodie froggy in Paris.

Rather than braiding the loaves like you might braid your hair, she shapes challah like a danish. Anne has a great pictorial that is very easy to follow – you should check it out. But if you like unnecessarily wordy, here are my directions.

Roll. After it has risen, roll the dough into a rectangle. The size of the rectangle is up to you, but I usually make one dimension twice the length of the other.

Cut. You’re going to make evenly spaced diagonal cuts on both sides of the dough – the dough will then look like a feather. The trick to this is getting all of your cuts at the same angle and symmetrical. Mentally divide the rectangle lengthwise into thirds. Place a ruler one-third of the way from the right side (or the left side if you cut left-handed). Make a series of parallel diagonal cuts down the right side, using the ruler as a guide, and cutting towards you. I use a big chefs knife or dough scraper so I can make each cut in a single swipe and keep my wrist at the same angle. I usually leave 1-inch or so between cuts.

Flip.When you’re done with the first side, flip the dough over so the cuts are now on the left and facing you. Use a little extra flour if you need to. This is a full flip, not a 180-degree turn (which would leave the cuts also on the left, but facing away from you).

Cut again. Line up your ruler again, one-third from the right side of the dough. Using the ruler as a guide, make diagonal cuts with your right hand. Make sure that each cut starts directly across from its pair. When you finish, you should have a symmetrical feather.

Fold. Starting at the top (the point of the arrow), fold the first flap towards the center, then fold the opposite flap towards the center and over the first. Repeat this right-left-right-left (or left-right-left-right)  until you reach the bottom of the feather. You’ll be left with a little trapezoid/triangle. Pull it off and make a challah roll with it. This makes it easier to tuck the last few edges underneath the end of the loaf.

Rise and bake.

Read Full Post »

I woke up the other day and made lunch. I ate it for breakfast.

Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to grab lunch later in the day.

See, I was flying down to Philadelphia for a conference.

With the CEO of my company.

On our teeny tiny corporate plane.

So petite, that you can’t stand up in the cabin. You have to crouch.

Especially when you’re wearing 4-inch heels.

Flying south, we saw the entire island of Manhattan and I could almost make out my old apartment building on the edge of Central Park at the 86th Street transverse.

Flying north, I dreamt of dinner.

Mac and cheese, to be exact.

From a box.

Salmon en papillote with tomatoes and basil

With some cilantro on its last leg and a filet of coho salmon in the fridge, I decided to make Mexican-inspired salmon en papillote a few weeks ago. I piled salmon, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice and a splash of tequila on a sheet of parchment paper and wrapped it up like a package. I couldn’t remember how long to cook the salmon for, and while flipping through recipes, I stumbled upon Dorie Greenspan‘s salmon and tomatoes en papillote. Turns out it takes about 10 minutes at a high temperature. My original cilantro salmon was good. Dorie’s salmon in a parchment cocoon is fabulous.

I like to make my salmon in individual packages, but if you’re serving a crowd, you can make an entire filet wrapped in a very big sheet of parchment (or aluminum foil). There are lots of great flavor combinations – try cilantro/lime/tequila or thyme/skinny asparagus/white wine or ginger/sesame oil/soy sauce/spring onions. You get the picture.

Preheat oven to 475ºF. Throw a handful of small tomatoes (cherry, pear, etc.) into a pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sauté until they start to blister and brown. Pat salmon filets dry with a paper towel and place them on a rectangle of parchment (about 4 times as large as the filet). Crush a few leaves of basil in your hand and lay them on top of the fish. Top with a slice or two of lemon and a few squeezes of lemon juice. Add a nice drizzle or two of olive oil and dust with salt and pepper. Surround the fish with the tomatoes.

Fold the parchment around the fish into an airtight envelope (or something resembling an airtight envelope). Tie with kitchen twine. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, depending on how well done you like your salmon.

Cut open the packet and eat.

Read Full Post »

the chase

This recipe.

This recipe.

I’ve been chasing it for a long time.

It started with a birthday (Alyson‘s) and a pan that I had bought over Thanksgiving last year. Last year, folks.

It continued with a pâte sucrée that took months to perfect.

There were few false starts. The caramel burned. The pâte fell apart. The caramel burned again. And then.

And then one tarte had the potential for greatness. The wine and sugar caramelized. The pears softened. The pâte rolled out and tucked in beautifully.

But then.   

But then it fell short.

Note to self, peel and cut more pears to fill the center.

And finally, finally last week, perfection. Or pretty damn close.

Or course, when the tarte cooperates, the sun does not.

I actually placed the tarte on a rolling cart and chased the sun around my apartment. I finally got one good shot of the whole tarte in all its glory. Scroll back up to the top if you want to relive this shining moment.

Ilana came over to “taste” this year’s version of the tarte.

There wasn’t very much left over.

Tarte Tatin aux Poires et Vin

Serves 6-8. (Or 1 hungry Ilana.)

