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Archive for the ‘parve’ Category

Is it summer yet? It sure feels like it.

Not the hot sticky New England brand, but the warm sunny breezy brand. A breeze so lovely that a few open windows and a ceiling fan does the trick. A day so lovely that one might be inspired to buy some mint and thyme plants with hopes of not killing another fooderific herb garden. The herbs are growing outside on my balcony, and as they’re only 2 days old, they seem to be holding up quite well.

An impromptu dinner invitation and a quick scramble for what’s on hand, and my first zucchini salad of the season emerges.

Welcome back, summer, and a great weekend to all!

Marinated mint zucchini salad

Another quick and easy salad, this one requires 5 ingredients (plus salt and pepper), 2 implements (zester and mandoline – check out the links to see the ones I use), and a bowl. Quantities are approximate, so taste and season as you go along. This salad serves 4-6.

Using a mandoline, slice 3 zucchini very thin. Also slice 1/2 red onion on the mandoline. If you don’t have a mandoline – no problem. Just slice the vegetables as thin as you can. Toss the vegetables. Zest two lemons over the salad and then pour the juice in as well. Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil and sprinke with salt and pepper. Pick some fresh mint from your still growing herb garden and slice or rip it into small pieces. Toss everything together and taste for seasoning. Bask in your kitchen with the oven off and a gentle breeze from the window.

***

If  you’re looking for other ways to take advantage of the summer’s zucchini windfall, check out these recipes from years past:

If  you want to cook: zucchini bread or roasted zucchinior zucchini tart with raclette (or plain swiss cheese)

If you don’t want to cook:  marinated zucchini salad with mushrooms and dill or zucchini ribbon salad with middle eastern spices

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I don’t have much time today because the sun is fading and I’m on my way out to dinner with a bag full of jars, a bowl, and a box. No mystery here, it’s food for tonight’s shabbat dinner. It might be cuatro de Mayo, but we’re celebrating cinco de Mayo tonight with margaritas, guacamole, steak with fruit salsa, spicy cinnamon brownies, and margaritas.

Before I head out, I wanted to jot down recipes for the dishes I’m bringing because there are so few Mexican recipes out there that do not revolve around corn, avocado, and black beans. I spent hours thumbing through a half-dozen cookbooks and my favorite online sites. And then I just made up two recipes. First I grilled the freshest spring vegetables I could find and made a sauce from smokey chipotle peppers to drizzle on top. Then I  toasted pepitas and roasted tomatillos and jalapenos and chopped up a salad inspired  by the produce I remember from my last visit to Mexico City.

So here you go. Two Mexican recipes, just under the wire, and ready for you to throw together for your own fiesta.

Happy weekend!

Grilled vegetables with chipotle sauce

Grill vegetables. Slice 2 zucchini and 2 yellow squash on a bias (about 1/3-inch thick). Break the woody ends off of a bunch of thick asparagus (about 20 stalks). Slice one red onion into rings. Place each vegetable in a separate bag or bowl and let marinate in olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat – it’s ready when a drop of water sizzles the second it hits the pan. Make sure to turn on your exhaust because it will start to get smokey. Grill each vegetable for approximately 4-6 minutes per side. When they start to release from the pan, they’re ready – I found that I did need to do a little work to release the zucchini and squash as they were still sticking a bit when they were fully cooked.

Make sauce. In a food processor, mix the following: 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (there are usually 5-6 peppers in a can), 1 tomato, juice of 2 limes, 1/4 C olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little bit of water to thin everything out if necessary.

Drizzle. Arrange vegetables on a platter, squeeze another lime over top, and drizzle with sauce.

Chopped salad with tomatillo cilantro dressing

Make salad. Pickle half a red onion: slice it very thin and marinate for at least 30 minutes in 3 T red wine or apple cider vinegar, 1/4 C warm water, 1/2 t sugar, and salt to taste. Dry toast a handful of pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) in a small pan – keep shaking the pan to move the seeds around and when the turn slightly golden and start to pop, take them off the heat and let them cool. Chop into bite-sized pieces 2 romaine hearts, 2 C arugula, and a yellow pepper. Slice 3 radishes very thin (I use my cheap mandoline). Peel and chop a medium-sized jicama into approximately 1/2 inch cubes.

Make dressing. Remove the husks from 2-3 tomatillos and rinse off the sticky residue. Under a broiler, roast the tomatillos and 2 jalapeno peppers on aluminum foil. When the skins blacken and blister, take out of oven and wrap then up in the foil so that they will steam. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. Remove the seeds from the peppers. Put them into the bowl of a food processor with about 1 cup cilantro, juice of 2-3 limes, and 2 T honey. Process until smooth. Slowly add 1/4 C olive oil and process until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Add more lime juice if the dressing needs a little more acid (or water and oil if it needs less).

Toss. Mix all the vegetables and then sprinkle with pepitas and drizzle with dressing right before serving.

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I’ve been wanting to tell you about something amazing that I made. Well, two somethings to be exact. But I didn’t really know where to start.

The first draft of my post began with blah blah blah. Seriously, the text read “blah blah blah … <<INSERT RECIPES>>.” My second and third drafts were not much better. So I did what I could while my thoughts stewed. The pictures were taken and the best ones were chosen and cropped and sharpened and uploaded. The recipes carefully typed out. And then everything sat in an intro-less draft, gathering cyber dust.

Everything I wrote sounded like this: I went to a great restaurant, I’ve already told you about it, and here are a few recipes. Boring, no?

But today when I opened the latest Food & Wine, I realized what that meal was, and the recipes are finally ready for their debut.  Dana Cowen opens the issue with what almost sounds like a confession: “Over the past two years, I’ve joined the ranks for the world’s food pilgrims – people who plan a whole trip just to have a single meal.” She goes on to talk about recipes that inspire wanderlust and trips planned for the sole purpose of reaching a destination restaurant.

I’ve admitted — bragged even — that I travel to eat. That I’ve wandered the streets, lusting after the best a new city can offer. You hear it all the time, that life is the journey, not the destination.

But here’s my own dirty little secret: sometimes it’s just all about the destination.

I’ve told you about the destinationZahav restaurant in Philadelphia. Perhaps you could even say that I took a long journey to get there – that going to medical school in Philadelphia led me to business school in Philadelphia led me to an annual conference that brought me to Philadelphia a few weeks ago. Yes, this was an important journey. But then I almost skipped the conference this year. And then I thought about Zahav. And then I registered for the conference. I didn’t go to the restaurant because I happened to be in town for a conference. Instead, I decided to go to the conference as an excuse to go to Zahav. Not that you need an excuse.

I was in Philadelphia for less than twenty-four hours. I landed, took a taxi to my hotel, changed my clothes, took a taxi to Zahav, ate an obscene amount of food, took a taxi to my hotel, went to the conference, took a taxi to the airport and headed to Vegas. There was no journey, just a destination. And it was worth it. The flight, the hotel, the conference, the calories.

I guess at the end of the day, I’ve still said what I always intended: I went to a great restaurant, I’ve already told you about it, and here are a few recipes. Enjoy…until you can go to Philadelphia for the real thing.

Zahav’s hummus with cumin, paprika, and sumac

I adapted this hummus from Chef Michael Solomonov’s recipe in Food & Wine. Most meals at Zahav start with a tower of salatim (cold salads), a dish of freshly house-made hummus, and  steaming rolled-up laffa bread. It’s worth taking the time to use dried chickpeas — the extra steps of soaking them overnight and then boiling them the next day result in a silky smooth texture that canned just can’t replicate. This recipe makes 4 cups of hummus which is quite a lot. My six guests and I barely ate half of what I made. The leftover hummus is great for a few days, but without preservatives, that’s about as long as you can keep it in the fridge. And, please, if you want to be authentic, call it hoo-moose with a guttural h if you can manage it.

-  1/2 pound dried chickpeas

- 1 T baking soda

- 7 (or more) large garlic cloves, unpeeled

- 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

- 1/4 t ground cumin

- 1/4 C tahina (tahina separates pretty easily, so  bring it to room temperature so that it’s easier to stir to incorporate).

- 1/4 C fresh lemon juice

- kosher salt

- cumin, paprika, and sumac for garnish

- 1/4 C chopped parsley

Soak. In a large bowl, cover the dried chickpeas with 2 inches of water and stir in the baking soda. Refrigerate overnight.

Simmer. The next morning, drain and rinse the chickpeas under cold water. Pour them into a saucepan and cover with 2 inches of fresh water. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves and bring everything to a boil. Turn down the heat (but not too low) and simmer, covered for about 40 minutes. The chickpeas should be tender but not mushy. Scoop out about a cup of water (to use later) and then drain the chickpeas. Rinse the chickpeas under cold water. Peel the garlic cloves.

Puree. In a food processor, puree the chickpeas with 1/2 C of the reserved cooking water, 1/4 C of olive oil and the garlic cloves. Then add cumin, tahina, and lemon juice. Continue to puree until really creamy. Season with salt.

Serve. Fill a flat serving bowl with the hummus, smoothing out the top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin, paprika, and sumac (or whatever spices you like) and parsley. I served mine in a pan and warmed the whole thing up in the oven for a few minutes before garnishing.

Middle Eastern chicken skewers

This recipe is adapted from Chef Michael Solomonov’s lamb skewers in Food & Wine — I just replaced the lamb with chicken. The main dishes at Zahav are called al-ha’esh, literally on the fire. Their kitchen has a coal grill; in my apartment, I use a grill pan. I doubled the recipe and next time will triple it. There was not a single piece of chicken remaining among the six carnivores at the table. The chicken is really moist, so it doesn’t need extra sauce, but the marinade is so good, it’s a pity to waste. Boil it down (since it’s been mingling with raw chicken) and dip pita in it or pour it over couscous.

- 1 medium onion, quartered

- 1 garlic clove, peeled

- 4 (or more) sprigs of flat leaf parsley

- 1-2 lemons (for 1/2 t zest and 3 T of juice)

- 1 t ras al hanout spice mixture (I used this instead of allspice)

- 1 T kosher salt

- Pinch of saffron threads

- 2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

- 1/4 C vegetable oil

Puree.In a blender or food processor, puree onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and zest, ras al hanout (or allspice), salt, and saffron.

Cut. Cut the chicken into cubes, approximately 1-inch on each side.

Marinate. Fill a large ziplock bag with the chicken and then pour the puree over it. Shake everything around until the chicken is well coated. Zip the bag, pressing out any air. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours).

Grill. Preheat a grill pan. Remove chicken chunks and thread them onto skewers (about 4-5 per). Reserve the marinade. Brush the chicken skewers with oil and grill over high heat until all sides are lightly charred, about 10 minutes or so. You want to turn the meat occasionally – you’ll know it’s ready to be turned when it easily releases from the pan. If it sticks, don’t touch it. Poke a knife into a piece of chicken to make sure it’s cooked all the way through and not pink inside.

Boil. Pour the remaining marinade into a pan and bring to a boil. Serve with the skewers or on rice or couscous.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan‘s recipe for salmon and tomatoes en papillote.

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.

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