This tarte was inspired by a recipe in Food & Wine but unfortunately I found the proportions, use of puff pastry, and cooking time to be off target, resulting in a burnt mess on my first attempt. Instead, I adapted the tarte tatin recipe included with my tarte pan to incorporate red wine into the caramel and replace traditional apples with pears. This is a recipe that is not for the faint of heart. There’s a crust to make from scratch. Caramel to try not to burn. A breath-stopping flip of a juicy tarte. This is a special occasion dessert.

- 2 C red wine (I’ve made it with house red, Bordeaux, and Cabernet)

- 2 cinnamon sticks

- 1/4 C butter (or margarine)

- 1/2 C sugar

- 3-4 Bartlett or d’Anjou pears

- 1 batch pâte brisée or sucrée (see below) or prepared pie crust

Preheat. Preheat oven to 400°F

Reduce. Bring wine and cinnamon sticks to a boil, reducing down to about 1/4 C of syrup. This takes about 10 minutes. The kitchen will start to smell like cinnamon.

Caramelize. In the tarte tatin pan, melt butter/margarine with the sugar and stir frequently over low-medium heat (I use #3 – 4 on my induction stove) until it starts to turn a golden brown. Watch carefully. Really carefully. The second it starts to turn brown, take it off the heat. Turn down the heat and return the pan to the burner and let it get a little more golden. Watch it like a hawk. Add the wine syrup and simmer on low.

Cut. While the wine is boiling and then the sugar is caramelizing, peel and core the pears. I used a mini melon baller to help core them. I have made this with halves and quarters and find that while halves may look prettier, quarters are easier to slice and eat.

Cook. Arrange the halves (cut side up) or quarters (on their sides or belly side up if they’ll balance) in a circle around the pan (still on low heat) with thin ends pointed in. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat. The caramel will bubble up as the pears soften and pear juices seep out.

Roll. Take cold pâte sucrée out of freezer/fridge and roll between two sheets of wax paper into a circle about 1-2 inches larger than your tatin pan. Remove the top sheet, flip the crust over the fruit, and peel away the wax paper, tucking the dough in around the edges. Cut a few slits into the crust so steam can escape.

Bake. Bake 30 minutes until crust turns a nice brown.

Unveil. After cooling the tarte for a few minutes, place a plate (slightly larger than the tatin pan) over the pan, hold your  breath for a second, and carefully flip the tatin on to the plate. Excellent warm or at room temperature. Try it with vanilla ice cream or gelato.

For  pâte sucrée crust:

- 1 1/4 C flour

- 2 T confectioner’s sugar

- 1/4 t salt

- 6 T butter/margarine, partially frozen

- 1 egg yolk

- 3T cold water

Pulse. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor and mix. Add frozen butter/margarine and pulse ~ 10 times until the consistency of corn meal.

Pulse again.  Add egg yolk and 1T cold water, and pulse ~ 5 times.

Pulse again. Add 1T cold water, and pulse ~5 times.

Get the picture? Add the last 1T cold water, a little at a time, pulsing in between additions, until the dough starts to come together, but is still a bit crumbly.

Wrap. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten out, and wrap in plastic wrap.

Freeze. Freeze for 20 minutes before using. Or freeze until the next time you want to make a galette or pie or tart or tarte tatin – and then defrost at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using.

Read Full Post »

my fair share

Welcome to 5772. It’s a great year so far and it’s only going to get better. I can feel it. If you didn’t celebrate Rosh Hashanah last week, I still wish you a shana tova u’metuka — a good and sweet new  year.

But, who wants just a sweet new year? As as a slight break with tradition, I also wish you a spicy year with  my favorite butternut squash soup. Sugar and spice and everything nice – that sounds like a great recipe for a new year.

Squash is one of the symbolic foods eaten during Rosh Hashana. So are carrots.

Over the holiday, I cooked and ate my fair share of both.

Squash mash with balsamic onions

I found this recipe in the Williams Sonoma Southwest cookbook when I was planning the menu for a Mexican/Tex-Mex dinner, complete with vegetarian empanadas, guacamole, and salpicon. The original recipe calls for whole squash, but it’s a lot easier with pre-cut and peeled squash chunks. I made enough for 10 as a side dish but this recipe is just a guideline - make as much as you want. If you have an immersion blender, this is the time to take it out. I unfortunately no longer have one: midway through this squash, mine hit its inevitable fate when the motor stripped the internal plastic gear. I had to complete the recipe by hand. And that’s why it’s called a “mash” rather than a purée.

- 3-4 lbs butternut squash chunks or 2 good sized butternut squashes

- 3 heads garlic

- 1 red onion

- 3T + 1T + 3T olive oil

- salt and pepper

- 3 T balsamic vinegar (or to taste)

Prep. Preheat oven to 375ºF. If using whole squashes, cut them in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with the first 3T olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place, cut side up on a parchment-covered cookie sheet . If using pre-cut squash, toss in a big bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Slice the tops off of the garlic, drizzle with 1T olive oil and salt, and wrap in aluminum foil. Also, cut the onion into about 6 chunks and separate the layers. Mix onions with balsamic vinegar and the last 3T olive oil. Set aside.

Roast. Put the squash and garlic in the oven. Roast the squash until soft, about an hour  (sometimes more) for a whole squash and about 45 minutes for squash chunks. The garlic takes about 30-45 minutes. Check both every 15 minutes or so, especially the garlic because it’s pretty easy for it to burn.

Keep roasting. Around the time you take the garlic out of the oven, put the onions on a second parchment-covered cookie sheet and put them in oven. Roast for about 15 minutes until the onions start to brown and crisp up. If you can time it right, they should come out around the same time as the squash. But that’s a big if.

Purée (or mash!). Get your immersion blender ready. If you roasted the squash whole, scoop it out of the skin into a bowl. If you used pre-cut squash, also scoop it into a bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic from its skin and add it to the squash. Use your immersion blender to purée the squash and garlic. If your immersion blender decides to poop out just before using it, a potato masher works almost as well, but it won’t be as smooth.

Mix it up. Add the onions and any remaining balsamic and stir with the squash.

Eat. Serve warm.

Cumin-roasted carrots

I’m a little embarrassed to call these carrots a recipe,  but they’re just too good to not share. It’s all about the cumin.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss baby carrots with olive oil, salt, and cumin. You could also cut regular carrots into diagonal chunks – just be sure to  Be generous with the olive oil. And the cumin. Roast for 30-45 minutes until the carrots turn brown and a little wrinkly. Well, a lot wrinkly.

Read Full Post »

say it out loud

It’s apple picking time!Would you believe that I’ve never been? Yup, it’s true. I am an apple picking novice. But no longer.

With a group of friends, some old, some new, I drove about hour outside the city to the North Shore, passing farm stands along the way. It was actually so beautifully sunny that I got a sunburn. These days, I welcome any sunshine and color I can attract.

At the orchard, we forewent the hay ride and took the 15 minute walk (hike?) up to the orchards. On the way, we got in trouble for picking  bosc pears. After I snacked on one and stuck two in my bag.

Ten pounds of apples in a bag, I rushed home to make strudel.

Correction – apfelstrudel. And you have to call it apfelstrudel with a German accent. Roll the Rs in back of your throat. Ap-fel-shtroooodel. Say it out loud.  A few times. It’s fun.

Apfelstrudel with cinnamon caramel

I asked my German friend, Melanie, how she makes apfelstrudel. She laughed. She said she loves it, but have never made it. Even so, she had some important guidelines, er, taste preferences. Luckily our taste buds match up pretty well. Her main recommendation was not to add raisins. Another friend of mine seconded those instructions and, as a frequent strudel maker, gave me a few more tips. Add a little flour to the apples to help thicken the liquids. Cut the apples into larger chunks so they don’t get mushy when they bake. Make sure to stretch the pastry taut over the apple chunks so you can see their shapes through the dough. And use an egg wash over the top before baking. Try adding some toasted pecans or walnuts to the apples. 

This recipe makes 2 apfelstrudels. It’s a great last-minute Rosh Hashanah dessert, but you might have to double this recipe  (you can always have leftovers for breakfast). I held off on the pecans until the next batch.

- 1 box / 2 sheets puff pastry (I generally use Pepperidge Farm)

- 5 large apples – I often use a mix of firm sweet and tart apples – this time I used Jonagold and Granny Smith

- 3 T lemon juice

- 1 C sugar

- 1 T  flour

- 2 T cinnamon

- 1 egg

- confectioners sugar

Thaw. Thaw the puff pastry - don’t unfold it (I find that the pastry can crack at the 2 folds). Thawing takes about 20 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat. Preheat oven to 425º F.

Peel and chop. Peel the apples. Cut them into ~1/2 – 3/4 inch chunks. Not too small.

Mix. Add the apples to a big bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Sprinkle with flour, sugar, and cinnamon and mix.

Roll. Keep the puff pastry folded and place on a floured sheet of parchment paper (the same size as your cookie sheet.  Roll out the puff pastry pretty thin into a rectangle nearly as long as your cookie sheet.

Stretch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half the apple mixture to the puff pastry in a line a few inches from the long edge. Spread the apples evenly end to end. Try not to get too much liquid onto the pastry – save this liquid in the bowl for later. Take the edge of the pastry and stretch it over the apples. Take the opposite edge of the pastry and stretch it over the apples (this is a little easier than rolling the apples). If you have extra pastry, keep stretching and rolling a until the seam side is down. Tuck the ends under.

Brush. Transfer the parchment with the strudel to a baking sheet. Whisk together the egg and some cold water. Brush the egg wash over the top of the strudel. Using a sharp knife, make a few diagonal slices in the dough. This mostly looks pretty.

Bake. Bake the strudel for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and shiny. Cool for about 10 minutes before eating.

Boil. In a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice – sugar – cinnamon mixture to a  boil. It will thicken into a loose  caramel.

Serve. Once the strudel has cooled, serve slices dusted with confectioners sugar and a side of cinnamon caramel sauce.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 167 other followers

%d bloggers like this: